The most amazing thing we do when reading Scripture

Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

Whosoever surely meaneth me.”  — Gospel song by James E. McConnell, 1910.   

“He included me.”  — Gospel song by Johnson Oatman. 1909.

Every Christian I know does this and I do it too.  And yet there seems to be no easy explanation for it.

In Scripture, we will be reading where God is telling Israel how much He loves them, how He has loved them from the first, how His love is endless and that He has big plans for them, and what do we do?  We copy off those words and plaster them around the house, memorize them, and write them into songs of inspiration. We put them on bumper stickers and coffee mugs and t-shirts, and we build sermons around them.

We revel in those words.

We do this not because we are so impressed by God’s love of Israel nor touched by their closeness.  We do it for another overwhelming reason.

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The most misused text in the Bible?

“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God will come, He answered them, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with something observable;  no one will say, ‘Look here!’ or ‘There!’ For you see, the kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:20-21).

You’d be surprised who all loves to quote our Lord Jesus.

A lot of people who believe almost nothing Jesus said about Himself–about salvation or heaven or hell or marriage or a faith or a thousand other subjects–will quote Him when it suits their purpose.

Google Luke 17:20-21 and pull up a chair.  Those citing these two verses run the gamut from Leo Tolstoy to your favorite Indian guru to the atheists.

Taken completely out of context and given the speaker’s own spin, this malleable verse can be made to say whatever they choose.

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Things scripture does not allow

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds, who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Hebrews 1:1-4).

Whew.  What a sentence.

The Lord Jesus Christ was God’s last word to Planet Earth.  Everything He had to say.  Man’s last and greatest hope.

Man’s only hope.

Jesus spoke of a landowner who leased out a property to some renters who refused to be accountable.  When his servants arrived to collect his rents, the unscrupulous tenants “beat one, killed one, and stoned another.”  Showing more patience than perhaps he ought, the owner “sent other servants, more than the first.”  These were given the same treatment as the first.  Then our Lord said, “Last of all, he sent his son.”  (Matthew 21:33ff.).

Last of all, God sent His Son.

Jesus Christ was the fulfilment of the promises and types and stories of the Old Testament.  He was the culmination of the Abraham story, the Moses saga, the David chronicle.

It’s all about Jesus.

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Show us your faith!

(second article on the incident of Mark 2:1-12)

“When He entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home.  So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and He was speaking the word to them.  Then, they came to Him bringing a paralytic, carried by four men.  Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above where He was.  And when they had broken through, they lowered the stretcher on which the paralytic was lying.  Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic….” (Mark 2:1ff.)

The Lord can see our faith.

Faith at its simplest and most basic is confidence in Jesus.  “You believe in God,” He said. “Believe also in me” (John 14:1).

Confidence in Jesus Christ affects everything we do. Take the story in Mark 2, for instance….

In a house crowded by listeners, curiosity-seekers, and heresy-hunters, people with actual faith in Jesus stood out prominently.

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Everything begins with listening: Plant yourself at the feet of Jesus.

(The first of several articles on the incident of Mark 2:1-12)

“When He entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the door way, and He was speaking the Word to them” (Mark 2:1-2).

Everything starts with listening.

Everywhere the Lord Jesus went, people flocked to hear Him.  They covered hillsides and blanketed lakeshores.  They packed out synagogues and homes, so intent were they on every word coming from those divine lips.  “Never man spake like this man,” they said (John 7:46).

People of our generation prefer to speak than listen, to argue rather than to hear and believe. They want their wisdom reduced to sound bites, to bumper sticker phrases.

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God,” says Paul in Romans 10:17. Faith in God is given to those who will hear His Word.

Really hear it. Not just register it or record it, and not just scan it. Take it inwardly and digest it.  Think about it, treasure it in our hearts, and meditate upon it.

You want faith? Want to know if God is real and Jesus is everything He claimed?  Interested in checking out the Christian faith? Perhaps you are tired of seeing people slam Christianity while others glorify it and have decided to see for yourself?  Good.

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Memorable texts. (7th segment. Nos. 31-35)

(This is a continuation of a series begun back in February. To find the others, scroll down the page to “Archives” and then click on February 2015 and scroll down to the first one.  The plan is to do one hundred, adding to the list from time to time.)

These are brief but memorable scriptures, often overlooked but essential to the health and well-being of the Lord’s church and Jesus’ disciples.

31. Love is something we do. Luke 6:27ff.

Our Lord was not like some of His children who delight in issuing commands to the Lord’s flock but failing to tell them how to achieve it.  I cannot count the sermons I heard growing up about the need to reach the world with the gospel, starting with my neighbors, but without a word as to how we might do that. We were accused of not praying and not knowing our Bibles, but never given ways to improve.

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Why I turned off that radio preacher

On the highway the other day and flipping through the radio dial, I came across a Seventh Day Adventist preacher in the middle of a sermon. Within five minutes, he had made two errors that revealed either his biblical incompetence or his spiritual presumption.

So I turned him off.

In the first instance, in trying to make the case for Christians today keeping the Sabbath, he equated the Ten Commandments with all our Lord’s statements in the Gospels about “keeping my commands” and “breaking these commandments.”  In John chapters 14 and 15, for instance, several times our Lord says things like, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (14:15,21,23 and 15:10,14).  That preacher said Jesus was referring to the Ten Commandments.

Not even close.

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Five facts about pastors most church members are unclear on

“Shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).

In my experience, most pastors hesitate to teach the biblical understanding of the role of pastors because to do so might sound self-serving, as though they were trying to carve out a bigger role for themselves in leading the church.  This is a serious error for which we are now paying as many congregations are turning the minister into a hired hand, employing him as an errand boy, or treating him as an executive brought in to lead their “country club.”

Pastor, preach the whole Word of God.  Be bold in declaring its truth.  Then, having done this, go forth and set new standards for humbly serving the congregation.  Let them see you leading by serving and no one will ever mind calling you their pastorand following you.  However, lord it over them and dominate the decisions and no one who knows his Bible will want to follow you.

What follows is the truth on the role of pastors as taught in Scripture. It’s not “all” the truth, for this is but one simple article.  However, it cuts to the heart of the issues….

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“I delight in Thy Word” (6th segment) Nos. 26-30.

(We are posting these ‘small, unforgettable scriptures’ in sections of five each. This is the sixth.  The first was posted on February 22, 2015.  To find it, go to www.joemckeever.com and scroll back to that date. Scroll forward for subsequent segments. Eventually, we intend to have 20 segments for a total of 100 “scriptural delights.”)

26)  No generation gap in our worship.  Ezra 3:10-13.

Pastors find such wonderful preaching values (i.e., texts that speak to God’s people) in Ezra and Nehemiah that there is little point in my calling attention to anything. However, here are a couple of small insights that may be overlooked.

The remnant who have returned from exile in Babylon are working to rebuild the Temple which Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed.  The work is backbreaking and slow, the resources slim, and the enemies and critics plentiful.  So, at the point when they had completed rebuilding the foundation–perhaps nothing more than clearing it off and hosing it down!–they paused for a celebration.  This was the holiest ground in the entire nation and now it was available once more for worship.

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“I Delight in Thy Word!” — Vignettes 21-25

(This is the fifth segment of five brief Bible studies, on our way to 20 segments containing one hundred mini-studies.  The idea is to select very brief but poignant biblical texts, those we tend to rush past, and pull us back for more spiritual nourishment. To check out the previous segments, go to www.joemckeever.com and scroll back into January, 2015.)

21)  There’s something in Exodus 20 we must not miss. And it’s not the Ten Commandments!

“An altar of earth you shall make for me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings….. If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it” (Exodus 20:24-25).

I find this stunning. In the same chapter where God gives Israel the Ten Commandments, He makes provisions for an altar. Altars are places of death, where animals are slaughtered as sin-substitutes.  According to this text, the altar could be made of dirt or rock, either one.

So much for the way of salvation being to “just keep the commandments.”  (The next time you hear someone say that is their religion, ask them why God included provisions for an altar in the same chapter.  They will not have an answer, believe me.)

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