Monday, June 29, 2009

New Blog

For anyone that is interested in news and politics I have created a new blog to look at current events from a Christian perspective. You can find it here:

Wake Up Call.

Please check it out and feel free to leave your comments.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Christian! Or Christian?

Here are a couple more Sermons that every Christian should hear:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Study Of Covenant, Part 3 - The Abrahamic & Mosaic Covenants

These next two parts are where I want to spend the most time and go into the most detail in this series on Covenant, because this is where covenant becomes very important to us. In this part we are going to look at the covenants that God made with Abraham, and with Moses and the people of Israel, and then next time The New Covenant that Jesus made with the Church.

There are other covenants we could look at when we discuss salvation; covenants that directly relate, and covenants that allude, in types and shadows, to our salvation, and I encourage you to study these on your own. I have picked these three because they each directly play a part in our salvation, and by understanding these three covenants you will understand what it means to be in a covenant relationship with God.

1. The Abrahamic Covenant

Let me set the scene; Abram, the son of Terah lived in Ur of the Chaldeans with his father and his extended family. The family was moving from Ur to Canaan but when they came to Haran they settled there. When Abram was 75 years old God appeared to him in Haran and made him a promise (actually it was several promises)
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Genesis 12:1-3
So Abram did what the Lord told him and he left his home and headed for the land God had promised him. In the next few chapters we are able to journey with Abram as he escapes a famine by going to Egypt, we see family problems arise as he separates with his nephew Lot, we see Lot get captured and Abram waging a war against several kings to get Lot back, and we see Abram receive a blessing from one of the most mysterious people in the Bible, Melchizedek. But what we don’t see in all this time is Abram and his wife Sarai having any children. This is a problem because as pointed out above, Abram was already 75 years old before any of this took place.

After Abram and Lot separated in chapter 13 God once again appeared to Abram and said:
“Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”
Genesis 13:14-17
Here we see God reemphasizing His earlier promise to Abram. From here we go into the war with the kings that was mentioned above which culminates at the end of chapter 14 with Abram receiving a blessing from the king and priest of Jerusalem, Melchizedek. At this time Abram refused to accept any reward from the king of Sodom because he didn’t want him to be able to say that he made Abram rich; he was still relying on the promise that God had made to him.

Then in chapter 15 God once again appears to Abram and tells him in verse 1, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward will be very great.” (Genesis 15:1) And Abram asks God in verse 2 how any of this can come to pass since he is childless. Then Abram comes up with a solution to help God out; Abram says since I don’t have any offspring of my own I can name an heir from among those born in my house. I have a servant that fits this bill; his name is Eliezer of Damascus and he can be my heir.

Look at how God replies to Abram:
And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.”
Genesis 15:4-7
Please note that this is where Abram received salvation; this is where he believed God, believed the promise, and it was credited to him as righteousness. The word translated here “credited” is the Hebrew word Hoseb, and it is an accounting term which means to put on the credit side of the ledger.

So, Abram believed God and took Him at his word, but he still had questions. In verse 8 Abram asks how will I know that I will possess this land? And god says:
“Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
Genesis 15:9
Why did God tell Abram to do this? He was going to make a covenant with him, a solemn binding agreement.

Abram did as he was told. He brought the animals that God requested, and he split them down the middle and laid the pieces out opposite each other. Then we see beginning in verse 13:
Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for yourself, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
Genesis 15:13-21
There are a few important things to point out here: First please note that Abram did not pass between the animals, only God did; God was assuming the full weight and responsibility of the covenant He was making with Abram. Second I think in this passage we can see a picture of the Trinity; we see God the Father represented by the smoking fire pot, and we see the Holy Spirit represented by the flaming torch, and I think Jesus was represented here by the animals that were slain. Third we see that the covenant promised Abram both offspring and a land.

In chapter 16 we see Sarai get into the act as she is now trying to help God out with keeping his promise. In this chapter we see Sarai give Abram her maid Hagar thinking that if Abram and Hagar had a child it would be the offspring that God had promised and everything would be good. We know now that things didn’t work out as she had planned, and she ended up blaming Abram for the problems this caused.

Then in chapter 17 God again appears to Abram and instituted the covenant that He had cut with Abram back in chapter 15. God restates the terms of the covenant by telling Abram that he would be the father of many nations. God then changed his name from Abram to Abraham, and changed Sarai’s name to Sarah. Many Hebrew scholars believe that what God did here was insert part of His own name into Abram and Sarai’s names.

God also instituted a sign of the covenant, the sign of circumcision. He said, “Every one of your males must be circumcised. You must circumcise the flesh of your foreskin to serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and you. “ (Genesis 17:10-11). Why circumcision you ask; remember early on in this discussion we noted that as part of the covenant ritual some from of scar was used as a sign to remember that you had a covenant partner? Well, that is what circumcision is; the scar that reminds of the covenant. And I hear you say, “OK I get the scar thing, but I still don’t understand why circumcision.” I think Kay Arthur has the best explanation I have ever read; in her book on covenant she says:
Because, beloved, the cut is at the closest site of paternity—and it is for Abraham’s descendents! The seed is from the man. It comes from where the covenant will be made. It is a covenant with Abraham and his seed.1
In this chapter we also see Abraham laughing because he is now 99 years old and Sarah is 89, and the thought of two people as old as they are having a baby is funny. Again Abraham has a solution to help God out; he says to God, “If only Ishmael could live before You.” In other words, “why don’t you just establish your covenant through Ishmael?” But God said, “No, not through Ishmael. You will bear a son with Sarah, your wife, and you will call his name Isaac. I will establish My covenant with him and with his offspring.” One year later, when Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 Isaac was born. God had kept His promise, because His promise was based on covenant.

We will come back to this covenant later in our discussion, but for now just remember that God made a covenant with Abram and that covenant promised a seed and a land.

Now let’s move on to the next covenant we want to look at; the covenant made at Mount Sinai; the covenant of the law.

2. The Sinai Covenant

It is now several years after God made the covenant with Abraham. Abraham’s descendents have been enslaved for 400 years just as God had prophesied to Abram on the day He cut covenant with him. They have been released from captivity and are now camped at the base of Mount Sinai where God is about to make a second covenant with the children of Israel.

Will this covenant invalidate or replace the covenant God made with Abraham? No, that was an everlasting covenant that cannot be altered and cannot be replaced. So why make another covenant? The answer to that is found in the New Testament book a Galatians, which we will look at in detail later on, but right now let’s just look at this details of this covenant and see what we can learn.

First of all, as the name implies, this covenant was made with Moses on Mt. Sinai. We can see this in Exodus 34. We will not look at the whole chapter here, but I do want to look at a few verses from this chapter. In verses one through nine we see God telling Moses to cut two stone tablets and to bring them up the mountain where he is to meet with God. While he is on the mountain God came down in a cloud and stood there with him. These verses tell us that Moses spent 40 days on this mountain, and that while he was there he didn’t eat of drink anything. But why was he there? We get the answer in verse 10:
And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.
Exodus 34:10
God was making a covenant with the people, with His people, Israel.

In verses 11 through the end of the chapter God give Moses instruction for the Israelites to follow. Then look at what He says in verse 27:
And the Lord said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.”
Exodus 34:27
And what did Moses write down? Look at verse 28:
And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
Exodus 34:28b
The covenant God mad with Moses and the children of Israel was what we know as the Ten Commandments. As we have already seen, in a covenant there are duties imposed and blessings and consequences for either keeping or breaking the covenant. Do we have these here?

In verse eleven God tells Moses that if they obey He will drive out the nations that inhabit the land that they are about to inherit, but if they disobey there will be consequences. We also saw that when a covenant is made between a superior and inferior the inferior has the responsibility to either accept or reject the terms of the covenant. Did they accept the terms of the covenant? For the answer to this let’s look at Deuteronomy chapter five.

Deuteronomy is the last book of the Torah, the five books of Moses. In this book Moses is restating the terms of the covenant that God made on Mount Sinai with those who came out of Egypt. It has been forty years since the exodus and he is talking to the generation that is about to enter the Promised Land to possess it. In chapter five he says:
“Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain."
Deuteronomy 5:1-5
Then he proceeds to restate the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. In Deuteronomy 5:22-33 the Israelites tell Moses that they are afraid that they will die if they hear God speaking to them, so they tell Moses to go listen to what God has to say and then report it to them, and whatever it is they will obey. The whole rest of the book of Deuteronomy is a restating of the terms of the covenant, the blessings for keeping it, and the curses for not keeping it.

Look now at Deuteronomy 26:16-19 for a summary of the covenant:
“This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared today that the Lord is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised.”
Deuteronomy 26:16-19
Remember back to the beginning of this study I said that part of the covenant ceremony was to set up a memorial to be a testament to the covenant. Look now at Deuteronomy 27:1-8
Now Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying, “Keep the whole commandment that I command you today. And on the day you cross over the Jordan to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall set up large stones and plaster them with plaster. And you shall write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over to enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you. And when you have crossed over the Jordan, you shall set up these stones, concerning which I command you today, on Mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with plaster. And there you shall build an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. You shall wield no iron tool on them; you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the Lord your God, and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God. And you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly.”
Deuteronomy 27:1-8
The people have been commanded to create a memorial so that they would remember the terms of the covenant. Moses tells them in chapter 30 that this is not too difficult for them to do; all they have to do is obey. They have a choice to make, life and prosperity or death and adversity. If they obey, God promises them every blessing, but if they disobey they will be driven out of the land that He gave them.

Moses dies at the end of Deuteronomy and Joshua becomes the new leader of the nation. In the book of Joshua we see the Israelites enter the land just as God had promised. At the end of the book of Joshua, as he is about to die, the nation is again addressed and reminded of the terms of the covenant. In chapter 24 Joshua gives us a condensed version of the history of Israel followed by this exchange:

“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”
But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord.” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.”
Joshua 24:14-22
The rest of the Old Testament chronicles the history of the nation of Israel as they turn from God and are exiled from the land, return to God and come back to the land, and repeat the process again and again, just as God stated in the terms of the covenant. But this is not the end of the story, there is still another covenant, a New Covenant, a covenant that does what we could not do on our own, empower us to obey; we will look at this covenant next time.

1 Arthur, Kay: Our Covenant God: Learning to Trust Him. Colorado Springs CO.: WaterBrook Press, c1993. Pg. 233

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Worthy Is The Lamb!

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
Revelation 4:8

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Revelation 4:11

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Revelation 5:9-10

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Revelation 5:11-14

“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
Revelation 11:17-18

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
Revelation 15:3-4

“Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”
Revelation 19:5

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;
Revelation 19:6-7

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Revelation 19:9

Take some time today to praise and worship Jesus Christ - the Way the Truth and the Life - who is the Lamb who was slain, and who alone is worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Well Done Good And Faithful Servant - Part 2

It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting here at my desk writing a tribute to my grandfather-in-law who had just gone home to be with the Lord. And now, just six short weeks later I am faced with writing another tribute, this time for my grandmother-in-law, who departed this world last Wednesday afternoon. She was 88 years old (today would have been her 89th birthday), a strong Christian, and she was ready to go home.

As I look back over the past 26 years that I have been a part of this family I have many fond memories of the time we spent together. As I think about those times I cannot remember a single time when we were together that she did not turn the conversation to spiritual matters and talk about Jesus; in fact I cannot think of a more appropriate or accurate thing to say about Mamaw than this - she was a witness for Jesus Christ. Yes, she was a good cook, and she loved her family, but first and foremost she told everyone she came in contact with that they needed to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Mamaw had been sick for the past several years, and her health took a severe downturn in the last 2-3 years leaving her unable to care for herself. She was suffering from dementia and completely bedridden at the end, unable even to take a drink of water without help. My last visit was on the day of Papaw's funeral. Because of her condition, both physical and mental, she was unable to attend. So after everything was completed that day all of the grandchildren and their spouses decided that we would stop by to see her on our way home even though we knew that she would probably not know who we were or that we had even been there. We were wrong. And what happened that day is something that I will never forget.

As we came into the room that day, Mamaw,who was barely able to lift her head off of her pillow, looked around the room and recognized every one of us in the room calling us by name. Then, this frail woman, who could no longer even care for herself, proceeded to share Christ with each of us, using the small amount of energy she had to share the gospel with us saying that she wanted to make sure that everyone in that room was going to be with her in heaven. That was the kind of woman she was; she wanted to make sure that everyone was going to be in heaven, and because she didn't think that she had much time left she used what she had to double-check the spiritual condition of her grandchildren and their families.

As I think back on that day I am struck with just how important Jesus was to her. I could see this over the years that I knew her, and everyone that I have talked to said the same thing - she loved Jesus.

At her funeral I had the opportunity to look though her Bible, and although I don't know when she started using this Bible I know that she was not able to use it over the past couple of years. But as I flipped through its pages I saw note after note on just about every page in her Bible; everywhere there was a blank spot on a page she had written a note about how something on that page had spoken to her. And notice I said above that I don't know when she started using that Bible. That is because my wife has another Bible that belonged to her that she started using in the 1940's and that Bible is literally falling apart - not from neglect but from heavy use.

I have heard it said that a person whose Bible is falling apart probably are not, and that is true of Mamaw; she endured some of the most trying things that a mother could endure: the loss of of child at a young age to cancer; another child who had special needs and whom she cared for until she was just physically not able to do so any longer (over 65 years); a grandson who was in a serious car accident and paralyzed. Through all of these tragedies and hardships she never lost her faith, and in all the time that I knew her I never heard her complain.

So as I look back over the short time that I had the privilege of knowing her what I see is someone that I want to emulate. In his letter to the Philippians the apostle Paul wrote:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Philippians 3:17
Mamaw could have written this verse; she clearly led by example, and there are very few people that I can think of that would be better to imitate.

So with this short few paragraphs I say good-bye (for now). And I pray that if I live to be 89 years old the most important thing to me will still be to make sure that my whole family knows Jesus and that because of what He did on the cross we will all be together with Him in heaven forever.