Archive | August, 2013

House Cleansing Time

August 14, 2013

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After the triumphal entry in Jerusalem, (Mark 11:1-11) we find Jesus in the temple cleansing it for the second time. (Mark 11:15-16)

Here are some interesting points about the Mark account:

  • The first time he cleansed the temple, (John 2:13-16) Jesus told the merchants not to profane his father’s house. He didn’t do that this time.
  • Mark gives the account of Jesus withering the fig tree in conjunction with the temple cleansing.
  • Jesus calls the merchants thieves and robbers this time.

The lessons go much deeper than I can cover in this space, but in a few words: I see the time for grace coming to an end, I see judgment, and I see those who didn’t produce being destroyed.

I leave you with these thoughts for your own study.

Daily Bible reading for August 14

Psalm 12
Ruth 3
Jeremiah 40-41
Mark 11

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Living With Jesus’ Urgency

August 13, 2013

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The Gospel of Mark opens with a fast paced account of the life of Jesus. When it is read start to finish one could even feel out of breath.

We also see Jesus acting with intensity and focus as the time for his sacrifice draws near. This was a task he knew he had to do. It was a task he wanted to do.

If more of us had spitituality like that, we would save more souls.

Daily Bible reading for August 13

Psalm 11
Ruth 2
Jeremiah 39
Mark 10

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The Wicked Boast

August 12, 2013

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The psalmist asked some of the same questions we ask today about wicked people and God’s people.

  • Why are the wicked prospering?
  • Why are Christians being oppressed?
  • Why are people so boastful of wicked things?

The point he was trying to make was that the wicked do not believe in God, whether they admit it or not. (Psalm 10:1-11) Their greed and evil ways drive God right from their heart.

My assertions about those who do not believe in God are these:

  • They suffer from laziness – Most who do not believe in God have not honestly studied the Bible
  • Their ego is in the way – It is difficult to conspicuously change one’s mind
  • They are immersed in self-pity – Most people know when they are doing bad things

The attack that Atheists bring against Christians is intellectual, the implication being that only the uneducated believe in God. To get to that argument, those “educated” people have to ignore logic and evidence outside the Bible that God exists.

So where does atheism come from in those “highly educated” people?

They are wicked.

They love the darkness that covers them and embrace the evil in their heart. (John 3:19)

Daily Bible reading for August 12

Psalm 10
Ruth 1
Jeremiah 38
Mark 8:27-9:50

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8 Reasons You Need to Be in Church Today

August 11, 2013

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Whether or not to attend worship services is a spiritual decision you will have to make today (or the Sunday after you read this.) If you think you will not be missed, then you are mistaken. Others are coming because you are. Your voice is needed in song. You need to remember Christ’s life death and resurrection. You need to give. This list goes

The fact is, when you became a Christian you made a commitment. When you identified yourself with your congregation, you made a commitment.

You committed yourself to serve the kingdom in any way that helps it grow. If you need more study on the matter, here are the reasons you need to be in church today:

  • To seek God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:33)
  • To worship God (John 4:24)
  • To edify the other saints (Hebrews 3:13)
  • To sing praises to our God (Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19)
  • To pray (1 Timothy 2:1-8)
  • To partake of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-29)
  • To give as we have prospered(1 Corinthians 16:1, 2)
  • To study (2 Timothy 2:15).

These are all items that are part of your service to God, but there is a compelling reason you need to go for yourself. Just like a coal loses its glow when it is removed from the fire, your spirit will be quenched when it is removed from the congregation. Just like that coal needs the fire’s heat to continue consuming the fuel, your faith needs God’s word to grow.

See you in church!

Daily Bible reading for August 11

Psalm 9
Judges 21
Jeremiah 37
Mark 7:1-8:26

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5 Ways to Make Close Friends Receptive to the Gospel

August 10, 2013

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If you find it challenging to get an audience for Bible study from among those closest to you, you are not alone.

In Mark 6:4-5, we see Jesus performing the only the most basic miracles in his home town because they didn’t have enough faith in his message. Human jealousy and competition closed their ears to the one among them that wanted to save them.

That was Jesus. He didn’t even have a bad reputation. He never committed a sin. If we were to list the reasons we need to be like Jesus, limiting our personal liabilities to the gospel message is a big one.

Five Ways to Make Others Receptive

To improve the chances of getting someone close to you to listen to the gospel here are some suggestions:

  • Practice excellent behavior – make it priority never to use coarse language, shy away from off-color subjects and stay away from TV and radio programming that use these things for humor.
  • Live well – When you look like you have it together, never complain, rarely worry, others will want to know why.
  • Never criticize –be careful about how you bow out of activities you shouldn’t join. Remember that they aren’t in the same place as you and haven’t made the same commitments to God yet.
  • Organically introduce the Bible – Wait for opportunities to teach so that the conversation feel natural to the discussion flow.
  • Introduce someone new – A Christian friend is helpful when they do not have the same history as you do with your long-time friends and relatives.

Finding those open to the Gospel from among our peers is not impossible, it just takes a little more planning.

Daily Bible reading for August 10

Psalm 8
Judges 20
Jeremiah 36
Mark 6

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Remembering to Trust God

August 9, 2013

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Do you think Jesus finds it maddening that his followers forget to trust God during the tough times?

Trust God

Trust God to bring us peace

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt, 1632.

Jesus asked his followers twice why they worried when the storm came up and caught them in their boats. (Matthew records the question before he calmed the storm and Mark 4:35-43 records it after.) The comfort we can have from just knowing that Christ wants us to call on the Master for help is there just for us. There is usually a bigger plan working and we have to trust God to see us through.

That is not to say we will never be challenged a little beyond our ability to handle the situation. He wants us to experience trials like the stormy sea for the growth and experience it gives us. (James 1:2-4) Sometimes it is even for the reason of exposing a weakness we have. Paul gave us in 2 Cor. 11:23-30 a list of challenges he had to endure and survived. It wasn’t to brag about his strength and manliness – it was to

boast of the things that show my weakness. – 2 Corinthians 11:30b

Those weaknesses are what reminds us that we need God! Remember to trust God and talk to him daily.

Daily Bible reading for August 9

Psalm 7
Judges 19
Jeremiah 35
Mark 4:35-5:43

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Why Evil Hates Good

August 8, 2013

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Why do atheists campaign so hard against what a Christian believes? Why do they care? Evil hates good so much that it must take action!

Evil Hates Good

It started in the beginning. Cain killed his brother “because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:12) Jesus expected to be hated and warned that “all men shall be hated” because of him (Luke 21:17)

Even in the beginning evil hates good

Cain slaying Abel – Peter Paul Rubens,1608-1609

In Mark 4:30-34 we see that Christ’s kingdom, represented by the mustard tree, is so large that even stray birds can live and prosper among the branches. These birds never really impact it for the good or the bad. When I think about those birds, I think about how insignificant the community outside of Christ really is and how we really don’t need to be concerned about it. At the end of the day, the kingdom will stand strong.

So why does evil hate good?

  • Psalm 6 ends with God’s enemies ashamed and troubled (Psalm 6:9-10)
  • The Scriptures make the heart burn when they are revealed (Luke 24:32)
  • Darkness cannot overcome God’s light (John 1:5)

Since God is the definition of good (James 1:17) and he is the only good one, (Mark 10:18) we begin to stand out as we strive to be like God. The world has never shown tolerance to those that are different.

But that’s what we want because it is the evidence of our heritage (1 John 3:10)

Daily Bible reading for August 8

Psalm 6
Judges 18
Jeremiah 34
Mark 4:1-34

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Make a “Tear Off the Roof” Decision

August 7, 2013

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The four had a decision to make. They could take their friend, laid out on a stretcher, back home or they could get drastic. Jesus was right through that door, but the crowd was so thick they would never be able to get to him with the load they were carrying. Jesus could heal their friend, but only if they could get to him. (Mark 2:1-12)

The Critical Decision

An example of a tear off the roof decision

Christ Heals a Man Paralyzed by the Gout. Mark 2:4. Engraving by Bernhard Rode, 1780.

When I read Mark 2:4, I think of the number of ways a different decision would have changed the way that sentence ended. “And when they could not get near him because of the crowd…”

  • they went home, planning to return another day…
  • they milled about in the rear hoping they would be noticed…
  • they decided they had more important things to do with their time and left their friend to fend for himself …

In the post Time for a Decision, we thought about decision making from the standpoint of failing to act at all. In this event, the four friends highlight a totally different kind of decision. How many choices do we make on a monthly basis that could have a life changing impact on ourselves or others?

  • “I could go back to school, but I will be x years old before I get out”
  • “I would love to give that person a ride to the doctor, but I already have plans for today”
  • “I would love to be a part of that project, but I need to work on Saturday”

From Good to Best

Obviously, there are legitimate tough decisions we have to make sometimes. Being honest with ourselves, how often do our decisions really fit into that category?

And more importantly, how often do we let the “crowd around Jesus” stop us from getting to him?

What if we attacked the things that keep us from making the best decision the same way the four friends did? What if we took on a “tear off the roof” attitude every day?

And when we do, whose life can we change?

Bonus: More I have written on Mark 2:1-12

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The Standard of My Righteousness

August 6, 2013

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Most people consider themselves good. The question becomes then, “By what standard do I consider myself good or righteous?” Perhaps before I can even settle on a standard, I have to ask myself “What is righteousness?”

Setting the Standard of Righteousness

The opening line of Psalm 4 (Psalm 4:1) will give you the answer. David calls on the “God of his righteousness.” What an excellent acknowledgement of the Father! Unfortunately, when we are not careful, we can place our measuring stick against nearly anything and come up with a way to call ourselves good.

By what measurement do we consider our righteousness?

By what measurement do we consider our righteousness?

We attend fund raisers, help the needy, volunteer for the PTA or any list of “good” things in the world. This is usually an effort to tip the scales in balance to the sins we have. When we do this, we are settling on the approval of people rather than God.

The truth is, anything other than God is a poor substitute for goodness. In fact, when God is not the standard, there is no righteousness at all. James 1:17 says that God is the only thing good.

Seek Righteousness Diligently

Jesus promised that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled. (Matthew 5:6) This gives us our direction. There is no purpose or meaning in our lives if we are not seeking something – as Christians, that something is righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)

  • We find righteousness in the Gospel (Romans 1:16-17)
  • We give ourselves to God to be used for righteousness (Romans 6:13)
  • Being in his kingdom is all about righteousness (Romans 14:17)

The world is doing a good job in tricking people into believing goodness and righteousness is something far different than what God told us. Our job is to seek his kingdom and righteousness.

Daily Bible reading for August 6

Psalm 4
Judges 16
Jeremiah 32
Mark 1

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Our Light and Shield

August 5, 2013

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It is nothing new for Christians to feel alone in the world. When we are at our lowest point, the light seems to become too dim to see beyond our sorrow and worry. As the world becomes bold against followers of God today, we can look back through history to see some of God’s most trusted people challenged by the same feelings.Shield

  • Lot fled Sodom and watched his wife turn to salt.
  • Noah building an ark for a hundred years
  • Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Hosea, Ezekiel … all charged with warning a sinful nation
  • Elijah fled Jezebel
  • The first century Christians under attack in Rome

As David was fleeing his own son, we get a look at how that felt in Psalm 3:1-2. We also see that he knew God’s track record for protecting his children. God is and always has been there as a shield and as a shoulder to cry on. (Psalm 3:3-4) He delivers those who use him this way – those who awaken in his sustaining light to turn the tables on the darkness out there. (Psalm 3:5-6)

Walk in the Light, Carry Your Sword

God's Light prevails against all

God’s Light prevails against all

John spoke to this too. Those in true fellowship with God are walking in the light. (1 John 1:5-7) Light swallows the darkness or makes it shrink into the corners. Like those mentioned above, if we can remember to use the light and use our shield we can turn the tables on the many. True children of God are easy to spot, and they make the others uncomfortable. (1 John 3:7-10)

God has given us what we need for strength, comfort and protection. God will light our way. The challenge is to become so good with God’s word that it becomes second nature to turn to it as a guide.

Daily Bible reading for August 5

Psalm 3
Judges 15
Jeremiah 31
Hebrews 13:20-25

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Brotherly Love: Top of the List

August 4, 2013

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The Hebrew writer gave brotherly love first place in a list of items that please God (Hebrews 13:1-16)

Five Ways Brotherly Love Works

As you go to your next worship service, keep in mind that brotherly love is one of the reasons for going to church. It is a time to strengthen the bond of those we study and worship with. Those bonds:

Brotherly love is not only good for us, God requires it!

Brotherly love is not only good for us, God requires it!

  • help us become teachers
  • help us become charitable
  • help us learn from the examples of others
  • help us feel grow to maturity
  • help us practice compassion

John has a very specific warning about our place with God in relation to the love we have for our brother. (1 John 2:9-11) Practicing kindness, making connections and not being a busybody are ways to get into God’s light. Given everything else we need to be in the light, a lack of brotherly love will shade into darkness.

Daily Bible reading for August 4

Psalm 2
Judges 14
Jeremiah 30
Hebrews 13:1-19

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Faith Only: A Complete Listing

August 3, 2013

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Here is an exhaustive listing of the places in the Bible that mention “faith only” (Or “faith alone” depending on your version)

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. – James 2:24 KJV

Yes that’s it. The complete and unabridged list.

Faith is a Milestone

While faith is a very important milestone on the path to salvation, the path doesn’t end there. As I have outlined on my Gospel Plan of Salvation page, faith comes very early on that journey, but at this point, the seeker is only beginning to see the goal in the distance. God has never accepted a person’s faith by merely taking his word for it.

In my post, But, What Do You Do By Faith?, I listed off a few points for consideration when discussing “faith only” salvation vs. the requirement to be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) With those points (and even more) we can quickly determine that we need a deeper study of the word if we have taken any passage and tried to prove “faith only.”

The Heroes of Faith didn’t get away with Faith Only

Relying on "faith only" and not obeying God will bar one from salvation

Moses Striking The Rock – Pieter de Grebber, 1620

One of the points in the But, What Do You Do By Faith? post looks to Hebrews 11 as proof that God requires more than just believing or “accepting” God. Each and every one in that chapter had to go do something:

  • Faith led Abel to offer the correct sacrifice (Hebrews 11:4)
  • Faith led Enoch to actively please God (Hebrews 11:5)
  • Faith led Noah to build the ark (Hebrews 11:7)
  • Faith led Abraham to pack up and move his family (Hebrews 11:8-10)
  • Abraham and Sarah had innumerable descendants through their faith (Hebrews 11:11-12)
  • Abraham knew that God could raise Isaac after he sacrificed him (Hebrews 11:17-19)

…and the list goes on. We know that we need faith to please him, (Hebrews 11:6) but we can also see that if any one of these folks in Hebrews 11 had failed to act on God’s command, the outcome would have been very different for them. (See: Moses Strikes the Rock)

God has a complete plan for us. It is up to us to complete the plan.

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10 “Better Things” Over The Old Law

August 2, 2013

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The Old Testament was meant for the children of Israel. It was just a place holder that featured mere shadows of Christ, his life and the job he came to do. Now that he has come, died and risen, we are heirs to his covenant that improves on the one given to Israel.

Ten ways we have it better

Since the gospel was given to all, it can only follow that it was superior in every way to the old law. With Christ, we have a:

  • better revelation (Hebrews 1:4) – In 7 Reasons Christ is King we examined his credentials as the Christ, the one the law and the prophets were looking for. It is through those qualifications that the revelation he brings us is better, and in fact the ultimate authority of all things spiritual.
  • better expectation (Hebrews 6:9) – Those that know the gospel know how to please God and therefore are better people. Even the world expects more from us.

    Jesus brought us a better Covenant

    Jesus brought us a better Covenant

  • better priesthood (Hebrews 7:7-11, 20-28) – In 8 Reasons Christ was like Melchizedek we compared Christ to Melchizedek. Even he was of a better priesthood than the tribe of Levi. Melchizedek was without recorded beginning or end, his ancestry and descendants were not recorded, and even Abram paid tithes to him.
  • better hope (Hebrews 7:19) – The did not motivate and inspire people to righteous living. The Spirit was not there as the Comforter. The Gospel gives us that and more – now we may draw near to God, in fact he commands it (James 4:8)
  • better testament (or covenant ESV) and better promises (Hebrews 7:22, 8:6) – With all of the old laws and rituals being made on the shadows or types of things to come, under the new covenant we have them made on Christ and the spiritual.
  • better sacrifice (Hebrews 9:23, 26) – The sacrifices under the old law did not cleanse sins, the bloodshed had to be repeated on a regular basis. Christ’s sacrifice and bloodshed was once and for all.
  • better possessions (Hebrews 10:34 ASV) – We have the Holy Spirit. We have Christ confessing our name to the Father. We have redemption. We have a home in heaven.
  • better country (Hebrews 11:16) – The Promised Land of the new covenant is with the father (John 14:2)
  • better resurrection (Hebrews 11:35) – This could be talking about our spiritual resurrection being a vast improvement over any form of earthly prolonging of life. (Philippians 1:21)
  • better things (Hebrews 11:40, 12:24) – A summary of the arguments in Hebrews

The Jews had to be reminded of these things as the book of Hebrews was written. The writer understood that  as Christianity progressed, we would be able to take these things for granted. So much so that collectively, we forget to talk about them and review them often enough.

Daily Bible reading for August 2

Song of Solomon 8:8-14
Judges 12
Jeremiah 27-28
Hebrews 11:1-12:2

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“Let Us” Do These 11 Things

August 1, 2013

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Hebrews spent a lot of time on selling Christ as superior to the old Law and as deserving of our full service. Here are the eleven items that support living a Christian life. While we don’t know who the writer of Hebrews is, we can see from other books in the Bible that an exhortation of “Let us” was usually given as a command with apostolic authority. Practicing these things not only makes us obedient but, will help make the lifestyle easy and a joy to participate in …

…so let us:

  • Fear ( Hebrews 4:1) – The gospel message doesn’t benefit us if we do not have faith or continue to grow our faith
  • Labor (Hebrews 4:11) – We must be careful to remain obedient and strive to stay on the narrow path. Failure means we fall from grace. (Philippians 2:12, Revelation 20:12)
  • Hold fast our confession (Hebrews 4:14) – Our name is mentioned to the Father when we confess Christ! (Matthew 10:32-33) Although not very popular today, it is our responsibility to acknowledge Jesus on an ongoing basis.
  • Confidently draw near to the throne (Hebrews 4:16) – Christ, who has our nature and know our trials, is sitting there at God’s right hand. He looks forward to our approach (Matthew 25:23)
  • Go on to perfection (Hebrews 6:1 KJV) or leave the elementary doctrine (Hebrews 6:1 ESV) – We are to grow beyond the basics and really get to know the word of God. After we understand the basics that qualify us for salvation, we are to go on to try for perfection like God is perfect (Matthew 5:48)ob
  • Draw near (Hebrews 10:22) – We never really get close to God until we have obeyed him, purified our hearts and have a live and growing faith. (James 2:24)
  • Hold fast our confession of hope (Hebrews 10:23) – See the Hebrews 4:14 above. Our hope is based on God’s promise of eternal life for those that love and obey him.
  • Consider one another (Hebrews 10:24) – Discussed previously in 3 “One Anothers” that Make a Strong Church
  • Lay aside every weight and run with patience (Hebrews 12:1) – There are things that will pull us away from our service to God. When we encumber ourselves in such a way, we make it difficult to serve him properly. A job, our friends, a hobby or any number of other things we give priority over God apply here.
  • Have Grace (Hebrews 12:28 KJV) or be grateful (Hebrews 12:28 ESV) – Christians have membership in a kingdom that will not fall. (Matthew 16:18) The opportunity to serve is a credit only to God’s plan.
  • Go forth (Hebrews 13:13) – Christians have a number of responsibilities, they begin with the word Go (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16)
  • Offer the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15) – The Hebrews knew the sacrifice of praise as an occasional ritual but ours is now a continuous one. Our prayer, our confession of Christ’s love and mercy and any other oral testimony should be on our lips often and always. (cf. Hebrews 3:13)
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