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The Word of God: Sweet and Bitter

So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” Revelation 10:9-11 (ESV)

Consider the Word of the Living God: It is glorious. It is wonderful. It is really HIS WORD. Because the Lord of Heaven is speaking to us in every word, we rejoice in it. We delight in it. It is our daily bread.

But it is also bitter. How is this possible?

Well…take an example. Consider this particular word from Revelation 22: “Behold, I am coming soon!” Oh, how sweet that day will be! On that great day, He will wipe away all tears.

Doubt? Gone!……Fear? Gone!…..Sadness? Gone!…..Pain? Gone!  It will surely be the sweetest day we have ever known.

But it will be such a bitter day as well. The Day of the Lord will also be the day that men and women call out for the mountains to fall on them; it will be the day that they long for death but death will not come. So the sweetest Day will be the bitterest also.

John MacArthur speaks of this in his message on Revelation 10: “What does that mean? Warn men, tell them of the bitter, tell them of the sweet. Tell them what’s in the seventh trumpet. Tell them what’s in the seventh bowl and all the ones preceding it. Tell them to taste the honey and avoid the bitter. He’s saying to him … repeat what you’ve heard to peoples and nations in all languages. That’s the call, that’s the commission, that’s the assignment.”

Indeed, that is what we do with this sweet…and yet bitter word: proclaim it to all who will hear, so that on the Day that is surely coming, they will taste the honey of redemption.

 

For Wednesday, December 16th: Revelation 11

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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How To Become A Lukewarm Christian

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:15-16 (ESV)

Steamy water cools off. Icy water warms up. Likewise, it is the natural tendency of men and women who are serious for Christ…to become lukewarm. So, in actuality, you don’t need to do anything to become lukewarm; nevertheless, here are some things you can do to get there faster…

  • Pray very little. If someone asks about your prayer life, tell them you pray “on the run.” In other words, be careful not to follow the practice of the Lord Jesus who regularly set aside special time for prayer, often going away from the crowds to be with His Father (Luke 5:16; Luke 9:28; Mark 1:35).
  • Avoid the Bible. Explain to people that you’re not a reader. But you do listen to sermons…occasionally, and on that note…
  • Be irregular in your church attendance. A couple was asked by their children why the family didn’t go to church more. “That’s not how we do it in our family,” Mom and Dad replied, as if moderation in church attendance was a principle to be proud of. Hmmm. Well, here’s a rule of thumb – God is sovereign, and while there is nothing we can do to absolutely guarantee that our kids will follow Christ, we can do a lot to make them not follow Him. One of the best ways to do this is to communicate that Christ is of mediocre importance. Kids who grow up assuming that church is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition…will often leave it.
  • Store up treasure on earth. Not in the other place. Some years ago I heard of a family that gave up tithing “because our kids need designer clothes to keep up with the Joneses at school”. The saying is true, however, that everyone tithes, but not everyone tithes to the One True God. Many pay tithes to idols. And anyway, that widow with the two mites was irresponsible (Luke 21:1-4). And while we’re at it…
  • Ignore the poor. Social Justice is for liberals. You wouldn’t want to be one of those. Best to help your own family and keep it to that.
  • Keep your mouth shut about Jesus at work and in the neighborhood. You don’t want people to think that you’re one of those fanatics who believes that eternity is actually on the line. Leave evangelism to the evangelists. Besides, it’s not your gift.
  • Forget the gospel. Get annoyed at all those “gospel-centered” Christians, and tell them that you’ve got the cross thing figured out and want to get to the deeper stuff. This is the best way to get lukewarm. For none of us can be hot or cold enough (yes, including those who write snarky blogs). You see, everyone needs Jesus. And all of us are in danger – everyday – of forgetting it.

For Monday, December 7th: Revelation 4

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Ultimate “Compliment” That Peter Paid To Paul

There is a wonderful little insight that comes at the end of 2 Peter, and it has to do with how we come to know that the New Testament is the Word of God. Peter is discussing the Apostle Paul’s writings, and what he says is almost funny: “There are some things in them that are hard to understand…” Hah! Those who have tried to understand Romans 11 know just what he’s talking about. Take a look at the context…

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:15-16 (ESV)

That last phrase almost seems a “throwaway” comment, except that nothing in the Bible is throwaway. So, when Peter says, “…as they do the other Scriptures,” he is saying something momentous. The Greek word Peter uses for “Scriptures” is “graphe” and it is what Bible scholars would call a technical term. In other words, whenever you see the word “graphe” in the New Testament, it always refers to the Old Testament. Always.

And to a Jew like Peter, Scripture, or as we know it, the Old Testament…was beyond compare. You see, Simon Peter was not using the word “Scripture” in the sense that we sometimes say other faiths have their scriptures, Muslims – the Koran, and Hindus, the Bhagavad Gita, etc. No, no, no. “Graphe” was a precious word to Peter and the other Apostles. So, with that said, do you see what Peter is doing? He is equating Paul’s writings with other parts of the Bible. He is saying that Paul wrote Scripture. Peter is saying that Paul wrote the Bible. Now, in some ways that should be no surprise to a Christian, because we are used to understanding the New Testament as the Word of God, but if you have ever wondered what they thought of one another’s writings, now you know.

The Apostle Paul does the same thing, only with another portion of the New Testament.  Paul writes to Timothy…

For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:18 (ESV)

That first phrase about muzzling an ox is from Deuteronomy, so it’s no surprise that Paul refers to it as Scripture, but the second phrase is not found in the Old Testament, but in Luke’s Gospel (10:7).

So the New Testament writers were referring to one another’s writings as Scripture, and the early church, of course, followed course and did the same. It’s a fascinating little study, and one that gives me a measure of delight. I hope you too.

For Friday, November 20th: 1 John 1

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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When the Morning Star Rises…

Satan’s tactic all the way back to the Garden of Eden has been to call into question the truthfulness of Scripture: “Has God said…?” – the question he has planted in the minds of believers again and again through the centuries.

So, when false teachers came amongst the Apostle Peter’s followers, they apparently followed the same Satanic strategy…and Peter rose to the defense. He began by reminding them of his life-changing experience on the Mount of Transfiguration:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 2 Peter 1:16-18 (ESV)

And he said that this incredible experience powerfully confirmed the Scriptures…

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 2 Peter 1:19 (ESV)

We always do well to pay attention to the “prophetic word”, Peter’s terminology for the Scriptures. But take note of what he compares the Bible to…he says it is like a lamp shining in a dark place.

That’s what it feels like doesn’t it? The world is getting darker and darker, and shining the lamp of Scripture lights the way for us. Of course, we still stumble and fall often…for it is yet night.

But Peter says, the dawn is coming. The day will dawn and the morning star will rise in our hearts, and at the deepest level possible…we will know.

These days we shine the flashlight of His Word to navigate through a very dark world, but on that day the bright Sun will shine, and night will be no more, and we will know. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, we will know because we will see with the blazing light of midday that all we had hoped in  and all we had hoped for through the long night…was true.

For Wednesday, November 17th: 2 Peter 2

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Blessings of a Trustworthy and True Bible

IMG_0425On a whim last Tuesday I threw a lunchtime party for elders and pastors at my house. Diane and the girls were skiing, so that made the place a veritable bachelor pad, and for the guys who could make it, my plan was munching on Jimmy Johns subs and watching the livestream of the opening message from The Shepherd’s Conference in California. This is the annual conference from John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church, and the topic this year was of particular interest: the inerrancy of the Bible.

As it turned out, the conference was having trouble with the live stream that day, so we enjoyed subs and good discussion, and then watched another message from a different conference I had attended last year. It was great fellowship.

Now that the Shepherd’s Conference is over, the videos are available for free viewing, and I’ve been watching and enjoying. If you have a chance, I heartily recommend taking in one or two. Your faith will be built up in God’s inerrant word!

You see, there may be no more important topic for Christians today than the absolute truthfulness of the Bible. As one of the speakers pointed out, there are certain issues that come up in the church that we think about and wrestle through and then don’t need to deal with anymore, but inerrancy is one of those issues that continually comes up again and again and again. And there is a reason for that – Satan knows that he can do no greater harm to Christians than to place doubt in our minds as to the truthfulness of the Word of God. He’s been doing this for a long time…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’“

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5 (ESV)

So you see, since the beginning of the human race, the enemy has been seeking to cast doubt on the Word of God with questions to this effect: “Did God actually say…?” And notice how along with casting doubt on God’s character of truthfulness, the enemy also casts doubt on his character of goodness (in effect, saying to Eve that God wants to keep her from what is good). This diabolical method is utterly destructive to the Christian, for if we cannot be sure of God’s words (and God’s goodness), we cannot be sure of anything. As the singer Keith Green once said, “…all of the devil’s wicked lies – if you believe them, your faith just dies.”

The Apostle Paul didn’t believe Satan’s lies. Of course, Paul is most famous for telling Timothy that all Scripture is breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16), but in Acts 24, as Paul makes his defense before the Governor Felix, he makes it very clear what he believes:

But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, Acts 24:14 (ESV)

“The Law and the Prophets” was a technical term that really meant all of the Bible (in that day, of course, the Old Testament). Paul was trying to show Felix that he was not as bad as the Jews were making him out to be – he was both a peaceful man (not stirring up riots like they accused him of) and more than that, believing the Bible just like they did.

And just like we should too, for this is not a trifling thing – I think about how lately we’ve been watching our culture take on a new course in the area of morality, declaring good to be evil and evil to be good. In fact, it’s breathtaking how fast it has happened. And apart from the Word of God, there is nothing that will keep us from plunging headlong into such destructive thinking and lifestyle.

But more than that, there is no other book that will light the path to heaven and show us how to redeem a lost culture. To paraphrase Peter’s words to Jesus in John 6: Where else can we go? These are the words of eternal life…and they are trustworthy, and true.

 

For Monday, March 16: Acts 25

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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How to be a Noble Christian

Acts 1711 [widescreen]I owe it to my years in the Navigators that I can’t read the Bible without seeing a highlighter through certain verses. Now I generally don’t mark in my Bibles, but I think you know what I mean: as I read, there are certain verses that I have heard referred to so many times that they stand out to me mentally, as if they were colored with a bright yellow highlighter and a big black underline. One such verse is Acts 17:11…

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (ESV)

More than anything, the Navs were Bible people, so I suppose it’s not surprising that these words are highlighted in my mind, for this is not just a Bible verse, but a verse about the Bible, and as such, it provides some excellent guidance in life.

But first, the setting is this: Paul and company are on a whirlwind tour of the Roman Empire, his second missionary journey, which begins by backtracking through some cities covered on Paul’s first journey. Barnabas is no longer with him as a result of an argument over taking John Mark on the trip. (Are you encouraged? Paul is apparently human.) But he and his new cohorts Timothy, Luke and Silas get much farther out this time, going as far as modern day Greece before starting the long sea voyage home.

2nd missionary journey of Paul

Paul’s 2nd missionary journey

The visit to Thessalonica goes pretty well, and many Greeks believe, but it all starts to go sour when some influential Jews run them out of town. But no matter, they travel by night to Berea, and set up shop as per usual in the synagogue, where the noble Jews receive “the word” with eagerness.

“The word” here refers to the gospel, but what Paul was saying about a dying and rising Messiah constituted new information, so they need to check it out in the Scriptures, and when they did…

Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. Acts 17:12 (ESV)

The principle here is very important – if you want to be a “noble” follower of Christ, be all about the Bible.  And I can think of two ways to do this:

First, examine everything you hear by the Word of God. If you’ve been a Christian long enough, it’s rare that you’ll hear a truly “new” theological idea, but when you do, something inside you should go, “Danger…need to check that out.”

For instance, in college, I began speaking with a fellow student who told me that I needed to speak in tongues to be saved (He was part of the United Pentecostal Church, a cult-like group that also denies the Trinity). This young man showed me a couple of verses and I became fearful and unsettled, largely because, you guessed it, I didn’t speak in tongues. My Navigator leader at the time was an extremely wise man named Dave Ostendorf. Dave knew that this “teaching” came from a couple of verses in the book of Acts, but he didn’t try to just show me two or three verses to prove the guy wrong. Dave sent me home with an assignment: read the entire book of Acts and see if these things were so. I did just that, and my fear was crushed. The guy was out to lunch.

But the second principle is even more all-encompassing: Acts 17:11 teaches us that we should endeavor to shape everything about our lives by the Bible.

Be a Bible guy. Be a Bible gal. Try to shape everything about your life by the Bible. And if you think this might have negative consequences, actually it’s just the opposite. In fact, there is nothing better to deliver you from the horrors of legalism, as for instance, when someone tells you that Christians shouldn’t dance. Well, see what the Bible says about it. Or, when someone says that you should baptize your infant in the remote case they might die early? Go read the Bible. Go read the Bible. Go read the Bible.

Endeavor to shape your life by the Word of God and while you’re at it, don’t believe such baptismal foolishness.

Finally…it’s worth noting that Jesus Himself would have been happy with the Bereans, for our Lord said that carefully examining the Scriptures and being a thoroughgoing Bible person would be the key…to true liberty:

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 (ESV)

 

Tomorrow, Thursday, March 5th: Acts 18

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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A Highly Motivating and Not-Often Considered Reason to Read and Meditate on Scripture Regularly

IMG_0234There are so many reasons to read and meditate on the Bible, but one that I had not much considered came clear to me some years ago when I was reading a book of essays called, Renewing Your Mind in a Secular World, edited by John Woodbridge.

The chapter in the book which grabbed my attention was written by the noted Psychiatrist Paul Meier and entitled Spiritual and Mental Health in the Balance.

As a budding psychiatrist, Meier was interested in the question of what makes someone mentally healthy. In other words, from a scientific point of view, what is it that contributes to emotional maturity, joy and peace, or, in other words, low levels of anxiety, bitterness and depression? To answer his questions, Meier did a research study of seminary students using a well-known psychological test called the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and an extensive spiritual life questionnaire.

From the MMPI, Meier could tell who was mentally and emotionally healthy, and he divided them into three groups:

Group A: Those with exceptionally good mental health and a high level of maturity

Group B: Those with apparently normal mental health and maturity

Group C: Those with statistically significant psychological conflict and emotional pain

After this, he did statistical analyses with the spiritual life questionnaire. He describes his findings:

“When the results came in, initially I was surprised and disappointed. Those seminary students who had been Christians for many years were only slightly healthier and happier than those who had accepted Christ in the past one or two years. The difference was not even statistically significant. However, my disappointment turned to joy. I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my life when I found the factor that made the difference. That factor was Scripture meditation. Students who practiced almost daily Scripture meditation for three years or longer were significantly healthier and happier than students who did not meditate on Scripture daily. Also, they were significantly healthier and happier than students who had meditated on Scripture daily for less than three years.”

He summarizes what the research taught him:

  1. Even though trusting Christ is all that is needed to obtain eternal life, experiencing the abundant life Christ promised (John 10:10) and experiencing the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace) rather than bitterness, depression and anxiety are dependent upon a renewing of the mind.
  2. Renewing of the mind can come from various sources, such as confrontation by loving friends about personal blind-spots, therapy with a Christian professional counselor, conviction from the Holy Spirit, confrontation with scriptural principles in sermons or seminars, and daily meditation on Scripture.
  3. Renewing of the mind is a continual process, a progressive sanctification requiring continual, preferably daily, input from God’s Word.
  4. Daily meditation on Scripture, with personal application, is the most effective means of obtaining personal joy, peace, and emotional maturity.
  5. On the average, it takes about three years of daily Scripture meditation to bring about enough change in a person’s thought patterns and behavior to produce statistically superior mental health and happiness.
  6. None of the students in Group C (those with statistically significant psychological conflicts) were presently meditating on Scripture daily, although some were reading their Bibles regularly as a textbook for their classes.
  7. All of the students who had meditated on Scripture daily, or almost daily, for three years or longer were in Group A or Group B, with most being in Group A (superior in mental health, happiness, and maturity).

I guess all this shouldn’t be a surprise, as Psalm 1 and Joshua 1 tell us of the blessings that come on the person who meditates on the Word of God, but I hope a little science will also move you to give yourself to regular meditation on the Book of books.  In fact, consider joining us at Edgewood Community Church as we read through the New Testament in 2015.  We start in Matthew and will read a chapter each weekday (260 chapters in the New Testament, 261 weekdays in 2015) I’ll be posting a devotional of the chapter we’re reading each day, and I hope you’ll both read the chapter of the day and stop by the blog to meditate a little further.

Happy New Year everyone!

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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