Blessings into Curses – Malachi 2:1-2

I hope you believe that God is God. Do you understand what I mean by that? I don’t mean, I hope you believe that Jehovah is God, or Elohim is God. That is an eternal truth. I mean: I hope you believe that God is truly sovereign. Sovereignty is a part of the definition of the word “God.” He is a true King who can do whatsoever He would like to do. For example, I hope you believe that Jehovah has both the power and authority to permit or restrain Satan from touching Job or Adam and Eve or you. I hope you know that the Son of God can call Lazarus out of his tomb, and that He can give the rocks the ability to praise His name. He can order a donkey to speak, and He can make the sun stand still in the sky. He can turn off the light and heat from the sun; He can make the largest meteor to suddenly veer off course and not smash into earth. There is nothing that God can not do. He sets up kings and political parties, and He removes them. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he turneth it whithersoever He will.” “God can do anything, anything, anything; God can do anything but fail.” With that planted deep in our hearts, isn’t it a logical desire to have the blessing of that omnipotent God? “He can save, He can cleanse; He can keep, and He will; God can do anything but fail. He’s the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end;...

The Dreadful King – Malachi 1:14

Do you see the word “voweth”in this verse? “Cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and VOWETH, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing.” If I am not mistaken, that word takes us from Israel’s required sacrifices to their freewill offerings. This may have involved sacrifices related to special promises, like the dedication of the Nazarite. Even if the earlier verses were speaking about sin and trespass offerings, “voweth” suggest, perhaps, peace and thank offerings. In other words, these Jews were not under any pressure to make these offerings. Is that an important distinction? I think so. It takes us back to Ananias and Sapphira, and their freewill offering of money. In Acts 5, when this married couple tried to deceive the church about the nature of a large financial gift, the Lord, who is never deceived, struck them both dead. They weren’t being forced to give anything to God’s work, and they certainly didn’t have to lie. Their offering was corrupt because they were trying to paint a picture which wasn’t true: a portrait of generosity, self-sacrifice and concern for the progress of the church. They were cursed by God, because they were deceivers, and the sovereign King took their lives. And that, by the way, was judgment on people who professed to be children of God. With that in mind, please turn to Leviticus 22, one the scriptures to which, I think, Malachi was referring. “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them, Whatsoever he...

Esau have I Hated – Malachi 1:2-5

This scripture, along with Paul’s explanation and application in Romans 9, are among the most hated passages in the Bible. They are also among the most abused of all scriptures. Then a result of that abuse, they have become some of the most misunderstood by Christians generally. I am going to tell you up front that I probably won’t be able to correct any of these problems. If you hate, or if you are prone to twist these words to suit your heart or your theology, it is likely that only the Lord himself will be able to help you. I am not smart enough to argue you out of your rejection of what God has clearly said. There is so much within the Lord’s eternal decrees which must be left to God alone. It is best in areas of extreme controversy to simply say, with Malachi and Paul, “Thus saith the Lord,” instead of “Thus and thus, I think.” What is it that the Lord is telling in this scripture? Despite God’s declaration of love toward Israel, that nation had become so calloused they couldn’t see it. So they said to the Lord, “Wherein hast thou loved us?” Jehovah replied, “Look at the two sons of Isaac and Rebekah.” “I chose to love Jacob, the younger of the twins, and Esau I hated.” So Edom, the country of Esau, essentially became an uninhabited wilderness and waste land. Even when the descendants of Esau tried to rebuild, God demonstrated His eternal hatred. “They shall build, but I will throw down,” saith the Lord. Malachi said, “It may take some...

Office of Deacon (#6 – Duties) – Acts 6:1-7

Believe it or not, I can read some of your minds. Some of you have been thinking, “The pastor is saying that our church needs to have some deacons. But after five lessons, I have yet to figure out WHY we need those deacons. All of this is much ado about nothing.” This evening I’d like to address that thought. First and foremost, we ought to have deacons because Christ’s first church had deacons. And the church in Philippi had deacons, because apparently Paul had set them there under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He also instructed Timothy to set apart godly men as deacons in the churches where he was ministering. There appears to have been a Biblical, ecclesiastical office called “Deacon.” If we find them in the Bible, I think, we, as a Bible believing and Bible practicing church, should have deacons as well. There is nothing in the Bible which declares that you and I have to understand the reason for every command which the Lord gives to us. If God says it, that settles it. “But wait a minute,” someone says, “I don’t read where God actually COMMANDED us to have deacons. Christ didn’t ordain deacons, when He instituted His church. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem ordained them.” While it is true that Christ didn’t establish this office during His earthly ministry, it doesn’t mean that He, as the Head of His Church, didn’t leave that to Paul or the other Apostles. Deacons are not the only things which AROSE after the Lord Jesus arose and ascended into Heaven. For example, how...

Office of Deacon (#2 the Problem) – Acts 6:1-7

The early days of the church in Jerusalem were as unique as they were exciting. People were being converted in prodigious numbers – unparalleled at any point since. And after the ascension of Christ a pair of God’s angels offered wonderful encouragement to the eleven, which I’m sure they shared with the others – “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Under the circumstances, and with the Messianic teaching those men had, don’t you think they expected the Lord’s return sometime during their lives – if not right away? They, and the church lived, served and worshiped under the expectation of the imminent coming of Christ. Acts 1 tells us that the disciples entered into an upper room in Jerusalem, and “these all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.” Acts 1:14 speaks about 14 tor 18 people – the disciples and a few ladies – before we come to verse 15. Acts 1:15 says, “And in those days (apparently a few days later) Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples… (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty)…” Apparently it took a few days for some of the brethren to return to Jerusalem from Galilee. Does that mean that the 500 brethren who were witnesses to the resurrected Christ were on their way? Maybe they were still scattered across Galilee but will later become a part of the church in Jerusalem....

The History of the Pretribulation Rapture – I Thessalonians 4:13-18

When the Lord saved me, more than 50 years ago, I joined a church which taught that the scriptures we just read should be understood simply and directly. I was told that all scripture should be interpreted literally, unless some passage was obviously meant to be understood as an allegory or an illustration. So in regard to I Thess. 4, Paul really meant that we need not be confused about certain future events. Ie., there is no need to worry about those saints who have died. They will not miss what is coming. Their souls are already with the Redeemer, and when He returns to earth they will return with Him. And we, who are alive, will join the resurrected bodies of those earlier saints, to meet Christ in the air. I was taught that the pronoun “we” in verse 17 first meant Paul and the saints in Thessalonica, but now it includes me – and you who are alive and well, trusting Christ as our Lord and Saviour. “Then WE which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall WE ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words,” and comfort myself is something which I have done. This catching up and meeting Christ, aren’t spiritual or virtual events, in the sense of mystical or impractical. This is talking about something literal and real, including physical bodies – as well as souls and spirits. And since Paul was expecting it in his day, but it didn’t come, we have...

Things Above – Colossians 3:1-2

  This afternoon, let’s think about the word “above” as we find it in verse 1. There are several Greek words translated “above.” “Huper” (hoop-ER) for example is found 11 times in the Bible – it is an adverb or a preposition. We find it in the statement: “The disciple is not ABOVE his master, nor the servant ABOVE his lord” – Matthew 10:24. And, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted ABOVE that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” – I Cor. 10:13. And Philippians 2:9 – “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is ABOVE every name.” Another word translated “above” is “epi,” and this is rendered 5 times as either an adverb or preposition. This speaks about the direction that is over your head. “Para,” “peri,” and “pro” again usually supply us with the idea of direction – but also of importance. For example Paul commanded us “Above all things have charity.” The rest of the “aboves” are various forms of “ano,” and again some are adverbs. But it might be argued that some of them are talking about a PLACE more than a direction. Take for example John 8:23 – “Ye are from beneath; I am from ABOVE: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” Is this a...

More than Conquerors – Romans 8:33-39

When I was a boy, living in Omaha, Nebraska, I played with two brothers who lived up the street. After Craig LeMaster – my best friends were Mark and David Wormington. My mother enjoyed visiting with Mrs. Wormington, but she did not like her husband. The man owned a shady used-car dealership. He sold cars to poor people, taking as much down-payment as possible and financing the balance. Then when they missed a payment or two, he repossessed their cars and sold them again to others. He basically just re-circulated his stock, looking for new buyers all the time. But it wasn’t so much the man’s occupation which upset my Mom – she disliked a particular habit he had. The man like to argue. She said that whatever position she, or anyone else, held, he would take the opposite, just to irritate them. And he had a particular way with words – twisting and turning them in every direction. Plus, he loved to win – he would pull out all the stops to win every argument, even if it meant hurting and alienating people. Perhaps you know, or have known like this – they are miserable unless they in a fight and winning. They are “always” right – whether they are or not – and they make sure that you know it. I hope you are not like that. Generally speaking, Christians should be “blameless… of good behaviour, given to hospitality…not given to wine, no STRIKER, not greedy of filthy lucre… not a BRAWLER, not covetous.” “No striker… not a brawler, not covetous” – not even covetous for wins...

Baptist Distinctives – Jude 1-4

What I have for you this evening will not be much more than an outline – or maybe two or three outlines. There won’t be too much meat on these bare bones, but I have reasons for this. First – the points I’d like to make this evening should we well-known to most of you. In fact we are going over some of these in our morning Bible studies. So there is no reason to re-teach them tonight. Anyway, it could take more than one message to treat them adequately. And yet, at the very least, they need to be reiterated from time to time – “This is what we believe, and this is who we are.” My third purpose is to lay the groundwork for another message or two which I hope to share with you in the not too distant future. You could consider this to be the introduction to a future message or messages. Several weeks ago, I mentioned that I like to hear your questions – easy questions, complex, whatever. I want you to bring to me those things which perplex you or which are disturbing you. I said that sometimes I will have a quick and ready answer. On the other hand, in my diminishing brain-power, you might have to wait while I study the question. And sometimes I will be as perplexed as you, and we’ll have to leave the answers to Bro. Fulton. And then sometimes your questions will develop into a message to share with the entire church. In this case, after Ellie Kjeldgaard came forward for baptism a couple of...

Goliath’s Shield Man – I Samuel 17:1-11

I have read, studied and preached from this chapter many times. But it occurred to me the other day that there has been something I’ve skipped over – over and over again. As Goliath came out to challenge Israel, there was a man who came out ahead of him. Verse 7 – “And the staff of (Goliath’s) spear was like a weaver’s beam; and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron: and one bearing a shield went before him.” This evening, I’d like to revue the Battle of Shochoh, but this time considering also this shield bearer. I confess there are things about the early life of David, which I don’t understand. They are mysterious, just like that of David’s greatest heir – the Lord Jesus Christ. For me, there are problems rectifying David’s position in chapter 16 with what we find in I Samuel 17. It appears that David had already been a musician and an honorary armor-bearer in the court of King Saul. And yet, just before the battle with Goliath, “Saul said to him, Whose son art thou, thou young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” Why didn’t the king know this already? We could attribute that to the king’s growing insanity. But that still doesn’t explain the ignorance – or the duplicity – of his counselors. I Samuel 17:15 tells us that after some time with Saul, David returned home to his father and the family sheep. It sounds as though this decision to leave was David’s. He wasn’t fired or ordered to go home....

These Are Not Drunken – Acts 2:1-28

Our message this morning was from Acts 2:40 – “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” We began reading from verse 29 – “Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David.” While I was preparing for that message, I began looking over the entire chapter. Coming to verse 15, I was reminded of another scripture I had just seen in my sermon idea notebook. Peter said, “These are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.” The other scripture which popped into my mind was Ephesians 5:18 – “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” These two scriptures are double-linked – they both speak of the filling of the Holy Spirit, and they are linked by “drunk” and “drunken.” A question then struck me: “Why did some of the people at Pentecost say that God’s servants were drunk?” From that two more questions emerged: “Should Christians be offended if people think they are drunken?” And, “Should God’s people actually display characteristics of drunkenness?” Surely not. In trying to answer these questions, I think we might have a lesson or two. To get the background, let’s consider what took place on that very special Day of Pentecost. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and...

The Brand of Christ – Galatians 6:14-18

As you can see these are the last words of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Having studied this book just a few years ago, I hope you remember Paul’s general purpose. The Book of Galatians is a defense of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. It carries warnings against a reversion to the corrupt Judaism which declared that obedience to the law was necessary for salvation. And since this was at the core of his gospel message, this letter also carries a vindication of Paul’s Apostleship. As to Paul’s authority – he reintroduces himself saying – “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father…” “I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” He says, “When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood,” after which he relates how the Lord taught him the truth. And as to his defense of the gospel he says, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have...

O Lord, Consider my Meditation – I Timothy 4:6-16

I have been in God’s service and ministry for over 50 years. I say that without the least bit of pride, because I know that I am here only by God’s grace. And I am constantly discovering my ministerial failures. I could give you a litany of those failures, but even in that there could be a hint of pride. So I’ll just point out one for this evening: according to my records I have never preached or taught about “meditation” – even though it is a fairly common Biblical subject. Since I started keeping records of my sermons, the last 40 years, I have preached more than 300 messages directly about Christ, and another 300 on sin, which undoubtedly came back to the Saviour. I have also catalogued 400 messages under the heading of “salvation.” That totals about a thousand separate sermons which were basically “gospel” messages. On the other hand, this is my 744th message which I’ve catalogued under the heading of “Christian Living.” And yet, I’ve never addressed “meditation” as far as my memory or computer records indicate. It may have come up as points within messages about other subjects, but I’ve never made that my primary theme, at least as far as I can remember. Let’s correct that this evening. Among the things about which Paul counseled Timothy, he said, “MEDITATE upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.” I Timothy 4 is only one of two times this word is found in the New Testament of our King James Bibles. In the first occurrence, Luke 21, the...

The Prayer of an Old Man – Psalm 119:81-88

While looking through one of my notebooks of sermon seed thoughts, I ran into the words “Seeing Clearly.” I immediately thought, “Ah ha,” here is something to which I can relate. I know what it is to see poorly, nearly not to see at all, and now to see clearly in some ways but not in others. Today, with my cataracts removed, the world is brighter, and colors are more brilliant than they were a two months ago. On that nearly empty page in my notebook, I started jotting down things which appear to me to weaken eyesight – both physically and spiritually. And then I thought about the verse which I had written just under those two words “Seeing Clearly.” Psalm 119:82 says – “Mine eyes fail for thy word, When wilt thou comfort me?” With that, more thoughts started popping into my head. And then I decided it would be good to look at the context. When I did that it seemed to me that all these verses link together into a somewhat wider message. It’s my prayer that these meditations might be a blessing to all of us. Let’s start where I first started – verse 82. “Mine eyes fail for thy word, When wilt thou comfort me?” Temporarily forgetting one of the cardinal rules about Bible study, I started thinking about the verse very narrowly. Other than a few Proverbs, no verse of scripture comes without a context. But I’m as guilty as anyone, starting and staring at verse 82 as if it was of a private interpretation. Like most scriptures it says one thing...

Statutes of Limitation – Nehemiah 13:1-31

I confess that from the moment we started this study of Nehemiah I have been dreading this chapter. I read this book several times before we started, and I knew it concluded with an unpopular and controversial subject. Now, here we are. But as is most often the case – the problems we imagine aren’t as awful as they really are. The more I studied this chapter and subject, and the more I prepared for this message, the more excited I became. Nehemiah tells us that he was pained and grieved by something he saw when he returned to Jerusalem. Well, I was at first pained and grieved by something I saw in this chapter. Nehemiah says in verse 7 – “And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. And it GRIEVED me sore…” That may have been painful to him, but to me verses 23 and 25 are far more painful – “In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab…” “And I CONTENDED with them, and CURSED them, and SMOTE certain of them, and PLUCKED off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.” That may be the approach some men use in their ministries, but it is contrary to my nature. Separation from awful, ugly, deadly sin is one thing – and it may be easy –...