On Christmas morning I took time to read from Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. The previous day I heard a sermon by Erwin Lutzer called “Space, but no room.” In the message he said, isn’t it amazing that the very Son of God comes to planet earth and is not born in a fancy palace made for a king, but in a manager. The fact that when Jesus finally arrives into this world there is not a single room available in the inn. Isn’t that typical for many today in our culture? There is technology like never before, we have time saving devices for which most of the world would marvel, and yet we have little room or time for Jesus. However, we read in the Bible that the world did find a place for Christ. And the very spot in which they made room for Jesus was at the cross. Yes, when Christ confronts us with our sins then we can receive and bow before Him as Lord, or shout as they did back then, crucify Him, crucify Him! Allow me to make the point one more time there was no room for Him in the inn but there was room for Him on the cross.
And yet when you read the words of the Lord Jesus in John 14:1-3 one gets a glimpse of His grace and mercy;
John 14:1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.
John 14:2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.
John 14:3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
As a point of interest, the word for place in John 14:2 and 14:3 is the Greek word “topos” which is the same word for room that we read back in Luke 2:7. So now connect all the dots and here the gospel message during this Christmas season. When Jesus comes there is no place for Him. However later on we see that the world does have a place for Christ and it is on the cross. And then we read in Romans 5:10 “...while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” And though we have no room for Him, except for room on the cross, He has a room that He prepares for us. What? How in the world can this be? Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Even though I would never want to make room for Him because of my sinful nature, yet now by His grace, through faith I now turn from my sins and turn to Christ alone. The room I didn’t have for Him is the room that He now prepares for me! Isn’t that amazing grace?
Later on I was reflecting about Anna’s excitement regarding my camera. The photos were so clear, so vibrant and it gave me a true appreciation for what that camera could do should I desire to learn. And then it hit me as a good metaphor for those in the church who just have a Bible, and those in the church who really read and enjoy the Bible. I pray for you that as we learn these precious truths about God from His word that it would amaze and thrill you like never before! Hopefully as you look at Christ through the lens of His word in 2009 there will be a vibrance and clarity as never before. What if we, like Anna did for me and my camera, started to introduce those around us to the God of the Bible? Oh that we as the people of God would excitedly sit down with others in our sphere of influence and share our reading and devotion times with them. Then it may be, that God would so work, as to allow them to recognize as valuable what before had been very ordinary.
I am reminded of words in Psalm 1:1-2:
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
My continued prayer is that we, as a Sunday School community, would have an ongoing desire and passion for God’s inspired word to us. That is would have authority in our lives so that as we understand it, and confidently stand under it. As we read, may we become people who want to know, love and serve Christ with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength. So hopefully as we learn, we can teach others to see Him, and know Him as the One who came, lived a perfect life, and died for all who believe in His name. It could be that for many what once was just ordinary can be the very thing that they treasure most in their hearts. And that treasure of course is our Lord Jesus Christ!
Here are several sections that stood out in my devotion time this morning;
The one thing I ask of the Lord—
the thing I seek most—
is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
delighting in the Lord’s perfections
and meditating in his Temple.
Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
For he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and shield.
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.
The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
The Lord reigns as king forever.
The Lord gives his people strength.
The Lord blesses them with peace.
Jesus Christ, God incarnate did come to planet earth, was born of a virgin, was fully God and fully man, lived a perfect life and was sinless, died on a cross was buried and on the third day He rose from the dead. I thankfully have cast myself on the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and have received Him as LORD and savior of my life. There was nothing in me deserving of nor meriting my salvation. Since it was nothing I did but everything that He did there is no way I can boast. How can I boast about a gift that was freely given and also knowing that I had nothing to offer. If someone were to ask me how do I know these truths it would be based on God's word which through research and study I believe is:
Even if I had not done the research these things about the Bible remain true, whether I believe them to be or not. I have used the example before in training about gravity. You can go to the top of the Sears building in Chicago and say all day long that you don't believe in gravity. But as soon as you jump, your wrong and incorrect belief system will yield to a natural law that will overcome your belief system.
Election day is about who will be our President for the next 4 years but at the judgment day we will have our eternal destinies either secured in heaven or in hell. I have heard that one prominent theologian would argue this way with his non-believing friends and family members. He would say something to this effect "Let's say you are right and there are many ways to heaven and no hell at all. Then my believing in Christ, my way will still result in me reaching the same destination as you for eternity. However if I am right in this regard in which Jesus says in John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me" and you are wrong then you will spend an eternity away from God in an eternal hell. This argument was motivated by a protect yourself from a worst case scenario. If you don't believe in Christ then hell is the non-believers only alternative, and that is worst case. (Side note: the not wanting to go to hell is not a saving affection but may be one of the ordained means that God uses to bring about salvation.)
Election day is a cause for some anxiety and worry based on the candidate of choice and future implications. But judgment day is a cause for the most critical and important thinking one can ever do because your eternity is what hangs in the balance.
Romans 3:23 says this "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Your sin and my sin have offended a holy God to the decree that if not paid for will result in our everlasting punishment. Folks you could spend 50 years building hospitals in third world countries that might save millions of lives and still go to hell. Because your works will not earn your way into heaven. We need someone to pay the full price for our sins and that person is Jesus Christ. When we cast ourselves on the mercy of Christ at the cross, trust and receive Him as Lord and Savior, then He pays the penalty of our sin (past, present and future) and breaks the power of sin in our life. At the cross of Christ there is a great exchange. All of my sin is imputed to Christ and all of Christ's righteousness is imputed to me. Just think of this transaction, He doesn't deserve my sin but takes it on and absorbs it, I don't deserve any of His righteousness but He gives it to me freely and credits to my account. So what happens when the truth of the cross is preached to men, women, boys and girls? For those who are perishing it is complete foolishness but to those who are being saved it is the power of God! (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Therefore my time, effort, attention and energy will be spent by God's grace teaching and exhorting others to keep the main thing the main thing. And that is a focus on judgment day not election day!
My devotion time this morning was in Isaiah 45-50. It is very obvious that the "sovereignty" of God is on display in a major way in these chapters. After our tour of the Bible the next stop in our journey will be on the doctrine of God. Therefore it will be, I think, quite exciting for us as a class to see what the Bible says about the sovereignty of God. But for the sake of this email allow me to give a working definition of God's sovereignty as follows; God plans and carries out His perfect will as He alone knows is best, over all that is in heaven and earth, and He does so without failure or defeat.
Check out these verses from the reading this morning (NLT):
5 I am the Lord;
there is no other God.
I have equipped you for battle,
though you don't even know me,
6 so all the world from east to west
will know there is no other God.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
7 I create the light and make the darkness.
I send good times and bad times.
I, the Lord, am the one who does these things. Read More...
John 5:30 "I can do nothing on My own initiative As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."
John 6:38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."
John 8:28 "...So Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me."
John 12:49 "For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak."
John 14:10 "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.
OK, let me see if I really understand these verses. Jesus Christ doesn't speak, teach or do anything on His own initiative! He only does what the Father speaks, teaches and does through Him.
Question - How much did I think about, speak and accomplish this week in my own initiative? Check out what the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31 "Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Read More...
Genesis 6:5 - Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Jeremiah 17:9 - "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick..."
Romans 3:10 - "THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
Romans 3:11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
Romans 3:12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE."
And instead of God exacting His justice by sending a lightning bolt or fire from heaven instead He provides them with a judge. And when these different judges come into power they restore peace to the region and defeat the enemies of Israel. God gives to His own people what they do not deserve, and what do we call that? We call that GRACE and define it as unmerited favor. In the book of Judges you see this continuing pattern, because of their evil the people deserve death and instead God provides to them grace upon grace.
Folks we are no different than those Israelites who were rebelling, worshiping false gods, being sinful and evil. Therefore should God exact His rightful justice on us, in which we would immediately be judged, condemned and sent to an eternal hell. But instead God sends His only begotten Son to absorb the wrath of God for you and me that He did not deserve, and in turn credits to our heavenly account the righteousness of His that we do not deserve. What? Christ gets all my sin and in turn I get all His righteousness! Sometimes in evangelical circles this is called the "great exchange." What do we call that? How about AMAZING GRACE! Read More...
First of all there are three verbs written in the imperative mood which means the mood of command.
So what is Jesus commanding me to do?
Come to Him! When you come somewhere doesn’t that mean you leave where you are? We are commanded to come to Jesus!
Take His yoke! I sat under a Bible teacher who did some excellent research on a yoke. Here were some of his points.
- There is alway a lead ox in the yoke
- A yoke is made for two
- When two animals are yoked together and you see them from the side, it looks as though there are only one pair of legs.
- The miracle of the yoke - If one oxen can pull 2000 pounds when yoked with another oxen they can collectively pull 8-10,000 pounds.
- If anyone tries to get between two oxen yoked together they will suffer physical harm.
Disciple - this word occurs 264 times in the New Testament and means a learner, pupil, disciple. So let’s put it all together.
A disciple of Jesus is a person who is increasing in the knowledge of who He is, and also what He commands as they continue to learn and follow Him daily.
He gives us this teaching in an argument style that moves from the lesser to the greater. Jesus says in essence if My Father can and does take care of a bird and a flower then how much more will He take care of you! We have a tendency to read these words spoken from the and just move on to the next section of Scripture. But I would ask you to stay with this for a few minutes and think. You and I are being watched over by a sovereign God who knows everyone of our needs. And we know from Psalm 139 that He knows them before they even come out of our mouth. Therefore notice today the birds in your neighborhood and some of the flowers. They are a testimony to the fact that even more so God is going to take care of you! Read More...
Read carefully Romans 9:1-3:
I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,
2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,
Do I have the same attitude as the apostle Paul did toward those who are lost?
We know that Paul is a brilliant theologian and a great apostle but he seems to be saying something that he knows he cannot do. However if he could, Paul would trade his very own salvation in order that his Jewish brethren could be saved. Bring that thinking over into your own world for a few minutes. Even though it is Biblically impossible here is the question for consideration. Would you trade your salvation so that those are presently lost from God in Charlotte might be saved? Again where is our heart when it comes to those who are lost?
It doesn’t take much Scripture to bring me under much conviction regarding areas of my life that need to be prayed over and acted on in a more intentional way.
Here is my devotion for Genesis 12. Look at the phrase "I will" it occurs 6 times in Genesis 12:1-7. What is God saying? Specifically He is telling Abram what He will do.
1. I WILL show you the land (12:1)
2. I WILL make you a great nation (12:2)
3. I WILL bless you (12:2)
4. I WILL bless those who bless you (12:3)
5. I WILL curse those who curse you (12:3)
6. I WILL give you the land (12:7)
What did Abram do to deserve these "I WILL'S" from God?
Was it something that his parents did?
Could it be that Abram in some way merited these things from God because of his good behavior? Read More...
I found it very interesting that the "parable of all parables" according the Lord Jesus (Mark 4:13), deals with the relationship between the word and our hearts. It has been very beneficial for me over the years to find Scripture to pray that my heart would be passionately inclined toward God's word. This is how I apply this truth to my life as I wake up in the morning "Dear Father please give me a desire for You today as I come to Your word. Lord please, please, please open my eyes that I might behold wonderful things from Your word. Keep me from those things that would turn my heart from you therefore satisfy me and delight me with Yourself this morning!" In essence each day starts with a desperate need for the Lord Jesus and His word. And yes I am aware of those forces that are constantly working to dull and callous my heart toward the Bible.
Nancy and I have had the opportunity to spend lots of time at the beach around Charleston. Many times when you swim in the Atlantic Ocean during the summer there is a strong current. If you don't resist and go with the flow in just minutes you will be a hundred yards from your original location. Just like swimming in the Atlantic we are in the middle of a strong spiritual current in America. This current is composed of the evil one, culture and our flesh. Can you imagine how quickly and how far one can drift from the very living word of God and yes while even in the church? I have talked to many people over the years who are casual and even apathetic about the Bible. Folks hear me, we can't be casual about our relationship to the Lord Jesus and His word! Listen to what Moses says in Deut. 32:46-47 he said to them, “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. “For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life.." Please take this to heart, the words from God Himself, that He desires to speak to you tthrough the Bible are not just casual, idle words these words are your life!
Before I discuss my devotion time this morning I want to share “how” I have a devotion time. Please hear me clearly regarding my next statement. This is not “the” way but rather it is “a” way for you to structure a devotion time. I will give you the specifics (those that are first born really like details) however I would suggest you learn the principles and adjust them to your own personality and temperament.
First I get settled into the same place each day that I have my devotion time. Some people have a certain chair in a certain room. I have found over the years that a specific place tends to put your mind into a certain mode when you go there day after day.
The next thing is prayer and my heart. Early on in my devotion life two verses were constantly on my heart and mind:
Psalm 119:18 - “Open my eyes that I might observe wonderful things from Thy law”
Jeremiah 33:3 - “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you (B)great and mighty things, (C)which you do not know.”
Also there is a time of searching my heart in order to confess sin that the Lord may bring to my mind. Here are a couple of verses in this regard:
1 John 1:9 - “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and (B)to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Psalm 139:23-24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. Read More...
Do you remember King Solomon in the Old Testament? Can you imagine the Lord Jesus stopping by your home tonight, knocking on the door and then coming in and granting a prayer request for you? What do you think would come to mind and what would you ask for? This happened to King Solomon and of all the things he could have asked for, do you remember what he specifically asked for? Some would answer that he asked for wisdom but let’s look and see exactly what the Scripture says.
1 Kings 3:5 - In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, "Ask what you wish me to give you."
1 Kings 3:9 - "So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?"
The word for understanding in Hebrew could also be translated as hearing. Therefore we could say that King Solomon prayed for a HEARING HEART! Read More...
Now for the application of what Jesus spoke to his disciples. Do some study on the word Jesus uses to describe the leaven of the Pharisees? What does this word mean? Look it up in an English dictionary and then do so in a Greek lexicon if you have that as a study tool. Can you think of anywhere in Scripture Jesus may have addressed the Pharisees in regard to this particular leaven. (Hint: Matthew 23)
Could this be a significant issue in your own life that may be hardening your heart to the point that you are prevented from clearly hearing the words of Jesus?
Remember we are learning to read, devote and study correctly in order that we may live correctly before God!
class. For years I have been concerned that those within the church have forgotten or
possibly have never learned the basics. This particular class teaching will focus on the
following doctrines which we are calling “BACK TO THE BASICS”
Please don’t be intimidated with the word doctrine. Doctrine is simply what the Bible has to say about a particular subject. The initial emphasis in our class will be to exhort people back to a consistent and exciting time of Bible reading, devotion and study.
If you will, grab your Bibles and turn to Luke 24:13-35. In this encounter between the Lord Jesus and two disciples you will notice the following:
1. The situation
2. The problem
3. The solution
4. The results
First lets take a look at Luke 24:13-17 (the situation) and see if we can relate. We have two disciples heading to Emmaus (seven miles north of Jerusalem) talking about the events of that day (resurrection day). Then the Lord Jesus shows up and starts walking with them and asks them about the words they are “throwing around.” There are two interesting things we learn about the meeting these disciples had with Jesus.
1. Their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him
2. As He met with and talked with them they looked sad Read More...
Over the years I have heard almost every reason for why people DON’T have a regular
devotion time. Here are probably the top 4 reasons:
1. Lack of discipline to make devotion time in the Bible a priority.
2. Lack of motivation - this can range from the Bible is hard to understand all the way
it just doesn’t seem relevant.
3. Indicates our spiritual condition - a former teacher of mine used to put it this way
“you are no closer to the Lord Jesus than you are to His word.”
4. Lack of the proper skills in “how” to have an effective devotion time.
Here are some helpful tools that can aid in your morning or evening quiet times in the
word of God.
The preparation of the heart is a non-negotiable and without it Bible study will
nothing more than an academic exercise. If there is no illumination and understanding
of the text correctly then there will be no correct application either. Therefore it is
critical that we learn to prepare the heart before we start to read, study and have our
quiet times. As one scholar once said "it doesn't do much good to tune the fiddle when
the concert is over".
1. Confession of known sin or sin that is being tolerated in one's life (1 John 1:9)
2. Prayer of desperation from the heart of one who earnestly desires to hear from, meet with and obey God
➢ I - Incline your heart (Psalm 119:36)
"Incline my heart to Your testimonies
And not to dishonest gain"
➢ O - Open my eyes (Psalm 119:18)
"Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law"
➢ U – Unite my heart (Psalm 86:11)
"Teach me Your way, O LORD;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name"
There are six question words you may use to ask questions of every part of every text. Read More...