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Archive for the ‘God’s Word’ Category

Some of my friends have already seen this or were there, but others might benefit from what this video has to say. I had the privilege of preaching at my church this past Sunday. I felt led and carried along, so that I believe it is a message that God gave me. I give Him the glory for anything of profit therein. It is a message for the church of America. I hope that you will take the time to listen to it:

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“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. ” (Galatians 5:1)

“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.” (James 2:12)

What is liberty? How do we obtain it? How do we live in (or by) it? Many lengthy treatises have been written on this subject but a simple, functional definition is frequently beyond our grasp. I began to think on liberty after considering a line in the hymn, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”, by Fredrick Faber: “There’s a kindness in God’s justice, which is more than liberty.” In order to understand the meaning intended by this line you must understand kindness, justice, and liberty, not from a humanist standpoint, as we frequently do with liberty, but from God’s viewpoint.

A short article on Christian liberty I found online had a succinct discussion and concise conclusion: “The ultimate goal for the Christian should be to glorify God, edify fellow believers, and have a good reputation before unbelievers.” (https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-liberty.html) This sentence confirms what I had heard to be a simple statement of what Christian liberty (and therefore any real liberty) is: Liberty is the freedom to do what is right.

In order to stand firm in that liberty we need to stay out of two miry, hazardous ditches: legalism and license. We best keep our eyes fixed ahead on Jesus and the liberty trail He has blazed rather than fearing or obsessing over the ditches on either side of us. We must be aware of them, wary of them, and wise to them, but if we obey the voice of God as He guides us, we need not fret over them.

So how do I run the right wheel of liberty merrily along without being tracked into the icy waters of the ditch legalism? I love the hymn that says, “Free from the Law, oh, happy condition, Jesus hath bled and there is remission; Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall, Christ hath redeemed us once for all.” As the Scripture says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us…” (Galatians 3:13). That curse was death demanded by the righteousness of God proclaimed by the Law. In fact, “we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:6) There it is! The Spirit gives us the power and freedom to do what is right. The statutes of the Law for the Christian were abolished in Christ, but not the moral law, the ten commandments. Instead, we are now enabled to do what is right- blessed liberty!

Many friends reading this blog will not have trouble with the aforementioned ditch. So how do I run a true course with the left wheel of liberty and avoid sliding off into the ditch license? Again I refer to this old hymn: “Children of God- oh, glorious calling, Surely His grace will keep us from falling; Passing from death to life at His call, Blessed salvation once for all.” I see three Scripture based answers to the license danger in this hymn verse: 1) His grace keeps us from falling (2 Corinthians 12:9), 2) The glory of our calling in Christ gives us purpose and worth to resist mere license (Romans 6:1-4), and 3) We are being fitted for heaven which brings great hope and focus (2 Corinthians 5:1-2). 

So the “standing firm” of the initial verse of this blog entry means walking in liberty without tracking or sliding into the ditches. When you “Consider yourself dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 6:11) you guard on the one side and “So speak and so act as those judged by the law of liberty,” (James 2:12) in defense of the other. Tracking in liberty is not looking at the worrisome waves on either side, but keeping full view of the Savior out in front of us. And He even knows our frailty and extends a hand to catch us up when we call for help. (Matthew 14:28-33)

We extend this liberty to others in the natural realm through governance, community involvement, church unity, and family togetherness, so that they may come to see true liberty in the spiritual realm through the two great commandments: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40), and thus be saved to eternal joy and peace. Happy Independence Day!

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I was out of town last week, so I hadn’t gotten the new Sunday School curriculum. I decided to piggyback off of the lesson my pastor had taught the children last week about God choosing David as king. What else did he choose David for? Prophet, Warrior, Psalmist. All of these are true but His choice of David as progenitor of an eternal dynasty  is most important.

Here is how it played out. I had the students do a Bible drill and read passages about 4 covenants of God. God made other covenants not mentioned here, most notably the Adamic and Noahic, but these four represent much of the focus of the Old and New Testament (i.e. Covenant) passages. The table and preliminaries don’t copy over quite the same as they appear on the student’s worksheet, but you get the idea:

Four Great Covenants of God

God chose _______________ to be _________, in place of ____________.

There are two points: 1) He was a man ___________________________ (Acts 13:22)

2) God desires from us ______________ and _______________ and _______________

(I Sam 15:22; I Cor. 1:27)

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 3.59.24 PM

From last week’s lesson, God chose David to be king, in place of Saul.

The two points of the previous lesson were 1) He [David] was a man after God’s own heart.  2) God desires from us obedience and humility and integrity.

Following is a picture of how I outlined the Covenants as the students read through them:

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Today’s Sunday School lesson was about Samuel’s call from God and God’s judgment on Israel and Eli in I Samuel 3 and 4. I started with an introduction to set the stage for why Samuel was where he was when he was. I had the children read various verses in chapters 1 and 2 (1:1-2, 10-11, 20, 26-28; 2:2:1), interspersing explanation about what was going on. The point of my introduction was to show how God set the stage for Samuel’s call in God’s working in Hannah’s walk of faith. In the middle of pointing out to my 4th through 6th graders about Hannah’s journey of faith, a five point alliteration came forcefully to me (Later I increased it to seven.). In fact, as I jumped up and began to review the points I had just made, I wrote it on my new, spacious whiteboard. The pastor’s daughter said, “It’s an alliteration! I thought those usually have only three words.” (You have to be laughing at this point.) Here it is in the form of seven:

     Problem- Hannah had no children.

     Prayer- At the tabernacle Hannah poured out her heart to God.

              Petition- Hannah asked for a son.

              Promise- Hannah promised to give the son back to God to serve Him.

     Pregnant- Hannah received the gift of a son in due time.

     Presentation- Hannah presented Samuel before God to serve Him continually.

     Praise- Hannah gave praise to God for His gift, power, and sovereignty.

God used Hannah’s problem to bring praise to Him, pleasure to Hannah, and a prophet to Israel.

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I have the same question as Gideon when God’s messenger said to him, “The Lord is with you”: “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” (Judges 6:12,13) The prophet Habakkuk feels a sense of desperation as he surveys the landscape of difficulty before him. He pleads, “LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear, O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” (3:1-2) And Ethan the Ezrahite asks, How long, O LordWill You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?” (Psalm 89:46) And he questions, too, Where are Your former lovingkindnesses, O Lord, which You swore to David in Your faithfulness?” (v.49) The sons of Korah, a designated group of Levites for praising God, wrote, O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us the work that You did in their days, in the days of old.” (Psalm 44:1) But they are discouraged and ask, Why do You hide Your face and forget our affliction and our oppression?” (v.24)

Some of the questioning that people do may well be jeering unbelief that says, “prove it”, similar to “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” (Luke 23:35) For others it may be more like Gideon, who said to God, “Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground. God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.” (Judges 6:39-40). 

There is a decided difference between these two types of questioning, for The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger, but He will reject the craving of the wicked.” (Proverbs 10:3) I believe that the verse refers to both physical and spiritual hunger. God will help those with doubts who really want to believe. In Mark 9:14-29, Jesus heals a boy possessed by a demon. He is clearly frustrated by the crowds unbelief (v.19), but shows patience with the struggling father whose belief is faltering: “But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us! And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”” (v.22-24) Jesus casts out the demon and raises the son.

So, what do we do with the times when we need direction, help, or rescue, but God seems not to show. Were His works only in the past as stated and implied by the prophets I quoted above? A somewhat frequent saying I hear among Christians is “God has to show up” or “God showed up.” I understand the sentiment in these statements, which is similar to the questions of the prophets, but it is not as though God is not continuously present.

And so Samuel places an Ebenezer; Joshua erects a monument; the half tribes of Manasseh and Reuben erect a facsimile altar. Others like Laban put up monuments for self-protection or like Absalom for self-aggrandizement, but properly intentioned markers are good to reduce spiritual forgetfulness and faltering faith. It seems as though we modern believers should have much less need for markers, because we have the completed Word of God to strengthen us. We also have far more distractions and false voices. Perhaps rather than a stone edifice,  each time we see God work, we could hang a representative picture on the wall or have a book of remembrances we could pass down to our children that reminds us of God’s faithfulness. Maybe this blog is my attempt to remind myself, my readers, and one day my descendants that our Creator and Savior is He who rescues and sustains and directs even when the path seems winding, dark, and without destination.

And God seems to like markers, too:

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’” Revelation 2:17

“you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” I Peter 2:5

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A little confession time meant to show God’s goodness. I could have acquired my Sunday School lesson book in the five days since being home but other things, including a distracted mind, prevented me from making the one hour drive. So I desperately reached out to two of the pastors to tell me what the main passages were for the lesson. Both replied, one with the answer. So, I pray, study, go to bed a bit late. This morning as I am traveling to church, two other applicable Scriptures come to mind but I can’t remember where they are found. I charge into the church, asking the pastor for a concordance, look them up, and rush off to prayer. Even though I don’t advise this type of study and most usually don’t practice it, God was gracious to give me a very productive class in the logic of my presentation for young minds and the attentiveness of my class- they are such a joy.

The lesson was the Ten Commandments. We read Exodus 20:1-21, taking breaks along the way to to explain the commandments and God’s commentary on them. First of all was verse two. God gives the reason why we should heed these commandments: He is God, and He is the one who rescues. In fact, this is the reason for all law. Rule by law is ultimately based on fear (proper reverence) for the Law Giver, and there is only One. The breakdown of law comes when we reject the Law Giver, making all our laws relative, that is, non-absolute.

Next I pointed out that the first four laws are focussed toward God, and later that the next six laws are focussed toward your fellow humans. God’s person, name, and worship are to be reverenced. The day He set aside as the remembrance of His creation is to be observed (no excuses- notice the list to prevent loopholes). This passage, as my son points out, is the best one to refute Old-Earth Creationists. There is nothing symbolic or allegorized about the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath, or six literal days in this passage. To say otherwise makes a mockery of all of Scripture.

Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise)” (Ephesians 6:2) It is not simply obeying when young, but esteeming in speech and practice when grown. God blesses this attitude and action with long life.

Murder is not the same as killing since God requires killing when murder has been committed: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.” (Genesis 9:6)

Adultery is acting like married people do with each other. Since that is a protected relationship, God says, “No.”

Stealing, lying, and wanting things that are not yours are wrong.

God said all this with “thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking” (Exodus 20:18) to scare the people into reverencing Him and obeying Him.

(It didn’t work, as the golden calf demonstrated (Genesis 32), and as God knew it would not. Why, because that was not the purpose of the Law as evidenced by what Moses and Joshua said: “The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them.” (Deuteronomy 31:16) and “Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins.” (Joshua 24:19))

The purpose of the Law is stated in Galatians 3:23-26, “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” So, believers don’t neglect to include the Law in your Gospel presentations. The sinner must know that he has transgressed the Law before he will understand that he needs a Savior. But what a blessed thought, as the hymn says, “Free from the Law, oh, happy condition, Jesus hath bled and there is remission…” The Law no longer condemns me, for I am under the blood of Christ. I am freed from the penalty of sin.

Does that mean that the Ten Commandments no longer apply to me. No, ridiculous! As Jesus says in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

But how does He fulfill the Law, enabling us to obey it so that it is accomplished? “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4) Because of the sinfulness of our flesh, we could not keep the Law, meaning the Law was weak to bring about its own accomplishment. But God the Father sent Jesus whose death on the cross and sending of the Spirit enables us to overcome the power of sin. The Law showed us our inability; Christ on the cross provided ability; the Spirit applies the ability.

In  conclusion, John 1:17-18 says, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” We were given this valuable tutor, the Law, to point us to Christ through whom we may receive grace and truth to know and obey God. If you have come to Christ and are seeking to live by the Spirit, you are fulfilling the Law and it is no longer your tutor. It has accomplished its purpose; God is accomplishing His purpose, praise God!

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I hugely enjoy fellowshipping in other churches on the rare occasions that I travel. This Memorial Day weekend was just one of those times. I am encouraged by God’s universal church worshipping God and the teaching of God’s Word, interpreted by the same Holy Spirit, sounding forth. God is at work in many and various places to accomplish His work, and God’s people are seeking Him.

Visiting a small church called “Grace…” [only part of the name I could remember, or needed to know] in New Port Richey, Florida, the pastor’s son-in-law, who is a policeman, preached on trials from James 1:1-12. Following are a few paraphrases of his words on purpose and perspective in the midst of trials:

“We don’t have it in us to have joy” [deep, light-hearted confidence]; it comes from the Holy Spirit within us enabling us to “delight in the

       1) person of God,    

       2) the purpose of God, and

       3) the people of God.”

“Our life purpose is to portray the superiority of God in our lives”, giving glory to God.

The purpose of our trials is to glorify God by our winning when it looks like we are losing [because of trials].

Trials test our faith: pop quiz:

1) “Do you believe God is in control?”

2) “Do you believe God is good?”

3 “Are you willing to wait on God’s perfect timing in every area of your

    life?”

The endurance or steadfastness referred to in verse three means to ‘remain under’. Trials are a stress, a pressure, an uncomfortable force in our lives. ‘Everything God wants to do in our lives and use to bless us comes through us remaining under God’s control’ in the midst of trials.

This spattering of my sermon notes does not convey the full weight of the sermon, but it does give you pieces of wisdom that I think are worth reading over several times. Trials are for believers to test and strengthen their faith and give glory to God. We are not spared trials because they are what are best for us and give the most glory to God. May His name be praised in all that I do.

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