Tag Archives: Idolatry

Timing is Everything

11 Jan

TimingListen to the podcast here.

When we were last in Proverbs before Thanksgiving, Solomon told us to seek guidance from others. Seek answers from God and get good counsel to confirm it. If something is weighing heavily on you and you think it’s from God, speak with someone that will provide you with solid, biblical, godly, and timely guidance from Scripture. There is rarely anything God gives us that must begin immediately. It took God six days to create the heavens and the earth and all that is within it. Paul spent years walking around Asia and Europe to get the message of Jesus out to the Gentiles and it took more than a century for Noah to build a boat. This morning, Solomon gives us several principles that stand alone.

Take the time to read Pro. 15:23-26.

There is a time and a place to speak. We’ve said before that not everything needs to be said and what does need to be said doesn’t necessarily need to be said right now. Solomon starts by saying, “A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word.” This is definitely a feel good verse. It’s a verse suitable to put on a bumper sticker, Facebook meme, or e-card. But good things said can be off putting when they’re spoken at the wrong time. The wise person knows when to say that good word and when to remain silent. Notice that the perspective is from the giver of the good and timely words. We saw in the last Proverbs message that we should seek wise counsel and it’s from the perspective of receiving that counsel and the joy of getting good guidance. Here Solomon is talking about the blessing of giving that good guidance. It’s not a prideful thing in order for us to confirm how awesome we are. People sometimes come to me for advice and counsel. I know I give good advice because I just tell folks what the Bible says. I try to be persuasive, convincing, and confident in the words I say and it gives me joy and a good feeling that people are listening to the Bible. I get great joy in knowing that the Word is alive and able to help people that need its comfort, guidance, wise counsel, and all the other tangible things that come from within its living pages. You have that same opportunity to give the life changing bread of life!

Here’s another meme worthy quote. “The path of life leads upward for the wise that he may keep away from Sheol below.” The path of life is the same as the way is the same as the gate is the same as the road is the same as the highway. They’re all different ways of saying stay on the path that leads to righteousness. Stay on the path that leads to the Promised Land. Stay on the road that leads to eternity with God. The wise individual knows the dangers that lurk just off the path. When you stay on the path, you will keep away from Sheol, the place of the dead which lies below. Paul said, For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 3:20) He also said, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1) Too often we think of earth as our eternal home and all our efforts are used to secure heaven on earth which just can’t happen.

Don’t be filled with pride. Solomon says, “The Lord will tear down the house of the proud.” There is a difference in parental pride and personal pride. Speaking to Jesus in Lu. 3:22 God said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” That’s the idea of parental pride – it’s a delight or satisfaction in your children. Of course that can spill over fairly easily into personal pride when we think our kids are better than everyone else’s kids. It’s typically manifested in statements like, “My child would never do that.” Solomon is talking about an elevated sense of self-worth. It’s a theme repeated often in Scripture. Pride is the principle that it’s all about me. Ps. 34:3 says, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.” God is at the pinnacle of humanity; He is at the top of everything and does not take a back seat to anything that we consider important. When you magnify yourself over the Lord, you set yourself up in opposition to the first commandment that says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:3) That’s what pride is, right? It’s the idea of self-centeredness. It’s the idea that the world revolves around you. Over and over God says, “It’s all about Me.” That’s what the first commandment is about.       That’s why we have a commandment against idolatry. The house of the proud will come crashing down. Maybe not physically, but that also might be true. God will do what He must to get people to acknowledge that He is what the universe revolves around. There is coming a day where everyone will recognize Jesus for who He is. “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11)

The house of the proud will be destroyed, “But He will establish the boundary of the widow.” Being a widow in Scripture is not always glamorous. There are special provisions given to widows because their primary source of support is gone. The church is supposed to, “Honor widows who are widows indeed.” (1 Tim. 5:3) For all the effort and work that goes into accumulating things here, all will be lost, but the boundary of the widow? God will expand her territory and take care of those that are oppressed and afflicted.

I want to hit one more principle. “Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord.” Remember abomination conveys the idea of rotting flesh. Those plans don’t have to come to fruition for God to be displeased. We’ve seen this before. Back in Pro. 6:18, having, “A heart that devises wicked plans,” is in the list of things God hates. Remember the heart is the seat of emotion. What comes out of the mouth reveals what’s inside the heart. When wickedness resides in the heart, evil thoughts and darkness result. When Jesus is in the heart, righteousness and goodness reside there. Because what’s in the heart flows out, the result is Jesus. “Pleasant words are pure.” By definition, goodness and righteousness are there because of Jesus and His working in your life. Jesus being Lord of your life leads to pleasant thoughts, which leads to pleasant words, which leads to pleasing Jesus and many of the people that cross your path. David said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Ps.19:14)

It’s good to be back in Proverbs. Be sensitive to when it’s best to talk and when it’s best to remain silent. Words used at the right time in the right place can bring great comfort and joy to others. Keep on the path of righteousness, don’t be prideful, and check your plans with God before putting them into play.

The Savior’s Sign

1 Dec

Virgin BirthYou can listen to the podcast for this message here.

He is considered one of the greatest men of God from the olden days. He was a counselor to kings and a writer whose O.T. book is quoted more often in the New Testament than any other except the book of Psalms. When Jesus preached His first sermon, He preached out of a passage from this man’s writings. His calling from God is one of the most beautiful pictures in Scripture. “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.” (Is. 6:1-4) This man would be inspired to say things about the Lord so incredible that it boggles our mind. is name is Isaiah and he is a prophet.

Isaiah 7:10-17 is a familiar passage to people in and out of the church and I encourage you to get your Bible and read this incredible passage for yourself.

You’ve heard the saying, desperate times call for desperate measures? This passage comes just after Isaiah answers the call of God in 6:1-4. Isaiah finds himself right in the middle of some pretty intense political action. Isaiah 7:1-2 sets the stage for us. At some point in our lives, every one of us will face desperate times. Circumstances present themselves that may bring us to the edge of despair where there seem to be few options and time is running out. In this passage I want you so see some things that put Judah’s king Ahaz on the edge of despair. Ahaz was an unstable man. He had a godly father and grandfather, but he did not follow in their footsteps. Having godly relatives is no guarantee of godly children. Unless a child personally chooses to enter into a biblical relationship with God through Christ, he will leave that home one day without the tools necessary to face the world.

I don’t know everything about Ahaz, but this much is clear. His life can be summed up as recorded in 2 Kings 16:2, “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God, as his father David had done.” He is not in a wilderness period and he is not sowing his wild oats. He did not do what is right in God’s eyes. Ahaz is probably in his early twenties and he is confronted with a very serious national crisis, but he doesn’t possess the life experience or spiritual resources necessary to effectively handle it. To make a really long story short, Assyria and the northern kingdom of Israel joined forces to invade the southern kingdom of Judah. Against the guidance of God’s prophets, Israel formed an alliance with Assyria in an effort to defend against what they knew was coming from Assyria. It was a, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em scenario. It was Assyria’s practice to invade and conquer neighboring countries and take the people prisoner. Assyria’s  goal was to invade Judah and get rid of king Ahaz. Verse 2 tells us “His heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.” So what’s a king to do? Godly kings seek wise counsel from God and then there is Ahaz. Ahaz was foolish. 2 Kings 17 indicate that Ahaz is going to try and form his own alliance independent of Assyria and Israel only his alliance won’t be against Assyria, it would be with Assyria. Ahaz is planning to buy off Assyria to save himself. You can feel the desperation in Ahaz’s reasoning. So it is with this information that we find the prophet Isaiah called to go talk to king Ahaz in 7:3. Let’s see how this is set up in 7:3-9.

The actual reality is that God always comes through. How many times has God used seemingly incidental things to remind us that He is right there? He is involved in our lives even if we can’t see exactly what He is doing. Here is Ahaz looking over the water supply lines of Judah. Isaiah and his son Shear-jashub walk up to Ahaz. Hebrew names carried a lot of significance. Isaiah means Jehovah has saved. Shear-jashub means a remnant shall return. Standing right in front of Ahaz are reminders of who God is and that He will preserve His people. Remember that Ahaz’s father and grandfather were godly men. God is always bigger than your problems and your fears. In the face of certain defeat, look at what God says through Isaiah in v. 4, “Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted.” God is saying don’t look for a way out, but look for a way through your difficult situation. 1 Cor. 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Do you believe that no situation is too hard for God? For Ahaz, God was trying to show him that his trust must be placed in the One that can handle the problem. V. 9 says, “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.” Faith, that strong conviction in what you cannot see often stands in the way of God accomplishing what He wants to accomplish. If you do not stand firm, you will fall. God was trying to get Ahaz to believe. To walk by faith, not by sight. To be a follower of God first, then a king.

This is a good time for a miracle. It is at this moment that something incredible takes place. Vs. 10-11 says, “Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz saying, ‘Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven.’” Isaiah was there to speak to the king on behalf of God and Ahaz doesn’t want to listen; all he can think about is the Assyrian army. Ask whatever you want – no limit. “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD.” Now Ahaz gets all spiritual on Isaiah. He is conveniently forgetting what is going on in Judah: idolatry, human sacrifices, asheroth pole worship, Baal worship. The reality is that Ahaz had already made up his mind and nothing Isaiah said or did would convince him to trust God. Are we like that? Do we seek guidance and counsel from the Scriptures, or do we avoid it because we’ve already made up our minds as to what we will do.

Here is the moment set apart for Isaiah. He turns from the king and begins to speak to the crowd that had gathered. The story continues in vs. 13-14, “Then he said, “Listen now O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call his name Immanuel.” It is God that gives the sign. He doesn’t send an angel or a prophet – God Himself sees to it.

What is the meaning of the sign? This sign is meant to get our attention. V. 13 starts with “Listen now.” Pay attention to what is coming. This sign proves that God can do whatever He wants to do. Sign means a signal or a distinguishing mark. It is something that is obvious, something that will stand out. This sign involves the birth of a son after an impossible pregnancy. A virgin will conceive. Isaiah tells everyone that at some point a woman will conceive a child that simply cannot be explained.  When you see that, that is God’s handiwork. This sign means that God is coming in the flesh. His name is Immanuel meaning God with us. God will be with us in the flesh. He will dwell among us. We will see and experience His glory. 700 hundred years later, that sign was realized. A young woman named Mary was engaged to a guy named Joseph. An angel appeared and told her what to expect. Luke 1:31 records the words of the prophet, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.”

If God can cause a woman to conceive in a miraculous manner, why do you doubt that He can take care of you? The birth of Immanuel, God with us, served as a sign for people desperate to see God working. When all seems hopeless to us, God already has a plan in place, has already set the process in motion. Before you even realized you need Him, He is already there. Sometimes it takes being in the pit of despair to see the hope of a Savior. Immanuel means God with us, not God might be here one day if you’re really good.

A Dream that Needs to Die

12 Mar

During the time of the Apostle Paul, many worldly philosophies and traditions of men had crept into the church. Many of his epistles were written to churches to combat these false teachings with the truth of God’s Word. There is a philosophy just as dangerous and heretical that has crept into our churches today. It is called “The American Dream.” Practically speaking, the American dream is the belief that we not only have the right to but we deserve a nice home filled with nice things, a good stable job with a generous income, yearly family vacations to Disney World, new cars, a retirement plan, etc. As Americans, we believe that our Constitution grants us all of these things. However, as Christians, we need to realize that our citizenship is not of this world (Philippians 3:20). As the old hymn says, “This world is not my home; I’m just a passin’ through!” The American Dream has no biblical foundation and is fundamentally opposed to the great commission. It has made us complacent regarding eternal matters and oblivious to the needs of the body of Christ as a whole.

In 2011, these are some things that happened to Christians around the world:

– 300 were martyred in Nigeria.

– 50,000 to 70,000 were held in horrific prison camps in North Korea.

– Many of the 80 million Christians in China were denied the right to worship and their pastors were arrested and put in prison.

– And in January of 2012 in Uganda, the father of a 15 year old girl locked her in a closet for six months because she converted from Islam to Christianity. She lost the use of her legs but is slowly regaining strength and the ability to walk.

In their book The Privilege of Persecution, Dr. Carl Moeller and David Hegg explain the dichotomy of reality between American Christians and those Christians suffering for their faith. Our ways of thinking are so radically different that it is difficult for us to understand their lives. And it is just as difficult for them to understand ours. The authors say, “[Persecuted Christians] pray for things [American Christians] probably wouldn’t think to pray for, and never pray for many of the things we do…It can difficult for someone who has been fully immersed in the culture of the persecuted church to relate to Western believers who think it’s a really tough day when their daughter doesn’t make the cheerleading squad.” Shallowness pervades our congregations. But the simple truth is that to whom much is given, much is required. God has given us political, spiritual, and material blessings and freedoms so that we can encourage and strengthen through prayer and advocacy those Christians who have no freedoms and no resources.

First Corinthians chapter 12 compares the church, the body of Christ, to a physical body, with each member having a different function. Verse 26 says that if one member suffers, then all the members suffer with it. Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember the prisoners as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated since you yourselves are also in the body.” As Christians with religious freedom, we have the awesome privilege and responsibility of supporting and standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who share our faith but not our freedom.

So what can you do to help? You can pray! Brother Andrew, author of God’s Smuggler and founder of Open Doors, says, “Prayer is not preparation for the battle; prayer IS the battle!” The World Watch List comes out every year and ranks the top 50 countries according to the intensity of persecution Christians face for their faith. I’d like to invite you to pray for each country on the World Watch List in 2012 by taking the 5 Minute Challenge. Click here for more information on how you can sign up to receive an email once a week highlighting a country for whom you can pray. Take just 5 minutes a day to strengthen and encourage those who share our faith but not our freedom!

(Reprinted by permission from Precept Camden, written by Kari King Dent)

Michael Jackson and Worship

7 Jul

JackoI’ve waited long enough. Today is the day Michael Jackson will be buried. Los Angeles is bracing for the flood of people flocking to be near the the funeral for the King of Pop.  1.6 million people registered to receive free tickets to the funeral with nearly 9000 people “winning” tickets. Amazing. A British Airways spokesman is calling this America’s version of Princess Diana.

As I think about Michael Jackson, I am amazed that people from all walks of life have immortalized him. Some are calling him a saint. Many worship him. Some are overcome with grief. The other day, I spoke with a young man who said when he heard the news, he almost passed out. This kid was like 12 years old! I don’t get it. When did we start worshiping people? If you think worship is too strong a word, you are wrong. We worship, idolize, revere, honor, and praise people that are in the national spotlight. We stand in line for hours just to get a glimpse of someone famous. Why? We have a deep seated desire to be people of worship. Unfortunately, our worship is often misplaced.

God is a jealous God and He doesn’t want us to worship anyone but Him. That should be easy because there is no one worthy of our worship except the One that created the heavens and the earth, created all that is, created all that is good, and lovely, and perfect. The Bible is clear about how to worship God. We are to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) The idol worship of Michael Jackson and other celebrities is clearly defined as sin. In fact, most of Israel’s problems in the Old Testament were rooted in idolatry. Like Israel, most of our problems are rooted in idolatry. We put things in place of God and devote the majority of our time in honor of those things. I’m not talking about a little statue that we bow down before. I’m talking about sports, music, jobs, friends, activities, etc. that take the place of worshiping God and spending time getting to know Him better and growing in Him. None of those things are bad in themselves, but we make them idols when we pursue them in place of pursuing God.

There are people out there and in the church that can tell you every album Michael Jackson made, all his top songs, and all his awards, but can’t give you any attribute or characteristic of God. People can rattle off the Superbowl winners from the last ten years and tell you the top ten batting averages in the major league and tell you who’s on the college football top 25, but can’t quote a single verse from the Bible. Something’s wrong with that.

Michael Jackson could sing. He could dance. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the talent he had and admiring that talent. Same thing goes for athletes and other entertainers. Did you see the last set of the men’s finals at Wimbledon? That was some incredible tennis, but I am not going to slobber all over myself if Andy Roddick comes into my office. Should we mourn Jacko’s passing? There’s nothing wrong with that, but there are lots of people that die everyday with no fanfare, no public mourning, and no news coverage. These people are your friends and family. These are people that you will miss. Michael’s death so shocked the world, that the deaths of Karl Mauldin, Farah Fawcett, Fred Travalena, and Billy Mays went nearly unnoticed yet they all occurred in the same week.

This is a good time to evaluate what will happen to you after you die. Where will you spend eternity? For many people, peaceful rest after death is not going to happen.