Saturday, September 30, 2006

Are You Willing to Serve?

"Anywhere there are people there are needs and anywhere there are needs there is a place for service. For that reason, you must be willing to serve to meet needs." Sometimes we serve to make us feel good about ourselves or we serve because someone pressured us into that position but according to Scripture, service is a matter of obedience and status before God. In Romans 1:1 Paul said he was "a bondservant of Jesus Christ." James agreed when he said he was "a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (Jas.1:1). Peter's conclusion for his life was that he saw himself as a "bondservant and Apostle of Jesus Christ" (2 Pet.1:1). Even Jude, who was the brother of James and half brother of Jesus said he was a "bondservant of Jesus Christ" (Jude 1:1). How do you see yourself? Are you a servant who is willing to serve "anywhere...there are needs?"

Consider these words by Gordan McDonald who wrote: "You can tell whether you are becoming a servant by how you act when people treat you like one" (A Mastering Ministry Conference, Jan. 1993, Christianity Today, Vol.37, No.5). Meditate on those words today and practice what you really are...a servant.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Are You Thankful?

We're not very good at saying "Thank you," are we? We're like a little boy I heard about. On his return from a birthday party, his mother queried, "Bobby, did you thank the lady for the party?" "Well, I was going to. But a girl ahead of me said, "Thank you," and the lady told her not to mention it. So I didn't." We live in a very thankless society! Our life slogan is "we want a break today" or "no rules just right!" Our worship is even the same way. We come to church to see what we can get out of it rather than what we can give to God. The Bible is filled with passages directed at the believer giving thanks to God." Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name" (Ps.30:4)."I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people" (Ps.35:18)."It is good to give thanks to the LORD, and to sing praises tto Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night" (Ps.92:1-2). The English word thanks occurs 75 times in the Bible while the word thanksgiving occurs 31 times. The Hebrew word for thanksgiving is towdah and it means "an extension of the hand by implying adoration specifically by a choir of worshippers." The word for thanks (Heb. yadah) means "to revere or worship with extended hands."

This should be the offering and sacrifice that we are to give to God. It should continually come from our lips but not just our lips but our heart also and be seen in our attitude. Do you have a heart of thanksgiving? Are you extending your hands towards heaven to reverence and worship to the Lord Jesus Christ? Worship Him today. Do that with a heart of thanksgiving.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Are You Being Accountable?

In his book, Not Even A Hint, Joshua Harris makes some insightful statements about why it is important that we keep ourselves accountable to one another. He says, "The Christian life is something we do together. In Ephesians 4:29, God tells us to build each other up with our words, and later He instructs us to speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (5:19). We need other Christians to speak, sing, and sometimes shout the truths of God’s Word to us. We need others to pray for us when we’re in the midst of temptation. We need friends who will hold on to us when we’re ready to give up. We need friends who will challenge and even rebuke us when we’re indulging in sin" (p.134).

He’s right! All of us need to be accountable. That is the purpose of the "one another’s" in the New Testament. We are to have peace with one another (Mk.9:50), be kindly affectionate to one another (Rom.12:10), give preference to one another (Rom.12:10), be of the same mind toward one another (Rom.12:16), receive one another (Rom.15:7), admonish one another (Rom.15:14; Col.3:16), greet one another (Rom.16:16), have the same care for one another (1 Cor.12:25), serve one another (Gal.5:13), bear with one another (Eph.4:2), be kind to one another (Eph.4:32), forgive one another (Col.3:13), comfort one another (1 Thess.4:18), edify one another (1 Thess.5:11), exhort one another (Heb.3:13), consider one another (Heb.10:24) and love one another. You cannot do any of these "one another's" out without being accountable with one other. I believe that's the Holy Spirit's point with the "one another's. "

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Are We to Cater to the Lost?

In his book, Why One Way, John MacArthur asks the following question: "Why do evangelicals try so desperately to court the world’s favor? Churches plan their worship services to cater to the "unchurched. " Christian performers ape every worldly fad in music and entertainment. Preachers are terrified that the offense of the gospel might turn someone against them; so they desperately omit parts of the message the world might not like" (p.1). If Jesus is going to build His church, it will not happen by omitting parts of His Gospel that are offensive. Nor will it happen if His people cater to the unchurched. The Gospel is not addition to one’s life. It is, as Jesus said to "deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mat.16:24). It is losing your life for His sake and finding it (See Mat.16:25) or giving your life in exchange for His (See Mat.16:26). The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:18 that our message would be perceived as "foolishness. " He said, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. " If this is true, then how can we, as representatives of Jesus Christ, soften or omit parts of His message? Our efforts to reach the lost must never include catering to them.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

An Uncompromising Life

Someone once said, "Compromise always reduces the effectiveness of our life for God. " He's right! When you compromise God's Word there will be devastating consequences. But on the other hand, "if you live an uncompromising life - regardless of who becomes angry or how many are offended because of what they term a lack of love - God will honor it. If you stand against sin and evil, God will fill your life with joy and happiness. If you stand with honesty, God will sustain and support you. If you truly believe those things, you won't compromise - you'll take God at His Word" (John MacArthur, An Uncompromising Life, Grace to You, p.58).

I want to encourage you today to stand against sin and evil, stand with honesty and take God at His Word.

Monday, September 25, 2006

An Open Diary

If someone was to read your diary, what would they read? Would they feel your passion, hear your cry, and learn of your greatest desires? Jim Elliot, who was martyred by the Auca Indians wrote in his diary before his death:

"God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life, that I may burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like You, Lord Jesus. "

Do you have the same kind of passion as Jim Elliot for Jesus? Check your diary today and ask God to "light these idle sticks of [your] life. "

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Total Transformation

When God saves a person He totally transforms Him. It is instant. There is no delay. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says he is a "new creation in Christ, old things are passed away; behold all things have become new." To practice the walk of the new man, we must offer ourselves as "living sacrifices" on the altar of God (Rom.12:1). In doing that we not only prevent ourselves from conforming to the world but we also renew our minds. Are you offering yourself to God as a new creation in Christ? Stop listening to the world and begin listening to the Word.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Prayer Worth Imitating

One of the reasons God saved us is that we might be fruitful Christians. He has not saved us merely that we might be free from judgment and go to heaven when we die. He saved us that the "character of Jesus Christ might be reproduced in us while here on earth" (James Montgomery Boice, Philippians, p.45).We are to live in the flesh but not of the flesh. We are to do good works that Christ might be glorified and that many might be brought to faith in Him. Ephesians 2:10 sums it up when it says, For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.quot; In other words, there is a goal set for our lives. We are to "walk in" good works." Or in the words of Philippians 1:11 we are to be "filled with the fruits of righteousness.
Now in Philippians 1:9-11 we see the kind of love that Paul had for the Philippians. He was moved with a desire to pray for their spiritual growth. Most prayers today do not have a hint of spirituality. They are merely mundane -- careless with the spiritual welfare of others. But that's not true for Paul. quot;The primary focus of his prayers was on the spiritual welfare of othersquot; (John MacArthur, Philippians, p.38). Notice what he prays in Philippians 1:9-11:9
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

The New King James Version. 1996, c1982 (Php 1:9-12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

In these three verses Paul prayed for abounding love (v.9), approving love (v.10a) and abiding love (vv.10b-11). Each of these requests focused on the needs of the Philippians. There are many things we pray for that we don't need but that's not true when you consider what Paul is praying in these verses. His prayer says we need for our love to abound still more and more. We need to approve the things that are excellent and we need to be sincere and without offense until the day of Jesus Christ.

Begin today being the answer to Paul's prayer and allow your prayers to focus on the spiritual rather than the physical.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Entering God's Presence

A.W. Tozer states, "It is part of my belief that God wants to get us to a place where we would still be happy if we had only Him! We don't need God and something else. God does give us Himself and lets us have other things, too, but there is that inner loneliness until we reach the place where it is only God that we desire."

In Psalm 42:1-2, the Psalmist says, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?" Those words are the words of a child of God who is satisifed only with God. He finds all his joy in Him. Psalm 100:2 says we are to "Come before His presence," while verse 4 states that we are to "Enter into His gates." When was the last time you entered God's presence with that kind of purpose? As creatures of His creation we are never out of God's presence but if I could encourage you today, focus on how you are entering His presence. Are you coming to Him with unconfessed sin? Ponder that question today as you consider Him who has called you into His everlasting presence.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Desiring God

Psalm 42:1-2 says, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?"

That is the truest expression of a child of God in worship. His "soul thirsts for God." When was the last time you thirsted for God? When was the last time you wanted God more than anything? When you want God that much then you are prepared to meet with Him. Anything less falls short. But we must understand that there is a problem that you and I must address on a constant basis. It's the issue of sin. Charles Spurgeon said, "Sin will keep you from this Book and this Book will keep you from sin." In order to understand the Scriptures you must make every effort to deal with the impurity in your life. This process is known as sanctification. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 - "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality." Sanctification is another word for being holy or set apart to God. To be holy it requires that we confess and forsake our sin. Proverbs 28:13 says, "He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy." Confessing and forsaking sin, in Peter's terms, means to "put off, to put away" (Gr.apothemenoi). This word used in 1 Peter 2:1 translated "lay aside," comes with imperative force stating that we must deal with our sin. Kenneth Wuest says that it "suggests a once and for all action of separating oneself from sin."

If you want to have a heart that pants after God , then you must put off all sin. Remember "sin will grow without sowing but holiness needs cultivation" (Charles Spurgeon).

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Deepening Our Prayer Life

Prayer to the believer is like breathing. It is necessary to live and it's needful to survive. William Gurnall said that "Praying is the same to the new creature as crying to the natural. The child is not learned by art or example to cry, but instructed by nature; it comes into the world crying. Praying is not a lesson got by forms and rules of art, but flowing from principles of new life itself."

Our time with God in prayer is necessary and needful in this life. A simple definition for prayer is "taking to God." When we pray we are talking to God. When we read God's Word He is talking to us. In order for us to have communication with God we must talk to Him and read His Word. As you begin your prayer time let me give you some good advice: "Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one's heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them, talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell Him how self-love make you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to your self and to others. If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subjects of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back, neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of the heart, without consideration they say just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God" (Charles Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip ).

Friday, September 15, 2006

Come to Jesus

What are we to do to come to Jesus? Luke 15:1-2 says, "The tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them."

When I read verses like that, I can't help but to shout "Amen!" Jesus receives sinners . That's you and me (see Rom.3:23). But what caused Him to do this? Verse 1 says they drew near to Him to hear Him . Jesus said in John 6:37, "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out."

Are you one of the Father's gifts to Jesus? Have you come to Jesus? If so, you belong to Him. Take some time today to thank Him for receiving you and making you accepted in Him (Eph.1:6).

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Church for the Churched

Recently I was invited to attend a church planters conference in Lake Yale . At that conference I was exposed to various teaching and methods for reaching the unchurched. As I sat there and listened and took notes, I couldn't help to think how we have somehow missed it when it comes to the purpose of the church. I talked with pastors who shared with me various methods they were using to reach the lost. One pastor even asked me "Who is your target?" Having a few days to think about this and talk about it with several people, I have come to the reaffirmation that the church is for the church not the unchurched. Let me tell you what I mean by that statement.

The church is not for the unchurched

It is not for the lost or even the carnal and disobedient. It is for the saved, the regenerate, the redeemed, the obedient. What we do is not understandable by the unchurched. The apostle John said it this way: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him ." That is a monumental statement — "the world does not know us, because it did not know Him." Since the world does not know us why do we cater to what they want in the church? Why are we tailoring the church for them? The only One we should be concerned about when it comes to the church is God. The unchurched do not understand spiritual truth nor can they. Paul said, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor.2:14). The only contact that we need to have with the unchurched is not to find out what will get them to church and keep them coming, but to show them that they need to surrender their life to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The church belongs to Jesus Christ

Colossians 1:18 says that "He is the head of the body, the church." And since that is the case, we must understand what He says about His church. John MacArthur, in an article called The Seeker-Sensitive Movement , asks "What exactly is the seeker-sensitive movement?" Some of you might be asking the same question. He says, "In a nutshell, it's the push within churches across the country to make worship services more ‘relevant' and therefore more attractive to the world. It's the driving force behind the marketing ploys and high-tech entertainment gimmicks churches use to promote growth." John Armstrong, who is the founder and director of Reformation and Revival Ministries in Carol Stream, IL, states that the movement is "fast-paced, light on doctrine, and very heavy on music and drama" (The Mad Rush to Seeker Sensitive Worship , Modern

In a book review of The Purpose Driven Church written by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church in Orange County, California, Jim Delany writes: "In January of 1998, Dr. Dennis Costella attended a "Building a Purpose Driven Church" seminar where Warren taught that the following must occur to transform a traditional church into a dramatic growing church (March-April 1998, Foundation magazine): (1) A contemporary-styled, non-threatening "Seeker Service" must replace the traditional Sunday worship service; (2) The dress must be casual; (3) The music must be contemporary; (4) The message must be only positive so that saved and unsaved alike can feel better about themselves after a message that often mixes psychology and an uplifting Scripture text; (5) Church ministries must be geared to meeting needs, with support groups for depression, eating disorders, infertility, homosexuals' family/friends, post-abortion, and marital separation. Warren scoffed at the idea of passing out gospel tracts or going door-to-door since the typical "Saddleback Sam" is offended by such old-fashioned evangelism; (6) Doctrinal instruction is not given to the church as a whole on Sundays, but is available in sub-groups apart from formal church services; and (7) A spirit of pragmatic compromise must prevail. Warren was trained as a Southern Baptist (he frequently speaks at SBC events), but said, "It really doesn't matter your denomination, folks. We're all on the same team if you love Jesus." (Source: 6/98, Calvary Contender.)"

In the book Ashamed of the Gospel , John MacArthur writes: "Scripture says the early Christians ‘turned the world upside down' (Acts 17:6). In our generation the world is turning the church upside down. Biblically, God is sovereign, not ‘unchurched Harry.' The Bible, not the marketing plan, is supposed to be the sole blueprint and final authority for all church ministry. Ministry should meet people's real needs, not salve their selfishness. And the Lord of the church is Christ, not some couch potato with the remote control in his head. I never hear the term ‘user-friendly church' without thinking of Acts 5 and Ananias and Sapphira. What happened there flies in the face of almost all contemporary church-growth theory. The Jerusalem church certainly wasn't very user-friendly. In fact, it was exactly the opposite; Luke tells us this episode inspirit' great fear...upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things' (v.11). The church service that day was do disturbing that none of the unchurched people ‘dared to associate with them.' The thought of attending such a church struck terror in their hearts, even though ‘the people held them in high esteem' (Acts 5:13). The church was definitely not a place for sinners to be comfortable — it was a frightening place!" (p.51).

How can the church move back to being a place where the glory of God is sought rather than the comforts of man? The only answer is to pray ! Pray for your pastor and leaders that they keep the church from catering to the world and live the glorious truths that the Bible proclaims.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Christian Absolutes (Pt.2)

Yesterday we saw that believing God was a non-negotiable in the Christian life. Today we're going to see that fearing God is no different. Psalm 112:1 says, "Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments." When you trace the history of Israel , you quickly learn that Israel was to fear God.

Israel was Told to Fear God

This means they were to "revere" (Heb.yare') God in all their ways. Deuteronomy 6:1-2 says, "Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, "that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged." The key to Israel 's success was with their fear of God. From King Solomon to those who lead the country today, Israel is to fear God. But Israel is not alone in this command. All of God's people are to fear God.

We are to Fear God

In Ecclesiates 12:13, Solomon wrote, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all."

Do you fear God? Do you trust God? The non-negotiables for your life is to believe and fear God. John Trapp concludes by saying: "It is the nature of faith to believe God upon His bare word. . . . It will not be, saith sense; it cannot be, saith reason; it both can and will be, saith faith, for I have a promise for it." Trust and fear Him today "in all your ways" (Prov.3:6).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Christian Absolutes (Pt.1)

John Wesley's Rule for Christian Living: Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever... you can! (Christian History, Vol II, No I). A great list that all of us can apply!!! In fact I wonder if any of us have ever made such a list. I have!! It is found right here in God's Word. And in God's Word there are absolutes that I like to call Christian Absolutes.

We Are to Believe God

The first absolute is we are to believe God. When you examine the lives of Noah and Abraham that is exactly what you see. A life that was committed to obeying God. Genesis 6:8-9 tells us that Noah "found grace in the eyes of the LORD" and that he was "a just man, perfect in his generation. Noah walked with God." The characteristic that marked Noah's life was his trust in God. This trust or belief was not some mental assent to some facts about God. It was a belief that was acted upon. He "found grace in the eyes of the LORD" because he was a "just" and "perfect" man. The direction of his life was that of obedience and holiness. While his generation perverted their ways and the God who created them, Noah loved God by obeying Him. Abraham was no different. He believed God "and He counted it to him for righteousness" (Gen.15:6). Do you truly believe God? If so, your life will manifest a heart of obedience. If someone were writing a story of your life, would it be similiar to Noah's or Abraham's? Think about it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I Am A Servant

Can you make that bold statement? Do you demonstrate it or live it? We must understand what it means to be a servant. First it means you see yourself as a servant. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:1, "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God." The word he used here for servant is the Greek word huperetes which means "an underrower." "In those days, large wooden three-tiered ships called triremes were propelled by slaves chained to their oars in the hull. The slaves on the lowest tier were called "underrowers"" (John MacArthur). Paul was saying when you consider our lives we were just "underrowers -- third level galley slaves on a ship pulling our oar."

Albert Schweitzer, who was a missionary doctor (1875-1965) wrote, "One thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve" (Men of Integrity Vol1 No2

In understanding what it means to be a servant, you must first see yourself as one and second you must act like one. Jesus said to His disciples, "Whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave" (Matthew 20:27-28).

Consider yourself a servant.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hungering for Righteousness

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled -- Matthew 5:6

There is a thirst and a righteousness that promises complete fulfillment. That hunger and thirst is that which has to do with God. Hungering and thirsting for God is the right kind of need. That is what Jesus wants us to see in Matthew 5:6. Those who are in the kingdom are those for hunger for these things.

There are many people who pursue happiness in the wrong places. Lucifer, whose name means "star of the morning" or more literally, "the bright One," was not satisfied with living in God"s glory. So he said in his heart, "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High" (Isa.14:13-14). His ambition was not to reflect God"s glory but to usurp God"s sovereign power -- while forsaking righteousness. God"s response to his ambition was "yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the pit" (v.15). There"s another person who had mis-directed ambition. In Daniel 4:29-32 you read about Nebuchadnezzar. In this passage you see that his hunger was for praise. Therefore God humbled him until he knew "that the Most High rules in teh kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses" (v.25). Even in Luke 12:16-21, in the parable of the rich man, we find someone like Necuchadnezzar and Lucifer who were hungry for the wrong things. The rich man was pleasure hungry. Because they all hungered for wrong things and rejected God"s good things, they forfeited both.

"Jesus declares that the deepest desire of every person ought to be the hunger and thirst for righteousness. That is the Spirit-prompted desire that will lead a person to salvation and keep him strong and faithful once he is in the kingdom. It is the only ambition that, when fulfilled, brings enduring happiness" (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew, p.178).

Do you thirst for God"s righteousness? Do you hunger in the sense that you have "a passionate longing for something about which one cannot live?" (Colin Brown). As Psalm 119:20 speaks of a soul that "breaks with longing for Your judgments at all times," may your heart be filled with a hunger for His righteousness today as you serve Him.

Friday, September 08, 2006

How to Study the Bible

Bible study is very important for all believers. It is the very means by which you are equipped for God"s work. It is not just for those called to vocational ministry but for all believers. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

How does one go about "rightly dividing the word of truth?" Let"s find out as we learn where Bible study begins and how to study the Bible.

Where Bible Study Begins

It begins with a preparation and a proper perspective. When we come to God"s Word we must see it as it is — God"s holy, infallible, inerrant, inspired Word. It"s God"s Word!

How to Study the Bible

Once you have adequately prepared yourself for study by prayer and confession of sin, you must begin now with the basics.

You Must Read the Bible ("What does the Bible say?")

Jerry Vines said, "An unread Bible is like food uneaten, a love letter never read, a buried sword, a road map unstudied, gold never mined" (A Practical Guide to Sermon Preparation, p.69).

Richard Moulton said, "We have done almost everything that is possible with these Hebrew and Greek writings. We have overlaid them, clause by clause, with exhaustive commentaries; we have translated them, revised the translations, and quarreled over the revisions...There is yet one thing left to do with the Bible: simply read it" (Cited by Vines, p.69).

Now that you have established a priority of reading the Bible, you must now:

Interpret the Bible ("What does the Bible Mean?")

The ultimate task in interpretation is to "discover why the author wrote what he wrote."

In doing that you must discover "the original meaning intended by the author" (Han Finzel, Unlocking the Scriptures, p.65).

To help with finding the original meaning intended by the author, you must:

Understand the problems. There are gaps that must be bridged like language, history, culture, and geography.

To help you bridge these gaps you need to be familiar with a few important principles:

1. Remember that context rules
2. Always seek the full counsel of the Word of God
3. Remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture
4. Do not base your doctrine on an obscure passage of Scripture
5. Interpret Scripture literally
6. Check your conclusions by using reliable commentaries

Now that you are familiar with the principles you need to follow a particular procedure:

1. Ask specific questions (who, what, where, when, why) Who? (the characters), The writer, The recipients, The characters involved in the action, The characters not directly involved in the action, Special people addressed in the passage. What? (the key truths or events), Key ideas, Theological terms, Key events, Important words, Figures of speech, Atmosphere. Where? (the geography and location), Places mentioned, Buildings, Cities, Nations, Landmarks. When? (the time factors), Date of authorship, Duration of the action, When in the church age, When in the life of Israel, Past, present, or future? Why? (the purpose of the passage or book)

"The answers to who, what, where, when, and why can be found by looking in these four places, in the order stated: content of the passage/book; context of the passage; comparison; with other Scriptures; consultation with resource books" (Finzel, p.69).

The final step in interpretation is the formulation of a conclusion, based on your research.

2. Summarizing the steps by stating an initial proposal based on the content.

"You cannot adequately do this until you have went through the observation principles." This can be the theme of the passage or it could be a principle that the passage is teaching. Next you need to search the context. What can the surrounding context of the passage add to your understanding of it? The teaching of a single passage must be viewed within the setting of the entire book from which it is lifted. The third step is to seek comparison (cross-reference). The Bible itself sheds light on its own meaning. Cross- reference and using other Bible translations can be helpful. The fourth step is to survey the secondary resources (commentaries, atlases, dictionaries). This is only after you have done the other work yourself. When you use these secondary resources use them discerningly. And the final step is to state your conclusions. When you do this try to state it in one sentence or less with cross-references in accordance to the context. Don"t forget to include any application principles that may come directly from your study.

Now that you have read the Bible and applied the principles of interpretation, you must:

Apply the Bible (This answers the question, "How does it apply to my life?")

Application always follows interpretation. J. Robertson McQuilkin said, "The goal of all Bible study is to apply the truth of Scripture to life. If that application is not made, all the work put into making sure of the author"s intended meaning will have gone for naught. In fact, to know and not do, doubles the offense of disobedience" (Understanding and Applying the Bible, p.255).

Ps.119:34 - "Give me understanding and I shall keep your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart." [James 1:22 (doers not hearers)]

Application must be kept simple, practical, and personal. Ask the right questions: "How does this relate to my life?" Some other questions you can ask are: Is there a principle to apply, Is there a command to obey, Is there an attitude to adjust or Is there a sin to repent of?

Next you want to principlize what you learn. Take the Scripture you are studying and write a brief sentence of what it is teaching. What is James 1:2-12 teaching? "Trials are a part of my Christian experience. I am to count it all joy because of what they are teaching me in my life."

Second, model before others what you learn. Paul was a model to the church. He said in Phil.4:9 - "The things which you have learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you." Just as Paul, we are to equally model righteousness before others. 1 Tim.4:12 says, "Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity." 1 Pet.5:3 says, "Nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."

Last, teach what you learn to others (Mat.28:19-20). Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim.2:1-2 - You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.


Read the Bible
Interpret the Bible
Apply the Bible

Remember the goal of all Bible study is to know God and make Him known!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

How to Be Thankful

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, the Apostle Paul says to the believer"s at Thessalonica, "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing: in everything give thanks; for this is God"s will for you in Christ Jesus." God"s will is that we always "rejoice, pray and give thanks." Erwin Lutzer, said, "You can learn to give thanks even if you don"t feel particularly thankful. If God gives a command, he expects obedience, whether you are in the mood or not. Thankfulness, like forgiveness, is not an emotion. Thankfulness is an intelligent response of gratitude to God" (Draper"s Quotations). There are 3 features about thanksgiving I want us to look at.

The Call to Thanksgiving

We are to be thankful to God. This was David"s plea in Psalm 100:4-5, "Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him; bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations." This was Paul"s exhortation to the believers at Colossee, "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Col.3:15-17). "Rule" Gr.brabruo, an athletic term, "be umpire." (Wuest) Lightfoot says: "Wherever there is a conflict of motives or impulses or reasons, the peace of Christ must step in and decide which is to prevail." Warren Wiersbe, says, "The peace of God is the "Umpire" in our believing hearts and our churches. When we obey the will of God, we have His peace within; but when we step out of His will (even unintentionally), we lose His peace. We must beware, however, of a false peace in the heart. Jonah deliberately disobeyed God, yet he was able to go to sleep in the hold of a ship in a storm! "I had peace about it!" is not sufficient evidence that we are in the will of God. We must pray, surrender to His will, and seek His guidance in the Scriptures. The peace of heart alone is not always the peace of God. Something else is involved: if we have peace in our hearts, we will be at peace with others in the church. We are called to one body, and our relationship in that body must be one of harmony and peace. If we are out of the will of God, we are certain to bring discord and disharmony to the church. Jonah thought he was at peace, when actually his sins created a storm! When a Christian loses the peace of God, he begins to go off in directions that are out of the will of God. He turns to the things of the world and the flesh to compensate for his lack of peace within. He tries to escape, but he cannot escape himself! It is only when he confesses his sin, claims God"s forgiveness, and does God"s will that he experiences God"s peace within. When there is peace in the heart, there will be praise on the lips: "And be ye thankful" (Col. 3:15). The Christian out of God"s will is never found giving sincere praise to God. When David covered up his sins, he lost his peace and his praise (Pss. 32; 51). When he confessed his sins, then his song returned.

We are to be thankful for each other. Because of the proclamation of the faith - Rom.1:8, "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world." Because of God"s call to salvation in your life. 1 Cor.1:4 says, "I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus." Col.1:3-5 says, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now." "A true Christian is a man who never for a moment forgets what God has done for him in Christ, and whose whole comportment and whole activity have their root in the sentiment of gratitude" (JOHN BAILLIE, 1741–1806).

The Meaning of Thanksgiving

1. Grateful. This means being "appreciative of benefits received" (Webster)Gr.eucharistos, "grateful." "The word indicates the obligation of being thankful for someone for a favor done. The thankfulness arises out of the grace of God and that which He has done" (Rienecker, p.581). Col.3:15 says, "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful (grateful)." Ps.100:4 says, "Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name."

2. Gratitude. "This is the state of being grateful" (Webster). It is a "season for all seasons." Gratitude "is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies" (Charles Edward Jefferson). A.W. Tozer said, "Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it" (Signposts. Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 13.). Gr.eucharistia (our English word eucharist is derived). It means "gratitude." Col.2:6-7 says, "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving (gratude)." Col.4:1-2 says, "Masters, give your servants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving (gratitude)." John Miller said, "How happy a person is depends on the depth of his gratitude" (Drapers).

3. Glorify. Gr.anthomologeomai, "to acknowledge fully, to celebrate fully, in praise with thanksgiving." It is used only in Luke 2:38, "Afer Anna saw the baby Jesus "in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem." "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer"s praise!" (CHARLES WESLEY, 1707–1788). "On earth join all ye creatures to extol Him first, him last, him midst, and without end" (JOHN MILTON, 1608–1674).

4. Grace. Gr.charis, translated "grace" and "thanks" in the NT. This is expressing "favor." Paul said to the Romans "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom.1:7). He said the same thing to the Corinthians (1:3; 2 Cor.1:2). He desired this for the churches at Galatia, Ephesus, Philipi, Colosse, and Thessalonica. He also desired this for Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. This grace or favor comes from "God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom.1:7). "A state of mind that sees God in everything is evidence of growth in grace and a thankful heart" (CHARLES G. FINNEY, 1792–1875).

The Application of Thanksgiving

By the very definition we are to have an attitude of thanksgiving which demonstrates itself in "rejoicing, prayer and thanksgiving."

1. Become a Christian
2. Be Spirit-Filled (Eph.5:18-20; Col.3:16-17)
3. Reflect on God"s Work in Your Life. Phil.1:6 says, "Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." 1 Cor.15:57 says, "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Ps.107:8 says, "Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!"

"Whatever we have, we have because God in his grace and generosity has given it to us. When we realize this, there comes into our lives a joyful gratitude for what we do have, and we are freed from resentment and anxiety over what we don"t have" (Ben Patterson, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 7, no. 3.).

Erwin Lutzer, said, "A Christian who walks by faith accepts all circumstances from God. He thanks God when everything goes good, when everything goes bad, and for the "blues" somewhere in-between. He thanks God whether he feels like it or not" (Drapers).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Holy, Holy, Holy

Holiness is a very important word to a Christian because it speaks of God and of the relationship that we have with Him. From the very first book of the Bible we learn that holiness is an essential element in our relationship with God. Adam, in the garden, was told he could eat of any tree in the Garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But according to Genesis 3 Adam and Eve disregarded God"s command, therefore God set in motion death as the penalty for their sin.

Throughout the Bible we are reminded of God"s holiness and its standard. Exodus 15:11 says, "Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" (Emphasis added). 1 Samuel 2:2 answers, "There is none holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God." (Emphasis added).

A.W. Tozer says, "Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is. Because He is holy, His attributes are holy; that is, whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy." Charles Spurgeon concurs by stating that God"s holiness "is the crown of His honor and the honor of His crown. His power is not His choicest jewel, nor His sovereignty, but His holiness." Holiness then is important for us to understand if we are going to understand God.

When was the last time you meditated on the holiness of God? Start your day today thanking Him for His holiness and ask Him to help you to cooperate with the process of holiness in your life.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Pet.1:15-16 - NIV).

Has Christ changed your heart? If so, then it will be marked by holiness. God imparts that element of His nature to every one of His children. To be without is to be without Christ. "Christ will be master of the heart, and sin must be mortified. If your life is unholy, then your heart is unchanged, and you are an unsaved person. The Savior will sanctify His people, renew them, give them a hatred of sin, and a love of holiness. The grace that does not make a man better than others is a worthless counterfeit. Christ saves His people, not IN their sins, but FROM their sins. Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord" (Charles Spurgeon).

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Happy Are the Persecuted (Pt.3)

Matthew 5:10-12 says, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness? sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (The New King James Version. 1996, c1982 (Mt 5:10-12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson).

This week we are seeing that there is a blessing that is given to the persecuted. It is a double portion and it is for righteousness sake. Today we are going to see the reality that the persecuted need in persecution.

Persecution is inevitable as verses 10-11 indicate. Verse 10 says in the middle of the verse: "...those who are persecuted." And verse 11, "...when they revile and persecute you." James 1:2 says, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials." Persecution and trials are inevitable for the believer. They are as common as the temptations we face. Therefore, we should expect them and not be surprised by them.

Verse 12 of Matthew 5 says that since they persecuted the "prophets who were before you," they will persecute you. Jesus takes it a step further in John 15:18-21 by stating that since He was persecuted so will all those who follow Him. He says, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name"s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me" (The New King James Version. 1996, c1982 (Jn 15:18-22). Nashville: Thomas Nelson).

Persecution in the believer"s life is inevitable and it is promised. They persecuted the prophets and they persecuted Jesus. Jesus even warned His disciples in John 16:2-3 when He said, "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God"s service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me" (The New King James Version. 1996, c1982 (Jn 16:2-3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson).

Expecting that persecution will come as a result of following Jesus is one way we can be prepared for suffering. Another way that we can be prepared is to know what the Scriptures teach about persecution and suffering.

Paul said to Timothy, "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Tim.3:12). To the Philippians, he wrote, "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me" (Phil. 1:29-30).

The reality that the persecuted need is the knowledge of knowing that persecution is inevitable for the believer and it is promised. As you reflect on God"s Word today, ask the Holy Spirit to engraft into your heart the truths you heard today and to see persecution as a part of your faith.

Happy Are the Persecuted (Pt.2)

In the book, The Triumphant Church, Richard Wurmbrand recounts the last Sunday School class he taught before leaving Romania. He writes: "I remember my last Sunday School class...I took a group of ten to fifteen boys and girls on a Sunday morning, not to a church, but to the zoo. Before the cage of lions I told them, ‘Your forefathers in faith were thrown before such wild beasts for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions, but you will have to suffer at the hands of men who would be much worse than lions. Decide here and now whether you wish to pledge allegiance to Christ’" (p.15).

If that were you what would you have done? Would you have brushed it off and treated it lightly or would you have considered the cost?

In our study yesterday, we said there was a price to pay for true happiness or as Matthew 5 puts it "blessedness." What is that price? It is the price of humility.

Leading up to the blessing that is reserved for those who are persecuted are the words: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God" (The New King James Version. 1996, c1982 (Mt 5:3-9). Nashville: Thomas Nelson).

Jesus says that the path to true blessedness is through the path of poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, mercy, purity, and peace. All of these characteristics move in an upward spiral to what follows in verses 10-12.

This blessing that Jesus is referring to "has to do with an inward contendedness that is not affected by circumstances." In other words, it is "free from daily cares and worries." It is as Paul stated in Philippians 4:11-13 a state of contendedness.

So the blessing that is given to the persecuted is a double portion, as we saw last time. It is for righteousness’ sake.

Notice in Matthew 5:10 Jesus says, "...for righteousness sake" and in verse 11, "...for My sake." The parallel passage in Luke 6:22 says, "Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake" (emphasis added). The apostle Peter also says this in 1 Peter 3:14, when he says, "But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed" (emphasis added).

When you suffer, are you suffering for "righteousness sake" or for some evil that you have committed? Remember the path to blessing, and I might add, double blessing is through humility. Humble yourself today and rest in the assurance that yours "is the kingdom of heaven" (v.10).

Friday, September 01, 2006

Happy Are the Persecuted (Pt.1)

When was the last time you were persecuted? Was that persecution just or unjust? Were you persecuted for "righteousness sake" or because of "Jesus" name? or was it for some wrong you committed? In our study today, we"re going to see that there is a price that we will pay for following Jesus Christ and the attitude that we adopt will allow us to experience the blessedness that Jesus refers to in Matthew 5:10-12.

Many of us have been persecuted because of our faith in Jesus Christ. Some of us have been mistreated because we live differently than others. But when it happens how do you react? Do you return "evil for evil or good for evil?"

Jesus said in John 16:33 that we would experience persecution. He said, "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

He also said we would experience it because He did. In John 15:20 He said, "Remember the word that I said to you, "A servant is not greater than his master." If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.""

Since the world did not receive Jesus" message, neither will they receive yours. If we can keep that in mind, that will help us when we are persecuted.

That are many verses that talk about persecution but this week we will focus on three that are found in Matthew 5:10-12.

This section commonly known as the Beattitudes is a message that Jesus gave to His disciples and the crowd that gathered to hear Him. Verses 10-12 is the climax of the Beattitudes that specifically addresses how the world will react to your faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus says, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness" sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

These three verses give 2 responses to persecution: Yours and God"s. Jesus says, when you are persecuted you are doubly "blessed" therefore, "rejoice."

Rejoicing through any difficulty in our life is only possible when we trust Him. Trust in ourselves or our resources will never deliver or sustain us. Jesus said when you are persecuted for righteousness" sake and when they say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake, rejoice and be exceedingly glad.

To rejoice means you have totally abandoned every resource available to you. It means you have humbled yourself under the trial and have welcomed God"s purpose in your life.

The next time you are tempted to retaliate because of persecution, remember Jesus" words, and turn all your trust to Him. If he said to rejoice, that means He will enable you to do that no matter what you face.