Pastor's Blog

How to Be a Failure

“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” – Judges 21:25


            For 37 years (1961-1998), Jim McKay hosted ABC’s Wide World of Sports. “The thrill of victory...and the agony of defeat” became a national catchphrase. Everyone wants victory. Nobody wants defeat.

            Joshua is a book of victory. Under Joshua, Israel followed the Lord (Judges 2:7; Joshua 1:16-18). But when Joshua died, it seems that Israel buried God, too.

            Judges is a book of defeat. God said to the children of Israel: “but ye have not obeyed My voice” (2:2). While “How to Succeed” books are popular today, Judges—the only successful “How to Fail” book—was written by Israel long ago.

            If you want to fail at life then Forget God. Judges 2:10 says, “there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord.” Somewhere between crossing the Jordan River and possessing the Promised Land, they FORGOT to teach their children about God—they failed (Deut. 4:9; 6:4-25). We are failures if we lose our children!

            The second key to failure is: Forsake God. Judges 2:12, “And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers.” They had failed to win their children, who in turn failed to keep God first.

            The final step to failure is: Follow after false gods. First you “follow” (2:12) then you “serve” (2:13). The number of false gods the children of Israel served increased (Judges 2:13; cf. 10:6). Sin becomes progressively more grotesque in our lives every day we practice it.

            The opposite of failure is FAITH!  Israel had turned from God to idols, to serve them. Paul admonishes us Christians differently in 1 Thessalonians 1:9. We are to turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Paul identifies this as our “work of faith” (v. 3).

            The thrill of Faith or the agony of Failure is a choice we must make today!

Three Good Reasons to Labor in Bible Study

            Bible study is hard work. Haddon Robinson, the Radio Bible Class teacher, rightly said, “The people involved in the public relations department of the church always make Bible study sound as though it is easy. It is not. It takes a great deal of effort to understand [a] text, and even more to understand how it applies to our lives.”[1] Yet for all of its hard work, a diligent and orderly study of the Scriptures is both commended, commanded, and rewarded in the New Testament.

            The Apostle Paul was commending the believers in Berea when he said: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). That the Bereans were careful students of Scripture on a daily basis was a great compliment. That they willingly listened to the teaching of the Word by Paul was equally praiseworthy.

            Commendation is not reserved for the Bereans only, however. As saved people, we can all pursue the labor of Bible study with similar enthusiasm. To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to be His student. Disciples are to be learners and imitators. And as such, we are also commanded to study the Word of God: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The Greek word for “study” (σπουδάζω, spoudazō) means “to do something with intense effort and motivation — ‘to work hard, to do one’s best, to endeavor.’”[2] Again, study is hard work. It does not come easily. Wise King Solomon even said it: “. . . much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). To labor diligently by making intense mental application to the meaning of a text can be exhausting work. Indeed, it takes an earnest workman to rightly divide the Word of Truth!

            Diligent Bible study is well worth the effort. Though the work is hard, the reward is great. Specifically, we “study [in order to show ourselves] approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15). Having God’s approval on one’s life, according to this verse, makes one unashamed, and comes by carefully laboring in “the Word of Truth.” According to Steven White, being “approved” is “the action of a definite and intense probing and testing of something to reveal its quality.”[3]

            The same word occurs in Philippians 1:10, where we are instructed to “approve things that are excellent.” We test for those things which surpass in quality. We repeatedly prove those things as excellent every time we use them. If one discovers, for example, a ball-point pen that is of superior quality, one that excels above all the rest by writing smoothly and consistently each time it is used, then that pen becomes “approved” by its continual usage. By daily trial the pen proves superior. Likewise, in 2 Timothy 2:15, we are to prove the quality of our own character to God by our diligent labor in Bible study. The difference being that now we are the subjects of God’s testing. We are seeking His approval on us. Our character and quality is revealed to God by our efforts in regular Bible study.

            Herein lies the benefit of laboring in Bible study. By rolling up the sleeves of our mind and digging into the Word of Truth, we gain commendation. We also fulfill the command of God. And finally, we obtain the reward of God’s approval. These are three good reasons to study the Bible diligently.

[1]. Haddon Robinson, “The Wisdom of Small Creatures,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 93.

[2]. Johannes P. Louw, and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, s.v. “Louw Nida 68.63” (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996). Logos Bible Software 6.

[3]. Steven J. White, White’s Dictionary of the King James Language, vol. 1, A-E, s.v. “approved” (2005), 113.

Was Jesus Truly a Rabbi?

Early in the first century, a controversial rabbi polarized the Jewish world. Jesus of Nazareth astounded the masses with His wonders, infuriated the establishment with His wisdom, and castigated the hypocrites with His words. Centuries later, rabbinic Talmudists maligned Jesus as wicked and unworthy of the title Rabbi. More recently, some accuse the Gospel writers (especially John) of anachronistically conferring the title after the fact. Others gladly assert Rabbi to be honorific, albeit of little significance to the greater view of Jesus. Each of these claims deserves examination. In the biblical record, though, the Evangelists give evidence of Jesus’ own disciples, religious leaders, and others addressing Jesus as Rabbi—a term which speaks plainly (and is often used synonymously) of Jesus as Master, Teacher, and Lord.[1] But modern Christians eschew this Gospel name for the Messiah, as if clothing Jesus in the Jewish term rabbi somehow makes for a poor covering. Contrary to donning rags, however, Jesus wears the title Rabbi as a finely-tailored robe—its folds and flows accentuating His greatness. To demonstrate that rabbi is an appropriate designation, consider three marks of Jesus’ teaching ministry in the Gospel record:

1. Jesus received a rabbinical education.

2. Jesus instructed His disciples through means of rabbinical pedagogy.

3. Jesus assumed the rabbinical posture of sitting to teach.

Alone, each of these details easily goes unnoticed, lost in the panoramic backdrop of the Gospel scene. When considered together, the greater portrait of Rabbi Jesus comes into focus. By better understanding the biblical and cultural context of Jesus as Rabbi, Christians gain deeper insight into Jesus as Teacher and Master. In turn, this creates better students and disciples for Jesus as both Lord (Master) and Christ (Messiah).

PLEASE Contact Pastor Miller for a full copy of his article.

[1]. Andreas J. Köstenberger, “Jesus as Rabbi in the Fourth Gospel,” ed. Craig A. Evans, Bulletin for Biblical Research 8 (1998): 100, Logos Bible Software.

Keep Your Balance

We live in a day when the importance of the local church is frequently denied. But Jesus loved the church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25-27). The New Testament describes the church as the center of Christian fellowship, benevolence, ministry, discipline, training and all missionary work (Acts 2:41-47; 13:1-3; 14:23,27). The Lord, today, still desires every Christian to be involved in a solid, Bible-preaching church. By “solid,” I mean well-grounded and balanced, both doctrinally and practically.

Balance is important. Writing in Leadership magazine, John Stott said, “Balanced Biblical Christianity is a rare phenomenon. It seems to be a characteristic of our fallen minds that we find it easier to grasp half-truths than to grasp the whole truth, and in consequence we become lopsided Christians” (Vol. 9, No. 2).  Churches and Christians alike should remain balanced. At the center of all that we do is Jesus Christ. And it is always right to be Christ-centered.

Paul’s ministry was Christ-Centered (1 Corinthians 2:2). “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...” (Galatians 6:14). Our lives should also be Christ-centered. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith...” (Hebrews 12:2). Keep the main thing the main thing, as the saying goes. Jesus Christ must always remain the main thing to Christians.

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This concept is quite similar to a child’s top. As long as the top has momentum and remains centered, it spins. But as soon as it gets off-balance–once it begins to tip just a little to one side–it begins to fall. Likewise, if we lose momentum in serving Christ, or if we begin to get just the tiniest bit off-centered, we, too, wobble and then fall. As a church or individual, when we’re off center, we’re off balance. We must stay centered on Christ.