Give Attention to Reading

Read through the Bible with friends

Hebrews 13-James 1: Facing Trials with Joy and not Fear

fearI guess James 1:2-4 stands out to me right now because of our nation’s perilous perch on financial failure. We haven’t heard as much over the past few weeks since the bailout, but that was no more than a band-aid. A government bailout cannot fix America’s financial follies. It can only prolong the inevitable if business practices steeped in debt do not change. The great fear is another depression. What an amazing trial that would be. 

What if it does happen? 

We as Christians can count it all joy. Why? Because we know that the test of our faith will only serve to produce endurance and steadfastness. That will only make us stronger. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I lie awake at night praying for a depression. I don’t want to go through one of those anymore than anyone else. I’m totally unprepared for such an occurrence. But perhaps a testing such as that would be good for us. For Christians, it won’t be the end. It will merely be another time in which we can learn to more greatly rely on God. The more we rely on God, the stronger we will be. The stronger we are, the more we can accomplish for God’s kingdom, which is what is most important anyway.

Don’t fret the future. Just take it one day at a time. However, if the trial comes, lean on God and grow from it. The fact is, it is only the challenged who grow. The complacent who have it easy rarely do more than languish in their mediocrity.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

Advertisements

November 10, 2008 Posted by | Encouragement, Finances, James, money, relying on God | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hebrews 11-12: By Faith the Evolutionist Sees How the World Was Formed

evolution-diagram_op_800x467

Fact or Faith?

I know evolutionists love to pick on verses like Hebrews 11:3

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (ESV).

“Oh, look at those stupid Christians. They base their ideas about how we got here on faith.”

Um…wait a minute. What exactly do evolutionists base their opinion on? Were any of them there when the world was started? Did any of them watch while species came into existence? So then, their opinion is faith as well isn’t it? They believe in what they did not see? 

They, of course, will claim the evidence is on their side. That is up for debate. However, the point is when they present all their evidence and creationists present all our evidence, it still comes down to faith. Neither of us saw what happened. The evidences may make a strong case one way or the other. I would just like everyone to admit they are working on faith.

By the way, for all of you who think evolutionists have everything down as facts, just do some searching about how many differing theories there are about how it all began and how the species developed. What you find out is there aren’t nearly as many facts as evolutionists would like us to believe. Rather, there is just a lot of speculation. Of course, it is okay to speculate as long as you debt let God in the picture. They don’t mind argument and debate as long as the spiritual is not included. 

Please, just be honest. Evolutionists work from faith as much as Christians do. So, Christians, quit being intimidated. Feel free to believe what the Bible says about how the universe was created. Don’t feel like you are unintelligent just because your opinion is based on faith. So is everyone else’s.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

 

PS: If you would like to look a little deeper at the faith of the evolutionist, check out the sermon I preached at the Franklin Church of Christ entitled The Origins of Man: Fact vs. Story.

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Creation, Evolution, Faith, Hebrews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hebrews 9-10: 4 Keys about Stirring Up One Another

Many churches hear a lot about Hebrews 10:25. They are told repeatedly how important it is to attend the assemblies of the congregation. Sadly, in our haste to convince Christians they should attend assemblies (which they should) we often miss Hebrews 10:24

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (ESV).

Notice four aspects of this verse.

1. Our goal is love and good works.

I Timothy 1:5 says the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. That is what we are striving for in everything we do. We want to produce love in ourselves and in others. But this love is not some mystical, ethereal vapor of emotion. It is an active love that is meted out on a practical level by the good deeds we do every day. Ephesians 2:10 says God created us to walk in good deeds. Titus 2:14 says Jesus redeemed us so we could be a people zealous for good deeds. Christ’s goal for us was not merely our forgiveness. That was not the end of His work. Rather, forgiveness is the means to the end. We are forgiven of our bad deeds so we may be set free to perform good ones.

2. We must stir up one another to love and good deeds.

This word picture blows my mind. In the NASB, the word stimulate is used. That one doesn’t seem quite as harsh. But I always get a picture of an electric prod stimulating a muscle. The ESV and NKJV say stir up. Usually, when we hear that phrase, we mean someone is causing trouble. The KJV says provoke. That word usually means to make someone angry. The NIV says to spur on. That provides a picture of someone taking a sharp object and jabbing into the flank of a horse so it will move faster.

These word pictures usually represent something we would say is negative. Here, they are used as a positive. We are supposed to stimulate, provoke, stir up, spur on each other so we can all love and do good deeds. It is the image of one Christian telling another, “I am not going to sit idly by and just let you be a loser, half-hearted Christian.” 

3. We must consider how to stimulate one another.

Before we just jump on someone and start prodding them, we need to consider how to stimulate each other. Take a step back and consider the person, their place in their spiritual walk, their personality, their gifts. Then based on that figure out the best way to stimulate them. Don’t just jump up in their face; stop and think it through first. Titus 2:14 provides three options for stimulus (though you can certainly turn to other passages and find more).

Speak–Sometimes we stimulate others by merely talking to them and sharing with them the truths of God.

Reprove–Sometimes we need to expose error in someone’s life in order to spur them on to the narrow path of God’s kingdom and righteousness.

Exhort–Sometimes we need to catch people doing things right and encourage them to keep it up.

No doubt there is also a great example of stimulus in Titus 2:7. We should be models of good behavior, exemplifying what it means to love and do good things.

4. We must stir up one another.

This doesn’t say preachers must stir others up. It doesn’t say pastors must stir others up. It doesn’t say deacons must stir others up. It doesn’t say teachers must stir others up. It says we must stir one another up. This is our job because we are Christians. 

This means two things. First, I must be stirring others up. Second, I must be willing to let others stir me up. That is contrary to our nature. Usually, we want others to leave well enough alone. If they start trying to hold us accountable, we get angry. We need to be humble enough to let others speak to us, reprove us and exhort us. Otherwise we will grow weary in doing good.

Let’s remember to stir up someone today and let’s find someone who can stir us up to love and good deeds.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Encouragement, Friends, Hebrews, Love, Relationships, Responsibility | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hebrews 7-8: We Have a Covenant Enacted on Better Promises

passion-of-the-christHebrews 8:6 provides me with great hope. The Old Covenant was enacted on the promises of a Messiah who would come in the future. A Savior who would come and bring salvation. The covenant itself really could do nothing about sin and damnation. The Jews toiled under rigorous laws and never ending sacrifices only to learn in the end that all it taught was they were hopeless. They couldn’t keep it up.

We have a better covenant. We have a better mediator and better sacrifice. Our covenant has better promises. It is not enacted on promises of a coming Savior, but on promises of a Savior who has already come. It is enacted on the promise of a sacrifice that really can take our sins away right now. 

God had promised a time like this would come in Jeremiah 31:34: “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities and I will remember their sins no more” (quoted in Hebrews 8:12, ESV). That time is here and now. Praise God.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 5, 2008 Posted by | Encouragement, Hebrews, Jesus, salvation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hebrews 5-6: If Jesus Learned, I Need to Learn

jesus01Hebrews 5:8 shocked me today. “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered” (ESV).

What?! Jesus learned? He is divine. He was God in the flesh. How could He learn anything? Didn’t He already know everything? I mean, this is the guy who knew Nathanael while he was still sitting under the fig tree (cf. John 1:48. What could He possibly learn?

I’m sure the scholars have recognized some special use of this word learn. What I can’t help but recognize is if Jesus learned obedience, I also need to learn. If God, the Son, grew in His understanding of serving the Father, who am I to think I’ve got it all figured out and down pat.

Jesus learned. I need to learn. 

That is why it is so important for each of us to …

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 4, 2008 Posted by | Growth, Hebrews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hebrews 3-4: How Loving and Fearing God Fit Together in Christianity

I thought about titling this post “Second Verse, Same as the First.” The ends of Hebrews 2 and Hebrews 4 make almost the exact same point. I’m sure there is some scholarly name for this kind of parallel. Whatever we might call it, the point is clear that the Hebrew writer wanted us to turn to Jesus when we were tempted. He can and does help.

However, there was another point in the reading that jumped out at me. I don’t want to be too negative today, but for some reason Hebrews 4:1 struck a chord with me. In the ESV it reads, “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.”

This verse was certainly not written by 21st century mainstream religionists. There are two key points in this verse that just don’t wash with modern mainstream “Christianity.” First, the suggestion that some who had become Christians might fail to reach the promised rest in eternity. Second, that we should fear the possibility that even though we have become Christians we might not reach the promised rest.

Now, I have no desire to propagate a fear-mongering approach to Christianity. I don’t think our service to God should be governed by fear. After all, perfect love casts out fear according to I John 4:18. Clearly, God does not expect fear to be the main motivator of our service.

However, having said that, here is this verse smack in the book of Hebrews. What should we do with it? Well, we certainly shouldn’t ignore it just because it doesn’t fit with modern sensibilities and the desire to be religiously popular. We need to recognize how it fits within the greater biblical context. The point is, while fear is not the governing principle of motivation in our lives, we need to understand that if we let the Bible’s teaching on grace so cloud our minds that we think we can just live how we want, we had better be afraid. 

Certainly, because of God’s grace, we who love God (interpret that, keep His commandments and His commandments are not burdensome-cf. I John 5:3) have no need for fear. However, if we think God’s love and grace for us means we can live without loving God (see above definition again), then we had better fear because we will not enter the rest.

The fact is, as unpopular as fearing God is today, a healthy dose of godly fear is a good thing when we keep it in its proper perspective. Love and fear God today and you will be walking the right path.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 3, 2008 Posted by | fearing God, Hebrews, loving God | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hebrews 1-2: We Have a Savior Who Can Help

Have you ever wondered why God sent Jesus into the world to die? Yes, I know He came into the world to die so we could be saved by His sacrifice. But why is that what was needed?

Think about it. God created the world. He then created the plan by which we could be saved. He could have come up with any means to save us. But He came up with the plan to sacrifice Jesus so we could be saved. Wow! I know we could talk about the meaning of sacrifice, we could talk about God’s justice and mercy. But, in reality, it doesn’t matter what we say about it, the sacrifice of Jesus works because God says it works. If God had said something else could work, then it would work. God got to decide what would work for our salvation and He set up this plan of sacrifice.

With this in mind, I find a great deal of comfort in Hebrews 2:14-18. Jesus came to share in flesh and blood because God decided that was what was needed. But was it needed because God somehow needed to know what our lives were like? Was it needed because God needed to learn what it was like to be us? Of course not. God created us; He knows. Rather God did this so that we, in our finite minds, could grasp that He knows. No doubt, without the incarnation, we would always wonder if God could know what it was like to be us. Now we can know that He knows and therefore, we know we can go to Him for help. 

He has faced what we face and overcome. He has experienced what we experience and been victorious. He has lived what we live and come out unscathed. Who else would we remotely want to turn to for help but the one who has been there, done that and knows the way through. When you are faced with temptation, don’t feel alone. Turn to Jesus for help. He knows how to overcome and He will provide strength and help. Even if that help is in the form of greater knowledge of His word or help from His people. He knows how to deliver you from temptation. Turn to Him. Don’t face temptation alone.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

October 31, 2008 Posted by | Hebrews, temptation | , , , , | Leave a comment

Matthew 27-28: You Make Disciples by Baptizing and Teaching Them

No doubt, in these chapters the amazing part of what is going on is that Jesus died for us. I’m just amazed that He did. How could He possibly love us that much? That is just how unfathomable God’s love is. Yet, He does love us that much.

However, what good does it do for God to love us if we won’t submit to even the simplest and straightforward commands of His? In Luke 6:46, Jesus asked how we could call Him Lord and not do what He said. Yet, folks do it all the time today.

The Gospel of Matthew ends with these words:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (ESV).

I’m just not sure how we can get any clearer that Christ’s disciples are made through baptizing them. They aren’t made through praying a sinner’s prayer. They aren’t made through a moment of faith. They are made through baptism and teaching. 

Why is baptism for the remission of sins such a dividing point today? Why do so many refuse to be baptized in order to become Christ’s disciple, in order to be forgiven, in order to be saved? Why can’t we all just do what Jesus asked? Have you submitted to Jesus in believer’s baptism in order to become a disciple and receive the remission of your sins (Acts 2:38). 

I encourage you to read these verses and see what they really say. I’m not making this up. 

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

October 30, 2008 Posted by | Baptism, Matthew, salvation | , , , , | Leave a comment

Matthew 25-26: Why People Go to Hell

I clearly recognize that following a different gospel leaves someone accursed (Galatians 1:9-10). I also recognize that not abiding in the doctrine of Christ means we will have neither the Father or the Son (II John 9). Thus, getting the gospel and doctrine of Christ right is important and necessary to our salvation. 

However, I can’t help but notice when Jesus very specifically talked about the sheep and the goats and who will be allowed into heaven and who will be cast into hell in Matthew 25:31-46, He didn’t talk about those who got the gospel and doctrine of Christ right. He talked about those who did good deeds for others. He talked about those who fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited those sick and in prison. Now, I recognize this is not talking about just general welfare. This is talking about love among brethren. 

We need to recognize however that it is not enough to know and teach the right gospel and doctrine. The gospel and doctrine of Christ must impact our lives such that we humbly submit to others around us and do good for them. If we close our benevolent hand to others around us, we are closing it to Jesus. In that case, we may be the soundest teachers in the whole world. We may debate with excellence and shut the mouths of all false teachers and yet we will still be cast into hell. 

If you want to go to heaven, take some time to get out of your study and off the debate podium and do some good works for those around you.

October 29, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Matthew, salvation, Serving | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Matthew 23-24: 5 Sins of the Pharisees and Not One of Them is Legalism

Interestingly, I hear all kinds of accusations about the Pharisees. Today, evangelicals and ecumenicalists are free with pointing the finger at all those awful, rotten Pharisees out there. Of course, the Pharisee accusation usually means LEGALIST. I find that interesting when we read Matthew 23. This is the most in depth rebuke of the Pharisees and yet not once does Jesus rebuke them for being legalists. Notice instead what he does actually rebuke them for.

1. Not practicing what they preach.

In Matthew 23:3-4, Jesus said the folks should do what the Pharisees taught. But not do what they did because they didn’t practice what they preached. Further, they would lay all kinds of burdens on the shoulders of other people but wouldn’t lift the finger to lift these burdens themselves. Now don’t read into this. Jesus didn’t rebuke them for laying heavy burdens on anyone. He rebuked them for not lifting the heavy burdens themselves.

2. They were self-seeking.

According to Matthew 23:5-15, Jesus says the Pharisees weren’t doing what they did out of humble service to God so that He might be glorified. They were doing things so others might see them and praise them for being so spiritual. Again, Jesus didn’t rebuke them for being legalistic about what they taught or practiced but for their motivation behind what they did and taught. This self-seeking led to some pretty awful results. First, their self-seeking caused them to lead a double life. On the one hand, they were taking advantage of widows. On the other, they were making long prayers for a pretense. The second negative consequence was their self-seeking caused them to make followers of themselves instead of followers of God. Thus, when they found a proselyte, the person did not get in a right relationship with God but became twice the child of hell as the Pharisees.

3. They were dishonest.

Perhaps Matthew 23:16-22 is where some folks find legalism. Certainly, they are drawing a bunch of lines on when to actually keep their word. But Jesus is not rebuking them for their lines. He is rebuking them for their dishonesty. He wants them to simply tell the truth, not make up rules about when they have to tell the truth. Further, notice that this issue of line drawing is not about adding burdens of greater weight about telling the truth but about trying to figure out how to get out of the real height of honesty God demands. I find it interesting that so many want to ridicule the Pharisees for making serving God harder, when here they were trying to get out of what God had commanded.

4. Disobeying the weightier matters of the law.

In Matthew 23:23-24, Jesus rebuked them for attending to minor details while they disregarded the more important parts of the law. I find this one intriguing too because many like to use the figures of speech used in these verses to claim Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for legalism. This is odd since they are actually trying to avoid keeping the law here. We should notice something pointed in these verses. Jesus did not rebuke them for keeping minor details. In fact, he says they should have done that. Rather, He rebuked them because they did not keep the weightier matters. He did not rebuke them for straining the gnats. He rebuked them for swallowing the camels. But what was Jesus’ overall complaint for them? It was not that they were getting too legalistic with God’s law. It was that they were not legalistic enough. They weren’t keeping the Law well enough.

5. Hypocrisy

In Matthew 23:25-32, Jesus got down to the major rebuke against the Pharisees. I know we expect it to finally be legalism. But, it’s not. It’s hypocrisy. In actuality, we already saw this building in the other rebukes, but now Jesus just spells it out, repeatedly calling them hypocrites. They simply worked on the outside and not on the inside. This doesn’t mean the outside doesn’t matter. Rather, Jesus explains if we get the heart right, then the outside will follow. The Pharisees, however, since they were self-seeking were only focused on whatever would make them look good, not would actually let them be good. Sadly, this hypocrisy led to one major consequence. When real men of God came in their midst, they persecuted and even killed them.

As Jesus ended this discussion, He pointed out the Pharisees would be judged. But He never mentioned legalism. In fact, I’m actually still waiting for a rebuke in the entire New Testament where the Pharisees were actually condemned or rebuked because they were legalists. Seems to me that is merely a modern statement because so many people today want to get away from being held accountable by a real system of law. They seemingly want to make Christianity a kind of free for all that says we are all allowed to do whatever we want in the name of Jesus and no one has the right to draw any lines. After all, look at how Jesus rebuked those pesky Pharisees for their legalism. Yet, I keep trying to find the passage where Jesus actually rebuked them for that. 

Can you find it? If you do, let me know. Until then…

Keep reading and keep the faith,

ELC

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Matthew, pharisees | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment