Archive for September, 2008

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:2-5


A very cool thing just happened. During a time of fellowship this morning, we found ourselves discussing and then praying over a crisis that had developed inside the church involving a particular family. As we gingerly approached the subject matter, we were very careful not to react to the situation in our flesh or allow ourselves to be guided by our emotions. As we processed what we were receiving from the Lord, someone hit us with a snowball.

What if…

Have you ever played the ‘what if’ game? In our situation this morning we did. As we approached the problem we began to makeup scenarios in our heads, “What if we do this thing and others come along and need similar help? As the word gets out we will be inundated with cries for help!”

To Embrace or Dismiss the Snowball

Do we embrace the (snowball) vision or do we dismiss the vision…That is the question? The answer to both questions is, “Yes!”

First we are to dismiss it. Why? Because when we create scenarios in our heads that are a result of what may or may not happen, inevitably they become the stumbling blocks that prevent us from doing any good thing. The end result is that we know (from God) what it is we are supposed to do, but fear prevents us from doing it. This exactly what James was referring to when he penned these words in James 1:22:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

James prefaced that remark by telling us we need to remove all the ‘junk’ that would interfere with our being obedient to that which God has taught us. One of our biggest pitfalls as Christians is ‘knowing’ God’s word sufficiently, and falsely believing that knowing it is sufficient.

After having removed the obstacle, we are then free to embrace it. As it happened the morning, as a result of a good deed, we envisioned droves of people lining up for provision. While it was correct to dismiss it as the obstacle that it was, it is also right for us to embrace it as ‘possibly’ God’s bigger picture for the church.

A Big ‘Ouch’ Moment

The irony is that the pastor of this church had been given a vision years ago of people ‘lining up at the doors of the church’ and ultimately the pews being filled to overflowing with most (if not all) accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I confess that when he first shared this vision, in my mind’s eye I saw a bunch of middle-class, working stiffs marching into the pews. Right now I see the make-up of this assembly quite differently.

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place, ” and say to the poor man, “You stand there, ” or, “Sit here at my footstool, ” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? James 2:1-5

Don’t Fear the Snowball

As a result, obedience ends up being a catalyst to Kingdom building. The Bible is quite clear; we are to give to everyone who asks. In so doing we should not allow the vision of an avalanche freeze us in our tracks-of-obedience to the request. However, that same vision provides for us an opportunity to be consistent givers and in accordance to God’s will. So while it is true we are to give to everyone who asks, the Lord is giving us an opportunity to respond as Peter did in Acts 3:6,

“Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

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Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen (lift up) the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:11-13

Nothing New Here

When I read these two sentences from Hebrews 12, my initial reaction is typically, “I know; can we move on now?” I know there is no joy in being disciplined, I know it is for my own good, I know that I am broken, and I know therefore I need to ‘dry up’ and quit my whining. I know.

Apparently I don’t know, because if I did, I would not be so eager to get through this passage of scripture. The fact that I am displeased that the Lord has me camped-out in this spot merely proves my point. This present chastening is un-joyful and as a result, the Lord has hit me with a ‘Proverb Bomb.’ Please pardon this Proverbial-paraphrase of these eight rebuke-filled axioms:

Turn at my rebuke…I will pour out my spirit on you (and) make my words known to you…Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you…a scoffer does not listen to rebuke…Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction…he who regards a rebuke will be honored…he who heeds rebuke gets understanding…Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool….rebuke is better than love carefully concealed….rebuke give wisdom

Ok, Ok…

Actually, I am not as bad (in this area) as I used to be. I have allowed the Lord to imprint upon my heart the words of James 1:2, Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, ” but I also realize that I must return to this place often in case I begin to believe that I have it all figured out and that somehow my healing is complete.

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By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son… Hebrews 11:17

Bible Error?

By faith we are told, that Abraham attempted to offer his ‘only son’ as a sacrifice to God. The skeptic and naysayer say pridefully, “See, the Bible is in error—everyone knows that Abraham’s first son was Ishmael and Isaac was his second.”

We who believe know better, for Ishmael was the result of a sinful work of Abraham’s flesh in an attempt to help out God by fathering a child through Hagar, his wife Sarah’s servant. The Genesis account of that story reminds us that God does not need our help and this account in Hebrews reminds us that God does not rub our noses in the messes we tend to make.

“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 8:12

We Know It Is True

Consider the Hebrews ‘Hall of Faith’ and all the names listed therein. From our Old Testament lessons we recall the unrighteousness, the sins, and the lawless deeds of these men and women, but in Hebrews 11 God does not remember. Not one sin is mentioned; not Abraham’s, not Samson’s, and not even David’s. The only thing that God recollects is their obedience by and through their faith.

What is the lesson for us? It is time to forget what God has already forgotten and is it time to remember that whatever we do outside of faith is of no eternal value.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him… Hebrews 11:6a

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By faith Abraham obeyed…And he went out, not knowing where he was going…he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Hebrews 11:8 + 10
My Bad Habit

I have developed a terrible practice: God directs me to do something and I respond, “Absolutely Lord, I will do anything you want me to do. Lead me to the open door and I’ll walk on through.”  What I had failed to see is that God’s leading is the open door. My failure to initiate the first step is actually a failure to utilize the faith that He has already provided.

I have discovered that God very rarely presents step number two until I have completed step number one. As simple and as obvious as that might sound, it is precisely the reason we find so many God-authorized projects stall before they start. Suddenly, being spiritually-grounded takes on new meaning.

Sticking Your Foot in the Door

And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” Joshua 3:13

What a wonderful illustration. God effectively says, “Stick your foot in the water, then I’ll show you the next step.”

Had it been me (instead of Joshua), I probably would still be standing on the bank of the Jordon debating with the Lord, “No, you first.”

Near Sighted

I think part of the problem (for me) is that my focus is short-sighted. While I am often attentive to the goal before me, I noted that Abraham’s goal was not to settle in the Promised Land, but to go all the way to Heaven, “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

Going All the Way

The good news is that if I never get any better (as a Christian), my salvation is secure. Praise be to God! But having said that, the Lord wants to make me better and He will take me as far as I am willing to go. How far I go is entirely up to me—I can stand on the shore and wait for God to part the waters, or I can take that first step trusting that He who has brought me to the shore will see me safely across.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

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For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:13-14
Covering vs. Cleansing

Growing up, I was not a very good driver. By the time I was 22 years of age, I had accumulated 27 points on my driver’s license and my license had been suspended 4 times. I remember the varying emotional sensations that go along with the getting caught, the receiving of the summons, the going to court, the paying of the fine, and the PST (the post-experience trauma) that always ensued.

It’s a toss-up, but probably the worst part was the PST. It begins with elation. “Whoopee, ” my mind would shout, “it is over!” But it wasn’t over. After a moment or two of euphoria, fear would kick in. And as I would get behind the wheel of my car, or more accurately hop on my Honda 750 motorcycle, I’d begin to wonder, “How soon before I mess up and get caught again.” My sin had been covered, but for how long?

It kind of reminds me of the Hebrews verse above. The Jews were atoning for their sins once a year, knowing that the covering was only good for 365 days. They likely spent the entire year searching for a spotless lamp to sacrifice, only to have to do it year after year.

Enter Jesus

I love the text, and honestly, before today I never noticed it. It says that Jesus, our ultimate and final sacrifice, cleanses our consciences. What does that mean? No more PST for one. No more worrying about if I am going to mess up, because I know I am going to. The conscience-cleansing is a result of the peace Christ has afforded me, through His righteousness, having paid the price, and not just for the sins I committed way back when, but the sins I have yet to commit. Oh yea, and the cost to you…zilch.

In light of this truth, why would anyone opt to sweep the dirt under the carpet, when in Jesus we have cleansing everlasting?

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Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. Hebrews 6:1-2
Elementary Principles

The most basic of Christian truths is found within the text of John 3:16. Coupled with the understanding that there is a sin-filled chasm between us and the Father and Jesus is the only bridge across, and we are left with the elementary principles to which every believer subscribes; the ABC’s of our faith.

However, the writer of Hebrews would also remind us that there are six (6) additional tenets that are basic and foundational to our faith, and as believers, we should possess an acute familiarity with them as well.

Do You Know Them

That is not an indictment, but an invitation. Honestly, I am not as familiar with them as I should be, so my re-listing of them here selfishly serves as a personal review and tutorial. In the order they are recorded in the Bible, the topics are: repentance from dead works, faith toward God, doctrine of baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Repentance from Dead Works

This is not pertaining to a turning away from our sin and a turning towards Jesus Christ. This repentance is the rejecting of the false notion that we can somehow earn our salvation. The basic element of this tenet is that we cannot purchase what Christ has already bought.

Faith Toward God

It is all about God. Everything good was created by Him and for His good pleasure. A faith toward God continually recognizes this truth and endeavors to put Christ Jesus first in every aspect of our lives.

Doctrine of Baptisms

The first thing we notice is the ‘S’; there is more than one baptism. In addition to water baptism which symbolizes our death and resurrection, there are also baptisms of the Holy Spirit, into the Body of Christ, of suffering, and of fire.

Laying on of Hands

This speaks of, but is not limited to the discovery of God-given gifts for the purpose of ministry and the empowering of individuals to move forward in service. I further believe it lends it self to both encouragement and judgment from one brother or sister towards another.

Resurrection of the Dead

We need to know the basics of end-times theology. If you are one who believes in a pre-tribulation rapture, you might ask why we need to know this. The reason is for the sake of others, the fear of the Lord, after all is the beginning of wisdom. If you are a mid-trib, or post-trib subscriber, then the ‘need to know’ is much more relevant to you.

Eternal Judgment

Speaking of the fear of the Lord…

Actually, there are two very basic things every Christian needs to know: believers are not judged for sins, unbelievers are; the sins of the Christian have been cleansed by the blood of Christ. However, the works of the Christian will be judged by fire. One day every believer will stand before Jesus and He will interpret what it is we have done with the time, talent, and treasure He has provided us.

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“The Lord God has given Me The tongue of the learned, That I should know how to speak A word in season to him who is weary. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear To hear as the learned. The Lord God has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away.” Isaiah 50:4-5

Occasionally, someone lays a, “You have a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, ” rap on me. I am here to tell you that, “*I feel your pain, ” (*evoking my best, albeit weak Bill Clinton impression). Actually what I desire to do is to resolve the issue once (and prayerfully) for all.


The best place to start is to tell you where my blogs come from. They are, for the most part, a consequence of my regular Bible study. Beginning in prayer, I explore God’s Word (typically a chapter-a-day) and as a result, there is normally one particular thing that leaps out and impacts my spirit. It is generally that ‘one thing’ I expound upon in the blog.


Reinforcement is essentially the reason why I write what I write. The Lord shares a yummy morsel of His heart with me and re-recording it in a blog serves to reinforce that lesson in my heart. So in all honesty what you see in print is not for you primarily, but for me. But alas, would it not be selfish to keep these goodies to myself!


The passage I chose from Isaiah (above) speaks of Jesus Christ. It reminds us that Jesus is the scholarly One; it is He who gives us breath each day; it is He who opens our ears and hardens not our hearts, and therefore it is He who we must express our fidelity. The verse is also a ray of Christ’s light we are to mirror.


Whenever. We are not perfect, Jesus is. When His light reflects from us, it is but one shaft of light prism-ly refracted from His eternal glory. You might say it is the difference between receiving a static shock and taking the entire electrical impact of a nuclear generator all at once. Nevertheless, it is Good News and it is not to be hoarded.


Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. Psalm 37:4-5

‘How’ speaks to style and I suppose one could say that my style reflects the desire of my heart—I enjoy doing what I do. I consider myself blessed beyond measure. God has afforded me a craving, an opportunity, and ability, and to ignore those openings is to ignore God. While I feel absolutely no need to apologize for what I do, I sometimes see a need to explain the reasons behind what it is I do.

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For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works”; and again in this place: “They shall not enter My rest.” Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today, ” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. Hebrews 4:4-9

The writer of the Book of Hebrews is making an appeal to Jewish Christians (or Christian Jews, if you prefer), the purpose of which is to point them back to Christ Jesus and away from the traps of legalism and traditionalism. ‘Religious rituals, ’ he might say, ‘are hindrances to faith and diminish what Jesus did on the cross.’ Their purpose is defined in their role as pictures and types of the future glory of Jesus and since Jesus is their fulfillment, the faithful should have little need for them.

Practically speaking, imagine if your spouse went away for a long time, but in their absence they send you photographs and letters. Understandably, you might deeply cherish these mementos. The day arrives when your loved-one walks through the door, arms open wide. But instead of greeting him or her at the door, you turn towards the picture on the mantle and lavish it with your affections. That certainly would be a silly response–no one drools over the menu once the steak arrives.

The True Sabbath

The Sabbath, as we know is a day of rest first ordained by God in Genesis. The writer of Hebrews makes this clear. He also makes it clear that God ordained that the Promised Land also be a place of rest. But the biggest case this writer makes is that God, in the Old Testament, promises a future rest; a rest that was perpetual and best of all free. That rest is Jesus Christ.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us… Titus 3:5a

In that light, the Sabbath day of rest and the Promised Land of rest were really just shadows of the continuous rest we have in Jesus. Our respite was never meant to be a vacation captured in a day off, or a location linked to a Promised Land, but a relation to a living Savior. Unending rest is not realized in a custom, or in Canaan, but in Christ.

The Message of Hebrews

The Bible tells us the faithful in Christ are free to do whatever we want. The message of Hebrews is a reminder to all that traditions can be a snare that hinders our walk with Jesus. As Christ enters in, let us never be found worshipping His shadow.

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Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels… Colossians 2:1aFalse Doctrines

Most of us are keenly aware that there are religions that erroneously teach Jesus is not God. But did you know that there are some who instruct that Jesus is a created being; an angel, the brother of Michael the Archangel? And yet another that espouses Jesus is the brother of the fallen angel Lucifer? And that these religions consider themselves to be Christian?

If Jesus Were an Angel

Jesus is not a created being, nor is He an angel, but if He were, how could these false religions justify worshipping Him when we see in the Colossians text (above) we are not to worship angels? That verse alone should send a clear signal that their doctrine is severely flawed, but if it does not, then the first chapter of Hebrews should.

God Says…

All we need do is examine closely what God says about His Son Jesus and what He says about angels. God refers to Jesus as the heir of all things, the maker of all things, and the upholder of all things. Oh yes, and let us not dismiss this little gem:

And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.” But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. Hebrews 1:7-8

Honestly, I never saw this before today. God calls Jesus God. Is that not incredible? To those false religions who would say Jesus is not Lord, I fail to see how you can get around this passage. God the Father, says of His Son Jesus, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”

In the previous verse, God the Father declares, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

Again, in the context of our opening verse from Colossians, we are not to worship angels; however, they (the angels) are to worship Jesus. Therefore, Jesus is no angel.

Putting the Argument to Bed

Do you not know that we shall judge angels? 1 Corinthians 6:3

I do not understand the full implications of this verse–it boggles my mind actually, but nevertheless, we (the saints) will be in a position to judge the angels. If Jesus were (and again, He is not) the angelic brother of Michael (or Lucifer), this means we would be judging Him as well. Hopefully we all see the outrageousness and absurdity of that notion.

Who Being the Brightness of His Glory

Hebrews also reminds us that Jesus is the light. In heaven, there is no sun that illuminates, only the eternal brightness of His glory. Furthermore we are to be reflectors of His light. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, we are to reflect the light of His Son, Jesus. Of what worth is a timid mirror?

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I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back. Philemon 1:10-11An Unusual Story

The Book of Philemon is limited to a single chapter and is in essence a personal letter from Paul, to his friend Philemon, regarding Philemon’s slave Onesimus. We do not have the entire account, but it appears Onesimus stole from his master (Philemon) and then fled, only to be arrested. During this period of incarceration, Paul (under house arrest himself) was able to lead Onesimus into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s Incredible

It is only mildly incredible that Paul writes this appeal to Philemon (speaking up in defense of a slave was to say the least, an uncommon occurrence). What is hugely incredible is that Onesimus is willingly returning to his master Philemon to face whatever consequences he might mete out. While it is true Paul is asking for leniency on his behalf, Onesimus is going back without any guarantees.

Our Application

What I am about to write is convicting, but nevertheless, I must write it: there are far too many Christians (myself included) who have not made amends to those we have slighted before we were saved. I believe that this personal letter between Paul and Philemon was included in our New Testament so that we might know (and remember), that although we are cleansed by the blood of Christ, there are still consequences for our actions-past that must be dealt with. I have tackled perhaps 98% of my historical issues, but I confess that there are a small handful I have ignored through the years.

Lord, help me make the ‘appropriate’ amends.”

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