Showing posts from June, 2012

Sound Doctrine

Scripture But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.
(Titus 2:1 NASB)
Here is an admonition to preach and/or teach sound doctrine. Why would this have been necessary in the early days of Christianity? Wouldn't the Christian faith have been pure at this point and time? Actually, in those early days Christianity was learning to co-exist in a very pagan world and there were those who did not want to give up their pagan ways, and yet, wanted some of what Christianity had to offer. Therefore the Christian doctrine was constantly being threatened by the secular world and those who had learned about Christianity needed to be encouraged to hold on and to be strong in what they truly believed.
Interestingly we live in a day and age where people seem to view the word "doctrine" as if it were a dirty word. I don't know how many times I've had people say to me that they don't want to go to a church …

Who is a cow?

Scripture Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on the mountain of Samaria, Who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, Who say to your husbands, “Bring now, that we may drink!”
(Amos 4:1 NASB)
The Lord GOD has sworn by His holiness, “Behold, the days are coming upon you When they will take you away with meat hooks, And the last of you with fish hooks.
(Amos 4:2 NASB)
The Israelites continued in their destructive behavior and now a prophet compares them to cows on the mountain. These cows were of a special breed and were especially fat. They did little but lounge around on the hillside and eat. The imagery here is fascinating, that the people, who were to be the people of God had become fat and lazy cows, lounging on the side of a hill. Not only did they eat what was around them, but they were enjoying gains received by corruption. By accepting bribes they were able to enjoy an even more luxurious lifestyle. "Bring now, that we may drink!&…

Fulfilling your Calling

Scripture But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
(2 Timothy 4:5 NASB)
These are just a few of the final instructions given to Timothy regarding his ministry. They are quite clear and concise. He was to remain sober -- maybe an encouragement to take his work seriously and to have a sound mind about the things in which he was engaged. He was to endure hardship. Why is that? Because often fulfilling your calling means straining ahead, and putting up with difficulties. It's not an easy task and those who are going to do what God has called them to do must realize that they must put up with difficulties along the way. He was also to do the work of an evangelist. This was a mind-set -- one of intentionality when it came to encountering those who needed to know Christ. In doing this, Timothy would fulfill his calling.
Everyone who has been united with Christ has a calling -- an…

He did right -- but not with a whole heart.

Scripture Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem.
(2 Chronicles 25:1 NASB)
He did right in the sight of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart.
(2 Chronicles 25:2 NASB)
Now after Amaziah came from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought the gods of the sons of Seir, set them up as his gods, bowed down before them and burned incense to them.
(2 Chronicles 25:14 NASB)
Then the anger of the LORD burned against Amaziah, and He sent him a prophet who said to him, “Why have you sought the gods of the people who have not delivered their own people from your hand?”
(2 Chronicles 25:15 NASB)
Then Joash king of Israel captured Amaziah king of Judah, the son of Joash the son of Jehoahaz, at Beth-shemesh, and brought him to Jerusalem and tore down the wall of Jerusalem from the Gate of Ephraim to the Corner Gate, 400 cubits.
(2 Chronicles 25:23 NASB)
He took all the gold and…

Do You Have Good Reason to Be Angry?

Scripture The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying,
(Jonah 1:1 NASB)
“Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.”
(Jonah 1:2 NASB)
But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
(Jonah 1:3 NASB)
So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk.
(Jonah 3:3 NASB)
Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
(Jonah 3:4 NASB)
Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.
(Jonah 3:5 NASB)
But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.
(Jonah 4:1 NASB)
He pra…

Great advice!

Scripture Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
(2 Timothy 1:13 NASB)
This verse is a powerful nugget of truth. For many of us we have received sound words of instruction throughout our lives. We have studied the word and listened to many a sermon. The question always seems to be what we will do with that knowledge or information. Timothy had received instruction from a great mentor who had taken time to share the truths from life which had been experienced in faith and love which had come from Christ himself. For many of us there are those who have gone before us who have shared that faith and love with us and we must ask ourselves what we will do with what we have received.
I think of the standard of faith which I have received from my own parents. My parents were never ones to simply talk about their faith, but they lived it out wholeheartedly. One of my earlies…

Godliness and Contentment

Scripture But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.
(1 Timothy 6:6 NASB)
For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
(1 Timothy 6:7 NASB)
There are a number of things for which people in this world will strive and most of them are not to our benefit. However, when we strive for godliness, this is worth it. Why? Because the result is that we become more and more like Jesus himself. When that happens, our desires become his desires and no longer do work and/or strive toward things of this world, but instead our entire focus becomes Jesus. When Jesus becomes the focus of everything that we do, we become content with life. There is no great need for many "things" in this life -- whatever we accumulate during our lifetime will be left here on this earth when we die so why work so hard for things that we will lose?
Throughout the years there have been …

Whose Responsibility?

Scripture If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.
(1 Timothy 5:16 NASB)
Observation This epistle contains much practical advice for the function of the church, much of which can be contextualized and applied to us today. This particular verse reveals the place or role of responsibility which is placed upon the church. The church is to be responsible when there is no one else left in someone's life, however, if there is family around, or if the individual is capable of doing work and caring for themselves, this they must do!
Taking responsibility, whether it's for one's own actions or for their own lives these days seems to be rather rare. We live in a society which shirks responsibility and is constantly looking for someone else to blame, or someone else to care for our needs. These principles are sound and they exist s…

Worldly fables and old women.

Scripture But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;
(1 Timothy 4:7 NASB)
for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
(1 Timothy 4:8 NASB)
It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance.
(1 Timothy 4:9 NASB)
For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.
(1 Timothy 4:10 NASB)
Coming near the close of this Pastoral Epistle we find a contrast in what it means to be living the godly life. The godly life is one which involves spiritual discipline. Should we sit around and gossip with the old women? No, we are to show self-discipline and be prepared for godliness. Is this a bodily discipline? No, because that is not eternal, rather we …

What is your confession?

Scripture By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.
(1 Timothy 3:16 NASB)
At the end of this letter to Timothy we find this early confession of faith in Jesus Christ. Later on the church would develop formal creeds, statements which followers of Christ would make which would declare their faith. Today we still recite the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds as professions of our faith. However, in those early years these creeds were not yet developed and this simple statement, an early creed, comes from the heart. 
How do you describe the One in whom you believe? That is a very good question. As a follower of Jesus Christ, what is my confession? If I had to express my faith in Jesus Christ in one sentence, what would I have to say?  We must step back from this question a mome…

The Sons of the Prophets

Scripture Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”
(2 Kings 4:1 NASB)
When Elisha returned to Gilgal, there was a famine in the land. As the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.”
(2 Kings 4:38 NASB)
For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, And those who hate You have exalted themselves.
(Psalms 83:2 NASB)
They make shrewd plans against Your people, And conspire together against Your treasured ones.
(Psalms 83:3 NASB)
Fill their faces with dishonor, That they may seek Your name, O LORD.
(Psalms 83:16 NASB)
Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, And let them be humiliated and perish,
(Psalms 83:17 NASB)
That they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, Are the Most Hig…

Don't call someone a "baldhead!"

Scripture Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!”
(2 Kings 2:23 NASB)
When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.
(2 Kings 2:24 NASB)
He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.
(2 Kings 2:25 NASB)
Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
(Psalms 82:3 NASB)
Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
(Psalms 82:4 NASB) Observation
This seems to be a rather strange story to me. Elisha passes by Bethel and some young men from the town come out and mock him. They make fun of the fact that he is bald. To put the story into perspective, Elisha is now God's man of the hour. The mantle of spiritual leadership for t…

What has God asked you to do?

Scripture Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”
(Colossians 4:17 NASB)
The closing greetings are being added to this letter to the Colossians, and those greetings include an admonishment to a gentleman named Archippus. He has been given a ministry by the Lord. We don't know what that ministry was, but certainly Archippus did and there may have been some struggle when it came to embracing what God had truly asked him to do. He was being encouraged to confront the ministry which God had for him. He was to accept the calling from God and move forward and fulfill it.
Application There are times when God asks us to do things and we may not want to respond. There can be numerous reasons why we don't want to respond, but the root is generally something related to self. There can be a lack of self-confidence. On the other hand there may be a self-centeredness that makes it diffi…

The Perfect Bond

Scripture Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
(Colossians 3:14 NASB)
There are so many thoughts running through my head right now. There are so many different ways that we hear and/or experience the word bond these days. Of course, there is James Bond -- and there would be those who would argue about who was the perfect Bond (Sean Connery of course). There are those advertisements for "Gold Bond" but I don't think that relates to what we are seeing here. Then, of course there are those incredible examples of super glue which create a permanent bond. Also -- not the case because here we find the perfect bond, the one that perfectly unites God's people, and that is love!
In a nutshell this is what God desires for his people. He desires a perfect bond, which means that they are united together, straining forward to what God has in store for them. Sadly, there are times when this bond of …

The far-reach of God

Scripture The LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram;
(1 Kings 19:15 NASB)
and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.
(1 Kings 19:16 NASB)
“It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death.
(1 Kings 19:17 NASB)
“Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
(1 Kings 19:18 NASB)
Elijah had been victorious on Mount Carmel and over the prophets of Baal. It was an amazing moment, but afterward he ran and hid. God came and spoke to him and told him what he was to do and how he was to move into the future. God wasn't finished with his people, and his reach went …

It was a trivial thing...

Scripture It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him.
(1 Kings 16:31 NASB)
These are the words which describe the reign of King Ahab. He was ultimately more evil than any king who served before him and his wife, Jezebel...her very name has become synonymous with evil. Sadly the leap wasn't too far because gradually from generation to generation the people of God had kept moving away from him until this final leap which was so evil became a trivial thing.
This is the way that evil works in our lives. Rarely does anyone begin a journey with the desire to become extremely evil. Instead, we begin a journey, and if we do not keep our eyes on God, we will incrementally get on the wrong track. This wrong track may not take us too far off of the path, but what are we…

The Saints in Caesar's Household

Scripture All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
(Philippians 4:22 NASB)
Paul is making some final greetings and comments to the Philippians. One of those greetings comes from the "saints in Caesar's household." Paul uses the word "saints" to refer to those who are followers of Jesus Christ. One who is a follower of Christ is one who is "holy" and therefore a "saint." The miracle is that by this time there are those in the very heart of the Empire who have not only become "believers" but have grown in their faith to the extent that Paul would call them "saints." The big question which must be asked is how in the world did this happen? Who had access to the very heart of the Empire?
The answer to that question is Paul. But the circumstances by which he had access to the heart of the Empire were not the most ideal. The reason he had access to many wit…

Keep Going

Scripture Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:12 NASB)
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
(Philippians 3:13 NASB)
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:14 NASB)
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;
(Philippians 3:15 NASB)
however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
(Philippians 3:16 NASB)
This passage is an encouragement to all of us to continue, on a daily basis, in our walk with Jesus Christ. We understand that we have not yet reached "completion" or "perfection," but that d…

Genuine Concern for the Welfare of Others

Scripture So they sent and summoned him. When Jeroboam and all Israel came, they spoke to Rehoboam, saying,
(2 Chronicles 10:3 NASB)
“Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.”
(2 Chronicles 10:4 NASB)
Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you counsel me to answer this people?”
(2 Chronicles 10:6 NASB)
They spoke to him, saying, “If you will be kind to this people and please them and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”
(2 Chronicles 10:7 NASB)
But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him.
(2 Chronicles 10:8 NASB)
So he said to them, “What counsel do you give that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on u…

A foot in each world

Scripture For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
(Philippians 1:21 NASB)
But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.
(Philippians 1:22 NASB)
But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;
(Philippians 1:23 NASB)
yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
(Philippians 1:24 NASB)
Paul knew he was coming to the end of his life as he was living under house arrest in Rome. He had time to think and reminisce over his life, while at the same time sharing the gospel with this who were guarding him. Many of those who surrounded him had become followers of Christ and the good news was being spread. Therefore Paul lived in this tension. He had fought the good fight, he had been faithful in serving Christ and desperately wanted to be with him, while at the same time he wanted to continue to tell…

The Via Media

Scripture Do not be excessively righteous and do not be overly wise. Why should you ruin yourself?
(Ecclesiastes 7:16 NASB)
It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.
(Ecclesiastes 7:18 NASB)
Observation If there is something that great Christian leaders throughout history have encouraged, it is the "via media." This does not mean the use of social media, or the internet, or television but instead, it means the middle road, or the middle path. Throughout history we have seen the damaging results of those who go to the extreme. John Wesley was one of those who encouraged via media. Gregory of Nyssa encouraged via media and there have been many more. Today's scripture does the same thing. Anything, even something good, which is done in excess is destructive. We are admonished not to be excessively righteous. Why? Because those who focus too much on personal right…

Filled Up with Love

Scripture so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
(Ephesians 3:17 NASB)
may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
(Ephesians 3:18 NASB)
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:19 NASB)
The transformational work of Jesus Christ is seen here in these verses. Christ may dwell in our hearts! How does that happen? When we step out in faith with the result that we become rooted and grounded in love. Over and over we hear about love. Christ is in us, and therefore love becomes foundational to our lives. Love is truly beyond our comprehension, at least Christ's love is! His love is more than anything we can imagine with our own minds and it is not just about "luvin'" the things around us. His love is the real deal and when Christ is &qu…

Walking in Good Works

Scripture For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
(Ephesians 2:8 NASB)
not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Ephesians 2:9 NASB)
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10 NASB)
Observation We are constantly reminded that we are saved by faith and not by works. Verses eight and nine were to be memorized as a part of "Evangelism Explosion" years ago and were a part of the gospel presentation. The emphasis certainly is on the work of Christ in our salvation. We are not saved by our own works, but only by the grace of God because of the work of Christ. It is by this grace that we are saved if, in faith, we are willing to receive this gift from God. But right on the heels of this comes verse ten which then says that once we have received this gift from God we are revealed as God…

What is the church?

Scripture And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,
(Ephesians 1:22 NASB)
which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
(Ephesians 1:23 NASB)
The church in Ephesus was an interesting group. They had established themselves against the culture of the day which was all about goddess worship. This infiltrated their business culture as well and when Christianity came along it turned everything upside down. These people had come to know Jesus and nothing was comparable to him. He had been raised from the dead and resurrection power defined who he was. God placed all things in subjection to Christ and made him head over the church, which is Christ's body. The church is to be the very expression and fulness of Christ, the one "who fills all in all."
To truly understand the church, we must try to comprehend the greatness of Christ. The final line, the one &q…