Monday, November 30, 2015


But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.  (2 Peter 2:1)
False teaching is a cancer to the church.  It must be excised—every malignant cell removed.  Otherwise, it will kill the body.  What makes false teaching so pernicious is how closely it mimics the truth.  Often, in our physical state, cancer cells begin to multiply undetected, until they are well advanced.  So, heresy, has a way of invading the spiritual life and spreading without notice until it reaches a deadly level.  This is the subject dealt with in 2 Peter 2.  The old Apostle is calling for radical surgery of false doctrine and its teachers.
He begins by telling us that this is not a new problem—it is one of the chief ways Satan operates (v.1).  We are told that Satan is, “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44); “transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor.11:14); and that he “deceives the whole world” (Rev.12:9).  The serpent began his assault on truth in Eden with Eve by first questioning the truth, “Has God indeed said…” (Gen.3:1) and from there moved to denying the truth, “You will not surely die.”  (Gen.3:3) 
Satan has many minions who spread his lies.  The pages of the Old Testament find these tumors of false teaching springing up periodically.  One prominent example that Peter references is Balaam (v.15-16).  You can read the full story in Numbers 22-25 and 31:8.  We are astonished in reading how much truth Balaam’s prophecies contained, yet that only masked the evil intent.  The error in belief led to evil in behavior, for a man’s theology is ever linked to his morality.  His deceptive influence on the people of God would bring destruction—judgment on the Jews who followed his ways and ultimately Balaam himself would perish.  Do not think that the spirit of Balaam has been extinguished, however.  There are many who have taken up his methodology today—and Peter tells us it is as deceptive and destructive as ever (v.2).  It is heresy (v.1) and blasphemy (v.2).  Heresy is distorting God’s truth in a deceiving work and blasphemy is desecrating God’s name in a degrading way.
The motivation and appeal of the false teacher is exposed in v.3.  It is “covetousness” which exploits the gullible.  Is this not clearly on parade in much of what we see and hear on television today in the prosperity gospel preaching?  Whether it be a Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, and the like—their number is legion—great masses of people are swayed by the message they proclaim that faith in Christ is a ticket to health and wealth.  It certainly has worked for them.  Their message sounds so true—and much of it is.  It masks the malignancy of heresy, however.  When closely examined by a Biblical biopsy it is seen for the destructive deception it is.
Let them enjoy their “Best Life Now,” for there will only be doom hereafter (v.3ff) unless they repent.  Two illustrations of judgment are presented—the flood that fell on the world in Gen.6 and the fire that fell on Sodom in Gen.19.  God had his righteous remnant that He spared—those who clung to the truth—namely Noah and Lot (v.5-9).  In a time when the church world seems swept away by the tide of false teaching, let us be steadfast in standing on the Word!

Sunday, November 29, 2015


So the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion From now on, even forever.  (Micah 4:7b)
Jesus taught His disciples to pray to the Father, “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  (Matt.6:10)  He means to literally answer that petition that has been countlessly offered for two thousand years.  The fourth chapter of Micah tells us of a future time—much closer now than ever—when the kingdoms of men are supplanted by the kingdom of God.
Our Lord was born into this world to be Lord and Savior, yet rejected by man.  Jesus presented Himself to Israel as their Messiah.  He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, but within days they demanded His crucifixion.  There is coming a day, when the King who rode on a donkey into the city of David will the next time ride into Jerusalem on a white horse as King of kings.  The return of Jesus to Jerusalem will usher in earth’s golden age (v.1-2).  The nation of Israel that last saw Him crowned Him with thorns will see Him crowned with glory!  A new temple will be built, with all people flowing into it for worship.  Jews and Gentiles will be gathered to study His Word and submit to His will.
This violent, war-wracked world will see an industry of selling arms, transformed into supporting agriculture (v.3-5) for the Prince of Peace will reign in Zion.  At the outset of the Millennium—the thousand year reign of Christ—the nations will be gathered for judgment.  The sheep will be divided from the goats—the saved separated from the sinners.  All who enter that kingdom will be those who are God’s redeemed.  Tragically, the rest will be cast into hell.  
The lame will be made to walk, the outcast will be welcomed, the afflicted will be healed—all that Jesus previewed in His first coming will be realized fully in His second coming (v.6-8).  That thousand year reign on earth will give way to the eternal state, voiced in the Hallelujah Chorus, “and He shall reign forever and ever!”  (Rev.11:15b).  
The Jews—now hated and across the ages persecuted—will in that day be delivered.  The suffering brought on by rejecting Christ will be reversed when they receive Him.  A new world order will be birthed, but first the labor pains of the tribulation will be experienced (v.9-10).  Following the rapture of the church, there will come seven years of God’s wrath being poured out on a Christ-rejecting world.  The last half will be the Great Tribulation—three and one half years of unprecedented horror.  The effect on the Jews, however, will be to drive them to cry out for their King—and Christ will return to save the seed of Abraham.
At the climax of those seven years, all the nations will encircle Jerusalem—the battle of Armageddon will ensue (v.11-13).  In their folly, the rulers of earth will gather to war against Christ—and the battle is over as soon as it is begun.  Israel is delivered as God’s wheat by the threshing of tribulation, while the sinners are as chaff to be blown away.
Looking about at what is happening now—seeing the suffering wrought by sin—wrings from my throat a cry to the skies, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”  (Rev.22:20b).  With great expectation, may we join our prayer to those voiced across the centuries and repeated in churches around the globe today, “Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Shepherd the flock of God which is among you….  (1 Peter 5:2a)

Few passages of Scripture are dearer to the believer than the twenty-third Psalm.  God is identified as Shepherd.  It was a title Jesus Himself took.  This is the terminology likewise used to describe a pastor. What an awesome privilege and responsibility!  So, what does God have to say on the topic of spiritual leadership in 1 Peter 5?

First, hear A WORD TO THE SHEPHERDS: ACCOUNTABILITY (v.1-4).  As a spiritual leader in this church I will one day give an account to God for my stewardship of this sacred trust.  

Four requirements are listed here:

·        There must be the proper conviction (v.1).  That is—a conviction of the call we have received.  To be an elder in the church isn’t the result of personal ambition or popular appeal.  We lead because God has led us.  God is still calling men to shepherd His flock as elders of the church. 

·        There must be the proper direction (v.2a). “Shepherd the flock…serving as overseers….” God directs us in the work.  The shepherd is to lead, feed and be willing to bleed for the flock.

·        There must be a proper motivation (v.2b).  Worthy and unworthy motives are contrasted.  It isn’t a profession but a passion.  This is the difference between what Jesus called a shepherd and a hireling. 

·        There must be a proper demonstration (v.3).  We must model the truth we are teaching.  We aren't lords spouting edicts, but leaders showing examples. The title demands a testimony to match.

Along with the requirements comes the promise of the reward (v.4).  There is a price to pay for leadership—the hours are long, the burdens are large, and the disappointments are legion.  But, it will be worth it all when we see Jesus!  With the eternal in view we will not become consumed with the material and yield to the temptation to fleece the flock rather than feed them.  

Peter also has A WORD TO THE SHEEP: RESPONSIBILITY (v.5).  Pastors have an accountability to lead, but members have a responsibility to follow.  You can lead a sheep to pasture, but you can't make him eat.

There is to be submission in our labors.  “Likewise”—the laity have duties as well as the clergy.  All of us are ministers.  Sheep were valuable in that culture—and so are the members.  The church cannot be what it needs to be unless the saints are engaged in ministry.  It seems the few who are willing are worn down trying to carry the whole load.  Church work, done properly, is labor intensive.  Yet, it can be done with joy if each member does their share.

There is to be submission to our leaders (v.5a).  I understand that sheep can be unruly and that they are prone to wander.  That’s why they need a shepherd.  Submission isn’t a natural trait.  Have you ever considered why the shepherd carries a rod and staff?  One of the most important purposes pastors have is to prod and discipline the sheep.  In so doing, he loves them!

There is to be submission to other laity (v.5b).  Why is it so hard to submit?  Our arrogance!  We think we know it all.  It is a humbling thing to have to listen to anyone—but especially one of our peers.  Yet, this is the very thing Peter is talking about.  We have a choice to receive heaven’s resources or resistance.  Which do you prefer?  Humility paves the way for grace to operate in us.  How much we need it!

Friday, November 27, 2015


Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits….  (Psalm 103:2)
Your attitude determines your altitude.  Among the instruments in the cockpit of a plane is the attitude indicator.  It shows the relationship of the wings to the horizon.  If you want to climb higher, it requires an attitude adjustment.  That is true spiritually, as well.  If we want to soar, we must adjust our attitude according to the heavenly horizon.  If our attitude is set relative to earth’s perspective, then we’ll never take off.  What would happen if we adopted the attitude of gratitude displayed in Psalm 103?
We should be grateful for God’s benefits (v.1-5).  The Psalmist underscores this with the phrase, “forget not all His benefits” (v.2b).  There are so many.
The key benefit is forgiveness of iniquity (v.3a) for it unlocks the door other blessing.  It is the greatest provision for our gravest poverty.
The Great Physician—Jehovah Rapha—heals us body and soul (v.3b).  Someone asks, “Do you believe in divine healing?”  What other kind is there?  There is the guarantee of ultimate healing in the resurrection.
God redeems us (v.4a).  This means we are set free by payment of a price.  Jesus did that on the cross!
The Lord crowns our head (v.4b).  God promises a crowning grace.  The New Testament also teaches there are crowns we may win.  In heaven, we will cast all our crowns at the feet of Jesus recognizing that any crown given is for His glory.
God satisfies our needs (v.5a).  Only He can.  Everything this world offers is like trying to satisfy your thirst by drinking water from the ocean—the more you take in, the thirstier you become.
The Lord renews our strength (v.5b).  As the eagle molts--shedding feathers and gaining new ones so he can continue to soar—we exchange our weakness for God’s power.
Furthermore, we should be grateful for God’s bounty (v.6-10).  The text testifies that God is “abounding in mercy,” (v.8b).  The first stanza of the Psalm is personal and the second one is national.  In verses 1-5, there is a solo, and in v.6-10, the choir adds their voices.
God gives abundant liberty (v.6).  Israel had been oppressed in Egypt, but God set them free.  There are injustices and inequities in this sin-cursed world, but the hope that God may deliver us now, and will assuredly right every wrong in the end.
God bestows abundant life (v.7).  God led and fed His people through the wilderness and brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey.  In a place of barrenness, they had blessedness!  God has pledged to meet all our needs, too.
God grants abundant life (v.8-10).  It takes Him a long time to become angry and a brief time to forgive.  By grace He give us the eternal life we cannot deserve, and in mercy keeps us from the hell we do merit.
Finally, we should be grateful for God’s benevolence (v.11-22).  It is, “So great…So far” (v.11-12).  The song builds to a crescendo—from personal, to national, and now universal—the voice of every creature, terrestrial and celestial, blending their voices in a symphony of praise!
There is extensive mercy (v.11-14).  It is three-dimensional: in height (v.11), breadth (v.12), and depth (v.13-14).
There is enduring mercy (v.15-18).  Here we see a contrast between our frailty and God’s faithfulness.
There is exhaustive mercy (v.19-22).  The word, “all” is used nine times in this Psalm.  
Old Graham Scroggie put it well, “Those whom the Lord blesses should bless the Lord.”

Thursday, November 26, 2015



…not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.  (1 Peter 3:9)

What if you could be God for a day?  Would you put up with the people he puts up with?  I would find it difficult to put up with me!  Yet, He does—every day!  He loves me and He loves you—not for who we are and what we do, but despite it!  One of the attributes of God that I am most thankful for is His longsuffering.  Psalm 86:15 says, “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.”  When the Son of God walked among the sons of men, He displayed this character quality of His Father.  He was so longsuffering with His disciples.  What thick skulls they had!  Yet, the Bible says that Jesus loved them and He loved them to the end.  How are you going to deal with difficult people, for it is certain that you will meet them: in your family, on your job, even in the church—especially in the church!

Maybe you have been reading this and thinking about a brother-in-law, a sales manager, a neighbor, or a church member.  The real issue isn’t whether we’ll encounter such people, but how does God want us to deal with them?  He demands longsuffering—just like He does with us.

In chapter three of his first epistle Peter presents some practical pointers on how to deal with difficult people. 

  1. Don’t be blind-sided (v.8).  God is going to put you in the middle of situations that will challenge you to cultivate the fruit of longsuffering, which is what is being described here.  To develop the fruit of love, God will plant you in the middle of the hateful.  To bear the fruit of joy, He will plant you in the middle of a bunch of joy-suckers.  To bear the fruit of peace, He will plant you in the middle of strife.  To bear the fruit of longsuffering, He will plant you among difficult people (see 4:12).  Expect it! 

  1. Don’t retaliate (v.9).  It brings you down to their level when you do.  When you fight fire with fire, you’ll burn the bridges to possible reconciliation.  It doesn’t require the supernatural power of God to behave like the world, but to be like Jesus takes a miracle!  He wants to shape you into His image—and problem people are the hammer and chisel God uses to shape us. 

  1. Pursue peace (v.10-11).  Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” You won’t always be able to get along with people, but you can try—even Jesus couldn’t please everybody.  So accept that you certainly can’t!  Still, God calls us to seek peace from our end.

  1. Pray (v.12-13).  Prayer changes things.  The first thing it does is change you.  Jesus told us to pray for our enemies.  You can’t pray for someone and despise them at the same time. 

  1. Be honest (v.14-15).  We don’t desire peace at any price—certainly not at the cost of compromising truth.  There comes a time to “speak the truth in love.”  Sometimes you must tell people their behavior is wrong and must stop. 

  1. Trust God (v.16-17).  You can have a clear conscience when you do the right thing and leave it with God.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


But the LORD said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night.  And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?  (Jonah 4:10-11)

Pity is a wonderful trait—if directed toward others in need.  Self-pity, however, is a perversion that turns a virtue into a vice.  The book of Jonah begins with the prophet being unwilling to go preach to the Assyrians out of a sense of self-protection, to be sure, but also prejudice toward these pagans.  He wanted them to be judged for he deemed them worthy of it.  Sadly, the book ends with Jonah pouting that God did the very thing he feared—spared the repentant people.  
Jonah had just experienced the greatest revival in history.  We might turn to the fourth chapter expecting to see him rejoicing, but the opposite was true!  The heart of his problem was the problem of his heart.  Is it not true of us?  That is the human condition.  God had been working on him, for God is in the business of sanctifying His children.  The activity of God is woven throughout the book—God prepared a storm, a fish, a plant, a worm, and a wind—all because God was breaking down a stubborn soul.
Jonah wanted his way rather than God’s will.  Like a petulant child, he sulks.  He became a spectator, hoping the Assyrians would backslide and judgment might yet descend on them.  He was bitter—no wonder the whale spit him out earlier—who wants to be around a bitter believer?  How many times I have seen church members who were active become bitter over some disappointment in life—really, disappointment with God or the church—and they wind up pouting on a pew.
God let Jonah stew in his own juices for a while—marinating in self-pity.  Then, in God’s perfect timing, He sends grace, causing a plant to grow up—the leaves providing a shade over the little shanty Jonah constructed.  Jonah was glad, but not grateful.  He rejoiced in the provision and not the Provider.  He enjoyed the blessing, but not the Blessed One.  The plant became the object of the prophet’s affection—and that is idolatry!
Church people can become idolaters the same way—taking that which is meant to be a sacred how to lead them to God and making it a sacred cow to substitute for God.  Preachers can become that.  God sends a man to lead the church to the Lord and we wind up idolizing the man.  Programs can become that—methods meant to bring people closer to Christ that become the object of our devotion.  Places can become idols—a church building where we gather to worship the Lord, and yet the building becomes the focus of our adoration.
God sent a worm to destroy Jonah’s idol.  He may send a pulpit committee to take away our preacher idol, or a financial difficulty to end the church program, or a fire to consume a building.  Then God sent a sirocco—a searing east wind to add an exclamation point.
God is more concerned about people than programs.  If the church is more devoted to preserving what they have within the four walls, than sacrificing to reach people beyond them, then we have missed the point of this story.