Just men reading, memorizing and studying the bible together!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Luke 20:1–22:13
Old Testament Only: Jeremiah 12–14
New Testament Only: 1 Timothy 3:8–4:16
(Current Plan is Chronological)

 

Serving Others

Matthew 20, Mark 10:32-52, Luke 18:31-19:27

Waiter - ServanthoodBrothers, as I sit down to write today’s post it is ten minutes to midnight. My systems are automated and shortly after midnight things start to go into motion so I don’t really have time to put a commentary together for you. I’m sure that breaks your heart – LOL. I’ve always said the most important thing about what we are doing here is reading God’s Holy Word. My word is of no value when compared to that.

With that said I just want to comment on what I did this evening. I worked at my church’s Fall Family Festival. It is an alternative to Halloween for our community. It was cold this evening and so we hosted the event in our church and Family Life Center. It was wall to wall people. We had a huge number of church members who volunteered to work the event and we had a large showing from the community attending. It did my heart good to see all of those kids and families enjoying a wholesome, fun environment provided by our church family.

Every volunteer I spoke with told me of the joy they experienced at the event. It reminded me of the fact that we Christians are supposed to deny ourselves and follow Christ but that such denial is not miserable but rather joyful. It is a joy to serve others. It is a joy to be used by God for His glorious purpose of building His kingdom. To all of you who volunteer your time to reflect the glory of God through service to others I say thank you. I’m proud to be your brother in Christ!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Luke 18–19
Old Testament Only: Jeremiah 10–11
New Testament Only: 1 Timothy 2:1–3:7
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Divorce And God’s Amazing Grace

Matthew 19, Mark 10:1-31, Luke 16:1-18:30

Wedding rings on BibleToday’s Scripture addresses divorce in several places. I realize this is an awkward topic but I think we should address the difficult issues of the Bible rather than simply looking away. A large number of people in our society have been through the painful process of divorce. Now I personally have not been divorced but I know many, many dear people who have. Trust me when I say it is a painful ordeal. It would have to be. The Bible tells us that when a man and woman are married they become one flesh. This is an analogy for what happens spiritually. Of course a man and wife to become one flesh physically as well which is why God reserves sex for marriage.

Think of the pain you would feel if your arm was torn from your body. Your arm is one with the rest of your flesh. Tearing that arm off is tearing your flesh in two. This is what happens in divorce; that which is one is torn apart. I don’t care how “amicable” a divorce might seem to the participants, you are tearing apart something God put together; it is going to hurt in some way at times. The Old Testament tells us that marriage is the joining of two individuals into one being before God but the Law of Moses does allow for divorce. In the New Testament, Jesus is pretty tough on divorce. Let’s look at a couple of comments by Jesus on this topic from our reading today.

Matthew 19:8-9 ESV

“[8] He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. [9] And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.’”

Mark 10:4-9 ESV

“[4] They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” [5] And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. [6] But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ [7] ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, [8] and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. [9] What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’”

Luke 16:18 ESV

“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

Wow. Tuff stuff! Jesus says that if we divorce and remarry we commit adultery. He then goes on to say that even if we never divorce but simply marry a divorced woman we also commit adultery. This is hard Scripture to read. Half of the population is divorced and a good percentage who have never been divorced have married divorced people. This seems a hard and hopeless position by Jesus.

I have several thoughts about this. First Jesus is making a very clear and firm statement about the importance of marriage. Today many people get married thinking that if it doesn’t work out they’ll just get divorced and start over. This reduces marriage to a minor contractual arrangement that can be dissolved with some legal mumbo-jumbo and paperwork. This turns the monumental joining of two souls into a trivial and meaningless bureaucratic exercise. Marriage is supposed to be “until death do us part”; now it is “until you don’t make me feel good anymore”. I realize that last statement trivializes the real problems many people experience in marriage and I don’t mean to do that.

There is no question that there are solid reasons for divorce. Jesus Himself tells us that divorce is acceptable in cases of sexual immorality. I’m going out on my own here without Scriptural cover but I think physical abuse is grounds for divorce as well. There I go inserting my personal opinion right? The problem today as I see it is that we violate our marriage vows every time we put our selfish desires ahead of the wellbeing of our spouse; which is most of the time. The Biblical pattern for marriage requires that a man sacrifice for his wife and a woman sacrifice for her husband. That statement is politically incorrect in the extreme. We live in a self-centered society. We lift self-centeredness up as the most desirable trait of the modern American citizen. Every man for himself don’t you know.

How can marriage possibly survive when each party is focused only on what the other does for them? At the heart of all human suffering is self-centeredness. At the heart of a marriage on the rocks, in most cases, is self-centeredness. Either one or both partners are focused on themselves. Again, there are exceptions to the rules, and I’m addressing the rule.

If you are in a marriage and it is in trouble, stopping obsessing about how the other person does you wrong. Think instead about how you can serve your spouse. Think about how you can rebuild trust. Find a way to start over. Divorce hurts. Do what you have to in order to make it work. If you have already divorced, or married someone who is divorced, I want to remind you of something; God is full of grace and mercy. There is only one sin for which a person cannot be forgiven and that is the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Divorce isn’t good but it isn’t sin against the Holy Spirit. If you haven’t already, confess your part in your failed marriage, and ask for forgiveness. Our Lord is merciful; He will forgive you if you only ask. Put it behind you. If you’ve married someone who is divorced I realize you probably don’t feel like you did anything wrong but Jesus says we’ve committed adultery. Confess that you did this in ignorance and ask for forgiveness. Then go forward in your marriage seeking to serve your spouse. God forgives, and confessed sin is forgotten. We are new every morning in Christ so let us go forward in life and in our marriages with the hearts of servants. God’s grace is indeed amazing.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Luke 16–17
Old Testament Only: Jeremiah 7–9
New Testament Only: 1 Timothy 1
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Have You Considered The Cost

Luke 14-15

Thinking Man - 123rf crop smThere is a section of Scripture from today’s reading that is labeled in my Bible “The Cost of Discipleship”. I often feel that we put too great an emphasis on the fact that Salvation through Jesus Christ is a free gift of God. It is that. You didn’t earn it and you didn’t pay the price for it. The reason I feel we put too much emphasis on that fact is that it overshadows another truth about Salvation. We didn’t earn Salvation and we didn’t pay the price for it and yet following Jesus costs us something. By the very nature of salvation we are radically changed if we have truly accepted this free gift. If we make a loud proclamation of faith and go through the motions of baptism and yet are not changed, we did not truly submit our life to Christ.

The cost of following Christ is everything. Everything that you once held dear must be renounced if you truly belong to Christ. Take a look at this long passage of Scripture.

Luke 14:26-33 ESV

[26] “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. [27] Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. [28] For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? [29] Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, [30] saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ [31] Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? [32] And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. [33] So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

This Scripture makes it clear that for a Christian, nothing is more important than following Christ. Even the very life of a Christian is held by him to be of minor concern when compared to the concern of following Christ. We are to renounce all that we have. I don’t view this as a command to give away every red cent we have and wander the earth in a hair robe yelling “Jesus saves” until we drop dead from malnutrition and exposure. Don’t get me wrong, God may in fact ask you to sell all you have and wander around in a hair robe, but if He does He will see to your needs – not your wants but your needs.

The point here isn’t that stuff in and of itself is bad, but rather that stuff can distract us from our focus on Christ. The point is that if we belong to Christ, nothing is of greater importance to us than following Him. God will bring resources into the life of His Children for the purpose of building the Kingdom. Those resources, given for His purposes, are viewed by the Christian as belonging to God, and they seek to use them as God would have them do. The possession of stuff is not a problem; our attitude toward stuff is the problem. Why do we have it? What is it for?

This text continues a theme that we came across in yesterday’s reading. Preoccupation with worldly things is a tar-baby that grabs us in its clutches and immobilizes us. We are prevented from the work Jesus gave us to do. This is why He says that anyone who does not renounce all that he has cannot be His disciple. So, brother, what place does stuff hold in your heart? Is there anything of greater importance in your life than Christ? Following Christ comes at a rather steep cost and Jesus tells us that we better sit down and consider that cost. Have you considered the cost?

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Luke 14–15
Old Testament Only: Jeremiah 5–6
New Testament Only: 2 Thessalonians 3
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Don’t Worry Be Happy

Luke 12:1-13:30

3 men leaping at sunsetWorry, worry, worry; we seem to be a nation of worriers. Now if you don’t belong to Jesus Christ, well you have every reason to worry; but we Christians, as Children of the Living God, should never worry. This does not mean that bad things will never happen to a Christian. It means that the bad things that can, and will, happen to us are meaningless now that we know this is not our home. In today’s reading Jesus tells us today that we shouldn’t worry.

Luke 12:22-34 ESV

“[22] And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. [23] For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. [24] Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! [25] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [26] If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? [27] Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [28] But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! [29] And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. [30] For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. [31] Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. [32] Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. [33] Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. [34] For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

I apologize for such a long excerpt of Scripture but it is all connected and addresses the same issue. In fact, Jesus’ words in this quote start with “Therefore” meaning that what He was saying just prior is also connected to this passage. In the Scripture just prior, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who worked hard to accumulate and store great wealth which he intended to enjoy in a kind of retirement only to discover that his soul was required of him the very night he was ready to begin his retirement. Jesus said that this was the way it would be for the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God. Then He says “therefore”.

“Therefore” we are not to be anxious for our life. The things that we worry about in life are a distraction; they are worse than meaningless they take our focus off of what does matter. Worry eats away at us; it slowly wears us down. It is hard to enjoy life when we are under such relentless, debilitating pressure. Is that how a Child of the Living God should live? Should we be wore down, beat down, miserable? No! Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly! We have been set free not only from the wages of sin but from worry. We are intended to enjoy life to its fullest!

Our problem is we have allowed ourselves to be tricked by the world into thinking that living life to the fullest entails doing things that actually hurt us physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. Up is down, right is left, and wrong is right. We’ve got to stop pursuing the world’s standard of living and start pursuing God’s standard of living. Focus on what matters. Let go of that which tears us down. Don’t worry – be happy!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Luke 12–13
Old Testament Only: Jeremiah 3:6–4:31
New Testament Only: 2 Thessalonians 2
(Current Plan is Chronological)

Put Into Practice What You’ve Learned

Luke 10, John 10:1-11:54

Fishing Father SonThere is plenty for a Christian to contemplate in today’s reading. This being the fifth year of commenting on the Bible I suspect I’ve commented upon most of it before. Two verses, however, kind of stood out to me in a slightly different way than before so I thought I’d look at them. Jesus was accomplishing several things with His earthly ministry; He was fulfilling prophecy, He performed miracles to prove who He is and to teach spiritual truths, He taught about the Kingdom of God, and of course He died on the cross so those who would accept His gift would be returned to right relationship with God. That, however, is not a complete list. I know of at least one more thing He accomplished during His ministry. He trained up His disciples to continue His ministry once He was gone. The following verses touch on part of this training.

Luke 10:1-2 ESV

“[1] After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. [2] And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Having taught His disciples by His actions and with His teaching, it finally became time for them to go out and put into practice what He taught them. This was still training. You can teach someone how to fish in a classroom, but eventually you have to go out to a lake, river, or ocean, put a rod in their hands and tell them to throw their line in the water. They will continue to learn as they take these first tentative steps in fishing, but putting what one has learned into practice is an essential part of the educational process. My daughter will be learning how to drive soon. There will be time spent learning about driving before she actually gets behind the wheel. There will also be time when she sits behind the wheel with an instructor beside her. She will drive as directed until she shows enough proficiency to go take her driving test. Upon licensing she will be out driving on her own.

This is kind of what Jesus did with His disciples. He gave them information but then sent them out to practice what He had taught them. He prepared His followers to carry on once He ascended back to Heaven. I think part of the practical application here is the need for church leaders and elders to take a similar approach in training up the next generation of Christians. We should be teaching the fundamentals of our faith but at some point we need to get people out sharing the Gospel. We need to do this work ourselves, set the example, we need to teach others to share the Gospel, and then we need to get them up on their feet doing that which they have been taught.

You’ll notice that Jesus did not send His students out by themselves but in groups of two. I don’t know that the Apostles, after Christ’s ascension, were ever really out there on their own. They might have been at times, but certainly in the training process they were not asked to stand alone. That’s the thing about being a Child of the Living God; we are never really alone. Not only do we have millions, if not billions, of brothers and sisters in Christ, we also have the Holy Spirit who will never leave us. Even when the Apostle Paul sat in prison for years, he was not alone.

I think the second verse quoted above is the more important of the two. There is work to be done; a lot of work. The problem is not a lack of those who need to hear the Gospel but rather the lack of committed Christians willing to get out there and do the work. Now there are several aspects to the work that needs to be done. If you have not made it a regular part of your life to actively look for opportunities to share the Gospel, if you don’t feel prepared to share the Gospel, then that is the place to start; get trained and start doing. If you are actively working to share the Gospel then perhaps your next step is to teach others to do the same.

Whether you are just getting started in this work, or needing to take the next step by teaching others, there is something we all need to be doing. We all need to be earnestly praying that God will send out the workers. When you do that He will answer that prayer and He will continue to lead you in the role you are to fill. So brother, put into practice that which God is teaching you to do. Put into practice what you’ve learned.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Alternate Plans
Bible Order: Luke 10–11
Old Testament Only: Jeremiah 1:1–3:5
New Testament Only: 2 Thessalonians 1
(Current Plan is Chronological)

The Hatred Of The World

John 7-9

Fist - orange BGWell, just one little verse really grabbed me today. It was right at the beginning of our reading, and it is part of Jesus’ response to His brothers urging Him to go to Judea and show Himself to the world. They didn’t really believe at that time that He was the Messiah. Jesus by this point was going around in Galilee and wouldn’t go about in Judea because people were trying to kill Him there. His brothers’ comments were a sign of their disbelief. Anyway, Jesus told them His time had not yet come, meaning that it wasn’t yet His time to die, though I doubt they understood at that moment what He was talking about. He also said the following.

John 7:7 ESV

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.”

There are two parts to this sentence the first being that the world could not hate His brothers. Now why do you think that is? The world loves its own. If you practice the ways of the world, if you seek that which the world seeks, if you value that which the world values, if you compromise with evil for the sake of getting along, the world has no reason to hate you. If, however, you stand up and speak truth about the evil of this world it will hate you violently.

The world hates that which does not condone its self-centered pursuits. The world seeks to destroy that which will not bow to the “wisdom of man”. I heard on the radio today about a Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma on public property. Evidently the ACLU was pursuing its typical hatred toward the things of God by suing to have the monument taken down. Evidently another hater of God couldn’t wait for that case to make its way through the court system. This individual destroyed the monument by crashed a car into it. I’m not sure if the car was stolen or if the individual is just as stupid as his behavior indicates. Both the action of the ACLU and the action of this depraved individual are of the same cloth; hatred for God and His people.

I think the time is coming here in America, and, as we see, it is at least partially here already, when Christians will have to hide in their basements to worship the One True God. There will be a time when a blogger who writes “the One True God” will go to prison; most likely under the trumped up charge of a “hate crime”. Already we Christians are uncomfortable about sharing our faith with others for fear of offending someone or for fear of an altercation. Worse is yet to come. The question isn’t whether that time is here, or will be soon, but rather how you will respond.

If you are truly a follower of Christ you stand against the evil of this world; and by stand I mean you call the world on its evil ways; you are not silent. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t belong to Christ and avoid the hatred of the world. Jesus said that He didn’t bring peace, but rather a sword with which to divide those who are His from those who are not. The way I see it, there is no greater sign that one is truly a Child of the Living God than for the world to hate you. Wear that badge of courage proudly. Stand proud and tall with Christ and worry not about the hatred of the world.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!