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Category Archives: Scripture

Kicking Away the Crutches

When I broke my leg three years ago, I became quite familiar with crutches and canes. After the initial surgery, I progressed from a wheeled chair in the hospital to a wheelchair and walker in the rehab center to a walker, crutches, one crutch, cane, and finally nothing under the care of my physical therapist. At each stage, I had to learn new skills and gain confidence before moving to the next stage.

Unless I was willing to let go of the walker, I could not start using crutches. If I hung onto the crutches, I could not progress to a cane. If I did not put the cane away, I would never be able to stand and walk on my own two feet.

There are times in our lives where we allow certain things and/or people to become crutches that we lean on for support. When that occurs, God often removes our crutches so we will lean on him alone. You see that pattern in 1 Samuel 19-22 where God removes everything and everyone that David leaned on. In so doing, David learned that God was enough.

God removed five things that David depended on.

  • Job/position: David had a leadership position in the army (18:5; 19:8) and was the court musician (18:10). Saul tried to kill David on three occasions (18:10-11; 19:9-10). When David fled and escaped, he lost his job and his position.
  • Family/home (19:11-17): Michal deceived her father, Saul, so David can get away. She lied to her father and said, “David threatened to kill me.” The lie infuriated Saul. After this event, David and Michael will no longer live in harmony.
  • Mentor: David flees to Samuel (19:18). When someone informs Saul where David is hiding, he flees and leaves Samuel behind (20:1).
  • Friend: David questions Jonathan, “Why is your father trying to kill me?” (20:1). David is extremely discouraged (20:3). Jonathan discovers the truth and shares it with David (20:12-41). David and Jonathan separate (20:42).
  • Self-respect: With nowhere to run, David turns to the enemy and hides among the Philistines (20:11-15). David feigns madness.

After losing everything and everyone he depended on, David hides in the Cave of Adullam (22:1-2). There he is joined by outcasts and renegades. When his crutches were gone, David learned to depend on God alone.

At his lowest point, David writes three psalms. Psalm 142 seems to be written when David is at rock bottom. Psalm 57 appears to be written when David is on his knees pouring out his heart to God. Psalm 34 sounds like David is back on his feet.

David cried out to God for deliverance (Psalm 142:1-7). He was intentional about seeking God (Psalm 34:4). David discovered that God was his refuge (Psalm 57:1-3). He expressed confidence about trusting God (Psalm 34:5). Despite his circumstances, David chose to praise God (Psalm 34:1-3; 57:5, 9-11).

Have you allowed your career, opportunity to make money, or success to become a crutch? Have you allowed family to become an idol? Have you placed your confidence in your educational degrees or ability to think and reason your way out of a problem? Have you taken pride in your health or your ability to control your life? What if God were to remove each of these things from your life? Could you trust him and learn to depend on his alone?

Don’t allow anything or anyone to become a crutch. Put your weight on God and let him support you.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 12, 2020. It is part of a series of expository messages on the life of David. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

The Marks of Friendship

How many friends do you have? Are they friends or acquaintances? Are they friends of convenience? Circumstances? Commitment? How do we know the difference? What does a biblical friendship look like?

There are five basic principles of friendship that we need to keep in mind. The first is that all of us have a built-in need for relationships (Genesis 2:18). Second, your choice of friends will determine who you become (Proverbs 13:20; 22:24-25). Third, friends share a common bond. In the case of David and Jonathan, it was a confidence in God (1 Samuel 14:6; 17:37, 45-47). Fourth, you cannot be friends with everyone. People are like LEGO building blocks. We each have a limited number of connecting points. Fifth, not all friendships will achieve the same level of intimacy. If you study the life and ministry of Jesus, you see that he ministered to the crowds, sent out the seventy, called the twelve disciples, had an inner circle of three, and was closest to one—John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

In 1 Samuel 18-23, we see the relationship of David and Jonathan. They demonstrate that friendship is characterized by love and loyalty. Each of these prime characteristics has a balancing element which is important since we tend to go to extremes in these areas.

Friendship is characterized by Love (1 Samuel 18:1, 3). After their first encounter, Jonathan’s heart was knit together with David’s. Literally, it means they were chained together. This love was seen in Commitment (1 Samuel 18:3-5; 23:17-18; Proverbs 17:17; 18:24). Jonathan made a binding covenant with David and sealed it by giving him his royal robe, shield, sword, armor, and acknowledged that David would be the next king. This type of love is also seen in Confrontation (1 Samuel 20:1-7). David felt betrayed because Jonathan did not warn him that King Saul was still trying to kill David. They worked out their differences and came up with a new plan to find out the truth.

Friendship is characterized by Loyalty (1 Samuel 19:1-7). On three occasions, Jonathan made a covenant with David to watch his back and protect him. This type of loyalty is seen in Encouragement (1 Samuel 23:16; Proverbs 27:9). When David was at his lowest point, Jonathan came and helped David find his strength in God. Loyalty is also seen in Investment (1 Samuel 20:12-17; Proverbs 27:17). Jonathan helped David look to the future by asking him the “What if?” questions.

Friendship is characterized by love and loyalty. If you want to have that type of friendship, stop looking and start being that type of friend.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on July 5, 2020. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the life of David. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

What does friendship look like?

This Sunday at First Central Bible Church, we will consider “The Marks of Friendship” as we study the relationship of David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18-23. Why don’t you join us? Here’s a video preview of the message.

 

Why do I need to attend church?

I am puzzled by those who say they have no interest and desire to be part of a local church. I heard that sentiment again most recently from some students in one of the online classes I teach. To be honest, the statement and the attitude behind it bothers me.

I freely admit that I am biased when it comes to the topic. I grew up in the church. I am a pastor and have devoted my life and career to the ministry of the church. I have a personal stake and investment in this issue.

However, the value of the local church is not merely based on my personal opinion and feelings alone. You can trace the importance of the church throughout the pages of the New Testament.

  • Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).
  • The book of Acts describes the beginnings of the church.
  • The book of Acts describes the pattern and practice of the church (Acts 2:42-47).
  • The church in Antioch led the way in reaching the world with the gospel (Acts 13:1-4).
  • The apostle Paul planted churches as part of his missionary strategy (Acts 13-14).
  • Paul wrote letters to churches to help strengthen and establish them.
  • Elders were given the task of leading and shepherding churches (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-3).
  • Jesus addressed the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.
  • The writer of Hebrews specifically warned his readers not to neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Some might say that they only need a small group. After all, they reason, Jesus said that when two or three are gathered together, he is in their midst (Matthew 18:20). While that promise is true, the context of the passage (Matthew 18:15-20) is about church discipline and judgment, not about small group fellowship.

Don’t buy into the lie of the enemy that you can live the Christian life by yourself. Don’t move through life as an orphan cut off from the family of God. Find a local church where you can learn, grow, and serve. Ask God to change your perspective about the value and importance of being part of a local church.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2020 in Acts, Church, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Be mature

Back in the dark ages when I was a freshman at Biola College, Dr. Curtis Mitchell addressed his Old Testament Survey class. He encouraged us, “Be mature about the rules of Biola.” At that time, all the students had to subscribe to “The Pledge,” five things that Biola students could not participate in while a student at the school.

I would echo Dr. Mitchell’s words by saying, Be mature about the rules of COVID-19. If required, wear a facemask, and wear it properly over your nose and mouth, not just over your chin or only covering your mouth. Wait patiently outside a store until you can enter. Follow the directional arrows and go with the flow. Practice social distancing. Register for church attendance if you are allowed to attend.

Be mature by accepting the rules and guidelines with good grace. The apostle Paul wrote, “give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Stop complaining about wearing facemasks, school closures, directional arrows, and oft-repeated words that you have grown tired of. Model maturity, contentment, and peacefulness to those around you.

Be mature about what God is doing in your life. The apostle James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). Stop chafing against what you cannot control. Through your mindset, demonstrate that you have confidence in God’s plan and purpose.

Be mature about how God uses trials to help us grow up. John 15:1-11 describes how God uses pruning and shaping to move us from no fruit to fruit to more fruit to much fruit. James 1:2-12 and Romans 5:3-5 explain how God uses trials to produce proven, mature character in our lives. Give God permission to use this pandemic to help shape your character and make you more effective for his service.

Be mature.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2020 in Proverbs, Scripture

 

The Best of Frenemies

A “frenemy” is “a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry.” Perhaps you have worked with a colleague who was a pal one day and stabbed you in the back the next day. 1 Samuel 18 describes how the relationship of King Saul and David deteriorated to the point where they became frenemies for life.

1 Samuel 18 begins a period of intense testing in the life of David in which God will prune and shape David to become the next king of Israel. There are four key words or concepts in this chapter—success, with, love, and fear. You can summarize the chapter with the statement, “David was successful because the Lord was with him. As a result, the people loved David but Saul feared him.”

On the Fast Track: Prosperity, Promotions, & Popularity (1-5). After his defeat of the giant, Goliath (1 Samuel 17), David’s life will change dramatically. He will gain a best friend for life, be granted a commission in the army, and gain the approval of the nation of Israel. Everything he touches turns to gold.

The Price of Popularity: How David Missed the Point (6-16). After the battle, the chorus breaks out into song praising David’s triumph and saying he is ten times the man King Saul is. As the giant, Goliath, dies, the giant of jealousy came to life in Saul’s heart. He starts to keep his eye on David. He seems to follow the advice of Michael Corleone, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

While Saul honored David outwardly, inwardly he was seething with anger. Twice he tried to kill David by throwing a spear at him. When that didn’t work, he sent him to the front lines of battle hoping the Philistines would do the job. Instead, David’s stock continued to rise “because the Lord was with him.”

When In-Laws Become Outlaws: Don’t Marry the Boss’ Daughter (17-30). Since the direct approach doesn’t work, Saul tries a more subtle approach to get rid of David. He tries to use his own daughters to trap and snare David. David turns down the first offer to marry Saul’s oldest daughter. But David does accept the second offer of Michal, who is in love with David. Saul suggests that David kill 100 Philistines in exchange for a bridal dowry. He is secretly hoping the Philistines will kill David. Instead, David proceeds to take out 200 Philistines.

Verses 28-30 summarize the chapter and the four key words/principles. David was successful in everything he did because the Lord was with him. As a result, the people loved David but Saul feared him. “So Saul was David’s enemy continually” (29).

Principles to Practice. If God is with you … you will be successful … you will attract opposition … you need not fear your opponents … your opponents will fear you. Be like David—Follow God & do his work. Don’t be like Saul—If God is at work, don’t oppose his plan or his servants.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 28, 2020. It is part of a series of expository sermons on the life of David. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

When friends become enemies

This Sunday at First Central Bible Church, we will explore 1 Samuel 18 and the events that take place after David defeats Goliath. Here is a video preview of the sermon, “The Best of Frenemies.”

 

Worshipping without Masks

Although First Central Bible Church has reopened, some people have not returned because they don’t want to wear a mask to church. Having twice worn a mask for eight hours during a recent flight from Boston to Los Angeles as well as on the return trip, I can understand and empathize with their reluctance.

Worship was never designed to be done while wearing a mask. Worship is best done when we are face to face with our Savior.

As the Bible opens, Adam and Eve were in perfect fellowship with their Creator. Genesis 2:25 says that Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed.” While that certainly describes their physical relationship with each other, I think it aptly describes their relationship with God. It is especially true since Genesis 3:8 explains that they hid from God’s presence after they disobeyed his command and sin entered their lives.

The Bible closes with the statement in Revelation 22:4 that in heaven, our broken relationship with God will be restored. We will see his face, and his name will be on our foreheads.

While we may need to wear a mask to protect against COVID-19, we don’t have to wear a mask when we enter God’s presence. Like Moses, we can speak with God face to face (Exodus 33:11). Hebrews 4:16 tells us that because Jesus removed our sin and cleansed our hearts, we can come into God’s presence with confidence, knowing that we will receive the grace and help we need.

Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Take off your mask and enter God’s presence to worship him today.

 

The final glass ceiling

Whereas Non-Sequitur kept corporate executives out of heaven, Jesus said the true glass ceiling is the one who keeps the self-righteous out of heaven, those who know the language but who don’t know the Savior.

Matthew 7:21–23 (ESV) 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Don’t wait until the day of judgment to find out what group you are in. Put you faith and trust in Jesus today.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2020 in Heaven, Non-Sequitur, Scripture, Theology