A Stricter Judgment

Do not become teachers in large numbers, my brothers, since you know that we who are teachers will incur a stricter judgment. – James 3:1

I love to teach. Sometimes I think it is in my “gene pool.” My mother was a teacher. My brother was a teacher. My father wasn’t a professional teacher, but he did a lot of public speaking. Teaching, for me, has always been one of the more enjoyable aspects of ministering (in general) and pastoring (specifically). To see someone grasp a spiritual truth for the first time is very rewarding. Of course, as much as I enjoyed it (and still do), handling God’s Word accurately has always come with some heartfelt concern.

Why?

Well, two reasons. First, I am accountable to God for “what” I teach. Is it biblically accurate? Is it true to His purposes and attributes? Have I represented Him well? Second, I am accountable to God for “who” I teach? Am I leading those who I am teaching to a greater understanding of Christ? To a deeper relationship with Him? If they follow what I present will it result in a greater understanding of their Lord and Savior?

Teachers must be careful not to stumble in either case, for when the time comes to stand before our risen Christ, we will be held to account for how we handled both.

Rest assured that the most fervid revivalism will wear itself out in mere smoke if it be not maintained by the fuel of teaching. Sound teaching is the best protection for the heresies which ravage right and left among us. – Charles Spurgeon

Prayer Motives

You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend what you request on your pleasures. – James 4:2-3

Someone once said that a church will never grow beyond its corporate prayer life. To this I might add that the church’s corporate prayer life is simply a direct reflection of the personal prayer lives of its members, and dare I say, its leadership.

The Bible provides some pretty clear instruction concerning the activity of prayer. For someone looking to grow in this area, I would recommend The Disciple’s Prayer Life by Dr. T. W. Hunt. It is a great study that will challenge the serious Christ-follower to greater obedience in intercession and, let’s face it, this is one place where we could all be a little more obedient.

Two principles, if applied, should assist anyone who desires to grow in this area of their spiritual disciplines. First, always be sure to make your requests known to God (yes, He already knows your needs, but He wants you to ask) and second, always ask with pure motives (that God’s desires be met before your own).

Remember that nothing of eternal significance happens apart from God’s intervention and the ultimate goal of all our requests must truly be His glory.

Prayer honors God, acknowledges His being, exalts His power, adores His providence, secures His aid. – Edward McKendree Bounds

Everybody Hurts

So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. And in the morning, I did as I was commanded. – Ezekiel 24:18

The life of an Old Testament prophet was not an easy one. Often maligned, rejected, and persecuted, they were required to carry the worst of news to the most rebellious of hearers. It was often rare for such a prophet to witness any lasting repentance or change among those whom God placed in their path. And if this were not enough, they also had to deal with the daily crises of life on earth.

Ezekiel brought God’s message in the morning, lost his wife that evening, and then got back to God’s business the next morning. In a 21st century American context, it is difficult to imagine such will, such surrender, such determination, but there it is. When one surveys the life of Ezekiel, this loss rarely enters the discussion, yet it was surely one he suffered, likely all alone.

Dr. Jimmy Draper once told me, “Be nice to everybody, because everybody is hurting.” When you encounter others (neighbors, co-workers, even acquaintances), it is sometimes hard to remember that they lead normal lives apart from their encounters with you. Yet, they do, and those lives can sometimes be just as painful as your own. Compassion is a precious commodity these days. Why not extend a little today.

The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in time of crisis. – Thurgood Marshall

Necessary Confession

A person often rebuked who becomes obstinate will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.  – Proverbs 29:1

I worship the God of second chances; okay, more like third, fourth, and fifth chances! Our God is so very gracious with those who are His and those who are not. He loves us even when we are totally unlovable. What an awesome God!

We are all capable of stumbling in or out of our walk with Christ and with each stumble we must be diligent to confess our sin. There will, of course, be an ultimate reckoning for the unrepentant, for those who stubbornly refuse to respond to God’s amazing grace. When we confess, He is faithful and perfectly righteous in His choice to forgive and cleanse. On the other hand, when we don’t (confess and repent), it is likely that we will know the sting of His equally righteous chastisement and the unhindered consequences of our disobedience.

We must never allow ourselves to neglect authentic confession, for if we do, the results will be at best uncomfortable and at worst disastrous.

True repentance has a double aspect. It looks upon things past with a weeping eye, and upon the future with a watchful eye. – Robert Smith

Because He Said So

“Then they will know that I am the Lord their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then I gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer. I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,” declares the Lord God. – Ezekiel 39:28-29

Many biblical prophecies have both an immediate and future fulfillment. After having been exiled to Babylon for 70 years, the nation of Judah (under the reign of the Persian king Cyrus) returned to Jerusalem. This event was an immediate fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy and it occurred hundreds of years before the time of Christ and the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Pentecost may also be considered a fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, but it too is only partial. The ten northern tribes of Israel were exiled and scattered by the Assyrians long before the Judeans were dragged away by Babylon. They have not been returned en masse (even though some might say that they are returning now) implying that there must be a future (perhaps spiritual) fulfillment to come.

Be assured that whatever God has said will happen, will happen. His Word never fails.

When God promises, He’s not saying, I’ll try. He means, I can, and I will. – James MacDonald