Lord Will Provide
is a classic cartoon from Peanuts that involves Snoopy's water dish. Snoopy
is thirsty, so he takes water dish in jaw and kick's on Charlie Brown's back
door. No result. Next he finds a faucet on a pipe sticking out of the
ground. He puts the dish under the faucet, but can't turn the handle. Then
it starts raining. The dish fills with water; Snoopy drinks. The rain
stops. Snoopy takes the dish back to his doghouse with the thought balloon
of, "I'm going to have to think about that one."
in what is likely the most sacred spot on earth, Abraham finds that God has
provided the sacrifice—to take the place of Abraham's only son. This
mountain later becomes the site of the Temple; on its outer slopes the
Crucifixion was done. Abraham is so taken with this that he names the
mountain, "The Lord Will Provide." Moses (the author of Genesis) notes that
it was still called that in his day.
principle is quite simple: God's provision for God's purposes. If He
commands it, He will provide for it.
will provide no matter the difficulty. What are the chances of
catching a wild ram like that? Is anything random chance to God?
will provide from the oddest of sources. To find his chosen king for
Israel, he sent Samuel to the house of Jesse. And Jesse left David with the
flocks, knowing that surely Samuel would not choose him.
will provide at exactly the right time. Read the instructions Jesus
gave to his disciples for the last Passover. It was a lesson in God's
will provide in the right place. If he tells you to be somewhere, be
this, however, has a condition: obedience. Obedience comes from trusting
God, and following his way. If you do that, his provision is ever
incident is a picture for us: Isaac, like all of us, was going to die for
his sins. But on this mountain Abraham was given a sacrifice in Isaac's
place. On that same mountain, God has provided for us a sacrifice for our
sins—Christ, our Savior.
Lord, we are so much taken with our ability to get things done that we stand
in the way of your work. Teach us to expect great things in our obedient
walk with you.
Coolidge was a man who loved baseball. During his administration the New
York Yankees were the dominant team in the American League. On one occasion
it was arranged—what we would now call a "photo opportunity" - to meet the
Yankees. They lined up, in uniform, on the third base line. The player
would be introduced, and as the ballplayer stepped forward to shake his hand
he would say, "Good morning, Mr. President."
he got to Babe Ruth. "Hot as ****, ain't it, Prez?" Mr. Coolidge's reply
Presumption: humorous here, dangerous there. If you see it here, you
understand the danger. Christ's reaction is fitting to both the tone and
the content of their remarks:
reacts to their flattering tone with harsh words; he reacts to harsh words
reaction to their presumption is to remind them of just who they are talking
gives them two examples. The first is Jonah:
was a servant of God; Christ is God in the flesh.
came preaching doom; Christ, the coming kingdom of God.
came to them from the fish; Christ, the grave.
argument is simple: If the people of Nineveh repented when Jonah appeared,
how much greater should repentance be for the Christ himself?
appeal is not only to those who know themselves to be sinners, but those who
strive for righteousness. The Queen of the South came to Solomon; Christ
came to Israel. She sought wisdom. Solomon was the wisest of kings; Christ
is God in the flesh. So even for those who walk in righteous paths, Christ
is the greater.
whether sinner or saint, the point is clear: seek the Christ while he may
be found. Do not speak presumptuously to him.
this apply to us? Perhaps. Have you ever gone to prayer to give God a
complete plan for straightening things out? Did it work? Or did God take
pleasure in showing you his higher way?
Lord, often we do not acknowledge you as awesome; nor holy; nor sovereign.
Forgive us;, Lord—that we may know You to be You
for the Works of your Hand
a modern delusion: people of long ago were so stupid, so misled, so
ignorant that what we consider obvious today they never thought of.
many ways this is true. But in the things that are important, we have no
great improvement on our own. Death is still our fate. Indeed, Job here
reveals that the grave will hold each of us "till the heavens are no more."
It is probably the oldest written prophecy concerning the second coming of
Christ; the New Testament says much the same thing.
you will recall, is in a very bad situation. He's lost all he holds dear,
except his relationship to God. His friends accuse him of being a secret
sinner. He himself wants to ask God the one question we always ask: why?
He is in such anguish that he is willing to wait in death, if only God would
set a time at which his works would be judged.
Perhaps patience was more available then; but here is a man who will wait
for the Lord. Is he confident that the character of God will do this?
Indeed. God will call (note, not our power or our doing) and Job (and all
others in the grave) will answer. Some will rise in joy; others, in
can Job be so confident here? His friends have been telling him that he
must be a very wicked (though secret) sinner. But Job knows that the
resurrection does not depend on man; it comes from God. If man is to rise
to eternal life, then the righteous God must do something about sin. So
therefore God must have a plan to cover over our sins. His yearning for the
works of his hands—us—will provide the covering, somehow.
no accident that the lid on the Ark of the Covenant is called the Atonement
Cover, or the Mercy Seat. That cover stood between God and the witnesses of
his covenant—the tablets of the law, Aaron's rod and the manna (a reminder
of miracles). God could then look at Israel and see only the cover, not the
much the same with us today. By God's grace at the Cross, he looks at his
children and sees us as "little Christs" - Christians. Jesus is our
Atonement Cover. Job, secure in his wisdom and in his knowledge of God,
knew that redemption must come, and sin be covered over. He knew the
character of God. Though he could not know how, he knew Who.
Lord, by your great mercy we are spared. By your great love we are called
to be with you forever. Come soon, Lord, come soon.
Lord Has Spoken
Weddings are great beginnings. No matter how tight the budget, every woman
wants her wedding day to be completely memorable in a very positive way. So
the church is the most beautiful, the reception
the best we can
afford. It is a day of joy, and such days call for the best.
wedding supper of the Lamb will be like that, too. In the days of Isaiah, a
feast was not just a party, but a time in which you got foods that did not
keep very well. The butcher could slaughter a cow– if you had enough guests
to eat it. So in their day they would rejoice even more.
is a certain divine style to this. God never goes second class. Remember
the wine at the wedding in Cana? When God throws a party, you want to be
party marks not only the wedding of the Lamb of God, it also marks the death
of death, the destruction of the terror of the grave. How this could be
done we cannot imagine, but it is clear from the prophecies (both Old and
New Testament) that this will be done. The Hebrew here says that death will
be "swallowed up" - a fitting metaphor for a feast. Indeed, swallowed up
forever—because "forever" is the province of the Eternal King.
is more than just a party here; there is a victory celebration. But
perhaps the greatest event at this banquet is the way in which God will deal
with all the misery in our lives:
will wipe away all tears. All of the sadness and grief in our lives will be
than that, he will remove our shame. All the things you hope your neighbors
never find out will be gone.
this seems so "pie in the sky" that we have a tendency to gloss over it. We
look with our finite minds and ask, how could this be done? But his ways
are higher than our ways, his thoughts higher than our thoughts. He will
make a way, and we will see it—along with the New Heaven and the New Earth.
The church has not forgotten the promises of her Lord to return. For those
who scoff at him, for those who defy him, for those who will not repent, it
will be the Day of Wrath.
for his children, the ones who love him, it will turn into a day of joy.
When God throws a party, you want to be there.
Lord, many are they who think they know how; but it is needful only to know
who. Prepare the table, Lord, come soon.
Ain't Over Till It's Over
the earliest times in Israel, through the prophets and particularly in the
New Testament, there is clear testimony to something which the world cannot
accept: the resurrection of the dead. In this passage, the teaching is
made quite explicit. It's interesting how the Sadducees had to ignore the
prophetic works of the Old Testament—because they didn't fit with their new,
modern scheme of thinking. It wasn't possible; therefore it could not be
Resurrection of our Lord shows us the contrary. He is the first born from
among the dead. Notice, please, that this is a physical resurrection.
Thomas was told to put his hand in Christ's side, his fingers in the nail
holes. Christ ate with them at the Sea of Galilee. This is not a
disembodied spirit; this is human, a spirit in a body. It's just that the
body is of the new style. That same physical resurrection is promised to
Something else comes with it. It is the Day of Wrath, God will go through
the people of the earth to punish the guilty. So how does he keep his
children from suffering? He tells them to go inside and hide themselves in
an inner room. It sounds suspiciously like our instructions on prayer.
Perhaps Isaiah is foreshadowing Christ's word on this.
note one other thing. The perfect crime won't be. At this time all the
sins of man will be laid bare, ready for the judgment. Some will tell you
that God cannot be both righteous and omnipotent, because sinners still walk
the earth. God is both; he's also not finished with us yet.
Curious, is it not, that most people have an instinctive fear of ghosts? We
know that a human being must have a body—and we'd rather not face one who
doesn't. But on that day he will face us as truly human, body and all. It
will be a time of wrath and punishment, but also a time of forgiveness and
reward for those who love him.
Keeping that in mind, what does this mean to me today? First, it means that
anything you think is hidden
is coming out in the open. It means that God will pass righteous judgment
on it—and on you. You don't know when this will happen; but God's
righteousness ensures that it will. Live, therefore, like one with nothing
to hide. It ain't over till it's over. But then it's over.
Lord, we do not know time, but we see the signs of the time. Keep us in
your hands. There is no safer place.
Trial for Hope
Winston Churchill remarked that the battles between church and state are
fought out on trivial detail—as the stakes are so high neither side can
afford to lose.
It’s easy to
see why. Both claim the obedience of the citizen, and at times both do so
absolutely and unconditionally. Neither wishes to give up control.
happens here (and often, during the earliest days of the church) Paul has
been obliged to put himself in the hands of Roman justice. The Jews have
been trying to have him executed. They know that religious charges will not
influence the Roman governor. So they substitute riot and insurrection.
nails this instantly. He understands quite well what the issue is. He
dismisses everything else but the main point: he believes in the
Resurrection. Not just that of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead in
general. This is the issue; he has seen the risen Christ.
now faces King Agrippa, who is somewhat of a scholar of the ancient Jewish
Law and Prophets, he makes three arguments for the resurrection of the dead:
cites, in a general way, the writings of the Prophets. The King is well
aware of these references, so Paul does not need to give him chapter and
then cites his own experience. He has met the risen Christ in person, on
the road to Damascus. (By the way, this is why the Bible rarely argues for
the existence of God. Its authors were the eyewitnesses.)
to seal the issue, he brings to their mind the power of God. To say the
resurrection of the dead can't happen is to deny the God who did it.
trial makes an interesting comparison for us today. He did not know it at
the time, but his captivity would give him access to the highest reaches in
Rome, and ultimately start the conversion of the Empire from heathenism to
Christianity. This came from his firm hope in the resurrection. Do we
still have such hope today?
our attitude towards death—particularly our own—show that we hope for the
our attitude towards life show that we are simply sojourners, just passing
through—until he comes again?
Lord, by the power of the Resurrection living in us, make us bold to speak
your name, and gentle to forgive in your name too.
can imagine the problem. There's always someone in the back of the class,
putting the pieces together in his own twisted way, who then comes up with
what he things is a brilliant, logical and very strange conclusion. You can
see it here. Sure, we know that Christ promised the resurrection of the
dead to eternal life. But what about those who are alive when he returns?
What do they get?
some might say that those on earth get left there: stranded, hey, tough
Others, knowing that God would not do such a thing, make this the basis for
the idea that the church will gradually die out (an idea preached in my
time, believe it or not.)
me a verse or two to play with, and I can make nonsense too. But this has a
larger implication. When people start fitting things to the theory, it
isn't long before some get discouraged. Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great
Planet Earth (first edition) around 1970. There have been many
"editions" since. If you read the original, you can't help but notice some
rather poorly aimed prophecy. None of this discourages the Lindsey
enthusiasts; they just tell you to get the new edition. But consider
this: in 1931, Talbot (of Talbot Theological Seminary) produced a radio
series and book that clearly showed that Mussolini is the Antichrist. For
those who bought it, this can be discouraging.
caters to no such theory. His instruction is practical and to the point.
Theory gives place to the Holy Spirit.
are the main points he's trying to get to you:
died—and was raised from the grave, bodily, by the power of God.
called the shot—he said beforehand it would be.
taught the disciples that the church would be united on the last day; those
still here rising to meet those coming with the Lord.
like theory? Then listen to the last words: "encourage each other with
these words." The next time you're at a Christian's funeral, remember that.
Lord, we are told so plainly that we are to expect astonishing things.
Uphold us as we do.
Do All Things
seem to stumble over the words in this passage. He needs to thank his
friends in Philippi, but also to teach them about giving. We need the
In the world's view of charity, the recipient is the one who gets the
benefit. Since we think that so, we impose conditions upon our recipients:
must be morally worthy, either by their mission or by their circumstance in
must be "innocent" in some sense. A victim not of their own making, for we
will not fund the wastrel.
lastly and of least importance, they must really need the money.
familiar? This may be a surprise to you, but there is a reason charities
show pictures of starving children.
about the giver? What motivates that man or woman?
reason is ego. If you have enough money you can add the "Joe Smith
Building" to your alma mater. But even small amounts, if handed to the
right Girl Scout, can build the ego.
Sometimes it's guilt. Some give to veteran's organizations because they
went to Vietnam; others because they didn't go.
Believe it or not, revenge can be a motive. Revenge on life; as in, "I
suffered through that, but I'm going make sure that.."
Christian view starts with: "it is more blessed to give than to receive."
How can that be?
makes you more like Christ—this is your journey.
doing, you cause love to abound in the church.
it so that God will reward you; who better?
Worthiness? Forget it. We have all sinned; none of us is worthy. Needy?
That we can figure out.
Little and Much
Paul teaches us the art of receiving: be grateful for all you get. If you
get little, train yourself to demand less. If you get much, give thanks
both to giver and God. Such a lifestyle is not gained but by walking
closely with your God.
Impossible? Only the great can do this? Here is Paul's secret: "I can do
all things through him who gives me strength."
Lord, we are so foolish when we think we are wise. Give us eyes to see—it
is more blessed to give than to receive.
of us have a sense of what a cheerful sinner is, though perhaps not by that
name. It's the person who goes through life, doing what good they can,
avoiding the most grievous of sins but freely admitting that they're a
sinner—and having taken Christ as Lord, what more can I do?
I suspect, was a man like that. You can just about picture him as one who
made an annual trip to Jerusalem to present sacrifices as sin offerings, and
lived the rest of the year as a fisherman. There is even a sense here that
Peter is telling Jesus—in his tone of voice—that there are no fish in this
lake tonight, and just to put you into your place, we'll lower the nets and
prove it. Then he saw the catch
cheerful sinner found himself in the presence of God. Peter knew enough of
the Old Testament to know this was not healthy for sinners. He would recall
Isaiah's instant reaction: "I am ruined! I am a man of unclean lips." The
usual reaction to the presence of God is to assume you have met your maker,
in this instance, literally. No one tainted by sin can stand in the
presence of the Awesome God.
Peter does the one thing that panic suggests: he asks Jesus to leave. (It
was, after all, Peter's boat.)
times have changed! We now proclaim the gentle Jesus who wouldn't cause
anyone the slightest alarm. But from the beginning of the church until
fairly recently the church preached Christ crucified, risen and coming
again. Jesus never angry? Ask the scribes and the Pharisees, the
moneychangers in the Temple.
the difference? The cheerful sinner knows that he is one, and that God is
holy. The legalist knows that he is holy; the hypocrite pretends that he
is too. Those who defraud others in God's name put on a bold face about
it. These are the ones whom Jesus chases out.
the cheerful sinner he says, "Don't be afraid." Yes, your concept of God
missed his awesome power and sovereignty, now revealed. But his purpose is
not the destruction of such men, but their redemption. He even goes so far
as to use such men to bring others to him. In one hand he holds power and
righteousness, in the other love and mercy. The call is the same: Follow
me, and I will make you fishers of men.
Lord, it seems so hard to do what is so simple: follow you. Open our eyes
to your path, and lead us home.
Considering the Lilies—From a Distance
passage, and its other instance in the Sermon on the Mount, have been
favorites with preachers and listeners since the earliest days. Alas, one
reason for this is that many such listeners have absolutely no intention of
considering the lilies. "Preach on, Brother, you ain't near me yet." Why?
Because we believe that God can't provide.
we're willing to acknowledge that, in the abstract and theoretical world of
the preacher's sermon, it's entirely possible. It sounds good—but you don't
know my boss.
don't know your boss. But I do know someone who has the power and desire to
provide for you, if you will but trust Him. "Yeah, but I don't see how he
could possibly.." You will kindly note that at no time does Jesus ever
state that you would see how. He simply tells you that it is so. Your
blindness is not the same as his impotence. Even the blind man trusts his
guide dog; and you will not trust God?
Because we believe that God won't provide
of us think it's simply a question of not being holy enough. God provides
for lilies, missionaries and visiting preachers, with an occasional Bible
teacher thrown in. But are there any second class Christians? Others will
tell you that they're "small potatoes" to God. His infinite power is
matched by his infinite care for detail. "Yeah, but why would God..?" Have
you ever been able to answer any question that starts with "Why would God"?
It's usually unanswered.
Sometimes, it's simple fear of embarrassment: what if I trust him and
nothing happens? Have you ever tried it?
Because we know the secret sin in our lives
afraid of his discipline, or perhaps we are simply enjoying ourselves so
much we don't want to give it a thought. And think of the shame and
humiliation if my Bible teacher found out about this!
is such a thing as being too ashamed to go to the doctor. There is such a
thing as being too afraid to go to the dentist. The time lost cannot be
regained, but you can keep it from getting worse. Repent now, and trust him
for forgiveness too.
cares for the weeds, he will certainly care for you.
Lord, we muster and master our excuses with those lilies in plain sight.
Forgive us, Lord, and give us greater faith.
invite your attention, for the moment, to my dentist? This won't hurt a
bit, trust me.
dentist is by now accustomed to the fact that when this poor teacher needs
an example of suffering, the dentist is always there. In a day when pain
relievers are common, medication excellent, we still face the fact that
dentistry involves suffering. I would not mislead you on the subject; my
dentist is a fine Christian gentleman who inflicts no more pain than is
absolutely necessary. And he's cautious and sensitive about that pain. But
still, the modern Bible teacher finds him indispensable for more didactic
reasons. Everyone's been to the dentist.
yourself in mind of your last visit to the dental chair, and read this
passage again. For if you will look just before it, you will see that Peter
is particularly addressing this passage to servants—slaves, in those days.
His example of suffering for God is our Lord, the Suffering Servant:
forms of suffering, he is our example. He, like a slave of the time, made
no threats to those who abused him.
Indeed, we know him as the Servant King; the Son of Man came to serve, not
to be served.
than that, Jesus is the Suffering Servant—and he knows the pain we feel—dental
necessary that he suffer in this way. His sacrifice on the cross paid the
price for our sins. In his own body, we are assured, he bore our sins. Can
we fully understand that? Not now; perhaps not ever. But we can understand
what it means to us; forgiveness, the state of being innocent before God.
told here, as prophesied by Isaiah, that by his wounds we are healed. His
suffering, then, is our healing. Such love is beyond what we deserve.
might have wondered about the title of this essay. Most of us, like Bugs
Bunny, would pronounce the word to rhyme with "sounds." That is incorrect;
it rhymes with "wounds," for it is a contraction of an oath: "God's
wounds." It was considered impolite to use the entire phrase in mixed
company. It is used to express astonishment. By God's wounds we are
healed, and it is astonishingly wonderful
Lord, we glory in your resurrection, but so often fail to contemplate the
glory of your wounds.
you ever been in this situation? You know that someone in your small church
group is cheerfully putting a bold face on what can only be called besetting
sin. They should know better. And somebody ought to speak to them about
that. But, you don't want to be that somebody—you might hurt their
feelings. But somebody should.
was that somebody to the Corinthians. There evidently was someone in the
congregation to whom church discipline was to be applied. But note the
objective: godly sorrow. Godly sorrow leads to repentance, and
leaves no regrets. Godly sorrow fixes things; it restores them.
an example. Suppose you own an auto repair shop, and someone comes in
claiming to be defrauded by one of your workers. What's the right reaction?
would be eager to clear things up; after all, it's your name on the front
be indignant with the fraud. After all, the customer lost money; you're
losing a reputation.
be alarmed—how long has this been going on?
feel that sense of longing that comes when you know something has to be
fixed right now.
wouldn't be lazy about it; you'd jump right in and fix it.
of all, you would want justice and fairness to be done. If the customer was
wronged, fix it. If not, defend it.
exactly the same reaction Paul was looking for from the Corinthian church.
They had a problem, a black eye, a blemish. Because his letter stirred them
to action, they dealt with the problem—and in so doing showed themselves to
be faithful servants of God.
often we sit back and wait for "somebody" to make a move. I recall my
father's words on the subject: "You're somebody. Do something." Take your
stand to set matters right. The object of church discipline is to restore
the sinner to fellowship with the church. That may require hard words, or
gentle persuasion. It will certainly require courage. But remember: it's
your church too—and you must care for her as well.
Lord, we sometimes mistake tact for love. May our minds listen to you, take
courage, and bring the sinner home.
That Accompany Salvation
understand the nature of faith, it is necessary to understand the work that
accompanies it. The Scriptures do not suggest anything like the idea that
intellectual assent alone will bring salvation; rather, it is clear that
faith is always attended by its handmaiden, works. Sadly, many forget
this. Having made a good beginning, often working hard for many years, at
some point they decide to rest on their laurels. Some find it physically
impossible to continue; most, simply stop.
gives us the antidote here. Why would you quit when the reward you seek is
within your grasp? Why would you not go on until the end? God knows what
you have done; he is righteous, and he will reward you.
will reward you for the work you have done.
will also reward you for the love you show to his children (as often as you
have done it for the least of these.)
Perhaps unnoticed elsewhere, He will reward you for the help you give.
key to this is diligence to the end. You may not be physically capable as
you once were (the man with one good eye knows all about that), but God will
still send you opportunity.
Diligence—to the end. Why does God so greatly treasure and reward this?
makes your hope sure. It keeps you on the team, and you know that those on
the team make it home. It also gives God raw material—your life—to work
with. And He will be faithful to complete his good work in you.
keeps you from being lazy. Sloth—laziness—is indeed a sin, though it is not
much preached against. It is a deadly one too, for sloth opens the door for
many other sins.
you maintain this diligence to the end? Look for examples to imitate. You
are not the last Christian in the world! Look around you for those whose
faith is strong, and imitate them. Look around you for those with great
patience, and imitate them.
righteous, just, "fair." He knows you; he knows your motives. As you have
opportunity, and use it, he will reward you. But the prizes go to those who
finish the race.
Lord, the marathon of life seems so long at times. We do not know the day
of our death; therefore, keep us diligent every day.
human eye is not just used for vision. It is also meant to be seen by other
humans. Through our lives we learn to watch other people's faces,
particularly the eyes. When there is a sudden burst of understanding, we
say the person's "eyes lit up."
what Paul wants your eyes to do—but in this instance, the eyes of your
heart. Experience the sudden burst of understanding with him, please. But
not just on the trivia of the times, but on things eternal.
then, does he think it takes to light up the eyes of your heart? The sudden
burst of understanding these three things:
hope to which you have been called. Your hope is in the return of our Lord,
the resurrection of the dead, the rewards at the judgment, the New Heaven
and New Earth. You didn't wander into such hope; God called you to it. If
he doesn't call, you have no such hope. But he has called—and your future
with him is indeed glorious.
riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. We may see this in two
things: first, the incomparable depth of his grace towards us. No matter
how horrible your sins, he stands at the door and knocks, forgiveness in
hand. Second, we are the heirs of the kingdom of God. No eye has yet seen
what that will mean—but we indeed will be blessed. Even as we are blessed
with forgiveness and fellowship now.
incomparably great power he has for those who believe. What is there that
God cannot do for his own children? Is there any limit to the good things
he can and will do?
in our world, shatters things, kills people and causes war and rumor of
war. Power in God's hand is much greater:
this very power he raised Christ from the dead.
raised him, not to simply walk around on earth again, but so that he would
be seen forty days, then taken to heaven to sit at the right hand of God.
such, he is above all power and authority we can imagine.
power, as awesome as it is, is for us. Those whose hearts are in God's will
find that his power is there with them. No weapon formed can stand against
Him; the battle belongs to the Lord.
Lord, we so often see you as the gentle Jesus; open our eyes to the Christ
of awesome power, moving mightily for his own.
gag I've seen many times. There is a blackboard on which we see a mass of
equations, arrows, flow diagrams and other markings not meant for mere
mortals. But buried in the diagram is one particular box. The caption in
that box reads, "Then a miracle occurs." The scientist at the board points
to that box and says, "I think I've found the weak point."
are working in the sciences or in technology, that is the weak point. You
can't rely on the unknown, on miracles, on voodoo or even Murphy's Law.
It's unreliably reliable. But in the kingdom of God you are told to count
on such miracles. Not just expect them, count on them.
Christ's illustration here is a simple but deep one:
the seed—a visible action on our part.
grows. God knows how (and he hasn't told me how to do it with my roses
reap the results.
because we don't know how it works does not mean we can't rely on it. We
can rely on it because it is the work of God.
why would God choose such a method for something so important as the kingdom
that we will not grow proud. If we know that we didn't do it all by
ourselves, we might just be honest with that fact.
that we will not grow complacent. God needs no lazy farmers. Lazy
farmer—a synonym for bankrupt.
that we will see our efforts rewarded. God knows that we need to see
results from our efforts. He will provide.
that we will know that we have been blessed. If the results are out
of proportion to what we did, we know who did the rest. God makes a little
into a lot.
that those who come to Christ will know who really did it. We are
not here to glorify ourselves, but to call others to know the name of Jesus,
will not honor those who will not scatter the seed of evangelism, nor those
who will not reap the harvest from it. But he bountifully blesses those who
do his will and praise his name.
Lord, we can scatter the seed; we can harvest the grain. Connect the two by
your great power, and call us to your great harvest.
Wisdom, as of late, has had bad press. It is seldom commended to the young
anymore, and even if the old have it, they are despised for the sin of being
old. So perhaps we had best understand what James is talking about.
is the practical art of righteousness. There are some who are the
"heavenly" righteous; that is, when the subject comes up they can discourse
learnedly on morals and ethics. But they never let this get in the way of
business. But the one who seeks after wisdom soon learns that it must be
applied every day, or soon lost. As it is said in business, you must do the
right things, and you must do things right. That's where you need wisdom.
gives us this message in the context of suffering trials for the faith.
This makes sense, if you think about it. The humorous version of wisdom
shows the guru on the mountain top, or living in a desert cave—to which
someone travels for an answer. But did you ever think how that image got
started? People who are content with little (who could, therefore, live in
a cave) are people who are at peace. Often, when we ask God for an answer,
we are really seeking peace—peace in ourselves, peace with our family or
friends and peace with the world. Wisdom from God often provides the peace
that passes understanding.
tells us here that if we want to receive wisdom, we must not doubt. Some
will argue that this is impossible in our world. But look at the man James
describes. You know the type; the latest fad in thinking is stuck between
his ears. Last year it was transcendental meditation; this year it's
political correctness, next year? When he gives God a try, nothing
happens. He's just a leaf blowing up against an oak, wondering why the oak
Christian knows that Oak. We are taught to ask him for what we need and
want—to ask, seek and knock. Persistence is required; let God know that
you really do want this wisdom! Solomon assured us that its price is beyond
rubies, but God gives it away to those who will ask, not doubting. Nor does
he let it out in tiny dribbles; God gives generously.
God at his word in this. Throw off your doubts and commit yourself to his
way. Then ask him for the wisdom you need—and be specific. Ask, seek and
knock—and you will find the God who gives wisdom generously.
Lord, we are quick to complain of our troubles and slow to ask wisdom in
them. Help us reverse those two.
A Day's Work
Montague Hipple II (Monty to his friends, and never "junior") is, to my
mind, the world's greatest salesman. He achieved this distinction by
walking into my office, announcing that he was going to sell me six million
dollars worth of software, explain what he was doing every step along the
way—and that I would love the entire process. (He succeeded, by the way).
is a man of proverbs. He enjoyed revealing his sales techniques in short,
pithy sayings. One particularly well remembered was this: "It is
impossible to insult a salesman. You can insult his product, but not the
I think, would have agreed. Take a look at what he gives us as being in his
daily toil for the Lord:
are the external trials so visible in an Apostle's life—emotional suffering
and physical suffering (verses 4-5).
endure such things, the Apostle must have the inner resources of a child of
God (verse 6).
allowed to fight back? Yes—but only with the weapons of the Lord (verse 7).
Results, from the world's point of view, seem rather indeterminate. Is he
really successful? (verse 8)
Through it all, though the world thinks of him as poor and sorrowful, he
knows himself to be joyful and rich. (verse 9-10)
Joyful? Note that the word "happy" doesn't appear. There is no sense of
smiley face happiness in the Scripture; only the fierce joy of the saints.
You can be happy because you have no trials. You can be joyful in trials
because, with God's strength, you can overcome them.
joy is made all the more apparent when your trials are for the sake of Jesus
Christ. The world rejects him; if you are a child of God, it will reject
you, too. When that happens, rejoice! Satan has testified that you are a
worthy foe, and God has confirmed it.
How can Paul call himself a rich man? By the same test we should use: his
blessings exceed his desires. Desire is within; how can we recognize the
truly rich, then? Simply this: it is the rich who give to the poor. Do
you give, or receive?
Lord, open the eyes of our hearts, so that we may know your will. Teach us
to count blessings, not belly-aches.
course of completing my MBA at a local Catholic college, one of the
instructors held forth that the church is poorly organized for she is "goal
conflicted." The matter is a relatively simple one, and easy to
understand. Successful organizations usually have a single objective.
That's why people keep writing "mission statements" and "objectives." The
thought is simply that if you know what it is you're supposed to be doing,
and put all your effort into doing it, you're more likely to be successful.
As Mark Twain once put it, "Put all your eggs in one basket—and watch that
church has two objectives, or so it would seem. We are told to go and make
disciples (evangelism) and then teach them all that Christ commanded.
Church bodies which believe in good business principles soon must pick
between the two. As neither is sufficient alone, they soon wither. How
then, does Christ expect us to perform this work so poorly organized?
need a greater understanding of this problem. Yes, we are given two
different goals. But they are followed by the statement, "I am with you
always." The unity of the church is not in her goals nor her business
practices—the unity of the church is in her Lord Jesus Christ.
Indeed, if our unity is not in him, then his authority is not in us. He is
the one who gives the commands; but he does not just issue orders and
leave. By his Holy Spirit we are kept to our course. As there is no
disharmony of purpose in the Trinity, his church can do both things at
once. The church is compared to a body, and this body can do many things at
at the close of his ministry, Christ lays out the mission of the church.
church is to make disciples, baptizing them. As Christ has been given all
authority, this is to be done in the name (authority) of the Father, Son and
disciples, once given new birth, must now be brought to maturity—teaching
them the commands of Christ, just as he handed them down to his Apostles.
an awesome task; but the source of our unity is also the source of our
Lord, we know what you want us to do; energize to do this quickly, so that
we may be obedient to you.
one of the simplest and yet most taxing of requirements for the ancient
Jew: firstfruits belong to God. He was required to bring the first of his
fruit, his grain, his oil (olive oil), his wine and his fleece to God. In
effect, what we might call his "renewable resources" were to be given to God
of this was allowed to be blemished in any way. This would easily be
noticed, for he was to bring his firstfruits to the Tabernacle and present
them to the Lord. Here we see another principle of the firstfruits:
unblemished, they belong to those who are doing the work of God. You will
remember that the priests and Levites were given virtually no land in
Israel. They were to live from the offerings to God. The principle is
simple: firstfruits belong to those who depend entirely upon God for their
not seem that this would be a test of faith. But the farmer of that time
would certainly have seen it that way. He would be trusting God for his
promise of full barns! Not an act of faith?
farmer would tell you instantly—he had no guarantee that the rest of that
crop would be harvested—before a hail storm hit.
Remember, too, that people feed themselves a lot better around the time of
harvest. Just when you're at your hungriest (winter starvation) you have to
part with the tithe.
puts the "practical" in faith; if you don't do it, the priest must beg for
attitude about this is simple: trust me. I told you that if you do, I will
provide. He says to the priest, trust me—they'll trust me. Sometimes they
didn't. God's bounty is for the righteous.
way, we are firstfruits also—of the Holy Spirit. (See James 1:18). Just as
Christ is the firstfruits from the dead, so we are the firstfruits of the
resurrection to come. But that carries a responsibility. If you are to be
firstfruits, you must be without blemish. Do you seek forgiveness and
righteousness? And if you are firstfruits, you are dedicated to those who
depend upon God for their living. Do you show such dedication? Those who
look to God for their food—those in need, those incapable, those who work in
the ministry—are depending on Him. And you know who he is depending upon,
Lord, we are so timid when we should be so bold. Give us the faith and
wisdom to trust you with the first, not the last, fruits.
of Suffering for the Name
anyone be genuinely worthy to suffer for the Name of Christ? It seems
almost an impertinent question; yet we have it on the authority of the
Apostles themselves, by practical experience, that the answer to that
question is "yes." Being blessed for such suffering we understand; after
all, that's in the Sermon on the Mount. But being worthy?
question springs from an attempt at humility. That humility is a virtue is
known to Christians, and unknown to the world. In the faith, however, there
is a pernicious form of blasphemy that say, "Oh, I could never be worthy
like that.." Some parallels are of the more direct form of "God could
never use someone like me." This is false humility; he certainly can use
someone like you. And you can be worthy of suffering for the name, if
you're stubborn (I mean, persistent) enough.
would God permit this? Because he's honest. Suffering produces results;
suffering for the name produces great results. Indeed, the Scripture
assures us that if we are insulted because of the name, the Holy Spirit
rests upon us.
greater the loss, the greater the gain in the kingdom of heaven. The
Apostles counted it a joy and a privilege, and I see no reason why we can't
reason we don't see it that way is that our sufferings are slight compared
to theirs. If you read the passage just before this, you'll find that after
Gamaliel makes his wise speech, the council lets them go—after a flogging,
seems a paradox. How can something like the cause of Christ provoke such
reactions? Why is it that in our society tolerant people will tolerate
anything but Christianity? More to the point, why does Christ command us to
suffer for the name—and then reward us for it? It is the power of paradox.
The things that the world sees as the weakness of the church, God sees as
its strength. The world sees inflexible, intolerant people. God sees
children who have found the truth. He will stand by those children, and use
their weakness to show his strength.
know those who sneer at the name of Christ, you know they are not impressed
by what you believe. Show them your scars; they are your testimony.
Words, we haggle; scars convince.
Lord, the time approaches, indeed now is, that we will be winnowed by
suffering. May we be wheat, not chaff.
the beginning." It is difficult for us to remember it, but still true: the
man Jesus of Nazareth, is, was and always will be the agent by
whom God created the heavens and the earth. All that is matter or energy
came from him. Philosophically, it must be so. The universe had a
beginning, that we know from physics. It is absurd to say the universe
created itself; or that it willed itself into existence. So then, a Creator
Physics also tells us that—eventually—the universe may indeed cease to
exist, or at the least wind down to an amorphous spread of energy and
matter. This is not scheduled for the immediate future—unless, of course,
God has his own timetable. For long ago the Psalmist told us that the
universe, the heavens and the earth, will pass away—God will change them, as
you and I would change a dirty shirt.
Through all this, He remains the same. He is eternal—not affected by time,
not captive by it. It is his creation; he changes it, it does not change
Him. It is so much a part of his character that he uses it as his name: I
this might surprise you: you, too, are designed to be eternal. It is God's
intention to "bring many sons to glory," and to do so by making them joint
heirs of the kingdom of God with Jesus, the Christ. As he said to his
disciples, "Because I live, you will live also." (John 14:19)
not just that we are designed to be eternal. Nor is it that plus the fact
God intends to have us be eternal. The stunning thing is this: our lives
are eternal because of the very nature of God. God, in his essence, is the
great I AM. That fact, and that fact alone, is sufficient to ensure that
all who trust him will have eternal life.
can this be? We don't know. It has taken mankind thousands of years to
develop the technology to even begin to know how God made the universe, what
its formation was like and how it is likely to end. Even now, there are
more questions than answers. If this is so with the old creation, how much
more true is it of the new creation—for which the only example we have is
the resurrected Lord? It is beyond our understanding.
not beyond our hope. All who put their trust in God are assured of eternal
life. He who gives that assurance never changes; He is eternal. If we
trust him, we will be, too.
Lord, grant that we may see our hope soon. Until we do, keep us strong in
the faith, the evidence of that for which we hope.
brief vacation trip, my wife and I saw something quite rare: a grey fox.
The animal is known to exist in California, but is very elusive, even in
rural areas. The reason is simply that the coyote considers the fox a
meal. The animal is a beautiful creature, particularly noted for its long,
bushy tail. We watched for several minutes as it foraged.
left the area, a couple rode in on a pair of loud motorcycles. We stopped
them as they entered, and told them about the fox. They immediately
silenced the motorcycles and went to see the animal. It's interesting that
our reaction to this rare specimen in God's creation should be one of
admiration and interest. It seems there is something very much ingrained in
human beings to seek that which is grand, and to praise it. It is the right
at the end of his life, set aside a vast fortune with which Solomon was to
build the Temple. As he saw the contributions come in, he led Israel in the
psalm we read here. He too, praises—not the creation, but the creator God.
begins by adoring the eternity—and the unchanging nature—of God. God is
eternal, and therefore his praise should be eternal as well. We can praise
his deeds of the past, knowing that they teach us about his character even
he praises God's perfections—greatness, power, glory, majesty and splendor.
Consider the awesome nature of the God who created all things—from nothing.
Consider both his power and his glory, the one who is adored by the angels.
Indeed, the ruler of heaven and earth, the creator, could not be less than
this would mean little to us if he took no interest in our lives. But not
so! He is the source of wealth and honor, the fountain of strength and
power. If God is for you, who can be against you?
this calls for a reaction from the righteous man. That reaction is
two-fold: giving thanks for his many blessings, and praise for who (and
what) He is. The sinner grumbles about his misfortune; the righteous man
praises the God who is the source of all his blessings. The sight of a
beautiful animal calls up praise from our minds; how much more the praise
of his creator.
Lord, all things are yours, in heaven and on earth, for you created all.
Keep us mindful of your glory, so that we know who You are.
sometimes miss the end of the various letters of Paul, for it seems that his
message then becomes personal, and of no further use to our modern age.
This is not wise; all Scripture is profitable, if we will but examine it
begin with, "the God of peace." Do you have peace in your heart as you
read this? Perhaps so, perhaps not—but now you know the source of peace—and
his desire that we have it. It is a part of his character, which is
entirely good and righteous.
deals with mankind by covenant. Some think by contract, others think by
bargain, and still others by hasty prayer. It is not so; he deals by
covenant. How is this?
covenant is eternal. Before the worlds began, before there was man to sin,
God made this covenant. It is therefore a covenant that begins among the
Trinity; thus we know that the sacrifice on the Cross was known before the
worlds began. It is eternal; therefore, it will last forever, as God
himself will last forever.
a covenant of blood—the blood of Christ, shed on the Cross. It was pictured
in the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament; revealed in the New
Testament. It is shown to be completely powerful in this: by this covenant
Jesus was raised from the dead.
then, is the God we serve. What blessing does Paul ask for his fellow
Hebrew Christians? Blessings we might ask for even today: that God equip
with every good thing—that we may lack nothing.
that these good things be used to do his will.
is what is pleasing to God: that you accept the good things from his hand,
showing yourself to be his child by doing his will.
you might ask, can this happen? Only through the Christ, the bridge between
man and God. If we are truly to join in God's purposes, there must be a way
for his power and righteousness to flow from his perfection to our
imperfection. That way is through Jesus Christ, who is both completely
human and completely God.
matter seems so simple, yet is so powerful. It depends upon our accession
to the covenant of God.
Lord, we strain ourselves to bargain with you, when your covenant is already
proclaimed. Open our eyes, Lord; help us see.
years ago, when I was a young lad experiencing true love for the first time
(cars, not girls, of course), one would see advertisements for cars by GM
which had the tag line, "Body by Fisher." My dad bought a Chevrolet, and
prominently fastened to one door was a plate assuring us that this car did,
indeed, have a body by Fisher. I have no idea why this would be of
advantage, but GM kept assuring us that this was a great thing. So "Body by
Fisher" really meant what? As far as I could tell, it meant that the body
wasn't by anybody else. More than that, I could not say.
Confusing? Yes. Sort of like Paul's argument in this passage. How is it
that we died to the Law through the body of Christ? It seems to us a source
of confusion, not explanation. But if we remember our example, perhaps we
can make it clearer.
spiritual metaphor, Paul tells us that we have a choice. We can have a
"Body by Law". If we select this, we need to obey the rules laid down in
the Old Testament. Or, if we choose, we can have a "Body by Christ."
Siamese twins are not allowed; it's one of the other.
select "Body by Law," we quickly find some disadvantages. For while the Law
lays out (in detail) what righteous behavior is, it gives us no real power
to live that way. Since none of us are perfect, the ultimate end of this
body is death,. Even while we live, there's a problem with it. When we
begin to be selfish—and we all do, at times—we quickly find the law to be a
barrier to what we want. So we begin to look for loopholes to allow us to
be selfish. How do you feel about a lawyer who finds a loophole which
allows him to get an obviously guilty client set free? God feels the same
way about you when you're loophole hunting.
we select "Body by Christ" the situation changes. This body is noted for
one thing: the Resurrection. This is the body that ends up with life, not
death. This is the body that gives freedom in this life and life eternal
when our Lord returns. This body is given not in a list of rules but the
get from one body to another, the first one has to be scrapped, or die, or
be discarded somehow. That happens when you accept Christ as Savior. Or,
as we might say, you trade in the body of death for the body of Life. "Body
by Christ" - it does make a difference.
Lord, it is only by your death that we can live in the Resurrection. It is
our choice; may we choose you each and every day.
is a quiet controversy raging in Christian circles today. It is not based
on denomination, but on interpretation. The word seized on is "inspired,"
also transliterated "God-breathed." Having a degree in physics, I cringe
inwardly when a preacher starts a sentence with, "Scientists think." (Note
to preachers: forget it. You won't understand that any more than the rest
of us understand theology.) It can get worse. There are still those who
know that the only truly inspired English version of the Bible is the King
James. The 1611 King James. Yea, and verily.
in this section, lays out the principles that should guide our thinking in
this. Let's take a look:
he lays out the idea that the interpretation of the Scripture is not a solo
flight. Timothy had trustworthy instructors, those known to him both by
word and deed. He was taught from infancy, so Paul encourages him to
continue in the faith. So first of all let us make sure our teachers
are trustworthy, living the Christian life as well as teaching it.
he gives us the character of the Scriptures themselves. They are holy, or
sacred. This does not mean they are written in a secret code—but it does
mean that they are set apart for the purposes of God. Thus, God did not
intend them as great literature (though we find such in them) any more than
he intended them as a cookbook. We are told that they are "inspired" - the
word is the correct translation of the Greek, which is now transliterated as
"God-breathed." The literalist will tell you that Paul's hand wrote this
while in a trance, moved by the Holy Spirit. If so, it is amazing how
Peter, Paul and John have such different writing styles. The Bible is not
the product of "automatic writing."
this would mean nothing if we did not know the purpose of the Bible. Paul
gives us three such purposes here:
and most important, is that we find the wisdom which leads to salvation—the
truth about Jesus, the Christ.
it is the source of rebuke and correction, so that things which are wrong
may be put right.
Finally, it is the source of teaching and training, so that we may do what
is right the first time.
book, used for His purposes, produces His results.
Lord, grant that we may put aside our differences in interpretation and see
the unity you desire in your church.
middle of the twentieth century the vineyards of Europe faced a grave
problem. The vines were gradually succumbing to a vicious infection which
rotted away the roots of the vine. No known cure existed. Various remedies
were tried, but only one method really worked.
method was particularly galling to the pride of the French. It seems that
the American grape vine was immune to this disease. The only solution was
to import root systems from America and graft the existing vines onto these
roots. I am told that this does not affect the flavor or character of the
wine, only the pride of the winemaker. But there was nothing else to be
done—if there was to be a continuation of the wine industry.
American roots; European vines. It is an example that Paul uses here to
explain to the Gentile Christians just exactly why they are so favored by
God as to have the Gospel preached to them. The reason is simple: the Jews
have rejected it. But God's word will not return to him void; having been
sent out, it will achieve its purpose. That purpose is nothing less than
the presentation of the message of Christ to the entire world—and the
salvation of all who will come to Jesus.
issue, you see, is not one of your inheritance, or your family. The
dividing line is this: who do you say that Jesus is? If you say that he is
the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and you act in that belief, then you
are one who has been grafted in. The world is concerned that the root
system be sound. God is concerned for the vine, for He is the root.
is no reason for us to boast of superiority. Christ encountered a Gentile
on a few occasions. On two of those occasion—the Centurion whose servant
was ill, and the woman whose daughter was dying—his response was simply to
admire their great faith. So it would seem that those who are grafted in
had best follow in that practice—we need that "great faith." None of us, no
matter our heritage, can rest upon the accomplishments of our ancestors. To
say that your father was devout puts a greater, not a lesser, burden upon
you. You "know better," and you should behave accordingly.
If you have the privilege of knowing someone great in faith see to it that
you not only admire it, but imitate it. By example you are inspired; now
work out the salvation given.
Lord, so often we take it for granted that we are privileged in you. Teach
us to know the price you paid, so that we may value it.
early part of the 20th century, a physicist named Niels Bohr contemplated
what appeared to be a very simple problem. It was known as "black box
radiation." In your mind's eye, picture a block of steel with a cavity in
it. There is a tiny hole into the cavity. Now, heat the object in a very
hot oven, and examine the energy that radiates from that tiny hole. If you
perform the calculations according to classical, Newtonian physics, you find
that there are an infinite number of frequencies of light coming from that
"black body," which implies there must be an infinite amount of energy
coming from it. Which is absurd.
found an answer to the problem. He simply assumed that the atoms in the
cavity could not radiate energy at just any frequency, but only at certain
select frequencies. When he did this, the experimental results matched the
theory quite nicely. It's just that the physics were wrong. So in this
little problem, Bohr turned the world of physics upside down, beginning what
we today would call atomic physics.
death, burial and resurrection of Christ turned the world of religion and
philosophy upside down, too. Before the coming of Christ, two approaches
Jewish approach—only the chosen people, endowed with God's wisdom, could
please God sufficiently. (And, by the way, look down on the rest of the
world in the process).
Greek approach—this is a matter of heavy brainpower, and deep thought (which
none of you Jewish fundamentalists could possibly grasp).
approaches make one fundamental mistake: that the wisdom and power of God
are on the same scale as those of mortal man. When stated, it seems absurd
to think so—which is why it is so often unstated. Indeed, his wisdom is so
great that his foolishness exceeds our wisdom. In the grand, cosmic scheme
of thinks, the divine sense of humor has come before the divine power.
Before God comes to the human stage to close the existing universe so as to
open the new one, he has sent his son in the power of paradox. Are you
weak? Then in Christ you are strong. Are you ignorant? Then in Christ you
know all. The matter is simple: "Not by might, nor by power—but by my
Spirit," says the Lord.
so often we think ourselves wise, telling others of your will, when we have
yet to obey it ourselves. Teach us obedience first.
children are fans of the British humor group, Monty Python. Most noted for
bringing the word Spam to our attention just in time to have it become a
label for unwanted electronic messages, their repertoire includes many
famous (and often quoted) routines. One of these is the Dead Parrot Sketch,
in which the customer tries to convince the shop owner that his parrot,
bought half an hour before, is quite dead. Had the bird not been nailed to
the perch, our customer contends, the bird would be pushing up daisies.
we know the parrot is dead? Here are three tests:
customer yells at the bird—and gets no response.
shop owner offers it food—and gets no response.
Finally, the customer inflicts pain on the bird (in the simple method of
banging its head on the counter). No response.
Despite the explanations of the shopkeeper ("It's just pining for the fjords
of its native Norway"), it's dead.
might well, in examining this passage, see if there is any similar evidence
that we are dead to sin.
world yells at us in constant advertising; you have to drink the right
beer, drive the right car, wear the right clothes and have the right toys.
Do you have the right stuff? Or are you dead to commercials—and the
materialism they convey?
world pushes "food " at us constantly. Not only in terms of gluttony (there
are restaurants which consider any meal less than 10 pounds to be a
failure), but also in bodily desire. Other people have sex with a fashion
model on a daily basis; aren't you watching over the Internet? Or are you
dead to sin?
Finally, there is pain. Emotional or physical, the world says, do it my way
or pay the pain. Those who are dead to this world see pain as the tool by
which God forges them for his purposes.
parrot didn't move. It gave no response. To keep it on the perch, the
shopkeeper nailed it there. Once before a man had nails in His feet—so that
he might die. He died, that we might live, and live eternally. Dead to
sin? Look for the nail marks.
Father, by your love and grace we are saved, through the sacrifice on the
Cross. Teach us to be dead to sin—and alive to you.
years ago, at a prior address, we needed to have the inside of our house
painted. My wife has long since concluded that I'm hopelessly inept at
this, and therefore we hired someone to do it. The painter was an
ex-convict. I knew him fairly well, and felt untroubled about leaving him
in the house to continue the work.
a year after this we moved to our present location, and joined our current
church. I mentioned this incident in connection with a question, thinking
it a simple example. One of the ladies present was shocked to discover that
I allowed an ex-convict in my home—and with my children there, no less!
What seemed to outrage her was the thought that I would socialize with such
a person. (This probably didn't do anything for my reputation.) What she
said when I told her that he is a Christian, and indeed was in the Bible
class I taught, perhaps is best left unrepeated.
in this very short letter, deals with something similar. He identifies to
us the visitor who is the real danger to the church—one who fits one or both
of these criteria:
denies the Incarnation—that is, he says that Jesus was not completely human,
or not completely God, or both.
goes beyond the doctrine of Christ, adding things to salvation by grace.
instruction is quite remarkable. He is the Apostle of Love; in all his
works he stresses the central nature of love in the Christian life. But
here he makes it clear: don't eat with this man, don't let him in your
house, show him no hospitality at all—in short, publicly demonstrate how
much you abhor such a man. Why would he do this?
result of such doctrines (there have been many) is the division of the
church, hatred and rancor, and large numbers of people who thought they were
principle result is this: if Jesus is not uniquely both God and man, then
he is not uniquely savior. Many are led astray by this, and do not accept
the one who can save them.
found a cobra in your house, you would promptly shoot it. You would have no
hesitation in crushing a poisonous spider. These men are worse; they send
others to hell. Why would you kill the snake and spider, but welcome the
agent of hell?
Lord, we know that courtesy is a form of love, and graces any Christian.
Teach us to know the snakes when we see them.
a fact. The Lord has proclaimed it. The usefulness of the Bible teacher
will come to an end. Not because Christ's words will cease to be true; nor
because we have no need for God. Such usefulness ceases when the Lord
writes his New Covenant.
Covenant. Except for certain legal uses, the word is now almost entirely a
"church word." It is sufficiently misunderstood that many, including those
in the pulpit, conclude that it is nothing but a synonym for "contract."
But there is a substantial difference! In a contract, both parties must
surrender to the other "consideration." The legal term means something of
value. If I have a contract with God, he gives me something of value, and
I in return give him something of value.
covenant is not like that. God lays out the terms, take them or leave
them. There is no sense in bargaining. It is not like buying a used car;
it's not really even like getting the groceries. Its best comparison might
be a child's Christmas. Wrapping paper, smiles,
photos and love abound. God is the master of love.
kind of covenant will this be? We know but a little. So we cannot say,
"thus and such will happen." But we can see it as the will of God, a goal
for all of us.
his desire that his laws be written on the hearts and minds of his people.
Not just with our emotions, nor just intellectual assent, but with all our
being we should acknowledge his law in all our ways.
should be lonely no more, for he is our God. Our care is his concern. Our
fellowship in worship makes us his people, a royal priesthood set apart.
such a day the teacher is no longer required. No more nights of study; no
more searches through the minds of the past. All will know the Lord; there
will be no favoritism
not amazing how willing God is, to meet us where we are? But there is a
condition—if we are to know him, we must come to him as forgiven, not as the
proud. In the meanwhile, it has pleased God to allow sinners such as this
teacher the privilege of bringing you closer to Him—and that by his
day approaches when the teacher's work will be no more. The trumpet will
sound; study no more. Lord, come soon!
Lord, the teacher's privilege is his burden. Grant that it may soon become
a crown in the kingdom to come.
was the most intimidating man I have ever met. One reason for this was that he
gave respect to all in authority; but with an air that showed all that he was
assisting them. He never rose above the rank of major in the Army; but his
personal presence was such that he once filed court martial papers against a two
star general. My father insisted on respect for those in authority; he also
expected right conduct from them. This was particularly true of my teachers.
On one occasion for which he had hard words for the principal in my school, he
politely ushered me outside, so that I would not hear his superb grasp of
It is a
pity, in my opinion, that we no longer hold public school teachers to the high
moral standards of the past. Worse, we neglect this with Bible teachers as
well. In the days of my youth, it was expected that teachers—public and
Bible—were to present to their young students a high moral standard. The
reasoning was simple; young minds are easily misled. To allow anything else
was to wound the conscience of these young minds. The consequences of this were
well known then.
course, the public school seeks to quickly eradicate the conscience as being an
obsolete hangover from "puritanical" times. Kindergarten students in my home
state are taught that a lesbian couple is the ideal environment for raising
children. What is remarkable about this—that there is nothing remarkable about
it. The surprise to the teachers is that having eliminated the conscience they
find themselves no longer respected by either student or parent.
Could there possibly
be a connection?
teacher is, perhaps, the last of the standard bearers. Even there the high
example is brought low. There was a time when divorce was considered a sin in
most cases; now, no one cares, even for teachers. The family? Teen rebellion
is accepted as normal now.
Lord care? The one who said that it would be better to have a millstone around
your neck and drown yourself than to mislead one of the little children?
the weak conscience to turn? There are still those who teach the old ways.
They are found in the shelter of His wings; seek them there.
those with conscience seem to be few; strengthen the remnant that remains, so
that we may be a witness for you.