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Archive for April, 2011

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish. Psalm 1

I typically do my Bible study in front of the computer. I cut and paste the text (NKJV) I am going to study into a word document, pull up a couple Bible resource sites (usually BlueLetterBible.org and BibleStudyTools.com), log onto my favorite online Bible study (SearchLight with Jon Courson), and then dive right in. With this method I have discovered that I can pause the study at any given point to further investigate or better document what is being shared by the Holy Spirit by way of the teacher. What should take about one hour (if I merely listen to the teaching), more often than not, takes two to three. I take pleasure in taking a key component from the session and sharing it in a blog. That might add another two hours. Needless to say, this is time well spent. Bible study is not something I have to do; it’s something that I get to do. I thoroughly enjoy it because the Lord blesses me in the process.

Today was different. My Bible study lasted about eight minutes.

The sun was shining and I thought it would be nice to just grab my Bible and go sit out on the deck. I soon found that while the rays were glorious, they were too bright to read by. I suppose I could have turned my chair so the light came over my shoulder, but I was way too comfy to do that. So I closed my squints and began to pray, resting the Bible on my warm belly.

I began to prayerfully replay some of the events of the last few days before the Lord. In no less than three conversations I had alienated and/or otherwise annoyed the people I was chatting with, despite the fact I was hyper-vigilant to the doctrine of tolerance; i.e., the right for others to say and/or believe whatever it is they want. And for the most part they tolerated me and my faith in Jesus Christ, but nevertheless, they were either angered or appalled by my Biblical views. God reminded me that I shouldn’t take it personally..

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18-19

That helped.

In one of these discussions I cited that we, as per God’s word, should avoid interacting with nonbelievers as they engage in their sinful activities. That raised the ire of one disputant who quickly turned my words around so as to say I was suggesting sinners should be avoided at all costs. That notion would of course be anti-biblical. The exchange left me exasperated. He ended the dialogue soon after. Was my Biblical interpretation correct or was I just playing the legalist? What happened next was pretty cool.

“Father,” I prayed, “I need a verse that will let me know that I am on the right (or wrong) path.”

God spoke to my heart. “Open your Bible,” He said.

“Father,” I objected, “I was just taught last night that randomly opening our Bibles as a technique to studying the Word is not the best method.”

God continued, “Open it to where the book mark is.”

So I did and a marker fell out in Numbers. “Not that book mark,” He said, “keep going.”

I chuckled to myself, closed and opened the Bible again, and it opened to where a friend’s business card marked the last page of Job. “Oh no,” I thought, “not Job!”

“The other page,” He said.

Oh, Psalm One! Much better! As I began to read I felt a smile come across my sun-taunted face.

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, But are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish. Psalm 1

“Thanks Father,” was about all I could say. My Bible study was over.


These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at my home church, Calvary Chapel Coastlands

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It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in princes. Psalm 118:9

Had a little chat this morning with a lady about our religious differences—it was polite and respectful, but it still had that Christians-aren’t-tolerant-and-everyone-else-in-the-world-is’ cloud hanging over it. That attitude of course comes with the territory and I’m at peace about it. After all, I consider myself an alien—why should I take up a dispute regarding the planet’s collective mindset. It is what it is and there are more important things to be concerned about…like salvation.

We danced around the tolerance issue a little more, but then I asked a question that ended our conversation.

“By whose authority do you speak?”

She asked what I meant.

I told her that in our zeal for our respective religious positions, we were both guilty of lovingly throwing around language that was absolute. I used one of her phrases, “pluralism in religious faith is necessary,” as an example. I pointed out that the use of the word ‘necessary’ was exclusionary as it implied that her remark was absolutely correct and my remark was not. For the record I wasn’t objecting to her remark or even her right to say it.

To clarify I told her that God was my authority. Oh not that God had specifically ordained me to say the things that I was saying, but rather that the words were His, that they’re found in the Holy Bible, and I was merely repeating them (or paraphrasing them as it were). In other words, what I was sharing was not a personal philosophy, tradition, or contemplation.

After my explanation, the conversation ceased and I have not heard from her since. Why? I suspect she realized that her authority was her own and that she had been sharing from her heart what she believed and what was relevant to her–She had in fact created for herself a religion that best suited her needs. The Book of Romans describes her behavior:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man–and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Romans 1:18-23

Look around. God is obvious and to deny Him is to declare that you are wiser than Him. Currently there are over four billion people roaming this planet that do just that—they proclaim supreme authority over themselves. Professing to be wise, four billion people are playing god while simultaneously playing the fool. I spoke to one of them today.

I don’t say that mockingly or even condemningly—I pray that this lady will come to understand that there is only One Authority, not billions and that she would wisely submit herself to Him. Honestly, how can we make sense of this world or our lives when there are billions of us who believe that we know better than God? Our God is not a God of confusion and probably the main reason why there is only one of Him.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Matthew 28:18


These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at my home church, Calvary Chapel Coastlands

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Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20

Recently I had a discussion with a person and was able to share the Good News. Much to my delight she agreed to attend church the following Sunday with me and my family where the pastor confirmed and elaborated upon many of the things we had previously discussed. The pastor gave the invitation to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior, but she did not respond to the offer. Later on I asked her why.

One of her reasons was, “Because I am already a good person.”

“No you’re not,” I wanted to say, “you’re a rotten person,” but I bit my tongue. As true as it is, there was no love to be found in that response.

The fact of the matter is that we spent a lot of time talking about the very false doctrine of universalism (her other issue) and never really brought the conversation back around to her (our) perceived goodness.

There is none who does good, no, not one. Romans 3:12b

How to Tell a Nonbeliever That They Are No Good

It’s hard to tell someone they are no good and sound loving at the same time. You can say, “I love you,” all you want, but all they’re going to hear is that you just insulted them. From where they stand, they (and perhaps the world) see themselves as good people heading in the right direction. We on the other hand see them lost and heading in the wrong direction. What’s needed here is a road sign. What will a road sign do? Two things actually—it tells you where you are and it tells you the direction you need to go. The Law is that road sign.

You can easily show a nonbeliever the Ten Commandments and demonstrate how they have broken every single one. From there it is easy to point out that no one can be justified by the deeds of the law (Romans 3:20) because no one aside from Jesus has ever been able to keep the Law. So what’s the Law’s purpose? To show you where you are (in sin) and to point you in the direction you need to go (to Jesus). It really is just that simple.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Here’s the solution. Say, “Jesus, I was just at the road sign and it showed me I was a lost sinner. Thankfully, it pointed me in Your direction. Please cleanse me.” That’s all there is to it.

Remember, the Law was written on tablets of stone, not bars of soap–it cannot clean you.


 

These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at my home church, Calvary Chapel Coastlands

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Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

My pastor calls it night watch; those times you can’t sleep because the Lord has some stuff He’d like you to do. Sometimes its prayer time; i.e., allowing the Father to bring to mind certain folks and situations, and other times its just classroom victuals. Last night it was a little of both. I was up so long last night I concluded I’d surely be exhausted come morning, but amazingly, I was up earlier than usual feeling completely rested. Was it all a dream? I assure you it was not.

Help Me to Remember

I must have said that fifty times as He spoke to my heart. Several times I wanted to get up and jot things down, but I determined I could not interrupt what the Father was doing. The difficulty for me this morning was twofold: trying to recall it all (so it might make sense to the reader) and omitting personalities so as to not adulate or vilify anyone.

The gist of His impartation centered upon the doctrine of reverence. What God pointed out to me is that I rarely revere Him. Oh, I say that I do, but my actions don’t always acquiesce with my claims. It’s not that my deeds are evil necessarily, but that they do not consistently reflect a reverent attitude towards God. In other words, if I truly feared God, would I be saying the things I say and doing the things I do? God is watching and He is listening and my tendency (frequently) is to behave as if He was my high school, stoner buddy rather then the Creator of the Universe.

How it Started

This exchange with God began as I recounted five individuals that I thought I needed to pray for and forgive. I thought I needed to forgive them because I thought that they had somehow wronged me. As I poured over each case before the Lord, He led me to recognize that my legal positions were flawed. It wasn’t that these folks were innocent of the charges I levied against them, but rather the evidence to support the allegations was circumstantial at best. Are they guilty? God didn’t say. He didn’t say because their guilt or innocence was not the issue; of issue was the ‘whole duty’ of a Christian man in the light of whatever his circumstances.

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Romans 13:1

“Under the legal system I have placed you,” God was saying to me, “is not every man considered innocent until his guilt is proven?”

“Yes.”

God was telling me that because I felt I had to forgive them I had already determined they were guilty of something. The reality is that in each situation the evidence did not support my accusation. “That,” He added, “is not a ‘God Revering Response.’”

It was beginning to come together. It’s not about how I’ve been responding to others, it’s about how I have been responding before You! So simple, yet it so profound—my response in any given situation is but an opportunity to revere God. It’s never been a matter of overlooking someone else’s behavior, but a matter of demonstrating godly reverent behavior at every chance I am given. If I fear Him, in the best biblical sense, my attitude, my actions, my responses will reflect that reverence. It’s my whole duty to God! I knew this already, didn’t I?

Understand how freeing this is. Judicial bondage must give way to mercy because mercy is the spiritual byproduct of reverence to God. We don’t revere God to obtain mercy, but nevertheless mercy is the result. And God is pleased.

The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, In those who hope in His mercy. Psalm 147:11

Charles Haddon Spurgeon summarized the verse this way:

“While the bodily powers give no content to God, spiritual qualities are his delight. He cares most for those emotions which centre in Himself: the fear which he approves is fear of Him, and the hope which He accepts is hope in His mercy. It is a striking thought that God should not only be at peace with some kinds of men, but even find a solace and a joy in their company. Oh! The matchless condescension of the Lord, that His greatness should take pleasure in the insignificant creatures of his hand. Who are these favoured men in whom Jehovah takes pleasure? Some of them are the least in His family, who have never risen beyond hoping and fearing. Others of them are more fully developed, but still they exhibit a blended character composed of fear and hope: they fear God with holy awe and filial (befitting of a son or daughter) reverence, and they also hope for forgiveness and blessedness because of the divine mercy. As a father takes pleasure in his own children, so doth the Lord solace himself in his own beloved ones, whose marks of new birth are fear and hope.”

This is going to sound incredibly obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: any action that does not express reverence to God is irreverent and irreverence is always a sin. If I sense a need (for example) to forgive someone based solely on what I think to be true rather than the actual facts of the case, regardless if they are guilty or not, I am in sin. Keep in mind, forgiveness is merely the vehicle by which God brought me to this place. The issue is and always will be the whole duty of man as it pertains to revering God in everything we say or do. Do we fear God? Is our behavior an expression of that fear?

What’s your God revering response (GRR); what are some of the ways we routinely express irreverence?


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These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at my home church, Calvary Chapel Coastlands

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Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24

My sophomore year in high school I tried out for the track team. The first day of practice the team gathered and the coach asked me what event I’d like to run. I looked towards the starting-blocks that were being hammered into the ash track and said, “I dunno, the 100 yard dash maybe?”

To his credit, the coach held back his laughter and said, “Alright then, have a go at it.”

The other sprinters were not so kind.

We ran the race and I walked off the track shaking my head in disbelief at how incredibly slow I was. The coach encouraged me to run the mile. I would soon discover that I was slow at any distance. I never placed in any race I ran.

One race however I was determined to finish in the top three. Before the event I decided I would sprint the fourth and final lap, regardless if I might die in the attempt. An amazing thing happened; I sprinted past the fourth, third, second, and first place runners and took the lead on the back stretch. The cheers from my teammates were exhilarating. Then it happened—I ran out of gas. One by one, each of the competitors passed me. As hard as I could I tried to hold third place, but gave it up about 20 yards before the finish line. Several of my teammates pounded my back and said, “Great run,” and the like, but my eyes could only focus on the others who looked away shaking their collective heads with disgust.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

That race plagued me for years. It plagued me because a) it was never about running; it was about winning and b) I was running a race that I was never going to win. I was never going to win because I hated running.

When we practiced we could run off the school property. Want to know where I ran to? I ran to the boardwalk and grabbed a hotdog with sauerkraut. My heart wasn’t in running; therefore I was never going to win. I was off-course in more ways then one.

When I became a Christian, as you might imagine, 2 Timothy 4:7 did not sit well with me; finishing races well was not my strong suit. Then it occurred to me that the spiritual race Christians are in is not a competition. It’s not really even a race! We’re not vying against other believers to win an event. Our pace has no bearing whatsoever! If we wanted to, we could lie down and roll around the track.

Think about it, all that really matters is that we stay between the lines.

Consider the finish-line. It’s not a location, it’s a moment-in-time; it is the second you take your last breath anywhere on the track and your first breath in Heaven…almost simultaneously. In actuality, it doesn’t matter ‘where you were’ on the course, but ‘that you were’ on the course. It’s not a line we cross, it’s just the cross!

If you want to walk, walk. If you want to sprint, sprint. If you want to pause and throw-up, go right ahead. Just whatever you do, do not go off the course. The other runners are not there to beat you to the finish line (or least they shouldn’t be, but that’s a whole other blog), they are there to assist you and you’re there to assist them. Christ in us the hope of glory!

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1+2

Remember the thief on the cross; where was his finish line? I’ll tell you where it was. It was the second he stepped onto the track despite having never gotten out of the starting blocks. Looking unto Jesus he finished gloriously.


These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at my home church, Calvary Chapel Coastlands

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“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” Mark 4:3-8

To Whom is Jesus Talking?

The truth be told, Jesus was addressing a great multitude of people, but the wisdom of this parable was not for everyone–the message was primarily for those who had ears to hear. In other words, it was for His followers. To those who had not yet chosen to believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the parable would make little sense. The fact of the matter is that this parable is a preparatory dictate to His followers; step one as it were towards effective evangelism. Jesus is effectively instructing His disciples, “Before you can plant a single seed, you must prepare the soil.”

The Burden is on the Sower, Not the Soil

Soil by definition is stupid. It doesn’t know it must be prepared. It cannot recognize it must be tilled, turned-over, exposed, and weeded. Soil thinks it’s good just the way it is. Soil thinks it’s good that it shares with the birds; it points to an occasional sprout as positive development. Soil fails to see the big picture—soil does not see its purpose as God sees it.

We have established that soil is stupid, so it stands to reason that it cannot prepare itself; tilling the soil is the sower’s task. Knowing this we need to make a distinction between an earthly farmer and a Christian farmer. We need to do this because they use different tools. A conventional farmer uses a plow to till his soil, but the Christian uses the Law to prepare his. The Law is the only tool that will properly prepare the soil to receive the seed, the Word of God. If a seed fails on stony ground or amongst the thorns, whose fault is it? Is it the soils fault or the sower?

Jesus Loves You

Like it or not, the Good News starts with some bad news. And guess what; the bad news doesn’t start with, “Hey! You’re going to hell!” The bad news is found in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

There are two parts to the bad news: first, ‘all have sinned’ and second, our sin separates us from God. The question that remains is, “How can we establish that every person is a sinner?” The fact is proved by having each sinner gaze into the mirror of the Law—the Ten Commandments. Using the Law as our guide, we can quickly and effectively demonstrate to any person that they have broken every single commandment. By so doing, we have begun the mission of tilling the stony ground. Skip this step and there is a very good chance that the seeds we plant will be gobbled up, withered away, or choked out.

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. 2 Corinthians 7:9

The Psalmist said it this way, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul…” (Psalm 19:7). It’s my testimony that when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior for the first time, I did so because ‘my sower’ told me Jesus loved me and that my life would be better with Him in it—the Law was not utilized. And because the soil was not properly prepared; because I was not brought to a place of godly sorrow leading to sincere repentance, I quickly backslid. I’ll be blunt. If we don’t allow the Law to do its good work [when we share the Gospel], we run the risk of planting a crop of backsliders.

I wonder, “How many of you quickly backslid because your soil was not tilled with the Law before the seed was planted?” Jesus gave His followers this parable so we would not make this critical mistake. Having said that, God was gracious to me and sent me another sower in my back-slidden condition, but know this—as a sower, I have the opportunity to plant the seed correctly the first time. Scattering seed on ill prepared soil is poor stewardship. Break out the Law and let’s till the land!

What say you?


These ramblings are typically (but not always) a byproduct inspired by God through my personal Bible study at SearchLight with Pastor Jon Courson and with my pastor at my home church, Calvary Chapel Coastlands

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