Thursday, August 17, 2017

Doctrinal Preaching

Should pastors preach doctrine? Some say preaching has to be changed to suite the culture. Preaching was acceptable in Paul’s day, but times have changed and we need to change with them. We might have iPhones and air-conditioning, but the spirit of the times hasn't changed. Paul was persecuted by the government and thrown in prison unjustly, under the heavy hand of a God hating, heathen tyrant. He lived in a time when preachers of a false gospel were rising up in every quarter teaching a works salvation. There were not very many churches, and the ones that were in existence were dividing over doctrine. The political scene in Jerusalem was turbulent with factions and seditions. There were prominent political groups in Jerusalem wanting to rise up against Rome and go to war desiring to restore the liberty of the nation of Israel. Timothy was the pastor of the church in Ephesus, located in modern day Turkey, the capital of the Asian confederacy of Rome. The city was full of false gods, witchcraft, and idolatry, and overrun with sexual immorality. The church was in a city of worldliness, false religion, false doctrine, government overreach and a growing opposition to the truth of God’s Word and the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The times haven't change that much. So what was Paul's theory on preaching? What did Paul council Timothy to preach in such turbulent, God hating times?

Doctrine. In the pastoral epistles of First and Second Timothy, and Titus, Paul mentions doctrine (good or bad) or refers to teaching doctrine over 20 times. Doctrine is simply teaching or in instruction. Doctrinal preaching is presenting principles or truths systematically. Biblical doctrine is starting with the Bible and teaching and expounding what the text of scripture says about certain themes or topics. What is needed in our time is the doctrines of the Word of God explained, expounded, learned, and applied. The pulpit needs to sound forth with the truths of God's sovereignty, the depth of Christ's atoning work for the salvation of sinners. We need to hear about the doctrine of sin, God, the church, and man, to name a few. The reason for war, fighting, drug abuse, marital problems, wayward children, financial problems is sin. The answer is not to put pastoral band-aids on the gaping wound with self-help messages. The answer must address the root cause. We need doctrine. It will not be the most popular message, but it's what God commissioned His church to preach, and what the world really needs. What's more important that eternal life? What is more important that knowing where you will spend eternity? There is no higher pursuit than to know God, and to make God known. What you know about God and what you believe about God effects how you live and how you think. Knowing God and knowing more about God is the most important thing you can devote your mind and heart to. You need doctrinal preaching.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Expositor Online

I've been posting many of Lewis Kiger's articles here on the blog for about a year now. I shall do so NO LONGER!! That's because he has his own blog. So make like something that does something very fast and with great urgency, and visit his new blog:

The Expositor Online

Read, subscribe, follow, and all the other things you to do to stay up to date.

Why are you still here? Seriously, click the link. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Temptation Workout

"My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” James 1:2-4. 

 Temptation and patience are hard at work in your life, are you taking advantage? Count every bit of the temptation and trial you are enduring as joy. To do that, we have a bit of work to do ourselves. No temptation is joyful when we are resisting against it and enduring through it, but it is our task to “count it all joy”. We need to look at the bad situation and prayerfully take an accurate account of the temptation, and see it as a means for joy because of what it is going to accomplish. We must look at temptations in the right way – temptation is working something in us for our good. Hopefully it will give your spiritual muscles a workout. When I played football, we put in hours of off-season conditioning in the weight room. When the coaches were pushing us and working us hard,  I was hot, tired, sore, and wishing it was all over with. But we were working our physical muscles and getting stronger with every workout. We couldn’t see the immediate effects but we kept it up being reminded of the benefit this workout would have on the football field on Friday nights. We counted every exercise as profitable to what we wanted, even though it wasn’t very fun at the time. Likewise, temptation works our spiritual muscles.

Temptation gives your patience a workout. It is “trying” your faith. It is putting your faith to the test. Biblical patience is endurance, it is not giving in or giving up, but patiently pressing on looking for our deliverance. Temptation makes us  struggle against it and to endure in holiness. It’s resistance training, fighting through the trial and not giving up because it's hard. After months of offseason training, it was time to start actually playing the games. Those players who had put in the hard work of conditioning and strength training were better equipped to play in the games. We wanted to play the game and play well – that was what we wanted most. In order be better players, our coaches put us through difficult weight resistance training. Every time I was excised by resistance, I became just a little stronger. Temptation works in our soul in a similar way. As Christians, we desire holiness, and one of God's ordained means for spiritual growth is enduring temptation. As we press back against the resistance of temptation, it exercises our patience and endurances. Patience, in turn, completes us. It strengthens our spiritual life, by making us more dependent on God, motivates us to prayer and Bible reading. The more we fight through trials and battle against sin in our lives, the more endurance we have. It gives us a full spiritual workout.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Fraternal Twin Errors

An antinomian is someone who believes that once saved, they are under no obligation to obey God's moral law, we can live however they want. The leagalist believes that you must obey the law in order to go to Heaven, and justification is based on our good works. These seem like opposite views, but in fact, they are very similar. They are, as Sinclair Ferguson said, "unidentical twins". The person that declares there is no law has the spirit of legality. The lawless do not rejoice in the rest of Christ, but in freedom from law; which reveals the legalistic heart of the antinomian. Both the legalist and the antinomian have the same problem. One thinks the law can justify, the other rejoices that the law is gone and believes it to be altogether unprofitable. The legalist has a heart to keep the law to go to Heaven, the antinomian has a heart to break the law because he feels freed from its grievous hold on him. The legalist tries to keep the law because he feels he has to; the antinomian has no concern for the law, because he no longer feels he has to. Both people are running in opposite directions because of the law. One loves the law and runs under it for justification. The other hates the law and runs from it for perceived freedom. But both are running on account of the law.

The motivation is the law; the love of the law, or the hatred of law. The Child of God runs to Christ, with Christ, and for Christ. He is the freeman who is motivated by love for Christ. The Biblical teaches that we are dead to the law for justification. We cannot, could not, and will not keep God’s law and Jesus Christ came and freed us from the curse of the law. The law now has no condemning power over Christians any longer. We are not under the law for justification, but under grace. We are not free to live in sin because grace abounds. We follow Christ and keep His commandments, not for salvation, but because we have been saved. We do not obey God to be saved, but because we are. No longer is it "do this and live", but "live and do this." We cannot please God without faith and faith without works is dead. A Christian follows and obeys Christ, not out of hope of Heaven, but love for the Lord.

The Lord’s commandments are a rule of life to us, not a means of justification. We need to keep the car on the road and not to drive into the ditch of the legalist who uses the law to earn salvation; and not to swerve to the other side into the ditch of antinomian and rebel against following Christ in spiritual anarchy against the Lordship of Christ. The remedy for antinomianism isn't to become more legalistic and vice versa. Grace is the remedy for both errors. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Godliness and Gain - Tuesday with Timothy #73

1Timothy  6:5-6 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. 

Godliness being a devout follower of Christ. It’s piety that is pleasing to God by living as He has commanded. In modern usage, piety is slander, “begone with you and your pious attitude, you impertinent scallywag!” as the kids might say. In reality, to be pious is just to be so serious about your faith that it affects your life and the decisions you make about what you do and will not do. Godliness is not just for your grandmother and your pastor. If you are a Christian, you should be pursuing godliness. One reason for the idea that godliness is a slander is because the hypocrites, by definition, are acting like they are godly. There needs to be some standard that the hypocrite is trying to copy, but since the hypocrite doesn’t want to follow Christ, he keeps the outward forms copying the devout, but changes the rules. He makes a show, the best he can, of what he perceives godliness to be while doing what he wants to do. The ungodly men that Paul is talking about were false teachers. Hypocrites. The very type of people who give godliness a bad name. Because they love money, they had worked out a system that equates money as the proof of godliness. The more you have, the more God loves you. The more cash in your bank, the more proof of your piety. Your best life now!

Paul sets the record straight; it isn’t gain that is godliness, but if you are godly and content with what you have, that is gain. Note that poverty isn't gain, or that contentment alone is gain. It is godliness with contentment. Combining a devoted and pious heart with being happy and at peace with what God, through Christ has provided you is a greater gain to your spiritual life than it would be if you found out you were the long-lost son of Bill Gates. How is being content with not getting more, getting more? You gain the peace of not having your joy tied up to possession. You gain the fellowship of Christ, not loving the world and the things in it. You gain what you already have. If you are not content with what you have, you are not enjoying it. So not only are you not happy with not having what you covet, you are not happy with what you have. Bird in the hand, and all that. The hypocrite wants you to think he is godly, but it has nothing to do with following Christ. Godliness is not the problem. Possessions are not the problem. Loving the praise of men and loving money is the problem. For the hypocrite, the more he gains, the more he loses. For the godly, the more he loses, the more he gains. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fishers of Men

I took my boys fishing in the Elk River this spring for their first fly fishing trip. I waded out beside by my eight-year-old, knee deep in the cool waters trying to match one of my flies to the bugs buzzing around my head. Near the opposite bank, where the water was shaded by an oak that reached out over the water, I pointed towards the boulder that pierced the surface and said “if I were a fish, that is where I would be.” It’s difficult to guess who was more surprised by what happened next; me, my son, or the fish, but sure enough, our first cast landed upstream of the rock and floated into the small ripple; then disappeared. Fish on.

When Jesus called Peter and the crew to follow him, he called them to leave their commercial fishing business so he could make them fishers of men. Norman Maclean opened A River Runs Through It with the childhood thought “that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman. When I don’t catch a fish, I can say “a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.” When Peter didn’t catch fish, he and his family went hungry. They didn’t fish with a rod and reel but casted nets from the side of their boats into the dark waters and drug the haul back to the boat. When Jesus called the disciples, they had been fishing all night and came to shore empty handed. Jesus urged Peter to go out again and try to catch some fish one more time. Peter was an experienced fisherman who just got shut out. He was tired. He was frustrated. He no doubt wanted to go home and forget about it. But, he listened to Jesus and cast off, and caught the motherload (Luke 5:1-11).

The fly-fisherman looks at what the fish are eating and changes his bait to match their appetite. He then slips into the water and presents the bait while hiding the hook. He thinks “If I were a fish, what would I want to eat?” He goes to where his prey will be, and presents his decoy to the trout. Commercial fishermen cast their net, deep and wide. As Jesus showed Peter, man casts the net, but it is God that puts the fish in the boat. In evangelism, we need to freely “cast” the true gospel deep and wide, without discrimination. We need to proclaim the truth of the gospel, knowing that it is God that “catches” the soul of man. It does no good to win men to a false, imitation gospel with deceptive tactics and providing the bait he longs to hear just to get them in church while making them a twofold more child of Hell. Preach the truth and trust the power of the true gospel. Spread the true gospel net and pray God will give the increase.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Fruit of Bad Doctrine - Tuesday with Timothy #72

1Timothy 6:3-5 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, [even] the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

True doctrine is wholesome and will bring forth godliness. If rightly applied, the Words of Jesus will renew the mind and transform the life and there will be the fruit of godly living. All doctrine will work itself out in the lives of those who hold to it. The fruit of false doctrine is rotten to the core. False doctrine produces:
  1. Envy
  2. Strife
  3. Blasphemous slander
  4. Evil Suspicions  
  5. Meddlesome and perverse disputes 
Instead of love, their fruit is envy. Instead of peace, strife. Instead of tenderhearted words that edify, slander. Instead of brotherly love, suspicion and jealousy. Instead of teaching and instruction and edification, there is perverse debates and disputes about nonsense. 

That's why we are instructed to withdraw from false teachers. Run for your life. You don't link up with them. You don't unit in a coalition with them. You don't agree to disagree. You don't turn a blind eye. Don't lay hands on them. Don't let them preach in your church. Don't let them teach. Don't fellowship with them. If the church is healthy, they will discipline them. The church can (and should) discipline people for more than just not coming to church. Get away from these people because they are dangerous. If anyone teaches or consents to such false doctrine, contrary to the gospel of Christ, withdraw. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Preaching & Preachers, Chapter 9: The Preparation of the Preacher

Chapter 9 of Martyn Lloyd-Jones classic book Preaching & Preachers is on the Preparation of the preacher. This is a wonderful chapter with lots of practical advise. The preacher is always preparing in one way or the other. the burden of the message is always on the heart. The whole of our lives are involved in this great work, so the preacher needs to prepare his own soul before he begins to prepare his message. Here are the ways in which MLJ suggests that the preacher prepare himself: 
  1. The preacher must prepare himself
    1. Don't simply prepare sermons
    2. Prepare your own soul
  2. The preacher must pray
  3. The preacher must read his Bible
    1. Read it through at least once a year
    2. Read and study one book in particular (apart from sermon preparation)
    3. Don't limit your Bible reading to finding sermon material, read for your own soul
  4. The preacher must have a balance reading plan including:
    1. Devotional reading
    2. Puritians, or reading sermons
    3. Theological works 
    4. Church history
    5. Christian biographies, especially of great preachers 
    6. Apologetic works
    7. General reading for the relief of the mind
MLJ ends the chapter warning against getting your sermons from sermon books. Even when you get ideas from other sources, they need to be digested into your own mind and soul. Then, you preach them in your own words with your own thoughts. You aren't a recording device, repeating what someone else wrote. He closed with a shout-out to music. If it makes you happy and prepares you to think, listen to good music. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Parable of the Talents by Lewis Kiger

In 1986 the sports world was stunned when a prolific young basketball star named Len Bias was found dead from a drug overdose. Bias had enjoyed a very successful college career at Maryland, and was chosen second in the NBA draft to play for the famed Boston Celtics.

I was just a teenager, but I vividly remember how shocked I was that this amazing athlete, whom I had admired, was now dead. Everyone, from the neighborhood boys to the commentators on SportsCenter talked for days about what a huge waste of potential and talent this was.

Sadly, this young man joined the statistics of many others – whose capacity for greatness and success was erased by a series of hasty choices.

The parable that Jesus gives in Matthew 25:14-30 reminds us that we all are only given a certain amount of time to use the gifts and abilities that God has given us, and we must be cautious not to waste it all away, because of negligence, sloth or poor decisions.

In this parable, Christ states that the kingdom of heaven is like a wealthy man going on an extended journey. Before he leaves, he calls together his stewards and gives to each of them a measure of money for them to invest while he is away. This well-to-do man does not want his businesses and finances to sit idle while he travels, so he entrusts some of his assets to his overseers to manage and return a profit.

One steward is given five talents, another two talents, and another one talent. Each man was allocated money to manage, based on his level of competence as judged by the owner. 

The steward who received five talents made some very sound business decisions and doubles his lord’s assets, by making five additional talents. The man who had received two talents, also works hard and matches his initial two talents, by earning two more.

However, the servant who received one talent went and dug a hole in the ground and buried it. Rather than investing what he had been entrusted with, he was lazy and wasted both time and resources.

Years pass, but eventually the wealthy traveler returns and summons his servants before him to give an accounting of their stewardship.

The first steward comes and presents not only the five talents he was originally given, but five to go along with them. The owner is delighted and generously rewards the faithful servant with a hard-earned rest. The second steward comes and presents not only the two talents he was given, but also the two additional he had gained. The owner is pleased again and also rewards his loyal servant with well-deserved rest.

Finally, the last servant appears, but he has nothing to return to his lord except the one talent he had hidden away. Even though the indolent steward makes numerous excuses, the wealthy master is furious and orders this slothful servant to be thrown into outer darkness and his talent to be taken away from him and given to someone who will rightly use it.

Readers, the lesson our Lord would have us learn is quite simple.

Christ is like this wealthy man who has gone on a journey to a faraway country. But before leaving He has entrusted each of us with resources that we are to use to further his glorious kingdom. Not every Christian has the same spiritual gifts, education, abilities or finances, but all have been given “talents” that we are to invest in our Lord’s work. These various resources are not meant to be buried, but wisely used to reach others.

Jesus will soon return, and it is His pleasure to generously reward those who have faithfully used the means he has given to help others and expand his kingdom.

Don’t let your life be a tragedy of wasted opportunity.

Don’t be like the slothful servant in this parable, and hide away or hoard what God has entrusted you with. Don’t let negligence or discomfort keep you from being a devoted servant to Christ. Empty excuses will not suffice on our day of judgment.

Instead, use what God has entrusted to you in order to reach others with the Gospel and to bring glory to His matchless name. And maybe, just maybe, we may hear these words, “well done thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Pastor Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reading the Bible like the Devil

In the first temptation of Jesus, the Lord answered Satan's attack with "it was written" and goes to the book of Deuteronomy to say that He would live by God's Word. In the second temptation (Matthew 4:5-7) Satan counters and says, "if that is true that you live by every Word of God, here is a passage to live by: Psalm 91:11."  The temptation was if Christ will not use His divine prerogative to turn stones into bread and will only trust in God, then He should prove it. Satan quotes a Psalm that describes the blessedness of trusting in God. The Psalm declares that God is our refuge and our protector. Trust the Father, Jesus. Jump off 450 foot tall roof and trust in God's promise to protect you. By slightly twisting the interpretation of the Psalm, Satan has changed the meaning. Psalm 91 is not a challenge to the Father to be faithful to us, but a call for God's people to be faithful to the Father.

Satan "proof-texted" the point he was trying to make by taking one verse out of context. Satan had an idea in his mind, something he wanted, so he went to the Bible to find part of a passage that agreed with his notions. That is not how you sit under God's Word. We are to submit ourselves to God's Word; not to find passages or verses here and there that agree with what we believe. We can't start with our idea, then go looking for God to agree with us.

Secondly, Satan omits parts of the passage that is inconvenient to his plans. This is the whole verse of Psalm 91:11  "For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." In Matthew, the Devil left of the part of God keeping Christ in his ways. Satan was tempting Jesus to walk out of the will of the Father. Satan also leaves out the verse that follows his quote, Psalms 91:13  "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet." I think we can figure out why Satan wouldn't want to quote a verse about treading on the dragon and the snake (Genesis 3:15).  Psalm 91 meant that the Father would protect the life of Jesus as He lived in accordance to the Father's will. To read the Bible like the Devil is to look for passages that agree with you, instead of being under the authority of the Word of God. It is to take what you want and leave out what you don't like. It is to misapply and strip the original and true meaning of the text. The true interpretation of the Bible is the true meaning of the Bible. The Devil quoted the words, but with the wrong interpretation, which twisted the Scripture. We should desire to hear what God actually said, not what we wanted Him to say.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Preaching & Preachers, Chapter 8 The Character of the Message

Lloyd-Jones begins by saying that the pew doesn't control what is preached, but the preacher must be mindful of who he is preaching to and the situation in the church. Preach to the people God has given you, not the people you wish you had. It is wrong to assume that everyone listening to a sermon on Sunday is a Christian, even if they say that they are. Even if you are preaching to Christians, we still need the gospel. Those pretenders will resent hearing the simple gospel again and not abide with it, wanting something else.

"...a number of people seem to go to a place of worship and to a service in order to go home! Their main idea seems to be to get out and to get home. Why do they go at all?"

He said the difficulty with the apostles was not to round everyone up and try to get them to come to church, but their problem was trying to get everyone to go home.

The chapter winds down with some opinions on the authority in the pulpit, and the aesthetics of the preachers attire, the building, and the pulpit.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Parable of the Good Samaritan - Pastor Lewis Kiger

I was just a kid when I received my first Erector Set. Do you remember them? The box contained these thin metal beams and nuts and bolts. Also enclosed were pulleys, gears, wheels and even a small motor. If everything was assembled according to the directions you would have a functioning toy that resembled what was on the box cover. However, like many young people, I was too hurried to follow the instructions and so the finished project didn’t look anything like a helicopter, Ferris wheel, or a crane, but instead a mangled mess of metal that would not properly function.

Unfortunately, this is how many people handle the Word of God, and in particular the parables. Rather than following rules governing Bible interpretation, well-meaning, but mislead individuals make up the rules as they go, and their explanation of the passage is a mangled mess that not only does not resemble what it was intended to, it also fails to serve its proposed purpose.

This is never any truer than when it comes to the parable of the Good Samaritan. Sadly, this rich little parable has been brutally handled by many men who treat the text like Dr. Frankenstein did his monster, and force together unconnected parts in order to try and make one monstrous whole.

When taken in context, the parable is yet again a very simple lesson in how citizens of Christ’s kingdom should conduct themselves.

Note with me the occasion on which the parable is told.

In Luke 10:25-37 an expert in Old Testament law comes to Jesus to ask him a hard question hoping He will misspeak and open Himself to accusation. The lawyer asks, “What can I do to inherit eternal life?” This is a good question, even though his motives are dishonest.

The Lord then does what my mother always taught me not to do … He answered a question with a question. He turns and asks this lawyer for his own opinion. Obviously, our Lord is hinting that a legal expert should already know the answer.

The man then replies by quoting from Deuteronomy, “thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, strength, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus replies, that’s correct do this and you will have eternal life.

But the man, willing to justify himself, asks, “who is my neighbor?” In essence, “who am I required to love as myself?”

Christ responds to this question by sharing the parable of the Good Samaritan.

In the parable, Jesus speaks about a traveling man who leaves Jerusalem headed down the Jericho road. Unexpectedly, he is assaulted by bandits, who beat him and steal all his belongings. The man is left for dead in the side of the ditch, barely hanging on to life.

However, it isn’t long until a priest walks by. However, the priest crosses to the other side of the road, callously ignoring the injured man. A few moments later, a Levite also passes by, but he too disregards the man and leaves him to die.

Fortunately, another passerby sees the man, has compassion on him and comes to his aid. The Lord shockingly uses a Samaritan as the hero of the story. As you are probably aware, the Jews hated the Samaritans and had no dealings with them. (John 4:9) A Samaritan would be the last person anyone would expect to help a Jew in distress. Yet, the Good Samaritan not only binds up the wounds of the ailing traveler, he puts the wounded man on the back of his own animal, takes him to a local inn and pays his room fee for as long as he needs to recuperate.

Having finished the parable, Jesus asked the lawyer “Who was really neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?” The lawyer reluctantly admits the Samaritan was neighbor to the injured man.

Christ then emphatically orders the man to follow in the steps of the Good Samaritan and go and do likewise.

Remember the parable was told because this lawyer wanted to know who was his neighbor. In other words, who was he required to love as himself. The answer that Jesus gives through use of this illustration is that everyone in our path who is in need is our neighbor. We should not pass by, ignore or disregarding the plight of any needy person God places in our path. That’s our neighbor.

All those who have been born-again by the sovereign grace of our Great God, have the divine duty to love our neighbors as ourselves. That means, taking the time to invest in their lives.

We need not play the part of “mad-scientist” with this text. It is difficult enough to obey without complicating it further. We must recognize that God places people in our path so that we may help and perhaps even make an eternal difference in their lives.

Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Friday, July 7, 2017

John Angel James on when and who to Baptize

"Our views of policy cannot improve His institutions, and ought not to oppose the practice of his apostles. The rule of our proceeding is simply this, "We must receive those whom we think the Lord has received." Abandon this rule, and we have no directory for our conduct…."We must not take the children's bread," say these ultra cautious disciples, "and cast it to the dogs." Nor have you a right to starve the children--any more than you have to pamper the dogs! Our rule is this, "evidence of personal piety, whether that evidence be the result of a month or a year." The same unscriptural caution is sometimes displayed towards those converts, who are young in years. …. Is there, then, a biblical age of membership? …what right have we to speak or think about the age of a candidate? Piety is all we have to inquire into; and whether the individual be fourteen, or forty--we are to receive him, provided we have reason to suppose, "that Christ has received him."

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Jesus and the Bible

Do you have the same opinion of the Bible as Jesus? Looking at the first temptation of Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2-4), you see how Jesus viewed the Bible. In Matthew 4, Satan attacks Jesus three times and all three times Jesus answers with Scripture. Jesus believed in the authority of Scripture. Jesus said it is written, not it was written.  It was written suggests that it was for another day and another time. It was that way, but it might not be that way anymore. It is written means it stands. It was written in the past, but it stands written today.  When confronted by Satan, Jesus went to the Bible. He did not say "I think…", or "I feel…", or "in our family, we….". No, it is written, the Word of God is authoritative.

Jesus also believed in the sufficiency of Scripture. 40 days earlier, the Father spoke audibly from Heaven and the Spirit descended in the shape of a dove. These were amazing signs and revelations! However, when Jesus was in the wilderness and was tempted by Satan, how did Jesus respond? He did not wait for audible instructions, or a visible sign, so how would Jesus know the Father's will? He went to the Word of God. Jesus went to Scripture and that was enough. When tempted to use His divine prerogative and step out of the Father's will, Jesus said " It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Jesus would live, trusting in the Father's care and this passage was enough for Him to not waver. Jesus lived by the Word of God; it was sufficient.

Jesus also knew the Bible. In all three temptations, He drew from the book of Deuteronomy. In the first temptation, he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. Jesus didn't have a Bible with him to look up passages, but Jesus had Scripture memorized. Other than these verses, do you have any passages from Deuteronomy memorized? Could you give me a summary of what the book is about? I ask because I want you to think about how well Jesus knew the Bible, and hopefully spur you to go and read and learn the Bible yourself. Maybe we don't know it as well as we think we do.  Jesus knew more than just Bible stories. Jesus knew the passages and the context, and the meaning, and the proper application. Jesus was able to draw from verses he knew and apply the correct application  to the situation. Do you have the same view of the Bible as Jesus? Is the Bible the authority in your life? Do you say "it is written" when faced with a temptation or a decision? Do you believe the Bible is sufficient, or do you look for signs and trust your gut feelings? If Jesus is Lord, have the same view of the Bible as He does.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Digging By Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun. 
Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down 
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging. 
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
Against the inside knee was levered firmly. 
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep 
To scatter new potatoes that we picked, 
Loving their cool hardness in our hands. 
By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
Just like his old man. 
My grandfather cut more turf in a day 
Than any other man on Toner’s bog. 
Once I carried him milk in a bottle 
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up 
To drink it, then fell to right away 
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods 
Over his shoulder, going down and down 
For the good turf. Digging. 
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap 
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge 
Through living roots awaken in my head. 
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb 
The squat pen rests. 
I’ll dig with it.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant by Lewis Kiger

Forgiveness … Easier said than done.

Every person reading this article has struggled with forgiveness at some point. C.S. Lewis accurately asserted, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”

Would you agree that one of the most challenging things we are ever asked to do, is to forgive someone who has wronged us? It is no wonder why the Bible has so much to say about this subject. Yet, to forgive is Christian. Especially when it isn’t easy. I concur with W.A Ward. who said, “Nothing is more Christian than forgiveness. We are most like God, when we forgive.”

In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells a parable about an unmerciful servant in order to teach us about forgiveness and to assist us in the process of forgiving. The lesson is incredibly simple to understand, but immensely difficult to practice.

In the parable, there is a wealthy king who is “updating his portfolio,” if you will. He is checking his financial records to see if everyone is paying their debts owed to him. So he gathers his accountants and bookkeepers and soon discovers that there is one man who owes him a huge sum of money. In fact, this servant owes the king 10,000 talents. To put this in context, you must understand that Jesus is using this monetary figure to illustrate that the man’s debt was unpayable. The number 10,000 was the highest single number that could be expressed in Greek and a talent was the largest unit of currency in the Roman Empire. To say that this man owed the king 10,000 talents is like saying he owed more than he could ever hope to repay in a thousand lifetimes.

The debtor, having been called before the king and realizing his terrible plight, begs for mercy. He pleads with the wealthy ruler for leniency, stating his intention to pay back every penny if given time. Normally, one would be tossed into prison until the debt is repaid, but this man’s situation was hopeless.

However, to his great surprise, the king is moved with compassion and generously forgives his entire debt. All 10,000 talents. The kind-hearted king erases the servant’s massive debt and allows him to go free. What an incredible story! You would think this man would be so overjoyed that he would be beside himself with thanksgiving and gratitude.

Instead, this same servant after leaving the king’s presence runs into a co-worker who owes him money and refuses to show him any sympathy at all. Curiously, the amount he is owed is comparatively insignificant to the amount he was indebted to the king.

To try and put this in perspective let’s use today’s language. We would say something like this: the first man was forgiven a million-dollar debt, yet was unwilling to forgive a friend that owed him five dollars! And even though the co-worker pleads for mercy, the unmerciful servant has him ruthlessly thrown into prison, and threatens his family and livelihood if he is not immediately repaid.

The compassionate king quickly hears of this hard-hearted behavior and summons his servant back to stand before him. The ruler is angry and rightly so. He has graciously forgiven this man an enormous debt, yet he refuses to forgive another of something far, far less. The benevolent king says, I forgave you all that you owed me, because you asked. You should have forgiven others like you had been forgiven. But because he refused, the king orders that the unmerciful servant be jailed until he can repay all his debt.

The lesson then is quite simple. God is like this benevolent king. He has forgiven us so much, that we must be willing to forgive others.  We are wronged in this life, there is no denying this. We are maligned and mistreated, it happens. Yet gently I will suggest, that no one has ever sinned against us as often or as egregiously as we have sinned against God.  

And if God has forgiven us the mountain of debt we owed him for our transgressions, we must be willing to forgive others for their trespasses against us.

This is the very meaning of the words of the model prayer where our Lord taught us to say: “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Did you notice the words “as we forgive?”  Ephesians 4:32 states that we are to forgive one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven us.

I will not suggest that this is easy or instantaneous. Sometimes forgiveness can take a while. Some injuries take years or even decades to heal. Yet we must be in the process of forgiving others. A failure to forgive, does not harm others … it only hurts us.

Reader, has God forgiven you? Then we should also be willing to forgive.

Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Temptation of Christ

Oscar Wilde once quipped, "I can resist anything but temptation."  We have all felt the weight of temptation and know the sorry of falling into it. Everyone but Jesus Christ. Immediately after His baptism, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil (Matthew 4:1-11). Though the Spirit led, it was Satan that attacked.  Jesus, physically weakened from 40 days of fasting was no doubt tired, hungry, and uncomfortable there in the wilderness. This war was the Son of God, coming to do what no other person ever could do.  Adam  was in the perfect garden of Eden, in the best circumstances and failed. The Lord Jesus was in the harsh wilderness all alone and was victorious.  The nation of Israel was delivered out of Egypt then tested for 40 years in the wilderness and failed over and over again. Jesus, called out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15), entered the wilderness for 40 days and left victorious.  Jesus went freely and courageously to the wilderness. Christ was not tricked or coerced, but marched into the battle against Satan, where no one had ever won, where no one would want to go.

Jesus, who added to his divinity, humanity, was tempted externally by Satan. The temptation was real.  Jesus, in His humanity, felt the temptation more than you would ever feel temptation even though He could not have sinned.  How? Does sin grieve the sinner or the saint? Is blasphemy more noxious to the ungodly or the godly?  CS Lewis said, "A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means...”

Can we not see the heroic will of the Lord? Knowing that Jesus resisted temptation, every second of His life, never yielding, never failing, doesn't that give you confidence in your Saviour? With every attack of Satan and every limitation of humanity exploited by the Devil; with every trick and deceptive tactic and every lie he could muster, the Lord Jesus Christ would not be moved or shaken.  This is why you can come to Christ and know that He is able to help you. You can trust in Christ, your faithful High Priest. Jesus is our unmovable rock, our sure salvation, our unshakable refuge.  Jesus was obedient to the law His entire life and never displeased the Father. On the cross, Jesus took the sin of His people upon himself and paid the debt.  But that's not all. God imputes Jesus' righteousness to our account when we come to Him in faith.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tuesday with Timothy #71

1Ti 6:3-5 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, [even] the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

Here are the list of characteristics of the false teacher. We looked at the first three last time.

1)      Proud
2)      Ignorant
3)      Morbid fascination with questioning truth
4)      Concerned with deconstructing language and fighting about things that don’t matter
5)      Corrupt minds
6)      Destitute of the truth
7)      Equates money and gain with godliness

What are the consequences of such a mind?
1)      Envy
2)      Strife
3)      Blasphemous slander
4)      Evil suspicions
5)      Meddlesome and perverse disputes

4) Strife about words. This is an interesting one. This is one Greek word which means fighting about trifling things. A “war of words” about things that don’t matter. How many church problems start here. Making mountains out of molehills. Making preferences priorities and fighting about it. This is also a tactic that is deceptive because it is disguised as spiritual, taking a stand! You could just here them talking about that Paul, who was so liberal, he won’t take a stand on some trifling thing that doesn’t matter. Churches will fight over the definition of a word that really doesn’t matter one way or the other, while false doctrine and heresy is being carried in the back door. 

5) The false teacher will have corrupt and depraved minds. They are twisted in their thinking. It takes a corrupt mind to lead people from the gospel and manipulate others in matters of their soul and eternity for personal gain. 

6) Destitute of the truth. The Greek word for destitute is to be despoiled, or robbed. So it has the idea that the truth was there, but it is gone. That they perhaps had a head knowledge of the truth, they left it behind, and now it has been taken from them (cf. I Timothy 1:19; Titus 1:14). When the Bible is not enough, and the plain truth of Scripture is not enough, the only thing that will satisfy is some new thing. They get bored with the plain meaning of Scripture and go seeking after some Gnostic deeper knowledge and the truth is taken from them. What they teach and what they proclaim is not deeper truth, but no truth at all.

7) The last one is both a characteristic and a consequence. They reckon gain is godliness; for themselves and in their teaching. This is the Word-Faith movement. God wants you to have your Best Life Now. God wants to bless you with financial prosperity and if you get in line, if you get with the program, if you start living right, then you'll turn your godliness into gain. Why is it that only the prosperity preachers end up profiting? They'll tell you that it's because they are living the life, follow their example and get rich. This is a good example of how stupid sin is. From cover to cover, God's people suffer. God's people are poor. God's people are weak. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Preaching and Preachers, Chapter 7: The Congregation

In chapter 7, Lloyd-Jones deals with the congregation in our preaching. Does the congregation dictate what we preach? Do we adapt the message to suitable for the people we are preaching to? Does a preacher who ministers to construction workers, need to be a construction worker to get a fair hearing?

 It's remarkable how he predicted what would happen, churches marketing toward certain sectors, trying to appeal to their hobbies and interests and designing churches and messages to suit their needs. Many of the modern Bible translations have that idea in mind; people can't understand "thee's and thou's" and if we could just a English translation that spoke their language, then they would believe. But look around the English speaking world, who has more translations of the Bible than any other people in history, and you'll see that theory proven wrong. It isn't that they don't understand the words, it is they don't understand the gospel. Our job is explain and teach and pray the Holy Spirit will give men life so they can understand. "These terms [justification, sanctification, glorification,] are peculiar and special to the Gospel. It is our business as preachers to show that our gospel is essentially different and that we are not talking about ordinary matters."

The case is made that Millennials, are some special generation that is so very unlike any generation before and if preachers are going to reach them, then they will have to adapt. This is nothing new. If a 20 something expects the church to change for him because he is too sophisticated to hear the gospel in the ordinary means, then the gospel is exactly what he needs to humble him. 2,000 years of preaching God's word, and we have now come to a generation of people that need a special way of communication, just for them, because they are superior to every other generation?

Of course, you can go to far the other direction, as Lloyd-Jones points out. We can be slaves to tradition. We can act, dress, and talk like we are living in the 1950's and if anyone steps out of that line, they are living in sin. It is the gospel, the message that is the dividing line. We can be stumbling blocks with our traditions, but we cannot budge on the essentials of gospel preaching and Biblical exposition of the truth.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Parable of the Dragnet by Lewis Kiger

Recently I had the privilege of traveling to the Holy Land and visiting many of the wonderful sights in Israel. In my opinion, the region known as upper and lower Galilee with its rocky hills and pristine valleys boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in all the land.

I was especially fond of the ancient city of Capernaum which lies on the coast of the Sea of Galilee. It was there that Jesus spent much of His public ministry. So much so, that even though Christ was raised in Nazareth, Matthew (in his gospel) calls Capernaum Jesus’s hometown. This intimate little village lies nestled between several rolling hillsides and directly on the banks of the sea. Like all coastal cities, it’s economy was highly dependent on the goods that could be harvested from the nearby waters.

It is from this area that Jesus called many of the 12 disciples, and as you are probably aware, several of them fishermen by trade. Fishing was more than a hobby to these men. It was a way of life. It was a craft, a trade. So, one can easily understand just how relatable the parable of the dragnet was to these men. We might say, that the Apostles may not have understood every parable that Jesus taught, but they clearly understood this one.

Many, many times these men had fished with a dragnet.

Today, we may call it a trawl net, or a seine. It is a long-netted webbing used to catch a multitude of fish at one time. The way they are used and designed really hasn’t changed that much over the years.

The top of the net had corks or floats affixed to it, while the bottom of the net had lead weights or small stones tied on, so the net would sink quickly to the bottom. One end of the net would be tied to either another boat or a secure place on the shoreline. While one boat rowed slowly into the sea, the men would carefully let down the net from the boat as they would make a large loop, enclosing the fish.

Once they had circled back around to where the first part of the net was tied, they would jump out of the boat and cautiously drag the net back onto the land. The net was indiscriminate. It caught everything in its path. From seaweed, to trash, to sticks, to every kind of sea creature. But if everything went according to plan, the net would also be full of all kinds of profitable fish. If it was a large catch, many men (perhaps even the whole village) would help draw the net in, and separate the fish. As they pulled their catch onto the beach, they would sort through it. Some would be kept to sell at market, others taken home to feed the family. Some would not meet the dietary requirements of the Jewish civil law, and would be turned back. And there were still other fish that were completely worthless. They were not edible, could not be sold, nor used for any good purpose. These were simply discarded or thrown away.

In Matthew 13:47-52 Christ uses this everyday way of life to describe His kingdom and what it will be like when the time of final judgment comes. Jesus makes reference to this prophetic day in verse 49 where He says: “so shall it be at the end of the world.”

This parable forces us to think about things we don’t like to consider. It directs our minds to a dreadful time that is yet to come. A time when the Lord will send his angels and gather together the souls of men and the wicked will be separated from the good. Those who are not saved, who have not been born-again, will be cast into hell itself.

John MacArthur summarizes this parable in these words: “The Dragnet of God’s judgment moves silently though the sea of mankind and draws all men to the shores of eternity for final separation to their ultimate destiny – believers to eternal life and unbelievers to eternal damnation.”

Dear reader, have you trusted in Christ? For this is the only way to escape the righteous judgment of a Holy God. Are you safe from that coming judgment, because your sins were paid for at Calvary? Have you personally trusted in the saving work of the risen Lord Jesus Christ?

None of us like to contemplate such hard truths, but yet they are truths none-the-less. May those of us who have been redeemed be diligent to warn sinners to flee from the wrath that is to come.

What an amazingly straightforward parable this is! Only the Master Teacher could teach such a sobering truth, with such simple language. May God use it to reach your heart.

Pastor Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Psalm 1: The Happy Song

The Psalms are a collection of God inspired songs; beautiful, poetic reflections of the whole range of human emotions coupled with deep, theological truths. Prayers to God, praises about God, expressions of grief, sorrow, doubt, joy, and happiness. It's like they were written for you, to say for us what we feel in words we could not express ourselves. They are like a mirror to help us see and understand what is really going on in our hearts. They are like medicine for the soul living in a sin cursed world, giving healing to our emotions, helping us to lament, to praise, or repent. David Murray wrote "We sing to Jesus in the Psalms, we sing of Jesus in the Psalms, and we sing with Jesus in the Psalms.

The Psalter begins with something everyone wants -- happiness. The Hebrew word translated "blessed" means happiness, and Psalm 1:1 begins "Blessed is the man..." In a book designed to worship the true and living God, the inspired songbook begins, "happy is the man." God's word and God's commands are not contrary to human happiness. In fact, true joy and happiness is only found with God. This Psalm makes the case that loving and worshiping God is not only man's chief purpose (Deuteronomy 6:4-5); but it is also man's chief joy.

The happy man is the one who doesn't follow the ways of an ungodly society. He doesn't stand with the sinner or sit with the scornful (Psalm 1:1).  The happy man doesn't find direction inwardly, or by following the crowd. He doesn't find delight in the same things the world does, but the happy man finds his pleasure in God's word. The meditation of God's word brings joy, as opposed to the ways of the sinner (Psalm 1:2). When you live by faith and your heart is full of God's word, the fruit that produces in your life is stability, joy, and godly living (Psalm 1:3).  

Why avoid the way of the sinner? Because, even though the house of the sinner may seem to bring happiness in the "seat of the scornful", the way of the sinner is death (Psalm 1:6). The path of the ungodly is not the established life, like the tree planted by the water, but is like the dead, light, temporary wheat chaff that blows away with the wind. Whereas a strongly planted tree won't be moved, the sinner is blown about by his own nature and the course of this world (Psalm 1:4). Where the happy man refuses to sit with the scorners and stand with sinners, the ungodly man will not stand in the day of righteousness judgment or sit in the congregation of the righteous. The happy man will walk alone with God; the ungodly man will walk with the majority now, and die alone without God. This psalm instructs us on how to live, encourages us in pursuing godliness, warns of the dangers of wickedness, and confirms the way to happiness is with God.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Steer Clear of False Teachers - Tuesday with Timothy #70

1Ti 6:3-5 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, [even] the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

I think that the “otherwise” isn’t just to the immediate context, but the whole epistle. But this moves beyond this letter on to the whole counsel of God; the words of Christ and doctrine according to godliness. The warning is for those who do not teach truth and will not consent to truth. False teacher who teach contrary to God’s word and will not submit to God’s word are condemned. These men teach contrary to the wholesome, healthy truth of God’s word and are against the words of Jesus Christ, even though they claim to be his ministers. The doctrine of God is according to godliness and teaching that doesn’t not teach, promote, and pursue godliness in the lives of the church is falsehood. You need to steer clear of any such man or ministry that teaches such false doctrine.

Paul pulls the cover off these false teachers and gets to the heart. Here are the characteristics of the false teachers.

1)      Proud
2)      Ignorant
3)      Morbid fascination with questioning truth
4)      Concerned with deconstructing language and fighting about things that don’t matter
5)      Corrupt minds
6)      Destitute of the truth
7)      Equates money and gain with godliness

What are the consequences of such a mind?
1)      Envy
2)      Strife
3)      Blasphemous slander
4)      Evil suspicions
5)      Meddlesome and perverse disputes

1) Pride will cause a man to never receive the truth. He won’t sit at the feet of Christ and learn. He won’t listen to the rebuke of Scripture because he is already right. He will protect himself and promote himself, caring little for the souls of others.

2) It’s interesting that pride and ignorance are linked together here, because they are often linked together in life. Sometimes, the less a man knows, the more proud he is about it. Ignorance of revealed truth is a shame for anyone, but ignorance in a teach is really inexcusable and extremely dangerous. Paul says they are know nothing’s of the truth and don’t put up with or listen to teachers who don’t know the truth.

3) Next, doting about questions, or a morbid fascination with questioning truth.  Here is Strong’s definition of the Greek word translated “doting”. νοσέω noséō, nos-eh'-o; from G3554; to be sick, i.e. (by implication, of a diseased appetite) to hanker after (figuratively, to harp upon):— Thayer's says it is to be sick; metaphorically of any ailment of the mind. To be taken with such an interest in a thing as amounts to a disease, to have a morbid fondness for. There is nothing wrong with asking questions, but what kind of questions are you asking? What is your motivation for asking questions? There are different types of questions. It’s a modern proverb to say there are no such things as stupid questions. I have worked much of my adult life in helpdesk settings, and I can attest that is utterly false. There are stupid questions. As a pastor, I also know that not all questions are good questions. Some are to gain information. Some are to find out where you stand on a particular issue, curious about your thoughts on a subject. There are wicked questions, there are question designed to entrap, there are questions designed to bring doubt and confusion. These men have a sick fascination with questioning truth that there are no answers to. This isn’t the sign of a profound or deep mind. Be wary of teachers who always have questions. It’s not humble, but as we have seen, it’s ignorance and pride, and deceptively wicked.

We'll come back and look at some more next time, Lord willing. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure by Lewis Kiger

Have you ever found money or some valuable that someone else had lost? I remember walking out of a large department store several years ago and finding a significant sum of cash laying in the parking lot. Of course, you’re wondering what did I do with it, right? I went back into the store and told them about my find without disclosing the amount, gave them my phone number and said; if anyone calls looking for this, have them contact me. I told the manager that if no one phoned me within a few days, I would keep it. I didn’t know what else to do.

Surprisingly, I never did hear from anyone about the money. We were out of town on vacation so I gave some of it to my family and watched them enjoy spending it.

I suppose every one of us have dreamed at some point about finding some lost treasure or discovering some vast fortune. Yet I assure you, discovering the kingdom of God is the greatest treasure that anyone could every find.

In Matthew 13:44 Christ uses yet another simple illustration to describe what it is like to become a member of His kingdom. There the Lord states, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.”

In this parable, a man finds a treasure he wasn’t even looking for.

Jim and the Treasure by NC Wyeth
Perhaps he was a hired-hand employed to plow another man’s field. As he was making his way row by row tilling the ground, the spade hit something hard underneath the surface. The worker doubtless assuming it is just another large stone, digs around it but is shocked to find a treasure chest. He excitedly opens it to reveal a great fortune within.

Carefully looking around, he then buries the chest back beneath the ground and leaves from the field to go out and do whatever he must to purchase this field. The laborer is not wealthy, so in order to buy the land with the hidden treasure in it, he must sell everything he has in order to get the needed cash. Obviously, the value of the treasure was worth more than everything else he owned. So with joy, he sold everything in order to buy the field.

Such a thing actually happening may sound far-fetched to us, but yet again, we must put the parable in the context in which it was given. The land of Israel is the most contested piece of real estate on the planet. It has been overrun and laid siege to, many times over. Countless families have had their homes ransacked and their life savings stolen over the centuries. 

So, it wasn’t uncommon for Jewish families to hide their valuables somewhere on their property. One has to remember, they didn’t have an FDIC insured First National Bank of Jerusalem with safe deposit boxes. Nor did the people own large metal safes to keep their valuables secure. It was normal to hide one’s valuables underneath the earth or in a secret location somewhere.

But what happens when someone forgets where they stored their valuables? Or they die in war, and no one knows where the family fortune is hidden? Or if the patriarch of the family dies unexpectedly without relating where their valuables were hidden. What then?

Such a thing occurred frequently enough that there were Jewish Rabbinical laws written to address it. One such law stated that: ““if a man finds scattered fruit or money, it belongs to the finder.” Christ is simply using yet another familiar practice to make a truth more relatable.

Now the behavior of the man in our parable may sound unethical to us, but instead he was acting well within his rights. “Finders keepers” if you will, was the law of the land in Israel.

Furthermore, this parable isn’t about greed or illegitimate gain. The point of the story is not to warn against covetousness (there are other parables that address those issues). Rather, the lesson Christ would have His hearers learn is that His kingdom is worth more than anything else you own. Once you have discovered it, you need to do whatever you must in order to obtain it.

The Bible is full of examples of men and women who were not out looking for Christ, but once they discovered this “Hidden Treasure” they were delighted to do whatever they must to make Him their own. Nothing you have in this life is worth holding on to if it keeps you from holding on to Jesus.

Dear reader, have you found this hidden treasure? There is nothing that can bring greater joy, than discovering the cherished prize of eternal life in the Lord Jesus Christ!

Lewis Kiger
Memorial Heights Baptist Church

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Little Sins

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God"(Romans 3:23). There are a couple ways you could receive this verse. The wrong way would be to think that because everyone sins it's not really such a big deal.  “We’re all human. We all make mistakes.” While that’s true, that isn’t what Paul was getting at. He is dealing in terms of guilty or not guilty in the court of God’s justice. Having the nicest room on the Titanic isn't much of a comfort when the whole boat is sinking. Being one of many sinners isn't consolation when we are guilty of crimes against God, and with God there are no little sins.

I'm tempted to define a little sin as an offense I commit against someone else and a big sin as a transgression that someone commits against me. It’s like minor surgery. Minor surgery is any operation that you are having and major surgery is any operation I’m having. It’s never “minor” if you are laying on the hospital table looking up at the surgical lights. If I tell a "little lie" I could say that no one got hurt, so it’s not that bad. On the other hand, when someone looks me in the eye and lies to me, that hurts and offends me and it is suddenly a different story. Or, consider if my enemy slanders me, it hurts and I don't like it, but I don't expect anything less from him. I know several people, like the man said, "whose favorite reading would be my name on a tombstone." However, if my friend, or a church member, or a spouse slanders me, that hurts. It is the same sin, but the weight of the sin is heavier to bear when a trusted friend hurts you. Who you sin against matters.

Now, let's try to put all this together. When you sin, you are breaking God's law. To look at our sins lightly, or to suggest they are not a big deal, is to blaspheme the Lord and His law. We are sinning against and breaking the law of a good, holy, merciful God. And by belittling our crimes against God  and saying they are not a big deal, we are suggesting that the person we are sinning against (God) is somehow small and unworthy of our concern. You have sinned against the Almighty, Eternal God. The Lord of Glory who gives you life and your every breath. Don’t measure the sin by your own standard, but by who it is you are sinning against. Ordinary sins stain souls as just as black as the sins that make us gag. There are no little sins when you have a big God. In the book The Valley of Vision, one man prayed, "Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed, as in the greatness of the Person sinned against." 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Vanity (I)

The fleet astronomer can bore 
And thread the spheres with his quick-piercing mind: 
He views their stations, walks from door to door, 
         Surveys, as if he had designed 
To make a purchase there; he sees their dances, 
                   And knoweth long before 
Both their full-eyes aspècts, and secret glances. 

         The nimble diver with his side 
Cuts through the working waves, that he may fetch 
His dearly-earnèd pearl, which God did hide 
         On purpose from the venturous wretch; 
That he might save his life, and also hers 
                   Who with excessive pride 
Her own destruction and his danger wears. 

         The subtle chymic can divest 
And strip the creature naked, till he find 
The callow principles within their nest: 
         There he imparts to them his mind, 
Admitted to their bed-chamber, before 
                   They appear trim and dressed 
To ordinary suitors at the door. 

         What hath not man sought out and found, 
But his dear God? who yet his glorious law 
Embosoms in us, mellowing the ground 
         With showers and frosts, with love and awe, 
So that we need not say, “Where’s this command?” 
                   Poor man, thou searchest round 
To find out death, but missest life at hand.