Everyone who is perfectly trained

And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher (Luke 6:39-40).

I’m working on some studies on the word “disciple” and how it is used in the Scriptures. Luke 6:40 always comes to mind when I think of the word “disciple,” but I want you to notice the previous verse in connection with it. We will get there in a minute.

What is a disciple?

A disciple is a student and follower of another. This implies some things: (1) that you recognize you want to learn something, and (2) that you go to someone you believe can teach you what you want to learn.

I believe a modern equivalent would be an apprenticeship relationship. A young man wants to be an electrician, so he is mentored by a experienced electrician. This is how Jesus learned to be a carpenter, He grew up in the house of a carpenter (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3).

Everyone who is perfectly trained

What is the end goal of a teacher-disciple relationship? Plainly stated, it is for the student to become just like his teacher. Keeping that in mind, go and research how many times the followers of Jesus are called “disciples” in the Scriptures. The whole point of following Jesus is to become like Him.

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Please go back to Luke 6:39 now and consider what Jesus said just before the “disciple” statement in verse 40.

“Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?

Men, what if the teachers/masters we are following are blind leaders taking us into the ditch? Jesus said we will become just like them. Everyone who is perfectly trained by a blind leader will also become a blind leader and everyone ends up in the ditch.

Take inventory today, men, of who is teaching you and mentoring you. Who are the masters to whom you have made yourselves disciples? Where are they heading?

Finally, I will leave you with one verse as your plan of action for today:

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7).

But whatever gain I had

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).

What have you gained? If you were to put a value on all the things you have gained, what would its value be?

According to Paul, it is all rubbish compared to the one most important thing…gaining Christ. If anyone could brag on what he had “gained” in the flesh, it would be Paul. He had quite the religious resume, and I would imagine that with his connections to religious leadership, he was probably well-to-do financially.

But the value he placed on it all was rubbish. I personally like the King James Version on this one because the word is translated “dung.” Perfect. That’s what it all comes down to, and that is the same conclusion wise old King Solomon reached in the book of Ecclesiastes. It is like those antique roadshows where someone thinks they have an incredible treasure, and the expert tells them that its fake and only worth ten bucks.

But whatever gain I had

To Paul it was all about Jesus. Take a look back at the text for today and for your personal study, look at these few verses and meditate upon how much Paul valued what Christ had to offer. This passage is saturated with it. Wring it out and see what Paul had learned to value in his life.

I would then consider taking time today to look around your office and your house, and take a red marker and write “rubbish” on everything. Start with that annoying c0-worker who talks too much. No, please don’t do that. Seriously though, my diploma, compared to Christ, is rubbish. Your resume, compared to Christ, is rubbish. What I have accomplished spiritually in my life, is dung compared to Christ.  Your status in the company and your retirement fund, is dung compared to Christ.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

Let’s put all of this in perspective today, men. If you have Christ in your life, you have everything. Without Christ, what do you have?

That is Wisdom

“And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding'” (Job 28:28).

What is wisdom? How do you get it?

Today’s passage is in the context of a speech by Job. In the midst of his suffering and agony, Job’s mind is directed to the wisdom of God. Job 28 is beautiful and poetic as Job talks about all of the precious things in the earth for which mankind mines and digs. Silver. Gold. Copper. Iron. Precious gems.

As a side note, it amazes me personally that God hid all these treasures deep in the earth knowing we would go searching for them!

Think of the effort that man has gone through to extract all these valuable and useful things from the earth. Job describes that effort very well. We overturn “mountains by the roots” (28:9). Channels are dug, water is dammed up, we go boldly where no man or beast has gone before (28:3-4,7-8). Men have risked their lives and many throughout history have given their lives in the quest for the treasures deep in the earth.

Where do you find wisdom?

“But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” (28:12)

Mankind knows the value of gold and silver, but Job said we don’t know the value of wisdom. Nowhere on earth, beneath the earth, or above the earth has a mine for wisdom.

Wisdom is “hidden from the eyes of all the living” (28:21). Just as God hid gold and silver deep in the earth and we have to dig for it, the same is true for wisdom. We must search it out. God created it that way.

We will not find wisdom, however, if we go searching in the wrong places. The source of wisdom, plainly stated by Job, is God.

For He looks to the ends of the earth, and sees under the whole heavens, to establish a weight for the wind, and apportion the waters by measure. When He made a law for the rain, and a path for the thunderbolt, then He saw wisdom and declared it; He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out. And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.’ ” (Job 28:24-28)

That is wisdom!

Job said here that wisdom is to fear God and depart from evil. We will have no wisdom at all until we have a reverence and awe for the Creator. Start there! Fear the Almighty God and commit to do whatever He says. Then you will begin to plumb the depths and hidden treasures of the mind of God.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).

When my heart is overwhelmed

“When my heart is overwhelmed…” We all face it at some point…being overwhelmed. The busy-ness, the adversity and the fears all hit us like a tsunami.

I searched for the word “overwhelmed” in the Bible, especially in the Psalms (I searched using the New King James Version). Here are some verses of comfort for you today if you are one of the overwhelmed. If you are not, consider sending these verses on to someone who is overwhelmed right now. God’s word has divine comfort for you and me.

When my heart is overwhelmed

To the Chief Musician. On A Stringed Instrument. A Psalm of David. Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah (Psalms 61:1-4).

Here is the entirety of Psalm 77. Look at how Asaph responded to being overwhelmed and what he searched and found out about God.

To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph. I cried out to God with my voice– To God with my voice; and He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.

You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search. Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah

And I said, “This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the works of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

The waters saw You, O God; the waters saw You, they were afraid; the depths also trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, and Your footsteps were not known. You led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalms 77:1-20).

Here are some other very valuable Psalms for when we are overwhelmed (Psalm 55:1-23; 102:1-28; 142:1-7; 143:1-12; Daniel 10:15-19). There are many others, of course. God’s word is relevant to any situation we face in life…you can trust that!

When your arm is numb

Yesterday, I had a minor surgery on my right forearm.  Since I met my deductible this year, I figured it was time to get it done.

When your arm is numb

The doctor numbed my entire arm.  It was the funkiest feeling.  After the surgery, my fingers were completely numb.  I could not feel any hot or cold sensation, nor could I move my fingers.  My entire forearm was like a big club on a hinge.  I was warned by the nurse that if I raised my shoulder that my fist would come swinging into my face.  She was right, and when my hand hit my face, I could not move my right hand away from my face.  I had to take my left hand and move my right hand away.  Totally weird.

I am typing this post this morning using voice recognition.  Another funky experience.  Sometimes the words I say are not what comes out on the screen.

So, for a quick application today, when your arm is numb, then your body has to compensate for it.  My left arm has to be the strength and protection for my right arm.  If I were to touch a hot stove yesterday, I wouldn’t have known it.  The rest of my body had to be on guard and extra vigilant.

What if spiritually I am in the position where my conscience is desensitized to certain sins?  Then I need someone else to help me be aware of danger and to see problem areas where I might not think there is a problem.  Sometimes someone else may need to be my “conscience” until I become more spiritually awake.  Eventually the tingling sensation began to come back to my fingers and I gradually could look at my fingers and make them wiggle a little.  This morning all the feeling is back thank God.  But for a short time my entire body had to be the strength for my right arm.

Just a thought for you to consider today.

Making a Simple Answer Complicated

Here is an observation: If you have the right heart and motives, questions are so much easier to answer. Too many folks are experts in making a simple answer complicated.

When a person is hiding something, a simple question can throw him into a conundrum. “How do I get away with this, and how can I cover it up?” “What is the best way for me to answer their questions without revealing the truth?”

If what matters to a person is what others think of him, then he will focus group and calculate every response. He is making sure what he says is received well by the most people. Personally, I’m getting pretty tired of this. Please, just tell me what is on your mind, even if I don’t like it.

Making a Simple Answer Complicated

Read the following exchange between Jesus and the Jewish leadership. You will see what I am saying in this example. What should have been an easy question to answer became a crisis in public opinion and saving face.

And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?”

And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things” (Matthew 21:23-27).

You see that? The Jewish leaders could not answer with an obvious answer what they knew to be a simple question. One answer would call them out as disobedient hypocrites, and the other answer would make the crowds furious. They chose instead to lie to Jesus by saying, “We do not know.”

By the way, this is one of many examples of Jesus showing Himself to be the Master Teacher! He with one question exposed their true character.

Men, live in such a way and have such a heart that most questions are easy to answer. Jesus said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5:37).

Can I Give God Something That Isn’t His Already?

We are studying the subject of giving in our adult Bible class. I’ve been thinking about a question, “Can I give God something that isn’t His already?” I have heard myself and others say often that everything we give to God is already His. We are giving Him “a portion of that with which He has richly blessed us.”

It is true that everything is God’s including all people (Psalm 24:1). The “cattle on a thousand hills” are His (Psalm 50:11). He is not worshiped with men’s hands, because He doesn’t need anything (Acts 17:25). Giving is not about “appeasing the gods” like in other religions. God doesn’t need our stuff to survive.

Giving is about the will…MY will

God gave to me my own free will. It is mine. I can offer to the Lord, or I can keep it to myself. Even Jesus demonstrated in the Garden of Gethsemane that He had His own will. He offered that will as a sacrifice to glorify His Father. “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Mark 14:36). Jesus said once that His “food” was to do the will of His Father (John 4:34; see also John 5:30; 6:38-39).

When the 24 elders fell before the throne of God in heaven, they said:

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

Think about that statement. God is “worthy” to receive glory and honor and power. Wait a minute…He is God, right? Doesn’t He have all of that stuff already?

He does not “receive” that from most of humanity, does He? He is worthy enough to receive it for sure, but the fact remains that He does not receive it. Jesus healed 10 lepers, only one came back to say, “Thank you” (Luke 17:17). Do I give God the honor, or do I keep it for myself? Is God glorified by every cell in my body, or do I keep the glory for me? Does God receive the power over my life? Am I sacrificing my will to give Him full control?

“Your will be done on earth…” (Matthew 6:10)

Being thankful is a sacrifice, because it involves my will (Psalm 50:14,15,23). Praising God is also a sacrifice for the same reason (Hebrews 13:15). Our favorite subject is ourselves…just look at social media. We love to talk about ourselves. Taking time to thank and praise someone else takes away the spotlight from us.

You see, you can offer God millions of dollars and offer Him lots of religious time, but have you given Him the one thing that is yours…your will? Jesus said that in order to truly follow Him, we must “deny” ourselves (Matthew 16). Again, that involves your will, the one thing God gave to you that is yours. Will you offer it to Him freely?

Righteousness and Justice

Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne (Psalms 97:2).

What is the foundation of God’s throne? Righteousness and justice. Righteousness is His standard of morality and holiness. Justice is how God applies that standard impartially to everyone. It may seem basic to you, but without righteousness and justice, what kind of “throne” do you have?

This is the foundation of the Messiah’s kingdom. Look at Isaiah’s prophecy:

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, a costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. “I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level (plumb line); then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and the waters will overflow the secret place (Isaiah 28:16-17).

What is the function of a plumb line? It makes sure the walls are built straight up. Righteousness (God’s moral code) is the plumb line in Jesus’ kingdom (the church). Without God’s standard of morality, the walls of any kingdom will be crooked. The measuring line in Jesus’ kingdom is justice. It is applied to everyone impartially and equally. No one gets preferential treatment. There isn’t someone who can buy off Jesus and escape justice. With Jesus, there isn’t a different standard for the rich person and the poor person.

Note that the “refuge of lies” and the “secret place” are swept away in the Messiah’s kingdom. There’s no getting away with it or explaining it away with Jesus. In His kingdom, there is no place to hide from His light that exposes the darkness.

Righteousness and Justice

You see the prophets of God repeatedly cry out about the lack of these two foundational qualities in a nation. Amos to me is the most notable. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., quoted Amos during the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.

“But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

If God’s standards (righteousness) are lacking in a land, the people will groan:

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan (Proverbs 29:2).

If God’s standards are not applied impartially (justice), the nation will become unstable.

The king gives stability to the land by justice, but a man who takes bribes overthrows it (Proverbs 29:4).

Men, let us keep always in mind what is foundational to any home, congregation, business or nation. If righteousness and justice are God’s foundation, then they must be ours as well. No house will stand on any other foundation.

To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice (Proverbs 21:3).

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

Habakkuk was deeply distressed about the immoral state of his nation. He was certainly justified in these feelings. In his distress he cried out to the Lord, but the answers he received from the Lord were not comforting at first. God would deal with the sin of Judah, but he would use the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to do it. “Wait a minute,” Habakkuk thinks, “how can a righteous and holy God use such a wicked and violent nation to punish His own people?” That is not the answer he was expecting…at all!

Through his conversation with God, we see the true character of Habakkuk shine as he is refined by God.

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD

Question: How can a man rejoice in the midst of wickedness, chaos and pending doom?

Habakkuk was told by the Lord that the righteous man “shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). “Trust Me,” God is saying. Trust His nature, His motives and His promises. Know and assume that God will always do the right thing, even if it doesn’t make sense to you and me.

Regardless of what happens around me, Habakkuk had to wait quietly for the day of distress (Habakkuk 3:16). There is a value to silence. The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before him (Habakkuk 2:10). You know, this time of judgment was going to come whether or not Habakkuk had the right attitude! God was going to bring punishment upon Judah by Babylon and then He would destroy Babylon.

The purposes of God will be accomplished, so let us trust that God will always do the right thing. Let us also quiet our minds knowing that God will always take care of His people. We are “sealed” and “marked,” God knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19). If you are a follower of God, you won’t get lost in the sauce.

So if the economy tanks and the nation crumbles (no produce, flocks and herds lost), yet we will rejoice in the Lord. The Lord and only the Lord is our strength. If my focus is on the material, then I will never develop true joy.

What Habakkuk learned long ago is what we as God’s men today must get straight in our heads. Especially now in America.

So far as it depends on you

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord (Romans 12:17-19).

Acts 16 is Luke’s account of Paul and Silas preaching the gospel in Philippi. Paul and Silas were falsely accused, unjustly beaten and unlawfully imprisoned. Through the events of that night in prison, the Philippian jailer obeyed the gospel along with his household. What we are going to focus on, though, is what happened the next day.

After Paul is released from prison, an interesting encounter occurs (Acts 16:35-40).

“Now when the day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen saying, ‘Release those men.’ And the Jailer reported these words to Paul, saying ‘the chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore come out now and go in peace.”

The Jailer, a brand new Christian is overjoyed that the men who have taught him how to be saved are to be released and set free. In becoming a Christian, it is interesting to note, the jailer still remained a jailer and Paul and Silas, while honored by him, were still considered prisoners. Paul, the great evangelist and proclaimer of the gospel, and apostle sent by God in Christ did not overflow with excitement when he heard for their request to come out:

“But Paul said to them, ‘they have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out.’ The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They (the magistrates) were afraid when they heard they were Romans, and they came and appealed to them, and when they appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. They went out of the city and entered the house of Lydia, and when they say the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.”

So far as it depends on you…

Paul and Silas give us a look in to Christianity that popular culture may not agree with:

  • The apostle held those men who had punished himself and Silas without trial accountable.
  • Paul and Silas, being identified as Romans were entitled to a public hearing. Because that hearing had been denied the magistrates themselves could suffer penalties (including death).
  • He demanded the magistrates admit they were wrong.
  • When the Magistrates did so, Paul let it go.

Christians, at times feel they cannot or should not seek the authorities in this land. This is not the example given to us in scripture. However, it should also be noted, Paul did not take it to the point of death or even excessive humiliation. He did not demand the right to beat the magistrates for having him beaten. Instead, while holding to authority, he himself used restraint.

This was an example given to the Jailer and one we should consider as well. In seeking justice, are we trying to do what is right, or do we become vindictive and hold ourselves to the standards and teachings of the world and Satan?  Paul gives a deeper example of what Romans 12:18-19 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, but leave room for the wrath of God …” Paul certainly practiced what he preached. “As long as it depends on you …” We must strive for peace and use the tools God has given us appropriately. The rest will always be up to God.