“I Delight In Thy Word”–Brief scriptures packing unforgettable insights — (Fourth segment. Nos. 16-20)

(For previous segments on this series, go to our blog, www.joemckeever.com, and scroll back.)

16) The leper who broke the law when expressing his great faith. Matthew 8:1-3 and Mark 1:40-45.

It’s so easy to run right past great scriptural blessings.  Take this tiny incident….

According to Leviticus 13:45, lepers were to withdraw when healthy people drew near. They were to call out “Unclean! Unclean!” lest the person accidentally brush them and become ceremonially tainted, or worse, catch something contagious.  But look at this leper. He spots Jesus and runs toward Him.  Falling to his knees in front of the Lord, he calls out, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Interesting way of putting it: “I know you are able; what I don’t know is whether you are willing.”

Both Matthew and Mark tell us Jesus reached out and touched the man.  Remember, lepers were called “untouchable” for good reason. But Jesus touched him.

Gotta love Jesus. (I do!)

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Brief Scriptures with unforgettable insights: (third segment, nos. 11-15.)

(For the first two installments on this series of brief, memorable insights, stories, parables, etc, in Scripture which are easily overlooked but jam-packed with meaning. For the earlier installments, go to www.joemckeever.com and scroll back to January, 2015.)

11) The “snake on a pole.”  John 3.

In the brief incident told in Numbers 21, the story is presented without one word of explanation or interpretation.  It takes all of 6 verses (21:4-9) to describe how the people grumbled against God and Moses, how the Lord sent “fiery serpents” to cause the death of many, and then how the people repented and Moses interceded for them, followed by the fascinating remedy God handed down. Nothing had prepared them for such a panacea for their ills:  “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole.'”

Then, the snake-bitten should merely look at it and live.

“Look and live.” That’s what He said.

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Second five of our list of overlooked but unforgettable Scriptures

I love coming across powerful but brief summations of God’s story. Sometimes it’s a paragraph or story, but often it’s two or three or four words.

We must emphasize that these are not isolated exceptions to the overall message of Scripture. Instead, they are small insights into the entire theme of God’s word.

Continuing the series….

6) Romans 8:31 “God is for us.”

The entire 8th chapter of Romans is a mother lode of spiritual riches if one has ever existed.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote several books on just this one chapter.  But let me call your attention to verse 31.  “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

This is the hinge verse of that great chapter. For 30 verses, Paul has been declaring that God the Father is for us, God the Son is for us, and God the Spirit is for us. (He does not do this in consecutive passages, but braids all three points together throughout.)  Then, in verse 31, he says, “What are we to conclude from all this? Just this: If God is for us, then who in the world can be against us?”

This needs saying: When Paul says “IF God is for us” here, he is saying “SINCE God is for us.”  He’s just established repeatedly that God is for us. Now he says, “Since God is for us, what does it matter who is against us?”  Answer: It doesn’t.  Some people will always oppose you, but Romans 8:37-39 says it really doesn’t matter.

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Those tiny vignettes we may overlook in Scripture (the first 5)

Vignette: noun; a short descriptive literary sketch. 

These are short excerpts from Scripture’s narrative of the salvation story which I find fascinating and in many cases, parable-like because in a brief story or a few lines they encapsulate so much of God’s message. They are so short, however, they often get overlooked. Only those who stroll slowly through the garden of God’s Word, taking time to notice the petal of each flower, only they see and appreciate and benefit. (I’m thinking of several articles with perhaps 20 vignettes in all.)

Take a look at these and see if they aren’t loaded with importance….

1) Lazarus on the front porch in Bethany.  John 12:9-11.

Brought back from the grave after four days of bodily decomposing, the man of Bethany required no book tour or television crew to attract a crowd. He sat on the front porch in a rocking chair–that’s how I figure it, at any rate–so that people arriving in Jerusalem for Passover streamed out the Eastern Gate, down the Kidron Valley, and over the Mount of Olives for a glimpse of the man dead four days! No one had ever seen such a thing. The crowds kept coming.

He was quite the attraction. Lazarus was the talk of the town. And as a result, Jesus was the Man of the hour.

Many believed on Jesus because a man sat on his porch doing nothing but smiling.  Lazarus was Exhibit A of Jesus’ power over death, hell, and the grave.

Ya gotta love it.  (In some ways–but different, of course–the Lord wants you and me to be Exhibit A of His power to change lives.  See I Peter 2:9-10.)

The enemies of our Lord were infuriated and came to a decision: they had to do something quick to put a stop to the Man of Galilee.

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Don’t be afraid. Your life depends on it.

“And the angel said (to the shepherds), ‘Fear not.’  And the shepherds said, ‘Are you out of your mind? We are frightened out of our skulls!!’

Okay, I made that up. But it makes sense to me.

Sometimes being frightened is the right reaction.  Being scared is not always wrong.

What scares people the most?  You might be surprised. It isn’t terrorism, earthquakes or tsunamis.

According to one report, it’s walking alone in the dark.

I remember a time when I was fifteen, walking home from my uncle’s house, maybe a half mile. The darkness was absolute.  I had to feel my way along the old country road. Trouble is, halfway home, I had to pass George Lawson’s house and he had a massive dog that was beyond frightening.  As I was approaching the general area of that house, I walked as quietly as I could.  Then, without warning, suddenly the dog was there, not more than five feet from me, splitting the night air with a howl that could be heard in the next county.  You’ve heard of “jumping out of your own skin”?  If it was possible, that’s what I did. I ran the rest of the way, taking my chances on staying in the road.

So, yes, walking alone in the dark can be a fearsome thing.

The Sunday Parade magazine, the insert that accompanies the Sunday paper, for January 18, 2015, outdid itself this time.  The cover article by Maura Rhodes asks in large letters no one can miss, “What are you afraid of?”

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Where do we find all these church jobs in Scripture?

A friend messaged asking for my “take” on all the different pastors in the church these days. Senior pastor, student pastor, worship, adminstrative, children’s, and executive pastor–the list is endless.

He said, “Why don’t we have just one pastor?”

The quick answer, of course, is that pastor means shepherd, and these various ministers are shepherding a part of the flock. The larger the flock, the more shepherds are needed.  It’s a noble concept and has the full support of scripture.  Whether one could blame the Bible for the “senior” business or “executive pastor” thing is another question. (But if a church wants to label its ministers that way, personally I’m good with it.)

I do think it’s almost funny how the pastor of some tiny flock somewhere will list himself as “senior pastor.”  But we laugh only to ourselves.  It’s his business and not ours.

An angry commenter–responding to something someone wrote about the “administrative assistant” in their church–took off on the unscriptural nature of that position.  “Show me an administrative assistant in the church,” he said, with the complete confidence they couldn’t do it.

He didn’t ask me, but I could have.

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Playing our little preacher-games with Holy Scripture

“I did not send these prophets, yet they ran with a message; I did not speak to them, but they prophesied” (Jeremiah 23:21).

What if we sliced off a bit of scripture here, pasted it in there, omitted a reference over yonder, and pretended the result is what Jesus actually said?

That happens.  (Fortunately, it happens rarely.  But it is done often enough to make it a concern to those who value God’s word and our integrity.)

Here’s my story….

At a preachers conference, we heard a stem-winding brother drive the several hundred of us to our feet in a shouting, hand-clapping final eruption of praise and joy.  He was good, I’ll give him that.

His text was Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  His theme was that God’s people today have no trouble with Jesus Christ being “the same yesterday”–His birth in Bethlehem, His miracle-working ministry across Galilee and Judea, followed by His sacrificial death and His divine resurrection–and no trouble with Jesus Christ being “the same forever”–as we proclaim His return to earth, the judgment, and His forever reign.

The problem present-day Christians have, said the preacher, is with “Jesus Christ today.”

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Some things the New Testament does not tell us

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable….that the man of God may be complete” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Those who demand a Scripture verse for everything they do place an intolerable burden on the Christian life never intended by the Heavenly Father.

Some among us have all the answers about the Christian life and have solved all the mysteries of doctrine and theology.

Is there a verse of Scripture on that?

Stay tuned.

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Things that do not stick with me

When my friend Freddie Arnold told me that a certain solution was exactly what I needed to take care of the mildew in my concrete, I wrote it down.

And promptly forgot what I had written.

Over the next several weeks, when I would be out and about and could have run by Home Depot or Lowe’s and picked up that item, my mind would not recall it, try as I might.  So, eventually, I dug out my note and determined I would remember it the next time.  And forgot it again.

It would not stay in my mind.

Shock Wave, it’s called.

And even now, I had to work at finding those two words in the cluttered file system of my mind.

Some things just will not stick with me.  You can tell me and I walk away without remembering one word of it.  It’s like the brain has no cells in that tiny portion of gray matter and we have to find another mental refrigerator on which to apply the magnet containing that piece of information.

Medicines are like that.

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The need for a traffic cop

Someone has to be in charge.  Don’t they?

On the highway, in the classroom, at the factory, during the ball game, and in the Christian life, nothing works without someone present being empowered to say, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).  Right?  Or not?

Here are a few thoughts to begin a conversation around your dinner table on the subject of authority….

In “The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published,” David Skinner describes the hostile reaction that greeted the release of “Webster’s Third Edition” in 1961.  The incident makes a great point for all of us, particularly church folk.

But first, the context.

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