Synergistic Theology

January 31, 2014
Titus 3:3-8

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

What is Synergistic Theology?  Well, synergy means a “Joint work toward a common end.” (Word Perfect Thesaurus).  Synergistic Theology is “The doctrine that human effort cooperates with divine grace in the salvation of the soul.” (Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedic College Dictionary).

Human effort is working your way into heaven – into enough favor with God to have Him accept you – or trying to work your way into God’s favor!  There are some problems with such thinking:

•    If we could work our way into God’s favor, how many good works would that take?  It is like climbing a very tall ladder of which you can’t see the top.  How many rungs do you have to climb before you get there?
•    In Isaiah 64:6 (NIV) God says, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags….”  If our “…righteous acts are like filthy rags…, where do the unrighteous acts come in on God’s scale of acceptance?!!  If this one verse is true – and it is, and there are many more on the same subject in the Bible – then that leaves us in a terrible state – if we have to work our way to heaven!
•    What is God’s standard of goodness?  In Matthew 5:48, Jesus said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  Who can be as perfect as God?  Is it any wonder that Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
•    In I Corinthians 1:29 (NIV) it is written “…that no one may boast before…” God.  But if it was a matter of working our way to heaven, once there one might say, “I did such and such to get here!”  And then another might retort, “Is that all?  Well, I did this, that and the other thing to get here!  So I did more than you!”  Who gets the glory?  People!  But if it is by God’s grace alone offered through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of Himself on the cross, then all we can do in heaven is fall down before Him and give Him the glory!!!

It is written in many places that salvation comes by grace alone, excluding our works!  Here is a sampling:

•    Romans 4:5 (NIV) – …the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
•    Romans 11:6 (NIV) – …if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
•    Galatians 2:16 – Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ…for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
•    Ephesians 2:8 and 9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

And here is our featured scripture – Titus 3:3 though 8:

    For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various
    lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 
    But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
    not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy
    He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy
    Spirit; whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our
    Savior, that having been justified by His grace, we should become heirs accord-
    ing to the hope of eternal life.  This is a faithful saying, and these things I want
    you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful
    to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable to men.

This puts grace first and only to save anyone!  And it is open to everyone!  And it also puts works in its proper place – after believing in God, works must follow in the life of the Christian!

But back to Synergistic TheologyThe only thing accomplished by adding our works to God’s grace to procure salvation is that combination will be totally ineffective!  Synergistic Theology does not work!

The opening lines of the third verse of the original version of the hymn, “Rock of Ages”, written in 1763 by Augustus Toplady, read thus: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling….”  So come with your hands empty, claiming no good works!  For nothing could ever deserve God’s grace! Just reach out in faith to the One who died to save you – Jesus Christ.

Do We Dare Pray It?

January 29, 2014
Psalm 139:23, 24

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Now we come to the last two verses of Psalm 139.  And these verses are one of the most challenging scriptures in the Bible!  David – having considered God’s attributes…

•    Omniscience means that God knows everything!
•    Omnipresence means that God is everywhere in His fulness at once!
•    Omnipotence means that God is all powerful and can do anything!

…he now applies these attributes in making a bold request in verses 23 and 24:

    Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties;
    and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way ever-

God knows everything – including all about me – my actions, my words, and even my thoughts!  God is always with me – I can never be out of His all-knowing presence!  Considering these first two attributes of the Lord, and knowing that God can always and ever see him deeply and completely, David asks of God a request that will be life-changing.  The request is in three parts:

•    Search me, O God, and know my heart…. – Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it spring the issues of life.”  And Jesus taught in Matthew 15:18 through 19:

        …those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart,
        and they defile a man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,
        murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies….

So in searching the heart, David is asking God to examine his life at its deepest
    roots.  That’s a bold request indeed – and dangerous, if you don’t want all
    your secrets exposed!
•    …try me, and know my anxieties….Try means to ‘test’.  And the only way to bring out anxieties in one’s life is to put that one in the pressure cooker of testing.  Then anxieties will come to the surface, we will become aware of them, and God can deal with them with our knowledge and cooperation.

Paul puts it this way in Romans 5:3 through 5:

        …we…glory in tribulations [testings], knowing that tribulation produces
        perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Now
        hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out
        in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

•    …see if there is any wicked way in me…. – Sometimes wickedness – disobedience to what God wants for us – is so subtle that we aren’t even conscious of it.  David wrote in Psalm 19:12 and 13:

        Who can understand his errors?  Cleanse me from secret faults.  Keep
        back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have
        dominion over me.  Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent
        of great transgression.

    Two kinds of sins – secret and presumptuous.  And sometimes the secret sins
    are so secret we aren’t even aware of them!

What about the third attribute we listed above – omnipotence?  That has to do with the final statement of David’s prayer in Psalm 139:23 and 24:  “…lead me in the way everlasting.”  You see, God’s everlasting way is for us – His children – to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:29).  To accomplish this is a big job – so big, it can only be done by our all-powerful God!

It is a bold prayer!  Do We Dare Pray It?  If we do – and if we are sincere about such a prayer – it will mean our life will change!  We will no longer be in control and make our own descisons.  God will take charge as you yield to Him!  And the result will be wonderful!

Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner!

January 27, 2014
Psalm 139:19- 22

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

We have been looking at Psalm 139 – one of David’s great compositions – where he meditates upon God’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence.  These three terms are attributes of Divinity:

•    Omniscience means that God knows everything!
•    Omnipresence means that God is everywhere in His fulness at once!
•    Omnipotence means that God is all powerful and can do anything!

After David considers the Father’s omniscience – as it relates to knowing all about him (verses 1-6); after he talks about God’s omnipresence – that no matter where David is, God is there (verses 7-12); after he shares concerning the Lord’s omnipotence – He uses His great power to design and mold David’s person in his mother’s womb (verses 13-16); he then breaks into praise about God’s greatness in verses 17 and 18.

But there seems to be a sharp left turn in verses 19 through 22 – and it doesn’t sound very Christian, either!

    Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God!  Depart from me, therefore, you
    bloodthirsty men.  For they speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take
    Your name in vain.  Do I not hate them, O LORD, who hate You?  And do I
    not loathe those who rise up against You?  I hate them with perfect hatred;
    I count them my enemies.

Didn’t Jesus tell us in Luke 6:27 and 28 to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”?  I think the key here is when David says, “I hate them with perfect hatred….”  The eighteenth century English bishop George Horne wrote in his Commentary on the Psalms:

    A good man hates, as God himself doth; he hates not the persons of men, but
    their sins; not what God made them, but what they have made themselves.  We
    are to neither hate the men, on account of the vices they practice; nor to love
    the vices, for the sake of the men who practice them.

Saint Augustine (354-430 AD) summed it up when he said,

    What is “with a perfect hatred”?  I hate in them their iniquities, I love thy crea-
    tion.  This it is to hate with a perfect hatred, that neither on account of the vices
    thou hate the men, nor on account of the men love the vices.

David is describing in verses 19 through 22 the hatred he feels for what man has done with the wonderful gift of creation – verses 1 through 18 – God has given him.

Jude deals with how we should handle all this in Jude 1:23 (NIV):  “…snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”  Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner!

David wrote of sinners in verse 22, “I count them my enemies.”  Are we not God’s enemies before we come to Christ?  Paul said so in Romans 5:10: “…when we were enemies [of God], we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son….”  And James in James 4:4 wrote, “…do you not know that friendship of the world is enmity with God?  Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of this world makes himself an enemy of God.

It also is written in Psalm 7:11, “…God is angry with the wicked every day.”  If David is expressing anger with the wicked, so does God!  And so did Jesus when He cleansed the temple in Matthew 21:12 and 13.  Paul – quoting Psalm 4:4 – told us concerning such righteous anger in Ephesians 4:26 and 27, “‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”  Out-of-control anger is giving in to the devil, and is sinful and wrong!  Righteous anger against sin and sinner – righteous by God’s standard – is acceptable and even desired.

So if you are going to be angry and hate the wicked, then – like David – “…hate them with perfect hatred….”  Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner! …and seek to “…snatch [them]…from the fire and save them….”  For God wants to make His enemies His friends through the Lord Jesus Christ!

From God’s Hand, In God’s Care

January 24, 2014

Psalm 139:1-18

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Psalm 139 is a great passage celebrating the omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence of God.

•    Omniscience means that God knows everything!
•    Omnipresence means that God is everywhere in His fulness at once!
•    Omnipotence means that God is all powerful and can do anything!

As David – who authored this psalm – contemplated these attributes of God, he thought of them in relation to himself – and he was awed and amazed!

The first six verses are about God’s omniscience concerning us:

    O LORD, You have searched me and known me.  You know my sitting down
    and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.  You comprehend my
    path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.  For there is
    not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.  You
    have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.  Such
    knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.

God knows what we do, what we say, and even what we think!  Ouch!  That would get me into a lot of trouble but for one thing – Jesus Christ died to save me, to forgive my sins.  I wear His righteousness (II Corinthians 5:21) and I am …accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:6).

No wonder David cries out, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.”  Or, as it says in The Living Bible, “This is too glorious, too wonderful to believe!”  It should be glorious and wonderful to believing Christians!  But it should be terror to one who has not entered into His grace through the blood of God’s Son!

But he goes on to consider God’s omnipresence, and in verses 7 through 12 David writes:

    Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence? 
    If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You
    are there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts
    of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall
    hold me.  If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”even the night shall
    be light about me.  Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night
    shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.

There is no place where we can hide from God!  As Christians, there is no place we can go, there is no situation we can be in, that the Lord, by His Holy Spirit, is not right there with us!  This is the basis of the promises Jesus gave us in Hebrews 13:5 and Matthew 28:20: “I will never leave you nor forsake you….I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Again, this should be a great comfort to Christians, and a great terror to unbelievers!

In verses 13 through 16 David turns his thoughts to God’s omnipotence as it relates to the human being – the amazing design of how life grows within the womb, and the plan the Lord has for that life:

    For You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s
    womb.  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous
    are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.  My frame was not hidden
    from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts
    of the earth.  Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.  And in Your
    book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were
    none of them.

David’s thoughts deal not just with the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development of the unborn child, but the fact that even before one day of life is lived after birth, all that life seen and recorded!  Yes, I believe that God has given us free will to make our choices in life.  But God – being God who is omniscient – knows what those choices will be before even one is made!  No wonder David falls back to praising God in verses 17 and 18 and confessing he can’t understand it all: “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!  How great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You.

This Psalm seems to take a sharp left turn in the next four verses, and we will continue this study in Monday’s blog.

Pain and Joy

January 22, 2014
Jeremiah 15:15, 16

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Jeremiah is called “the weeping prophet” because God revealed to him the terrible judgments coming upon the southern kingdom of Judah.  The northern kingdom of Israel had been conquered by Assyria and deported to distant lands more than a hundred years before.  Jeremiah faithfully prophesied to the Jews all the revelation God had given him.  And he lived to see it all come to pass – the spiritual downhill slide of the rulers and people; the three deportations of the Jews to Babylon; the suffering and death of so many, especially during the final siege of Jerusalem in 586 BC; and the continued rebellion against God of the remnant who were left in the land.  Jeremiah loved his country and its people.  Several times he expresses thoughts similar to what he wrote in Jeremiah 9:1:  “Oh, that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”  No wonder he is called “the weeping prophet!

But there is one of my favorite verses within this book – one that I memorized long ago – and it expresses not sorrow, but joy!  However, I will also reproduce the verse before this favorite, because the context is important, and the joy stands out all the more.  Jeremiah 15:15 and 16:

    O LORD, You know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me
    on my persecutors.  Do not take me away in Your longsuffering.  Know that
    for Your sake I have suffered rebuke.  Your words were found, and I ate them,
    and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by
    Your name, O LORD God of hosts.

This scripture shows forth one of the greatest truths of the Christian life – the source of joyful living – even in pain!  Of course it is God’s doing, but we have a major part in experiencing a life of joy!

The first verse of our scripture gives a snapshot of the hard life Jeremiah was living.  At the beginning of his ministry, God had warned him in Jeremiah 1:17 through 19 what kind of life he would have as a prophet:

    “Therefore prepare yourself and arise, and speak to them all that I command
    you.  Do not be dismayed before their faces, lest I dismay you before them. 
    For behold, I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar, and
    bronze walls against the whole land — against the kings of Judah, against its
    princes, against its priests, and against the people of the land.  They will fight
    against you, but they shall not prevail against you.  For I am with you,” says
    the LORD, “to deliver you.”

Jeremiah was slandered, threatened, persecuted, imprisoned, sentenced to death but rescued at the last moment, taken captive by his own people, and ”Tradition relates that in Egypt they stoned Jeremiah. (Another tradition states they sawed him in two.)” – biblestudies/Old%20Testament/jeremiah.htm.

And in the midst of tribulation and suffering, Jeremiah breaks forth with his source of joy:  “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.”  The very thing that was causing the prophet such great trials – that he was “...called by [the name of the]…LORD God of hosts” – was the thing that gave him “…joy and rejoicing…!  How could this be?

It was because he “…found [God’s words], and…ate them….”!  He took in what the Lord had said – internalizing it – and let that Word do its work within him!  Back on March 18 and 20, I published two blogs that detail how this all works.  Check out Be Filled With What? and Rivers of Living Water.  You see, the Word will do its work in you if you do your part – consume the Bible!

Jeremiah was forced to go hungry at times, such as when he was imprisoned in chapter 37.  But in general he ate regular meals.  So do we – and if it is nutritious physical food that we consume – such eating keeps us in relative good health.  We don’t have to understand all the mechanics of how the food we take in our mouth ends up as vibrant energy emanating from our lives – we just have to take it in!

It is the same with the Word of God.  If we want spiritual energy in our lives – including joy even in times of severe trials – then we must eat God’s Word!  Jeremiah gave us a wonderful example to follow:  “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.

Pain and Joy – can they exist together?  Yes!  …if we do our part!

Cursed and Saved!

January 20, 2014
Mark 8:22-26

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

This is another blog idea I gleaned from my pastor Ken.  It is from the same scripture, the same passage in Mark from which I based last Friday’s blog, Mark 8:22 through 26:

    And He [Jesus] came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him,
    and begged Him to touch him.  So He took the blind man by the hand and
    led him out of town.  And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands
    on him, He asked him if he saw anything.  And he looked up and said, “I see
    men like trees, walking.”  Then He put His hands  upon his eyes again and
    made him look up.  And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.  And He
    sent him away to his house, saying, “Neither go into the town, nor tell any-
    one in the town.”

I had never noticed before last Sunday’s sermon why Jesus first led the blind man out of town, and then second, why He forbid him from going back into town.  The town was Bethsaida, just a mile east of the northern-most tip of the Sea of Galilee.  And Bethsaida was cursed by the Lord!

It depends upon which Gospel you are comparing with Mark’s writing – Matthew or Luke.  If Matthew is chronological, then Jesus cursed the town before He healed the blind man.  If Luke is the chronological standard of comparison, the it seems He cursed Bethsaida after the healing.  In any case the town – and others along with it – were cursed!

Why was Bethsaida cursed?  The reason is given in Matthew 11:20 through 24:

    Then He [Jesus] began to upbraid the cities in which most of His mighty works
    had been done, because they did not repent: “Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to
    you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been
    done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and
    ashes.  But I say to you, It will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day
    of judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven,
    will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you
    had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say to
    you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment,
    than for you.

They rejected the Lord Jesus Christ! …even though He had performed signs, wonders and miracles in the midst of the people of these towns!  The Holy Spirit had plainly shown forth the Savior, and they effectively said, NO!  This is the unforgivable sin!

But the Lord still healed the blind man from Bethsaida!  So He still calls out individuals, even though the town, area, nation, world stands under His curse!

Did He forbid the man healed from blindness to ever go home to his family?  No, and that’s not the point here.  The world is cursed!  It has been ever since Satan usurped dominion over the earth that God gave to Adam (see Genesis 1:28; 3:18 and 19; Zechariah 5:3; Luke 4:5 through 7; Galatians 3:22 and Revelation 22:2 and 3). When we are called out of this world – the godless society of this age – we are still in the world, but not to be part of it.  We are to be separate from such godlessness and witnesses unto Him.  Jesus said of His disciples in John 17:6, 15, 16 and 21 (that order of the verses will give the best sense of this point):

    I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the
    world….They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world….I do not pray
    that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them
    from the evil one…that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Yes, we have been healed from the terrible malady of sin!  Our blind eyes have been opened!  But we are still in this world, to be witnesses of His grace, mercy, love and salvation!

Have you been healed by the hand of Jesus?  Are you fulfilling His purpose for those who have received His touch?  Think about it!

Men Like Trees Walking

January 17, 2014
Mark 8:22-26

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

My pastor Ken delivered a great sermon Sunday.  It was based on a portion from Mark 8, and I got several ideas for blogs from what he said.  But, then again, I always do!  I am constantly on the lookout for blog ideas, and I glean them from many sources.  But Pastor Ken is one of the best!

Mark 8 contains an incident near Bethsaida, a town in Jesus’ day that was situated on the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee, a little to the east.  Here is the account from Mark 8:22 through 26:

    And He [Jesus] came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him,
    and begged Him to touch him.  So He took the blind man by the hand and
    led him out of town.  And when He had spit on his eyes and put His hands
    on him, He asked him if he saw anything.  And he looked up and said, “I see
    men like trees, walking.”  Then He put His hands  upon his eyes again and
    made him look up.  And he was restored and saw everyone clearly.  And He
    sent him away to his house, saying, “Neither go into the town, nor tell any-
    one in the town.”

There is a lot we could say about this miracle, and I probably will say more in future blogs.  But I want to concentrate on what the man said in verse 24, “I see men like trees, walking.”  This blind man needed two touches by the Lord.  Why?  While the first touch of Jesus restored his natural sight, he needed a second touch to see spiritually and properly.  I say ‘properly’ because God designed people originally to see as He sees.  And Jesus came to restore us back to the Father’s original design before Adam and Eve messed it up by giving in to Satan’s temptation!

The blind man first saw “…men like trees, walking.”  We too often see people like trees.  And what do we do with trees?

•    We can enjoy them – their shade, their beauty, their fruit or nuts – but we use them!
•    We can make use of lumber, wood pulp for paper, and a lot more.  A website by the Idaho Forest Products Commission, listing a couple of hundred products from trees, makes the comment that there are “…thousands of products we get from trees.”  We use them!
•    During Pennsylvania winters, we burn wood to supplement how we heat our house.  And although I select standing dead wood or fallen trees that are still solid for firewood, I harvest about six cords of wood a year.  So I use trees!
•    Sometimes trees are a nuisance – just in the way.  And what do we do with trees that are in the way?  We cut them down!

I think you get the idea – trees are to be used for our benefit, or cut down and taken out of the way if they are in the way.  So if we see …men like trees, walking…,” then we will tend to use people for our benefit – or cut them down to get them out of our way!

Is that the way God wants us to see people?  How does He see them?  In Hebrews 12:2 it is written, “Looking unto Jesus…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Considering the horribleness of the cross – physical, emotional, relational and spiritual torture beyond description – what joy could have been so great as to make Jesus Christ endure the cross?  That joy was us – you and me – reconciled to and in fellowship forever with God!  That’s how God sees people!  He loves them and seeks the best for all mankind!  He even died to accomplish that!

Now, how much different is that from seeing “…men like trees, walking…”?

When we are saved – the first touch from the Lord in our healing – we are only just set to begin the life-long process of becoming more and more like Jesus.  That process – the second touch – helps us to see the world as God sees it.  But that usually takes a long while.  We need as followers of our Lord to be in His Word, to allow Him to change our everyday thinking, our general world view, our words, our actions – everything about us – to be like Jesus.

Check your vision!  Do you see Men Like Trees Walking?  Or are you allowing Jesus’ second touch to transform your vision so that you see with the eyes of the Savior?

An Outline of the Christian Life

January 15, 2014
Psalm 40:1-4

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

I have always found it fascinating to find New Testament truth in the Old Testament.  But since God is in control of all things for all time, is it any wonder that He reveals hints, shadows and figures of things to come?  So it is with Psalm 40:1 through 4.  As I was meditating on these verses this morning during my prayer time, it dawned on me that this Old Testament passage is a beautiful outline of the Christian life, fully revealed in the Lord Jesus a thousand years after David wrote this Psalm.

    I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. 
    He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my
    feet upon a rock, and established my steps.  He has put a new song in my
    mouth – praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the
    LORD.  Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust….

First of all, David says he “…waited patiently for the LORD….”  I waited 19 years before He revealed Himself to me!  Now I really didn’t know I was waiting for Him, but He was waiting for me!  I remember as a boy and then as a teenager thinking about God and coming up with a few theories on who He is and what He is doing.  But there wasn’t much in my thinking that was based on His Word.  I wasn’t reading the Bible then because I had no desire to get into it.  That came later.  It says of Christ’s incarnation in Galatians 4:4 and 5:

    But when the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a
    woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we
    might receive the adoption as sons.

Perfect timing!  Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (II Corinthians 6:2)  And in God’s perfect timing, I looked up and saw myself as a sinner and Jesus as the only Savior.  And I asked Him to come in and be mine.  “…He inclined to me, and heard my cry.”  Have you cried out to Him to be your Savior?

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay….”  Sin is a terrible pit in which to be trapped!  Try as you might, you can’t climb out by yourself.  Your feet seem to be stuck as if in “miry clay.”  When I was building my house – after excavation in the back yard – the muddy ground excavated had a lot of clay in it.  I would step in clay and try to lift my foot out of a hole that seemed to suck in my foot and hold it tight!  When I did lift out my foot – with great effort – two pounds of clay would stick to my boots – and another pound would be added with each slow step!  It was not a way to run a race!!!!

Sin will keep you trapped in its miry pit!  Jesus said in John 8:34, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whosoever commits sin is the slave of sin.”  And it is a slavery from which you cannot be freed by your own efforts!  It can only be accomplished as it says two verses later in John 8:36:  “…if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”  It can only be done by the Son!  And that leads us to the next part…  Has Jesus set you free from sin?

…and [He] set my feet upon a rock….”  Who is the Rock?  We are told in I Corinthians 10:4 that the Israelites in the wilderness “…all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.”  He is also the Rock upon which the Church is built, according to the proper interpretation of Matthew 16:18.  And He is a movable Rock, because He “followed ” the Israelites.  So the psalmist testifies that the Lord  “…established my steps.”  “Steps” give the sense of movement, and Jesus Christ moves with us.  He as told us in Hebrews 13:5 and Matthew 28:20, “I will never leave you nor forsake you….I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Do you know He is always with you?

He has put a new song in my mouth – praise to our God….”  God gives us a “new heart,” according to Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26.  And a new heart results in new words coming out of our mouth.  So said Jesus in Matthew 12:34:  “…out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”  What is coming out of your mouth?  “A new song” is referred to nine times in the Bible.  And it is always “…praise to our God….”  Only Christians – only those who have experienced God’s grace through Jesus Christ – can give such praise to God!

…many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD.”  Why has God been so gracious, loving, merciful and kind to us as Christians?  Yes, He wants us to “…have life, and…have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10).  But He also wants others to know the good news of Jesus.  And He has commissioned us, His children, to bear that gospel to others trapped in sin in this dark world.  Are you witnessing of His grace to others?

Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust….”  Blessed indeed! 

I hope you can see God’s plan for the whole Christian life outlined in just these four verses in Psalm 40.  There are a lot more Gems and Nuggets to be mined from the Word.  So until next time….

Many Ways, One Destination

January 13, 2014
Proverbs 14:12; 16:25

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

I believe every word in the Bible is significant – including the form of the word.  For instance, if the word – a noun in this case – is singular or plural, that means something!  Such it is in Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25 – identical verses, which is significant in that fact of repetition!  God does not waste words, and if He deems it necessary to repeat something, then we should sit up and take notice!  Here is what it says in these two verses, and I share it in the King James Version:

    There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the
    ways of death. 

You see, in 44 translations I checked, only ten of them got it right according to what is written in the original Hebrew!  For instance, the New King James Version, which I usually quote translates it thus:

    There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

See the difference?  The second time way is used, it is changed from plural to singular!  I checked the Hebrew and this is the literal translation:  “there is way upright to faces of man and last of her ways of death

Here’s the point: There are so many ways because people try from their own resources to figure out the way of life and living, people who don’t know the One Way – Jesus.  People have come up with many religions or no religion.  They worship gods of wood and stone or other strange concepts of gods.  They focus on materialism and make that their god.  Some hero-worship other people.  Some worship self.  There are a lot more choices.  But for all the ways that man has come up with, it is usually only one way that the individual deems right and follows.  Hence, the first way in our scripture is singular.  However, taken together, mankind has come up with many ways to seek out purpose and proper destiny in life.  So the second ways is plural.

But there is another significant word in this scripture, and much of its significance lies in the fact that it is singular!  The word is end – singular because there is just one end to the way unregenerate man chooses – death!  Many Ways, One Destination!

Compare that to what Jesus said in John 14:6:  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  In this verse, there is only One Way and One Destination!  And that Way is the Lord Jesus Christ!  There are other verses that back this up:

•    John 3:36 – “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does
        not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on
•    Acts 4:12 – “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name
        under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
•    I Timothy 2:5 – “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and
        men, the Man Christ Jesus….
•    I John 5:11 through 13 – “And this is the testimony:  that God has given us
        eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life;
        he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  These things
        have I written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that
        you may know that you have eternal life….

…and many others besides.

So if you have a problem with the ‘narrow-mindedness’ of Christians who insist on only One Way to God and eternal life, your argument is not with His followers, but with Jesus Christ Himself!

So what way are you following?  And what is your destination?  There are a lot of choices to follow, but every one of them leads to one end – death!   …everyone of them, that is, except One Way, and that One Way is Jesus Christ!  Follow Him!

Finishing Well

January 10, 2014
Matthew 25:14-30

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Every runner want to end the race Finishing Well, with a strong kick in his or her stride as the tape draws near!  According to Hebrews 12:1 and 2, we are in a life-long race.  How am I going to finish?  How are you? 

Everyone should have a goal in life.  And it should be simply stated and repeated often.  Such a goal is not necessarily equated with a purpose statement for your life.  Paul’s purpose statement is summed up concisely in Philippians 1:21 – “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Until he died, he was going to dedicate his life to the Lord Jesus Christ with all his being.  But I find Paul’s goal two chapters later in Philippians 3:14 – “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  What do we find such a goal to include?

•    John 3:2 – “…we know that when He [Jesus Christ] is revealed, we shall be like
        Him; for we shall see Him as He is.
•    Revelation 21:4 – “…God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there
        shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there
        be any more pain….
•    I Thessalonians 4:14 and 17 (Good News Bible)– “…God will take back with
        Jesus those who have died believing in Him…then we…will be gathered
        up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will
        always be with the Lord…,” – reunited with Christian loved ones!

There is a lot more in that goal of “…the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” but what I have just stated is a taste of the goal Paul had in mind.

What is my goal in life?  I find it best summed up in six words found in Matthew 25:21 and 23 – “Well done, good and faithful servant….

Jesus told this Parable of the Talents to His disciples, and it is recorded in Matthew 25:14 through 30.  When He mentioned talents, He is referring to a measure of money (silver) worth by today’s standards about $32,000.  Five talents of silver would then be worth almost $162,000.  I will try to get the gist of the story in verses 14 through16 and 19 through 21:

    For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling to a far country, who called
    his own servants, and delivered his goods to them.  And to one he gave five
    talents, to another two, and to another one…and immediately he went on a
    journey.  Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with them,
    and made another five talents….After a long time the lord of those servants
    came, and settled accounts with them.  So he who had received five talents
    came and brought five other talents, saying, “Lord, you delivered to me five
    talents; look, I have gained five more talents beside them.”  His lord said to
    him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few
    things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your

The two-talent recipient heard the same words because he also had doubled his lord’s money.  But the one-talent man was condemned and thrown out because he did nothing with what was entrusted to him.

Of course this parable applies to Jesus and His followers.  He has given us so much, in time, talents and treasure, including special spiritual gifts.  Every believer is His recipient.  Until we see our Lord face to face, what are we doing with what He has entrusted to us?  How are we using His gifts to further His Kingdom?  If in Luke 19:10 Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost…,” should not we then use what He has given us to be about the same business?

I have fallen on my face so many times in my walk as a Christian.  And yes, He picks me back up, dusts me off, and – sometimes with a whack on the behind – says, “Now let’s go!  But this time stick closer with Me!”  And I try to live my life for Him and bless others – leading the unsaved  to Jesus and building believers up in the Lord.

But when it is all said and done, and when He reviews my life – as He will with all Christians, according to I Corinthians 3:10 through 15 – what will my Lord Jesus say to me?  Will it be, “Well, Chip, you certainly could have done better!”  Or will He say,   “Well done, good and faithful servant….”  Those six words are the main impetus for me to live my life in obedience to Word of God and for His glory!

What is your goal in life?  Do you want to be Finishing Well?