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Making it clear, giving the meaning

Posted by: David Carroll

Nehemiah 8:8 (NIV)

They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.

That is what expository preaching is, making God's word understandable and exposing the meaning of the text. I have been in churches where the minister, dressed in long flowing robes, stands in the pulpit and gives his sermon. I have heard sermons where scripture is never read or quoted and where Jesus Christ is mentioned. Oh, God might be mentioned, but mostly as an approver of social programs we ought to be doing.

An expositor of the word of God, never lacks for a subject and never lacks for the richest source material the world has ever known. When I teach a Bible Study, that is what the topic is, the Bible, what it says, what it means and how it applies to us personally. The approach I like to take is to pick a book of the Bible and start with chapter 1, verse 1 and work through the entire book, about a chapter a week. The nice thing about that approach is that you always know where you are headed next week, basically where you left off the week before.

Acts 20:27 (NKJV)

For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.

Romans 10:14 (NKJV)

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

Freedom, Law and Love

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Corinthians 8:9,13 (NIV)

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

We call ourselves free people in this country. Freedom however does not mean anything goes. For example I have the freedom of speech guaranteed by the constitution. But I am not free to yell "Fire" in a crowded movie theatre just for mischief's sake. Of course, we would say that we are not free to break the law.

When a Christian says that he is no longer under the law but under grace, the immediate impression is that grace is less stringent than the law. Keeping the law never could save anyone but not because the law was somehow imperfect but because of people are imperfect. So the thinking goes then that grace must be lowering the chinning bar to accommodate people so grace must be easier than the law. In a sense that is very true. But grace brings with it an even higher standard than the law. That higher standard is the law of love.

It means that when I am free do something that the law formerly prohibited, I must be aware of how my freedom could influence others. The law of love says that may have to limit myself even on things that the former law allowed, to avoid becoming a stumbling block for another person. In this sense, the law of love is tougher. It feels better too though. I guess you could say, righteousness just feels right!

Galatians 5:13-14 (NIV)

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Forgiven, Covered, Not Counted

Posted by: David Carroll

Psalm 32:1-2 (NIV)

Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.

This is pretty rich language describing the wonderful feeling one has when nothing heavy weighs upon him, when all is well.

This verse goes on to describe the opposite feeling and uses opposing language with equal force to describe the depressing state of guilt when energy is drained.

Psalm 32:3-4 (NIV)

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

There is a simple step to take from the heavy place to the blessed place. Acknowledgement of your sin, open confession to the Lord, God's forgiveness.

Psalm 32:5 (NIV)

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord"--and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Sin is man's basic problem, salvation his basic need. Repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord brings immediate salvation from the penalty of sin, progressive salvation from the power of sin, and ultimate salvation from the presence of sin.

How to Pray Always

Posted by: David Carroll

Nehemiah 2:4-5 (NIV)

The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it."

Nehemiah was a man of prayer. We find him praying in a variety of problems and situations. He was a man dependent on God. I love this little scene involving an exchange between Nehemiah and King Artaxerxes. When the king asks you a question, you don't dally around or delay your answer; you answer immediately. I am sure Nehemiah did so but he found the time to pray between the king completing his question and before giving his answer. That could not have been but a few seconds, but Nehemiah prayed.

I know I have purposed at times to try and pray about everyday situations when they arise. I've even tried to pray before confronting situations that I know will require wisdom and direction from God. Usually, I find that I forget in the heat of the moment, trying to play "catch up" with my prayer. I want to be like Nehemiah. I believe this is one of the secrets to the command we have to pray always. It means having a constant awareness of God's involvement in our lives, checking with Him before we say or do anything.

Brother v. Brother

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Corinthians 6:1,5-7 (NIV)

If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? ...

I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another--and this in front of unbelievers!

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?

Thank God we live in a country where we can appeal to an impartial judge when we are wronged. But we live in a lawsuit happy society. At the least provocation, people say "I'll see you in court." Once the two parties get to court, there is no reconciliation. Oh there might be a settlement but trust is destroyed. Many times people see the courtroom as a means of gain rather than as a means of justice.

Paul is talking about one Christian suing another Christian. There'll be disagreements between believers, but the courtrooms of the world are no place to settle such matters. Christians have a higher purpose and a higher authority. Jesus said that people will know his followers by their love for one another. Suing someone is not an act of love. The bible says that it is better that we accept the wrongdoing against us than to take another Christian to court. The name and reputation of our God is to be guarded at any cost.

John 13:34-35 (NIV)

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Jesus gives the steps to take to resolve disputes between fellow believers in the following verse.

Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV)

"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

What is meant by a pagan and a tax collector? Those are metaphors for an unbeliever. I suppose you could sue them at that point. But how is a Christian to treat an unbeliever? Like someone who needs to be introduced to Christ.

A Fungus Among Us

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (NIV)

Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast--as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

There are few analogies or metaphors more consistent and prolific in the Bible than that of yeast or leaven being a type of sin. When you make bread, it just takes a little yeast to make a whole lump of dough rise nice and puffy. Think about that analogy. Sin grows like yeast, just a little can creep in, take hold, and pretty soon it can "corrupt" the whole person. Not only does this work in an individual, but it works on a national level too. The moral decline in our country today started with small, seemingly inconsequential things. To become clean and pure again, only a ruthless purging of sin will suffice. Any pet sins left unconfessed and unrepented of will only grow again.

What does yeast do to a lump of dough? Yeast is a living fungus which feeds on the bread and produces gas which puffs up the dough. The sin of pride works by puffing up too. How can you stop the growth of yeast? You have to put it into the oven and let the heat kill the yeast. God sometimes puts his own people into the fire of trials to stop the growth of sin in their lives.

Talk is Cheap

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Corinthians 4:20 (NIV)

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

I hear a lot of people talking about things of God: on TV, from the pulpit, by friends and acquaintances. I am reminded by this verse to not just listen for the right words but to look for the power. If God is there, He will be there in power. He will not allow himself to be compared with the things mere man can do. His blessing on a person's ministry will be manifested with supernatural power.

Purifying Fire

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NKJV)

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

A Christian who understands God's grace will emphasize that salvation is not earned nor can it be deserved. Heaven is the free gift of God. However, the deeper truth is that there are rewards in heaven received on the basis of merit. So while a lost person cannot work for salvation, the saved person works for a reward. This verse goes on to describe the fate of a person whose work is described as wood, hay and stubble. Their work is tested and will not survive the purifying fire. They will enter heaven saved from hell, but empty handed. The foundation is what matters to salvation and that is Jesus Christ. The building on top can only begin once the foundation is laid.

How does your work become gold, silver and precious stones which will survive the purifying fire? Obedience to His commands.

John 14:21 (NKJV)

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him."

You just can't imagine

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Corinthians 2:9 (NKJV)

But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."

We hear talk about heaven, how wonderful it is going to be. From this verse I get the idea that when we get there, we are going to be really surprised. I'm not talking playing harps, or floating on clouds. All I know is that anything we could imagine could not possibly come close to what it will really be like. Think of the most beautiful place you have ever seen. Think of the most wonderful music you have ever heard. Try to think way beyond that. Your not even close.

God shows us the box, with the wrapping paper, in the final chapter of book of Revelation. We have to wait to see inside. Good thing, if we could see inside, we'd probably be pretty inattentive to anything else God might want us to do in the meantime.

Revelation 21:10,21 (NKJV)

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. ...

The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

A Fool's Company

Posted by: David Carroll

1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (NIV)

Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

You can pretty much divide the world into three categories when it comes to what people think about Jesus Christ.

You've got the devoted religious crowd represented by the Jews here in this verse but anyone who is enamored with their religion would fit this category. This group is convinced that there is a God who created the world, no problem there. They are also usually convinced that the way they go about practicing religion is what gives them favor with God. To get them to move from their position you'd have to show them a miracle, a sign from God which they would readily believe. Although they believe in a creator god, they stumble over the idea that God would become a human and die to pay our sin debt, and then offer eternal life without any recognition of human merit.

And then you have the intellectual crowd, devoted to science and naturalism, who believe that anything supernatural is just so much foolish myth and superstition. The Greeks represent this group. They are very interested in philosophy and in understanding logic and how the world works. They mistake understanding of how something works with knowing how it actually came to be. You can't even get past first base with an intellectual who believes that the world just happened by random chance. If talk of a creator God is foolishness, talk of Jesus Christ is ever more so.

There is a third group here, represented by anyone who humbles himself before God's power and wisdom and becomes a fool for Christ.

I know, I'm a fool.

1 Corinthians 1:21 (NIV)

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

Dwelling in the house of the Lord

Posted by: David Carroll

Psalm 27:4 (NKJV)

One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple.

It is this kind of single minded desire that David had which confirms to us his whole heart for God. He paints a wonderful picture of being in the presence of God, which involves prayer (inquire in His temple) and praise (beholding the beauty of the Lord). David calls this a desire to "dwell in the house of the Lord all my days." So what is the house of the Lord? In David's day, it was equated with the portable tabernacle in which the ark of the covenant was placed. That is where God had promised to live so as to be among his people.

What about today since we have no temple or ark? Surely we wouldn't consider just hanging out at Church to be "dwelling in the house of the Lord." It must mean more than that. How can we dwell the presence of the Lord? It still involves prayer and praise but there is a new house God dwells in. God no longer has a temporary residence, he has moved into a permanent home, the heart of the believer!

1 Corinthians 3:16 (NKJV)

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

I heard my pastor say just yesterday, "Real salvation is not getting man out of earth into heaven, but rather getting God out of heaven into man."

A Mystery, hidden, now revealed

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 16:25-27 (NIV)

Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him-- 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Paul's benediction closes his letter to the Romans, perhaps the greatest treatise on how a sinful man can be made righteous before a holy God.

Paul mentions that what he has been preaching is according to revelation of a mystery given by the commandment of God. So what is this mystery which had been hidden since the world began but is now made known? There are many mysteries mentioned in the New Testament but the most common is that salvation is available to everyone, both Jew and Gentile. The redemption we have in Jesus Christ is the central theme of the Bible. It is found concealed in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament. Take a look at what Jesus himself had to say about this mystery.

Luke 24:44-47 (NIV)

He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Only an infinitely wise mind could have conceived such a marvelous plan of redemption. God, the holy Creator and Judge of the universe would become a man, acquainted with the same grief we are subject to. He would become our go-between, our mediator and advocate. He would take our sins away, paying the penalty in our behalf. How else could God be both holy and merciful? To God be the glory!

New Devotional

Posted by: David Carroll

I love you Lord...

John 3:16 [NKJV]

For God so loved the world

... because you first loved me.

The Purpose of Signs and Miracles

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 15:19 (NIV)

By the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

Paul wrote much of the New Testament. So how do we know that it is the trustworthy and infallible word of God? It is by the authenticating power of signs and miracles given through the power of the Holy Spirit to Paul and the other apostles through whom we have the full proclamation of the gospel of Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:12 (NIV)

The things that mark an apostle--signs, wonders and miracles--were done among you with great perseverance.

Signs and wonders are what authenticate the apostle. So do we have any apostles today? You tell me, where are the things that mark one? Should we be concerned about that? This next verse says that the apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church. Does a building need more than one foundation?

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Of course there can only be one foundation and that is Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:11 (NIV)

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The truth of God's word has already been authenticated by supernatural signs and miracles. There is no more need to further shore it up. It stands alone as God's truth. So how is today's gospel messenger authenticated? First by whether his message conforms to God's already revealed word. Secondly by another modern day miracle, transformed lives.

Credit to Whom Credit is Due

Posted by: David Carroll

2 Chronicles 29:1-3 (NIV)

Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother's name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done.

In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them.

2 Chronicles 29:35b-36 (NIV)

So the service of the temple of the Lord was reestablished. Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people, because it was done so quickly.

Hezekiah was a good king. The first thing he did when he became king was to repair the temple. The entire chapter 29 chronicles the work that was done by all the priests and the people to accomplish this restoration. When the job was done, Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced not in what they had done but in what God had done! And they even gave God the credit for doing it so quickly.

We get puffed up with pride at some of the things God does through us, but we need to have this mindset of Hezekiah. How do you get such a mindset? Do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

Psalm 24:10 (NIV)

Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty—he is the King of glory.

Talking about God, talking to God

Posted by: David Carroll

Psalm 23:1-6 (NKJV)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

I like to talk about God. I like to tell people about what He is to me, how He cares for me, how He directs my life. I like to talk to God. I like to tell Him about how my day is going, about what my troubles are, to tell him how he encourages me, protects me, and provides for me. When I die, I know that I will spend eternity with Him.

That is what David was saying in this wonderful Psalm wasn't it? I know, his words were far more beautiful than mine, but then again they really are God's words after all. I had never really noticed how David begins talking about God in the third person and then shifts to talking to Him. Good stuff. My cup runs over.

Getting along with others

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 12:16-18 (NKJV)

Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

I've noticed, in my church, that there are people of all stations of life who go there. There are both rich and poor, talented and untalented, smart and not so smart, those who lead and those who follow. It makes sense that people would divide along these lines and certainly there are attractions among commonalities people have with each other. But the fascinating thing is to see the love, fellowship and communion that crosses these dividing lines. It is a wonderful thing to see the president of a bank working alongside the truck driver, in a ministry activity, laughing with each other and encouraging each other. In the body of Christ, there is a common bond of love that supernaturally crosses these boundaries. I've noticed it on short-term mission trips too, this instant love and fellowship with a Christian in another country not even able to speak the same language.

On another note, this verse contains an important principle for living in an ungodly, contentious world. There will be disagreements and strife and contentions that seem to threaten your ability to maintain a Christian witness. Sometimes, situations will seem impossible to resolve and end peaceably. I have been in such situations and have been at wit's end trying to come up with a Christ honoring, agreeable solution. This verse really helped me through such times. It says "as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." That made me realize that although I am responsible to do my part as far as I can, I can't control the other person. Also, I found that before coming to the conclusion that I had done my part to be peaceable, that I had to ask God to examine the motives of my heart to see if they were pure. I pray the following verse, and it seems God always answers this one right away for me.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NKJV)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties;and see if there is any wicked way in me,and lead me in the way everlasting.

Bound for Mercy

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 11:32 (NIV)

For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

One of the most stubborn questions men ask about God is how can a good God allow evil and suffering. The implication is that God could have made everything good and made all men to go to heaven. My answer to this question has always been that God gave man a free will so that man would have a choice to love Him or not. This necessarily creates the potential for evil. Although this is true, after contemplating this verse, I think such a description gives man too much credit in making the right choice. I want to reexamine the question of why God allows evil.

A sovereign God can do whatever he pleases but lets examine what he actually did. First, we find that evil and sin is present within every man. Some might argue that man is basically good, but every man looking deep into his heart will know that there resides within him wrong desires and motivations. Secondly we find that all men do not desire to trust God. So, we can assume that not all men are saved. But God offers the free gift of salvation to all men and the fact that some do not accept this gift makes the offer no less universal. We conclude then that the purpose of God in making all men bound to sin was that he might set them free. This way, He gets the glory. But how does God justify mercy for all? No judge would ever be just if he let every guilty person go free. It cannot be on the basis of man's choice to accept mercy. There is no merit in that. A gift, although free for the recipient, must be purchased by the giver.

You know the answer. Jesus paid the price of justice on the cross dying in our stead. This is such wonderfully good news that it is shouting time! That is what Paul does in the very next verses.

Romans 11:33-36 (NIV)

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Beautiful Feet

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 10:13-15,17 (NKJV)

For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,Who bring glad tidings of good things!"

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions that have obvious answers that prove that salvation comes to those who hear and believe the facts of the gospel. One thing that strikes me hard is the compelling case that this verse makes for witnessing. You might be the only one who ever has the chance for someone to hear the good news. Preaching (or witnessing) is God's ordained way to for people to hear, believe, and call upon the Lord. I have heard many preachers and I know some are very learned and intelligent; others are strikingly unsophisticated and even crude. But they have something in common, beautiful feet.

I assure you, I just looked, my feet are not beautiful but I think it is wonderful to know that God thinks they are.

1 Corinthians 1:21 (NKJV)

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

Believe it and confess it

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Believing that Jesus died on a cross and was buried is believing nothing more than what has happened to many thousands of men before and since. But believing that Jesus was resurrected from the dead is to believe that his death was effective to accomplish salvation for those who would believe. Also notice that this believe is not head knowledge but the Bible calls it knowing with the heart. This is deeper then mere mental assent to the facts. How much deeper is it? Notice the confession "Jesus is Lord." It is that deep, deep enough to trust Jesus with your whole life and make him the ruler over it, that is to make Him Lord of your life. If you will believe what Jesus said is true then because of the shear magnitude of his sayings, you will by definition of your having believed it, become subject to his words demands. If you do not make him Lord, then it is impossible for you to say that you believe him.

Here is my confession:

I am a sinner. My sin was deserving of God's wrath. I believe Jesus died for my sins. I believe his words are true, proven when God raised him from the dead. He is Lord of my life. I will follow him. I am justified before God. I am saved from his wrath. Hallelujah!

Ripe for destruction?

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 9:21-23 (NIV)

Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath--prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory--

This is a very heavy passage of scripture. It makes me shrink in awestruck wonderment. The idea that God is the creator who has the right to make us any way he pleases and then to predestine us to any end he chooses is fearsome. And yet I cling to the wonderful truth of John 3:16.

There is some disagreement among scholars regarding the phrase "prepared for destruction." The word for prepared has the idea of being ripe or ready for. In this sense, it is not God doing the preparing but our sin that has made us "fit" to be objects of God's wrath. On the other hand, God did foresee this and approved it before the foundation of the world, after all, He is the potter. That's sobering and rightfully so.

This passage does not end on a low note but on a high one. God does not condemn men who ought to be saved, rather He saves men who ought to be lost.

John 3:16 (NIV)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Much Beloved, Much Argued

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 8:28-30 (NIV)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

I find it interesting that we find one verse which is perhaps one of the most beloved verses in all the Bible juxtaposed next to one of the most argued verses in all the Bible.

Knowing that God is working all things together for good is consoling to the one who asks why God allows evil and suffering. It is all part of God's all encompassing will which allows bad turns to reach an ultimate destination. A tool made of steel isn't useful until it has been tempered in the fiery furnace. This verse does not say all things are good, rather that all things including the bad things will ultimately, somehow, accomplish good according to God's will. We haven't reached the end of the story yet.

Now we come to the controversial part, notice that this verse is only comforting for those who love God. OK, that makes sense, but then it goes on to say "who are the called according to His purpose." What does that mean? Do we love because we are called or are we called because we love? The next verse says that it is according to God's foreknowledge. OK so He knew who would love him right? Of course He knew, He knows everything. Then it says He predestined it. Now we're back to saying the reason he foreknew was because he predestined it that way.

I give up, what can I say? Umm...Oh, that is answered in the very next verse!

Romans 8:31-32 (NIV)

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Enough said!

Benevolent Dictatorship

Posted by: David Carroll

2 Chronicles 10:6-8 (NKJV)

And they spoke to him, saying, "If you are kind to these people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be your servants forever."

King Rehoboam, Solomon's son, was seeking advice on how to deal with an issue involving some discontent among the Israelites. He received some good advice, "Be kind, pleasing, and speaking good words." This is the way a ruler of the people ought to be. It has often been said that a benevolent dictatorship is the most desirable form of government. I know, dictatorship has a negative flavor to it but to dictate means to instruct with authority. As long as the instruction is good, then the authority to enforce it is also good. In our world, such a system never seems to last because of the flaws in human character. Power corrupts. Sure enough, Rehoboam rejected this advice and was oppressive and evil to the people.

The Bible speaks of a time when Jesus will rule and reign on this earth. It is called the Millennial Kingdom. All the problems in the world will be solved. Why? There won't be any disagreements. We won't have to negotiate. The solution will be dictated by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords who Righteous and True. That benevolent dictatorship will work. By the way, His kingdom is already established, but this little plot of ground we currently live on is still under enemy occupation.

Why do I always do that?

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 7:15,18 (NKJV)

For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.

Do you ever feel that way? Can't seem to get it right and messing things up over and over again? Yeah, me too. And the worst thing about it is that you can see it happening when you are doing it. Paul is describing his own experience.

For a Christian, there are two natures at war with each other. There is the fleshly nature and then there is the spiritual nature. When speaking of the flesh in this context, it is not meant to be simply the body but rather, the flesh represents the desires to illicitly satisfy physical longings. We know that there are areas of the brain that are wired up to powerful pleasure centers of the body like eating and sexual activity. For the Christian, there is another part of your mind that is wired to seek spiritual things. That is the part that is "born again". You can see how these would often, but not always, be at odds with each other.

Which side wins? In a battle it is the strongest that wins the battle. Which army is the strongest? The one that is the most, trained, practiced, well-fed, and obedient to its master. Feed the spirit, starve the flesh; obey the spirit, deny the flesh.

Romans 7:24-25 (NKJV)

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

Pi in the Bible?

Posted by: David Carroll

2 Chronicles 4:2 (NIV)

He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it.

This is a physical description of the molten sea of bronze which was used as a laver for ceremonial cleansing in the Temple. Many Bible critics have pointed to the mathematical error embodied in this description as proof that the Bible cannot be trusted to be accurate. If the diameter of the circle is 10 cubits then the circumference should a factor of Pi (3.14) larger than that, or 31.4 cubits, not 30 cubits as this verse indicates. This sort of complaint, seems silly to me. First of all, the Bible never claims to be a mathematics book. Secondly, the writer most likely had no knowledge of Geometry and was simply writing a general historical account. Well, you might argue, if it was inspired of God, it would have been correct regardless. OK, I'll buy that argument. I'll even go further and say that where the Bible does touch on scientific subjects, it is accurate. So are we left with an error?

Until you have perfect knowledge, you cannot claim a contradiction is final. There might be an explanation. Let's see if we can come up with a reasonable one. Suppose the ten cubits was dimension from outside edge to outside edge and then suppose the circumference of thirty cubits were the measurement around the inside edge of the bowel. Taking a cubit to be 18 inches, if the thickness of the rim were exactly 4 inches, then these measurements would corroborate with Pi to a very high degree of accuracy.

In verse five, the rim of this molten sea is described.

2 Chronicles 4:5 (NIV)

It was a handbreadth in thickness, and its rim was like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It held three thousand baths.

Notice that it was a handbreadth in thickness. I just measured the width of my hand. Guess what it was?

Everyone is a slave

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 6:18 (NIV)

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

This is an interesting idea, that we are all slaves to something. Salvation depicts a rescue of one in bondage. The assumption is that the rescued person becomes a freed person. But Paul here in chapter six of Romans shows that the reality is actually a transfer of ownership, from the one master, sin, to the other master, righteousness. What does it mean to be a slave of sin? It means being always bound to sin, unable to do what is right. All right then, what does it mean to be a slave of righteousness? It means not being free to sin but free to do what is right.

The rebellious teenager who wants to be free from the shackles of schoolwork abandons his education and drops out of school. He thinks he is now free but what happens? His ability to work is limited to only those jobs suitable for a high-school dropout. What then about the compliant teenager who limits himself to hard work and study and even continues this constrained course through college? Having finished his slavery to school, he has a world of opportunity available to him.

Being a servant of righteousness is true liberty.

John 8:36 (NIV)

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Much More

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 5:10 (NKJV)

For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

This verse has many ideas in it. The main thrust is the argument from the greater to the lesser. It is incredible that God would send His Son to die for us, his enemies. Now that I am reconciled to Him, no longer an enemy, requiring his death to do that part; why would he not even more (much more!) desire to keep me saved by his resurrected life?

My pastor speaks of three tenses of salvation. Salvation begins by becoming saved from the penalty of sin. This is a one time event that occurs when faith is placed in Jesus Christ. Salvation continues for the remainder of life in which a person is progressively saved from the power of sin. Finally at the death, a saint is delivered from the very presence of sin. In theological terms this would be first, justification, which Paul describes in this verse as reconciliation. Secondly, the process continues and is called sanctification which means becoming "set apart" or made holy. The theological term for the final stage of salvation occurring upon entering heaven is glorification, when we are made like Christ.

Forgiveness of sins is a wonderful feeling but it is just the beginning of a changed life. Not only did Christ die for us, He also lives for us!

Hebrews 7:25 (NKJV)

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them

Being Fully Convinced

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 4:20-22 (NKJV)

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness."

In chapter four of Romans, Abraham is called the "father of the faithful." Abraham lived long before Moses. All Jews look to Abraham as their father but in doing so they must admit that the Law of Moses cannot be the way to God since Abraham did not have that Law. It is in this sense that a Christian feels a kinship with the Jew because we both claim Abraham as our father, the Jew via physical birth and the gentile via spiritual birth by faith.

This verse helps us to define faith; it is being fully convinced that God is able to keep his promise and acting on that belief. What was the promise God had given to Abraham? It was that he would become the father of a great nation through a son who would be born to he and Sarah, and in him all the families of the earth would be blessed. This verse says Abraham did not waver in unbelief. How did he demonstrate that? When God asked him to offer his son, Isaac as a sacrifice, Abraham immediately began to do this. If he believed God's promise, he had to believe that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead. What a test of faith!

Do you see how this is a glimpse into how another Son who would be sacrificed and would be raised from the dead? It is this kind of faith that is put on our account as righteousness.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (NKJV)

... I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, ... that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures

Bookkeeping, God's way

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 4:4-5 (NIV)

Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

Paul makes this oft forgotten concept clear. If there were anything that we could do to merit eternal life from God, then no matter how small a thing we did, God would be paying us back. God owes no man anything. What he offers is given freely. If I were to offer you a gift, you do not have that gift until you reach out with your arms and take it. That is what faith is, the reaching out part. How can that ever be considered a work? It is an effort. It is an act of the will. You could refuse the gift. It is your choice. It is not my will that you refuse the gift; I offered it to you. I would be disappointed in your refusal but I can't make you choose it.

Take a look at the accounting terminology Paul uses in this verse. Faith is credited as righteousness. God is the bookkeeper. He puts righteousness on your account. Does that make you righteous? Many have this idea that there is a set of scales in heaven where God weighs the good that you do against the bad and if the good tips the scales then you get in. The Bible says that even "our righteousness acts are filthy rags in his sight." [Jer 17:9] The transaction Paul describes is not a running account where we are waiting till checkout time to pay the bill. No, the bill is paid in full when you accept the gift. You might ask "what about the sins I commit afterwards?" How many of your sins were yet future when Jesus died on the cross? All of them. God is not surprised when you sin. He already can see all of your future sins. When he stamps "Paid in full" on your bill, the ledger is already completed.

I've got a big grin on my face as I write this.

2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Just and Justifier

Posted by: David Carroll

Romans 3:23-26 (NIV)

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

There verses are packed with the essence of Christianity. First, all we are all sinners. The Bible uses a Greek word to mean falling short of the mark. Second, Jesus Christ became a blood sacrifice of atonement. A sacrifice is like a payment. God has no need of anything so what else could be offer other than a sacrifice? Atonement is a big word which means satisfaction. Jesus' sacrifice was made to satisfy God's sense of justice. Third, it is by faith in the atoning power of this sacrifice that we have redemption. That's another fancy word which means to buy back. The effect of redemption is forgiveness of sins.

Finally God's justice is what is being displayed here. Socrates once said "It may be that Deity can forgive sins, but I don't see how." He understood the fundamental problem: how can perfection accept imperfection? This is the wonder of the last part of this verse. God is both just and the one who justifies. Picture a judge sitting behind his desk pronouncing a guilty verdict, and then requiring a death penalty to satisfy justice. Then, the judge stands up, removes his robe walks around to stand next to the sinner and announces "But I will satisfy justice by suffering the penalty myself."

New Devotional

Posted by: David Carroll

I love you Lord...

John 3:16 [NKJV]

For God so loved the world

... because you first loved me.