1. Relationship to Israel

    It is impossible to read the Old Testament with any degree of understanding without being struck very early in the record with the fact God had willingly and sovereignly entered into certain binding relationships with Israel.  God had taken her to Himself by His redemption of her from Egypt and by His entrance into covenant relationship with her (Ex. 4:22; Amos 3:1-2).  

    The relationship was and is inward, sacred indissoluble.  It is exactly pictured by the marriage between the prophet and Gomer.  Never has God forgotten this time of entering into covenant relationship.  Hear Jeremiah say: “I remember for thee the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; how thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown” (Jer. 2:2).  Do you realize what God is saying here and what marvelous grace He is displaying? Unmentioned are the facts that Israel was under galling bondage in Egypt, that she groaned and sighed to the Lord in her pitiful plight that she rebelled throughout the time of the  wilderness. The picture is that God was delighted with Israel’s love, the love of betrothal, and to think that she would go with the Lord even though it be through a wilderness!  God’s eye sweeps away in love all the secondary features of the picture and centers His thought upon the glorious fact that Israel became His.

    — Charles L. Feinberg

     
  2. Wrongly Ambitious

     
  3. Prayer

    "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers." — I Peter 4:7
     
    We must first note the importance of prayer.  Prayer is our opportunity to talk with the God, Creator, and Ruler of the universe.  The end of all things is at hand, and the first thing that Peter tells us to do is to pray.  The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16).   Prayer does not equip us for a greater work; it is the greater work.  
     
    Next, we note the intimacy of prayer.  Prayer is our opportunity to talk with our Father.   A clear mind and self-control are required for a fruitful prayer life.   We must watch against sin, for there is nothing that will keep us from God’s presence more than a sullied conscience.  We must watch against distraction, for there is nothing that will pull us out of the throne room more quickly than shifting our attention from our God to another person or object.  We must watch against laziness and half-heartedness, for it is damaging to us and insulting to God.  Is our Father not worth talking to?  Are the  troubles that we passionately vent to other friends not afforded the same effort and feeling in front of our Father? 
     
    We must watch for ourselves in prayer.  Only the Holy Spirit can expose hidden sin and bring us to repentance.  It wards off temptation.  It petitions God for strength.  It brings our souls into communion with the Most High.
     
    We must watch for others in prayer.  Intercession requires a sharpness of mind, focus, and remembrance for our friends and family.  
     
    We must watch for God in prayer.  We are in His presence — what a privilege!  We will one day be in His presence constantly and there is no greater, more important audience than the Creator and King of the Universe and the Savior of our souls.
     
    Finally, we note the insistence of prayer.  It must not be an occasional dabbling, but our daily business.  Mark the life of Daniel, who established the habit of kneeling three times a day to pray in his youth (Daniel 6:10).  Mark the life of David, who regularly cast his anxiety on the Lord, as seen in the Psalms.  Mark the life of our Lord, who often retreated to the mountain top to pray.  Paul exhorts us to “pray without ceasing” (I Thess. 5:17).  We must pray and not lose heart, for our Father hears us and will answer us in His time (Luke 18:1-8).  
     
    Thus, let us “give [ourselves] to prayer” this week (Psalm 109:4).  There is no better way to spend our time.  
     
    Scott
     
  4. Learning What We Hear

    I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. — Philippians 4:11


    From which, we learn, that it is not enough for Christians to hear their duty; they must learn their duty.  There are two things which keep us from learning:

    1) Slighting what we hear.  Christ is the pearl of great price.  When we disesteem this pearl, we shall never learn its value nor its virtue.  The Gospel is a rare mystery, but he that has learned to ignore this mystery will never learn to obey it.  He that looks upon the things of heaven nonchalantly and considers other things like work, leisure, or power to be more important, is on the wide road to damnation.  Who will learn that which he thinks is scarce worth learning?

    2) Forgetting what we hear.  If a scholar has his books laid before him, and he forgets them as fast as he reads them, he will never learn.  Many Christians are like sieves; put a sieve into the water, and it is full, but take it out of the water, and it all runs out.  So, while they are hearing a sermon, they remember it.  But, as soon as they leave church, all is forgotten.  

    You have heard much against sin: are you hearers?  or are you scholars?

    How many sermons have you heard against covetousness, that it is the root on which pride, idolatry, and treason do grow (I Tim. 6:6-10).  There is hardly any sin that doesn’t have covetousness as a main ingredient, but still, men are like the daughters of the leech, crying “Give, give!”

    How much have you heard about rash anger?  That it is a short frenzy, a dry drunkenness, and it rests in the bosom of fools (Eccl. 7:9); yet, upon the least occasion does your spirit begin to take fire!

    How much have you heard against swearing?  It is Christ’s express mandate, “Swear not at all” (Matt. 5:34).  It is neither sweetened with pleasure nor enriched with profit, the usual lures that Satan uses to paint sin.  Do you sport yourself with oaths as the Philistines did with Samson, which will at last pull the house about your ears?

    You have heard much of Christ; have you learned Christ?

    A man may know much of Christ, and yet not learn Christ.  The devils knew Christ (Mark 1:34).  

    A man may preach Christ, and yet not learn Christ, as Judas and the false apostles (Phil. 1:15).

    A man may profess Christ, and yet not learn Christ.  There are many professors in the world whom Christ will profess against (Matt. 7:23).

    What is it, then, to learn Christ?

    1) To learn Christ is to be made like Christ.  A true saint is a divine landscape or picture, where all the true beauties of Christ are portrayed in a lively manner and drawn forth.  He has the same spirit, the same judgment, the same will as Jesus Christ.  

    2) To learn Christ is to believe in Him as our Lord and our God (John 20:28).  When we do not only believe God, but in God, which is the actual application of Christ to ourselves, and as it were, the spreading of the sacred medicine of His blood upon our souls.  You that have heard much of Christ, and yet cannot with a humble adherence say, “My Jesus”… be not offended if I tell you, the devil can say his creed as well as you.  

    3) To learn Christ is to live Christ.  When we have Bible conversations, our lives, as rich diamonds, cast a sparkling luster in the church of God (Phil. 1:27), and are, in some sense, parallel with the life of Christ, as the transcript with the original.  

    - Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment

     
  5. Careful for Nothing

    "Be careful for nothing, but in prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God." — Philippians 4:6

    We are not to exclude a prudential care, for he who doesn’t provide for his house has “denied the faith and is worse than an infidel” (I Tim. 5:8).  Nor are we to neglect a religious care, for we must give all diligence to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10).  But, we are to exclude all anxious care about the issues and events of things.

    It is our work to cast care (I Pet. 5:7), and it is God’s work to take care.  By our immoderate anxiety, we take His work out of His hand.  

    Care, when it is either distrustful or distracting, is very dishonorable to God.  It takes away His providence, as if He sat in heaven, and minded not what became of things here below; like a man that makes a clock, and then leaves it to go of itself.  Immoderate care takes the heart off from better things; and usually while we are thinking how we shall do to live, we forget how to die.  Care is a spiritual sore that wastes and dispirits us; and to what purpose?  We may sooner by our care add a mile to our grief than a foot to our comfort.  

    - Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment


     
  6. Love God, not Money

    "Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure with trouble.  Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted calf with hatred." — Proverbs 15:16-17

    Over the holidays, I spent time with both sides of the family.  One side is financially prosperous, but dysfunctional.  In the gatherings, there is a hardly a moment that goes by without someone mocking, scorning, or arguing with another.  The other side of my family  is suffering from financial difficulty, but they love the Lord and each other.  

    Can you guess which side I prefer? 

    It’s easy to believe that having more money will solve familial problems.  Maybe you think your parents will stop bickering so often if they had less stress.  Maybe you think that a little more money will allow you to be happy.  Maybe your whole goal in life is to acquire a lot of money.  

    But, that’s not the answer.  The solution to these familial problems is simple, but not easy: a fear of the Lord and a love for each other.  

    So, rather than focusing on praying for the external manifestations of familial strife, pray for your family members’ relationships with God.  Pray that they would know Him if they don’t already.  Pray that they will love HIm more.  Pray that they will follow Him wholeheartedly.   Share the Gospel with them.  Talk about Jesus with them.  Encourage them in their walks, for “better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure with trouble.” 

    Scott

     
  7. Brief Hiatus

    As you’ve noticed,  I haven’t been posting lately.   It’s a busy season in life.  Expect more posts after the Christmas season!

    Scott

     
  8. Election Season

    Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme,or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.  Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.  — I Peter 2:13-17


    Election season has come and gone, and Barack Obama is the president, the Democrats have the Senate, and the Republicans have the House.  Regardless of your political affiliation, the Bible calls us to do several things:

    1) Submit to the law (1 Peter 2:13).  We are to obey the rules of this country, provided that it does not contradict the Bible (Acts 4:19).  It does not matter whether you agree with the policy or not.  We are to do this for the Lord’s sake, for it is through this that we glorify Him and bring honor to His Name among non-believers. 

    2) Pray for the leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-3).  We are to intercede, petition, and give thanks for our leaders.  We are not to pray for their demise; rather, we are to pray for their wisdom and well-being so that we may live “peaceful and quiet lives.” 

    3) Honor all people (1 Peter 2:17).  It does not matter if you disagree radically with someone’s political perspective; you are to respect and honor them.  Don’t slander them (even if they slander you); don’t call them stupid (or regard them as stupid in your head); treat them as you would want to be treated. 

    4) Honor the king (I Peter 2:17).  We are not to shun or dishonor our President, nor are we to say outlandish things about leaving the country.  We are to esteem him, even though we may disagree him. 


    Let us honor our King through how we treat the leaders of our government. 


    Scott

     
  9. Redemptive Work is Always Costly

    Redemptive work is always costly. There is no hope of ease for the faithful servant of the cross. It is involved in the very nature of his task that he can never be at the end of it. Not his to evade the burden and the heat of the day. Physical weariness, sickness of heart, bitter disappointment, the strain of the passion of souls, all the wear and tear of vicarious burden bearing; these he will know in full measure. He may even find himself wondering sometimes why he ever accepted a commission in a warfare in which there is no discharge. He may even have moods when a haunting sense of anticlimax overwhelms him. It’s one thing to set out gallantly when the flags are waving and drums summoning to a new crusade. But it’s quite another thing to keep plodding on when the road is difficult and the initial impetus has spent its force and the trumpets of the dawn have ceased to blow. It’s one thing to have inspirations – another to have tenacity…
    If ever a man finds the work of the ministry becoming easily manageable and surmountable ; an undemanding vocation without strain or any encumbering load of care, he is to be pitied, not congratulated. For he has so flagrantly lost touch with one whose ministry of reconciliation could be accomplished and fulfilled through Gethsemane and Calvary. Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins… unless something of the pastor’s lifeblood goes into his quest for souls and into the word he brings them from the Lord, the quest remains fruitless and the word devoid of delivering power.  — Alistair Begg
     
  10. Doubt & Hopelessness

    Then the Rabshakeh said to them,  “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: “What confidence is this in which you trust?”’”  — 2 Kings 18:19

    In II Kings 18, Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, besieged Judah.  In this chapter, Sennacherib sends an emissary to deliver a message intended to demoralize the inhabitants of Judah by weakening their faith and emphasizing their hopelessness.

    1) The first pillar that Satan strikes at is our trust in God.  Do we believe that God is bigger than Satan?  Do we trust God to deliver you from dire circumstances?  Do we believe that God will provide a way of escape from the hardest temptation?  If we doubt, the chances of us going to the Lord and crying out for deliverance is greatly diminished.  If we do not go to the Lord, Satan will always prevail.  We must keep our confidence in the Lord. 

    2) Satan will confront us with hopelessness.  The Assyrian army (185,000 strong) and technology outnumbered the two tribes of Judah by a great amount. There was no way for Judah to fight and win with their own strength.

    We encounter situations like this too.  Life presents us with problems that have no good solution.  Some temptations seem as though they are unable to be conquered.

    And often times, we’re right.  They cannot be solved or conquered with our intellect, willpower, or strength.

    But, with God, all things are possible. 

    What Satan tries to do is to keep us from going to God in the first place.  He tries to get us to fight him with our own means.  He tries to get us to surrender to circumstance, temptation, and trial without even appealing to God’s help.  He lies and tells us that God cannot and will not help, and that God is condemning us for our reactions.  Satan knows that as long as we don’t call upon the God of the universe, he has nothing to fear.  Victory is assured. 

    But, if we call out to God, if we humble ourselves and call upon His name, victory is assured for us!  We are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us (Rom. 8:37).  Jesus has already defeated Satan, sin, and the grave through His death on the cross (Col. 2:13-15) .  We are made alive through Christ, and the same power that conquered the grave lives in us (Rom. 8:9-11).

    So. let us not fall prey to Satan’s lies of doubt and hopelessness; go early and often to the throne room of God; there is rest and victory there. 

    Scott

     
  11. Ahab’s Humility and God’s Mercy

    See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me?  Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days.  In the days of his son I will bring the calamity on his house.  — I Kings 21:29

    Ahab was a wicked king.  He did more to provoke God to anger than any king that lived before him in Israel (I Kings 16:33).  He worshiped false gods and sold himself to do wickedness (I Kings 21:25-26).  Yet, when Elijah proclaimed God’s judgment upon him, Ahab humbled himself. 

    And what did God do?  Scoff and say that it wasn’t good enough?  Revel in Ahab’s desperation? 

    Nope.

    God had mercy.  One act of goodness was all God needed to postpone the judgment and show Ahab mercy. 

    With man, it is usually not so.  We tend to do the opposite; we let one act of evil overshadow many acts of goodness.  We are too often like the unforgiving servant who refused to forgive the small debts that was owed him after he was forgiven a debt that he could never repay (Matthew 18:21-35).  We are often quick to judge and quick to believe that we can discern hearts, even though we cannot see past the outward appearance.  We have a skewed sense of justice in which our wrongs aren’t actually that bad and others’ wrongs against us are far worse than what we have ever done to anyone else. 

    Our ability to forgive and have mercy depends on how closely we have been walking with the Lord.  Walking closely with the Lord will lead to an increased awareness of our own sinfulness.  It is much easier to forgive when we are aware of how much we have sinned against the Lord, and how much he has forgiven us. 

    Walking closely leads to humility.  We must realize that we are nothing before God and that we are equal with the other person.  A humble heart allows us to see that it could easily be us sinning egregiously against them. 

    Finally, walking closely with the Lord allows the Holy Spirit to work powerfully.  Forgiveness is not a natural act.  We need the Holy Spirit to forgive others.

    Let us walk closer to Jesus and extend forgiveness and mercy generously. 

    Scott

     
  12. Recommend

    A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis.  Powerful. 

     
  13. On Obedience

    You are My friends if you do whatever I command.  — John 15:14

    Our obedience to God must be complete.  We must obey God in a timely fashion.  We are not to say “Yes, Lord, I’ll do it later” when He tells us to do something now.  We must do what God tells us to do.  Over the past month, I found myself doing something strange.  God would tell me to do something, such as write a blog or to pray, and I would say “I’d rather do this for You instead,” and I would do that.  Instead of writing a blog, I would work on a website for the church.  Instead of praying, I would read a devotional.  Instead of actively serving a person, I would pray.  All of the things I replaced God’s command with looked, to a human eye, like I was serving God.  But I wasn’t.  I was doing what I wanted to do, and easing my conscience by saying that “it was for God.”  It was not for God, because that was not what He called me to do.  Finally, we must do all that God calls us to do.  We must not let any of His words hit the ground.  We need to follow His commands fully; anything less is disobedience. 

    Let us be His friends today!

    Scott

     
  14. Exhausted but Still In Pursuit

    "When Gideon came to the Jordan, he and the three hundred men who were with him crossed over, exhausted but still in pursuit." — Judges 8:4

    The Christian is to pursue many things.  We are to pursue righteousness, the upright standing before God and man marked by integrity, straightness, and holiness.  We are to pursue godliness, reverence manifested through pure actions that follow His will and represent His character.  We are to pursue faith,the wholehearted trust that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He’ll do. We are to pursue love, our affection and sacrifice for both God and man.  We are to pursue patience, the endurance to cheerfully bear our circumstances and fellow man.  And, we are to pursue gentleness, a “kindly and humble disposition ” (Believers’ Bible Commentary). 

    But, we grow tired easily.  We becomephysically exhaustedby working long hours, sickness, intense exercise, or a lack of sleep.  We becomementally and emotionally exhaustedthrough worry, stress, and interacting with difficult people.We becomespiritually exhaustedby skipping quiet time, resisting temptation, and doing God’s work with our own strength.  

    It is during these times of exhaustion that Satan loves to strike. 

    He attacks with the intensity of temptation.  You can be sure that Satan willaim at your weakest point — be it lust, anger, or something else — and use his strongest attacks when you are exhausted.  He attacks with theallure oftemptation.  He will do everything in his might to make sin’s rewards seem more fulfilling than spending time with Jesus.  He attacks with thedurationof temptation.  He will not stop at the first parry; you must repeatedly call upon the Lord to resist Him.  He attacks with thevarietyof temptation.  He will try to get you to commit other sins, such as an indulgence in self-pity, discouragement, or idleness in order to diminish your spiritual strength.  

    He does this to deter and halt our pursuit in order to rob the glory from God.  Thus, I pray that we are “sober and vigilant” (I Peter 5:8), “watchful in prayer” (Matt. 26:41), and diligent to “flee youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22) so that it might be said of each of us: “He is exhausted, but still in pursuit.” 

    Scott

     
  15. Iron Man

    Life is often compared to a race. Many people will live life as a competitive race, jarring and fighting their way to the top of the food chain. Capitalism puts everyone in competition with each other and says, “May the best man win.” And if you can’t keep up with the pace, you will be left behind. Some people view life as a “rat race”; there is much activity, but there is no clear meaning to it all.  The Bible speaks of our spiritual life as a race as well. However, the implications are quite different from the world’s view, and the finish line is much greater.

    I was recently watching a TV feature following the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, a triathlon consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. The race starts in the morning at 7:00 AM, and the deadline to finish is 17 hours later at midnight. People from around the world and all different nationalities come to participate in this race. It would seem that only the young and spry participate in this race, but participants come from very diverse demographics. There are men and women, young 20 year-olds and 60 year-old veterans, doctors, lawyers, mothers, coaches, businessmen, those who are healthy and some who are battling cancer, disabled people, people racing despite worries and stresses, people racing just for fun. Everyone joins with one goal in mind: to reach the finish line.

    If an earthly race like the Ironman triathlon is so exciting, how much more is the spiritual race that we run?  If so much glory and joy come from finishing an earthly race, how much more glory and joy comes from finishing the spiritual race?  In 1 Corinthians 9:24 Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.”  Paul is emphasizing the importance of committing whole heartedly to running this race so that we can finish well. The race may be long and the obstacles hard, but we need to keep our mind on the finish line. When the gun goes off initiating the race, nobody can physically see the finish line. However, each athlete runs with dedication, bend after bend, hill after hill, persevering even though the end is not visible. 

    Our spiritual race is not a sprint; it is a distance race, and with many phases. You can’t just walk into the Ironman and expect to finish the race. Proper training and preparation is crucial for finishing well in our race. So much so that Paul writes again,

    “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” — 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

    We don’t run aimlessly. Rather, we have direction. We must be ready to take up the cross daily, subjecting our sinful bodies to discipline, and pursue this race with everything we have.

    As in the Ironman, there are a great number of participants in our Christian lives, who experience similar tough spots, disappointments, and tiredness.  The body of Christ encourages us to keep running and to not give up.  One clip showed a 60 year-old athlete stumbling and falling from sheer exhaustion. Immediately there are people cheering him, “Keep it up! You can do it. You’re almost there.” He gathered himself and got up while people applauded.  People will stumble and fall in their spiritual walks.  Our job is not to condemn them or look down on them, but to encourage them to get back up and run again.  They may feel like quitting on the floor, but we need to encourage them not to stop but to keep going.  What matters most is not how much we fall; what matters is that we keep getting up afterwards each time.

    The final scene of the show showed the finish line with all the athletes crossing.  Great cheers and applause erupted from the crowd as each athlete crossed the line. Whether they came in first or last, jumping through joyously or staggering through finally, there is a glorious welcome for them.  This race is not about who comes in first as much as it is about finishing the race.  This “great cloud of witnesses” is what we read about in Hebrews 12:1.  They are the heavenly cheer squad, watching the race with eager anticipation, ecstatic whenever someone faithfully crosses the finish line.

    There is a tradition, at the end of the Ironman race, when the first physically disabled athlete arrives at the finish line, the winner of the men’s group, who came in earlier, comes to greet and congratulate him. In the same way, we look forward to being greeted by the Firstborn over all creation when we finish our race at last.  And looking back at the momentary struggles during the race we will be able to say, “It was all worth it.”  So, let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us so that in the end we can say like Paul did, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” and run into the arms of Christ.


    Philemon