Guest post by Vincent Brattin, one of our church members.
Consider Well (2/3/2014 by VJB)
Does your church take a stand against moral decay
Or are they afraid of what people might say?
Does your music uplift, and teach real Christian truth
Or do you have drum sets to placate your youth?
Tell me true, is your pastor just “one of the guys”
Wears t-shirts and jeans, never jackets or ties?
And is your congregation so large over there
That only a fraction gets pastoral care?
Is the sermon you hear now so watered and thin
That you’re never challenged to deal with your sin?
Are you being prepared to face worlds of wrong?
Instead, will you fall when that cult comes along?
Does your Bible translation still honor what’s true?
Or rather, will your paraphrase have to do?
Do you help out the missions with treasure and prayer?
Or maybe you act like they aren’t even there?
You attend Sunday morning—well, that’s a good start
Or do you think “Finished! Now I’ve done my part.”?
Do you enter your church and think “what can I do?”
Or do you think “serve” is what happens to you?
Consider well your house of worship—
Are you where God would have you be?
And are you growing as a Christian?
Just ask the Lord to help you see.
In case you want a real challenge, you can do your devotional Bible reading in the Greek New Testament. Click here for a reading schedule that moves from easier to harder books throughout the year, and gets you through the entire New Testament in that time.
My sermon notes are available in Word document format. There are 48 files covering Romans 1 through 8. They are available by clicking here.
As they were on the verge of entering the promised land, Moses reminded the people of Israel how God had cared for them over the preceding years. But a danger would come when they began to enjoy rich material blessings:
Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today. (Deuteronomy 8:11)
when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; (Deuteronomy 8:14)
Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. (Deuteronomy 8:19)
The same danger applies today to us. Many readers of this post are extremely rich by comparison to the rest of the world. Consider the following quotation from economist Mark Perry at the American Enterprise Institute:
For example, nearly half of the world’s richest 1% of people live in the U.S., and the threshold required to make it into that elite group is only $34,000 per person, according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic.
If your household income is over $34,000, you are the 1%! This can pose a serious danger because riches can beget a self-sufficient disposition. Such a disposition is death to reliance upon God. Do not forget your God! If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you cannot allow money or material wealth to have the mastery over you.
I extolled the value of Bible reading during the Sunday morning service, encouraging our flock to read Scripture diligently. You can listen in at our audio page.
Someone emailed me a helpful reminder after the sermon about a Bible app that not only allows you to read, but also to LISTEN to the Bible as it is read. I should have emphasized in my sermon the great value of this method of getting into the Bible. After all, many early Christians had no other option but to listen as the Scriptures were read to them. We have the benefit of having inexpensive printed copies of the Bible available to us everywhere, and now we have the benefit of inexpensive audio copies of the Scripture as well. Besides being able to use time you otherwise cannot use to read (say, as you drive), an audio Bible is a good way to learn through the Scripture through another "learning channel." Learning through reading is complemented well by listening. You can also learn by writing it out and reading it out loud yourself.
There are many Bible apps available, but here are a few key ones:
The 2014 Bible reading schedules are available as PDF files (below) and soon will also be available on the front page of our site, in left menu bar under the Bible Guide.
Why should you regularly read the Bible? Because you are not supposed to live by bread alone, but by every word of God (Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3).
In Ecclesiastes 10:1, Solomon teaches a little nugget of wisdom:
Dead flies putrefy the perfumer's ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor."
Some examples of such folly are recorded in 2 Chronicles 16-20. Asa and his son Jehoshaphat were generally good kings in the southern kingdom (2 Chronicles 14:2, 17:3). However, they each had some dead flies:
These are some obvious illustrations of the need for separation in the believer's life—separation from sin and sinful partnerships. They are also good lessons that a few foolish decisions can do severe damage to one's reputation. How can we avoid similar sins?
First, as you make a decision (like to make a treaty or ally yourself with someone or some group), ask yourself if you are relying on the Lord most, or upon some other support, such as pragmatism or medicine or covetousness?
Second, as you make those decisions, ask yourself if they are necessary things to do. The treaty was not necessary for Asa; the ships were not necessary for Jehoshaphat. You can avoid trouble if you avoid doing unnecessary things. You can avoid the difficulty of having to separate from something if you never start that something.
Third, do you become defensive or angry when someone questions or confronts you about the decision you made? That's a sign that something is wrong—if not the decision itself, then your attitude about it.
Fourth, ask yourself if the people with whom you are allying yourself are of like mind in their desire to follow the Lord. Do they believe as you do? Do they live righteously? Are they serving God or money?
Let's ask for help from the Lord to avoid the dead flies.
I recently learned that Pastor and Professor Ivan French went to be with the Lord on December 12, 2013. One of his former students, George Zeller, passed along the following humorous translation of Luke 15 about the prodigal son.
Feeling Footloose and Frisky, a Feather-brained Fellow
Forced His Fond Father to Fork over the Farthings,
and Flew Far to Foreign Fields where he Frittered his
Fortune Feasting Fabulously with Faithless Friends.
Fleeced by his Fellows in Folly, and Facing Famine,
he Found himself a Feed-Flinger in a Filthy Farmyard.
Fairly Famishing, he Fain would've Filled his Frame with
Foraged Food from Fodder Fragments.
"Fooey, my Father's Flunkies Fare Far Finer," the
Frazzled Fugitive Forlornly Fumbled, Frankly Facing
Facts. Frustrated by Failure, and Filled with Foreboding,
he Fled Forthwith to his Family. Falling at His Father's
Feet, he Forlornly Fumbled, "Father, I've Flunked, and
Fruitlessly Forfeited Family Favor."
The Far-sighed Father, Forestalling Further Flinching,
Frantically Flagged the Flunkies to Fetch a Fatling
From the Flock and Fix a Feast.
The Fugitive's Fault-Finding Brother Frowned on Fickle
Forgiveness of Former Folderol. But the Faithful
Father Figured, "Filial Fidelity is Fine, but the
Fugitive is Found! What Forbids Fervent Festivity?
Let Flags unFurl! Let Fanfares Flare!"
The Father's Forgiveness Formed the Foundation For
the Former Fugitive's Future Fortitude!
So, while brother French now enjoys the Fabulously Fantastic Fun of that which is Future for us Forgiven God Fearers, may you enjoy a little Fruit of his eFFort!
I've been doing some study in Acts 19. We have in that chapter the interesting situation that Paul, the Christian, is debunking the imaginary polytheistic beliefs of a whole community that believes in the goddess Diana (goddess of the hunt, moon, and birthing). He did the same in Athens (Acts 17) and elsewhere on his missionary tours. In these cases, the Christian confronted a polytheistic world for its belief in imaginary gods and calling it to abandon those beliefs in favor of the belief in the one true God.
Today it is in vogue for atheists to mock the "imaginary" beliefs of Christians in a God they cannot see, who is written about in a Bible that contains all kinds of supposed evil. To them, God is an imaginary friend on the one hand, and His book and practices are unspeakably evil on the other.
This mocking is done by those who imagine spontaneous generation occurred in a primordial pea soup of unknown origin that created complex and varied living systems. These organisms are now in a life and death struggle for survival in a world filled with natural and man-made evil. It seems like the atheist/evolutionist believes in something you cannot see or replicate and which resulted in a world full of evil.
I’ll take the Christian Theistic explanation any day! Especially since I understand things a lot differently than the caricature that atheism makes of Christianity. God cannot be seen? True...except that God came as a man in the incarnation and He was seen for over three decades on this earth. The evidence for that is quite overwhelming. God is evil? That simply reflects sinners laying blame for sin at the feet of God instead of at their own feet. God is not a sinner; man is. Just like Adam and Eve tried to shift blame for evil onto someone or something else, so the sinner today does the same thing and shifts blame onto God. But once blame is assigned properly--to people--then God's actions in judging the blameworthy can be understood properly.
Let us review where we have been:
1. The first reason you should read the Bible is that its central figure is a man named Jesus of Nazareth, who made claims that are extraordinary. One claim he made was that he would die and rise again from the dead.
2. The second reason you should read the Bible is because it explains many things in the world that others have no good explanation for.
3. The third reason you should read the Bible is because it covers all the really important events of world history.
4. The fourth reason you should read the Bible is because so many people and institutions do not want you to read it.
5. The fifth reason you should read the Bible is that its central character, Jesus Christ, claimed to be the son of God. In so doing, he actually claimed to be God in the flesh.
Maybe you have a problem with one of those points? Try this: suspend disbelief for the time being and take them at face value. Then move on to point #6 and think about it for a while.
The sixth reason you should read the Bible is that it explains why you do bad things and why everyone else does too. These things are called by the term "sin" in the Bible. The Bible states the fact that all people do bad things. For example, Romans 3:23 says, "for all have sinned." Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin."
The Bible explains that the tendency to sin comes from our parents, through their parents, and their parents, all the way back to the first man and woman in the garden of Eden. God gave them a command to do certain things and not do certain other things, and they chose to rebel against God (Genesis 2:17, 3:1-24). All of humanity has been in a state of rebellion and sin ever since then. Therefore, while we recognize that our parents have given us many good things, there is one bad thing they gave us, and that is the tendency to sin.
The natural consequence of sin is death. Sin is the ultimate reason for death of every sort, whether by cancer or accident or heart failure or just "old age."
Do you agree that you have this "sin" problem?
We will see next time a seventh reason you should read the Bible is that it tells of Jesus, who said that He was the only way to have our sins washed away so that we can win the battle against sin and death.