Vanity…

avanity

Most of us believe that whatever we are doing is important. I know when I wake up in the morning it’s really easy to begin focusing on the tasks at hand and all the things I’d like to accomplish in the upcoming day. Each day we have a brand new opportunity to be productive. Most of us will go to our jobs and provide for our families. This is a good thing. This is biblical and it’s God honoring. Isn’t it?

Well I guess it depends on your perspective.

Unless the LORD builds the house,

They labor in vain who build it;

Unless the LORD guards the city,

The watchman stays awake in

   vain.

It is vain for you to rise up early,

To sit up late,

To eat the bread of sorrows;

For so He gives His beloved

   sleep. – Psalm 127:1-2

There is something very interesting about the Word of God. It’s mostly, easy to understand. There is nothing difficult about what this says.   We don’t need an in depth study of each word to understand the message. There are two groups of people that will read this and take away very different understandings.

There is a warning contained in this passage for the unbelieving. This warning is clear. Outside of faith in Jesus Christ everything in your life is vanity. The word vanity in short means “useless”. Your existence is useless. It means that it is literally and figuratively ruined (morally). The unbeliever has a morally bankrupt life, and yet they have no concept of this. They believe their existence matters.

If I was to interview Oprah Winfrey, she would believe that her work is really making a difference. She would believe that her building of schools, her building of wells to provide water and educating young girls, is having a positive effect on the world around her. She believes, without a doubt, that she is building a city and it has meaning. I can feel the pushback already, because when I hear her words, and I know what she believes, then I lay her words on top of God’s Word, these two don’t go together.

Her building is vanity. It’s useless, because it is not built on Christ. It is not built by the LORD. It is vain for her to rise early and to stay up late. When we really get past the emotion of this, we can see that all of this is vanity.

Then we have a call to the Christian. For the Christian these things do matter. This is not permission to be lazy in our efforts.   Christian’s should be the best workers they can be, and should always give full effort to what they do, in no way is this a call not to be diligent in our work.   However, we should not call upon our own desires and our own wisdom in taking on these endeavors. All good things come from God, but we must act. There will be effort on our part, and that effort will be toil and difficult. God Himself has said that would be His curse upon the sons of Adam.

What are we to do with all of this, because it’s really difficult for most of us to think about how much vanity is all around us? I know that I’m challenged in my life when I think about it. I must really consider how many people I pass in a day that their lives are ultimately useless. I say that not to be hard but to awaken my conscience to their dire condition. I must preach to them because it’s their only hope.

If you are a believer, consider those around you and the message we must give that will be unpopular. As I said at the beginning, most of us believe we matter. Every person on this earth is created in the image of God and are therefore valuable and we have no idea how God will use them. We know that many will perish in their sin, but as far as we are concerned we have a job to do. We must tell them that God is holy, and there is coming a day of judgment. Will you build your house in vain, or will you build your house for the glory of God?

 

Kevin

Let us reason together…

original

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” – Isaiah 1:18

I’ve been challenged recently with how I reason with people. I’ve often been harsh and judgmental in my reasoning as I wrote about recently and this often hurts my testimony. It puts up walls and causes people not to hear the message. Yet, sometimes God uses this to grow me and mature me for His purposes. It doesn’t mean I stop learning, but it means that I plan my way and the LORD directs my path. Ultimately He is in control.

What does it mean to reason together?

yaw-kakh’

A primitive root; to be right (that is, correct); reciprocally to argue; causatively to decide, justify or convict: – appoint, argue, chasten, convince, correct (-ion), daysman, dispute, judge, maintain, plead, reason (together), rebuke, reprove (-r), surely, in any wise.

A Christian should be consistently refining and improving in this area of their daily life. Our job is to convict, reprove and to argue, but doesn’t this sound harsh and judgmental? Do we really go around disputing with people all day long?

The idea of reasoning is to present a case, to cognitively persuade someone of the truth; as in court, where the attorneys argue their cases. When I use the term argue I don’t mean what most people think of in terms of an argument, but a back and forth presentation of ideas.   Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:25 that in humility believers are to correct those in opposition.

What are they in opposition to? They are in opposition to the truth correct? Most people and even those that name the name of Christ object to the truth of Scripture. There is a tremendous amount of emotion when most people argue; I’ve certainly been guilty of this more than I care to recall. When we can learn to reason well, our witness is much more powerful and effective.

Reasoning and argument is a gift God has given us. He has given us the ability to “think”. If we can think properly and biblically we stand on firm ground and this should be the basis for our argument.

2 Timothy 2:14 Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.

Ouch… Do we see what Paul is telling Timothy on how he should pastor a church? He tells him to teach his people how to argue; how to present the truth and be focused on the Lord.

And how do we do this Paul?

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

The directive is crystal clear if we are willing to accept it. And of course if we claim fellowship with Christ we must accept it or we are not truly His. We are to present ourselves approved to God, by rightly understanding Scripture and properly using Scripture in our arguments to convince people if they are in error.

We are to reason with them, gently, not striving and quarreling about useless words, but using God’s word to show them if they are in error.

This is not popular in today’s culture. It’s never been popular, but as we look to Christ as our example we can see that He always challenged people in their sin. His example is perfect and it was always done in love, but we must remember that He was hated for it. In fact so hated they crucified Him. Have you been hated enough for your reasoning they wanted to crucify you? If we argue and reason perfectly as Jesus did, then they will. It’s guaranteed.

2 Timothy 3:10-12 But you have carefully followed by doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions…what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

My sin too often gets in the way of my reasoning for it to be effective, but sometimes I argue well, and by God’s grace I’m growing in this area of my life. As I learn to properly divide Scripture I trust God will use that to grant some repentance. That they just might come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil. Whether they realize it or not they’ve been taken captive by him to do his will.

If you are a Believer and you spend time having discussions with people you must realize they reside in one of two camps. They believe or they don’t believe, and if you care about their eternal soul you will challenge their beliefs with the truth of God’s word.

Let’s learn to reason well; so that we can properly present the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ that some might be saved.

 

Kevin

Another kind of Christ – Part 3 – “THE” Tabernacle

tabernacle

In 2 Samuel we see that David has finally found rest from all his enemies (2 Samuel 7:1), and he has a desire to build a permanent place for the ark of the covenant to reside.  It seems like the logical next step.  David desires to honor God but the LORD is not ready for this.

2 Samuel 7:5-7 “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Would you build a house for Me to dwell in?  For I have not dwelt in a house since the time that I brought the children of Israel up from Egypt, even to this day, but have moved about in a tent and in a tabernacle.  Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’ “ ‘

In other words “David, I’ve not told you to do this, why would you do this?”  This was not a stern rebuke from the LORD, but appears to be a simple statement of fact.

John Gill in his commentary writes – they never were bid to do it, or expostulated with why they did not, or ever reproved for not doing it; therefore why should David think of doing it?  John Gill Commentaries

What an interesting thought.  How often do we presuppose that we should do something for the LORD He has not called us to do?  What is our service to God to consist of?  It should include nothing more than obedience to His Word.  Paul says this is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1).

2 Samuel 7:11b Also the LORD tells you that He will make you a house.

The LORD reveals His plan to David.  Can we begin to even grasp the reality of this statement?  From before time began God had a plan to redeem mankind through Christ and David is a recipient of that information and not only that, but it is through his seed that this tabernacle will be built. 

2 Samuel 7:12-13 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 

John Gill again offers great clarity: that is, for a long time. Solomon’s reign was forty years, and the kingdom of Judah continued in his posterity until the Babylonish captivity, and a prince that descended from him was the ruler of the people when they returned: this has its fulfilment more eminently in Christ, who was of his seed, to whom God has given “the throne of his father David”, and who “shall reign over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:32). John Gill Commentaries

We know the temple was built by Solomon; did this end the story?  Was this the only tabernacle being spoken of here?  Was it established forever?   We know Solomon’s temple was destroyed so how is this temple to really be established forever?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: He (Solomon) built a temple and his action was approved by God.  But this temple was not enough to fulfill the promise.  It was built by the hands of men, and so was doomed for destruction.  The prophecy still awaited fulfillment.  Still the People of God look for a temple built by the Son of David whose kingdom shall endure forever.  The temple at Jerusalem was destroyed more than once, a sign that it was not the temple of God’s promise.  Where then was the true temple?  Christ Himself answers that question by applying the prophecy to His Body.  “The Jews therefore said, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days?  But He spake of the temple of His body.  When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He spake this: and they believed the word which Jesus had said” (John 2:20).The Cost of Discipleship

Christ is the true tabernacle, the dwelling place in which sinners must enter to receive redemption and forgiveness.  The whole history and prophecies of the Old Testament point to the glory of this truth.  This is a remarkable narrative of Christ and the whole purpose of His coming to earth, “To seek and save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10).

Hebrews 8:1-2 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man.

But why?

Hebrews 8:12-13 “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  In that He say, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete.  Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Hebrews 9:24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another.

These are remarkable statements of truth from the writer of Hebrews; the truth of the gospel in full view with incredible clarity.  Can we see the completeness of Scripture and how it all points to Christ?

Is there a reason for this all?  I ask this question today for those in unbelief? 

Hebrews 9:27-28 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of man.  To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

If you don’t understand the depths that Christ has gone to rescue sinful man you can never appreciate what it means to be saved.  If this is foolishness you are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18) and my attempt is to appeal to your heart that it has sinned and has fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  If you are a Believer you should be in awe of God and have a better understanding of how the Bible shows itself to be the source of truth. 

Worship Him today, for He is worthy.

Kevin

I met Pastor Craig…

I met Pastor Craig Houston on September 29th, 2012.  Well… I sort of met him, I had sent the general mailbox at his church an email looking for some information on churches in the Seattle area and he wrote me back.  I was impressed by the tone of the email.  You can tell when someone has genuine intentions by how they write.  I didn’t seem to be an annoyance and I’m a chatty sort of fella when it comes to email.  I always seem to want to get the last word, even if it’s a “thank you”.

In the past month I’ve continued to communicate with Pastor Craig and we’ve had a dialogue going about churches on the east side that I could recommend to my friends.  I have greatly appreciated his willingness to help.  I can tell that if we actually sat down together we’d have great conversation because we share a passion for Christ and the gospel.  We are like minded in our pursuits.

I had been invited to attend a conference at the end of October and decided my work schedule was too busy to go, but I noticed Pastor Craig was on the speakers list.  This week I wanted to send him a note of encouragement.

Philippians 1:3-4 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.

A group from Grace Fellowship Church was going to be attending and I had hoped I could meet him again through my Brothers and Sisters.  It looked to be a great time with a talented list of speakers.  In his typical fashion Pastor Craig wrote me back and thanked me for my encouragement and shared with me that he would be unable to attend.  It seems God had purposed something else and his daughter Anna had been diagnosed with Leukemia.  Anna is 16 years old.  In all, the Houston’s have 11 beautiful children.

I asked Pastor Craig how I could pray for him, and here was his response.

Our God is faithful and makes no mistakes. Pray that I will be able to lead my wife and children with steadfastness, compassion and strength during the season ahead – Grace and Peace

Brothers and Sisters we serve an Awesome God and He promises to work everything to the good for those that love Him.  We can trust that promise, but He never promised an easy road and He never promised perfect health to those that love Him.

Today I want to ask you a very challenging question.

Can you say, with confidence, God makes no mistakes?

I can when it’s Pastor Craig’s daughter.  It’s easy for me to Praise God’s name when it’s someone else.  I have to dig deep when I think about it being Grace, Madeline or Lydia.  What if God asks you to give Him back your child?  Do you only serve Him when your life is going well and your kids are healthy or can you begin to comprehend a trial like this?

In the easy times and the hard times, Believer, you must cling to Him because there really is nothing else that matters.  I look forward to hearing the testimonies that will come from Anna’s life and there will be many.  I know that the good news will be preached and lives will be changed, and that is a life that glorifies the One that is worthy.

2 Timothy 1:7-10 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Here is a link to Pastor Craig’s blog and you can read the story of Anna.

http://www.soundpulpit.com/my-sweet-anna-has-cancer

Here is Emily Houston’s blog which provides some great information about what is going on.

http://www.emiliesposts.blogspot.com/

Please join me in praying for the Houston family and that Pastor Craig can continue to lead his family in steadfastness, compassion and strength.  I for one have already benefitted greatly from this and I trust you will as well.

In Christ,

Kevin

How do you know if you are saved?

This is a meaningful question for professing believers to be able to answer for themselves.  Can we really know if we are saved?

I recently had a great conversation with a friend that claimed you can never know if you are the elect of God until you stand before God in judgment.  I disagree with him and did my best to present a biblical case for him to examine.

Since my salvation I’ve never doubted this and I wondered why he was struggling with this and I did not.  I spent time going through some scripture, that I believe, points to an obvious conclusion.

“You begin at the wrong end if you first dispute about your election. Prove your conversion, and then never doubt your election”.  Joseph Alleine

1 Thessalonians 1:2-4 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father, knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God.

Paul certainly seems confident in his statement and I believe we can also be confident in our assurance.  I’ve come up with some items that I believe are crucial to understanding salvation and if we understand true salvation we can have full assurance of our election.

Testimony – do you have a testimony?  Can you articulate who you were before God saved you and who you are now?  Do you remember clearly when that happened and under what circumstances.  Is your life radically different and if it’s not why not? 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.

Scripture – Did God’s word have anything to do with your salvation story?  God’s word reveals our sin and the need for a savior.  It is the means by which most are saved.  Do you have a life verse that is meaningful in your testimony? Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Broken – Were you broken over your sin?  Not sorrowful over getting caught or upset over the consequences of your sin but on your face broken that your sin has offended the one true God; knowing that your sin had you headed to hell and eternal separation from God.  2 Corinthians 7:9-10 Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance.  For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing.  For godly sorrow produces repentance, leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Hunger & Thirst – Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? (Matthew 5:6)  If God has redeemed your soul do you now seek after Him more than anything else? (Matthew 6:33)  Does He occupy much of your thought life? (Psalm 1:2) Do you desire to read His word and learn more about Him? Psalm 119:11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.

Obedience – Does the sin you once enjoyed now repulse you?  Do you only desire to please God and do His will?  (Psalm 119:2) John 14:15 “If you love Me, keep my commandments.”

Denial – Do you deny yourself? (Luke 9:23)  Do you deny yourself from the movies that cause you to think violently or lustfully?  Do you linger too long on a web image that scrolls across that news screen or the girl serving you coffee at Starbuck’s?  Do you continue in your same old patterns or do you actually hate your old life?  John 12:25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Fellowship – Do you love the fellowship of other believers; do you spend time with them and minister to them?  (Hebrews 6:10)  Are you committed to a local assembly and are you a member of that assembly?  Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Authority – Are you under church authority and the guidance of a pastor and elders?  Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who ruler over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.  Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Preach the word –Do you preach the word and share the gospel of salvation with other people; if not why not?  I would argue your either ignorant of God’s word, a self preservationist or not saved.  See my article called Ashamed of the Gospel from August 31.  It comes down to that ugly self denial again.  Luke 9:23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.

I’ve only scratched the surface of scripture that I believe supports my statement and I’ve not included all I could say about a true believer.  We know the warnings in scripture are clear.  We know many think they are right with God and they are not.  The Lord himself teaches us this horrible truth in Matthew 7:21-23.

So how do you know for sure?  If you don’t know for sure I ask you today to examine yourself and see if you are in the faith?  Seek counsel from a faithful bible believing pastor or elder.  Don’t be put off by challenges to your faith but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Only then will you prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)  I certainly hope my friend will stay in the struggle.

Lastly here are some verses that give assurance of salvation.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 1:13-16, 1 John 2:3, 1 John 4:13

I also strongly recommend “A Sure Guide to Heaven” by Joseph Alleine.  It’s a free download and worth your time.  http://www.redemptivehistory.org/sureguide.pdf

Kevin