Sunday – June 11, 2017 Genesis 41:1-57 “From the Pit to the Palace”

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Genesis 41:39-40
So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are.”

Many Christians today have made an arbitrary and unbiblical distinction between the “secular” and the “spiritual,” or between “full-time” Christians and the “laity.” Do you notice that God has brought about the deliverance of His people not through Judah, from whom Messiah would come, and not through Levi, through whom the priestly class would originate, but through Joseph, a paper shuffler, a desk jockey, an administrator? One’s job is a matter of both gift and calling, not of spirituality.

As spiritual as he was, I can well imagine that many in our own day would have approached Joseph with words similar to these: “Joseph, as spiritual as you are, you should consider attending seminary and going into full-time ministry.” How could a secular ministry ever be fulfilling to a man as spiritual as Joseph? God did not raise up a preacher nor a priest, but an administrator to deliver His people from extinction. Let us beware of categorizing occupations in such a way as to make some more spiritual than others. Everyone is a full-time minister in the Scriptures, but some are called to labor in one sphere while others are called to another. Spirituality is totally independent of one’s occupation.

Joseph was not promoted by Pharaoh (in human terms) because he was spiritual, but because he was skillful and knowledgeable. Pharaoh recognized Joseph to be a man who had divine enablement, but he could have cared less who his “god” was. He was only concerned with finding a man who could do the job which needed to be done. Many Christians think that God is obligated to bless or that His people are bound to patronize people simply because they are Christians. During our recent elections it was sometimes implied that we should vote for a person solely on the basis of a profession of faith. When I go to a surgeon, I will go to the one who is the best, regardless of whether he (or she) is a pagan, an atheist, or a devout Christian. God is not restricted to working only through saints.

Many of us who are Christians are not very good at what we do, either because we are lazy, or we think that God is obliged to bless us only because we give testimony to our faith. Joseph’s testimony would have had little impact if he had proven to be wrong or had failed miserably to administrate the collection of grain. Let us enhance our testimony by doing well what we do. As the writer of the Proverbs 22:29 puts it: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” While I believe that God elevated Joseph because he trusted in God and obeyed, I am just as confident that Pharaoh elevated him because he was diligent and skillful in what he did. Piety without proficiency is folly. We praise God in our work as well as in our words. One without the other is useless.

Sunday – March 26, 2017 Genesis 33:1-20 “Time to Eat Crow”

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Genesis 33:18-20
Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.”

Nothing is more devastating than to be making progress in a particular area and then to be swallowed up by a sense of pride and complacency. The temptation is to rest upon our laurels and fail to press on to greater growth and maturity. The moment we feel secure, we are in the greatest danger. The moment we become aloof to the intensity of the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged and the enemy who seeks to destroy us, we are beginning to fall into the enemy’s grasp.

This was true in the life of Jacob and is particularly relevant to 20th century Christians who live in America, for we have been lulled into a false sense of security by our comfortable and easy way of life. We have Social Security and Medicare, welfare and workman’s compensation. We have insurance protection against all kinds of losses. We never wake up in the morning wondering if we will eat or where we will sleep the next night. Christians can feel even more comfortable, for many believe that when things really begin to get severely bad (the great tribulation) they will not be around to face it anyway because of the rapture. In the midst of this kind of artificial security, we begin to live carelessly and find ourselves in danger of some serious spiritual defeats.

            Jacob was never in greater danger than at those times when he felt most secure. Jacob seemed to feel safest when his brother was out of sight, and yet it seems that Esau came with his armed men in order to provide an escort for him into Canaan. Jacob felt secure when his cattle could feed on the lush grass of Succoth rather than in the more sparse pastures of Bethel. He felt safer near a city of Canaanites than in the seclusion of some place more remote from civilization. But it was in Shechem that the rape of Dinah occurred, and it was there that Jacob could have been killed by the Canaanites.

The reason for this is really quite simple: we are most inclined to trust in God and obey Him when we sense that we are in grave danger and that our only hope is in God alone to save us. It is sad but true that all of us tend to slack up in our diligence and devotion when things are going along smoothly. We think that we can handle things ourselves when dangers seem distant and troubles are far removed, but when there is a crisis or a sudden overwhelming problem, then we rush to God for help. It is a foxhole kind of Christianity, but that is the way we are. Let us seek to learn from the life of Jacob how we can avoid complacency and over-confidence, which can be hazardous to our spiritual health. Let us seek to trust in God and obey Him at all times.

Sunday – March 20, 2016 Rev. 20:1-15 “Pay Day is Some Day”

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Revelation 20:1-3
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.”

Revelation 20 is one of the greatest and most important chapters of the Bible. It presents in summary the tremendous series of events that encompass the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. Many Bible teachers believe that it is in this future period that many Old and New Testament prophecies will find their ultimate fulfillment. However, the view that Revelation 20 is speaking of a literal thousand-year reign of Christ is also one of the most controversial and a bewildering array of diverse interpretations that may be found in regard to this passage.

The term millennium, a Latin word meaning one thousand years, is the term that has come to be used of the thousand-year period spoken of in this passage. The term “millennium” is found six times in verses 2-7. The Premillennial View is the view that Christ will personally return and reign on earth for one thousand years. The prefix “pre” expresses the view that Christ returns first, then literally reigns on earth. It also views Christ as fulfilling all the Old Testament prophecies literally in a kingdom on earth. The premillennial view is the result of a literal interpretation of Revelation 20, a view held by even the very early church fathers of the first and second century.

The Amillennial View is the most popular modern view. The prefix “A” simply means a denial of the Millennium and the literal reign of Christ on earth and seeks to make the Book of Revelation a spiritual allegory. Satan was bound at the first coming of Christ and the present age between the first and second comings of Christ is seen as the fulfillment of the Millennium. Its adherents are divided. Some believe the Millennium is being fulfilled now on earth, and is equivalent to the kingdom of God in you. Others believe it is being fulfilled by the saints in heaven. It may be summed up in the idea that there will be no more Millennium than there is now, and Christ’s second coming is immediately followed by the eternal state.

Paul teaches us that the Old Testament Scripture and God’s dealing with Israel do have spiritual analogies for the Christian life. Scripture is full of such analogies and types, but the significance is based on the literal historicity of the event whether past or future. It is never a means to deny its literal meaning or fulfillment. Scripture abounds in allegories, whether in the form of types, symbols, or parables. These are accepted and legitimate ways to teach and communicate spiritual truth. However, there is a great deal of difference between such use of allegories and allegorical interpretation. In one you have the illustration and application of spiritual truth based on literal interpretation and historical fact. In the other, you have disregard for the literal meaning and historical fact based on the literal method of interpretation and in its place an allegory is set up based on the interpreter’s own fancy.

 

Sunday – July 19, 2015 Introduction of Revelation- “The Purpose of Prophecy”

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2 Peter 1:19-21
So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

By its very nature, prophecy is mysterious. That can be good, but it also can be a hindrance. Curiosity can be a dangerous commodity. Suppose someone comes to you and says, “I want to confess that I….” It is possible, even likely, that curiosity is the source of your listening, not genuine concern. The same curiosity can be aroused by our study of prophecy. We would like to know certain details more to satisfy our curiosity than conforming our lives to Christ.

It is very easy to deceive ourselves here by the use of semantics. We may speak of prophecy as “deep” spiritual truth. Truth that is deep, in my estimation, is that which leads to mature Christian living. The writer to the Hebrews wrote: “Therefore we must progress beyond the elementary instructions about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying this foundation again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, teaching about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this is what we intend to do, if God permits” (Hebrews 6:1-3).

Let us beware, then, when someone refers to prophetic study as “deep.” Often what we call deep is only obscure and speculative. The reason why others (naturally those less spiritual than we) cannot see the “deep truths” we see is because they are not there, not because they are on a higher spiritual plane. What is truly important, I believe, is what God says most frequently and most frankly. The disciples also had an unhealthy interest in their role in the kingdom. They thought about the future in terms of their prestige, their power, and their position, an attitude which Jesus often sought to correct (Mark 10:35-45).

Is it any wonder that American Christians are so interested in where America fits into God’s prophetic scheme? Common sport among Christians is to play the game of “Who’s who in prophecy.” Is the antichrist Saddam Hussein? Is a powerful computer in Europe a part of the satanic program? Of course Satan is constantly grooming a man for the job. But we are not often profited by speculation. The same could be said for date setting. This practice has only served to make Christians a laughing stock. The words of Peter should serve to warn us about the dangers of speculation or, in his words, “private interpretations.”

Let us seek to avoid the pitfalls which Satan would use to distort or distract us from the purpose God has for us in this prophecy. And let this prophecy stir our souls to worship, obedience, and perseverance. May the person of Christ and our reunion with Him be our goal and our consuming desire.

Sunday May 17, 2015 “The Man Who Saw the Unseen” 2 Kings 6 verses 8 to 23

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2 Kings 6:15-17
“Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Each time the Syrians would make a raid into Israel their plans were spoiled through the revelation given by God to Elisha. Elisha would inform the king of Israel who would then take precautions against their invasions. This naturally enraged the heart of the king of Aram (Syria) who first thought that he had an informer in his camp. When he was then told of Elisha’s ability as a prophet of Israel to know of the king’s plans, the king of Aram knew that if his plans were to be successful, he would have to do away with Elisha. This meant the prophet became the object of his attack.

This event shows us the omniscience of God Who knows the plans of the enemy and has provided special revelation for us that we might be informed to protect ourselves from Satan’s attacks. If, when we are warned, we do not appropriate God’s provision and armor against Satan’s devices, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Unfortunately, though the king of Israel was quick to listen to the warnings regarding the physical attacks of the Syrians, he was slow to heed the warnings of Elisha regarding his sin and refusal to truly follow the Lord. I am always amazed at how people are ready to heed the counsel of doctors regarding our health, but slow to listen to the counsel of the Word of God.

Elisha’s attendant went out seemingly oblivious to both the fact of the enemy and of God’s provision. As is the case for many Christians, the new day simply meant business as usual for the attendant. He was going to take care of his chores and with no concern for the spiritual battle around him, which meant he was also completely unprepared for what he faced. Christians can be the same way. Too often we don’t take our spiritual warfare seriously. We act as though Satan and his kingdom were asleep or posed no problem to us. We go out unprepared spiritually. Consequently, when faced with some form of spiritual warfare, as Elisha’s attendant was, our response is consternation, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”

How can we minister to the fears of people? Just as Elijah did! We need to show personal concern and involvement, provide biblical instruction, and go to the Lord in personal dependence on Him to illuminate them to His resources and sufficiency. Unless the Lord prospers our ministry, our work is futile (1 Cor. 3:7). Our tendency, however, is to neglect one or the other of these important ingredients. Whether we are impersonal and cold in our teaching and relationships with people or we are warm and personable, we may still fail to communicate God’s truth because we are trusting in our personality or skill as a teacher and we fail to pray. We need to grasp the balance here. God uses people. And God uses His Word because it is alive and powerful in spite of us. Yet, it is prayer that gives power to our personal love and teaching.

Sunday – January 25, 2015 3rd John Verses 1 to 15 “True Prosperity”

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3 John 2-4
“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”

As in all of John’s writings, truth is a central concept in 3 John. He mentions it six times in these thirteen verses, plus the world “true” in verse 12. As we’ve seen, John’s greatest joy was to hear of his spiritual children walking in the truth. Why did the aged apostle hammer on the truth so often? One reason was that he was the last living apostle, and he saw numerous errors creeping into the churches. Also, the Lord Jesus had repeatedly emphasized the truth in His earthly ministry.

In John 1:14, John testified that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” In John 3:21, “he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” In John 4:23, Jesus explained that the Father seeks those who “worship in spirit and truth.” In John 8:32, Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” In John 14:6, Jesus claimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth”. He prayed in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” Jesus told the skeptical Pilate in John 18:37, “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

The huge emphasis on truth in John’s writings teaches us that truth matters! How a person thinks about God, man, salvation, and life determines how that person lives. A person with false concepts in these areas will live differently than the person with a biblical view in these important matters. Since Jesus Himself is the truth and since God’s Word is truth, Satan works overtime to undermine the truth about the person and work of Christ and the truth of God’s inerrant Word.

So truth was a huge emphasis in Jesus’ ministry, and therefore, too, in the life and ministry of the apostle John. Contrary to the current postmodern philosophy that denies absolute truth in the spiritual realm, the Bible clearly affirms that there is theological and moral truth and error. This truth centers in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Since God is the author of truth, whereas Satan is the author of spiritual lies, God’s people must know and obey the truth as revealed in God’s Word. Then it may be said of you, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” And your pastor will have great joy to hear that you are walking in the truth.

Sunday – January 18, 2015 2nd John Verse 7 to 13 “Prescription for a Healthy Church Pt 2”

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2 John 7-8
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.”

The word heresy sounds outdated these days. It just smacks of arrogance, because to accuse someone of heresy implies that I am right and not just that he is wrong, but seriously wrong. It also assumes that there is such a thing as definable truth and error in the spiritual realm. But in our day, spiritual “truth” is subjective and relative. If it’s true for you, that’s cool. But I have my own spiritual “truths” that work for me. So who are you to accuse me of heresy?

But before we put heresy in the museum as a relic from the past, we need to think carefully. There is one huge factor that renders heresy a valid concept, namely, the fact that God is and that He has revealed Himself to us through His written Word. If God exists, not as a projection of men’s minds, but as the eternal Sovereign Creator of the universe, then He is the ultimate and final standard of truth. And if He has spoken to us in His Word, then as Jesus said, His Word is truth (John 17:17). Either Jesus was mistaken or lying, or God’s Word is truth. Any deviation from His Word on core matters, such as the person and work of Jesus Christ or the way of salvation, is heresy.

Before we think to ourselves that we could never fall prey to heresy, we need to remember our own weakness to desire what we want instead of what God has provided. We are all susceptible to heretical teachings because in one form or another, they nurture and reflect the way we would have it be rather than the way God has provided, which is infinitely better for us. The whispers of prosperity and blessing from God as our divine right lead us into the blind alleys of self-indulgence and escape from life. Heresies in all their forms pander to the most unworthy tendencies of the human heart.

As we have seen, there is an inseparable connection between truth and love. Biblical love seeks the highest good of the one loved. If a false teacher is actively involved in deceiving people about the truth so that they go to eternal condemnation, then we are not acting in love to do anything to encourage such teachers in their misleading deeds. John Stott observes, “If John’s instruction still seems harsh, it is perhaps because his concern for the glory of the Son and the good of men’s souls is greater than ours, and because ‘the tolerance on which we pride ourselves’ is in reality an ‘indifference to truth.’”

Sunday – December 7, 2014 1st John 5 verses 1 to 5 “How Are Your Vital Signs?”

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1 John 5:1-4
“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

We all know of people who claim to be Christians and yet their lives seem to bear little resemblance to one who obeys His commands. Jesus warned that there will be many who call Him “Lord” who even have done miracles in His name, but at the judgment He will say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). In light of these things, we all need to be clear about whether we truly have been born again or not.

Every parent knows the great joy of seeing a new life come into this world. Some parents must go through the pain and sorrow of having a stillborn baby. The difference consists in that one quality, which even modern medicine cannot impart—life. In the spiritual realm, as in the physical, new life means everything. If a person is truly born of God, there will be signs of life. If those signs are missing, there is cause for great alarm.

The very first test given to a newborn in the delivery room is called the Apgar score. The test was designed to quickly evaluate a newborn’s physical condition after delivery and to determine any immediate need for extra medical or emergency care. It measures things like muscle tone, heart rate, reflexes, skin color, and breathing rate. The vital signs of birth are essential. The vital signs of spiritual birth are just as essential.

A true child of God will have a spiritual Apgar score. We could probably come up with more, but John gives us three vital signs of the new birth: faith in Jesus Christ, love for others, and obedience to God’s commandments. If you claim to be born again, you may want to check your spiritual Apgar score. If the vital signs of new life in Christ are not there, you need to get down on your knees and plead with God to cause you “to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).