WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SOUND DOCTRINE?

TITUS 2:1: “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: What ever happened to Sound Doctrine? I suspect that most Christians don’t even know what the term means. To most modern-day believers doctrine is something that is from a former era. It is dismissed by the average believer and ignored by a great number of pastors.

Usually, when someone thinks of doctrine they think of a boring presentation of the tenants of the faith. It is something that is reserved for seminaries. It is not practical, does not speak to us in our current culture, and is simply downright boring. Rarely will you read a church sign that says –

“Join us for our new series on the nature of God!”

The word in Greek that is translated – doctrine, literally means teaching, instruction. Yet, it was an instruction that had a purpose. It was not simply a 4-week series on the love of God. It was sound teaching that led to a change in character and lifestyle. It did not simply make one feel good. It was teaching that changed the way people lived. It transformed their character into the image of Christ.

True doctrine is the sound teaching of God’s Word that changes the very nature of man!

True doctrine does not simply focus on the miracles of God and His blessings. True doctrine reveals our sin, calls us to the cross, and gives us instruction on how we are to live our lives in this crooked and perverse world. True doctrine takes the whole counsel of God’s Word and carefully teaches it, line by line, precept by precept. The Apostle Paul, in his farewell address to the Ephesians, states –

  • “…How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ…And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts‬ ‭20:20-21, 25-27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Note Paul’s emphasis. He taught repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. He preached the Kingdom of God. He proclaimed himself a watchman that was innocent of the blood of all men because he declared to all the whole counsel of God. Paul taught sound doctrine. In his letters to Timothy, and now to Titus, he exhorts these young pastors – “Teach sound doctrine!” Our teaching must include the call to repentance, faith in Christ, submission to the Kingdom of God, and must not neglect any part of God’s Word!

We must teach the whole counsel of God’s Word!

In Paul’s letter to Titus, after the first verse of chapter 2, he outlines very practical ways sound doctrine should impact the life of the church. He speaks to older men, older women, young women, young men, and bondservants. His focus is on godly character. It is a transformed life in Christ that is evident in our daily actions and interactions. And, in closing, Paul exhorts Titus to the grace of God!

  • “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.” Titus‬ ‭2:11-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

It is God’s grace that both calls us and empowers us to teach sound doctrine. Note the results of God’s grace through sound doctrine:

• We are called to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.
• We are called to live soberly and righteously in this present age.
• We are called to live in a position of readiness and faithfulness as we await the glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
• We are to grow in purity as we grow in Christ.
• We are to be engaged in good works that give glory to God.
• We are to teach these things with – exhortation, rebuke, and authority in the name of Jesus.
• We are not to shrink back in the face of opposition or criticism.

This is the call of sound doctrine. This is the call of the church. We must wake up and heed this call. There is no time for messages that tickle the ears. God’s people need to be taught the whole counsel of God’s Word. And, the only way we can once again do that is to teach all of God’s Word, not simply a verse or two as texts to frame our message.

Our messages must be framed by God’s Word, not the other way around!

Teaching sound doctrine will not be popular. We may lose people in our church who simply want to hear messages that make them feel good. To challenge one to godly living is no longer popular. However, it is our call. It is our mission. We must not shrink back from it.

Sound Doctrine is the only hope for the life and health of the church!

Lord, I pray for every pastor who has the privilege of opening Your Word to their congregations each Sunday. Help them to speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine. Help them allow Your Word to challenge their souls so that they can challenge the souls of Your people. Bring a revival of Your Word in my life, the life of every pastor and leader, and the life of Your Church.

In Jesus’ Name!

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WHAT CAN SAVE THE CHURCH? (In America)

II TIMOTHY 3:1-5: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Is there any hope for the church in America? As we witness major denominations leaving the tenants of the faith and young people turning their back on the church – is there any hope? Is the current trend a result of using the wrong approach to reach the next generation or is it something entirely different?

When I read the first five verses of Paul’s second letter to Timothy, I must confess, I have generally thought of the condition of the world during the end-times when I have read it. Yet, Paul is not writing to Timothy about the conditions of our culture.

Paul is writing to Timothy about the conditions of the Church!

The warning is that much more to be heeded and understood in this light. The time would come when there was little difference between the world and the church. The fruit of the Spirit would be sparse but the fruit of the flesh would flourish. Much like Israel’s history, it would be business as usual in the life of the church, all the while the walls would be burning down all around us. Paul summarizes the future spiritual condition of the church when he writes,

  • “…Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.

The veneer of godliness would continue. Pews and seats would still be filled. Worship would continue as usual. There would be church socials and potluck dinners. Philanthropic works would be pursued as a means of outward righteousness. Yet, the true heart condition would be grave. In all of this pomp and circumstance, man’s heart would be far from the Lord. Like the church of Laodecia, services would be taking place, but Jesus would be on the outside knocking at the door!

  • “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—”. Revelation‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭NKJV‬

Is there any hope? What do we need to do to turn the tide? Do we need to change our style of worship? Do we need to alter our approach from the pulpit to reach the present culture? Do we need more social justice and a greater sense of tolerance in the expression of our faith? Or, are we searching for the answers in all the wrong places?

The hope for the church today, the hope for its purpose and mission, has not changed from the day Paul wrote this letter to young Timothy. The mission of the church, the message of the Gospel, has never been about style or presentation. It has always been about content. When the message from the pulpit becomes watered down, when our popularity becomes more important than our purity, we see the effects of this in our hearts and lives.

So what does Paul recommend to young Timothy to stem the tide? Does he counsel Timothy to change worship styles or to focus his messages on popular topics and themes?

NO! Paul calls young Timothy (and today’s church) back to the basics!

  • “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” II Timothy‬ ‭3:14-17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Paul calls Timothy back to the Holy Scriptures. Paul calls Timothy back to the foundation of his faith in Christ Jesus. When the focus of the church becomes redirected from the Holy Scriptures we see the manifestation of this in the heart and lives of its members. There is only one thing that can bring us to a knowledge of our sin and our need for a Savior. There is only one thing that can lead us to salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. There is only one thing that can teach us, correct us, and lead us into righteousness.

IT IS THE WORD OF GOD – THE HOLY SCRIPTURES!

Only God’s Word divides between the soul and spirit, the joint and the marrow, discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Only God’s Word keeps us from error and excess. Only God’s Word convicts our hearts and keeps them from growing cold. The church does not need larger worship teams, more media, polished presentations, and graphics.

The Church needs to return to – GOD’S WORD!

Whenever the church has positioned itself in repentance, humbled itself in prayer, and turned to God’s Word – there has been a revival. I believe God is calling us today to do the same. We need to see a revival in church today where the Scriptures are not merely put on the screen but are carried, cherished, and read by every person who enters the door of the church. The reading of Scripture must be given priority once again. Pastors and leaders must realize this important truth,

The power of God is not in our presentation. The power of God is manifest only by the Spirit of God working through – GOD’S WORD!

  • “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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Lord, turn my heart toward you in sincere repentance. Give me a humble and contrite heart. Renew within me the joy of Your salvation and give me a renewed hunger for Your Holy Word!

In Jesus’ Name!

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AM I COURAGEOUS?

II TIMOTHY 1:6-7: “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Am I courageous in my faith? Is my life filled with forwarding momentum in pursuing the things of God or do I find myself shrinking back from them? Am I focused more on my limitations than I am on God’s grace and calling?

Timothy was a very young pastor. Many believe he might have been as young as 19 years old when he began his ministry. Paul was Timothy’s spiritual father and had a very powerful impact on Timothy’s life. The setting of Paul’s second letter to Timothy is Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome, shortly before his death. In this letter Paul is trying to remind Timothy of his faith, calling, and God’s promises to Timothy. Paul, his spiritual father, and mentor would soon be gone.

We all know that we need to trust in the Lord in every area of our life. This is easier when we have strong believers who support us and encourage us. Yet, it is not so easy when we find ourselves on our own. It is in these times that our faith is truly tested. How would Timothy do when Paul was no longer there to encourage him? How would Timothy do when he was thrust into the position where he was no longer following Paul but now stood in Paul’s shoes leading others?

Life is a cycle. We start as small infants who are fully dependent upon our parents. As we grow we become more and more independent but we still rely on our parents for guidance and strength. Then the day arrives when we change roles. No longer are our parents taking care of us and guiding us. We now are taking care of our parents. And, finally one day, our parents are gone and we stand in their place. We witness the cycle of life vividly as we see our children beginning to take care of us.

This cycle is also true in our spiritual lives. When we become a new Christian we are taught and nurtured by others. We depend on them for counsel, prayer, and strength. When we are weak we run to them. Then as we grow we find ourselves changing places. It is like a relay race where there is a handing of the baton for the next leg of the race. As we receive the baton we are faced with the challenge – do I run the race and prepare to hand it to the next person or am I stopped in my tracks out of fear?

Paul was handing the baton to young Timothy. He reminded Timothy of his calling and the gifts he had received through the laying on of hands. He calls Timothy to take the baton and run the race that is before him. And, Paul reminds Timothy,

  • “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

This is a powerful verse to hide in our hearts. It speaks to all of us during the transitions of life that we face. Each stage of life and ministry is filled with new challenges. Each time we receive a new baton for the next leg of our race we face the fear of the unknown and insecurity about the challenges that we will face. Yet, each time we are reminded of these important truths.

  1. We are not controlled by fear and timidity. The power of God’s love has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
  2. Love overcomes all fear. The love we have received is not merely an emotion, although it can be felt. The love we have received is the very nature of God living within us. It is His perfect love that casts out all fear!
  3. This love produces boldness in our life. We are compelled by His love to move forward in our life. God demonstrated His love to us when He sent His Son to die for us. This same love now empowers us to pick up our cross and follow Jesus in sincere obedience and service.
  4. The power of His love working in our life produces a sound mind. The Greek word used here connotes moderation or balance. Our lives are not blown to and fro by every change in our life. There is a steadiness to our faith. We have our hope anchored to the blessed hope of our Lord Jesus Christ. This enables us to avoid the highs and lows of life and to walk in the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Timothy needed to be reminded of these truths and so do I. We never arrive in life. Each stage of life and ministry is in flux of constant change. Each stage requires courage. And, courage requires faith. We can walk in faith through all the twists, turns, and changes of life knowing that,

  • “…God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Lord, this morning, help me to receive these words of encouragement and hope. Let me cast off all fear and be filled with Your power, love, and peace. Help me to continue to run the race that is set before me and to encourage others along the way.

In Jesus’ Name!

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GOD’S PECULIAR PROTECTION

JEREMIAH 24:4-7: “Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge those who are carried away captive from Judah, whom I have sent out of this place for their own good, into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Will God always protect me? Have you ever found yourself in a strange situation where everything seems to be going in the opposite direction of what you have been hoping and praying for? Could it be possible that in this very moment you are experiencing,

GOD’S PECULIAR PROTECTION?

The Lord spoke to the nation of Judah in their final days before the Babylonian captivity through the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah had a very difficult task. His message was one of impending judgment. It was not a popular message and one that Jeremiah proclaimed obediently but not joyfully. He too wept over the spiritual condition of God’s people. The message he proclaimed was bitter in Jeremiah’s mouth and very unpopular with the people of Judah.

Amid his message of judgment for the sins of Judah, Jeremiah also proclaimed God’s faithfulness for those who remained faithful to the covenant and had not turned their hearts to serve false idols. How would God protect them? How would He provide for them? How would they be treated differently than those who rejected God’s Word and turned their hearts to follow the dictates of their own heart?

In the answer to these questions, we are introduced to God’s peculiar protection. In times of war, it was never seen as a blessing to be taken captive by an opposing army and led away from your home to a land that you did not know. This was a sign of defeat and humiliation. Yet, in this instance, it was a sign of God’s love and protection. It was His faithful remnant that He chose to be led away captive while those who rejected Him were left behind to die by the sword.

What seemed like defeat was actually God’s peculiar protection. It was the very means by which He preserved the nation of Judah and prepared a remnant for their future deliverance and return to their homeland.

  • “…So will I acknowledge those who are carried away captive from Judah, whom I have sent out of this place for their own good, into the land of the Chaldeans. For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up.”

While the enemy thought they were taking captives and spoils of war, it was actually God who was leading them out to safety by His good hand. They were sent out of the destruction of Jerusalem – “…for their own good.” In the land of Babylon, they would be told to establish roots for 70 years and to prosper in the land. As the Lord allowed the nation of Israel to grow and prosper under the Egyptians until their day of deliverance, so He would bless and keep the remnant of Judah until their day of return.

It would be during this period of 70 years that something wonderful would take place. The weakness of Israel had always been their penchant to worship the false gods of the nations surrounding them. As much as they tried they were continually defeated by this sin. It was ultimately the cause of the Northern Tribe’s defeat and captivity in Assyria and Judah’s defeat and captivity in Babylon. Yet, during these 70 years, God was caring for this remnant of “good figs.”

  • “Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.”

When the nation of Israel returned to Jerusalem 70 years later, the one sin they never had to deal with again was the sin of idolatry. God had not only provided for them during these 70 years of captivity, but He had also transformed their hearts.

We have the privilege of understanding God’s peculiar protection as we view these events in their fulfillment. Yet, I don’t think that the remnant of Judah who was taken captive really understood it during their capture and removal to a land they did not know. How many times have we misunderstood God’s peculiar protection in our lives? The job that we lost, the house that fell through, the ministry that ended abruptly, the time of deep personal struggle – could these have been times of…

GOD’S PECULIAR PROTECTION?

Jesus promised that He would never leave me nor forsake me. If this is true, then He is with me when I am prospering and when I am taken captive. His hand of protection sees my past, present, and future. He knows every rut in the road, every precarious cliff, every twist and turn that my life will take. And, sometimes, the direction He leads me in, though it seems strange and is perceived as a setback, is really His love working in my life to protect me! It is…

GOD’S PECULIAR PROTECTION!

This morning, I am greatly encouraged as I am reminded of this powerful truth. God never promised me a life that would be without suffering, setbacks, and disappointments. What He did promise me is that He would lead me, strengthen me, forgive me, cleanse me, and equip me for the greater purposes He has for my life. While I may experience times that seem like Judah going into captivity, I can rest assured that God is protecting me and leading me to His will for my life!

  • “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Romans‬ ‭8:28-32‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, thank You for – YOUR PECULIAR PROTECTION!

In Jesus’ Name!

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PSA – HELL IS REAL!

II THESSALONIANS 1:6-10: “…Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.” NKJV‬

OBSERVATION: What is a PSA? It is a Public Service Announcement. The use of PSAs began in 1941 during World War II as a means to use advertising to influence American society on a range of issues. I will always remember the PSAs of my youth on TV against the dangers of smoking.

When I read these verses in II Thessalonians it hit me – we need a PSA on the terrible reality of hell. Hell is a lot like smoking. When you watch movies from the early years you will see that everyone smoked. It was vogue to smoke and offer someone a cigarette. All the beautiful people on screen smoked without abandon, not knowing that what they were doing was detrimental to their health.

The world continues to walk in ignorance of something more harmful than smoking. It is sin and the ultimate consequence of this sin – hell! Like the happy smokers in the classic movies of years past, today’s man walks in the rebelliousness of his own heart, not realizing the harm he is doing to his eternal soul. While smoking can cause cancer that can end one’s physical life on earth, sin will lead one to hell which will be a continual existence of misery and suffering throughout eternity.

Let’s get some things cleared up about hell.

Hell is a real place.

Hell was not created for man. It was created for Satan and his fallen band of angels (demons).

  • “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:”. Matthew‬ ‭25:41‬ ‭NKJV‬

Jesus came to defeat the power of the enemy (I John 3:8). Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for our sins (Matthew 20:28). Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly (John 10:10). Jesus came so that we could have eternal life with Him in heaven (John 3:16, John 14:1-4).

So, if that is true, then how can man end up in the place of eternal judgment and suffering?

  • “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
  • “…Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. II Thessalonians 1:6-9
  • “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation‬ ‭21:8‬ ‭NKJV‬

Hell is a real place. It is a place of eternal judgment – separation from God and all that is good. It can be likened to living eternally on the streets of Portland, Oregon during the chaos and continual riots, looting, and burning – only much worse! One does not simply die and that is it. They either enter into eternal life with God or they enter into eternal judgment in hell.

Yet, hell is not automatic. For any person to end up in hell they really have to work at it. They have to continually resist and reject the grace of God that is reaching out to all men through our Lord Jesus Christ. They have to harden their heart against the conviction and drawing of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They have to believe the lie that sin is not sin and hell is not real. In other words, they have to continue smoking believing that nothing bad will come from it!

Paul writes an epitaph of those who worked so hard that they earned their way into hell.

  • “These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.” II Thessalonians 1:10

Yet, the wonderful news is no one has to go there! The wages of sin may be death (eternal separation from God in hell). Yet,

THE FREE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD!

All the smoker has to do is stop smoking. All the sinner has to do is repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus. Jesus has already paid the full price for our sins and our eternal life. We do not work our way into heaven. No one can do this. We receive heaven as a gift for simply placing our faith in Jesus’ complete sacrifice for our sins. Paul exhorts the Romans in his epistle,

  • “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans‬ ‭10:8-13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

PSA – BELIEVE IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND YOU WILL BE SAVED AND RECEIVE ETERNAL LIFE IN HEAVEN!

Heaven or hell. It is our choice. Lord, I choose to believe in my heart that You died and rose again from the dead. I choose to confess You as my Lord and commit my life to follow You. I choose life over death, heaven over hell!

In Jesus’ Name!

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IT IS TIME TO WATCH AND BE SOBER…

I THESSALONIANS 5:6-10: “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” NKJV

OBSERVATION: It is time to watch and be sober! The word translated sober from the original Greek in this verse means to be calm and collected. This is a call to all believers as we navigate these uncertain times of moral and social decline. We see the world moving further and further away from the truth. It can be unsettling but Paul reminds us,

“But let us who are of the day be sober…”

How can we be calm and collected when the world as we know it is racing to the edge of a cliff? What will become of our future, of our children’s future? Do we run and hide from the onslaught of ungodliness we see raging before us? Do we clothe ourselves in white and go to the mountaintop to await the rapture? What do we do?

“But let us who are of the day be sober…”

Paul gives us insight into how we can be calm and collected in this present age. He writes to the young church in Thessalonica with these words of exhortation.

  • “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you, yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.” I Thessalonians‬ ‭5:1-5‬ ‭NKJV‬

Jesus called the days we are living in the “last days.” He said that the last days would be like the days of Noah. I think this is very insightful. There were three things taking place in the days of Noah.

  1. God was calling Noah and his family to a time of readiness and preparation for His coming judgment.
  2. God was strengthening Noah to complete the call He had given him – building the Ark and gathering the supplies and animals before the flood.
  3. The world was continuing as usual, no doubt mocking Noah, and crying “Peace and safety!”

We are in the same place today! God is calling us to be alert to His coming judgment upon the world. He is warning us that the world will continue as usual crying “Peace and safety,” even as the day approaches. And, God is calling us to fulfill the calling He has given us until that final day. For as in the days of Noah, Noah and his family were lifted from the judgment. Even so, we as believers will be lifted from the day of God’s wrath through the rapture of the Church!

So how are we to occupy our time until Christ returns? Paul gives us these instructions

  • “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night…”‭‭

We are to watch and live soberly. This means that we are to walk in the light, knowing the times we are living in, and undergirded by His peace that passes all human understanding.

  • “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”

We are to put on the breastplate of faith and love and as a helmet the hope of salvation. This means that we are to be engaged in the Father’s business, proclaiming the Gospel, as if this world would continue for another 1000 years. And, all the while protecting our souls with the assurance of His promised return and redemption of all things.

  • “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.”

We are to walk in the assurance that we have not been appointed unto wrath but unto salvation. This blessed hope allows us to live boldly and confidently in this fallen and broken world.

The believer who anchors their hope in the Word of God is not taken by surprise at the day we see approaching. We are not dismayed. We do not hide from the challenges we face or the persecution we may have to suffer for proclaiming the truth of the cross of Jesus Christ. We live in the light, we serve in the light, and we look for the glorious light of His appearing. We are not disconnected from this word but are always working to bring the light of Christ to all and in every aspect of our life in this present age.

While we know the end of the story we do not allow this knowledge to slow us down. We do not throw up our hands in disgust and despair. We walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, enduring the cross, as our Lord Jesus Christ endured His, knowing the joy that awaits us!

Lord, help me to walk in the light of Your salvation! Grant me the grace to keep my hand to the plow, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, until I hear the voice of the Archangel and the sounding of the Trumpet!

  • “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” I Thessalonians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In Jesus’ Name!

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BY HIS STRIPES?

ISAIAH 53:5-6: “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: What do I think of when I read the words – “…By His stripes…”? These are words that as believers we seem to offer up in conversation and prayer with little thought. We speak these words as an assurance of God’s provision for forgiveness and healing. Yet, do we really grasp the importance of them?

I have been a Christ follower for most of my life. I grew up in the church, went to a parochial school, and had a wonderful Christian home. I really cannot remember a time in my life when I did not believe in Jesus Christ. There was surely a time in my youth that I rebelled and wandered away from the Lord. However, Jesus was always present in my mind, even when I was straying.

As I have walked the Christian life for many years, spent my life in ministry as a pastor, and endeavored to serve the Lord with my gifts and abilities, this morning I hear these words calling me, reminding me, centering me, once again.

“By His stripes!”

They don’t whisper to me. They shake me to the very core of my being. They humble me and remind me of the most important truth in my life. There is nothing that I have brought to my relationship with Jesus Christ. He did not choose me because I was deserving. He did not choose me because of my abilities. He did not bear His stripes because I was worthy. The Scripture is very clear.

  • “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

God showed His love for me, while I had gone astray, while I was deserving of punishment – when He took upon Himself my sin and punishment. Everything good in my life, everything of value and or worth, every blessing and provision, is not by anything that I have done. It is solely and completely,

“By His stripes!”

These words draw me to the cross. They remind me of His supreme sacrifice for my sin. They center me in the truth and power of His love. It is always about Him and never about me. It is His cross that brings victory in my life. It is His blood that cleanses me from sin and makes me accepted in His love.

  • “…He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and…”

“By His stripes we are healed!”

It is His work! It is His glory! It is His mercy! It is His grace! It is His stripes! Today, as I walk with the Lord, it is – “By His stripes!” Tomorrow as I live another day to serve Him, it is – “By His stripes!” And, on that glorious day when I stand in His presence for all eternity to come, it is –

“By His stripes!”

Lord, this morning, I humble myself at the foot of Your cross. I glory only in You and the fullness of Your sacrifice. I ask You for the grace to never hear those words without understanding or speak them without the full gravity of the cost you paid. Let me live, let me breathe, let me have my being…

“By Your Stripes!”

In Jesus’ Name

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HOW BIG IS GOD?

JOB 42:1-6: “Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: How big is God? This may seem like a strange question to ask. He is the Creator of the Universe. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the Beginning and the End. Yet, how big is God in my understanding? When I walk through times of difficulty, how big is God then?

The book of Job could be subtitled – “A journey of discovery in understanding the nature of God.” As the story unfolds we find Job, his family, and his friends, all living in a community of faith and all limited in their understanding of the nature of God. There is no concept that we have a literal enemy of our souls. Everything that happens is attributed either to God or to man’s actions.

This is the pitfall of a life of faith. We begin our life of faith completely surrendered to the mercy and grace of God. Then, something happens. As we begin to live out our faith we are tempted to transfer God’s work of mercy and grace to our actions of overt obedience. In other words, we view everything in life from a cause-and-effect scenario. Such was the case of Job and his three friends.

Job was steadfast in defending his innocence. He looked over his life and knew that he had not transgressed the law of God in such a way as to deserve the suffering he was in. On the other hand, his three friends worked diligently to pinpoint Job’s sin. They listed every overt sin they could think of. They accused Job of wickedness and pride. They called on Job to repent of his sin while Job continued to defend his honor.

In that moment both Job and his three friends began to shrink their concept of God. They fully missed God’s true nature and relegated Him to some cosmic judge who simply waits to punish the wicked or make one’s life miserable for no apparent reason. And, as they continued their incessant arguing God became smaller and smaller in their understanding.

They tried to put God in a box!

I have found in my life that we never can fully understand the greatness and majesty of God. We can never grasp the depth of His love, mercy, and grace. When we try to put God in a small box of our understanding we limit His power and begin to move further and further away from His provision. I am reminded of Jesus’ visit to his hometown of Nazareth. His friends and family could only think of Him as the carpenter. They could not see Immanuel, God with us. And, as a result,

  • “…He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭13:58‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Job, chapters 39-41, are a revelation of God’s majesty and glory. He begins with this question to Job.

  • “Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.” Job‬ ‭38:2-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“Where were you…”. This is the question the Lord asked Job over and over again. With each question, and with each revelation of the Lord’s power and glory, Job’s nearsighted understanding of God began to clear up. The Creator of the Universe cannot be contained in our limited understanding of His nature and workings. He is not a man that we should argue with Him. He is the Lord Jehovah! He is the Holy One!

God did not rebuke Job for any overt sin. God rebuked Job for misunderstanding His nature. Job had made God small in his eyes. God had to readjust Job’s thinking. And, when Job received this revelation from the Lord he cried,

  • “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.”

What other response is there when you stand before the Holy God, the Almighty, the Creator of all things? When your spiritual eyes are opened the only response is humility and repentance. God revealed Himself to Job and rebuked his three friends for their unwise counsel and worthless comfort in Job’s time of suffering. Job humbled himself, and the Lord called the three friends to humble themselves before Job. As the Apostle Paul states in the book of Romans,

  • “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans‬ ‭3:10-12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Left to ourselves, we will all miss the one true God. The only way we can know God is through the revelation of His nature. This is a work of His mercy and grace and is received through faith. When our spiritual eyes are opened we realize how big God is and how small we are. Our only response is humility, repentance, and worship! As Job received his spiritual sight, as he received God’s mercy and grace, he was able to look past his hurt and reach out in kind to his three miserable comforters.

  • “So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the Lord commanded them; for the Lord had accepted Job. And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Job‬ ‭42:9-10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

God not only restored Job, but He also restored his three friends. When we see how big God is we cannot reserve His mercy and grace for ourselves. We are compelled to share it with others. Job did this as he prayed for his friends. Job’s eyes were opened. He had received such great mercy, grace, and forgiveness, that he could not withhold it from even the three friends who had made his suffering so much worse.

When we find it hard to forgive others it is because we have once again made God small and have forgotten the greatness of God’s mercy and grace!

Lord, I am convicted this morning as I read this closing chapter of the book of Job. I too have heard of You with the hearing of the ear – but my eyes long to see You. Open up my spiritual eyes this morning so that I can behold Your greatness, Your glory, and Your grace. Like Job, transform my life so that I can freely extend Your mercy and grace to all.

This morning, open my eyes Lord, I need to see Jesus!

In Jesus’ Name!

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WHAT DOES MY WEEKLY SCREEN TIME REVEAL ABOUT ME?

COLOSSIANS 3:1-4: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: What does my weekly screen time reveal about me? It is ironic, but every Sunday morning my iPhone sends me a report of my weekly screen time. This tells me how many minutes I have been glued to the screen of my phone each week. I get that report each morning before I go to worship.

Ironic – isn’t it?!

I love technology. I remember my first Apple IIC that I purchased in the 1980s, complete with a single 128K floppy drive and a dot-matrix printer. From that moment on – I was hooked. I could prepare sermons and save them, keep my finances on spreadsheets, and pay my bills online as I connected with a dial-up 1200 baud modem. I even enjoyed the sound it made as it connected to the internet.

Yet, as soon as I fell in love with technology I realized it had a dark side. It wasn’t the computer that was evil. It was the temptation to go to places unknown and to consume my time in front of a screen. This is the same temptation we all face today – but it is greatly magnified. There was not much you could do with a dial-up connection.

Yet, today, with high-speed internet, and the world at our fingertips, it is easy to allow our priorities to run askew.

As I think about this today, I am not even thinking of the trap of the dark side of the internet. This is a problem for many but there is a more innocuous problem we all face. It is the mindless time spent flipping the screen on our phones that I find myself battling. And, when I get that weekly report I am humbled as I consider –

“Did I spend as much time in God’s Word, in prayer, and worship, as I did on my phone?

While some great social media posts turn us heavenward, the reality is that most of them are mere dribble. I like to keep connected with my friends and family on social media. Yet, I can find myself pulled into endless flipping and watching endless posts and videos that do not turn my eyes toward heaven. They do not even challenge my thinking. They are mere dribble for dribble’s sake.

Paul reminds us that we are no longer citizens of this world. We have died to both sin and the present evil age. Our life is now heavenward and is hidden in Christ Jesus. The result of this is that we are to live a life that is looking up toward our final destination. Our time, our thoughts, and our actions are to be directed heavenward. Our pursuits are to be Kingdom-oriented. And, think of this. Paul gave this exhortation over 2000 years before our present struggle with technology.

If it was true then – how much more is this exhortation needed today?

The rest of the chapter outlines the effects of focusing on darkness rather than light. It challenges each one of us to be filled with God’s light and righteousness. To use a computer term – “Garbage in, garbage out.” It is what we allow to occupy our time and thoughts that determine our actions. If we spend our time on the output of this world we will be continually struggling with the things Paul exhorts us to put off. If we give our time to God’s Word, worship, prayer, and Christian service, we will be filled with the fruits of righteousness and peace.

“Good things in, good things out!”

It is not rocket science. It is true in every area of our life. It is the reminder I needed this morning.

  • “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Colossians‬ ‭3:12-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, thank you for reminding me to prioritize what I allow to enter into my life. Help me to look up this morning and spend more time on heavenly things that produce an eternal reward.

And, when I get my screen report, may it be for the time I have spent in Your Word and less on the dribble that can never produce Your righteousness in my life.

In Jesus’ Name!

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JOB, SATAN, AND THIS PRESENT AGE…

JOB 9:24: “The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. He covers the faces of its judges. If it is not He, who else could it be?” NKJV

OBSERVATION: Can I learn anything from the book of Job? Does this ancient historical account have any relevance today? Many skip over the book of Job when reading their Bible. It is a difficult book to read and understand. It is filled with so many questions about suffering and God’s involvement in such.

First, I would like to make an important statement. The book of Job is not a book that you can use to form doctrinal statements. It is a book of dialogue between Job, who was suffering in terrible anguish, Job’s three miserable comforters, one young man with spiritual insight, and finally – a personal encounter with the Lord Himself.

The dialogue from the three miserable comforters, who were rebuked by God Himself, is filled with platitudes and half-truths. The dialogue from Job is filled with the words of a man in great anguish and confusion. Yet, from the midst of Job’s confusion, we can glean some important insights. As Job tries to defend himself before his accusers, and as he tries to understand his suffering, he poses a very important question.

  • “The earth is given into the hand of the wicked. He covers the faces of its judges. If it is not He, who else could it be?”

Job looks at his life, his losses, his suffering, and the apparent favor of the wicked over the righteous and asks – “If it is not He, who else could it be?”. Job, like so many today, blames God for the wickedness and suffering in the world. They look at evil prevailing over good, innocent people suffering, and they ask,

“If God is a God of love – why would he allow this to continue?”

Yet, within the very book of Job, we find the answer to his question. If it is not He (God), who else could it be?” The opening chapters of the book of Job give us the answer.

  • So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” Job 1:9-11 NKJV

If it is not He, who else could it be? The answer is – Satan! I am amazed at how successful Satan has been in removing the legitimacy of his existence from our present culture. While hiding behind a screen he has lured our culture into worshipping at his footstool. The evil, confusion, sickness, disease, violence, war, division, and destruction are the craftily laid works of his hands. Our culture has become mere puppets with which he controls the strings.

If I did not know there was a real source of evil in this world I would be greatly discouraged. Man is helpless against his crafty and deceitful plans. This is why God Himself came to earth in the form of a man. He did not come merely to teach us. Jesus came to destroy the power of the enemy over our lives!

  • “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” I John 3:8 NKJV

This brings us to the next insight we can glean from Job’s misunderstanding and confusion.

  • “For He is not a man, as I am, That I may answer Him, And that we should go to court together. Nor is there any mediator between us, Who may lay his hand on us both. Let Him take His rod away from me, And do not let dread of Him terrify me. Then I would speak and not fear Him, But it is not so with me.” Job 9:32-35 NKJV

Job labors under the misconception that he is alone in his struggle. He wants to approach God but knows in his state he cannot. He is filled with discouragement as he cries out – “Nor is there any mediator between us.” While Job labored under a limited perspective in both his suffering and the revelation of Scripture at that time – we do not! There is a mediator! We do have the ability to approach God! We are not hopeless and we are not left on our own!

  • “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,”. I Timothy 2:3-6 NKJV

Jesus is our mediator! He has come to destroy the power of the enemy over our lives! Jesus died and rose again so that we could be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. And, He did much more than that. Jesus gives us direct access to the very throne of the Almighty God! We now have the privilege of entering into God’s presence through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ!

  • “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:19-23 NKJV

To sum it up…

Satan is the author of all the evil in this world.

Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan.

Jesus came to offer salvation to all who would believe.

Jesus came to be our mediator with God.

Jesus came to give us access to the presence of God.

Jesus is our Faithful High Priest who is always interceding for us.

There is an answer to the source of evil in this world. There is a victory over the power of evil in this world. There is a mediator between God and man. We have not been abandoned. God Himself has come to redeem us. And, He is in the process of redeeming His entire creation! There is a day coming when all the power of the enemy will be vanquished and God will set up His eternal Kingdom (Revelation 19-22).

Until that time – we do not have to walk in the same misunderstanding and discouragement that Job wrestled with. As the writer of Hebrews boldly proclaims,

  • “You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:8-9 NKJV

But we see Jesus! Lord, open my eyes and let me see Jesus in every aspect of my life today!

In Jesus’ Name!

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