What Am I Yet Lacking?

May 30, 2014
II Peter 1:2-4

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

I am a Christian – and I have been serious for most of the 49 years I have been a Christian about living out my commitment to Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord.  Anyone who has made that same ongoing decision has discovered, as I have, that we often find ourselves fallen flat on our faces, having failed the One to whom we are committed.  And – having picked up my face from its imprint in the mud – I have more than once looked up and asked, “What Am I Yet Lacking?  What is it, God, that I still need?  What haven’t You given me so that I can consistently live out the Christian life as I should be doing before You?

Then I read II Peter 1:2 and 3:

    Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus
    our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life
    and godliness….

Did you get that?  Peter plainly wrote in verse 3, “…His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness….”  All things!  God has not held back anything that pertains to life and godliness!  The problem is not that I have not received that which will empower me to live the victorious Christian life!  The problem is that I have not made use of what I have already received!

Alright, so how do I make use of what God has already given me?  The secret is in verses 3 and 4 of our scipture:

    God…has given to us all things…through the knowledge of Him who called us
    by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and pre-
    cious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature,
    having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

It is through the knowledge of Jesus Christ, through His great and precious promises recorded in the Bible that we become godly and defeat our lust for the corruption that is in the world.  According to Paul in Colossians 3:10 (Revised Standard Version) “…the new nature…is being renewed in knowledge after the image if its Creator….”  Upon asking Jesus Christ into our hearts and lives to be our Savior, He – by the Holy Spirit – gives us a new nature, one that has the potential to manifest godliness as we obey Him as our Lord.  But that new nature needs to be fed – just like our physical bodies need nutritional food to be healthy!  And the spiritual food necessary for this new spiritual nature is simply the knowledge of God as found in scripture, and as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit from within! (see Job 23:12; Jeremiah 15:16; I John 2:27).

Now I do not understand all the processes of how eating nutritional food enhances life and produces energy in our physical bodies.  But that lack of understanding does not stop me – or even slow me down – from eating my wife’s good cooking!  And I do not understand all that goes on within the new nature when we regularly consume God’s Word – processes that produce spiritual energy to live out “…all things that pertain to life and godliness….”  But I believe it is true and it works because God commanded us to do it!  And so I regularly take in His Word to feed my new nature!

One of the great blessings of committing to write this blog three times a week for more than a year now has been that it forces me into the Word to study and to make sure that what I write is the truth as far as I can discern!  The same goes with preparation for the Bible study that I have led in at a friend’s house for the last twelve years.  It also applies to sermons I prepare to preach regularly.  Besides all that, years ago I committed myself to read through the Bible in various versions, translations and paraphrases once ever six months.  And I have been doing that for about 45 years!  I am now over half way through the 1917 edition of the Scofield Bible – reading the notes as well.  This is the 94th time of completely reading through God’s Word!

You do not have to commit to exactly the same discipline that I accomplish.  But if you want to live out the Christian life as God intended for you, then make use of that which He has provided to give His children the power to accomplish the task of godly living!  Quit asking Him,What Am I Yet Lacking?”  All you are lacking is making use of the means God has provided you to actuate what He has already given!  As Nike popularized as their theme, Just Do It!

Exploding Christians! – II

May 28, 2014
Acts 2:41-47

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

Exploding Christians!  We looked at one aspect of this theme on Monday – the problem of trying to squeeze into lives set in legalistic firmness the new dynamic of Jesus Christ in and through such a life, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  That situation can not be maintained!  Jesus, in Mark 2:22 said that it is like trying to put new, still fermenting, wine into an old, stretched-out wineskin.  The increasing pressure of the fermentation – which produces CO2 – will explode the old wineskin apart!

Jesus Christ is Lord of all!  He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things – including people! (see Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2 and 3).  He brings alive those who were spiritually dead when they invite Him into their heart and life! (see Ephesians 2:1).  Now, try packing that into a rigid, legalistic framework!  No wonder such a structure can’t hold that kind of vibrancy!  There will be a destructive explosion!

But there is another kind of Explosion that is good!  And the results of such Exploding Christians are recorded in Acts 2:41 through 47:

    Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about
    three thousand souls were added to them.  And they continued steadfastly in
    the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in pray-
      ers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done
    through the apostles.  Now all who believed were together, and had all things
    in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among
    all, as anyone had need.  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple,
    and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness
    and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. 
    And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

If Jesus Christ brings a person from…

•    death to life…
•    sinfulness to holiness…
•    destination hell to destination heaven…
•    being under God’s condemnation to being His child and friend…
•    selfishness to God-centeredness…
•    a legalistic society to spiritual freedom…

…no wonder the results will be explosive!  And when this involves thousands of believers in one place and in a short time, it will be one impressive explosion!

What was different back in the book of Acts?  The new believers had – as it says in Acts 9:31 (and in May 23 blog) – “…the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”  They also had a new love of the Word of God and the doctrine it proclaims.  They had love for fellow Christians and a desire to be with them in fellowship and worship.  They had a powerful witness – including “…many wonders and signs….”  Is it any surprise that “…the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved…?  Now that’s an explosion!  And is it any surprise that the pharisaical Jewish leaders were so threatened and upset?

Wow!  Could we ever use such an explosion today!  There are too many churches that haven’t even seen a soul converted to Jesus Christ in the last year or more!  And Acts 2:47 boldly proclaims, “…the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved…!  We have the same God!  We have the same Savior!  We have the same Holy Spirit!  And our God said,…I am the LORD, I change not…! (Malachi 3:6).  He is…the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever…! (Hebrews 13:8).  And one of the biggest challenges for the Church today is to experience the fulfillment of John 14:12:  “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”  If Jesus said this – and He most certainly did – why are so many Christians not experiencing such explosive works today?

It really comes down to this:  If we Christians embrace all that Jesus Christ came to give to His followers, then we will be  Exploding Christians! just like those early believers in the book of Acts!

Exploding Christians!– I

May 26, 2014
Mark 2:22

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


    Doctors are blaming a rare electrical imbalance in the brain for the bizarre death
    of a chess player whose head literally exploded in the middle of a championship
    game!   …Nikolai Titov’s head suddenly blew apart.  Experts say he suffered from a
    condition called Hyper-Cerebral Electrosis or HCE….Incredibly, Titiov’s is not the
    first case in which a person’s head has spontaneously exploded.  Five people are
    known to have died of HCE in the last 25 years.  The most recent death occurred
    just three years ago in 1991, when European psychic Barbara Nicole’s skull burst.
    …”HCE is an extremely rare physical imbalance,” said Dr. Anatoly Martinenko,
    famed neurologist and expert on the human brain who did the autopsy on the bril-
    liant chess expert.  “It is a condition in which the circuits of the brain become over-
    loaded by the body’s own electricity.  The explosions happen during periods of in-
    tense mental activity when lots of current is surging through the brain.  Victims are
    highly intelligent people with great powers of concentration.

Yuck!  But I am glad HCE is ‘extremely rare‘!  Most of us will not experience a spontaneous explosion of our heads – or other body parts!!!

However, Jesus spoke of those who can experience explosions by trying to contain “…new wine in… old wineskins….”  Here is His parable from Mark 2:22:

    …no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the
    wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined.  But new wine
    must be put into new wineskins.

To understand what the Lord is talking about, you have to know something about new wine and old wineskins.  New wine is the juice of the grape that is still fermenting.  Natural yeasts on the grapes react with the sugars within and turn the juice into an alcoholic mixture which also releases carbon dioxide.  When the fermentation is taking place in an enclosed container, the gas will increase the inside pressure.

Wineskins were generally the skins of goats or sheep, although sometimes ox or camel skins were used.  The skin was removed from the neck down as a whole piece, tanned, the hair cut close, turned inside out, and any openings but one were corded off.  Then it was filled with wine, sealed up tight, and the skin would stretch as the fermentation process continued.  Smaller carrying pouches of skin were also used.  Old wineskins had already been used once and had been stretched to their limit by their original contents of new wine.  If filled again with the same, they would burst under the built-up pressure.

The whole point of what Jesus was saying is that the Jews already had been filled and stretched by the wine of the old covenant – obedience to the law.  In the minds of the Jewish leaders, they were keeping the demands of law – both God-given as well as the many layers of rabbinical interpretation of that law – and were quite pleased with themselves in their self-righteous legalism.

Now along came Jesus who was challenging them to be new wineskins – to clean out the man-made rules and regulations, internalize their obedience unto God – from the heart, and begin it all by putting their faith in the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.  New wine indeed!  If they tried to cram all the new stuff into the old framework of the Jewish religion, it wouldn’t work – the old would explode!

Today most people who call themselves Christians are not trying to follow the old Jewish law.  But too many are locked into legalism!  It may be a cutesy way of putting it, but it has been said about legalism, “I don’t drink, smoke, cuss or chew, spit on the sidewalk, or go with girls that do!”  This then – in that manner of thinking – makes one a Christian!  And if you try to really cram all of true, real and dynamic Christianity into such a legalistic framework, that one will be an Exploding Christian!

Does legalism make you feel like you are going to explode sometimes – especially when you are challenged to be a real Christian from the inside out?  Then throw out the old!  Invite in the new – Jesus Christ into your heart and life!  He will expand your new wineskin with the new wine of the Holy Spirit leading you to live out the vibrant Christian life the Lord came to give!

On Wednesday we will see how such new wine in new skins can really explode for God’s glory and His kingdom!

Fear and Comfort

May 23, 2014
Acts 9:31

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

In the Old Testament, the term “fear of the Lord ” (or it’s derivatives) is often used – at least 89 times.  It is usually explained from today’s perspective that it means basically the same as “faith” in the New Testament, and is not really fear as we understand it.  It is more like “holy respect.”  The first definition of the verb fear, according to Webster, is “to be afraid of; dread.”  I maintain that is exactly what it means to fear the Lord !  We should be cowering before this God who is so great and awesome that He creates all out of nothing with just His word, and He then holds it all together just by His being! (see Genesis 1:3, Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews1:3).  We should cringe in dread and be afraid of Him – except for the second half of our blog title – Comfort.  Here is the scripture that brings these two ideas together – Fear and Comfort – Acts 9:31:

    Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria, had peace
    and were edified.  And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of
    the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

One of the keys to the Christian life is balance.  Concerning these two words – Fear and Comfortbalance becomes very important!

By the time Acts 9:31 portrays, there were churches established in Judea, Galilee and Samaria as well as Damascus (see Acts 9:1 and 2).  Followers of The Way – for that is what believers were called before “…the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch…,” (Acts 11:26) – had been experiencing severe persecution from the Jewish Sanhedrin led by Saul of Tarsus (see Acts 8:1 and 9:1, 2).  But Acts 9 describes Saul’s conversion to the faith he was persecuting.  As you are probably aware, Saul of Tarsus went on to become Paul the Apostle!  And so “…the churches…had peace and were edified.

Sometimes God gives a period of peace to His Church, and sometimes He allows persecution.  Tertullian – second century Church Father – wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  And it is proved throughout history all over the world that the Church of Jesus Christ is strongest when they are going through – or recently have gone through – persecution!  Let us be thankful for the opportunity in this country for peace and edification.  But God help us if we continue in the philosophy of the Laodecean church – a philosophy that so many today who name the name of Christ are buying into:  “I am rich, and become wealthy, and have need of nothing…” (Revelation 3:17).  How does the Lord look at such an attitude?  Same verse – “…you do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked….”  God is very likely to wake up His Church with persecution!

Back to our two words, Fear and Comfort – and here is the balance:  If you only have…the fear of the Lord…,you will be cringing in a corner, afraid of offending such a high and holy God!  After all, He is able to crush us in an instant like a bug if He so desired!  But if such fear is modified and balanced by…the comfort of the Holy Spirit…,we can have…boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus…” (Hebrews 10:19).  That blood was willingly shed by Him on the cross because He loved us – and always will love us!  However, if we only have…the comfort of the Holy Spirit…” with no “…fear of the Lord…,we will just have license to do about anything as Christians, and it will be perfectly alright – at least in our Laodecean minds!

Balance then…the fear of the Lord…[with] the comfort of the Holy Spirit….”  Balance other things in your Christian life also – such as time to study your Bible balanced with time to communicate in prayer with God – such as sacred time alone balanced with worship and fellowship with other Christains.  If you bring balance in all you do, you will be much more inclined to experience what Jesus said in John 10:10:  “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

The Complete Life

May 21, 2014
II Kings 4:8-10

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

If you walk with the Lord, He will lead you to truths that you might ordinarily miss.  I try to keep my life in tune with Him by regularly reading and studying the Bible and keeping up my prayer life.  I read through various editions, translations and paraphrases – one every six months – just to help me stay familiar with the Word of God.  Currently I am reading through the 1917 edition of the Scofield Reference Bible with the notes.  I have done that twice with my 1967 edition – my ‘go to’ Bible, but I had never before gone through the earlier edition.

This particular Bible belonged to a dedicated Christian who used it many years.  It is obviously worn, but still in pretty good condition for being about 90 years old!  The former owner made notes in the margins as he read and studied.  And I came across something that had never before occurred to me concerning II Kings 4:8 through 10.  Here is that scripture:

    Now it happened one day that Elisha went to Shunem, where was a notable
    woman, and she constrained him to eat some food. So it was, as often as he
    passed by, that he turned in there to eat some food.  And she said to her
    husband, “Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by
    us regularly.  Please let us make a upper room on the wall; and let us put a
    bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lamp stand:  it will be,
    whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.”

The original owner of the Bible had marked ‘1, 2, 3 and 4 ‘ over the words, “…bed…table…chair…and lampstand….”  In the margin he wrote “1 – rest, 2 – nourishment, 3 – instruction, 4 – illumination.”  And I thought, “Wow!  That is a great summary of The Complete Life for the Christian!

1.    Rest (illustrated by ‘bed ’) – We need rest – physically, mentally and even spiritually – if we are going to live our Christian life to the fullest!  And remember, Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came that we “…may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV).

As far as physical and mental rest, it says in Psalm 4:8, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”  And in Psalm 127:2, God tells us, “…He gives His beloved sleep.”  Do you want a good remedy for insomnia?  Commit these two scriptures to memory and dwell on them when you can’t get to sleep!

But what is meant by spiritual rest?  Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  In Him we find peace and rest!

2.    Nourishment (illustrated by table) – Again, we need nourishment for the whole person – physically, mentally and spiritually!  Obviously, God gives us – especially in this wonderful country – great abundance!  Don’t ever take His blessings for granted!  As Paul wrote in I Timothy 4:3 (NIV), “…God created…foods…to be received with thanksgiving….

But what about spiritual nourishment?  Job boldly proclaimed in Job 23:12, “…I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”  Paul spoke plainly concerning the new nature – he called it the new man – which God gives everyone who comes to Jesus Christ, accepting Him as his or her Savior: “…you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him….”  Renewed in knowledge it is the knowledge that comes through the Word of God – the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ!  Such knowledge is nourishment to the believer’s soul and spirit as much as food is to the body!

3.    Instruction (as illustrated by chair) – How does the word chair illustrate instruction?
You are seated in a chair!  And Jewish teachers always sat when teaching!

Are you teachable?  Do you take the time and opportunities to be taught?  These opportunities are presented when we gather to hear sermons or congregate for Bible study.  They also occur when two or three believers get together to discuss the things of the Lord.  And there are great teaching opportunities when we are alone and open our Bible, ready to be taught by the Author!   Take advantage of opportunities for instruction!

4.    Illumination (as illustrated by lamp stand) – We need light by which to see physically, we need understanding to ‘see’ mentally, and we need illumination from God’s Holy Spirit to have spiritual sight!

I John 2:27 points this out: “But the anointing [the Holy Spirit] which you have received from Him [Jesus] abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but…the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is truth, and is not a lie….”  It is not that we don’t need gifted Christian teachers, it is that the Spirit is really the one illuminating the truth taught!

So prepare your little room – your life – and make sure you have in it a bed, a table, a chair and a lamp stand !  If you make full use of these furnishings, you will live The Complete Life as a Christian!

Convenient Religion

May 19, 2014
I Kings 12:26-30

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

Convenient Religion – that which suits the occasion, whatever the occasion is!  The kingdom of Israel had split when Rehoboam, the son of Solomon had ascended to the throne – recorded in the first part of I Kings 12.  The nation had prospered under the rule of Solomon, but taxes were high, and coerced service to the king was rampant.  The people wanted Rehoboam to lighten their burdens.  But the new king followed the advice of his peers and told his subjects in I Kings 12:11, “…whereas my father laid a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke:  my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges.”  The people’s reaction?  “What portion have we in David?  We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse [Solomon’s father].  To your tents, O Israel!  Now see to your own house, O David.!”

Jeroboam, son of Nebat was commissioned king of the northern kingdom, which kept the original name of Israel.  Rehoboam retained only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the southern kingdom was called Judah.

Now to our scripture from I Kings 12:26 through 30:

    And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom may return to the house
    of David:  if these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD
    at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Reho-
    boam king of Judah, and they will kill me.”…Therefore the king took counsel
    and made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to
    go up to Jerusalem.  Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from
    the land of Egypt!  And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 
    Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as
    far as Dan.

Fearing that adherence to their God-revealed Jewish faith would undermine his authority, Jeroboam made Religion more Convenient!  Not only did he foster blatant idolatry with the two golden calves, it says in I Kings 12:31 and 32:

    He made shrines on the high places, and made priests from every class of
    people, who were not of the sons of Levi.  Jeroboam ordained a feast on the
    fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the feast that was in Judah, and of-
    fered sacrifices on the altar.  So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves
    that he had made: And at Bethel he installed the priests of the high places
    which he had made.

Convenient Religion is man-made religion!  For Jesus said in Mark 8:34 and 35:

    Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross,
    and follow Me.  For  whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever
    loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.

I wrote about this on April 13, 2013 – Gladly, The Cross-Eyed Bear!  The cross is an instrument of death!  And the only way to live the Christian life as Jesus would have us live it is to do as Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20:

    I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who lives, yet Christ lives in
    me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,
    who loved me, and gave Himself for me.

Also, in the blog from May 20, 2014, I said, “Satan is the false lion, a cheap imitation of the One who is ‘…the way, the truth, and the life.’  And what he pushes is a cheap imitation of the real thing!  He is an imitator, not an originator!  In this new northern kingdom he is imitating – via Jeroboam’s decrees – what God had long been doing already in the nation!

But here is the main point, and it has a more egregious result in the long run – this setting up of Convenient Religion produced false religion that took people away from the true God for hundreds, even thousands, of years!   It lasted all through the time that Israel was the northern kingdom.  It influenced the Samaritan religion that was in Jesus’ day.  And there are still Samaritans today!  How many people have been led to hell because Jeroboam initiated Convenient Religion?

Be careful to know and practice the truth – even if it is difficult!  It likewise will affect generations to come!

Ed and Ebenezer

May 16, 2014
Joshua 22:24-27, 34; I Samuel 7:9, 10, 12

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

You might think I am about to tell a story about two old men sitting on a bench in the park – or maybe in for a swim! — Ed and Ebenezer!  But, no, this takes quite a different turn.  And it may surprise you, especially if you are not familiar with our two featured scriptures.  Let’s look first at Joshua 22:24 through 27 and 34:

    In time to come your descendants might speak to our descendants, saying,
    “What have you to do with the LORD God of Israel?  For the LORD has
    made the Jordan a border between you and us, you children of Reuben and
    children of Gad.  You have no part in the LORD.”  So your descendants
    would make our descendants cease fearing the LORD.  Therefore we said,
    “Let us now prepare to build ourselves an altar, not for burnt offering, nor
    for sacrifice, but that it may be a witness between you and us and our gener-
    ations after us, that we may perform the service of the LORD before Him
    with our burnt offerings, with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings;
    that your descendants may not say to our descendants in time to come, ‘You
    have no part in the LORD.’”…And the children of Reuben and the children
    of Gad called the altar Ed [Witness], “For it is a witness between us that the
    LORD is God.”

So here we ‘meet’ Ed !  I actually quoted the King James in part of verse 34, because the NKJV translates the Hebrew Ed into Witness in the text.  Ed means witness. 

A bit of background to the above scripture – the Israelites had completed a five-year campaign against the Canaanites, but failed to completely wipe them out of the Promised Land.  But they had pretty much taken control over Canaan, and it was time for the men of the army to go back to their families and to their assigned inheritance.  The tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh had already received their portion on the east side of the Jordan River, and they were heading home.  But the question arose on the way, “What if…,” and so the featured scripture.

But let’s take a different tack from an altar called Ed !  We are to be followers of Jesus Christ and witnesses unto Him!  As the Lord told His disciples in Acts 1:8, “…you shall be witnesses to Me…to the end of the earth.”  A witness – like the altar Ed – hears what has been said and passes it on to others.  We believe and receive what the Word of God – Jesus and the Bible record – have revealed, and we tell others so they can believe and receive!

But most Christians find it so intimidating to be a witness for the Lord that they rarely tell others about Jesus.  We need help!  And in the Acts 1:8 scripture, the Lord qualifies His statement by saying, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…[THEN] you shall be witnesses to Me….”  We can’t do it by ourselves!  We need the help – the empowerment – of the Holy Spirit!

This brings us to Ebenezer – and  I Samuel 7:9, 10 and 12:

    And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it as a whole burnt offering
    to the LORD.  Then Samuel cried out to the LORD for Israel, and the LORD
    answered him.  Now as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philis-
    tines drew near to battle against Israel.  But the LORD thundered with a loud
    thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were
    overcome before Israel….Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between
    Mizpeh and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far has the
    LORD helped us.”

Ebenezer means “a stone of help.”  It was a memorial set up because God had miraculously helped the Israelites defeat the Philistines.  The great Christian hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” was written by Robert Robinson in 1758.  The second half of the second verse is thus:

                                        Here I raise my Ebenezer;
                                  Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
                                  And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
                                         Safely to arrive at home.

Robinson realized it was by God’s great help that the Christian life was lived out.  This includes being a witness to the person and work of Jesus Christ!  It is only by God’s empowerment by the Holy Spirit that we can be effective witnesses unto Him!

And so we meet Ed and Ebenezer – in that order!  Raise your Ebenezer as a testimony to your reliance upon God!  Then go out and be Ed !

Praying for Forgiveness – XIV

May 14, 2014
Psalm 38:15-22

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

I will finish up Praying for Forgiveness today.   And David still has some important things to say here.  Although Psalm 38 is the last of the three psalms we are examining concerning David’s sin with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah to try to cover up the resulting pregnancy, I believe that this psalm should be first – just after Nathan the prophet confronted the king in II Samuel 12, and before David prayed and penned his deep prayer of confession and repentance – Psalm 51.  Here is Psalm 38:15 through 22:

    …in You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God.  For I said, “Hear
    me, lest they rejoice over me, lest, when my foot slips, they magnify them-
    selves against me.  For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually be-
    fore me.  I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin.  But my
    enemies are vigorous, and they are strong; and those who hate me wrongfully
    have multiplied.  They also who render evil for good, they are my adversaries,
    because I follow what is good.  Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, be
    not far from me!  Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!

Apparently, David was realizing his sinful actions were resulting not only in physical sickness (see the last two blogs), but that the prophecy of Nathan in II Samuel 12:10 through 12 was beginning to play out:

    Thus says the LORD…“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your
    house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the
    Hittite to be your wife….  Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from
    your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to
    your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of the sun.  For
    you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.”

If, indeed, this psalm was written before the other two, then the full-blown rebellion of his son Absalom had not yet happened (see II Samuel 13 though 18).  But apparently there were enough rumblings in the kingdom that King David recognized his sin was precipitating the fulfillment of the dire prophecy.

But I want to concentrate on David’s faith.  Verse 17 of our scripture points out the end result of all sin – “For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me…” – continual sorrow and ruin!   James said it this way in James 1:14 and 15:  “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”  And David finally realized that!

Be aware of the consequences of sin!!!  Is it worth it?!!

But this sinful king of Israel is still called in I Samuel 13:14 and in Acts 13:22, “…a man after…[God’s] own heart….”  Why?  Because – although he was a great sinner, he still had a great faith in God, and he greatly confessed and repented of his sin!  Look at what he wrote in verses 15 and 18 or this psalm: “…in You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God ….I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin.”  David had faith that God would hear him and forgive him when he turned to the Lord in confession and repentance!  He proclaimed this in Psalm 103:12 when he wrote of the result of his turning back to God:  “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”  (Check out the six Forgiven and Free! blogs from April 3 through 15, 2013 – especially Forgiven and Free! – II).

This, I believe, is one of the biggest problems facing Christians today – we may mouth that our sin is forgiven by God, but somehow we will not forgive ourselves!  Consider this:  If an adulterer, a murderer, a liar, a sin-coverer can be so totally Forgiven and Free as to be declared …a man after…[God’s] own heart…, why not you and me?  Yes, we are to … declare [our] iniquity… unto Him, and to be …in anguish over…[our] sin.  That is the kind of heart God is looking for in His children when they do wrong!  But don’t stop there!  Continue with what David said, …in You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God.  God will not only hear, but – because of the full payment for sin by Jesus’ blood shed on the cross – He will so forgive us that we no longer carry our sins at all!

So let the burden go!

Thus ends this series – Praying for Forgiveness!

Praying for Forgiveness – XIII

May 12, 2014
Psalm 38:2-8

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

Friday, we started looking at Psalm 38:2 through 8 – a biblical statement of what sin will do in the believer’s life.  We examined the first three verses of our scripture where it was presented that sin pierces us through, weighs us down, affects our physical health, and drowns us as if with a heavy weight tied around our necks!   Here again is Psalm 38:2 through 8, and we will look more closely at verses 5 through 8:

    …Your arrows pierce me deeply, and Your hand presses me down.  There is
    no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor is there any health in
    my bones because of my sin.  For my iniquities have gone over my head; like
    a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.  My wounds are foul and festering
    because of my foolishness.  I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go
    mourning all the day long.  For my loins are full of inflamation, and there is
    no soundness in my flesh.  I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because
    of the turmoil of my heart.

Several things sin will do:

•    Psalm 38:5 – “My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness.”  In verse 3 David exclaimed, “There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor is there any health in my bones because of my sin.”  And as we saw in Proverbs 14:30, “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy [or any other persistent sin] is rottenness to the bones.”  Here, David takes it deeper.

Remember, it was about a year from committing those sins to confession and repentance – a long, spiritually dry year – for this man called “…the sweet psalmist of Israel…” (II Samuel 23:1).  David’s sweet life turned very sour as that year advanced!  And his sin had an increasingly adverse physical effect on him!  If sin “…is rottenness to the bones…,” it worked its way outward and seemed to produce wounds or sores on the king’s body!  He probably consulted the court physicians to heal those sores, but they persisted and even got worse!  They festered and became foul-smelling!

Remember also that there was no sickness or death in creation before sin entered into man’s experience (see Genesis 2:16 and 17).  When God reverses the curse in the new heaven and the new earth – as it says in Revelation 21:4 –  “…God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  So generally, sin causes disease and death!  Specifically, persistent sin in a Christian’s life can produce physical maladies, and even death!  But – as we have seen in David’s life, and other believers’ lives – such disease is allowed by God to bring His child back into fellowship with Him! (see I Corinthians 11:27 through 32 and Hebrews 12:1 through 13).

And, yes, sin is foolishness – as David rightly proclaimed!  It makes no sense for the Christian to continue in sin and suffer spiritually, mentally and physically when God’s forgiveness and healing are so available in Jesus Christ!

•    Psalm 38:6 – “I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day
long.”  Isaiah 32:17 proclaims, “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.”  Can it be any more plain?!  If you analyze these two scriptures side by side – Psalm 38:6 and Isaiah 32:17 – which one will you choose?

We are righteous positionally the moment we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior!  As it says in II Corinthians 5:17, He took our sins upon Himself, fully paying the price before the Father.  And that price was death, both physically and spiritually.  At the same time He made His own righteousness available to us.  We – in the Lord Jesus Christ – are as righteous and accepted before the Father as is the Son Himself!

But there is another kind of righteousness to which we Christians are called – practical righteousness!  We are to be more and more holy in our daily living as we mature in Christ.  Both of these rigthteousnesses – manifested in and through us – produce in this life, here and now,…peace… quietness and assurance forever.

•    Psalm 38:7 and 8 – “For my loins are full of inflamation, and there is no soundness in my flesh.  I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.”  Again, David confesses to severe physical manifestations from his unconfessed and unforsaken sin.  And while he was going through this dry time in his life, he probably reasoned he was getting away with those sins he had committed!  But once Nathan the prophet confronted him (see II Samuel 12:1 through 15), the king starkly realized his broken fellowship with God and the resultant physical, mental and emotional maladies that followed.

A broken body, a heart in turmoil, and a dried up spirit!  Is it worth it to try to hide our sins?  Isn’t it so much better to confess them before God, to forsake them, and to be restored – as David pleaded in Psalm 51:12 – “…to…the joy of… [God’s] salvation…?

Praying for Forgiveness – XII

May 9, 2014
Psalm 38:2-8

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

There are other psalms that seem to contain reference to David’s sad time of sin involving adultery and murder.  But we will continue this series, Praying for Forgiveness, with a look at Psalm 38.  Here are verses 2 through 8:

    …Your arrows pierce me deeply, and Your hand presses me down.  There is
    no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor is there any health in
    my bones because of my sin.  For my iniquities have gone over my head; like
    a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.  My wounds are foul and festering
    because of my foolishness.  I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go
    mourning all the day long.  For my loins are full of inflamation, and there is
    no soundness in my flesh.  I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because
    of the turmoil of my heart.

This passage maybe should be the second offering of this study, after the first – the introduction describing what happened when King David sinned – as recorded in II Samuel 12.  Perhaps it should be examined even before looking at Psalm 53 – David’s great psalm of repentance.  Why?  Because it describes what happens when the believing sinner has not confessed his or her transgression and repented of it.

Several things sin will do:

•    Psalm 38:2 – “…Your arrows pierce me deeply, and Your hand presses me down.” – God will not let the believing sinner continue in the way his or her rebellious heart is leading!  He will pierce that one deeply, He will increasingly press down upon him or her!  The writer of Hebrews puts it this way in Hebrews 4:12 and 13:

    For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged
    sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and mar-
    row, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  And there is
    no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the
    eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Here, the Word of God is the written Word empowered by the Living Word, Jesus Christ, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  And by that Word, God will increasingly put on the pressure so the believer will find it more and more difficult to continue in his or her sin.

•    Psalm 38:3 – “There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor is there any health in my bones because of my sin.”  In Proverbs 14:30 (NIV) it says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”  You can replace envy with any sin there is, and it will hold true!  Sin…rots the bones… God created us to be an interactive unit of body, soul and spirit!  When one of the three is out of whack, the whole person is sick and unsound! 

Years ago, I knew a guy who bought a brand new 1967 Chevy 396 and modified it exclusively for drag racing.  It was fast – well over 100 mph and in the high 13’s in the quarter!  But one time down the strip at about 7,000 rpm, the flywheel exploded, tore through the floor board, and almost severed his foot!  It seems the flywheel was just a bit out of balance!  It was no problem at 5,000 rpm and under, but at drag racing speeds, it precipitated a disaster!

You can get by with some of life’s slower times when not all is in balance.  But just watch out when things get really spinning!  The whole thing can seem to explode!

I believe it is good advice when a Christian experiences sickness – especially persistent sickness that seems to elude a physical diagnosis – that one should check his or her spiritual condition and see if there is unconfessed sin and an unrepentant heart!  For “A heart at peace [before God] gives life to the body,but sin brings rot !

•    Psalm 38:4 – “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.”  From personal experience, I know that life flows much more smoothly when I am right with God!  When I am out of fellowship with my Lord because of sin in my life, I can feel more and more inundated – drowning, as it were – with a heavy weight tied around my neck!  Confession and repentance before our Creator removes the weight of sin and brings us back from drowning to once again breath the sweet air at the surface!

We will continue to examine what sin can do to us on Monday.