Archive | February, 2014

How a Little White Lie is Not Little or White

February 10, 2014

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Christ before Caiaphas - ca. 1630 - Matthias Stom (fl. 1615–1649)

Christ before Caiaphas – ca. 1630 – Matthias Stom (fl. 1615–1649)

After an entire night of searching, they finally found a witness willing to make one lame statement.

“This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.'” – Matthew 26:61

Those who wish to discredit God’s word have been working tirelessly since that day to finish the job the Jews started. The witnesses who came forward with this distorted version of Jesus’ words were just the beginning.

Century after century, God’s word still stands even after continuous attacks by those who desired to either control it or destroy it. Attacks like the witnesses made against Jesus require some basic ingredients to succeed:

  • Someone willing to lie
  • Someone willing to believe a lie
  • No one willing or able to challenge the lie

This is how social issues that are outside of Christian moral standards are becoming commonplace. Some are even making their way into the church!

It is easy to find people on any given day who are distorting God’s word to serve their agenda. As Bible scholars, we not only need to know the word well, we have to be willing to stand up for it.

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How to Be Prepared For His Return

February 7, 2014

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Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins - ca. 1616 - Hieronymus Francken (II) (1578–1623)

Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins – ca. 1616 – Hieronymus Francken (II) (1578–1623)

The five foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) and the servant with one talent (Matthew 25:14-30) shared a common end: They were shut out.

The parables also have a common thread within them: The ones who were shut out were presumably members in good standing within their respective households.

If I could only pick one thing from each parable that would have changed everything for the foolish ones, it would be these:

  • The foolish virgins should have been prepared – Christians should be living both like Christ is returning today and like he will be waiting until tomorrow.
  • The servant with one talent didn’t act on what he knew about the master – Christians know what God expects from us, yet many do not deliver.

The combination of these lessons gives us a basic sketch of proper Christian living:

  • We are to prepare ourselves for Christ’s return at any given moment
  • We should be prepared to sustain that readiness for a lifetime
  • We will need to have prepared a proper settlement of our accounts on that day

What can you do to improve your readiness today?

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How Many Days Do We Have Left?

February 6, 2014

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timePreviously, I made a big deal over Matthew 24:4 and Jesus’ warning not us to be led astray.

Matthew 24:36-44 is a great passage to completely make my point. Many are teaching that we will know through some apocalyptic signs that Christ is on his way back. In this passage, Jesus sets a few things straight about the judgment:

  • Only God himself knows the day it will happen (Matthew 24:36)
  • We will carry on in our lives until the instant it happens (Matthew 24:39)
  • We are warned to be ever watchful (or awake) (Matthew 24:42)
  • It’s as unreasonable to think we can guess the day as it is to expect a thief in our house tonight (Matthew 24:43)

One of Satan’s best tools to trick Christians out of their salvation is to allow them to think they have plenty of time. People have a tendency to believe this lie of having all the time we need, until suddenly, they don’t.

Each additional day we have is a gift. What is one way you can use today a little better?

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How I Get the Most Value From My Bible Study

February 5, 2014

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1. Read 2. Study 3. Repeat

1. Read 2. Study 3. Repeat

A quick attempt to find it through a search on Google has come up empty, so maybe I am the first to notice the irony of Matthew 24:4. Matthew 24 is quite a difficult passage describing the destruction of Jerusalem and Christ’s return. As I do my study on it and consult the commentaries I have at my disposal, Matthew 24:4 keeps jumping out at me:

(Take heed) See that no one (no man) leads you astray. – ESV (ASV)

Take heed that no man (no one) deceive you. – KJV (NKJV)

There are as many varied explanations of Matthew 24 as there are commentaries apparently. Which the one is the one that will not lead me astray?

Put the commentaries down because the key to understanding a passage like Matthew 24 is lots of Bible study. There is no way to properly understand a difficult passage without solid grounding in the easier to understand portions of the Bible. People get away with diverse teaching of the Scriptures because in general, we are not reading and studying our Bibles like we should. We are not catching them in the act!

Reading and studying.

Did you see the emphasis? The word “and” is in bold, italics and underline.

Daily devotional reading is an excellent habit and a required part of developing our Bible knowledge. The “study” part is even more important to the development of a full understanding. When we take the time to answer the who, what, when, where, and why of a passage, we begin the process of building a well-grounded foundation for understanding the Bible.

What works as a complete Bible program for me looks something like this:

  • Daily reading schedule – Dedicate a certain amount of time for a straight reading of the text
  • Reflection on what was read – I choose to write about what I have read each day in this blog, you might choose to do a word study, or write a journal entry, or discuss with a family member.
  • Formal Bible study attendance – as in … go to your congregation’s offerings at every opportunity
  • Analyze what was taught in sermons and Bible classes – Don’t take another solely at his word.

It is definitely a challenge to work out the routine and the details. The main thing I tell others to do is to just get started.

What is one thing you can add to your Bible study habits to take yourself to the next level?



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Six Ways to Avoid Woe

February 4, 2014

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Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees - between 1886 and 1894 - James Tissot (1836–1902)

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees – between 1886 and 1894 – James Tissot (1836–1902)

The Jews missed a great opportunity. They overlooked the signs (or just ignored them) that the Messiah was present among them. How did that happen?

I’m not sure what the crowd’s reaction was at the time, but I have always gotten a good chuckle when Jesus summed it up for them:

You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! – Matthew 23:24

All things considered, we live in a great spot on God’s timeline. We have more resources to read, study, and analyze God’s word than ever before. We should realize though, we are not insulated from making the same mistakes the Jews made. Jesus gave us a great outline of what they did wrong in Matthew 23, where he continues his harshest language directed at the Jews. If we are to avoid being in the same situation, we should consider the things he told them:

  • Your example can both save or hinder others (Matthew 23:13)
  • Convert others to God’s word, not a man’s opinion (Matthew 23:15)
  • Become known as one whose promise is always binding (Matthew 23:16-22)
  • Concern yourself with important matters, not trifles (Matthew 23:23-24)
  • Outward appearances are less important than what we do and what we think (Matthew 23:25-26 and Matthew 23:27-28)
  • Honor the truth over tradition (Matthew 23:30-31)

What are some ways we can use these things to improve personally, in our families and in our churches?

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How to Get Ready For the Party

February 3, 2014

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An etching by Jan Luyken illustrating Matthew 22:11-14 in the Bowyer Bible, Bolton, England.

An etching by Jan Luyken illustrating Matthew 22:11-14 in the Bowyer Bible, Bolton, England.

It has become fashionable across Christianity to deemphasize strict obedience to the God’s word. Many emphasize just the aspects that they like and skip over the rest. Those who try to follow and teach what the Bible teaches are often called “legalists.” Ironically, the “gospel of love” they teach omits that part where Jesus said to keep his commandments if you really love him. (John 14:15) Admittedly, it is not hard to understand why this position sells so easily.

First, I respond to that position by saying that being obedient is not the same as being a legalist.

Second, I respond to the position by saying we should look at what Jesus taught. The Parable of the Wedding Feast is a great place to study this. (Matthew 22:1-14)

We’ll pick up the illustration where the invitation has been opened to all who would come and the king arrives. (Matthew 22:11) He takes a look at everyone who has “accepted” the invitation, but finds one who is unprepared to be there. The guest is asked to account for this infraction and he is stunned to silence. (Matthew 22:12)

Why was he silent?

  • He knew he had insulted the occasion
  • He knew he had no excuse
  • He couldn’t say he never had a chance

Sadly, many that have convinced themselves that it is ok to “come as they are” will find themselves in the same situation as this guest. In the same way that the expectation is for the guest to have known better, so it is for us at the judgment. Those not properly attired in obedience will be cast out.

What are some ways we can be better prepared for when the King returns?

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