All posts by Bill Bryan

A Simple “Yes” or “No” Will Do

“Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is His footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matthew 5.34-37).

It’s not uncommon to hear people say, “I swear by all that’s holy” or “I’ll swear on a stack of Bibles.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cuts right to the heart of why people swear oaths. He says they do it to impress others with their sincerity or intensity. The point is to get others to believe what they’re saying is credible by emphasizing it with “By God” or “God knows!” It’s simply a device to manipulate or intimidate, to control the conversation in one’s own favor.

But that’s an inherently wrong approach to take toward another person. The essence of swearing or making oaths is to try to use something – the name of God, for instance – in order to get others to believe you and let you have your own way. That’s wrong.

For those who are, as the beatitudes identify, poor in spirit, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, and peaceable, – a simple “yes” or “no” will do.

 – grace to you all, and peace … Bill

 

The Beginning and the End

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. (Revelation 21.5-6)

This passage reminds me of other biblical texts. Isaiah heard God say, “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new…” (Isaiah 43.18-19).

Centuries later Paul wrote, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5.17).

God can take people and re-create them, and will someday create “a new heaven and earth” for the saints whose lives He has renewed.

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”

We have heard this claim before; it was made by the risen Christ back in chapter one, verse eight.

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and omega the last. The text goes on to amplify that statement. God is the beginning and the end. The word for beginning is archē; it means more than just the first in time but also first in the source of all things.

The word for end is telos, and means not only the end in point of time but also the goal.

The great truth of the statement is this: All life begins in God and ends in God. Paul expressed this same concept, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11.36).

grace to you all, peaceBill

 

Grace and peace be multiplied to you
in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord
;

seeing that His divine power has granted to us
everything pertaining to life and godliness,
through the true knowledge of Him who called us
by His own glory and excellence.
For by these He has granted to us
His precious and magnificent promises,
so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

Now for this very reason also,
applying all diligence,

in your faith supply moral excellence,
and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
and in your knowledge, self-control,
and in your self-control, perseverance,
and in your perseverance, godliness,
and in your godliness, brotherly kindness,
and in your brotherly kindness, love.

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing,
they render you neither useless nor unfruitful
in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted,
having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent
to make certain about His calling and choosing you;
for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.

2 Peter 1.2-11

 

When Trouble Comes

Few of us need to be reminded that our commitment to Christ doesn’t exempt us from the difficulties and hardships we encounter in life. When Jesus spoke about building a life upon a solid rock (Matthew 7.24), He indicated there was another choice: sand. We could build on sand, too, but what terrible consequences when the storms come.

Our spiritual relationship with God is like a child and a father. Problems such as illness, death, discouragement, even natural disasters, are but a few of the storms of life. They are no respecter of persons, attacking Christians and non-Christians alike. It is not uncommon to hear someone who has suffered a loss ask, “Why – why does God allow such things to happen?”

Becoming a Christian does not grant us immunity from the problems of this world. But one thing we are granted that those outside of Christ can never have is the assurance of an ever-present God. Assurance that He knows our troubles and our anxieties and asks us to cast them all on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5.7).

Our Heavenly Father sees and understands our predicaments. He comes to us, enfolding us in His gracious arms to grant us solace and safety (Psalm 46.1-3):

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
 Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

Selah.

 – grace to you all and peace, Bill

 

A Question of Value

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables about a lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7), a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), and two lost sons (Luke 15:11-32).

In the first two stories, He points out the natural value people place on their possessions. A shepherd loses one sheep out of a hundred; nevertheless he goes out and scours the countryside until he finds it. Likewise, a woman loses one coin out of ten, yet she tears her house apart searching until she finds the missing coin.

However in the third story, the loss is a rebellious son – not unlike the tax collectors and sinners listening to Jesus tell these stories. Sinners. They’re so disgusting. They’ve chosen to be what they are; they should know better. But in this story Jesus shows us a loving father who anxiously awaits the return of his rebellious son and thus a forgiving God who mercifully embraces even the vilest of sinners.

But there’s another lost son in the story, the faithful son who never left. He’s lost in his father’s house. He’s lost because his self-righteousness has led him to believe he’s earned his place of favor – it’s his right, he deserves it. He has no room for mercy or forgiveness, even for a wayward brother. Such is the danger of arrogant piety.

These parables teach us that God views every sinner with compassion, not merely as a possession to be found and reclaimed, but as a precious individual – as a lost but loved son. He lovingly longs for each one to return to Him.

 – grace and peace to you all … Bill

 

Praise ye the LORD.

Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto Thy holy name, and to triumph in Thy praise. Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.   Psalm 106.47-48

Words of praise and thankfulness unto God have always typified His people. He is our Maker, the Source of our existence, the Benefactor of our blessings, the Savior of our souls. It is deserving that He should be remembered with reverence and thanksgiving.

Paul told the Colossian brethren that one of the characteristics of walking in Christ is to be abundant in thanksgiving (2.6-7). Likewise, to the Ephesians he said, “Giving thanks always for all things to God…” (5.20).

The Bible tells us the crowning achievement of God’s creation was mankind. Everything that was made was made for us. With our unique and divinely-ordained intellect, the earth and all that is in it was given into our care and subjection (Genesis 1.28).

For the Christian there are just no words quite adequate to describe the thrilling experience of life. Yea, even those moments fraught with pain, disappointment, sorrow, and tears are beneficial and necessary for us. They make us complete, enabling us to be happy and joyful through all the uncertainties attendant to this life. So with the psalmist we may say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.

– grace to you all and peace, Bill

 

Book, Chapter, Verse

I grew up hearing sermons filled with Scripture, the preachers giving book, chapter, and verse. I was taught to be a preacher by preachers who believed the only basis for preaching was book, chapter, and verse.

Preaching is simply the proclamation of a message. Gospel preachers have been given a message. It is not our message; it is God’s. For some reason, in His infinite wisdom, he chose preaching as the means of extending His salvation to the world, “…it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1.21).

We preachers have had no part in the preparing, providing, and revealing of the message. That was all God’s work. Preachers are merely messengers, relaying faithfully and accurately the words of One to others. They are not our words – they are His words.

Therefore, to assure the faithfulness of the message, the messenger must provide book, chapter, and verse. And likewise, that they might accurately receive the message, the hearers must always expect the messenger to give book, chapter, and verse.

My dear friends, let us constantly remember “we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5.7) and that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10.17). That requires book, chapter, and verse.

 – Bill

 

Sentence Sermons

There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who think they are sinners and the sinners who think they are righteous. ~Blaise Pascal

A puritan is a person who pours righteous indignation into the wrong things. ~G. K. Chesterton

Faith refers to Christ. Holiness depends on faith. Heaven depends on holiness.  ~Alexander MacLaren

True faith rests upon the character of God and asks no further proof than the moral perfections of the One who cannot lie. It is enough that God has said it.  ~A. W. Tozer

Faith must have adequate evidence, else it is mere superstition. ~A. A. Hodge

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither. ~C. S. Lewis

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. ~Jim Elliot

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. ~Soren Kierkegaard

One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil … I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life. ~Moses

Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen. ~Hebrews 11.1

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. ~Jesus of Nazareth

 

Am I a God who is near?

Am I a God who is near, declared the LORD, and not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places, so I do not see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23.23-34)

There is no place in the universe void of God’s presence. He is not limited by the dimensions that confine us. Therefore, we have the knowledge that wherever we are in whatever situation or circumstance, God is with us. Because we are His children through faith in Jesus Christ, we live daily with the assurances that He cares for us and is concerned about us. Though He is indeed Creator and Master of the Universe, He is also Father and we are His precious children – we belong to Him!

Because we belong to God we are never alone; He is our constant companion. Loneliness is an awful thing. People were made to live in “community,” and that greatest community of all is the one that transcends this world where love, friendship, and companionship are not only present now but throughout all eternity.

Because we belong to God when we are troubled, He is our confidence. Because of Emmanuel, He knows what it is like to be here and to be human. He understands hardship and heartache. He knows about worry and anxiety and says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5.7).

– grace to you all, and peace, Bill

 

The True Test of Discipleship

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13.35). Jesus told us that Christianity was going to consist of really personal relationships with each other. The basis of those relationships would be faith in Him and love for one another.

The word for “love” in this verse is agapaō; it is not an emotional form of love but a determination of the will to always act in the best interest of another regardless of the cost to oneself. For example: “For God so loved (agapaō) the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” His overwhelming love for us (in spite of our rebellion against Him) cost Him something. What He did wasn’t in His best interest, but ours.

The most visible test of discipleship is how we treat each other because that’s how the world sees us – how we behave toward one another:

“Carry one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6.2).
“Serve one another” (Galatians 5.13).
“Let us not pass judgment on one another” (Romans 14.13).
“Do not lie to one another” (Colossians 3.9).
“Be patient and forbearing with one another” (Ephesians 4.2).
“Be kind and compassionate with one another” (Ephesians 4.32).
“Honor one another” (Romans 12.10).
“Forgive one another as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4.32).
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2.3).

Here’s the question: Does the living witness of our faith pass this simple test of discipleship?

 – grace to you all, and peace – Bill