Ephesus and Pergamum
In a Tale of Two Churches we’ll talk about two churches in the book of Revelation. The Church at Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7) and the Church a Pergamum (Rev 2:12-17). These two churches operated in completely different methods but had two things in common. They both had to deal with the Nicolaitans yet in their respective response were both displeasing to the Lord thus resting under the same sentence; “Repent or I’m coming to remove your lampstand”.
Let’s begin with the scriptures from Revelation. Continue reading
Doubt In God’s Word is Selfish
Over the years God has shown me that all sin begins with doubting God’s Word. But the doubt we have for what God has said begins with the much deeper and insidious root of selfishness. When we violate God’s Word we also disrupt God’s Order in our life. We’ll start and finish with the same passage but the focus will be on the “Fall of Man” in Genesis.
Galatians 6:7-9 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
The Sin of the Way It’s Always Been!
I never cease to be amazed at the power of tradition. No matter how ineffective a ministry has been it can become a tradition or set of traditions that hold people captive with almost mystical power. When you look at the traditions of of the church you see ministries that have been built around programs which have not born fruit for decades. Is it any wonder that many if not most churches are slowly dying on the vine? Is it any wonder that the church of Jesus Christ is no longer the “salt of the earth”?
Having been involved in many churches over the decades one of the things I can say with confidence is that I have never seen a church split over Biblical doctrine. In every case it is over things that simply do not have Biblical precedence and, even more importantly, are rooted in the personal preference of people who have been in the church for a long time. That’s the way it’s always been and we have to keep it that way! The traditions of man!
Traditions have become the inane, anachronistic center of attention in many, many churches.
Fulfilling the Great Commission!
One of the things that has never struck me a quite right is the old notion of inviting someone to church. Recently, I wrote an article on”Fulfilling the Great Commission” and it suddenly dawned on me to as why that old adage “invite someone to church” has never set well in my spirit. The reason is quite simple. Inviting someone to church is not fulfilling the “great commission” but committing the “great cop-out”. It is so much easier to invite someone to church because the sharing of the gospel then rests on the shoulders of the pastor who is trained to to do that! Right! Wrong! The last command that Jesus gave us before ascending into heaven was quite clear. Here it is:
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
What Proceeds out of the Mouth Defiles the Man
The study today is from Mark 7:1-23. (the parallel account is in Matthew 15:1-20). The anchor verses are Mark 7:20-23.
Mark 7:20-23 “And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,22deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.23All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Parallel passage in Matthew 15:1-20.
One of the things that we believers must learn how to do is meter what comes out of our mouth. It is clear from the scripture in Mark that Jesus was talking to the disciples about what was in the hearts of the Pharisees. Jesus response was directly addressing the fact that the Pharisees were hung up on the traditions of man and their intent was to controlling others using traditions through verbal coercion. The Lord not only directly confronted the heart of the Pharisees (Mark 7:5-8) but He expanded on it in in a way that is meaningful to believers (Mark 7:20-23). Continue reading
The Idol of Education
Over the years I have come to realize that most churches are completely ineffective at ministering the gospel of Christ. My father was as pastor and his father was a pastor before him. I have been in small churches and large churches but one common theme is that the pastors are highly educated but the people are ineffective at the ministry. One of the most disheartening things that I have learned over the years is that many believers worship “The Idol of Education”!
The Worship of The Almighty Education
Over the centuries, actually millennium, those who were formally educated have ruled over those who were not formally educated . A classic example of this is the patricians and the plebeians of the Roman Empire. Panem et circenses (Latin for bread and games), were believed to be the way to keep the uneducated plebs, as they became known, happy. Ultimately the Empire could not stand because they could not afford to pay the army and started using salt for pay (i.e. salaries) as well as the fact that they could no longer afford the bread and games to keep the plebs satisfied. In the end the worlds greatest Empire imploded. Continue reading
The Challenges of Love; The Commands of Caring!
The Backdrop of Denial
Following the Lord’s Supper, Jesus and the disciples went to the Mount of Olives where Jesus told the disciples that they would fall away (Matthew 26:26-34). He used the scripture in Zechariah13:7 to paint of picture of how the shepherd would be struck down and the sheep would scatter. Peter, still having a great deal of confidence in his own strength, proclaimed that he would never fall away. Jesus startled Peter by telling him that he would deny the Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.
Later in the Garden of Gethsemane Peter and the disciples would be found sleeping three times. Peter, even then, the Lord had not gotten his attention. When Jesus was betrayed, Peter rose up and struck the ear of the slave of the high priest which Jesus healed (Matthew 26:51, Luke 22:50-51). Peter then followed them back to the courtyard of Caiaphas the high priest. At some point someone recognized Peter and ultimately he denied knowing Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75). When the rooster crowed, Peter remembered Jesus’ words and went out and wept bitterly.
Jesus Calls the Church a Flock
As I wrote the first article on “Shephers-Schmepherds, What’s The Big Deal” I covered shepherding in general. Later I realized that there are some key verses in the New Testament that tell church leaders how to approach tending and maturing God’s flock (the church). Jesus likens the Church to a flock of sheep in the book of John, chapter 10 and spells out the roadmap of how He will tend the flock. He later challenges Peter to shepherd the flock and subsequently Peter challenges church leadership to do the same.
Sheep-pens and Shepherds
Will the Real Shepherd Please Call Your Sheep?
In John 10:1-5 the picture is of a holding pen where shepherds may keep their flock for a time. These sheep pens would have, many times, held multiple flocks. There was a gatekeeper who would know the shepherds who kept their flocks in the pen. The gatekeeper would open the gate and the shepherd would call his sheep. The sheep, knowing the shepherd’s voice, would respond by following the shepherd out of the pen.
Faith that Aim’s High
Recently, I heard about a Christian physicist that has done a great deal of work with regard to creation and the Bible. I bought his booklet on the six days of creation and as I began to read it I was startled to realize that he was an “Old Earth Creationist”. So, what is an “Old Earth Creationist”? Basically, they believe that the days of creation, yowm which means a period of time, are not literal 24 hour days. This allows for them to reconcile the science, particularly geology, with the account of creation in Genesis.
As I read the account of creation in the booklet I noticed something very interesting. The writer took the position that after several days you could now tell the difference between night and day. However, from the very first day God expressed that you could tell the difference between night and day. God had Moses write in Genesis 1:5 “…and there was evening and there was morning, one day”. This was repeated for each of the subsequent days of creation, except for the seventh, where evening is specifically called out as `ereb or “dusk” and morning is called out as boqer or “dawn”.
The facts were clear. The writer of the booklet was trying to resolve the account of creation with the theory of evolution. Now, as we all know, the theory of evolution is the religious conundrum of the atheist. All of the evidence behind the theory of evolution is rooted in the scientific analysis of flawed, sinful, godless men who’s only perspective is locked within the time-space continuum of this current age rather than the eternal perspective of God. So the question is very simple. How can someone spend so much time and effort trying to prove that God’s Word really matches the theories produced by sinners and those who hate God?
The answer is a very simple one. Only one single word! Continue reading
A Shepherd’s Heart
As a Christian I have always been enthralled by the heart of King David, a man describes as “A man after My heart” the Bible says in 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22. So what made David “a man after God’s own heart”? I believe that the key to the heart of David lies in where God placed him to learn. David was ultimately a mighty warrior and King of Israel but he was first a lowly shepherd. The lowliest, dirtiest and most dangerous of jobs during the time.
So just what is the heart of a shepherd? Psalms 78:70-72 says “He also chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds; From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands.”
But perhaps we can see the most vivid example of what a shepherd’s heart should be looking at how God says He would shepherd His people. Looking at Jeremiah 23:3-4 “Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.
God clearly states that He wants His flock pastured where they can be fruitful and multiply. He also says that He will raise up shepherds to tend them so that they will not be afraid or terrified and that none will be missing.
Is it any surprise that God chose David who cared for the ewes with suckling lambs, shepherded them with the integrity of his heart and guided them with his skillful hands?