Series thought

I notice that I haven’t written anything here for a while; I have had a few ideas, but none that I really liked. However, I recently thought of doing a series about Despised Bible Characters. I have noticed that many people have a tendency to look at people as “good guys” or “bad guys”; the good guys seldom do anything wrong, or anything they did that was wrong is trivialized. And nothing the “bad guys” do is good. The reality is that all people have done things that are right and things that are wrong. So, in this series, I’ll bring up people that I usually hear bad things about. Some of these people I may have written about before.

I hope you enjoy it!

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Lessons from Romans (willing, running, mercy)

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. (Rom 9:16)

In context, this verse is in a passage discussing people whom God chose to use or to bless in one way or another: specifically mentioned are Isaac, who was chosen over Ishmael, and Jacob, who was chosen over Esau. (As a side note, these verses are often mis-applied to salvation; some attempt to show that God chooses some to be saved and others to be lost).

We first have “him that willeth” – this is the man who says “I WANT THAT!”. It is not wrong to be used of God; in fact, it is quite honorable. However, God is not bound to honor our desires and wants, even if the are for good things. Such a person must guard against bitterness in this form: “God’s not being fair: I wanted it more than he did”… the “it” could be a position in the church, a promotion, financial blessings, some honor, etc — anything that one is/was bitter about not having.

Next we have “him that runneth” – this is the man who is actively doing things; good things. It is very clear from other Scriptures that there are rewards for those who good things. But again, God is not bound to use someone merely because he has done a lot. This person must guard against bitterness in the form of: “God’s not being fair; I’ve done so much for Him!”

And so we come to the truth of the matter: it is first, last, and always “of God that sheweth mercy”. It is His decision and choice to show mercy: if it were something owed to a man, it would not be mercy. No one is owed anything be God; if He chooses to show mercy, it is to His glory and honor that He has done so. Let us return to honoring God more than we honor men!

As a final note, it was pointed out to me that the two types of people here (“him that willeth” and “him that runneth”) could point to the people mentioned earlier in this chapter. Abraham, Isaac, and Rebekah all fit into the first category: they desired God to bless and use a particular son; Esau and especially Jacob fit into the second category: they both did “stuff” to try to obtain the blessing.

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Knowledge

that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good (Prov 19:2)

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee (Hos 4:6)

It is a shame that Christians are ignorant about their faith; this lack is due in part to people not wanting to take the time to study the Scriptures, but an equal part is the superficial preaching – assuming that the preaching even has anything to do with Christianity.

Many conservative-leaning churches teach the basic tenets of Christianity; that our authority is the Scriptures, which have been given by God. They reveal that man is lost and can only be reconciled to God because of the death on the cross of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. These things should be taught, but these are elementary Christian knowledge. It seems to be the idea these days that any teaching beyond this is only for church leaders. Sadly, the average member in the pew has very little knowledge. Thus, when the leader leaves that church, the people choose a poor replacement – awed by technique or personality, but with no real wisdom in the choice. This sad occurrence has happened repeatedly in once sound churches. One must have knowledge in order to have wisdom and understanding. Yes, the basics need to be taught; they are the foundation, but good preaching will build on the foundation.

Of course, as better writers that I have pointed out, studying is hard work; it’s much easier for a preacher to unload whatever happens to be “bugging” him at the moment.

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Nice guy

Often times, when a caution or warning is given about some, the response But he’s a nice guy is given.

That response irritates me because it usually never to the point. As an example, a man goes to a company VP to say that a certain director is micro-managing the people under him. For the VP to respond with, Yes, but he’s a nice guy is not helpful… the point under consideration is not whether or not the guy is nice, but whether or not he is micro-managing people (with the less-than-desirable results of such a practice).

I heard this irrelevant feedback in all kinds of areas; in the Christian realm, pointing out that some evangelist’s teachings don’t seem to follow Scripture often results in the (defensive?) feedback He’s a great guy — I’m perfectly willing to concede that he is a better Christian than I am: can we talk about the point under discussion now?

Here’s another case: a friend told me about his friend’s church (I know his friend, but not well). He mentioned that the church had lost the pastor (I had heard this). When I asked how they were doing, he said that they had a new pastor now. When I asked what the new pastor was like, I get the He’s a really nice guy response. While it is good that a pastor is a nice, there is next to no information there. He could, for example, be a dictator; many dictators are “nice guys” to everyone except those resisting his dictatorial ways. He could be a great Bible teacher, and/or one who diligently studies the Word, and/or have an outgoing personality. Even I don’t really know anything about him seems to me to be better than He’s a nice guy.

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Lessons from Romans (these things)

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)

There are two questions here; the second is a popularly quoted verse… but consider the first question – what are ‘these things’?

Let us consider some ‘things’ that come before this verse

  • No condemnation now for us (v1)
  • We are free the law of sin and death (v2)
  • We have, indwelling us, the same Spirit that raised up Jesus, and he shall revive our mortal bodies (v11)
  • We have been adopted by the Father (v15)
  • We are thus His children (v16)
  • And, therefore, joint heirs with Christ (v17)
  • Unimaginable glory is awaiting us (v18)
  • The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us (v26)
  • God is managing/working the things which occur for good (v28)

Wow! What a list to praised Him for!

Some may be opposed to us, but with God being “for” us, they cannot be against us successfully!

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Arrogance?

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18)

I like this verse, especially for what it does not say.

It does not say “He that believeth on Him will not be condemned as long as he holds on”.

If one has trusted in Jesus Christ (the “him” of the verse), one “is” (present state) not condemned. This is why people can stand on this verse and say that they know they are saved; this is not arrogance: it is merely standing upon what God’s word says.

The second part of this verse is also pretty solemn: it’s another “is” (present state). The one who does not believe already has a known outcome: he is “condemned already”. Not even a large pile of good works can change this state. (As an aside, I believe that the Bible infers that the degree of punishment suffered by a non-believer can be mitigated by the good works he does).

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Burned Them

I appreciate the people who follow my musings!


This thought came from the following verse: And there they left their images, and David and his men burned them. (2 Sam 5:21)

(Feel free to read vv 17-21 to get the context; essentially, David and his men, following God’s directions, beat the Philistines, and found the ‘images’ (gods) left behind by the Philistines and burned them.

As a side note, I’m glad that I don’t have a God made by my hands that can be left behind. The God of the Bible is great and mighty.

I was fascinated by this idea of David and his men burning the images… because these images were some of the gods of the Philistines, they probably used very good materials and spent time and effort making these images. David and his men could have kept the images and sold them back to the Philistines, or possibly taken out any precious metals or jewels to use for another purpose. It would have been pretty easy to rationalize keeping them.

It makes me think of another instance in Acts 19 in which the people who had turned to God brought their books of spells and other such things, and burned them. You

I wonder how this would work today – would we have the courage to burn such valuable (albeit wicked) things? Or would be put them up for sale on eBay because “hey, we could use the money to help God’s work”. I doubt if any of us have things as valuable as the books that the people burned – 50,000 pieces of silver is a huge sum of money.

Just a thought.

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Christmas Story Thoughts

Let me wish all those that read this a Merry Christmas! (albeit a trifle late)

The Christmas story is known to many people; however, although Christians are supposed to be people of the Book (the Bible), we are often influenced by other things around us. Here are some things I used to think about Christmas until I put aside Christmas stories and shows, and just looked at what the Bible says (in no particular order):

  • There was no angelic chorus singing at Jesus’ birth: I had always assumed that this happened; when I read some comment that angels don’t sing, I thought the writer was wrong, and looked at the Biblical narrative to prove him wrong. However, what the Bible actually says is that one angel appeared to the shepherds announcing the birth (incidentally, that is why “The First Noel” begins The first noel the angel [not angels] did say…) with the well-known: Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. After that, the angel was joined by a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying [not singing]. I also find it interesting that the Scripture says “a multitude of the heavenly host” instead of “a multitude of angels”. That implies to me that the multitude was something different than the lone angel.

  • The wise men did not visit the baby Jesus in the manger. This is certain from a comparison of the visit from the shepherds and the wise men. The shepherds found the babe lying in a manger. The wise men came into the house [not manger] and saw the young child [not babe] with Mary his mother. Moreover, Herod had quizzed the wise men about when the saw the star in the east, and when he had all of the children two years and younger killed, it was according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.

  • Despite the song “We Three Kings”, don’t know that there were three of them, nor do we know that they are kings (and they probably weren’t). The Bible merely calls them “wise men”. There were three gifts given, but that doesn’t imply three of them. Many believe that these were descendants of the Babylonians, Persians, or Medes – they would have had access to Daniel’s prophecies about the Messiah, including the timing of His birth.

  • Despite the popular imagery, we don’t know that Mary was riding a donkey. There is no donkey listed in the story; however, that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t one. People reasoning for the donkey would note that Mary, being as close to giving birth as she was, would have needed something. Against that is the indications that Joseph and Mary were very poor (based upon her purification offering). We should not be dogmatic in places where the Scripture isn’t clear.

I hope you enjoyed these notes. Feel free to leave a comment if you think of any others.

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Types of Preaching

For several years, I have heard preachers talk about ‘Bible preaching’ in contrast to ‘preaching that tickles the ears of the listeners’. This latter expression comes from the following Bible verses:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (II Timothy 4:3-4)

I was pondering this recently, and have concluded that these two types mentioned leave out an important consideration.

Bible preaching is preaching what the Scripture says; not changing the message because of who is/may be listening. (There are many things it is not; however, far better writers that I have discussed this issue, and it is not the point of this entry).

The contrast are the so-called preachers who do pay attention to who is in the audience.

One result of this kind of preaching is the ear-tickling type already discussed; this type of preacher doesn’t want to offend people in the audience, avoids controversies, and gives warnings in generalities.

The other kind of preaching is the one that is often overlooked: it is the preacher who usurps the role of the Holy Spirit. This kind of preacher believes (as evidenced by his actions) that it is his job to bring conviction and cause change in the members’ lives. He may say that they are God’s people, but he really considers them ‘his’ people to mold as he sees fit. His ‘preaching’ is aimed at getting people to change (instead of teaching what the Scripture says and allowing the Holy Spirit to make changes). This type of preaching is often described (humorously, but perhaps with a semblance of truth) as stomps on my/your toes or rips my/your face off. These expressions have no basis in Scripture and do not fit the biblical exhortation of feeding the flock of God. (I Peter 5). They are indicative of someone who is trying to manipulate the audience. It may be more exciting or satisfying to act this way, and it may be easier and quicker than putting in the time to really study the Scriptures, but it rarely produces strong Christians.

It is the preacher’s job to ‘preach the word’; the results need to be left to God. Do we believe this? Can we really leave the results up to God?

Addendum

When I re-read the above, I thought that it may be thought that I am advocating that a pastor never pays attention to what is going on with people in his church. A friend also pointed out the same thing, so I decided to add the paragraph below.

Having written this, a wise pastor is not oblivious as to what is going in the lives of the people that God has placed in the church. Preaching to meet needs is certainly valid; the main point of this article is that it is not the preacher’s job to ‘mold’ people by manipulating them.

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Proverbs 9 Thoughts

I find this chapter of Proverbs very interesting.

There is a contrast between the teaching of wisdom and the teaching of folly.

Note that they have exactly the same promise/advertising/promotion (verses 4 and 16: Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith…)

They both promise to provide wisdom and understanding: how should we know which teaching to follow?

Well, consider the teachers — wisdom is very active: read verses 1-3 and see all of the action words (builded, hewn, killed, mingled, furnished, sent). Folly, by contrast, is merely sitting around and calling to people who pass by: beware the teaching of someone who is indolent.

It appears that wisdom has reaped the rewards of wisdom and is better off than folly (wisdom has ‘maidens’). I’m sure folly has some excuse, blaming others for preventing her from doing well. We probably all know someone who refuses to acknowledge his own shortcomings, and blames his lack of progress on others.

Also, wisdom offers better things: her drink and her bread; folly offers stolen water and bread (bread eaten in secret because it was stolen).

Furthermore, the teaching of wisdom encourages the learner to improve himself (forsake the foolish, go in the way of understanding, and so on), but folly only appeals to one’s sensual appetites (bread and drink). Wisdom also offers bread and drink, but not only bread and drink.

By the way, we hear foolish talk about “Judge not”; a preacher once said that this is the sole Bible verse most people know (whether or not they are Christians). To make this passage say that no one should ever use their mind to make decisions is just ripping this verse out of context. In fact, a few verses later, disciples are told to judge possible teachers (ye shall know them by their fruits [in context, these words are instructions for recognizing false prophets]). So, it’s perfectly permissible to consider the lives and circumstances who would teach us.

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