It Hurts!

… the law had said, thou shalt not covet. (Romans 7:7)

Having listened to people talk, I have heard variations on the theme of “there’s no harm in looking” (or its variant “I’m married, not dead”) or “no harm in thinking”. While these may sound cute or possible funny, we are to judge all things by the Scriptures, and from them we get a different picture.

We are not supposed to covet – this is a mental attitude; a thought life concerning “stuff” that belongs to another person.

The “harm” is that as we dwell upon something that should not be ours, our thoughts can take on imagination of what it would be like if it were ours. From thence, we can think about ways to make it ours, and can find ourselves thinking about ways to discredit or harm the person to whom the thing we covet belongs.

In some cases, it moves beyond just thinking, and actions are put into place. Even if we never move to actions, we are bound to think ill of the person.

And it started with dwelling upon that which belongs to another.

So, “no harm in thinking”?

Yes, it hurts.

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Lessons from the Tabernacle

In the hopes that the following items may be a blessing to others, I wanted to share some notes concerning the tabernacle that God had Israel build. I enjoyed these insights very much, and wanted to share them here.

  • Most Christians today don’t realize what a complete change it was to have a tabernacle: before God set up the tabernacle, each extended family had an altar, presided over by the family patriarch. The tabernacle did not initiate the worship of God; it merely changed the way in which they worshiped God. From this we can see:
    1. God has the right to dictate the way in which we worship Him. It was family altars; then a single tabernacle; today, we are to worship Him “in spirit and in truth”.
    2. Change isn’t automatically bad; change the God commands is good. Too often, Christians will not evaluate a change honestly in the light of Scripture – arguments such as We’ve never done it like this before! fly around.
  • God did not have them to build the biggest or most glamorous tabernacle. It was made of fine materials, and with skill. But He did not have them build something to show off; it was designed to meet the need. We can feel discouraged when our offering to God (some ministry – maybe playing an offertory; maybe a Sunday School class; maybe a church) isn’t all that big… but if we have done a sincere effort out of love for Him, we have no cause to be discouraged. A Sunday School class whose members love God more at the end of the year is a great class, no matter the size.
  • God had them build one tabernacle; not one for each tribe; not one for each section; just one.
  • God gave great detail about how the tabernacle was to be constructed; He also gave instructions as to where it was supposed to be. (He has that right.) Let us be sure that anything we do for God does not contradict His word.
  • There were some who refused to accept this “new thing”; the tabernacle – they wanted to continue to do their own offerings near their dwelling. This practice stayed around for a while:  many times throughout the Old Testament, there is reference to people worshiping the Lord in groves.  Groves were not necessarily idol worshiping places; they may have been remnants of the attitude that “I can worship God however and wherever I want” – but once God had spoken and set up the tabernacle and priesthood, it became wrong to worship in groves (even if it was the worship of God Himself). Even today, we still see some Christians determined to worship God however they want, instead of ensuring that “their way” is holy and in accordance with His word.

 

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Growing Together

[A few years ago, I wrote an article called I Need You about the importance of fellowship. Recently, I’ve been pondering some additional thoughts along that line. In addition, this is, I think, the first time I’ve referred back to something I have previously written]

The Bible talks about Christians growing together (Eph 2:21 is one good reference). I had always thought that statements like this only meant that a Christian should be growing in his faith, or maturing in the Lord… and that we are all supposed to be growing/maturing, so it is growth together.

However, it means more than this; it means that our growth is aided by each other. I can assist my brother or sister in Christ to grow, and my brother or sister in Christ can help my grow also.  It could be obvious, such as a conversation on some spiritual topic. Other times, it may just subtle; the Holy Spirit could use something said offhand by another believer to teach me an important lesson.

Often, we only thing that the mature Christians help the young Christians to go; that it is kind of one-way transfer. Mature Christians can and do help younger Christians; this kind of help is relatively easy to see – mature Christians have generally studied the Scriptures longer and have experienced sundry trials.

Nevertheless, it is wrong to assume first of all that mature Christians should not be growing; this is a lifelong tasks.  It is also foolish to assume that young Christians cannot help mature Christians grow. Often, younger Christians have an enthusiasm and a wonder that mature Christians don’t have as much. Young Christians are also more willing to take a stand, when more mature Christians may be tired of fighting an issue.

And thus we grow together.

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The Letter of the Law

Every now and then, there is some reading, or teaching, or preaching that brings up a point that I never noticed before.

Such was the case recently regarding Israel’s sin in Num 25 (this is where Balak, the king of Moab — who wanted his own way, and was not interested in the will of God — hired Balaam to curse Israel. Balaam was unable to do so, but by comparing Scriptures [see Num 31:16], it seems that he suggested to Balak that he use the women of his country to ensnare Israel, and that ensnarement is what takes place in Num 25).

Anyway, what I never noticed before is that in v6 that one of the men (Zimri) brought a Midianite woman (Cozbi – not a Moabite woman). When the Moabite women began to be a problem, I can imagine a rule or law or commandment came about to stay away from the Moabites.

As an aside, God’s restrictions regarding marrying non-Jews was never a matter of keeping the Jewish race “pure”; instead, it was a matter of keeping God’s people from idolatry. This is stated in many places. We know that this was not a racial issue because God allowed both Rahab (a dweller in Jericho) and Ruth (a Moabite woman) not only to marry Jews, but to be the ancestors of the Messiah.

Zimri was a leader in Israel and was flagrantly disregarding the problem, even though he may have been holding to the letter of the law – the woman wasn’t a Moabite, but she was still a heathen.

How many times do we do wrong, while keeping to the letter of the law, even though we know better?

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Counted and Count

Recently, in a class, the teacher was teaching through Philippians chapter 3; he mentioned counted in verse 7 and count in verse 8:

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:

This set off a chain of thoughts that I wanted to pass along.

Many Christians have had a “counted loss” experience: they have given up something because they believed (at the time) that it was not honoring to God, or that it was hindering their growth in the new life in Jesus Christ. I know that there have been such times in my life.  The decisions that will last are a past-tense decision; we decided completely to put something out of our lives; it is over and done with: it is “counted loss” (past tense)… and this is a good thing.

However, as we go along, we sometimes fail in the second part — the present tense of counting things for lost; in fact, sometimes, those things that we “counted” loss, we now want and regret that we put them out of our lives.

An excellent example of this is the Hebrews leaving Egypt: when they initially left, it was over and done with – they were done with Egypt. However, as the reality of living in the wilderness sank it, some no longer continued to “count” that life as lost; in fact, many times we ready of them hankering back after the things they left in Egypt.

We think they are  foolish, but how often have we determined to do something: we counted something as loss, but subsequently, we fail to still “count” it as loss and begin to desire what we once counted as loss. A few examples: some determine to not take jobs that would routinely keep them out of church services; they “counted” worldly gain as loss… but, after a while, they regret the decision that they think has kept them from “a really good job” – they no longer “count” it loss.  Others may give up a bad habit or music that does not honor God; it is “counted loss”, but they later hanker after it – it is no longer something they “count” but loss. Another person will determine to give regularly and faithfully to support God’s work; what they could have had was “counted” loss… later, they begin to dwell on what they could have had if they had not given, and begin to resent the decision – they are no longer counting their advantages as lost.

Let us not be led astray – those things that we “counted” loss — let us still continue to “count” them as loss: this is one way to have a successful Christian life.

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Weird Weather

The weather in North Texas is interesting.

It’s some weeks late, but Memorial Day 2020 was not only as early as it could be (the 25th), but it was also the coolest Memorial Day I can remember – certainly for the last decade, and possibly for a few decades. It was actually chilly to sit outside in a covered porch. It was only in the mid-60s and it was windy and raining.

Normally, at least here, Memorial Day weather is sunny with a high in the 90s.

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Thoughts on a Promo

Recently, I watched a promotional video for a Christian college. [As is my usual practice, I am not identifying it or the people involved – this is about principles involved. The people are, most likely, finer Christians than I am.]

My first impression is that it was well made, and was a decent promotion for the school. But then, a still, small voice inside asked: For a Christian college, Jesus Christ was not mentioned much, was He?

I didn’t remember exactly (I don’t have total recall), so I acquired a copy of the video and re-watched it and have the following statistics:

  • Mentions of the pastor by name: 11
  • Mentions of the pastor by reference (“he”, “his”, etc): 10
  • Mentions of “leadership” or variant (“leaders”, etc): 17
  • The word “God” used*: 5
  • The word “Christian” used*: 1
  • The word “Christ” used*: 1
  • The words “Jesus” or “Jesus Christ” used: none

(*these were in expressions, like “God bless you” or “winning people to Christ”)

I’d like to make couple of notes: first, I found it very hard just to listen for specific words; I kept getting caught up in what was being said. I say that to note that the counts above may be off – hopefully only slightly. Second, as this was a promotional video for a Christian college, I didn’t include references to the college (which is the point of the video). I counted 14 references to the name of the college, along with many references (things like “the college” or “this college”) that are not included in that total.

The video seems to be the result if one were to go to a professional advertising agency in the world and ask for advice about making a promotional video for a private school.

But Christians are not to follow the world; nor should be seek advice from the world – certainly not in an area where God has spoken. (As an aside, the Scriptures are silent in some areas, and it is fine to take advice from knowledgeable people – but all our actions should be weighed in the light of Scripture).

What do the Scriptures say?

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. I Cor 3:19-21

…to him [Jesus Christ] be glory and dominion for ever and ever. (Rev 1:6)

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. (Rev 5:12)

The emphasis of the video seemed to be “Come to Dr X’s school and you will learn to be as great of a leader as he is.” I guess not many would be interested in “Come to ___ college and learn how to exalt Jesus Christ with your life and become equipped to serve Him better”.

I mentioned leadership and it’s variants in the count above, because it was an obvious emphasis. In addition, my recollection was that God is looking for servants: Moses and David were called servants of God. Paul, James, Peter, Jude, and John all called themselves servants of God. Interestingly, “leaders” is used in the New Testament once: in the phrase blind leaders of the blind.

Jesus said, And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.

The school may be a wonderful Christian school, but, as a friend said (and I agree) “it leaves an unfortunate impression”.

Some principles and lessons: well, first, let us not be so caught up with how the world does things that we forget to double-check our methods against the Scriptures.

Whom do we exalt?  What does our conversation show is important?  When we talk about our church, is the pastor exalted more than Jesus Christ?

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Posting Dearth

That’s “dearth”, not “death” <grin>

I haven’t posted in a long time; it wasn’t for a lack of material.

I am thankful that I stayed fully employed during the lockdown, but I was working odd hours, and I just didn’t have the time to put much thought into writing something.

Lots and lots of people have written about COVID-19 and the more recent riots; while I do have thoughts about it, I’m not interested in writing about it here. I’d prefer to post about Christian ponderables (with occasional weather stuff).

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Thoughts from Romans (Unto and Upon)

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: (Romans 3:22)

While meditating upon the above verse, I was struck by the “unto all and upon all” phrase.

I should add in passing that the righteousness of God refers to salvation.

In context, Romans has previously showed that all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, are alike under sin. In this part of Romans, we are being shown that as they are alike under condemnation, the way of escape is the same for both Jew and Gentile. There is not a Jewish salvation and a Gentile salvation; there is one way for all.

I don’t agree with the concept of a limited atonement, and the “unto all” of this verse is one of the reasons. Thankfully, the salvation of God is offered to everyone in the world. Someone wrote: This righteousness is broad enough to cover every sinner and every sin. It is pure enough to meet the eye of God himself. It is therefore the sinner’s only shield.

However, not all the world is automatically saved; this salvation is upon all them that believe. It is offered to everyone, but only “upon” those who believe.

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All Sin is the Same (not)

I have thought about this many times, but it looks like I haven’t written it down before.

There seems to be a teaching by some that “all sin is the same”; that there are no “major” and “minor” sins – that they are all sins against a holy God.

This teaching is wrong (or at least distorted).

It is true that all sin is against God, and I would even say that, based on Rom 14 (whatsoever is not of faith is sin), that there are more things that are sin that we generally realize.

However.

That does not mean that all sins are the same. Lying to someone is not as bad as murdering someone… and that’s not just man’s perspective: God is the just God of all the earth: if we can see that someone like Hitler is deserving of more punishment that a man who occasionally uses bad language, then surely God will be just in His judgment of mankind in the day of judgment. In fact, if all sin is the same, why does God keep records of man’s doings?  Why even have a judgment of lost mankind?

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.

It is clear that different sins are worthy of different judgment.

On the glorious flip side, the man who trusts Jesus Christ to save him is given the righteousness of Jesus Christ; there are NOT levels of heaven, since we are all on the same level of righteousness: His!

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