Archive | May, 2014

Sly Grins

May 29, 2014

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...and the one who grins is planning something wrong...

…and the one who grins is planning something wrong…

Someone who winks is planning evil, and the one who grins is planning something wrong. – Proverbs 16:30 NCV

I once heard a story – I don’t know if it was an anecdote or a real event – about the employee that brought his boss information he had stolen from a competitor. He was fired because, as the boss said, “If you will do this for me, you will do it to me.”

Christ saw this problem in his people and had a solution (Matthew 13:15). He planned his ministry around helping the heart be more sensitive to sin.

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4 Steps to Knowing God

May 28, 2014

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Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles - ~1310 - Duccio (1260–1318)

Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles – ~1310 – Duccio (1260–1318)

Knowing God is eternal life. (John 17:3)

God made an offer of eternal life to all of us through his son. It is there for the taking!

The opening of the Lord’s prayer (John 17) must have really had an impact on John. He went on to write more for us on what it means to know God so that we can claim that gift.

  1. 1 John 2:4 – We have to be obedient. To ignore his commandments at the same time as saying we know God makes us a liar.
  2. 1 John 4:8 – We have to be a loving people. If God is love, how can we know him without developing love?
  3. 1 John 5:11 – We have to be in Christ. That’s where the life is! Obeying the Gospel through baptism is the way we get into Christ.
  4. 1 John 4:12-16 – We have to have his Spirit. (Also Romans 8:9) When we do, our lives bear the kind of fruit God expects to see from his children. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Jesus wanted nothing more than for everyone to understand why he was here and accept the gift of eternal life. (John 17:1-4)

Spend some considering where you stand in knowing God. Your life depends on it!

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An Opinion and a Dollar Buys a Cup of Coffee

May 27, 2014

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Opinions are offered freely as if they have value

Opinions are offered freely as if they have value

Jesus called it.

Jesus really nailed how the world would react to him in John 15:18-25.

The world hated him.

The world hated the Apostles.

The world hates God’s word.

You might have noticed the world hates when you talk about God’s word too. Making a reference to the Bible often ends a moral discussion in a stalemate because they hate hearing it.

It is worse when “Christians” do it. More and more, they let opinions, feelings and thoughts take precedence over the written word of God. They have begun to let the world dictate what is acceptable.

They choose what they want over what God wants.

What will get you to heaven – obeying God’s word or popular opinion?

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Your Faith Cannot Stand On Its Own!

May 22, 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)

“Faith Only” is doctrine that is easy to accept. What’s not to like? It is safe and there is no work to do.

But it is wrong.

There are many verses in the Bible that contradict “Faith Only” as the way to salvation. John 12:42-43 is a great single passage example. I love it because it makes the point in so few words:

Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

Here is why this verse shows us there is more to salvation than faith:

  • They would not confess Jesus – Jesus told us how he feels about that (Matthew 10:32-33)
  • They failed due to social pressures – They were more interested in what other men thought than what God wants
  • They did not want to repent – They wanted things to stay like they were.

Is there any way to argue that these people were in a saved state?

Faith simply cannot exist alone. Love and obedience are functionally synonymous with faith and give it life (John 14:15, James 2:17-19)

Complete and total faith is a requirement to be sure, but it is not the end of the road.

Here is a list of other posts I have written to dispute the faith only plan.

Here is the Gospel Plan of Salvation the way my Bible lays it out.

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How to Be Better Company

May 21, 2014

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“Why are you such a sinner?”

Judas might as well have just come out and said it like that. It is what he meant after all. His greed caused him to react inappropriately to Mary’s lavish gift of oil for Jesus. (John 12:1-8)


Mary Magdalene - 1530 - Jan van Scorel (1495–1552)

Mary Magdalene – 1530 – Jan van Scorel (1495–1552)

John comes right out and says that Judas didn’t care for the poor . In fact, John made it clear a few times that Judas had some problems. This day was nothing new. (John 12:6)

There is a couple of reasons why we don’t go around pointing out the sins and shortcomings of others:

  1. There might be something they can say about us.
  2. It is probably (or usually) more blatant than the thing we are pointing out.

This sounds a lot like the speck and the log problem in Matthew 7:3-4.

Jesus resolves this event by pointing out a condition that Judas was not taking into account. (John 12:8) In another situation what Mary did might have been less appropriate. For now though, it was the right thing to do.

There is a time and place to help others with their sins, but we typically need to pay more attention to ourselves.

So here’s how we can be better company:

  • Mind our own shortcomings (sins)
  • Assume uninvited criticism is unwanted


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Running Out The Clock

May 20, 2014

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“Are there not twelve hours in a day?” – John 11:9a

How we choose to use our alloted time is critical

How we choose to use our alloted time is critical

The way the Jews marked time, the daylight was always broken into twelve parts. Winter or summer, there were twelve “hours” of light so some hours were a lot shorter than others.

In the account of raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus knew the urgency of doing God’s will before his “day” was over. It was dangerous to go back to where he had angered the Jews, but God’s will was most important. (John 11:1-16) Even the disciples sensed this and prepared themselves to face the peril (John 11:16)

We face the same urgency. We cannot be sure how long our “twelve hours” will last.

Following Jesus’ lead, we need to make use of our lifetime to do God’s will – no matter how the world treats us.

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Here’s a Strategy to Be More Like Jesus

May 19, 2014

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Our level of consistency is typically quite noticeable.

Our level of consistency is typically quite noticeable.

“He is consistent. ”

These are the words I want to hear about myself. When I read about Jesus from John’s viewpoint, I see consistency most of all.

I’m trying to be like that.

Jesus’ message never changed – not even when the Jews were ready to use the rocks in their hands. (John 10:31) That was the key to attracting new believers. Through the various discourses in John 8, 9 and 10 and beyond, we see new believers following Jesus despite the ones that wanted to kill him. If Jesus had ever made mistake, his entire ministry might have failed.

The believers saw the consistency in his message. That is powerful. We could do the same thing by remaining true to God’s word in our speech, our actions and our decisions. When we do, people notice.

But worse, when we don’t – people notice.

Many Christians are inconsistent in their message:

  • They are doing questionable activities – TV show choices, immodest dress, social drinking …
  • They are not reading their Bibles – yet they tell others they follow what the Bible says
  • They are not in church – they are not doing things to help their faith grow

If we are to teach God’s word and expect it to spread, it would be a good idea to live God’s word.

Maybe we have made mistakes in the past, but the time is always right for starting over. We can always develop a reputation as a Christian by just taking the time to do the work.

  • Let’s be diligent and read our Bibles
  • Let’s talk more about why we believe
  • Let’s root out questionable behaviors and habits in our lives

When someone notices you are consistent, you will know you are on the right track.

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Doing What Jesus Did

May 15, 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)

What would Jesus do?

Most of the time, we fall short of Jesus’ example. Especially in the department of making sure others have an opportunity to hear the truth, we do not deliver as expected.

If we are supposed to teach others the gospel, and we are supposed to follow his example, then we also have to teach the hard lessons too.

In John 8:21-30, Jesus is in the temple teaching and he makes some pretty direct statements to the Jews that were gathered around. For us, “You will die in your sins …” (John 8:24) is not exactly something we can work into every conversation. We might lose a few popularity contests over it, but it is a point that we need to teach.

Jesus never failed to tell someone what they needed to hear – even if it was a little uncomfortable. The climate for Christians today is not very favorable for telling others about Christ and their salvation. Just like in Jesus’ time, most will not believe, but it is still something that needs to be done.

And if we are going to do what Jesus did, we need to get started – because there are some that will believe! (John 8:30)

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7 Important Resources Jesus Provides

May 14, 2014

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Without a healthy vine, there are no branches and no fruit.

Without a healthy vine, there are no branches and no fruit.

Jesus made every effort to teach us that he was everything we needed to sustain our spiritual life. He is our strength and support. He is the way in and the path to life.

John records for us seven times that Jesus said he is something key to our salvation.

Jesus said “I am …”

  • the bread of life (John 6:35)
  • the light of the world (John 8:12)
  • the door (John 10:9)
  • the good shepherd (John 10:11)
  • the resurrection and the life (John 11:25)
  • the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6)
  • the vine (John 15:5)

Today, review these passages in their full context and consider how much more priority we should give Christ in our lives.

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How to Avoid Dividing the Church

May 13, 2014

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Bible Study. The way to find the truth (Acts 17:11)

Bible Study. The way to find the truth (Acts 17:11)

They didn’t take time to find out where Jesus was born. (John 7:42)

They said no prophet ever came from Galilee. (John 7:52)

When I read about the crowd dividing over who Jesus was, (John 7:40-52) I can’t help but think how people are still the same. Why is it that so many choose sides on an issue without doing an actual investigation?

Since the Pharisees involved in this account knew that the Christ was supposed to come from Bethlehem, (Micah 5:2) we can tell they were only making an assumption that Jesus was born in Galilee. They also forgot that Jonah was from Galilee, (2 Kings 14:25) so we can see their logic was faulty from the beginning.

Using that faulty logic, they concluded that Jesus could not be the Christ.

We have hundreds of denominations of Christian churches. We have thousands of congregations within the denominations further dividing the Scriptures in incorrect ways. All of these based on incorrect conclusions from study or lack of study.

Christianity is not a religion we are born into. We have to hear it and believe it. (Romans 10:17) We have to study it diligently. (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV) We have to verify what we are taught. (Acts 17:11)

Yes, Christianity is a lot of work. The reason we have so many that are missing the mark, honestly or not, is because we have failed to give it the diligence required.

From Paul’s writing, we can see that division in the church was never intended. (Ephesians 4:1-6) If our task is to read and understand God’s word, why would we allow divisions among Christians to stand without proper and honest Bible study together?

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Faith is a Work

May 9, 2014

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Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834–1890) - The Sermon On the Mount

Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834–1890) – The Sermon On the Mount

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. – John 6:29

This is a key verse to debate those who teach the “faith only” doctrine. Those who have allowed themselves to believe that there is nothing one can do to be saved have overlooked this verse.

There is also a difference in believing “in him” and “believing him.” If we are to believe in Christ, we have to trust that what he said is the way of salvation. Finding ways around his teaching is contrary to the spirit of what Jesus was about. A number of the followers turned away in John 6 when they started figuring this out.

Jesus marveled at man’s disbelief. (Mark 6:6) His villagers even used the fact that he was born among them and therefore could not possibly be worthy of his claims.

  • Not believing in God makes us equal to the animals
  • Not believing is contrary to human nature
  • Not believing leaves man without hope
  • Not believing closes the mind to the evidence of God

Faith takes a lot of work. It is how we separate ourselves from the world. It is how we decide to set priorities for “spiritual bread” over the physical bread.

As we make our daily choices – let’s pay more attention to which bread we are working for by choosing to enrich our faith.

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5 Attempts to Explain God’s Love

May 7, 2014

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The Love of God is Powerful!

The Love of God is Powerful!

The Bible says, “God is love.” (I John 4: 8, 16)

Love is much more than an attribute of God – it is the ultimate description of the Divine.

God is omnipotent – all powerful!

God is omniscient – all knowledgeable!

But nowhere does the Bible say, “God is power,” or “God is knowledge.” These are attributes, wonderful and incomprehensible to be sure…

…but what God is, is love.

After all these centuries no better definition of God can be found than to say along with John, “God is love.”

Nobody can explain the spark of life, apart from God.

Our very existence, our very life, is due to God’s infinite love and His “breath of life.” The atheist does not deny God so much as he denies himself.

Life demands the God of heaven to explain it.

1. God’s Love is Incomprehensible

The apostle Paul prayed that we “may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s love that surpasses all knowledge. (Ephesians 3:18-19)

The love of God and Christ cannot be fully fathomed. Probably because we could never possess that kind of love. It is difficult to understand how God could do what He did.

Would you die to save the worst sinner you have ever known?

Christ did!

2. God’s love is unconditional

God’s love predates any performance on our part.

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

He will still love us even if we do not respond to that love in order to be saved.

God waits.

3. God’s love is constant

No matter what happens, God loves you. Look at what Paul said about the strength of God’s love:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am sure that neither death nor life,
nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come,
nor powers,
nor height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8: 37-39

4. God’s love is sacrificial

The greatest verse in the Bible on the subject of love is also the greatest verse on the subject of giving.

Combine the greatest gift of love with the greatest example of love and what do you have?

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son….. – John 3:16

5. God’s love is compelling

Here is Paul’s instruction and personal testimony:

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all… – 2 Corinthians 5:14

And John’s:

“We love because He first loved us. – 1 John 4: 19

This is the greatest reciprocal relationship of life!

No wonder John says, “God is love.” (I John 4:8, 16)

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How to Let God Do His Work

May 6, 2014

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Healing the son of a royal official - 1752 -  Joseph-Marie Vien (1716 - 1809 )

Healing the son of a royal official – 1752 – Joseph-Marie Vien (1716 – 1809 )

The healing of the nobleman’s son is more than a lesson on having faith. (John 4:46-54) It is a lesson on how to act if you really have that faith.

When Jesus said “Go,” the nobleman went – after dragging his feet a little. He eventually had to accept that Jesus could heal his son from a distance. He braced himself and went on his way home like Jesus told him.

What if Jesus had gone with him instead? Would the nobleman’s faith have grown at all?

Sometimes our prayers are answered far differently than we expect…

That’s because God works in his way and his time – not ours.

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What Jesus Sees in Our Heart

May 5, 2014

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Giacomo Franceschini - Gesù e la Samaritana al pozzo - 17th or 18th century

Giacomo Franceschini – Gesù e la Samaritana al pozzo – 17th or 18th century

Sometimes we know too much for our own good.

It’s just an attitude issue though. We see the disciples with a little attitude when they passed through Samaria. (John 4:1-42) Notice how the Samaritan woman understood who she was with and began spreading the word immediately.

She had no predisposition of entitlement or wisdom. She just knew she was with the Christ (John 4:29)

The disciples were not impressed that Jesus was talking to her. (John 4:27) As their tradition would have it, they were too far above these people socially to even bother with them. Yet here was their teacher having cordial dealings with her.

The contrast is that the disciples were in direct contact with Jesus and his teachings, but they still had doubts throughout his ministry. The Samaritan woman had no doubt.

It is a lot like the Parable Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The way we approach any given situation – our general attitude – has everything to do with what is in our heart.

And Jesus can see right down into your heart.

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What Makes Christ Angry?

May 2, 2014

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Christ driving the Traders from the Temple - ~1600 - El Greco (1541–1614)

Christ driving the Traders from the Temple – ~1600 – El Greco (1541–1614)

Jesus was A.N.G.R.Y!

And rightly so.

Can you imagine how threatened the moneychangers must have felt when a young and buff man with a whip came tearing through the temple? (John 2:13-22) It certainly made a lasting impression, because the Sadducees were out to get him from then on.

Jesus tends to get caricaturized as a soft and gentle man. That was not always true, as we see in this event. Our Lord was not afraid to be forceful in defending his father or his father’s house.

Many that would criticize the Jews today for their treatment of the temple have little room to talk. Today we see church meeting houses mistreated both during services and other times.

Depending on the denomination or liberality of the congregation we see:

  • Cake sales
  • Dances
  • Sports
  • Secular or para-Christian ceremonies
  • Amusement for children during worship
  • Theatrical productions

…the list goes on.

I don’t want to say that our modern meeting houses are in any way like the Jewish temples. We have no scriptural basis for our buildings to be considered holy. The building is just a house.

But… would Jesus care about what was happening inside a house with his name on it? When the world looks in from the street, would they see only what Jesus would approve of?

If we look at 2 John 1:8-11, we get the right answer:

We do not allow the things that Jesus would not teach in our house. (2 John 1:10)

Even greeting them that would bring it makes us participants! (2 John 1:11)

Challenge: What is going on in your meeting house that would make Jesus angry?

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