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Serving Jesus through discipleship

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Is this Christian Love?


This morning I was attending my father’s funeral at St. John the Baptist Catholic church. I am no longer Catholic and haven’t been for many years. I credit Catholicism for grounding me in my Christian faith. During the Mass however, I could not stop myself from remembering why I quit the Catholic church and how the ceremonies that I was watching seemed so wrong.

How unchristian of me to criticize the way another denomination chooses to worhip our God! After a few minutes of reflection, I realized how petty that was and also how utterly human.

It is only human to criticize someone whose customs are different that our own. I remember this little verse from an album that was popular wan I was a teenager. The album was a comedy album by Dave Gardner (Brother Dave Gardener). The name of the song is National Brotherhood Week. A performance of this can be fo0und on youtube. One of the verses went like this

Oh the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants
The Muslims hate the Hindus
And every one hates the Jews

You’ll need to watch the performance to hear the refrain. The point is that we have more than enough things that divide us, we need to focus on the things that we have in common and practice love for one another.

St. John The Baptist Catholic Church, Dayton, ...

St. John The Baptist Catholic Church, Dayton, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Lesson Repeated


Gifts of Fear of the Lord and Piety. Fresco No...

Gifts of Fear of the Lord and Piety. Fresco No. 21, Most Holy Trinity Church, Fulnek, Czechia, Europe. Esperanto: Donacoj de Timo antaŭ Dio kaj Pio. Fresko n-ro 21, kirko de la Plej Sankta Triunuo, Fulnek, Ĉeĥujo, Eŭropo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week the words “fear of the Lord” have been jumping out at me. That phrase is everywhere in Proverbs. Why have I not seen it before? God, are you teaching me a lesson?

“The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.”

“In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and his children will have refuge.”

“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.”

Only the Good


Cover of "Spiritual Life"

Cover of Spiritual Life

When the Bible talks about life and death, it is hard to determine if the text means spiritual death or physical death; spiritual life or physical life. Of course when the reader has the right frame of reference in some passages it is easy; passages like, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it.” After much thought and reading of scripture, that passage becomes clear.

It is said by people that “only the good die young”. The Bible says, “Fear of the LORD prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be shortened.” Does this passage from proverbs 10 mean spiritual life or physical life? I think when Solomon wrote it, he meant physical life. Of course, with his wisdom he could have meant both. In that day, if you feared the LORD you would have obeyed all of the law. The law of God was the law of the land. Not unlike the Muslim countries of today. By obeying the law, you would preserve your life because many transgressions had the penalty of death (physical).

Today, in America, God’s law is not the law of the land. Far from it. The death penalty is an anathema to many. Our legal system is reticent to carry out its own verdict of capital punishment. However God’s system of justice is still in effect. The transgression of God’s law still results in death (spiritual); “the wages of sin is death”. It seems sinful to not complete Romans 6:23, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our LORD”.

“Only the good die young.” Jesus said that “only God is good” and He ain’t dead. Humanity, however is dead in its sin. Christians are alive in Jesus and have been proclaimed righteous. it may be that only the good die young, but the righteous will live forever!

Another Puzzle Piece


Today I remind you that all that you are is because of the Lord. He made you. Without His permission, you can accomplish nothing. Without Him, you would starve and be naked. Any successes that you have enjoyed are because the Lord has willed it. Thanks be to God!

Because of this, it is good to fear the Lord. He has blessed you with all that you are, all that you have and all that you dream. He can take that away in a second and leave you in utter devastation. Why do I remind you of this? Today’s reading contains these words:

English: Fear The Lord The left hand of the tw...

English: Fear The Lord The left hand of the two similarly carved stones either side of the west entrance to St Leonard’s Church. 32432 “Fear the Lord your God and serve Him. Hold fast to Him and take your oaths in His name.” Deuteronomy 10:20 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth I hate. Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine. By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice. By me princes rule and nobles, all who judge rightly.”

Notice in the above quote that the me is in lower case. The word “me” is not a reference to the Lord but to wisdom. but remember “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” In Proverbs 9, Solomon states that “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” You can see there are many “Fear of the Lord is” statements. To understand what fear of the Lord is, the student must be familiar with and understand all of these references and the consequences of applying the principles. All these references are a light to those who would live godly lives. Light your path with the word of God!

A Puzzle?


Have you ever noticed that many preachers, when teaching from the word, almost always have 4 or 5 other verses to support the verse that they are teaching? Have you ever wondered why?

Sometimes that habit is so annoying. At other times it is so enlightening. One thing for sure, if you are following along in your Bible, that book will look worn after a short time. Is that why they do it; to make your Bible look well used?

Any student of the Bible has heard the saying, “Let Scripture interpret Scripture.” That sounds moronic to the uninitiated. But that is exactly what the Bible expositor is trying to do when he uses cross references. Does it work? I suppose that depends on the skill of the preacher.

Why am I asking these questions? This morning my devotional reading is from Proverbs. Proverbs 4 says, “The beginning of wisdom is acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding.” What does that mean? I think we first have to define wisdom. Wikipedia defines it this way, “Wisdom is a deep understanding anrealization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with this understanding.” Webster defines it this way:

Bible

Bible (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

1
a: accumulated philosophic or scientific learning : knowledge b: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : insight c: good sense : judgment d: generally accepted belief

2
: a wise attitude, belief, or course of action

3
: the teachings of the ancient wise men

I think I will have to go with Webster on this one. Solomon is talking about the accumulated philosophic or scientific learning. All of that learning is just vanity unless you gain understanding to go with it; which is why Solomon adds “and with all your acquiring get understanding”. So wisdom is the combination of knowledge and understanding the application of that knowledge. That seems pretty straight forward. Add to that Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” and the passage takes on a different hue.

With this in mind, to get the whole counsel of God; to understand what the Bible is about, it is necessary to read the entire book. I have heard that some Christians believe that they only need the New Testament. Since the New Testament is based on the Old Testament, they would have a hard time understanding it. Other people’s knowledge of the Scripture is what they get on Sunday morning. The arguably greatest bible expositor of our time, John McArthur, recently celebrated a milestone in his career, after forty years, he completed teaching the New Testament. Can you afford to wait that long to acquire the wisdom of God?

I am going through the entire bible for the fifth time. To read the Bible in a year only takes about 15 minutes a day. Still God’s word is new and fresh. Each time I read through it I gain understanding I didn’t have before. When I study a book or chapter, I gain even greater understanding. I can’t help but wonder how much I have missed by starting my Bible reading program so late in life.

If you are not reading Scripture daily, how much of God’s blessing for you are you leaving unclaimed?

The Dark Side of Sin


As Christians, we tend to focus on the positive aspects of our God. God is love, mercy, etc. We try not to think about hell and punishment, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there! One of the ways that God warns about sin is through the Proverbs of Solomon. Our text for today is Proverbs 1:22 – 33:

English: Statue "Fear of the Lord" b...

English: Statue “Fear of the Lord” by Karin Jonzen at Guildford Cathedral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?
And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing
And fools hate knowledge?
Turn to my reproof,

Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
“Because I called and you refused,
I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;
And you neglected all my counsel
And did not want my reproof;
I will also laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your dread comes,
When your dread comes like a storm
And your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.
“Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the Lord.
“They would not accept my counsel,
They spurned all my reproof.
“So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way
And be satiated with their own devices.
“For the waywardness of the naive will kill them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them.
“But he who listens to me shall live securely
And will be at ease from the dread of evil.”

As I read that passage, I think of America today. In verse 7 the proverb says that “Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, fools despise wisdom and instruction.” I think that in America we are fools. We don’t fear the Lord! Many people declare that this doesn’t mean to be afraid of the Lord, but to respect Him. In light of this, I will say it again, “We don’t fear the Lord!”

We do all in our power to remove God from our lives. We have made it a policy that He is not allowed in our public institutions. Even a simple cross is not allowed on public land. As a nation we murder our children with impunity. Moral turpitude in rampant on the airwaves because we enjoy consuming it. Parents are discouraged from disciplining their children. Children do not respect their parents. The divorce rate is around 50%. (“What God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”) Homosexuality is encouraged in children as young as 10.

Yes, we love our sinful ways! We know that what we are doing is against God’s law, but we don’t care. Because we ignore God, we will suffer at His hand. Reread “I will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes”. Really? Is God saying this to us? Notice also the passage “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” Is God really saying that when we need him most, He will not be there for us?

When the nation comes under judgment, when it cries out to God but God does not listen, the Christian can still hold on to the Lord Jesus as his strength. The grace and mercy of Jesus will get us through the time of tribulation if we truly fear Him! Are you ready for the coming judgement?

The Wisdom of God


English: Wisdom of God, Buckland Road. A grade...

English: Wisdom of God, Buckland Road. A grade I listed Anglican church with the unusual dedication to “Jesus Christ the Wisdom of God”, which is pretty enough outside but its real treasures are within. Unique in England, its basilica-style interior is filled with genuine marbles and mosaics from ancient Rome and Byzantium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shortly after Solomon took the throne, God appeared to him and asked , “What shall I give you?” We all know how Solomon answered. Do we know why God was pleased with that answer?

The Bible tells us that. “Because you had this in mind, and did not ask for riches, wealth of honor, or the life of those who hate you, nor have you even asked for long life, but you have asked for yourself wisdom and knowledge that you may rule My people over whom I have made you king” (2 Chronicles 1). After reading 2 Chronicles 1 did you notice that Solomon’s request was not selfish? He was asking for wisdom so that he could do the job that God had given him to do; rule over God’s people. I think that Solomon had wisdom already. He had the wisdom to ask for that which God wanted to give him and in fact had already given him so that God would be glorified.

Solomon received a bonus as well. Because he asked for a Godly gift, God granted him earthly riches as well. This whole story reminds me of what Jesus said in Mathew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

Are you ready to pursue the wisdom of God?

Keeping Your Way Pure


English: Scroll of the Psalms

English: Scroll of the Psalms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How can a young man keep his way pure?

By keeping it according to Your word.

With all my heart I have sought You;

Do not let me wander from Your commandments.

Your word I have treasured in my heart,

That I may not sin against You.

Blessed are You, O Lord;

Teach me Your statutes.

The author of Psalm 119 (verses 9 – 12 above) is unknown although thought to have been written by King David. I will attribute this Psalm to David.

David poses an interesting question. “How can a young man keep his way pure?” For that matter, how can an old man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to the word of God! We seem to have forgotten this in modern western culture. God’s word seems to be relegated to Sunday morning and maybe Wednesday night. When you only think about God’s word a few hours a week, how can you live in it? I realize that is a generalization and that I could be wrong, but evaluate the situation in this country and judge for yourself.

In verse 10, David implies what is written in Jeremiah. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. This implies that if you seek God with all your heart, you will find Him. On finding Him, He will guide your way. David is praying that God will help David keep his commandments. Do we pray like that today. Oh sure, when we recite the Lord’s Prayer we say, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” When we pray that, do we really mean it? Are we really asking God to help us keep our way pure; or is it just part of the prayer that we recite? The key is the seek Him with all your heart. In Jeremiah, this promise from God was for a specific instance. Deliverance from Babylon. This psalm implies that this is a universal truth. Even Jesus said, “seek and you shall find”.

David also said, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you.” What does it mean to treasure God’s word in your heart. If God’s word is in your heart, no one can steal it; no one can use it out of context without your knowledge; no one can miscopy it. It is yours. Jesus demonstrated this when he was in the desert being tempted by Satan, Satan apparently quoted scripture to tempt Jesus. Jesus responded with scripture correctly interpreted and applied. This was the full armor of God in action. In the New Testament, Paul commands us to put on the full armor of God.

You know, you can’t learn and understand God’s word without the teaching of the Holy Spirit. You can’t stay away from sin without His power. This is why Jesus sent Him to dwell within us. So that we may learn God’s statutes and correctly apply them.

The grace of God is wonderful! He asks us to seek us with all our heart, and then gives us the means to do it. Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Will you earnestly seek Him?

Have a Blessed Weekend


This morning my reading was  1 Chronicles 23 – 25. this passage did not speak to me, so this blog post is devoid of any spiritual content. Also today I am leaving for the weekend, my next blog post will most likely be Tuesday.

Have a blessed weekend!

The Wages of Sin


Getup Get God

Getup Get God (Photo credit: prettywar-stl)

When Jesus told His disciples to love their enemies, it was a radical idea! The Jewish people had been fighting for their lives and freedom for fifteen hundred years. Their quarrel was with almost everyone that was not Jewish. Why?

God told Joshua to wipe out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Jebusites, etcetera, and enter and possess the land. Why? Because of sin! We don’t have the story of the people of that land except for the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. we know that four hundred thirty years before the exodus, those people were worshiping other gods. We also know that at the time of the exodus, they were still worshiping other Gods. The one true God had his people spend forty years wandering the desert so that they could know Him, so that they could worship Him. The reason that they were told to annihilate the inhabitants of the land was so they would not be polluted with foreign gods. They did not obey the God of their fathers and began worshiping other gods.

Their worship of foreign gods was when God used their neighbors to afflict them. Many times, the people of the northern and southern kingdoms were conquered and exiled until they returned to the one true God. The amazing thing is that God always took them back. You would think that as a nation, a people of God, they would have developed a heart like David’s. However they did not! But I digress.

With a history like this, it is easy to see why the Israelites would have such a hard time loving their enemies. Remember, their enemies were also the enemies of God.

My point is that David, a man after God’s own heart said this about his enemies:

“O God of my praise, do not be silent! For they have opened the wicked and deceitful mouth against me; they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, and fought against me without cause.
In return for my love they act as my accusers; but I am in prayer. Thus they have repaid me evil for good and hatred for my love.
Appoint a wicked man over him, and let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is judged, let him come forth guilty, and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. Let his children wander about and beg; and let them seek sustenance far from their ruined homes. Let the creditor seize all that he has, and let strangers plunder the product of his labor. Let there be none to extend lovingkindness to him, nor any to be gracious to his fatherless children.”

That is just the first few verses of Psalm 109. Read the rest on your own to get the full picture. Those are pretty harsh words to come from the mouth of a man of God. To make it into our Bible, those must be God’s words as well. They give you an idea of how much God hates sin.

Those are God’s words to us if we do not have a relationship with His son, Jesus! Are you an enemy of God?

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