“...that I may gain Christ and be found in him...”—Philippians 3:8-9, NIV1984

Friday, October 26, 2012

Full Acceptance of the Truth

15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.—1 Timothy 1:15-16, ESV
Jesus came into the world, not to show people how to live or to show religious people another way to heaven (He’s the only way) or to show the religious leaders that they were doing it all wrong. He came to save His enemies and show them the most radical, undeserved kindness and love the world could ever know. He came even to save those who murder, who are rotten to the core with sexual perversion, who steal, who slander and lie. His power is exemplified and glorified by transforming objects of His wrath into objects of His grace and mercy. Paul, the author of this letter to Timothy, fully accepted this truth, and he lived like he believed the world needs to know of this Savior who can redeem anyone, including himself, the foremost of sinners. What if we all lived like this? How would this affect they way we use time and money? Will the world be any different, because of how we lived out what we claim to believe?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Seek the Lord and Act

Esther and Mordecai, by Aert de Gelder

13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.—Esther 4:13-17, ESV

Mordecai understood the times and knew what to do. He influenced Esther who had the most influence with the king in order to stop the pending genocide of the Jews. He exhorted Esther with the truth of the situation and helped her overcome her fear of death. He helped her to understand the reality of God’s sovereign protection for His people as a nation, but at the same time, that she and her household may not escape. They knew that the time had come for them to seek the Lord and to act.

We face similar situations in our day, whether the pending doom is that of others who have not been reconciled to God through faith in Christ (we never know when anyone’s life will end), or whether it is due to some political or societal force. We must be wise about the times in which we live, and act accordingly rather than allow our desire for comfort to pacify us or allow our fears to prevent us from acting.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Wealth, Presumption, and Generosity

Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes the king, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the food allowance of the governor. 15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. 16 I also persevered in the work on this wall, and we acquired no land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. 17 Moreover, there were at my table 150 men, Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us. 18 Now what was prepared at my expense for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and birds, and every ten days all kinds of wine in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people. 19 Remember for my good, O my God, all that I have done for this people.—Nehemiah 5:14-19, ESV
Nehemiah was an example among his Jewish brothers. His reliance on God was evident in his frequent prayer. He was also one who worked hard just like everyone else. He persevered through opposition, rallying his people to continue, knowing that their work was good, and it was the right thing to do in God’s sight. He was also their governor, and a wealthy one at that.

Did he acquire his wealth by evil means? I highly doubt it. In fact, he was legally allowed to collect a tax (v. 15) from his people, yet he did not, because of his fear of God. The people were already starving, and to make them pay this tax would have ruined them.

Sadly in our day, people often presume that a wealthy person acquired his wealth through evil means and that it is even a crime for him to be wealthy in the first place. Sometimes wealth is acquired through evil means, but we can’t presume this. God’s command to wealthy people is that they should be generous and help those in need (see 1 Tim. 6:17-18), but it is certainly not for us to judge whether a wealthy a person has been generous.

I do think there is a time to dialogue with fellow Christians about our management of money, among many other complicated issues that do not necessarily have a clearly defined separation between right and wrong. Often these are matters of a persons heart. Only lets not make a finite, permanent judgment of a person who we dont know personally and have not had the opportunity to at least observe how he lives and talk with him about managing money.

Only God, who has all knowledge and understands a wealthy person’s full situation better than the wealthy person, can judge whether someone has been generous. There is no way for a human to measure it which is good. If God set a clear measure for generosity, then it would not be generosity. There would be no love involved in the giving. It would merely be done to fulfill an obligation. Nehemiah, with a clear conscience, used his wealth to bless the people who worked hard on rebuilding the wall, and God wants us to follow his example, being willing give sacrificially to bless people who are truly in need.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Doing Our Part

The Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls
by Eitan f 13:56, 4 December 2006 (UTC) (Own work) [Public domain, GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
28 Above the Horse Gate the priests repaired, each one opposite his own house. 29 After them Zadok the son of Immer repaired opposite his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, repaired. 30 After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah repaired opposite his chamber. 31 After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, opposite the Muster Gate, and to the upper chamber of the corner. 32 And between the upper chamber of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants repaired.—Nehemiah 3:28-32, ESV
I like how Nehemiah records even the smallest portions of work that people did to repair the wall around Jerusalem. It reminds me that no effort is too insignificant to go noticed. If we do even a little to support the mission of our churches, much would be accomplished. Yet, so many only view their church as a social club, only showing up to enjoy the fun when it is convenient. It’s time that we all ask, “How can I help the pastors accomplish the mission of the church?” Even if you only have an hour, I am sure if you ask them, they would love even an hour of your time!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Influencing the Government - Nehemiah's Prayer and Petition

2...And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” 4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.—Nehemiah 1:2-4, ESV

Here Nehemiah understands that his beloved home, Jerusalem, lies in ruin. This was the very place where God was supposed to bless His people and make them prosper and dwell with them. Yet God disciplined Israel by allowing the Babylonians to conquer them due to Israel’s disobedience and wickedness.

After praying, Nehemiah, who was the cup-bearer of the Persian King Artaxerxes goes in before him. The king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness and asks him about his sadness. Nehemiah explained how his home was in ruins, and the king asked him what he was requesting that the king do? Notice what Nehemiah did next:

4...So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”—Nehemiah 2:4-5, ESV

The king granted his request.

For some reason many Christians in this country have the attitude that they should not concern themselves with the affairs of the state or in any way interfere. I also used to have this attitude. This was definitely not the attitude of God’s people in the Old Testament and New Testament. I believe it was because they understood that the government, like many of the world’s systems and institutions, affects the people that God loves and Jesus died and resurrected for. This is one reason why Paul urged Timothy to pray for kings (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4), and why Paul did not hesitate to proclaim the gospel whenever he was brought before governing authorities. For example, take note of Acts 24:24-27, ESV:

24 But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.” 26 At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him. 27 But after two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus, and wishing to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul imprisoned.

Thankfully, since our government is a republic that answers to “We the People,” we have an easy way to influence the government establish and maintain justice and peace. We just need to pray, vote, petition, share the gospel, run for office... The list can go on since we have a government that “We the People” participate in. Praise God for that! Our government is so unlike the monarchies and dictatorships that were commonplace until the founding of our republic.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ezra - A Man Devoted to Studying, Practicing, and Teaching God’s Word

Esdras-Ezra9 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 10 or Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.—Ezra 7:9-10, ESV
Why does this verse say that God’s good hand was on Ezra? It says clearly that he had decided to focus his heart on studying, doing, and teaching what God wanted Israel to do. Do you want to be blessed? If so, give yourself fully to doing what God tells you to do, and teach others to do it also.

Later we see that because of Ezra’s dedication to God, other men were also blessed through his influence:
27 Blessed be the Lord, the God of our fathers, who put such a thing as this into the heart of the king, to beautify the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, 28 and who extended to me his steadfast love before the king and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty officers. I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.—Ezra 7:27-28, ESV

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Do You and Your Friends Work Hard?

6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.  10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.  11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.—2 Thessalonians 3:6,10-12, ESV

This is a strong command, especially since he added the phrase, “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Basically Paul said to keep away from Christians who do not work hard. This makes sense because, since the Fall, our work was cursed by being extra difficult and frustrating (see Gen. 3:17-19). Our natural desire is for rest and ease (read Proverbs if you are not sure of this). We would too easily fall to the temptation of another brother in Christ urging us to come and play.

Yet God wants us to work hard until we enter His rest (See Hebrews 4). This is not to discount the idea of a Sabbath once a week, or vacation occasionally, but there is so much work for the Kingdom to be done while we still can do it. As Jesus said (John 9:4-5, ESV), “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” As long as it is “day” we are to be the lights shining brightly amid a dark world that generally wants an easy life of gain at the others’ expense. I think as Christians living in the America, we must really reconsider our ideas about leisure time and especially retirement.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Spreading the Word Rapidly

1 Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;  2 and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.  3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. —2 Thessalonians 3:1-3, NASB
If we desire to depart this world and be with Christ, then we need to ask Him to allow us to spread His word rapidly throughout the world. He wants us to ask Him for that (see Matt. 9:37), but I don’t think we can just expect that He will enable us to do that if we don’t ask. As a brother reminded me last night, Jesus said (Matt 24:14, NASB), “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” If we want the end to come, let’s not sit around and wait for it, but let’s do our part (while God does His) to make it happen. This is not to say that we control the timing of the end, just that we have a part to play.

God uses people who are willing and have a heart to accomplish His work (see Isaiah 6:7-9 for example). We might as well ask Him to use us, our families, and our friends, because there is no greater joy than knowing you have spent your life well, pleasing the Master. He promises to go with us (Matt. 28:20), to strengthen us (v. 3), and to provide for us (Matt. 6:33). There is no safer or better or more satisfying thing that we can aspire to do with our lives, than to devote them to the spread of the gospel, whatever that looks like. However, it doesn’t look like boredom, greed, laziness, or the pursuit of riches and pleasure (Luke 8:14).

Friday, August 31, 2012

Faithful are the Wounds of a Friend

4 And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.”  5 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall we go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for God will give it into the hand of the king.”  6 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?”  7 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.”  8 Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah.”—2 Chronicles 18:4-8, ESV
Later in this chapter, Micaiah prophesies unfavorably regarding Ahab and the proposed war, but rather than humbling himself, Ahab does not listen. Instead, Ahab’s servant strikes Micaiah. Ahab’s pride ultimately led to his death in battle by means an archer “randomly” shooting an arrow in the air which struck Ahab between the plates of his armor.

There are those Christians who only want truthful counsel from others as long as it is what they want to hear. They find themselves lacking support and encouragement from others regarding their plans. They feel like everyone is against them. If this describes us, we must quickly humble ourselves and consider the counsel of our friends, especially if these friends seriously follow Christ. There may be a good reason why everyone is against us, because God may really be against us.

Why should we do evil and expect a good result? Why should we rebel against God and expect blessing? God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (see 1 Peter 5:5). If we are the ones giving unfavorable, but truthful counsel, we must seek to understand our friends and the perspective they have. We must also stand firm in the truth and trust in the Lord, knowing that the most loving thing to do is to tell the biblical truth:
Better is open rebuke
Than love that is concealed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
—Proverbs 27:5-6, NASB

Sunday, August 26, 2012

God, Heal Our Land

13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,  14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.  16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.—2 Chronicles 7:13-16, ESV
Sheba demin
Solomon And The Queen Of Sheba by Giovanni Demin (1789-1859) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In context, this was God’s response to Solomon in a vision he had at night after he had prayed and consecrated the temple that he had built for God’s dwelling place among Israel. Some could argue that verse 14 was a promise only to the nation of Israel at that time and place, but I believe this is a promise that holds true for believers in Christ today. Since God said that He chose that house, that his name may be there forever (v. 16), He could not have referred to the actual physical temple since that was destroyed and rebuilt and destroyed again for the last time by the Romans in 70 A.D. God must have referred to the “house” meaning the household of believers in Jesus Christ. This is implied, because God also promised David that he would have a descendant who would build his house and rule over Israel forever (see 2 Sam. 7:12-13). This was finally fulfilled in Jesus who is the cornerstone of the temple composed of His believers (see Ephesians 2:20-22).

Therefore, rather than being ignorant or complaining that our nation is in ruin, we must do what verse 14 says. If your church does not have an opportunity for you to get together with other believers and pray, then you create one! After you have prayed, then take action, at the very least, by voting in November. You have to register at least 29 days prior to the election November 6, 2012.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What Causes a Nation to Prosper?

What causes a nation to prosper? Does having the best economic plan, social programs, and entertainment cause this? Does having the best transportation, most “environmentally-friendly” power plants, and the best education system cause national prosperity? You may have guessed that my answer is no.

I believe that a nation prospers based on the conditional blessings of God. When a nation’s people and rulers fear God and demonstrate this by keeping His laws, then it will prosper. When King David of Israel prayed for his son Solomon and commissioned him to build the temple for God he said:
Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.—1 Chronicles 29:11-12, ESV.
David recognized that his kingdom was really God’s and that it would rise or fall based on God’s blessing or curse. He recognized that everything he and his people offered to the Lord to build His temple really came from God to begin with. He prayed that God would “[g]rant to Solomon my son a whole heart that he may keep your commandments, your testimonies, and your statutes, performing all, and that he may build the palace for which I have made provision (v. 19, ESV).” David understood that God’s blessing came as a result of keeping His commandments and honoring Him.

This is why, when considering who to vote for, I choose people who value life and biblical moral values as a priority. A free person’s (not a criminal’s) right to live trump’s anyone else’s rights. Aside from what the Bible says, which should be enough for Christians anyway, this is a self-evident truth of nature.

We may think we’re voting for the person with the best solutions to problems with the economy, education, and energy, but what does the person believe about protecting the fatherless and the defenseless, especially the unborn? What does he believe about marriage? Does he believe rights come from the government, or does God give them equally to humans at birth, based on their intrinsic value as humans who reflect the image of God and are not simply animals. What does he believe about debt and about taking personal responsibility for one’s family.

These are the only sure, important issues to base your vote on. All of the other issues are too complicated for any human to be sure he has the exact, best solution. Of course, these solutions must be based on a biblical world-view, but beyond that, there are so many uncontrollable factors to consider. Typically, the candidates who value biblical moral values will have the best solutions to other issues anyway, since their beliefs about the value of human life will influence every other area of policy.
Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education: To which is Subjoined a Brief History of the United States (Google eBook)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Two Commissions

Isaac Newton's Temple of Solomon‘Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.”’—1 Chronicles 28:20, ESV

This passage reminds me of another commission in Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV): “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In both cases, the mission was to build the temple of the Lord, but in the latter case, it was not a temple of stone made by hands, but a temple comprised of those who believe in Jesus, that is, the Church. This temple is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:20-22, NASB).”

In both cases, God promised to be with the builders. Even in the crowd or in the remotest part of the earth, when things get difficult, messy, and discouraging, God is there with us to strengthen us, comfort us, and empower us. What an awesome promise!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Old Testament and New Testament - Same God

9 Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days.  10 He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.’—1 Chronicles 22:9-10, ESV
A common belief among today’s young people is that the God of the Old Testament is a different God than that of the New Testament. The point to his anger and judgment on Israel and other nations. While discussing that point would be good, that deserves it’s own post which I won’t get to right now. One thing I will say is that I know that the God of the O.T. is the same as the God of the N.T. because of verses like this which foreshadow the coming Christ and also have immediate near-future fulfillment. But besides the hundreds of verses like this that exist in the O.T. Jesus, himself, when teaching, often recited verses from the O.T., including ones like this from David who quoted to his son Solomon what God had told him through the prophet Gad. Jesus also confirms the flood during the days of Noah, and marriage from the book of Genesis, and many other ideas from the O.T.

As Christians, we have more than enough reasons to be confident that the Bible ultimately conveys one consistent message from the Creator of the universe over a span of thousands of years. And since it is true, its message is urgent, and since its message is urgent, we as believers, must live like we really believe this so that we do all that we can to communicate the message of the gospel. If we say we believe it, and yet our lives look no different than heathens’ lives do, then we don’t really believe it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Of Fear and Food

12 And next to him among the three mighty men was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite.  13 He was with David at Pas-dammim when the Philistines were gathered there for battle. There was a plot of ground full of barley, and the men fled from the Philistines.  14 But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and killed the Philistines. And the Lord saved them by a great victory.—1 Chronicles 11:12-14, ESV.
There’s a life lesson here. Never stand between a man and his food! While I say that as a joke, Eleazar probably cared about his own hunger and that of his fellow soldiers. Yet, I think that the most important lesson here is, that while everyone else was fearful of his enemy and ran, Eleazar trusted the Lord, being confident that God wanted him to win this battle. And that is just it. As believers, we have every reason to be confident that God wants us to be victorious over every spiritual battle within and without.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Where Do Your Thoughts Come From?

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.—Colossians 3:1-4, ESV
One thing that every person who is truly saved will do is to rearrange his entire way of thinking. The reality of a new birth in Christ happens when you humble yourself, believe the truth about your depraved state, and believe that Jesus died to justify your sins and rose again from death to give you forgiveness, new life, and reconciliation to God.

Yet for so many, even if they were saved at a young age, their thinking has been primarily shaped by the secular world. This is devastating to their personal relationship with God and to any potential of affecting the world for the sake of the gospel.

Men and women of faith, let us affect our world in a way that glorifies Jesus. Let us renew our minds (Romans 12:2) and set them on the things above (v.2). A great way to do this is to turn off secular media and turn on reading the Bible. How vastly different our thoughts, and consequently, our lives and our effect on the world will be when we have a thorough understanding of God’s written revelation. Do you treasure the Word of God like the people in this video?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Assurance and Confidence through Christ

Letters of John Quincy Adams, to his son, on the Bible and its teachings.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—  21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”  22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.—Colossians 2:20-23, ESV
People love to make their own philosophical and moral code and apply it to others, especially based on rules that they like and tend to keep. In essence, though, this code says, “Hey, look at me. I am an upright and good person since I hold to all of these rules. If anyone has any chance of going to heaven, then I am definitely going.” (Even if they say everyone can choose his own rules, in hypocrisy, they still apply the rule of, “Don’t force your beliefs on me,” to others.)

Paul’s point in this passage is that man’s rules only lead to more enslavement to the lusts of the body. They don’t change a person’s heart which is the root of the problem. However, as he explained earlier in this passage, when a person receives salvation by God’s grace through one putting his faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, the person is changed from the inside out. He receives a circumcision (in a spiritual sense) of his old self, his sinful habits, and his futile mindset. In their place, he receives a spiritual resurrection (and a bodily one on the Last Day). He receives the mind and spirit of Christ, and by God’s grace, lives this new life through faith.

Therefore, let us strive to be assured in who Christ is and what He has already done, and let us also be confident in our assurance by growing, daily, in our knowledge of God and obedience to His Word, by his grace.

One of the best ways to do this is to develop a habit of reading the Bible and, in faith by God’s grace, applying the principles that we understand. John Quincy Adams would agree. Just as a son learns and grows in the deeper lessons of life as he obeys his father, it’s the same with us. As the son continues to obey, his understanding of his father and love for him also increases. It is the same with us and God.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stewardship of the Gospel

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”—Colossians 1:24-29 ESV

Paul joyfully accepted whatever hardship, suffering, and trials came his way, because he knew the urgency and the gravity of the message that he was to proclaim. He understood that it was his life’s purpose to make known to the known world the mystery of salvation through the work of Christ which God had been working toward and foreshadowing for millennia.

Now that the message is clear, the significance of it without measure, and the opposing forces only conquerable through the power of Christ at work within the Church, how could Paul, and how can we neglect the stewardship of the Good News that God has entrusted to us? This is a time like no other, where the mystery of Christ in us, transforming us and reconciling us to God, has been clearly revealed. We don’t all have the same way of proclaiming the Good News, but we do all have the responsibility to toil and struggle with power from God, no matter what worldly thing we may lose in the process, to contribute to, take part in, and support the work of proclaiming the gospel and building the Church. If every believer lived life with this mindset, it would not take long to reach the entire world.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When the Church and State Play Well Together

4 One day King Joash said to the priests, “Collect all the money brought as a sacred offering to the Lord’s Temple, whether it is a regular assessment, a payment of vows, or a voluntary gift.  5 Let the priests take some of that money to pay for whatever repairs are needed at the Temple.”  6 But by the twenty-third year of Joash’s reign, the priests still had not repaired the Temple.  7 So King Joash called for Jehoiada and the other priests and asked them, “Why haven’t you repaired the Temple? Don’t use any more money for your own needs. From now on, it must all be spent on Temple repairs.”  8 So the priests agreed not to accept any more money from the people, and they also agreed to let others take responsibility for repairing the Temple.—2 Kings 12:4-8, NLT

US Navy 031029-N-6236G-001 A painting of President John Adams (1735-1826), 2nd president of the United States, by Asher B. Durand (1767-1845)-crop
John Adams by Asher Brown Durand [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Here is a good example of the “Church” (really the religious community of Jews) and State playing well together. In this case the king urges the priests to collect money to repair the temple. The priests didn’t follow through, and the king rebuked them. Then the priests followed through and the money was properly collected and paid to the men who repaired the temple. They actually had an excess of funds (see 2 Chron. 24:14 [part of the parallel account]).

Compare this to what is commonly done today: The church has responsibilities of caring for people. The church neglects these responsibilities. Religious and secular citizens complain and say we need a government solution. They form committees. They write laws and prepare to collect new taxes. The laws fail to pass a vote. Then an election comes. The people who like the proposed laws get elected. They revisit the proposed laws and they pass. After several years of forming new departments and offices to oversee the responsibilities, the laws finally go into effect. The outcome is plagued by mismanagement and wastefulness and more problems. Citizens take advantage of the system. The laws are reformed in an effort to fix the problems. The government says more money is needed and taxes are raised and things get really complicated. The root of the problem is that many citizens and government officials are morally corrupt. They don’t fear God, and no amount of new laws will stop the corruption.

The church is equipped to handle morally corrupt people, because Jesus Christ transforms people from the inside out. Yet, the church can’t just take the responsibilities back because people have learned to depend on the government, and now the financial burden of all the taxes has affected everyone, including the people who comprise the Church. Restoring responsibilities back to the church can be done, but it takes cooperation from the State and the Church. It takes the efforts of all citizens to fulfill their responsibilities for themselves, their families, their churches, and their civil government since “We the People...” are our government. Rather than complain, let’s act biblically and fulfill our responsibilities on every level, including voting for people who have a more biblical worldview.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chariots of Fire

15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.—2 Kings 6:15-18, ESV

I imagine that this event was no surprise to Elisha since he knew what the king of Syria said in secret, but this alarmed Elisha’s servant. He could not see both the seen and unseen elements of the battle. Elisha had confidence that God would protect him and defeat his enemies.

While we may not see like Elisha did, we can be confident that God protects us in a spiritual sense from shipwrecking our faith and ultimately being separated from Him eternally. Yes, we may face persecution and suffering in many forms and could ultimately lose our physical lives for the sake of proclaiming Christ. Yet, we have confidence that comes from trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation (see Rom. 8:31-39). We are confident not because we lived “good” lives or had strong faith, but because Jesus paid it all. This is cause for rejoicing and moving forward in the work God has prepared in advance for us to do (see Eph. 2:8-10).

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Downward Spiral

Charles g finney
Charles Finney. See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years.  30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.  31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him.  32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria.—1 Kings 16:29-32, ESV

It’s inevitable. When a society approves moral values that are not based on rock-solid, biblical truth, the society only gets worse in every way. This downward progression does not happen overnight, but with each new generation. This happens, because the natural human tendency is to do evil, not good. We only do good by the grace of God, and we only get better by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit who transforms every true believer who has believed in Jesus’ redemptive death and resurrection.

We must not yield, in any arena in life, to moral values that are less than biblical, however harmless or appealing they may seem. We must not give in to the philosophical argument, “How does the decision of two adults, in the privacy of their home affect others outside their home?” Disobedience of God on any level consequently affects more than those directly involved. This is self-evident as we witness the breakdown of the foundational institution of any society, the family, affecting every aspect of the society. Rather than concede, we must influence. Rather than remain apathetic, we must act. Rather than complain, we must vote. Rather than curse, we must bless our neighbors and win them faith in Christ who is the bedrock solution to any society’s problems. Only He transforms people and their beliefs and actions from the inside out.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

When History Matters

Frederick Douglass portrait
Photograph of Frederick Douglass by Photograph by George K. Warren (d. 1884). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David.  27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.”  28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”  29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.  30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one.  31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites.—1 Kings 12:27-31, ESV
History always matters. The people of Israel were between a rock and hard place. If they followed Rehoboam, they would be subjected to severe labor and punishment. If they followed Jeroboam, they would follow him into great sin, since, for political and economic gain, he re-told history to deceive the masses by claiming that his false gods rescued Israel from the land of Egypt. Most of Israel chose to follow Jeroboam into sin and then disciplined from God for this idolatry.

It’s the same today, and we must be careful to make sure that we know the truth found in the Bible and in our own history and test the words of men by checking their sources of information. A great example of a man who did this is Frederick Douglass. Once he escaped from slavery, he was taught by some abolitionists that the U.S. Constitution was a pro-slavery document implying that the Founding Fathers were pro-slavery. However, since he was a spokesman for the abolitionist movement, he thought he should read the Constitution and discovered, in fact, that the opposite was true (see this article). He stood for the historical truth and biblical truth and became very influential in shaping the Civil Rights movement in the mid to late 1800s.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Marry Wisely!

1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,  2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.—1 Kings 11:1-2

The most consequential decision a person can make is whether to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. The second most consequential decision is choosing a spouse, especially since, as a Christian, you should only marry once, considering reconciliation, not divorce as your only option. Even though God gave Solomon wisdom beyond measure, he acted foolishly and chose to disobey God regarding marriage.

It’s extremely important to get counsel from parents, roommates, friends, and church leaders when choosing a spouse. They know what you are like under stress and when your character is tested. They also see things about you that you don’t see. They can tell you if you are even ready to be married and whether a potential spouse is like-minded (see Philippians 1:27, 2 Corinthians 6:14-15). Will she help you accomplish what God wants you to do, or will she be like one of Solomon’s many wives and cause your heart to turn to wicked idolatry?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grace for All Nations

William Carey is known by many as the  "father of modern missions." Image from  Wikimedia Commons
41 “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name's sake  42 (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house,  43 hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.— 1 Kings 8:41-43, ESV
God has always had the purpose of making Himself famous throughout the whole world (also see Galatians 3:7-9), not because He is egotistical, but because He wants the entire world to know Him and be transformed by His love. How can we possibly keep our faith to ourselves?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Walking as Children of Light and Exposing the Darkness

John Quincy Adams - sixth President of the United States and mentor to Abraham Lincoln. He exposed slavery and Free Masonry for the wickedness that they were. Photo by By Southworth & Hawes (The Metropolitan Museum of Art) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  7 Therefore do not be partakers with them;  8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light  9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),  10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;  12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.—Ephesians 5:6-12, NASB
Certainly no sound-minded person wakes each day with the intention of deceiving or being deceived, but how is it that people are deceived so much? Think about it. In every aspect of life, you find deceivers, even many calling themselves “Christians” who intentionally or unintentionally purport lies. They do it for a variety of reasons. Some do it for financial gain, some for attention, and some do it with good intentions.

This brings to mind a recent Wallbuilders radio show (June 11, 2012) that I listened to about the culture of death in our country and in Europe. To summarize one point the guest, Dr. Mark Mostert, made is that in the Netherlands polls are starting to show that the elderly are sensing a growing social pressure to get euthanized because they can be a burden to others and the medical system. Euthanasia is legal in some cases in the Netherlands, but it is becoming a slippery slope that is leading people to believe that they have the right to put themselves to death (or urge others to) for any reason. This is exactly what the devil wants.

Proverbs 14:12, NASB, says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Jesus said that the devil is a murderer and the father of lies (John 8:44), and the devil is good at making lies seem tasty and pleasant to swallow. His intent is to kill you physically and keep your soul from being saved by Jesus Christ (if you are not already saved. I don’t believe you can lose your salvation).

Accepting, approving, and affirming ideas that go against God’s morality always leads to more death, both physically and spiritually. I’ve had more than a few conversations with Christians who say, “I don’t believe ____ (abortion or marriage between homosexuals are the usual issues) is O.K., but I don’t think it is fair to take the right to ____ away from others.” Therefore, they don’t vote or they vote in support of false morality, and in this way are partakers (v. 7). They also fail to convey the truth and expose the lies in order to counteract the slippery slope (v. 11).

The reality is that someone’s morality wins when there is a conflict of moral views, and if we want to love God and others, then we have to help them understand that God’s morality is the best (only) morality, and this must be done in a winsome way using reason, not just by spouting Bible verses without understanding the rationale behind them. Besides, the Bible is not the only proof that God’s ways our true. Nature reveals His truth as well.

As Christians, our goal is not to win non-Christians to our political beliefs. Our goal is to win them to faith in Jesus Christ, but when it comes time to vote, voting for candidates the assert godly moral values among other biblical worldviews is the most loving way to vote. It leads to life and blessing and prosperity in many ways (not necessarily materially). It is what is good for the proliferation of the gospel and society in general.

We must be careful. We must seek to know God through careful study and application of what He tells us in the Bible. This is the primary way to know the full, complete truth about the world around us. We must think critically about the words of others. We must ask, “What is this person really saying, and why?” Many public figures tell people what they want to hear, and the masses swallow it and are poisoned by it. Don’t let this happen to you! Discern what is good.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Put Off and Put On

John Newton was a British Slave trader who became a Christian and fought for the abolition of slavery.
But that is not the way you learned Christ!—21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus,  22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,  23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.  26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,  27 and give no opportunity to the devil.  28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.—Ephesians 4:21-28, ESV
This passage describes a simple truth regarding overcoming sinful behavior. Knowing Jesus Christ allows us to put away our old, sinful ways by replacing them with new, righteous ways. You can’t do one without the other. Notice the contrasting phrases: Put off the old, and put on the new. Do not nurse your anger, but resolve it quickly. Don’t steal, but work and be generous. What do you need to put off and put on to live in a way that glorifies God, loves others, and wins them to faith in Jesus Christ?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Making Known the Mystery of His Plan for My Life

11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.—Ephesians 3:11-13, ESV
All of the perceived “bad” things, like imprisonment, that happened to Paul and other believers in Christ happened as part of God’s plan of eternal purpose that was revealed through Jesus Christ. Paul’s life, and ours as followers of Christ are no accident. They are part of God’s grand, mysterious plan that has been revealed through Christ. This plan included giving everyone, no matter who they were born as or where they were born, the ability to know God, to be redeemed by Him, and to belong to His heavenly kingdom and family. This plan includes giving us a specific purpose in this life. Paul knew that his purpose was to reveal the gospel to the Gentiles. God has decided that He wants to use each one of us in a specific way to carry out His plan. These are some of the reasons why we do not need to lose heart (v. 13). Our lives are not a waste!

I’ve found that many do not know how God wants to specifically use them to affect this world. They try to serve God in some ways and for whatever reason, this does not seem to work out for them. They get discouraged. This is a hard place to be.

When we find ourselves in this situation, I think that we often have to persevere in doing the general things that we know God wants us to do like praying, reading, studying, and obeying the Bible, loving Him and others, serving in our local church however we are able, and sharing our faith. Often as we mature and understand God, others, and ourselves better, as we understand more of the needs of the world around us more clearly, God will help to refine our desires and give us the opportunity to live them out (see Psalm 37:4). Is there some simple way that you can start living out God's plan for your life today?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Making Known the Mystery of His Will

Jim Elliot along with several others paid the ultimate price to bring the hope of Christ to one of the most murderous indigenous people groups in the world.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight  9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.—Ephesians 1:7-10, ESV
Here Paul states very plainly what God’s will or desire is which, hidden for past ages, has now been revealed through Jesus Christ. This plan is to unite all things in Jesus Christ. Is there any question, then, what Christians should have as the general purpose to their lives? No. All of us Christians should have the same general plan for our lives—to live with the goal of uniting people to Christ. The way that we carry this out will look differently for each person, but it is a sad day in America when the purposes and dreams of Christians’ lives look just like the rest of Americans and have no eternal purpose of reconciling people to Jesus Christ.

It is also a sad day in churches when the extent of the teaching to this end is “Invite your friends.” That’s well and good, and God does use it, but the people that have the greatest spiritual needs are not going to come to a church building. They are most likely disillusioned by the church, and we must go to them and love them and tell them the truth of the gospel.

When we do live out God’s general purpose or will, we will experience every spiritual blessing (v. 3) and the riches of his grace (v. 7). This precludes many material blessings, but those things are passing away. They don’t matter in heaven. What matters now is knowing God and making Him known to people. Let us not lose sight of this, and let us do all that we can to win the lost and build up the found to pass on this Great Commission lifestyle.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fellowship Through Suffering

10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death...—Philippians 3:10, NASB
Will Lammert, Memorial Tragende (Woman with Burden) for the Ravensbr├╝ck Concentration Camp memorial site, 1959 By Flechtheim (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. This is the last concentration that imprisoned Corrie ten Boom before she was released due to a clerical error.
[Note: This is a continuation of thoughts on Philippians 3.] There are countless ways that Jesus suffered for righteous causes, not as a consequence of sin. As we begin to live in a Christ-like way, counting things as loss for the sake of Christ and dying to our old ways, we will experience suffering. Our flesh will suffer when we put to death our sinful desires, especially if we have indulged in habitual sins for a long time. For example, if we’re addicted to drugs, there are definitely physiological side-effects associated with halting their use.

If we’re sharing our faith with the lost, we will experience some level of persecution. When we purposely deny ourselves the pleasures and comforts of this world for the sake of the gospel, we will suffer mentally, possibly feeling like we’re “missing out” on what others get to enjoy. After all, Jesus didn’t even have an earthly home once He carried out His ministry (see. Matt. 8:20) so of course He was not concerned about whether He would experience the 100 best places around the world before He died or live out the lifestyle that His culture hoped for.

We will suffer as we take up our crosses daily to follow Jesus (see Luke 9:23), and this necessarily means that put our sinful ways to death as God gives us the grace and strength to do so. This is how we’re conformed to Jesus’ death.

The benefit to living this way, of course, is that we can better know and relate to our Savior who experienced the ultimate suffering, beginning with leaving His heavenly home and taking on the humility of mankind. If this was not bad enough, he was falsely accused, betrayed, abandoned, mocked, and brutally, murdered by His enemies, whom He came to save.

When we suffer for righteous reasons, we identify with Christ and find our hope, ultimately, in His resurrection, especially if we suffer to the very point of shedding our own blood. No one can take away our hope of eternal life.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Being Committed to the King

9 And next to him among the three mighty men was Eleazar the son of Dodo, son of Ahohi. He was with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel withdrew.  10 He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword. And the Lord brought about a great victory that day, and the men returned after him only to strip the slain.—2 Samuel 23:9-10, ESV
Woodcut of David pouring out the water that his Mighty Men risked their lives to retrieve for him (see vv. 13-17), byJulius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
David was surrounded by men of valor who were committed to his mission. They were valiant men who risked everything for David, not yielding to fear or criticism or a desire to be popular. They were viewed by many in Israel to be a band of rebels when David was pursued by Saul and later by Absalom. These mighty men didn’t even yield to their own physical exhaustion, but they fought tirelessly for what they believed in, as did Eleazar whose hand was stuck to his sword. Yet, we see that hundreds of years later, another King came with a mission and had a following of committed men who carried out His work even after He left their midst. Their commitment eventually cost them everything, including their lives.

Jesus disciples are an example to us and an illustration of a common theme in the Bible. God often uses a relatively small group of people who are willing to risk everything to accomplish His work. We must ask ourselves whether there is anything preventing us from following Christ and teaming up with others in this same way to accomplish our King’s work.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Flattering Rhetoric or Real Hope?

Flossenb├╝rg concentration camp, Arrestblock-Hof: Memorial to members of German resistance executed on April 9, 1945 By Concordiadomi (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
1 After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run before him. 2 And Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way of the gate. And when any man had a dispute to come before the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And when he said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” 3 Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.” 4 Then Absalom would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.” 5 And whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. 6 Thus Absalom did to all of Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.—2 Samuel 15:1-6
Throughout history, evil tyrants always won the hearts of people through flattering rhetoric and promises of hope. Yet, the true people of God were not deceived because they know that any promise of hope that does not have, at its foundation, Jesus Christ crucified and raised again, is no hope at all. It is just more enslavement to the devil’s ideologies.

We must be careful that we are not deceived by false promises of hope spouted by smoothing-sounding men. The best way to protect ourselves is to know the truth by reading and studying the Word of God every day. The Bible addresses every problem known to man, and the devil has his own “solutions” to those problems also. They often look more attractive to our natural selves, because they require less self-sacrifice and less personal responsibility. Trying to address societal problems with an unbiblical solution only makes matters worse and brings consequences. Let us know the truth and apply it!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Courage and Parables

1 And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”—2 Samuel 12:1-7, ESV
David and Nathan by Matthias Scheits [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
On one afternoon while king David was relaxing and neglecting his kingly duties, he decided to go to his rooftop where he noticed the beautiful Bathsheba, wife of Uriah as she bathed. King David lusted after her, committed adultery with her, and then had Uriah murdered in an attempt to justify marrying Uriah’s wife to cover up her conception. It was a simple plan, and it was easy for David to carry out and justify. If this happened today, David would have just urged Bathsheba to abort the baby, and he would not have married her if he was able to get his lustful desires fulfilled anyway.

It seemed like the right thing to do until God removed the blindfold from David’s eyes using the courage of Nathan, God’s prophet, to tell David a parable. Parables are powerful because they communicate underlying principles and truths in a different context from the hearer’s current context, often bringing clarity by the use of extremes. This is probably one reason why Jesus used many parables.

One thing I try to do is to use parables or simple illustrations of a principle taken to more of an extreme to help people understand the truth. The challenge for me is to do this in a loving way. Still, we need to pray for God to remove the blindfolds from people’s eyes. Having the courage to stand for the truth is the most loving thing to do, and it is certainly what our society needs right now—men and women who unapologetically stand up for biblical truth despite how this may offend others or bring insult and slander. Good never results from compromising with anti-biblical ideologies or failing to stand against them.