Archive for May, 2015

Coming out of the wilderness (Deuteronomy 2; Psalm 83-84; Isaiah 30; Jude)

May 29, 2015

Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have been traveling around this mountain country long enough.  Turn northward…'” Deuteronomy 2:2-3

In the Christian’s realm of thinking, the statement, “Coming out of the wilderness,” refers to one who has been through a tough season of faith but now they are emerging better for what God has walked them through.

Questions:

  • Have you any experience with times of being in a spiritual wilderness?
  • Are you presently in a wilderness time?
  • What have you learned in the wilderness?

These were questions I would have loved to have been able to ask the people of Israel as they heard God’s Word in Deuteronomy 2.

Let’s look at the content of the chapter together:

In this chapter we see both death and deliverance:

  • All the men of war (who had rebelled in the wilderness) died in the wilderness.
    • In God’s grace He walked with the people during these days, 2:7
    • In God’s judgment He dealt with the rebellion in men’s hearts, 2:14-16

The judgment did have an ending date!!!

  • A new generation was about to be delivered from the wilderness.
    • They had traveled around the mountain long enough, Vs: 3
    • This would be the day when God would put fear in the hearts of all their enemies,Vs: 25
    • The Lord God gave the enemy into their hands, Vs: 36

Think it through:

Here were a people listening to their past and learning about their present!!!!

Question:  “What has the past taught you?”

In the wilderness of life we are born.  We are spiritually in the darkness, living without hope, and without direction.  It is God who entered into our wilderness to show us the light, John 8:11-12.  It is God who entered into the wilderness to purchase our pardon for wilderness ways, John 3:16.  It is God who leads us out of the wilderness, I Peter 3:9-10.

It is to the Promised Land that former wilderness people are traveling.

Certainly there will be seasons when God will have to take us to wilderness days.  These are not days of being in the darkness, but these are days in which the Lord is sanctifying us!!!

It is my prayer that you will embrace the wilderness and you will emerge from the wilderness closer to God and clear as to the journey ahead.

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Facing Up To Your Past (Deuteronomy 1; Psalm 82-83; Isaiah 30; III John)

May 28, 2015

“And in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place,” Deuteronomy 1:31

Someone said, “It is hard to move into the present without putting the past behind you.”

Consider God’s people during the days of Moses leadership.  Their journey was a 40 year story that reminds us of two truths:

  • An eleven day journey turned into forty years of judgment: 1:1-32

The book of Deuteronomy is both a retelling of the journey in the wilderness and a preparing of a people for the conquest of the promised land.  Here in this chapter we see the first truth coming to pass.  We notice how Moses choses leaders, vs: 9-18; spies are chosen to scope out the land, Vs:19-25; and the people are carnal in that they fail to obey God, Vs: 26-32

  • An eleven day journey is a testimony to warn us: 1:33-46

As I read these verses I could hear the warning of the New Testament:  “It is once appointed unto man to die and after death comes the judgment,”  Hebrews 9:27

Here is the two-fold warning from Israel’s past:

  1. They tried to obey after the fact.
  2. They tried to repent after the fact.

As is the case with so many people, they waited until judgment is pronounced before they try to make it right.  After judgment comes, there is no more mercy to be given.

Think it through:

A new generation stands at the moment of entering the Promised Land.  Would they face up to the past where their parents modeled rebelling and unrepentant hearts? Would they confess their failure and submit themselves to God?

The answer is seen in the book of Joshua.  Certainly they were not perfect, but they were progressing in obedience.

Our response:

Have you faced up to your past?  In every person’s life there are things that came before that will cripple you in the present unless you deal with them.  Here are a few examples: “dysfunction in the home; worldly way of dealing with life; sexual perversion; deceitful dealings; always running away from the truth; abuse; and anger.”

The list above is so small but it represents a fact:  “it is impossible to move into the present without putting the past behind you.”

You might ask, “How can I do this?”  One must repent of the past (I John 1:9); submit to Jesus who offers you a different path (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 16:24-31); strive to walk in the path (Mk. 1:15-16); and seek to lead others to the path (Matthew 28:18-20).

When these things happen you can now look, with joy, to the present!!!  May God lead you to the present for His glory.

The Elect (II John; Psalm 80; Numbers 36; Isaiah 28)

May 27, 2015

“The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth,because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever.”  II John 1-2

In the last few years (over a decade now) there has been an increased divide between those in the Baptist church over the issue of election versus free will.  People on both sides of the aisle have a deep passion for the truth of God’s Word.  In my own journey over the past decade I have moved closer and closer to a genuine love for the elect!!!

Consider what John teaches the elect lady (either reference to a Christian lady and her family or to a church family)

  • The elect are the people who have come to the truth, Vs: 1-3

Here John deals with the truth:  “Jesus Christ is the God-man who came to redeem us from our sins.”

  • The elect are the people who continue in the truth, Vs: 4-11

John gives us three examples of our continuing:

  1. We continue by loving one another.
  2. We continue by being alert to those who are false teachers.
  3. We continue by refusing to allow false teachers to have an audience in our lives.

Question:  “Do you struggle with the teaching above?”

Think it through:

When John writes about our coming to faith, I believe he is assuming we know how we are given the right to come.  In I John 1:7 John writes, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.”

When John writes about our coming to faith, I believe he is assuming we know how we are given life.  The Psalmist writes of Israel becoming a living vine through the power of God, Psalm 80:8-11.  John wrote this same truth about the elect in John 15:1-5 quoting our Lord.

When John writes about our continuing in faith, I believe he is assuming we know of the sovereign keeping power of God.  John wrote, “Greater is he who is us than he who is in the world.”  I John 4:4

Personal response:

For me, the world elect does not stir up a divide in my heart from other believers who are either extreme Arminian or extreme Calvinist.  In my life I am overjoyed at both the work of God in bringing men to saving faith and in the work of the Godly in loving God and seeking to make disciples of all people.

You and I cannot possibly raise one dead person to life.  However, God can save anyone, Hebrews 7:25, who is willing to come to faith in Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-10.  Let us pray, as my mentor used to say, “More and more people who be elected.”

A focused prayer (Numbers 35; Isaiah 28; Psalm 79; I John 5)

May 26, 2015

“Help us, O Go of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake.”  Psalm 79:9

In recent day’s I have been greatly challenged by the book, “Storms,” written by Jim Cymbala.  The goal of the book is two-fold:  “The storms coming to the church must be fought both on our knees and in the power of the Holy Spirit.” This morning I found great encouragement from the focused prayer of the Psalmist in Psalm 79.

Here was his context:

Both the city of Jerusalem and it’s temple have been destroyed.  The people have been for the most carried off into captivity.  The Psalmist cries out to God in a very focused way.

Here is the content of his focus:

  • He cries out for judgment upon the wicked nations who have come into God’s inheritance, Vs: 1-6; 10

Notice very carefully the why of this cry.  These nations according to Vs: 10 “were making fun of God’s seemingly failure in taking care of his own people.”  They were opposing God and the Psalmist wanted God to judge these nations to vindicate His honor.  The Psalmist was focused.

  • He cries out for compassion for his own people, 7-9, 11-13

The Psalmist clearly confesses the sin of the people.  The people deserve the judgment of God.  The people clearly do not possess the resources to atone for their sins.  So the Psalmist cries out to God to atone for their sins. The Psalmist sees the people in a humble place: “Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.”

Again the Psalmist is very focused.  Here is why he asks for God’s atonement:  “But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.” Vs: 13

Think it through:

The Psalmist entire purpose was to live for the glory of God!!!

Our response:

As we pray for our nation, other nations, our churches, and our communities we must be focused.  If our focus is for God’ glory, heaven’s response will be yes.  But if our focus is for our security, abundance, and pride be assured heaven’ answer will be no.

Consider this, “When God answered yes for our atonement, it meant the giving of Jesus, God’s own Son!”  I want to live to make his name famous!!!

Remembering when and who (I John 4; Numbers 34; Psalm 78:42-70; Isaiah 26)

May 25, 2015

“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, These are the names of the men who shall divide the land to you for inheritance.”  Numbers 34:16

This day our nation pauses from all the wars and rummers of wars in our world.  This day our nation pauses to remember the multitudes of men and women who have given their lives and continue to give their lives for freedom (not only here) but around the world.  I hope you will take time to both recognize God’s call upon our military as well as being intentional in paying honor to our present and previous military servants.

Thanks to all who have worn the uniform of our nation!

This morning’s readings include a passage that I am sure some of you just skimmed (I was tempted to do the same).  The passage is Numbers 34.  The directions given are simple:

  • Moses is to draw out the boundaries for the nation of Israel.
  • Moses is to appoint leaders who will divide the land among their particular tribes.

This all looks so simply and so unimportant to us.  Allow me to challenge you to think deeper.

Think it through:

The boundaries drawn by Moses would translate to warfare because the land was in the possession of many enemies.  The leaders would have to decide who would fight where in the battles.

Now the passage takes on a new reality.  This day we remember the both when and who of those battles. The book of Joshua tells us of the people and the battles they fought.

At the same time we realize this is a picture for us of a greater reality.  One greater than Moses would draw out a battle plan in which He would conqueror an even greater enemy.  Here is how the Apostle John described it:  “And we have seen and testify that the father has sent his son to be the Savior of the world.” I John 4:14

This day we pause and remember when (Mount Calvary) and who (Jesus Christ) who purchased our freedom for us!!

Yes, we know there are many battles along the journey of life.  But we have confidence that our Lord will lead to us victory in every battle.  Here is our confidence:

  • God is with us, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts you.”  Isaiah 26:3
  • God will give us victory in the end, “So we do not lose heart, though our outward man is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”  II Corinthians 4:16

Our response:

Let us take time to give thanks and honor to all who have served our nation for our political freedom!!!

Let us take time to give thanks and honor to Jesus who has given his life for our spiritual freedom!!!

Pay Day (Numbers 31; I John 1; Psalm 75-76)

May 22, 2015

“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites.  Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.” Numbers 31:1

Each month our church has two pay periods which means we are paid twice a month.  Honestly, because of direct deposit, I never know when we get paid.  The one thing I do know about pay-day is this, “FBC Jackson pays me far more than I deserve.”  Which means, “Each time I am paid it is filled with grace and mercy.”

Consider Numbers 31 in regard to pay-day.

Moses is at the end of his life.  God has told him of one last assignment before he is taken in death.  Moses is to direct the Israelites to make war on the people of Midian.  This was God’s vengeance on the people of Midian for their seducing God’s people to be unfaithful to the Lord (Numbers 25:1-13).

Little did the Midianites know that payday would be so soon.

Think it through:

  • The people were destroyed
  • The prophet was destroyed (who have Midian direction)
  • The plunder was distributed

Consider these facts:

Some day God is going to judge the world, Romans 12:10-20

Some day false prophets will be destroyed, Rev. 17-18

Some day God people will rule this earth with the Lord, Rev. 20:3-8

This was Moses last assignment and he was faithful.  Some day one greater than Moses will come to one last assignment.  Psalm 75:2 “AT THE SET TIME THAT I APPOINT I WILL JUDGE WITH EQUITY.”   PSALM 75:7 “BUT IT IS GOD WHO EXECUTES JUDGMENT, PUTTING DOWN ONE AND LIFTING UP ANOTHER.”  

Jesus will return to complete one last assignment.  It will be the pay-day for the world.

Our response:

What will be your pay on that day?

  • Will you get what you deserve?

I do not want to get what I deserve.

  • Will you get what you don’t deserve?

On that day all who have surrendered their lives to Christ will receive the payday of heaven!!!  This is amazing grace.

Oh how I pray you and I spend this Memorial Day weekend telling others of the sacrifice of Jesus for our freedom!!!

What are you waiting for? (II Peter 3; Numbers 30; Psalm 74; Isaiah 22)

May 21, 2015

“Therefore, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” II Peter 3:14

The directive was given but the response was silence.  The directive was given again but sill there was silent response.  The directive was given a third time with great zeal, but still no response.  Finally, there was a tapping on the arm of the person in whom the directive was given.  In response, John removed his ear buds and asked, “Did you say something dad?”

It’s easy to miss out on life’s greatest and most important moments if we are listening to life’s weakest and least important directives.

Before us in II Peter we have one of the most important directives in the entire Bible.  Peter is giving the directive of how believers are to live in light of the reality of God’s Second-Coming!!!  He forms his teaching in the picture of someone who is waiting for what they have heard to come to pass.

Think it through:

I.  The truth behind the waiting, Vs: 1-13

The prophets had predicted during the time of the Old Testament, “the coming and the second-coming of the Lord.”  The flood was God’s first judgment upon the world and the Second-Coming will be God’s final judgment on the world.

The Lord is preparing for his coming.  As He prepares He pleads through His servants for people to submit their lives to him.  He does not desire that any would perish but that all would come to repentance.  Some think God will not come, but be assured God keeps His Word.

Because of this truth believers can live informed lives, Vs: 11-13

II.  The task during our wait, Vs: 14-18

Peter wanted our waiting to be not just informed but intentional as well.  Believers are to be diligent in the following ways:

  • Live Holy lives
  • Live humble lives
  • Live lives that are growing in grace
  • Live lives that are sharing Christ with the world

In this way we are both waiting in anticipation for the Lord and waiting in action preparing for the Lord’s return.

Our response:

What are we to do about what we have heard?  Think back to our beginning illustration.  Three times I gave John a directive, but three times he did not hear because he was listening to something else.

You and I have to come to a settled place in which we have disciplined ourselves to listen to God every moment of every day.  Unless we are disciplined in this way we will be led away from action of living in anticipation.  Many of us find ourselves living in spiritual apathy while striving in fleshly activity.

Father, may we live this day and every day with both spiritual alertness and spiritual alignment with you will!!!

Truly God is _____________________________________ (Psalm 73; Numbers 28; Isaiah 21; II Peter 2)

May 20, 2015

“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.”  Psalm 73:1

Question:  “How did the Psalmist arrive at this truth?”  Answer, “Through the divine experience of God’s gracious kindness in his life.”

This morning I was gripped by the journey of the Psalmist to this truth.

Think it through:

The Psalmist opens his heart to us in this chapter.  We are able to gain great insight into his journey.  At first we see the Psalmist becoming both envious (Vs: 2) and embittered (Vs: 21) by what he perceives to be unjust behavior by God.

In verses 2-12 the Psalmist wonders why the wicked prosper.  In verses 13-16 the Psalmist wonders why the righteous suffer.

Key point-This is always the viewpoint we come to when we act in the flesh.  The writer is exhausted by his futile attempts to understand.

But his thoughts change when He is given the divine experience of God gracious kindness:  Notice Vs: 17-28

  • He hears the wisdom coming from God, Vs: 17-20
  • He is humbled in the presence of God, Vs: 21-26
  • He finally understands the greatness of God, Vs: 27-28

Just like the Psalmist we must come to the place where we admit, “My flesh and heart may fail.” 

If you are a Christ follower the same divine experience of grace has been extended to you!!!

According to the Bible, James 4:7, “You can drawn near to God.”  In drawing near you are humbled to know that you are unworthy to be in his presence.  In drawing near you are graced with divine kindness in receiving his wisdom and the wealth of his provision for everything in your life.

Our response:

Question:  “How will you fill in the blank, “Truly God is ______________________”

I want to encourage you to take time this day and draw near to God, Hebrews 4:14-16.  Spend time in his presence listening and learning through His Word.

At the end of your time follow the journey of the Psalmist who wrote, “But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your work.” Psalm 73: 28 

Making Sure (II Peter 1; Psalm 72; Isaiah 19-20; Numbers 28)

May 19, 2015

“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shinning in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,” II Peter 1:19

Each night Sherry takes of her precious time to make sure the doors are locked before we go to bed.  I am very thankful for a wife who makes sure we are as secure as possible each night.  Question, “How much time do you dedicate to making secure your walk of faith?”

Think it through:

The Apostle Peter is making sure, 1:12-15, that believers are making sure they are walking in true faith.  In II Peter 2 Peter will point out the damaging life of false teachers who would lure believers away from genuine faith.  Here in chapter 1 we find great truth that enables the believer to make sure.

  • Peter reminds us of this truth: “God has given each believer all he or she needs to be successful in faith, Vs: 3-4

One cannot help but rejoice when he or she reads the many promises of God.  These promises are for those who are partakers of the divine nature.

  • Peter also reminds us of another truth:  “We must give all in order to be successful in faith, Vs: 5-11

God has called every believer to invest his or her life in developing the qualities of faith.  We see those qualities in Vs: 6-8.  As one gives all to this work, the promises of God are fulfilled.

When we make sure there will be a reality that is often foreign to us: “You will never fall.”  

This is amazing to me!  There will never be a moment when you are not fruitful in your walk with God.

Our response:

If we diligently believe the promises and diligently walk the path set for us by God, “we will never fail.”  In this we are making sure.

Just like Sherry who gives herself to the diligent work of locking the doors each night, so must we give ourselves to making sure our lives are secure in obeying the Word of God!!!

A Leader who looks ahead (I Peter 5; Isaiah 17-18; Numbers 27; Psalm 70-71)

May 18, 2015

“And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory,” I Peter 5:4

How often do we find ourselves so caught up in the moments of life that we fail to make plans for the moments ahead.  The opposite happens in others lives, they spend so much preparation for the moments ahead that they fail to enjoy the moment.  The question of the moment is this:  “How do we both enjoy each moment and prepare for other moments?”

Answer, “Live under the authority of the chief shepherd.”

As Peter comes to his final section of writing we understand the love of a pastor who’s great concern is for the church that is suffering.  As the chapter begins he speaks directly to the fellow pastors who will receive this letter.

These leaders have specific responsibilities (Vs:1-4).

But as the chapter continues we see Peter turning his attention to the flock (Vs:5-11).

Here we understand, “Both leaders and their flocks have specific responsibilities to carry out under the authority of the chief Shepherd.”

Think it through:

The best way to enjoy both the moment and the preparation for the future moments is to look to the leadership of the chief shepherd.

Our response:

We are to serve with a love for our chief shepherd knowing that when he comes we will be rewarded.  Consider the following:

  • Leaders will be rewarded for their faithfulness to serve, Vs: 14
  • The flock will be rewarded for their faithfulness to submit, Vs: 5-6
  • Both leaders and their flocks will be rewarded for their suffering, Vs: 7-11

There will be a day when God will call us to eternal glory!!!  This is our look ahead.  But before then, we have much to do.  This is our work for this moment.

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation.” Psalm 71:18