Jesus often taught by parable. A parable is a story told, using simple objects or situations, to illustrate a spiritual principle. Such illustrations can be extremely powerful, and this is certainly the case with his Parable of the Sower. The parable is included in all of the synoptic gospels, (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Mark 4:2-9, 13-20; Luke 8:4-15).
The accounts reveal that the disciples were first confused about the meaning of this parable. Fortunately for us, Jesus gave to them and us a clear explanation of his words. Consider the following important points that can be derived from this parable. Citations will be from the account recorded by Luke:
Continue reading » The Parable of the Sower
Our text describes a group of men called “magi,” or wise men, from the east who had observed astronomically a sign which led them to believe the King of the Jews had been born. We can only speculate concerning the nature of that star. It is evident that the sign convinced both these wise men and Herod the Great that the promised Messiah had come.
Herod was a usurper of the throne of Judah, and no doubt this event caused him great anxiety. He was “troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (3). This was the first, but not the last time that the Savior would experience the opposition of men who were more concerned with their status than with the truth.
The place of Jesus’ birth was predicted by Micah (5:2). It was Bethlehem of Judea, the home town of Jesus’ earthly father Joseph. Herod’s inquiry of the scribes was for the purpose of locating and killing the child he perceived to be his rival (cf. 2:13).
In his salutation to the seven churches of Asia, identified by name in chapters 2 & 3, he pronounces blessings upon them from the Father “Him who is and who was and who is to come”, the Holy Spirit “the seven Spirits who are before His throne”, and the Son “the firstborn from the dead.”
(Note: some believe the phrase “seven Spirits” refers to the spirits of the seven churches, but it seems the context is referring to each person of the Godhead, in turn. As such, the number seven would have symbolic significance as a reference to the Holy Spirit).
Regardless, John affirms Jesus as our Lord and Savior (6), and promises His second coming (7). The central theme of the book is our victory through the power of God. He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End… who is and was and who is to come, the Almighty” (8).
The book of Joshua contains a wonderful summary of his leadership of Israel. Joshua was a man of great character and loyalty to God. During his service to God and His people, the nation took possession of the land of Canaan, obtaining the inheritance God had promised to Abraham and his descendants.
While each individual is responsible for his own relationship with God, a good leader can exert influence to keep men faithful to the Almighty. Joshua is an example of such a man. As he ascended to the leadership role, God promised him, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9). Of course, that favor was contingent upon his loyalty to the Lord, “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” (1:7).
Continue reading » Joshua: A Godly and Successful Leader
You see many short pithy sayings splashed across Facebook and other internet pages these days — words that are an attempt at wisdom or profundity, sometimes accompanied by a provocative picture to illustrate the point. Many such sentiments are more foolish than wise, more obtuse than profound. Occasionally, though, you come across something pretty good. Like this short, uncredited tidbit:
“I refuse to entertain myself with the things
for which my God went to the cross.”
These words present an attitude of militant loyalty that is sorely lacking among Christians today. We need to understand that entertaining ourselves with sinful things is traitorous action toward God! As James wrote, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4:4).
The next time you are tempted to see that sexually provocative movie, read that racy novel, gaze upon that immodestly dressed woman, hang out with those ungodly “friends” from school or work, or purchase that “sexy” outfit, consider how by so doing you are allying yourself against the Almighty! It is neither smart nor safe to provoke a jealous God! “Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, ‘The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously’”? (James 4:5). Well, do you think the Scripture says it in vain? Or not?
I came across an old chart as I was cleaning out my office last week. It was from a workbook titled, Cottage Meeting Manual, by Maurice Tisdel. The title of the chart was “God’s Law of Procreation.” The information on the chart I will summarize in this short article.
The first column considers the vegetable kingdom. God’s word reveals that the first plants came about through God’s creative work. “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth’; and it was so” (Genesis 1:11). From that point on, however, as observation reveals, new plants have propagated through the seeds of their “parent” plants. Each seed produces a plant of the same “kind” as the plant from which the seed came. There are no exceptions to this rule. It is observable, the result of natural law.
Continue reading » God’s Law of Procreation
In Ezekiel 16, the Lord spoke to Jerusalem, expressing His disappointment at her ingratitude and rebellion, in response to His care and nurturing. He stated, “I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful” (vs. 7). Using the figure of marriage, He later said, “I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine” (vs. 8).
Their response was disconcerting. He charged, “But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it” (vs. 15). In fact, Jerusalem was so corrupt that God said, “You are the opposite of other women in your harlotry, because no one solicited you to be a harlot. In that you gave payment but no payment was given you, therefore you are the opposite” (34).
Continue reading » Brazen
John had an important and urgent message to share with the elect lady and her children. As such, he wrote this short epistle to warn of the deceivers who would lead them to forfeit their reward.
However, in the final few lines of his letter, he wrote of a preference to communicate with them “face to face.” Letters could not adequately express either his love for them, or the urgency of his warnings.
Each of us know the truth of Paul’s words. We read fondly the letters of love and devotion sent my family and friends. However, our “joy” is full when we see them in the flesh.
Too, the electronic correspondence of our generation is a pale facsimile of personal communication. “LOL” is an inadequate imitation of the laughter and love we share when we are together. Speaking “face to face” is the better way.
In previous decades, American society generally shared the same values that are currently held by Christians. Sexual promiscuity, moral excesses, and other vices were frowned upon. Even those who engaged in them understood that they were morally wrong, and hid their actions from plain sight. As time has passed, however, societal values have diverged from the Christian norm. Because of this:
Continue reading » Christian Ethics
In doing some internet research on the subject of ethics, I came across an article by Rohana R. Wasala, a practicing Buddhist. In his article, titled Ethics and the non religious essence of Buddhism (lankaweb.com), Wasala advocated Buddhism over other religions, noting that Buddhism is not a religion in the traditional sense, in that it has its origin not in a supernatural being, but rather in a philosophy of self.
Interestingly, the author bemoans the fact that Buddhism, as practiced popularly, is not the same as “Pristine Buddhism.” To contrast the two, he states that Pristine Buddhism is free from the element of worship and prayer. He then stated that in contrast, “Unfortunately, Buddhism in popular practice is a different thing. It is today displayed by most followers as a religion.”
Continue reading » In the News: Non-Religious Ethics
In Romans 8, the apostle Paul expressed a wonderful sentiment when he asked the rhetorical question, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (verse 31). The relationship we have with God guarantees our ultimate victory. Christians have on their side the Creator of the universe – the omnipotent, omniscient, eternal One.
Paul knew this, and wrote, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (verse 37). The phrase “more than conquerors” comes from a single greek term, hupernikao. The prefix huper strengthens the term, and carries the idea of “superior, abundant, exceeding.” The word indicates not only a victory, but that said victory is decisive and complete.
In effect, Paul states that through God and His Son we become super conquerors! Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of god which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (verse 39).
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Jude describes the false teachers he warns about as individuals who are severely lacking in character. This is characteristic of the self-willed. First, they grumble and complain. This shows a lack of respect for authority. They are governed by their own lusts. This indicates selfishness and a love of sin. They use flattery to gain advantage, which indicates a deceitful spirit.
These evil individuals had been predicted by the Lord’s apostles. One example of this is found in Acts 20:28-30, in the warning Paul gave to the Ephesian elders at Miletus.
The overriding characteristic of these men was their sensuality. It seems that both Jude and Peter (2 Peter 2) refer to men that are either similar to, or perhaps are the originators of what would become known as Gnosticism. Regardless, the pursuit of carnal passion is always troublesome and divisive, and must be warned against with regularity.