Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zipporah

zi por e (or) zip ere

"Sparrow or Swallow"

So much is read and said of Moses that many times we forget that there was a Mrs. Moses. In addition to being the wife of Moses she played a significant part in his life which actually resulted in the saving of his life.

When Moses was grown, or had come of age and was a man by the Egyptian rites of passage, he chose to visit his people, the Hebrews. Apparently his adopted mother, Pharaoh's daughter, and quite possibly Mose's mother did not keep the fact that Moses was a Hebrew secret from him. While out and about from the palace and amongst his own people Moses saw an Egyptian fighting with one of Moses' homies. Moses chose to defend the man and killed the Egyptian. Somehow it came to the Pharaoh's attention and Moses had to skedaddle out of town. Moses fled to the desert where he met the daughters of a man named Reuel. Reuel must has taken a liking to Moses because he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses as his wife. Moses married Zipporah and took up residence there.

Reuel and his family lived in Sinai in northern Arabia near the Gulf of Agabah. Reuel was the priest of Midian. Zipporah was one of the seven daughters of Reuel. Zipporah was a descendant of Abraham through his wife Keturah. She  became the mother of two little boys named Gershom and Eliezer.   (Genesis 25:1.)

Zipporah is most remembered for saving the life of her husband Moses during an attack by God on Moses. Moses was returning to Egypt from the desert to confront Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and he was attacked by God. The reason for the attack is not very clear. Zipporah, it seems, surmised that the attack had something to do with the Abrahamic covenant. She seems to have concluded that the covenant had been violated in some manner. She immediately proceeded to circumcise her son. When she completed the circumcision the attack on her husband ceased. (Exodus 4:19-28)

Moses, on his way to deliver Israel from bondage had forgotten the very foundational sign of the covenant between Jehovah God and the people of Israel, namely circumcision. Without circumcision an Israelite was cut off from the covenant and from God. God used a Midianite to remind Moses of God's Word and to save the life of the great liberator of His people.

At some point Zipporah and the boys were sent back to her father's house in Midian. Then at some point after  Moses had led the people of Israel out of Egypt, she and the boys rejoined Moses. We don't know why they were sent home. Some surmise that Moses was concerned for their safety in the event something went wrong with the confrontation with Pharaoh or with the exodus.

It is interesting to note that she must have been gone for quite some time. Many scholars speculate that while she was gone Moses married an Ethiopian women. They think this is the women that both Aaron and Miriam "spoke against" and despised in Numbers 12:1.

2010 A-Z Challenge:  Z is for Zacchaeus
2011 A-Z Challenge:  Z is for Zipporah

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur 
(yom ki-poor)

The day of atonement spoke of God's grace and mercy to His people. The day of atonement dealt with the sins of the children of Israel. Inherent within this sacrifice was a pictorial lesson that showed Israel how God dealt with their sin and of their standing before Him. The day of atonement demonstrated that the children of Israel stood before God as accepted by God and covered by God in relationship to their sin which unless atoned for separated them from God. (Leviticus 16:21)

The day of atonement was completely connected to the high priestly ritual of two goats. Two goats were to be taken from the flocks of the Israelites in order to become sacrifices unto God. Aaron, Moses brother, and the High Priest of Israel would cast lots in regards to the two goats that had been selected. One goat was to offered to God and the other goat was to become the "scapegoat."
Aaron would carefully follow the specific instructions given by God in Leviticus 4  for this annual sacrifice. The high priest would take the blood from the sacrificed goat into the tabernacle and into the holy of holies. He would then sprinkle the blood on the veil or the curtain and on the mercy seat which sat behind the curtain inside of the holy of holies. This was a "secret" act which was not observed by anyone. It seems that God wanted this covering by the blood to be known publically. There are several lessons in this "public" display of what took place inside the holy of holies.

First, God taught the children of Israel the truth or principle of substitution. When Aaron laid his hands on the "scapegoat" he was symbolizing the transference of the guilt of sin from the guilty to one who was innocent of sin. The scapegoat became a "sin-bearer."

Second, God taught the children of Israel that atonement forever and irreversibly puts away sin: the sin-bearer, the scapegoat goes - never to return - into the wilderness. The sin is forever dealt with, God is satisfied, and the condemnation and judgement is revoked for another year.

Third, God taught the children of Israel that this ceremony foreshadowed a day when sin would be finally dealt with by a sin-bearer that He would provide. The tabernacle no longer exists. The Temple was destroyed in AD 70, the children of Israel were scattered in AD 70. There is no more altar. There is no more high priest. There is no more day of atonement as the ancient Israelites knew them. Why?

The shadow was replaced by the reality! Approximately AD 32, Jesus Bar-Joseph (Son of Joseph) of Nazareth, who had been born in Bethlehem became both the scapegoat and the sin offering. Jesus willingly and obediently humbled himself by allowing both man and God to sacrifice Him upon a cross in order for God, His Father to exalt Him through the resurrection from the dead. Several things took place when the shadow became the reality:

First, the sin of God's elect, his chosen children from all tribes, tongues, nations, and peoples, were imputed to Jesus Christ. God placed the sin of his elect on Jesus Christ, and He who was innocent and had never sinned became sin in  order to have the full wrath and fury of an offended and almighty God hurled upon him. (Galatians 2:20)

Second, the total and complete righteousness of Jesus Christ was made available to be imputed by God to his elect when by faith they repent and trust in that atoning work completed by Jesus Christ. Those who were guilty of sin were eternally secured and their sin fully paid for.

Third, this sacrifice of Christ was made once, never to be repeated. Jesus said just before He willingly gave up His spirit and died, τετέλεσται (It is Finished!) Every year from the time of the Day of Atonement was instituted until AD 70, this ritual or ceremony had to be repeated. The high priests work was never finished. There were no chairs in the holy of holies or in the Tabernacle. The high priest could never sit, symbolizing that sin was not fully removed. Jesus upon ascending into heaven some 40 days after He was resurrected from the dead, SAT DOWN at the right of the Father symbolizing that the sacrifice was made and that it was accepted by God thereby removing sin. The work of the atonement foreshadowed in the Day of Atonement was forever finished never to be repeated again.

2010 A-Z Challenge:  Y is for Yokefellow
2011 A-Z Challenge:  Y is for Yom Kippur

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for Xanthikos


Xanthicus (zan thi kes) is the Greek name on the ancient Greek calendar for the month that corresponds to the Hebrew month of Nisan. Nisan corresponds to our Gregorian calendar month of March/April. Xanthicus had 31 days.

2010 A-Z Challenge:  X is for Xerxes
2011 A-Z Challenge: X is for Xanthikos

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Worship


At first I was going to ignore this term since it no longer means what it once did. I know I am going to get in trouble. Thanks to the enemy creating such a great schism in true Christendom by redefining and through the utilization of this word, a great chasm has been opened up in the body which can no longer be repaired. We have now inducted into our evangelical vocabulary such terms as "worship wars." The longer I thought on it the more determined I became not to shy away from this topic. After all this is my blog. I wouldn't shy away from this term in the pulpit. So here goes.

Worship has its roots in salvation doctrine. Worship begins with God. God, who is the creator, the rescuer, the redeemer, and the savior of our souls. Therefore, God who initiates salvation among His elect determines our approach to Him. Approach God we must. Truths such as election, propitiation, redemption, righteousness, forgiveness, justification demand a response from the people of God. The response, the only proper and natural response is worship. The worship of God.

The word worship is an Anglo Saxon, Old English word. Worship originated as "weorthscipe" or weordhscipe." This term means "worthship" or "worthiness." This definition denotes actions or activities motivated by an attitude that reveres, honors, or describes the worth of another person or object. In both the Old and New Testament this response is reserved for God who has revealed Himself in creation, conscience, and the Scriptures. Therefore, worship is determined to be reverent devotion in attitude and action which has been motivated by God's saving acts.

Let's look briefly to both the Old Testament (Hebrew) and the New Testament (Greek) and see if we can pull together a biblical meaning and understanding of this elusive term. The Hebrew verb abad means "to serve." The corresponding noun means "service, adoration." Another Hebrew word saha means "to prostrate one's self, to bow down." 

What you don't want to miss as you come to grips with this term, particularly in the Hebrew, is that the terms that are used imply some type or kind of activity. Yes, one can "fall down upon one's face" in homage or obeisance, but a service is to be rendered. It is the lesser (the worshipper) serving the greater (God.) Ruth bowed to the ground when she came in front of Boaz. (Ruth 2:10) In Joseph's dream, he saw his brothers "sheaves" bowing down in front of his sheaf. (Genesis 37:5,9-10) Moses when he ascertained he was in the presence of the LORD, quickly bowed his head toward the ground. (Exodus 34:8)

The most common Greek word for worship is proskyneo. This word depicts "the posture of kissing the ground." This word is a compound word, pros "to or towards" and kuneo "to kiss." This is considered a reverent act used mainly in the worship of a deity. The New Testament seems to use this word hesitantly, possibly because of the closeness to pagan worship. Again, the term demands a visible act, or a concrete activity of reverence to a visible deity.

A second word for worship comes from a word group gony, "knee" and gonypeteo "to bend the knee." This a gesture or activity of worship. The Latin form from which we get the English word "genuflect" which means the bending of the knee or full prostration. Once again, the underlying meaning is an active expression of an inner attitude of humility and self-abasement. A lesser is coming before or into the presence of a greater. The idea is that of an attitude of adoration, respect, and humility which springs spontaneously from the heart.

A third word for worship comes out of the word group latreiou "serve" and latreia "service." The idea garnered is that of the offering of sacrifice or service to God with no thought of reward or return. This service issues out of a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving and from a deep commitment of the heart.

This is why the apostle Paul would have fits with today's definitions and depictions of we call "worship." Paul would not understand the portion of the service listed in the bulletin as worship as having anything to do with singing. The evangelical church has redefined worship and turned in to what John MacArthur calls 7-11 Music. Seven choruses sung eleven times. We even differentiate the "singing/songs" from the preaching or teaching and other parts of the "worship service." Paul wouldn't have gotten this. Why? [Note: I am not saying singing is wrong!]

First, the main focus of the early service, believe it or not, was not the music or singing nor the teaching. The main focus was the Lord's Table. "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together, to sing for forty-five minutes-oops, to break bread..." (Acts 20:7)

Second, having been told to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another which often rise spontaneously from a grateful heart, that is not the idea of worship that Paul or the early church would have understood.  Paul insisted on the dedication of a believers entire life, which included inward expressions motivated by sheer humility and outward expressions of service and devotion. In other words, worship is a 24/7 lifestyle. It is something that we do from the time we wake up until we fall back asleep. Worship is not to be relegated to Sunday mornings between 11:00 and Noon, or even 10:30 until noon.

Worship is a dramatic celebration of God's supreme worth, value, or pricelessness in a manner that His worthiness becomes the normal inspiration of  our everyday living. Do you get that? Our everyday motivation is the worthiness of God. Understanding worship correctly leads to at least three conclusions:

  • Worship places God at the center of our lives because of His worthiness or worthship
  • Worship is not subjective; hence we can not define it as we see fit
  • Worship calls for the examination of our hearts in light of God's worthiness and His full knowledge of our hearts
Israel's worship was a response to God for the acts that He performed in the life of Israel. It is no different in the church, the believer's worship is a response to God for the acts that He performs in our lives and in the life of the church. The emphasis is on God not self. Whether this worship takes the form of verbal praise for the works and ways of God, joyful, heartfelt singing for His grace and mercy to us, or living our lives worthy of His calling of us unto himself. This is worship. "Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called with all lowliness..." This is worship, living our everyday lives in a manner which corresponds to his worth or value in a reverent manner.

But hey, that is not as fun as standing and swaying for forty-five minutes to an hour to up-beat, fast paced music which makes us "feel good." It is more fun to sing of all the things that God has done for us and call that worship than living Monday through Saturday reverently, in humble service of God.

Now don't get me wrong. My intent is not to mock anyone nor imply that music and singing is not important. It is! Otherwise Paul would not have told both the Colossian Church and Ephesian Church to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to each other. That is not worship. That is edification and encouragement.

When Abraham worshipped he bowed low to the ground and built an altar. (Genesis 13:18) God's instructions and laying out of the Tabernacle with its furnishings, sacrifices, and rituals were acts of worship and service. These things were acts of response. (Deuteronomy 8:1-20; Exodus 25-31)

In the early church the church gathered for worship which included prayer, teaching, the Lord's Table, and fellowship. Worship encompasses the entire being of the Christian in every aspect of his/her everyday life. 

E. Underhill wrote, "worship is the response of the creature to the eternal." This worship includes the awareness of the creaturliness and finiteness of the child of God who bows before a holy and transcendent being known as God. Worship includes humility, submission, and activities prompted by being humbled in the presence of God.

Worship is an exercise of the heart that is directed to God. Worship is not to satisfy our need (s) or to make us feel better but solely to express the worthiness of God. So worship ascribes to God His extreme and supreme worth. This is why it is so important to choose hymns and spiritual songs so carefully. Most today simply make the singer feel good and "acts" like a means to emotionally satisfy an individual. The song service of many churches today is nothing more than a an emotional junkie obtaining a fix in order to achieve another emotional high. The louder the music, heavier the beat, more vibrant the rhythm, and prolonged repetition the more we can be distracted from the glorious, majestic, almost indescribable attributes of a holy, righteous, magnificent, and majestic God and the more we can slip into a "trance-like" repetitive state where we think the repetition, loudness, and stimulation pleases God.

Now, don't get me wrong and if the "shoe does not fit" don't slip your foot into it. I am not talking to everyone  or about every "worship" service. Nor am implying one type of song or music is better than another. I am merely giving a definition of worship that would be hard pressed to define much of what is taking place today.

"Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name." (Psalms 96:8) So we sing of God's character, ways, power, works, and et. cetera, not what makes us feel good. Let me close out this blog before it turns into a two or three parter by sharing with you the goals of worship found in Isaiah Six: Worship:
  • begins with a true vision of the living God
  • demands a response
  • leads to the confession of sin (individually and corporately)
  • leads to the proclamation of the gospel
2010 A-Z Challenge: W is for "Where Would I Be" (an original composition by Gregg Metcalf) 
2011 A-Z Challenge: W is for Worship

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Valley of Vision

(The) Valley of Vision
A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions
Edited and compiled by Arthur Bennett

The strength of Puritan character and life lay in prayer and meditation. In this practice the spirit of prayer was regarded as of first importance and the best form of prayer, for living prayer is the characteristic of genuine spirituality. Yet prayer is also vocal and may therefore on occasion be written. Consequently in the Puritan tradition there are many written prayers and meditations which constitute an important corpus of inspiring devotional literature.

Too often ex tempore prayer lacks variety, order, and definiteness. There reason for this lies partly in a neglect of due preparation. It is here that the care and scriptural thoroughness which others found necessary in their approach to God may be of help. This book has been prepared not to "supply" prayers but to prompt and encourage the Christian as he treads the path on which others have gone before. (Copied from the back page)

These prayers are drawn from the largely forgotten deposit of Puritan spiritual exercises, meditations, and aspirations. The Puritan movement was a "religious" phenomenon of the 16th and 17th centuries, yet its influence continued at least to the time Charles Haddon Spurgeon [1834-1892] who may be regarded as the last of the great Puritans.

The strength of Puritan character and life lay in the practice of mediation and prayer. Many of those who held the doctrines of grace wrote down a record of God's intimate dealings with their  soul, not with an eye toward publication, but to test their spiritual growth... (Copied from the preface)

Apart from the Bible this is my favorite devotional book

Every Christian needs to have a copy paired with
his or her Bible and used as a part of daily devotions!

Title:  The Valley of Vision
Author:  Edited by Arthur Bennett
Publisher:  The Banner of Truth Trust

2010 A-Z Challenge:  V is for Van De Venter
2011 A-Z Challenge:  V is for Valley of Vision

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Unplug the Jukebox!

I wish I could find a copy of Ken Holloway's version.
First, it is better and second, he has such a great testimony.
This version will have to do! It says what I want it to say!

2010 A-Z Challenge: U is for Uriah
2011 A-Z Challenge: U is for Unplug the Jukebox

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Theophilus


Many of you have read my references to my wonderful cat Theophilus, but you have not had the chance to meet him. Today, you get that chance! Allow me to introduce to you, my buddy, Theophilus. Sometimes we call him Theo for short.

Theophilus is six years old, his birthday happens to be the same as mine, February 3rd. He is an American short hair feline. It wasn't until I really got into my cat (s) that I researched them and discovered what I thought was breeds of cats was simply color descriptions. He is an orange tabby as far as color.

When we moved to our current address, which consists of an acre of pasture, trees, and thick grass I put the word out that I wanted a mouser. One day my co-worker decided I was a good sucker, I mean sport, in order to get rid of his kittens, so he dropped a 5 week old kitten on my desk. Not my idea of a mouser or a good joke, but he was cute and what the heck, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. I figured if a mouse didn't get him, he would grow up to be a mouser. And did he? Wow! First class mouser.

So I brought him to home to the only home he has ever known. Yes, he did grow into those ears.

Theophilus likes to sleep on top of my chest at night. He likes breakfast in his dish no later than 5:00 AM and then goes out to do his morning constitution. Then he is off to the barn and stable to see what is over there. Since we are in the country from time to time we have had 2 or 3 strays adopt our barn in order to stay warm and dry. Then he gets some hunting in and he is back by 7:00 AM wanting a snack and some lovin'

Theophilus was born and bred in the Pacific Northwest, particularly southern Washington where we get 46 inches of rain a year. Theophilus doesn't like the rain. He knows how to stay out of the rain and lay low until he gets to come inside. He is a fair-weather cat!

By the way, I named him for Theophilus who was a Roman official that had become a Christian.

 Luke the physician who traveled with Paul wrote his two volume set, The Gospel According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles in order to instruct Theophilus in his new found Christian faith.

The word "theophilus" comes from two Greek Words "theos" meaning God and "phileo" one of the 5 Greek words for love, meaning a love which consists of the glow of the heart kindled by the perception of that in the object which affords us pleasure. It is the response of the human [soul] to what appeals to it as pleasurable... The word was used to speak of a friendly affection. 

This is like a brotherly love toward someone and of course this is where the name Philadelphia came from. Put these two words together and you have "friend of God", "loving God" or even "loved by God." At any rate, I have a glow in my heart kindled by the antics and personality of my friend Theophilus. He is an awesome cat!

This pic was at 5:45 AM, Theo wasn't quite up to being bothered yet!
He did have this breakfast by then however!

Since he was first dropped on my desk Theophilus loves to sit on my desk. 
Theo is sitting facing me, my lap top is to the right of that document stand. 

He will come in out of the rain and sleep for hours, sometimes in my in-basket!
He won't do any paper work!

This is a shot of Theo's partner in crime - Coco

Theophilus (Theo) and Coco sitting in the my study waiting out the cold rain and supper!

2010 A-Z Challenge:  T is for Temptation
2011 A-Z Challenge:  T is for Theophilus

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Secrets

Secret of Surviving Suffering and Struggles

dokimh - peira - purwsis
dokime - peira - purosis

No matter how you spell it, in Greek, English, or transliterated, no one likes to consider this word. In the Christian life this is considered the dreaded "T" word. It difficult to consider the trials that God either sends into our lives or allows to come into our lives as friends. Regardless of the admonition by the half-brother and former pastor of the Jerusalem Church, rather than embrace a trial, we despise them.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing," (James 1:3-4, ESV) 

Rather than despise our trials or flee from our trials, we are to embrace them and consider the fact that a trial has beset us. Why? We know that the end result of the trial is God working in us to bring us to maturity as He conforms us to His image. (Romans 8:29) Trials are not punishments. God is not angry at you. God never punishes His children. He will however, lovingly chastise His children who fall into sin and remain unrepentant. He will use trials to mature, develop, grow, strengthen, and complete us.

In Philippians 4:10-14 we have a very unique and interesting look into the Apostle Paul's view of trials and circumstances. Paul has written this letter to the Philippian Church at the end of his two year Roman imprisonment and just before he was acquitted by Nero and released. Keep in mind that he has spent the last four years under house arrest. Paul spent two years under house arrest in Caesarea, survived a harrowing shipwreck and then an additional two years under house arrest in Rome. Paul knows something about unpleasant or adverse circumstances.

First, let me say some theologians have a hard time with this section. They think it is out of place and out of character and therefore cannot be attributed to either Paul or this particular letter. Second, some even feel that Paul has been somewhat ungrateful or even sarcastic about the gift that he is about to thank them for.

There seems to have been quite some time, maybe as much as six to ten years since the church at Philippi has given an offering to support the Apostle Paul. It may have been that the believers who dug deep and gave to Paul thought that he would have been happy to have received this money. After all he is under house arrest and cannot work in order to support himself. Read the text carefully. Paul's joy was in the Lord. The material supply in the midst of a trial made Paul happy. The key verb in this letter shows that Paul was more concerned about the attitude of being Christ-like, or having the mind of Christ.

Paul made it clear that the trial did not cause him concern. He was not affected by his "needs." Why? Paul had  learned to "be at home," or comfortable with whatever God chose to supply him with. Paul was content. What does that mean? Paul used the Greek word μανθανω (manthano) which means to "learn, or to increase knowledge." This word often appears in "mystery religions." It means to "learn the secret" and gives the meaning of a secret knowledge that only the "initiated" members of that religion or club knows.

Paul is saying he learned a secret. What secret did Paul learn? Contentment, particularly Christian contentment is learned through experience. This is why God allows times of trials or seasons of need in the life of His children. We cannot learn to smash self-sufficiency in our lives nor can we learn to fully develop dependence upon God except through circumstances of need, or through trials. Paul came to grips with his circumstances, be it shipwreck, hunger, thirst, imprisonment, being slandered, stoned, pursued by those who would harm him, abandonment, beatings, and anything else you can think of and he learned to fare well in them because of his learned dependence upon Jesus Christ.

Circumstances are the classroom of our spiritual growth. Paul was unaffected by riches or by poverty. Why? He learned to be unaffected by deepening His walk and relationship with Jesus Christ who is the sufficient one for us. Paul developed a solid "theology of things." Have you? Paul learned that ultimately things do not matter. Relationships matter, particularly our ever deepening relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is how Paul rose above his negative and even painful circumstances. It is how you can rise above any circumstance that God allows into your life. Regardless of its pain, intensity, or severity. This is what enables someone like Job who lost his servants, sheep, ox, camels, donkeys, eventually all ten of his children, and finally his health to say, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD...Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 1:21; 2:10, ESV)

Briefly, how did Paul do it or how did he learn it? Paul depended upon Jesus Christ for the necessary strength. Paul endured these trials and circumstances by the strength that God provided through Jesus. Philippians 4:13 is misquoted, mishandled, and taken out of context to the point that the original and intended meaning of Paul is all but lost. Christians have a tendency to take this verse and make it a blanket statement about the spiritual abilities of a believer. Some Christians use this verse to act as if there is nothing they cannot do. Paul did not mean that therefore do not take this verse out of context and either abuse or destroy its meaning. Paul could rise above poverty, want and need through the strength provided by the Lord Jesus Christ. He could maintain the joy of the Lord in the midst of adverse circumstances. Paul could rise above plenty, abundance, and fulfilled needs through the strength provided by the Lord Jesus Christ. It takes as much grace from God to remain joyful and faithful to God in plenty as it does to remain faithful and joyful in poverty. Even in plenty, without the supply of the strength of Christ we fail to be grateful, we fail to give praise and glory to God, we become boastful, and use the abundance on our own desires rather than using the extra to further the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore Paul said, I can do all things, be content in poverty and be content in plenty through Christ, who gives me the strength.

Victory in trials, contentment in trials, and embracing them with joy comes from a conscious dependence upon God and His power in Christ. A mark of spiritual maturity is knowing how to depend upon God in every circumstance rather than complaining, running, grumbling, or murmuring.  

I will be the first to admit it is easier in good circumstances than in bad ones to practice such joyful dependence. I will admit I have failed many times. God has been faithful to first, forgive me, second, to strengthen me, and third to send a new set of circumstances to continue my development in Christ!

Lord, please allow me to learn this "secret" of the Apostle Paul daily, and not just for "S" day!

2010 A-Z Challenge:  S is for Stand Up For Jesus
2011 A-Z Challenge:  S is for Secrets

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Righteousness


Oh my, how does one tackle the correct and complete meaning of this word? I guess in the same manner with which one uses to eat an elephant - one bite or piece at a time. Here goes!

Jesus made an extremely startling statement to his disciples in Matthew 5:20 when He said, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (ESV) Did you get that statement? Do you grasp its significance? " will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Jesus didn't say "You might not, you probably won't be able, you might just make it; He said you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus told his disciples, and those in the crowd who had followed Him up the hillside that unless the disciples and those in the crowd had a righteousness that superseded, surpassed, or was greater than the righteousness that the scribes and Pharisees paraded around in they would not get into heaven. Unless their righteousness περισσευω (perisseuo) "abound" "be in abundance" or "exceed a certain number or figure" of the righteousness of the religious elite they could not be a part of or inherit the kingdom of heaven.

There are three issues at stake with this one statement. My goal is not to develop those three issues but to define righteousness. However, let me say in relationship to those issues that first of all, every pious or God-fearing Jew was waiting expectantly for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom had been promised to them and they were awaiting a Messiah to come and usher in the Kingdom with all of its promises and blessings. To say that if they were not more righteous than the religious leaders of the day they would not be able to enter the kingdom of heaven would have shocked them severely. 

Second, the scribes and Pharisees believed that they were keeping the law perfectly, therefore they believed they had acquired or that they merited the righteousness that the law demanded in order to be acceptable and be accepted by God.  The Pharisees often "looked down their nose" at the average Jew as less pious and worthy than themselves. The Pharisees certainly thought the average Jew possessed less righteousness than they did.

Third, it addresses the question of how does one acquire or obtain this type and level of righteousness in order to be able to enter the long awaited and promised kingdom of heaven? This was a very radical and unexpected statement from the one who claimed to be the long waited Messiah.

Lest, someone present in the midst of the disciples or the crowd that gathered, or anyone reading this thinks that they have the required or requisite righteousness listen to the prophet Isaiah. "But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags...." (Isaiah 64:6, KJV)

Romans 3:9-18 makes it very clear that no one, regardless of whether one is a Jew or Gentile, no human being is or possesses righteousness. Read this passage very carefully. This includes you and me. As long as one is outside of Jesus Christ, neither you nor I possess any righteousness at best, and at worst what little (by definition) righteousness we might have is regarded by God in the same manner you and I would regard a used feminine product (that is what Isaiah 64 says in the Hebrew.) So, we must ask then, "What is righteousness?"

The primary Greek word is δικαιος (dikaios) or δικαιοσυνη (dikaiosune.) Dikaiosune is the "character or quality of being right or just", and at one time it was spelled in the English as "rightwiseness." Righteousness is a complete and absolute conformity with God's law. This word refers to "right conduct before God." It is conduct that follows the will, or the purpose of God and therefore is conduct that is pleasing to God.

Since no human being is ever born with dikaiosune, or the ability to conform to the law of God and conduct oneself according to the exact and perfect will of God, how does one obtain this righteousness? If the conduct of the Pharisees did not conform to the perfect will of God and was not pleasing nor acceptable to God, how does one acquire the righteousness that will gain entrance into the Kingdom of heaven?

In opposition to the Jewish and Pharisaical thought process of merit, righteousness is plainly a gift of God which He gives to those who humble themselves by admitting they have fallen short of God's perfect standard, are unable to achieve or reach God's perfect standard, and in simple child-like faith ask God for it. Righteousness is a pure gift from God. It cannot be earned, merited, or deserved. We admit we don't have, and that we need it, and we ask in faith that God would grant it to us.

When we humble ourselves and place our faith in the work of Christ on the cross several things take place.

First, we are crucified and put to death in Christ, second, God imputes our sin to Jesus Christ, and third, God imputes the righteousness of Jesus Christ to us. All by faith, by the grace of God, it is a gift. We cannot work for it, earn it, serve for it, or any otherwise have this needed righteousness conferred upon you by priest, pastor, pope, penance, ecclesiastical body, board, church, baptism, membership, or manufacture it - God gives us the necessary righteousness that first, exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees, and second conforms to His will which thirdly pleases Him simply by asking Him for it.

Righteousness is forensically ascribed to the one who asks in faith and believes. Righteousness is given by God to the believer as a new quality. Righteousness is made available because the sin of the believer was judged in Christ at Calvary. Therefore, get this, don't miss it, here it comes, it does not mean "JUST AS IF I NEVER SINNED!" God pronounces or declares one to be righteous or to have righteousness because the sin that existed was properly, according to His standards dealt with. It means that the man or woman who asks in humble faith to be forgiven and to have the righteousness required by God is right before God.

The divine judge in a divine "legal" manner exercises grace and bestows upon an undeserving sinner a new status based on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. This new status gives the sinner hope. Now, the sinner has the righteousness that first, exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees and second meets God's standards perfectly thereby pleasing Him.

Please forgive me for the length of this post. Let me ask you, does your righteousness, your conduct, exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees? If so, how so? Has God ascribed righteousness to you based on the finished work of Christ by grace through faith? I pray so!

2010 A-Z Challenge:  R is for Ransom
2011 A-Z Challenge:  R is for Righteousness

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Qohelet


Please turn to the book of Qohelet, chapter one, beginning in verse one. Oh, that's right, you know Qohelet as Ecclesiastes, a wisdom book of the Old Testament. The Hebrew name for this book is Qohelet and the Greek translation of this Hebrew word is Ecclesiastes.

Twice the author of Qohelet calls himself qoheleth, 1:12 and 7:27. English versions of 12:8-10 use the word twice to refer to the preacher. This Hebrew word does not appear any where else in Hebrew writings. This term does come from a stem of a verb which means, "to assemble."

Hebrew scholars seem to be divided over how the verb is used with a masculine ending and its significance. They do agree that our word probably referred to some type of "office." The idea that seems to come from this agreement is "one who collects" or "one who calls an assembly together" or even "one who speaks to an assembly."

The Hebrew word for assembly is qahal and is translated by the LXX (Greek Translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) as ekklesia. This probably influenced the LXX translation of qohelet by the Greek word ekklesiastes, which we get our present day Latin and English names.

The Qoheleth, or the preacher, the speaker is none other than Solomon, the son of King David and Bathsheba. His thesis, or main point seems to be that everything in life is temporary, even empty, and can be likened to "chasing the wind." In relationship to eternity all things in this life are empty and any real lasting results of our efforts will elude us. There is nothing new to be discovered under this sun and efforts at studying the things of this life are tedious and tiresome.

Lest, you write this book and Solomon off, remember this writing is set in the literary genre of Jewish wisdom literature. Qoheleth is a God-fearer, likened unto our term "believer" so the idea that all things consist of temporary and profitless effort is the very dynamic of his writing. He has discovered and considered that nihilism, (the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated); hedonism (a school of thought which argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good), and even determinism (the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature) is appealing to the human mind, one must regard the ultimate value of such temporary pursuits with the pursuit of the eternal. In other words, our preacher is saying that we cannot confuse the temporary with the eternal, the physical with the spiritual, or what is of true value with that of merely temporary value.

We can eat, work, sleep, drink, and enjoy this life and the things in it as long as we do so in light of the reality of eternity. We will not take one thing we have built, bought, or bundled (accumulated) in this life into eternity with us. The square foot of our home, the number of cars, the possessions, bank accounts, vacation homes, toys and trinkets will all be destroyed and forgotten.

We are non-citizens in this world to be living under combat conditions as we are engaged in spiritual warfare as we wait on the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whoever invented, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins" is the 'Biggest Loser.'" Ken Holloway on his Ken Holloway and The Best of Ken Holloway CD's sings a song called Trailer Hitch - "if you have in your heart to be rich, you'll never find a hearse - with a trailer hitch."

God rules over all and will one day bring every act, attitude, and word into judgement. Qoheleth teaches us that this life is worth living even in the worst or darkest of times. We can use and enjoy what God has created. We must consider however, God, His rule, His coming judgement, and the reality of eternity and not live as if this life is all that there is.

"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, 
for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, 
with every secret thing whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, ESV)

2010 A-Z Challenge:  Q is for Quelle
2011 A-Z Challenge:  Q is for Qoheleth

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Plan of Salvation

Plan of Salvation!

Praise be unto the Living God!
Thank You God for ordaining salvation;
Thank you Jesus for willingly becoming the perfect offering;
Thank You Holy Spirit for applying the benefits of the work of the cross to my heart by giving me spiritual life!

Now, that is a guitar! There is nothing like a steel guitar. 
I hope there are steel guitars in heaven!

"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 20:30-31, ESV)

Now that is a piano! I sure hope there are piano's in heaven!

2010 A-Z Challenge: P is for Propitiation
2011 A-Z Challenge: P is for Plan of Salvation

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Orthopraxy


Orthopraxy is a term derived from Greek (ὀρθοπραξις) meaning "correct action/activity", and is found in "religions" or "faiths" that place emphasis on conduct, both ethical and liturgical, as opposed to faith or grace etc. In other words, the benefit sought by the adherent is derived from the correct act or acts required by the rules of the adherents religion. An example of orthopraxy would be the Jews careful practice of tithing. They were to tithe everything that they had including fruit, crops, wheat, wine, vegetables, herbs/spices, and animals. 

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone." (Matthew 23:23) 

The reason Jesus rebuked the Pharisees was not because they did wrong activity, but because they believed that doing that activity correctly would justify them or benefit them. They missed the point or principle inherent in the command to tithe herbs and spices and turned faith and trust into a self righteous work. No work that we can perform can ever justify us before God. Jesus said that they were to do the work, tithe the mint and anise, but not at the expense of God's method of justifying, His mercy and the operation of faith. It is a heart breaking fact that so many people around this world are meticously performing actions believing that they will receive benefit and blessing from the accurate performance of those actions. 

Orthopraxy contrasts with orthodoxy, emphasizing a correct belief. It is crucial to build correct practices from correct or biblical doctrine. It is not enough to attempt to do something "right or correct" if motives, principles or context is wrong. We must understand the principles behind the activity in order to exercise faith in God who justifies by his grace.

The dual danger facing sincere people who desire benefit and blessing are equally dangerous and deceptive. One can do various activities perfectly or one can believe the right teaching or doctrine and still miss out on an eternity with God. God has given us the right "thing" to do and to 'believe."

"Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house."  (Acts 16:30-31, ESV)

2010 A-Z Challenge:  O is for "Only"
2011 A-Z Challenge:  O is for Orthopraxy

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book Review: Heaven Revealed

Title:  Heaven Revealed
Author:  Paul Enns
Publisher:  Moody Publishers 2011

With large font and colored accents this question stealthily leaps from the back cover, "Do you ever wonder wonder about heaven?" Sadly, very few biblical books are written and even fewer biblical messages are preached on this topic. Have you ever wondered where ever is located? What will you being doing once you arrive in heaven? Dr. Paul Enns tackles these questions and many more in his book called Heaven Revealed. 

This is a thoroughly researched and very well written book on a very important yet mysterious subject. All believers and many non-believers expect to go to heaven when they die. Many people have developed some pretty far-fetched ideas over the ages that reflect where they think heaven is, what heaven is like, and what we will doing for all of eternity in heaven. Enns attempts to answer those questions by drawing our attention to a careful examination of biblical references to heaven. 

Dr. Enns weaves his explanations against the backdrop of his own experience with loved ones and friends who have already crossed that "great divide" and now reside in what we know and believe to be heaven. With his great deftness and skill he gives hope and information to those who have loved ones there, removes fear from those who are on the brink of entering heaven, and those who need assurance and guidance. This is a well written book and very easy to read. One can say it is even compelling, I could not put it down and finished it in two long afternoon reads. 

Dr. Enns begins with his story concerning this subject and then systematically answers 13 questions about heaven in just 187 pages. The end notes section is full of valuable references and materials germane to the subject of heaven. I highly recommend Heaven Revealed as a wonderful source of comfort and truth.

In conjunction with the publisher's Disclosure Statement, I received a product in order to enable my review. No other compensation has been received. My statements are an honest account of my experience with the brand. The opinions stated here are mine alone. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Nabal


The Hebrew word Nabal [na bel] means fool. "Nabal" refers to a fool in the spiritual and moral sense. It gives the idea of  "one who is impious and ignoble. Based on this Hebrew definition it sounds to me like the very last name I would want to be named. However, we find a "Nabal" in the Old Testament. (I Samuel 25)

Nabal was a very wealthy man who lived in Moab. He was a descendant of Caleb. (Caleb was one of two spies among the twelve who were sent into the land of Canaan to scout it out prior to invading the land) Nabal lived in Carmel near Hebron in the land of Israel.

His own wife's description of him is an apt and fitting depiction, "for as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name and folly is [his game, oops sorry couldn't resist,] with him." Nabal's name depicted his character before his actions and behavior are even recorded in this biblical passage.

What did Nabal, this fool do? He prepared a great banquet for himself and his friends when he was aware that King David and his men were starving in a nearby camp. Nabal rejected David's request for food. David reminded Nabal of how he and his men had been protector's of Nabal's shepherds in the field. Like the fool described in Isaiah 32:6, "For the fool [nabal] speaks folly, and his mind plots iniquity..." 

When David heard the rejection of his request for food, David determined to attack Nabal and destroy him. Nabal did one thing right however, he married well. His wife Abagail heard of Nabal's foolish words and actions and went out to meet David herself with a generous gift of food. She begged David not to attack her husband and household and to spare them.

It seems that Nabal did not know what his wife had done because he got "snockered." He got drunk. But when he sobered up the next morning and she told him, the bible says, "and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone." I don't know if this was a stroke or a coma, but it lasted ten days and then Nabal, the fool died. The moral of that mode of death is that Nabal died as he lived, he died with a heart of stone unresponsive to the needs of others.

By the way, and for the record, not only was Abagail wise, but the bible says she was beautiful. With Nabal the fool dead, David decided to marry Abagail and took her as a wife. So David not only got the food and wine, but David got the "girl."

2010 A-Z Challenge: N is for "Nevers of the Gospel"
2011 A-Z Challenge: N is for Nabal