I am currently working on a series (for our mid-week service) called "21st Century Theology;" this group of sermons will look at a number of philosophical topics, such as: Worldview, Individualism, and Axiology.
Given the philosophical nature of these subjects, those of us in the church tend to turn up our nose at such things. After all, how does understanding different worldviews help to fulfill the mission of the Church...and what in the world is Axiology? Are these concepts even biblical?
Those are just a couple of the questions we will be looking at in this upcoming series...spoiler alert...each of these topics are vital for the modern Church and are woven all throughout scripture.
1 Cor. 9: 19-23
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under [h]the Law, as under [i]the Law though not being myself under [j]the Law, so that I might win those who are under [k]the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. 23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (NASB)
Our desire should match that of Paul: that we become all things to all men, so that some might come to know the goodness of Christ! The more we know about a subject, the better equipped we become when reaching those who hold different beliefs than we do. As the body of Christ, we have a couple of choices: we can either shake our fist at the world and shrink back at the sheer hopelessness of reaching a broken world for Christ, or we can follow Paul's example and learn to relate to those around us...not for the purposes of becoming like the world, but so we can understand those who see the world in a different light.
We know that ultimate truth comes from God and His Word. Believers hold that truth in their hearts. Except, what do we do when we come across a person who believes that "truth" is relative, or that there is no such thing as truth? Again, we can either become frustrated and bemoan the state of the world, or we can learn how to reach that person.
This series is all about equipping ourselves with a godly understanding of how to reach a people who are searching for answers.
Hello friends, the past couple of months have been dreadfully busy. Laura and I were fostering a couple of kids, I had 2 tough school courses, we moved...and I was attempting to pastor a church. Thankfully, things have calmed down a bit now that Laura and I are now situated in Ottawa, Illinois. In addition, this past Monday (7/3/23) our two foster kids went to a family member. We will be taking a break from fostering for a while.
All of that said, I now have some time to write in my blog. My goal is to do two entries a week. Today, I would like to talk about the upcoming series I'm doing over the next 4 Sunday mornings.
The series is titled "I don't believe in the church." This set of sermons is geared towards those who have been hurt by someone in the Church, or, the institution of the Church (in general). This subject is close to my heart, as I have (personally) experienced some of the ugliness of the Church (or those in the church) firsthand. As an adult, I have seen (supposedly) great leaders hide sin and be completely defiant when confronted with things they have done wrong. As a pastor, I've been thrown "under the buss," in order to protect someone else's reputation. As a child, I was sexually molested by someone who was put into a position of authority over dozens of kids. I share those things so you know that I have experienced my share of hurt, pain and disillusionment. As bad as those things are, as a pastor, I must admit that I have been the source of pain for other people. I had broken my word, set a bad example, lost my temper, and (for a few years) struggled with hidden sin (pornography). In other words, I am part of the problem...OUCH! It hurts to admit that, but it is true.
This upcoming Sunday (July 9) I will be looking at a portion of Matthew 23, where Jesus is addressing his disciples and a crowd of people. Jesus warns the people to be carful who they listen to and who they follow (as an example).
Additionally, Jesus lists 7 "woes."
A: First woe (v. 13) –– failing to recognize Jesus as the Messiah
B: Second woe (v. 15) –– superficially zealous, yet doing more harm than good
C: Third woe (vv. 16–24) –– misguided use of the Scripture
D: Fourth woe (vv. 23–24) –– fundamental failure to discern the thrust of Scripture
C: Fifth woe (vv. 25–26) –– misguided use of the Scripture
B: Sixth woe (vv. 27–28) –– superficially zealous, yet doing more harm than good
A: Seventh woe (vv. 29–32) –– heirs of those who failed to recognize the prophets
Jesus is giving those of us (who call ourselves believers) things that we must avoid, so we do not hurt those around us. Christ followers are called to be ambassadors or representatives of our Heavenly Father. When we fail to live up to the high calling, we run the risk of hurting those around us, sometimes irreparably.
This series has a two-fold purpose: to challenge those who have been long-time believers, and to reassure those who have been wounded, that God does not take your pain lightly.
It's been a while since I've taken the time to write in my blog. Our lives have been pretty busy. Recently, God has blessed Laura and I with a couple of little girls to foster. It has been quite the transition, from empty nest to 2 little ones. We are still trying to get into a solid routine that works well. In addition, Laura and I are moving to Ottawa in June. We've been searching for a place for quite some time. In addition to that, I'm in the middle of my summer block of classes. One of those classes is about strategic planning for churches. As I've been going through our book and listening to the lectures, it has inspired me to start a modified program at Ottawa First. Some may ask why I would want to do such a thing, as academic gobbledygook rarely translates into effective programs. This is true most of the time, but the course offers some really good practical advise on revitalizing a church that is stagnant. My ultimate vision and goal for OFA is not to be a large church. It's not to have 3 services on Sunday or be flowing in excess finances. My goal is to do our part in reaching the town of Ottawa for Christ. In order to do that, everyone has to be involved and have a sense of urgency about the reality of where we stand as a body of believers. A church that is barely keeping its head above water is unable to make an impact for the Kingdom.
All of that said, today I would like to look at a very popular passage, as it relates to the process of strategic planning.
Matthew 28: 16-20
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Most probably know the context behind these passages, but I'll point it out anyway. These verses take place after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ-right before He is goes back up, to the Father. The disciples meet Jesus and then receive some important instructions. These are the very last things Jesus says to His disciples...to go out and make disciples, baptize them and teach them to obey the things that Christ taught.
This is called the Great Commission! It is the responsibility of every believer to share their faith and to "make disciples." Our job is to plant the seeds and allow God to water them. It's our job to represent Christ to a lost and dying world. The Broadman Bible Commentary makes these remarks, in regard to these passages: "The Great Commission serves as a summary of basic themes in Matthew as well as a dramatic and forceful conclusion. The one who was introduced as “the son of David, the son of Abraham” and placed in a Jewish genealogy is now declared to have all authority in heaven and on earth. Crucified as King of the Jews, he is indeed sovereign over all nations. The covenants with Abraham and David with the promise of a universal and everlasting kingdom in a sovereignty of righteousness is now fulfilled in Jesus Christ." (1)
The Great Commission is the instruction manual for the local church. The question remains though, how do we best work together to fulfill this responsibility? This is the question that I (along with the other leaders at OFA) am seeking to find answers to. How does OFA hone its strengths and become a church that the Lord is pleased with?
1. Stagg, Frank. “Matthew.” Matthew–Mark, edited by Clifton J. Allen, Broadman Press, 1969, pp. 251–52.
Well, it is Wednesday and I've been pretty busy the last couple of weeks as my semester was coming to a conclusion. Quite frankly, I have no idea what I will do once I graduate...actually, I know exactly what I'll do. I will be able to devote myself full-time to Ottawa First. My time and attention will no longer be divided between school and work. I look forward to those days. That said, I want to appreciate the season I am currently in, as much as possible, without always looking towards what is next. In addition, once I am done with school, I will need to find a way to challenge myself academically. I've grown so much over the last few years in my knowledge of God's word. I do not want to stop learning things, simply because I'm not in school.
T0day, I would like to take a look at:
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (NASB).
The entire chapter of Hebrews 11 is known as the "faith chapter." The author opens up talking about Able, then he moves on to a guy named Enoch. Enoch is mentioned in the book of Genesis (5:24) that "Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him." Other than those 2 references, Enoch is not mentioned anywhere else in scripture. Yet, he is in this chapter about the hero's of faith. The verse we are looking at today is directly connect with Enoch. This is exactly how it reads, in context:
5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.(emphasis not made by me.
So, one of the most famous verses in the Bible is directly connected with a guy that is only mentioned 2 times in all of scripture. Prior to this, the author was talking about Able. How Able made a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. Yet, we know that Able was killed by his brother Cain. In contrast, we have this guy, Enoch, who never tasted death. Could it be that the author was trying to contrast the two figures? Both were faithful, but one walked with God, while the other made a pleasing sacrifice. Perhaps I am drawing to many conclusions and the author is merely going in chronological order. It is interesting to think about though.
That said, all of the men and women mentioned in this chapter lived in the O.T., before the messiah came to earth. The very end of the chapter reads:
39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.
I realize that we love to take Hebrews 11:6, read and apply it, independent of the surrounding context, in order to drive home our point about the importance of faith-which is important, obviously. That said, I do not think the author of Hebrews intended to write a "one-liner," that is meant to be taken out of the context in which it is written. The author of Hebrews, in my view, is saying that all of the previously mentioned people were only able to receive a portion of the reward offered to them, as Christ had not yet appeared on the scene. I am of the opinion that Hebrews 11:6 is talking about the reward of eternity, not an earthly reward.
Hello friends, I pray that everyone had a great time in God's house on Sunday. At OFA, we stared a new series on Problematic Passages...the stories throughout scripture that appear to contradict the main principles of scripture....especially to those who are not well versed in the Bible. This week we are continuing that series. On Sunday, I will be talking about a story found in 2nd Kings chapter 2. It's only a couple of verses long, let's take a look.
2 Kings 2: 23-25
23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of [n]their number. 25 He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.
Ok, this story involves Elisha, a prophet in the Old Testament. If we were to simply look at these two verses, which is mostly what happens when critiquing the Bible, it appears as though Elisha was simply having a bad day and was overly sensitive about his male pattern baldness. The truth is, there is a lot more to this passage than meets the eye-we need to simply look at the historical context of that time and place.
When I was in Jr. High, during the summer, my family had just moved into a new neighborhood. I had met one kid my age...but that was it. On the first day of school I walked down to the bus stop. I got there about 10 minutes early, as I did not know exactly when the bus was going to arrive. As I was standing there, a group of 8th graders approached me. They started teasing me and mocking me. I tried to ignore them, but pretty soon, these boys surrounded me. They made a circle, with me in the middle. My "friend," that lived next to me was simply standing off to the side, not wanting to get involved. Suffice to say, I was very scared. They had blocked me in...if I wanted to run away, I would have to break the circle. I was hoping that only one of them would rush me, rather than all of them at once. I was doing my best to talk my way out of it, but that was not going to happen. Thankfully, the bus arrived just as one of them started advancing on me. From that point forward, my dad started taking me to school. Imagine if those 8th graders had deadly intentions and were threatening my life, thankfully that was not the case, but that is exactly what Elisha was facing in 2nd Kings Ch. 2.
The first thing to keep in mind is that there were over 40 young men (between the age of 17-20)…there weren't just 2 or 3 or even a dozen. This amount of rowdy young men can get out of hand very quickly. Secondly, the area in which this happened had been the location of a golden calf, erected by Jeroboam. Large amounts of people would gather there to worship the idol. Previous to this encounter, Elijah and Elisha had visited the spot, so it's likely that these 2 prophets were known in the area. As the young man approached Elisha, they began mocking his appearance, but that's not all. They said to Elisha "you go up." On the surface, this might not mean much, but in fact, the young men were saying to Elisha that they wanted him dead and gone. In other words, these young men were threatening the prophets life. Try and put yourself in the shoes of this prophet, he was all alone, surrounded by a massive number of young men, threatening his life. Do you think that these riled up young men were simply standing at a distance? More than likely, they had surrounded Elisha, giving him nowhere to turn. Given the fact that there were so many of these young men and the fact that they were telling the prophet that they wanted him to die, I can better understand why Elisha did what he did. Also, keep in mind, that God did not look favorably at people mocking His prophets. The text says that the young men were "torn up," the actual word is more like "mauled." We do not know if they all died or not. When looking at this through a modern lens, we might be tempted to judge Elisha...but remember, it was God that sent the bear, Elisha simply cursed them, as they put him in a "no win" situation.
The Easter season has passed us by, I pray that everyone had a wonderful day in God's house, celebrating the Resurrection of our King. We had great time in Ottawa and I am always grateful and humbled when getting to share the Good News of Christ. I have been very busy the last couple of weeks, trying to prepare for Easter and finish some big school projects. That said, I am over that season now, so it's time to move forward. Over the next few weeks I will be doing a Sunday morning series called "Problematic Passages;" as a result, I thought my blog might be a good opportunity to cover things I do not have time for during my weekly message...or, to unpack something in more detail.
Today, I want to take a look at the first few passages in story of Tamar in Genesis Ch. 38.
Genesis 38: 1-11
And it came about at that time, that Judah [a]departed from his brothers and [b]visited a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. 2 Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua; and he took her and went in to her. 3 So she conceived and bore a son and he named him Er. 4 Then she conceived again and bore a son and named him Onan. 5 She bore still another son and named him Shelah; and it was at Chezib [c]that she bore him. 6 Now Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. 7 But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord took his life. 8 Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up [d]offspring for your brother.” 9 Onan knew that the [e]offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he [f]wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give [g]offspring to his brother. 10 But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord; so He took his life also. 11 Then Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Remain a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up”; for he [h]thought, “I am afraid that he too may die like his brothers.” So Tamar went and lived in her father’s house.
One thing that is important for a person to understand about and Biblical passage or story is that we should never build a doctrine based upon one instance...especially when that passage or story is different than or seemingly contradicts other parts of scripture. In addition, just because the Bible tells a particular story does not mean that God is approving of the behavior.
This story takes place early on in Israelite history and has to do with the patriarch of the tribe of Judah (one of the 12 tribes of Israel). Apparently, Judah found himself a wife and had kids with her. It appears as though Judah was not a very good father, as God ends up taking the life of at least 2 of his sons. Of course, many of the customs of that day seem bizarre to us, as our society no longer practices them. The first 11 passages of the story are setting up what will happen later on.
One of the things I would like to address is vs. 9. Verse 9 has been used throughout history (along with one or two other verses in the O.T.) to justify a husband and wife not using contraception. However, all it takes is a elementary understanding of scripture interpretation to know that God was not making a "forever declaration" on the issue of contraception. God was displeased with Onan because of his motives. Onan did not want to produce a child with Tamar, which would have been the custom back then. If Onan were being "upright," he would have said "no" in the first place. God reacts harshly to the actions of Onan, which are also difficult for us to understand, but that does not change the fact that vs 9 has nothing to do with a ban on contraceptives for modern day believers. As we continue on in Genesis 38 we will have much to discuss. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. God Bless.
Happy Monday to you friends. I pray you had a meaningful time in God's house on Sunday. Hopefully everyone who reads this is engaged with a local Bible believing church, but if you are not, allow me to encourage you to seek out a body of believers that can encourage you in your walk with the Lord.
Hebrews 10: 23-25
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Today I want to talk...er....write about an issue that is close to my heart, not only as a pastor, but as a follower of Christ. If I were to say to you: "Christians who can go to church, but choose not to are selfish," what comes to your mind? Does that seem too harsh? In your opinion, is that statement true or does it depend on the circumstances? Notice that I didn't say "Christians that do not go to church are selfish"...I didn't say that because there are valid reasons (albeit few) that can keep a follower of Christ away from their local church. I make a distinction between people who legitimately can't attend verses those who can, but choose not to. Also, allow me to make clear that I'm not talking about the person who misses church every once and a while. I am talking about the person who (on a regular basis) chooses to do other things, rather than be engaged with a local church. I'm talking about a long-term habit of neglecting "meeting together" (Hebrews 10:25).
For those who know me, you know that I do not go around saying things like the statement I made above. In general, I see little benefit in making pronouncements like that...but just because I would not say it, does that mean it's not true? In fact, I believe it's very true and it breaks my heart whenever I see someone choosing to stay away from their local church. I say this, not only as a pastor, but as a follower of Christ. For some (who choose to not go to church), it's a matter of a past hurt, for others it's a matter of priorities. Sometimes it has to do with theological differences...while other times, it's good ol' fashioned laziness. Also, and it saddens me to say this, but I've met people who choose not to attend a church because they do not want to support a church financially. Regardless of the reason, when someone makes the choice to stay home, work, go fishing, or simply sleep in, that person is choosing themselves over other people.
Can you imagine what would have happened if the Apostle Paul had chosen to stay home or work on his tents, instead of engaging with other believers? What if every Christian were to have the belief that attending church were not necessary? I think most of us would agree that both of those scenarios would be very bad. Here is why I call the choice to not engage with and support a local church "selfish": because the reason we choose to engage with other believers has more to do with "them" than it does with "you." In addition, when we choose to support a local church, we are making a conscience effort to propel the gospel forward, to places we can never reach and to people we will never meet.
Here in the Western hemisphere, where we view everything through an individualistic worldview, the typical Christian views their relationship to follow Christ no different than other "individual" choices they make. In reality, our choice to follow Christ should affect everything we do. God does not want us to be selfish with the free gift of salvation. If we are parents, our top priority should be to get our kids involved in a local church. However, even if we do not have kids, we have so much to offer others...this is why it is selfish to choose what YOU want over the needs of others.
Hello friends. I pray you are well. It's Thursday, which means it's almost Friday, and Friday goes by quickly, then it's Saturday...so, basically what I'm saying is "happy weekend." My bizzare opening reminds me of what my son (Sam) tells people when they ask how tall he is. Sam says "well, I'm 5'7 1/2, which is basically 5'8 and when you think about that, 5'8 isn't much different than 5'11, which is super close to 6ft, so, yeah, I'm 6 feet tall." Classic Sam!
Anyway, I have taken some time off of the blog to focus on my school and church work. I am rested and ready to get back at it. Today we are going to look at a couple of passages that deal with a very important part of living an authentic Christian life in Christ.
When speaking about living an overcoming life for Christ, this principle might be considered the most important aspect and unfortunately, this subject is not spoken of nearly as often as it should. For some reason, many (otherwise) decent pastors and churches that preach that Christ was crucified for the forgiveness of mankind,that it is by grace alone that we can be saved and that a person must confess and believe, in order to be a Christ follower…despite teaching these things (all of which are good) they fail to properly teach and preach this component of our walk with the Lord.
Perhaps you are asking what this principle is...well, it is REPENTANCE.
Revelation 2:5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the [d]deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.
16 Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.
19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
For those of you familiar with scripture, you know that repentance is a common concept throughout God's word. Despite this, pastors will rarely take an entire sermon and dedicate it to the important practice of repentance. In the book of Revelation we can find a group of letters written to various churches, 7 of them. The letters are written to the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and to Laodicea. These letters can be found in Revelation Ch.'s 2 and 3. The letters are written from Jesus to the people/leaders in the various cities. The letters address a number of subjects, but the main idea is that God is calling out the believers for their faithfulness and/or unfaithfulness. One common theme running through the letters is the idea of repentance. God instructs the people to repent and turn back to their first love...which was God.
So, what is so important about repentance? Most understand that we become believers by believing in Christ and confessing that we are a sinner, in need of a savior. When we take this small step of faith, we know little else. We recognise our need for God. The reason that the Bible talks about repentance so much is because repentance is different than merely asking for forgiveness. We are forgiven of our sins when we confess, but it takes repentance to truly change. There is no doubt that God honors that small mustard seed of faith and confession, but we are called to live a life of repentance. If a person takes that step of belief and confession, but does not live a life of repentance, then they are like the seeds thrown on infertile ground in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13).
So, what is the difference between confession or asking for forgiveness and repentance? Well, confession is us recognising our wrongdoing and admitting it, which is an important first step (and enough for God to honor). Repentance, however, is about life change. When we repent, we not only recognise our wrong, but we turn around and walk the other way, no longer continuing on the wrong path. Until a young Christian understands this, they will struggle with sin in their life. This is why teaching the principle of repentance is so important. I have yet to meet a Christian that really understood the concept of repentance when they first started living for Christ. Thankfully, God is so merciful and full of Grace that He gives us time to learn these important things. This is why our salvation is not based upon our righteousness, but on the righteousness of Christ. The goal though, is to learn to have a heart like King David, a heart of repentance.
Ok, back for another post here. I've been busy, as I'm in the last 2 weeks of a set of classes. I have 4 huge assignments due this upcoming Monday and Tuesday. One of them is a 14 page exegesis on 1st Timothy 2: 11-15. One of the other big ones is a 10 page paper on "My Rules For Life." The second one is much easier, as it does not have to be formatted and cited according to the SBL formatting rules. That said, I haven't much time for blog posts. However, I did want to type one out. I want to begin talking about the next Sunday morning series I'll be preaching (starting in March). The name of the series is called "Real Life Faith: Living An Authentic LIfe." One week 1, one of the passages I'll be covering is
Galatians 2: 11-14
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he [i]stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from [j]James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing [k]the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not [l]straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? [m]
Most know that Apostle Paul wrote this letter. In it, Paul is talking about how the Lord has given him a special calling to preach to the gentiles, while Peter has been called to reach his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters. Then, starting in vs. 11, Paul tells of an interaction he had with Peter, and it wasn't a pleasant one. Paul had to correct Peter in front of other people, as Peter was not living out the message of the Gospel and worse, Peter was leading others astray (in this particular area). Peter was showing partiality towards fellow Jews.
My question is: why would Peter do this? Did Peter know it was wrong?
Well, the answer to the second question is a resounding "YES," Peter knew his actions were wrong. When these influential Jews were not around, Peter had no problem eating with the gentiles. It was only when these men came around that Peter found himself staying away from the "unwashed."
I believe the answer to our first question is "Fear." Not fear like "Peter is afraid of the influential Jewish men," rather, Peter (on this occasion) had fear of man. No doubt, Peter had built a reputation up over the years and was well known. Peter did not want to appear "less than" in front of the Jewish men, therefore, he made the mistake of allowing the outward righteousness of the law override the inward righteousness of grace.
I will talk more about this (hopefully) later next week. God Bless.
Hello friends, I pray your Valentine's day has gone well. Laura and I have never really celebrated this day too much...but my son and his wife, this is their first Valentine's day as a married couple, so there are some expectations...on his end.
Today I am going to finish up this series on hermeneutics. We will look at the last 2 points. If you have not read my last 3 entries, I would encourage you to do so, as this one builds on those. Just as a reminder, here are the steps:
1. What did the text mean to the original audience?
2. What are the differences between the biblical audience and us?
3. What is the theological principle in this text?
4. How does our theological principle fit with the rest of scripture?
5. How should individual Christians today live out the theological principle?
Let's do our final analysis of:
Joshua 1: 1-9
1 Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, 2 “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. 3 Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. 5 No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous; [b]be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may [c]have success wherever you go. 8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may [d]be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will [e]have success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Let's answer question 4 and 5.
How does our theological principle fit with the rest of scripture?
How should individual Christians today live out the theological principle?
In my last entry I pointed out a couple of theological principles that fit within our passage in Joshua. The principles are:
God keeps His promises and God honors obedience
For our passage in Joshua, these last two questions are pretty easy. Let's look at question 4 first.
How does our theological principle fit with the rest of scripture?
Are we able to confirm the principles of "God keeps His promises" and "God honors obedience" throughout the rest of scripture? Are there other verses or stories that support our principles? Well, if you know anything about the Bible, the answer should be a resounding YES! God always keeps His promises and God honors obedience. I don't have the time to do a deep-dive on the subject of God's promises and how He honors obedience, but let's look at a couple of scriptures that confirm our hypothesis.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. 10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward.
In regard to God honoring obedience, there are many scriptures that confirm this truth. This passage is but 1 of them. If I were writing a sermon on God honoring obedience, this is one I would use. All throughout the O.T. and N.T. we see God affirming obedience, with the promise that obedience will bring its own reward, in due time. I suppose if we want to believe this, we must address the first principle...does God keep his promises. After all, if God does not have a record of keeping His promises, then being obedient is of no consequence. So, does scripture confirm that God keeps His promises?
Again, I could use many examples to prove this principle, but for now, I'll use one from later on in the book of Joshua.
43 So the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hand. 45 Not [m]one of the good promises which the Lord had [n]made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.
The Bible makes it clear that our God is a God that keeps His promises! God promised Abraham that his offspring would become a nation; God promised that He would send His son, to die for the sins of mankind, that promise was fulfilled. God promised that Jesus will return one day, for an obedient Bride...we can be sure that God will keep this promise!
Let's quickly answer the last question in our hermeneutic journey:
5. How should individual Christians today live out the theological principle?
If we desire to truly live for the Lord, we must believe that God keeps His promises and that God honors obedience. I would argue that the overriding theological principle here is that God keeps His promises. As I pointed out earlier, if we do not believe that, then why are we being obedient? While Sam was growing up, there were times that I broke a promise. I never did this lightly, but I would make a commitment to him, then have to break it, for whatever reason. If a parent does this enough, the child will learn that mom or dad can't be trusted. When that happens, their behavior will change (for the worse) over time. The opposite is also true, if a child completely trusts their parents, a strong bond will develop over time. Thankfully, our Father has a 100% proven track record of keeping His promises. We can live this principle out by having faith...even when it may appear that God has broken His word, we must believe that He hasn't. As a matter of fact, God cannot break His word...it is against His very nature to do so. We must trust and obey (just like the old Hymn), in spite of our circumstances.