Posts Tagged ‘Old Testament’

“(Jesus) has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah–not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Hebrews 8:6-12

Old vs New

The old covenant came with the stipulation that believers must do, while the new covenant’s only requirement is that believers must believe; that is, affirm by faith that Jesus finished the work on the cross. The writer of Hebrews truthfully pronounces that if the law of the first covenant were perfect, then there would be no need for the second covenant; i.e., Christ’s new covenant.  We Christians know that the Law (the foundation of the first covenant) is not perfect, for it is but a road sign signifying that we are sinners in need of a Savior.

We know this for (at least) three reasons.

First Reason

Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith…But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. Galatians 3:24-25

The Ten Commandments stand for all mankind to simply show us how far we all fall short, so while the law wasn’t perfect, it had its purpose (we could not have skipped it and jumped directly to Christ’s covenant). Believers know there has never been a person, nor will there ever be a person, save Jesus, who was able to keep the law. As Romans 3:23 reminds us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Therefore we are able to grasp the deficiency of the first covenant.

Reason Two

We know the first covenant is imperfect because we have Jeremiah (speaking prophetically) of the new covenant in the Old Testament (Hebrews 8:8-12 is a direct quote of the Jeremiah prophecy). This of course puts to rest any claim by the naysayer that the New Testament is a fraudulent text. As it turns out, the events and recordings of the NT confirm God’s Old Testament word. The NT also confirms something else that we will see later on.

 Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah–not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jeremiah 31:31-34

Reason Three

The third reason [why Christians know] is perhaps the coolest of them all. We see it in verse 10 of our opening Hebrews passage:

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts”

Christians know because God has put the knowledge in our minds and upon our hearts. What a merciful God! By His grace He puts everything into His children that He wants to get out of His children (only Christians are considered children of God). The Father knows our weakness, therefore He divinely imparts and implants, by means of His Grace, His commandments, which of course go beyond Mosaic Law. That doesn’t mean we will necessarily obey consistently, but we most certainly have been given the capacity to do so.

Christians Know!

The Apostle Paul recognized this miracle, for he proclaimed it to the church at Phillippi:

 “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Phil 2:13

It’s God who works in us!

Christians Know!

We see this concept in action in the early church. Obviously they did not have the New Testament teachings (as we do) to study and to pour over. They had the Holy Spirit and the Father’s impartation. They possessed, as Jeremiah had prophesied, God’s laws in their knowmind and written on their hearts. They needed not a teacher, for they all knew Him, from the least of them to the greatest of them, and they were obedient!

When the New Testament was finally recorded, it merely confirmed what these believers already knew. The same is true for us!  The doctrine of the New Testament serves to confirm, and if need be, correct. So, while it is proper to study the Bible (both New and Old Testaments), let us not become so caught up in the teaching that we lose sight of His speaking! Let the Bible confirm what the Holy Spirit is saying to each believer or let it correct us when we’re errant or disobedient. God’s spoken word and God’s written word work in conjunction with each other, therefore let us not forsake one for the other.

You Know!

“It is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the HolySpirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-14

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One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. (Proverbs 11:24-25)

God is Good

Most of the folks that frequent this blog are christians, so to them the notion that God is good is not a foreign concept. It’s reality. God is. And God is good. Anyway, all that is to say, Christ’s goodness was clearly evident today, which is not to say it always isn’t evident, but that today the Father provided a double portion and then some.

So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 

Today, the temperature reached a breezy 72 degrees and as I set out this morning it just felt like a Red Bank kind of day. So I loaded the guitar into the truck along with a handful of tracts, and a testimony or two and headed north. Why Red Bank? The answer is kind of silly actually — they have park benches on benches-070612their sidewalks. It seems the towns around my neck of the woods have removed most of them. Of course the boardwalk down by the beach is loaded, but’s it’s not quite boardwalk weather yet. Soon, but not yet.

I parked on the south-end (before the parking meters begin) and walked down to Starbucks and settled into a recently painted, but dry bench. I don’t frequent Starbucks (that’s a topic for another blog I probably won’t write), but they get a lot of foot traffic. Today’s agenda, for lack of a better word, called for foot traffic. I met a couple nice folks to chat with, but after about an hour or so a guy comes along with his dog and asks if I would please move. Apparently, I was in his spot. Drew was his name and he told me that he comes to this bench regularly to ask for donations for disabled vets. Sure enough, he had a coffee can with a handmade label on it that said, “Please Donate to Our Disabled Veterans.”

There ya go.

We talked a little and he invited me to stay, but I thought I’d probably cramp his style, so outa respect for this older gentleman, I acquiesced. I handed him a Gospel tract and he indicated he a was non-practicing Jew ‘waiting’ for the Messiah. I reminded him that as luck would have it, Jesus was a Jew! Apparently he had heard that before. I shared with him some Old Testament Bible prophecy and told him how Jesus fulfilled all of it with His birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection. Drew wasn’t buying too much of it, but I sensed the wheels were turning inside his head. As I left I challenged him to GoogleOld Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Christ‘ and ask the Lord to reveal Himself in those Bible scriptures.

As I walked away Drew called to me, “David, from now on, you and me are friends!”

His words meant a lot to me. Please pray for Drew that he would follow through with the prayer and prophecy challenge.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

I crossed the street and headed south and settled in by a Chinese restaurant called Temple. The restaurant has tables set up outside on the sidewalk, but it was still early and the place was seemingly closed. I broke out the guitar and started praising Jesus. This actually turned out to be a better spot, at least as it pertained to striking up conversations with pedestrians. I’m thinking that back over at Starbucks most of the folks were on a mission: to get inside to get their coffee or to get back to wherever they were going so they could drink it before it got cold. The people walking over by Temple didn’t seem to be as focused.

“Hey Dave, how ya doin?”


As it turns out, George, an old friend, is a waiter at Temple. I knew this, but  because of the early hour I temple-081812didn’t expect to see him. He greeted me over the shrubbery that separates the dining area from the rest of the sidewalk. George is a Christian, a recent college grad and a stellar musician in his own right. He’s also one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet — truly, I’ve never heard a foul or angry word come out of this kids mouth — never. Back in the day when I was assisting with youth-group stuff at a friend’s church, George was one of the regulars. Looking back, I guess he had to attend regularly, as his dad was the youth pastor. 

We chatted briefly and he got back to work. In the meantime I had some more wonderful conversations with folks; some believers, but mostly unbelievers. It was just one of those days where I really felt the power of God mingling through all the exchanges we were having. At one point a psychologist (and atheist) sat down and chatted with me. Quite a cheery sort actually, but my heart ached for him because he would not budge from his ‘God is not’ position; to him Jesus Christ was nothing more than an aberration; a placebo for the weak-minded. At one point I felt I was in way over my head with him, but God imparted His peace to me; our words to each other were pleasant and edifying.

“From one musician to another.”

Perhaps an hour went by and George appeared from behind the Temple bushes carrying a ‘takeout’ bag. I assumed he was making a delivery. He took about ten steps and stopped right in front of me, handing me the bag saying, “From one musician to another.” Earlier when we said our hellos, I had teased him about bringing me out some pot stickers.

So what do you think was in the bag?

That’s right — a huge order of fried dumplings (aka: pot stickers). I cannot begin to tell you how blessed this kid made me feel. First, for suggesting that I was a musician (just trust me, I’m not. I play 4 chords and sing loud to cover it up). And second, for feeding me! I had to get up and hug the kid right there on the street. Honestly, I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with him — so much God-given talent, so personable and kind, and such a refreshing sight in this occasionally ugly world where the wicked leave bombs on sidewalks to blow up children.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

I handed out my last tract and headed home, filled today in so many glorious ways. Thanks be to God.

Without question, God is good.

If you have a moment, check out some of George’s original music HERE.

By the way, the dumplings were great!

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And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25

Have you ever wondered why we do church the way we do? Well the truth of the matter is that church methodology had been prescribed thousands of years ago and is recorded in God’s Word the Bible. Believers know that all scripture is God-breathed, that it’s a beneficial doctrine for rebuke, refinement, and righteous teaching; that is if we desire to be Godly, complete, and thoroughly equipped for Christian service (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Let’s start in the New Testament.

The Early Church

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47

I whole heartedly agree with this narrative, as it lays out for us an illustration of what an effective body of believers should look like. However, we can go deeper and consequently put more meat on this bone as we venture back into the Old Testament. While Acts 2 gives us a paragraph, the Book of Nehemiah devotes an entire chapter to the subject. Let’s go through some of those informative passages.

The Earlier Church

Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Nehemiah 8:1-2

The faithful gathered and were of one mind. The Apostle Paul, an Old Testament scholar himself, would extend this concept to the believers at Philippi, writing, ‘if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Philippians 2:1-2).

They went to a symbolic place–the Water Gate, where life giving water flowed and where everyone habitually gathered. They were out in the open where access could be easily gained and where secrets could not be contained. No one would be excluded as they happened upon the meeting.

They sought a knowledgeable person (Ezra) and a reliable source—God’s Word, The Book of the Law. I love the fact that it was the only resource utilized.

The assembly was orderly and only those who could hear with understanding were in attendance. Why? Because those without understanding, namely children, were a distraction—a good reason why children should be in Sunday school classes and not in church proper.

Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. Nehemiah 8:3-4

Ezra’s service was about six hours long this day. I submit to you that this was not the norm, but it was what the Lord ordained for this particular day. Understand that the people were eager, willing, and attentive. If the question was raised, “How long is church?” it sounds as if the answer would have likely been, “As long as it takes!” We note that the people were glad.

We see the use of a pulpit, but observe that the preacher stood atop it and not behind it. In other words, he stood upon a platform whereby he could be clearly seen and heard by everyone in attendance. And he wasn’t alone; Ezra had many knowledgeable men at his side.

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading. Nehemiah 8:5-8

Ezra opened The Book of the Law (a scroll actually) in front of the people making it clear that this was, a) God’s Word and, b) he wasn’t making this stuff up as he went along—he had thirteen men up there on stage with him to testify to that fact.

When the Word was opened, the people stood. We take note that nobody instructed them to stand–it was understood by all that God was in their midst. In honor to God they would stand and later in reverent worship they would kneel. Again, there was no direction to do so; their orderly response was an obedient gesture that was discerned by those who believed.

In addition to the men standing with Ezra on the pulpit, there were more educated men mingling about the crowd assisting those with questions about the text. In this manner, no one left the meeting without clarity. My friends, this is the need and purpose of the church today—for God’s word to be read clearly and with explanation so that the congregation can be equipped for Christian service.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them. Nehemiah 8:9-12

At first we’re perplexed and wonder why the congregation wept and was mournful. Let us recall our Bible studies that remind us that the word of God is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12).

We can better understand their grief when we understand the text they were studying that day—The Law. The Law brings sorrow to those who understand the implications; i.e., that we fall way short in our compliance and that perfect adherence is impossible. The Law is merely the road sign that points us to our solution found in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:24).

And they found written in the Law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, “Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.” …And there was very great gladness. Nehemiah 8:14, 15, 17b

This passage demonstrates why there is need to go through the Bible cover-to-cover for fear that something be left out or forgotten. Too many churches today follow sermon lectionaries which stipulate particular passages to be highlighted and taught based solely on the church calendar. On the exterior it appears a nice method, but sadly it only minimally scratches the surface of what God would have us hear. Frankly, some topics are never discussed in this system. That ought not to be.

In Nehemiah’s case ultimately, and in due season, there was great gladness within the congregation because the people heard the Word–the whole truth and nothing but the truth as it were. If this does not sound like your church it might be time for a change; what that change looks like is between you and the Lord.

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 Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him. For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ezra 7:9-10

There is a peculiar gap between the end of Ezra chapter six and the beginning of Ezra chapter seven, a space of approximately sixty years. In this season of silence the Temple was functioning properly and the people were worshiping, but nothing of biblical note is recorded. That sad fact is an indicator that revival was probably in order. Enter Ezra.

Ezra was a brilliant man of God and the writer of this book, first and second Chronicles, and Psalm 119. He was a scribe and a priest; a direct descendant of Aaron. I am told that the Talmud records that he had the Torah memorized and that he and 119 other men determined, as led by the Holy Spirit, the canon of the Old Testament. Ezra is also a picture (or type) of the Holy Spirit in this story—his name in fact means helper.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. John 16:7

Who Cares?

Why would we care if Ezra’s a type of God’s Spirit; why is that important to us? A couple reasons: first it demonstrates once again that the Old Testament is more than just a Bible history book and that its primary function is to deliver its readers by pointing them to Jesus Christ. The second reason is that if we can claim Ezra is a type of the Holy Spirit, there’s likely Holy Spirit characteristics present in the text; things of which we can glean. And wouldn’t you know it, there are!

You can read the letter that King Artaxerxes gave Ezra (Ezra 7:12-27) if you like, but here’s a synopsis–Ezra is called by the king to be a guide, a giver of gifts, a leader of worship, a teacher, an enforcer of righteousness, a beautifier of the Lord’s house, and a gather of men. Aren’t those the very attributes we associate with God’s Spirit?

Reread Ezra 7:9-10 from the start of the blog. It’s a wonderful illustration of what the Holy Spirit does in our lives, isn’t it. Now compare it to this bundle of verses:

For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God…You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear…He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. 1 Corinthians 2:10b, Psalms 10:17b, John 14:26b, Philippians 2:13

Not only do these combined passages demonstrate how the Old Testament jives with the New, but they reveal how God’s Spirit functions in our lives. We see that He’s led by the Word, He readies our hearts, He educates, and then incredibly He does the work through the submitted believer.

A Final Thought

…Ezra came up from Babylon; and he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given. Ezra 7:6

Did you know that being filled with the Holy Spirit and being filled with God’s Word are synonymous? Ezra’s type bears witness to it, for he was both filled with the Spirit and consumed by the Word—both had taken up residence in his heart. Compare Ephesians 5:18b-19 and Colossians 3:16

…Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord…


Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord

They’re in agreement for the most part, the only difference being that one says be filled with the Holy Spirit and the other says be filled with the Holy Word. Observe that the characteristics are identical; a Spirit-filled person and a Bible-filled person operate similarly. In other words, a noticeable quality of the Spirit-filled believer is that he or she is absorbed in God’s word.

Is that your testimony? Can you say ‘God’s Spirit resides in me’ because these other qualities are also present? If you can’t then one of two things are likely true: the Holy Spirit does not live in you ~or~ you are quenching the works of the Holy Spirit. The solution to either of those can be found in prayer and in the Word.

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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 Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. 1 Corinthians 3:16

Today I am in the Book of Ezra and I am soaking in the rich history and the modern-day applications; the parallels are stimulating, varied, and most significantly they are pertinent to the born-again believer. I am reminded that we must appreciate this reality, lest we only capture the historical portion of the ever-expansive tapestry God is creating. Seek Jesus as you go through these narratives.

Observe that Babylon was a brutal place and is likened to our sinful condition. Israel was led off into Babylonian captivity and we were once held captive to sin. Israel’s temple lie in ruins (as did ours) and like Israel, our temple would be rebuilt. See the similarities–every Old Testament account points us to a New Testament promise we have discovered in Christ Jesus.

When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, We were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, And we are glad. . Psalm 126:1-3

Chapter four of Ezra begins with the rebuilding of the temple and wouldn’t you know it, satan shows up. Isn’t that always the case; as we’re committed and submitted to Christian service, the next thing you know the enemy throws a curve ball, creates an obstacle, and seemingly wins the battle. Check out the story:

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the Lord God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers’ houses, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” Ezra 4:1-2

Now at first glance we might suppose that the enemy was seeking to make reconciliation.

“Let us help you,” they say, “our god is your God.”

We worship the same god,’ ever heard that before? Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the leaders of Israel were not fooled. Oh, they weren’t being rude; they were just adhering to the word of the Lord that they had received. We could say that in their obedience they were given discernment. Good thing, because the adversary would soon reveal his true colors.

Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. In the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. Ezra 4:4-6

As a result, the temple building mission was stalled for ten years.

If this was the enemy’s reaction to not being able to help Israel, what can we imagine would have been the result if they had helped? We know it would have been disastrous because the Old Testament provides us with countless stories of calamity; of what occurs when believers ally themselves with non-believers in order to serve the Lord. And in case we missed it in the Old Testament, the Apostle Paul warns us again in the New Testament…

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14

There are a few things I wanted to point out in the narrative that have profound relevance to our Christian walk. The first two are covered in these NT passages:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 1 Peter 5:8

For the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night… Revelation 12:10b

Be Inedible

It’s true; the devil is doggedly on the prowl for those he can gobble up. Who does he go after? The weak in faith; those who don’t know the word, those who hang out on the perimeters of the church, the disobedient, the partially committed and moderately submitted; these are his easy pickins. The key is to become inedible. Those in the Word are foul-tasting to satan. Those in the center-of-the-action (as opposed to those on the fringes) are inaccessible. The obedient are unappetizing. These will still be attacked, but they will never be consumed.

Also know that satan currently has heavenly access; he is up there right now accusing some Christian; maybe you or me, of some vile act. What do we do? We concur with him, that’s what; we do so because Jesus told us to.

Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Matthew 5:25

What’s the alternative, lie to God?

“God,” I might protest, “satan is lying. I didn’t sin.”

The enemy might not be telling the whole truth to God, but we can rest assured he likely has the sinning part down. Our best rejoinder is to acknowledge our sin and claim the blood of Christ Jesus. To do anything else is pointless and ineffectual. It’s always a good thing to confess and freely receive His mercy and unmerited favor.

I would also like to point out that despite the fact God told Zerubbabel and the other leaders to rebuild the temple themselves, He allowed the adversary to thwart their efforts. Why would God allow such a thing; wouldn’t that be considered counterproductive?

We’re reminded that our Father is a multi-tasker; He is able to create the masterpieces He does by operating and orchestrating outside the box in which everyone strives to contain Him. God’s methodology resulted in at least three things: Israel’s leadership being proven faithful, the enemy being identified, and the temple being financed. I find it incredibly satisfying that although satan won a small victory initially, ultimately he wound up paying for the entire project!

Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and your companions the Persians who are beyond the River, keep yourselves far from there. Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site. Moreover I issue a decree as to what you shall do for the elders of these Jews, for the building of this house of God: Let the cost be paid at the king’s expense from taxes on the region beyond the River; this is to be given immediately to these men, so that they are not hindered. Ezra 6:6-8

Bringing it Home

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

We are being built into God’s holy temple, to be joined with Him forever and ever. We know in this life we are promised tribulations; our Father in Heaven will allow satan a short rope to operate in order that we might be moved towards perfection. All the chiseling, all the hammering, all the chipping away, is occurring this side of Heaven so there will not be one sound of construction once we have arrived home. Let us endeavor in our obedience to God, our awareness of a lurking enemy, and in fully trusting in God’s sovereignty in every situation.

And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built. 1 Kings 6:7

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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 Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 2 Corinthians 2:14

When you read the above verse, what single word or phrase leaps off the page? Is it ‘Thanks be to God,’ or, ‘leads in triumph,’ or simply, ‘Christ,’ or ‘fragrance?’ For me, the word that makes this verse commanding, energizing the rest of the passage is the word ‘always.’

I like Noah Webster’s definition from his 1828 dictionary. In it he defines the word as: ‘Perpetually; throughout all time; as, God is always the same.’ Isn’t that just perfect? If we haven’t already realized it, we should be thankful to God always because He always leads us in triumph of Christ. That should give the enthusiastic and committed born-again believer a great deal of peace, especially in light of the next two verses from the same chapter.

For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:15-16

See the big picture lest you become discouraged. While it is true that we are the fragrance of Christ to some, to others we are the aroma of death. ‘Aroma of death?’ Where is the triumph in that; the previous verse proclaims that God always leads us in triumph.

This is the place where we must shift our focus; we must take our eyes off others and turn them back to Jesus. The triumph is not the transformed sinner; the triumph in this scenario is the Christian who is submitted to do His will. My friends, we are God’s enduring triumph! God’s triumphant when we are obedient; what happens beyond that is not reckoned into this equation. This is tremendously freeing!

So when we share a testimony or bear witness to Christ Jesus, the burden (we lay on ourselves) has been lifted. The victory was claimed by God when we simply obeyed. We can now freely share our faith having the weight-of-consequence removed from our shoulders. While it is true that to some we will always stink, to God we will always smell magnificent. Praise be to God!

Quoting the Old Testament, the Apostle Paul declares in Romans 10:15, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!’ For good reason the passage does not read, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that win converts.’ We’re called to make disciples for certain, but no where in the Bible does God lay a guilt trip on us regarding success in that endeavor. Whatever the result we are always led in triumph! Don’t for get that.

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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 Calvary Chapel Coastlands.

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And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village…Luke 9:54-56

A True Sign

How do you know if you’re a man or woman of God? Disciples James and John apparently thought it was in possessing the ability to call down fire from Heaven in order to consume souls. It would appear that they had taken an Old Testament verse out of context.

So Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
2 Kings 2:10

The truth of the matter is that contextually, James and John were partially correct, bearing in mind the figurative and literal applications. The reality is that being able to call down a consuming fire from the Heavenly realm is a sign that a person is a man or woman of God. James and John, the ‘Sons of Thunder’ had erred in their application—they were hell-bent on annihilation while Jesus was Heaven-bent towards salvation.

“Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Jeremiah 23:29

Godly men and women always have the ability to call down consuming fire, as long as it is directed to consume a person’s spirit; not his soul. God’s word is that fire! The Christian is commanded to operate in such a method that will win souls to Christ, not condemn them to a spiritual death. Therefore, it is a sign that you are a man or woman of God if you function in this manner—you have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to call down such fire from Heaven!

A Warning

He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. Revelation 13:13

There will come on the scene one who also will be able to call down fire. I am of course referring to the Antichrist. I for one do not believe I will be on the scene when Antichrist makes his earthly appearance, but nevertheless, he will possess this grand ability. Now I don’t want to end on a somber note, but rather use the point to emphasize that our propensity must always be towards saving souls and satan’s function and goal will always be the exact opposite–destruction. Make no mistake about it, antichrists (note: little ‘a’) are on the scene as you read this. Anyone who operates with a mindset to condemn and destroy is drawing upon the spirit of antichrist—that was the case with James and John.

Suffice it to say, if you are not a born again believer and find yourself trying to survive in Tribulationary times, do not be deceived by the great signs you might see. Jesus Christ is the only way!

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What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. Romans 4:1-4
If it’s True it’s Not New
Building on the divine standard pronounced in the previous chapter, the Apostle Paul brings us way back to the Old Testament to emphasize that justification by faith alone is nothing new. Using Abraham to demonstrate his point, the passage reveals that his righteousness was accredited to him based solely on his faith and not by his efforts. If Abraham did achieve righteousness by his works he could have sung his own praises, but that was not the case . Abraham was a saved-man before he set out from Ur and before he brought Isaac to the mountain sacrificially; he was saved when he simply believed the Lord and took Him at His word.

Now to him who works…wages are not counted as grace but as debt. Romans 4:4

Romans 4:4 is an incredibly significant doctrine and one that many born-again believers quickly forget. Many Christians comprehend that salvation is not something that can be earned and that it is a free gift from God that we receive by faith—at least initially. The mistake we often make is after we are saved; after we have freely received this gift of grace and buy into a false teaching.

By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)

God Owes Us Nothing

For whatever the reason, it is not unusual for the born again Christian to initiate works in order to earn God’s blessings. It’s often what’s being taught (the false prosperity gospel) and then erroneously enforced when we misinterpret the blessings the Lord bestows before, during, and after we work.

“I tithed, ” we might say, “and this is the reason God blessed me.”

That is wrong theology.

The Lord’s blessings do not cease or increase based upon any work we do. His blessings flow continually. Whether or not we are receiving them is based on positioning, not propositioning. We cannot approach our Lord and proclaim, “Ok Lord, I’ve prayed, I’ve fasted, I’ve poured through the Bible, and gone to church, now how are you going to bless me today?”

These are things that we get to do because it is our desire. If someone tells you that these are things you must do in order to gain or maintain your salvation, call him a liar and run away.

Just teasing.

Tell him the truth. Tell him that to assume God owes us anything is likely the most ridiculous concept we could harbor, for God is a debtor to no man. Any work we do should be a gracious response to what the Lord has done, is doing, and will continue to do regardless of our efforts. It is that faithful model that keeps us close to the spout where His blessings pour out.

He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless. Scarcely shall they be planted, Scarcely shall they be sown, Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, When He will also blow on them, And they will wither, And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble. “To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the Lord, And my just claim is passed over by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. Isaiah 40:23-28

  1. What do these passages say about God?
  2. What do they say about us?
  3. What should we consider doing?

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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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