Friday, February 28, 2014

A Tolkien Quote

"God willed that the hearts of men should seek beyond the world and should find no rest therein." — JRR Tolkien

J. C. Ryle On His Conversion

"Nothing…appeared to me so clear and distinct, as my own sinfulness, Christ's preciousness…these things seemed to flash upon me like a sunbeam in the winter of 1837 and have stuck in my mind from that time down to this."


It is an interesting juxtaposition to read Leviticus and Mark 9:42-49 on the same day. Leviticus details God's covenantal requirements and the punishments for breaking them, which range from offering a sacrifice of an animal to the sacrifice of your life.

In Mark 9, Jesus said you'd be better off dead by drowning (a horrible death for a desert person to consider) than to lead someone in to sin, and better off cutting off a body part than sinning. God takes sin very seriously.

Verse 49 of Mark 9 appears to be an allusion to Leviticus also. You had to offer salt with any sacrifice. We offer ourselves as a sacrifice to God, salted with discipline and suffering (fire), and come out still salted, or preserved and purified. In contrast, the pretender falls away in suffering. His saltiness is lost and cannot be restored.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why Be Holy?

"You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD (Yahweh) am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine". Lev. 20:26. Part of being holy is being different from the world around you in moral conduct. God separated the Jews by making them his people and giving them the law that separated them from the world. God is different that the world, so they were to be different than the world and reflect God's moral character.

Peter applied the concept to the church. He wrote "But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.' " (1 Peter 1:15) He affirms that the church is separated from the world, called out, as was Israel, and is to be distinguished from the world by moral conduct, as was Israel.

Paul spoke of being transformed (into the likeness of Christ), not conformed to the world. (Rom. 12:2) When we look like everyone else, we do not witness to the world of God's great character.

The additional blessing is that God meant his moral law not just for his exaltation, but for our happiness. Deuteronomy 6:24 says "The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God so that we might always prosper and be kept alive."

America has forgotten that. Much of the Church has also. I am grateful we have the book of Leviticus, for it teaches us that God knows what is best for us and, if we obey his plan, we will enjoy His favor and His blessing.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hello, France!

I appear to have one or two readers from France. I'd love to hear from you. My daughter and her family are moving to Lyon soon to work in church planting.

quote of the day

A man can be in no condition wherein God is at a loss and cannot help him. ~ Richard Sibbes

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Despite the fact that Jesus says not to worry, we find ourselves worrying. What do you do when you find yourself worrying?

Give your anxiety to God. Peter wrote “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Admit your anxiety to God. You might call this confession. Repent of your lack of trust. Or, if your anxiety is caused by your unwillingness to accept his provision for you, repent of that. The previous verse, 1 Peter 5:6, says “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that he me may lift you up in due time.” Admit that God knows best and accept his will.

Paul wrote a similar thought. He wrote “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) So first, rather than worrying, ask God (“prayer and petition”) to provide what you need. Second, give thanks for what you have. This is similar to Peter telling us to humble ourselves. Accept what God has provided and thank him for it.

What is the result? God will answer your prayer with peace and he will guard your heart and mind from further worry. As a side note, may I suggest that you do not throw up a prayer while driving or doing something else, but that you sit someplace, alone and quiet, and really talk to God.

So, we give our anxiety to God, we repent of our lack of trust, we ask for what we need and we thank God for what he has given us. Lastly, replace your anxious thoughts with good thoughts. Paul completed his thought with this: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about these things.” (Philippians 4:7)

My wife took this verse to heart when she suffered from anxiety attacks. When an attack began, she thought of all of the good things in her life, the good memories she had, the things she loved and cherished. The anxiety attacks went away. I later put this into practice myself. During one of the most difficult years of my life, when I faced losing every possession, I came home at night to a wife that loved me and two small daughters that yelled “daddy!” and ran to me when I walked in the door. Then, on top of all that, God gave us a new baby. And I would tell myself, if I can hang on to this, and nothing else, I will still be a rich man.

God does not want you to have anxiety. He wants you to obey him, trust him and thank him. He promises, in return, provision for your needs and peace of heart and mind. It sounds like a good deal to me. Take him up on it.


The Bible so often speaks of justice, and even righteousness, in terms of how we treat the poor. Psalm 37 does this. In verse 14, the wicked bring down the poor and needy. In verse 21, the righteous person is generous and gives. In verse 26, he\she is ever lending generously.

I find that people, including church people, are very judgmental toward the poor. The idea is that they must be poor because they have a character flaw. And that is often true.

Of course, we all have a character flaw: the flesh. But God does not call us to judge the poor, but to be generous to them and to treat them fairly, not taking advantage of them. I have been convicted of this over the last several years. I try to always give something to everyone who asks me. If I get the chance to share the gospel, I do that also. But, regardless, I give them something. God puts me to the test regularly and I try to be faithful.

Try to do what the Bible says without excuses. It will change you.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

THE WATCHMAN (Ezekiel 3)

Ezekiel 3:16-21
The Watchman

In this passage, God appoints Ezekiel as a watchman over Israel. A watchman keeps watch for enemies. If he sees them coming, he warns his people so they can prepare for battle. He may also watch for messengers coming from a battle to give news.

But Ezekiel is to watch for the Lord’s warning of judgment. Ezekiel must warn whomever God says to warn. If Ezekiel does not deliver the warning, God will hold him accountable for the death of the one who has sinned.

The first includes the wicked. Ezekiel must warn the wicked of coming judgment. He is not responsible for the outcome, just the warning. If the wicked repents, he shall live. If not, he will die. As long as Ezekiel delivers the warning, he is not accountable to God. But, if he fails to warn the wicked, God will require his blood of Ezekiel. In other words, God will kill him.

It also includes the righteous. If the righteous person strays from righteousness to commit injustice, he will die for his sin unless he repents. If Ezekiel delivered God’s warning, he is ok. If not, God will require Ezekiel’s death. And, in Biblical terms, “live” means not just physical life, but a full relationship with God, flowing from obedience, along with life in the covenant community.”Die” means estrangement from God and from the covenant community. That separated you from the source of life.

This is all part of the covenant between God and Israel. God set it out clearly in Deuteronomy 30:15-20. Obedience to God mean life and prosperity. Disobedience meant death.

Being God’s prophet is a great honor. But it is also a great responsibility. The prophet must be absolutely true to God’s word. Ezekiel had to reproduce God’s word faithfully and accurately.

I believe a preacher or teacher bears a similar burden. He or she must be absolutely true to God’s word. He or she must also warn people who are lost of God’s judgment, and those who are saved if they stray into sin that God is not please and may bring discipline upon them.

3:22 - 27
Another vision

After giving Ezekiel an appointment as watchman, God again confronted Ezekiel with God’s glory. He sent Ezekiell out of the settlement and out to the valley or plain. Again God presented his glory as he had in the first vision. Again, Ezekiel fell to his face on the ground. And again, the Spirit allowed him to stand and hear God’s word.

God’s instruction this time is to return to his house and stay silent. (24) In fact, he will be bound with cords so he cannot leave his house and he will be unable to speak. (25) So, God will not only dictate the content of the message, but the timing of it. When God is ready, he will open Ezekiel’s mouth to speak.

Again, God emphasized that some would hear and some would not because they were rebellious.

First Prophecy

Remember that Ezekiel is in Babylonia, having been captured in a previous attack on Jerusalem in 597 B.C. The Babylonians took 10,000 Jews captive and removed King Jehoiachin from the throne of Judah (II Kings 24:14-16). Jeremiah was still in Jerusalem. The City was not completely destroyed yet. Daniel had been taken to Babylon.

God gave Ezekiel a drama to act out. Usually prophets preach, but here Ezekiel is to act out a play. In this play, he used a brick to represent Jerusalem. He built siege works against it. He made camps around it. He made a battering ram. He pressed the siege against the city with an iron griddle. It was to be a “sign” for the house of Israel.

This, of course, is an enactment of Babylonia attacking the city of Jerusalem, which did indeed happen. Ezekiel is prophesying the attack. Babylonia will again besiege the city. But, the real attacker is God. He is the power behind the attack. Ezekiel represents God in this play, arranging and setting up the attack. And, he placed an iron wall between himself and Jerusalem. He will not hear any appeals for deliverance. They cannot get through the iron wall. He is set on bringing judgment. Ezekiel cannot mediate for them, just as God would not allow Jeremiah to pray for them.

There will be a final judgment for all people at the end of this age. At that time, there will be no opportunity to repent of sin and commit your life to Christ. Those who have not received Christ’s salvation will be thrown into the “lake of fire”. (Revelation 20:15)


I like that Jesus cited Psalm 37:11 in the Sermon on the Mount, but expanded the promise. In the Psalm, God says the meek shall inherit the land. In contrast, verse 9 says evil doers will be cut off. Cut off meant removed from the covenant people and from God. Eventually, all of the nation was cut off for being evil doers. Jesus showed the full scope of the promise in Matthew 5:5. The meek will inherit not just Canaan, but the whole earth. Revelation 21 and 22 show us John's vision, given by Christ, of the promised fulfilled in the earth made new by God and inhabited by those who believed over all the ages.

Sunday, February 09, 2014


Commanded To Obey
Ezekiel 2:8
God called Israel a rebellious house because they were stubborn and impudent. (2:4) But Ezekiel was not to be rebellious toward God even though he was part of Israel. When God appoints a prophet, the prophet must obey. Remember Jonah? God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach judgment. (Jonah 1:1-2) Jonah refused and fled to Tarshish. (Jonah 1:3) But God created a storm, captured Jonah, and sent him back on mission.
Jeremiah’s experience is almost humorous. God appointed him as a prophet before he was born. (Jer. 1:5) Jeremiah told God he was too young. (1:6) Here is God’s response:
Do not say I am only a youth;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.

Moses also experienced this. When Israel complained about the lack of water at Meribah, the Lord told Moses to speak to the rock and it would yield water. Instead, Moses struck the rock twice wit his staff. God still provided water He did it because he was angry with God. The Lord said Moses did not believe him and uphold him as holy to the people of Israel. Therefore, he did not let him enter Canaan. (Numbers 20)

So, likewise, God warned Ezekiel not to rebel, but to preach whatever message God had for him to preach. After telling him this, God showed it to Ezekiel.
The Scroll
Ez. 2:9-10
God’s first command was for Ezekiel to eat whatever God gave him to eat. Then he further explained that Ezekiel was to eat a scroll that God handed to him.
The scroll had writing on both the front and back. In other words, it was completely full of God’s message, meaning it contained God’s complete message to Israel. And the words were of lamentation, mourning, and woe. (10) So, the scroll was a message of God’s judgment upon Israel, already in exile, that would cause them to lament, mourn and woe their fate. It was not good news.

Ezekiel 3:1-3
Eat And Speak
God told Ezekiel to eat the scroll, then go speak to Israel. The imagery here is that Ezekiel is to fill himself up with God’s word, his message, and then go tell it to Israel. So, he would hear and absorb God’s message (eat), then go preach this sad word to his people. Ezekiel obeyed and ate the scroll.
Even though the message was a sad one to hear, it was good to Ezekiel. He said it was sweet as honey to his mouth. How could that be? I had to deliver some sad messages this week, and none of them were sweet to me. But this message was God’s word, so it was sweet. God’s word should always be good to us, even when it convicts us of sin. Psalm 19:7-11 speaks of the sweetness of God’s word:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant, warned; in keeping them is great reward.

The Task
Ez. 3:4-7
God tasked Ezekiel to speak his message to Israel. That sounds straight forward and simple. But, God says no, it will be hard. In fact, he said it would be easier if Ezekiel went to a nation with a difficult language unknown to Ezekiel. That would be like me going to China to preach in Chinese after growing up in West Texas. But, God said, if I sent you to a foreign land with a difficult language, they would listen to you. (6) But Israel will not be willing to listen to Ezekiel, because Israel was not willing to listen to God. (7) They will not listen because they have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.
I grew up hearing of people who were hard headed. That meant they would not listen to advice from others. The idea is their head is to hard for advice to get through. Israel was that way. They also had stubborn hearts. That means they would not take God’s message to heart, repent and obey him.
If you move forward in your Bible to the book of Acts, you see, centuries later, Stephen say to the Israelites: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.” (Acts 7:51)
Ez. 3:8-11
God equipped Ezekiel
God made Ezekiel as tough as his Israelite audience. His face was as hard as theirs. His head as hard as theirs. In fact, his head would be harder, as emery is harder than flint. So, God gave him the toughness he needed to persevere in preaching to people who were hardened against God’s message.
It takes courage to be God’s man or woman. People will resist you and ignore you. Even those who claim to be God’s people will resist the message.
God told Ezekiel not to be afraid. Do not worry about what they say or how they look at you. Remember God’s first words to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” (Joshua 1:6) 2 Timothy 1:7 says “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”. Later in the same letter, Paul told Timothy “be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus”. (2 Timothy 2:1) It is time for Christians around the world to be courageous. We are the most persecuted religion on the planet. Some suffer greatly. Others, as in America, see a nation that is rapidly going from Christian values to anti-Christian values and actions. We all have different personalities, but we can all stand up for Christ, testifying to his saving power and kingdom.
Ez. 3:12-15
The Parting
At the end of God’s message, the Spirit again moved. A great voice worshipped and praised God saying “Blessed be the glory of the Lord from its place”. The four creatures again moved with great noise. And as the glorious presence of the LORD began to leave Ezekiel, the Spirit took him away and left him back by the canal where the Israelites lived.
We have seen another time the Spirit relocated a man to preach. After Philip preached to the Ethiopian eunuch, the Spirit of the Lord carried him away and Philip preached the gospel to all the towns went through. (Acts 8:39)
Ezekiel began to feel God’s feelings toward Israel, communicated to him by the Spirit. That is what he meant by “the hand of the LORD being strong upon me”. (14) He had bitterness in the heat of his spirit. God’s anger toward Israel was strong.
Finally, the visitation of the LORD was over. Ezekiel had experienced the glory and presence of the LORD. He had been appointed as a prophet. He had been changed so that he was equipped to preach. Surely we can understand why he was overwhelmed for 7 days. The presence of the Lord will do that to you.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

The High Priest in Exodus 28 a Type of Christ

I am always amazed at the intricacy of the description of every item devoted to worship. Particularly here, the high priest goes into the holy place wearing stones inscribed with the names of the tribes of Israel. He bore the sin of God's people when he went into the tabernacle to conduct the sacrifice for the atonement of their sins.

Here the high priest is also a type of Jesus, our high priest. For he went into the tabernacle in heaven and offered the sacrifice of his own blood for the sins of his people. Jesus, being the perfect sacrifice, made the sacrifice only one time and that forever. He perfected his people for all time. (Heb. 10:14)

I spent a lot of my life doing things to make God happy, or at least, not mad at me. Instead, I should have been thanking him for sending his son to be the sacrifice that would perfect me for all time. Thank you, Father, for accepting Christ's sacrifice once for all time.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014


Exodus 21: 23 shows us, though, that God considered the unborn child a living person. Harm to the child had to be addressed. Since we know God does not change, we know God still considers an unborn child a person. God told Jeremiah, "before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations". (Jer. 1:5)

Everyone who takes the life of a person is accountable to God. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." (Gen. 9:6)

Life is precious to God. It must, therefore, be precious to us.

Monday, February 03, 2014


While anti-government protesters and government forces clash, Christians in Kiev pray and minister. It is encouraging to see the church act like the church in this crisis. Let us pray with them and for them as they do. Sometimes the church becomes the target even when it is not involved in the contest. Here is the article: