There’s Just One Answer!

Posted in Scripture on October 24, 2014 by nmpreach

The way we read Scripture makes all the difference in the world – literally. All too often, well-intentioned Bible students turn to their favorite verse and begin explaining why it holds such prominence for them.  Although there’s nothing particularly wrong with having a favorite text within Scripture, often times it is quoted out of context.  How many times have you or others you’ve heard quote Philippians 4:13?  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (ESV).  But what is the context?  What challenge is Paul facing as he writes that text?  Chances are, our scenarios are much different from his.  But how often do we (I include myself) clumsily quote a verse not knowing the circumstances surrounding the words?  We put them on t-shirts, share them on social media, and locate them on refrigerator magnets.

Think with me for a second.  Could it be that we miss the forest for the trees?  Here’s what I mean:  Is there a chance that we fail to interpret Scripture as a whole?  In other words, when I turn to my favorite chapter or verse and quote it out of context, I miss the bigger picture.  Let me give you another example.  Pick your favorite book of the Bible.  Obviously, you’ve read the book, you may know it well, and perhaps you’ve even quoted it a time or two.  Maybe your favorite book is one tree in the midst of a large forest.  Here’s the point:  Often times, we live compartmentalized lives.  Bible study is no exception.

There are two “Testaments” – Old and New.

There are 39 “books” in the Old Testament.

The Old Testament is made up of the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets.

There are 27 “books” in the New Testament.

The New Testament includes Gospels, the beginning of the Church, some letters, and a weird book at the end.

I’ve heard some claim, “I’m a NEW Testament Chuuuuuristian.” – Read it with the included emphasis.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.  I’m not intending to beat a dead horse.  But here’s the thing:  The Bible is one story.  It’s the story of how much God loves man.  In other words, as you read Philippians 4:13, what has Paul been talking about before it?  Who are these people called the Philippians?  Why would Paul write what he did?  How does the letter fit into the New Testament?  What does it say about Christ?  You see.  That’s the crux of everything in the Bible.  Jesus is the beginning and the end.  That includes the middle.  Whether it’s an Old Testament history book or a New Testament pastoral letter, the question must be, “What does this say about Jesus?”  If you can’t determine the answer, keep looking, get some wise counsel, mine the depths of the text.  But I can assure you.  Jesus is the answer!

 

 

Blessed Despite…

Posted in Scripture on February 6, 2014 by nmpreach

…my cup overflows.  Psalm 23:5

It’s already February 6!  It seems like yesterday that we were talking about resolutions, turning the calendar, and attempting to get used to seeing “14” on our checks and other paperwork.  Yet here we are in February.  As our folks said, time seems to go faster the older we get.

I was reading through Psalm 23 this morning and ran across the phrase above.  My cup overflows.  My.  Cup.  Overflows.

It’s really amazing what David writes.  He’s recognizing his blessings.  If you’re aware of David’s life, and particularly his running to survive, this phrase is even more impressive.

I’m convinced that because we are so focused on internal things – things that impact us, things that are close – we lose sight of our blessings.

I’ve been blessed to be busy these past few weeks.  But I’m not any busier than many of you.  Yet, if I’m not intentional about recognizing those blessings, I’m quick to look around me and eventually whine about those things that impact me.

God knows what I need and has always provided.  I pray I will always see the blessings clearly.  And the challenges, may they be seen as opportunities to grow as well.  My cup overflows!

A Struggle

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on January 21, 2014 by nmpreach

israelWhile reading through Jeremiah again, I’m struck at the brusque message the prophet shares time and time again.  I thought I was a slow learner, but it appears the Israelites were as well.  We turn our attention to chapters 26-30.

There comes a time when judgment cannot be stopped.  In other words, God has been gracious for a lengthy time, hoping His people would repent and be obedient.  Because they refuse, a righteous God has no other option than judgment.

Jeremiah speaks of judgment coming from Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  Any attempt to thwart judgment on the Israelite’s behalf would only lead to greater turmoil.  It’s intriguing that God would declare a time of judgment and only God could decide when that time was passed.  In chapter 28, readers are told of Hananiah and his false prophecy regarding peace.  Because he spoke lies, he died.  Irony?  Here’s a prophet who speaks of rebellion and judgment, only to rebel himself and die.

This is a great reminder of discernment.  People will always give advice.  Some of the advice is obviously better than other advice.  But how do you know what to follow?  If one doesn’t know the Word of God, hasn’t spent time in prayer, and is not seeking God with all that he/she is, they’re prone to follow bad advice!

In chapter 29, we run across a verse that many of us quote from time to time, yet we aren’t aware of the context.  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope  (vs 11).  The context is the people have been removed from the Promised Land.  They’ve rebelled and are facing the consequences.  God says His punishment will last 70 years, at which time they will be able to return.  Perhaps we should remember that the next time we’re tempted to quote this verse.

Chapter 30 speaks of the judgment that seems unbearable.  The intentional rebellion (apostasy) is the reason the Israelites are being judged.  They cannot plead innocent or ignorant.  They know better!  Despite all of their choices, God continues to reach and rescue them.  His original choice of Israel being His people stands.  After all, Israel means “He who struggles with God.”  Seems right, doesn’t it?  Is that you – one who struggles with God?  Sadly, I see myself.

Quotes (34)

Posted in Words on January 16, 2014 by nmpreach

From Oswald Chambers:

Prayer is not preparation for the work; it is the work.

Yep.

Giving Up

Posted in Faith on January 15, 2014 by nmpreach

white flagDo you read the newspapers?  Have you seen the latest on television?  Although the disheartening stories have always been a part of “life,” it seems they outweigh the good things in our world.  I’m grateful for my parents who “protected” me from some of reality while I was growing up.  After all, kids shouldn’t be  aware of much of the heartache in the world.  But as we grow, as we mature, we understand “there’s nothing new under the sun.”  Close to the beginning of time, man began to encounter struggles.  And often times, the struggles seem insurmountable.

Questions of “Why?,” “Why me?,” or “What’s next?” all seem to creep into our vocabulary.  Let’s be honest: there are times when throwing your hands up, waving the white flag, and walking away would be much easier.  But we all know that’s not the answer.  It wouldn’t be fair to those around us.  And in the long run, it wouldn’t be fair to us as either.

I’m reminded of Jesus saying, “But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jn 16:33

By the way, “the world” means all that’s in the world.

Struggle = God knows.

Finances = Trust God.

A medical diagnosis = What does God want you to know?

A fractured relationship = God hears you.

Peace = God provides in His time.

Tragedy that can never be understood = God is bigger than that too.

God calls us to be faithful.  And being faithful requires discipline.  Discipline means moving one step at a time in the right direction.  When you’re tempted to walk away, crawl into a hole, mask the pain, remember God is bigger than all this world has to offer.  Do you believe it or not?

Notice this text and especially the caveat.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  1 Cor 15:1-2 ESV (emphasis mine)

If you hold fast.  If you believe.  If you know your God to be bigger.  If you’re not focused on the storm but the One who can calm the storm.

So stand.  Walk.  Move where God wants you to move.  Although there’s struggle, you’re not allowed to quit!

Who’s Your Daddy?

Posted in Discipleship, Jeremiah, Sin on January 14, 2014 by nmpreach

Jeremiah seems to “speed up” as he writes of judgment in chapters 21-25.  Maybe it’s just me.  But do you get a sense of his passion?  His attempt to convince the people of God to make the right choice is evident.  This is not a new message.  But the prophet prays they understand and their legacy will be one of faith and obedience.  In fact, the only way to have a legacy is to follow God’s will.  They were apathetic, complacent, and making some horrible decisions.

Read these verses again:

He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well.  Is not this to know me? declares the LORD.

But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.

Jeremiah 22:16-17 ESV

The prophet is clear.  The people of God are so focused on themselves – so arrogant, prideful, and selfish – that they have followed their own ways.  The consequence is judgment.

In our time, we have a tendency to do somewhat of the same.  Jesus himself said, Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Luke 6:46

We have become convinced that all we must do is have a mental assent to certain dogmas.  In other words, believe the right things, and that’s what following Christ is all about.  That’s crazy….and unbiblical!

The idea of belief throughout Scripture had follow-through.  In other words, talk is cheap.  You might say you believe, but the words didn’t mean much.  The question was, what did you do about it?  Jesus didn’t just come and perform miracles for an “oooh” and “awwwww.”  He came to restore lives.  And then, He calls us to do the same.  How can we share Jesus with those around us if we just exist in our own little world and never act upon what’s in our head?  That would be foreign to them then and should be foreign to us now.  The question is, Who do you follow?  God?  The world?  Yourself?

Our problem is one of laziness.  We want to do just enough to get by.  Walk the aisle, say a few words, get in some water, believe a few things, and get my ticket punched.  That’s not what Christ called us to do!  I hear numerous excuses all of the time.  “I’m just not religious.”  Good!  Jesus said you should only be religious about loving people.  “I could never be good enough.”  You’re right.  But amazingly, God loves us anyway.  “The Church just isn’t for me.”  Really?  What if Jesus died for the Church and will return to claim His bride?  Is it for you now?  “They’re just a bunch of hypocrites.”  Fair.  We’re all sinners and not one is perfect.  But convincing yourself of some independent “good-guy” living is not only silly, it’s  stupid!  “Once saved, always saved!”  Really?  Maybe we should discuss what it means to be saved. Ultimately it’s not about you.

Is that harsh?  Intolerant?

It’s what Jesus said.  Read Luke 6:46 and then be slow to decide your answer.

Seek And Find

Posted in Scripture on January 7, 2014 by nmpreach

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Heb 4.12 ESV

I’ve wondered over recent months if we take the Word of God for granted.  I’ve seen news reports (you probably have as well) where new believers in third-world countries would give up everything for one page of Scripture.  It seems they know what’s contained in what they fight for.  Although I don’t advocate violence, I believe there is a lesson for many of us.  I have several Bibles (different translations) at my office and my home; whereas one page is fought over if it can be understood in places far away.  Translators work round the clock in an attempt to provide translations in foreign languages.

That’s a big problem.  But the issue goes deeper I think.  I read the Bible, but I catch myself just reading words on a page.  That would never do justice to Ezekiel being told to “Eat this (God’s Word) book.”  Most of us know the text above.  But what does it mean that the Word is living and active?  We are prone to answer, “It is God-breathed.”  And it is.  Or we say, “It’s written by the Holy Spirit through mankind.”  And it was.  But could it mean more?

In other words, we read the Bible at one level where so much more is contained in “lower levels.”  Have you ever chewed on John 3.16?  I know you’ve memorized it.  But have you taken it apart?  Have you meditated on it?  Have you read it?  That’s just one example, of course.  If Scripture can pierce soul and spirit, if it has the ability to know me more than I know myself, if it comes from God, (I believe all of these) then I must move past just reading words on a page.  I have to mine the depths and discover the “pearls.”  Laziness and reading God’s Word can never co-exist.

Scholar J. P. Fokelmann pens, “A text only starts to function when it receives attention – only then does it affect someone.”