415:  The Curse of God’s Abandonment

415: The Curse of God’s Abandonment

There’s a time when the Lord gives us what we want: freedom, autonomy, independence, and to have no authority over our lives but ourselves.  That’s right.  God gives us over to our selfish, carnal attitudes and allows us to experience the consequences of our sins.  It’s like He says, “Ok, you want to go your own way?  Have at it.  I’ll be here when you come to your senses.”  It’s the story of the prodigal son played out in our lives in real time.

This is called the curse of God’s abandonment.  It’s when He removes His protecting grace from our lives and our nation and let’s us see how we like life without Him.  And the results are catastrophic.

Samson, after having his hair cut by Delilah, woke up to confront his enemies still believing he had the same strength as before because his God was with him.  But that was not the case.  He said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!”  But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him (Judges 16:20).  Samson was experiencing the abandonment of God.


God Gave Them Up

In Romans 1 we see three examples of this very act of God’s abandonment:

Therefore God also gave them up – Romans 1:24.
For this reason God gave them up – Romans 1:26.
God gave them over – Romans 1:28.

But who are the “them” in these verses?  The lost?  The unregenerate?  Those nations that reject truth and justice?  Yes.  But if you will study these verses closely you will find the object of God’s curse of abandonment is also the church.  It includes His wayward believers.  It includes you and me.

Does this seem strange to you?  Maybe hard to believe?  Then I suggest you keep listening and find out the truth for yourself.  And remember, “judgment begins at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).  Are you ready?

The following is a study on the Curse of the Abandonment of God.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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414:  The Blessings of Persecution

414: The Blessings of Persecution

Sometimes there are passages in the Scripture that confound even the most mature Believer.  These are the ones that seem to defy logic, ones that fly in the face of our cherished sensibilities.  For example, in Luke 6:30 the Lord tells us to “Give to everyone who asks of you.  And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.”  But Jesus gives no qualifier in this verse.  The person who asks for your stuff may be a bum, a greedy businessman, or the government.  How are we supposed to follow that command?

Another example deals with how we respond to a personal attack.  Jesus said, “But I tell you not to resist an evil person.  But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also” (Matt. 5:39-40).  How does this play out in real life in real time?  If the church followed this command the future of the legal profession would be in great peril.

But one of the hardest teachings in Scripture, especially to an opulent, narcissistic church like we have today, is the idea that suffering or persecution could be a good thing.  That sentiment is hard to swallow, let alone believe.  How could persecution be a good thing?  Ever?  To anybody?


The Church at Smyrna

In the second of our Lord’s seven personal epistles to His church, found in Revelation 2 and 3, He has nothing but kind words to say about the church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11).   And the primary characteristic of this church was their faithful perseverance under extreme persecution that lasted centuries.  We would be well advised as a church, and as individuals, to emulate in our life what brought this church such praise from our Lord.

To find out more about the Lord’s letter to the church at Smyrna, and what we can learn about our own view of suffering, then keep listening.

The following is a study on Jesus’ letter to the church at Smyrna, Revelation 2:8-11.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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413:  The Importance of Baptism

413: The Importance of Baptism

Baptism has fallen out of favor in the church today.  Many people are confused about baptism. And since there seems to be such a wide diversity of opinion about what baptism means and how important it is, many in the church have relegated it to an archaic, antiquated ritual and not much more.  And that is a grave mistake.  Why?  Because baptism is your first act of obedience as a Christian.

Many in the church who call themselves Christians have not been baptized according to the New Testament baptism.  That may include some of you who are listening to this podcast.  But think, if we are unfaithful to the first command of obedience to our Lord who saved us, it makes it much easier to disobey His other commands.  Does this describe you?

The question we ask today is why don’t people get baptized?  And there are at least five reasons: ignorance, pride, indifference, rebellion, or because they are simply lost.  In this message we will look at each of these in detail.

Are you confused about baptism and why it seemed so important in New Testament times but not so much today?  If that describes you, then keep listening.

The following is a study on baptism.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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The Promises from Proverbs Four, Part One

The Promises from Proverbs Four, Part One

In Proverbs 4 the Lord reveals to us some promises that come with wisdom.  They are simple, direct, pointed promises, and each has a condition that must be met.  Fulfill the condition, receive the promise.  Refuse the condition, and you walk away empty handed and promise free.  It’s that simple.

The Proverb begins with the father once again giving sage advice to his young children. Watch how this unfolds.

Proverbs 4:1-2 – Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; (why) for I give you good doctrine: (therefore) do not forsake my law.

The father then reminds his children about his own upbringing and the words his father told him that he is now passing on to his own children.  He says:

Proverbs 4:3-5 – When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me:  “Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live.  Get wisdom!  Get understanding!  Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.”


Get Wisdom!  Get Understanding!

The point the father is trying to impress on his beloved children is the importance of getting wisdom and understanding.  In fact, you can almost feel the urgency in the father’s words: “Get wisdom!  Get understanding!” (Prov. 4:5)  Later, he adds, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom.  And in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7).

Wisdom (ḥoḵmāh) is defined as “skill, experience and shrewdness; with the beginning of wisdom and the supreme wisdom being to properly fear and reverence God.”1  Understanding (biynāh) means “comprehension and discernment, which is accompanied by righteous actions and it carries a strong moral and religious connotation.”2  So when the father says “in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7), he is imploring his children to add righteous actions to their reverence and fear of God.  It’s not a theological point to be debated.  It’s not a mere mental exercise.  It’s living in real time a life that corresponds to a reverence of God.  Like Jesus later said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).  Great question.  How would you answer Him?


The First Promise

Then comes the most exciting part of these few verses.  Wisdom is now personified as a woman and each of these promises about wisdom (her) is connected with a condition that must first be met.  There are three do’s and one don’t.  Let’s look at the don’t first.

Proverbs 4:6a – (condition) Do not forsake her (wisdom), and (promise) she will preserve you.

To forsake (ʿāzaḇ) someone is to “leave, neglect, or abandon” them, usually for someone or something else.3  And the idea associated with the word translated preserve (šāmar) means “to keep watch, to guard, to watch over carefully like a mother over her young child.”4

So the first promise from wisdom is that if we do not abandon wisdom or neglect the wisdom found in God’s Word, then wisdom will guard our life and watch carefully over us like a loving mother to her cherished young child.  Wisdom will become our protector, our safety, and our security in troubling times of trials and temptations and persecution.  She will preserve our life during the attacks of the enemy and reveal to us what is true and trustworthy.  And in doing so, we will be strengthened against the schemes of our enemy who speaks to us lies disguised as truth (John 8:44).

Wisdom will also protect us from falling prey to our own ideas about things.  She will help us bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) so we won’t confuse our selfish, carnal thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others and vainly think they come from the Lord.  If we hold on to wisdom and do not abandon her to our own self-centered sense of right and wrong, then she will guard us against the temptation of trying to create God in our own image by believing He thinks and feels like we do.

And nothing could be further from the truth.  Why?  Because He doesn’t.  God doesn’t live in our box.

As the Lord says in Isaiah:

Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

I think that should settle it, don’t you?

There are three more promises granted to those who embrace the conditions associated with wisdom.  We’ve only looked at the first one, the don’t.

Tomorrow we’ll continue with the three do’s.

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Endnotes

  1.  Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 337). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
  2.  Ibid., 130.
  3.  Ibid., 819.
  4.  Ibid., 1171.

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412:  Leaving Your First Love

412: Leaving Your First Love

The first of Jesus’ seven letters to the churches in the Revelation reveal more about each of us than we often care to admit.  The letter to Ephesus has this chilling assessment from the Lord:

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).

Ouch.  In spite of this church standing firm against heresy and faithfully persevering under great trials, the Lord holds something against them.  He is hurt, angry, almost unforgiving.  He must feel rejected and forgotten.  Why?  Because the church in Ephesus, the early church, the church that still had members that knew the Lord personally had left and forsaken the very one they claimed to love.  He said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, (what) that you have left your first love.”  And that first love was Jesus.

Do you remember what it was like when you first came to Christ?   Do you remember the joy, the exuberance, the passion and full commitment you felt towards Him?  Do you remember the promises you made in sheer gratitude for what He had done for you?  Do you remember any of this?

Now look at your life.  Are you still as passionate?  Are you still giddy in love with Him?  Are you closer to the Lord today than in any other time in your life?  If not, you’ve done more than simply plateaued.  You’ve left and forsaken your first love.  And in doing so, the Lord now has something “against” you.

If I were you, I’d not rest until I made this right with Him.  Do you know how?  If not, then keep listening.

The following is a study on Jesus’ letter to the church at Ephesus, Revelation 2:1-7.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

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