Author Archives: andyrupert

Psalm 77 in English Rhyme

While reading a commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, the author took an aside to talk about the peace that comes from a spiritual mindset (see Rom. 8:6). When a Christian focuses on the Holy Spirit’s leading, he will experience peace because he is following God’s direction and plan. The commentator explained that this peace can be misunderstood as the absence of any trouble. That is not true as many believers in the Old and New Testament times faced difficult situations.

As evidence, the commentator pointed to the psalmist’s thoughts in Psalm 77. The following poem summarizes the thoughts of that psalm, and might also parallel what other believers have gone through at times. As you read it, you may be reminded of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I think this is well done.

The thought of God brought me no peace
But rather made my fears increase
With sleepless eyes and speechless pain
My fainting spirit grieved in vain
The blessedness of long ago
Made deeper still my present woe

Recalling days when faith was bright
When songs of gladness filled my night
I pondered o’er my grievous woes
And searching questioning arose
Will God cast off and nevermore
His favor to my soul restore?

These doubts and fears that troubled me
Were born of my infirmity
Though I am weak, God is most high
And on his goodness I rely
Of all his wonders I will tell
And on his deeds my thoughts shall dwell

William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980, pp. 249-50.

Your Current Influence

Recent events in the US have resulted in protests, rioting, looting, vandalism, murder, and arson. What should be the response of Christians during this time? While reading through the Proverbs, I came across one that gives a good perspective on how our choices affect those around us.

“By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted,
but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.”

– Proverbs 11:11

Upright – These are people who want to do what is right, who want to please God and follow his wisdom.

Illustration – Daniel blessed Babylon with his presence by being, doing and speaking what was right despite the attempts of wicked people to destroy him. As the various kings saw his upright behavior, he was honored and promoted, and he proved to be a blessing to the people in that city.

Wicked – These are people who want to do what is wrong, who hate God, and rebel against his wisdom.

Illustration – King Manasseh of Judah rejected God. By his words and actions, he “seduced them to do more evil” (2 Kings 21). He degenerated so far as to burn his son in fire while worshiping an idol. His influence harmed those around him.

These two examples are extremes. That is the way proverbs are written. They show opposites to make a point. These illustrations show the possible outcome of living either uprightly or wickedly from real life examples.

Choice One – If you love God, his wisdom is evident in the way you influence your community. Doing right helps others, holds back evil, and points people to the Lord.

Choice Two – If you love wickedness, your thinking will affect the way you influence your community. Your words can promote lawlessness and the ultimate destruction of those around you.

Choose wisely.

How should I identify myself?

A lot of people talk about being [FILL IN THE BLANK]-Americans, nowadays. That word before the hyphen usually has something to do with where the person’s family came from. And that historical adjective might even refer to things that happened hundreds of years ago. I really don’t think that way. And apparently I am not the only one. Someone has compiled a list of strange things that Americans do. Here is one of them:

“Identifying as your heritage instead of your nationality. Americans will say that they’re Italian, German, Polish, etc. when they don’t speak the language and have no real connection to those countries anymore. In other parts of the world people just identify with the country they were born in or have lived in for a significant amount of time, regardless of their ancestry.”

https://www.buzzfeed.com/stephenlaconte/weird-things-americans-do-reddit

This is something I didn’t grow up thinking about. Yes, I did hear funny jokes about ethnic people. But most of them could apply to just about any other people group. Remember this one?

Q: How many [FILL IN THE BLANK]s does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: One to hold the bulb and 3 to turn the chair.

I really don’t have a firm grasp of where my family came from. Sure, my brother traced the family tree back several hundred years, but it didn’t make me think that I was from another country. My only recollection about me is that I’m an American from Ohio. What happened hundreds of years ago has little to do with who I am today.

Realistically, the most important descriptor of me is “Christian.” That is really what makes me what I am today. Despite anything in my past or my family’s past, God chose to adopt me into his family. That is a wonderful thing and something that I would rather claim than any good or bad historical events that may have happened.

One more thing: When we think about who we are, our ethnic heritage really doesn’t matter for a Christian. Think about what the Bible says about this.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. … After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

John 3:16 / Revelation 7:9-10

IF God loved all people enough to send Jesus to die for their sins, and IF there are going to be all types of people worshiping God together in the future, why should I make my heritage a big deal? Maybe it would be better for Christians to talk about what God has done in their lives instead of a most-likely checkered past that doesn’t really make a difference today.

Is there any hope?

There are times in life when all hope seems to be gone. For those who have been studying the Epistle to the Romans with us, you may feel this way today. Studying Romans 1:18-3:18 has not been easy because it paints a picture of our hopeless condition. Each person who has ever lived is described in those pages as under God’s wrath, given over to sin’s consequences, inexcusable, unrighteous, unprofitable, and not good at all.

God’s perspective of our sinfulness is not at all what we would like it to be. We think highly of our good deeds and think that God should take notice … but he does not. He looks past the good intentions to see the real character of our hearts. We are ignorant, sinful people who do not seek him or understand what he desires.

After finding out what God knows about us, you would be right to consider your condition hopeless. According to him, there is nothing we can do to change our sinful character, or to appease his wrath. Then we come to Romans 3:19-26.

“Dark and dismal is man’s condition. This darkness and despair is unfathomable and universal. It envelops all. Then suddenly a light, the very light which previously had flickered for a brief moment, comes streaming in. Hope revives.

This light, this ray of optimism, comes not from below but from above. It is a ‘righteousness from God.’ It is he who comes to the rescue. It is he who condescends to save those who had made themselves thoroughly unworthy of being saved. And, being God, he does this—of course!—without sacrificing his righteousness or lifting the demands of his law.

…Why God did this is a mystery we shall never be able fully to understand. Such love is infinite and incomprehensible.”

William Hendriksen commenting on Romans 3:21

There is hope! The darkness and fear that accompanies a true understanding of our sinfulness can be removed by believing him. God willingly accomplished what we never could have. He sent his Son Jesus to die in the place of worthless and undeserving creatures like us. Now, instead of attempting to be good enough, we are told to simply believe what God did for us through Jesus. He, the sinless Son of God, died to pay for our sins. He took our place.

Is there any hope? Yes, but that hope will never be found in ourselves; it is only found in what God has provided for us. Will you set aside any effort of your own and simply trust what God has done? That is your only hope.

Discontented with God’s blessings

“But the lesson of the text is rather for those who have the favor and blessing of God, but are not content, and still crave worldly things. You are in covenant with God. He has redeemed you, not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ. You are now the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what you shall be. There is laid up for you an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Yet your heart hankers after the things of the world. Your acquaintances and friends are better off. Your bare house, your homely furnishings, your poor dress, your simple fare distress you, and you would fain be in a higher worldly sphere, enjoying more consideration, and participating more freely in worldly enjoyments.

Be assured, my friends, you are not in a wholesome frame of mind. To be depreciating the surpassing gifts which God has given you, and to be exaggerating those which He has withheld, is far from being a wholesome condition. You wish to be like the nations. You forget that your very glory is not to be like them. Your glory is that ye are a chosen generation, an holy nation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people, your bodies temples of the Holy Ghost, your souls united to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet again, there are congregations, which though in humble circumstances, have enjoyed much spiritual blessing. Their songs have gone up, bearing the incense of much love and gratitude; their prayers have been humble and hearty, most real and true; and the Gospel has come to them not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. Yet a generation has grown up that thinks little of these inestimable blessings, and misses fine architecture, and elaborate music, and highly cultured services. They want to have a king like the nations. However, they may endanger the spiritual blessings, it is all important to have these surroundings. It is a perilous position, all the more perhaps that many do not see the peril—that many have little or no regard for the high interests that are in such danger of being sacrificed.”

W. G. Blaikie, The First Book of Samuel, 112-13.

Quote of the Day – Biblical Obedience

Biblical obedience is not just compliance with some abstract law or rule. It is the submissive response to the person of the Holy Spirit, who has revealed the will of God to us through His Word. It means saying yes to God as we say no to self. It means denying self instead of indulging self. It means pleasing God instead of pleasing self. It means walking in the Spirit instead of grieving the Spirit.

Jim Berg, Changed Into His Image, p. 88.

I think Berg’s point is that obedience to God is not just doing what is asked. True obedience includes a submission to God himself in the process. That is why “the sacrifice of the wicked [obedience to God’s law] is an abomination to the Lord [not pleasing to God].” If we want to please the Lord and keep our relationship right with Him, we have to have the right attitude as well as the right action.

Benaiah – the Mighty Man

As a boy, I always enjoyed reading adventure stories and especially those in the Old Testament. The books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles fascinated me and still do today. During one reading I came across a soldier in David’s army who later became my favorite Bible character. His name is Benaiah.

Who was this man? Benaiah was one of David’s mighty men. He was know for several astounding feats. But his entire life is an example of someone who faithfully and consistently served the Lord.

God honored his service.

He was valiant (2 Sam. 23:22-23).

King David surrounded himself with a group of thirty highly skilled men. They were called David’s Mighty Men. If you read through the chapter you will see that these men were recognized for certain acts of bravery. Benaiah was one of these men. In fact, he was not just one of the thirty, he was better than them. And as one of the mighty men, he was noted for his bravery.

He was trustworthy (2 Sam. 23:23b).

Notice in verse 23 that Benaiah was given a place of trust in David’s entourage. David put him in charge of his guard. I think this is another way of saying that Benaiah was the captain of David’s body guards. I am not sure what the requirements are for being a secret service agent, but I imagine the president would want someone who was very trustworthy to protect him. David trusted Benaiah with this important job because he could be trusted.

He was a leader (1 Chron. 18:17).

This chapter informs us of the accomplishments of King David. It tells us about wars he fought and preparations he made for defending the country. But in the last three verses of the chapter, we find out who his chief officers were. The last person to be listed is our hero. Benaiah was chief over a group of men called the Cherethites and Pelethites. Who were these men? Perhaps this was the group of body guards whom we heard about in the previous passage. Or they may have been a group of foreigners who had joined David during the time he was running away from King Saul. In any case, Benaiah was trusted by David to lead this group of men.

He was promoted (1 Kings 4:1-4).

We know that David trusted this courageous soldier, but was he ever recognized for his service to the country? Yes, we find that, during the reign of Solomon, Benaiah was promoted to the position of commander of the host. This was like being promoted to the commanding general of the army. It was quite an honor for Benaiah, but it was also a promotion he had earned by faithfully serving King David and throughout his life.

Most people would like to be honored in front of their peers. Although there is some embarrassment involved in being honored, there is also a good feeling that someone is thankful for your service. Honor is given to those who are faithful. Our God does the same. He wants to honor those who have been faithful. But he is not as interested in one time greats. He is looking for people who will be faithful throughout their entire life. Benaiah was one of those men.

God honored his courage.

Eddie Rickenbacker was a famous WWI fighter pilot. In just two months of combat, he came away with 26 aerial victories. You would think someone like that was never afraid and yet in his book Bits & Pieces he said these words.

“Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”

Eddie Rickenbacker

We are never told that Benaiah feared anything. However, if he was like the rest of us, he probably faced fear on a regular basis. In 1 Chronicles 11:22-24, we read of three of his greatest tests. With the Lord’s enablement, he defeated each formidable foe.

Against two lion-like men

One on one you might have a chance to win a game of pick-up basketball. But if you have to play against two people, the odds are against you. Benaiah faced two Moabite warriors who were described as lion-like men. You can imagine that these men were known for their fierce fighting skills. But after meeting Benaiah, they were known only for meeting their match.

Against a lion

On another occasion, Benaiah killed a lion in a pit. At first glance this seems like an easy task. But as you look at the details, you find that this was not as easy as you would have thought. It was on a snowy day. Imagine trying to fight someone in the slippery snow. Then think about doing it in a pit. Apparently, Benaiah found a lion in a pit and entered the pit to kill it. Again he came out the victor.

Against a giant Egyptian

Think about some of the tall people you have met before. I usually have the advantage in basketball because of my height. But when faced with people taller than me, I am suddenly at a disadvantage. Imagine Benaiah’s disadvantage when facing this tall Egyptian. He was about seven and a half feet tall. On top of that, he was carrying a spear the size of a weaver’s beam. The point is that this man was tall and strong. But once again, Benaiah defeated this soldier. He plucked the spear out of his hand with a staff and then killed him with his own weapon.

During the Old Testament, God honored those who trusted him. It is obvious to see that Benaiah was a man who trusted the Lord for these victories. It is no wonder that the Lord included the record of his accomplishments so prominently.

Where is our faith today? Are we known for our courage in doing the Lord’s work? Or are we known as the spineless jelly fish that cannot even speak Jesus’ name in front of an unbeliever. God needs a new group of mighty men who are willing to do his work in the power he gives them. Will you be one of them?

God honored his loyalty.

What happened to Benaiah as he grew older? There is no doubt that as his body grew older, his physical abilities decreased proportionately. Did he lose his place of prominence or was there still a position open for the once mighty warrior? In the next two passages, we will see that Benaiah remained a loyal member of the kingdom.

During Absalom’s Attack (2 Sam. 17:8)

As David grew older, his mighty men stood with him through some very difficult times. When Absalom attempted to overthrow his father’s kingdom, David was saved by the advice of Hushai the Archite. When asked for his opinion, Hushai reminded Absalom that David had the mighty men with him and that they were like a bear robbed of its cubs. After hearing these words, Absalom decided to round up a larger army before attacking his father’s army. Why was that? I think it was because of the respect men like Benaiah had earned. They were not just mighty men; they were extremely loyal to their king.

During Adonijah’s Attempt (1 Kings 1:5-10)

At the end of David’s life, when it was time for him to hand over the throne to one of his sons, Adonijah decided to crown himself king. Unfortunately, Joab and Abiathar lent him their support. Adonijah threw a party for the occasion and invited lots of friends. But, there were a few important people who didn’t get an invitation. “He did not invite Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, the mighty men, or Solomon his brother” (10). This is a very telling statement. Adonijah already knew what Benaiah and these other men would have said. They would be loyal to David until death and would follow whomever he chose to replace him. Adonijah never succeeded and, as we saw earlier, Benaiah was eventually promoted to the position of commander of the army for King Solomon.

Conclusion

Many people are known for exciting one-time accomplishments, but very few are known for faithful service over the long haul. Benaiah is a good example of someone who dedicated his entire life for service to his king. His mighty acts were not just a one time thing. Instead, he faithfully served in the positions given him year after year and was later rewarded as a trustworthy and loyal servant.

When I think about people like Benaiah who are remembered for their faithful service, the question often pops into my mind: “For what will I be remembered?” Will I be remembered as a faithful servant of God or someone who was inconsistent. With God’s help, I want to be a Benaiah who will faithfully make a difference for God wherever I am.

Appropriate Actions

While preaching through the Epistle to Titus, I have noticed a common theme about doing good works. Paul insists that Titus should remind the Cretan believers to live like they believe. Notice how often he mentions godliness and good works in the epistle.

  • 1:1 – “the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness
  • 1:16 – “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
  • 2:1 – “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine
  • 2:6 – “in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works
  • 2:11 – “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age
  • 2:14 – “who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
  • 3:1 – “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.”
  • 3:8 – “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
  • 3:14 – “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.

Why is this so important? Think of it this way. If you are telling someone that God saved you from your sinful past life but you are still living a sin filled life, your actions will contradict the message God is trying to “speak” through you.

A sure way to testify of the change God has made in your life is to live in a way that agrees with what God has done and taught in the Bible. That will involve not doing things that are inappropriate (1:16; 2:12) and doing things that are appropriate (2:1-9). Ask yourself the question, Is this action appropriate for someone who has been changed by God? Or, does this action match what the Bible teaches?

Someone has said that actions speak louder than words. Apparently, God thinks the same way … and so should we.

I did something that might surprise you…

If you know anything about my beliefs about music, you will be surprised that I even know who Kanye West is. To be honest, I don’t know much about him. But when people I know started posting articles about him becoming a Christian, I was slightly interested. Slightly is the correct word. Too often, the celebrity-turned-Christian story ends up being nothing more than a weak, self-help story with little evidence of real life change. And you seldom hear anything about repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But there is something about what he says and now does. His recent album, Jesus is King, is not something I would listen to, but it may be evidence that something about him has changed.

Christianity is the unwavering focus of Kanye’s gospel album, a richly produced but largely flawed record about one man’s love of the Lord (and himself).

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/kanye-west-jesus-is-king/

I recently listened to an interview of Kanye West on Youtube with headphones on. If he is a Christian, he still is going through the process of sanctification. Because he uses some foul language, I won’t be including a link to the video. However, you might be surprised that he stated some poignant thoughts.

I was four months in, working on the album. I had the best, luxury shock treatment of gospel possible – forty people singing, sixty people, 80 people singing about Jesus. And I had one of my friends come over and we were just having a good time and it was a good feeling. He said, “Man, this is just like one of those LA churches where they come around, just talking about It’s good … Where’s the Word? People gonna need some solid food.” And then we started talkin’ about Christ.

I was always letting that Playboy magazine that I found when I was five years old have an affect on my music. … I bet you the devil was happy on that day. … I was lost.

A lot of the information that’s in rap, ain’t gonna keep you married.

Since we’re here for the interview, let me talk about the idea of sin and repenting. When people have “they own relationship with Christ” … they know they are dealing with sins that they don’t want to have to repent for. The difference, once you’re delivered, everything that you do is in service to Christ, and anything that you know wasn’t in service to Christ, you will repent for.

I don’t know where Kanye West stands with the Lord. He is a passionate person with lots of energy. His way of expressing things is sometimes odd and disjointed. But some of the things he says are good. They made me think that God is working in his heart. To God be the glory.

Humility

If you have been born again (John 3), you know about the change God has made in you (2 Cor. 5:17). But others may not understand the difference in you. Why don’t you curse, get drunk, party, and watch R-rated movies? And when you try to explain, it may come across as pride. What people may not understand is that God changed you. When He changed you on the inside, your thoughts, speech, actions, and desires began to change. While you are thankful for God’s work in your life and can see the Holy Spirit producing the fruit of the Spirit in your life (Gal 5:22-23), others may not understand. This is why humility should be a big part of your life.

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:1-7 NKJV

Paul knew that Christians can forget where the change has come from and start taking credit for their God-given character. He reminds us to be humble, to remember where we came from. If you are honest, you know that his description of our past is accurate. We were foolish, disobedient, deceived, lustful, angry, envious, and hateful. In other words, we have nothing to be proud of in ourselves.

We need to be reminded of what God did (and is doing) in us. He saw us in our raw, sinful state and still made the choice to love us. He could have left us to wallow in our sin and its consequences. He could have judged us by his perfect standard of righteousness and condemned us to the lake of fire, but thankfully he didn’t. Instead, he loved us and chose to wash and renew us. In other words, we didn’t do anything; God did everything.

Today, if you are a Christian, remember what God has done in your life. And as you see the change he is making in you, remember to be humble. He did it … not you.

______________

Further reading: Ephesians 2:1-10