Christianity 201

August 1, 2017

Back to the Bible

When I was much younger, my mother would listen each day to a radio broadcast, Back to the Bible, taught by Theodore Epp (1939-1985). I have some vague memories of my parents driving to Lincoln, Nebraska in order to see the headquarters of the ministry firsthand. So today we’re featuring two shorter devotionals by Dr. Epp. There are several different teachers on their devotional page; I hope you’ll click through to see more.

God Knows the Heart

Read: Exodus 9:22-35Against the backdrop of this awful judgment is a verse that reveals God’s protection of His own: “Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail” (Ex. 9:26).

Goshen was part of Egypt, but God controlled the circumstances so that the Israelites were untouched by the judgment that Egypt experienced.

Notice what Pharaoh’s response was to this awful judgment: Although Pharaoh seemed to be conscious of his wickedness before God, it was only a feigned confession made in order to escape judgment.

Moses was not fooled by Pharaoh’s false confession. God had given Moses insight so he knew what was in Pharaoh’s heart and was not fooled in any way.

This reveals how hardened Pharaoh really was; it did not bother him even to fake a confession of sin to God. But God knows what is in each person’s heart, and He was not deceived for one minute.

God had showered His mercies on Pharaoh, but Pharaoh had refused to respond positively in any way. So in the remaining plagues God further hardened Pharaoh’s heart so as to fulfill His plan of total revelation of Himself as absolutely sovereign.

Shall not God search this out? for he knows the secrets of the heart” (Ps. 44:21).

When Is It a Sacrifice?

Read: 2 Samuel 24:18-25The Lord not only stayed the plague, but through Gad He also instructed David to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan, the Jebusite (1 Chron. 21:18).

The Lord was very specific about this and left no alternative in the matter.

Why this particular spot was chosen does not appear in the narrative, but later on in 2 Chronicles 3:1 we have this statement: “Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.”

If David had been a grasping, selfish man, he might have looked on this as an opportunity to fulfill the will of God without any cost to himself.

He had been passed over when the plague struck men in Israel, and now a rich man had offered him a threshing floor for an altar and animals and grain for the offerings.

But David refused to bring before the Lord that which cost him nothing. “And the king said unto Araunah [Ornan], Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt-offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing” (2 Sam. 24:24).

What a tremendous lesson for us. It is one thing to serve on boards and committees that handle the affairs of others; it is quite another to make decisions that affect us personally.

It is not a sacrifice to the Lord if we give of that which costs us nothing.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17).




January 27, 2012

Advice to the Young, and the Young at Heart

“The young are permanently in a state resembling intoxication.”

After finding a devotional on David Kenney’s blog, I decided to check first and discovered that it’s only been a month since I first introduced his writing here; a little more recent than I would have liked; but if C201 does nothing more than introduce you to the blogging and writing of others, that’s fine with me.  (This one is also part of a series which is linked in the final paragraph of today’s selection.)

He titled this one Advice For Young Men; but it occurred to me that while there are specific Bible passages that address the young in general, we live in a situation today where people in their 40s and 50s (and perhaps beyond) strongly identify with youth culture. Unless we look in the mirror, it’s easy to pretend we’re still 16 or 17 and certainly some people continue to listen to current music, dress younger than their age, and drive their cars with the recklessness that Aristotle describes in the quote above.

So whatever advice the Wisdom books such as Psalms and Proverbs, or the advice of Paul to Titus or Timothy may have to offer the younger men or younger women, it’s probably good reading for all of us, especially if there is some part of us that refuses to grow up; some part of us that leaves us prone to commit the mistakes associated with youth.

Titus 2:6-8 (CEB)

Likewise, encourage the younger men to be sensible  in every way. Offer yourself as a role model of good actions. Show integrity, seriousness,  and a sound message that is above criticism when you teach, so that any opponent will be ashamed because they won’t find anything bad to say about us.

Titus chapter two is Paul’s advocation for teaching sound doctrine, especially in contrast with false teachers. Paul starts this chapter addressing community households and he begins in a hierarchal fashion starting first with old men, then old women, then young men, then slaves….

This particular passage verse 6 and 7, might have also spoken directly to Titus himself, he was probably no more than 35.

The first thing he says to young men is “be sensible in every way.” Great advice, but incredibly hard for a young person to take. These are the years of invincibility, of testing limits and pushing boundaries, and the first thing Paul says is, “be sensible.”

How do you do that? How do you help young men get control of themselves; develop self-mastery, self-control, balance get their faculties and their appetites, their longings and the desires into harness, to develop discernment and judgment?

Aristotle once said, “The young are permanently in a state resembling intoxication.”

Sensibility is taking time to think, it’s self-restraint, it’s slowing down. Paul says, “watch where you step, watch what you say… in every way possible… give it some thought.”

Then Paul says, encourage young men to be an example and a role model to others. And then following in the continuing verse, Paul lists out a few ways the reader can be a role model.

Charles Spurgeon once said: “A man’s life is always more forcible than his speech. When men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as dollars and his words as pennies. If his life and doctrine disagree the mass of onlookers accept his practice and reject his preaching.

In other words, more weight is going to be given in how you present yourself and in how you act.

I knew a young pastor who was great in the pulpit, he was polished and professional, and very dynamic. His only downfall, he didn’t follow through with his actions. He didn’t take his own advice, he didn’t live with honesty and integrity and it cost him his position.

Remember your deeds are dollars and your words are pennies. Paul says be a role model of “good actions” and he says “show” integrity, seriousness and a sound message. How do you show those things? Read Psalm 119

Psalm 119:9 (CEB)

How can young people keep their paths pure? By guarding them according to what you’ve said

There is your answer, if you’re going to be an example in every area of your life then you’ve got to align your actions with the word of God.

So Paul says to be sensible in thought, be an example in conduct and lastly he says to offer a sound message that is above criticism.

So not only are young men to be an example in good works, not only be an example in doctrine, but also be to be an example in sound speech. That’s your conversation, those are the words that come out of your mouth.

You know a “sound message” doesn’t have to be a sermon. In fact, I’m sure it’s not. Your message is the worldview and lifestyle you project when you talk. What does your speach sound like? What words do you say? How do you describe things, talk about women? How do you describe joy and pain? Our words say much about us.

Let your speech minister grace to those who listen. Let it be health giving, life-giving, edifying, and up building. How healthy should it be? Paul says, so that it is beyond reproach. It is unable to be accused; it is unable to be condemned.

So far Paul has given us advice for Old Men, Old Women and Young Men and while of course it is good sound advice, it’s only words on a page (or computer screen) until we transform it into good actions.

~David Kenney