Saturday, April 30, 2011

Don't Be Dumb, Hear God!

     "Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on the house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock," Matt. 7:24-25.
     That Jesus, He must have really studied His scripture!  It almost sounds as if He was there, with Moses and the Hebrews, 1500 years prior when God instructed His people, through Moses, teaching them to listen to these words and to do them.  Interestingly, Jesus quoted the book of Deuteronomy more than any other book and even when He didn't quote it directly it is obvious when He has it on His mind.  Knowing that Jesus, the Word who became flesh, taught so much from Deuteronomy, really makes me want to learn it and understand it.  Once again, this post is not for dumb people.  If you are dumb, stop reading now and pray to God for wisdom.  Quit leaning on your own understanding.  This post is for the wise men, who want to submit and surrender to the instruction and teaching of the Lord.  Dumb people need not apply for this post!
     What are these words of mine which Jesus talks about?  Matthew 5:17-19 gives us some direction, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.  Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
    You see, Jesus is in no way opposed to the Law.  Neither was Paul(correctly understood) for that matter.  The Law has its place.  It was never given to offer salvation.  It is a lamp unto our feet that we may know what sin is.  Once we know what sin is, because the law illuminates our sin, we should be mournful over our state of affairs.  We should recognize our spirit's poverty and cry out to Jesus, who perfectly fulfilled the Law through His obedience, and if we repent of our sin and trust in Christ for His gracious provision, He will reward our meekness and we will inherit His kingdom.
     Yet the Law has purpose for all believers even to this day.  It is not to be done away with till Christ's second coming.  What good is it today?  It is our instruction still to recognize sin and it is our command to follow if we have truly made Jesus lord of our lives.  God still hates our sin, even if we are His for all eternity.  That has not changed.  Jesus taught us that if we love Him we will do His will.  What is His will: obedience.  Joyful obedience.  The kind of obedience that does not even know, necessarily that it is even being obedient.  In the parable of the sheep and goats, the sheep did not even remember their good works.  Why?  They were second nature to them.  They knew the word and the will of God and they were so surrendered to the Lord that it was just a matter of spiritual instinct.  They learned, lived and loved the commandments and statutes of the Lord.  In fact, because of their knowledge of the Law and their intimacy with God, their sin shown even more and drew them closer to Him, repelling all pride, revealing all His glory, driving them to humility.  In this state, they knew not how glorious their light shone but shine it did and the Lord was able to say, "Well done good and faithful servant."  No doubt they had weathered the storm because their house was built on the rock of these words.
     Learn, live and love the Gospel,
     God Bless you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Don't Be Dumb, Fear God! Part Two

     "By faith, Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith," Hebrews 11:7.
     We all must decide something very important.  Our very souls depend upon this very issue.  It is not whether to vote republicrat or demican.  It is not who should I marry(as important as this is).  It is not even Coke or Pepsi.  We must decide, "Whom then shall I fear?"  This is as important a question as we can ever ask ourselves.  Everyday we make this decision.  When we go to work, do we join with the coarse jesting(Eph. 5:4)?  Do we declare our devotion to a sports team and call ourselves a "fan" of so and so, knowing that fan is shorthand for fanatic(Deut. 5:7).  Do we give in to the prevailing whimsy of the moment in any number of situations demonstrating our fear of man not our fear of God.
    God told the Hebrews in Deut. 6:2 to "fear the Lord your God, to keep His commandments," Deut. 6:13, "fear the Lord...serve Him", and Deut. 6:24, "And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day."  Did you notice what all of these verses have in common?  Fearing the Lord motivates our lives!  The Hebrews were to fear the Lord through keeping His commandments and through serving.  Joshua combined  two of these important concepts in his farewell admonition to the Hebrews in Joshua 24:14, "Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth..."  Fear and service go together for the believer.  The late pastor, David Wilkerson lamented that the church has stopped teaching about fearing the Lord.  He added that where the fear of the Lord is missing, so is the proper teaching of sin and holiness.  "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," wrote the writer of Hebrews(10:31).  It is interesting to note, once again, the coordination between faith and fear.  Hebrews 11 is known as the greatest teaching on faith in the New Testament, yet preceding it is an admonition to fear faithlessness and persevere through trials.  Fearing God is a powerful motivator for the believer, especially in a day where authentic faith stands out so starkly against the back drop of plastic people, twittering tediousness and the banality of continuous sensuality.
     No doubt, Noah faced the same issues as us.  The Lord described Noah's day like this, "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," Gen. 6:5.  Chapter six of Genesis describes depravity deeper than may even be around us today.  Into this depravity God entered and commanded Noah to build an ark.  An ark?  The old joke goes, what is an ark?  It was of no matter to Noah, he was commanded by God and his response is instructive, "Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did," Gen. 6:22.  What motivated this incredible obedience that led Noah to prepare an ark for the salvation of his household?  Don't cheat and look above.  Noah, was "moved by godly fear".  There is little doubt that busy bodies and naysayers cajoled Noah daily and you or I may have cowered, in fear for our lives from men.  We may have stopped our building altogether and God would have come up with another plan for humanity.  Yet Noah feared God and when you fear God, who is man?  "If God is for us, who can stand against us!"  It seems silly and sinful to say salacious things seeking some simpletons sanction.  Stand firmly in the fear of God and bridle your tongue and speak grace into the conversation.  Salt the occasion with the sweet words of truth. 
    Finally, whom we fear is whom we serve, let's end with this exhortation, "Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the god's which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt.  Serve the Lord!  And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the Rive, or the gods of the Amorites, whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," Joshua 24:14-15.  Beloved, learn, love and live Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Don't Be Dumb, Fear God!

     "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.  His praise endures forever," Psalm 111:10.
     Being that the name of this blog is taken from Deuteronomy 6 and that Holy week is now over, I think it would be a good idea to study, for a few posts at least, the background and text from which this blog is anchored upon.  The book of Deuteronomy are Mose's sermons of the law and his instructions to the Hebrews concerning their lives and entrance into the Promised Land.  Deuteronomy, in the Hebrew, means, "These are the words".  In the immediate context of Deuteronomy 6, we have Moses restating the Ten Commandments, preparing the Hebrews hearts for entrance into the Holy Land.
     What really impresses me about Deuteronomy 6 is the repetition of, "fear the Lord".  Three separate times, verses 2, 13 and 24, we are admonished to "fear the Lord".  In fact, God commends the Hebrew people in chapter 5 for fearing Him and keeping His law and He exhorts them to continue in this fear(and obedience) that, "it might be well with them and their children forever!"  You'll also notice that the fear of the Lord brackets the shema(Deut. 6:4), the greatest commandment(v. 5) and the command upon which this blog is named.  In fact, the fear of God brackets the whole Bible, from Genesis 42 to Revelation 19.  It is my contention that the fear of the Lord is a precursor to the word "faith" that we are so familiar with in the New Testament.  Faith is used only twice in the Old Testament while the fear of the Lord is common place.  Even so, the New Testament hardly abandons using the phrase.  In fact, we read in Acts 9:31, that the early churches were, "walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit...".  There seems to be a close parallel in the New Testament between the fear of the Lord and faith and it seems this is an honest understanding of the same truth in the Old Testament.
    "Well, so what you say, big whup!  Are you saying you want me to walk around whimpering and cowering all day in the fear of the Lord."  Obviously not!  But scripture is so saturated with this phrase, from beginning to end, that it is important to understand it.  Even more, our modern, Americanized Christianity has seemingly blacklisted the mention of the fear of the Lord.  When we do encounter this phrase, people often soft sell it by saying that fear actually means respect and honor, God certainly does not want us to fear Him in its literal sense!  Well, tell that to Ananias and his wife Sapphira and the earliest church!  The Holman dictionary explains, "Confining the believers attitude toward God to "reverence" or "awe" rather than "fear" may lose sight of the divine character that compel obedience-His perfect holiness and righteousness and His unlimited power and knowledge...To fear God is to have allegiance to Him and consequently to His instructions, thus affecting one's values, convictions and behavior."  John MacArthur puts it rather succinctly, "The fear of the Lord is a state of mind in which one's own attitudes, will, feelings, deeds and goals are exchanged for God's."
This is precisely what the Hebrews in Moses day understood, and God applauded them for and what we need today!  I whimper when I fully consider God's grace exactly because I understand how awesome He is!  So I guess we should whimper when necessary but with the understanding that "If God is for us, who can stand against us."  Precisely because we are born again, we should fear Him.  We know from what we have been saved and what his might hand can do!
     Finally, what God is really telling the Hebrews through Moses is that if they want to be wise and intelligent, fear Him!  We are to fear Him and keep His commandments.  To keep His commandments we must learn them and teach them to our children. Our fear of the Lord will drive us to learn it more earnestly, to love more deeply and to live it more perfectly! We are to teach them to our children morning, noon and night.  We are to teach them at home, in church and in the world.  We are to teach them while we are eating, working and playing.  We need to teach them while they are awake and it should be the last thing they hear before their head hits the pillow!  I can only guess that David the Psalmist learned this from his father Jesse and then Solomon repeated this wisdom in Proverbs.  I leave you with this question: have you feared God today or have you been dumb?

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Tale of Two Spokesman: Good Friday vs. Earth Day

     "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him," 2Cor. 5:21.

     We heard much in the media about earth day Friday yet we know the real importance of this day is that it is the day we remember how Christ was crucified for no good reason.  Lets compare the main protagonist of that first Good Friday, Jesus Christ, with the main protagonist of the first earth day, Ira Einhorn.
1. Jesus Christ- "He opened not His mouth," Is. 53:7-  Ira Einhorn- Was the master of ceremonies.
2. Jesus - "But He was wounded for our transgressions," Is. 53:4, -Ira-Murdered his girlfriend for her "sin".
3. Jesus- "And by His stripes we are healed," Is. 53:5- Ira-He ran into exile, multiplying the pain of his murder.
4. Jesus-"And he laid Him in a tomb," Mk. 15:46-Ira-stuck his girlfriends corpse in a closet for over a year.
5. Jesus-"He is risen," Mk. 16:6-Ira-he is finally in prison for the murder of his girlfriend and hopefully, she will be resurrected.
     Today provides a perfect illustration of God's plans and mans folly.  Jesus gave himself over to the brutal Romans and the conniving Sanhedrin willingly.  He faced His destiny and we know from Hebrews 12:2, that this reality even brought Him joy!  Meanwhile, Ira Einhorn would not even face a jury of his peers and ran to Europe for over twenty years.  The great evil done to Jesus, the most heinous evil ever committed, was done so that "we might become the righteousness of God in Him."  It was done to buy our redemption and satisfy God's righteous wrath against sin and evil, once and for all.  Then if we believe and trust in Christ's sacrifice for our sin we are adopted into the family of God, reconciled to Him and "we become the righteousness of God in Him."  How utterly stunning and amazing this is!Wow, Wow, Wow!  Hallelujah!  Then we are to spread this incredible message of God's grace and salvation throughout the whole world!  What a privilege!  How exalted, momentous and unbelievable this is.  Now, contrast this with Paul Ehrlich, one of earth day's founders.  He taught that man was "a cancer" that needed to be removed from the earth.  He taught that man's sin was not against God's law but against nature.  Earth day, make no bones about it, is rank paganism and seeks to exalt the created/creature over the Creator.  Our sin against nature demands our damnation and extermination.  Ehrlich and the progenitors of earth day seek our destruction and plan our demise.  Ehrlich believes that drastic measures need to be taken to defuse our "population bomb".  Once again, balance this enviroapocylism with the truth of the Gospel.  "For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes(trusts) in Him, shall never perish but have everlasting life," John 3:16. 
God Bless you and learn, love and live the glorious Gospel of Christ!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Irreverent Relevance

     "Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves," Mark 11:15.
     This is a day and age in which those who profess to profess the Gospel use any and every means to be "relevant".  Some play AC/DC and their unedited version of Highway to Hell and that is more spiritual than what many others peddle in order to make the Gospel "relevant".  One mailing I recently saw was a church peddling a sermon series on sex.  It was graphic.  On the opposite side of the mailing was an invitation to an Easter egg hunt for children!  This is all done, supposedly, to fulfill what Paul said, "being all things to all people" paraphrase.  Yet, did Paul promote these particular types of worship?  Well, if you read anything he wrote, Paul could certainly(to put it lightly) rebuke those who worship flippantly and irreverently.
    Another church(this is a widespread trend) was in the news for their Easter service.  They are having a raffle for first time guests with a hefty monetary reward.  This certainly is "relevant".  This is a marketing technique of the world.  Who hasn't seen this done before?  Now, let's get back to the text we began with.  Imagine Jesus walking into this church.  Verse 17 of that passage tells us, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations?  But you have made it a den of thieves."  The only prayer I can imagine that visitors will have in this Raffle House church is "Show me the money!"  This church is exchanging the Gospel message for the promise of material gain.  Jesus taught that we are to be a light that attracts repentant sinners not a bingo hall that allows the unrepentant to revel in their covetousness while allowing them to have a veneer of holiness since they are practicing their sin in a "church".
    How much did Jesus consider the issue of "relevance" before tossing out the moneychangers?  How "relevant" did those unrepentant moneychangers consider Jesus?  What about the Sadducees?  What was Jesus' relevant reply to them as He approached Jerusalem on Holy week?  He called them ignorant and powerless, Mark 12:24.  How relevant was He to the Pharisees?  His response to their catholic like adherence to unbiblical traditions was to call them a "brood of vipers", "whitewashed tombs...full of dead men's bones".  Certainly, Jesus could have been "relevant" to all of these groups of people.  The problem of being "relevant" to people is that you have to spend so much time being irrelevant to God.  You have to immerse yourself in silly rituals(tv, ungodly music, etc.) and pointless activities that have no bearing on the Gospel.  Here in Nebraska, in order to be relevant, someone has to devote 5-8 hours every Saturday in the fall to football.  People are scorned in Huskerland if they even consider planning a wedding on a Saturday during football season.  How dare they impinge on the football gods!  There is even talk within my convention of starting a Husker Church!  I can imagine the uproar in Lincoln if revival and awakening spread through the city and people stopped worshiping at the altar of the pigedermis.  The leaders of the revival would be hauled off to the middle of Memorial stadium and tens of thousands Husker congregants would chant for hours, "Great are the Huskers of Nebraska", Acts 19:21-41.  Oh what a glorious uproar that would be!  Can you imagine that in your town?  The trinket shops would close down and the economy would certainly take a hit.  Can your town survive a revival?  It's not good for business, but oh so sweet for the soul. 
    Ultimately, our relevance is only important insofar as we are relevant to the Lord.  Let me leave you with one closing question.  Think about this statement that so many today make, "I strive to make Christ relevant in the world today."  Read that again.  How does that strike you?  This Holy week, strive to be relevant to Christ.  Learn, love and live the Gospel.
God Bless,

Sunday, April 17, 2011

These Words which I command you!

  Hello and God bless you!  Welcome to a new blog.  Yes, another blog, just what we needed!  I assure you that I am the least of all bloggers yet I've felt a burden to share the word of God as it pertains to our lives in every way.  There are great websites and blogs that are similar to this one. What I often discover though when I read articles and blogs concerning how to apply the word of God to all our lives(often called worldview) is that often the word of God itself is missing!  Now, before I go ahead and do the very thing I'm critiquing, let me lay upon you the word of God. 
     "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
     And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates," Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
      These words were placed in bold so you know from whence I pulled the name of this blog.  As a former pastor and teacher, I've tried my best to study deeply from God's word yet that, in and of itself, that can be an idol that keeps me from doing the will of God.  What God is telling us here, through Moses, is that His word is preeminent.  It is central to our understanding of the world.  When the world tells me that a particular sin is good, not bad, I open up the lens of God's word and look to find the answer.  When a Muslim tells me that Christ did not die and is not God, I turn to my Bible and study it.  When a pagan tells me that CO2 is a pollutant, I turn to Genesis 1 and revel in God's perfect creation and then even more in His crowning achievement, humanity.  We were created to exhale CO2 and God said it was very good.  That settles it for me.
     I intend to write a post on Monday's, Thursdays and Saturday's.  Hopefully this post has peaked your interest.  I will touch on politics, the Church(especially), the family, religions of the world and anything else scripture speaks to as it is relevant to our lives.  I will seek to always use scripture in place of my word or others and I implore you to hold me accountable on this so it just doesn't turn into another biblical worldview blog with very little Bible or a blog as told through the Americanized evangelicalism which often times is based on our own peculiar  views of politics and church through the prism of the American dream.

God Bless you all,