Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday, March 29 ~ tammi

Today's Bible In a Year reading: Deuteronomy 21-22; Psalm 64; Luke 20
Today's scripture focus passage: Jude 1:14 - Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones...

Accompanying MacArthur sermonThe Coming Judgment on Apostates, Part 1
Accompanying Legge sermon: The Apostates' Final Fall

Happy Good Friday!  Seems kinda weird to say, since usually Good Friday is seen as a solemn remembrance, but it sure does mean good news for us, so I think it fitting to be joyful about it at the same time!!  (it also happens to be the other Friday poster's birthday ~ who happens to be my sister-in-law ~ so it's an especially good Good Friday!  Happy birthday, Roxie! :)

Okay, so today's passage is a little tricky because it isn't even a complete sentence!  But since it isn't and because Jude is beginning to quote someone we're familiar with, I'm going to focus on WHOM he's quoting.

Now, we don't know Enoch was necessarily a prophet, but the account of him in the Old Testament clearly indicates he was a very godly man, and while not generally recognized as a prophet, it's clear he did prophesy at least once.  Jude's tone throughout his little letter is one that presumes previous knowledge of his subject matter by his audience, so it seems safe to assume here that his readers must be familiar with this prophecy from Enoch.  And like MacArthur says in his sermon, "If Jude under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said that Enoch said that, then guess what? Enoch said that. He said it. Even though it's not recorded in the Old Testament, he said it. And the Holy Spirit inspires Jude to say he said it because he said it...Enoch prophesied." So?  Anyone wanna argue with him??  ;)

Legge points out the parallels between Enoch's day, Jude's day, and our day.  Certainly, we can see the need for Jude's reminder in our day.  And obviously, the environment and/or circumstances that necessitated Jude's letter (when he'd been planning to write something else ~ see v. 3) were very similar to the environment and/or circumstances that necessitated Enoch's prophesy.  Which, as you recall, preceded the flood in Noah's day by only one generation.  Enoch named his son Methuselah to bear testimony to the prophecy which would be fulfilled right after the end of Methuselah's life.  All this to say, nothing much has changed in human nature since God saw fit to wipe out virtually the entire human race back in Old Testament times.  They desperately needed warnings then and got them through prophecies; we desperately need them now and get them from God's Word.

One thing Legge mentions that I find kind of disturbing (but that makes perfect sense) is that the apostates, false teachers, etc. come from the Church.  I mean, it makes sense ~ how else could you preach and live a false Gospel if you didn't know the real one enough to be able to alter it?  But still, it's a little unsettling to be faced with the reality that when we're in our churches is when we're most likely to be surrounded by apostates.

Jude's letter, I believe, is not only a plea to greater discernment and a guide to recognizing apostasy, but also a reminder that if false teachers come from within the Church, we need to CONSTANTLY make sure what WE say and how WE live lines up with Scripture.  We may not be pastors or authors or Sunday school teachers or conference speakers or Bible study leaders, but our lives speak to our beliefs and interpretations of the Word nonetheless.

It is SO CRITICAL to KNOW God's Word!!

Not just so we can recognize apostasy in our churches, but so we can recognize the beginnings of apostasy in ourselves and make the necessary course corrections.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: Deuteronomy 23-24
Monday's scripture focus passage: Jude 1:15-16

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday, March 28 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Deuteronomy 19-20; Psalm 63; Luke 19.
Today's scripture focus is Jude 1:11-13.

Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay [a]they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 12 These are the men who are [b]hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water,carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, [c]doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own[d]shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the [e]black darkness has been reserved forever.

I don't know about anybody else, but I was curious about what Cain, Balaam and Korah all had to do with this.  (OK, well, it is fairly obvious in the case of Cain.  And truthfully, I actually didn't remember who Korah was.)  From David Legge's sermon, "Remember, Remember"

He tells us of three men, Cain a farmer, Balaam a prophet, and Korah a prince. Cain a working class man, a working class apostate, Balaam an ecclesiastical apostate, Korah a royal, rich apostate - and apostasy, like all disease and just like sin, is no respecter of persons. He speaks of Cain, you all know the story of Cain, that Cain offered of the fruit of the ground - he was a farmer, he tilled the ground and he brought to God that sacrifice of his vegetables and his fruit - and Abel brought the sacrifice of a little unblemished lamb, and shed its blood and gave a burnt offering to God. But to put it bluntly: Abel was true faith and God's faith, and Cain was man's faith, the faith of the flesh, the work of the flesh. The religion of mankind, the product of man's mind, the product of rationalism, where he said in the depths of his being, whether he was conscious or admitting it or not, 'My way is better and more acceptable than God's way'! And I suspect that the Holy Spirit was whispering down on planet earth, 'There is a way that seemeth right unto man, but the way therefore is the way of death'. 

The religions of the world are based on man's effort - and that's why Cain's effort was rejected, it was his own works, because faith saves. And my friend I want you to see this, that this is seen in the old Philistines, in the Old Testament where God was saying: 'There is My way and no other way, I am the God, I am the only God to be worshiped, I will not share My glory with another, I will not be put in a trophy cabinet of gods and worshiped in a pluralistic religion or society'.

Do you know who Balaam was? He was a false prophet, and Balak the king of the Moabites wanted him to curse Israel in the name of the Lord, but he did it for reward that's the only reason why he went, for a reward, to get money. God told him 'You're not going!', he said, 'I am going!', and he went. And as he was on his way, the angel of the Lord rose up in the way and the ass that he was riding on saw the angel of the Lord, but he didn't see him - he was the ass! He didn't see the angel of the Lord, but he wasn't having it either. He devised a plan and he went to the king of the Moabites again and he said 'I've got a way to get Israel to sin and to get God's wrath upon them. You get Israelites to marry your daughters', now that wasn't allowed. And it says that through that - we could call it a 'sexplosion' - God reigned His wrath and anger upon His own children, because Balaam got them to sin sexually. And we have men, naming the name of Christ, who are in it for the money - and I'm talking about evangelicals - and we have men that are legitimizing sexual perversion through the word of God.

Cain, Balaam and thirdly, and finally, Korah. He's called Core, C-o-r-e, here but in the Old Testament it's translated Korah, K-o-r-a-h, and you read about it in Numbers chapter 16.  Korah was not willing to accept God's ordained leaders. He said 'Why can't we come to God? Why can't we bring the sacrifice? Why can't we offer the incense? Why can't we go before God? Why can't we call the shots and rule the people?', and they wanted to overthrow the Lord's servant. And the word of God says that this is what God said to them: 'Moses, Aaron separate yourselves from among this congregation that I may consume them in a moment...And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation' - do you know why? Because God has told us in 1 Samuel 15 and verse 23 that rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. My friend, Israel, the angels, Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, Balaam, Korah in his rebellion, all exhort us to flee from apostasy.

I am glad we are studying Jude.  I confess, this little, one-chapter book has never seemed to me to be of great interest, but after studying it more closely, there is more to it than initially meets the eye.  If nothing else, it is a very strong warning, a wake-up call.

Happy Thursday, everybody!  And I will also take this opportunity to wish you all a very blessed and happy Easter.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Jude 1:14.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Deuteronomy 21-22; Psalm 64; Luke 20.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wednesday, March 27th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Deuteronomy 17-18, Psalm 62, Luke 18
Today's scripture focus is Jude 1:9-10

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.

MacArthur calls these deceivers that have crept into the church, spiritual terrorists.  And I thought that was an excellent analogy.

our nation, of course, is on high alert with regard to terrorism and what makes terrorists dangerous is, one, they are hidden among us and we don't know who they are, and secondly, they don't mind blowing themselves up in the process of accomplishing their goal to destroy others. That makes them very, very dangerous. And the same thing is true in terms of the church. And sad to say, while the nation takes seriously the threat of physical terrorism, the church doesn't take very seriously the threat of spiritual terrorism. The church is filled with spiritual terrorists. I read about them every time I open a newspaper, those who name the name of Christ, who were clerical garb, who claim to teach the Scriptures and represent the Scriptures and speak about God and represent Jesus and so forth and so forth, whether they're in the newspaper, whether an institution, television, radio, wherever they are, they are all over the place professing to belong to Christ and to represent Him and to have the insight on the truth and they are really spiritual terrorists, they are embedded in the church. And they are equally dangerous because one, the church doesn't take care to really discover who they are. And secondly, they don't mind blowing themselves up with the very damning error that they espouse that's so destructive to others.

These spiritual terrorists not only promote their own false spiritual insights as truth, not only do they live immorally, not only do they reject the authority of Jesus Christ and His Word, but they also blaspheme the glorious ones - the angels.

MacArthur shows, and I don't think I've ever noticed this before either, that angels have always been guardians of God's law.
In Deuteronomy 33 Moses reminds the people of how God came down at Mount Sinai to give them the law along with thousands of angels.
In Acts 7:53, Stephen says "you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it."
Consider Galatians 3:19  Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.
Hebrews 2:1-4 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Angels have a special role in the moral order of the world! And deceivers blaspheme them.

MacArthur:  it is a rather amazing irony that these false religions very often and these mystics and these Gnostics and these who have the elevated knowledge and these who get the visions and the revelations and the dreams are talking about the fact that this stuff is coming from angels when in fact they are blaspheming the holy angels who are the guardians of the sacred Word of God and they are really in connection with demons...

False teachers do not hesitate to indulge their flesh, reject lordship and revile holy angels. Reviling holy angels is something you better be careful about. Blaspheming holy angels by rejecting the Law of which they are the guardians is serious. It is a serious thing to revile holy angels. And the point that Jude makes here is very powerful because he says Michael who is himself a holy angel would not even revile Satan who was a fallen angel. That's an amazing contrast, isn't it? Michael who is himself a holy angel would not himself blaspheme a fallen angel and yet these false teachers will blaspheme holy angels....

He knew Lucifer. He knew him when he was the son of the morning, when he was the anointed cherub, when he was around the throne, when he was the heavenly choir director. He knew the other demons, all of them being created together at once. And when they fell, he knew they fell and he did battle with them and was part of the force that threw them out of heaven. He knows he has power over Satan then, he knows Satan is fallen. And yet he has respect for those angelic enemies of God and even though he is a powerful holy angel, he knows that there are limits to his power and there are limits to his knowledge. He is not omniscient, or is he omnipotent. His power as a holy angel is delegated and his function is to do whatever God tells him to do and not act independently on his own. He will not usurp divine authority. He will not exercise his own will over Satan. He will not on his own blaspheme even Satan. God has His plans for Satan and God knows what they are and Michael will carry them out but he will not act independently. He will not intrude. He will not do things on his own. And one of the things he will not do is he will not bring against the devil a railing judgment but rather he will say to the devil, "The Lord rebuke you." 

Apparently Satan wanted to fight with Michael over Moses' body - perhaps to desecrate it, perhaps to use it as an idol for Israel or some other evil plan - we don't know exactly why.  Rather than personally cursing Satan, Michael defers to the ultimate power of God - just like the Angel of the Lord (the pre-incarnate Jesus) in Zechariah 3:2, when the Angel of the Lord, Jesus Himself, says the Lord God rebuke you. The Son calls on the Father to rebuke Satan.  Michael was there, he knows that story, and he follows the very example of Jesus.

Apostates not only rebuke Satan with amazing presumption, but they teach other immature believers to do it as well. And in addition, they also blaspheme holy angels by their sinful lives which show disdain for the holy Law of God which is so precious and so sacred to the angels. They are, in a true sense, the guardians of God's holy Law. And wherever these false teachers are characterized by materialism, wherever they're characterized by pride, wherever they're characterized by insubordination to the Word of God, wherever they're characterized by anger or power-hunger, whatever it is, they are violating the holy Law of God, they are then in the truest sense blaspheming angelic majesties.

Why? Because they are ignorant.

These ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ, these who undermine the faith, these men, verse 8, these dreamers, these are those, verse 10, who revile the things which they do not understand.... They do this stuff because they are spiritually ignorant. 

They're operating not out of true knowledge but out of ignorance, out of their own blind instincts and they will end up being destroyed by their own deception.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Jude 1:11-13
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Deuteronomy 19-20, Psalm 63, Luke 19

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday March 26, 2013 - Sandy

Today's scripture focusJude 1:8
Today's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Deuteronomy 15-16, Psalm 61, Luke 17

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.
Jude 1:8

MacArthur's sermon here

Honestly, I found this verse hard.  It's kind of awkward when a single verse is taken alone.  Not because it's wrong to consider a verse alone, but because it's hard for my human mind to do so.

So far, throughout Jude, we are seeing the warnings against defying God, turning our backs on Him and His ways, and this verse is no different.  While we are clothed in grace, and forgiven through Christ, there are serious consequences to willfully choosing to ignore God.

The consequences are even more dire for those who claim the name of Christ, yet are liars and deceivers.

I honestly can't even say anymore, MacArthur's sermon is excellent reading on this.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday, March 25 - by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Deuteronomy 13-14, Luke 16, Psalm 60
Today's scripture focus is Jude 1:6-7

Jude 1:6-7

New Living Translation (NLT)
And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment. And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment.

Jude continues to warn about the consequences of disobedience and turning away from God. Jude reminds us that we have a choice, we can choose to follow God or we can move beyond the limits God sets on us and go our own way. We do have a choice. However, our decision to abandon what God desires has serious consequences: destruction.

Why do people choose to turn away? MacArthur says:
"Ignorance is one reason why people defect from the gospel. There's never really any penetrating of the truth, that's the hard ground. It just sort of bounces off them. They don't comprehend it. Persecution is another reason...people who are exposed to the gospel but do not want to pay the price of naming the name of Christ and bearing the reproach of Christ. The worries of this life, Jesus said, are another reason why the seed has a very short life and produces no fruit. And Jesus also said the deceitfulness of riches, people love wealth and materialism and prosperity in this life more than heavenly promises.
It is also true that there is another reason why people defect and that is because the teaching of Jesus is hard. John 6:60, "Many therefore of His disciples when they heard this said, 'This is a hard statement, who can listen to it?'" A few verses later as a result of this, "Many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore." The demands of Jesus were hard, that's really what I was driving at in the book Hard to Believe, which reflects the teaching we did, particularly on Luke 9, "If any man come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me." The message is hard, hard teaching. It was too hard for the rich young ruler. It was too hard for Judas Iscariot."  



Deceitfulness of riches.

It is hard.

All reasons to abandon what God has promised. All reasons to decline Jesus' invitation for salvation. All reasons to stay on the road to destruction. It's easy to stay ignorant. It's much easier to conform and avoid persecution. It's easy to be swayed by the pursuit of stuff. It's easy to follow the way of the world and ignore the way of God.

Matthew 7:13 says:
New Living Translation (©2007)
"You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.

Easy is popular. Hard is not.

MacArthur says:

There's just so much potential for apostasy, that's what I'm trying to tell you. Is it any wonder that many get on the broad road and few find the narrow way? Is it any wonder that many, many say, "Lord, Lord," but really don't know the truth and few really find the door? There are just so many potential ways to apostatize and it's so normal and so natural to the human heart. I would go so far as to say that it is not a surprise to me that the majority of people exposed to the gospel turn away from it. Is that not obvious? The majority of people exposed to the gospel turn away from it. And it seems to me that clearly there are far more people in the visible church than in the invisible church, many, many more. But some of these people that defect and some of these people that turn away remain in the church as the instruments of Satan to teach their demon doctrines and to build the visible church with its corrupt theology. Now all of this takes us back to Jude, we can go back there now. And people who have been drawn into this apostasy, this departing from the faith, apostasia, defection, revolt. Used in the New Testament always of religious apostasy. A variation of the word means divorce. And here in Jude, Jude is concerned with those who remain in the church to corrupt it with their false teaching and try to do so unrecognized, try to do so in clerical garb calling themselves preachers and pastors and reverends and fathers and priests and whatever else.

So not only are people choosing to turn from God, they are pulling people along with them for the ride. They are creeping in and corrupting and Jude is warning about the destruction that will surely follow this. He reminds them about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah:

There...In don't think there's an incident in the history of the Old Testament that made a stronger impression on the Jewish people than that of Sodom and Gomorrah because as you study the Old Testament, it is brought up again and again and again in Deuteronomy, in Amos, in Isaiah, in Jeremiah, in Zephaniah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, it's brought up again in Matthew and in Luke and in Romans and in Peter and in Revelation...of course in Jude. Two angelic visitors come to visit Lot. The men surround the house. They want to rape these men. And you know what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah, what happened? God incinerated them. The other cities in that same area, according to Genesis 19, were also consumed. Some archeologists have said there is evidence of a great rupture in the earth's strata in that place. Terrific explosion in some subterranean pool of oil near the south shore of the Dead Sea where these cities were located. The gas becomes ignited and the resulting blast lifted a whole section of the valley floor into the air and dropped it down burying them all so that these cities were literally buried immediately in burning oil and sulphur. In one hour they were all gone.
And back in Jude, we know where they were going. They were undergoing the punishment of eternal fire...the punishment of eternal fire. This is hell. This is God's final, everlasting judgment on sinners, and in particular those who defect from the truth. Revelation 19 and verse 20 describes it as a Lake of Fire which burns with brimstone, very much like that which fell on them that day. Revelation 20 verse 10 it says, "The devil who deceived them was thrown into the Lake of Fire and brimstone where the Beast and the false prophet are also and they'll be tormented night and day forever." And Revelation 21:8 says, "The cowardly, the unbelieving, the abominable murderers, immoral persons, sorcerers, idolaters, all liars, their part will be in the Lake that burns with fire and brimstone." That's where it all ends.
So God has given us in this little epistle of Jude three dramatic, unforgetable, historical illustrations of apostasy and how it ends. It is a warning. It is a warning to any who are on the edge of turning away from the gospel. But it is a reminder to us of how important it is to fight for the faith, to contend for the truth because God will punish with everlasting fire those who defect from His truth and stay in His church to corrupt it. He destroyed the very people He took out of Egypt. He destroyed the very angels who once were around His throne. He destroyed the people in Sodom and Gomorrah who were exposed to Him and perverted themselves.

Yesterday, in our Adult Sunday School class, we concluded the video portion of the series "Not a Fan" and the analogy from today's lesson really hit home for me. The pastor talked about going on vacation for a month and leaving people a notebook about all the important things to know about the house: which day was garbage day, when to water and feed the pets, the details about how to work the appliances and so on. Now imagine coming home to find your house in shambles and full of garbage and dead pets and plants because none of the directions were followed. The house sitters, super glad and excited to see you home from your trip, greet you with a smile and gush about how valuable the notebook they read it every night, how they highlighted their favourite parts, and how they even had friends over to study the notebook together. As the home owner, how impressed would you be to see the mess left behind and that your instructions you left behind were not followed at all.

We have our notebook about God's expectations about how we are to live our lives while he is away. It is our job to know them, do them, and to know what is expected so we can choose wisely when confronted by false instructions not in the book. It won't be easy, it won't be popular, and it will cost us. How do we want to greet Jesus when he comes back?

Tomorrow's scripture focusJude 1:8
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Deuteronomy 15-16, Psalm 61, Luke 17

Friday, March 22, 2013

22 March 2013 ~ Roxie

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Deut. 1,2; Psalm 59; Luke 15
Today's scripture focus is Jude 1:5

Jude 1:5 (New Living Translation)

So I want to remind you, though you already know these things, that Jesus first rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt, but later he destroyed those who did not remain faithful. 

Jude 1:5 (New International Version)

Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.

Jude 1:5 (The Message)

I’m laying this out as clearly as I can, even though you once knew all this well enough and shouldn’t need reminding. Here it is in brief: The Master saved a people out of the land of Egypt. Later he destroyed those who defected.

Jude 1:5 (Bible in Basic English)

Now it is my purpose to put you in mind, though you once had knowledge of all these things, of how the Lord, having taken a people safely out of Egypt, later sent destruction on those who had no faith;

I am so sorry that such a deep, controversial verse is not going to get as much examination as I would have liked to have given it. Here in the Manitoban Interlake (among other places), the weather has been bitterly cold these last few weeks, especially at night and our farm is in the midst of calving season. I have been working my half time paid job and the evening and/or night shift on the farm when I am not at the Health Centre. SO tiring and time consuming...I will not go into how my home looks right now!!

On to more important things: I know that it is only verse 5 (and I had so much trouble choosing a you are stuck with 4), but it is clear that Jude is on a mission. A mission to remind, to “put you in mind”, to “[lay] this out as clearly as I can”. He does  not  want Christians to forget that God is God. God is a saving God, a rescuing God and a delivering God. He carried His chosen people out of slavery, out of Egypt to safety, just like any concerned, doting papa would.

But God is God. Those who have no faith have no place in His presence. Those who do not believe...who do not remain faithful are destroyed. Destroyed. 

Just typing this has nearly brought me to tears. I think of many members of my family, blood and in-laws, who once followed Christ with exuberance and passion only to lose that joy and excitement when times got hard or the distractions of life made the effort too hard, too boring, too restrictive, too unpopular.

And this verse tells me that destruction comes to those who do not remain faithful; those who do not believe; those who defect. Destruction. Destruction will come to all the people who are being deceived by the very strong movement infiltrating our churches teaching that hell does not exist and that all will be in heaven together because God is too loving to send anyone anywhere horrible or awful. Destruction is in the future of those who follow and then fall away...or defect.

To defect, according to my helpful computer dictionary, means to “abandon one's country or cause in favor of an opposing one”. To defect from the side of God, to not believe, to not remain faithful is to choose in favor of the opposing side. And who opposes God?? Satan does, that’s who. Jude is not afraid to say what needs to be said. He is not afraid to speak the unpopular opinion. He speaks truth, hard, difficult, unrelenting truth: God is God and He wants your everything for always.

We must urge one another to keep God’s Word on our hearts, on our minds, on our lips that we might remain faithful. And we must pray and pray and pray for those who are perishing...especially those who know the truth, but choose to ignore it.  

Monday's scripture focus: Jude 1:6-7
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Deut. 9, 10

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thursday, March 21 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Deuteronomy 5-6; Psalm 58; Luke 12.
Today's scripture focus is Jude 1:4

For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Crept in unnoticed.  How scary is that?  Ungodly persons who deny Jesus (maybe without even realizing it themselves) creep in and slowly steer us off into the ditch.  They may have the best of intentions.  They may not mean to drive people off into the ditch, or away from the truth and salvation, but that doesn't change the fact that this is what they are doing.  And our repeated theme - how can we tell who these ungodly people are?  Know the truth.  That is the only way to recognize lies!  From David Legge's sermon, The Creepers:

...there is a cancer - and always will be, until we get to glory - be a cancer, just there, ready to awake and destroy. Where does it come from? Well, the verse tells us, '...certain men crept in unawares...', infiltrators, someone has called them the active members of the Senate of Satan. Men and women who hide under the cloak of Christianity, but deep down in their souls are godless! They are good on the outside, they're maybe even - in a worldly term - godly and god-like on the outside, but within the inside they are as black as tar - dead! The frightening thing that hits me, is that outwardly many of these people - in a religious sense - get everything right. They follow the practices, they walk the walk outwardly speaking, and talk the talk - but they had sneaked into the church, and were servants of Satan himself. Like the alligator, you see it - and they're going down the river, on the TV, in the boat - and all of a sudden you see this part of the green at the side of the river that's a bit darker, and then it starts to move - and very slowly, it just creeps in underneath. That's the sense that Jude is using here of these people, 'crept in unawares', they sneaked into the church of Jesus Christ - another translation says, 'they wormed their way in'!

Look at verse 4, they are marked out by God, '...before of old ordained to this condemnation...' - that could be translated: 'long ago, beforehand they were marked out', or another translation says, 'their doom has been predicted long ago'. We shouldn't be surprised by all this stuff that's happening in the church today - why? Because not only Jude, but men before Jude - the Lord Jesus Christ Himself warned His own disciples, even in the Old Testament there are prophecies that indicate that these men are ordained for condemnation. That doesn't mean God didn't give these men a chance, or He had them marked for this one purpose, but it means this: that long ago they were prophesied to do such things - and of course, as always, God's word comes true. God had marked them out.
There are two features that show us these rascals. The first thing about them is: they lived lives of licence. '[They turned]', it says [in] verse 4, 'the grace of our God into lasciviousness' - there was an absence, in their personal walk and life, of moral restraints in their behaviour - they abused the liberty that they had in Christ. God had wiped the slate clean of their past, their present, and their future - and they thought that the slate wiped clean of their future was like a blank cheque, that they could fill in with sin for whatever they wanted. 'God's forgiven me! I can do what I like! I can live as I like! I can say what I like or go where like!' - but, of course, as Paul says 'Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?'. That's not what the grace of God is all about, the grace of God is not just forgiveness, the grace of God is a change of a person, where their heart is changed, their life is changed, their desires are changed - everything about them is changed, so much so that Paul says they become 'new creatures, a new creation in Christ Jesus'. And therefore the implication is that no man can have forgiveness if he lives a life of licence. These men had no shame, they were carnal, they flaunted their sin in a spirit of arrogance - and today we see people who take the name of Christ, churches and church leaders, who are sinning openly, and encouraging sin in the world around us. And what, perhaps, began with them as a lack of reverence for the word of God - they just didn't obey it - is now becoming an interpretation of Scripture that they take, that turns the word of God on its head and legitimises and legalises their sin. Oh, there are men who can get anything out of the word of God - using the word of God to justify their sinful lifestyle. And they were apostates that Jude is talking about - a man who thinks he's saved, but is not saved! The life of God is not in his soul, the grace of God has never reached his spirit or his conscience, and therefore Jude concludes that there is no place for such a man or a woman in the church of Jesus Christ. 
Living lives of licence - and then the second thing that you see about their character is that they lived denying their Lord. 'Turning the grace of our God', verse 4, 'into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ' - their so-called Master and Messiah, they were denying Him by their actions! It could be said of many in the church of Jesus Christ today, as the Lord Jesus said, that the last state of the man is worse than the first.  There are those who name the name of Christ today, and don't know if there really is a God, there are those who name the name of Christ, and don't really know if the Son of God was the Son of God, if there is life after death, if miracles really happen, if infidels really can be saved! There is one quite famous theologian who said, 'A corpse cannot come to life and climb out of the grave'. My friend, as one man put it, they have gone through the Bible and taken out its records; they have gone through the Nativity and taken out the virgin birth; they have gone through Christ's temptation and taken away His purity; they have gone through the miracles and taken out the miraculous; they have gone through Calvary and taken out the blood, they have gone through the tomb and taken away the bodily, literal resurrection; they have gone through heaven and taken out its riches; and they have gone through hell and taken out its fire!...and there is nothing left.
One of the greatest downfalls that has brought this within the church is that Christians forget to remember. You remember, when Peter was talking about these same things in his little epistle, he continually told those believers there, 'Finally...' - I beg your pardon, in Philippians 3 and verse 1, Paul - '...Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you', not something new, not some concocted new thing that God had revealed to them - it's better to say something true than something new! 'It's not grievous for me to write this unto you, but for you it is safe'. My friends, never get weary of hearing sound doctrine, never say 'Och, we've heard all that before', or, 'We know all that', or, 'We're sick hearing that' - because the moment you stop hearing it, and the moment you ignore error, as we said last week, that error and falsehood will become established! The Scripture teaches that there is no new thing under the sun, and these apostates weren't new, and their behaviour and their character weren't new at all - they haven't changed, in essence, from that day, in Jude's day, 'til today.

Sorry, I cut out a bunch, but that's pretty long.  It was so interesting to me how he explained each phrase of the verse that I couldn't just pick out a paragraph or two.

Anyway, I hope you all have a great day.  Happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Jude 1:5
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Deuteronomy 7-8; Psalm 59; Luke 13

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wednesday, March 20th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Deuteronomy 3-4, Psalm 57, Luke 13
Today's scripture focus is Jude 1:3

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

This was not the letter Jude had intended to write.  Jude had intended to write about the great things God has done in our salvation, but the Holy Spirit compelled him to write about apostasy instead. He was compelled, he had no choice.

And you want ironic?  Jude is the same name as Judas.
Who was the greatest apostate of all time? Judas.
And who did God choose to write a book warning about apostates within the church?  Jude!
That's irony for you all right!

David Legge, in his sermon The Unintentional Letter, says this (emphasis mine):

Jude is shouting, 'Beware! Beware!'. There is something that the apostle here wants these people to know! He wants them to know that Satan, Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, the Angel of Light, is alive and well! Now, that is a frightening thing. It is a frightening thing, when we think that this little book is so neglected within the church of Jesus Christ today. Indeed, this little book - perhaps you could use as strong a word to say - is hated by many. What is it? It is a call to arms! As you read the book, and read the language, the language is strong, it is harsh, it is scalding, it is severe - and perhaps that's why it's not popular because, in the politically correct age in which we live, strong language is not palatable. People don't like it, people don't like straight talking - we live in the age of 'spin' and 'spin doctors', moulding and being 'economic' with the truth. Something that is black-and-white, something that is absolute, something that is strong and harsh and scalding and severe is not popular! And in a 'mamby-pamby' church of Jesus Christ today, a cry for militant Christianity that we find within this book is not popular!

Now, of course, I'm not calling upon you all to go onto the streets and to throw stones and to shoot - that's not what militant Christianity is, that's not the call to arms that Jude is giving here. For our weapons of warfare, as the word of God says, are not carnal - we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. And we, as those who wrestle in that realm - and, may I say it, as the only ones in the world today who can wrestle in that realm! - Jude is a cry, a call to arms. Get up! Get doing! Be militant! Get fighting! Now why is Jude using such strong, severe and rousing language? Well, it's simple: the themes that Jude is taking within this book are issues of life and death. As you read the book, and as we study it in the next few weeks, you will see that what Jude is lambasting in this book is, first of all: a dishonouring attitude of Christ. Secondly: it is the deceiving of souls. I vouch to say, that there are no more things, in the eyes of God, in this day that we live more heinous than those two things. A dishonouring attitude, or regard, or view of the Lord Jesus Christ - and men and women, churches and movements around our world that are deceiving souls by the millions and leading them into an eternal hell!

We are to contend for the faith.  Fight for the faith.  Fight for the truth!  Fight for the Old Testament and New Testament revealed.

The Word of God does not change.  There is no new word from the Lord.  Our understanding of the Word can definitely grow and change as we study it and as we grow in our relationship with God.  But the Word itself does not change - nothing added, nothing taken away.

We need to fight for the truth. We have to.

Consider Paul's words in Acts 20:28-31
28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 

For three years, night and day, in tears, Paul pleaded for them to be on guard against the wolves disguised as the flock.  Three years!  Day and night!  Over and over.

This is a big deal.
Are you and I ready and willing to fight for the faith?

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Jude 1:4
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Deuteronomy 5-6, Psalm 58, Luke 14

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tuesday March 19, 2013 - Sandy

Today's scripture focus: Jude 1:2

Today's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Duet 1-2, Psalm 56, Luke 12
May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you
Jude 1:2

Mercy is multiplied to all Christians in that we live by the gospel, constantly seeking forgiveness for our innate sinfulness and yet always finding it in Christ even before we knew we would be seeking it over again. This is living the gospel and remaining at the foot of the cross such that we do no good of ourselves but the mercy of God is evident through Christ who purifies and sanctifies wicked wretches as we.

Peace is multiplied to all Christians, understanding that living at the foot of the cross we continually and without reservation get that one thing we cannot attain for ourselves of our own efforts: mercy. So peace is multiplied to the Christian in that Christ has actually accomplished salvation for those who are indeed cleansed by His blood. Nothing more is needed, nor will nothing else be accepted. Love is multiplied in the realization that though eternally sufficient in and of himself, God chose to create, and though sinful in our desires God loved to save some, giving His son, indeed giving Himself for the purification of a people who would look to Him and say “Abba, Father.” Love is multiplied to the Christian in the realization that all of creation was completely unnecessary. God would have been who He is, and would have been missing no praise, adoration, glory, etc. if He had chosen not to create and by proxy to save through the giving of Himself for the benefit of His creation.

This all translates to the real world as we live each day at the foot of the cross, preaching the gospel to ourselves, knowing that Christ died once for all sins of those whom he has made salvation effectual. That salvation is efficacious far beyond our actions and so, if by measure of scriptures like 1 John we are truly in Christ, we live in the peace that has been multiplied to us through the reality of the effects of that same mercy. And through the mercy extended to we Christians, in which we peacefully abide, we are the objects of God’s affections not because of merit but because God has chosen all of this before creation, for His glory, none of which he would have been lacking if He chose not to create and save. And so in the end God loves because He chose to. His choice was based on nothing but himself and so was the ultimate display of love, from which all else flows.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Monday, March 18 - Jude 1:1 - Tiffany

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Numbers 35-36, Psalm 55, Luke 11
Today's scripture focus is Jude 1:1
It is very rare that I turn to the King James version to read my Bible, or even the New King James version.  Unless I've been recently studying/reading Shakespeare, it is a hard thing to read smoothly and catch the meaning of what I am reading.
But I had to use it for today's verse.  I love how it reads:
Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ:
Jude is writing to the followers of Christ.  He is writing to those who have been called by God, as we know, God calls us ALL to Him.  So Jude is writing to those who have answered that call to follow Jesus and His way. 
What is great is what comes next.  Right away, in the first verse, he reminds them that as followers of Christ, as those who have answered the call, they are sanctified by God!  They are saved, they are sanctified.  They CAN live a life free from sin TODAY because God has sanctified them.  There is no need to hang your head and say "I can't live free from sin, I will always just be a worthless sinner," because God has sanctified us!

And better yet, Jesus preserves us in that sanctification!  He is WITH US ALWAYS in the form of the Holy Spirit, and He gives daily guidance and strength to turn from sin, to live free of that slavery, and to live freely in the love of God.
I had a hard time just stopping there, because Jude has such a contemporary warning and current encouragement for us all.  So I have to mention verses 24.  They restate what Jude tells us in verse one - God has called us, we've answered that and been sanctified through the sacrifice of Jesus, who now preserves us for Himself:
Jude 1:24 (emphasis mine)
"To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy -"
How glad I am to know today that while, yes, I am human, with Jesus preserving me, with the Holy Spirit guiding me, I can stay in that sanctification I have already received from God Himself.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Jude 1:2
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Duet 1-2, Psalm 56, Luke 12

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday, March 15 ~ tammi

Today's Bible In a Year reading: Numbers 29-30, Psalm 54, Luke 10
Today's scripture focus passage: 3 John 1:9-14

Accompanying MacArthur sermonFriends and Foes in the Church, Part 2

This book has become especially valuable to me as I seek to become a more hospitable person.  It's a struggle for me, but having a better understanding of the WHY of hospitality helps.

The spread of the Gospel in the days of the early Church can be directly attributed to the practice of hospitality.  The apostles were constantly travelling from city to city with no place to stay but in the homes of people sympathetic to the message.  New disciples were spawned by the growing churches and again, teachers went out from the little congregations and the Word continued to spread as generous saints opened their homes to meet the needs of these itinerant, often penniless, pastors.

In our day and age, I think the argument could be made that the need for hospitality has only grown since the Early Church, despite our wealth and the incredible availability of restaurants and hotels.  Let's face it: no matter how great our churches might be doing, how wonderful and godly our pastors are, the variety of programs we have available, it is through RELATIONSHIPS that the Gospel still spreads most efficiently.  And as much as our society claims that social networking keeps us connected and helps us stay in touch, it doesn't come close to having the same impact as opening our homes and getting into people's lives does.

And so here we come to a comparison between a generous, hospitable man and a selfish, pre-emminence-seeking man.  John comes back full circle to what he talked about in his first letter ~ that these men's actions prove who is a true follower of Christ and who isn't.  Which should make us think VERY carefully about our own attitudes towards practicing hospitality!

And, I think, it's also a warning that being inhospitable qualifies us for church disciplinary action. Another rather UNpopular concept in our day and age, but John clearly states here that if and when he has the opportunity to visit this church, he WILL expose Diotrephes and deal with his lies and slander.  He WILL expose Diotrephes' hunger for power in the church and lengths he's gone to to keep truth out of the church.

Despite the ominous tone of this last half of the letter, John closes with another warm salutation.  His love for these people is obvious.  Also clear is his desire to much rather speak with them face to face than address them on paper.  He was not content really to just leave this note on the church's Facebook page ~ he wanted to BE there WITH them, to see them, to hug them, to share meals with them, to laugh with them, cry with them, and be angry with them, if necessary.

He was also not content to just say, "TTYL, everybody!"  He asked that Gaius, to whom he'd written the letter, would pass along his greetings to all his friends there by name.  This letter wasn't just a general church letter, but a personal note to each individual whom he loved.  I'm not sure why he doesn't name them himself if he wants so badly for them to know they are important to him, but maybe there were just too many to sit and write out.  Or maybe there was need for some anonymity until the letter reached its destination.

Photo credit
In any case, John makes a point of showing us the personal touch really matters when it comes to spreading the message of God's love to others, whether it's to fellow believers or to those who still need to meet Him for the first time.

Tomorrow's Bible In a Year reading: Numbers 31-32
Monday's scripture focus passage: Jude 1:1