August 9, 2011
It is that limited time that prompts my blog entry this week. This week, because of time, I was forced to skip a question I had intended to get to in my message. As you read the question and my answer below, I hope that it will encourage and motivate you to dive into the Scriptures and your Bible study tools to discover the answers to some of the hard questions that you may be wrestling with.
Question: In Matthew 19:11-12 Jesus speaks of those who are born as eunuchs. Is this person asexual? Are there people who from birth have no sexual orientation?
Answer: In Matthew 19:1-10, Jesus instructs His disciples about the permanence of marriage. In response, the disciples basically say (vs. 10), “Wow, if marriage is that permanent and one cannot get out of it, it is better not to marry.” In verses 11 and 12 Jesus gives this reply:
But he (Jesus) said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying (about singleness) but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”
So what is Jesus saying? He is not saying that a person is born asexual or gender neutral. Rather he is describing how some people are able to remain single without an overwhelming sex drive: some are born eunuchs, meaning that they suffer from some genetic deformity that involves diminished or undeveloped sexual capacity. Some are made eunuchs by men, meaning that they were castrated to control sexual desire and some make themselves eunuchs. The idea in this final group is not that they literally castrate themselves, but that they voluntarily choose a life of celibacy so that they can give unhindered devotion to God and God’s work. Over in I Cor. 7:32-34, Paul promotes singleness as a way to be fully devoted to God and unhindered by the cares of a wife and family.
Sadly, in our society, singleness if often viewed as some kind of disease to be cured or curse to escape. The truth is, singleness is freedom to be enjoyed and utilized, not in selfish ways, but in service for God. If you are single follower of Christ, don’t grumble about it; use it to God’s honor and glory. If you are married, don’t pressure your single friends to find a mate, instead, encourage them to have God’s perspective on singleness, and like the self-imposed eunuchs of Matthew 19, to use their freedom to advance the kingdom of heaven.
August 5, 2011
In Acts 17, verses 10 and 11 we read these words, “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Do you see what is being commended and encouraged in this passage? The Bereans engaged in the personal study of God’s Word. They didn’t simply accept all that Paul and Silas had to say. They searched the Scriptures for themselves to confirm that what was being said to them was indeed God’s word and God’s truth. What a great model for every believer to follow.
Thankfully I have some Bereans in my church, people who do their own study and who check out what their pastor has told them. After answering hard questions about election (God’s choosing of those who will be saved) this past Sunday, one of the women of my church asked me to recommend some study tools and materials so that she could engage in her own study of hard questions. Perhaps it is a lack of resources or not knowing where to turn, that has hindered you in your personal study of God’s Word. If so, here are some of the Bible study tools that I find helpful.
1. A reliable translation of God’s Word.
To do good Bible study requires a translation that is a word for word translation of the original languages. Some of the better translations include the English Standard Version (ESV), the New American Standard Version (NASB), the New King James Version (NKJV) and the King James Version (KJV). This is not to say that other versions are bad, but these seek to capture the precise wording of the original text not just the ideas and concepts.
2. An exhaustive Bible concordance
An exhaustive concordance provides a list of all the words in the Bible and the references where they are found. This is a very helpful tool when doing word studies. I own two concordances, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, which is based on the KJV and New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance, which is based on the NASB. There are many others but you will find the most help if you own a concordance based upon the Bible translation you study from.
3. Nave’s Topical Bible
This tool provides Bible passages arranged by topic. For example, if you want to do a study on the love of God, you simply look up, “God – Love of” and there you will find the verses that speak of God’s love.
4. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
This tool provides a wealth of information on doctrinal issues, theologians and their perspectives, and much, much more. If you wan to explore doctrine and the views of various people this is an invaluable reference book.
5. Bible Dictionary and Bible Encyclopedia
These tools provide meanings for people, places, and things, in the Bible. I would recommend several reference works that fit under this category: The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible.
6. A reliable commentary
Bible commentaries come in many sizes, from one or two volumes that cover the entire Bible, to multi-volume sets that address the books of the Bible in far greater detail. I find that the single volume commentaries provide only general information. For more intensive study you really need to own a multi-volume set. Two I would recommend are The New American Commentary (Old and New Testament) and The MacArthur New Testament Commentary.
There are a host of other books and resources that I draw upon, but these that I have listed are certainly worth owning and will provide a great deal of assistance when studying the Bible. Of course the other great tool for doing Bible study is personal discipline, making the time and effort to do it. If you give that time and effort, not only will you find answers to the hard questions and issues that you are facing, but God will transform your life in the process. So how about it, will you be a Berean? The Bible has the answers, all you have to do is go there and start finding them. I encourage you to dig in and discover the joy and growth that personal Bible study brings.
July 18, 2011
First, a kingdom starts with a king. If you are going to “seek first the kingdom of God” you must acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the king and submit your life, that is your will, to Him. The Bible is very clear, in order to make Jesus your King, you must repent of your sin and embrace Jesus as Savior, realizing that He died for your sin and is the only way that your sin can be forgiven. If you’ve never done that, I would invite you to do so today. You will never experience the Kingdom of God, whether the present, spiritual one or the future, physical one, unless you turn from your sin and embrace Jesus as Savior.
Second, you must follow the King. Maybe it goes without saying, but unless Jesus is Lord of your life you will never experience kingdom living. Though Jesus is both King and Lord whether we submit to Him not, to make Him Lord of our lives is to submit our will to His will, which is spelled out for us in His Word, the Bible. Those who seek God’s kingdom must regularly be reading, studying, and applying God’s Word to life. They must also continually refuse to live by their own agenda and follow God’s agenda. It is only when we walk in obedience to the King that we experience the kingdom.
Finally, we experience the kingdom by inviting others to follow the King. In II Corinthians 5:18-21, the apostle Paul tells us that followers of Christ are also ambassadors for Christ. The job of ambassador requires that we seek to establish peace between men and God by inviting them to leave the wicked and sinful kingdom of Satan and self and enter the kingdom of God through repentance and faith. In other words, we are inviting those who have no relationship with Christ to do what we have done, to embrace Jesus as both Savior and Lord. Perhaps there is no better way to experience kingdom living than by sharing the benefits of the kingdom with others.
So how about it, are you experiencing the kingdom of God now? When Jesus taught His disciples to pray (Matt. 6:9-13), He instructed them to pray, “Your kingdom come...” If it isn’t already, let’s make that our prayer today. Let’s pray not just for Jesus to return to establish a future, physical kingdom, but let’s pray for Jesus to reign, as we establish His spiritual kingdom in our hearts and lives today.
July 11, 2011
For those readers that attend Harvest Bible Chapel, West Olive, MI, you know that for the last several weeks now, we have been engaged in a study of the return of Christ and the significant events that accompany that return. To say that God has been at work through this series would be an understatement. Two weeks ago immediately after the service a gentleman, with tears streaming down his face, came up to me and said, “I have just one thing to say, God was here today.” His comments summed up what I heard from many others. This past Sunday, many people were gathered at the steps of the platform to repent of sin and to pray that they and those they love would take sin as seriously as God does.
What I have observed over the past several weeks, both in my own heart and in the church, is this great stirring and moving of the Spirit. But as I observe this convicting work of God, the question I believe we need to ask is, moved to what? So God is moving us, we are being stirred in our hearts and spirits, but to what end? What do we do with this great sensitivity to God and His truth that has been stirred within us? As I’ve given thought to those very questions, I would suggest that we should be moved to at least four things.
1. Moved to pray
First, I believe we should be moved to pray. As God’s works in our hearts, one response to that moving and stirring of the Spirit should be to express our utter and complete dependence upon God in prayer, asking Him to continue the work that He has started, revealing areas that need to be addressed and changed, and to express our submission to His authority in our lives.
2. Moved to Urgency
Second, I believe we should be moved to urgency. It is sad to say the least, but over the years I have observed people who have been convicted by God in some way but the attitude that accompanied that convicting work was, “someday I will have to get after that thing.” Listen, if God is moving in your heart to change in some way, to repent of some sin, to do something, don’t put it off. The time to obey the moving of the Spirit is now!
3. Moved to Boldness
A third way we should be moved is to boldness. When God is moving in our hearts, it ought to result in a greater living out of our faith, a faith that does hide in the shadows, but openly and boldly shouts our love for Christ. That boldness should not be just lifestyle, but words that declare who Christ is and what He has done for us.
4. Moved to Action
Finally, there should be a movement to action. Perhaps that is implied in these other things I have listed, but a stirring of God, an emotional response to God’s truth, should not be an end, but a means to an end. The question we need to ask is, what is God asking me to do? Am I being moved to repent of some specific sin, to serve in some capacity, to speak to someone, to worship? No doubt the possible actions are just about endless, but let’s be sure to ask with each stirring in our hearts, God what do you want from me, what action do you want me to take?
Heaven forbid the moving of the Spirit lasts only as long as our morning service. The next time we sense His convicting and stirring work in our lives, let’s be sure to consider the question, moved to what?
June 14, 2011
So why blog about turning 50? No, it is not to get your well wishes, your sympathy, or anything like that. I’m blogging about turning 50 as a matter of perspective. While 50 is not all that old for many people who long ago celebrated that milestone, for me it is significant because my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, and my great-great-grandfather, never lived to see their sixtieth birthdays. Now do you see where I’m going? If genetics have anything to say about it (I know God is in control), I may have less then ten years to live. Now to be honest, while that concerns me at times, what it really does is drive me to a sense of urgency regarding the things of Christ. In Ephesians 5:15-16 the apostle Paul penned these words to the Ephesian church. He wrote, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” What jumps out to me from those verses is the command to make “the best use of the time.” Obviously, regardless of our age or how long we may have left on this earth, it is our obligation to make the best use of time by investing it in the worship and service of our Savior. What Paul is challenging us to do is to make sure that we do not squander our time in frivolous and self-serving endeavors. Since I am keenly aware that my time may be in short supply, I want to make sure that I have lived out my remaining years being both obedient to and effective for Christ.
I wonder, what is your perspective when it comes to time? Over the years I have certainly run into my fair share of believers who are living as if they have all the time in the world to get right with God or to start serving Him. I really hope and pray that that is not your perspective, my friend. In truth, regardless of how much time we think we may have left, time is short. In James 4, James gives this word of warning in verses 13 and 14, “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Do you get the picture? Whether 5, 15, 25, 50, or 100, time is short! That being the case, God calls each of us to make the best use of that limited time by living for Him. I wonder, are you doing that? Don’t wait for your next birthday to start gaining God’s perspective when it comes to time. I urge you make the most of all the time you have, by investing your life for Christ. According to I Corinthians 15:58, a life spent laboring for Christ is “not in vain.”