Bible Study

Oct 2017
The Truth about Possessions

While Lazarus is fellowshipping with Christ and Martha is joyfully serving, Mary sneaks to her room. She takes a key and opens the secret cabinet door and pulls out the ornate box. It’s a pound of spikenard. Oh, she had pulled it out before and glowed in her daydreams about the ways she might use this valuable possession, but, today, those daydreams seemed petty. She was going to use it on the Savior who changed her life. She walks down to where the festivities are. Her focus on Christ drowns out the chatter. This wasn’t spontaneous, this was a planned demonstration of her love. She takes the box over to Jesus and she breaks it and anoints his head and his feet. The room is silent. The room is filled with the aroma of her worship. She just gave everything to God.

The next person mentioned in the story is Judas Iscariot. “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor” (John 12:5)? Then we have the editorial comment, “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief” (John 12:6). Judas the thief would rob Christ of the worship he deserved!

This begs the question: If Mary had saved the ointment for herself, would she be a thief like Judas? It was hers to give, wasn’t it? Or was it hers to give?

The word possession is important. We think of possessions as a good thing. However, demon possession is a bad thing. For a moment, humor me and consider the origins of the word “possession.” This word comes from the Latin and the French and has at its root “power.” When you study the word you’ll find it means “power over; mastery.” The things you have in this life, are they your possessions? Or, rather, have they been given to you by God for you to steward for His glory? It is considered a bad thing for a demon to rob God of a soul by possessing a life. The demon’s power over and mastery of a child of Adam is robbery, so what of my possessiveness? Would it not be the same for our mutinous power over the gifts God has given us? Our possessiveness places us as master over something which God has given us. Instead of possessors, we should be stewards. Every dollar is given to me by God to steward for my needs in order to accomplish his service.

I am the steward. He is the possessor. If Mary did not worship Christ as she did, I’d say she would have been a thief much the same as Judas. Jesus said, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me…him will my Father honour (John 12:25-26). Mary’s worship properly acknowledged the Owner and Master of all things, even of her own life.

Do you hesitate to “sacrifice” in your worship of God? If so, could you be a thief like Judas?

Oct 2017
The Tale of Two Rich Men

Jesus sat a child on his knee and began to instruct the people, “Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein” (Luke 18:17). Luke then shares similar stories of two rich men. The comparisons between them are profound. One is unnamed, the rich young ruler; the other is named, Zaccheus. One is righteous; the other is a publican. One seeks an audience with the Master; the other starts as merely a spectator. One went away sorrowful; the other saved.

What was the difference? Notice their approach to the Savior. The rich young ruler came with pomp and circumstance, kneeling before the Master and sought the Savior’s approval. Truly, he expected the Master Teacher to say, “You have lived perfectly. There is nothing more you can do to inherit eternal life.” He came with expectations.

Everything about Zaccheus was childlike. The writer even points out he was of little stature. Zaccheus runs and climbs a tree. When’s the last time you climbed a tree for the fun of it? These were childish things to do, but they are written on purpose to draw you back to the instruction from Jesus.

Jesus is not searching for immaturity. He is searching for simplicity and surrender. When one does not presume to be equal with God, they will come in the simplicity of humility. There is no pomp or circumstance. They know they have nothing of value to offer. Zaccheus was wealthy and could have tried to impress the Lord, but he came in simplicity. Can you imagine how he must have felt? First, Jesus noticed him. Then Jesus knew him, “Zaccheus!” Finally, Jesus loved him, “Make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). This led to Zaccheus redeeming response—surrender. He didn’t quibble with the details of the law like the Pharisees. Whatever wrong he may have done, he would repay it abundantly for his sin debt was graciously forgiven.

One of the rich men experienced salvation. The other did not. Have you come to the Savior in simplicity? Or have you been trying to impress Him? Have you realized “all have come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)? Have you surrendered to Him?

Oct 2017
Faith—the Final Frontier

If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he lucky?

This is a very interesting question, but the next question is even more important.

If a person lives within the familiar goodness of God, does he have faith?

“If” is a pivotal word, and it is in usual form in John 11. Martha and Mary both comment to Jesus, “If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:21, 32). Knowing the rest of the story, you are tempted to criticize them, however, insert yourself into their experience. At best, they have heard of times where Christ raised the recently dead. They have seen way more healings than resurrections. Their hope hung upon the fact, Christ could heal their brother. Maybe even after Lazarus sighed his final breath and slipped into the afterlife, they gazed out the window desperate to see Jesus. But when the sun set three times before they heard anything from Christ, their faith had withered.

Jesus makes his own “if” statement to Martha. Encased in a question he says, “If thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God” (John 11:40). Press pause right there, and compare the two “if” statements. Martha’s and Mary’s statement to Christ used the formula: If-thou-brother. Christ’s statement to Martha used the formula: If-thou-God.

What Martha and Mary had was familiar faith. It was informed faith. Because they had seen Christ heal, they knew He could heal. It is faith, but informed faith is not sourced in God. Informed faith is sourced in your experience. Hebrews 11 describes faith for us: “Faith is the…evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Informed faith is faith within the confines and comfort of experience. Informed faith afflicts us with short-sightedness, seeing only His goodness.

Informed faith is a sight problem. Yes, you appreciate the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, but faith causes you to look past His goodness to see His glory. It is only when we desire to see His glory we actually “please Him” and will be rewarded as ones who “diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). The faith which pleases God is not a familiar faith, but a frontier faith. This is the faith which embarks on a journey to “see the glory of God.” With the knapsack of God’s promises flung over your shoulder, you step off the trail of the familiar into the frontier and explore the glory of God.

As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness. (Psalm 17:15)

Oct 2017
Is It Worth It?

It is the training ground for future salesmen. As a child in elementary school, you would slam your lunch box on the table, open it up, and immediately begin assessing the value of what was packed in your lunch. Some items in your lunch were the holy grail of food. You could have your pick of the lunch boxes. Other things were good but hardly tradable. Maybe if you combined it with something else you could get one better item, but more than likely you would simply settle for it. Then there were the abhorrent items in lunches. You couldn’t trade them for your worst enemy’s sister!

Some kids weren’t interested in trading, so they would simply toss everything they didn’t want into the middle of the table. There was an unwritten rule in lunchroom policy: Anything tossed in the middle was up for grabs. The youngster had forsaken their lunch, and the rest of the table could fight over it.

When you read Luke 14:33, do you immediately take inventory of what you have? Jesus said, “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). After reading words like “forsaketh” and “all,” most people look into the lunchbox of their lives and assess the value of what they are being called to forsake. Their stuff is pretty important. Oh, and their future is priceless. Their time is non-negotiable. All mankind looks longingly over at Jesus’ “stash” in order to make a fair trade, but Jesus is not in the trading business. Jesus, in essence, says, “Toss everything you have in the “up-for-grabs” area of the table”! He says, “Forsake all.” Can you do that?

In the next chapter, Jesus tells a story which should help us forsake all. A young man had an intricate value system. He collected all of his treasures in his life’s “lunchbox” and indulged in everything he could. The times were great, but only for a season. And we all know seasons change. Soon he felt the shove of the swine around his ankles as he was throwing slop out in the “up-for-grabs” pen for his new friends. He was about to fight the pigs for the slop when a rational thought stopped him. The father’s worst was infinitely better than his present condition.

How hard do you think it was for the prodigal son to “forsake all”? While your thinking, he’s already up and running back home. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was trading pig slop for the fatted calf. He would have never known what he would get from his father until he forsook all. What makes Luke 14:33 so hard is we have price tags on pig slop. The trinkets of this world, your stuff…it’s pig slop. That compromising relationship; pig slop. The accolades and personal achievements you value so much are pig slop compared to what God has planned for you.

What will you do? Will you forsake your pig slop? Or do you enjoy eating out of the world’s trough?

Oct 2017
For the Birds

“One, two, three…six, seven…” I soon lost count. In this fall season, I was driving on our country roads to make a quick visit when I noticed creeping travelers on their journey. They were on a mission before the first potential frost in the morning. Their trek led them, not to crawl parallel with the road, no, but their trajectory was completely perpendicular. I aimed the tires of my vehicle hoping to straddle the army of wooly bears crossing the road. Certainly, a wooly bear massacre would affect the ecosystem in some unfortunate way!

In comparison to a wooly bear, we are soaring through life at high altitude and would barely notice such an “insignificant” creature, yet they do not escape God’s notice. Jesus informed His audience, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God” (Luke 12:6)? Later in the chapter, he mentions God feeds the ravens. “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls” (Luke 12:24)?

Then Luke 13, Jesus exhibits this divine and tender care for all to see. A woman, hunched over and crippled “by Satan” for eighteen years did not escape his notice. In society, she more than likely was a nuisance, a pesky beggar, scraping by from day to day. Jesus lays his hands upon the woman and says, “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity” (Luke 13:12). She was “of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7).

There are two sins which arise when we forget God is our provider. Let it be noted: I am not advocating a foolish or imprudent lack of planning. The principle of the ant in the Proverbs is just as valuable. However, there are two sins which arise when we forget God cares for us more than sparrows and ravens, and they are worry and warehousing. Both are inaccurate thoughts about God. Worry is when we think God has forgotten us; warehousing is when we have forgotten God. In Luke 12, Jesus speaks of a rich man who had a bountiful harvest, yet he was warehousing his surplus. There were poor crippled women he could have noticed as God noticed, but this is unnatural for selfish flesh. When we seek “the kingdom of God” we remember “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:31, 15).

Whether it is sparrows, ravens, or wooly bears, remember, God notices you and He cares enough to supply your need. Lean upon Him today.