Let us…

Let Us…

Hebrews 10:15-25

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

19 Therefore, brothers,[a] since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

First, this goes to the ultimate value of the sacrifice of Christ as communicated by the New Testament or New Covenant. The stain of sin is removed by the giving of Christ’s life, and that gift is received by our response of obedience. This is when God says, “I don’t remember what you did.” In the language of the Holy Spirit: Your sins and iniquities I will remember no more.

At verse 19, there is a big THEREFORE, and that signals to us that concluding exhortations are coming. These are framed through the imperative, “Let us.” Let us draw near, let us hold fast, let us consider one another, let us not neglect the assemblies. When we open our hearts to the New Covenant, God puts these truths into our hearts. We live by them, we are encouraged, we hold fast to the hope – believing that He who promised is faithful.

Who is your audience?

Many of you who read my blog also write. You may write articles, letters, emails, in an effort to help someone obey Christ. Keep this in mind.

This is the question: Who is your audience? If we don’t know clearly who we are writing for or who we want to reach, we are writing with a pen that has no ink, with a laptop that has a dead battery.

– Andrew T. Le Peau. https://www.amazon.com/Write-Better-Lifelong-Editor-Spirituality-ebook/dp/B07X9VQ353

What to do with your requests

Phil. 4:6

Here’s the way I want us to think about this. Think of a suffering prisoner, who is the victim of hostile persecution writing a letter to you, to tell you how to cope with your stress!

Let that sink in. You are being counseled by a prisoner. Paul wrote from prison to Christians, with instruction for real life; real life back then in Philippi and real life today, here.

 “Do not be anxious about anything.” Now – if Paul had just said this much, we wouldn’t take it well! Have you ever had sometime tell you: Just get over it!

Like hearing those four words is some sort of powerful remedy? How do I get over it? What specific measures can I take? And we may sometimes want to say to people who are so free with their quick advice – – Don’t just tell me not to do something; tell me what I need to do instead! Paul doesn’t just say, “Don’t do this.” He says, “don’t do this …. instead, do this.”

Now look back at the verse: “do not be anxious about anything …. BUT, in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

Don’t just sit there and marinate in your anxiety. God has given you this discipline – “by prayer and supplication …. let your requests be made known to God.”

Draw Near

Heb. 4:16

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Concerning the book of Hebrews, the Christians who first received this epistle were living under intense pressure of persecution. They were being tempted to move away from Christ; to drift away and to neglect their initial commitment; in some cases, to just walk away, back into their former religion of enslavement.

Well here is something God gave them that they were able to do for help and strength – and this implies and certainly includes prayer.

Look with me at the last phrase in the verse: “….help in time of need…” I don’t know anybody who can’t identify with this phrase: “HELP IN TIME OF NEED.”

Whatever the specific personal need is, there is this discipline God has given to His people with this invitation, to draw near to the throne of grace. He wants to hear from us; we should want Him to hear. “Draw near.”

The need may be a very visible physical illness or injury. It may be some interpersonal conflict that just doesn’t seem to arrive at any resolution. It may be a nagging evil thought. It may be internal pressure to compromise.

It may be some burden we carry concerning people we love, who are hurting … or who are lost in sin. I can’t possibly list all the needs, all the issues and problems that nag at us inside. The stress and worries and temptations and wretched fear we may suffer.

God says to His people – Tell me about it!  Through Christ – you can approach Me! By the way, ancient peoples did not commonly think of approaching kings. Certainly, not with any boldness or confidence. But that’s what the faithful can do, because of our participation and response to Jesus Christ. We are Christians!

While maintaining a healthy fear and reverence, we are able to approach this throne of grace. God gives us this as a discipline we can use every day.  In time of need there is help from the highest source. As to the nature of that help – mark these two words in the verse: “grace” and “mercy.” It is not just a verbal rant, or an unleashing of rage or merely some imprecation. It is not like modern therapy – where you spill your guts and feel better.

God offers Grace and Mercy, to help in time of need. To receive mercy, in this context – is to get help, though you never deserve such consideration – GOD IS GRACIOUS TO HIS PEOPLE. It is a spiritual discipline God provides for us that is always available.

The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. – Samuel Chadwick (1832–1917)

2 John 7-11

John’s Second Epistle

2 Jno. 7-11

Watch Yourselves

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 2 Jno. 7-11

Modern religious culture has become so pluralistic, so obsessed with “everything is right and everybody is ok,” the idea of religious deceivers or false teachers is virtually ignored. That’s not a good sign.

All through the Bible God called various men (prophets, teachers, apostles) to warn the people of deceivers. Those warns assume two things: (1) Truth has been revealed. Absolute truth from God. (2) There are those who reject God’s truth and seek to lead people to lies.

John (here in 2nd John and elsewhere in the New Testament) does not ignore the hard reality of people who deceive. They have gone out into the world. So “watch yourselves,” and know this: “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son,” (verse 9).

Experience In Perspective

Experiences Kept In Perspective

Warren E. Berkley

Except for those who were born this morning, we are all creatures who carry in our minds the accumulated experiences we’ve been through, good or bad. There are the highlights we cherish. Those great experiences help us maintain gratitude.

Bad experiences hold the potential of creating long-term bitterness and can cause a loss of objectivity.

Illustration: I had great experiences with Christians in my childhood. My parents were committed to the Lord. While I cannot say that every member of the local church was without flaw, I can say that most of those people wanted to do what is right and that influence became a strong factor in the choices of my adult life.

In my early years of preaching, there was a bad experience. A person I considered to be godly and well-equipped as a servant of God became a great disappointment.

This second (bad) experience could have become so stuck in my mind and could have so embittered me, I could have walked away from preaching and perhaps from the Lord. Though immature, I was somehow able to keep that bad experience in healthy perspective. I knew this man was the exception. The valuable experiences I had as boy combined with my knowledge of God’s Word, afforded me the ability to keep the experiences in perspective.

In 72 years, like everybody, I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences. I’ve witnessed the rich depth of godly discipline in the vast majority of Christians I’ve known. Rarely, I’ve witnessed dark disappointments. I’ve not let these embitter me. And, when I read and study God’s Word, I strive for objective conclusions, un-influenced by experience.

When I read Romans, I want to get into my head the writer’s original intent as he was guided by the Spirit. I don’t want to read Romans through the eyes of my experience, but I do want to apply it to my life.

I cannot let outside life experience factor into my understanding of Scripture, though I must apply Scripture to life experience. If you get locked into your history, your experience and your memories and feelings about what you’ve witnessed, it can distort your reading of Scripture. Continue reading “Experience In Perspective”

Never Judge A Book By Its’ Movie

pexels-photo-1200450.jpeg
Photo by Louis on Pexels.com

Never Judge A Book By Its’ Movie

By Warren E. Berkley

Perhaps you have heard this quote, generally attributed to J.W. Eagan: “Never judge a book by its’ movie.” This observation can certainly be pointed to movies on Biblical themes like “Noah,” “Son of God,” and “The Apostle Paul.” Here are some observations I came across a few years ago.

 (1) “Hollywood” is not in the business of evangelism or edification. Even assuming well-intentioned producers (?), in order to navigate the grid of major movie production, there is a strong element of theatre and drama that must be built into the project. Following the text of Scripture – as a faithful gospel preacher would do – is not the goal. The goal is to attract one to the visual drama to entertain. Hollywood is not devoted to getting it right, straight from the Book. Here’s what Christian Post observed about the Noah movie: “Reviewers argued that the movie removed the meaning of sin from the biblical account, and twisted the story to fit a Hollywood agenda. ‘This is not some attempt to tell the Bible story — they want to make it into an Action/Adventure,’ Dan Gainor, vice president of Business and Culture for The Media Research Center, told CP earlier. ‘It’s laughable what’s in the trailers’.” Source: http://www.christianpost.com/news/noah-blockbuster-least-biblical-film-ever-made-director-says-116002/

(2) Part of your “movie discernment” should be – who is associated with the movie and what is their use of the movie? Who is promoting the movie and how? Who is investing or funding the movie? Is there a religious group backing the movie? Before you ever get to the venue, this may inform your choices and attitude. If there is a “who’s-who” of evangelical Christian leaders supporting and promoting a movie, that will mean the movie reflects in some ways their theological agenda.

 (3) “Hollywood” leaves off application! Applying a Bible story to real life, or connecting the narrative to the larger Biblical context is simply not without the framework of the Hollywood purpose. There will not be an addendum with practical lessons. There will be no invitation to change your life. The movie will not storm your will and then inform you of what Scripture says about responding to Christ.

So, whatever you do about the current movies, read the story from the original source. And never make that turn from the written Word to theater as your motivation or source of authority.

 “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” (Heb. 4:12). There will never be a humanly produced book or movie was powerful as God’s Word.

How Much More

How Much More

Hebrews 10:1-10

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),  then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second.  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

In previous sections of Hebrews, the writer has made it clear – the law of Moses foreshadowed the good things to come through the gospel of Christ. That law was for the Jews before Christ’s death; it was functional in good ways for the Jewish nation on earth, but one of it’s purposes was – to foreshadow the good things announced through the gospel of Christ.

That important aspect of Hebrews comes out clearly as you enter chapter ten. “The law” was “a shadow of the good things to come.” One conclusion is quickly stated: The animal sacrifices of that system could never, though repeated often, provide what Christ now provides for His people.

In those sacrifices there was reminders without permanent remission. It was and is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Christ came, not desiring more animal sacrifices. He came to do the will of God, and thus become qualified to offer Himself. The last phrase here captures that: “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all.”

Christian, that’s what you have. And that’s what you keep, as you serve God day by day.

Quality Corn and Sharing

This has made the rounds on social media. It communicates good principle. (Not original with me.)

pathway in middle of corn field
Photo by Johann Piber on Pexels.com

Quality Corn 

There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

So is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…

– Author Unknown (Proverbs 11:24-25)

John 19

The Emotional Impact & The Obedient Response

Teaching from John 19 recently, the emotional impact of the narrative hit me unlike before. It is emotionally challenging to hear about any death. Even greater if you knew the person. Greater still if you were close to the person. Then if you become aware it was the unmerited murder of your innocent friend. Then add to all of that, He went through this for you, for me; for sinners to have a way out of sin and into fellowship with God. How can the narrative be anything but emotional.

These verses exhibit to our minds through words the ugly picture of hostile, corrupt, unbelieving men – taking Jesus to His death. It is important for everybody to know what happened to Jesus, why it happened and not only be sad, but with love and obedient trust. Don’t skip this part of the gospel of John.