Thursday, July 31, 2014

Love Not Sleep - Proverbs 20:13

It was funny to read Proverbs 20:13 this morning (love not sleep lest you come to poverty) since I woke up at 4:30. My mind immediately began racing through all the things I must do today, and the problems I see ahead. That feeling of worry and being overwhelmed began to gnaw at me.

But I remembered what I call the Ernie Beshear Principle. Ernie told me once that when he woke up early, he decided the Lord woke him up to talk to him. So, he prayed until he either went back to sleep or it was time to get up.

I prayed today for those whose needs I know, for our church, our pastor, my family and myself. I got up and read the scriptures for today. Romans 14:17 reminded me that "the kingdom of God is a matter of...righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit". And the Holy Spirit reminded me that I live in the Kingdom of God. I am just passing through this earth.

I may not have all the sleep I want today, but I will not have poverty of spirit. Thank you, Father.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

From Trial to Praise - Psalm 22:19-31

David's trial resulted in praise. He praised before he was delivered. He praised in anticipation of his deliverance. First, he praised to his "brothers" and to the "congregation". For David, this would be his fellow Jewish worshippers as brothers and the whole congregation as the whole of Israel. (22) He will call others to praise as well. (23) Together they will acknowledge that God hears when we cry to him. He does not hide from us, even when he delays his answer or deliverance. (24)

Second, David's praise to God will be heard in all the nations. (27) As a result, they will turn (repent) and worship the Lord. He is the king over all nations, not just Israel. The nations will have communion with God. They will eat and worship. (29) And they will continue to tell future generations. (31)

The day will come when all bow before the Lord, because he is indeed king of all nations. (29) When he returns, all will acknowledge Jesus as Lord. David praised God when he wrote the Psalm and he will praise the Son of David when he returns. The worshipping believers will commune with him in joy, those alive when he returns and those who have died (could not keep themselves alive). (29) Those who did not worship the Lord during life will nonetheless acknowledge him when he returns. "Before him shall bow all who go down to the dust" means every human being.

Isaiah also preached this theme of bowing. In Isaiah 45:23, God said "By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance". Paul quoted this verse in Romans 14:10-12, saying we will all stand before the augment seat of God and will given an account of himself to God. Again in Philippians 2:10 Paul said "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

May our praise ring out through Fort Worth to all the world as we look forward our full communion with Jesus.



Monday, July 28, 2014

When Times Are Hard - Psalm 22:1-18

Psalm 22 is a personal lament, written by King David. A lament is an expresso of grief and suffering. For example, the book of the Bible called Lamentations is Jeremiah's expression of grief over God's destruction of Israel.

David had many hard times. Before becoming king, he was pursued by Saul, who sought to kill him. He fought many battles with countries opposed to Israel. He suffered through rebellions, including one led by his son Absalom, who actually deposed him and sent him into exile for a while.

In one of these trying times, He wrote this Psalm as a cry. He is the innocent man suffering persecution from evil men. To make it worse, God has yet to come to his rescue despite his prayers. So, he cried out in verse 1, why have you forsaken me, why are you so far from me?

David characterized his enemies as those who scorned and despised him. (6) They ridiculed him for trusting in God. (8) They were powerful, like bulls of Bashan (12) Bashan is the area north of Israel, given to Mannassah, which we now call the Golan Heights. It was known for great pasture land that produced large cattle. It became a symbol for powerful enemies from the north. They were aggressive predators, like dogs who encircled a vulnerable person. (16) Dogs in those days were not pets, they were more like jackals or coyotes. They plotted his downfall and how they would divide his possessions, down to his very clothes. (17-18)

David had exhausted his own strength, too. His heart melted, his strength dried out, he had nothing left. He was desperate. (14-16) Yet, David still believed and worshipped God. He declared God as holy. (3) He remembered that God called him into faith and made him trust in him. (9-11) David was suffering, but he expected vindication. He expected deliverance.

Many of us have experienced trials. We cried out to God. And we waited. Some years ago, I experienced a situation that made me identify with David. People conspired against me to take me out of my work position so they could make more money. Ironically, these people claimed to be Christians. They manufactured a lie and sold it to others. I did lose my position, although I kept my job. Ultimately, I was asked to prepare my version of events and present it to my boss, who vindicated me and recognized the falseness of the allegations.

During that time, I identified with this Psalm, and others, greatly. I resolved to trust in the Lord and not fight back. I opened my Bible to this Psalm and left it on my work desk until the day I had to leave that office. I read those Psalms every day. I asked God to vindicate me.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Value of the Bible

The value of the Bible comes from its source and it's function. God is the source of the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16 says is breathed out by God. Some versions say inspired by God, but the Greek word "theopneust" literally means "breathed out". 

The functions of the Bible are set out in the same verse. First, Scripture teaches sound doctrine. Some of it is hard to understand. For that reason, God gave the church teachers to communicate sound doctrine through instruction in the Scriptures. Teachers cannot invent new doctrines. Rather, they study the Bible until they understand it's meaning, then teach it to others. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

PLEASING GOD

Romans 7 shows us that we cannot please God in the flesh. The non-believer cannot do it, for he cannot live up to God's standards. Back in 3:20, Paul wrote "for by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight". Human beings just cannot live up to God's standards, as God demonstrated for us in Adam. In a perfect world with a perfect wife, Adam chose Satan over God and sinned. That also kills the nature verses nurture argument, I think.

But, the believer still struggles with sin. It is so frustrating. But it is comforting to see that Paul, the greatest Christian ever, understood it. The more he focused on the law, the more he struggled with the flesh. He finally cries out "wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death". (7:24) I think of this in the men I have mentored and counseled over the last several years. Several were addicted to pornography. They knew it to be a sin. They tried to avoid it, but they returned to it again and again.

The answer of chapter 8 is that, as Christ delivered us from sin and death in salvation. Yet, knowing that, we often return to our sins. When we do this, we are the true "Walking Dead". We walk around serving the dead man, the body of sin, rather than the Lord. Paul wrote that "the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for they are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do." (Galatians 5:17)

What is the cure? Chapter 8 says the cure is the Holy Spirit. We did not convert from a failed moralist who was going to hell to a failed moralist who is going to heaven. Rather, we came from living for the flesh to living in the Spirit. The Spirit continues to deliver us day by day in our new life.

But we have a part in this. The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. But the mind must be set on the Spirit. "For I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16) "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth". (Colossians 3:2)

The mind focused on God in Bible study, prayer, meditation\reflection, is a mind the Spirit can direct and protect. You will have life and peace. If your mind is set on earthly things (money, ambition, success, power, status, appearance, sex, pornography, drugs, revenge, personal gratification) you will sin and you will be unhappy.

Paul knew it to be true, both theologically and experientially.

So say we all.



Monday, July 21, 2014

BE FRUITFUL


Romans 7:4 says "So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God".

Building on his argument in chapter 6, Paul said we died to the law through the body of Christ. When we received Christ, we were "buried with him". We received the benefits of his death, the sacrifice that satisfied the law and fulfilled it. We also received the benefits of is resurrection. We have a new life, not bound by the law, not bound to sin, and freed to live for Christ.

Since Christ freed us from sin, we belong to him. (7:4) We do not belong to ourselves. We belong to him for a purpose, to bear fruit for God.

Jesus told a parable about bearing fruit for God. It is recorded in Luke 20:9-19. In the story, a man planted a vineyard and rented it to tenants. He sent servants to collect some of the fruit of the vine, to which he was entitled as owner. But the tenants beat the three servants that came. He then sent his son, who would inherit the vineyard someday, but they killed him so they would have the inheritance.

The owner of the vineyard is a symbol for God. The vineyard is God's kingdom. The put these tenants there to cultivate his kingdom and produce fruit for him. The tenants are a symbol of the Jews. They did not produce fruit for God. The ran the kingdom for their benefit and as they pleased. They rebelled against God repeatedly. Way back in the time of Isaiah, centuries before Jesus' ministry, God condemned the failure of his vineyard, Israel, to produce fruit and threatened to destroy it. (Isaiah 5:1-7)

At the end of the parable, Jesus said the owner will come and kill the tenants and give the vineyard to others. (Luke 20:17) He gave the vineyard to the church. And now we have the responsibility to bear fruit for God. Since bearing fruit is the result of receiving Christ, it is also the sign that we have received Christ. In other words, if you do not bear fruit, you have not received Christ's salvation. For example, Jesus told the Pharisees and Sadducees that every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:8) He also said a good tree bears good fruit. (Matthew 7:17)

Our fruit is the character that reflects Christ and the works he prepared for us to do. Galatians 5:22 gives us a list of the fruits of the Spirit, the character trait that the Holy Spirit builds into the believer. In Colossians 1:10, Paul urges us to live lives worthy of Jesus, bearing fruit in every good work.

It is a new week. Be fruitful in good works and good character. Let the Holy Spirit have full control of your life and spend the week for the glory of the Lord who saved us. Soli Deo Gloria.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

PROPHESY AGAINST GOG - EZEKIEL 38-39 - PART 1


Chapters 38-39 are really one unit. It is one prophecy or oracle in two parts. The chapter division marks the division between the two oracles.

This is a complex passage with several literary difficulties. There are some obscure references. But we see a clear message: God is sovereign and will protect his people Israel.

The Preamble
38:1-2

The message begins with God’s instruction to Ezekiel. God told Ezekiel to turn his face toward a person called Gog, of the land of Magog. The NIV and KJV say “against” where the other translations say “toward” (ESV, NASB, RSV). God then told Ezekiel to prophesy against God. So, this oracle, or message is directed at this person or figure.

The Lord described Gog as being of the land Magog. He is also described as the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. Gog is not identified anywhere else in the Old Testament outside of this oracle. Genesis 10, sometimes called the Table of Nations, tells us that Noah’s son Japeth had sons named Magog, Tubal and Meshech, among others. No children are named for these three sons, although they are for the other two sons, Gomer and Javan. (Genesis 10:2-4)

We cannot say for sure who Gog is. Dispensationists often claim he is the leader of Russia. This comes from a Hebrew word translated “Rosh”. The NIV, ESV, KJV and RSV translate that word as “chief prince”. It is a title. So, Gog is the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, along with his own place, Magog.

C. I. Scofield, the man who primarily sold Dispensationalism to America, used the King James text, but added a footnote that said “the reference is to the powers in the north of Europe, headed by Russia. He did not mention the word “rosh”. Instead, he referred to current events, stating that Russia persecuted the Jews there, so it made a connection for him. The NASB says “the prince of Rosh” with a foot note saying “chief prince of” is an alternate translation. Hal Lindsey picked up on this and wrote about it in “Late Great Planet Earth”, claiming that Russia would lead an invasion against Israel sometime in the future. He equated the Hebrew “rosh” with Russia.

But, most translations treat “rosh” not as a place name, but a title. That is why they say “the chief prince of”. There are also some Hebrew grammatical problems with the concept of “rosh” as a place name.

The other problem with the use of “ros” or “rosh” as a place name is that there is no place called Rosh. The Bible does not name any such place, so it is unlikely the Jews would have understood this as a place name. Russia did not exist at the time Ezekiel wrote. The term “rus” was only applied to the region of Kiev during the Middle Ages. So, this reference to Russia is an anachronism, an attempt to put a modern thing back in an older time where it did not exist. And, on top of that, Rosh and Rus are not the same words.

But, where were Magog, Mesheck and Tubal, the places where Gog was chief prince? Ezekiel 27:13 says they traded slaves and bronze to Tyre for its goods. Tyre was directly north of Israel. Ezekiel 27 groups Tubal and Meshech with nations along the coast of the Mediterranean. What we can ascertain from this is that Gog is a leader, not just of a nation, but as a leader of a confederation of nations along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Meshech and Tubal appear in Assyrian records. At one point, Meshech is said to be ruled by the king of Phrygia, King Mitas. And we know from Psalm 120:5-7 that Mescheck is a people who hates peace, is known to Israel and is close enough for the Psalmist to say he lived among them. But they are not people who had interacted with Israel in the same way as Assyria and Babylon.

So, it is possible that Gog is symbolic of a powerful enemy rising up against God and his people. In addition to his nation, and the two others he rules, Meshech and Tubal, he is joined by Beth Togarmah (6) and Gomer. Back in Genesis 10, we see that Gomer is the firstborn of Japeth and Togarmah is Gomer’s son. “Beth” means “house of”, so it is the House of Torgarmah. These are all people groups that lived north of Israel, mostly around the area of modern Turkey, not Russia.

In addition to these northern nations, Gog is allied with Persia (Iran), Cush (Ethiopia) and Put (Libya). (5) II think it it possible that Persia is a mistranslation for “Paras”, for this seems to be a list of nations to the south of Israel. The list appears in lists of the allies of Egypt. So, it would fit the context of southern nations better than Persia would.

Interestingly, then, there are 7 total nations. One group is from the north and one from the south, symbolizing a world joined together against Israel. This is likely a symbol of all the nations from the uttermost parts of the world known to the Jews gathered against God’s people. That symbolism only works if “ros” or “rosh” is interpreted as a title, such as chief prince, rather than as a place name.