Friday, April 30, 2010

Z is for Zacchaeus

Zacchaeus was a Jewish man who lived in Jericho. His name is a Jewish name and comes from a Hebrew word meaning “pure, righteous.” We know Zacchaeus from the account recorded in Luke 19:1-10.

Zacchaeus was a very wealthy tax collector. He had the contract from Rome to collect tolls on any and all merchandise and or goods that moved through Jericho. Luke in his gospel calls Zacchaeus a “chief tax collector.” This means that he had the main contract to collect taxes and then sub-contracted the actual collection of the taxes out to sub-contractors.

The sub-contractor would ensure that “lesser” tax collectors were placed at strategic places in order to collect every tax that could be exhorted or collected. These lesser tax collectors, which by the way Matthew was probably one, would either provide the “muscle” on their own or would hire thugs in case any protested about the tax demanded. The taxes were arbitrary and even included taxes on each of the wheels on the wagons or carts. The Jews hated paying the taxes and the tax collectors.

Zacchaeus' position made him a very wealthy man from Luke’s account. Of course it subjected Zacchaeus to a tremendous amount of scorn, hatred, animosity, and contempt from his own people. He was also considered unclean by the chief priests and scribes and therefore was not permitted to worship in the local synagogue.

We do not know what prompted Zacchaeus to want to see Jesus the day that Jesus passed through Jericho. We do know from the gospel accounts that many people were interested in Jesus and wanted to see him “perform” or hear him teach. It seems that many people followed Jesus, some because of the multitude – crowds attract people and followers.

Others followed Jesus because of the miracles – after all, it is quite an attraction to see blind men healed, the lame or crippled walking again, or even the dead brought back to life. People like a good show.

Some followed Jesus for the meat – on two occasions he had provided bread and fish to a combined crowd of nearly 9,000 men. This count did not include the women and children; if you factor them in Jesus could have fed on these two occasions some 36,000 to 50,000 people. Very few people actually followed Jesus because He was the Messiah.

Something prompted Zacchaeus to want to see Jesus. Zacchaeus did something else Jewish men rarely if ever did, he put his dignity on the back-burner and climbed a tree. Why? He was a very short man. He could not see over the crowd. At a strategic point along the roadway where Jesus would pass, Zacchaeus climbed a tree and waited on a branch.

However, something extraordinary took place. Jesus looked up at Zacchaeus and told him, “Zacchaeus, come down from that tree, I am going to your house today.” Something else extraordinary happened that day; during the visit and conversation Jesus won the heart of this despised Jewish tax collector. Jesus made the startling and yet joyous statement that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’s house that day.

Zacchaeus responded in repentance to the message of Jesus that day. How do we know? Luke tells that Zacchaeus demonstrated fruit of his repentance – he gave half of his goods to the poor, and promised to restore anyone he cheated fourfold. For the record, giving away his money to the poor and giving back money that he extorted did not save Zacchaeus. It was evidence that Christ had saved him.

Naturally we can not finish this account without mentioning the reaction of the Pharisees and religious crowd. Needless to say they were angry. They complained, the term is actually murmured; under their breath that Jesus was going to eat with a harmatolos, a sinner. They felt that eating with Zacchaeus was beneath the dignity of Jesus, their standards, not to mention that in their eyes it would have rendered Jesus unclean.

There you have it. Salvation coming to the most unlikely of houses- to a hated and despised Jewish tax collector who was not tall enough to see Jesus without climbing a tree. Salvation will come to the most unlikely of people at the oddest of times. Has Jesus spotted you in your "tree" and told you "to come down" Has salvation come to your house? If it hasn't please inquire within!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Y is for Yokefellow

Y is for Yokefellow

Philippians 4:3 reads, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true yokefellow, and help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

It seems that a couple of prominent women of the Philippian church had been of great help to Paul in the spread of the gospel. Yet it seems that a squabble of some sort of has risen between these two women. The squabble is so great the church at Philippi can’t seem to handle it or the two women and they mentioned this to the apostle Paul. Paul writes to the church at Philippi in order to encourage them to live out their lives as citizens of a heavenly city evidenced by their commitment to one another and their service to God.

Paul includes in this letter of encouragement a plea for these two women to get along. Paul also asks a very special friend of his in this church, whom he called a yokefellow to help these two women settle their difference and to get along.

The Greek word for yokefellow is συζυγος. In extra biblical Greek, that is the Greek usage outside of the bible, yokefellow means companion in any enterprise; a marriage partner, a comrade in arms, and even a business associate.

Philippians 4:3 is the only time this word is used in all of the New Testament. Paul uses it of a person living and serving in the Philippian church. He wants this yokefellow to solve this conflict between Euodia and Syntyche.

I make mention of this because we do not know who this very special comrade, associate, or fellow laborer of Paul was. Several possibilities have been suggested as to who this special person might be. Some of the more prominent and eminent names suggested are:

Epaphroditus – he is the pastor of the Philippian church who brought a love offering to Paul from the church to the prison Paul was being held in.

Luke, the physician – this very special man left his practice to travel with Paul and to help Paul in the various churches that were begun on Paul’s missionary journey. Paul left Luke in Philippi for at least 8 months to help this church get established.

Lydia – the very first convert in Asia Minor and in whose home the Philippian church met in.

Clement of Alexandria said that the very strong use of this endearing term could only mean that Paul was referring to his own wife. We know that since Paul was a member of the Pharisees he had to have been married and even possibly was required to have a son. Since there is no mention of Paul’s wife or children it is speculated that they had died or been killed prior to his Damascus road conversion. So, Clement of Alexandria, this seems a little beyond the pale for me. Not to mention that the adjective “true” which modifies yokefellow is a masculine adjective. This more than likely refers to a man. (Sorry Lydia!)

One last suggestion is that this was actually the man’s name, “Synzygus.” First, this name is nowhere found as a Greek name. Zygus has been found as a Greek name. If Paul is addressing a man named Zygus, he might be reminding this man of his name and its meaning and asking him to live up to his name and step up and help Paul as a fellow yokeman and help these women to “just all get along.”

The dispute does not appear to be doctrinal, if it were Paul would have addressed that very quickly and soundly himself. We don’t know who those the women were and what they were “fussing” about. It was serious however, so serious that Paul pleaded with both of them to resolve the issue (s) and to enlist this special person for assistance.

This special yokeman, this fellow-laborer of Paul must have done the trick. We don’t read anything else about this difficulty or these women again. I just find it interesting to speculate over who Paul’s true yokeman was. It will keep me up until eternity now.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

X is for Xerxes

Xerxes was the son of King Darius (Medes) the great and Atossa the daughter of Cyrus (Persia). Xerxes very early in his life was designated to be the heir-apparent or the successor to the Babylonian throne. Xerxes served as a governor of Babylon in 498 B. C. until he finally ascended to the throne in 486 B. C.

In Persepolis a statue had been commissioned which depicted King Darius sitting on his throne in his kingly robes. Behind Darius stands Xerxes along with the inclusion of a winged deity. Xerxes used this statue to confirm his oft repeated statement, “ My father made me the greatest after himself."

Apparently Xerxes did not have the military ability of his father. He was urged on by bad advisors to assault Greece in 480 B. C. Unfortunately in 479 B. C. the Greek army defeated Xerxes’ Persian army and Persia was forced to give up all the territory that Darius his father had gained outside of Asia Minor.

Xerxes inherited an empire that was somewhat sound but it seems that he was not up to the task of maintaining the empire’s vitality. He was known to have an undisciplined temper and was morally weak. Xerxes was assassinated in 465 B.C.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t make mention of such a weak and ineffective ruler as Xerxes. The reason that I do is first, his name starts with an X and second, he fathered a son named Artaxerxes.

It was Artaxerxes who commissioned the Jewish scribe Ezra to take care of the ceremonial and civil affairs of the Jewish nation. (Ezra 7:13-28) Ezra left Babylon in 457 B. C. leading a company of Jews, which included priests and Levites back to Jerusalem. The rebuilding of the Jewish city began in Jerusalem under Cyrus the Great who had permitted Jewish captives to leave Babylon and return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of Solomon.

What I find to be  interesting is that in 445 B. C. Nehemiah, a Jewish captive, was the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes. One day Nehemiah showed up for duty looking very sad. Artaxerxes asked about his sadness and Nehemiah told him of the awful state of the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem. Artaxerxes gave permission for Nehemiah to return and rebuild Jerusalem and its walls.

I find this so amusing that a pagan king was used by God to give letters of safe passage for Nehemiah and his party to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the city walls. Not only that, orders were given to the keepers of Artaxerxes forests to supply what ever was needed. God sovereignly chose to use this mighty king and his supply of men, materials, and money to aid in the rebuilding of his city. That is poetic justice

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

W is for Where Would I Be?

Before this challenge is over and since Welcome to My World of Poetry has been such an inspiration I wanted to try my hand at poetry. I was meditating on the priceless grace of our Lord Jesus Christ one day. As I mediated it came to me that without His grace I would be lost. That prompted me to jot down some thoughts that asked the question, where I would be without Him?

Where Would I Be?
By Gregg Metcalf

I’m the one stained within
by a heart black with sin
Standing condemed today
I won’t even seek after you
But everytime you look at me
You don’t see what used to be
I’m clean by the Son you slew

Where would I be without your grace
without your favor poured on me
Nothing could I do to obtain
one drop of grace that would
remove every stain
Until you opened up my eyes
I couldn’t see you standing there
But you made me realize
my sin you would gladly bear
thank you for taking me in

Now I am yours indeed
Having all that I need
Every step I take
By your grace all the way
Growing daily for your sake
Yes you give me everthing
I need to live for you
Even the very will to do
Of you I will forever sing

Monday, April 26, 2010

V is for Van De Venter

V is for Van De Venter

The bible is replete with teachings, admonitions, and directions stating that the pre-requisite to blessings and even usefulness to God is brokenness. David wrote of this in Psalm 51 when he wrote in verse seventeen, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

David also reminded us how precious a broken spirit is to the Lord when he wrote in Psalms 34:18, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed spirit.”

When you read the New Testament clearly sans any preconceived notion otherwise, it teaches us that God is pleased to bruise, crush, and break the spirit of his children. It seems he does this so that we are made willing to deny ourselves in order to submit and surrender our will to His.

It seems that no one, either in the pages of Scripture or from the pages of history, has ever achieved true spiritual greatness until he has full surrendered him or herself to God. Living a Christ like life is only possible when we are willing to surrender ourselves to the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul often speaks of this “condition” of our being as becoming a δουλος or a bond slave. A bond slave was the lowest of the slaves in ranking. A bond slave was considered to have no will of his or her own, but the bond servant’s will was given up and over to its master.

Although many times we make the Christian life or experience to be a struggle, God intended for us to examine Him and determine that our best is in the simple acquiescence to His perfect will. In other words, we are to submit to His authority in all areas of our life.

Judson W. Van De Venter knew the futility and pain of this struggle. Listen to his words:

“For some time I had struggled between developing my talents in the field of art and going into full time evangelistic work. At last the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life; I became an evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and touching a tender chord, He caused me to sing.”

After the agonizing struggle of whether to pursue his desires as an artist or submitting to the internal leading of God, Van De Venter surrounded all of his life to his Lord. He actually had a blessed and extensive ministry as a result.

You may know the song that Van De Venter wrote shortly after settling the struggle in his life. It is sung in most churches during what is known as the invitation. What was the song that God had hidden deep in his heart? The song was I Surrender All.

All to Jesus I surrender;
all to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

All to Jesus I surrender;
humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender;
now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

Refrain: I surrender all, I surrender all; All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

Where are you today? Are you still in the midst of a never ending struggle? Well, stop it, stop struggling. Find a quiet corner, drop to your knees, open wide your heart to Christ, and say to Him – all to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give, I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live. I surrender all, I surrender all, all to thee, my blessed savior, I surrender all.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spurgeon on Politics and our Citizenship being in Heaven

The Sunday Sound-Bite...

Gospel Driven Disciples includes a weekly component called The Sunday Sound-Bite.

These "sound-bites" will be from various men of God commenting on various topics with the goal of provoking a deeper appreciation of our Lord Jesus Christ and to facilitate obedience to the admonition given in II Peter 3:18 – “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Savior Jesus Christ.”

This selection is an excertp from a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, late pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in England on Christians having their citizenship in heaven. He preached this sermon in 1862. This recording is provided by a group called Free Masons.  I am not sure who or what they are and I make no recomendation of them, I give them credit for providing this piece of a sermon from this former "Prince of Preachers."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

U is for Uriah

Who is Uriah? I think of him as the forgotten man. Sometimes a brief mention is made of him, particularly his murder when the story of David and Bathsheba is told. I think we do Uriah a disservice for not making more of him in his own right.

His name means “Yahweh is my light”, or possibly “Light of Yahweh.” He was an army officer in King David’s army. He was also the man whose death King David arranged in order to cover up his scandalous adultery with Bathsheba.

Uriah was a Hittite. Uriah was possibly a local Hittite and was therefore one of the “sons of Heth.” It is thought that his name came about as a result of conversion to Judaism.

Uriah was a member of what was called “The Thirty,” which was an elite corps of commanders. (II Samuel 23:39)

Uriah not only knew but he observed the rules of war. One of those rules was the abstention from sexual relations. (Deuteronomy 23:10, I Sam 21:14). When David, who had impregnated Uriah’s wife, hatched a plan to cover the pregnancy up by calling Uriah home, he refused to sleep with his wife. David’s plan of course was for Uriah to have sexual intercourse with Bathsheba and upon discovery of the pregnancy pass it off as the result of a little R & R. (Rest and Relaxation)

As a matter of fact, Uriah was so devoted to both God and to his King (David) that he still refused to sleep with her after David arranged to have him become drunk. Uriah chose to sleep in the same chambers as the servants of the palace rather than go home to his own wife and bed.

What could David do now? He was desperate and did not want to be found out. His reputation would be ruined and his testimony would be severely damaged. David hatched a plan with his chief General, Joab. He ordered to Joab to place Uriah in the fiercest place of the battle. Not only was Joab to send him into a hot spot, Uriah’s fellow servants were to “withdraw” and abandon Uriah. The plan went as concocted and Uriah was killed in the line of duty defending his King and his country.

First, this black and ugly chapter in David’s life is recorded in II Samuel 11. Second, God used a prophet named Nathan armed with an allegory to expose this great sin and to cause King David to repent. Unfortunately that baby died shortly after birth, not of any fault of his own. David married Bathsheba and they had other children including Solomon.

Thirdly, I don’t mention this to parade ugly sin before our eyes. I certainly don’t rejoice in this horribly wicked chapter in the life of this unique and godly man. Let me say that David did repent, God did forgive him, and David went on to be a great man of God.

I write about Uriah because when this event is told, preached, or taught, the emphasis is usually on the heinousness of the sin, or the year long refusal of David to repent, or the allegory of Nathan which lead to David’s repentance. Mention is made of the baby and how David fasted and prayed while the baby grew sick and sicker. Mention is made how David after hearing the baby died, got up, washed, ate and went back to everyday living.

I write of Uriah because little mention is made of him accept for the part of refusing to sleep with his wife and his subsequent ambush. I challenge you to consider Uriah and the kind of man he was.

First, he loved his God and his king. He served not only bravely, but loyally. When he was ordered into battle he fought well and valiantly. When he was ordered into the hottest part of the battle we have no record of  hesitation or  refusal. He fought where ordered to fight even to his death.

Second, even when the King brought him home for some rest and relaxation he chose not to go down to his home. I spent thirteen months overseas in the Marine Corps and when I rotated back home, the first place I went was home. Uriah was going to remain “as one of his fellow soldiers.” Listen to this man, Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths (tents) and my lord Joab (his general) and the servants (fellow soldiers) of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” (II Samuel 11:11)

Third, when David made him drunk still resisting his normal sexual drive he clung to his code of honor. Now, at the risk of exploiting your blood pressure, the sin was not in the drinking. The Old Testament makes it clear that God gave wine as a gift to His children (Psalm 104:14). The bible does not prohibit the use of alcoholic beverages. It repeatedly and markedly prohibits drunkenness. There was no sin in enjoying some wine but when David caused Uriah to get drunk he very definitely and egregiously sinned.

But look, the text says, “And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.” It is possible he had sobered a little by this time. Irregardless, he maintained his loyalty to Israel, Judah, David, and the Ark of the LORD, his General, and his fellow soldiers.

So, what can we say about Uriah? What is there to admire? He was brave, loyal, resolute, faithful, and honorable. I want to be thought of as brave, loyal, resolute, faithful, and honorable by both my King and my peers. I admire these qualities in a man that might have been naive but refused personal satisfaction for principals. I think Uriah deserves a mention beyond the fact that Bathsheba cheated on him and David had him murdered.

Don’t think harshly on David or Bathsheba. You and I might have well done the very same thing. Sin is a powerful thing. God recorded this chapter in David’s life to teach you and I not to think to heady of ourselves or we will find ourselves guilty of the same sin. It is when we say we would never do such and such that we often fall into that very sin. Also, God recorded it to show that He graciously forgives any sin and sinner who truly repents.

No one is beyond forgiveness, no sin is to great. God recorded this ugly chapter to teach us that we can go beyond great sin and be great people for His Kingdom.

If you were to judge me I would want your judgement or assestment to be that I, like Uriah, am brave, loyal, resolute, faithful, and honorable. Uriah was and it cost him his life. I wonder what price I will be required to pay?

Friday, April 23, 2010

T is for Temptation


Nobody likes to talk about temptation. Temptation is one of those things we know exists but because of its regular and negative effect on us we like to forget it exists. Many people deal with the subject of temptation in a number of ways. Passing off personal responsibility is the most common way temptation is dealt with. For example:

Flip Wilson used to say, “The Devil made me do it.”

Another way of dealing with temptation is making light of it through humor. Mark Twain used to say, “I deal with temptation by yielding to it.” Mae West once said, “I generally avoid temptation, unless I can’t resist it.”

May be you like Sam Levenson’s way of thinking of temptation, “Lead me not into temptation, just tell me where it is, I’ll find it.”

My personal favorite take on temptation has always been, “The problem with fleeing temptation is that we always leave a forwarding address.”

How should we view temptation? The Apostle Matthew tells us in his gospel, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41, ESV)

The Greek word that Matthew used is the word πειρασμος. It is used approximately twenty one times in the Greek New Testament. It carries a double meaning of both trials and temptations. Our human spirit has good intentions but our nature is wicked. Our sinful flesh or nature has a 100% proclivity to sin. This is why God creates a new nature in us when He saves or redeems us. He doesn’t mess around with the old by renovating it.

When πειρασμος is used for temptation it means to test a man’s fidelity, or his integrity, his virtue or his constancy. Temptation is an internal enticement to do evil. Temptation may be aroused or prompted by external and outward circumstances. Temptation is always an internal enticement to sin, or to violate the standards of God. Succumbing to our internal enticements even if stimulated by external circumstances is rebellion. Fortunately God forgives our rebellion when we confess our sins to Him.

James, the half-brother of our Lord and first pastor of the Jerusalem Church wrote a short letter to Jewish Christians who had been scattered throughout various countries. These new Christians were being persecuted for their new faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Messiah and they were succumbing to temptations leading to sinful acts. James said this in this letter:

Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15, ESV)

So, how will you deal with the internal luring and enticement of our inner being? Will you pass the buck and like Flip Wilson, simply say that the devil made you do it?

Will you deal with as Mark Twain did by simply giving in to it? Or maybe like Mae West, if you can’t resist it then you give in? Hopefully you are not like Levenson running full bore towards it. Remember fleeing it won’t do much good if you leave a forwarding address in order for temptation to find you.

I am sure you are like me and many others. You will deal with as Christ prescribed, watching and praying. Oh, there is that word I like so much, watching γρηγορεω, or the English word, Gregory, hmmm why do I like that? (Every time you see or hear the word watch you should now be thinking of my name, Gregory)

We will give strict attention to our inward proclivity and we will, be cautious when our internal desires attempt to lure us or entice us, especially when external circumstances are egging our internal desires on.

And we will pray. We will ask God for wisdom to recognize our innate sinfulness. We will ask God for His strength and energy to put down and kill those wicked proclivities. We will ask God to be victorious because we have done our part and we have trusted Him.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

S is for Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus

 Stand Up for Jesus

Most of you have sung this song a number of times. It is an old standard and favorite that has crossed denominational lines over the years. Do you know its history and how it came to be written?

In 1858 a great revival had broken out in Philadelphia, PA. It was known as the “Work of God in Philadelphia.” Among the preachers who preached the Word of God was a young, twenty nine year old Episcopalian pastor named Dudley Tyng.

Pastor Tyng not only preached at his church but he also preached daily at noon in the downtown Philadelphia YMCA. Huge crowds would come to hear this dynamic young man during the noon hour of each day. He was fearless and uncompromising as he preached.

As a matter of fact, on Tuesday, March 30th, 1858 over 5000 people were present when he preached a sermon called “Go now ye that are men and serve the LORD, from Exodus 10:11. The record shows that over 1000 people committed their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ from that message.

Ominously enough, at one point, Pastor Tyng stated, “I must tell my Master’s errand, and I would rather that this right arm were amputated at the trunk than that I should come short of my duty to you in delivering God’s message.”

The following week, while he was visiting in the country and observing the operation of a corn threshing machine in a barn, his loose sleeve was caught between the cogs. His arm was lacerated so severely that it severed the main artery. As he lay dying from the loss of blood, a group which had gathered around him asked him for his final words. Pastor Tyng said as his last words,“Let us all stand up for Jesus.”

The very next Sunday, his close friend, Pastor George Duffield, who was pastor of the Temple Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, preached a tribute to his dear friend. He closed his sermon with a poem that he had just written inspired, he said, by the last words of Pastor Tyng.

Stand up; stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross!
Lift high his royal banner – it must not suffer lost.
From victory unto victory His army shall he lead
Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, the trumpet call obey;
Forth to the mighty conflict in this his glorious day.
Ye that are men now serve him against unnumbered foes
Let courage rise with danger and strength to strength oppose

Stand up; Stand up for Jesus, the strife will not be long;
This day the noise of battle – the next, the victor’s song.
To him that overcometh a crown of life shall be;
He with the King of glory shall reign eternally

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

R is for Ransom

R is for Ransom

Mothers! Sometimes it seems that you can’t live with them but you certainly cannot live without them. In Matthew chapter twenty we have a mother petitioning Jesus on behalf of her boys, James and John. Like many “stage-mothers” she is seeking what she thinks is best for her boys. She wants them to be granted places of honor; one on either side of Jesus, when He inaugurates His kingdom.

Jesus tells this dear mother that she doesn’t know what she is asking. Jesus asks her boys, James and John, if they are able to drink from the cup that He is about to drink from. Without hesitation, and if I might add, without thinking, they both said yes. We know that Jesus said that they indeed would drink from His cup, in other words, they both would die as a result of their association with Him. He also told them it was not His right to give this honor away, it was the Father who would determine this honor.

Then Jesus rebuked them gently with a reminder of “lording” it over others, or really, seeking positions of honor and authority. For that is what is meant by sitting on the left and right hand of Jesus – those are places of honor and authority.

Then Jesus says this to the boys, “You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and who ever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28, ESV)

The paradox of Christianity is that to be great you must be less, a servant; if you want authority you must serve. Jesus used Himself in this passage as an illustration of this great paradoxical truth. Jesus also said something that has been misinterpreted and misconstrued in many of our churches today, when he said, “…to give his life a ransom for many.” What did he mean by that? What is a ransom?

Jesus spoke of this as a metaphor linking it with the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. The Greek word for ransom is λυτρον. It comes from two Greek words which mean “to release” and the other “to terminate.” This word is used only twice in the New Testament. It is used for the price for redeeming, or ransoming. It is the price that is paid to redeem or buy back slaves or captives releasing them from and terminating their bondage or captivity. It is also used for the process that liberates people from misery and from the penalty of their sins. It means “a price paid”, or “a transaction made” in order to obtain the freedom of someone else. The idea of this word is grounded in the ancient world when slaves and captured soldiers were given their freedom upon the payment of an agreed upon price.

The idea of ransom or to redeem is linked with the deliverance of the children of Israel, or the Israelites from the land of Egypt. It is also the basis of the book of Ruth. The important thing to note is that in these references the focus is not on the price but the focus is on the deliverance that is achieved and the freedom that has been obtained. Did you get that? The focus is on the deliverance and the freedom, not on the price.

Why is this so important? The focus on the activity of God when He “delivered” many from their sins and obtained “freedom” for many is not on the price but on the results. When the concept of ransom is applied to the saving work of God the focus is on the results.

When the bible speaks of ransom relating to the work of Jesus Christ it is not implying a “transaction” where a deal is done. The focus is on the saving power of the work of Christ on the cross. Jesus speaks of his death as a means of releasing or delivering many people from the bondage of their sin, judgment, and punishment.

Why is this important to understand? I think for at least three reasons. The first reason is this; you do not have to wonder or ask who the ransom was paid to. I say this because people are absolutely wrong when they say the ransom was paid to Satan. It was not.

Satan did not judge nor condemn sinners. God did. God had no obligation to Satan nor did God have to meet any demand of Satan. For the record Jesus did not pay the ransom price to God either. If you study the Scriptures carefully you will see that God is the author of salvation. God saves through Jesus Christ. The ransom was not “paid” to Satan or God.

The second reason this is important is so that you and I can fully appreciate our salvation, our redemption from sin, bondage, judgment, condemnation, and death. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God takes it upon Himself to free and release his people, the many, from sin. In other words, God meets the demands of His own Being, of His own character and nature through the sacrificial and atoning death of Christ.

The third reason is very simple; God receives all the glory. God is very jealous about His glory. Everything that God does is to promote, protect, preserve, and present His glory. God makes that very clear in Isaiah when he says  that He will not share His glory with any other person or entity.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Q is for Quelle

Q is for Quelle

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17, emphasis mine)

The bible and historic Christianity both claim that the bible is inerrant. The basic meaning of inerrancy means that the text, in this case the bible, is accurate, truthful, and totally free of error in its original autographs or writings.

If the original autographs or writings were inerrant, we must answer the question how is it the case? It is because of what is known as the doctrine of inspiration. Paul in the above passage asserts that all of the Old Testament writings were breathed out by God. In some fashion unknown to us, God “breathed” his words into the various writers who then wrote the very words of God.

Inspiration has been under attack since shortly after the individual books of the bible were written. Since mankind as a whole refuses to be placed under the authority of God’s word contained in the bible, mankind has sought to destroy, dilute, defuse, and to discount the fact that these various men could have written within the scope of their own personality the very words of God. Various theories have been developed to destroy this very precious doctrine of inspiration.

An example of this is the ridiculous assertion that Matthew, and Luke had to have another document, in addition to Mark from which to copy when they wrote their respective gospels. The theory was developed that a document which no longer exists must have existed in order to provide the material that they would need to complete their gospels.

Q is the term given to the second source supposedly used by Matthew and Luke in addition to their copy of Mark. The siglum, a symbol used to denote a manuscript, “Q” derives from the German word "Quelle," which means "Source." It is thought that Q is a written collection of various oral sayings and teachings supposedly used by Matthew and Luke. It is thought that in order to have written their gospels they had to copy from Mark and a second source, a “mysterious document” called Q.

The existence of Q has been challenged by many scholarly critics. I for one do not believe that first, it ever existed, and secondly that it was ever needed. There is neither doubt nor harm in thinking that both Matthew and Luke had a copy of Mark available to them while they were writing their gospels. However, I strenuously reject the idea that Matthew and Luke could not have written their gospels without copying from Mark and this mysterious source called Q.

Matthew and Luke, not to mention Mark all wrote under or by the inspiration of God. Luke states that he painstakingly researched his material. Luke was able to talk to many eye-witnesses including Mary the mother of Jesus. Matthew recorded information from a first hand, eye-witness perspective. After all, he was present throughout the ministry of Jesus, beginning with the baptism of Jesus all the way to the resurrection. The events or teaching that Matthew and Luke were not privy to was given to them by the Holy Spirit through the doctrine of inspiration.

Monday, April 19, 2010

P is for Propitiation

P is for Propitiation

Romans 3:21-26 states, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, who God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

“…who [Christ] God put forward as a propitiation.” This is a difficult word to translate, let alone understand. Unfortunately many believers do not know what this word means. Since they don’t know what it means they are cheated of the opportunity of appreciating it and giving God praise and glory as a result of their understanding.

The Greek word which we translate propitiation is the word “ιλαστηριον.” This word was used by the Greeks to imply “to make the gods propitious, or to appease the gods. The Greeks believed that their various gods did not have “good will” as an innate character trait. As a matter of fact the Greeks believed that the good will of their gods had to be earned or purchased.

The bible does not recognize this definition nor does it apply it to God in any way. This word is never used to imply that man by any act, attitude, or action could earn or purchase the good will of God. There is no way that man can turn away God’s wrath. There is no sacrifice, no work, no effort, no self-denial, nor flagellation that could ever satisfy God or turn away his wrath.

The bible is clear that God was “propitiated” by the vindication of His holy character which had been assaulted by man’s sin through the provision of an offering or sacrifice that He determined to be satisfactory to him. In other words, through the decision to give his Son as a vicarious substitute for sinful mankind, God’s wrath, God’s holiness, and God’s justice was appeased. This is the reason why God can be merciful to a sinful man and extend forgiveness to a sinful.

Propitiation is simply the removal of the wrath of God by the offering of a sacrificial offering. God is able and willing to put away His wrath against sinful man because of the propitiatory offering of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. God exercises his wrath against sin which results in condemnation and judgment. But Jesus Christ is the means by which he averts the divine wrath by the offering of his body in place of sinful mankind.

God did not pour out his wrath against sinful man but poured out his wrath against his own and only Son. At the moment of faith in the atoning work of Christ, the benefit of the cross is applied to us and we become acceptable to God by being “in Christ.”

In Adam I sinned my estate had fell,
my just desert was a place called hell.
God’s wrath against me was fully written,
no hope at all, for by sin I was smitten

A just and holy God knew not sin,
twas he who made me to live again.
Alas, He would give his son to be,
a sacrifice made acceptable for me

My place he took upon the cross
yes he bore my sin and guilt at cost
He became sin for me and yet,
It was his rightousness I did get!

Oh, what heavenly transaction was this;
that God’s own Son bore death’s kiss?
What joy what mystery and what elation!
Christ Jesus became the sinner’s propitiation!

(copy-righted by Gregg Metcalf, April 18, 2010)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

John MacArthur on the "Purpose Driven LIfe"

The Sunday Sound-Bite...

Gospel Driven Disciples includes a weekly component called  The Sunday Sound-Bite.

These "sound-bites" will be from various men of God commenting on various topics with the goal of provoking a deeper appreciation of our Lord Jesus Christ and to facilitate obedience to the admonition given in II Peter 3:18 – “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Savior Jesus Christ.”

This selection is a synopsis by John MacArthur, Pastor of Grace Community Church, Panorama City, CA., on the so called but vastly deceptive, "Purpose Driven Life."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

O is for Only

O is for Only

O is for “Only” – as in unique or “one of a kind”

I am teaching through the gospel of John in our Adult Bible Class called the Sojourners. We have finally reached John, chapter three and verse sixteen. Without a doubt this is probably the most famous of all verses in the bible. It is also the most misunderstood and misquoted verse in the entire bible.

In order to understand this verse correctly, I have developed a plan to look thoroughly at this particular verse. We have spent one week introducing this verse. I have broken the verse down into four separate weeks of observation phrase by phrase. We will then culminate the study with a wrap up of the verse with its proper meaning. All in all we will have spent six weeks looking at John 3:16.

“So loved God the world that he gave his only Son…” is how the text actually reads.

One of the misunderstandings of this verse includes the meaning of the Greek word μονογενης (monogenes). The literal meaning is “one of a kind,” only,” or unique.” It does not mean “only begotten.” John could have said that but he would have to use the word, “monogennetos.”

Our word “monogenes” is used in the New Testament a number of times to refer to “only” sons or daughters. This word is applied to Jesus in a special sense that since he is the only Son of God, he has no one equal to him, therefore he and he alone is able to fully reveal the Father to us.

The word "monogenes" comes from two Greek words; the first is mono which means “of a single” and genos which means “kind or type.” Our word is describing a quality of Jesus which is his uniqueness. Our Greek word actually expresses the idea of a Hebrew word which is translated as “only, precious.” This word is used of Isaac in Genesis 22:2, 12, and 16. Isaac was Abraham’s uniquely precious son. Incidentally, if you recall Isaac was not Abraham’s only-begotten son. Abraham had already fathered or begotten Ishmael by Sarah’s maid.

So Jesus is the only, uniquely precious Son of God. He is not God’s only-begotten. How did it get miss-translated as the only begotten Son of God? A man named Arius (250-336 AD) challenged the Trinitarian teaching of the church. He taught that Jesus was made by God and did not exist eternally as the Son of God and as the second member of the Godhead. As a means of refuting this teaching Jerome when he translated the bible into Latin (The Latin Vulgate) supplied the Latin word for only-begotten. The Latin Vulgate had a major influence on the King James Version. When the Greek word, (translated by the Latin word) was translated into English, the mistranslation continued as the “only-begotten.”

The first question you should be asking, “Does it matter?” It doesn’t matter if you know what John is stressing. The first question that must be asked when interpreting scripture is “Who is speaking?” The second question that must be asked is, “Who is being spoken to.” The third question that must be asked is, “What is being said?” In other words, when John wrote these words, “So loved God the world that he gave his only Son…” what did John mean and what did he intend for his readers to understand?

To answer that question we have to remember what John’s purpose was for writing his gospel. The first purpose was that the Elders in the Ephesian church pushed him to write this gospel. They shared with him that he was the last apostle, the last link to Jesus Christ. He needed for the sake of the church to write his memoirs. Secondly, John tells us in chapter 21:30-31 why he wrote his gospel, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John’s purpose was to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. To prove this John chose to write about seven signs or miracles that Jesus performed. The purpose of writing about these miracles was so that his readers, a combination of Jews and Gentiles would believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

So, John is establishing the credentials of Jesus Christ. John also establishes the fact that Jesus came to reveal the Father. Who else could accurately reveal the Father than a Son? John establishes the fact that Jesus is able to reveal the Father because he is the only, the one of a kind, the unique-precious Son of God. Therefore we must believe Jesus. He has the credentials as the only Son to fully and accurately reveal the Father.

And so, “O” is for the “only” Son of the Father!

Friday, April 16, 2010

N is for The “Nevers” of the Gospel

O Lord,

May I…

Never fail to come to the knowledge of the truth,

Never rest in a system of doctrine, however scriptural, that does not bring or further salvation, or teach me to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, or help me to live soberly, righteously, godly;

Never rely on my own convictions and resolutions, but be strong in Thee and in Thy might;

Never cease to find Thy grace sufficient in all my duties, trials, and conflicts;

Never forget to repair to Thee in all my spiritual distresses and outward troubles, in all the dissatisfactions experienced in creature comforts;

Never fail to retreat to Him who is full of grace and truth, the Friend that loveth at all times, who is touched with the feelings of my infirmities, and can do exceeding abundantly for me;

Never confine my religion to extraordinary occasions, but acknowledge Thee in all my ways;

Never limit my devotions to particular season but be in Thy fear all the day long;

Never be godly only on the Sabbath or in Thy house, but on every day abroad and at home;

Never make piety a dress but a habit, not only a habit ~ but a nature, not only a nature ~ but a life.

Do good to me by all Thy dispensations, by all means of grace, by worship, prayers, praises,

And at last let me enter that world where is no temple, but only Thy glory and the Lamb’s.

From a Prayer recorded in The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, published by The Banner of Truth Trust, edited by Arthur Bennett, reprinted 2001, p. 64

Thursday, April 15, 2010

M is for Mission Field

 is for Mission Field

I love where I live. I live here on purpose. I am not from Longview. In February 2005, I believe God, through the wisdom and counsel of Godly men and certain circumstances led us to move to Longview, Washington. It is a beautiful city, especially in the Sping and Summer when everything is green and blooming.

Longview has a beautiful park name Lake Sacajawea that was created when an old slough was dug out and formed into a man made Lake. It has small but accesible “islands” in the lake, places for picnics, weddings, and such. Gorgeous running trails circumvent the entire lake for some three miles.

The streets are lined on both sides of most streets extending into the center of the street. The branches almost touch from side to side as if they were holding hands. Numerous cherry trees, azaleas, and shrubbery have been strategikcally planted to make the city “blossom” with beauty.

Unfortunately Longview has a dark secret that first, is heart-breaking, and second, one of the reasons I moved here. Among many things, Longview struggles against a major illicit drug trade. Longview has a methamphetamine problem. Some have said the problem is rampant and out of control.

Some folks, including the old-timers will tell you it is the economy. Almost all of the local mills have closed. They will also “blame” the closing of our aluminum smelting plant. The unemployment rate in Washington is the highest here in Cowlitz County.

Others, especially the “kids” will tell you it is simply small-town living. They say Longview is boring and there is nothing here for them. Many who turn to drug use say them did so because there was nothing else to do. From a “worldly” point of view I understand exactly what they are saying. I don’t excuse it or accept it, but it makes sense to them.

Why do I love this community so much? Why would I move here knowing there is a segment of our beautiful and planned community that is shackeled by drug use?

The answer is found in the Second Epistle that Paul wrote to the Corinthians. Paul has chosen to “defend” himself to the Corinthian Church since false teachers have slandered him mercilessly. In chapter ten Paul “defends” his ministry to the Corinthian church. Paul has been accused of living “fleshly” or worldly and using less than “acceptable” spiritual means to wage warfare against “spiritual” enemies.

So, he states in verse four, “…the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”

The word Paul used for strongholds is the Greek Word that is translated as stronghold, fortress, or a castle. This is not a picture post-card castle everyone would want to visit. It is a well armed, fortified, guarded and defensive fortress holding captives.

People whom Paul denoted as “carnal” or non-Christian in his first letter to the Corinthians are held captive by sin. They are in bondage to their sin nature. The only freedeom that they have is the freedom to live in obedience to their basic appetites and desires. They are completely controlled by their desires, appetites, or sometiems translated lusts. Apart from a work of Christ in their heart they cannot free themselves from these chains. They are bound in fortress-like castles or prisons that hold them captive. Even though freedom is promised in one’s own srtengh, through a world view, pyschology, sexual revolution, humanism, relativism, and a host of other “isms” they are bound and imprisoned in these fortresses.

Many of the residents of this city are bound in those fortresses. They are imprisoned by their own sin nature. Day by day after day they move through this life unaware that they are imprisoned in a fortress that will one day become their tomb apart from the good news of the gospel.

I love this town. I love these people. My heart is broken for the ones who have broken minds, souls, bodies, and families due to any imprisoning sin including methampethamine. I move here to share the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ that can truly set a person free. Free from their own lusts, appetites, and desires. Free from immorality, free from lying, free from anger, hatred, jealousy, gossip and even drug use.

I believe that through the gospel, through weapons that have divine power some of these strongholds or fortressess can be destroyed. I believe through the gospel some of these imprisoned souls can be set free as the wicked thoughts of their heart and the enemy are taken captive and made to be obedient to Jesus Christ.

My heart breaks for our communtity. I pray for our city regularly. I pray that this rising drug epidemic can be tharwted by the moving of the Holy Spirit in the lives of our citizens. My desire is to spend the rest of my life in Longview sharing the gospel with imprisoned souls and watching the power of Christ setting them free.

So, M can be for methamphetamine, murder, mayhem, misogyny, man-slaugher, molestation, matricide, mugging, or misbehavior; they are all fortresses of wickedness or darkness holding people prisoner. M is definetly for my mission field!

Anyone want to come up and help?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

L is for Longview

Longview, a Planned City

Longview is a city with a unique history. At the time of its conception, Longview was the only planned city of its magnitude to have ever been conceived of and built entirely with private funds. But don't be carried away by romantic visions of Pierre Lafont's capitol city, or the benevolent experiments of utopian social scientists. Longview was the direct result of industrial expansionism.

What makes Longview different from the majority of cities that have sprung up throughout history is that it was completely planned down to the last sidewalk and the last street name before construction ever began. Originally, this planning allowed the city to grow inwards along organized lines with separate areas designated for business, industrial and residential areas.

The Beginnings

The city´s origins can be traced back to decisions made in a Kansas City, Missouri board room in 1918. Present at that meeting were Robert Alexander Long, president of Long-Bell Lumber Company, and Mr. S. M. Morris, among others. By 1918 the southern timber holdings of Long-Bell lumber were nearly depleted. In the days before tree farming, logging operations clear cut all the timber in a given area and then moved on. The board of directors had to decide whether to liquidate the company´s sizeable logging operation and concentrate on their line of hardware stores and commercial lumber yards or to look elsewhere for another source of timber. No one present that day could have imagined that just six years into the future Long-Bell would be responsible for the incorporation of a fully modern city.

The Move

The decision was made to stay in the timber business. Originally, Long-Bell planned to build only one mill at the site which was to become Longview, and had no intention of ever building a city. In those days it was common to build a mill and then let a mill town spring up pell-mell around it. Living conditions for loggers and mill workers alike were usually abysmal and little thought was given to their comfort or to that of their dependants. As Long-Bell planned to build first one, then two mills at the sight, it became apparent that upwards of 14,000 workers would be needed at the site. The nearest center of population, Kelso, had less than 2,000 residents, and it was obvious to even the casual observer that a fraction of the new workers would inundate the existing town's infrastructure.

In May, 1921, Wesley Vandercook, Long-Bell's Chief Engineer set up headquarters in Kelso, and with a hundred men began to survey the new purchase. The result was a highly detailed contour map that filled an entire room. This map could be used by the loggers to plan their cuttings, the location of railroad grades, and even the spar trees to be used in hauling timber up inclines before any operations were begun. As Mr. Vandercook began to appraise the local situation, it became clear that major accommodations would have to be made for the mill site and for the workers who would man it.

First, the majority of the flat land, purchased by Long-Bell across the Cowlitz River and about four miles from Kelso, had a high water table and would require the surrounding protection of a large dike in order to be suitable land for building. In addition, Mr. Vandercook realized that Long-Bell had not purchased enough of the flat valley land to contain their operations. After conferring with Mr. Long, principal stockholder and general manager of Long-Bell, an additional 47 options to buy were contracted on the lowlands stretching between the Cowlitz and Columbia Rivers. All of these options to buy were exercised by Long-Bell in the next five months, giving the company a majority of the valley's flat land.

The City

Longview is the modern city that it is today due in a large part to the personal determination of Robert A. Long. George B. Kessler of St. Louis, and Hare & Hare of Kansas City, nationally known city planners, were contracted to complete the plans for Longview. Monticello Hotel, R. A. Long High School, the YMCA building, and the Longview Public Library were donated by Mr. Long personally. The city planners originally imagined a fully developed Longview to be a city with 75,000 residents. Today the population is 35,000.

Longview was dedicated in July, 1923. In February of 1924, it was incorporated and a municipal government was established. Its history began in the roaring ´20s and today Longview continues to grow in size and diversity. It is a fresh, new, healthy town with a promising future and an already rich past.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

K is for Kit Kar Bar

K is for Kit Kat Bar

You know the one that says, "Break me off a little piece of that Kit Kat Bar?"

The Kit Kat candy bar was developed after a worker in the Rowntree factory in York, England put a suggestion in the suggestion box asking for a snack that “a man could have in his lunch box for work.” The candy bar was produced in September 1935 in Great Britain. It was called the Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp.

A two “finger” bar was produced on May 15, 1936. In 1937 the Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp was renamed the Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp in 1937. At the end of War World II the candy became known simply as the Kit Kat Bar. The name is believed to have come from the Kit Kat Club which was an eighteenth-century political club for artists.

The Kit Kat Bar is produced worldwide by Nestle Candy who bought Rowntree in 1988. The bar is produced in the Unites States under a license by the Hershey Company. Each bar consists of fingers made of three layers of crème filled wafer that is covered in an outer layer of chocolate. Each bar can be “snapped” off from the bar one at a time.

Some additional facts include the dimensions of each bar:

The traditional bar has four fingers which each measure approximately 1 centimetre (0.39 in) by 9 centimetres (3.5 in). The Kit Kat Chunky (known as Big Kat in the U.S.) has one large finger approximately 2.5 centimetres (0.98 in) wide and was introduced in 1999.

Kit Kat bars contain varying numbers of fingers depending on the market, ranging from the half-finger sized Kit Kat Petit in Japan to the three-fingered variants in Arabia to the twelve-finger Kit Kat family-size bars in Australia and France. Kit Kat bars are sold either individually or in bags, boxes or multi-packs. In the Ireland, UK and Canada, Nestlé also produces a Kit Kat ice cream; and in Malaysia, Kit Kat Drumsticks.

Monday, April 12, 2010

J is for Joy!

J is for Joy

"All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves."

— Blaise Pascal

Joy is a delight that runs deeper than pain or pleasure. Joy is not happiness. Men regularly confuse joy and happiness. The unfortunate truth is that men will settle for happiness and never achieve God given joy.

Joy is not tied to external circumstances. Joy is a gift of God. Joy can be experienced even in the midst of the most trying of circumstances. Joy is not based on favorable circumstances or events.

The Old and the New Testament relate joy as a mark of a believer. Joy is not a fleeting feeling or emotion that comes and goes depending on a given situation. Joy is a gift from God and is grounded in God. Joy flows from God to His children.

“You make known to me the paths of life; in your presence there is fullness
of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalms 16:11, ESV)

“May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13, ESV)

The most common words for joy in the New Testament are chara (joy) and chairo (to rejoice). The joy represented is commonly connected with God’s gift of salvation. There is cause for great joy as a result of God’s redeeming grace.

The rub comes when you realize that Jesus made it clear that joy is connected to love and to obedience. Read the gospel of John, chapter fifteen, verses nine through fourteen very carefully. The apostle Paul made joy a vital part of the fruit produced in a believer’s life by the Holy Spirit. Again, take some time and read Galatians chapter five verse twenty two very carefully.

Joy and happiness are not the same thing. Joy stems from God through the salvation provided by Jesus Christ and happiness is just that; happen-stance based on favorable circumstances. Biblically speaking, you cannot experience joy when preoccupied with your own security, pleasure, or self-interest.

God alone is the only sufficient and/or adequate source for human existence. God alone enables us to live life with joy. Yet we often are more than willing to trade the joy of knowing and experiencing God for almost anything else.

Jesus asked this penetrating question, “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his souls? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

The proper is that we simply settle to easily for happiness and rarely strive for joy. C. S. Lewis said it this way;

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Lewis says we are far too easily pleased. We settle when God offers to us infinite joy. God offers Himself – the greatest treasure that could ever be obtained.

What will you settle for? Are you easily pleased with the temporal bobbles of happiness and happenstance? Are you more particular and will forego sparkling bobbles and will you take the joy offered by God?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Gospel: Hard to Believe Part 2

The Sunday Sound-Bite...

Gospel Driven Disciples introduces a new component: The Sunday Sound-Bite.

These "selections" will be from various men of God commenting on various topics with the goal of provoking a deeper appreciation of our Lord Jesus Christ and to facilitate obedience to the admonition given in II Peter 3:18 – “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Savior Jesus Christ.”

This selection is part two of an interview of John MacArthur, Pastor of Grace Community Church, Panorama City, CA. This is part two of a three part series. They are talking about the truth of the Word of God.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I is for Illustrations

I is for Illustrations

In my line of work I deal with theological concepts. It is my job to take theological ideas and concepts from the pages of Scripture and deliver them to the folks of my flock as accurately and with the most applicability as possible. It is not my job to invent or reinvent these biblical truths. I am, as in the words of Dr. John MacArthur, Jr., "merely the waiter who brings the feast of Gods’ word to the table without messing it up."

Sermon illustrations have been around for a long time. Illustrations have been called the “window to let light in” to many of these complex concepts. The Free Encyclopedia defines illustrations in this manner:

An illustration is a visualization such as a drawing, painting,
photograph or other work of art that stresses subject more than form.
The aim of an illustration is to elucidate or decorate textual information
(such as a story, poem or newspaper article) by providing a visual

Unfortunately, many pastors utilize their wives and children as sermon illustrations. No matter how many times they have been told that this practice often leads to the extreme embarrassment of their families, many pastors persist. Irregardless of how plentiful and readily available the “illustrations” may be, it is insensitive, at least without advance permission to include a wife or child’s latest gaff, sin, failure, or personal struggle in a Sunday sermon.

So agree the ladies from a Florida church. They put together a parody of a Carrie Underwood song called Before He Cheats. Their parody is called Before He Speaks and I think is an apt example of a work of “art that stresses the subject and decorates textual information with a visual representation in order to serve as a window letting light in on this touchy subject." Don’t you agree?

Friday, April 9, 2010

H is for Habakkuk

H is for Habakkuk

It would have been almost too easy to do a post on Heaven, Hell, Holy Spirit, or even hope. I wanted the topic that I chose for “H” to be a special topic. I wanted it to be a real blessing to you and a topic you wouldn’t forget. As a result I prayed for something that I could share with you and here was the answer. Habakkuk!

Allow me to give you just a little bit of background concerning the prophecy he spoke. Then I will share with you why he is so special to me. I will try to be brief.

Habakkuk was a prophet in the land or for the land of Judah in the late 7th century. Very little is known of this prophet and the rest of the Old Testament is silent concerning him. He seems to have prophesized shortly after the fall of Nineveh to the Babylonians in 587 BC. He probably spent his childhood in Judah during the reign of the boy-King Josiah.

So few people take the time to read this book or acquaint themselves with his prophecy and that is a shame. He actually asked God questions that many people ask today. “Is God in charge of history?” “If He is, why do things happen the way that they do?”

Habakkuk cried out to God concerning the violence and the lawlessness that was rampant in his beloved country. He was a man who loved justice but he had seen justice perverted and cried out to God against the wickedness that was prevalent.

The book is set up with two complaints made by Habakkuk to God and then the replies given to him by God. Habakkuk is able to find joy in Jehovah God, the God of his salvation. He is able to find victory over weakness and he was able to discover and experience God’s faithfulness even in the midst of the greatest trials, tribulation, and testing of his life.

When I was laid off in January 2002 I was at the pinnacle of my secular career. I had achieved the second highest position I could obtain and was making very close to the six figure salary that I had dreamed of. I was devastated when I got the news. This new trial drove me back to God and back to the word of God. I began to pray again and study the word of God again after an approximately five year period of being estranged from God.

My study took me first to the epistle of James, since the first chapter deals so heavily with trials. I was then led to the Old Testament book of Job. Eventually I made my way to Habakkuk. I joined him in his journey from his question of “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up the more righteous than themselves…?” I was with him when he said, “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.

Then I came to the same conclusion that Habakkuk did. As God unfolded this for me in the midst of our darkest hour, when our home was threatened by foreclosure, when there was no food in the cupboards, when the bill collectors were calling hourly, and I couldn’t find a job – Habakkuk and I came to this conclusion in chapter three, verses seventeen through nineteen:

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.

The fig tree, fruitful vines, olives, abundant food, flocks and herds were all signs of God’s blessing to Israel. The presence of these things signified God’s pleasure and blessing. The absence of these things signified the opposite. Habakkuk is saying, even if you take away every blessing and possession from me, I will still rejoice in God. Why? I don’t look to these things as the source of my joy or the source of my strength. God alone in all of his splendid and majestic character was the source of joy and strength for Habakkuk.

This has now become my source of strength and joy. It doesn’t matter if I loose my house, my car, my job, my savings, or my health. These things don’t provide joy or strength. What matters if that I find my joy and strength in God.

By the way, as a side note – the blessings on Israel under the Old Covenant were mainly physical – land, produce, animals, etc. The blessings on believers and the church under the New Covenant are mainly spiritual (until we come into the future Kingdom of God.) God has not promised us a rose garden this side of heaven.

It was a major milestone that Habakkuk cleared when he came to the point where if all of the indicators or tokens of God’s blessings went missing, he would still find his joy and satisfaction in the Lord God.

Allow me to encourage you to look to God for all of your joy and strength rather than to physical indicators or tokens. Make God your greatest treasure so if, and in some form it will, (at least if you are a child of God) calamity befalls you, you will not loose your joy or strength.

 Sadly, many believers never come to see God as their greatest treasure and they many times, in some cases temporarily loose their joy and strength. Since God is invisible and intangible we have a tendency to place confidence, joy, expectation, and trust in our possessions rather than our God.

Finally, in conclusion, these words are still true in my heart during this time of lay-off some eight years later. Even though I haven't found a job as of yet and the house payment is due, I still find my joy and my strength in God and God alone. He has become and is my greatest treasure. He is all I need!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

G is for Gregory: The Watchful Shepherd!

G is for Gregory

"Watch [gregoreuo] and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The Spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt 26:41, ESV)

Gregory, which is my first name, is a common masculine first name. It is derived from the Latin name “Gregorius,” which is from the Greek name “Gregorios.” Gregorios means “watchful” and it comes from the Greek word gregorein which means “to watch.”

The name Gregory is also associated with a Latin stem “greg” which means flock or herd. So the name became associated with a shepherd who diligently watches over or guides a flock of sheep.

Interestingly enough this association made the name Gregory a very popular name for monks and even popes. As a matter of fact there have been 16 popes with the name Gregory, beginning with Pope Gregory I. I was surprised to learn that the name Gregory was the second most popular name for Popes, second to the name John.

The verb “gregoreuo,” or “watch” is used some 23 times in the New Testament. It carries the meaning “to give strict attention to, be cautious, to take heed or care so that no destructive calamity suddenly overtakes oneself.”

My mother wanted a very masculine sounding name for her first born son as she contemplated naming me. She settled on Gregory Dean. She didn’t know Greek or Latin or even the origin of the name she settled on.

I use to hate my name. The kids would make fun of it in a number of ways.  I learned to shorten my name to Gregg by the sixth grade in hopes it wouldn’t given other kids any other ideas.

However, since I studied the bible and Greek and discovered what my name meant, I have been very surprised at the “coincidence” of my name and profession. I am a very cautious watcher and take tremendous care when it comes to bible doctrine and teaching. I am a shepherd who has and is planning on watching very diligently over a flock of sheep in the near future.

By the way the two characters at the top left of the post is the small and capitalized letter "G" in the Koine Greek language. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek and a smidgen of Aramaic. The word Koine means common.