Articles

Not swayed

And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”
(Mark 12:14)

What did these Jewish men recognize about Jesus?

  • That He was true.
  • That He did not care about anyone’s opinion.
  • That He was not swayed by appearances.
  • That He taught the way of God in truth.

Of course their motives were sinister and vindictive, but the character of Jesus was clearly known to them.

Men, will others be able to say this about us?

  • That we are true (sincere, not fake, genuine)?
  • That we don’t get all worked up by what others think?
  • Do others see that we don’t cave in to peer pressure? Do they see us as those trying to keep up appearances?
  • Do others recognize that what we say comes from the truth of God’s word? Do they see us as not standing on the sand of our own opinions and desires but on the rock solid foundation of God’s word? They may not agree with our conclusions, but they can see what we believe is our source for our answers.

When we down to the core of what a real man or a real woman should be, it needs to include this list of qualities that others clearly saw in Jesus. Even as they were trying to destroy Jesus, they could not deny these aspects of His character.

Lessons from Barbara Bush

Today, I wanted to share with you a video of a speech by the former First Lady Barbara Bush. As you know she passed from this life yesterday, and a lot has been shared on various news outlets. This speech is about ten minutes long, and worth your time. She really gives some very good advice, especially about parenting and family.

Barbara Bush – Wellesley College Commencement Speech in 1990.

Lessons from Dog Training Classes

Anna and I have been taking our new puppy to dog training the past month and a half. It has been a very new experience for both of us. Neither of us were really involved in the dog training world before. We have had dogs, but we never went to dog training classes. Our eyes have been opened to a whole new world.

But we have also enjoyed this time as a couple. We have grown through it. Not only was it fun to just go out and be together, but it was very helpful for our relationship to get into this as a couple.

I used to hear people advise that if you wanted to get to know a girl and see if the two of you were able to work together, then try and go canoeing. I’ve heard others say that if you really want to test a marriage, then wallpaper a room together. But I see the point in all of this, including these dog training classes, as giving us opportunities to learn better communication, and chances to work together for a common objective.

For example, at this dog training center, I saw a couple that clearly had marital issues, and the dog training revealed it for everyone to see. The dog wasn’t the problem, the owners were. Another person was getting very frustrated with her dog in another area, and the trainer said “Hey, the puppy’s not in trouble, the mom (owner) is!” The trainer was working on the owner’s attitude, not the dog’s. It can be nerve-wracking to try new things with your dog while everyone including the trainer is watching. And if your dog is going berserk with all the new dogs and smells, then it can be particularly stressful as you want to try to focus on training. Add that stress to two people trying to work together, and it can show some areas we need to work on ourselves in our marriage!

I guess what I’m saying in all of this ramble is to take opportunities (if you are not already doing it) to get involved in something fun and challenging together as a couple. It will be great to spend time together, for example we took this opportunity to get a coffee on the way there and french fries on the way back! Okay, junkie I know, but it was a fun date night for us. We plan on continuing classes at that dog training center, and I’m looking forward to spending this time with Anna. It is helping me as a husband to think differently. Train the human (me) first, then the dog.

A few Scriptures about demon possession

Today I wanted to write down a few thoughts about demon possession. One of my kids asked me about this yesterday, so it got me to thinking. Right now I am preaching through the book of Mark and immediately in Mark chapter 1 you see Jesus confronting the demonic realm and casting out demons.

Here are a few observations from Scripture about it. This is not intended to be an exhaustive answer on the demonic realm and demon possession. But hopefully the passages and thoughts below can prove helpful.

Demon possession was temporarily allowed to demonstrate Christ’s dominance over Satan and the power of darkness. The Devil is the “strong man” in this parable of Jesus in the following pasasge. Jesus was disarming Satan and showing His power over Satan by casting out demons. Through this, Jesus clearly demonstrated that the kingdom of God has come.

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.
(Luke 11:14-22)

It seems like those possessed by demons were overtaken without an invitation. The demons just came in them and overtook them. The host was unable to resist and powerless to do anything about it. This took a miraculous intervention by someone with divinely-given authority. Others tried, but the demons knew who had that miraculous power (Acts 19:15).

A demon was cast out miraculously and promptly. There was no long drawn out exorcism that lasted for days. Jesus and the apostles said, “Get out!” and they did. If Jesus didn’t want a demon to speak, He rebuked it and made it silent (Mark 1:34).

After the book of Acts, you do not see the church receiving instruction on how to deal with demon possession. You see a limited blast of demonic possession in Matthew through Acts, but it was just that…limited.

Those today who are “taken captive” by Satan do so by invitation, and the escape is through receiving the invitation to follow Christ. We invite the Devil into our heart. And the way to “exorcise” Satan is through the teaching of the word of God. In the passage below, the way we escape from Satanic captivity is through listening to and obeying the truth of Scripture.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
(2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Sometimes we can get enamored by the intrigue of this topic, and look for complicated answers to today’s questions. People are acting “possessed” today, and that is for sure, but the simple answer is they need the word of God, not an exorcism.

What Will Be On My Lips Today?

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
(Hebrews 13:15)

We are a holy priesthood. As Christians, we are serving God in His temple offering up sacrifices. The old temple is gone, and with it went the Levitical priesthood. Jesus is our high priest, and every Christian serves as a priest.

Our sacrifices are not like those of the Old Testament order. There is no altar in front of the church building where we bring lambs, bulls and goats. We are not to be pouring out oil and wine as a drink offering.

We are the offering. We are the sacrifice…Daily. Our character, our thinking, our choices, our words, our generosity, and our relationships are all part of our spiritual service to God (Romans 12:1-2). That is true religion, according to James (James 1:26-27).

Specifically today, let us consider that the sacrifice we are to be offering to God is praise from our lips. It is readily apparent that everyone’s favorite topic is themselves, and the Internet/Social Media doesn’t help that much. For us to have the praise of God on our lips is truly a sacrifice because we are giving Him the attention and glory rather than ourselves.

The apostle Peter also spoke of you and me as priests offering up spiritual sacrifices to God. Notice the connection to our words.

you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 2:5)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
(1 Peter 2:9-10)

So, what will be on my lips today? Gossip? Complaining? Dirty Speech? Rough joking? Remember that the lips reveal what is in the heart. If our wells are dirty, so will the water be at the faucet. What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.

Don’t we all need to fill our wells with more of the praise of God? Shouldn’t we all devote more time to meditating on the wonderful character of God, so that praise is a natural result of what has been going on in our hearts?

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. If you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you keep company with adulterers. “You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
(Psalms 50:14-23)

Looking Intently in the Mirror

Thank you to Nathan Booth for getting the website techie stuff sorted out this morning. Sorry for the delay in sending out this article.

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
(James 1:21-25)

The word here is described as:

  • A seed implanted in the heart.
  • A mirror that reveals and exposes your character.
  • The perfect law of liberty.

We also see how we are to be doers and not hearers only.

  • If we hear but don’t do, we are deceiving ourselves. If we plant a good seed in the ground, but fail to remove all the weeds competing for the same resources, then the good seed is not going to be productive. That’s why James says to get rid of the filthiness and wickedness. Only then can the implanted word “save” our souls.
  • If we hear but don’t do, we are like one who looks intently into a mirror but then walks away and forgets what the mirror told him. The mirror tells it like it is, and I do not always like looking in the mirror. If the mirror tells me I need to lose weight and take better care of myself, what do I do with that info? Do I walk into the kitchen and eat a pound of bacon? You see, James tells us that studying the Bible can actually end up deceiving us. Not that the Bible deceives us, but that we deceive ourselves thinking we did something great by merely studying the Bible. So I read the book of James…great! What did I do with the information I studied in James? That’s what matters!
  • If we hear but don’t do, we will not be blessed. If we hear and do and “persevere,” then James says we will be blessed in our “doing.” I love how James calls the God’s Word the “perfect law of liberty.” LAW and LIBERTY don’t fit well together in our thinking. It is like chocolate and broccoli! We want to think liberty is being able to do whatever we want. Freedom from restrictions, absence of restraint, nobody telling us what to do, no inhibitions, no rules…that’s freedom! That’s actually slavery, because that’s where it ends up. With that mindset, we become enslaved to debt, pleasure, substances, people, etc. God’s rules, His perfect Law, brings liberty. Freedom is in following Him. Liberty is in being liberated from the chains of selfishness and lust.

Corban

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”‘ (that is, given to God)– then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
(Mark 7:8-13)

Here in Mark 7, Jesus is having one of many run-ins with the Jewish leadership, and during this encounter He exposes their hypocrisy in how they are using their religion as a convenient excuse to mistreat their parents.

Here are a just a few quick thoughts for today.

One command of God does not offset another. They were to honor God and to give to God, but they were also to honor their parents and give to them. God does not give us contradictory commands. He does not put us in a dilemma where keeping one command would cause us to violate another.

Man’s tradition does not go before God’s commands. The Jewish leadership, not God, came up with the “corban” concept that if something was dedicated to God they could not afterward use that money or property to help mom and dad.

Honoring mom and dad involves our finances, not just our words of support. Maybe these Jews would tell mom and dad they loved them, and maybe these Jews convinced themselves they were doing God’s will, but Jesus said they were dishonoring their parents by not supporting them financially in their time of need.

Washing and Pigs

For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
(2 Peter 2:20-22)

One more thought on pigs today. Peter uses two nasty images to describe Christians who return to the life of sin. Dogs returning to eat their own vomit…I don’t know of a nastier, more disgusting analogy. Also Peter writes of a sow having been washed only to return to rolling around in the mud. What was the point of washing the pig in the first place?

We have to be reminded about the nasty nature of sin. To God it is disgusting and sickening. When God thinks of us returning to the ways of Satan, He sees it like a dog returning to eat his own puke or a clean pig rushing out to jump in the mire. We must see it this way, guys. Jesus cleansed us with His own blood, He was slaughtered and tortured for our deliverance from the filth of sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). For us to return to it is to consider that blood something ordinary and common (Hebrews 6:6; 10:29).

For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.
(1 Thessalonians 4:7-8)

God is calling us to holiness. He washed us, and He allows us to go back into the yard. It is our choice as to whether we will choose holiness or choose to roll in the mud again. What will you and I choose today?

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
(Romans 6:1-4)

Gold Rings and Pigs

I didn’t intend initially to have a theme on pigs, but several passages came up in my searching relating to swine in Scripture. It’s not the most attractive topic, but hopefully we can make a silk purse from a sow’s ear (…just couldn’t resist).

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion (Proverbs 11:22)

Today’s verse speaks of things that are really a waste. Can you imagine spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a fancy gold ring, maybe even with a diamond in it, only to attach it to a pig’s snout? What would people think of you if you did such a thing?

Solomon takes that imagery and then compares the beauty of a woman to that gold ring. She may be pretty and quite the head-turner, but when you get to know her you find out what she is like on the inside. God gave her all that beauty and she went and put it on a pig’s nose. What a waste.

It’s not just a female thing. Remember Absalom? He was quite the looker, but it was just lipstick on a pig. You can see this all around you, can’t you? God has just poured out a ton of physical blessings on people, allowing them to look very attractive, have tons of athletic ability, and from all outside appearances they are just beautifully put together people. They know it, too, and they use it. Sadly many others around them are also very shallow and they are drawn to that pretty package. But behind the curtain is a stinky swine.

Social media is quite the promoter of this problem. With all the quick access to cameras and instant posting, we can all draw immediate attention and reaction to our physical features. And we can add all kinds of filters as well to make us look even better. It has proven to be literally addictive for many people, not just young people. But to what has God called us to pay attention?

Here are two verses, showing this applies to men and women.

Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear–but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
(1 Peter 3:3-4)

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
(1 Samuel 16:7)

If you have been blessed with physical beauty and tons of athletic ability, then with all your might do not make that your focus. Your clothing, conversation and social media posts declare clearly where your focus is. The world says, “Get it while you can,” and “Flaunt what you got.” Jesus says, “Glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6). Let your character, conversation and choices be your testimony to others.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
(Proverbs 31:30-31)

Pearls and Pigs

When you think of pigs, what do you think of? Well, I’m hungry so I’m thinking bacon. But we see the Bible talking about pigs being the lowest of the low, like dogs. Gentiles were considered to be pigs and dogs. The picture of a pig is not like the cute and cuddly Wilbur from Charlotte’s Web. Pigs stink and roll around in the mud. If you have ever fed hogs you know they don’t have manners. They will knock you over to get to their food.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
(Matthew 7:6)

Jesus told us to have discernment in order to determine when to cease teaching someone. As Christians, we can learn when it is time to move on. As God’s children, we can begin to recognize when we are casting pearls before swine. We have to be careful about it, and pray for God’s love and mercy. We don’t want to move on when God wants us to stick it out and keep teaching. But we also probably have experienced times in our life when we spent way too much time and tears on someone who could have cared less.

The Lord taught us that we must develop discretion and learn when it is time to move on. Sometimes you are just laying down fancy jewelry on the ground for a pig who could care less about pearls. If the pig does happen to swallow the pearl, it will just pass through if you know what I mean.

Here are several passages from Scripture that teach us God’s wisdom about learning to move on. There are some people that will eventually display to you that it is not worth beating your head against the wall for them.

Look at the contrast Jesus gives between his disciples and the crowd. The crowd, for the most part, didn’t really want to learn, nor did they really see Jesus as the source of eternal life. The disciples on the other hand, were always asking and begging to learn and understand more.

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
(Mark 4:10-12)

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.
(Mark 4:33-34)

You see, Jesus knew when to take time to explain things. He also knew when it was time to “shake the dust” off His feet.

And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.
(Matthew 10:14)

Some are constantly learning and never coming to the knowlege of the truth (2 Timothy 3:6-10). They get an “A” in book smarts but an “F” in wisdom. The Scriptures warn us that if we focus so much on casting pearls before swine, then we may get trampled by the pigs.

Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
(Proverbs 9:7-9)

A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise.
(Proverbs 15:12)

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.
(Proverbs 23:9)

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool. Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight. A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools. Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence. Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool. Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard. Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
(Proverbs 26:1-12)

Meditate upon these things today. There are people around you who are hungering for the word. Teach them. There are others who will fight you on every point. Teach them too, but know there is a time to move on and let the seed that was planted do its work. God’s word will do exactly what He designed it to do in their heart. You could be driving yourself crazy with someone who is acting like the fool of Proverbs while someone else is really hungering for the word and you have not given them the attention and time they need.

Think about it.