406 - Remember When?

June 6, 2017

Over and over again we see the commands in Scripture to "remember" something.  Often we are to remember the commands of God (Num. 15:39-40).  Other times we are to remember what God has done for us (Deut. 5:15).  Then God Himself is said to remember His covenant with us and all living creatures (Gen. 9:15) or to not remember our sins anymore (Heb. 8:12).  Jesus told His disciples to "remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32) and in the Revelation the church at Ephesus is commanded to "remember therefore from where you have fallen" (Rev. 2:5).  We see sinful man asking God to "remember me when You come into Your kingdom" (Luke 23:42) and the Lord asking us to "do this in remembrance of Me" (1 Cor. 11:24).  And we are told, not to "keep" the Sabbath as a command, but to "remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:8).   Why?  Because remembering who we are and what God has done for us will bring a desire to "keep" His command and make His day holy.

But did you know that one of the key prerequisites of true worship is the ability to remember who God is and what He has done for us?  Remembrance brings past realities into the present.  It makes yesterday alive today.  And it gives us courage to face tomorrow, no matter what, come what may.

Do You Remember?

Let me ask you a couple of questions:

What do you forget in the dark that you remember in the light?
What about the Lord’s Word and character do you fail to remember daily?
How has He shown Himself faithful to you?
Do you remember?

If you want to discover more about true worship through remembering, then keep listening.

The following is a study on Matthew 5:23-24.

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405 - Come and Die

June 2, 2017

In his classic book, the Costs of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums up the teaching of Jesus in this one phrase:  "When Christ calls a man, he calls him to come and die."  That's die to self.  Die to our dreams.  Die to our reputation.  Die to our wants and rights.  Die to our families, friends, and future.  And die to our very lives.

We see Jesus continually calling men "to forsake all and follow Him" (Luke 5:11)  Consider the following.

Matthew 16:24-26 - Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him (1) deny himself, and (2) take up his cross, and (3) follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"

Note the order.  First, there is the desire to "come after" Jesus.  This is followed by the list of conditions to "deny" yourself and then visibly and publicly show others your self denial by taking up your cross.  And finally, after the conditions are met, the desire is fulfilled.  Only then does Jesus say, "follow Me."

Which raises a few questions.  Do you follow Jesus?  Have you died to yourself?  If so, in what way?  Can others tell?  Are there areas in your life you have refused to die to?  And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?

Do you want to know more about what it means to follow Jesus?  Good.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 21:19-25.

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404 - Do You Enjoy God?

May 28, 2017

When it comes to worship, some of the most profound words are those of Jesus to the Samarian woman He met at Jacob's well in the city of Sychar (John 4:5).  It was here that Jesus gave us clear instructions on the type of worship the Father seeks.

John 4:23-24 - “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true (one who cannot lie, real, genuine, sincere) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit (human) and truth (reality, the essence of a matter); for the Father is seeking (to look for, search, strive to find) such to worship (to kiss, adore, fall or prostrate before, pay reverence) Him.  God is Spirit (Holy Spirit), and those who worship Him must (what must be done from duty) worship in spirit (human) and truth.”

Which, as usual, raises a few questions.

What is worship?
What’s the difference between worship and true worship?
What is true worship like internally?
What is true worship like externally? And what does true worship look like today?

One last thought, in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the first question goes like this:

Question:  What is the chief end of man?
Answer:  The chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

Did you catch that?  We glorify by enjoying Him forever.  So, do you enjoy God?  Do you love your time with Him?  Is that time the highlight of your day?  Do you know how to worship Him in spirit and truth?  If not, then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 4:23-34.

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403 - God Never Waste an Experience, Good or Bad

May 27, 2017

God never wastes an experience in our life, good or bad.  When we sin, for example, God uses our failure as a ministry to help others struggling with the same sin.  He allows us to share the times we fell flat on our face to encourage others who are doing the same.  It seems that's what Jesus was teaching Peter.

In the upper room, during the last supper, Jesus told Peter He was praying for him.  But His prayer was not to remove the temptation and inevitable fall from Peter.  No, His prayer was that when Peter fell and suffered the consequences of that fall, that once he repented and returned to Jesus, he was to strengthen his brothers by that experience.  Consider the following:

Luke 22:31-32 - And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."

Jesus didn't tell Peter he would deliver him from the temptation, the sifting.  He promised Peter that after he fell and recovered and returned to his faith, Jesus would use that experience to encourage and strengthen others who were struggling in the same way.  That's why, in John 21, we see Jesus restoring Peter by saying, "Feed My lambs" (John 21:15).  Even after Peter's epic denial of Jesus, his ministry was not finished.  In fact, it was just beginning.  And so it is with us.

Does this thought encourage you?  It does me.  If you want to learn more about your usefulness after your failure, then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 21:15-23.

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402 - Are You a Murderer? Probably So

May 21, 2017

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus equates anger with murder (Matt. 5:21-22), in much the same way He equates lust with adultery (Matt. 5:27-28).  Later, John adds the following:

1 John 3:11-15 - For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love (agapaō) one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his (Cain) works were evil and his brother’s (Able) righteous.  Do not marvel (wonder, be surprised, astonished), my brethren (fellow believers), if the world (kósmos) hates (to detest, an active ill will in words and conduct, a persecution spirit) you. We know (eidō) that we have passed from death to life, (how) because we love (agapaō) the brethren.  He who does not love (agapaō) his (personal) brother (fellow believers) abides (rest, make their home) in death.  Whoever hates (to detest, an active ill will in words and conduct, a persecution spirit) his (personal) brother (fellow believer) is a murderer, and you know (eidō) that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

John also equates anger and hatred with murder.  And he states that "no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."  This is a profoundly important point.  Which raises a couple of questions:

Have you been angry with a fellow Christian?
What was the cause of your anger?  Was it the holiness of God?  Or some personal preference about which you felt slighted?
Are you still angry with that person?  And if so, why?
Did you know that, according to the Scriptures, you are guilty of murder?  Why?  Because the one you hate and murmur about was created in the image of God.  And to hate someone created by God, who is also made in the image of your God, is to hate God.  You cannot love the Creator and hate His creation.

The Scriptures call this murder.  Are you confused?  Do you think hatred and murder are two different things with two different penalties?  Do you want to know what the Scriptures say about anger and murder?  Then keep listening.

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401 - How Life Changes in a 100 Yard Swim

May 19, 2017

In John 21, we have the account of Jesus revealing Himself to a few of His disciples while they were fishing.  As soon as it was revealed to John that it was Jesus on the shore, he said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" (John 17:7).  And in perfect Peter style, he overreacted and jumped into the water to swim to Jesus.

But by the time he swam the 100 yards to where Jesus was, something happened.  You can see it in Peter's demeanor.  You can almost feel his reluctance to approach Jesus.  Why?  Maybe Peter was afraid Jesus was angry with him for his denial in the courtyard.  Or maybe Peter was ashamed he had drawn the others away and gone fishing, back to their old life, like nothing important had happened these last three and a half years.

Or maybe Peter hadn't forgiven himself for his denial of Jesus.  Maybe he was ashamed.  Who knows?

But something changed.  Not just with Peter, but with all the disciples.  They had excitement and passion that can only come from belief while on the boat.  But once ashore, it seems more like calm reservation.  In fact, John goes out of his way to tell us what the disciples weren't thinking.  It was his way of trying to explain the strange way they approached Jesus.

John 21:12 - Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.”  Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord.

There are life lessons to be learned in these fourteen verses.  Profound lessons.  Are you interested?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 21:1-14.

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397 - The Same Day at Evening

April 13, 2017

In John 20 we find some events that took place on that momentous Sunday, the first day of the week, when Jesus was raised from the dead.  Some of those events took place early that Sunday morning and other events happened later that day, at evening.  It was at this time, in the evening of the same day, that Jesus appeared to His disciples and others who were hiding for fear of the Jews (John 20:19).  And then, to this frightened and confused group of friends and disciples, Jesus spoke these words:

John 20:21 - "Peace to you!  As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."

His words to them were comforting and also challenging.  Just like they are to us today. And then Jesus uttered some of the most misunderstood words in all of the gospel accounts.  He said:

John 20:23 - "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

Do you see how a lazy interpretation of this verse could lead you to believe that God has granted fallen, mortal men the ability to forgive sins?  And those sins are forgiven, not because they are confessed by the one who has sinned, but by the forgiveness of an uninterested third party.  How can that be? Want to know more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 20:19-23.

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390 - Sometimes History Hurts

March 12, 2017

When we try to determine the exact day that Jesus was crucified, either Friday or Wednesday, we come face to face with an ugly fact about the history of the church.  That ugly history shows the depth of the church’s hatred for the Jews during the first and second century, much like the church’s hatred of the Jews today.  Church councils were called to try to determine a uniform date for Easter in order for it to not correspond with the Jewish Passover (the 14th of Nisan), even if they are, in reality, intrinsically tied together.

For example, the Council of Nicea (325 BC) unanimously ruled that the Easter festival should be celebrated throughout the Christian world on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox (March and September); and if the full moon should occur on a Sunday, and thereby coincide with the Passover festival, Easter should be commemorated on the following Sunday.

Why try so hard to make sure no Christian festival corresponds to its Jewish counterpart, even if by accident?  Antisemitism.  But there’s so much more to this debate.  You have the two Passovers during the passion week, the rantings of Emperor Constantine, and the excommunication of the Quartodecimans.  Sound intriguing?  Do you want to know more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 19:31-37.

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356 - Is Your God Too Small?

July 17, 2016
When we are overwhelmed with fear, it's usually because our God is too small and our problems are too big. 

Have you ever experienced a fear of Death?
Fear of the Future?
Fear of Failure?
Fear of Never Being Loved?
Fear of Pain or Sickness?
Fear of Financial Ruin?
Fear of Divorce?
Fear of Something Happening to My Children?
Fear of Being Victimized?
Fear of Getting Older?
Fear of Things Always Changing?
Fear of Trusting?
Fear of Confrontation?
Fear of the Death of a Loved One?
Fear of Satan?

If so, the reason for your fear is that your God is simply too small.  Way too small.  Tiny.  Do you want to know how to change that?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on 1 John 3:1-3.

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327 - Without Me, You Can’t Do Squat!

November 4, 2015
Some of the most compelling statements from Jesus about our life in Him and His life in us are found in John 15.  In this chapter He says:

John 15:4-5 - “Abide in Me (or, to remain, to rest, to dwell, to live. Also means to spend time with, to continue steadfast, to persevere, to tarry, to remain in or with someone, to remain united with someone, being of one heart, one mind, and one will.  It defines something that remains where it is, continues in a fixed state, or endures), and I (abide) in you.  As the branch cannot (or, no, not, ever, an impossibility) bear fruit of itself (or, on its own), unless (condition) it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much (or, many, exceeding, abundant) fruit; for without Me (or, apart, separate, by itself) you (your name) can do (or, to make, to produce, to prepare, implies action) nothing (or, no one, none at all, not even one, not in the least)."

Note the following:

(command and invitation) “Abide in Me, and I in you.
(example from nature) As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine,
(application) neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
(clarification and identification) I am the vine, you are the branches.
(promise) He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit;
(warning) for without Me you can do nothing."

But this is only the beginning.  There's so much more to learn.  Are you interested?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 15:4-5.

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