Word of the Day

The Old and the New

2 Kings 1: 7 – 8

And he said to them, “What kind of man was he who came up to meet you and spoke these words to you?”  And they answer him, “He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

Elijah was a prominent figure in the age before Jesus.  If you read the Old Testament accounts of him you will be inspired.  But there is an interesting New Testament chapter to the story of Elijah and I think when you consider these New Testament connections you will perceive that our Father had a plan all along to bring redemption and grace into the world, and that He hasn’t changed.  Why is that important?  There are some great promises from the Father that are recorded in what we call the Old Testament and as such many Christians stumble over whether they can rely on what they perceive as Hebrew promises.  When you see that it is all one continuous strategy then you will appreciate that God made those promises to you just as much as whatever He may tell you today.  There is no Old or New Testament to God.  To Him there are just His kids and His plan to sweep us all into eternity with Him.

Let’s begin in Matthew Chapter 17.  Jesus, Peter, James and John were coming down the mountain where the three disciples saw Jesus transfigured before their very eyes.  Interestingly enough, while Jesus was in that transfigured state, lo, Elijah and Moses appeared and engaged in conversation with him.  Elijah made a New Testament appearance.  Not only did Jesus see him but also the three disciples saw him. 

When they witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus they began to understand something about this man whom they followed.  I believe in that moment when they beheld him in his glory they became believers that he was, in fact, the son of God.  They got a revelation of this man as the Messiah.  But as so often happens with revelation knowledge it inspired them to further thought and questions.  So, on the way down the mountain they questioned Jesus.  “Why then” they asked him, “do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?  Come first before what?  Before the Christ.  You see, they just got a revelation that this Jesus was the long awaited Messiah but immediately their theology jumped up in the way.  “How can this be the Messiah,” they mused, “when we have been taught that Elijah must come first?”  Obviously, they were asserting that Elijah had not yet come which is so interesting considering they were leaving a place where they had just seen Elijah.  Anyway, Jesus answered them.  I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished.” 

Consider Matthew 3: 4, “Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather belt about his waist.”  Now re-read today’s passage.  Do they seem similar to you?  This description of John the Baptist is in the Bible so that we can make the connection between him and Elijah, between the Old Testament and the New.  There is continuity between the two sections of the Bible and you can find many verses that have a sister scripture in the other testament.  But let’s continue on with Elijah.  There is an implication here, at the least, that John the Baptist was the Elijah that was to be the precursor of the Messiah.  Jesus does not want us to have any doubt or misunderstanding though so he comes right out and says, “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come” (Matthew 11: 14). 

So what’s my point?  My point is that the “testaments” are an artificial construct.  Just like the chapter and verse designations, the testaments have been created in order to help us in studying the bible.  They are not meant to be divisive but rather instructive. Christians do themselves a great disfavor when they consider the first thirty-nine books of the Bible as belonging only to the Jews.  I am not suggesting we should live under the Levitical law but we certainly don’t want to cast aside the Psalms and the Proverbs.  Neither do we want to make those the only two Old Testament books we ever read.  There is a bunch of great stuff back there.  Besides, we are the heirs of Abraham in Jesus and if you want to see what our inheritance is, you are going to have to go to that Old book and read.  We certainly do not want to miss out on Deuteronomy 28: 1 – 14.  So enjoy your Old Testament and take possession of the promises of God and the revelation of His will.

Dangerous Friends

1 Corinthians 15: 33       NIV
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

This is the tune that parents have sung for hundreds and even thousands of years. You will become like who you hang around with. How does the expression go, “Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.” King Solomon would have been benefited from hearing Paul’s sermon. Solomon was an extremely blessed man. His father, David, left him an intact kingdom, one that was finally enjoying peace. Solomon had fame, honor, and extreme wealth. He had everything! Still, he fell. And do you know why? He hung out with the wrong people. He had heathen friends and heathen wives, heathen simply meaning that these were not people of the kingdom. They were not Israelites and more importantly they did not practice the Hebrew ways.

Have you ever noticed that in associations the lower person usually pulls the other down rather than the higher pulling the lower up? I do not know why this is the case but it is typical. It sure was the result in Solomon’s life. These non-believers, if you will, corrupted his testimony. He became like them instead of them becoming like him. He even ended up building altars to heathen gods. It is hard to believe that the son of David could fall so far. This is Solomon who was chosen to and in fact did build the temple of God. Then later in life he built pagan temples and altars. It is hard to fathom. The end of the story is that Solomon fell hard. The throne was torn from his lineage except for one tribe. And all of this happened because he did not choose his friends wisely.

Who you hang out with will affect you. Period. We must zealously guard our hearts or the thief will steal our fervent love for God. The next thing you know your life has made a radical departure from your former self. Of course, the other danger is that we lie to ourselves saying that we are still serving God, we still love Him but in the depths of our hearts we know that we have left our first love. So here is the question, “Where are we allowing our associations to lead us?” We’ve got to be honest with ourselves in answering this question. We should also be aware that it is not only the people that we associate with that entice us away from time spent with God. We can also be lured away by “things.” That new boat can become an idol or even a new house. A book series can become an obsession. In short, there are many things that can tempt us away from God. We’ve all spent too much time at work or too much time at play so this isn’t a recrimination. It is a warning. Look at who you are associated with. Ask yourself if they are leading you towards or away from God. Assess where your time is spent. Besides work, what dominates your time and thought? Be cautious, otherwise the enemy will steal your zeal for God. Before you even know it you find it easy to cut church when you used to attend regularly. You never pick up your Bible anymore and your prayer life has become a burden rather than a joy.  

Everything you need for life is in the Lord our God. Do not be misled. Turn your face to God and be blessed and renewed.

Age Old Wisdom

Job 12: 12

Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?

Have you ever felt or thought that the United States, as a country, is getting dumb? It certainly seems that way at times and now I know why. We have abandoned our aged. We treat them all as if they are all senile, call them “old man” and “old woman” expressing great disrespect. Not only that but they are beginning to believe the propaganda too.

When I was young I remember hearing that older people were the source of wisdom for us. Young people have energy and enthusiasm and older folks have wisdom and experience. When we combine them we have a very good mix. But something untoward has happened in our society. A lie has been allowed to establish itself in our culture and the effects are, frankly, devastating. Rather than older people being honored and celebrated, they have become the targets of derision. This dynamic hurts both the young people and the older people. Worst of all, it has severely damaged our society. Young people think they know everything but I look back at what a bonehead I was and am clear that the wisdom of young people is suspect if not completely absent.

Now this is not an attack on youth. Nor should I be read to say that I believe young people are without intelligence. It is just that we have cut off one of our hands by the way we neglect and denigrate the older segment of our population. This maltreatment of the senior members of our society and our negative thoughts and expectations about their capacity is crippling our society. Its damage can be seen in the family, in our churches and certainly in the main stream culture.

Today’s scripture leads one to conclude that youth is not the repository of wisdom. There is an adage that wisdom comes from experience. That’s true but the real wisdom, that which is infallible, comes from experience with the Father. The longer we walk with God, the wiser we become. So, those who have walked with God for a long time are a tremendous source of wisdom and guidance. And we must learn to take advantage of it which begins with honoring those who are our seniors. Part of honoring them is showing them respect.

Consider, please, a new trend in our society. Once a person reaches 50 or 60 years of age they and others begin to expect their minds to deteriorate. This is even true of Christians. Have we never read 1 Corinthians 2: 16? “We have the mind of Christ.” And I will promise you that Jesus is not senile and he isn’t losing his mind.

This is my entreaty. I would that we would have a renovation of our thinking. It begins with how we think about and act towards our more senior citizens. Secondly, I pray that we would begin to think differently about ourselves. If we expect our minds to begin slipping as we age then guess what, they will begin to slip. If, however, we expect to be strong of mind and body until the day we step into heaven then we will be strong. Remember, Moses didn’t even begin his ministry until he was 80 years old. If you are not yet 80 then you have time yet to prepare for when life begins. You are still in training. Get wisdom. It comes with walking with God. Then you will be prepared for the work that God wants to do with you.

But mostly, stop thinking negative thoughts. Stop expecting yourself and others to develop memory problems. Cease the negative confessions of your mouth. If you don’t desire to be senile then get senility out of your mouth. And for all of our sakes, do not put that curse on everyone around you by spewing that negativity out on them. It is a really, really rude thing to do. If you love your friends and family, speak life to them, speak wholeness. Shalom.

A Day of Rest

1 Kings 8: 56

Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.

Our dear Father has given us rest. Our success is in His strength and in His promise. It is not in our many labors. As we learn to trust in His strong right arm, then we can live a life of rest.  So we may rest from our labors and enjoy the fruit of his presence.

As you enjoy your Labor Day Holiday I hope you will receive divine rest. I pray that you will be renewed and invigorated.

                                                   Happy Labor Day!!

 
 

The Glory of Grace

1 Corinthians 15: 9 – 10

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. but by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of the them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

Paul enters the story of the Christian church as one of the preeminent weapons that Satan had in play, perhaps even the most valuable tool in Satan’s arsenal. He was zealous in his persecution of Christians. It is perhaps a bit difficult for us to fully appreciate what a bad guy Paul, then Saul, really was. Imagine today someone who goes throughout the country, fully authorized, beating, stoning and imprisoning Christians simply because of their faith. In happens in other countries even today but this is not something that occurs in most of our experiences. Then imagine that the guy who is the most zealous and dangerous persecutor of all becomes a minister of the gospel. It really is difficult to wrap your head around.  

How was Paul ever able to stand in the presence of God? How could he even pray to the one whom he persecuted? He tells us in this passage. Only the grace of God could repair a relationship which was so badly broken. Only grace could cover Paul’s sin and the harm that he did to so many people. Grace does what nothing else can. Only God’s grace can take our damage and turn it around for good. 

Humility is a good thing in a person because, as was the case with Paul, it allows the grace of God to wipe away our idiocy so that in God’s eyes we are as pure and innocent as Jesus himself. Paul describes himself as the least of all of the apostles. He is humble as to his own stature and merit. None the less, he boasts in the work that God was able to do through him but he says it is because of the grace.

Some people use the message of grace as a way to excuse their sin or continue in it but, you see, that isn’t grace. Grace reaches out to your brokenness and creates a saint. Grace doesn’t just cover your mistakes. It eradicates them. But … if you have truly been touched by grace, then you have a deep, deep desire to never sin in any form ever again. Grace repairs a person’s heart and reforms them into the very image of the Christ. No one who understands grace, or even fathoms a smidgen about grace, will intentionally keep sinning. A person who would use the blood of Jesus to continue to sin is a fool and I don’t want to even stand near them. That is an insult to the blood of Jesus and blasphemes the Holy Spirit. My point is, do not let an idiot teach you the meaning of grace. Don’t even give that kind of person your ear for a moment for there is nothing they can say that would enlighten even one hair of your head. 

Grace turned the biggest sinner of the age into the greatest apostle of the time. Grace takes people like you and me and makes us giants because grace requires nothing of us except humble surrender. When we understand that grace is not about us but is only about the goodness of God then we can experience a new level of freedom. And by the grace of God, we can do all things. Whatever God has put in your heart, you can do because His grace will do for you what it did for Paul. You can be the greatest apostle of this age. He who surrenders best will win the race. The more we let go of ourselves and rely solely on the grace of God, the stronger and more effective we become. Isn’t that great news? Even if you are the biggest mess on the block, the dunce of the family, tomorrow could be a whole different story. Even if you have been out persecuting and killing Christians, you could become the best mouthpiece for God of our age. Never lose hope; just lose yourself in the grace of God.

Who is it?

Job 9: 24

If it is not he, then who is it?

You know the story of Job and of how great his suffering was. Job was a godly man so when calamity struck his house he was bewildered. The book of Job records conversations he had with his “friends”. In today’s passage Job is answering Bildad. He makes the assertion that so many Christians make which is essentially that God is the source of our trouble and misfortune.  

I was guilty of this myself. In my early years I, like everyone, suffered some hardships. My religious training had not taught me that there was a source of evil in the world. I remember saying to someone who was a Christian, “It must be God who is causing these bad things to happen to me.” It was a horrible thing to say to a believer but do you know what? He didn’t correct me. He didn’t explain to me how wrong I was and about the goodness and love of our God. Surely he believed in John 3: 16, who doesn’t? How, then, do we reconcile this God of love who gave everything to save us with the ideology of a God who inflicts pain and suffering? We cannot because the two are irreconcilable.

The devil has done quite a number on the church. He has reduced his image to that of a cute Halloween costume. He has shifted our understanding of him to fantasy and make believe. However, we have the means to learn and know the truth. James 1: 5 is the pronouncement of a major theme of the Bible, that being that the Lord, our God, gives us wisdom. The wisdom of God reveals all truth, so, the devil cannot hide in his lies when wisdom has come upon the scene. He is always exposed for the liar that he is.

When bad things happen, we need to understand that the devil is our enemy (1 Peter 5: 8). However, we can take comfort in knowing that our Lord has already defeated the enemy which means that we are no longer subject to the devil. We can overcome all of his machinations through the victory of Jesus. The first step, however, is in not being deceived that there is no devil or that our benevolent Father is the source of the bad things that happen in life. Believe me, when I thought that God was the source of trouble in my life I could not receive relief. It is only in our Father that we can triumph. 1 Corinthians 13: 8 says that love never fails. Well, here is an example of that non-failing force. Love always wins so we take the love of God, which is God’s very substance, and we apply it to the problem and love wins every time.

Your Father loves you more than you can imagine and He would never inflict harm on you. He only wants good for you and since He is love and goodness that is all that He has to give you. Give the devil his proper due and put him back under your feet where he belongs.

Follow the Blessing

Deuteronomy 28: 2

And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the Lord your God.

When you read the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy you see that there is much blessing promised in that chapter. I quite like the idea of the blessing chasing us down in the street and overtaking us. And as much as we might relish that thought and even believe God, we still might question how it is going to happen. The answer, fortunately, is in the last phrase of the sentence. The blessing is in our obedience. That may sound more spiritual than it needs to. It is more basic than many of us appreciate. God will bless you even in tough economic times by giving you ideas and plans for gaining wealth. Maybe he is telling you to save 10% of your income. Maybe he is telling you to give money to a charity. We have to become sensitive to the urges God is using to prompt us and then we must obey. Maybe we have thought to give money to a minister but haven’t done it. Maybe we had a generous thought towards someone else and didn’t follow through. God isn’t trying to get something from you; he is trying to get something to you. He will prosper you in these times but you must obey. In the midst of a bad economy, God wants to prosper you abundantly. Listen to what he is telling you. Pray about it and by all means follow through.

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