Monday, November 24, 2008

The Ten Commandments Part 3

Exo 20:4-6 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Deu 5:8-10 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

The first commandment dealt with our focus in worship, the second deals with the manner of worship. God does not and never has desired us to worship Him through the medium of images. Man has often swerved from this commandment. Israel often violated both this and the first commandment when they made images of Baal and other gods. In the wilderness Aaron and the people violated the second commandment without having another god per se (Ex. 32:5). Aaron called the feast that he appointed a feast to Jehovah. Jeroboam the son of Nebat likewise transgressed in this way.

Whenever we rely on a talisman, charm, statue, picture, or any other thing which is man-made to draw us into God’s presence or bring His favor and blessing upon us we are breaking the second commandment. This commandment is not a total prohibition against making statues and other works of art, because God Himself commanded certain of these things in His own tabernacle. It is however a prohibition against using these as objects to promote devotion or to be channels of worship. In the Middle Ages the stained glass windows and other art work of the great cathedrals could have been useful in as far as they often told Bible stories, and could have served as reminders of truth. However they often instead distracted the people who came from the worship of God and the hearing of His Word. The same could be said of some of the Powerpoint and multimedia presentations in churches today. They distract from worship. There is nothing wrong with having the words of the songs we sing projected to the front, and there is no reason why these words have to have plain background. However, if it gets to the point that people become more interested in these things than in God’s presence, than the second commandment is being broken. Videos playing on a screen have a tendency to catch the human eye, and distract from the presence of God. The main thing in a church service is the presence of God and the hearing of His Word, multimedia that gives illustration and aids in remembering the Word is good, if it distracts it becomes as great a curse as it could be a blessing.

May God grant us wisdom in all things.

The Ten Commandments Part 2

Exo 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Deu 5:7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.

Since there are some minor variations between the two chapters which give the Decalogue, I thought it would be good to give the text of both for a fuller elucidation of its meaning.

The First Commandment is also the most important, since as we see in Romans 1:21-32, that God gives those who fail in this commandment over to break other of the commandments as a punishing of sin with sin.

This commandment shows the jealousy of God. Jealousy differs from envy. Envy desires what another has, and is linked to unthankfulness and covetousness. God is never envious for He owns everything, but He is jealous. Jealousy is properly the desire to be number 1 in position and in the hearts of the people. In man it is a sin, but in God who is alone worthy to be number one it is His right. As a husband and wife have the right to expect that in each other’s affections as far as humanity is concerned they come first, so God has the right to expect that He comes first and only in the class of God, especially since He is in a class by His own.

This commandment is broken when we cherish anything above God in our hearts. Jesus enlarged on this commandment in Matthew 10:37-38, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” When man lowers God in his estimation, God lowers the man in His. Those who do not see the worth of our Lord and become willing to forsake all for Him, have actually shown their own lack of worth. Some people speak of relationships as 50/50 propositions, but actually they are 100/100. The Christian relationship with God only works when we give our hundred percent to it, God already gave His hundred percent. We love Him because He first loved us.

This commandment is broken even by those who claim to believe in no God. They actually believe in three, matter, time and chance. These three inferior deities are claimed to have worked in conjunction to bring into being everything we see. Their reliance is on these deities to continue moving everything towards a better form of life, and their lives are controlled by these forces. This religion even has its own eschatology, whereby eventually all the stars will burn out and all life will cease. This is at least partially true for its adherents who will taste the second death and for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

This is all in contrast to the self-revelation of God, Who created the universe from nothing, with no external aid. Currently He upholds all things by the Word of His power, and is moving His creatures (the sons of God) towards a better form of existence, which will be manifested fully in the new heavens and new earth.

Whenever we take any attributes that belong to God alone and ascribe them to any created thing, we make a god of it and are in violation of the first commandment. We also violate this law when we place an inordinate confidence in any created thing as opposed to God. For example if we begin to place our trust in salvation more in our church than in Christ Himself, or when we rely exclusively on doctors when ill, to the detriment of faith in God. Our faith should always be in God, He can heal using doctors or He can heal directly without healing agency, but unless He purposes it, no healing can take place. We are also guilty of violating this commandment when we trust in our own resources, strength, wisdom, etc. and forget that all these are merely gifts of God of which we are stewards. This is one test which all mankind will face, we have all been given differing talents and abilities, and we will be tested on whether we used what was given us for God’s glory or for self-aggrandizement as Lucifer did. Let God be God in your life!

Monday, November 17, 2008

News from Malawi

The last 2 Sundays Dad and I have been out ministering in village churches. This Friday I will be speaking at a lunch hour service. We are gearing up for our Christmas distributions (Since we now have 1800+ on our list, we will be doing 5 different distributions). At the Christmas distributions we give out food, as well as a few sweets, some vasoline,clothing and blankets.

We had been working among 5 villages, we added another one, and then several more quickly requested help. We ended up taking on some people from 2 more villages, and refused other requests. The last 2 we took up are a good hour and a half walk, and since Mom visits those who are on our list to check on their needs and we have many people coming to see us with requests taking the other villages would have been overwhelming. It often isn't practicable to drive to these areas as there are streams that have no bridges that can support a motor vehicle and some of the paths are too narrow.

We also have been helping supply money for fertiliser for people in our area. Since many Malawians live by subsistance famring this is helping them help themselves. We are praying for good rains this year so that the people can have a good harvest.

The Ten Commandments Part 1

In starting a series on the exposition of the Ten commandments, it is first necessary to understand the correct place of the Law in the Christian life. There are 2 principle errors in the viewing of the law – Antinomianism and Legalism. The one views the law as abolished or at least of no importance to the believer. The other tends to emphasize it to a degree which makes it the basis of justification, or at least a source of confidence before God.
Against both of these stand the Scriptures and most especially, 1 Timothy 1:5-11, “But the end of the charge is love out of a pure heart and a good conscience and faith unfeigned: from which things some having swerved have turned aside unto vain talking; desiring to be teachers of the law, though they understand neither what they say, nor whereof they confidently affirm. But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully, as knowing this, that law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for abusers of themselves with men, for menstealers, for liars, for false swearers, and if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine; according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.”

The law is good, it was not issued out of caprice, but as part of an ongoing revelation of a holy God to sinful man. Before the law, as Paul tells us in Romans 5:14, men still died even though they had not sinned in an actual transgression of a commandment like Adam, since there was no commandment to transgress. However, death still reigned, because sin was still within man, as a latent propensity which would spring forth whenever a command was given, and thus opportunity was granted for its manifestation. In the same way that a fox kit may look harmless enough, and even be allowed into a hen house, but sooner or later it would fulfill its nature and devour the chickens. In the same way God cannot take unredeemed man into His Kingdom, even though there be no law to convict them, their nature only awaits a command, any command of God to set up their own will in opposition to His. Unconverted man would quickly re-enact the fall of Lucifer again in heaven, and were they allowed to remain there they would turn the celestial harmony of will found there into the dissonant discord of hell.

Hence God sent His law, this was and is a self-revelation of His good nature, and a revelation of the fallshortishness of humanity. Each precept was a hammer blow to drive nails into the coffin of human pride and self-reliance so that man would realize his guilt, need of redemption and utter unfitness to enter God’s kingdom in the state he is born. The law shows where we fall short and is the basis of Christ’s declaration to Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). A new and heavenly birth is essential, because it provides a new nature (Christ’s) which can enter into God’s kingdom. Using the law as a source of justification is like using a hammer to drive a screw into wood (Something many Malawian carpenters do). It is a misuse of a tool which is good for its intention, and not to be blamed for its misapplication.

With this part being given as an introduction, I desire now to look at the Ten Commandments. If we study these and look at the amplifications of these given in the New Testament, we are sure to be challenged in areas where the old nature needs to die and the new nature come forth. His law is perfect converting the soul.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thoughts On Psalm 19

Psa 19:1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Psa 19:2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
Psa 19:3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
Psa 19:4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
Psa 19:5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
Psa 19:6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
Psa 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
Psa 19:8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
Psa 19:9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
Psa 19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Psa 19:11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
Psa 19:12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
Psa 19:13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Psa 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

This Psalm begins with the testimony of nature to its Creator. Then it moves to the more sure Word of Prophecy found in Scripture. It closes with a desire for purification.

Part 1

The heavens are a continual showing forth of the attributes of God. The sun rising on the just and unjust shows His impartial benevolence and the change of the seasons His faithfulness. Creation shows to an awakened soul a God who loves beauty and infinite variety, who creates every snow flake and blade of grass unique, and yet containing properties of their type. These sermons of God’s goodness and justice are spoken even where the Bible has never been read, nor the gospel preached. As Paul writes in Romans all men are without excuse.

Part 2

We have however an even better testimony as to the nature of God, His own self-revelation as written in His Word. In a similar way to a work of art which tells us much about the artist, even more revealing would be the diary of that artist where he describes what his aim in making the work was and what he was expressing through it. The Bible is the book which gives purpose to nature, or rather it reveals God who is the purpose of nature. It is only after we have seen the beginning and end of this creation in the Word that we can properly understand nature. Otherwise we tend to flounder in Nature Worship (materialism being one species, animism another).

It is the Word which converts our souls, makes us wise, and enlightens our understanding.

Part 3

This part of the Psalm would seem to be somewhat of a digression from the rest. Unless, perhaps it is to remind us that God never enlightens for the purpose of knowledge, but rather for the purpose of character. Too many times we seek knowledge of God’s Word without a desire to apply that knowledge to our lives.

This part begins with a question, “Who can understand his errors?” As humans we all labour under the difficulty of self-ignorance. Every fool’s folly seems folly but his own. We can see faults in every one but ourselves, and when our real self is manifest through circumstances we cast it out of mind as an aberration. How do we gain a true self knowledge? Like a filthy man who cannot see his own dirt, we need a mirror. We need the mirror of God’s Word.

There is no fitter ending to this post than the final prayer of the Psalmist, who having meditated on the Word of God and His thoughts now says, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Few Stray Thoughts on the Church

Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Leaving the first part of these verses to those who have more experience that me, I would like to look at the thought of Christ and His Church. I find my mind often returning to the mystery of the Church. I think it is because in the last couple of years Christ has given me a much greater love for His Church. When you think of the awesomeness of the relationship between Christ and His Church it really changes your outlook on life.

My thoughts on this verse are more of a side note. I was recently thinking, “If Christ loved the Church enough to give His life for it, should not I be willing also to throw in my 2 cents worth of life for it?” I have been given a tremendous privilege by God, firstly to be in His Holy Church, secondly to have been called to be a minister in that Church. He loved this Church enough to die for it, and He allows me to share His Word in some measure in that Church to help wash it that it might be found acceptable before Him! Surely if it was worth the sacrifice of His life, it is worthy of every feeble effort of mine.

Another thought I had was, “If Christ laid down His life for His Church, should I not joyfully lay down my life for that Church?” In other words, can I not accept being misunderstood, or lay down my own rights, etc… for the sake of others in His Body. I often think of this as a burdensome duty, but it is a rare privilege, to allow an injustice, or bear with another’s fault, or in some other way lay down your life so that Christ can work in that person, so that He can one day have that Bride He awaits.

It is something to think about, the next time a fellow believer and you have difficulties, think of this, “Christ lay down His life for that one, should my life not also be laid down for him, that he may become what Christ desires and will have pleasure in for all eternity?

Lord Jesus, may You have a Church truly worthy of You on that day, and my You grant us the privilege of bringing it about by laying down our small insignificant lives as You laid down Your inestimable life. Amen.