Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"What this means to me"

Two phrases I've encountered from fellow believers regarding the interpretation or evaluation of Scriptural doctrine are:
"What this means to me is...."
"What I feel about this is..."
I find this troubling, in that while personal opinion and feeling may be appropriate for deciding choices in entertainment, friends, and the like, this "me-centric" approach to evaluate doctrine are certain to get one in a lot of trouble.


Because one day, when you stand in front of your Maker at the end of all things, what you think, feel, or believe won't matter a hill of beans. He who made all things will also judge all things according to His law, not your thoughts or feelings.

So, instead of going by what "I" think or feel, one should always strive to know and understand God on His terms, and ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes and give you the right and true understanding of His Word, so that you may see and understand His ways and walk in them.

Heavenly vs Earthly Wisdom

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James 3:13-18
The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Donating junk to the church

Many's the time I've seen things that people donated to the church. A lot of times it's good stuff given by people who want to give the Lord their best, but I've also seen disturbing cases where the materials being donated is junk.

In this passage, it gives one cause to think what your Lord and Creator thinks of donating things to the church as an alternative to throwing it in the garbage.
“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name.

But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord’s table may be despised.

When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil?

And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil?

Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the
Lord of hosts.

And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts.

Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.

For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.

But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised.
But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord.

Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished.

For I am a great King, says the
Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 Malachi 1:6-14. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What will you do?

An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so,
but what will you do when the end comes?

Jeremiah 5:30

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Why Bad Things Happen to "Good" People

This is a devotions I delivered before choir recently.

One facet of our human existence is the notion of reward and punishment - ie, if you do good, good things will happen to you, and if you do bad, then bad things’ll happen to you. So, when bad things happen to apparently “good” people, the question naturally comes - why did this happen? Now, it’s not my intention to get into the detailed implications this issue, but I will relate a couple of examples in scripture which can help us gain a better understanding of the question.

The first example is from Leviticus, and records how Ezekiel, who was one of God’s prophets, was told by God that He was going to take Ezekiel’s wife away at a stroke, and that when it happened, Ezekiel wasn’t to mourn or to weep. Scripture then records that what was going to happen to Ezekiel, and Ezekiel’s response, was to then be a sign to the people of Israel, in that all that Ezekiel experienced and did, they would also experience and do. So, God subjected a faithful servant to an incredibly difficult experience in order to convey to the people of God the seriousness of the situation they were in. In short, God used this to convey an extremely strong message to the children Israel.

The second example is from Luke 13, where Christ is asked about the Galileans whose blood was mixed with their sacrifices by Pilate, or about the 18 men that were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them - did these “bad deaths” mean that they had committed some special sin, or were worse than other sinners?

Christ’s answer was telling:
No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
In this case, Christ is, in essence, telling the disciples “you’re asking the wrong question”, that the way these people died isn’t nearly as important a concern as whether they or not they were ready to meet their maker in a state of repentance. This instruction dove-tails with other times where Christ instructed the people to always be ready.

So what should you the listener take away from this devotion? Namely that ‘bad’ things can happen to ‘good’ people for any a number of reasons that have nothing to do with whether they’d done something special to deserve punishment. It could happen as a way that God is working through your life to instruct others, or as an illustration to always be ready for whatever God allows to come your way.

In all these things we need to walk in faith, trusting and relying on His leading to follow the path He would have us to go, regardless of where it leads.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Grace Given to Me For You

Here's some quotes where Paul talks about the grace that God has given to him. This is something to consider when thinking about how God works in and through such weak vessels to accomplish His work among us, and where a Pastor's ministry really comes from.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you
not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think,
but to think with sober judgment,
each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Romans 12:3ff
But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God - so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;
Romans 15:15ff
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:10ff
And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.

On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.
Galatians 2:6ff
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles - assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.
Ephesians 3:1ff
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 3:7ff
All citations from The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

God's Standards of Judgement

This is another citation from Ezekiel, and this time God's talking about how He judges His people. I think this example can be considered as a foreshadowing of the precious gift of God that was to be worked in Christ.
And you, son of man, say to your people,

The righteousness of the righteous
shall not deliver him when he transgresses,

and as for

the wickedness of the wicked,
he shall not fall by it
when he turns from his wickedness,

and the

righteous shall not be able to live by his righteousness
 when he sins.

Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live,
yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice,
none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered,
but in his injustice that he has done he shall die.

Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’
yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right,

if the wicked restores the pledge,
gives back what he has taken by robbery, and
walks in the statutes of life,
not doing injustice,
he shall surely live;
he shall not die.

None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him.
He has done what is just and right;
he shall surely live.

Ezekiel 33:12-15

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Eze 33:12). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.