Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Being Astonished at the Teaching of the Lord"

Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark were in Paphos, teaching the word of the Lord. They met there a proconsul named Sergius Paulus, "an intelligent man," Luke tells us (Acts 13:7). But where the message of God goes, so follows false teachers. A Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus (or, more popularly, Elymas), "withstood them (Paul and his companions), seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith" (v. 8). Paul then rebuked him strongly and performed a notable miracle--Elymas was struck blind, "and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand" (v. 11).

You would think seeing something like that would be very impressive and awe-inspiring--even in Biblical times, miracles were rare and performed only for specific purposes. And Sergius Paulus might indeed have marveled at what Paul did. But that isn't what really amazed him: "Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord" (v. 12). Truly an intelligent man.

You see, it wasn't the miracle that astonished him. It was the fact that the Lord could save a wretched sinner like Sergius Paulus. Or you and me. That is truly an amazing thing, much, much more amazing than any miracle that God ever performed. There are people today who get so wrapped up in the miraculous that they forget that the true wonder is the grace of God, that He would stoop so low as to send His only begotten Son to die for contemptible, unworthy rogues like us.

The "teaching of the Lord" is indeed an astonishing thing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

10/24 Bible Briefs

I'm going to start something new on the blog called "Bible briefs." I will do it with some frequency--short comments on various Bible verses. Many people, to their own disadvantage, won't read or listen to longer articles, but they will read shorter ones. And there is some benefit to that as well. So hopefully these briefs will provide some thought-provoking lessons and truths. I'll put the date in the subject line so the reader will know a new set of "briefs" is available.

I John 2:25--"And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life." This is what it's all about. It is our soul, not our flesh, that will spend eternity somewhere--heaven or hell. Life's joys and sorrows are fleeting. We must never take our eyes off the prize. We have "the promised that he hath promised us, even eternal life." The promise of God to the faithful: "be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). Eternal life.

I John 2:15--"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." Based upon the verse above, this thought is wholesome and good advice, indeed. Don't fall in love with this world because you aren't going to be here very long. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). "The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (II Peter 3:10). The Lord's going to burn it all up. Wise we are if we don't get attached to it.

Acts 1:3--"To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs." This is how we know the two verses above are true. The Greed word for "infallible" is an ancient one, used as early as Aeschylus and Herodotus (5th century B.C.), and means “that from which something is surely and plainly known; an indubitable evidence, a proof” (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon). Luke did his homework, his research, his investigations. He was as good an historian as any living today, and the evidence of Jesus's resurrection derives from "indisputable evidence," "many infallible proofs." Hence, don't tie yourself to this world. Prepare for the eternal life which God has promised to us.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cave Men

Everybody knows that cave men lived millions of years ago, right? Or half-man/half-ape, whatever it was. He (it?) sat around on his (its?) haunches, dressed in animal skins, staring into the fire, grunting, and drawing inane pictures on the wall. Occasionally, he (it?) would leave the safety of his (its?) cave to hunt for food, or perhaps bop a female it on the head with his (its?) club and drag her by the hair into his (its?) lair. In this way, he (it?) could produce more its like himself (itself?) until finally, at long last, these its were no longer its and were fully human. And thus no longer living in caves. One of the signs of the development of man is that these cave men lived eons ago and we have "evolved" beyond that stage and build houses, apartments, tipis, homeless shelters--whatever.

No more cave men. Correct?

Judges 6:1-2--"Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years, and the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of the Midianites, the children of Israel made for themselves the dens, THE CAVES, and the strongholds which are in the mountains..."

I guess these Israelite its living in caves sat around on their haunches, dressed in animal skins, staring into the fire, etc. etc. etc. and forgot that cave men died out a long time ago.

Actually, if you will go to my current events blog (, you can read about a modern day cave man. And his name sounds like something an ancient cave man would mumble. And he has about as much brains. My apologies to the ancient cave men.

Monday, October 12, 2009

“The Lord Gave, and the Lord Hath Taken Away”

(You can view a copy of this post in the column to the right.)

Certainly the most tragic figure in the Bible—if not Jesus Himself—is the Old Testament patriarch Job. This godly man, for reasons he never learned on this earth, was struck by all of man’s greatest fears—financial ruin, family loss, and prolonged sickness. He was the “greatest (richest) of all the men of the east” (Job 1:3); yet he lost it all, stolen or destroyed (1:14-17). He had 10 children—certainly the delight of any man’s soul, but even more so in ancient times when large families were considered a supreme blessing from God; but they were all killed, at the same time, by a “great wind from the wilderness” (1:19). Then, he was struck with “sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown” (2:7), a condition that corroded his bones (30:17) and so drastically changed his appearance that his best friends hardly recognized him (2:12). Apparently his fellows citizens were so repulsed they isolated him in the city dump (2:8). And the condition lasted for months (7:3). Even his wife turned against him. No doubt grieved herself, she said to Job, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (2:9). And then these “friends” of his come to him and try to convince him that all this has happened to him because he must be the worst sinner who ever lived. Not a pleasant period in Job’s life, to say the least.

What would you have done in such a circumstance? You lose every bit of your material wealth, all of your children are killed at one time, you become ghastly ill for several months, your nearest and dearest and best friends turn against you: could you keep your faith in God through all that? Job’s response? ”What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10). And, “naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21). There are few, if any, examples of faith greater than that which this man showed. And he apparently lived hundreds of years before one word of the Bible was penned. How could he maintain his righteous character under such a brutal assault?

Job apparently understood something that the vast majority of humankind has never learned, and certainly is lacking in the understanding of most some 5,000 later, viz., this world is not our home. We are mere pilgrims here, passing through, and we won’t be here for very long. I am convinced this is one reason why Jesus, while on earth, did not concern Himself in the least with political affairs. I’ve heard people say, “Well, if Jesus were here today, He would be marching for civil rights and supporting Obamacare, yada yada yada…” No, He wouldn’t. There were plenty of injustices—including slavery—that Jesus could have “marched against” in His own day, but He came for a much greater purpose: “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus had been in heaven—He’s God, of course; that’s where He had come from (John 6:38). He knew the beauties and wonders of an existence with God, and He knew that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus, being man’s creator, was aware that “the days of our years are threescore and ten (70),” and perhaps 80, “for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). And “the cares of this world and pleasure of this life” (Luke 8:14) are brief, fleeting, and ultimately vain.

Jesus wasn’t interested in making Republicans or Democrats out of people, a nomenclature that will not last, for long, for any of us. Jesus was interested in leading us into a condition that will last forever—a home in heaven. Is last year’s election more important than that? Will Obamacare be vital—for you—100 years from now? Indeed, quickly, tell me who was elected President in 1908, 100 years ago?.....I’m waiting….Now, do you think that anyone who voted in the 1908 election cares, right now, who won the election in 2008? And, yes, I even have my own “current events” blog, on which I post my political rants. But will any of us care who wins the presidency in 2108?

But will we care where our eternal soul resides?

Job did ask, implicitly, in his subsequent conversations with his friends, “Why? Why did this happen to me? I’ve been righteous, I didn’t deserve this. I’d sure like to talk to God and tell Him a few things!” But that great man never did, while alive on earth, learn the answer to his question “why?” What he learned was the answer to a far greater question: “Who.” For if we know the “Who,” then the “why” really doesn’t matter, does it.

“I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).

“The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Who Are the "Wicked"?

The Bible says a lot about wickedness, of course, much more than this short article can recount. But I did run across four passages about these people in Proverbs 15 which I wish to share with you, one of them perhaps a bit surprising.

Proverbs 15:28-"...the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil." Nothing terribly surprising about this. Wicked people use foul language, lie, slander, gossip, sow discord, teach error, and a few other sins of the tongue that the reader can ponder over at leisure.

Proverbs 15:26-"The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord..." No surprise here, either. "For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he," (Prov. 23:7). A man first wills to do sin, mulls it over, thinking about it, then does it. Please note that even the thought is evil. Commiting adultery, for example, is bad enough; but even lusting without the actual act is condemned by Jesus (Mt. 5:27-28). This "lusting" person might appear, on the outside, to be an angel robed in white; but inwardly, he's full of dead men's bones. Just because a person thinks wicked thoughts does not always mean he will perform them. The Lord knows and is not pleased.

Proverbs 15:9-"The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord." Frequently, after he has thought about it, the wicked fulfills his actions. Such a course obviously is contrary to righteousness. But once more, there is nothing shocking in this verse; naturally, the path the wicked person treads is abhorrent to the Lord.

Proverbs 15:8-"The sacrifice of the wicked is an abominiation to the Lord." Did you ever realize that you might be sitting next to a wicked person in worship? What in the world is the wicked doing "sacrificing" to God? This doesn't exactly fit our stereotype of "wickedness." Evil people are wicked--that's who is "wicked," correct? Yes, they are. But so are hypocrites. And they are "an abominiation to the Lord."

Ultimately, there are only two kinds of people--the saved and lost, the sheep and the goats, the saint and the sinner, the righteous and the wicked. Indeed, there are some "wicked" people who are "wickeder" than others; but, anyone who is not right with the Lord can properly fit the definition of wicked. And they might be shaking hands with you in worship next Sunday morning.