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Showing posts from January, 2017

Who are the “cloud of witnesses” of Hebrews 12:1 and what are they doing?

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.  Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.  NLT [i] Hebrews 12:1-2 is a call for us to run with endurance the race God has set before us.  The Christian is to keep his or her eyes on Jesus.  This is where we get our endurance.  This thought is a continuation of the thought expressed at the end of chapter 10 where it says, “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will.  Then you will receive all that he has promised.”  (Hebrews 10:36, NLT)  “But we are not like those who turn away from God to

What is meant by “filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions?

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church… ESV [i] The Lord Jesus left us with a commission.  He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV) This is our job until He returns.  He left us His Holy Spirit to empower us for the work.  (Acts 1:8)  We are His ambassadors.  2 Corinthians 5:20 says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”  This is remarkable!  God is making His appeal through us.  The fact that God makes His appeal through us is part of the mystery of godliness that 1 Timothy 3:16 speaks of.  1 Timothy 3:15 d

What does the Bible say about burying vs. cremation?

  Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, “The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”   ESV [i] The Scriptures do not address directly how the body of a deceased individual is to be treated.  The Scriptures do report history, and historically, the Jewish people practiced burial and the Egyptians practiced embalming.  These practices are reflected in both the historical accounts and the culture as it appears in Scripture. When God created man, He formed him from the dust of the ground.  Therefore, when man sinned and God pronounced judgment on him, God said, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  (Genesis 3:19, ESV) We know that the body returns to dust and the spirit returns to God who gave it.  Hebrews 9:27 adds to this the idea of judgment when it says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes ju

Is it ever okay for a Christian to lie?

We are all familiar with the ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16, KJV) This is a clear prohibition against fabrication, exaggeration or changing the truth in our speech.  It is in the company of commands such as “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and “Thou shalt not steal.”  (Exodus 20:13-15, KJV)  These commandments all point to the way in which we relate to our neighbor, our fellow human being. The Bible is clear.  God hates dishonesty.  Proverbs 12:22 is one of those places where God speaks quite plainly, “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.” [i]   There is a principle of honesty, purity and truth that runs through Scripture and should rule our lives as children of God.  God, who never lies (Titus 1:2), has called us to be like Him (Ephesians 5:1). Having established the principle that it is never appropriate to lie, it is not always necessary to

For Such a Time as This

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God is our provider.  He is our sustainer and guide through life, and yet I have never heard His audible voice.  I have never seen Him.  However, I see His hand in all that He has made.  I hear His voice but only in the silence of my own heart. God seems silent and distant during some seasons of life.  Yet, in retrospect, some of the silent seasons were the times when He was most present.  At times, we question if God is present at all.  Where was God when . . .? Perhaps you, like me, have been angry with God at times. The story of Esther is a good place to look to gain understanding. The book of Esther does not talk about God.  Like in our lives, God is invisible, but  He is invincible.  His sovereign control is clear throughout the story of Esther and in  our lives.  His hand is visible in all that happens.  As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can take courage in God’s sovereign control in all that happens. Esther 1:1 tells us, “These events h

According to Plan

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Ezra 1 [i] The children of Israel were captive in Babylon for 70 years. When God gave the law through Moses, he warned that if the people did not remain faithful to God, they would be removed from the land and subjected to their enemies.  Throughout their history, God continually warned through His prophets that judgment was coming as the people drifted farther and farther away from God. Leviticus 26 is one place where God lays out some of the punishments the Israelites would suffer for their hostility toward Him.  Leviticus 26:33-35 says: I will scatter you among the nations and bring out my sword against you.  Your land will become desolate, and your cities will lie in ruins.  Then at last the land will enjoy its neglected Sabbath years as it lies desolate while you are in exile in the land of your enemies.  Then the land will finally rest and enjoy the Sabbaths it missed.  As long as the land lies in ruins, it will enjoy the rest you never allowed it to take

When the Pressure's On

Daniel 6 [i] Daniel chapter 6 gives the famous account of Daniel and the Lions’ Den.  At the time of this incident, Daniel was over 80 years old.  He was a capable leader and administrator, and was in charge of an empire. This chapter is about the faithfulness of a man to God, and about the faithfulness of God to a man.  After a lifetime of faithfully serving God, Daniel is tested. We are all tested.  There is no age limit.  There are no exemptions for position or authority.  There are no exceptions. James 1:2-3 tells us: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  (ESV) [ii] From these verses, it should be clear that we can all expect to be tested.  The question is, “How will we come out of the test?” I do not know what “Lions’ Den” you are facing or may be about to face, but doubtless you have one looming on the horizon. It might be at work.  It might at h