Let not your hearts be troubled

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”” (John 14:1–7, ESV)

If we stop and consider the year 2020 what things come to mind, maybe it is the fires in Australia that killed three billion animals, or perhaps the flash floods that followed when the rains came. Out in the oceans there have been 26 tropical storms, 25 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. In the pacific there have been 13 named storms, 4 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. There have been 45,939 wildfires in the US with 8.3 million acres burned. 2020 is the 10th consecutive year that has seen 10 Billion dollar weather or climate disasters. In Africa and the middle east there where record setting locust invasions that in places devoured 90% of the crops. The great lakes, once at all time lows have overflowed and are taking out many homes along their coasts. There is political unrest in many countries and finally the great plague of covid-19.

There is so much we could worry or be fearful about, but Jesus told his disciples to not let their hearts be troubled but to believe in God and in him. Jesus told them that he is going away to prepare a place and that he will come again. Thomas does not understand, asks to know the way. Jesus responded with these words:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.

This statement is one of the many “I Am” statements that Jesus says. The Faithlife study bible puts it this way:

Jesus uses seven metaphorical “I am” statements to define His role as Savior and Messiah . These sayings also carry strong overtones of being claims to divinity. He identifies Himself as the bread of life (vv. 35, 48, 51), the light of the world (8:12; 9:5), the gate for the sheep (10:7, 9), the good shepherd (10:11, 14), the resurrection and the life (11:25), the way and the truth and the life (14:6), and the true vine (15:1).[1]

All these terms are very personal, revealing characteristics of our Lord that should drive us to a more intimate relationship with our savior. His desire for us it to be ready, to be focused on him and not all the things going on around us. My favorite “I am” saying is that Jesus IS THE TRUTH, he is the embodiment of all that God has revealed to us in the scriptures. Therefore, we should be spending time in the scriptures and in prayer, finding quality time with our savior, not just facts and doctrine, but to know the one who holds all things in His hands yet desires to be in our midst.

Martin Lloyd Jones once made this comment regarding the study of scripture:

“What foolish creatures we are! Many of us are not interested in doctrine at all; we are lazy Christians who do not read, do not think, and do not try to delve into the mysteries. We have had a certain experience and we desire no more. Others of us, deploring such an attitude, say that, because the Bible is full of doctrine, we must study it and grapple with it and possess it. So we become absorbed in our interest in doctrine and stop at that. The result is that, as regards this question of the love of Christ, we are no further on than the others because we have made doctrine an end and a terminus. In this way the devil trips and traps us and robs us of our heritage. If your knowledge of the Scriptures and of the doctrines of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has not brought you to this knowledge of the love of Christ, you should be profoundly dissatisfied and disturbed. All biblical doctrine is about this blessed Person; and there is no greater snare in the Christian life than to forget the Person Himself and to live simply on truths concerning Him….We should never study the Bible or anything concerning biblical truth without realizing that we are in His presence, and that it is truth about Him. And it should always be done in an atmosphere of worship.2 

Today, so many of the people who call themselves Christian are just going through the rituals, yet God is far from their hearts. Jesus gave us a wonderful parable regarding how we should be waiting for His return:

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1–13, ESV)

Where are you today with your relationship to Jesus. Are your lamps ready to receive the bridegroom when he comes, or has the bridegrooms delay lulled you to sleep? Have you let the oil burn away so when he does come you will not be ready to enter the marriage feast? Oil in Scripture often represents the Holy Spirit and we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit in abundance in our lives so that we will remain in tune with God so we are prepared when He returns. Yet we can grieve and quench the Holy Spirit in our lives. Both of these are similar in their effects. They hinder a godly lifestyle. This happens when a believer sins against God and follows his or her own worldly desires. The only correct road to follow is the road that leads the believer closer to God and purity, one of repentance and humility, one that takes us farther away from the world and sin. 

We must prepare and be ready, but not out of ritual but through relationship. The passage I started this blog with (John 14) was a very intimate time that Jesus was having with the disciples in the last two weeks of His life. Let these words ring deep in your heart. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also..

Jesus in the book or revelation warns the churches of the sins that have creeped into the body, the apostles warned of difficult times and great apostasy, but in the end the simple message to all of them was to repent. Let’s get on our knees and repent, not only as individuals but as the body of Christ.

[1] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Jn 6:35). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

2David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Unsearchable Riches of Christ—Studies in Ephesians, Chapter 3


Gaze Upon the Beauty

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, ESV)

Recently I was at a park getting ready to photograph a young couple wanting to announce the coming of their first child. It is always such a blessing to be able to capture the joy that people have in celebrating life.

While I was waiting in the park, I took out my camera and looked around at the amazing colors that the trees expressed and again reflected back on how amazing our God is and how not only the heavens, but also the earth declare His glory!

As I sit here and ponder all the beauty in the world around me that reflect God’s glory, I am saddened by the darkness and sin that corrupts it. There are so many things going on today that can distract us from a rich deep relationship with our God. We have disease, anger, frustration, and so many people are looking for salvation in the wrong places.

So many things pull on our time, then when we are given the blessing of a few moments, what is it we fill it with. The unfortunate answer is usually not time with God, but social media, video games, television, Hulu, Netflix, Disney, News shows, and the list goes on.

I am not saying these are all bad, a little bit of these things need not consume our lives and our thoughts. (Though much of the programming these days on a majority of the streaming sites is very questionable and does not do our minds any good) I have to ask myself, where is the majority of my free time spent?

Reflecting back on the heavens and the earth declaring God’s glory, what can we learn from godly leaders in our past? I think about people who’s lives I have studied and read about like Martin Lloyd Jones, Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, Dwight Moody, Andrew Murry, Oswald Chambers, John Bunyan, Ignatius, Polycarp, the Apostles John, Peter, King David, and the other Psalm writers.

All these men where consumed with seeking after the Lord with all their hearts. Lives marked with times of prayer and devotion to Gods word that today we could not even imagine that type of time spent with our Lord. Men and women who’s greatest pursuits where not in the frivolous things of the world but in spending countless hours in God’s word and prayer.

Paul said it well in Philippians 2:12-17:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:12–16, ESV)

Then in Colossians Paul writes these words of exhoration:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1–4, ESV)

The writer of Psalm 27 (most likely David) also lived in a world were so much weighed on his life. Darkness and a sin-full world pressed in on him. But where was his focus, what gave him great delight?

In this day and age, when so much can take our gaze away from what is truly beautiful, we must look beyond this world and immerse ourselves in prayer and the study of God’s word and gaze upon Yeshua the one who is the radiance of God’s glory and the representation of his essence. Then may we speak in our hearts that which David desired….

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, ESV)

The Torah of Yahweh (Part 2)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. This one was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and apart from him not one thing came into being that has come into being. In him was life, and the life was the light of humanity. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:1–5, LEB)

In the book of John we start with a beautiful expression of “the Word”. The faithlife study bible comments on it this way…

The “word of Yahweh” evokes associations with creation, divine revelation, personified wisdom, and the law of Moses. The “word of Yahweh” and the law had already been closely related in prophetic poetry (see Isa 2:3). The “word” is the agent of creation in Psa 33:6, but divine wisdom is personified and depicted in that role in Prov 8:22–31. In the deuterocanonical book Sirach 24:23, this personified divine wisdom is connected to the law of Moses, similarly given preexistent eternal status in Jewish tradition (see the rabbinic text Genesis Rabbah 1.1). Jesus is connected with divine wisdom also in 1 Cor 1:30. By choosing this language, John makes Jesus the very power and essence of God.[1]

John ends his opening thoughts with this statement…

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, ESV)

Many Bibles insert the word “but” between Moses and grace. It is not there in the original text. Careful study of this verse reveals that instruction was given to Moses, how to live it correctly comes through Jesus. Put another way – the instruction is the Grace of God, revealing to us how we are to live, and Jesus is the one who demonstrates it to us and enables us to carry it out by His Spirit.

Recently I have been listening to some old sermons from the late Rev Billy Graham. The more I listened that more I realized that he provided solutions to many of our greatest problems through the word of God and the saving grace of Jesus the Christ. He literally lived out and preached 2 Tim 3:16 –

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)

Do we believe what Paul wrote in this verse; I mean do we really believe it? The unfortunate thing today is that we have turned so many verses into short pithy quotes and out of context promises that we throw at people without first demonstrating the compassion and mercy that Jesus showed.

Scripture should be used, yes, but done so through prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit who is the one who brings those words to life in us. It needs to be kept in the full context of what is written and not just popped out and used like a pill.

I think back on Psalm 1 and ask myself, do I delight in the Torah of Yahweh, if so, how do I show it? Do I spend quality time meditating on His words or do I fill my mind and life with unfruitful junk food.

Listen carefully to your prayer life, what is you main focus. A life filled with God’s word should be more upward focused, seeking His will and not our own. God already knows our needs and desires before we even ask. Is your prayer life guided and driven by His Word and the Spirit or do you find yourself continually praying a laundry list of what you want God to do? Try this exercise – allow scripture to guide your prayer life. Develop a discipline of spending a rich amount of time in God’s word and not filling your mind with junk. (Facebook, Netflix, games, social media, Instagram etc.) These are ok when we limit our time with them, but the greater amount of our time should be reading and praying in God’s Word.

[1]Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Jn 1:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

The Torah of Yahweh (Part 1)

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the advice of the wicked; nor does he stand in the way of sinners; nor does he sit in the assembly of mockers. Instead, in the law of Yahweh is his delight, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1–2, LEB)

When you move through the Psalms you can’t help but experience the deep love the writers had for God’s word. I don’t think it is an accident that the book of Psalms starts its first stanza with words like delight and meditate. In Psalm 19, the writer looks at the revelation of God in the universe, and pairs it with the beauty of the word of God. One commentator put it this way…

The very sound of the two movements of the psalm tells something of their two concerns: the broad sweep of God’s wordless revelation in the universe, expressed in the exuberant lines of verses 1–6, and the clarity of his written word, reflected in the quiet conciseness of verses 7–10, to which the heart-searching of 11–14 is the worshipper’s response.[2]

Today, there seems to be a fierce attack on the Word of God. The methods of this attack may change but the underlying message is still the same – did God really say?

The word used in our english for Torah is law. This is also a huge problem since “law” brings many pre-concieved ideas from our culture that just are not true of the Bible.

The basic idea behing the word Torah is to throw, cast, or to shoot an arrow at the mark. The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament defines the scope of this word very nicly…

The word tôrâ means basically “teaching” whether it is the wise man instructing his son or God instructing Israel. The wise give insight into all aspects of life so that the young may know how to conduct themselves and to live a long blessed life (Prov 3:1f.). So too God, motivated by love, reveals to man basic insight into how to live with each other and how to approach God. Through the law God shows his interest in all aspects of man’s life which is to be lived under his direction and care. Law of God stands parallel to word of the Lord to signify that law is the revelation of God’s will[1]

What an amazing thought that God’s compassion and love are poured out through his instruction to allow us to live with each other and be able to approach God. Paul a man who lived by that instruction did not look at that instruction as a burden, but as a gift that reveals his standing before God…

Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”” (Romans 7:7, ESV)

This verse from chapter 7 of Romans continues a theme Paul starts back in Romans chapter 5, then he drives it all home in Romans 7:25…

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25, ESV)

The word “Serve” that Paul uses means to be a slave to, controlled by, or to serve. So even though Paul struggled in the flesh with sin, his mind was controlled by the Lord. We see this re-emphasized in Romans 8:5…

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5, ESV)

How is this done, how do we set our minds on things of the spirit? It is in the same book a few chapters later that Paul tells us to not be conformed to this age, literally to not be in union with the patterns and fashion of the existing culture. “But to be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may approve what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God”. How can we know what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God? The Psalmist knew…read and meditate on Psalm 119 and you can see just how much the word of God can do in the life of a believer.


[1] Hartley, J. E. (1999). 910 יָרָה. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 404). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2]Kidner, D. (1973). Psalms 1–72: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 15, p. 114). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Because we did not seek him…

Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.” So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord.” (1 Chronicles 15:12–15, ESV)

Today I was doing my daily readings of scripture and came across this verse that caught my attention. But before we dig into it, we need to look at the background of this story.

In 1 Sam 4, the Philistines captured the Ark of God, but everywhere they took it disaster happened, for scripture tells us that the Lord was heavy against the cities where they took the Ark. The Philistines returned the Ark to Israel where it ends up at Beth-shemesh. Here it is ministered to by the Levites. Then the men of Kriiath-jearim came and took the ark to the house of Abinadab and consecrated his son Eleazar to have charge of the ark of the Lord where it stayed for over 20 years. In that period Saul rises to become King, followed by David.

In 2 Sam 5, David defeats the Philistines through inquiry of the Lord. But now he hastily decides to go and bring up the Ark of God from its current location to the city of David. So David gathers all the chosen men of Israel, builds a new cart, then places the ark on the cart which is driven by Aminadab’s sons Uzzah and Ahio.

Nowhere do we see David inquiring the Lord regarding the movement of the Ark, but he just decides to do this. There is no preparation mentioned to sanctify those who would minister to the ark, which is considered the place of God’s presence. A God who describes himself as a consuming fire. To enter God’s presence in the tabernacle required great preparation to ensure that the person entering in was sanctified less God’s holy presence consume them.

The result is that when the ox stumbles Uzzah reaches out and touches the ark and dies. Uzzah had not consecrated himself in preparation for the movement of the ark, and God’s holiness consumes Uzzah for he is most likely unclean in God’s presence.

So, the second time they decide to move the ark, David understands his failure and the people consecrate themselves for the movement of the ark according to the word of the Lord recorded by Moses. This time it is successfully brought to Jerusalem.

I pondered, what can we understand from this story? In Isaiah 55 it says:

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6–9, ESV)

We do not know God’s thoughts; we certainly don’t know His ways, so how do we seek Him out so He can be found? Only through the study of God’s words, and prayer! The big problem, do we ever really slow down and seek the Lord in genuine deep prayer, or spend quality time reading and meditating on His words?

For the preacher or teacher of God’s word, do we really seek him out to know what he desires us to teach? One thing that I have noticed in the study of scripture is that God usually does not reveal details about His purposes very far in advance. So how are we to believe that he gives us details for a whole year when we are to seek Him daily? He may, but I would be wondering if this is the Spirit or my flesh?

How about in our personal lives? Do we start the day asking the Lord to guide us through the day and that His will be done? If we are Christ’s workmanship as described in Ephesians 2:10, how are we to walk in them if we don’t ask Him what we are to be doing? Seems to me when David did not inquire of the Lord disaster followed.

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, ESV)

 If Jesus, God in the flesh, spent every morning seeking the fathers will, how much more should we be seeking the Lord in prayer? Seriously reflecting on what Jesus taught to His disciples, passed down to us in the gospels:

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:7–10, ESV)

All of this, a complete upward focus on the father should be reflected on before we ever get to the second part of the prayer:

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:11–13, ESV)

By the way, did you catch all the plural pronouns in this prayer? This is not about me, its about us as the body of Christ. It is God’s provision, God’s forgiveness, and God’s protection of the community that we are to seek.

The Father knows what you need before you even ask. So I believe an outward focus is what he truly desires. I feel that we spend to much time with a laundry list of requests (my desires) for God that we never really turn our gaze upward. Think about that the next time you pray – do you start with a quick hi to God then jump into your list, or do you bathe yourself in His presence and at the end place your requests (he already knows) at His feet.

I like the way Augustine put it in his exposition of the psalms:

“It is one thing to seek some favor from the Lord, quite another to seek the Lord himself.… Do not seek any extraneous thing from the Lord, but seek the Lord himself. He will hearken to you, and even while you are still speaking he will say, “Here I am.” Expositions of the Psalms 34.9.[1]

So, I leave you with this selection from psalm 105 to meditate on this day:

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones!” (Psalm 105:1–6, ESV)


[1] Blaising, C. A., & Hardin, C. S. (Eds.). (2008). Psalms 1–50 (p. 260). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Did God actually say…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”” (Genesis 3:1–3, ESV)

I did a search of churches in my area. There were not as many as I expected but still quite a few. A sadness overtook to me as I listened to the exerts of sermons from these churches and most of them did not start with God’s word. Many of them used a small verse as a point in their story just to tie it to God but then jumped into pithy stories, humor, dramatic statements, sociology, psychology, and motivational garble to tickle the ears of the audience.

Do not get me wrong, some of these are probably descent churches with pastors that really desire people to know God but are going down a path that is very dangerous.

John MacArthur, a person in our generation who has held up the word of God continually through his life made this comment in an interview:

“These people, like the liberals, deny the clear teaching of Scripture. And I’m convinced that the reason they deny it is not because it can’t be understood, not because it’s unclear, but because they don’t like what it clearly says. And that takes you back to John 3, “Men love darkness rather than light.” The light is there, they hate the light, they run from the light. The issue is not that Scripture is not clear, it is crystal clear.” (John MacArthur)

Many pastors today have succumbed to the lie, “did God actually say? Instead of listening and preaching the scriptures, we have replace the Bible with psychology and sociology and created the seeker friendly church where the message preached is designed to give people what they want to hear and hide the truth of God’s word behind smoke and mirrors.

But the whisper is not just happening in the pulpit, we cannot blame just our leaders for our biblical illiteracy, we also must take the blame. Yes, the serpent is still more crafty and uses many tools to distract us from the Lord and His word.

When the word of God is not our center, then what is the balance of our priorities in life? How much time do we spend watching television over reading and studying and memorizing God’s word? What about social networking (Facebook, Instagram, twitter etc.) does it take more time than we spend reading God’s word? The list can go on, but the point is this – do you really consider the Word of God and spending time with the one who holds eternity in His hands important, or does the idols of this world draw you away? Dr. Kenneth Berding from Biola University made this observation in an article he wrote back in 2014…

Every time I teach a class called Biblical Interpretation & Spiritual Formation, I ask my students why it is that so few people in this generation are really zealous about the things of God. I can’t remember a time when I’ve asked that question when someone hasn’t mentioned distractions. Social networking, texting, television, video games and places dedicated to amusement (“amusement” parks, for example) pull our attention away from God’s Word. These fun and interesting activities occupy time that we could spend reading, studying and memorizing the Bible and they distract our thoughts during time we could spend meditating on God’s Word throughout the day. When we walk from one meeting to another, are our thoughts naturally moving to Scripture and prayer? As we leave a college class session, are we thinking on the things of God that we have learned from the Bible? Or do we immediately check to see whether someone has messaged us? (Berding, 1914)

I ask this simple question about our gathering together, and our personal time…what is the center of our attention, God’s Word or the world. In an article by Alex Dodson of the Watchman radio hour he notes:

The proclamation of the Word of God has taken a back seat in many evangelical churches today. The great pulpits of the past no longer exist. Even the large pulpit bibles that used to be on every pulpit don’t have a place in modern evangelical church sanctuaries. The pulpit has been put aside to make room for the worship team. When the preacher comes to speak, he usually has a small lectern that is put there for him to lay his Bible or notes on and then removed quickly as soon as he is finished to make room for the worship leaders. The great preaching of the Word of previous generations is missing from most modern day evangelical churches. So, people who tremble at the Word of God are scarce today. (Dodson, n.d.)

Is history repeating, are we like the ancient Israelites who worshiped God with their lips but had hearts that were far away?

May we pay heed to what the prophet Isaiah wrote to that generation…

Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1–2, ESV)

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, ESV)

I leave the reader with this excerpt from a sermon delivered  by CH Spurgeon on March 16th 1890 which are still relevant today:

The Psalmist, in this psalm (psalm 19), has compared the Word of God to the sun. The sun in the heavens is everything to the natural world; and the Word of God in the heart is everything in the spiritual world. The world would be dark, and dead, and fruitless, without the sun; and what would the mind of the Christian be without the illuminating influence of the Word of God? If thou despisest holy Scripture, thou art like to one that despises the sun. It would seem that thou art blind, and worse than blind; for even those without sight enjoy the warmth of the sun. How depraved art thou if thou canst perceive no heavenly lustre about the Book of God! The Word of the Lord makes our day, it makes our spring, it makes our summer, it prepares and ripens all our fruit. Without the Word of God we should be in the outer darkness of spiritual death. I have not time this morning to sum up the blessings which are showered upon us through the sun’s light, heat, and other influences. So is it with the perfect law of the Lord; when it comes in the power of the Spirit of God upon the soul, it brings unnumbered blessings: blessings more than we ourselves are able to discern.

References

Berding, D. K. (1914). The Crisis of Biblical Illiteracy. Retrieved from magazine.biola.edu: http://magazine.biola.edu/article/14-spring/the-crisis-of-biblical-illiteracy/

Dodson, A. (n.d.). A Missing Element in Modern Evangelical Worship: People Who Tremble at the Word of God. Retrieved from http://www.oneplace.com: https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/watchman-radio-hour/read/articles/a-missing-element-in-modern-evangelical-worship-people-who-tremble-at-the-word-of-god-12289.html

Spurgeon, C. H. (1890). The Warnings and the Rewards of the Word of God. In The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (Vol. 36, p. 157). London: Passmore & Alabaster.

And these words…

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7, ESV)

I was reading through a course activity on the Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus and at the end of the session the author challenges his audience by asking a simple question. Do you practice this teaching? What does it look like?

The passage here is part of the Shema which is recited morning and evening as the centerpiece of a Jewish prayer service. In the world of the Christian church we also have part of this prayer as a central idea behind how we should live and that is this:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, ESV)

As I pondered this verse I had to stop and really think about what it was saying. Do I talk of them when I walk by the way, or when I lie down, or even when I rise? How much does the word of God permeate my life every day?

Some may argue, well, that is the Old Testament, that does not really apply today. But then you would have to consider the words Paul give to Timothy in the New Testament:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)

What does this really mean for me as a follower of Jesus our Lord? In the end I believe that the Word of God should fill every part of our daily routines. We should be challenging each other with what we are learning from the scriptures and through the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Every day we should be encouraging one another with God’s words and allowing them to sink deep into our soul.

One thing that really made me think about this even more is that fact that this part of the Shema comes right after the section about loving the Lord with all your heart. To me this is important because it suggest that part of loving the Lord your God is tied to God’s word and its impact on our lives every day.

The challenge today is how to do this amid a distracted world, and with so many things pulling us in so many different directions? Paul understood this even in the early days of Christianity and gives these good words to Timothy which are still good for us to hear today:

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 6:11–16, ESV)

The Lord is going to appear, he will return, and what will we be doing when he does? Will we be distracted by the desires of the world, or will we be fighting the good fight and holding fast to the eternal life in which we are called?

Wanderer

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

In todays crazy world and the isolation we face everyday the greatest threat I feel to my Christian walk is the danger of wandering from God’s word. There are so many distractions and temptations when we are isolated, and yet truly we are not really alone. In todays world we have many ways to connect with people and encourage one another, but still those are but a moment and what must we do to keep moving forward in our relationship with the Lord in the alone times.

Psalm 119 is such a rich and powerful Psalm and really draws our focus into what is truly important in our daily struggle – Gods Words!

If I where to just take each of the sections which follow the Hebrew alphabet and just think on the beginning of each section. What can you take away from it? This is also an amazing Psalm because it was structured in the original Hebrew for easy memorization using each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

  • Aleph – Blessed are those whose way is blameless
  • Beth – How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
  • Gimmel – Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.
  • Daleth – My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!
  • He – Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
  • Vav – Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word.

The word of God is so rich for our lives, each day we must spend time in His word and seek the many ways it enriches our lives.

Prayer is the other important element of our lives that is truly needed. I am not just talking about a quick passing prayer but a devoted time of communing with the King of the Universe.

In Psalm 46:8 and 10, both have elements that we can get from spending quality time with the Lord.

Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth.……“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

The original Hebrew word for “Be Stil”l is harpu and is from the verb RFH רפה meaning “to let go, to release”. A more literal translation of harpu would be “cause yourselves to let go”.

This is a time to release and let go of all you are holding onto and allow God to wash over you and bring renewal into your life.

Billy Graham in his Answers blog said this on Jan 5 2012:

Make prayer part of your daily life. When problems arise — pray. When doubts come — pray. When people say things that hurt you — pray. When you feel yourself getting down — pray. When you’re tempted — pray. When you are burdened for others — pray. And pray with joy in your heart, and with thanksgiving. The Bible says, “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

When we are isolated we also have a great deal more time, so get into His Word, and spend time communing with the one who is never away and always present, it is then that we can find our firm foundation and not wander from His commands.

 

 

Repent!

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”” (Acts 17:30–31, ESV)

I write this blog on the first day of Passover 2020. There is so much going on in the world and still fear has its grips on so many. The Plagues of the bible where to bring humility to the people of Egypt and bring about the redemption of God’s people. The unfortunate thing for the people in Egypt is that they continued to refuse to turn to the God of Israel and sought out their own Gods. The result was the plague of death. But in the end the people of God where led out of Egypt and saw God’s mighty act of redemption. Israel has continued to celebrate the deliverance of the Israelite people from the last plague – death. I continue to ponder what God is doing in all of this, but one thing is sure, we are not in control and we must turn to him, finding our faith in the redemption that His Son has borne for us on the cross again at Passover.

I started the day doing a chapter in a course I am taking called Jesus as Rabbi, The Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus. (Offered through Logos Bible Software). The chapter that I was looking at today was on Sin and salvation, which also means that repentance comes into the picture.

Early in this section I was covering the idea of Sacrifice. This again takes us back to Egypt and the many sacrifices that were being performed by the Egyptians to their Gods. The author of the course then made this comment:

But when they were taken into the wilderness, God changed that and He reduced their sacrifices to a bare minimum. If God wanted to teach them about a single sacrifice—once for all time—this was a good way of doing it. He said, “Well, just have one morning sacrifice, one evening sacrifice.” There [were] a few others, but they were mainly food, and it’s just once a year you have the annual Day of Atonement—the one sacrifice that takes away sin. They’re starting to learn there’s going to be one sacrifice for sin.”[1]

Early on God was teaching His people that there was eventually going to be one sacrifice for sin. The Hebrews had a good deal of baggage when they came out of Egypt, and maybe that included how they viewed sin. But in the rest of the story God is trying to bring them to a more perfect understanding which unfolds in the New Covenant writings.

At the very beginning of the Gospel of John it records John the Baptist seeing Jesus and declaring  “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world![2]So sin is addressed right at the beginning with another message that we get from the other gospels – Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come.

Dr. Brewer pointed out that it was not the Passover lamb that took away sin, that was a celebration of God delivering his people from death and then their redemption from Egypt. It was the goat on the day of atonement that took away the sin of all the people. A young goat is also called a lamb. So, sin is addressed right in the beginning of Jesus ministry, so what where people to do?

People are told to repent. But even on the day of Atonement sins where not just automatically cleared because the sacrifice happened, there were two other things that needed to be part of the process – repentance and the forgiving of others.

In the Yoma, which is the fifth tractate of the “Order of Festivals” and is mostly concerned with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is says this:

“He who says, ‘I will sin and I’ll repent, [then] I’ll sin again and I’ll repent [again]’—he is not enabled to repent. [If he says:] ‘I will sin and the Day of Atonement will atone’—the Day of Atonement will not atone.”[3]

If you set out to sin knowing that the day of atonement is coming then it’s not real repentance. I would say that the same applies today – If we sin with the idea that the blood of Jesus will just cover it, then have we truly repented? True repentance comes when we truly want to avoid sin in the first place. That does not mean we won’t sin, but it becomes a matter of where the heart is.

The second part of the idea is the forgiveness of others. This fits well with the great commands of Christ – Love God and Love others. The Jewish people understood this well, as also in the Yoma it says:

“Transgressions between a man and God—the Day of Atonement atones. Transgressions between a man and his fellow—the Day of Atonement does not atone until he seeks pardon from his fellow.”[4]

In these troubled days, let us truly seek God to grant us repentance that leads to life, and if we have anyone that we need to seek forgiveness from then seek them out (Virtually right now) because God desires all people everywhere to repent!


[1] Instone-Brewer, D. (2016). NT390 Jesus as Rabbi: The Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 1:29). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Instone-Brewer, D. (2016). NT390 Jesus as Rabbi: The Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Instone-Brewer, D. (2016). NT390 Jesus as Rabbi: The Jewish Context of the Life of Jesus. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Quenching the Spirit – Part 3

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–19, ESV)

One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to teach us. (Jn 14:26) Are we allowing Him to teach us or do we ignore spending time with Him. Do we spend time in prayer and rejoice always in His work in our lives? The Spirit bears witness to the life of Jesus (Jn 15:26) Our lives therefore should be that light on the hill to bear witness to the life of Jesus.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church the things that are not of the Spirit and the things that are of the Spirit. If we walk in those dark places we are quenching the light of the Spirit in our lives.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:16–26, ESV)

The only really effective way to be able to walk by the Spirit is to quite our flesh, and listen to the Spirit in our lives through prayer and the Word of God.

In Ephesians Paul teaches us that we are to be filled with the Spirit, this really is the opposite of quenching the Spirit, it is allowing him to flow out from our lives…

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18–21, ESV)

What occupies us when we come together? Do we spend more time talking of all that God is doing in our lives, speaking of what God is revealing to us in His word, rejoicing and making melody in our hearts? What occupies our conversations, is it the Lord, or is it the world? What do we glorify in our lives?

The Apostles passed on instruction to other disciples all the things that they had received and their greatest desire was to be faithful in imparting those instructions to us. So, Paul’s words to the Church of Thessalonica still hold true today…

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:1–8, ESV)

The Spirit wants to work in our lives, but we must listen to the things that have been passed on to us, and seeking His wisdom through Prayer, the word of God, and the People of God. Let’s learn from what Paul imparted to Timothy…

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” (2 Timothy 1:6–10, ESV)

Fan the flame, share the good news of Christ, keep the Temple of God Holy and allow the Spirit to shine brightly through our lives in the unity of the whole body. We are to be the city on the hill that cannot be dimmed. Our lives must be lived so we do not prevent the spirit from working through us to accomplish the works he has prepared beforehand in Christ that we should walk in them.