Tag Archives: bible

Daily Scripture Meditation

In reading through the Old Testament, particularly the books of 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, and 1st and 2nd Chronicles; one of the first things we notice is that there is a constant fluctuation between the worship of God and the worship of idols in Israel. In many cases this change took place in rather extreme ways within a single generation. One minute there would be a good king and the people would pursue God and then the next minute that leader would be gone and it would be right back to idolatry. Now obviously we know that God preserved for himself a remnant of those who were faithful to Him (1st Kings 19:18 for example0, but have you ever wondered why the people were so quick to switch back and forth between the worship of God and the worship of idols?

2 Chronicles 15:3-4 provides an explanation that has some important truth for us today as well.

“For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law; but when in their trouble they turned to The Lord God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them.”

Like most people, Israel turned back to God when the futility of their idolatry became clear and they had no where else to turn; and God, being gracious and abounding in mercy, responded to their repentance and prayer. That they had a long tradition of idolatrous ways (as does all post-Eden humanity) partially explains there constant back and forth, but the 2nd half of verse 3 shines some additional light on the subject. They had been a long time without a teaching priest and without law.

When the law departs from a people, when the priests fail to keep in constantly before them. They have no solid foundation on which to resist idolatry and wicked behavior. There commitment to The Lord is based on emotion, and upon what they need to receive from The Lord in that hour. When a political or cultural leader stands as the driving force to follow God, then they will. When that leader is gone, they won’t anymore. Without the sound teaching of scripture to provide a moral backbone, nations flounder in idolatry and sin.

We live in a day and age where idolatry is running rampant. Obviously we don’t put our trust in little statues of made up gods anymore, but instead we have turned to insurance policies, to political leaders, to economic systems, to money, television, and others. In the midst of all this idolatry, the Church, the “kingdom of priests” has allowed herself to be silenced by the need for “tolerance”. In an age of moral relativism, holding forth a bright light of absolute truth, right and wrong, is unpopular. People are more comfortable lurking in the gray haze of “it doesn’t really matter”, “don’t judge”, and “no one is really right”.

If this is allowed to continue that the pattern from Scripture is clear, we will see a back and forth vacillation between worship of God and worship of idols based solely on emotion. As that vacillation continues idolatry will become worse, up until the point that God chooses to pour out His wrath on our nation and punish the idolatry for the sake of His name, which on our account is now slandered among the nations. Ultimately responsibility for this will fall on the Church in this nation for failing to hold up the Scriptural commands as absolute and essential.

If you don’t want the blood of others on your hands, then don’t participate in this deliberate watering down of Scripture. Cling to the whole Word and beg others to do so as well.

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Can the Old Testament be Trusted?

In the ongoing debate over the morality of the homosexual lifestyle this question is becoming more and more relevant, and yet the focus has been entirely on the issue at hand with most people quietly refusing to ask the hard questions that should be at the center. Can we accept the Gospel apart from the Old Testament? Is the Old Testament reliable, and is it compatible with the message of the Gospels?

Over the past few weeks, I have repeatedly seen info-graphics, pictures of facebook discussions, short “stories”, etc. that take an aggressive posture against the teaching of the Old Testament, particularly when it comes to basic definitions of morality. The argument is that the Old Testament Law is separate from the New Testament teaching of grace and forgiveness. The idea is that when Christ introduced the Gospel of grace all obligation to the Old Testament law was lost. For Christians, according to this line of thinking, the Old Testament is outdated and shouldn’t be relied upon for sound moral teaching.

Those who teach this seem to have forgotten to read the Gospels in all of their haste to separated them from the Old Testament.

Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” Matt 5:17-20

We should note that this passage comes right after the ever popular beatitudes, in the middle of the sermon on the mount, and just before all of the “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek” teaching that no one wants to dispute.

Is it possible that Jesus could really have meant to uphold the teaching of the Old Testament law? Look at the teachings on murder (5:21-22), adultery (5:27-30), and divorce (5:31-32) that follow right after this teaching. In most of these cases, true to what He said in 5:20 Jesus’ moral teaching either affirms the strictest Pharisaic interpretation of the law or goes beyond it. From this it is safe to gather, that just as He said, Jesus fully intends for Christians to adhere to the Old Testament’s moral teaching.

All the confusion comes from what we see happening in verse 17 “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them”. The key to understanding what is going on in this passage is to have a correct view of the unity of Scripture.

The Bible is divided into to two testaments, or covenants, but it stands as a unified whole. The key is to understanding this unity is to properly recognize the purpose of the Bible itself. The purpose of Scripture is to tell the history of God’s redemptive working for mankind after our fall into sin, and to ultimately tell how God stepped down to redeem us from our sin and show us the way back to Him through grace.

This purpose is clear from the message itself. Genesis 3 tells the story of mankind’s deception and fall into sin. Yet look what God promises from the first moments of man’s sinful condition, in speaking to the deceiver:

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
Genesis 3:15

Even from the beginning God had promised to send One who would crush the head of the Serpent, but since a testament is a covenant, we should recognize that everything that proceeds the giving of the covenant to Abraham in Genesis 12 is the prequel, the back story that explains why the story is necessary. Look at the covenant itself and God’s plan is perfectly clear:

Now the Lord had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3 (emphasis mine)

From the very institution of the covenant, God is working to see the redemption and blessing of all the peoples of the earth, in fact, those who read the Old Testament well will find that the “Great Commission” is simply a restating of what God has been getting at all along.

When we recognize this unifying theme in Scripture, then we can ask ourselves what the point of all those dreaded books of the Law is. The New Testament writers as well as the early church fathers all agree, the purpose of the Law is to demonstrate to mankind our own sinful condition, the insufficiency of animal sacrifice as well as our own works, and our ultimate need for redemption. This means that the moral requirements of God do not simply go away because we cannot meet them, they are tied directly to God’s divine nature and cannot change. What does change is the means by which mankind ACCESS God.

God gave us the full weight of His moral law, and a sacrifice system for when we failed to live up to it, to demonstrate in fullness that we are unable to live up to His just requirements. As shown above Jesus reiterated and reinforced these just requirements, but then chose to introduce the power of grace. Christ bore the punishment of our moral failure on the cross, once for all time, and freed those who place their faith in Him from the just recompense of their sinful ways. In so doing He put an end to the need for the sacrifice system, by His one perfect sacrifice.

It gets even better though! Rather than excuse us from the demands of God’s just law, the power of Christ allows us to receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirt who makes us able to meet God’s righteous requirements. The moral demands of God cannot go away because to do so would make God not God, but being God He has chosen to not only pardon our past sins but also to empower us to walk a life free from entangling sin. The message of Christ is not that holiness will be redefined so we can reach it, but rather that we will be transformed so that we can attain true holiness.

Where does that leave this discussion? What is it we are actually doing when we try to reject the moral nature of God and His just requirements? There are two ultimate issues with choosing to ignore the Old Testament because we don’t like what it has to say.

First and foremost, those who reject the moral teaching of the Old Testament are closing the door to God’s grace. The Old Testament is necessary to demonstrate to mankind that we are sinners in need of grace, without the knowledge of sin, there is no room for grace. When we try to redefine sin to make ourselves or others more comfortable, ultimately we are blocking God’s ability to forgive us of that sin and to empower us to overcome that sin. God had to give the Old Testament first, before we would have any ability to comprehend what the New Testament meant. Apart from the knowledge of sin, there can be no forgiveness of sin. The reason for this is obvious, I won’t repent of sin that I don’t acknowledge is there. Our goal ought to be to recognize and repent of ALL sin in our lives, and as followers of Christ we are under command to help others recognize and repent of their sin as well.

Second, those who fail to study the Old Testament will fail to see the working out of God’s constant faithful dealings with those who follow Him. The New Testament doesn’t attempt to cover any ground that the Old Testament has already thoroughly addressed, for this reason it dwells on the Gospel itself, the establishment of the Church, and the teaching necessary to establish the Gospel in men’s hearts. Most of the great stories of God’s faithfulness to those who trust Him are in the Old, not the New Testament. Christians would have a much better grasp on how to handle suffering and walk faithfully through difficult times if they would just read the first 2/3 of their Bibles.

Ultimately, Scripture is a unity. It is all written for man’s redemption. If we choose to ignore part of it, we damage the means of our own redemption.

Daily Scripture Meditation

All passages quoted from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted

Proverbs 1: 7 The Fear of The Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:20 Wisdom calls aloud outside; she raises her voice in the open squares

Proverbs 1:24-29 Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, When terror comes like a storm, And your destruction like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did choose the fear of The Lord.

When a nation rejects the fear of God, and pursues instead its own course, it walks away also from all wisdom and understanding. As the moral fiber of the society begins to unravel, so also does all reason and sound thinking.

Wisdom will for a time call aloud for the nation to return to the fear of God, and to wise ways; but there is a tipping point at which point wisdom can no longer be found. Once this is crossed, destruction, the sure consequence of abandoning wisdom, comes in like a whirlwind; and there is no escaping destruction.

The only hope for our nation is to restore the fear of God. We cannot compel others to return to the fear and reverence of God that was once common in this land, but we can return ourselves. We can turn and repent of our sin and unfaithfulness, and seek to live holy lives before our righteous and sovereign God. As we do, I still hold out hope that the Holy Spirit will influence those around us by our actions and draw the nation back to Himself.

Blessed By Hardship?

There is a now widespread doctrine, particularly in these United States, but growing in adherence throughout the world that teaches that God will financially and physically bless those who place their faith in Him. I am not saying that this is never true, certainly in examining Scripture – the Old Testament especially, we see plenty of examples of God blessing those who are faithful to Him. The trouble over the last few, at least for me, is that it seems like as God begins to prepare judgment on these United States for her sins that those who have been the most faithful in many cases have suffered the most hardship. I know countless families who have placed their full faith and trust in God for His provision only to struggle day after day to even make ends meet.

Now before I get to far in, let me say this. I am well aware that anyone in these United States should consider themselves financially blessed, however, that does not make the sudden onset of financial hardships less real for these families. It also doesn’t do much to explain why even as others around them may be prospering, those whose faith has been most in God to provide, seem to lack provision.

Let me suggest that this is a blessing from God! Some of the darkest and most difficult days the world will ever see are closing in fast on this country. God is about to pour out wrath and judgement like most people here have not seen before. The artificial world we have built with all its gadgets and amenities is collapsing, and in the meantime the American people have grown very, very soft.

For this reason, God is introducing those who have followed Him faithfully to hardship by degrees. He is reteaching them dependence upon Himself and upon the work of their own hands. They are relearning the skill necessary to survive without being able to rely on the work, the government, or an insurance policy to protect against every contingency. This is God showing His grace!

In His wrath, He has allowed many of those who turned away from Him after the wealth of this culture to continue placing their faith in that culture even as it fails. To those He has set apart He is demonstrating hardship to make their hearts and minds ready for the times ahead.

Are you struggling? Have you faced great adversity in your life? Continue to trust in God’s provision, but recognize that hard times are coming and God is making you ready to face them!

The Reward of the Lamb

“May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”

– The final words of two of the early Moravian missionaries as they sailed intentionally
into a life of slavery for the sake of the Gospel.

And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign[b] on the earth.”

-Revelation 5:9-10

The Father has ordained that Jesus should be glorified and worshiped by members of every tribe, tongue, and nation as a consequence of His purchasing them with His blood upon the cross.

The events of the cross should not be taken out of their place in history, rather the entire Bible is the story of God’s redemptive plan to rescue mankind from our own sinful condition. The cross and the resurrection represent the most crucial event in this ongoing plan of God to redeem people to Himself. Therefore, we should recognize that God’s ongoing plan to reach all nations as originally laid before Abraham in Genesis 12, is an ongoing work.

While Jesus’ death ultimately made the way to God free for all who would call upon the name of Jesus, the veil before God’s presence being torn asunder, ultimately we the church have now been entrusted with carrying the task to completion. We have been charged with the task of, through the power of the Holy Spirit, preaching the Gospel to every tribe, tongue, and nation that some would turn to Christ Jesus and give Him all of their worship.

This should be a joyous task for us. So often we make out as though it were a burden, or a great sacrifice to maintain active involvement in the mission of God’s people. Yet we are seeking to give the righteous reward to Him who suffered, died, and rose again to purchase our freedom and place before God. Instead of acting as though this were a great sacrifice, we should recognize that we have been purchased and adopted through a far greater sacrifice and that any action we take is for the love of our savior.

Have you advanced the Kingdom of the Lamb today?

Ecology and Global Disciplemaking

Considering that the creation mandate to take stewardship over the Earth and care for it properly never went away, and also considering that mass starvation, illness, etc. will have strongly negative consequences for everyone, but especially “the least of these”; I have long considered returning to a more normal ecology to be an integral part of the Mission of God’s people on earth. To accomplish a more normal ecology will, however, require significant cultural change. We will have to see a massive deurbanization as more loving stewards move back to the land, as a result there will be a massive cultural and economic shift back to the rural, as well as back to local. In order to fix our global ecological issues this will have to take place at the global level. Because this change will be so radical, we must ask ourselves how this will affect global discipleship.

In the first place urbanization has, without a doubt, greatly increased the ability of the church to access many unreached people groups that previously were very difficult to minister to due to geographic and political barriers. In many cases, here in these United States today, there are immigrant and student populations of unreached peoples on our own soil, living in major cities. However, accessibility should not be confused with receptivity. While urbanization has made some parts of discipleship easier, it has made others harder. Urbanites have much shorter, and often more disjointed relationship chains. Whereas, with the correct approach, the Gospel will flow very rapidly through existing relationship structures to reach a rural people, this growth is often dwarfed in urban cultures simply because those relationship structures don’t exist. For this reason, I would suggest than any access issues than urbanization has assisted with are offset by the difficulty of transmitting the Gospel throughout the entirety of a people group.

Urbanization and the False Gospel of Prosperity

An even larger issue, as far as I am concerned, is whether or not the Gospel being transmitted is pure and true. Now before I really launch into this, let me stop and say this: I am not accusing any church, mission agency, or other organization of deliberately teaching a false Gospel. As a general rule those involved in Mission are more detached from the false elements present throughout our church culture today; but it is often very difficult to separate yourself from the culture you were born into and this in turn can make it very hard to disentangle the Gospel message.

The problem I am seeing and experiencing is that Western, urban, materialistic culture is in direct contradiction to the Gospel; that is the values of urban culture are opposed to the Scriptural commands and values. All the emphasis on material wealth, and on prosperity in our culture has resulted in a Gospel diluted with promises of worldly wealth and prosperity. As a add on to this dangerous belief set, it then becomes hard for people who are materially “blessed” to recognize the lack of holiness and godliness in their lives. After all, if God is blessing me I must be doing everything right, yes? This wealth also sneaks in and steals away the church’s dependance on God. With an insurance policy for everything, and massive cash reserves its no wonder most people hardly recognize the old term “Divine Providence”.
A people who live on the land, can have the bounty of the earth without ever losing sight of the visceral connection between there hard work and their dependance on God’s grace. Returning to the land, almost automatically cuts modern humans back down to size. In the manmade world of cities, it is easy to gain a false sense of importance; but in the vastness of creation remembrance comes of the One who is actually sovereign. It is clear to one who works the earth, that the food it produces is the product of some unspeakable miracle. Shopping at the grocery store will give the impression that food comes from money, money “I” worked hard for.

While I do believe that there are some who can live in urban environments and still keep themselves pure from the prevailing materialism, indeed some are likely called to do so; for most this urban culture has lead them astray from the true Gospel and sent them off chasing wealth as fast as they can get it.

I would suggest that it is the bigger, cheaper, more convenient mentality of urban culture that has largely driven the modern church to give up discipleship and turn instead to numbers and marketing. Discipleship represents stewardship and slow growth, values best taught by those in a proper ecological relationship with the earth. Quick progress and rapid results are the goals of an urban culture that is used to everything being handed to it like a fast food hamburger.

Only a move back to a heathy ecological relationship with the earth, our younger sister whose care we have been charged with, will give us the edge necessary to stamp out materialism from the Gospel we preach.

Busyness, the Urbanite versus the Small Farmer

It is no secret that modern urban people have filled their lives with all kinds of activity and rarely have time to do anything very meaningful. Some of these useless activities could be pretty easily replaced with activities that actually impact global disciple making, but some of them can’t be. At this point in time it has gotten very, very difficult to maintain a family on a single income; this is particularly true for younger workers in entry level jobs. The result is that children not only rarely see there fathers anymore, but now they rarely see their mothers either. One of the most central and basic ways of fulling the command to make disciples, the discipling and raising of children, has been outsourced almost entirely to the state and a group of experts at church. This alone has severely impacted gospel growth, and now according to some statistics we are confronting a generation of young people in which only 4% embrace a Biblical gospel.

This busyness gets far worse though, just ask yourself, or one of your friends, to make some sort of long term time commitment to reach the unreached. Try to get involved in working with international students or immigrants from unreached groups in your city. The time commitment involved is often fairly significant, perhaps 10-15 hours a week. Most people have a very hard time swinging this. Now I am not trying to criticize anyone, this problem stems from the nature of modern, urban life. When you spend the best 50-60 hours of the week, depending on your commute, at work; then it becomes very difficult to do anything other than come home, eat dinner, tuck the kids in, and spend a few precious moments with your spouse before falling asleep. By Saturday you are so behind on things around the house that between that and a little family activity the whole day is over before it starts. Sunday you go to church and put the kids to bed early in preparation for the new week and it all starts over. Worst of all, this process doesn’t stop it goes on and on week after week all year. There are no seasons, no rest times, just a few weeks of vacation and perhaps a holiday here and there.

This level of busyness has a strong effect on the Faith. First of all it keeps God’s people from being able to commit to ministry, but even more importantly it keeps them to busy for Him. Things like daily bible reading and prayer get completely passed over in the mad rush that is your average day for most modern Christians. It is no wonder our faith is weak when no one has time to spend with its author and perfecter.

Compare this to the hard working farmer out in his fields. His work is seasonal, during certain seasons he may work 80 hours or more, during other seasons the farm nearly shuts down. Even during these busy seasons the work is communal. If he has to work by himself the farmer’s thoughts are largely uninterrupted as he goes about more day to day activities, the days more difficult challenges will require some thought, but the steady daily chores can be done while remaining in a quiet state of fellowship with nature and nature’s God. The farmer also rarely has to work alone, all the work can be done communally. If family is important, the family can come participate. Children love gathering eggs, feeding animals, and playing in the dark dirt of the garden. It’s all like a giant playground to them, and so in a normal ecology children are with their parents most of the day. Others can be to, and as illustrate throughout our history books, often have been. Communities work together to accomplish goals and spend the days together. If a farmer wants to spend time with a international student or someone else, then that person can come tag along with him and will likely enjoy seeing what life on an American farm is like anyway. The farmer can actually do life with people, the urbanite is unable to do this because his occupation is so disjointed from his life.

In the winter as things slow down, a farm community can pretty easily afford to let several of its families go out of the community for several months for ministry, most employers would never allow someone to just take off work for 3 months or more.

From all this I gather, that the farmer first of all is rooted much deeply in the community around him. As a result they will all me mutually strengthened by each other’s faith. The urbanite has to make time to spend with people, in many cases he won’t even see many people at work because he is locked in a tiny box. The farmer has a strong family, held together by large amounts of quality time, shared hardships, and communal labor this gives the farm family a strong base for doing ministry together. The urbanite is fortunate if he can hold is family together long enough for his kids to graduate high school because he rarely sees them. The farm community has time to do things with and for people, the urban world is far to busy. From this I conclude that move back to a normal ecology, with more people on the land would free up more laborers, particularly those with a strong community and family foundation for ministry and mission.

Conclusion

It is my belief that a return to a more normal ecology would fix many of the larger problems the western church is facing today. Strong families and strong communities means stronger churches. Men and women who actually have time to spend with God and to observe His power constantly on display in creation are much more likely recognize their full dependance on Him and to acknowledge His total sovereignty. A stronger faith and more pure Gospel results in a better accomplishment of Mission and a more steady development of disciples globally and locally. The earth is a mess today as a result of our modern culture and ecological practices, there are people going hungry who just a few decades ago knew how to feed themselves. The age of cheap energy will be ending soon, and when it does we will be forced to return to the a more normal ecology, the benefits of which I have just described. The Church today is faced with a choice: Do we embrace this change and work to holistically solve these problems, or do we fight the change and let the problems run us over?

Daily Scripture Meditation

2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.”

When our Lord Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness and removal of your sins, they were as of yet all in the future. You hadn’t been born yet, you hadn’t committed a single sin and yet He knew, and made a path to salvation for you. When the Holy Spirit called you and you responded, you received through the cross for all of your sin, past and future. Nothing you had or would do remained a secret from God.

For this reason, you can walk out from under habitual and addictive sin. There is no need to feel the ongoing condemnation of sin your life. As Romans 8:33 says “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Only God is lawfully able to prosecute our transgressions against Him, and when you accepted grace through the cross He chose to pardon you of His own sovereign will.

For this reason, the old you – the flesh, actually died at the moment of salvation. Instead you became a new creation in Christ Jesus, and that new creation is completely freed from the sin that used to entangle you. It may feel like you can’t shake something, but the scripture says you can. In fact it says you already have.

All you have to do is recognize that the only way you can be entangled in sin is by giving in to a lie. Sin only has an ongoing grip on you if you believe it does. Repent, not only for your sin but for believing its lie, turn back to God, and then forget. God has already forgiven you, repent and move on!