Can’t Or Won’t? – I

June 29, 2016

John 6:60, 66-69

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

John 6:60, 66-69:

      Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is an
      hard saying; who can understand it?”…From that time many of His dis-
      ciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the
      twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”  Then Simon Peter answered
      Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life. 
      Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son
      of the living God.”

Jesus had just laid down some controversial teaching.  He had a lot of the common people following Him to Capernaum, on the northwest end of the Sea of Galilee.  In the first 14 verses of John 6, the Lord had just fed 5,000 men, plus women and children – with just…five barley loaves and two small fishes.” (John 6:9).  According to what Jesus told them in John 6:26:  “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me…because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”  “Free eats!  Yea!  We will follow you anywhere!”  So He laid down the famous discourse of His body and blood as food and drink in John 6:32 through 58, summing it up in verses 51 and 54:

      I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of
      this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh,
      which I shall give for the life of the world….Whoever eats My flesh and
      drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

That’s when the vast majority of the crowd left – all but the twelve disciples!  It was not that the majority could not follow Jesus all the way, it was that they would not!

There is a big difference between Can’t Or Won’t!  For instance, there are basic things we are called to do once we have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior:

•      The Bible – we are directed in Colossians 3:16 to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly….”  Here are several ways to accomplish this (emphasis by underlining, mine):

      ✞      Isaiah 34:16 (KJV) – “Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read….

      ✞      II Timothy 2:15 (1899 Douay-Rheims Bible) – “Carefully study to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

      ✞      Psalm 1:1, 2 (International Standard Version) – “How blessed is the person, who does not take the advice of the wicked, who does not stand on the path with sinners, and who does not sit in the seat of mockers.  But he delights in the LORD’s instruction, and meditates in His instruction day and night.

      ✞      Deuteronomy 11:18 (Contemporary English Version) – “Memorize these laws and think about them.  Write down copies and tie them to your wrists and your foreheads to help you obey them.

      ✞      Deuteronomy 11:19, 20 (Lexham English Bible) – “And you shall teach them to your children by talking about them when you sit in your house and when you travel on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.  And you shall write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates….

Last Wednesday, in our home Bible study, some folks were having a difficult time finding where in the Bible I wanted them to turn.  So I told them:

      Early on in my Christian experience, I memorized the names of the books of
      the Bible – all 66 of them!  I reviewed them again and again, going over them
      in proper sequence in my mind.  This has helped me so much to find my place
      when I need to turn to a specific passage.

The looks I received for such a recommendation?  “Are you nuts?!!

It is not that most folks can’t memorize!  It is that they won’t!  It may be a hard saying to obey what God expects of us, but if God presents a valid condition for us to fulfill, He has already given us the resources to do it!  Can’t Or Won’t?  It all comes down to a matter of obedience or disobedience!

Loved To The End! – III

June 27, 2016

Luke 23:32, 39-43

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

Here again is our featured Scripture, Luke 23:32 and 39 through 43:

      There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death….
      And one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If
      You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”  But the other, answering, re-
      buked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the
      same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward
      of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said to
      Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  And
      Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in

As promised in the last blog, we will look at the characteristics of the faith of the criminal who was saved as he died on a cross next to Jesus.

•      He began his crucifixion by blaspheming and railing against Jesus who was nailed to the central cross.  Mark 15:32 tells us that “…those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.” (See also Matthew 27:44).

•      Somewhere during his time on the cross, this criminal changed his mind – from blaspheming and railing to faith in the Savior! (See Luke 23:40-42 above).

•      He didn’t have much to go on for the basis of his faith!

      ✞      He had probably heard of this Galilean Rabbi who drew the common people to Him and was a thorn in the side of the Jewish leadership.  Jesus performed many miracles – including multiple healings and even raising the dead – and the reports of such marvels spread quickly across Palestine.  In Luke 5:15 (KJV) it is recorded:  “…so much the more went there a fame abroad of Him: and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.” (See also 4:24; 9:26, 31; 14:1; Mark 1:28; Luke 4:14, 37).

      ✞      There was a placard of Jesus’ ‘crimes’ nailed on the cross above His head.  According to Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, and John 19:19, the full inscription read, “THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.

      ✞      Jesus certainly did not look the part of THE KING OF THE JEWS!  He had been without food and sleep ever since the Passover meal celebrated with His disciples in the Upper Room – about 20 hours.  He had been bound and roughly handled (see John 18:12) as they led Him first to the high priest’s palace (see Matthew 26:57, 58); then to Pilate, the Roman governor (see Matthew 27:2); then to Herod’s palace (see Luke 23:7); then back to Pilate (Luke 23:11).  He had been mocked and beaten (see Matthew 26:67, 68; 27:27-31; Mark 14:65; 15:16-20; Luke 22:63, 64; 23:11: John 18:22, 23); flogged by the Romans (see John 19:1); and crowned with thorns (see John 19:2).  Finally, He was forced to carry the cross-beam of His cross until He could carry it no more! (Compare Matthew 27:31, 32 with John 19:17).  So beaten was He that Isaiah 52:14 (Contemporary English Version) reports:  “Many were horrified at what happened to Him.  But everyone who saw Him was even more horrified because He suffered until He no longer looked human.

      ✞      Jesus would be physically dead in a matter of a few hours – less than six!  According to Mark 15:25 (Easy-to-Read Version):  “It was nine o’clock in the morning when they nailed Jesus to the cross.”  Luke 23:44 and 46 (International Standard Version) says:

      It was already about noon, and the whole land became dark until
      three in the afternoon….Then Jesus cried out with a loud voice and
      said, “Father, into your hands I entrust My spirit.”  After He said
      this, He breathed his last.

•      But as it is written in Hebrews 11:1:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Apparently, this dying criminal had enough evidence for his faith to reach for Jesus!  He cried out to the Lord, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42).

•      He was definitely saved!  For Jesus answered him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43).

We have so much more evidence that, indeed, Jesus was and is God’s Messiah (Christ) sent forth to pay for our sins on the cross, that we might be forgiven and experience eternal life!

Have you responded as did this thief, murderer, criminal, reviler, blasphemer?  If God could forgive him, why not you?  For he was Loved To The End!

Loved To The End! – II

June 24, 2016

Luke 23:32, 39-43

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

We are looking at the three people who were crucified on Golgotha Hill outside of Jerusalem.  The central cross held Jesus, condemned to die in the place of the insurrectionist and murderer Barabbas.  The two other crosses held thieves, also called robbers and criminals – one crucified on either side of the Lord.  The Scripture giving the most detail of this is Luke 23:32 and 39 through 43:

      There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death….
      And one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If
      You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”  But the other, answering, re-
      buked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the
      same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward
      of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said to
      Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  And
      Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in

We learned in the last blog that most likely these two criminals were also fellow insurrectionists and murderers, perhaps the chief lieutenants in Barabbas’ rebel army.  So they were doubly condemned as rebels and as murderers – both capital offenses!  Their very public crucifixion was a warning to others who might be thinking of rising up against the imperial government and murdering the Roman oppressors.  Last time we also saw that…

•      Sin has its payday! (See Numbers 32:22; Romans 6:23; Galatians 6:7-9).

•      SomeOne else made full payment for sin – Jesus Christ! (See Isaiah 53:5, 6; II Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 2:24; Revelation 1:5)

Let’s go on…

•      A sobering observation was made concerning these two criminals (I can’t remember who said it):  “Two were crucified with Jesus.  One was saved, that we might not lose hope.  But only one was saved that we might not presume upon God’s grace.”  Yes, God is gracious!  But we dare not presume that grace will always be available to save us!

I have a dear friend with whom I have often shared the gospel. I remember urging him to accept Jesus as his Savior.  But he replied, “Oh, maybe someday before I die.  I’ve got a lot of living to do now before that!”  My friend is presuming upon God’s grace!  James tells us in James 4:13 through 16 (International Standard Version):

      Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and
      such a town, stay there a year, conduct business, and make money.” 
      You do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  You are
      a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead you
      should say, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live—and do this or that.” 
      But you boast about your proud intentions.  All such boasting is evil.

Jacob, in Genesis 27:2, was right when he said, “…I do not know the day of my death.”  And Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (see I Kings 5:29-31), at the end of his life tells us in Ecclesiastes 5:8, “No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, and no one has power in the day of death.  There is no discharge in that war….

Perhaps the two crucified with Jesus did know the time of their death.  But they had no power to retain the spirit and keep living!  Why then did only one turn in faith to the Lord and find eternal life?  Part of the answer might be found in Proverbs chapter 1.   And I highly recommend that you reread three blogs written on September 13th and 16th, 2013; and October 27th, 2014.  I pray the truths related in these three blogs will shake you to the core!  I wish my friend who is putting off God’s grace given through His Son would read and heed the warning of these blogs!

Another part of the answer is that Jesus Christ is a gentleman!  While He died for all (see II Corinthians 5:14, 15) He will not force all to accept Him as their Savior!  This is why in the Bible there are pleading invitations (see Isaiah 55:1-3; Matthew 11:28-30; II Corinthians 5:20; Revelation 22:17).  God has given man free will and so responsibility!  We are held accountable as to whether we accept or reject Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives!.

•      It does not matter how great we think the sins are that we have committed.  When we put our faith in the Savior,…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7).  This criminal who put his faith in Jesus was an insurrectionist and a murderer!  And he was also a blasphemer!  Why do I say he was a blasphemer?  Because Matthew and Mark both tell us in their accounts of the crucifixion that “…those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.” (Mark 15:32).  Obviously, somewhere along the way he changed his mind.  And when he did, he was so completely cleansed from his sins through his trusting in Christ that Jesus told him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).

Saint Paul was also a persecutor (see Acts 26:11) and murderer of Christians! (See Acts 7:58; 26:10).  And he was a blasphemer of God who tried to caused other believers to also blaspheme and deny the Lord Jesus! (See Acts 26:11).  In I Timothy 1:15 (Contemporary English Version) he declares, “‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’  This saying is true, and it can be trusted.  I was the worst sinner of all!

In our third blog on Loved To The End! we will look at the characteristics of the faith of this criminal who was saved as he died on a cross next to Jesus.

Loved To The End! – I

June 22, 2016

Luke 23:32, 39-43

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

Luke is the only evangelist who tells us that one of the two thieves who were crucified with Jesus was saved.  Here is the record of the other three gospel writers:

•      Matthew 27:38, 44 – “…two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right, and another on the left….Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him [mocking and blaspheming Him]….

•      Mark 15:27, 32 – “With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left….And those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.

•      John 19:18 – “…they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.

But Luke goes into much more detail in chapter 23, verses 32 and 39 through 43:

      There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death….
      And one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If
      You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”  But the other, answering, re-
      buked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the
      same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward
      of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said to
      Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”  And
      Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in

First, let’s examine who were these robbers, these criminals:

•      The Greek word ληστης (used by Matthew, Mark and John) means brigand and is translated as both robber and thief.  The Greek word κακουργος (used by Luke) means a wrong doer, or criminal and is translated evil-doer and malefactor (New King James Version translates it as criminal).

•      Concerning Barabbas: Matthew 27:16 identifies him as a notable prisoner.  Mark 15:7 tells us “…Barabbas…was chained with his fellow insurrectionists; they had committed murder in the insurrection.”  Luke 23:18 and 19 (see also verse 25) confirms this by saying, “…Barabbas…had been thrown in prison for a certain insurrection in the city, and for murder.

•      Because of the demands of the crowd, led by “…the chief priests and the elders…” (Matthew 27:20), Jesus took the place of Barabbas who – being the ring leader of the revolt – most likely was to occupy the central cross upon which the Lord was crucified.  Since Mark 15:7 tells us that Barabbas was not the only murderer in the insurrection, it is probable that these two criminals crucified with Jesus were also convicted of murder!  They very well could have been the chief lieutenants in Barabbas’ insurrectionist army!  And so – for the purpose of public display and a grisly warning against future uprisings – they were ignobly displayed on either side of their leader.

•      Under Roman law, these two were doubly condemned!  In committing insurrection, they were found violently opposing the supreme Roman Emperor and his Judean governor, Pontius Pilate.  Having committed murder, they were guilty also of a capital offense.  It is no wonder they were sentenced to be crucified.  Crucifixion was reserved for rebellious slaves and the worst of criminals!

Truly, as it is prophesied in Isaiah 53:12, “…He [Jesus] was numbered with the transgressors….

There are several things we can learn from the fate of these two robbers:

•      Sin has its payday!  Paul tells us in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death….”  He also wrote in Galatians 6:7 through 9:

      Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that
      he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap cor-
      ruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting
      life.  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we
      shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Moses very succinctly summed it up in Numbers 32:22:  “…be sure your sin will find you out.

Someone once said, “Don’t sow your wild oats and then pray for a crop failure!”  Payday’s a comin’!

•      But thank God SomeOne else made full payment for sin!  As it is written in…

      ✞      Isaiah 53:5 and 6 – “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for out iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.

      ✞      II Corinthians 5:21 – “For He [the Father] made Him [the Son] who knew no sin to be sin for us….

      ✞      I Peter 2:24 – “…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree [cross]

      ✞      Revelation 1:5 – “…He loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…

The worst of sinners can find total cleansing in Jesus Christ!  Have you?

                                         …continued in the next blog.


June 20, 2016

Lamentations 3:21-26

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

In our fast paced society we want everything instantly!  Searching the internet, I found something interesting.  Various media outlets reported earlier this year that (according to a Canadian study by Microsoft) “…the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000…to eight seconds [today]”  They say it is due to the increasing use of smart phones and other technological devices.  The reports also said, “Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds…”!  Just 100 years ago, the attention span for adults was calculated at 20 minutes!  Is it any wonder we modern human beings have trouble Waiting patiently for something?

Is that why we modern Western Christians have such trouble fulfilling what God says about Waiting upon Him to answer our prayers and to work out His plans on our behalf?

Lamentations is a book consisting of five chapters of Hebrew poetry.  Four chapters follow the Hebrew alphabet – chapters 1, 2 and 4 start each of their 22 verses with successive letters.  Chapter 3 has 66 verses – 22 sets of three.  The three verses of each set begins with a different Hebrew letter in alphabetical order.  Chapter 5 does not hold to the same order, but also has 22 verses.  As the name suggests, Lamentations records the prophet Jeremiah’s lament over the fall and destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the invading Babylonians.  Sin had brought such judgment – mainly the sin of idolatry of God’s chosen people, the Jews!  They had left their first love (Revelation 2:4), and worshiped and served idols!

This is what is written in Lamentation 2:21 through 26 (see also Psalm 25:4, 5; 27:14; 59:9; 62:5; 123:2; 130:5; Isaiah 30:18; 40:31; Jeremiah 14:22; Hosea 12:6; Micah 7:7; Romans 8:25; I Thessalonians 1:10):

      This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.  Through the LORD’S
      mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They
      are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  “The LORD is my
      portion,” says my soul, “therefore I hope in Him!”  The LORD is good
      to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.  It is good that
      one should hope and wait quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

In the midst of 148 verses of lament and woe over invasion, destruction and an uncertain future, Jeremiah breaks through with this six-verse proclamation of faith in God’s mercy, compassion, steadfastness, faithfulness, provision and goodness!  How did he maintain such an attitude?  He gives the answer twice – in verses 25 and 26 – Waiting upon God!  And verse 25 also defines Waiting for us:  “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

Hebrew poetry is most often in the form of parallelism – “…the restating of the second line of a couplet what has been expressed in the first.” (Eerdman’s The New Bible Dictionary, Poetry).  Such parallelism is explained in this article as:

•      synonymous – This is repeating the idea expressed in the first line using different words in the second.  An example is Psalm 59:1 – “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Defend me from those who rise up against me.

•      synthetic – “…the second line amplifies or compliments the first.”  Psalm 55:6 – “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!  For then I would fly away and be at rest.

•      antithetical – “…the second line expresses a contrast to the first….”  Psalm 1:6 – “…the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

•      climactic – “…a heightening of the effect [of the first line] in the second line….”  Psalm 55:12, 13 – “For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it….But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance.

Lamentations 3:25 is either synonymous or synthetic.  The second line tells us that to wait for God is to seek Him!  Waiting upon (or seeking) God is accomplished by finding out all that He has revealed about Himself (through His Word – see II Timothy 2:15), connecting with Him (through prayer – see Philippians 4:6), believing Him (through faith – see Acts 16:31), following Him (through obedience – see Romans 6:16), and praising Him in worship (alone and with others – see Psalm 100:5).

The problem is, such Waiting takes time!  If modern western man only has an attention span of 8 seconds, what would such people do when in ancient Israel’s case the wait was 70 years?!  For God told the prophet in Jeremiah 29:10, “…thus says the LORD, After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”  God, true to His word, let the Jews come back to the land of Israel after 70 years of captivity in Babylon.

Waiting is not always what we want to do.  But what is He currently telling you to wait for?  As it says in Psalm 27:13 and 14:

      I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the good-
      ness of the LORD in the land of the living.  Wait on the LORD; be of
      good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the

Going In And Out

June 17, 2016

Ezekiel 46:8-10

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

I love the cohesive features of the Bible!  What do I mean by that?  It is the way God’s Word stays together and focused throughout when presenting a certain theme.  And the major theme of the Bible is God’s redemption of mankind through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross!  It is rightly said that all of the Old Testament points forward to the cross, and all of the New Testament either reveals that redemption or points back to it!

I was reading in Ezekiel the other day, and was struck again by Ezekiel 46:8 through 10:

      …when the prince enters, he shall go in by way of the vestibule of that
      gateway, and go out the same way.  But when the people of the land come
      before the LORD on the appointed feast days, whoever enters by the way
      of the north gate to worship shall go out by way of the south gate; and who-
      ever enters by way of the south gate shall go out by way of the north gate. 
      He shall not return by way of the gate through which he came, but shall
      go out through the opposite gate.  The prince shall then be in their midst. 
      When they go in, he shall go in; and when they go out, he shall go out.

Of course, this refers to the leader of the Jewish people and how they and their prince – their king – should enter the temple for worship, and then exit when worship was complete.  What I find interesting is that all the common people were to exit in the opposite direction from which they entered!  But the prince was to go out the same way he came in!  Why?

•      The common person was (and is) to be radically changed by worship – by being in the presence of God!  Jesus, in John 4:23 and 24 tells us:

      …the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship
      the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship
      Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit
      and in truth.

What happens when we actively and properly participate in worship?  By the power of the Holy Spirit we focus on God in confession and repentance, praise and thanksgiving, and giving God the glory He deserves!  And what is the result of such focus?  Saint Paul wrote in II Corinthians 3:17 and 18:

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liber-
      ty.  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the
      Lord, are being transformed into the same image [the image of Jesus Christ –
see Romans 8:29] from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

So we are never to leave the same way – the same person – as when we come in to worship the Lord!  As it says in verse 48 of The-Easy-To-Read Version, “People must not return the same way they entered.”  We are to be changed by engaging in worship – changed more and more into being like Jesus!  And only God’s Holy Spirit can do that miraculous and amazing work!

•      What about the prince? The prince represents Jesus Christ – the One who is to lead us!  Why does the prince need not to go out by a different way from which he came in?  Because Jesus does not need to be changed!  He is already perfect!  Here is the testimony of Scripture

      ✞      John 8:29 – “…I always do those things that please…the Father….

      ✞      John 14:30 – The devil “…has nothing in Me.

      ✞      II Corinthians 5:21 – “…He…knew no sin….

      ✞      I Peter 2:22 – He…committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth….

      ✞      I John 3:3, 5 – “…He is pure…and in Him is no sin.

And so the prince goes out exactly the same way as he comes in!

Ezekiel 46:10, though a short verse, holds a special truth that relates to our relationship with the Lord Jesus:  “The prince shall then be in their midst.  When they go in, he shall go in; and when they go out, he shall go out.”  Our Prince – our King, our Lord Jesus Christ – is always in our midst – always leading us!  “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you….I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ ” (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20).

Also, since the prince is in their midst – in the midst of common people – he basically has the same experiences of life that they have.  Jesus has experienced every trial, temptation, victory, pain, heartache and joy that we could ever experience! (See Hebrews 4:14 and 15).  And so He tells us to…therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).

Thank God for such description as is given in Ezekiel 46:8 through 10!  We can learn a lot about our Lord from prophetic types!

The Hope That Is In You – II

June 15, 2016

I Peter 3:15, 16 (English Standard Version)

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

We have been examining I Peter 3:15 and 16.  In our last blog, I mentioned how this Scripture transformed my understanding of being a Christian witness – how it helped release me from thinking that I needed to be a Gospel Gorilla!  What is a Gospel Gorilla, you might ask?  It is someone who gladly shares the good news of Jesus Christ with everyone they meet.  They have the personality to confront all people who come across their path with the Bible truths that they are all sinners, Jesus Christ is the only Savior, and they must by faith receive Him into their heart and life to escape hell and gain eternal life now and forever.

Being a Gospel Gorilla does not fit my personality!  At one point in my early Christian life and as a young pastor of my first church, I wanted to hide in my house rather than go out and run into someone with whom I was bound to share the gospel!  But God showed me another way to witness from such passages as I Peter 3:15 and 16 (English Standard Version):

      …in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to
      make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is
      in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience….

In Monday’s blog, I explained the first two phrases of this Scripture:

•      I Peter 3:15 – “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy….”  In other words, live your life with Jesus Christ at the center, fully obeying Him!  This is where Christian witness starts – being attuned to His leading through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

•      I Peter 3:15 – “…always being prepared to make a defense….”  Be prepared by letting…the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom….” (Colossians 3:16).  As it says in II Timothy 2:15 (Modern KJV), “Study earnestly to present yourself approved to God, a workman that does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.”  You cannot make a defense of your faith unless the word of Christ is dwelling in you richly!

Let’s go on:

•      I Peter 3:15 – “…being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you….”  This is my ‘releasing phrase!  No longer was I compelled to pounce on someone with the gospel!  I am directed here to respond to some form of another person’s question:  “Tell me – what is about you that is different from so many others?  You seem to have a measure of hope and peace about you?”  And I am good at answering someone’s searching question!

But here is a caveat!  And it involves what Jesus tells us in The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:14 and 16:  “You are the light of the world….Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Have you ever heard some Christians say, “I don’t say too much about my faith.  I let the way I live – my good works – be my light. My life is my witness.”  Good works are needed, encouraged, even commanded! (See Matthew 23:23; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 3:8; I Peter 2:12).  But good works are not to be your shining light!

Let’s look at an example:  Suppose your unsaved neighbor is sick and temporarily incapacitated.  You, in your goodness, take a meal to him or her and the family, and also mow the lawn for them.  What might they say to these acts of kindness?  “Wow!  I’m impressed!  What a nice person is our neighbor!”  Who gets the glory?  You do!  But what if you do the same good works for your neighbor, but add some light on why you are doing them?  What if you say something like, “I am a Christian, and Jesus has given so much to me, including dying for my sins and giving me eternal life.  I want to do this for you because of Him.”  You have directed the attention away from yourself, and given glory to God!  What might your neighbor then say?  “Wow! I’m impressed! What a great God!”  See the difference?

The light of Matthew 5:14 and 16 are not your good works!  Your light is what you say about why you are doing the good works…that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

•      I Peter 3:15 – “…yet do it with gentleness and respect….”  We are to be like Jesus in all our actions, in all our witness! (See Matthew 10:24, 25; Romans 8:29; II Corinthians 3:18; James 1:4).  What was Jesus like?  Consider the prophecy of Isaiah 42:2 through 4:

      He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard
      in the street.  A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He
      will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.  He will not fail nor
      be discouraged….

Can we let Him make us that same kind of witness?

•      I Peter 3:16 – “…having a good conscience….”  Our conscience is our inner understanding of right and wrong which God has hard-wired into us all.  It can become hard and unresponsive.  Paul speaks of people with such a conscience in I Timothy 4:2: “…having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.”  But in I Timothy 1:5 (God’s Word to the Nations) he tells Timothy, “My goal in giving you this order is for love to flow from a pure heart, from a clear conscience, and from a sincere faith.”  A clear conscience is what John calls an assured heart before God in I John 3:21, saying, “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have we confidence toward God…”  – confidence to live our Christian life with uplifted eyes, looking into the approving face of God!  And confidence to be the witness for our Lord which He calls us to be!

The Hope That Is In You – I

June 13, 2016

I Peter 3:15, 16 (English Standard Version)

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

There was a time in my earlier Christian life that I tried to take too literally Jesus’ command of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 and 20 (see also Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8):

      Go…and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name
      of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to
      observe all things that I have commanded you….

I have always held to a literal interpretation of Scripture. I found this definition – called the golden rule of interpretation – on the website for The Bible Research Studies Group (

      When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense;
      therefore, take every word, at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless
      the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and
      axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.

So what do I mean when I said that I tried to take too literally Jesus’ command of the Great Commission? I thought that I had to share the gospel with everyone I met, in whatever situation that might be! And if I did not, I was guilty of disobeying the Lord! I tried to do that for awhile, but it got so that I didn’t even want to go out of the house, lest I meet someone somewhere in my travels and I had to tell them about Jesus! That just is not my personality! Don’t get me wrong, I share the gospel with others as the Lord leads me, but I no longer feel compelled to thump them over the head with the truths of the Bible at all times!

One of the passages that helped me to mature as a Christian witness is I Peter 3:15 and 16 (English Standard Version):

      …in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to
      make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is
      in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience….

While this Scripture is set in the context of believers undergoing persecution, its application provides insight for all followers of Jesus Christ! Let’s dissect this and see how it relates to our discussion:

•      I Peter 3:15 – “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy….” Here are four other versions of this phrase:

      ✞      The Bible in Basic English – “…give honor to Christ in your hearts as your Lord….

      ✞      Contemporary English Version – “Honor Christ and let Him be the Lord of your life.

      ✞      God’s Word to the Nations – “…dedicate your lives to Christ as Lord.

      ✞      Lexham English Bible – “…set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts….

The idea here is, live your life with Jesus Christ at the center, fully obeying Him! This is where Christian witness starts! For then your life will be attuned to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and – although the literal interpretation applies to the Millennial Kingdom – Isaiah 30:21 will come into effect: “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.God will guide you in your witnessingwhat to say, when to say it, and to whom!

•      I Peter 3:15 – “…always being prepared to make a defense….” How does one get so prepared? When a lawyer stands before the court to give the defense of his client, many hours go into the preparation of the relatively few words he speaks to the jury! So it is to be with the followers of Christ! And where do we go to do such preparation? The Word of God, the Bible! For it is written in II Timothy 2:16 and 17:

      All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine,
      for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man
      of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

In light of this revealed truth about the Scriptures, we have the following injunctions (and many more throughout the Bible):

      ✞      Psalm 119:9-11 – “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You. Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments. Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.

      ✞      John 17:17, 19 – “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth…that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

      ✞      Colossians 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom….

      ✞      II Timothy 2:15 – “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

More on I Peter 3:15 and 16 in Wednesday’s blog.

It Can Be Hard To Find Sinners!

June 10, 2016

Ecclesiastes 7:20

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

There is an incident attributed to the famous evangelist of the last half of the nineteenth century – Dwight L. Moody. I cannot find an historical basis for this story. It may be apocryphal. But it sounds like something Mr. Moody would have said, and it makes a good point for this blog!

The evangelist is reported to have made the controversial statement that went something like this: “I would rather they tear down all the liberal churches in this city, and build drinking houses in their places!” His listeners were shocked! “Mr Moody,” they exclaimed, “How can you dare say such a thing?” He thus explained:

      If a person comes out of a liberal church – a church where the sacrifice of Jesus
      Christ on our behalf is not emphasized; where the blood is not proclaimed as the
      only thing that can wash us clean from our sins – and you try to tell that one that
      he is a sinner who needs the Savior, he will tell you, “I am a good person! I go
      to church regularly, and I try to live by the Golden Rule!” But meet a drunk
      staggering out of a drinking house. He falls in the gutter, and you pick him up
      and tell him, “You are a sinner and you need Jesus Christ to save you!” He will
      readily admit, “Yes, I am a sinner! Look at me! I am a drunken sinner!” Admit-
      ting you are a sinner is the first step in getting saved!

I remember talking to my next door neighbor when I pastored my first church. Jim was a fine upstanding man, a Roman Catholic from birth who regularly attended Mass. I told him, “The Bible says we are all sinners before God.” But Jim protested, “I’m not a sinner! I go to church, and I am generally a nice guy!Yes, Jim was a nice guy – by society’s standards! But what does the Bible say?

•      I Kings 8:46 (see also II Chronicles 6:36) – “…for there is no one who does not sin….

•      Psalm 14:3 – “They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.

•      Ecclesiastes 7:20 (our featured Scripture) – “…there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.

•      Isaiah 64:6 – “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away

•      Romans 3:10, 23 – “There is none righteous, no, not one…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….

•      Galatians 3:22 – “…the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

•      I John 1:8 – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

A person will not put their faith in Jesus and be saved if they see nothing from which they need to be saved! If there is no perception of sin in their life, why bother? Sometimes It Is Hard To Find Sinners! Perhaps we should say, it is sometimes difficult to find people who have a Biblical understanding of sin! If we are going to be effective witnesses, we must give God’s view of sin to those with whom we share! And His view is that everything coming from within our natural selves (see Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 7:20-23) – everything we do, say or think is shot through and through with sin!

If the world view of a person is formulated by godless society (see Luke 4:5, 6; I John 5:19), even if influenced by the Church, and especially by the liberal brand of Christianity that does not emphasize sin, but instead puts forth the innate goodness of man, that one is almost impossible to convert! Thank God that it is written in Luke 18:27,The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.He accomplished theimpossibleby sending His own Son to die for us on Calvary’s cross! As the Apostle Peter wrote in I Peter 2:24 (God’s Word to the Nations):

      Christ carried our sins in His body on the cross so that freed from our
      sins, we could live a life that has God’s approval. His wounds have
      healed you.

So when you share Jesus Christ with someone, do not leave out the necessary fact that we are all sinners in need of the Savior! Even if you have to take extra time to establish this truth, do it! I remember once hearing a preacher tell his audience:

      If I had just one hour to speak to a man on his deathbed I would spend 55 min-
      utes of that hour convincing him that he is a sinner. I would spend only the last
      five minutes leading him to the Savior.

I am not advocating that everyone hold to this 11 to 1 ratio – 55 minutes to 5 minutes! But, remember, if someone is going to be saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, they must see their need! And only sinners have that need of a Savior!

Necessary Food

June 8, 2016

Job 23:10-12

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

What is Necessary Food?  I would think it would be the food necessary to sustain life!  That really isn’t as much food as you might think.  I found this statement on a website called

      You can survive without food and water from eight to 21 days, and without food
      for up to two months, according to an article published in 2009 in the German
      journal Archives of Criminology.  This would not be pleasant, however, and you
      potentially can do a lot of damage to your body and your health.  A fast this long
      means that first your body loses any extra water weight; then it uses up its glyco-
      gen – sugars stored in the muscles.  Afterwards, a combination of fat and muscle
      breaks down to meet your energy needs….

In 1981, Bobby Sands, an Irish Republican Army activist, went on a hunger strike to protest prison conditions where he was incarcerated – Her Majesty’s Prison Maze outside of Belfast.  Sands survived 66 days on nothing but water.  In the final days before his death on May 5th, 1981, his body was in such deteriorated condition that he lay on a water bed to protect his physical fragility.

Necessary Food:  Job mentions it during his severe trials – a great moment of faith for this suffering man!  And his statement in Job 23:10 through 12 should be a challenge to us!

      But He [God] knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall
      come forth as gold.  My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His
      way and not turned aside.  I have not departed from the commandment
      of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my neces-
      sary food.

There are conservative scholars who set a very early date for the book of Job – as early as the time of Abraham (circa 2,000 BC); and as late as the time of Solomon (950 BC).  Some say it may have been the first book set down in writing that comprises our Old Testament!  If so, to what words of His mouth would Job be referring?  There were certainly oral stories and traditions that were passed down from generation to generation before they were written in the form we have in our Bibles today.  And there were written documents no longer existing that were incorporated into the Bible as we have it.  Several are mentioned in the Old Testament.  For instance, the Book of the Covenant – Exodus 24:7; the Book of the Wars of the LORD – Numbers 21:14; the Book of Jasher – Joshua 10:13; II Samuel 1:18; and the book of Shemaiah the prophet, and…Iddo the seer – II Chronicles 12:15.

So Job had some sort of record and knowledge of God’s words and actions upon which he based his faith!  And he held fast to those words passed down to him!  He…treasured the words of His mouth more than…[his] necessary food…” – more than the food it took to keep him alive!

How does Necessary Food relate to us and our view of the words of His mouth?  First, we have a lot more to feed on spiritually than what was available to Job!

•      We have the complete canon of the Holy Scripture!  I do not think it a coincidence that the following words appear in the last chapter of the last book of the New Testament – Revelation 22:18 and 19:

      For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: 
      If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are
      written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book
      of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from
      the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

No one must add to Scripture or take away from it! It is complete – just what God wants us now to know!

•      We have the complete revelation of God through Jesus Christ!  In Luke 10:22 Jesus told His disciples, “…no one knows who the Son is but the Father, and who the Father is but the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  And in John 14:9 the Savior said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father….”  Saint Paul writes in Colossians 2:9 that in Jesus “…dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily….”  The author of Hebrews adds in Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is…the brightness of…[God’s] glory and the express image of His person….

•      We have the indwelling Holy Spirit to teach us the revealed truths of God!  For we are told in I John 2:27, “…the anointing [the Holy Spirit]…abides in you…teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie….

The banquet table before us today is much more abundant than it was in Job’s day!  If it was Necessary Food back then, how much more do we today need to take in God’s Word regularly to sustain our spiritual life and health? (See also Psalm 119:9, 11, 28, 41, 50, 89, 105, 133; Jeremiah 15:16; John 17:17; Colossians 3:16; II Timothy 3:15-17).