Thursday, January 31, 2013

Watch "Quiet Talks - Jan 31 13 - The Perversion of Liberty and Freedom" on YouTube

The Perversion of Liberty and Freedom

The Bible tells us that we have freedom and liberty in the Christian life given to us by the grace of God.

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

 Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

Romans 6:18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 

There are several Bible preachers and teachers out there today who make a good living making people feel good about their sin under the guise of freedom, liberty, and grace. These three concepts they have wrenched from the context of scripture and attached their own ideas to them. Because of these teachers we have people who justify their lying, cheating, drinking, worldliness, immorality, partying, and the like by saying, "I'm free in Christ! I can do whatever I want!" Yes, as the bride of Christ we, the church are free to leave Him for an adulterous relationship with the world and our former slave owner, satan, but that doesn't make our actions right or pleasing to God.

This is so far from what Jesus wanted and from what Paul taught it is deplorable. 

Let's look at the Bible. That is supposed to be our rule, right?

1 Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

So the idea of "living your life so that uptight Christians will doubt your salvation" is unbiblical.

What about the freedom part? Well, the Bible does tell us that we are free to sin or serve, to rebel or live righteously, but don't for a minute think that God is happy when we choose to walk in darkness back toward our old slave owner.

Galatians 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

Does our liberty have limits that God has asked us to impose upon ourselves? Yes!

 1 Corinthians 8:9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

1 Corinthians 10:29 Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience?

 Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

 Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

 1 Peter 2:16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness (wrong doing), but as the servants of God. 

Romans 6:22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 

1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. 

And so, in the end we learn that the freedom and liberty given to us by the grace of God should not be abused. Someone who uses liberty to excuse their sinful behaviour is simply lying to themselves, and standing in open rebellion against a Saviour who loved them enough to set them free.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Watch "Quiet Talks - Jan 30 13 - The Advantages of Climbing Mountains" on YouTube

The Advantages of Climbing Mountains

Amos 4:13 For, lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name.

Much preaching is done on the verse that says, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." (Matt 17:20) However, Jesus did not intend for us to remove every mountain from our lives. Some mountains He has put there or allowed to be placed there for us to climb. Notice the verse from Amos chapter four. It tells us, among other things that God has made the mountains and that he walks on the high places of the earth, the mountains. If God made them, and He  is there on the mountain, doesn't it make sense that we should want to become mountain climbers?

Now I know that mountains in our life are mostly no fun at all. Mountains of circumstance, difficulty, and challenge seem insurmountable and futile. However, if God has put that mountain in our life and He is on the mountain with us, it seems much more bearable...even profitable.

In the Bible mountains were at times:

  • A Refuge in Danger  - Sometimes God asks us to climb mountains to avoid the flash flood that is filling  the valley! -  Matthew 24:16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
  • A Place for Pasture - Along the slopes and on the plateaus of the mountain are well watered pastures for the nutrition of His flock. -   Psalms 147:8 Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. 
  • A Place for Worship - It is on the hard climb of the mountain that we listen and worship by faith. Remember Abraham?  Genesis 22:5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Watch "Quiet Talks - Jan 25 13 - The Value of a Pig's Life" on YouTube

The Value of a Pig's Life

All life has value, but all life does not have equal value. One of the lies that Satan has promoted over the years is the idea that the life of a plant, a tree, a bird, or a pig is equal in value to the life of a human being. This idea has mostly taken root because of Darwinistic evolution and it's erroneous teachings. The concept of this faulty theory is that if we all came from the same place (the big bang and evolution) then all life is equal in value.

We must be able to discern the difference between the truth and a lie. God created us and He takes care of all life in His creation. Look at Matthew 6:26. It says, "Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?"

God cares for even the smallest animal in His creation, the sparrow. However, man is of more worth than the sparrow. That's what the word "better" means in the above verse.

Notice it again in Matthew 10:3, "Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows."

And it's not just birds that have life that is less valuable than mankind. Check out Matthew 12:11-13 "And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other."

In these verses Jesus heals on the Sabbath day saying that a man is "better" or of more value than a sheep.

And so we learn that the life of an animal, although valuable does not have the same value as the life of a person.

What is the value of the life of a pig? Hey, the pig is a noble animal of limitless value as far as I am concerned, and bacon goes with anything.
Have a happy day.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Watch "Quiet Talks - Jan 26 13 - The Moth's House" on YouTube

The House of the Moth

Job 27:13 This is the portion of a wicked man...
Job 27:18 He buildeth his house as a moth, and as a booth (a lean to) that the keeper (of the vineyard) maketh.

The moth's house is an interesting study in the frailty of humanity and our lack of security without God.

An interesting comparison between the moth and the wicked man is that the moth, unlike the butterfly, is primarily nocturnal. The Bible says:
John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

But the house of the moth is our topic for the day. The only time the moth has a house (besides the cocoon) is in the egg and larvae stages. Of course, the eggs are laid in clothing and when they hatch the larvae eats the  clothing. Here are some thoughts in regard to the house of the moth / the wicked.

1. The security of the house is tenuous. It only takes someone to come by and shake out the garment and the larvae/moth loses it's home.
2. At very best the larvae/moth's home is temporary.
3. The home (security) of the larvae/moth comes at the expense of someone else. The moth does not make it's home in something of it's own construction, but rather takes up residence in the clothes (the work) of others.
4. The larvae/moth ends up eating itself out of house and home. The larvae actually eat that cloth in which they are residing. This is an astounding picture of those that are doing damage to themselves and are blissfully unaware of their own impending homelessness (lack of security).

Also interesting, is that the colour of their cocoon is dependent upon the colour of cloth that they were eating. In other words, the character of their first home (the cloth) is displayed in the structure of their second home. A fresh start without Christ is a misnomer. You always bring you with you wherever you go to start again, and the colour of the second house will reflect the insufficiency of the first. The only way to get a fresh start is by becoming a new man. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

So today, we can either have the house that the moth built, or build our house securely upon Christ.
Luke 6:48 He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Quiet Talks - Jan 25 13 - Can We Make God's Life Better?

Can We Make God's Life Better?

Job 22:2-3 Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect?

Eliphaz the Temenite here is asking Job if somehow he is improving God's existence by Job's righteous works and effort. We sometimes have the same idea. We imagine that God is somehow better off, more fulfilled, more complete because we are doing things for Him.

The simple truth is that God doesn't need us, even to spread the Gospel. Jesus said that if the disciples didn't proclaim the Gospel that the stones would do it.
Luke 19:40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.

Job 22:2 asks if we can be profitable to God in the same way that a wise man is profitable to himself. How is that? A wise man profits himself by acting wisely and increasing his own worth. Do we really imagine that there is anything that we can do that can increase the worth of God? Certainly not. Do we really think that God is deficient in some area and we can complete Him? No.

Adam Clark's Commentary on this verse says, " A man may be profitable to a man, but no man can profit his Maker. He has no interest in thy conduct; he does not punish thee because thou hast offended and deprived him of some good. Thy iniquities are against justice, and justice requires thy punishment."

In our own arrogance, pride, and self importance we have the idea that somehow we are doing something for God that will profit Him. We cannot. He is complete, in need of nothing. He doesn't need our love, our worship, or our work. However we do these things in order to please Him.

One of my favourite sayings is, "For the Glory of God and the Benefit of Someone Else."

We do not benefit God by our actions and efforts, we benefit others and give the glory to God.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Watch "Quiet Talks - Jan 24 13 - The Purpose of Mankind" on YouTube

The Purpose of Mankind

Why am I here? What is my purpose? These are questions that go to the very foundation of our existence. As much as we may try to complicate things with our own emotions and reasoning, the Bible gives a pretty straightforward answer.

First, we were created for God, not for ourselves.
Proverbs 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself:

Second, we were created to please God, not ourselves.
Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

These two facts impact our priorities. If we are truly here for God and to please God then our own ambitions, plans, hopes, and dreams have to be subject to Him. If pleasing God is first priority, then there are some things that I am going to do differently, and some things that I am not going to do at all.

There is no need to wallow in introspection wondering, "What am I here for, and where do I fit in?" Notice that God did not come up in those questions? When our focus is "I" problems come along like the caboose to a freight train. Our Creator made us for Himself. Fulfillment in life comes when we strive to accomplish our purpose....pleasing Him.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Test of Money Video

Watch "Quiet Talks - Jan 23 13 - The Test of Money" on YouTube

The Test of Money

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

 A wise man once said, "It isn't a problem if you have money, the problem comes when your money has you." But how do we know whether we are leaning too much on the security of our money? How do we know when we have wrapped up too much of our own self worth in the balance of our bank accounts?

At this point, the bulk of those reading this post are saying, "Not a problem. I don't have any money!"

Whether an individual has one dollar in the bank or one hundred thousand the question is still relevant. "What hold does your money have on you?" 

Jesus put this same question to the rich young ruler in Luke 18. Jesus told him to "...sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me." The thing Jesus was getting at with this fellow was that his view of his wealth was keeping him from trusting in Jesus for salvation. The broader application for us is that unless we are willing to worship Jesus instead of our money we really aren't following Jesus.

One of the reasons God gives us money is to test our love for Him. If at any time in our life we aren't willing to give up all of our material possessions and money to follow Him (if He asks) then our money is in control not our Saviour. We need money to live, but we must remember that life is not in money. 

John 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Living Martyr

Today I read in my devotions from Mark 10 where a couple of disciples wanted Jesus to put them in prominent positions in his government when He set up what they assumed would be an earthly Kingdom. He then asked them if they were willing to go through what He would. (He meant the cross.) They readily (and ignorantly) agreed that they were up to the challenge. He told them that they indeed would go through the same ordeal as He would.

The topic today is martyrdom. In John 16:2 Jesus said that the very people that would come to kill the Apostles would do so while thinking that they, the murderers, were serving God.

Today in our comfortable and affluent North American life, martyrdom is the furthest thing from the Christian's mind. He is so caught up with accumulating things, enjoying leisure, family, work, and even church that living a life of sacrifice is not even on his radar screen.

Jesus told us in Matthew 16:24-25,  "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."

We are called to be martyrs. It is easy for us to think of dying for Christ because it is only a remote possibility at this time. It is much harder to determine each day that we are going to be a living sacrifice. (Rom 12:1)

The concept of the living martyr is found in:
Colossians 3:1-3 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

Notice the bold, and underlined words "for ye are dead." The one time choice to die for Christ is comparatively easy when placed in contrast to deciding every day to wholeheartedly live for Him.

Today God is calling us to live the life of a martyr...dead to self, alive unto God.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Motivation for Missions

Every christian has been called by God to be a missionary. We are His Ambassadors.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

It is not just those that have surrendered to foreign missions. God has called every Christian to share the love of Jesus and the good news of the cross of Christ with others in the place He has put each individual. Your school, your workplace, or your retirement village is your mission field.

The question of the day is, however, "What is our motivation?" Do we simply witness because we feel guilty if we don't? Do we tell others of Jesus just because we feel sorry for them that they may wind up spending eternity without God in a place called Hell? These may be reasons, but they are not sufficient motivation to keep us on the job as ambassadors for Him.

The Bible gives us a deeper, more profound motivation. That is, God's love for us. The more we understand His love for us, the more we will respond to that love in telling others about it. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again."

The father does not really care much about his daughter's doll. But if that doll goes missing, he will search until it is found. This is not because he loves the doll. It is because he loves the child. We do not love other people enough for them to be our motivation. We search for the lost and tell them of salvation because God loves them.

Living a missional life (missionary life) is a response of the heart to an understanding of the love of God.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Defeating Giants

The account of David and Goliath is a familiar one. Here are a few thoughts concerning defeating giants in our lives. Please read I Samuel 17

1. If we are going to go into battle we have to leave our baggage behind. Verse 22 talks about David's carriage. This was not a horse drawn buggy, but rather the things that he "carried"...his baggage.

2. We have to be willing to come face to face with the giant. We cannot win the battle by ignoring the enemy. We have to face reality. Vs 23

3. Our motivation has to be bigger than ourselves. In verses 26 and 45 David cites his nation and the reputation of Jehovah as his reason for challenging the giant. Our personal agendas, preferences, and desires are not sufficient motivation in the fight. It has to be about the bigger picture.

4. Have faith. David was dependent upon God. See verses 37 and 46.

5. Be yourself. God has given you what you need to win over your giants. There is no need to try to use someone else's personality, abilities, or strengths. Verses 38-40

6. Ignore negativity. Giants holler and offend. That's what they do. You just have to ignore that. Verse 42

7. Count on a miracle. Once David had done all he could, he let go of the stone. At that point it was all in God's ballpark. Goliath was defeated because David obeyed and God came through with a miracle.

Now go fight the giants.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Injustice We Can't Change

There are things in this world that just aren't right. There are things that are not just or fair. The Apostle Paul addressed an injustice of his age in a way that is somewhat foreign to our way of thinking. Basically he said, "Deal with it, and be a Christian while doing it."

Check out Colossians 3:22. "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:"

Often when we talk about this verse in church we make application to bosses and employees, and that is a fair application. However, the Apostle Paul was referencing slavery. This evil of one man owning another was common in his culture. It was neither within Paul's ability nor his calling in life to change the injustice of slavery. His job was to tell both the slave owners and the slaves to behave like Jesus would in their situation. The slave owners he told to be good and gentle. The slaves he told to work and be loyal. 

Over the years God would put men into prominent positions of government in many countries to change the injustice of slavery. We have to remember that God works out His plans not in days and weeks, but in decades and generations.

And so, you and I face smaller injustices in our own lives. Things that are just not right. Things that are not fair. Some of these we can change, and we should. Some injustice we should speak out about, and we should. But there are some injustices that we don't have the ability or the calling in life to change. For these unfair situations we must follow Paul's instructions and find a way to act like Jesus in the midst of an unjust circumstance. After all, wasn't the cross unjust?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Miracles Today

We all would have loved to have been in the crowd when Jesus fed the five thousand, or have been standing nearby when He raised Lazarus from the dead. These miracles and the other astounding works of God in the Bible engage our imagination and impact our faith in an all powerful God. 

There is no doubt that we should remember these miracles of the Word of God. 
Psalms 105:5 Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; 
The question is, "Can you remember any miracles in your own life? Is there anything that God has done for you that couldn't be accomplished through human manipulation and ingenuity?" 

The Jews were told to retell the miracles of the Exodus to their children down through the generations.
Exodus 10:2 And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.

Gideon wondered where the time of miracles went. He was about to find out that his God was still in the miracle business. 
 Judges 6:13 And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.

My challenge for us today is for us to add to our prayer lists some things that only God could do, to ask for the miracle. We exercise faith when we ask for things that only He can do. What's on your list?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Accurately Defining "Meekness"

Jesus was a meek man. Check out Matthew 11:29.  "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls."

Meekness is a misunderstood quality in our society today. A few years ago my wife and I were watching a show called "Celebrity Apprentice". In that episode, the man who played The Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, was greatly offended when a team member called him "meek". You see, in his mind, at that time meekness meant "weakness". Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible's definition of "meekness" is "power under control.

Meekness is something we are supposed to have and cultivate in our lives. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians chapter five.

Numbers 12: 3 says, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." Does this mean  that Moses was weak? Certainly not. This is the guy who stood before the mighty Pharoah and said, "Let my people go." This is the man who led two million Jews across the burning desert. This kind of man, this kind of leader cannot be described as weak.

Meekness is having the ability to crush someone and choosing not to do so. Meekness is being able to lash out with our tongue and choosing to be silent instead. Meekness is the ability to sit quietly while someone speaks untruths that make your blood boil.

Today, let's cultivate meekness in our lives. Power under control

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Every Christian a Minister

God has called every Christian to be a minister. Whether you are on a paid staff at a church somewhere or working a secular job, God has called you to be engaged in ministering to others. In the Bible He calls us "ministers of reconciliation." Very simply, it is our job to help people connect to God by sharing with them the Gospel of Jesus.

In First Corinthians 4:1 the Apostle Paul calls himself a "minister". The word he uses is a Greek word that means "under rower". You have seen the Roman galley ships. They are the ones with the oars sticking out of the sides. Inside the ship, hundreds of slaves sat attached to those oars by chains. This is the picture that Paul was giving of himself, and his outlook in ministry.

As we think about an under rower we quickly realize a few things:

  • The under rower had to put in the effort. His job was to row.
  • The under rower was chained to his place. He had no choice but to be faithful.
  • The under rower had no say in the direction or the destination of the ship. That was up to the captain.
  • The under rower only saw what was outside of the hole through which his oar went. He could not see the big picture.
  • The under rower had to work in unison with the other slaves. Cooperation was essential.
Today, your place in ministry is likely not in the glamorous spotlight. You can identify with Paul and his description of himself as an "under rower". The important part is simply knowing that you are where God wants you to be and doing what He wants you to do.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This Same Jesus - Accept No Fakes

When Jesus ascended into Heaven angels came down and spoke to the followers left standing on the hillside.

Ac 1:11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Our theme today is "this same Jesus." Unfortunately, Christianity is full of those who have taken the name and image of Jesus and have co-opted it for their own purposes. They have taken the shell of the image of Jesus and have filled it with qualities, concepts, and character traits that are either foreign to the gospel's account or  an exaggeration of it.

Paul warned us about these people with a hint of sarcasm in 2 Corinthians 11:4. He says, "For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him." That's where the sarcasm comes in. Of course Paul didn't want them to put up with someone preaching a newly defined Jesus.

Today, throughout the world there are those who are producing a Jesus to fit themselves instead of aligning their lives to fit the Jesus of the Scriptures. The Jesus of the Bible has been manipulated like play-dough to  take many forms over the years. Some try to make Jesus into: the hipster, the cool guy, the party boy, the one who only knows love and nothing else, the wimpy Jesus, the hippie Jesus, or the white man Jesus complete with blue eyes, blonde hair and movie star good looks. There are as many perversions of Jesus' true character as there is human imagination.

Want to know the real Jesus? Isaiah describes him (53:3) "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not." This Jesus doesn't make the glossy pages of the magazine or the giant movie poster very often, but this is a part of who He was.
 Here's the problem: Jesus shoved into our mold is becomes an idol made in our image. He becomes a man of our imagination rather than the God-man of the Bible. You can follow "another Jesus", but in truth you are really only following yourself.

The Apostle Paul said, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;" (Phil 3:10) Paul wanted to know "this same Jesus" not a modified version of Jesus that would fit comfortably into Paul's lifestyle.

That brings me to another point. The character of Jesus is brought to life throughout  the Bible. All Scripture points to Jesus. To contain the definition of Jesus' person and character to the four gospels is to poorly describe our Saviour.

Today we need to determine to learn, know, and  follow the Jesus of the Bible, not simply the Jesus that we like to imagine in our own minds.

Monday, January 14, 2013

How to Get Your Feelings to Line Up With Truth.

My favorite verse coming out of my teenage years was this:
Proverbs 16:3 Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.

There are many things of the spiritual life and the Kingdom of God that just don't seem right to us. The reason those things don't make sense is because very often we operate, not in the power and will of the Holy Spirit, but in the works of the world, the flesh, and the devil. As humans, we understand when we do. When we swing a hammer for a few weeks we begin to understand the need for and uses of the tool. Without the discipline of action we lose out on insight.

Simply put, this verse tells us that if we do right, God will help us think right. What part of God's will are you refusing to do because you just can't understand it? God tells us to do what He says and then He will help us understand. It is prideful of us to demand to understand before we submit to obey.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Milk of the Word

In the Bible the word "milk" pictures the basic building blocks, the foundational principles of Christianity. Look at these two verses with me:

1 Peter 2:1-2 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

God wants us to desire the basics. He wants us to like and to enjoy what is the bedrock of Christian principles and practice. These are things like Bible reading/study, meditation on the Word of God, prayer, church attendance, doing good, confession, forgiveness, and sharing Christ with others. But we have to make note here that the "milk" of the Christian life is a replacement for the "rudiments" of this world (Col 2:8,20). God wants us to trade the basics of the kingdom of darkness for the basics of the Kingdom of Light.

(Yes, I know that "kingdom of darkness" should be capitalized for consistency, but I don't like that kingdom and won't show it that dignity. Just a quirk of mine. I don't capitalize devil, or satan either. He doesn't deserve it. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.) 

There are those who get ahead of themselves in the Christian life and try to tackle meat when they haven't yet learned to properly digest milk. Sometimes this has to do with a driven personality, other times leaders push new believers too hard, too fast. Whatever the reason is, this doesn't work. A tower has to have a firm foundation. (Heb 5:12 is a good example of this principle.)

Those that choose to ignore the basics, or practice them simply out of habit and tradition find themselves prime candidates for becoming backslidden. Those who wander, walk, or run away from God do not do so because they can't understand some obscure verse in the Minor Prophets or the book of the Revelation. They go from God because they have ignored the basics, or have done the basics on the outside without the involvement of their heart. (Sometimes we can do the right thing and have it mean nothing to us. See I Cor 3:2)

Our thought today is this. Learn to love, like, enjoy and practice the basics (the milk) of the Christian life. You will be the better for it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Be a Forgiving Person

Colossians 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

The verse above tells us to forgive like Jesus forgave us. So today we explore in four short points the method   Christ's forgiveness of our acts of rebellion against Him.

The first thing we must take not of is that:
1. Jesus planned for our forgiveness and made a way for us to be forgiven long before we thought we needed to ask for forgiveness. I Peter 1:19-20 tell us that the plan for our forgiveness was already in the mind of God before creation and before the fall of man. People sin against us. Instead of holding a grudge, decide now that when that person asks for forgiveness that you will give it without hesitation. Thus, in your mind, they are already forgiven.

2. Jesus forgave us immediately. Nowhere in the Bible do we find God telling us that we must do penance and then we will have forgiveness. (1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.) Confess means "to say the same thing as." If we say the same thing about our dirty, rotten, rebellious sin as God does, we can have immediate forgiveness. In forgiving others, it is not Christlike to put them in your own personal penalty box until they "prove themselves."

3. Jesus forgave us completely. There is no part of our sin against Him that He has said, "I'll never forgive you for that part."

4. Jesus chooses not to bring up our sin again or hold it against us. (Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.) As a matter of fact, if within ourselves we are constantly bombarded with the accusation of sin that has been confessed and forgiven, it is not God that is bringing up our past, but rather the devil is the one doing that. (Rev. 12:10)

Jesus said,  (Matthew 6:15)  "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." We must learn to forgive like Jesus.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Acceptance by God

Psalms 24:3-5 Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

We talk a lot about serving God, and rightfully so. However, sometimes the emphasis on serving Him gets so loud and imbalanced that we begin to rate our acceptance by God according to our works. We know and freely acknowledge that our salvation is not dependent upon works, but is wholly of God. (Titus 3:5) But with an over emphasis on "getting the job done for Jesus," we sometimes view God's love and acceptance as contingent upon our service to Him. This is faulty thinking. We were saved by grace. We are not kept or made more acceptable to God by our works. We serve Christ because we love Him, not to gain acceptance or love from Him.

Sometimes this thinking is a result of troubled relationships with our earthly parents. If one has a parent that can only be pleased by "doing" then one may think that the Heavenly Father is equally impressed with our works. This is not the case. I like what one father said to his daughter. He said, "The only thing you ever had to do to make me happy was come home at night." Although this does not tell the whole story, the sentiment is true. We can never do enough to be acceptable in the eyes of God. That's why Jesus came. His work on the cross is what makes us acceptable.

The little baby that is adopted and brought home by his new parents can do nothing acquire the parent's acceptance and love. However, he has both their love and their acceptance. Why? Because they chose him. It is the same with us. We can indulge our feelings and try in our own strength to gain God's attention, love,and acceptance, and come up feeling empty. God wants us to rest in His adoption. He wants us! This is not because of our service to Him, but because He chose us. He adopted us. He loves us.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Big God

Hi Friends. Our talk today is about our limited idea of God. Because we are finite, it is impossible for us to envision the Almighty and Infinite. We talk a lot about God being our friend, and He is. But sole focus on that aspect of God tends to limit our perception of God to that of a buddy that we ask to help carry the firewood into the house. We have, to some extent, shrunk God to a size just big enough to bail us out when we need Him, but small enough to ignore Him when we want to do our own thing. With this diminished concept of God it is no wonder that our prayers are small. It is no wonder that we are insecure in His care for us. 

It is high time for us to promote and embrace a high view of a big God. He is the Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, the God of gods, and the King of Kings. Our love, worship, and service takes on a renewed fervor when we realize that when we stand before Him (and we always are) we are not merely in the presence of a  extraordinary human being, but in the presence of true greatness and magnificence beyond our comprehension that spans the universe with His hand, and measures out the oceans in the palm of His hand. (Isaiah 40:12)

It is comforting sometimes to realize that Jesus is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. (Prov. 18:24) God however is not one dimensional. He is like a great diamond, with many facets. There is something new to see, learn, and discover each day as new rays of light shine upon Him from His Word. My point is, step back from the truth of Jesus as our friend just far enough to see the larger picture...or at least the part of the larger picture that our little minds can grasp. We are here to please (Rev. 4:11) a God that is great and majestic. He sits in the heavens. Earth is His footstool. He is the Almighty, the Infinite, the Creator God. When you put it that way, a little more humility, obedience, and worship is definitely in order.

Devotional Video

Monday, January 7, 2013

Communion - Who can give communion and in what context?

We recently talked about the issue of baptisms being done outside of the permission and the authority of the local church. Today, we tackle a similar topic. Is it right for a group of people unaffiliated with any local church to come to the Lord's table together? Is it right for a preacher to take the elements of communion around with him and give communion to the sick, shut ins, or groups of random people? Here are a few thoughts from the Bible.

1. The Lord's Table, or Communion, was instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper. Jesus was the first pastor, His apostles constituted His church. That group of people had the hallmarks of a church. They were organized, had unified doctrine, qualified leadership, and were under the authority and discipline of spiritual leadership (Jesus). As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us that we today are "built upon the foundation of the apostles." (Eph 2:20) The first communion service took place in a corporate setting, was under the authority of Jesus and was linked to the very foundation of the visible, local church.

2. The Apostle Paul gives instruction to the local church as to how to observe the Lord's Table in First Corinthians chapter eleven. These instructions were not given to or intended for individuals who had divorced themselves from the local visible church to go and do their own thing.

3. Participation in the Lord's Table is contingent upon examining ourselves. (1 Cor 11) If one sins against God by purposely walking away from attendance and faithfulness to the local, visible church, then how can they go to the Communion table with "clean hands and a pure heart." (Ps. 24:3-4) Confession of known sin must take place before participation.

4. The references in Acts to "breaking of bread" from house to house (Acts 2:42,46) does not give license to loose knit groups of random people who want to partake in Communion while avoiding the local church. First, good scholars cannot conclude whether these verses refer to partaking in communion or simply eating a common meal. Second, there was no church building big enough to hold this new congregation at Jerusalem. They met in house gatherings. Even if the verses referred to communion, we would still have to face the facts that this was an organized church with set doctrine, leadership, and discipline.

5. Nowhere in Scripture do we have modeled for us the idea of one man going to another and offering communion. In fact, Scripture models the opposite. Communion was always a church body thing. That is the example of the Last Supper - everyone gathered together. The idea of the roving minister offering individual communion came from the Catholic doctrine that says that Communion is part of one's salvation. This is not the Bible's teaching.

The conclusion in this matter is as simple as the model of Scripture itself. Jesus gave Communion to the Apostles, the foundation of the local, visible, organized local church. Communion then, is under the purview of the local church, and is to be observed by and in the local body. Paul gave instructions for communion to be carried out by that local assembly. No where do we find instructions for communion outside of the local church. Communion then is to be practiced in and by the local, visible, organized assembly when it is gathered together in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Baptism: For any individual to administer or under the authority of the church?

We say that the Bible is our sole rule of faith and practice. It is an area of practice that we consider today. The question is, can just any believer baptize others or do they need to have authority to baptize bestowed on them from a local church? If the Bible and those precepts and patterns found therein is our rule book for practice then we should be able to find an answer readily.

First Mention: The first mention we have in the New Testament of the practice of baptism was in Matthew chapter three. In this chapter John the Baptist is baptizing his converts and Jesus comes along and asks John to baptize Him. What do we learn here? Well, if we look at it we learn that John the Baptist was before the church, so the question we are considering does not apply. Also we realize from John 1:6 that John the Baptist derived his authority to baptize directly from God.

(John 1:6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. also see: John 1:33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.)

John the Baptist had authority to baptize from the Father and permission from the Son. There is no one else on earth that can claim this model as their rationale for operating outside the local assembly. John was the fulfillment of prophecy and before the establishment of the local church.

The concept of authority and permission to administer baptism is one that has been agreed on in the church for centuries. The trouble comes when people jump ship and leave the organized church. It is then that they take upon themselves the right to baptize without considering the implications.

What is the result of baptism? According to Acts 2:41 those who were baptized were added to a group of believers in a specific local. This, we know, was the church at Jerusalem that was being organized with leaders,  doctrine, and discipline. They were not added to only the "universal church/body of Christ" nor were they added to a loose grouping of folks that walked away from "organized religion" to do their own thing. As we follow through the book of Acts, the more people who were saved and baptized, the same were added immediately to that local, organized church.

Who baptized in the Bible? This is important to know, because if we know the names and backgrounds of these people, we can discover the model that we are to follow in who should baptize today and where the authority for baptism rests. We already spoke of John the Baptist so let's move on to the others.

Phillip: In Acts chapter eight we find Phillip going down to Samaria to preach and baptize the converts. Later we find that he baptizes the Ethiopian. Who was Phillip? We know from Acts chapter six and verse five that Phillip was one of the men that was chosen and appointed by the church at Jerusalem. These men would have been the earliest form of what Paul would later call a "Deacon." The simplest and most obvious answer to our question is that Phillip had authority and permission from the Apostles and the local church at Jerusalem to baptize. We know that they were in support of his activities because later in the chapter Peter and John were dispatched to help out with the missionary effort and deal with the new converts.

The Apostle Paul: (I Cor 1:16 and other verses) Now we know and it is obvious that Paul got his authority to baptize from God as an Apostle. But strangely enough Paul also submitted to receiving authority and commission from his local church. In Acts 13 Saul (Paul) was commissioned by his church for evangelistic work. Even the great Apostle Paul was not immune to submission to the authority of a local church in receiving permission.

The Apostle Peter: In Acts chapter ten Peter goes to Caesarea and visits the home of Cornelius. A bunch of people trust in the message of Peter concerning Jesus. Then in Acts 10:48 we read, "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." Here we find authority and permission in the administration of baptism. Peter was given authority by Christ in Matthew 28:19-20 and was himself as an apostle part of the "foundation" of the church. (Ephesians 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;)

From these examples it is clear to the unbiased observer that there is an authority and permission that must go along with the one that does the baptizing. We are not saying that the individual must be part of the paid clergy. What we are saying, however, is that the individuals that do the baptizing must have been given that authority and permission by a local church. In the case of a missionary starting a brand new church, his home church (though it may be thousands of miles away) in sending him out to minister gives him that permission. Those that are baptized by that missionary become part of that brand new church.

On the day of Pentecost several thousand had to be baptized. It is very likely that many (if not all) of those who were in that upper room had to be involved in this monumental task. But never in the whole of Scripture do we find someone baptizing who has walked away from the fellowship of and membership in the local church. It is unthinkable in biblical terms and models.

The one baptizing must be a part of a local church in order to baptize the candidate into the local church. You have to be "in" in order to bring someone else "in", otherwise it is a case of the blind leading the blind. Simply to baptize someone into the "universal church" perverts the model of Scripture. Although the time of the book of Acts was somewhat a time of disorganization, we still see through the fog a clear picture of the necessity of authority and permission to baptize.

Stop and think with me for a minute. If just anyone can baptize without authority or permission from an established assembly, why can't your ten year old son baptize? Why can't the backslidden man baptize? If we have a big enough crowd to baptize, why can't we grab an unregenerate (unsaved) man to help out? After all, all he has to do is get them under the water and back up. (I speak sarcastically.) The point is, if there is no need for authority and permission, anything goes. Now for some, the idea of "anything goes" is appealing. But if you want to follow Christ, it means following the patterns of the Word of God. If you want to baptize (and you are not one of the Apostles of Jesus' time) you must get that authority and permission from a local church. The local church is God's program for today and the Great Commission, of which baptism is a part, cannot be accomplished without it.