Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year's Resolution

Last year I did not make any resolutions as we entered 2011. This is partly because I didn't think much about it and partly because I didn't see the importance of it. I didn't have a bad year, but as we draw to the close of 2011 I can't help but think that because I didn't set any goals, I don't have any sense of satisfaction for meeting any goals. I want this year to be different. I want to set some goals for myself and strive to meet those every day. So through this past week I have been thinking of some goals that I want to do in this coming year.

1. Resolve - to pray for and with my wife every day. It seems so simple, yet it has been a challenge for me in my 3.5 years of marriage to fulfill this even on a weekly basis. I can't think of a better way to be a more loving husband and a better spiritual leader in the home than to pray consistently for and with my wife.

2. Resolve - to pray for and with my kids every day. Alicia and I have always been faithful about praying with and for Jodie every day. But now that we have Kendra in the house, I want to make sure that we are faithful to pray for and with both of our girls each day.

3. Resolve - to read the Bible devotionally every day. This past year I have read the Bible every day, but many days I have read it only for sermon preparation or 'job related' stuff. I want to have the attitude of Job: "I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food." To help me do this, I will be using this 3650 Bible-reading plan that I came across on Tim Challies blog. Essentially, I will be reading 10 chapters of 10 different books of the Bible every day. The article I linked to describes the plan and the reasons behind it. Mom, Dad, Kevin, and I will be taking this plan on as a challenge. I have also adopted this rule: No read, no feed. That means that I will not eat any food before I spend my devotional time in the Word each day.

Those are my three resolutions for 2012. Have you thought of any?

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 24:40-44

"Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect."

To whom are these commands spoken?

Spoken to the disciples in response to their question about the sign of Christ's return and the end of the age (v. 3).

What do these commands require?

Watch and be ready, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

What truths do we learn through these commands?

Jesus is returning at an unexpected hour. While these verses are referring to the second coming, not the rapture, both events will be unexpected. Our duty then is to be faithful with what Christ has called and commanded us to do and also to be expecting His return at any moment. The person that is not ready for Christ's return will be taken in judgment, just as the man in the field or the woman grinding at the mill.

So the question bears asking: Are you ready? Have you trusted in Christ for salvation? Have you devoted your life to obedience to your Lord and Master? Are you doing His will? These are serious questions. Questions that, if not considered and answered correctly, can affect your eternal destiny. There are some very real consequences for disobedience to these two commands and there are some very real blessings for obedience.

What are the consequences for disobedience and the blessings for obedience?

I'd like to just consider the rest of Matthew 24 to evaluate what happens when one is obedient or disobedient to these commands:

"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying in his coming,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Let us strive to be faithful, consistently walking with the Lord, doing His will, and eagerly waiting for His return.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Truths About The Living God - 1 Samuel 17:26, 36

1 Samuel 17:26, 36

"And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?... Your servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God."

What do we learn about the living God?

Israel was a nation chosen by God. They represented Him in the world. At the time of this text, Israel was at war with the Philistines. The armies of Israel were supposed to be fighting in the name of Jehovah, but they were intimidated by Goliath the giant. This guy was said to be 9 feet tall. He was a beast. However, the Israelite army failed to see that he was still simply a man. They forgot who they were fighting for. David showed up to remind them.

David arrived on the scene, and he couldn't believe what was going on! This "uncircumcised Philistine" was blaspheming the name of Jehovah. Goliath defied the armies of the living God. Since Israel represented God, Goliath was defying God Himself. David could not just ignore this. David knew and loved the LORD deeply. He could not let this man, though he was a giant, defy his God.

In David's career as a shepherd, he had killed at least one lion and one bear to protect his sheep. He knew that the living God was on his side, and that He would enable him to be victorious. This evil Philistine was going down. You probably know the rest of the story. If not, just keep reading 1 Samuel.

How does this apply to your life? Well just as Israel represented God in the past dispensations, we the Church represent Him in this dispensation. 2 Corinthians 5:20 tells us that "we are ambassadors for Christ." We need to faithfully uphold the name of the living God. If you are a Christian, you have a duty to be like Christ. The world is going to see God through us. If you misrepresent Christ, you are keeping others from the truth, and destroying their chance of being saved. At the same time, when you see someone defying the living God, or His people, it is your duty to take a stand and defend His name.

Are you intimidated or afraid, like the Israelite army, when you see or hear someone attacking your God? You have nothing to be afraid of! The Lord has given the Holy Spirit to us all. He lives inside us, giving us the power and strength we need. The most the world can do to us is kill us, and then we will be present with the Lord! Do you love Jesus Christ? He has saved you! You should be proud to share His Word and represent Him in the world. Remember who it is that you represent, and recognize that on your own you are unable, but the Almighty Holy Spirit lives in you. In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."

Be a faithful witness for your Lord Jesus Christ today. It is your duty.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Truths About The Living God - Joshua 3:10-11

Joshua 3:10-11

"And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan."

What do we learn about the living God?

We are taught about God in the Bible, but how do we know He really does exist? The illustration of the wind may be used. Wind cannot be seen. Nevertheless, we know that there is wind. We can feel it on our skin and we can see its power as it creates waves in the ocean, as it makes drifts and dunes in the desert, and as it blows trees, dust, and snow. We cannot see the wind, yet we know it is there by what it does. In the same way, We cannot see the living God, yet we know He is there by what He does. He has created all things. The universe works in perfect order. Everything He has made is beautiful, from the tiniest atom, to the largest planet or star. There is such detail in every part of creation. How can anyone deny the existence of God?

So we know that God must have created all things, as there is no other logical explanation. However, we must also ask, is God still around? or did He just leave once He created everything (a.k.a. Deism)? God did not merely set the universe in motion and go on vacation. God has always loved His creation. Everything was made for His glory. He created man in His own image. We are made "a little lower than the angels." (Hebrews 2:7) God has always had a special plan for all mankind. He planned in eternity past to send His Son Jesus to pay for our sin. The Lord loves us. The living God cares for us. He is very much a personal being. Just like the wind, we know that God exists, because of what He does. We know what He has done, by creating, but He is always active. He is the living God. Look at Matthew 6:26,28-30

"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?... And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"

So you see, God is active even in the little things, like providing for birds, and growing flowers, and most importantly in this passage, taking care of us, His children. 

We know that the living God is with us, by the great, mighty, and impossible things He does. As He was with the Israelites, who were a small, seemingly insignificant nation, He is with us. He defeated a great number of peoples through the Israelites, and they knew He was there, because He did things that they could not do alone. In the same way, when we trust God every day, in all our battles, in our times of need, and any time we are in distress, we will see Him do amazing things. Someone has said, "Seek out the mountains, and you will witness God doing things through your life that can be explained only by His mighty presence." When situations that seem to be impossible arise in your life, seek the Lord, and you will see Him do wondrous things. As you trust the Lord each day, others will see God working in your life, and they will know as well that your God, Jehovah, really is the living God. Seek Him today!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 24:3-5

"Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many...Then if anyone says to you, "Look, here is the Christ!" or "There!" do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect."
-Matthew 24:3-5, 23-24

To whom are these commands spoken?

Spoken to the disciples

What do these commands require?

Do not be deceived by false christs and false prophets. Do not believe it when they claim that the Christ has come.

What truths do we learn here?

Many volumes have been written on this chapter and many interpretations have been offered to try and explain what is going on in Matthew 24. Let me remind you that our goal is not to exposit every aspect of the text here, but simply to try and understand Jesus' commands.

These commands serve as a warning to the disciples. There will be many that claim to be the Christ. The sad thing is that they will deceive many. Jesus warns of this. To take heed means to pay close attention to, to listen up to the words of Jesus. I think that if we could boil this down to one concise statement to answer the disciples' question regarding the coming of Christ, it would be this: "Don't believe anyone who claims to be the Christ, you will know when I return." When Christ returns, it will be a glorious, remarkable thing. Matthew 24:30 says, "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." This is an unmistakable event. 

What are the consequences for disobedience and the blessings for obedience?

Matthew 24:24 - For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

Matthew 24:13 - But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Do not let anyone deceive you regarding Christ's return.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Construction Paper Christmas

This Christmas season my mind has been taking me back to Christmas of 2000. Our family was in a time of transition. The six of us had moved from Maine to Costa Rica just 12 days before Christmas. So we were in a foreign country and we didn't know a lick of Spanish. We were 3000 miles away from our friends and family. We didn't even have Christmas decorations.

Despite all those things, this is my favorite Christmas as a family. I remember such a sense of family closeness and love. We worked together and made a construction paper chain that spanned all around our apartment. Someone else also made a construction paper Christmas tree and taped it to the wall. For our presents, Mom and Dad asked us each for one thing that we wanted. Christmas morning Mom and Dad asked us to grab the blankets off of our bed so they could 'wrap' our presents. Kevin got a basketball, I got a skateboard, Amanda got a soccer ball, and Karen got a nice lamp for her room.

I love this Christmas memory because it is so simple. We didn't have much. To be truthful, we didn't need much. We had each other and, most importantly, we had the Savior of the World to focus on. Its the simple things that are often the most special for us isn't it?

Ponder this simple truth on the Eve of this Christmas: God loved us and sent His Son.

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." -John 1:14

Love Shed Abroad

The following is from the "Valley of Vision" book of Puritan prayers, p. 252-253

Gracious God,
My heart praises thee for the wonder of thy love in Jesus;
He is heaven's darling, but is for me
     the incarnate, despised, rejected, crucified sin-bearer;
In him thy grace has almost out-graced itself,
In him thy love to rebels has reached its height;
O to love thee with a love like this!
My heart is stone, melt it with thy love,
My heart is locked, let thy love be the master key to open it;
O Father, I adore thee for thy great love in the gift of Jesus,
O Jesus, I bless thee for resigning thy life for me,
O Holy Spirit, I thank thee for revealing to me this mystery;
Great God, let thy Son see in my the travail of his soul!
Bring me away from my false trusts to rest in him, and him only.
Let me not be so callous to his merit as not to love him,
    so indifferent to his blood as not to desire cleansing.
Lord Jesus, Master, Redeemer, Saviour,
    come and take entire possession of me;
    this is thy right by purchase.
In the arms of love enfold and subdue my wilful spirit.
Take, sanctify, use my every faculty.
I am not ashamed of my hope,
    nor has my confidence led me into confusion.
I trusted in thee regarding my innumerable sins,
   and thou has cast them behind thy back.
I trusted in thee when evils encompassed me,
   and thou broughtest me out into a wealthy place.
I trusted in thee in an hour of distress,
   and thou didst not fail me, though faith trembled.
O God of the eternal choice,
O God of the restored possession purchased on the tree,
O God of the effectual call,
Father, Son, Holy Spirit,
   I adore thy glory, honor, majesty, power, dominion forever.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 23:1-12

"Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.' But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." -Matthew 23:1-12

To whom are these commands spoken?

Spoken to Jesus disciples and to the multitudes.

What do these commands require?

Observe whatever the Pharisees and scribes tell you to obersve, but do not imitate their works. Do what they say and not what they do. Do not be called Teacher. Do not call anyone on earth your father. He who is greatest shall be your servant.

What truths do we learn here?

There is a lot of instruction here from Jesus. It seems to be a bit of a summary of all that He has taught concerning the lifestyle of the scribes and Pharisees. First, Jesus points to their hypocrisy. They teach the law of Moses, but they do not do it. So the instruction is to do as they say and not as they do.

Second, Jesus points to their haughtiness. They exalted themselves to a place of prominence in Jewish society. They put themselves in the place of teacher of the law. God had not put them there. Jesus instruction is simple: do not be called teacher and do not call anyone on earth father. We must always keep in mind who our Teacher is. And we must always keep in mind who our Father is. God alone is our Teacher and Father.

Third, Jesus points to a much needed humility. Whoever is the greatest must also be your servant. He who exalts himself will be humbled. The idea there is that the person who lifts himself up like the Pharisees had done, would be put down, taken down from their place of prominence. Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. This means that you start humble. You see yourself as nothing and become a servant to all. That humble man will be lifted up. James 46-10 tells us the same thing.

What are the consequences for disobedience and the blessings for obedience?

If you follow the example of the Pharisees, it will lead to hypocrisy and haughtiness. But if you humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, He will lift you up.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Truths About The Living God - Deuteronomy 5:26

Deuteronomy 5:26

"For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?"

What do we learn about the living God?

The living God is almighty, all-powerful, entirely and infinitely holy, and One to be feared. The Israelites understood that. No one else had the privilege of having the living God accompany them at all times, and even speak to them! Not only that, they didn't die!

Look at Isaiah 6. Here you can get an idea of the holiness of the living God. When Isaiah found himself in the presence of God, he cried, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." The prophet understood the holiness of God, and his sinfulness. Therefore he was afraid for his life.

Now take a look at Daniel 10. When Daniel saw the "man" (God the Son) in his vision, his response was, "I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength. 9 Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground."

When John saw the Son of Man in Revelation 1, and wrote, "when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead."

I would like to suggest that these days Christians in general lack that fear and reverence for our God. There is a tendency to treat God as our buddy and pal. It is true that the Lord is our friend, but He is much more than that. You may think of God in the Old Testament as One who judges or One who is very harsh, while in the New Testament He appears to be a God of love. The living God has never changed, nor will He ever change. The God in the Old Testament is the same God in the New Testament, and the same God we love and serve today. When we really know and understand who He is, our lives will be changed, and we will fear the one and only living God. Do you know Him? Do you fear Him?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 22:15-22

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money." So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's." And He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way. -Matthew 22:15-22

To whom is this command spoken?

The disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians.

What does the command require?

Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

What truths do we learn here?

Yet again, we find the Pharisees trying to trick and trap Jesus with a question. Only this time they didn't ask Him in person; they sent their little minions to do the dirty work. The pharisaical disciples come to Jesus, butter Him up with flowery words of praise, then ask their 'trick' question. "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" That is the best they could come up with. In part, I think the Pharisees were trying to discover if Jesus was the Messiah or not. They all thought that the Messiah was the one who would come and free them from Roman rule and establish a kingdom of peace and prosperity in Israel again. So their question this time may have had a little more honor than the others. But then again, maybe not.

Jesus blasts these hypocrites with His words. Jesus' explanation to these men makes total sense. Pay to Caesar what is Caesars and pay to God what is God's. The Pharisees didn't love God. They loved themselves. They served themselves. They did all things to make themselves look good. Jesus revealed what was truly in their hearts. I like His first words in reply to them: "Why do you test me, hypocrites?" The first words Jesus said show their true colors. They didn't really believe that Jesus was from God or that He knew the way of God.

The men marveled at Jesus reply, yet they couldn't find it within themselves to turn from their way and follow Jesus. They left Him and went their way. How sad that Jesus could teach them truth and they walk away.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Christmas Family Collage!

A Tribute to State Street Baptist Church

The last few weeks I’ve been thinking heavily about where we were three and a half years ago and where we are now. We’ve come a long ways. At times it seems that these years have flown by, that we could have filled them with so much more or accomplished bigger and grander things. Yet when I stop and think about it, these years have been filled with more than I could have even imagined or planned. In all my thinking, I began to just think about what God has allowed me to teach and preach from behind the pulpit and in homes of the people of SSBC.

We started off studying “The Living God” (which Kevin is now studying for the blog!) In Deuteronomy, we learned that the living God spoke His Law from the fire of Mount Sinai. In Joshua, we learned of the power of the living God in driving out the Canaanites from the land. In Samuel and Kings, we learned that even the greatest warrior (Goliath) and the greatest army (Assyrians) cannot defy the armies of the living God. In Psalms we learned that our soul thirsts for the living God. In Jeremiah we learned that the living God is the one true God and at his wrath the earth will tremble. In Daniel we learned that the living God shuts the mouths of lions to protect His servant. In Hosea we learned that there is coming a day when those who were ‘not My people’ will be called the sons of the living God. In Matthew and John we learned that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. In Acts and Thessalonians we learned that the nature of salvation is to turn from idols to serve the living God. In 2nd Corinthians we learned that we are the temple of the living God. In Hebrews we were warned of unbelief and of departing from the living God—that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

We studied the Books of Jonah, Nahum, 2nd Peter together. We learned that the greatest miracle in the book of Jonah was that Jonah recorded his story. We learned in Nahum that if you don’t teach your children, the coming generation will fall away and suffer the judgment of God. We learned in 2nd Peter to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We’ve also started a journey together in studying the Commands of Christ. We won’t get a chance to finish the study together, but I’m trusting that you will keep going with it. And tonight we’re going to wrap up our study From Pride to Humility.

In ministering to the teens on Wednesday nights, we’ve been able to study 1st John and James. In 1st John we learned the evidences of salvation in the believer’s life. In James we studied A Faith that Lives. We learned that Jesus wants to be ‘up close and personal’ in His relationship with us. We learned to “Do Hard Things.” We learned to make sure the bearings are greased before driving to DC. Yeah, that was fun J. We learned that God desires us to be pure in our relationships and to be young people with integrity. More recently, we’ve been learning that we are a community, a family of faith that have more in common that even the closest blood-relationship. We’ve been learning to listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to be witnesses for Christ.

Sunday afternoons we started “Discipleship Shockwave”. The intent and goal was to disciple the teens that we have here and that would have effects not just on our teens, but on their relationships at school and their relationships with campers at day camp. We studied the evidences that show the Bible is true. We studied how to be radical and take back your faith from the American dream. We studied 5 things every Christian needs to grow: Bible Study, Prayer, Worship, Service, and Stewardship.

It has been a rich road of blessing, and I want to take a minute just to say thank you. 

Alicia and I have spent these three and a half years here at State Street immersed in the teaching of the Word. Our hearts overflow with thankfulness for each one of you and for all the Lord has done in us and through us. Thank you for all you’ve done. Thank you for your love, for you kindness to us, for your care when we’ve needed it, for ministering to us when we’ve been down, for rejoicing with us when we’ve experienced joy in God. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for your faithful prayers. Thank you for allowing us to minister to you. Thank you for letting us minister to your teens.

Thank you Pastor Mike for your preaching. Thank you for having an open office door. Thank you for rebuking me when I needed it. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for teaching me about discipleship and modeling it at the same time. Thank you for mentoring me in the ministry here.

Thank you Shaw family. Thanks for caring for us. Thank you for being there when we needed you. Thank you for making our Christmases fun and exciting. Thank you Kailey, Jeremy, Abby, and Ally for watching movies with us. Thank you for watching the girls when our schedules were crazy. Thank you Ally for carrying Jodie around even after she learned how to walk.

Thank you Bob and Ruth Leland for your encouragement. Thank you for seeing the best in us and in others. Thank you Bob for always being so eager and ready to talk about the Word. Thank you for just enjoying the small things in life—things like puns (which is the highest form of humor). You’ve taught me just to enjoy the ride.

Thank you Jim and Bonnie for your care for us. Thank you for hosting the harvest suppers. Thank you for making me pick petunias. Thank you for your prayers for us. Thanks Jim for getting breakfast from time to time.

Thank you Dan and Jill for having us in our first Christmas. Thank you Jill for your thoughtfulness. Thank you Dan for your servant’s heart. Thank you for your willingness to do things you know you will probably never be thanked for.

Thank you Winfield for your life’s experience. Thank you for the stories of years gone by and lessons learned. Thank you for asking Alicia to help you take care of Alice.

Thank you Ruel and Gloria for your generosity. I thought I was doing you a favor by painting that rain gutter. Now I know you were just trying to see how much you could give us.

Thank you Deryle and Vicki. When we first moved dad asked you, Deryle, to watch out for me. I know that you have, and I've appreciated every minute of it. Vicki, thanks for having an open heart before us and allowing us to minister to you even in the darkest of times.

Thank you Randy for our Bible Study. As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Words can't express my gratitude for you.

Thank you Nicole for all the meals. We're still working on those meals from the baby shower!

Thank you Beth and Nancy for your forgiveness. I stuck my foot in my mouth all too often, but you forgave me each time.

Thank you Isaac for making it up Katahdin and all the way back with me.

Thank you Sonia and Elizabeth for your faithful prayers. Thank you Karin for being authentic. Thank you Ralph and Janice for your encouragement. Thank you Eva for making it out to practice every week. Thank you Kornachuks for taking the youth group. Thank you Dawna for leading the music committee. Thank you Dana for running the Senior Saints team. Thank you Aidan for asking questions and seeking answers. Thank you Sawyers for letting us drive your vehicle all the way to D. C. Thank you Craig for all the deep theological discussions. 

Thank you to all the Superbowl chaperones for your bravery and perseverance

Thank you to all who have had us in your homes.

Thank you State Street Baptist Church for allowing God to work through you in our lives.

We will be leaving SSBC and Presque Isle in January. We will desperately miss all of you people and we are truly grateful for the Lord's work both in us and in you all. The Lord bless and keep you!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Inward to Outward

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” –Colossians 3:16-17

Paul sets for us two examples or patterns for our lives. The first pattern is this: the indwelling word leads to outward ministry. The second is that inward worship leads to outward service.

1. Indwelling Word
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”

The word ‘dwell’ means to take up residence. What a rich image! First, we welcome the word of Christ in through the door of our hearts. That is salvation. 2 Timothy 3:15 – “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wide for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Then, as we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, the word of Christ settles into our hearts. Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”

We’re getting ready to move. Our apartment is in chaos. My office is in chaos. We’re packing boxes and getting rid of the stuff we don’t really need. When we move, we’ll go into a new place, and bring all our stuff through the door. We’ll set boxes in different rooms and slowly take to unpacking and settling in. That is exactly what happens with the indwelling word of Christ.

Letting the word of Christ dwell in you begins with hearing the gospel. It starts when we trust in Christ and place our faith in the word of God. But it doesn’t stop at salvation. The word of Christ continues to move into our hearts, getting more at home, discovering all the rooms of our hearts, eradicating and cleaning as it unpacks its truth within us. The indwelling word ought to grow within you until every desire of your heart is governed by it, every decision of the mind is directed by it, and every emotion controlled by it. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

Matthew Henry said, “The gospel is the word of Christ, which has come to us; but that is not enough, it must dwell in us, or keep house…not as a servant in a family, but as master

This is not a new concept that Paul is introducing here. He is building upon the foundation laid in the Old Testament:

Deuteronomy 6:6 – ”And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.”
Deuteronomy 11:18 – “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul”
Psalm 119:11 – “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”
“in all wisdom”

Wisdom is the application of the word. If you are simply storing up knowledge of the word, you have failed to let it dwell in you richly with all wisdom. You’ve heaped up information, but you won’t know how to live.

This isn’t a self-discovered wisdom. It is the wisdom that comes from God. 

Proverbs 2:6-7 – For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly.”
Ephesians 1:16-17 – “do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”
James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
James 3:17 – “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gently, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

2. Outward Ministry

“teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”

John 7:38 – “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

The word of Christ dwelling in a believer leads to outward ministry to others. It starts with teaching and admonishing one another. Teaching is to impart instruction or to instill doctrine into one. It is to explain or expound some truth. Admonishing is to warn or exhort, to caution or reprove gently. These are ministries of the Word. I like the picture that 1 Thessalonians 1:8 gives: “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth It gives picture of the word going out, echoing throughout all our spheres of influence.

It is important to note that teaching and admonishing are first and foremost to ‘one another.’ This is discipleship: multiplying the word of God to those of the household of faith. A quick reading of Acts, the time of fastest growth in the church, will show you the emphasis of the word of God in discipleship.

Acts 4:4 – “However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to about five thousand.”
Acts 4:31 – they spoke the word of God with boldness.”
Acts 6:4 – “but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
Acts 6:7 – “then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly”
Acts 8:4 – “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
Acts 8:25 – “So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.”

You get the picture. The word of God was the focus of all ministry, especially in discipleship.

Paul sets the example for believers in admonishing and teaching. He isn’t simply giving instructions, he is modeling it for us. Look at Colossians 1:28-29 – “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to the working which works in me mightily.” It is the same pattern in our own lives. As the word works in me mightily, I in turn warn and teach every man.

There are various ways to teach and admonish. Paul suggests three here. Psalms means to play on a stringed instrument. In 1 Corinthians 14:26 we read, “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” The goal is edification. The goal is building up. Hymns are songs in praise of God. Spiritual songs are songs with a focus on the Lord. Psalm 119:54 – “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.” Revelation 5:9 – “And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.”

The Indwelling Word leads to Outward Ministry.

3. Inward Worship

“singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”

It is easy to sing with our voices. It is easy to methodically chant out the songs we sing each week. But it is hard to sing with grace in your hearts. The singing that Paul is talking about here is not just an external melodic noise. He is talking about singing with a graciousness that comes from the divine influence. It is true, heartfelt worship to the Lord.

Psalm 28:7 – “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.”
Psalm 71:23 – “My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to You, and my soul, which You have redeemed.”

True worship has become an obscure thing in our culture. Worship is all too often equated with singing choruses or songs. Very little emphasis is put on worshipping the Lord from the heart.

Matthew Henry said, “when we sing psalms, we make no melody unless we sing with grace in our hearts, unless we are suitably affected with what we sing and go along in it with true devotion and understanding.”

I suggest to you that if you are not singing with grace in your heart to the Lord, your outward singing is of no value to God. It is empty, grace-less singing. The same principle applies to any act of worship. If you are not praying from your heart or serving from your heart or teaching or preaching or doing anything else that is an act of worship, if it is not from the heart it is not worship.

We can do a number of different things to help foster that attitude of worship within our hearts. One of those things is to do things that help us focus on the Lord and His salvation. Fill your mind with things from above, not with things from below. Fill your heart with thankfulness. Fill your thoughts with the Word of God. Fill your lips with words of praise.

4. Outward Service
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

Inward worship leads to outward service. If your service is motivated by anything other than worship, it is not biblical, God-centered service. More likely than not, it is motivated by pride and a desire to make yourself great. Think about it: If we’re not worshipping, we’ve probably filled our hearts with something else, something sinful. If we’re not worshipping, we’re not serving. If we’re not worshipping, we’ve put ourselves on the throne. Every deed you do, every though you think, every emotion you feel, and every word you speak must be done as an act of worship to the Lord.

God desires that even the smallest deed and the quickest word be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. So let me ask, if you were to evaluate the things you do and the words you say, would you be able to put a stamp on it that read: “In the name of the Lord Jesus?” Can you say that your words have been spoken in the name of Jesus? Can you say that your thoughts have been in the name of Jesus? Can you say that your deeds have been done in the name of Jesus?

Proverbs 3:6 – “In all your ways acknowledge Him”
1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Colossians 3:23 – “and whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,”

When you worship from the heart, you cannot but help doing things in the name of Jesus. Your worship will be your heart motivation for all things. And after you do what you do or say what you say in service for the Lord, your heart will overflow with thankfulness that God has enabled you to serve Him. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Truths About The Living God - Intro

Our God is the living God. Think about the implications of that title: The Living God. First of all, He is the living God. When the word the is used, it implies that there is only one. Otherwise, we would use a, or an. Jehovah is not a living God; He is the living God. Different people groups have worshiped many different idols and images as gods, but none of these are alive. Only Elohim, the God of the Bible, is called The Living God.

Next we must see the implication behind the word living. What does it mean to be alive? The dictionary gives a couple definitions: having life; living; existing; not dead or lifeless; in a state of action; active. Jehovah is distinct from any other gods because He alone is alive. There is nothing dead or lifeless about Him, and He is always active. Acts 17:28 tells us, "For in Him we live, and move, and have our being..."

Lastly, God. As you may know, the Hebrew word is Elohim. This is the plural form of El. The use of the plural form is explained by the doctrine of the Trinity. God is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet they are all equally God. Of course we cannot understand this fully, but it is a truth taught throughout the Holy Bible.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to go through the 30 times The Living God is mentioned in Scripture. 15 in the Old Testament, and 15 in the New Testament. I hope you'll read along and study for yourself, as I study through these passages. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 21:33

"Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?" They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons." -Matthew 21:33-41

To whom is this command spoken?

Spoken to the chief priests and elders of the people (v.23). Verse 45 also indicates the Pharisees were around.

What does this command require?

Hear another parable.

What truths do we learn here?

The parable shows what happened in the Old Testament. God repeatedly sent prophets to Israel and Judah. Over and over again they faithfully proclaimed God's words and God's plan. But the people, more specifically, the 'shepherds' (vinedressers in the parable) of Israel repeatedly beat up and killed the prophets. The parable also shows a truth about the New Testament. God finally sent His Son to Israel. Once again, the 'vinedressers' cast him out and killed him. 

Jesus poses a question to the audience. "What will the owner of the vineyard do to the vinedressers when he comes?" The people answer correctly. They said the owner would destroy those wicked men and give teh vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their season.

By way of application, I think this command and parable is a call to heed the words of Jesus. Will you act as a wicked vinedresser and trample underfoot the Son of God? Or will you faithfully heed His words and 'render Him the fruits in their seasons?

What are the consequences of obedience?

"Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sough to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes because they took Him for a prophet." -Matthew 21:45-46

These guys didn't get it. They should have turned from their ways and heeded Jesus' words. Verse 43 says, "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it." These are the consequences.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 21:18-19

"Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again." Immediately the fig tree withered away." -Matthew 21:18-19

To whom is this command spoken?

Spoken to a fig tree

What is the command?

Let no fruit grow on you ever again.

What truths do we learn here?

Jesus is Lord of all Creation. He commands what He wills, and it comes to pass. In the New Testament, we find Christ commanded the wind, waves, and also this tree. He told Peter where to fish on a number of occasions, even though Peter was an experienced fisherman. And Peter always caught fish where Jesus told him to fish. Think about this for a moment: Mankind is the only part of creation that says 'no' to God. Everything else is obedient immediately. We can take a lesson or two in obedience from nature.

My dad always said, "Delayed obedience is disobedience." All too often, I'll obey on my time schedule, or when I feel like obeying. That is disobedience. How many times do we treat God like that? How many times do we ignore promptings of the Holy Spirit to witness and be obedient to our Gospel mandate? God desires our obedience not our delayed obedience. Your spiritual life can be measured by your obedience. So let me ask you, "How is your spiritual life?" How is your obedience?

This tree was obedient to Christ. Are you?

I just thought of something else. We are here on the earth to bear much fruit--fruit that is pleasing to God--fruit sown in righteousness. John 15:2 says, "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." While I don't believe this means you can lose your salvation, I do believe that it means you can miss out on bearing fruit that is pleasing to God. Take every opportunity to bear fruit for the glory of God!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 21:1-6

"Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them." All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: "TELL THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, 'BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, LOWLY, AND SITTING ON A DONKEY, A COLT, THE FOAL OF A DONKEY.' " So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them." -Matthew 21:1-6

To whom is this command spoken?

Spoken to two of Jesus' disciples.

What does this command require?

Go into the village, bring the donkey and colt to Me, if anyone says anything to you, tell them "The Lord has need of them."

What truths do we learn through this command?

Jesus was in-tune with what the Scriptures said. He came to fulfill prophecy concerning Himself. I find the fulfillment of prophecies concerning Christ remarkable. There are so many things that were prophesied in the Old Testament about the Messiah. The odds of someone filling even just ten of those things are astronomical. Jesus fulfilled all that was prophesied about Him regarding His first coming. These prophesies that have been fulfilled point to who Jesus is. He is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the King of Israel. 

Again, we have testimony here of Jesus omniscience. He knows all things. He knew where the donkey and colt were. He knew that someone might ask them about it. He knows all things.

What were the blessings of obedience?

These two disciples got to be a part of fulfilling the Old Testament. They also got to be a part of the wonderful celebration that we call the Triumphal Entry. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas IQ Quiz

Dr. Ray Pritchard posted this Christmas IQ Quiz on his website last week. I took it and didn't do as well as I thought I would. How well can you do?

This link is the QUIZ

This link is the ANSWERS

Make sure you do the quiz before looking at the answers. Post a comment on how well you did!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Nebuchadnezzar's Personal Testimony...and Mine

"Nebuchadnezzar the king, To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me." -Daniel 4:1-2

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Daniel 4. In this chapter, we have the personal testimony of one of the most powerful men of history--Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was king of the Babylonians, the most powerful and feared empire at its height. He conquered Assyria, Egypt, Israel, Judah, and many more empires. Let's take a look at his story starting in verse 10:

"These were the visions of my head while on my bed: I was looking, and behold, A tree in the midst of the earth, And its height was great. The tree grew and became strong; Its height reached to the heavens, And it could be seen to the ends of all the earth. Its leaves were lovely, Its fruit abundant, And in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, The birds of the heavens dwelt in its branches, And all flesh was fed from it. "I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed, and there was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He cried aloud and said thus: 'Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, Strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts get out from under it, And the birds from its branches. Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth, Bound with a band of iron and bronze, In the tender grass of the field. Let it be wet with the dew of heaven, And let him graze with the beasts On the grass of the earth. Let his heart be changed from that of a man, Let him be given the heart of a beast, And let seven times pass over him. 'This decision is by the decree of the watchers, And the sentence by the word of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest of men.'" -Daniel 4:10-17

In Nebuchadnezzar's day, God often revealed things to people in dreams. They didn't have the luxury of opening a Bible and reading God's message to mankind. So here, we find Nebuchadnezzar's dream. It is important to note that this is his second dream. His first dream was in Daniel 2 and Daniel had interpreted that dream for Nebuchadnezzar. So he knew that this new dream probably meant something. It was a troubling dream. 

Look at the details of the dream: the king saw a great tree on the earth. The tree grew strong, tall, beautiful, and fruitful. It provided food and shelter for all. The king also saw an angel coming down from heaven with a message. The angel's decree was to chop down the tree, strip it of its branches, leaves and fruit. But they were to leave the stump and roots in the ground, bind it with iron, and let it be wet with the dew of heaven. 

Okay, nothing out of the ordinary so far. But at the end of verse 15, the angel's message takes a turn. He says, "Let him graze with the beasts on the grass of the earth." So its clear now that the dream is speaking of someone. It goes on to say that the man's heart would be changed with a beast's heart and seven years would pass by like this.

This angel's message, and all it entailed, had a purpose. In order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men. That is Nebuchadnezzar's second dream. He was so disturbed by it that he asked all the wise men of Babylon to interpret the dream for him. None of them succeeded. At last, Daniel came forward to interpret the dream.

"Now you, [Daniel], declare its interpretation, since all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you."

The King knew that Daniel was different. Daniel had proved himself to the king on a couple of occasions. He proved that he would not defile himself with food offered to idols in Daniel 1. He proved that God could help him interpret dreams in Daniel 2. It is clear that Nebuchadnezzar knew that Daniel would be able to interpret the dream because the Spirit of the Holy God was in him.

The dream upset Daniel. Bad sign for the king. Then Daniel proclaims, "My lord, may the dream concern those who hate you, and its interpretation concern your enemies." Another bad sign for the king. Listen to Daniel's interpretation of the dream:

"The tree that you saw—it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong; for your greatness has grown and reaches to the heavens, and your dominion to the end of the earth. And inasmuch as the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven...this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses...your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules."

Bad news for Nebuchadnezzar. The dream was about him. Even though his kingdom and dominion had reached such great heights, he would lose it all. Nebuchadnezzar would be driven from society and he would live with the beasts of the field for seven years, until he learned that God was the true ruler of the earth.

Daniel gave the king a clear warning. "Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and you iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity." (v. 27) But the proud king didn't listen. I can just imagine what is going through the king's head right now: "Who could possibly take this kingdom from me. I'm the greatest king the world has ever known. I've conquered all the nations." Nebuchadnezzar should have listened.

"All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The king spoke, saying, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?" While the word was still in the king's mouth, a voice fell from heaven: "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses." That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws. 

A year went by. Maybe Nebuchadnezzar forgot the dream. Maybe he thought that he had avoided the consequences laid out for him. Whatever the case, the king was lifted up in pride and self exaltation. While he was still speaking, a voice from heaven pronounced the sentence on Nebuchadnezzar. And it came to pass. The word was fulfilled. The king was driven from his kingdom and he lived like a beast for seven years.

One of the reasons I like this account of history so much is because it doesn't end badly for Nebuchadnezzar.

"And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, "What have You done?" At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down."

This story ends on a triumphant note. It ends with the king being restored to his former glory. But Nebuchadnezzar has a whole new outlook on life. He came to the understanding that God's dominion is an everlasting dominion. He learned that God's kingdom lasts forever. He learned that no one on earth can stand before God and question what He has done. Most importantly, Nebuchadnezzar learned to worship God for who He is. This king learned to worship the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down.

I can identify with Nebuchadnezzar. No, I've never been the king of an empire or conquered foreign powers. I've never commanded fierce armies or even lost my mind and lived like a beast. But I have taken part in Nebuchadnezzar's sin. You see, this king was a self-worshiper. He lived for himself. He built his kingdom for himself. He praised and worshiped himself for all the great things that he had done. I've been there and I've done that. 

When I was in high-school, I loved to play basketball. I practiced any chance I could get. I would even go in the school gym unsupervised so I could practice. My junior year, I played on the team, but mostly just sat on the bench. To put it in perspective: we had twelve guys on the team, and I was the twelfth man off the bench. You guessed it, I wasn't that good. But I had potential.

So I determined to practice as hard as I could in order to be a more successful player during my senior year. I worked hard and focused entirely on that one sport. I really improved quite a bit. But all this time, as I was improving my game and gaining more skills, I was becoming more and more prideful. It was all about me. I had visions of being in the starting five and dominating the scoreboard. I worshiped basketball and I worshiped myself. I had plans to become great, but God had other plans.

Tryouts came went. I thought I did pretty well. The only problem was the coaches didn't think so. When they posted the final roster, my name was not on the list. I had been cut from the team my senior year.While there were many factors that led up to that decision, I know now that God just had a different plan. I didn't come to know Christ at that point in my life, but God used that humbling experience to point me in the right direction. After high-school, I attended New Brunswick Bible Institute, where God revealed to me my need for a Savior. God brought me to my knees in order to show me my need for Him.

Self-worship is not a problem that is unique to me and King Nebuchadnezzar. It is a universal problem. Everyone is a self-worshiper. Everyone lives their lives to serve self. There is not a person on the earth that has not worshiped themselves. God has another name for this: sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Sin takes God off the throne of our lives and puts us in His place. Sin destroys fellowship with God.

That creates a problem for us because God is holy. He cannot tolerate sin. Sin violates His holiness and it must be punished. Our sin, in effect, places us in debt with God--an infinite debt, one we could never pay on our own. Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death..." The penalty for our sin is eternal separation from God. But. There is a but. "...but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord."

The good news is that God has provided a way for our sin-debt to be paid. Romans 5:8 tells us that God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Think about that for a moment. Now, there's a chance that someone would lay down their life for a good person, but for someone who is evil? Christ died for us while we were sinners--enemies of God. James 4:6 tells us that God resists the proud. That means He sets Himself against the proud like opposing armies would set themselves up against each other. Do you see the depths of God's love? His love for sinners is so great that He sent His Son to pay their sin-debt.

So if we've sinned and offended God; and if God loved us so much that He provided a way for our debt to be paid, then how I get my debt paid? Ephesians 2:8 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" God's grace, unmerited favor, makes salvation possible. And faith, having the conviction that something is true, applies salvation to to your life. Faith changes your life. It changes the direction of your life. It moves you from being a self-worshiper to being a God-worshiper.

When I arrived at NBBI I was a self-worshiper. I lived for myself and cared only for myself. But three days into my tenure there, God revealed to me my need for salvation. By faith, I trusted in Christ alone to pay my debt. Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Peace with God. That is what faith in Christ did for me.

Nebuchadnezzar, a proud man, a self-worshiper, learned who the King of heaven was. He learned that those who walk in pride, God is able to bring low. I wouldn't be surprised to see Nebuchadnezzar in heaven someday. I believe that God worked in that king's heart what so many need for salvation. We each need to trust in Christ alone for salvation.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Revival: Some Questions and Answers

This post comes from Dr. Robert J. Leland, D.MIN, deacon at State Street Baptist Church, and a good friend of mine. Bob has always been faithful in helping me to further think through the sermons that I preach. He gave me this short Q&A after a recent sermon on revival in the book of Jonah. You can read that sermon here.

"Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?" -Psalm 85:6

Q: What does the word "revive" mean?
A:"To bring back from death." "Bringing back from death that which was once alive."

Q: A Christian cannot die spiritually because God has already made him alive (Eph. 2:1-6), but he CAN become cold spiritually. How does that happen?
A:Unconfessed sin.
Careless spirit.
Being deceived by false teaching--anti-Biblical teaching.
Feeling betrayed by the Lord or other Christians.
Hypocrisy in others--wrong focus.
Misunderstanding about how the Lord works and what the Christian life actually is.
Persecution--fearful the stand for Truth.
Compromise--fearing to be seen as "different."
Desire for material things.

Q: What characterizes the life of a "cold" Christian?
A:Overcome by temptation and sin.
Broken relationships.
Lax in church attendance because of other priorities.
Doesn't want to pray or read the Word.
Feels guilty, but doesn't want correction.
Criticizes others as being "too holy."
Refuses to repent or ask forgiveness from the Lord or from others.
Has no desire to witness, or serve the Lord.

Q: What characterizes the life of a "revived" Christian?
A:Victory over sin and temptation.
Evidence of the fruit of the Spirit.
Desire to pray and be in the Word.
Desire for fellowship with God's people.
Teachable spirit; humble spirit when criticized.
Willing to ask forgiveness when wrong, and grant forgiveness when wronged.
Desire to serve the Lord without being asked.
Diligent in using his spiritual gift(s).
Concern for the unsaved; world missions.
Desire to share the Word/Gospel with others.
Delight to talk about the Lord and spiritual things.
Joyful in giving and helping others.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 20:25-28

"But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." -Matthew 20:25-28

To whom is this command spoken?

Spoken to the twelve disciples

What does this command require?

Whoever desires to be the greatest, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.

What truths do we learn here?

The follower of Jesus must be humble. The mother of James and John asked Jesus in the previous verses to grant that her sons sit on either side of Jesus in His kingdom. They wanted the place of prominence. The other disciples didn't like this. They were 'greatly displeased.' I get the feeling that this is an understatement. They were probably upset that they didn't think of asking Jesus this question first. 

I like the imagery we have here about Jesus. It says He 'called them to Himself.' I get the picture that Jesus calms the situation down, brings them all together, and quietly explains the situation. Jesus brings peace to great arguments.

Principles of leadership in the secular world are completely opposite from the principles that Jesus lays out here for his disciples. The Gentiles lorded their authority over their subjects. But it was not to be this way with the disciples. The disciples were to be servants-leaders. They were to follow Jesus example, who did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

Let me ask you a question: Would you give your life in service of anyone? Most of us would answer, sure, I'd give my life for my family, or my friends. But would you give your life in service of someone that hates you? Would you make the greatest sacrifice so that another might live? I turn to Jim Elliot for advice here. He said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." 

Whoever desires to be greatest among you, let him be your servant.

What are the consequences for disobedience and the blessings of obedience?

The first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 19:16-22

Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, " 'YOU SHALL NOT MURDER,' 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,' 'YOU SHALL NOT STEAL,' 'YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS,' 'HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER,' and, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' " The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. -
Matthew 19:16-22

Who is this command spoken to?

A rich young man (v. 20, 22)

What does the command require?

Keep the commandments. Go sell what you have and give to the poor, and come, follow Me.

What truths do we learn here?

This is an interesting passage. It seems that Jesus is trying to convince this young man not to follow Him. But even though that is what it seems like, Jesus is only revealing what is truly in this young man's heart. Jesus laid out the scenario if the man truly wanted to inherit eternal life. All the young man had to do was sell what he had and follow Christ. This sounds like the most simple of commands, yet time and again, history (even recent history) proves that it is one of the hardest things to do.

This young man's first couple questions are interesting. "What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" and "Which [commands]?" The young man shouldn't have needed to ask the second question. He should have known which commands to keep--all of them. It seems obvious from even the quickest glance at the Old Testament Law that God's standard was perfection. The young man acknowledged that he had kept the commands that Jesus listed. He had not murdered, had not committed adultery, had not stolen, had not lied about his neighbor, he had honored his father and mother. But it is important to realize that, even though it seemed he had, this young man never really kept the commands. Indeed, keeping the commands, alone, is insufficient for salvation. James tells us that if you've broken the law in one point, you are guilty of the whole thing.

Jesus listed off the commands from the ten commandments that had to do with interpersonal relationship. But Jesus never mentioned the commands that dealt with our relationship with God. He didn't have to. By telling this rich young man to sell what he had and give it to the poor, Jesus proved that the young man didn't really love God. This young man had his possessions exalted to the place of God in his life. He could not bring himself to the point of obedience here because his possessions were great.

Some today would argue that in order to inherit eternal life, we must sell all that we have and give it to the poor. While this is good and noble, and probably more needed today than ever, it is not what Jesus is getting at here. Let's stop and think about what is true for a moment. Nothing you do can gain you favor before God. That means even the most noble giving to charity amounts to nothing on your heavenly account. Jesus desires that we follow Him. This is the important point of the conversation in Matt. 19. Following Jesus, for this man, meant giving up all that he had. He couldn't do it because he loved his stuff more than he loved God. Following Jesus for you means it will cost you something. It means that we shouldn't hold our possessions with a tight fist. But the cost for me to follow Christ will be different than the cost for a Muslim man in Saudi Arabia. And the cost for me to follow Christ will be different than the cost for the pastor in China. The principle doesn't change, but the outflow in life does.

What does following Christ cost you? Is it costing you?

What are the consequences of disobedience?

This man went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. He missed out because he couldn't pay the price for discipleship.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Forgiveness and Bitterness are two opposite forces. They pull and fight and war against each other much like the war we see in Galatians 5 regarding the flesh and the Spirit and the war we see raging between pride and humility in James 4. Indeed, to forgive is to align oneself with the Spirit and to walk in humility, and to harbor bitterness is to align oneself with the flesh and to walk in pride. As we begin this short study on forgiveness, allow me to ask (then hopefully answer) a couple questions.

Why is forgiveness so difficult and bitterness so easy?
I believe the answer to this lies in war that rages between pride and humility and between the flesh and the Spirit. Most of us have lived the greater part of our lives for ourselves. We have allowed our flesh to dominate our lives. We have fed our pride constantly and have let it grow into an out-of-control monster that always seeks to get its way. So, in a sense, it is easier to hold bitterness than to offer forgiveness because our flesh has been fed and strengthened through our selfish choices and lifestyles. Bitterness follows the natural, sinful course of our lives.

At the same time, forgiveness is something that is unnatural to our sinful lives. Most of us have been saved for a relatively short time, and even if we have walked with the Lord for a number of years, growing in forgiveness isn’t something that many Christians even like to practice. Like bitterness, forgiveness needs to be fed in order to grow in strength and influence in our lives. And in order to feed forgiveness, we must practice it. To practice forgiveness means inner conflict to our lives. It means that we will have to fight a war with the ugly pride monster. It means that we will have to starve the flesh with all its passions and desires. It means that we feed and strengthen our spiritual muscles within us, yielding each moment to the control of the Holy Spirit.

Why is bitterness so attractive and forgiveness so unattractive?
Bitterness has some very real, short-term benefits (emphasis on short-term). It is these short-term benefits that come to us so easily that are attractive to our sinful hearts. Pride always looks for the shortest route to success. It doesn’t take much effort to get these ‘benefits.’ Paul Tripp gives a list of five things that bitterness will give to you, at least temporarily.
  1. Debt is power – There is power in having something to hold over another’s head. There is power in using a person’s weakness and failure against him or her. In moments when we want our own way, we pull some wrong against us as our relational trump card.
  2. Debt is identity – Holding onto another’s sin, weakness, and failure makes us feel superior to them. It allows us to believe that we are more righteous and mature than they are. We fall into the pattern of getting our sense of self not by the comfort and call of the gospel, but by comparing ourselves to another. This pattern plays into the self-righteousness that is the struggle of every sinner.
  3. Debt is entitlement – Because of all the other person’s wrongs against us, he or she owes us. Carrying these wrongs makes us feel deserving and therefore comfortable with being self-focused and demanding. “After all I have had to endure in relationship with you, don’t I deserve…?” 
  4. Debt is weaponry – The sins and failures that another has done against us become like a loaded gun that we carry around. It is very tempting to pull them out and use them when we are angry. When someone has hurt us in some way, it is very tempting to hurt them back by throwing in their face just how evil and immature they are. 
  5. Debt puts us in God’s position – It is the one place that we must never be, but it is also a position that all of us have put ourselves in. We are not the judge of others. We are not the one who should dispense consequences for other’s sin. It is not our job to make sure they feel the appropriate amount of guild for what they have done. But it is very tempting to ascend to God’s throne and to make ourselves judge. 
Posted by Paul Trip on, July 6, 2011 

It is important to realize that each of these ‘benefits,’ though so attractive to our sinful hearts, each leads down the path of destruction. Bitterness can destroy a life. Bitterness can destroy a family. Bitterness can destroy a church. Bitterness leads to destruction. The once-attractive, sweet benefits of bitterness become to us a bitter poison in our hearts and minds.

On the other hand, forgiveness is so unattractive because it takes hard work. It is a long-term process that often doesn’t have any short-term benefits or results. But forgiveness is rewarding in the end. And it is rewarding beyond what we could even imagine. Paul Tripp encourages us also in this: It seems almost too obvious to say, but forgiveness is a much better way. The grace of our salvation is the ultimate argument for this truth. Forgiveness is the only way to live in an intimate, long-term relationship with another sinner. Forgiveness is the only way to negotiate through the weakness and failure that will daily mark your relationships. It is the only way to deal with hurt and disappointment. Forgiveness is the only way to have hope and confidence restored. It is the only way to protect your life and reinforce the unity that you have built. Forgiveness is the only way not to be kidnapped by the past. It is the only way to give your relationships the blessing of fresh starts and new beginnings.

What is God’s Forgiveness like?
     1.       God’s forgiveness is Unmerited

Daniel 9:9 – To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.

We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. In fact, all the sins we have ever committed have been in rebellion against our Maker. Think for a moment about King David in 2 Samuel 12. David had sinned with Bathsheba and had Uriah murdered so that David could cover his sinful tracks. God sent Nathan to confront David about this wickedness. When David acknowledged his sin against the Lord, Nathan declared, “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.” That is unmerited forgiveness from God. I think it is important to note that the sin still had consequences, but God had forgiven David of his sin.
     2.       God’s forgiveness is Unending

Micah 7:18 – Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.

We sin every day. But God’s Word reminds us constantly that God’s forgiveness is unending. Psalm 100:5 – His mercy is everlasting. Lamentations 3:22-23 – God’s mercies and compassion is new every morning. Mercy is mentioned more than 360 times in the pages of Scripture. More than a third of those are in the Psalms. Even the greater theme of Redemption has in mind God’s plan to put His mercy and forgiveness into action.
     3.       God’s forgiveness is Unfathomable

Psalm 103:11-12 – For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgression from us.

God’s forgiveness is so wide that we can’t put an ending point on it. No matter how much we sin, God will still forgive us. No matter what the sin is, God will forgive us. This isn’t a justification to live however we want, but when we think about the depth of our sin problem, it helps us understand how great of a Savior our God really is. It is unfathomable.
     4.       God’s forgiveness is Unlimited

Romans 5:8-10 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

James 4:6 – But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Reconciliation is part of forgiveness. It means that a relationship has been restored. The debt between two has been paid, the divider of two has been taken away. Through God’s forgiveness, we can have a fully restored relationship with God. We can have fellowship with God because of Christ’s work on the cross.

Reconciliation doesn’t always happen between people, but it is always possible. Even the most bitter and divided relationship can be restored. I say that with confidence because God’s forgiveness overcame the greatest relational divide that we could ever imagine.

How do we model God’s forgiveness to others?

We must practice the same principles of God’s forgiveness. We must have unmerited forgiveness. That means we forgive even when the other person might not deserve it. It also means that we forgive no matter what the sin was. We must have unending forgiveness. That means we forgive every time it is needed. We must have unfathomable forgiveness. That means that we forgive in a way that just won’t make sense to the offender. It means that we never bring up past sins to use them against others. We must have unlimited forgiveness. That means forgiveness takes practice, practice, practice. Forgiveness is a learning process. It is an unnatural muscle that we must work hard at to strengthen.

Forgiveness and Matthew 18:21-35

Peter must have thought he was doing well with the suggestion of forgiving seven times. The Pharisees taught to forgive three times. So what Peter did was double that, then add one just for good measure. Jesus knocked Peter's socks off with His response.

Not seven times, not even seventy times, but seventy times seven. This is an inconceivably high number to forgive someone. Many times I struggle even reaching the seven times. But Jesus desires that we forgive until we don't feel like it anymore, and then keep on forgiving. The number here isn't important. Jesus is not saying that we forgive 490 times and then we're free to do whatever we want to the offender. The person that can forgive 490 times is not really keeping track. The person that can forgive like this is modeling the forgiveness of God.

Think about it. How many times do you sin in a day? a week? a year? Yet every time we come to God and confess our sins to Him, He forgives us. He has even given us a promise that He will forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness if we confess our sins to Him.

How forgiving are you?

Do you model God's forgiveness to your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you model God's forgiveness to unbelievers? Do you have to think about it each time your brother asks for forgiveness? Or do you just forgive as soon as it is asked of you? "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." -Ephesians 4:32

If you are harboring bitterness and resentment towards a brother or sister in Christ or an unbeliever, you are grieving the Holy Spirit of God. Ephesians 4:30-32 – And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate one to another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

R. T. Kendall is the author of the book Total Forgiveness. In this book, he describes a time in his life where he was holding bitterness towards someone who had hurt him deeply. There came a time when he was explaining the situation to a close friend of his. R. T.’s friend gave him the greatest advice. The friend said, “R. T., you must release them, and you will be set free.” R. T. was in bondage and he didn’t even realize it.

We need to release the people that offend us. Only then can we be set free. Whatever the offense against you, you cannot hold the offender in bondage. All you end up doing is holding yourself in bondage. That is the destructive power of bitterness. Make your choice today; choose the peace and freedom that comes with the healing power of forgiveness.