Archive for January, 2011

Things That Do Not Profit

The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit.

Jeremiah 2:8

The previous verses tell of the nation of Israel rejecting the Lord even after all of the wonderous things that He had done for them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt and into the Promised Land.  It is sad when any people reject the Lord.  But this verse gets even more sad.  Look at these groups of people and the things that they are guilty of:

1. “The priests said not, Where is the Lord?”
-If anybody should be aware of the presence of the Lord, it should have been the priest of the Lord.  But this verse tells us that even the priests weren’t aware that His presence was gone.  Those who should have been closest to Him didn’t even know that His glory had departed.

2. “They that handle the law knew me not.”
-Again, it’s bad enough that the people didn’t know the Lord.  The law was God’s personal instructions to His people.  Those people who handled the law should have had more knowledge of Him than anyone else.  Yet even they did not even know Him.

3. “The pastors also transgressed against me.”
-Of all people, one would think that the pastors would be ones that would not transgress against Him.  But they, along with the rest of the people, had transgressed against Him.

4. “The prophets prophesied by Baal.”
-How much worse can you get?  The prophets, who are supposed to be telling the people what the Lord has said, were prophesying by a false god!  And not just any false god, but Baal – the same Baal that the true God had defeated over and over again as the Israelites possessed the Promised Land.

The verse ends with a sad statement that I fear characterizes too many Christians today: they “walked after things that do not profit.”  How many times have we “walked after things that do not profit?”  How many people do we know who are walking after things that do not profit?  Let us not be found among these people who rejected the Lord and walked after things that do not profit!

Brethren We Have Met To Worship (Hymn)

Brethren We Have Met To Worship
George Atkins (1819)

Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God;
Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word?
All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down;
Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumbering on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving, can you bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers, and our children sinking down;
Brethren, pray and holy manna will be showered all around.

Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Savior, tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Is there a trembling jailer, seeking grace, and filled with tears?
Is there here a weeping Mary, pouring forth a flood of tears?
Brethren, join your cries to help them; sisters, let your prayers abound;
Pray, Oh pray that holy manna may be scattered all around.

Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners, till our God makes all things new.
Then He’ll call us home to Heaven, at His table we’ll sit down;
Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.

“Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God” is really the whole point of our going to the house of God.  This is such a great hymn with so much great truth in it.  Have you ever “struggled hard with sin?”  I have and I know how encouraging it was to me to hear someone tell me that the Savior would be found.  Are we loving our God supremely?  Do we love each other, too?  What a powerful hymn!

Where Is The Lord?

Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?  Neither said they, Where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of death, through a land that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt?  And I brought you into a plentiful country, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, and made mine heritage an abomination.

Jeremiah 2:5-7

The book of Jeremiah is a sad book.  The Lord is getting ready to judge His people for rejecting Him for generations.  There are some encouraging parts in the book, dealing with His repeated calls to His people to turn from their wickedness and come back to Him.  There is encouragement in the places that He speaks of His remnant.  But most of the book is a pronouncement of judgment.  These verses begin to tell us of the reasons for that coming judgment.  These books of the Old Testament are written “for our learning” and as an example to us.  So when the Lord talks about judging His people and gives reasons for the judgment, we had better pay attention.

These verses tell the story of the Lord’s goodness to His people in brining them out of Egypt, leading them through the desert and the wilderness, and finally bringing them into the Promised Land.  It also tells the story of how, even after all of the good that He had done for them, they rejected Him over and over again.  They walked after vanity and they defiled the land that the Lord had given them.  The most striking part of the verse to me in found at the beginning of verse 6: “Neither said they, Where is the Lord…”  They went far from Him and didn’t even stop to think about it. 

The Lord was far from them and they didn’t even care.  Let us take this example to heart.  The Lord has done many wonderful things for us and in us – let us stay close to Him.

Fine Silver

Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.

Proverbs 25:4

When talking about silver, dross is the stuff that gets in that doesn’t belong there.  It is the impurities and imperfections.  When you refine silver, you have to do a couple of things in order to get it to the fineness that you want. 

Unfortunately, silver does not come out of the ground in convenient 99% pure bars.  It comes out in ore.  The ore is crushed and then heated.  As it melts, the impurities are skimmed off, resulting in a more pure silver.  Depending on what your use of the silver will be, you can continue this process to get it as pure as you want it.  The Royal Mint of Canada gets their silver all the way down to 99.99% pure.  

It is the same with us as Christians.  God wants to purify us so that He can use us and make something out of us.  This purification is not easy.  We sometimes have to be “crushed.”  And often, we have to be put through the fire until our hearts are soft and pliable.  It is then that He can begin to skim off the impurities that spot our lives.  Silver has very little use in its unrefined and unpurified form.  In the same way, our lives as Christians have little value (especially to others) in their unpurified form.  The Lord has promised to work in us and that work sometimes is to burn out the undesireable things and attitudes. 

Going through the “refiner’s fire” is not usually a pleasant experience.  But we will come forth “a vessel for the finer.”  If you find yourself currently in the refiner’s fire, just remember that fine silver is infinitely more valuable than rough ore!

“Fear Not, Thou Worm…”

For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.  Fear not, thou worm, Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 41:13-14

Generall speaking, being called a “worm” is not good for our self-esteem.  But, in truth, when compared with God, that is exactly what we are.  We are but dust.  But the thing wherein we find value is found in the rest of these verses, “For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand…” and “Fear not; I will help thee…” and ” I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”  The Bible tells us that was are, at best, “altogether vanity.”  By ourselves, we are nothing.  But we have a Redeemer!  We have One Who has promised to “hold our right hand.”  We have One Who has promised to help us!

The One Who has promised to help us is the Almighty Creator of the universe.  When the Creator of the universe and the all powerful God of Heaven and Earth tells us to “fear not,”  that is a promise that we can hold on to.  When God Himself tells us that He will hold our right hand, we can feel secure. 

Our pride might bristle at the thought of being called “a worm,”  but when we begin to think about the awful price that was paid by our Redeemer for us, our pride should melt away into feelings of pure unworthiness and gratefulness.  We have no reason to fear because our Redeemer is mighty.  What a wonderful thought!

The next time our pride rears it’s ugly head, let us remember these verses.  Let us remember that, though we are but “worms,” God Himself loved us and gave Himself for us.  There is nothing more wonderful in all of the world!

Helping Your Neighbor

They helped every one his neighbor; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.

Isaiah 41:6

It seems that the more I read the Bible, the more I find encouragement to help people, especially brothers and sisters in Christ.  The more I live and the older I get, the more I realize that I myself am the one who usually needs encouragement.  The simple truth is that you just never know who needs a kind word of encouragement.  We usually find that helping others is a reciprocal blessing.  When we help someone who is down to get up, we think that we are helping them.  But, in helping them, it is usually us who leaves the situation with the blessing.

Everyone needs encouragement at one point or another.  Everybody needs help at one point or another.  If you see someone doing right, then a little encouragement may help them to keep doing right.  If you see someone heading down the wrong path, a little help might get them back on the right path.  No matter where you find yourself, you A) can help someone and encourage someone and B) need some help and encouragement from someone. 

This verse says that they helped “every one his neighbor.”  Can you imagine how strong our homes and churches would be if this described them?  Every person helping each other and encouraging each other.  Philippians 2:3 tells us “…in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”  Wouldn’t it be great if everyone would live by this rule?  Wouldn’t it be great if it started with us?  Let’s try to encourage someone in the Lord today.  Be a help!

Judge, Lawgiver, and King

For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.

Isaiah 33:22

It has been said that, at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison (the “Father of the Constitution”) proposed a plan to divide the Federal Government into three branches based on this verse in Isaiah.  I don’t know if that is true, but it does make sense: this verse does speak of the three branches of our government: Executive (“king”), Legislative (“lawgiver”) and Judicial (“judge”).  Of course, as we all know, our federal government leaves something to be desired, but that is due to the simple fact that all three branches are manned by humans of flesh and bone.  As long as governments are run by people, they are going to have problems.  On the other hand, the One about Whom this verse speaks is not a mere mortal of flesh and blood.  He is God Himself.

The verse ends by saying that “He will save us.”  And I think the first part of the verse gives us the reason that “He will save us.”  He is our King: He has all of the power in the entire universe.  As the song says, “He is the Mighty King, Master of everything…”  As the King, He clearly has the power to save us.

His is the “lawgiver.”  He makes the rules.  He makes all of the rules and He has written them down for us in His Holy Book.  He gave the Israelites some laws in the form of the Ten Commandments.  He has given some laws in the New Testament.  Now, none of us have ever kept all of His laws perfectly.  We have all sinned and we have all come “short of the glory of God.”  We have all broken His perfect laws.  Fortunately…

He is also the Judge.  God judged sin at the Cross.  Our sin was put on Jesus Christ, Who died in our place.  He was condemned so that we could be set free.  Romans 8:33-34 sums it up for us: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.  Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.”  He is the Judge, the Lawgiver, and the King.  That should give us great comfort.

The Pharisee’s Prayer

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.  And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying God be merciful to me a sinner.  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Luke 18: 10-14

This passage was mentioned in passing in our church the other day during a message, and one phrase stood out to me that I had never thought of before.  I put up the whole passage to give the context in which it occurred, but the phrase is one that describes the prayer of the Pharisee, and is found in verse 11:

“…and prayed thus with himself…”

We all know who the Pharisees are: they are the people who do have all of the outward stuff right but have no heart for the Lord or for other people.  The Lord Himself described them as “whited sepluchres”- nice looking on the outside, but inside “full of dead men’s bones.”  Some of us may even have a little “Pharisee” in us from time to time.  But this phrase about the Pharisee’s prayer really shook me:

“…and prayed thus with himself…”

When the Pharisee prayed, he wasn’t praying to God, he was praying to himself!  The Pharisee had his reward- people saw him “praying” and thought that he was a great person.  He has been seen of men and his reputation (as well as his pride) has swelled.  He is not praying to God or with God; he is praying “with himself.”

That is a scary thought.  I don’t want to pray “with myself.”  I want to pray to the One Who hears and answers prayer.  It sometimes becomes easy to do things in our lives to be seen of others, but we need to examine our motives.  Are we doing things to honor the Lord, or to honor ourselves?  Let us not be like the Pharisee.

Beneath the Cross of Jesus (Hymn)

Beneath the Cross of Jesus
Elizabeth C. Clephane (1868)

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

O safe and happy shelter, O refuge tried and sweet,
O trysting place where Heaven’s love and Heaven’s justice meet!
As to the holy patriarch that wondrous dream was given,
So seems my Savior’s cross to me, a ladder up to heaven.

There lies beneath its shadow but on the further side
The darkness of an awful grave that gapes both deep and wide
And there between us stands the cross two arms outstretched to save
A watchman set to guard the way from that eternal grave.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

To be honest, I have not sung this hymn very many times in my life, but I absolutely love the words to it.  I will point out two of my favorite lines and let you think about the rest of the song.  ” Two wonders I confess; The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.  “My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.”  I could not have said that better myself.  I am ashamed of “my sinful self” and the only glory I have is in His cross!

As Ignorant As A Beast

So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.  Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.

Psalm 73:22-23

In this Psalm of Asaph, he refers to himself as “foolish” and “ignorant.”  He then says that he was “as a beast” before the Lord.  That seems fairly harsh.  I generally wouldn’t say that I am “as ignorant as a beast,” though many times in my life that has probably been true.  What was it that caused Asaph to make such a declaration?

In the first fifteen verses of this Psalm, he is thinking about all of the unrighteous people and is finding himself becoming jealous of them.  He even goes so far as to say “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain.”  He thought that, because the wicked seemed to be doing well and living care-free lives, it was pointless for him to have followed and obeyed the Lord. 

While we might read this account and be horrified that someone would actually think that, we might do well to check out own hearts to make sure that we do not have a little of that spirit within us.  It’s very easy to become jealous of those who do wrong.   It’s easy sometimes to get a “why me, God?” type of attitude when we face adversity and see others around us who don’t even know God seeming to prosper.

But then Asaph went to the house of the Lord and he “saw their end.”  When he considered that, he immediately understood that no matter what he was facing, his end was far, far better than theirs.  And that is the context in which he proclaims that he is as ignorant as a beast.

While I like animals, I have no desire to be as ignorant as one.  I had better keep my eyes on the Lord.