The sermons of the apostles centered upon the Resurrection of Christ. This event was the single greatest historical event of human history and they witnessed with their own eyes. What effects did they see the resurrection of Christ to accomplish?
- They saw the resurrection of Christ as a the evidence of Christ’s Messiahship “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye crucified both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36)
- They saw the resurrection of Christ as the provision for the remission of sins. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38)
- They saw the resurrection of Christ as the guarantee of the indwelling Holy Spirit. “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted and having received of the father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he had shed forth this which ye now see and hear.” (Acts 2:33)
- They saw the resurrection of Christ as the source of power to reverse the effects of darkness brokenness and sin. “And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong whom ye see and know. yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.” (Acts 3:16) “Be it known unto you all and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.” (Acts 4:10).
- They saw the resurrection of Christ as the motivation for bold testimony to Christ in the face of persecution. “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20)
- They saw the resurrection of Christ as the first fruit of our own bodily resurrection. “But now Christ is risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. Ecclesiastes 1:18
These words were written by the sage and philosopher king, Solomon. They contradict the quote from Hannah Arndt and the spirit of the age. Whose words ring more real? My money is on Solomon.
But if his words are true, why are they true? Why does knowledge and wisdom increase sorrow. Isn’t it said that the solution for all human maladies is education?
Arndt’s statement assumes a good heart and that evil always redesides outside if me. Solomon knew that evil was innate in the human individual. (2 Chronicles 6:36). Just because we know does not mean we do. In fact knowledge has no power over the will. The human will, untouched by the divine influence of grace, is not naturally subject to the law of God. (Romans 7:13-25; 8:7). We see this illustrated on the daily news.
Therefore knowledge provides only a reason to do right. It requires the will, empowered by divine grace from the Holy Spirit alone, to make knowledge beneficial and practical and real.
There s irony in the drama between Mordecai and Haman which unfolds in the Old Testament book of Esther. Mordecai was a descendant of King Saul, and Haman was the descendant of King Agag. 700 years prior to the current story another story played out in 1 Samuel 15 between Samuel, Saul and Agag, the Amalekite. God instructed Saul to destroy the Amalekites including their King Agag to punish them for fighting his people as they exited Egypt. Saul spared Agag however, setting up another showdown 700 years later between Mordecai and Haman.
Of course the fall of Wicked Haman illustrates great poetic justice. The story highlights the courage of both Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai to risk the King’s wrath by exposing the plot of a prince favored by the King. It further displays the sovereignty of God in protecting His people, Israel.
But one lesson often missed due to the forgotten link between Saul and Mordecai, Agag and Haman is that Disoedience today will lead to problems later.
For 6 years it appeared that God’s covenant with David had been broken. For Athaliah, daughter of Phoenician queen Jezebel was also the wife to Jehoram, King of Judah. When both her husband, Jehoram and her son, Ahaziah, were killed by Jehu, Athaliah seized upon her opportunity to be queen. She destroyed all the royal seed of David–her grandsons– and claimed the throne of David As a Gentile queen. Had God forsaken His promise to David?
But through the the secret intervention of his aunt Jehosheba, Joash was spared as the last surviving male member of David’s family. Jehosheba was King Ahaziah’s sister, Athaliah’s own daughter and wife of the high priest, Jehoiada.
Six years into this reign of Athaliah, Jehoida and Jehosheba, led a coup to overthrow the queen and re-establish the Davidic Kingdom with Joash serving as King. What courage and independence to defy your own mother to save and hide your nephew. Truly an act of sacrifice.
Joash’s story begins with promise and providence. 2 Chronicles 24 tells how Joash’s youthful zeal for the Lord was lost when his mentor, Jehoiada died. Joash allowed himself to be influenced by ungodly friends. His mentor’s son, Zechariah, tried to dissuade him from drifting but Joash had him killed for his rebuke.
A sad end to a promising and providential life.
Anyone who takes time to read the Bible with an open and hungry heart will occasionally encounter verses that jump off the page, stand up and demand attention. This happemed to me this morning as I was reading Isaiah 8. A verse I had never noticed suddenly caught my attention. Today’s blog addresses this phenomenon.
Hebrews 4:12 says “For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 AMPC
The power and mystery of this phenomenon is explained by the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture. The Bible is full of verses waiting to be released upon our hearts. But my question for today is, “why does this phenomenon happen?”
The Holy Spirit, who applies truth to our minds knows exactly what we need at any given time. So when a verse I’ve never noticed before surprises me, I can be sure the Holy Spirit is communicating with me along a line of thought that I need to hear and apply. He knows my thoughts, my struggles, temptations and inner arguments. He uses the Word to awaken my heart to His truth. At that point it’s critical for me to stop reading and allow the truth to sink into my heart. If there is something for me to do differently, I need to obey. If it is a point of encouragement, I need to take heart.
The bottom line is we never know when the Holy Spirit will cause a passage to come alive to us suddenly. But when it happens, He is speaking His truth into a need we have at that moment and it would benefit us to pay attention.
Grace as a human quality is resiliency in trouble; it is kindness in response to criticism; gentleness returned for harshness. It is treating others well when they haven’t earned it.
Grace is not a natural human quality. Gracious living is only possible when we ourselves receive grace from God first. No grace coming in means no grace going out. Supernatural grace to respond in kindness, gentleness and resiliency comes by the disciplines of prayer, humility and servitude.
Oh how we need grace!
1. The danger of an evil heart-“take heed….”this is spoken to Jewish believers
A. It is entity possible for us to allow evil back into our hearts.
B. We are advised to take heed son this does not happen
2. The description of an evil heart-it need not be shocking sin just “unbelief…”
A. Unbelief and disobedience are linked
B. Unbelief and pride are linked
C. Unbelief and defeat are linked.
3. The direction of an evil heart-“departing from the living God.”
A. Unbelief leads away from God
B. Unbelief leads us toward ourselves.
4 . The deception of an evil heart-“hardens the heart”
A. Evil hearts despise truth
B. Evil hearts resist truth
C. Evil hearts replace truth
A1. If the Word is not challenging you, convicting you, changing you, you’re not growing.
Today I am returning to a previous theme; one which I have a difficulty practicing: Solitude. I believe we were made for socialization with God and others. This seems counter to solitude. But solitude can actually enhance our bonds and relationships with those whom we love and love to be with.
Gordon MacDonald wrote about the importance of solitude in his book Ordering Your Private World. Here’s just one reason he says solitude and silence is so critical:
The archenemy of God has conspired to surround us at every conceivable point in our lives with the interfering noises of our civilization that drown out the voice of God.
What is the purpose of solitude? Spiritually, and specifically for the disciple of Christ, solitude is elementary to the one on one relationship we share with Him. Solitude provides quietness for Him to speak to us and for us to meditate on Him. It disconnects us from the tyrannical demands of the clock.
Why is solitude good for us? I took the day off from work and find myself sitting in a local public library. Its quiet except for the music playing through my Bluetooth headphones. But the stillness of the day and stillness of the moment have helped me think about things I would not normally take time to consider. How often do we have the luxury of pondering the more important relationships and decisions in our lives? If you’re like me it’s not often enough.
Where am I headed in life? How can improve my marriage? Should I put in for a promotion? Where are the areas of my life where God seems to reworking me? What are my feelings right now? Am I sad? Why? Am I happy? Why? Who am I becoming? What is the Spirit teaching me?
A vital piece of solitude for the believer the Word of God. The Bible is the source of light, truth, healing and correction. We cheat ourselves when we neglect its power and benefits.
Solitude requires that we disconnect from distractions. At times it may mean we close our eyes and listen to God. At other times it may mean getting buried in a book. Prayer may effective at other times. It may mean writing (which is therapy for me), listening to music which speaks to your heart needs. Whatever the method you use, the outcome should be a brighter outlook, a clearer understanding, a deeper peace, a calm mind and heart. It should increase our mental and spiritual stamina.
I remember the energy, the thrill, the wonder of youth and early days of ministry. There was a conviction that the Word of God and Holy Spirit could work through me to change lives and even the world. The call of God was on my life. I took that call seriously. Caring for and deivering the Word to the congregations under my care became the fulfilling of that calling. Hope was alive. Plans were big.
But over the years life’s unexpected ingredients were being added to the elixir of joyful salvation.
- Ministry disappointments brought disillusionment
- Financial pressures created anxiety
- Cultural shifts threatened uncertainty
- Personal failures created shame
- Relationship losses inflicted sadness
- Family pain caused frustration
- Marriage conflict added loneliness
These ingredients were mixed together in a poisonous brew and I was forced to swallow. The nasty concoction embittered my soul, destroyed my hope, drained my energy and stole my vision. I became cynical. I learned to build walls to hide behind. A sinister shadow of discontent crept in. A heavy fog suggesting God’s disapproval and disappointment seeped into me. Was I in danger of forfeiting something sacred or had the exchange already happened without me realizing it? Not only had I lost the enthusiastic joy of ministry but I had also allowed the joy of personal salvation to die.
Surely I’m not the only servant of God who has ever been poisoned by the heartaches of life. There must be others out there. Have any of them swallowed this brew and avoided the sour stomach. Is there an antidonte available or is my condition terminal?
The Apostle Paul comes to mind. He drank the poison too but seemed to survive without the belly ache I got. How? How could he say in Acts 20:24 “But none of these things move me…”?
In examination of Paul’s testimony in Acts 20, I see the antidote to this poison. The treatment for life poisoning is primarily a transformation of the mind and heart. Buried in Paul’s goodbye speech to the Ephesians elders, we find 8 treatments which helped him avoid the effects of life’s poisons. Here they are:
Treatment 1: He thought of himself as bound in the spirit. He deserved no special treatment.
Treatment 2: He considered his life expendable for His Lord. “Neither count I my life dear to myself.”
Treatment 3: He was focused on ministry. “That I may finish my course …and ministry.”
Treatment 4: He gave people to God instead of worrying about their outcome. “I commend you to God and His grace.”
Treatment 5: He prevented covetousness in his heart. “I have coveted no man’s silver or gold or clothing.”
Treatment 6: He engaged in manual labor to provide for himself. “These hands have ministered to my necessities.”
Treatment 7: He nurtured and practiced generosity of spirit. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Treatment 8: He prayed with his friends. “He kneeled down and prayed with them all.”
One might speculate that Paul was putting on a good face for the Ephesian elders lest they abandon hope too. Maybe deep inside he too felt the burn of life’s poison. But until we try the treatment plan and continue to suffer the effects of the poison, it may be to our advantage to follow the treatment plan.
Leviticus 13:2 KJV
When a man shall have in the skin of his flesh a rising, a scab, or bright spot, and it be in the skin of his flesh like the plague of leprosy; then he shall be brought unto Aaron the priest, or unto one of his sons the priests:
One of the most difficult sections of Old Testament literature to wade through has to be the Levitical laws given to Moses by God. Leviticus Chapters 11-15 provide counsel to Israel on variety of health issues, but all dealing with clean and unclean matters. Chapter 11 prescribes clean and unclean meats. Chapter 12 addresses effects of childbirth upon a woman’s Socio-spiritusl life. Chapters 13-14 provide direction for diagnosing, treating and cleansing leprosy. Chapter 15 covers skin and gland emissions and how they affect the public.
When we consider the doctrine of Biblical inspration, we may not question the authenticity of these teachings but it is a struggle to find something in the Levitical Health Laws which is profitable for instruction in Righteousness. So why were these laws included in holy Scripture. Why not simply enter them into Israel’s historical documents?
But this genre IS part of holy Scripture and God has good reason to include it. A short answer should include the following:
1. This genre of Biblical literature reinforces the notion that God is concerned about the health and cleanliness of His people.
2. It further illustrates the distinction God makes between the holy and unholy, the clean and the unclean, good and evil.
3. The sacred rituals involving the cleansing of the body further point to the conclusion that even daily human activity such as eating, sleeping and sexuality have spiritual implications. Jehovah has an interest in every area of human behavior. He intends for us to encounter Him everywhere always, even in the mundane
4. Further, God has a claim on all human behavior and reserves the right to prescribe or prohibit behavior according to His purposes.
5. At a time when medicine was less developed than in our day, God gave Moses and the priests insights for diagnosis of deadly contagious conditions which had pandemic potential.
So while the Levitical Health Laws are no longer observed, they did serve a purpose of protecting God’s people from dangerous health conditions and death. You may not find practical application from the ceremonial cleansing of the leper but it does show the kindness of God to provide restoration of the untouchables back into society as valuable citizens.