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Teaching Obedience

“For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach his statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). Notice three things: study, do, teach. In the Christian church, we have studiers and teachers. We can study and acquire information. We can teach and impart information. We can get A s on our knowledge. The strong point of the three is to do . Doing validates the studying and the teaching. Teaching, biblically, is not just imparting information. The neglected phrase in the Great Commission is the one on teaching: “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus gave the commands. We are to teach obedience to His commands. We are not just to teach the commands. We are not to teach information without teaching obedience. If we are going to follow Ezra’s example, we need to study, obey, and teach to obey. This post coordinates with today's reading in the To the Word! Bible Reading Challenge . If you are not in

Christian Teaching: More Than Just Information

"For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel" (Ezra 7:10). Ezra devoted himself to three things: studying the law, observing the law, and teaching the law. We can study to acquire information. We can teach to impart information. But the strongest of the three is doing . Doing validates the studying and the teaching. Biblical teaching is not just imparting information. The most-neglected phrase in the Great Commission is the one on teaching: "…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20). We are to teach obedience to God’s commands. We are not to teach information only. If we follow Ezra’s example, we will study, obey, and teach obedience. I know several churches that seek to teach obedience to the saints. Amazingly, they have picked up a reputation for being legalistic, works-righteousness churches. But they are only fulfilling Christ’s command t

Thoughts on Correcting Others

  ·      I will walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7). ·      I will forgive others as God has forgiven me in Christ (Ephesians 4:32). ·      I will only judge others if I have taken the splinter out of my own eye first (Matthew 7:1-5). ·      I will correct him only if I am spiritual and gentle (Galatians 6:1). If I feel like correcting him, I am probably neither. ·      I will correct another with the intention of restoring him or her to close fellowship with God. I will do it in a biblical manner (Matthew 18:15, 35). ·      I recognize that there is a difference between those who are forgiven and those who are qualified to be teachers. ·      I will not talk about the life of a fellow believer unless his life is a positive testimony to God’s saving grace. If there is a negative rumor, I will check with the person himself. If a believer is a public figure and there is a rumor of moral impropriety about his life, that rumor should be brought to his attention. He shoul

Keeping Confidences

  “I can keep a confidence. It’s the people I tell it to who can't."  - Unknown I hardly ever promise to keep a confidence before I hear the story. I may promise to keep one after I hear the story, and I do keep the confidence. I determine which ones I keep, not the person who shares it with me. This lack of promise is not the same as gossip, although it could be gossip. We are required to speak to the assembled believers if someone is unrepentant. The assembled believers are to take action on the unrepentant believer (Matthew 18). If I promise to keep the information secret, I might hobble myself so that I cannot obey God and tell the church. Many years ago, a professional person came to see me. I did not know him, although I knew of him. He wished to tell me something awful about a friend we had in common, but first he wanted me to promise to keep it confidential. I told him that I did not make those kinds of promises. He was astounded. Wasn’t I a minister of the gosp

The Sin of Listening to Gossip

"They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them" (Romans 1:29-32).   I wish to draw attention to just one of these awful sins—gossip. Paul lists it with murder, slander, deceit, and malice, among other great evils. It is part of the complete depravity and dissolution which man falls into as the result of refusing to glorify God: "Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God , he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done" (Romans 1:28). What does Scrip

Like Grasping the Pacific Ocean

  "The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 1:14). Paul was a man of great wisdom and knowledge, but he played it down. In fact, he wrote it off: " Knowledge puffs up but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God' (1 Corinthians 8:1-3).   It almost looks like knowledge is the opposite of love. If it were, we would have to stay ignorant in order to be loving. Having knowledge is a temptation. Being puffed up is the sin. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. He is in sin.  "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.' Where is the wise man? Where is the sc

Whole-Hearted Devotion

1 Chronicles 28 records David’s charge to his son Solomon. It is great! “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with whole hearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts . If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” Notice that the reason for whole-hearted devotion is that “the Lord searches every heart” and the reason for a willing mind is that “the Lord understands every motive behind the thoughts.” This post coordinates with today's reading in the To the Word! Bible Reading Challenge . If you are not in a daily reading plan, please join us. We would love to have you reading with us.

Humanism vs. Christianity

  The Bible is not a book that humanists can adjust to. It is too extreme. The humanist wants to be good now and then and here and there. His is the religion of random acts of kindness. The Christian must be kind to everyone (1 Timothy 2:24). Humanists worry that people might have low self-esteem. The Bible says, "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you" (Romans 12:3). "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2). Unfortunately, many Christians prefer the humanist approach to the biblical standard. They judge Scripture in the light of our humanistic society. It is easier than judging society in the light of Scripture. Are the people doing this not Christians? That would be a reasonable conclusion, except that these humanistic voices are coming from mainstream evangelicalism. Television, maga

Cleaning Up vs. Confession: What's the Difference?

  A euphemism is a pretend synonym. It puts a good face on a bad-sounding word. It indicates the same act, practice, or exclamation but does it in such a way that the thing it signifies does not sound bad. In fact, it might even sound good or at least innocent. Here are a few examples: ·        adultery—affair ·        homosexuality—gay ·        Jesus—Geez ·        taking the Lord’s name in vain—doggone it ·        damn it—darn it, dang it  Some people think it is a virtue to soften words like adultery and homosexuality. They think it sort of cleans up the dirt. This kind of treatment does not succeed; it only has the appearance of being clean. Why? God cleanses those things which are confessed as sin. Cleaning up the words is not confession, and therefore the sin is not forgiven. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) God does not forgive mistakes. With love we can say to those

Obedient Mouths

  "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving" (Ephesians 5:1-5). Our speech should not contain obscenities, foolish talk, or coarse joking. The Bible commands us to avoid these things without defining them. The Apostle Paul assumed the Ephesians would know what he was talking about. Obscene and filthy words are not in most dictionaries, but we understand what they are. People use obscene language, not because they do not know it is filthy, but because they do know. There is a certain delight in the use of something vulgar and unclean. Some people like to quibble about defini

Our Tongues as Messengers

  "But what does it say? 'The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,' that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved" (Romans 10:8-10). Romans 10 records the two greatest uses of the tongue. The first is confessing Jesus Christ and calling upon Him. It is our “part” in salvation: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13). The second great use of the tongue is preaching Jesus Christ: "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How bea

Voluntary Famine

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it’” (Amos 8:11-12). I have no idea whether this prophecy has ever been fulfilled in any specific sense, i.e., a particular time and place in history. It may have been fulfilled fifty years after Amos when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed. The Southern Kingdom had two revivals, both related to reading the Scriptures. One under Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:14-33), and the other under Ezra (Nehemiah 8). The famine today is not in the unavailability of Scripture. In Josiah’s day, there was only one copy of God’s Word, and it had not been looked at for several generations. We have the Scriptures, and we do not read them daily. There is spiritual decay in the land. This

Wisdom & Folly

  “'Let all who are simple come in here!' she says to those who lack judgment" (Proverbs 9:4, 9:16). This quotation is from two different women, Wisdom and Folly. They say it from the same place, “the highest point in the city” (9:3, 14), and they say it to the same people, “those who lack judgment.” The difference is that Wisdom offers food, wine, and life, but openly asks for repentance (9:5-6). Folly offers a lie which she presents as a free gift: “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” (9:17). Wisdom gives life. Folly offers immediate benefits, which are “sweet” and “delicious”…  " But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave" (Proverbs 9:18). *Excerpted from Being Christian . To purchase, visit ccmbooks.org/bookstore .  This post coordinates with today's reading in the To the Word! Bible Reading Challenge . If you are not in a daily reading plan, please join us. We would love to h

The Overflow of the Heart

  In my ninety-three years of life I have heard many dirty words. There were places I expected to hear them, like when I was working in the Omaha stockyards as a teenager and in the U.S. Navy as an enlisted man. My memory focuses on the unexpected times I heard them. They came from the mouths of a four-year-old boy, a woman, boy scouts in the scout clubhouse, midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, and a cousin of mine when we were pheasant hunting as teenagers. All of these shocks happened before I was a Christian. I was idealistic. To me, women did not talk that way, boy scouts were clean, four-year-olds were innocent, midshipmen were the all-American boys, and cousins were part of my family where words like that were not used. Early in my Christian life, my eyes were opened. I came to realize that my heart and the hearts of boy scouts, midshipmen, four-year-olds, women, and my family all started out overflowing with evil. Jesus gave an explanation of why people are this way: &quo

God Is with Us

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20). The way we send people on missions is very different from the way Jesus sent the apostles. We send others because we cannot or do not want to go ourselves. The one sent also goes alone; this is with mutual agreement, for why would you send someone else if you are going yourself? That is not Jesus’ way. He sent the apostles, and He said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus sent, and then He came along. Isn’t that wonderful? But it was not the first instance of sending and coming along. "Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent'” (John 6:29).   The Father sent Jesus, and then He came along, too. "The one who sent me is with

Traditional American Values vs. the Bible

At the time of Christ’s coming, the Jews had 2,000 years of tradition. The Roman Catholic Church has had 1,700 years of tradition since Constantine . Evangelical Americans have two hundred years of “traditional American values,” and somehow we think it is a virtue and a grand heritage. Our traditional values include Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Norman Rockwell, Thomas Kinkade, Santa Claus, John Wayne, the Easter Bunny, and trick-or-treat. Jesus said, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8). You may have another list of traditional American values than the list above, but they are still “traditional.” They are not biblical; they are not Christian. I grew up in the 1940’s. The values then were decadent. Our current values are even more so. To solve this problem, let’s go back to the Bible, not to an era in our history that we worship as an idol. Let’s consider the phrase “traditional American values” a dirty expression.

The Rituals You Follow

  Every church has rituals, regardless of its denomination. Liturgical churches have a planned ritual; non-liturgical churches have a ritual by default. At their best, rituals are figures of the true; at their worst, they are idolatrous. In between, they become dead traditions. The rituals described in the Old Testament were meant to be figures of the true, but degenerated into idolatry. Hebrews 7-10 describes this. The rituals of the Old Testament were meant to be fulfilled in Christ. Long before they were fulfilled, they had ceased to be merely figures. The Israelites thought that following the rituals was enough. They turned them into a substitute for the real thing rather than a picture of it. When this happened, they were no longer acceptable to God. "Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom ; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah ! 'The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?' says the LORD. 'I have more than enough of burnt of

Modern Idolatry

"'Present your case,' says the LORD. 'Set forth your arguments,' says Jacob's King. 'Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear. But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless; he who chooses you is detestable'” (Isaiah 41:21-24). This is one of the Old Testament’s many comments on idolatry. We would like to think that idolatry is so self-evidently wrong that it would have disappeared from the world long ago. It is not so. The objects of idolatry may have changed, but the pattern remains the same: "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities ¾ his eternal power and divine nature ¾ have been clearly seen, being understoo

Stirring Up Dissension Among the Brothers

"There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers" (Proverbs 6:16-19). Let’s look at this list again:   ·   Arrogance is number one. God is concerned about high self-esteem: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought…” (Romans 12:3) ·   Lying is numbers two and six. “A lying tongue” indicates a habitual liar. “False witness” is perjury. ·   The murder of innocent people is number three. It includes abortion. ·   Premeditated evil is number four. ·   Unpremeditated evil is number five. ·   Sowing discord among brothers is number seven.   Although these are all very common today, it is the last I would like to draw your attention to. Stirring up dissension may be unintentional, or it may be the result of gossip. It is the

The Mind of Man

  For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11) I often see people judging the thoughts and motives of another person with absolute certainty about what that person was thinking. To them, it is self-evident. The quote from Corinthians is a rhetorical question. Paul was not asking for a show of hands on who knows another person’s thoughts. He was saying that we cannot know them. We could know if he told us, or we could know if we had his spirit. We could also know if God revealed his thoughts to us. Until then, we must not judge the thoughts of another person. We guess wrongly and act on our guess as if it were right. *Excerpted from  Being Christian . To purchase, visit  ccmbooks.org/bookstore . 

The Mind of God

  We know more about God’s thoughts than we do about man’s. How can that be? He has revealed His thoughts to us in Scripture, and He has given us His Spirit to understand them. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit

On Goodreads

I am now on Goodreads. If you are as well, feel free to send me a friend request; I would be glad to hear from you. You can find my author page here .

To Whom Should Christians Give?

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you

God’s Justice and Faithfulness

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). This promise has two parts: 1) He will forgive us our sins, and 2) He will purify us from all unrighteousness. The sins that get forgiven are the ones confessed. “All unrighteousness” is more than just these sins; it is everything else that is unrighteous in us. God will purify us from all of this. Look back at verse seven: "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Notice how the last phrase parallels verse 9. Verse 7: “purifies us from all sin.” Verse 9: “purifies us from all unrighteousness.” The verb “purifies” has the sense of continual activity, i.e., He “keeps on purifying.” There are conditions for this complete and continual purifying. Verse 7: “If we walk in the light as He is in the light.” Verse 9:

Good Things: A Promise of Guidance & Refreshment

There are many things that it is legitimate for us to desire. They are more than our desires; God promises them to us. Isaiah 58:11 has a beautiful description of them. This text hangs on our living room wall in English and Japanese: And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. (KJV) Here is the condition to God’s promise of continued guidance and spiritual refreshment: "If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday" (Isaiah 58:9b-10 NKJV). Earlier in Isaiah 58, we learn that God will answer when we call, that our righteousness will go before us and His glory will come behind us, and that “your light [will] break f

The Reason for Our Being

Note Paul’s words in Ephesians 3:7-12: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Here is the part I would like to emphasize: “to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery.” To preach and to make plain. That is our reason for being. *Excerpted from Being Christian .

What Kind of Christian Are You?

  More and more I come across people who are “doers” instead of “be-ers,” “tryers” instead of “trusters.” They do all the Christian things, but they do not live in anything close to spiritual victory. Some of these people turned out to be not Christians at all. When they “received Christ,” they were only following a formula—signing a card, praying a prayer, or going forward at a Christian meeting. The reason I know they did not become Christians with these formulas is that they later became real Christians. [1] Live the Christian life the same way you started: by faith. Trust God for the power to follow Him in joyful obedience. "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness" (Colossians 2:6-7). [1] Of course, many people have become wonderful Christians with these formulas. What makes the difference? The heart. Those who b

"I Just Can't Forgive Myself"

  “I just can’t forgive myself.” Have you ever heard someone say that? To my knowledge, the Bible does not speak of the need for or the way to forgive yourself. What does it speak of? This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)   But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)   If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9) 1 John 1:5 speaks of absolute light. Verse 7 speaks of walking in that light with two results: ·        Fellowship with one another ·        Continued purification from all sin by the blood of Christ Verse 9 speaks of God’s faithfulness in: ·        Forgiving our sins ·        Purifying us from all unrighteousness What are our responsibilities? ·        Walk in th