Friday, September 30, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 9:9-13

As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, "Follow Me." So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." -Matthew 9:9-13

Who is this command spoken to? and what does it require?

You may have noticed that there are two commands in these verses. First, Jesus commands Matthew the tax collector to follow Him. Second, at the response of the Pharisees to Matthew and the other 'sinners' hanging out with Jesus, Jesus commands the Pharisees to go learn what this means: "I desire mercy and not sacrifice."

What truths do we learn through these commands?

Something interesting that I have not noticed in this passage is the power of Matthew's example. He arose and follow Jesus and the next thing we read is that many tax collectors...came and sat down with Him and His disciples. You never know how much influence one step of obedience can have on those around you. I'm sure that these tax collectors knew each other and probably worked together collecting taxes (probably worked together cheating people, too!). When Matthew chose to obey Christ and follow, the others were close behind.

The second thing I notice here is that the religious, self-righteous crowd didn't understand why Jesus was okay with hanging out with tax collectors and sinners. There were a lot of things that Jesus did that were misunderstood by this crowd. But they can't seem to understand why a 'Teacher' would want to be with the social outcasts of society. Perhaps the question they wanted to ask, but were afraid to, is 'Why doesn't the Teacher eat with us--after all, we've done so many good things?' 

Jesus heard that. Think about it--Jesus heard that. He was busy spending time with the sinners, but He heard that. That tells me two things. One, Jesus was paying attention to all that was going on, even if the Pharisees didn't realize it. Two, the Pharisees probably didn't whisper their question to the disciples. They probably didn't care if the tax collectors and sinners heard their biting comments and questions. Jesus has something to say to these critical, religious hypocrites. 

Let's take a look at the second command. Jesus says to the Pharisees, "But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice." The Pharisees missed the point of Jesus. They didn't realize the tremendous work of God that was going on right in front of them. Sinners were being called to repentance, tax collectors are following Jesus, and all the Pharisees can do is criticize Jesus for being with them. It is important to realize that Jesus will always be with sinners and tax collectors. That is why He came. He didn't come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

What are the consequences for disobedience to these commands?

Missing the point of Jesus...entirely

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 8:18-22

"And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." Then another of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

Who is this command to?

Spoken to a follower of Jesus. This command reveals important truth as to the cost of following Christ.

What does this command require?

The words are simple enough, "Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

What truths do we learn from this command?

Dissect the statement with me for a second: First, follow Jesus. We've seen this before, in Matt. 4:19. The implication here is keep following Jesus. The man speaking to Jesus here is already described as a 'disciple.' Jesus wants to keep it that way. Secondly, let the dead bury their own dead. This is a bit trickier. It seems that this follower of Jesus wants to continue to follow Christ, but he needs to bury his father first. Jesus' statement here seems to point to the fact that following Jesus is more important than burying this guy's father.

Indeed, the first couple of verses in this section show that Jesus wants to show His followers that being His disciple is a difficult thing. The Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head. It is costly to follow Christ. In order to follow Christ, we must give up those securities that we often hold so tightly to, namely, our homes, possessions, and our families.

What are the consequences for disobedience?

Failure to continue as Christ's follower.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"180" Movie

Measuring Your Commitment to Missions

Yesterday, I went to NBBI to visit my brother and to listen to Dr. Chris Gnanakan speak in chapel. It was a great time. Let me give you the basic notes of Dr. Chris' lecture.

The premise of the lecture is that there must be some way that we can measure our commitment to Christ. Just as we look at the dashboard of our cars, and see the fuel gauge that measures four basic levels of how much gas is in our car, we can look at four levels of commitment to missions and see where we stand.

"So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net." And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men." So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him." -Luke 5:1-11

1. Passive missions - Peter listened to Jesus' words while washing his nets. This is the equivalent of attending church, listening to sermons, and 'being fed' as we call it in North America.

2. Proxy missions - Peter let Jesus use his 'stuff.' There is no real cost to proxy missions. Peter had just fished all night. He wasn't going to be using the boat for a while. I feel that this is where we are at in many churches in the west. We give our money and resources, but it really doesn't cost us anything does it?

3. Participation in missions - Jesus challenges Peter to launch out into the deep. Jesus shows Peter that it is not a spectator sport. In essence, this is being a part of the mission, such as taking part in a short-term trip.

4. Partnership in missions - Peter invites James and John to join him. They all experience the power of God. We need others to join us in missions for accountability, support, prayer, and many other things. 

Through this all, Peter realized two things. 1) He acknowledges his own sinfulness and 2) Peter realizes he is dealing with deity. 

So where do you measure up to on this missions-commitment gauge? I have been challenged in this. I would like to think i'm somewhere around 3 or 4, but it is more likely that during the daily grind, I am probably much closer to 2, proxy missions. Admittedly, I let Jesus use my 'stuff' and often I am happy about it, but it seems to be few and far between that I actually participate or partner in missions. 

Lord, lead me down the path of obedience, no matter what the cost, no matter how far it takes me, no matter what You do in me. My desire is to see Your power displayed in lives changed for the sake of the gospel.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: What is the Mission of the Church?

Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission
By Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert
266 pages, Crossway

This book is not quite what I expected. The first two chapters were released online by the publisher, so I read those before I ordered the book. The first two chapters were riveting. I quickly devoured them and ordered the book, hungry for more of this book about the Great Commission. The book arrived, and I read the next chapter. I wasn't impressed or unimpressed. Maybe it was waiting the few days for the book to arrive in the mail. And maybe it was that I had never given much thought to those who are 'missional.' Any rate, I didn't enjoy the middle 4 or 5 chapters as much as I did the beginning. But I figured I would plug away and finish the book before I got bored with it.

Don't get me wrong, I liked this book. It just didn't hold my attention through the whole thing. As it turns out, the middle chapters (Part 2 in the book) weren't as interesting to me as the first part. Then the end of the book (Part 3) got my attention like the first part did. Then, after finishing the book, I see the value of the middle chapters.

So what is this book about? Well, Part 1 sought to define some terms and give a general overview of what the mission of the church actually is. If you are going to get this book, and want to be surprised by it, skip to the next paragraph. For those of you who will never read this book, here is the one-sentence summary of the book: "The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship the Lord and obey His commands now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father." 

That is a great sentence! DeYoung and Gilbert have put in the time necessary to establish such a well-written statement of mission for the church. Part 1 culminates in this sentence. The first two chapters are dedicated to explaining what this sentence means, and why it is the mission of the church.

Part 2 begins by taking a look at what the gospel actually is. DeYoung and Gilbert go a long ways towards defining terms in a way that both the conservatives and missionals will understand. It is a revealing section that seeks to understand exactly what it is conservatives mean by the term 'gospel' and what the missionals mean by it. DeYoung and Gilbert also spend quite some time explaining what the connection is between social justice and the responsibility of believers. They do a great job explaining vast portions of Scripture in just a few pages.

Part 3 does a great job wrapping things up. Christians must be motivated by the mission of the church. Without the mission, we might as well not exist. Christianity is not just a 'holy huddle', but it is a 'holy huddle' that is supposed to break to go out into the world to fulfill the mandate.

I was surprised by the epilogue of this book. The title of the epilogue is 'So You're Thinking of Starting a New Kind of Church? Advice for the Young, Motivated, and Missional.' I seriously considered putting the book down and not reading it. But I wanted to finish the whole book, so I began to read. This chapter is in the form of a short narrative about a young, passionate pastor looking to start a church (Missio Dei) in an urban area. The young pastor happens to make an appointment with an older pastor in the area. They both sit down and have a discussion about this young pastor's vision for his church. The older pastor seeks to give him some advice for the future as he begins this journey. It was an extremely encouraging few pages for me. I am young, and passionate about ministry, but I also know that I have lots to learn. So I found myself identifying with the young pastor in the chapter.

This book is balanced and useful, especially if you have never really given much thought about mission. I have given some serious thought to the making disciples side of mission, but have not thought to much about the 'missional' side of things. I like what D. A. Carson says in his endorsement of the book:

"Among the many books that have recently appeared on mission, this is the best one if you are looking for sensible definitions, clear thinking, readable writing, and the ability to handle the Bible."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Be Strong and of a Good Courage

Joshua 1:7-9

"Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditated therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

Joshua had just lost his mentor. Because of his sin, Moses was not permitted to go into the promised land. He died, and Jehovah buried him. In Deuteronomy 34:9 it says, "And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him..." Joshua was Moses' disciple. Joshua had followed Moses ever since the Israelites were freed from Egypt, and now Moses was gone. Not only that, Joshua was expected to lead those stubborn Israelites into the promised land. I'm sure Joshua was afraid, discouraged, dismayed, and not feeling very courageous. 

But God had plans for Joshua. He was going to use him in great ways. So the LORD came to Joshua to comfort him and to encourage him. But He didn't just give him empty words. In verse 7 God says to be strong and courageous. But for what purpose? To obey God's Word. And why obey God's Word? To prosper wherever you go. So, if I want to prosper, I need to obey God's Word. 

If you're feeling discouraged, weak, sad, or depressed, be strong and courageous! Obey the Word of God, and you will prosper and have success wherever you go. Remember that God is with you at all times. Don't depart from His side, and don't depart from His Word.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Called, Not Hired

There is much confusion in churches today as to whether a church hires or calls a pastor. I would like to suggest to you that a pastor is called by God to a specific congregation and the church acknowledges that call.

From a logical standpoint, if a pastor is hired by a church, then he could be fired by the church. This alone can be a detriment to a pastor's ministry. He will lack the job security that comes from knowing that God has placed him in a church. He will also be afraid that if he fails to preach adequate sermons, the congregation could let him go. This mentality will be also do damage to the pastor who runs into conflict with his congregation. The tendency here will be to run away from the conflict rather than face it and seek peace.

If, on the other hand, a pastor is called to a congregation, his ministry will be accompanied by the stability that God gives. The pastor will be confident that God has him in the right place, doing the right thing. The church will be confident that God has put the right man in their church. They will be more willing to work through difficult issues and more willing to listen to their pastor's teaching--even when he might step on their toes.

From a biblical standpoint, Jesus teaches these things in John 10:11-15:

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. -John 10:11-15

So pastors, let us follow Christ's example and care for our congregations, even in the midst of turmoil and attack. Remember, you are called to your ministry by God. He will use you to accomplish His will in that place.

Book Review: Predestined for Hell?

Biblical answers to questions about Hyper-Calvinism, Predestination and Election; The Theory of Calvinism exposed as a heresy.
By John R. Rice, 1958
Sword of the Lord Publishers
103 pages

My brother Kevin introduced me to this book. It sparked my interest, in part because I am fascinated by how quickly the so called, Young, Restless, and Reformed group is sweeping this country, and in part because I believe that the Calvinist/Arminian controversy has caused much confusion for many believers. I'm always looking for more clarity on the whole thing.

Let me first say that Rice does a great job explaining what he means by Calvinism. If the first two chapters dedicated to explaining what Calvinism is were published, it would make a tremendous little booklet. The term Calvinism is very muddied today. By it, some mean that they believe in salvation by grace alone and the believer is eternally secure. To that I give a hearty amen. But, by the word Calvinism, some mean that they believe in total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. And they believe these things to the most extreme that the terms can mean. This extreme, hyper-Calvinism is what Rice focuses on in this book.

Rice spends some time discussing the fact that Hyper-Calvinism uses terms that are non-, even anti-Biblical. The terms unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace are not used together in Scripture. Rice points out that the words grace and atonement are used to describe doctrines that are anything but irresistible and limited. Just as a quick reference-check: Titus 2:11 - "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men," and Hebrews 10:10 - "By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

I appreciated Rice's commentary on chapter 9 of Romans. Rice goes a long way toward bringing some clarity to an oft-muddied pool. Rice points to the fact that Romans 9:10-18 does not speak of salvation, but rather, it speaks of Jacob being chosen over Esau to be the head of the nation of Israel and of Pharaoh being raised up to show God's power through him that God's name may be declared in all the earth. Hyper-Calvinism has done much to cloud the meaning of these verses.

I also enjoyed and felt that Rice's chapter on biblical predestination was, in my estimation, the strongest chapter in the book. In short, Rice delves into election and predestination being valid Bible doctrines that speak of believers. This quote from Spurgeon helps us understand what Rice is getting at: "the doctrine of election shuts no one out, though it shuts a great many in."

Not one person has ever been specifically created by God for the purpose of destroying them in Hell. Indeed, God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9b). The sort of god that Hyper-Calvinism believes in is not the God of the Bible, and is exactly the reason that some unbelievers look at Christianity and exclaim, "Who would want to believe in a torturous, murdering God like that?!"

If you can get your hands on a copy of this little book, it will be well worth your while. Rice will at least help bring you some clarity in defining what Hyper-Calvinism is. And at the most, Rice will help you see the truth of Scripture, namely, that God is a loving, all-good God who has extended the gift of His grace to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age." -Titus 2:12

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 7:15-20

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them." -Matthew 7:15-20

Who is this command to? 

It has been a while since I included this question, mainly because we are still in the Sermon on the Mount, and that same multitude is before Jesus, with the disciples in the front row. It is good to be reminded of these things before we leave the Sermon on the Mount.

What does this command require?

Watch out for false prophets. You can discern who is a false teacher by their fruit.

What truths do we learn through this command?

False prophets will come. They will come and they will be hidden. Jesus uses the imagery of a wolf in sheep's clothing. False teachers will be hard to identify, even impossible at first. But over time, as the 'fruit' of their lives is revealed, you will know who they are. 

It is easy today to identify some false teachers. My mind goes back to Harold Camping. For me, it was very easy to identify him as a false prophet. First, he claimed to know something that Jesus said only the Father in heaven knows (when Christ will return). Second, he predicted a date and it didn't come true. But in spite of those two things, there are thousands who follow this guy. 

Other false teachers will be hard to identify. They will seem like good people. They will be attractive, smart, and crafty, able to deceive thousands--even millions of people. Knowing the truth of Scripture is the only way to defend against deception by false teachers. Yes, time will tell who is a false teacher, and who is not, but you can save yourself the hassle by knowing what Scripture says. 

What are the consequences for disobeying this command?

Deception, snared by false teachers, inability to discern truth from error.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Some Pictures of Jodie...and a video

 Our little angel...for some reason those eyes look mischievous!
 Someday she'll be a heart-breaker!
 Pucker up for a kiss!

She was loving the face-time camera!

Check out this video of Jodie

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 7:12

"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." -Matthew 7:12

What does this command require?

Do to others what you want them to do to you.

What truths do we learn through this command?

Back up a few verses and review what Jesus has just taught. For those who keep asking, seeking, and knocking, God will provide good things. The illustration given is of a man and his son. The son comes to the father and asks his dad for bread. Jesus poses the question: Who among you would give him a stone? Imagine, the son comes again and asks for a fish. Will you give him a serpent?

This 'golden rule' tells us something very important about Christianity: "Christianity is not simply a matter of abstinence from sin; it is positive goodness." -William MacDonald. Don't just restrain from doing evil things, pursue what is good.

Psalm 1:1-3 summarizes this nicely. "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season..."

In other words, don't just be known for the bad that you don't do; be known for the good that you do. The truth here is that we ought to act towards others how God acts towards us. He provides good gifts to us, and we, in turn, are to give good gifts to those who ask of us.

Jesus also points out something important here. He makes the statement, "for this is the Law and the Prophets." A major theme in the Old Testament is loving your neighbor as yourself. The 'golden rule' is not specifically stated in the Law and the Prophets, but God desires that His people show forth kindness to others that He shows to them. Perhaps Micah 6:8 comes the closest to stating the golden rule: "He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD, require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 7:13-14

"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." -Matthew 7:13-14

What does this command require?

Enter through the narrow gate that leads to life.

What truths do we learn through this command?

The gate that leads to salvation is narrow. Contrary to popular opinion of our culture today, salvation is only found in one place--in one person, Jesus Christ. Our culture would like to tell us that every religion is just a means to the same end. Society would like to think that every religion is just as valid. But Jesus teaches here that the gate is narrow. In John 14, Jesus tells us that He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.

The way that leads to life is difficult. It will be hard. It will be challenging. Sometimes it will even seem impossible. But in the end, the reward is worth it. Eternal life is at the end of the narrow, difficult way. Keeping the end in mind helps us persevere on the journey. There are few who find this way. There are few.

Broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. How sad and heart-wrenching is this fact! Many will follow the broad path to destruction. We live in a world filled with lost people, and they are all headed down the path that leads to destruction. May we be faithful in rescuing them, showing them the way of salvation.

What are the consequences for disobeying this command?


Monday, September 19, 2011

God's Revelation, Man's Salvation

Psalm 19 - We will focus on verses 7-11, but take a quick look at the first six verses of this Psalm.

Psalm 19:1-6 – General revelation – This is God’s self-revelation that is seen in and by all of creation. 

Take a quick glance down the text:
Verse 1 – The heavens declare the works of God’s hands
Verse 2 – The day and the night speaks the knowledge of God
Verse 3-4a – Creation utters not a word, but there isn’t any place where their words have not gone.
Verse 4b-6 – The sun demonstrates the expanse of the Word of God. There is nothing hidden from its heat.

The question has been asked before: ‘What of the man who has never heard, what happens to him?’ That man does not exist. There is not a person on the planet that has not received God’s self-revelation. Romans 1:18-20. All men have true knowledge of God. Romans 1:21-23. All men have rejected true knowledge of God. Romans 1:24-31. All men have rejected true knowledge of God and have sinned. Romans 1:32. All men are condemned for rejecting true knowledge of God and for their sin.

Psalm 19:7-11 – Special Revelation – God’s self-revelation in the Word of God.

At first glance, it would seem that these verses focus on what the Word of God provides or what the effects of the Word of God are. In fact, you could preach a series of sermons from these verses on what the Word of God provides. But as I read the passage again and again, I began to realize that it is not so much about what the Word of God provides as it is what the Word of God is. The theme of the verses is a deep description of God’s special self-revelation in His Word. These characteristics of the Word of God are also characteristics of who God is. Every aspect of the Word declares to us something about God. Only when we realize that this is the theme of the text do we realize how blessed we are to hold God’s Word and experience the benefits of having God’s Word. Because of what the Word is and who God is, we can know and experience what only God can provide.

The Word of God is:

1.       Perfect – converting the soul

“perfect” – speaks of moral completeness, it is undefiled.

“The law of the Lord is perfect;” by which he means not merely the law of Moses but the doctrine of God, the whole run and rule of sacred Writ. The doctrine revealed by God he declares to be perfect, and yet David had but a very small part of the Scriptures, and if a fragment, and that the darkest and most historical portion, be perfect, what must the entire volume be? How more than perfect is the book which contains the clearest possible display of divine love, and gives us an open vision of redeeming grace. The gospel is a complete scheme or law of gracious salvation, presenting to the needy sinner everything that his terrible necessities can possibly demand. There are no redundancies and no omissions in the Word of God, and in the plan of grace; why then do men try to paint this lily and gild this refined gold? The gospel is perfect in all its parts, and perfect as a whole: it is a crime to add to it, treason to alter it, and felony to take from it.” –C. H. Spurgeon

“converting” – ‘to turn back’ to restore. In this case it speaks of the restoration of spiritual life. Notice the depth of conversion by the Word of God. Conversion is not just conversion of practice or conversion of thinking; it is conversion of the most profound part of a man—his soul.

Life is something that only God can provide. Spiritual life is something that only God can provide. Men cannot create life. Men cannot create spiritual life. Ephesians 2:1 tells us that we were dead in our trespasses and sins—lost and without hope. But Ephesians 2:1 also tells us, “And you HE MADE ALIVE.” God, in His grace, gives spiritual life to spiritually dead men. The Word of God is the source of that life. I say that because Ephesians 2:8 tells us that our salvation is through faith; and Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes from hearing the Word of God.

2.       Faithful – making wise the simple

“sure” – faithful, confirmed

“the whole of Scripture is true, coming from the God of truth; having for its principal subject Christ, who is truth itself, and being dictated by the Spirit of truth; and particularly the Gospel part of it, and all the truths therein contained, especially the doctrine of salvation by Christ, which is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation: the Gospel is a testimony of record which God himself has bore concerning his Son, and eternal life by him, and therefore sure and to be depended upon; for if the witness of men is received, the witness of God is greater,” – John Gill

“making wise the simple” - Psalm 119:130 – “The entrance of your words gives light, it gives understanding to the simple.” The word translated ‘simple’ here does not mean simple-minded. It does not mean one who doesn’t have a great mental capacity. Rather, it is used to describe someone who does not have much life experience. It describes the Christian that is new in the Lord, just taking his first steps in the faith.

Because the Word of God is sure, we can have wisdom. If followed, the Bible can make anyone wise. Even the most inexperienced child can be wise by heading the instructions that God has given. Praise God he equips even the youngest babe in Christ to live a wise life!

Commenting on James 3 concerning true wisdom, John MacArthur said “True wisdom, the wisdom that comes from above, is not a matter of how much one knows but of how much one trusts, loves, and obeys the Lord.”

Do you trust the Word that God has revealed? By trusting and obeying the Word of God, any believer can live a wise and rewarding life—even the most young and inexperienced.

Notice the progression so far: Man is converted by the Word, made wise in his practice, and now made joyful

3.       Right – rejoicing the heart

Listen to Spurgeon again: “His precepts and decrees are founded in righteousness, and are such as are right or fitted to the right reason of man. As a physician gives the right medicine, and a counselor the right advice; so does the Book of God.” C. H. Spurgeon

Continuing in the upright Word of the Lord rejoices the heart. Psalm 1:1-2 – “[Happy] is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” The way of the Lord may be a narrow way, and the way of the Lord may be a difficult way, but it is a straight way. If we just walk one foot in front of the other, we will have sure footing and sure reward for our faithfulness. Joy is experienced not from being free from trials, but from knowing and obeying that right path to walk on in the midst of those trials. Joy comes from living a life that pleases our heavenly Father.

Do you lack joy? Your lack of joy is directly proportionate to your time in the Word. If you are going through life avoiding or neglecting the Word, you will live a sour, bitter, unfulfilled life. You will not have wisdom for living and you will not have joy. The Word of God provides joy. As a son has no greater joy than to hear his father delight in his son for a job well done, so the Christian rejoices when each of us hears ‘well-done’ from our heavenly Father.

4.       Pure – enlightening the eyes

There are no defects, no flaws, and nothing missing. The word of God is pure. Think about how significant these words are. David, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, tells us that the word of God is pure. Keep in mind that he is writing this when there was very little of God’s Word recorded. David would have basically had the books of the Law, and his prayer journal. But David reveals to us that the word of God is pure. How great a truth this is! God’s word is pure in its individual parts, but how much more pure in its entirety!

Two things come to mind here. (1) On the straight and narrow path that the Lord intends for us to walk, the purity of the Word lights the way for us. “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105. God’s Word reveals to us the way to go and the things to avoid. (2) I think of how a lens brings clarity. Put on a pair of glasses with the wrong prescription and you will lack clarity in your vision. But put on the right prescription and your vision will clear right up. God’s Word reveals to us a proper perspective for all of life’s circumstances. He tells us how to act and react in a way that pleases Him.

5.       Truth – by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward

The Word of God is true and righteous altogether. By truth, error is revealed. By righteousness, sin is revealed. The Bible reveals to you and warns you, Christian, the errors of your way. Thus it can prevent you from making poor choices and wrong turns in life. Secondly, the Bible reveals to you the sin in your life so that you can repent and forsake your sin.

We are a privileged people to have the Word of God. David tells us in verse 10 that the words from God are to be desired more than much fine gold and it is sweeter than honey. But with the possession of God’s specific self-revelation we also have a greater responsibility before God. You see, the men that have never heard the Word of God are held accountable for rejecting the true knowledge of God that they did have, but we are held responsible for how we respond to God’s specific words.

David understood this. He understood that he was being held responsible for the Word of God. Look at verse 12. “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults.” We must understand that as we look into the perfect Law of God that it shows us our sinfulness. It reveals to us even our secret faults.

James 1:21-25: “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

There is an illustration here in James. On the one hand we have a man who peers at his face in a mirror. He sees himself, walks away and forgets what he looks like. On the other hand we have a man that looks into the perfect law of liberty. The word translated ‘looks’ describes a man that is bent over looking into the Word. He searches the Scriptures to find his faults—his wickedness—to find cleansing and forgiveness. He receives the Word with meekness in order to save his soul.

David’s prayer: “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.”

David knew the effects that the Word had on his life. He knew that the Word converts the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, and warns a man. And David knew the responsibility that came with knowledge of the Word. David needed cleansing from sin. He needed a Redeemer.

Praise God we have a Redeemer in Jesus Christ. He has redeemed us by the blood his own precious blood. He paid the penalty that we could not pay. He makes it possible for our hearts to be cleansed and for our lives to be pleasing to God. Indeed, God’s revelation is our salvation.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Highest Title a Man Could Receive

"But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." -1 Timothy 6:11-12

I'm sure that Paul spent a lot of time with Timothy. I'm sure the 1 Timothy isn't the first letter that he ever wrote to him. I'm sure that Paul put all his effort into training Timothy and making sure he was ready for the ministry. Paul had so invested in Timothy, in fact, that at one point, there was no one likeminded with Paul except Timothy. The student had become like his teacher.

Here in 1 Timothy chapter six, after some seriously intensive ministry training, Paul ascribes Timothy with the highest title Timothy could attain: man of God. What a privilege! Timothy learned from Paul, imitated Paul, and grew in the Lord from following Paul's example. He had become a man of God.

What Paul doesn't tell Timothy is that the 'man of God' had arrived or completed the Christian walk. Paul urges Timothy to keep going, keep running, keep pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness. He urges Timothy to keep on fighting the faith and to continue on to lay hold of eternal life.

How much we could learn from these instructions! Even though we may someday achieve this high title of 'man of God', we must press on, keep pursuing these righteous things, keep fighting the good fight of faith, and lay hold of eternal life, to which we are called. So I encourage you, find your 'Paul' who can train you up in the Lord, and find your 'Timothy' who you can invest in and disciple. Some day may we all be called men and women of God. And on that day, may we keep pressing on, knowing that there is a greater reward coming.

O God, mold me to the image of Your Son. Teach me the way I should go. Keep me on Your straight path, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 7:6

"Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before the swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." -Matthew 7:6

What does this command require?

Do not give what is holy to the dogs. Do not cast your pearls before the swine.

What truths do we learn through this command?

It is safe to say that Jesus is giving this command in figurative language. He is not giving instruction on the proper relationship of holy things and precious pearls to dogs and pigs. Rather, Jesus is here giving a command based on the previous few verses regarding proper judgment.

It is generally accepted that 'what is holy' and 'pearls' is referring to doctrines of Scripture, especially the doctrines of the Gospel. In Jewish culture, dogs and pigs were unclean animals. 'Dogs' and 'swine' are taken to mean wicked, violent people who abuse and trample both the message and the messenger of the Gospel. With those things in view, Jesus' command becomes much clearer. Do not give [the doctrines of Scripture, especially the Gospel] to [violent, wicked men who will abuse and trample the Gospel message and messenger].

How can we justify such a choice on our part? How can we refuse to share the Gospel, since the wicked need to hear it the most? I believe that we need to take a step back and take a look at the great commission for a second. Mark 16:15 says, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Jesus has commissioned us--commanded us--to preach the Gospel message to every creature. Essentially, each believer must preach the gospel to everyone at least one time. Based on their reaction to our preaching, we will be able to discern if they will 'gladly receive the word' or 'trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.'

I like what the Believer's Bible Commentary says here: "When we meet vicious people who treat divine truths with utter contempt and respond to our preaching of the claims of Christ with abuse and violence, we are not obligated to continue to share the gospel with them. To press the matter only brings increased condemnation to the offenders."

What are the consequences for disobedience?

the Gospel message spurned and trampled underfoot by the wicked; unnecessary abuse to you, the preacher; 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 7:1-5

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." -Matthew 7:1-5

What does this command require?

Do not judge. Do not try to take the 'speck' from your brother's eye when you have a 'plank' in your own eye. Remove your 'plank' first, then you will see clearly to remove the 'speck' from your brother's eye.

What truths do we learn from this command?

This is an oft-misunderstood passage. Many people use these verses to justify their own sinful habits and practices. When confronted by some dear brother about their sin, they grow angry and accuse their brother of hypocrisy, as Jesus does here. The conversation generally goes something like this:

Brother #1: "You have some sin in your life."
Brother #2: "Judge not that you be not judged."
Brother #1: "But you have some sin in your life."

Brother #1 does not know what to say, so he walks off, dumbfounded by this little encounter.
What these two do not understand is that Jesus is not giving permission to continue in a life of sin, unconfronted by fellow believers. And Jesus is not teaching here to stop using our God-given moral discernment. Jesus is teaching here that (1) I should not judge my brother for his sins. It is not my place. My place is to gently seek to restore my brother and plead with him to be reconciled to God. (2) If I am going to confront a brother about sin, I must first deal with my own sin. I must recognize that I am a wicked sinner (the plank) that needs cleansing and forgiveness from God. When I am able to confess my sins and take on a humble attitude, I may then seek to help my brother with his sins (the speck in his eye).

Brother #1 is right to point out sin in the life of Brother #2. Brother #2 may also be right about Brother #1 having sin in his own life, even though Brother #2 points it out with a sinful attitude. But what Brother #2 has failed to realize is that even if Brother #1 has a 'plank' in his eye, there is still a 'speck' in his own eye. We all have sin to confess and forsake. We can all learn from a brother helping us to see what we are so often blind to. We need to have humble, repentant attitudes when confronted about our sin.

Through this command we also learn much about grace. Though not specifically mentioned in these verses, the principle is clear. I must understand that I have been given grace from God. Only by His grace I am what I am. In fact, God has offered His grace to all mankind through Jesus Christ. Therefore, I am standing on equal ground with my fellow man. That brings us to Jesus' command here: Judge not that you be not judged. So live each day thankful for His grace, and extend that grace to your fellow man each time you are tempted to judge him for his lifestyles. He needs God's grace too!

What are the consequences for disobeying this command?

Jesus distinctly says here, "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged."; hypocritical lifestyle; ignored sin in your life;

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 6:33

"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." -Matthew 6:33

What does this command require?

Pursue with primary importance God's kingdom and God's righteousness.

What truths do we learn through this command?

Being concerned for God's kingdom is more important than what you will eat, what you will drink, what you will wear, and where you will live. The tangible things in life seem so important to us. We think to ourselves, "If I don't find food and clothing and shelter I won't be able to live!" What we need to keep in the forefront of our minds is that God, our heavenly Father, is already caring for these aspects of life. He is your Provider. He takes care of the tangible things so that we can focus on the unseen, spiritual reality.

God's kingdom is made up of God's people. The task of believers is to share the gospel and to add to the kingdom of God by making disciples wherever we go. Nothing else should challenge our concern for God's kingdom. Not food, not money, not clothing, not fame, nothing is to take precedence over the kingdom.

God blesses those who have their priorities straight. "All these things shall be added unto you." Put the kingdom of God and his righteousness first and He will add all these things to you. What a promise! What motivation to seek first the kingdom!

What are the consequences for disobedience to this command?

Unfruitful life, lack of blessing, failure to seek the kingdom, failure to seek God's righteousness.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 6:25-32

"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." -Matthew 6:25-32

What does this command require?

Do not worry. Do not worry about your life. Do not worry about food. Do not worry about your body.

What truths do we learn from this command?

God is the ultimate provider. Psalm 145:16 says, "You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing." In fact, God is such a good provider for His children that we need not even worry about needing anything. God takes care of the birds of the air and He clothes the lilies of the field. Since He does these things for birds and lilies, will He not much more take care of His children? We can trust God. He will never fail. 

The question remains: What about when He doesn't provide what I need? Well, you're not asking the right question. God always provides what you need. The question you are really asking is: Why doesn't He provide what I think I need? Believer, commit yourself to the sovereign hand of God and you will humbly accept what He gives you. Make the most of His provisions. Honor Him with all of your life. Do not worry about your life.

"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." -1 Peter 5:6-7

What are the consequences for disobeying this command?

anxiety due to constant worrying; lack of faith; small view of God;

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 6:19-21

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. -Matthew 6:19-21

What does this command require?

Do not store up treasures (things of value) on the earth, but store up things of value in heaven.

What truths do we learn through this command?

We learn, first of all, that the things of the earth are temporal and passing away. Jesus says that moth and rust destroy and thieves break in a steal. Think about it, anything physical on this earth can be destroyed or stolen. The cars of 40 years ago are worn out, rusted, and broken. Houses fall into disrepair. Clothes wear out. The body grows old and wears out. Money and possessions can be stolen and lost. Not too long ago, I experienced some Internet fraud for the first time. It was a frustrating process to get out of, but it made me realize that money can even be stolen electronically. There is no hope for the treasures of this earth. At most, you will only keep them for your lifetime. After you die, someone else gets your treasures.

Secondly, the treasures of heaven are protected from being destroyed or stolen. Moths and rust can't get their destructive fingers on heavenly treasures. Thieves can't break through the heavenly security system. Heaven, the place where God dwells, is the place of eternal treasure. Which investment is the better investment--earthly treasure or heavenly? Destructible or indestructible? Temporal or eternal?

We also learn that our treasure reveals a lot about our heart. Often we think that we can hide what our hearts are really about. We think that we can hide our passion for the lusts and pleasures of this earth. Jesus says that your treasures will show where your heart is. So the question is: what does your treasure reveal about you? Does your treasure reveal that you are living for this earth? Or does your treasure reveal that you are living for heaven? Trade in your temporal treasures for the treasures of eternal value that cannot be destroyed.

What are the consequences for disobedience?

lack of eternal treasure, painful loss of temporal treasures when they are destroyed or stolen, attachment to this world.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 6:16-18

"Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." -Matthew 6:16-18

What does this command require?

When you fast, do not make it obvious to others like the hypocrites. Fast in the secret place, where you are only seen by God.

What truths do we learn through this command?

I think it is wise to have a good, solid understanding of what the Bible says about fasting before drawing any conclusions on these verses. If you have Bible software or Strong's concordance, look up 'fast, fasting,' to get a quick idea of what the Scriptures say. I have listed these verses here for your convenience. There is only about 60 verses. Just take a quick look.

When the hypocrites fasted, they would let everyone know how painful it was for them. They wanted the praise of men for 'looking so spiritual.' Jesus says that they have their reward. They were looking for the praise of men and they got it. Jesus never promises that the Father will reward fasting like that. In fact, Jesus implies here that the praise of men is all they will get for their fasting. So if they were fasting to get an answer from God or to mourn some loss, they would not get anything from God. How sad that the praise of men is the end of their reward.

We learn here that the Father is in the secret place. There is a place where you can go to meet with God. As in the previous commands on prayer, we are to go to that secret place to fast where only God can see. Fasting can bring you closer to God. Fasting is a way to commune with God and experience His fellowship. What a wonderful truth this is!

This command also comes with a promise. Essentially, follow Jesus' teaching on fasting, and God will reward you openly. Fasting is a tricky subject. We have not been given detailed instructions on when to fast, why fast, or how long to fast. But if you simply follow what Jesus has said about fasting, you will at least be going in the right direction. I believe that Jesus has left the when, why and how up to the discretion of the faster. You decide. What is the best time and reason for you to fast?

What are the consequences for disobeying this command?

hypocritical lifestyle, limited reward, lack of fellowship with God.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 6:9-13

"In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." -Matthew 6:9-13

What does this command require?

Pray following this example. 

What truths do we learn from this command?

It is important how we pray. Jesus has given us an example to follow. I do not believe that we must repeat this prayer every Sunday or every morning--that would contradict what Jesus just said about not praying like the heathens that use vain repetitions when they pray. Rather, Jesus wants us to use this as a pattern for how we ought to pray. He has given us the outline, and we are to fill it in with our praises, thanksgiving, requests, and supplications.

A quick perusal of this model prayer will show you that there is some invaluable truth here. God is our Father, He is in heaven. His name is hallowed. He has a kingdom. His will is being completed in heaven. He is the source of daily sustenance. He is the Forgiver of sins. He can help keep us from temptation. He can deliver us from the evil one. There is so much here! When was the last time you prayed like this? Start today, following Christ's command and model of how to pray.

What are the consequences for disobeying this command?

Inconsistent prayer life. Failure to pray for the will of God to be done on earth. failure to confess sins. selfish prayers.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 6:5-8

"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. "Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. -Matthew 6:5-8

Who is this command to? Spoken to the multitudes and the disciples, instruction for Jesus' followers.

What does this command require?

Do not be like the hypocrites. When you pray, go into a secret place. Do not use vain repetitions in prayer like the heathens. Do not be like them.

What truths do we learn through this command?

We learn some interesting details about the heathens and the hypocrites. The heathens like to use vain repetitions because they think it will help them be heard. The hypocrites pray in a public place so that they may be praised by men for their 'spiritual prayers.'

We learn that God rewards and answers those who pray to Him in the secret place. God desires that people pray to Him with sincerity. He knows what we need, but He desires to have that communion with His children. What a comfort to know that God hears our sincere prayers and rewards us for our perseverance in prayer. James 5:17 says, "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." May we always pray, and not give up.

What are the consequences for disobeying this command?

unanswered prayer, praise from men for praying in public, heathenish prayers, lack of reward from God.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 6:1-4

"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly." -Matthew 6:1-4

Who is this command to?

Spoken in the Sermon on the Mount before a great multitude, but it seems that this is instruction for Jesus' followers. He is teaching them how to give, pray, and fast in these next few paragraphs.

What does this command require?

Do not do charitable deeds so that they can be seen by men. Do your charitable deeds in such a way that your left hand doesn't know what your right hand is doing. Do them in secret.

What truths do we learn through this command?

We learn that those who do hypocritical 'good deeds' to be seen by men will not be rewarded by God. Their reward is exactly what they were looking for--praise from men. And we learn that good deeds done in secret for the sake of doing good deeds will be rewarded by the Father in heaven. Which would you rather have--praise from men or reward from God? Keep in mind that praise from men will pass away but reward from God will last.

I also find it interesting that Jesus says that the hypocrites are in the synagogues. If you would expect anyone to be doing good deeds for the Lord and not for men it would be those who are 'in church', right? Jesus says  that there are hypocrites in the synagogue. The pharisees had so perverted the religious system that it even affected how they did good deeds. Don't be like them. Do good deeds for the reward in heaven.

What are the consequences for disobedience to this command?

lack/loss of reward, temporary praise from men, hypocritical lifestyle, lack of authenticity.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Bible Bankroll on Tithing

Run a quick-search on tithe, tithes, tithing in the NKJ and this is what you'll find. Make sure to take the time to check out the context!

Genesis 14:20 -  and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!" And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Leviticus 27:30 -  "Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the LORD's; it is holy to the LORD.

Leviticus 27:31 -  If a man wishes to redeem some of his tithe, he shall add a fifth to it.

Leviticus 27:32 -  And every tithe of herds and flocks, every tenth animal of all that pass under the herdsman's staff, shall be holy to the LORD.

Numbers 18:21 -  "To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting,

Numbers 18:24 -  For the tithe of the people of Israel, which they present as a contribution to the LORD, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance. Therefore I have said of them that they shall have no inheritance among the people of Israel."

Numbers 18:26 -  "Moreover, you shall speak and say to the Levites, 'When you take from the people of Israel the tithe that I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present a contribution from it to the LORD, a tithe of the tithe.

Numbers 18:28 -  So you shall also present a contribution to the LORD from all your tithes, which you receive from the people of Israel. And from it you shall give the LORD's contribution to Aaron the priest.

Deuteronomy 12:6 -  and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.

Deuteronomy 12:11 -  then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the LORD.

Deuteronomy 12:17 -  You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present,

Deuteronomy 14:22 -  "You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year.

Deuteronomy 14:23 -  And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.

Deuteronomy 14:24 -  And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there,

Deuteronomy 14:28 -  "At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns.

Deuteronomy 26:12 -  "When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce in the third year, which is the year of tithing, giving it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your towns and be filled,

Deuteronomy 26:13 -  then you shall say before the LORD your God, 'I have removed the sacred portion out of my house, and moreover, I have given it to the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, according to all your commandment that you have commanded me. I have not transgressed any of your commandments, nor have I forgotten them.

2 Chronicles 31:5 -  As soon as the command was spread abroad, the people of Israel gave in abundance the firstfruits of grain, wine, oil, honey, and of all the produce of the field. And they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything.

2 Chronicles 31:6 -  And the people of Israel and Judah who lived in the cities of Judah also brought in the tithe of cattle and sheep, and the tithe of the dedicated things that had been dedicated to the LORD their God, and laid them in heaps.

2 Chronicles 31:12 -  And they faithfully brought in the contributions, the tithes, and the dedicated things. The chief officer in charge of them was Conaniah the Levite, with Shimei his brother as second,

Nehemiah 10:37 -  and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our ground, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our towns where we labor.

Nehemiah 10:38 -  And the priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes. And the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse.

Nehemiah 12:44 -  On that day men were appointed over the storerooms, the contributions, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the Law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns, for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered.

Nehemiah 13:5 -  prepared for Tobiah a large chamber where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests.

Nehemiah 13:12 -  Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses.

Amos 4:4 -  "Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days;

Malachi 3:8 -  Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How have we robbed you?' In your tithes and contributions.

Malachi 3:10 -  Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Matthew 23:23 -  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Luke 11:42 -  "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.

Luke 18:12 -  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.'

Hebrews 7:5 -  And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham.

Hebrews 7:6 -  But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.

Hebrews 7:8 -  In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives.

Hebrews 7:9 -  One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham,

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Balloons and Jodie!

 A few pictures from the Presque Isle Balloon Rally...A major highlight for the McKeen family in August every year!

 Had to take a bunch of pictures to get this one!
 Uncle Kevin brought this back from Ecuador for Jodie. probably the best hat ever!
 Jodie has made a smooth transition to her 'big girl bed' and loves every minute of it!
 better than last year, but she still needs to learn how to eat a cupcake!

Our happy little family of three, soon to be four!

Friday, September 2, 2011

100th POST! The Commands of Christ - Luke 17:3

"Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him." -Luke 17:3

Who is this command to?

Spoken to the disciples. This is a command that is to be passed from disciple to disciple under 'teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.'

What does this command require?

Be very careful when a brother sins against you to rebuke him and forgive him when he repents--even if he offends you seven times in a day, when he comes and repents, forgive him.

What truths do we learn from this command?

Forgiveness is a vital part of the Christian life and church life. Jesus uses the words 'take heed to yourselves.' In other words, pay close attention to yourselves in this. For a Christian to neglect forgiveness is not only disobedience to this command, it is a failure to act how God acts towards you. My mind takes me back to the parable of Matthew 18. The king forgave one of his slaves a vast debt, but that slave could not forgive a fellow slave even a small debt of five bucks. That wicked slave was thrown to the torturers until he could pay his vast debt. Then Jesus says some very interesting words, "So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother's trespasses." (Matt. 18:35) This is serious stuff! Forgiveness in the Christian life is an extension of the mercy and forgiveness that God has shown each one of us.

My mind also takes me to 1 Corithians 13:5 which tells us that love keeps no record of wrongs (NIV), is not resentful (ESV), and thinks no evil (NKJ). Seven times a day we must forgive. Matthew 18 tells us that we are to forgive 70 times 7. Anyone who can forgive 490 times IS NOT KEEPING TRACK! Jesus command is to forgive. Forgive when you don't feel like it. Forgive when you remember the sins against you of the past. Forgive no matter who it is. Forgive forgive forgive. Show mercy because God has shown you mercy without partiality. You didn't deserve it and you couldn't earn it. Humanly speaking, your brothers in Christ that offend you don't deserve your forgiveness either. But God has commanded you to forgive. So forgive your brother and let the love of Christ shine through.

What are the consequences for disobedience?

broken relationships, failure to extend the love and mercy of God to others, God will withhold mercy from you,

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Book Review: The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of the Faith

by George Swinnock (1627-1673)
Reformation Heritage Books
170 pages

I bought this book along with two other RHB books. I hadn't read much of the Puritans before, so I didn't know much what to expect. This is the second of the three that I have read, and I have been pleasantly surprised by both.

First, a little bit about George Swinnock. He was a graduate of Cambridge and Oxford. He pastored three churches through the course of his ministry. Other than that, we do not know very much about him. He died at the young age of 46.

In this little book, Swinnock seeks to exposit Psalm 73:26 - "My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever." The book is divided into two main sections, as is the verse. First, Swinnock delves into what does the phrase 'my flesh and my heart faileth' really means. Naturally, he takes the verse literally and explains man's fallen condition and immanent death. Death is part of every life. Every man must face it. Swinnock gives some compelling reasons to prepare for death.

  1. Death is near
  2. Death may come suddenly
  3. Death is final
  4. Death is a trial
  5. Death is a misery
  6. You must prepare for death
In the second part of the book, Swinnock seeks to explain what it means for the person who can say, 'God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.' Truly this person is the person who has trusted whole-heartedly in the Lord. This is the person that acknowledges that the flesh is failing. This is the person who is seeking to die well. "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."

I enjoyed reading this book and I appreciate the clarity that Swinnock brings to an often misquoted verse of Scripture. I close with this quote from the book: 

"Even at that great day [God's judgment], the fire that will consume the world will not so much as singe your portion. You may stand upon its ruins and sing, "I have lost nothing. I have my portion, my inheritance, my happiness, my God!" (pg. 157)

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 5:48

"Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." -Matthew 5:48

Who is this command to?

Spoken to the multitudes listening to the Sermon on the Mount. The disciples are in the front row listening to these words of Jesus.

What does this command require?

Before we jump to any conclusions here, it is important to know what the word 'perfect' means in the Greek. teleios is the Greek word translated here and it means: 'complete, wanting nothing, mature, perfect.' This is vital to the meaning of this command. The Believer's Bible Commentary brings some clarity here: "It does not mean sinless or flawless. The previous verses explain that to be perfect means to love those who hate us, to pray for those who persecute us, and to show kindness to both friend and foe. Perfection here is that spiritual maturity which enables a Christian to imitate God in dispensing blessing to everybody without partiality."

What truths do we learn through this command?

We learn that we can act in such a way that imitates our Father in heaven. For the believer, it is possible to do good works that glorify God. And for the believer, it is possible to show love to those who don't deserve it. It is possible to pray for our persecutors and it is possible to bless those who curse us. Perhaps the greatest truth gleaned from this command is that with God's help we can do what is otherwise impossible. It is important to remember that each believer is God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Loving others is a result of God working in and through a believer to make them complete in Christ Jesus.

"and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." -Colossians 2:10

What are the consequences for disobedience to this command?

incompleteness, immaturity, sinful behavior,