Archive for December, 2011

Out With the Old

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…

Philippians 3:12-13

I love New Years.  I enjoy New Years Eve and looking back at the previous year.  I especially enjoy look forward to the New Year.  On this, the last day of the year, it is good for us to look back over the last year.  It is important to take an honest look – seeing both our successes and our failures.  We begin a new year with high expectations.  We fulfill some of those expectations and we fail in some of them.  We can thank the Lord for helping us in the successes and we can ask Him for forgiveness and help in the failures.

In these verses, Paul tells us that he is “forgetting those things which are behind…”  He is letting go of the things in the past.  In the previous verses, he details some successes and some failures.  He is letting them all go.  And he is letting them go so that he can devote everything he has to “reaching forth unto those things which are before.”  It’s hard to reach for anything if your hand are full holding all of yesterday’s triumphs and problems.  If we are weighted down with baggage, we are not going to be able to run our race efficiently.  Paul knew this and that is why he felt the need to forget those things which are behind.

Let’s take a little time today to look back at the past year.  And then it will be time to start thinking about the New Year.  It will be time to start pressing forward!

I hope everyone who reads this has a happy New Year in which you draw closer to the Lord than you have every been!

When Things Seem Backward

Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD.  Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?  Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?  And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

Malachi 3:13-15

Yesterday, we looked at these verses and pointed out the people who decided that it was vain to serve God and that there was no profit in obeying Him.  Today we will look at their “reasoning.”

They said in verse 15, “…we call the proud happy.”  Does that sound like our society today?  Pride is glorified everywhere you look.  The people who are full of themselves and full of pride seem to be the ones having fun and being “happy.”  But one quick look at Proverbs 11:2 will shatter that image: “When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.”  When the proud are called happy, there is something backward.

“…they that work wickedness are set up.”  Again, Malachi could be describing our culture today.  It seems that there is much wickedness in high places.  It seems as though every new day brings some new, awful scandal in the life of a rich, famous or powerful person.  Things are not going to go well the wicked are “set up.”  Again, a simple look at Proverbs will set things straight: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”

“…they that tempt God are even delivered.”  This is the mindset that says, “if someone sins and God doesn’t immediately strike them down with a bolt of lightning, they must be OK and God must not care.”  Wrong.  Ecclesiastes 8:11 gives us further insight into this line of thinking: “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

It is sometimes easy to get discouraged by things that we see and read.  It is easy to feel that, everywhere we look, things are backward and are the opposite of what they should be.  But we must remember that, just like in the book of Malachi, God is still in charge.  He is still on the throne.  And we need to continue to have faith in Him – even when things seem backward!


What Profit Is Serving God?

Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?  And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.

Malachi 3:14-15

In these verses the Israelites ask a question that many, many people have asked themselves at one time or another.  In moments of despair, many people have wondered (often to themselves) whether or not it is vain to serve the Lord.  Sometimes a person will go through a trial and will begin to despair.  Their faith will begin to waver and they will wonder what profit there really is in serving the Lord.  Those are not uncommon questions.  Fortunately, the answers to those questions are fairly easy to find with a little prayerful Bible reading and meditation.  The answer is obviously that there is profit in serving the Lord.  It may be hard to see that profit in the midst of a storm.  And it may not be today or even tomorrow that we see that profit.  But there is always profit in serving the Lord.  There is always profit in keeping His ordinances.  There is nothing inherently wrong with these questions.  Jesus Himself spoke of “counting the cost.”  There is, however, something wrong with the attitude of these Israelites.

They were not asking these questions from an honest heart.  They were not asking these questions while crying out in despair.  They were, in fact, not even asking questions.  They were making statements.  They said that they had decided that serving the Lord was vain.  They had decided that there was no profit in keeping His ordinances.  They had already made up their minds and they had already hardened their hearts.  They had not kept His ordinances and they had not served Him.  They apparently found no profit in a half-hearted outward show of religion, and neither will we.  They never did fully submit to the Lord with hearts full of faith in Him.  We can.  How are we doing?

Stout Words

Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD.  Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?

Malachi 3:13

Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament.  It was the end of God’s revelation to the nation of Israel for quite a long time.  God had some serious problems with His people.  They had rejected Him over and over again and judgment was coming.  Reading through several books of the prophets, you can see many times and many ways that God’s people have dishonored Him.  Even after reading all of those things, I was still a little shocked when I read the wording of this verse: “Your words have been stout against me…”

We sometimes use “stout words” with people.  Sometimes our children need some stout words, and sometimes the guy who cuts you off in traffic gets some stout words (whether he needs them or not).  But I can not imagine giving God Almighty stout words.  I can not imagine “giving God a piece of my mind.”  God is in control of everything and I would not want to be in the position of giving Him stout words.  But as terrible as talking to God like that is, the second half of the verse seems even worse to me.

“Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?”  They were rejecting God and blaspheming His name and they didn’t even know it.  They were speaking “stout words” against God without even realizing what they were doing.  Doing wrong is obviously bad.  But doing wrong while thinking that you are doing right might be even worse.  These people were bringing judgment down on themselves and they were clueless.  To me, that is sad.  These were God’s people – how were they so blind?  In my opinion, they were blind because they had rejected God’s Word.  The same thing happens to us as we reject His Word.  Each time we reject or ignore Him, our hearts get a little harder.  After a while, we can, like the Israelites, speak out against God and not even realize it.

Sharpening Iron

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

As I was reading in Proverbs this morning, this verse struck me.  I have read this verse over and over again over the years and I have always looked at it from the same angle: we are supposed to be an encouragement and a help to our friends.  We are supposed to “sharpen” them.  That is, I believe the correct interpretation of this Proverb.  But, as is often the case with the Bible, it has another meaning also.  It struck me today that this verse not only tells us how be a friend, but also tells us how to choose a friend.

We need to help and encourage our friends, but we also need to find friends who will help and encourage us.  “Iron sharpeneth iron…”  I’m not saying that we should only count as our “friends” those that are the best Christians.  Jesus Himself was described as “a friend of sinners.”  We should be trying to help and encourage everyone we meet, and thus we should be a friend to anyone who needs that help and encouragement.  But when it comes down to the smaller list of people who we allow to influence us, we should make sure that they will influence us for good.  We need to make sure they will influence us to do right and to draw closer to the Lord.  Influence is a powerful thing and we should be looking for other “iron” to sharpen our “iron.”  We don’t want things and people “dulling” us.

The book of Proverbs also tells us that a “companion of fools shall be destroyed.”  What kind of influences do we have in our lives?  Those that would help us and “sharpen us,” or those that would lead us to destruction?  Also, what kind of influence are we – are we sharpening others or are we leading them to destruction?

Keeping and Pondering

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2: 9-11, 19

Sadly, Christmas is over this year.  I hope all of you had as good of a day as I had yesterday.  Christmas is such a wonderful time of year.  We celebrated our Saviour’s birth with family and friends.  We read the Christmas story and sang some Christmas songs.  It was good.  But now what?  We now have 365 days until Christmas comes around again.  I was thinking about that morning, and decided to read over the Christmas story in Luke 2 one more time when I noticed what it says about Mary.  I think that her attitude should be our attitude.

The Bible tells us that Mary “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”  Think of all the things that were going on around Mary.  She had just birthed a Son.  It was a supernatural birth.  She had been visited by the shepherds who had no doubt told her about the angel guiding them to her and about the angelic host singing and praising God.  She had no doubt thought about the fact that her tiny Son was Jesus, God in the flesh, who would save His people from their sins.

She thought about all of these things and kept them in her heart and pondered them.  That is what we should be doing.  We celebrated a great thing yesterday.  Now we need to keep those things in our hearts and we need to ponder them.  It is wonderful to celebrate the Saviour coming to the Earth.  But let us not forget the Saviour for the rest of the year!

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (Hymn)

Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing
Charles Wesley (1739)

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.


Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.


Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.


Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.


This is my favorite Christmas hymn.  It is so powerful and, in my opinion, contains more sound doctrine than you would hear in a month at many churches today.  I don’t even know where to start writing about this hymn, so I will let the writer’s words speak for themselves.  Merry Christmas to all!

The 12 Verses of Christmas #12

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:9-11

When I started this series, this is the verse that I had in mind.  To me, Luke 2:11 is the verse for Christmas: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”  That is it.  That is the whole reason for the whole Christmas season.  Unto “you” is born this day…  He came to us!  Not just the world in general, but “you.”  What a blessing!

Unto us is born this day… “a Saviour!”  Our Saviour was born in a manger.  We need a Saviour, and this is the time we celebrate His coming!

There is nothing more to add to this verse other than to thank the Lord for all that He has done for us!

The 12 Verses of Christmas #11

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7

To me, these verses represent the classic Christmas story.  Luke chapter 2 is the chapter that my family reads on Christmas morning every year.  In these verses, the virgin Mary delivers a baby in a manger.  But it is not just any baby.  It is the Christ-child, the baby Jesus.  God Himself in human form.  I can not read these verses without imagining what this scene might have been like.

There was no room for this family in the inn.  Much has been made of that statement.  So often, there is no room for Him in our “inns.”  Apparently, a manger, or a trough used for feeding animals, was available.  It was there, in that most lowly place, that the Saviour was laid.

I don’t know what the scene was like.  There is actually very little said about it in the Scriptures.  These few verses are all we have.  It was a lowly place.  There were no earthly kings in attendance.  There was no human fanfare.  From what we read, it was Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, probably some animals, and, later, some shepherds.  As it said in Isaiah 53, “there is no beauty that we should desire him.”  It’s a simple, lowly birth.

But just imagine.  Jesus Christ, the Lord was there.  God incarnate was there, wrapped in swaddling clothes laid in a manger.  The salvation of mankind was there amongst the animals.  The creator of the earth, lying in a manger made of wood that He created.  What an amazing story!  Isaiah spoke truly when he said “Who hath believed our report?”  This report is a hard one to believe, but we believe every word of it!

The 12 Verses of Christmas #10

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:6

This might seem like a strange verse to include in a series of verses dealing with Christmas.  There are verses about Mary and Joseph.  There are verses about the Angel appearing to various people.  There are verses about Jesus being born in a manger.  There are many verses that might seem to “fit” the Christmas story better than Isaiah 53:6.  But, to me, this verse lies at the very heart of Christmas.

This verse is about two things: our sin and our Saviour.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way…”  Every man, woman and child ever born on this earth has been a sinner (except One).  We are born in sin and we commit sin – every single one of us.  We can try our best to not sin, but there is nothing that we can do about our corrupt, fallen nature.  We need a Saviour.

“…the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  That is our Saviour.  He took our sins – all of them – to the cross, where He bled and died for us.  This verse is the gospel in one verse: we are sinners in need of a Saviour, and the Lord Jesus Christ is that Saviour.

That is what we celebrate at Christmas.  If we were not all sinners, we would not need a Saviour.  If we didn’t need a Saviour, Jesus would not have needed to come to earth as a man and die on the cross for us.  The celebration of Christmas is the celebration of the Saviour.  A what a wonderful Saviour He is!