with Pastor Smith

With Pastor Smith.

Friday, June 12, 2015

John 3:1-36

In John 3 a man named Nicodemus a great teacher of the Jews (3:10) encounters God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, Jesus Christ. It is hard to imagine what it would have been like for Nicodemus, a man who had worked hard to study, learn, and obey the Holy Scriptures from his childhood to be told he needed to be "born again." Christ's point was clear, it was not more studying that Nicodemus needed, but the new birth resulting in the eyes of his heart to be opened to the things of God. Sinful man is blind to the things of God, unable to comprehend the glory of Christ (Eph. 4:18). In fact Christ is foolishness to sinful man (1 Cor. 1:18.) For this reason sinners apart from the grace of God remain hostile to the Gospel. Man is corrupt, man is lost, and for this reason God will not great them to enter His Kingdom unless they are born again.

One can only imagine how shocking this news must have been to Nicodemus considering how much the Jews prided themselves being physical descendants of Abraham. According to Jesus Nicodemus needed a Divine work in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Physical reproduction serves as a powerful illustration of spiritual reproduction. First like physical reproduction spiritual reproduction requires two parents (the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit.) Just as a child can not chose to be born, so a spiritual child can not chose to be born, but must be born through the actions of his or her parents. Lastly just like physical birth spiritual birth is the creation of a new creature. When a person is born again they are a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17.) Unlike physical life spiritual life is eternal. What I find most comforting about spiritual life is that unlike physical birth  (a possession that can be taken away,) spiritual birth is a permanent possession that no man can take away from the child of God.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

No Rest For The Wicked: A Meditation on Psalm 73.

Psalm 73 is the first Psalm of the third book of Psalms. The theme of Psalm 73, and Psalm 1 are the same. The way of the righteous, and the way of the wicked. Psalm 73 meditates on the question; How can the wicked prosper?

The author of this Psalm Asaph knows that Psalm 1 is true, and God will bless "the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly" Psalm 1:1. He recounts this fact:

"Truly God is good to Israel, To such as are pure in heart."

Asaph describes how he get's distracted, and almost "slips" off the path of Psalm 1:

"But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked." 

Here is what almost made him slip: He was "envious" of the foolish. By foolish Asaph does not mean unintelligent, but men who reject God's way in favor of their own. What could cause a godly man like Asaph to stumble? He saw their prosperity, and asked: How come they do so well?

"For there are no pangs in their death, But their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, Nor are they plagued like other men." 

They appear to face both life, and death so well. Due to this wealth pride surrounds them, and they seem to be able to do whatever they want:

"Therefore pride serves as their necklace; Violence covers them like a garment."

The comfortable positions lead them to feel the world exists to serve them:

"Their eyes bulge with abundance; They have more than heart could wish. They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; They speak loftily."

Just like the scoffer from Psalm 1, the ungodly look on God's ways with scorn. This arrogance leads to questing of God's goodness by both the righteous and the wicked.

"They set their mouth against the heavens, And their tongue walks through the earth. Therefore his people return here, And waters of a full cup are drained by them. And they say, "How does God know? And is there knowledge in the Most High?"

This questioning grows:

"Behold, these are the ungodly, Who are always at ease; They increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, And washed my hands in innocence."

The question is: Does walking the path of righteousness pay off? Is it a waste of time? Furthermore sin bothers the upright, but seems not to bother the unrighteous. Why does sin not bother them?

"For all day long I have been plagued, And chastened every morning."

Looking for an answer Asaph expresses the feeling of being trapped. He sees the unrighteous, but if he talks about it he will offend others.

"If I had said, "I will speak thus," Behold, I would have been untrue to the generation of Your children."

 And when He thinks about it, he can not handle it:

"When I thought how to understand this, It was too painful for me--"

What was he to do?


First: Realize envy is a sin.

Second: Take your problems to God:

"Until I went into the sanctuary of God"

Application: You are not going to solve your problems by brooding on them. You are not going to settle your issues until you turn them over to God.

Then I understood their end.

Death is the ultimate equalizer. The fool who will not see God, does not realize how short life is, and how permanate eternity is.

"Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors."

The truth is when you trust in anything but God it can leave you in an instant. The fear of the ungodly is that what they trust in (wealth, power, fame) can leave them in a second. Their world is a fantasy, and it may seem real, but it does not last:

 "As a dream when one awakes, So, Lord, when You awake, You shall despise their image."

Death is a waking up to the real truth. When we see the truth as it really is, we repent of our love for the fantasy that is this temporary world.

"Thus my heart was grieved, And I was vexed in my mind. I was so foolish and ignorant; I was like a beast before You."

Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, That I may declare all Your works.

Asaph knows the sin of envy was against God, and God alone. Asaph needed to cling to the God who loved Him.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Biblical Response to Brittany Maynard’s Decision to Die

'Please stand over me and kill me, for anguish has come upon me, but my life still remains in me.' So I stood over him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. 2 Samuel 1:9, 10

I would like to talk about Brittany Maynard this week. This week Brittany Maynard is on the cover of "People" magazine announcing to the world her "Decision to Die."

First,  the Bible says there is a difference between understanding sin, and calling sin righteous.

People do not despise a thief If he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; He may have to give up all the substance of his house. Proverbs 6:30, 31.

In Proverbs 6 we can understand why the thief stole the bread, and we can empathize with his hunger, but the act of stealing is still wrong, and the thief must still face consequences for his actions. What Brittany Maynard has decided to do is wrong, but I think we all can still understand in some way why she has made her decision.

According to People Magazine Maynard plans on launching an online video campaign with an end of life advocacy group called Compassion & Choices. The campaign is designed to promote Death with Dignity laws.

Suicide happens. No one has ever been able to prevent someone who is terminally ill from committing suicide. The case of Brittany Maynard is not about the morality of suicide, it is about the morality of society assisting in suicide. It is about convincing society that man has the moral responsibility to help suffering people end their lives. I have seen a lot of Christians responding to Maynard's decision by discussing suffering, and the individuals so called right to chose how to die. But what I have not seen very many Christians doing is discussing the real issue. Do people have the right to kill another person? No one is directly talking about killing Maynard, but let's be honest her doctor is giving her the medication, her husband and family are standing by her decision, and the whole world is aware of her intent. Her online video campaign is a emotional plea for the expansion of state assisted suicide laws.

Let's cut to the chase. We have allowed man to replace God in our society. Anything man can do is potentially moral. If we can remove someones suffering by our choice, then it must be right.

In 2 Samuel 31 Saul was in deep trouble. After seeing the death of his three sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua at the hands of his enemies Saul was coming undone. Severely wounded by the Philistine archers Saul lay dying.

Then Saul said to his armorbearer, "Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me." 2 Samuel 31:4

Saul did not want to be tortured by the Philistines. A reasonable desire. Saul also wanted death with dignity. Another reasonable desire.

But his armorbearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. So Saul, his three sons, his armorbearer, and all his men died together that same day. 2 Samuel 31:4-6.

Sauls choice to take his own life did not make the world around him a better place. It did the exact opposite. After seeing the man who's life it was his soul job to protect dead Sauls armorbearer decided to kill himself. Saul's death effected those around him, and the effects Saul's decision to die were not just isolated to Saul. Saul's death even effected David, and the men that were with David (2 Samuel 1: 11,12.)

In the camp of David a young man appeared with a unique story:

'Then the young man who told him said, "As I happened by chance to be on Mount Gilboa, there was Saul, leaning on his spear; and indeed the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him.  Now when he looked behind him, he saw me and called to me. And I answered, 'Here I am.'  And he said to me, 'Who are you?' So I answered him, 'I am an Amalekite.' He said to me again, Please stand over me and kill me, for anguish has come upon me, but my life still remains in me.' So I stood over him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. 2 Samuel 1:9, 10

The first strike against this man was that he was an Amalekite, and David was just returning from the slaughter of the Amalikites (1 Samuel 15.) The second strike was that he was on Mount Gilboa, while a battle was being fought. Unless he had the worst GPS in history this young man was most likely stealing from the corpses. The third strike against this young man was the fact that he had just admitted to killing the Lords anointed. Knowing that this was a crime in Israel the young man reminds David that he is an Amalekite (verse 13.), and not subject to Hebrew laws. David dispenses justice:

Then David called one of the young men and said, "Go near, and execute him!" And he struck him so that he died. 16 So David said to him, "Your blood is on your own head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, 'I have killed the Lord's anointed.' " 2 Samuel 1:15, 16.

David held the Amalekite accountable for the death of Saul. David held him accountable in spite of the fact that he was an Amalekite, and not subject to Hebrew laws. David knew that God was the giver of life and death Genesis 1-3, and therefore the Amalekite had transgressed a much older law, al law that all men Amalekite, and Hebrew were under. David knew there is an objective right an wrong  when it came to life and death, and that right and wrong transcends cultures nations and borders. David knew people still have to answer for crimes no matter what their motives are.

Why Are We So Hard To Please? Part 3

And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. Luke 7:29, 30

Jesus turns His attention from His disciples to the religious leaders of His day.

And the Lord said, "To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: 'We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not weep.' Luke 7:31, 32.

Here Jesus refers to the games played by children in the wide open areas of the marketplace on the days when the market was empty. Much like today children's games imitated the real life events they saw adults participating in. The two games Jesus is referring to are the game of "wedding" and "funeral." In Jesus day these two events would truly have been two of the most fascinating events for children to observe. Funerals were accompanied by paid wailers, and musicians. Weddings as well employed musicians, and were also accompanied by many distinct ceremonies that would have made good sport for children to imitate.

The picture of the religious leaders of His day that Jesus offers is one of a group of children gathered in an empty marketplace calling out to one another. A game of wedding is purposed, and turned down by the group. Next a game of funeral is purposed, and just like the game of wedding it too is turned down. The question Jesus is bringing to light is "why?" Why don't the children want to play the games purposed? Is the answer is not because the games are not fun, or interesting. The games must have been fun and interesting to children because they were popular games, and children played them very often. So was it because the children were bored, over entertained, or tired of games? No.

The children do not want to play funeral because no one wants to be the dead body (the worst role to play.) Could you imagine being a little child and having to lay perfectly still while your friends danced around you, weeping and whaling; composing outrageous choruses of unrestrained mockery. All this would go on while you could not move a muscle. It would be pure torture for a child.

Likewise the children did not want to play wedding because they could not agree on who would play the role of bridegroom (the role to play that is the most fun.) One can only picture what fun it would have been to play the role of the bride groom in the wedding game. As the groom it would be your job to lead the wedding procession, and to start the riotous tumult of celebration by crying out with a loud shout.

For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by all her children." Luke 7: 33, 34.

Jesus uses the example of the wedding game, because of it's similarities to His ministry. Like the children in Jesus story the religious leaders of Jesus day did not want to play the wedding game because they all wanted the control and honor of being the bride groom for themselves. There could only be one bride groom in the wedding game, and like obstinate children the Pharisees and lawyers would rather not play the wedding game, then play the wedding game and allow Jesus to have the honored position of bride groom. To allow Jesus to do so would mean they would have to admit their own unworthiness, and Jesus worthiness. This admission would take them out of the privileged position in society that they valued so much. Sinful men reject Christ, because they truly desire to rule over their own lives, and do not want Christ to rule over them.

Jesus uses the example of the funeral game because of it's similarities to John the Baptists ministry. Like the headstrong children who did not want to play the funeral game the self-willed religious leaders of Jesus day refused to take part in John the Baptists ministry. They turned down the ministry of John the Baptist because none of them wanted to be the dead body. Johns ministry was one of "preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" Luke 3:3. In order to take part in Johns ministry the Pharisees and lawyers would have to admit they were sinners, dead and unclean. They did not want to do this. To admit their own need for a "baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" would mean they would have to admit their own unworthiness. This admission much like the former one would take the Pharisees and lawyers out of the privileged position in society that they valued so much. They valued power, and the riches of this world over a right relationship with the true and living God.

Reason 3: There is no pleasing some people, because the problem is not in what they see, but what is inside them. 

Like ill-natured children the Pharisees and lawyers were unable to be pleased. There is no pleasing some people, because the problem is not out side them, but inside them. This self centered attitude that we have as children can often follow us into adulthood. When it does an individual often finds problems with everything around themselves, unable to see that the problem is inside them. 

Application: If you have a constant dissatisfied attitude with things around you, then you might have a real inward problem.

The problem is sin, and the answer is trusting in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Are We So Hard To Please? Part 2

When the messengers of John had departed, He began to speak to the multitudes concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? Luke 7:24, 25.

Once John the Baptists disciples had gone, Christ's disciples started to object to John's questioning of their Master. Jesus seeing this turns his powerful gaze towards His own disciples.

"What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? Luke 7:24.

Jesus reminds His followers that John the Baptist is a man:

 "Great in the sight of the Lord." Luke 1:15.

Reason 2: We don't appreciate what we have. 

Jesus goes on describing John:

"But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings' courts. Luke 7:25

Undoubtedly men in soft garments were to be found in kings courts, and not in their prisons. John's strength and commitment are not lost on his Master, but rather they are held dear to His heart.

But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.' Luke 7:26, 27.

John was not just a prophet, he was a prophet who himself had been prophesied about (Malachi 3:1.) More then this according to Jesus:

For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist Luke 7:28.

The reason Jesus disciples met John the Baptists question with such scorn was because they themselves did not yet know how to appreciate what they had. Appreciating something is understanding what something is, and seeing it as God has given it. That means placing the same value on something that God places on it, for the same reasons God places value on it.

Jesus knows the key to appreciating John the Baptist is to see the value God puts on him. Jesus also knew that His disciples and many other people had formerly appreciated John's ministry because He spoke fearlessly, and honestly:

"What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? Luke 7:24.

Sometimes learning to appreciate those around us requires us to recall the things that attracted us to them in the first place. So often it is those very things that draw us towards someone that end up driving us away from them. But we need to value people because God values them, not because we value them.

Application: God appreciating something is where our appreciation for that thing should come from. 

Why do you love your church? Is it because of what it has to offer you, or is it because God loved it first? God does not value what you get out of a church. When you stand before God in judgement He is not going to say: "What did you think about that church you attended? Could you give me your opinion, because I would really like to know?" Rather God is going to say: "This is the point where I put a value on what you did in My church." 1 Corinthians 3:12. If you do not learn to appreciate things because God appreciates them, then you are in danger of having nothing of value to offer God on the day of judgement. Find out what someone likes, and get it for them this is the secret to every good relationship.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Are We So Hard To Please? Part 1

"And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?'" Luke 7:19.

John the Baptist was in Jail. As He sat in jail he began to think; "Here I am in jail, and Jesus is in Galilee attending parties" (Luke 5:29). Adding to John's apprehension about Jesus was his personality. John was a powerful man filled with the Holy Spirit from birth, who had separated himself to the Lord his entire life (Luke 1:15.) Furthermore John's ministry was one of fire and judgement likened to the ministry of the prophet Isaiah:

The word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.' "[...] And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."[...] Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire. Luke 3:2-6.

As John sat in prison he looked upon Jesus through the eyes of Isaiah 61:1,2

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God."

John was a prisoner, and if Jesus was the Messiah, then He was supposed to free prisoners, right? Due to this apparent inconsistency John was not satisfied with Jesus' ministry, and so he called two of his disciples to him, and sent a message to Jesus: "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"

Why are we so hard to please?

Reason 1: Things don't always work out the way we expect them to.

John expected Jesus to look and act a certain way, and when Jesus did not meet that expectation John felt unsatisfied. It would be false to say that Johns expectations were unbiblical. Johns expectations were very biblical, but as Jesus points out to John they were also very narrow.

Here is How Jesus answered John:

"And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, 'Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.'" Luke 7:21-23.

Jesus sent word back to John, Isaiah 35:4-6 was being fulfilled:

Say to those who are fearful-hearted, "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you." Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing."

When things do not work out according to our expectations, even if we think our expectations are biblical we have to ask ourselves:

1. Are our expectations Biblical?
2. Are our expectations too narrow?
3. Are we looking at the whole picture?
4. Is there more going on that we are unaware of?

Application: Our expectations have to be biblical, and emphasize the whole counsel of God. 

Today everyone wants something different from a church; teaching that connects to their lives, a children's ministry that meets their child's needs, a fellowship that meets their spouses needs, Sunday morning worship that fits their cultural peculiarities. The problem with these felt needs is that they are so often not Gods needs. Jesus was not the messiah the jews wanted, but He was the messiah God sent. Looking past Gods sovereignty the jews rejected the messiah, because He was not what they expected. Today Christians look past the local church if they feel she does not meet their needs. Just like the jews of Jesus day they stick their nose up at the cup of blessing, because they fail to have biblical expectations that emphasize the whole revelation of the Scriptures.