Thursday, July 28, 2011

"The Purpose of the Gospel Accounts"

Recently I had a man that was teaching an adult bible class where he attended called and shared with me what he thought of the four gospel accounts. He made the statement that he didn't see why there had to be 4 versions of the life of Christ (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) retelling the same things over and adding a few different twists and turns the other didn't. He then ended with, "It's rather boring!" It revealed his lack of understanding and insight.
What is the purpose of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John's accounts? Why do we have them written? Each writer has a purpose. These different letters weren't just about the life and work of Jesus told with a few added twists. They had a specific purpose. Too many times we know what someone says but we might not understand why they said it. That's the way with these four gospel accounts.
First Matthew. Matthew is Jewish and written to the Jewish believer. Matthew's focus is on Jesus the Messiah! That's why his book starts with "the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah." (Matt. 1:1) The book proves Jesus was the Messiah that had been prophesied about all those years.
Next Mark. Mark too is written to the Jewish believer. Mark is the earliest of the four letters written, around 50 AD. Mark's focus is on Jesus the Son of God. His purpose was to stress the actions and work of Christ Jesus through miracles to prove His Sonship. It is a powerful book explaining a powerful Savior.
Now comes Luke. Luke is the only Gentile writer in the Bible. (He wrote Acts also.) Luke is written to the Gentile believer (us specifically) to show us the accurate accounts and working of the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke is a little more detailed as a Gentile wouldn't be as in-tune with the OT Scriptures. 
Finally John's gospel. John is written to the church as a whole. It is written targeting faith and showing in detail the God side of Jesus. We see it from the first five verses of the book. John is specific in pointing to faith and that faith wrapped around the truth.
Each account had a specific target of people in the church. They are rich. They are filled with more than just a lesson to pull together. They are Jesus, the Son of the living God, our Savior, our Redeemer and Refuge. Take some time and read with these thoughts in mind. It will open your eyes to some new things. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Self or God?"

To gain insight to yourself, what makes you tick and act can be a dangerous course to take. I once was visiting in a hospital that the individual was in there to "find themselves and their purpose." They claimed they had lost their way, they had lost their passion for life and needed to find themselves. I thought it was rather strange but over the last 30 plus years, I have ran into this kind of therapy on several instances. What is more shocking, they all claim Christ Jesus their Lord!
I was sent an invite in the mail to come to a series of lessons titled "Finding Our Way." It was a series presented by some psychologist to help ministers (they called 'pastors' not understanding what the term means) understand the heart of man to help those searching for answers in life about themselves. I came up with one thought, it's called self-seeking!
Listen to Jeremiah: "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the Lord." (Jer. 9:23-24)
Paul quotes part of this verse in I Cor. 1:31. Our boasting and insight should be of the Lord and not of ourselves. We live and see what sin does in our lives. Sin makes us unloving, uncaring and self-absorbed and consumed. Sin takes us into wisdom that is selfishly ambitious (Jam. 3:14) and natural in thinking. We need to know God! We need to understand God so our lives and mind can expand moving away from us. It was Jesus' prayer in John 17 that Jesus spoke, "This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent." (John 17:3) The Hebrew writer pulled from OT Scriptures to show that we should be listening to the voice of the Lord and nothing else because Israel went astray in their heart and "they did not know My ways." (Heb. 3:10/Psa. 95:10). God destroyed them for such and it is written for us to learn from.
If you want your life to grow and change into the image of Jesus, being conformed to His life, come to know God and His Son Jesus. If you want a life of pain and misery, paralyzed in areas and unable to move forward, just learn about you! One is wisdom from below. The other is the wisdom from God. One is eternal death while the other is eternal life. Intellectual ability is not what the Lord is after. He is after a heart that seeks Him to know His ways. Therein is found life and freedom!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"The Psalms"

The Psalms are a wonderful insight to the greatness and majesty of the Lord. The whole book of Psalm is called "tehillim" which means praises or the book of praises. It is a book that praises the Lord, even in the worst of conditions. The complaining, the sometimes protesting attitudes of the writers and the weeping were all brought to God, in His presence because they trusted the Lord God. When you examine the Psalm, the tehillim, closely you see how different writers brought their fears, their disappoints and joy into the presence of the Lord and expressed it to Him.
When I read Psa. 8, I can almost picture David, laying on his back, under a tree, looking up into the heaven above wondering why God would give man any thought. David sees God as great and mighty calling his name majestic (a word you rarely hear spoken by believers today) while man is less and given rule.
What I find unique about the Psalms is how the writers didn't gather a bunch of "church goers" around to complain about the latest chapters in the life of the temple worshipers. They didn't gather people around them to hear them complain or have a voice of revolt. Every issue was taken to God! They didn't try to prove their godliness to others around by speaking down about others. They took everything to the Lord God and cried out to Him. These Psalms were sung! The whole temple community sang these songs together. This was their hymn book.
When the happy, uplifting Psalms were sung, all joined in, even the down-trodden and sick. Those who hurt weren't left alone in their hurt but joined in the tehillim with the rest expressing their hearts to the Lord God who cares deeply for them.
These Psalms were written from hearts that expressed their inner desires to the One in heaven. These Psalms were sung by all expressing their hearts to the Lord God who delivers them. Maybe we need to learn a lesson from this. While many today focus on the harmony sound, the best singers to help our worship, maybe we need to pick up the Psalms and read, reflect and sing without all the hype. In light of the history of God, all the Psalms were put together to be sung and across the cover was stamped TEHILLIM/PRAISES!

Monday, July 25, 2011

"Why Do We Exist?"

Recently while studying with an individual with little to no biblical background, they asked me why God was so vain in wanting us to worship and adore Him? In their mind, they saw the God of us and the creation around us as self-absorbed! It might come across that way to those who know little to nothing about the God of Scripture but then we might find ourselves asking maybe He is?
God is always right in wanting our praise and adoration. But God is a Creator! As our Creator He wants fellowship, joy-filled lives and communion. That might be hard for us to grasp. Psa. 136 speaks of God's creation is out of love. God created us with Jesus in mind, to be like Jesus, immortal and splendid while living a life full of righteousness and joy (Rom. 8:29-30).
God created us in His image! We were put here to reflect His character, activity and purpose. God calls us to be righteous, holy and thankful. That's all His character and image! To think that God calls us to Himself because He is vain or self-absorbed is missing God altogether. We were created to enjoy His life and share in His life.
We are here because God loves us. God has no self-identity crisis nor is He vain. He simply created us to enjoy one another. We can reject the purpose of why we were created and the reason He went to such lengths to have fellowship with us, to share in His life. It doesn't matter if we try to cheapen Him or reason why in our minds. None of these things changes the way God feels and desires for each of us. Just read Phil. 2:5-8 and we can see the heart of God, the desire of God in Jesus. He is not self-absorbed!
One day the host of mankind will get a glimpse of why God created us, seeing our own self-absorbing ways, our dishonoring lives and settling for just existing. It will be a day of extreme sadness...even beyond that, a day of eternal sadness. If only we would surrender and truly seek the God who placed His image on us and calls us through His Son to Himself for an eternal joy and love. That's why we exist!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I am simply amazed how words in our day and time are used. Words that were one time innocent and nothing wrong in their usage have become degrading, deplorable  and vile. I don't know who invented the change of such words. While growing up, and I guess I'll age myself, the term "gay" meant joyous or happy. It has taken on another concept now. Words to degrade women and insult people come from a wicked and evil heart. There is an entire dictionary, or so it seems, of sexual and anatomical words that are used to throw filth and insults on others and they flow freely in so many of our movies and have made their way into the lives of many. They are words used to sting, to shock and let one know how they feel deep down inside about another or situation.
I can remember growing up that even the slightest slip of a word in the presence of a woman or child was immediately followed with a humble apology. Not any more. It is common, rude and crude language that has found it's way into the heart and mind of many a person. Hang around young people and it will surprise you of the language they use openly with little regard to anyone around. What is happening to us? What is leading our lives in a direction that when we find ourselves stressed or disturbed about a situation that the flow of such words comes from the lips? It sure isn't the Lord!!
But there is another side too. The words that are used in the religious language can be just a troublesome. That might shock you but take the words "majesty" or "sovereignty" or "infinite wisdom" which were used to described God. When is the last time you heard those? We have taken God down to such a human based level that God has become cozy with us and "sinner-friendly"! We have take words of God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ as "chummy." We use words to describe holiness and righteousness as its all about you and "one-on-one" relationship. We hear how God is out to make the church "happy" and when we assemble in His name it is "happy hour!" (I recently heard that one in a large congregation.) Where are all these things coming from? It's sure not from moving closer to the Lord and His holiness!
We need to be careful of the words we use. We need to realize what we speak come from what is happening in our heart. The lack of reverence (there's another word rarely used anymore) and respect seem to be infiltrating the mind and heart of so many. The deep cutting and vile words so many use in the moment of anger will become old and new words will pop up from hearts that are filled with this kind of thinking. The same among the religious. There will be new "buzz" words thrown around for our religious views, while sermons are built on them and lives center around them. It makes me wonder, are we really listening to the Lord anymore? Are we really listening and taking Him to heart? Please God....may WE open our hearts to hear, cleanse the filth with the blood of your Son and receive YOUR message and perceive YOUR majesty!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"If We Say"

It never ceases to amaze me how those who call God their Father and Jesus their Savior and Lord but practice such evil in their lives. I'm not talking about stumbling in sin, that occasion in a weak moment but just walk into sin with their eyes open! Sin is so prominent in their lives because its all they practice and the things they practice to them aren't sin, if that makes sense! It's called deceived!!!
Three times in I John 1:6-10 John says, "If we say". Talk is cheap! Words flow freely. I hear it all the time. People speak with me knowing that I preach/teach and in the conversation begin speaking of their relationship with the Lord. It's like they feel the need to talk about the Lord to communicate effectively with me. Maybe it's to soothe their guilt or put on a show that they too are lovers of God. But the talk and walk don't line up!
To speak that we have fellowship with the Lord, to love the Lord and walk in darkness in our daily living, that is a self-deceived lying person! Don't take my word for it, that's what John says God calls them. "If we say" is so easy to come by. When have you heard someone say "When we live"? Now there's the test of true fellowship. What we practice daily. The words that flow from our hearts to our lips. Our motives in our decisions. How we treat our mates. How we act on the job. What we participate in and join ourselves to. These are where we live! There is only one place and no other place that demonstrates our relationship to the Lord..."Walking in the Light!" Not talking but walking. Only then, being honest, humble and sincere do we find letting the Light expose us in our attitudes and actions, do we find fellowship with God. There is one place and no other place that guarantees our cleansing by the blood of Christ..."Walking in the Light!" Not talking but walking.
It seems many have too much talk and not enough walk. Just take a moment and examine yourself. Are you a 'walker' or a 'talker'? One that is honest and doesn't have to talk because their walk is exposed. The other, they have to talk thinking others don't know what they do however they too are exposed by the Light. They are self-deceived, lie and do not practice the truth.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"The Real Agenda Of Love"

It seems too many miss the point of the love of God. Too many have love as warm fuzzies. The church has turned love into more of an honorable romance with others rather than God's real intention. Listen to John carefully: "By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so love us, we also ought to love one another." (I John 4:9-11)
Note carefully...God's love is a love of reconciliation. It's not a love of humane kindness. It's a love of life, spiritual life. It is true that we need to help those who need help. It is true that we need humane kindness (and we see it practiced by many in the world) but the love God is calling us to one another is a love of sacrifice for the spiritual well being of one another. We are called in these verses to embrace the love that is shown by Christ to us for one another. We are called to be a part of God's redeeming love with one another. 
I am not advocating to not look out for the needs of others. That has a very solid Biblical foundation. But we sometimes seem to over-step things, going too far in our humane side that we forgot it was God, calling the lost and sinful world to Himself through the sacrifice of Jesus. That was love in its height. That's the love we the church have been called to. To offer our help to one another and others without the redeeming quality of love offers is nothing more than just a handout and lacking depth. Maybe we need to re-focus on the redeeming quality of God and His love by sending His Son (not hand-outs) so when we decide to work a program, it is genuinely a program of love, the redeeming of the lost to Jesus. When we look to help one another in the body (the church), we will help with the love of sacrifice, to keep us in fellowship with the Lord and the work of Jesus on our behalf. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

"Do Not Be Deceived"

Several times in the NT Scriptures we find the words: "Do not be deceived" or Do not deceived yourselves." Why would we have to be reminded of such? Self deception is one of the greatest possibilities for the saint! To believe you are on the right track and yet somehow deceive yourself by practicing things that are less than holy to the Lord but believe you are alright is a difficult position to be in and even more difficult to see. I'm not writing this to scare anyone. Just get our attention.
People make choices in their relationship to the Lord. I know brethren who choose the pleasures of the world over the things of the Lord but they have deceived themselves to the point they cannot see the choices they are making. They believe every thing is fine between them and the Lord. "Holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied the power."  (II Tim. 3:5) People believe they can give out whatever they choose to give out to others and they are still in line with the Lord fearing no consequences to their attitudes or actions. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." (Gal. 6:7) Something is being reaped within them and they aren't even aware.
Husbands and wives refuse to live the way the Lord wants in their marriage but thinking all is well between them and the Lord. What a shock they will find when they face the Lord hearing how they refused His word and refused the relationship as He intended. Marriage the Lord's way is a source of blessing and happiness. There are many deceived husbands and wives.
Religion is one of the greatest deception. All the religion floating around, people speaking this, listening to that and reading this. The conclusion is all are okay as long as they love the Lord! Truth is not sought. Honesty with Scriptures is not held to but just a big pot where every thing is stirred together as one big happy family.
Deception is all around us. The only way one can keep from deception is through an humble heart and listening to the voice of the Lord by following what He asks. When we hear His voice through His word, we must ask ourselves and see ourselves in light of what the Lord speaks. It takes an honest heart to do that. A deceived heart will brush it aside and continue to move in the direction they decide as best for them. We don't have to be deceived. That's our choice but we have to be honest in heart to stay away from deceiving ourselves.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

"The Mouth Speaks From The Heart"

It was Jesus who said that what proceeds from the mouth comes from the heart (Matt. 15:18). What a person talks about every time we meet them, that talk reveals what is important to their heart, their life. What about God? What God speaks about over and over, isn't that what's important to Him? If God speaks continuously about what is important to Him, shouldn't that be what is important to us?
Peter told us that those who wrote about the prophecy of Scripture were moved by the Holy Spirit speaking from God (I Pet. 1:20-21). All the NT writers speak tirelessly of the death and resurrected Christ. That is what is most important to God. What they wrote, they spoke. What they spoke, they lived. The death and resurrected Christ was a motivating factor in their daily lives.
Too many are getting caught up in things from God that God didn't intend to be life changing! For instance, in Job 1 we have listed that Job had 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 female donkeys. These are true facts but the fact that Job had more or less of these animals is of no great significance! It doesn't affect our view of God or man. It doesn't help explain the grand design of creation or the purpose of God in that grand design. Truths laid out in Scripture from God are not to be ignored or denied but they are of minor importance to what really matters to God!
It was Jesus, explaining God to mankind, that spoke about loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The OT Scriptures are filled with a deep love for God and not some legalistic form of religion. The commandments given Israel were for the heart, not a legal system to file things under. It was Jesus expressing profound teachings of forgiveness because of Him laying down His life on our behalf. The OT sacrifices are about forgiveness and forgiving because of forgiveness offered. This is the heart of God, the central thrust of His word. Peter speaks that God wants none to perish (II Pet. 3:9) as did Ezekiel in Eze. 18:23 that God takes NO pleasure in one losing their souls.
Genesis 1:26-27 teaches us that God made man in His image. There is one God and He made all of us, no matter of race, in His image. This truth has depth! No man on this earth is sub-human. No person, no matter sex, culture or social status is to be dehumanized or treated unjustly! James 3:9 along with Prov. 14:21-22 both speak of this. This truth should make all of us look at ourselves and those around us through the eyes of the Lord God.
There are so many other teachings but the one that continues to stand out is Christ Jesus and Him crucified. From the OT to the NT, the promises and accomplishment of His death and life are the major theme. It seems too many of our classes, our pulpits are filled with talk that miss the point of what was on the heart of God. Just listen carefully when one talks and you can know what they love. How careful are we about listen to God?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Let's Speak About Religion"

James writes: "If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (Jam. 1:26-27)
Our English word 'religion' in these verses is the Greek word "threskia". W.E. Vines expository dictionary of biblical words says this Greek word "signifies religion in its external aspect, religious worship, especially the ceremonial service of religion." In other words it carries the idea of our worship. It is the same word used in Col. 2:18 in speaking of 'the worship of angels'. It is one of those words used in the Greek which comes into our English language "worship". This lets us know that worship is more than things done in an assembly but it is our life!
James says that if a man thinks of himself as a religious man, a worshiper of God, he must bridle his tongue. If one does not bridle their tongue their religion (worship) is worthless! They are deceiving their own heart because they are saying they are a worshiper of God while at the same time they speak in a way as to show they are not truly bound to God.
James also speaks that "pure religion" (worship) has to do with caring for those that need our caring. Undefiled worship is caring for the widows and the orphans. This is what shows us truly bound to God because we are bringing Him glory and honor when caring for those less fortunate. "Pure religion" (worship) has to do with how we live with and for those who need our help and love. God is and has always been concerned with how we help those who need our help.
James says that all of this is "pure religion" or "worship". It continues however to carry over to "keeping oneself unstained by the world." Real, true God centered lives that worship God with their lives means we are not stained by the ways of the world. Their life-styles, their thought process and their dress codes! This should give us pause to think and realize how important everyday living is and what it reveals about our lives.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"What's It Going To Be Like?"

He was a dear friend of mine and we had spent time together talking about the truth of God's word. Our conversations were filled with things we had discovered from Scripture. I stayed at his house on several occasions and shared in some of his personal life others didn't know as he would open up to me. I love his wife and family.
At one point in his life, thinking he was right in doing so not realizing he had made a big mistake in his relationship to the Lord, he spoke to me about where he stood on a certain situation and was not about to budge on his stance. We sat for hours speaking of this, each going to Scripture but in all, I could tell he was troubled, even though he was telling me he was right. One day, he repented, sharing with me how he had been convicted but just couldn't admit it. He repented, taking on the attitude with a humble heart. He repented and found grace and life.
I got to speak with my friend a couple of weeks before he passed away. In our conversation, he waited until all the family left the room and said, "Thank you for showing me Jesus at a crucial time. It saved my soul." We smiled and a few tears were shed. Then he asked, "What do you think it's going to be like?" He knew death was near. I had no words. "What do you think the Lord will look like?" I said, "Whatever love and holiness looks like!" He passed away quietly.
From that conversation, my mind has often pondered the question: "What do you think it's going to be like?" Wow...I don't know. The presence of the Lord I can't grasp. I have nothing to draw from except from examples I see in this world but they won't suffice. You see, this world was put under a curse because of man's sin (Rom. 8:18-25). There can be no comparison of eternity with the Lord and this creation. Eternity is not a creation. It is the dwelling of God. It is the presence of God. Many try to draw out for us that eternity in the presence of God will be filled with streets of gold, pearly gates which they get from the book of Revelation but I'm not sure that is what is being spoken about. I think we have misapplied those verses. It seems too many are trying to make heaven, the presence of God, a place like we would visit with all the riches and luxury surroundings. We do have the presence of God as holy, righteous and pure. I cannot grasp it. I cannot grasp a place where only righteousness dwells. That's the presence of God.
What about you? What do you think it's going to be like? What will the journey be from this life into the next. Have you ever sat with someone that is leaving this life? What do they experience? What do they see? Thank you Lord for loving and saving my soul! I can't wait.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Disappointed In God?"

We have seen it over and over. People, sincere godly people that are disappointed in God. We look at the world around, those who live for the weekend to party, to gamble or to do whatever they do in their non-caring lives about anything of the holy and righteous Father. They seem content and happy but here we sit, wondering why have we not found the contentment, the fulfillment of life. Then we hear preachers and teachers where we worship speak about the One who "is able to do far more abundantly beyond all we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20) but we find little of that in our lives.
We read of Jesus and how God worked in Him and with Him yet we see so little of that in our own personal lives. We want to believe God works. We don't want to doubt God and His word but there is that something that seems to be missing from time to time and we are fearful to ask because we think it is a lack of faith on our part so we don't want to be seen in that light.
Preachers and teachers speak about how God will act or direct our lives in some sort of miraculous way or even an immediate way to sweep away our struggles and doubts. The problem with many is we have been programed to believe this way and not seeing the reality and purpose of God. We want to see the heavenly Father work in us like He did in Jesus. Why are many disappointed in God? Because we are looking at promises that aren't really made in the way we were taught they were made. The bottom line, God is concerned for our daily character and our eternal well being. God's not looking to make our ways smooth. He is trying to build our character to reveal His character. While God is concerned about us deeply, His concern is centered around eternity and being conformed to the image of His Son. Character, the part of us that will stand under trials, being faithful in our words and lives that will take us to the hope of eternity with Him. God is trying to knock off many of our selfish and self-centered ways and in order to do that, trials and struggles are needed to help in that not ease and happiness! "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered." (Heb. 5:8)
While our Lord walked this earth, He NEVER offered miracles for the redeemed life! He NEVER promoted good health in place of living righteously. He NEVER promised happiness and peace to be enjoyed without God. I know there will be many who will continue to doubt God, to be disappointed with God in their struggles because they simply have been programed to think that God will swoop in, rescue them from situations and heartaches so they can live a life with little conflict and it devastates them when God doesn't respond to all their prayers and requests. God's promise is eternal. God deals in eternity. God promises to us certain things to help us on our journey but the ultimate goal and purpose still lay ahead. Jesus isn't finished yet! There is still coming a day when we will stand in His holy and awesome presence and all those disappointments and struggles will be as nothing and well worth it because we will have finished the course of our short lives and say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" We know that, don't we?