The Word of the Lord Endures Forever

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grace, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grace. The grace withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you (1 Peter 1:22-25).

Look at the above passage and see what God’s word says about itself. It is incorruptible. The word has power to transform someone so that because of the word a person is “born again.” God’s word “lives.” The word abides forever. Everything else on earth perishes, but God’s word endures forever. This word includes the gospel which saves men’s souls.

This is only one of many places in the Bible where such claims are made. The Psalmist wrote, “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalms 119:89). Jesus Himself claimed, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

The apostle Peter, as he knew his time was short on earth, promised to the brethren that they would always have access to these words which came from God. Read 2 Peter 1:12-21. Atheists, skeptics, and even some claiming to follow Jesus will claim that things have been lost over the years. They claim we cannot have any assurance that the Bible we have now is what they were given then.

A claim is not true just because someone makes it. A claim must be tested. So, test the claims of the Scripture. The truth never suffers from investigation.

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever

We just finished a meeting last week with Dr. H.E. Payne, Jr. (most know him as Buddy Payne). He is the President of Florida College. Among his other lectures on microscopic and macroscopic evidence for intelligent design, Dr. Payne also presented two lessons on “Can We Trust Our English Versions of the Bible?” I encourage you to listen to these two lectures. The overwhelming answer at the end of part 2 is “YES!!”

Can We Trust Our English Versions of the Bible? Part 1

Can We Trust Our English Versions of the Bible? Part 2

They Are New Every Morning

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him (Lamentations 3:19-25).

Many of you reading this already have heard that last Tuesday night our family suffered a tragedy in that our barn and riding arena burned down, and we lost our horses, sheep, goats and chickens. The family and our house is safe, praise God. But the pain we are experiencing is just hard to put into words. We certainly welcome your continued prayers to God on our behalf as we walk through this trial and seek healing and comfort. The outpouring of love and support from neighbors, the church family and from friends around the country has been overwhelming. God is good, and His love is seen in the people He has made in His image.

They Are New Every Morning

The picture I have attached to this post is of the sun beginning to rise on Friday morning. You know the sun rises every morning? Even when there is devastation and pain, the sun rises every morning. Seeing the sunrise made me think of the above passage in Lamentations written by Jeremiah.

Jeremiah was standing in the midst of Jerusalem after its destruction. An entire city including the temple Solomon built for Israel to worship the Lord their God was destroyed and burned. I can only begin to imagine the devastation he saw. I can only begin to imagine the deep pain Jeremiah experienced as he surveyed the carnage. Fires take a long time to go out. The smells and sights are things you will never remove from your mind. Worse than that for Jeremiah was that he preached for decades warning of this event, yet the people did not listen nor repent. The book of Lamentations is structured such in the Hebrew that Jeremiah is literally weeping from A to Z.

Yet in the midst of all that pain, Jeremiah called to his mind some very important qualities of God. When we are in the depths our pain, we must also call to mind these qualities of God. I will leave you with these hopeful phrases from Lamentations 3.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.

His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning.

Great is Your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul.

Therefore I will hope in Him.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.

Abhor What Is Evil

“Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”  Romans 12:9

It really is a simple concept, isn’t it?  Abhor, detest, or hate evil.  Cling to, adhere to, or cleave to what is good.  Who gets to define evil and good?  It has always been and will always be God.  God, the creator of all things, established good and evil from the beginning and ever since man has been confusing the two.

Why is that?  What motivates us to pervert such a simple concept?  Why do we, “call evil good, and good evil…substitute darkness for light and light for darkness?”  (Isaiah 5:20)

I submit to you that the main reason is shame.  Psychologists and therapists make very good livings trying to help people overcome their shame.  The alcohol and prescription drug industries are fueled by people intent on medicating their shame.  We will do everything we can to avoid shame.

Shame is the product of violating a set of standards that people and society holds.  We manipulate those standards, change laws, redefine marriage, and crucify morality to avoid shame.  We get so wrapped up in marginalizing sin to overcome shame that we fail to see it as a gift from God.  “Guilt is the fact of men doing wrong.  Shame is the God-given response to that fact.” – Andy Cantrell

Even though our culture is in a free fall and godly principles are openly mocked, it doesn’t change the fact that right is right and wrong is wrong.  We deceive ourselves as Christians if we think this is just a problem in the world.  The church faces the same challenge and is slowly being conformed to the world’s way of thinking.  God’s standards are being eroded in the body of Christ and too often we don’t even notice.

Brothers, we can do better…we must do better.

  • We must do better in the things we meditate on.
  • We must do better in the movies we watch.
  • We must do better in the language we use.
  • We must do better in how we treat each other.
  • We must do better in the clothes we wear.
  • We must do better in the priorities we set for our families.
  • We must do better.

“For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” I Peter 2:21-24

Jesus lived in a broken world, among sinful people, and was crucified by evil men yet He never compromised His Father’s standards.  We must reach for that same standard, following in His footsteps, being driven by deep appreciation and profound gratitude for our Lord’s sacrifice.

Do You See This Woman?

Yesterday, Anna and I heard an incredible sermon by brother Mike Sullivan in Lafayette, Indiana. Mike’s sermon came from Luke 7:36:50 which is the account of the sinful woman, Jesus and Simon the Pharisee. I don’t believe the sermon audio is available yet, but here is the link for the church’s sermon page for you to check later. This question of Jesus, “Do you see this woman?” is a question that would serve us well to consider.

For today, please take a few minutes to read Luke 7:36-50. Meditate upon what the Holy Spirit says here in the text. As you read it, think about two of the questions that Mike asked the congregation to consider:

  1. Are you more like Jesus or Simon the Pharisee? How Jesus saw this woman was light years away from how Simon the Pharisee saw this woman. Simon saw a woman who disgusted him. Jesus saw a sinner who was deeply overwhelmed with gratitude and love because of His grace, mercy and forgiveness. Both men saw her sins, even Jesus said, “they are many,” (Luke 6:47). However, the two men saw her and her sins from completely different perspectives.
  2. Are you more like the sinful woman or more like Simon the Pharisee? Simon saw in himself very little need for mercy from Jesus because he was self-righteous. The sinful woman clearly understood that she was unrighteous and in desperate need of the grace of Jesus. Mike made the observation that how we view the grace and mercy of Jesus is directly correlated to our love and devotion to Jesus. She “loved much” because she understood how much Jesus loved her first (Luke 6:47; 1 John 4:19).

Do You See This Woman?

A final thought for this morning comes back to one of the questions Jesus asked Simon the Pharisee. “Do you see this woman?” (Luke 6:44). Think of how Simon initially saw the woman. Sinful. Disgusting. Shameful. Inappropriate behavior in his house. Now think about how Jesus wanted Simon to see the woman upon second look. Also, consider how Jesus wanted Simon to see himself.

This is critical stuff, men. Let’s think about these things today.

Our soul loathes this worthless bread

Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died (Numbers 21:4-6).

God provided manna, bread from heaven, for the children of Israel. Every day was a miracle. Their food was miraculously provided for 40 years. Do the math. 6 days a week (extra manna provided on Friday for the Sabbath day) for 40 years. That’s a myriad miracles, and a gazillion tons of manna. They called it “worthless.” On top of that they said, “our soul loathes” it.

I was reading 1 Corinthians 10 yesterday where Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians about the Israelites in the wilderness. The sins they committed were recorded for us as examples, Paul explained, so that we do not repeat them. One of those sins Paul specified was complaining.

It just reminded me of how serious God takes complaining. If you haven’t done this lately, look through the Bible and do some word searches for words like grumbling, murmuring and complaining. See what God says about it. Look at the consequences. Lots of people died at God’s own hand because of it.

Our soul loathes this worthless bread

So, here we are, living under Christ, walking in His grace, and Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 to remember how God views complaining. It is still a serious thing to God, just as serious as sexual immorality and idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Sometimes we are tempted to think that the big sins are sexual immorality and murder, but complaining is just a little sin. We would be well served to take a walk through Exodus through Deuteronomy with the children of Israel to refresh our memories of God’s view of complaining.

Today, let us take a moment to thank God.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

If we recognize that we are living an ungrateful life, and have a complaining spirit, we should get down on our knees and ask for the Lord’s forgiveness and mercy. We also should ask the Lord to teach us to be more thankful. May God help our hearts to be content, and may our words express that daily. It is helpful for us to take regular inventory of how richly God has blessed us. That old song still rings true, “Count your many blessings.”

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15).

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits (Psalm 103:2).

Chapters of Bad Advice

I got this idea from hearing a sermon by Russ LaGrone. He preached a sermon, giving three examples from 1 Kings 12-13. Russ titled this section of 1 Kings, “Chapters of Bad Advice.” Not that God gave bad advice, but that these 4 men all followed bad advice. It resulted in disaster. I’m going to add one more example from 1 Kings 11 (Solomon).

  1. King Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-8). He listened to his pagan wives who turned his heart from God.
  2. King Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:1-16). He listened to the young men who grew up with him instead of the elders who had advised his father Solomon.
  3. King Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:25-33). He listened to his own heart (vs. 33).
  4. The Young Man of God (1 Kings 13:1-34). He listened to an older prophet who claimed that an angel spoke to him.

Chapters of Bad Advice

What I noticed about each of these men is that the answers/truth were right before them. The truth was not hard to find. Good advice was not far away. They all simply chose not to follow good advice.

  1. King Solomon knew the commands of God about marrying wives from idolatrous nations. It wasn’t that he was confused about God’s expectations; he had God-given wisdom that surpassed any who ever lived.
  2. King Rehoboam had great advice from seasoned and experienced elders. The truth wasn’t far away, he just didn’t want to hear it.
  3. King Jeroboam had the priests and Levites who faithfully taught the truth right before him, but he rejected them and gave them the boot (2 Chronicles 11:14).
  4. The young prophet in 1 Kings 13 repeated God’s clear commands twice (vs. 9,16-17). God wasn’t vague on what he expected the young man of God to do. The truth was clear. He chose to listen to a “religious authority” instead of listening to God (Galatians 1:8).

Great Advice and Truth is Close by you

Moses made this very point in his final speeches to Israel.

“For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).

The word is very near you. It is not mysterious, nor is it far off. Men, let’s take inventory of who is advising us, and whose advice we follow. God promised the right answers if we truly seek for it, but He will not shelter us from bad advice, either. Both options are laid before us: both truth and error, good advice and bad. Choose wisely.

Asa’s Prayer

King Asa and his soldiers drew up in battle against the Ethiopian army. Although Asa’s soldiers numbered 580,000, the Ethiopian army had a million men (2 Chronicles 14:8-9). Anybody can take a brief look at this matchup and realize that Asa’s men were in trouble. They were vastly outnumbered. Look at Asa’s prayer as he assesses the situation.

Then Asa called to the LORD his God and said, “LORD, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O LORD our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You” (2 Chronicles 14:11).

Asa first recognized that he needed help. Secondly, he realized that there was none other than God who can help him. He called this a “battle between the powerful and those who have no strength.” Asa and the people put their trust completely in the Lord’s power. They understood this victory would be for God’s glory (“in Your name”).

The Lord answered this prayer mightily, and He routed the Ethiopians before Asa and Judah. The Ethiopians, the powerful, the million man army, fled (2 Chronicles 14:12).

Asa’s Prayer Revisted Later in Life

In time, Asa began to depart from the Lord. He began to trust in men rather than in God. The Lord sent the prophet Hanani to remind King Asa of what God did for him.

“Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His…” (2 Chronicles 16:8-9).

Yet because you relied on the Lord – What will the Lord do for His people when we rely on Him rather than on our own wisdom and strength? His eyes are moving all over the globe today, but what are God’s eyes looking for? He is looking to “strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

You may feel without strength in some way this morning. Maybe you feel outnumbered at home or at work. It might be that you look at the size of Satan’s army and you want to tuck your tail in, run and hide. Please keep these passages in mind. God’s eyes are looking to strongly support you. Give your heart completely into His care. Don’t seek the help of man first; seek the help of God first. He will deliver.

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Misplaced Compassion

“When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him.  But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.  When His disciples James and John saw, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’  But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.’  And they went on to another village.”  Luke 9:51-56

Do you see the compassion of James and John in this passage?  You think I’m crazy, right?  This passage is all about James and John bringing down judgment and their failure to have compassion.  But consider why they got upset in the first place.  Is there any indication that James and John were violent, spiteful men?  I don’t believe they made a habit of walking around, looking for offense, so they could “justify” human BBQs.  So what caused this strange and irrational response to the Samaritans?  I think there are two prominent elements at work here.

First, we know there is a long history of animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans and the Jews did not hide their feelings of superiority.  But second, and most important, James and John had a deep love, respect and loyalty towards Jesus.  In fact, I believe their fiery reaction is driven by compassion for Jesus.  After all, this is their Teacher, their Lord, the Messiah, and He is being treated with such disrespect.  Who among us wouldn’t feel compelled, even obligated, to defend Jesus from such an insult?  But in their compassion for Jesus they fail to recognize the purpose and motivation of Jesus.

Friends and brothers, far too often this happens to us.  Our loyalty to a teaching or a political ideology and our disdain for the perversion of the opposing viewpoint can blind us to the purpose and motivation of Jesus.  We can stand firmly on the “truth” of God’s word, calling down fire from heaven to destroy all those who stand in opposition and completely fail to recognize that God intends His word to heal and to save.  I believe most of us are driven by a sincere love for God but we succumb to the temptation to “fight fire with fire” and end up “returning evil for evil”.

If we are truly disciples of Jesus then we will consider how He reacted to the sin and perversion in His world.  Of course He didn’t shy away from the truth and, at times, He was confrontational but it was always driven by His desire and purpose to save men’s lives.  Can we say the same about us?  When I post that political article on FB or I respond to that “ignorant” comment, am I trying to save men’s lives?  When I defend my viewpoint or attack false teaching, is it for the purpose of saving the lost?  To my shame, the answer is often “no”.  We can be “right” and still be so very wrong.

Ultimately, Jesus let the opposition have their way.  He allowed the darkness of mankind to overwhelm the Light of the world.  He endured the most unjust and wicked trial the world has ever seen and He “opened not His mouth”.  When He was confronted with venom and hatred and malice He showed compassion and mercy saying, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  And what was the result of such selflessness?  What did Jesus hope to accomplish?  “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” (John 12:32)  I submit to you that the “drawing” power of the gospel is the mercy and compassion of our Lord.  The humble submission of Jesus to His accusers and abusers is the very thing that continues to call men out of darkness and into the light.

There will always be a need for bold preaching.  We will always have the opportunity to stand for truth and oppose false ideals and doctrine.  But when we follow the example of our Lord, and we are driven by mercy and compassion, we will experience something amazing; we will see men drawn to Jesus.

I Will

I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3). 

As I was reading through Genesis, I noticed how many times the words “I will” were used, especially in connection to God’s promises. These words, “I will,” are joined with God’s promises to provide, to bless, to protect, and to punish. God made such promises to Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Sometimes we see those men struggling to trust in those promises. There were times that they tried to fulfill God’s promises in their own ways. Ishmael was born because of Abram (Abraham) trying to fulfill God’s promise in his own way (Gen. 16). Another example is when both Abraham and Isaac lied about their wives being their sisters because they were afraid of being killed. They didn’t need to lie, God promised these men offspring and blessings, so they weren’t going to die. These men grew in faith, but that growth process involves learning to trust God’s promises exactly as He said them.

The Lord uses the same words of promise toward Christians.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:10-12)

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels (Revelation 3:5).

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:3).

I will.

We have the incredible treasure of God’s promises as Christian men. He promised to forgive us, to teach us, to provide for us, to be with us always, and to come one day to take us home. Let us learn to trust in God’s promises, exactly as He said them. If God promised to forgive you, He meant it. When Jesus promised to return, count on it. The Lord promised He would always be with us, trust it. God cannot lie (Titus 1:3).

His Knees Knocked Against Each Other

Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other (Daniel 5:6).

My daughter, Jess, scared me to death the other night. I haven’t been scared like that in awhile. One of my kids always tries to scare me, but it never works. This time, Jess was crouching in the hallway, and just at the right time when I turned the corner she pounced at me. I really think I lost five years of my life. She really got me good. Of course, like a good father, I am plotting my revenge (bwah ha ha ha).

His Knees Knocked Against Each Other

For some reason, I thought of the above passage in Daniel where King Belshazzar sees a vision of a hand writing a message on the wall. It scared him to death. The Bible says he was so scared that his joints loosened and his knees knocked together. That’s pretty scared!

Being afraid or scared can be a good thing. It can be a useful motivation to lead us to God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), and the “beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).

Fear can also be absolutely pointless. For King Belshazzar, this fear did him no good, because he did not have a humble heart toward God (Daniel 5:22). Someone can sit and hear a sermon about the Judgment Day and be scared, but then go home and go right back to his ways without change. Its like a doctor telling us that if we don’t change our dietary habits we will have a heart attack, and we get scared. We then proceed to the nearest burger joint and pig out. What good did the fear do for us?

So, what describes us? What do we do with that fear? When we realize our life is fleeting, how do we respond? As we consider the holiness and awesome nature of Almighty God, and our position before Him, what do we do with that awe and reverence?

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones (Proverbs 3:7-8).