Our Burning Bush Moment: Devotional for January 31, 2022

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Today’s Bible reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Exodus 1-3; Galatians 5

When Pharaoh (Rameses II) forgot about Joseph’s work in rescuing the Egyptians from the ravages of the famine four centuries prior, he brought about another “famine”–he forgot about the God of Joseph and the Israelites living in the land of Goshen. Yet, just as God brought Joseph to rescue the Egyptians, He would now bring about another rescuer in Moses.

God always has an eye on His people. Always. And as God protected Moses from the genocide initiated by Pharaoh, so He would protect the rest of His people through the upcoming Exodus–but not due to their obedience but in spite of their disobedience. Moses, seeing the injustice happening among the Egyptians toward God’s people, sought to be that instrument–but it wasn’t the right time. The time would come forty years later in that burning bush moment.

Look at this beautiful passage in Exodus 2:23-25:

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

God sees His people. God knows their situation. And more amazingly, God sends rescuers and reminders. He will deliver His people from their persecution and into the Promised Land. No, the rescuers (like Moses) do not see how they could do that nor believe they are up for the job. Well, he wasn’t. Yet, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (the I AM WHO I AM) is more than able!

Our burning bush moment is seeing how God is good, able, and faithful; and that we are not; but He can and will use us anyway! Have you had this burning bush moment?

Sunday Sermon: Jesus Came Calling–Fishers of People and Keepers of the Aquarium (Mark 1:16-20)

Kermit Long many years ago is credited for coining the phrase, “We’re no longer fishers of men, but keepers of the aquarium, and we spend most of our time swiping fish from each other’s bowl.” This has served as a long-time warning to us as believers for us to make sure we are telling others outside of our “bowl.” The result, as you might guess, is a swinging of the pendulums. Some hear this and say, “We need to be out winning souls for Christ. People need to be saved from their sin and the eternal consequences that await.” Others say, “Well, what good is it ‘saving’ them if we do not disciple them and show them what it means to live now for Christ?”

I have not had any fish in my adult life, but we did have an aquarium when I was in elementary school. So, as I’m prone to do, I consulted the oracle, that is, “Google” about “How to Take Care of Freshwater Aquatic Life: Tips for New Fish Parents.” Goodness! You have to (1) pick the right size aquarium, (2) condition the water correctly with the right temperature, pH levels, right condition of the water, (3) maintenance to siphon out water and debris, (4) proper aquarium acclimation, and (5) watch your aquatic life for changes. I read through that and thought, “Wow! Aquariums are important. Those environments help the fish be nourished, grow, and thrive.”

And so this happens with the environments of worship gatherings, Sunday School, prayer meetings, and other administrative meetings–working to help those the “fish” grow and thrive. That, my friends, is called discipleship. We are to be fishers of people and keepers of the aquarium. Do you? Let’s see what Jesus calls us to.

Adoniram and Ann Judson: Spent for God — Full Movie (2018)

Adoniram and Ann Judson were Baptist missionaries to Burma (now known as Myanmar), nnnnnnnow known as the first missionaries sent abroad from the United States.

This film/documentary stirs the soul to see how God works and calls men and women to ministry, even to the most spiritually dark of places. As the notes tell you, today Myanmar is home to the third largest population of Baptist Christians worldwide, and they still use the Judsons’ Burmese translation.

I highly commend Courtney Anderson’s biography To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson.

God is Working–Even When We Don’t Know How: Devotional for January 28, 2022

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Today’s Bible reading from the Five-Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 49-50; Galatians 4

A truth that permeates all of Scripture is this: God works in His people to show the truth from Genesis 50:20: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” We see it elsewhere, say, in Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

In other words, God is working. The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir released a song a number of years ago called, “God is working.”

God is working, He’s still working,
God is working even now.
Though we often don’t know just how.
God’s still working, He’s still working
God’s still working even now.

SME, TuneCore (on behalf of Brooklyn Tabernacle Music); Sony ATV Publishing, and 2 Music Rights Societies

There are wide swaths of Joseph’s life that would indicate at first sight that God was absent, yet He was working in Joseph to prepare him for the tasks at hand to help not just God’s people but the entire civilized world. How grateful we are to know that the Creator is still working in and through us!

Here’s the performance of the song mentioned above:

Will You Take the Path God Makes? Devotional for January 27, 2022

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Today’s Bible reading from the Five-Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 47-48; Psalm 25; Galatians 3.

God gave us a mind and He intended for us to use our minds to mine out the truths of Scripture. God intends for us to not only be and live as believers but to think Christianly. In all that we do, we do so with our hearts as well as our minds. We are called to love God with our heart, soul, minds, and strength. All too often, Christians, especially in America, have relegated Christianity to a set of feelings–a high regard and respect for church and God.

In verse 5, we see that David recognizes from where his salvation comes: “You are the God of my salvation.” This God is the Pathmaker. He gives us the paths by which we are to walk. He leads us and teaches us. “Make me to know your ways, O Lord. Teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me.”

David is a man after God’s own heart. God changes our hearts from wanting to take our own paths or from a fear to take an unknown path (even if that path is good) in order to help us know not just about the paths (that’s coming up) but about ourselves taking these paths. So God is the Pathmaker, yet we have to be the pathtakers of the paths He makes.

Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, noted “I often think that God must have been looking for someone small enough and weak enough for Him to use, and that He found me.” This encapsulates Psalm 25 and a desire for God to have us be teachable and humble.

Sometimes You Just Need to Shake the Dust Off Your Feet and Move On

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I had a gentleman call the church asking to “talk about the Bible.” He asked a question that let me know he was from the Watchtower Society–the Jehovah’s Witnesses (no, I won’t link to them). He asked me a question that’s common coming from this cult: “How can you say that Jesus is eternal if He died?” When I tried to develop my thoughts to answer this question, he kept interrupting. When it was clear there was no conversation to be had, only an argument, I told him that we were not going to agree and that I would end the conversation. His response? “Why are you running away?”

Friends, there will be conversations where someone will call or engage you that does not want to really hear your side but simply wants to win. Don’t allow your pride to keep you engaging in that regard. Matthew 7:6 says, ““Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Some will not receive the gospel message. So, you plant the seed and move on.

Now, this gentleman got elevated. That’s how I knew it was time to move on. This is not about wins and losses. It’s about planting gospel seeds, praying the soil is ready.

Oh, how would I have answered him? Well, it seems that from their own Scriptures the deity of Christ is on display. You can read about it here.

Pretenders on Sunday? Devotional for January 26, 2022

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Today’s Bible Reading from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 45-46, Psalm 108, Galatians 2

In his commentary on Galatians, Philip Ryken noted, “When the fear of people overcomes the fear of God, we are likely to deny the gospel. Unless we are willing to stand up for God at work on Monday, we are just pretending at church on Sunday.” Does that describe us? Even strong Christians will struggle with the fear of man—so recognize it and fight against it (Galatians 2:11-14). 

The pillars of the church in Jerusalem received Paul and his gospel ministry to the Gentiles, even giving “the right hand of fellowship to Barnabus and me” (2:9).  All that was needed by Paul was not to give them the Law of Moses or to circumcise, but to simply “remember the poor.”

Yet, in Antioch, where only 10% of the population was Jewish, leaving the Christian church with a multicultural flavor—of which Peter fully embraced (see Acts 10-11) when the “men … from James” came, Peter “separated himself, fearing the circumcision party” (2:12).  His influence caused others to do the same—even the “son of encouragement,” Barnabas, Paul’s partner!

Beware of how you influence and who you influenceLeaders (whether paid or influential) can influence by fleshy attributes:  looks, personality, intellect, age, etc.  Yet, people are people, and all people are fallen.  We need the concrete truth of the gospel to anchor us and provide our footing. 

The apostle Paul let the fear of God and the gospel of God drive his actions—even as the new guy standing up to Peter.  Paul reminded Peter that this was not merely an ethnic or religious ritual issue.  “Their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel” (2:14).   Peter was being inconsistent and a coward.  It was OK for him to eat with Gentiles, but not OK for Gentiles to eat with Jews. 

Pretenders on Sunday? We must let the gospel drive all of our actions! Do we?

A False Gospel is No Gospel at All: Devotional for January 25, 2022

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Today’s Bible reading plan from the Five Day Bible Reading Plan: Genesis 43-44; Psalm 24; Galatians 1

So the recovery of the blessed doctrine of Scripture and Scripture alone is our rule of faith.  And what did Scripture teach?  Scripture teaches that salvation is by ‘grace alone.’  In Galatians 1:6, Paul in sheer exasperation tells the Galatian church,

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).

Notice Paul says that they are deserting the God who called you “in the grace of Christ” and are turning to a “different gospel.”  Paul is saying, “The grace of Christ is the Gospel.”  The Gospel is the Good News.  The reason we see that the Gospel is such good news is only truly possible when we see that our soul is in such bad shape!  In Galatians 3:10, the Apostle Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26 in saying, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’”

You say, “I know I’m not perfect, but I’m not as bad as so many others are.  I may not be a Christian, but I am a good person!”  You say, “The Book of the Law is not my authority.  I don’t see it like that.”  Well, in a situation like that, your opinion is not only missing the mark but misses the point.  What matters is what God says!  And whether we see it as our authority or not, it will be the standard by which we will be deemed fit for heaven or not. 

During the time of the Reformation, the church taught that salvation could be bought by indulgences.  The Pope at that time (Leo X) wanted to build St. Peter’s Basilica and used this horrid doctrine of indulgences on the people so they could buy salvation for their family members who were in purgatory.  “When a coin clings in the chest, a soul flies up to heavenly rest,” indulgence-advocate John Tetzel would say.  Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenburg church questioning this practice.

Without grace, we have the law looming over us and we live in fear of its dictates.  But we also must not add to grace.  The Reformation was a fight over the Scripture’s teachings of grace alone.  Not grace partly, then us coming along partly so that we may decide for it and ultimately earn it.  Grace stands alone — otherwise, it’s not grace.

From my sermon from October 30, 2005, preached at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.