How do you view the Bible? Do you see it as a cafeteria line where you pick and choose what you like? Do you cut and paste the Bible at will? Do you view it as merely a book of nice suggestions for living? Or do you view it as God’s Word and allow it to direct every area of your life?
22 Now the king was sitting in the winter house in the ninth month, with a fire burning on the hearth before him. 23 And it happened, when Jehudi had read three or four columns, that the king cut it with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth. 24 Yet they were not afraid, nor did they tear their garments, the king nor any of his servants who heard all these words. 25 Nevertheless Elnathan, Delaiah, and Gemariah implored the king not to burn the scroll; but he would not listen to them. 26 And the king commanded Jerahmeel the king’s son, Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to seize Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet, but the LORD hid them.
The king was sitting in his house, warm and comfortable, and—with a complete disregard for the Word of God! When the Scriptures were read to him, he simply cut them off the scroll and threw them into the fire!
I once heard about a liberal theologian who literally cut the first few chapters of Genesis out of his Bible. Others today throw out the whole Bible as being the work of men. Still others, claim they are followers of Christ, but pick and choose what to believe.
Some talk about how Jesus loves everyone, but forget that He ordered the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Some claim to love God but don’t do what He says, forgetting His words, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14.15). And others say it’s a book of principles alone. They deny its truthfulness in the area of history and science and eliminate the whole creation account.
Then there are those who cut and paste the Bible with other religious ideas. They take what they like from Christianity, add a little Eastern religion, and toss in some mysticism. Or they say they’re Christians but add other books or some so-called higher knowledge. Still others deny the Deity of Christ, the virgin birth, or the reality of the Trinity. Continue reading →
Do you know someone who used to come to church, but somewhere along the line they became disillusioned or angry at God? Maybe He didn’t answer their prayers or work the way they thought He should. Maybe that’s you!
Also read about prayer, obedience, godly friends, requirements for church leadership and the importance of good doctrine.
In this chapter Paul lists the characteristics we should look for in a man’s life before considering him for leadership in the church. The first list is for elders, pastors, bishops or overseers. The words are used interchangeably.
The second list is for deacons. Deacons serve in various other areas of the church, under the leadership of the pastors and elders. Both are extremely important. Paul emphasizes the fact that we should not be quick to put people in leadership positions (“not a novice” v. 6), but should wait to see the fruit of the Spirit manifested in their lives over a period of time. Placing someone in leadership before they are spiritually mature enough to handle it can lead to pride and a fall (v. 6-7).
Verse 15 says that the church is to be “the pillar and ground of the truth.” The church is to support and teach the truth.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for doctrine (teaching us what is right), for reproof (showing us when we’re wrong), for correction (teaching us how to get it right), and for instruction in righteousness (helping us live a godly lifestyle) (2 Tim. 3.16-17).
Good doctrine helps us see the tests and trials of life through the lens of Scripture. Good doctrine helps us know God for who He is, not as a God of our own making. Good doctrine grows our faith and trust in Him and prevents disappointment when He doesn’t work the way we think He should.
Bad doctrine on the other hand can lead us into all kinds of error, including a false assurance of salvation (Matt. 7.21-23).
One of the most widespread and pernicious is the faith and prosperity teaching. If you’ve been taught there’s a miracle in your mouth; that God wants you rich; that if you have enough faith or enough hands laid on you, you’ll be healed; or that your problem is a demon of lust, alcohol, or pornography … yet … after declaring “I’m healed” you’re not; after giving to get a promised reward, you’re still broke; or the lust, desire for alcohol, and pull of pornography is still there …, many become disappointed and walk away from God, even shake their fist at Him, because they believe they did their part and He failed to keep His end of the bargain. Continue reading →
Jesus called Satan the father of lies and He warned the religious leaders of His day that they were listening to the wrong voice. In the garden Satan sold Eve a bill of goods and in Jeremiah’s day, he spoke through false prophets who told the people that the consequences of their sin wouldn’t be so bad. False teachers and false prophets are saying much the same thing today. Others may propagate lies because they are misinformed and listening to the wrong voice.
In the garden the serpent told Eve, “You will not surely die!” In other words, your disobedience won’t result in painful consequences.
As if to make His point that the devil is a liar, God recorded pages and pages of genealogy and after each name it says, “… and he died and was buried with his fathers.”
In Jeremiah’s day, false prophets told the people that the consequences of their sin wouldn’t be so bad, but it too, was a lie.
Today, the false prophets may not look as obvious, but they’re out there. They’re preachers and teachers. They’re counselors, psychologists and therapists. They’re teachers and university professors. They’re politicians and judges and activists and Planned Parenthood employees.
They Prophesy Falsely …
They prophesy falsely when they say, “The Bible isn’t all true. It’s just a book of myths.”
But God says:
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1.20-21).
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3.16).
Or, when they say “Jesus was a good man, but not God.”
But Jesus said “I and My Father are one (Jn. 10.30).”
He can’t be both a good man and a liar.
Or, “Jesus loves everyone just the way you are. There’s no need to change.”
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel (Mk. 1.15).
They prophesy falsely every time they say to an unrepentant sinner, “You don’t need to feel guilty. You need to do what’s right for you.”
Guilt is not always a bad thing. Apart from Christ we’re all guilty, so guilty that the only remedy was for Jesus to die in our place! Often the guilt and consequences are the very things God uses to draw people to Himself.
2 Corinthians 7.9-10 says:
9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
They prophesy falsely every time they say to a young woman, “You won’t suffer any problems as a result of this abortion.”
But to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath,9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good (Rom. 2.8-10).
Or “Just accept who you are. You were born that way.”
We were all born sinners though we’re inclined to sin in different ways, but that’s precisely why we need a Savior.
And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Cor. 5.15).
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Cor. 5.17).
Or when they question God by asking, “What kind of a God let’s all these bad things happen?” As if God is obligated to bless a people who have denied His right to rule them!
But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips (Job 2.10).
Or, even, when they say, “Just ask Jesus into your heart” without talking about the need to repent and turn away from sin.
Joel 2.12 says, “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.”
And Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Lk. 26.20).
And Acts 26.20 says, “… and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”
It’s not that it’s wrong to pray a prayer of salvation, but it isn’t a “magic formula.” Each person needs to first understand and accept the gospel: that Jesus died for guilty sinners, that He rose from the dead so that we can have new life, and that He is Lord not just Savior (Rom. 10.9-10).
The acceptance of that truth may be expressed in a prayer. It may happen in a church pew, at an altar, in a home, an alley, or a hospital bed. It may happen as the Word is preached, as the gospel is shared one on one, or as the Spirit of God brings gospel truth to remembrance. It may look very different from one life to the next, but in some way an understanding of our inability to redeem ourselves (Rom. 3.10-12, 23, 6.23), that Christ died the death we deserved (Rom. 5.8), and that He offers us salvation as a free gift (Rom. 6.23; Eph. 2.8-9) must come alive.
If you’re reading this and that truth is coming alive in your heart, talk to God. No fancy words are required. Admit you’re a sinner and ask Him to forgive you, accept what He did for you and ask for His help to live a life that’s pleasing to Him. It’s that simple.
These are challenging times to be a believer. There is a huge clash of world views. The truthfulness of God’s Word is being attacked on many fronts. Perhaps, you are being attacked personally for standing for the truth. How should a believer respond to those attacks?
These truly are challenging times to be a believer, and while it is going to get more and more intense as this world of ours spins closer and closer to the 2nd coming of Christ, it’s not new.
There was a “clash” in Jeremiah’s day, too. Chapter 11.21-23:
21 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the men of Anathoth who seek your life, saying, ‘Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD, lest you die by our hand’— 22 therefore thus says the LORD of hosts. ‘Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; 23 and there shall be no remnant of them, for I will bring catastrophe on the men of Anathoth, even the year of their punishment.’”
There were people who didn’t want to hear the truth and who threatened Jeremiah. In fact, they threatened to kill him if he continued to speak God’s truth. But God said, don’t worry about them, Jeremiah, I’ll deal with them in My time and in My way.
There will be people who are not going to like it when we speak the truth. They may be family members, co-workers, supervisors, friends or enemies. We shouldn’t be surprised by this, but how should we respond?
First, we should rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer for His name (Acts 5.41).
We shouldn’t try to fight evil with evil. Remember Romans 12..21 tells us: Continue reading →
Wow! As I reread today’s passage, it occurred to me that it could be a series in today’s newspapers!
Headlines: “Our courts oppose the righteous,” “Justice is nowhere to be found,” “Truth stumbles in the streets,” “Honesty has been outlawed,” “Truth is gone,” and “Anyone who renounces evil is attacked” (Is. 59.14-15). Though God is patient and long suffering, one day soon …
13 We know we have rebelled and have denied the LORD. We have turned our backs on our God. We know how unfair and oppressive we have been, carefully planning our deceitful lies. 14 Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found. Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed. 15 Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked.
Verse 13 reminds us that all sin is first and foremost against the Lord. Notice it says, “We have turned our backs on our God.” When we deny and turn our backs on the Lord we are expressing contempt for Him, in effect, saying that we are dissatisfied with His blessings, that He is not good, that we want and deserve something better than what He has given us.
This passage says we sin willingly, knowingly, “We know we have rebelled … we know how unfair and oppressive we have been, carefully planning our deceitful lies.”
When the believers in a nation begin to compromise and live like the rest of the world, all of society suffers. Look at the list in verses 14 & 15 again: Continue reading →
Verses 3-5, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
Notice three words in this passage: “arguments,” “knowledge,” and “thought.” The strongholds Paul talks about here are not physical and they are not demonic in the sense of “demon possession” or a spirit holding us captive to some behavior (“spirit of alcohol,” or “a spirit of nicotine,” or “a spirit of lust,” etc.).
They have to do with arguments, knowledge, and thoughts—our thinking, ideas, and beliefs. The strongholds we have to battle are false ideas, false religions, false doctrines, and false philosophies—wrong thinking. We fight them on our knees and with “the Word of Truth.” The way to overcome strongholds is by replacing lies with truth.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2.15).
It’s easier to see some of the big lies or strongholds that keep people in bondage—lies like false religions and cults. But there are many more plausible lies, lies that are easier to believe and buy into.
A plausible lie: A woman has the right to do what she wants with her own body. The truth: “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed and in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139.16).
Plausible lies: Kids are going to have sex. We just need to teach them how to have “safe sex.” Or, God certainly doesn’t expect me to be chaste; after all, I’m only human! Or, that was for Bible times; this is a different culture! The truth: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification. that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4.3-5).
A plausible lie:Homosexuality—God made them that way, so they can’t be expected to change. The truth: Homosexuality like all sin is part of our fallen nature, but we are redeemable. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”
A plausible lie: About dating or marriage—I know he’s not a Christian, but how else is he going to get saved? At least he comes to church with me and I’m sure he’ll become a Christian. The truth: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God …” (2 Cor. 6.14-16).
A plausible lie: God wants me to be happy! The truth: God does want His children to be blessed, but he first wants us to be holy! “But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1.15-16). Happiness if fleeting, but holiness leads to joy unspeakable!
But there are other, more religious sounding lies.
A plausible lie: How could a loving God send anyone to hell? That’s not the God I serve! The truth: God isn’t sending us to hell. We’re already lost and He sent His Son to rescue all those who will believe (Jn. 3.16; 1 Jn. 4.9).
A plausible lie: All religions lead to God though they may call Him by another name. The truth: Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn. 14.6).
A plausible lie: Jesus just loved everyone. We should do the same. After all, who are we to judge? The truth: We should love everyone, even our enemies, but part of loving means there are times when we need to speak the truth in love (Gal. 6.1-2; 2 Cor. 7.8-11; Prov. 27.5-6).
A plausible lie: It doesn’t matter what I believe about God and the Bible, as long as I love Jesus. The truth: What we believe about God and His Word as revealed in the Bible matter a great deal. It affects how we handle tests and trials, how we reflect Him to a lost world, the level of our trust, and our ability to have peace and joy no matter what our circumstances. For more on this, check out my post, “Good Doctrine Matters.” In that post I explain how some false doctrines sound good, but have a nasty downside.
We, of all people, should not buy into the plausible lies that the world uses to argue against the truth and keep people in spiritual blindness and bondage! But we also need to be on guard against the religious sounding lies that can destroy our testimonies, keep us discouraged, or cause us to doubt God’s love.
Let’s purpose in our hearts to tear down those strongholds, first in our own hearts, and then to prayerfully share the truth with others.
Verse 1 of chapter 28 says, “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower which is at the head of the verdant valleys, to those who are overcome with wine!”
This passage is written to the ten northern tribes represented by Ephraim. The area where they lived was very lush and fertile. God had blessed them with an abundance of beauty and fruitfulness, but they were puffed up with pride as if they had caused it and had wasted God’s blessings on “drunkenness”—their own sensual pleasures.
Good doctrine … there I said it … the “D” word. It seems like, in many churches, we’re afraid of the word and of calling other biblical concepts by their traditional or biblical names. I understand the value of making preaching and teaching relevant. But have we gone to such lengths to avoid using biblical terminology that we’re at risk of producing a generation of biblical illiterates?
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, doctrine is, “a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true.” Biblical doctrine is made up of the ideas and beliefs that the Bible teaches to be true. It’s the Bible carefully studied and understood.
Good doctrine matters because what we believe about God, His sovereignty, and His dealings with those He loves, determines how we’ll respond to the tests and trials of life among other things. It also determines whether or not we witness, how we interact with others, especially our spouses and children, and whether or not we have peace at the end of our lives. Good doctrine matters more than we know.
One area where good doctrine is vitally important concerns the tests and trials we experience in life. Look at what Paul had to say about his own:
Verses 1, 7-10:
1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart:
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
Many today come to God with a “what can He do for me” attitude. That attitude is fed by the popular “health and prosperity doctrine.” It’s a doctrine with great appeal, but it has a nasty downside.
What if you believe God will give you whatever you desire if you just have enough faith?
What if you believe God always wants His children healed physically, guarantees that our children will grow up to serve Him, and gives us freedom from all hardship?
Then … what if … God doesn’t make you rich or heal your body? What if your child gets sick? What if you continue to struggle financially? What if your husband doesn’t get saved or come back home or never changes? What if the man of your dreams doesn’t appear? What if you suffer physically? What if your children rebel? Continue reading →
God clearly commands us, even as adults, to honor and respect our parents. Yet, many of us grew up in homes that were less than perfect. How do we honor parents when we believe they failed us in some way?
Verse 23, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding.”
Matthew 13.45-46 says:
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
We should be willing to get God’s truth no matter what the cost and once we have gotten it, we should not be willing to give it up, not for wealth or fame or popularity or anything else.
Properly Honoring Parents as Adults
“Listen to your father who begot you, And do not despise your mother when she is old” (v. 22).
“Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her who bore you rejoice” (v. 25).
As a counselor, some of the most frequent problems I see in marriages involve a failure to properly “leave and cleave.” Spouses fail to make their husbands and wives the primary human relationship. They run first to their parents when there is a problem instead of communicating biblically with their spouses. This hinders the one-flesh relationship God intended.
They may continue to support their parents financially against their spouse’s wishes or neglect their own family unit in other ways.
But just as serious is a failure to properly honor parents as these two verses command. This often comes as a result of actual or perceived parental failures.
Getting Over an Imperfect Childhood
We live in a fallen world. I don’t know anyone who grew up in a perfect home. I know I made mistakes, many of them, when raising my children. So did my parents and your parents.
I also know many adult children who refuse to see their childhood through God’s eyes. Instead, often because of unforgiveness and bitterness, they continue to view their childhood through a childish lens. As children, we all have a narrow understanding of the world. We only know how decisions and circumstances affected us. We don’t usually see the big picture.
Children may blame a single mom for leaving a marriage and destroying their home without ever knowing that the father was an adulterer or an abuser, sometimes because their mother didn’t want to destroy their relationship with their father.
Children in blended families sometimes resent a step-parent without ever appreciating the difficulties, financial strains, and sacrifice parents and step-parents make. All they can see is that this person was NOT their biological parent. That thinking breeds resentment and rebellion in childhood and a lack of grace and thankfulness in adulthood. They may only see what they perceived as unfairness without considering their own difficult, rebellious attitudes and how that complicated the relationship.
One of the biggest issues is favoritism and perceived favoritism. Certainly, parents need to avoid sinfully favoring or comparing one child to another. Parents are not blameless in this. Continue reading →