Tag Archives: Bible

Just Be Thankful You’re Alive

It is a little after 1 PM in the afternoon, and I’m sitting in our van reading my Bible. Not long from now I will go back to work and drive the school bus, completing my afternoon routes. 

As I was reading I came across a verse in the book of Lamentations, and I thought I would share it with you. 

Lamentations 3:39 (CSB) Why should any living person complain, any man, because of the punishment for his sins?

Here the idea is that if you have been punished for your sins by a Holy God, and are still alive, you have nothing to complain about! Seriously, too often we gripe and moan about the circumstances which we must endure, and yet those circumstances are so often the result of our own sinful decisions. Is it not a wonderful thing that we are so loved by our heavenly Father? He does not pour out on us the punishment we deserve, because he is rich in mercy. We are alive! We should be grateful!

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens. – Lamentations 3:41-42

There are so many things in this world we could complain about. So often those who complain the most are the ones who have the most. But if there’s anything worth rejoicing about, it is the fact that we serve a God who is rich in mercy. We don’t deserve anything good, no matter how small or insignificant; we deserve judgement. 

However, if I just turn back one page in my Bible I can read verse 22, where it says, “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” And, thankfully, they are new every morning! 

If you are reading this, then you are alive! Why not take a moment and praise Him?

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Filed under Bible Study, God, grace, Uncategorized

A “Perfect” Role Model?

Sermon Prep

Not long ago I was doing some research for a sermon on Jonah. In the process I came across a Muslim website that made an interesting observation (and I will paraphrase):

“The Bible proves it is not true because God would not allow the prophets’ reputations to be smeared.”

The Muslim website went on to say (paraphrasing, again):

“What kind of role model would a prophet be if we read of him making mistakes?”

What kind of role model? That’s a good question! Was the Muslim author trying to say that role models had to be perfect in order to be real? Here’s a shocker – in one way or another, everybody is a role model.

If the defining characteristic of a role model is “perfection,” that would rule out King David, Solomon, Moses, Joshua, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Peter, Paul, Sarah, Mary (all of them), the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, and many, many others…

…especially Jonah.

Jonah

Now, Jonah wasn’t exactly the type of person after which I would want to pattern my life, but he was a prophet of God. He had some serious character flaws, though. He was angry, disobedient, and was a racist who constantly talked suicide. He even spouted off to the Lord for being too forgiving!

No, Jonah’s not the type of person I would want to emulate. But hold the whale puke! I am more like him than I thought!

  • I have run from God.
  • I have harbored racist feelings in the past, I’m ashamed to admit.
  • I have been angry and disobedient.
  • I have wondered if life was worth living.
  • I have even wanted to see whole cities destroyed, innocent people and all, after September 11, 2001.

I have been more like Jonah more than I care to admit.

The Encouraging Part

The fact is that the Bible is not only full of role models, but models of the people we already are: flawed, broken, and human. But here’s the encouraging part: even when we are not perfect, God can still use us – and change us.

  • Jonah ran from God, but God pursued.
  • Jonah disobeyed God, but it didn’t derail God’s plan.
  • Jonah got angry with God, but God responded to him with the understanding kindness of a wise Father.
  • Jonah even wanted to die, but God never belittled him. He only focused Jonah’s attention on the bigger picture: 120,000 souls, not to mention animals, whose lives were spared (Jonah 4).

I thank God that the Bible doesn’t white-wash humanity. There are so many examples of how people, just like me, can find hope, even when we’re not perfect.

The Perfect One

It is not hard to come to the conclusion that there were some really dysfunctional people in the Bible. But you know what? That’s what adds to the authenticity of Scripture. There are no “perfect” role models in the Bible, except for one – Jesus.

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” – 1 Peter 2:21-22 ESV

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV

I want to be more like HIM!

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Humility ~ Part 3

Guest Post by: Donald N. Norris

In my last post, we looked at the concept of humility from the pages of the Tanakh.  In this post, we turn to the Brit Hadashah to help us understand the characteristic of being humble.

Humility Defined

Humility is a personal quality in which an individual shows dependence on God and respect for other persons.  Various Bible translations use humble, meekness, gentleness, tender, mild, afflicted and considerate to describe the characteristic of humility.

Humility in the Brit Hadashah [1]

Yeshua life provides the best example of what it means to have humility.  “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29; see also 1 Corinthians 4:21 and Philippians 2:1-11).

Yeshua preached and taught often about the need for humility.  “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12 and Luke 14:11; 18:14)  “Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’” (Mark 9:35)

Yeshua urged those who desired to live by Kingdom standards to practice humility.  “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’” (Matthew 18:1ff)

A person with humility does not look down on others.  Humility in the Brit Hadashah is closely connected with the quality of “meekness.”  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  (Matthew 5:5 ESV)

While God resists those who are proud, He provides grace for the humble.  “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’”  (James 4:6)

Primary in the Brit Hadashah is the conviction that one who has humility will not be overly concerned about his or her prestige.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)   “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” (Romans 12:16)  “Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge?” (2 Corinthians 11:7)

Sha’ul believed that quality relationships with other people, especially those who had erred spiritually, hinged on the presence of gentleness, meekness or humility (see Acts 20:19; 1 Corinthians 4:21; Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:25).

Both the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah affirm that God will exalt those who are humble and bring low those who are proud (see Luke 1:52; James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6).

The Greek world abhorred the quality of meekness or humility, but the Christian community believed these qualities were worthy (see 2 Corinthians 10:18; Colossians 3:12; Ephesians 4:2).

A humble man is often looked upon as a coward, a cringing, despicable, slavish type of person.  Many men fear humility.  They feel humility is a sign of weakness and will make them the object of contempt and abuse; causing them to be shunned and overlooked.  This is tragic:

  • A humble spirit is necessary for salvation. “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 18:3-4)
  • God’s idea of humility is not weakness and cowardice.

God makes people strong.  God infuses a new spirit within a person that causes them to conquer all throughout life.  He does not want the person walking around in pride.  He wants the person to do what the definition says: to offer himself in a spirit of submissiveness and lowliness; not to act high-minded, proud, haughty, arrogant, or assertive.

Humility has the strength to control and discipline; and it does so at the right time.

  1. The humble person has a humble state of mind.
  1. The humble person has a strong state of mind.  It is not a weak mind that ignores and neglects evil and wrongdoing, abuse and suffering.
  • If someone is suffering, humility steps in to do what it can to help.
  • If evil is being done, humility does what it can to stop and correct it.
  • If evil is running rampant and indulging itself, humility actually strikes out in anger.
  1. The humble person has a strong self-control.  The humble person controls his spirit and mind.  He controls the lusts of his flesh.  He does not give way to ill-temper, retaliation, passion, indulgence, or license. (see James 1:21)

In summary, the humble man walks in a but strong state of mind; denies himself, giving utmost consideration to others.  He shows a control and righteous anger against injustice and evil.  A humble man forgives and lives for others because of what Yeshua has done for him.

In my next post, we will explore a concept related to the characteristic of Humility:  Submission and Surrender?

 

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all scripture references in this series will be from the New American Standard Bible (NASB ~ 1995 Update)

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Jesus Paid It All, and the Payment Was Permanent (Part 4)

Guest post by Wally Fry

jesus saves

Not only does The Bible teach that grace and security are not a permit to sin, but Christians should keep in mind that we all face a judgment one day.  Understand clearly that a truly saved person will never face judgment for their sins; the issue of Heaven and Hell is decided only in this life. Believers will, however, be judged at some point in time for how they lived their lives for Jesus Christ while they were alive. The ultimate goal of every believer at the Judgment should be to hear the same words the  good steward heard in the Parable of the Talents which Jesus told, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Let’s take a look at this judgement believers face. We learn in Romans 14:10-12 as Paul wrote to the Roman believers, that we will all stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ and account for how we lived our lives for him. Since we aren’t going to be judged for our sins what then is the purpose of this judgment? The judgment believers face is to determine our rewards we will receive for the things we have done for Jesus while living. One of the best descriptions of what will happen can be found in 1 Corinthians 3:10-17

What we receive are crowns for various services we have rendered on behalf of Jesus Christ during our lives. Descriptions of these can be found in several places in Scripture: 2 Timothy 2:5, 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, and Revelation 2:10.

You can also read a full post on rewards for believers here

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Filed under Christianity, Guest Posts, salvation

Walking or Riding?

A Familiar Story

If you are familiar with the Bible, you probably remember the story of Jesus walking on the water. And if you remember that, you may also recall that the apostle Peter was the one who walked on the water with Jesus – until he began to look around.

But if you don’t remember the story, here it is as found in the NIV version of Matthew 14:25-33.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.

“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Familiar Pictures

Now that you are familiar with the story, have you ever seen paintings or illustrations depicting this passage of Scripture? Of all the ones I have ever seen, Jesus is usually portrayed as a calm, sad-looking, and often effeminate water-stroller. Peter is always some scruffy-looking, heavy-as-stone fraidy-cat.

Then what about those waves? In all the depictions of this story, how high are the waves? Usually they are no more than just a few inches high around the Lord and his bobbing disciple, Peter.

Well, I am here to challenge the common perception based on these fallacious (that means stupidly wrong) paintings.

The Waves

I am not a seafaring man like my friend David Welford, but I would bet even he would say that 6-8 inch waves would have been NO problem for some experienced fishermen. What ever frightened Peter, once he looked around, had to have been more than a ripple on the surface.

Consider how the Bible described what was happening to the boat in Matthew 14:24: “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.” Do kiddie pool waves toss a boat? No, but real waves do.

In stead of tossed, other translations use words like buffeted, beaten, and battered. The New Living Translation says that “a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.” It would seem to me that the disciples were facing a life-or-death struggle, not inconvenient weather.

The Wacky Request

People often belittle Peter for his “lack of faith.” They think less of him because he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. But who on this earth that is not currently on anti-psychotic medication would actually ask a UWG (Unidentified Walking Ghost), “If it is you, compel me to do something totally irrational and dangerous, OK?” What kind of crazy question was that?

I believe there is more to this story than we have been told. Why didn’t Peter just ask Jesus to come a little closer? Why not just ask Him to get in the boat and take a load off? What would have caused Peter to think of leaving the boat?

Maybe, just maybe, what Jesus was doing looked like fun.

Wave Riding

The next time you look out over a stormy sea capable of sinking a boat, try to find the smooth spots. The paintings that show the Savior walking delicately over glassy H2o in the middle of a gale are unrealistic.

My guess is that Jesus was doing more than simply walking. He was having fun! He was probably surfing without a board. It is possible that He was going up and down…up and down…up and down…smiling the whole time. That’s when Peter said, “If it is you, Lord, tell me to come out there with you…that looks like fun!”

Seriously, just stop and think about it. Here was a storm that was beating up a boat and wearing out the crew; waves that were anything but small; a boat full of panicking people; and a Man walking on water. Peter must have concluded that if there was going to be any place to be, it was with Jesus, riding the waves.

With Jesus

We can’t help the fact that storms come. But if there is any lesson to be learned from this story it is that the worst possible place to be can be the safest and most peaceful, as long as our eyes are on Jesus and we are walking with Him.

Does it make sense? No. Is it irrational? Maybe. But as long as we have faith in Jesus, we can ride atop the tallest tsunami, admiring the view.

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Filed under Faith, Struggles and Trials, Uncategorized, worship

Jesus Paid It All, and the Payment Was Permanent (Part 3)

I am really enjoying the regular Wednesday-morning guest posts by Wally Fry (Wally Wednesdays). They have truly been a blessing.  – Anthony


A guest post by Wally Fry

jesus saves

Perhaps the biggest argument against the Doctrine of Eternal Security is that it somehow becomes “a license to sin.” In other words, one can become saved and then go out in the world and do whatever one chooses with no consequence. After all, one’s sins past, present and future are all forgiven.  Technically, that is a true statement. Technically a truly saved person, no matter how far they might backslide, is still forgiven and heaven bound.

Sadly and to the discredit of churches today, we do much to foster this skepticism about the Doctrine of Eternal Security. We have pews full of people who only darken the doors of a church for an hour on Sunday morning, then barrel back to the outside world and conduct themselves just like, or worse than, the rest of the world.  This same group of people justifies their behavior by resting on some claim that they are saved, so..”I’m all good, I’m saved and heaven bound. Jesus has forgiven me so it’s cool.” This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.  Salvation is not about getting a ticket to heaven punched. God truly, deeply loves us and offers us the gift of salvation, but salvation is not about us! That’s Joel Osteen talk for sure. Read my post on just who worship is for and why we are saved here.

A quick summary is in order here. God was not sitting around in Heaven lonely one day and decided to create humanity to alleviate His loneliness. God is self existent and self sufficient and has no need for us whatsoever. God does not save us so that He can fill some empty void in His existence. We were only created for His honor and glory in the first place. In fact, the entire plan of redemption formed before the beginning of time was simply to declare God’s glory to the universe.

The point of this is God does not save us “for” us. He saves us for a purpose and a reason, and the reason is not us.  The most notable Bible passage on salvation based on grace not works is of course Ephesians 2:8,9. Where people go wrong, however, is they stop there.  Because right after God makes it clear through the Apostle Paul that works don’t save us, He goes on to tell they whys of our salvation.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

That’s just a start. There are numerous passages that teach us the a true saving faith will produce fruit(works). These are merely a few.

James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,  Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,  Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:22.23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

1 John 3:6-9 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

The Apostle Paul answered the question about Eternal Security being a permit to sin very directly in Romans 6:15-23. This question is far from a new one.

Romans 6:15-23 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Clearly, salvation is not a permit to sin at will. God said that in His Word. Also, clearly, God has expectations of us once we are saved.

Coming up…Part 4 Rewards for the believer

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The Perception Deception

It Started With a Comment

Just the other day someone commented on my blog and asked me to check out something he had written. I did, and it became clear that this person had come to the conclusion that everyone has his own version of the truth, and there’s no way to determine which religion is true…because not all truth claims are testable.

Well, when it comes to the truth claims of Jesus Christ, I respectfully disagreed.

That led me to remember a couple of posts which deal with the subject from slightly different perspectives. Here is the first one, and the second will be re-posted right after this one.


The Way We See It

If I have heard it said once, I have heard it said a thousand times, “perception is reality.” And if I have puked once…well, you know the rest.

What is it with man’s twisted view of reality and truth? Where do we get the idea that reality is what we perceive it to be? Is truth really relative to our own perception of the way things are? Just because a person believes something to be true doesn’t make it true, only believed.

Have you ever argued with someone who is color-blind over the color of a tie? Have you ever tried to convince someone dying of thirst that it’s not really water, but a mirage? Have you ever tried to convince a 3-year-old that germs are real and that hands need to be washed before eating? Some people think they know what they see, but they don’t.

Have you ever tried to argue with an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) about the letters on the wall? Yes, a “B” may appear to your flawed eyes as a “D”, but that doesn’t change what is on the wall.

Hot or Cold?

Sure, there are certain times when it seems like truth is relative, and here is a good example.

When my wife and I walk into a room, both of us will perceive a different sensation. If the temperature on the thermometer reads 70 degrees, then my wife is going to exclaim, “Why is it so hot in here?” On the other hand, I am going to say, “I think it feels fine.” I may, depending on how hot the temperature is outside, think that what my wife perceives to be hot is actually cool.

Both are correct based on our individual experiences and perceptions, but in reality the truth of the temperature is still 70, regardless of how we feel about it.

Clean Drunks

Several years ago I was unfortunate enough to transport a bunch of college kids to a party. It was unfortunate because long before some of them ever got on the school bus they had already been drinking.

The place they were going to was up a mountain. About 5 minutes into the trip, about the third or fourth curve, one girl decided to vomit on the window, down the inside wall, and between the seats. It was all liquid, all alcohol, and all nasty. A few minutes later she felt she was ready to go party some more, for, in her eyes, she was perfectly clean. The only problem was that we (everyone on the bus) could tell she was soaked…in other words, we weighed the “spirits.”

God Sees Everything

When it comes to self-perception, reality is what God sees. He not only sees the outside, but the heart is bare before Him. As the proverb says, a man may consider himself clean, which is his own perception of reality, but the Lord knows what’s really going on.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

It is foolish for men to try to justify their sinful, dirty actions before a holy God. It is foolish to depend on our own perception of what is right and wrong. Our eyes only want to see what makes us look good, not evil.

That is why we need God’s wisdom.

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