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The Vow of Celibacy
September 23, 2012
Near the end of the third century, the pagan concept of monasticism began to be practiced in the name of Christ. Anthony of Alexandria Egypt at age 15 (266 AD) dissatisfied with life, moved into the desert and remained there 90 years. Many later joined him. They devoted themselves to prayer and meditation in isolation from others. One such man was Martin of Tours who tore his cloak (capella) in two for a beggar and his group began calling themselves "capella" and their singing without instruments was called "a capella" while their place of worship was called a "chapel" from the same word. Their form of religion is condemned in Colossians 2:18-23: it is false humility and neglect of the body which has no value against indulgence of the flesh.
Having said that, we must also acknowledge that sometimes it is right to remain celibate and sometimes it is right to accept a life of poverty. The unmarried ought to accept celibacy. The "love-making" of singles is called "fornication" in the Bible. Some translations used the word "immorality" (NASV) or "sexual immorality" (NKJV, ESV). Those who practice this sin cannot inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Corinthians 6:9. We have a generation of men and women who see marriage and children as a hindrance to their careers but they insist on the right to "make love" with whomever they please. Others marry then disregard their bond when the desires of the flesh draw them toward others. In either case, should one of these be converted to Christ and be washed in His blood, the Gospel demands that they change their minds about love-making and accept celibacy. They may not need to join a cloistered society, but they will need to separate themselves from their old lovers.
If the someone wants a wife and children, but his success in pursuing his financial ambitions will be hindered by the demands of married life, his only choice is to be content with a lower standard of living. If he wants to be a Christian, he will want to be a good husband and father as well as a faithful and involved member of the church of Christ. Although he may be smart enough and industrious enough to become a rich man, he might have to give up dreams of wealth and accept a life that some might consider shamefully poor. However, God, his brethren, and his family would certainly call him a rich man.
These are not the monastic vows of celibacy and poverty, but they may be required of us as Christians.
Nations that bless Israel
--September 16, 2012
Last week, Birmingham received a Ugandan pastor of the 5,000 member Prayer Palace Christian Center. He is visiting our country to promote political support for the modern nation of Israel. He bases his appeal on God's promise in the Bible to bless all those who bless the nation of Israel. Nearly all Protestants who are looking for a future earthly kingdom of Christ (1,000 year reign) also believe that the modern nation called Israel is the Israel of the Bible that all nations must bless or else God will curse them.
The only Scripture that promises this type of blessing is found in Genesis 12:3. God promised the patriarch Abraham that He would bless those who blessed him, and the one who should curse him would be cursed by God. Isaac extended a similar blessing to Jacob whose name was later changed to Israel. The basis for extending such a promise to the descendants is found in the following words, "And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Let's remember that the Arab nations also descend from Abraham as well as the apostate nations of Judah and Israel after the kingdom of Solomon was divided. Both nations were severely cursed and only a "remnant" survived to start over five centuries before Christ.
The fatal error that our Protestant friends are making is that they set aside the apostles' explanation of the promise God made to Abraham. Romans 9:6-8, "For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; ... it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants." V27 "Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved;" Galatians 3:29, "And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." Romans 4:12, "and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised." Romans 2:11, "For there is no partiality with God." 10:12, "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, a bounding in riches for all who call upon Him." Acts 10:34, "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him."
The real Israel of God today is called the "church" that belongs to Christ whose circumcision is of the heart and not the flesh.
Sons of the Sorceress
September 9, 2012
Their identifying mark was that they behaved as if their mother was a sorceress and their daddy an adulterer, Isaiah 57:3. The sorceress was a harlot, so their children were illegitimate, raised without a man of virtue and integrity in the house.
You deduce these things just by watching them ridicule the righteous. They would stretch their mouths wide and stick out their tongues: real bastions of maturity, these folks! v4. They were born of falsehood: their parents lied to each other about their love for each other serving a lying belief in a god that was not real.
You could deduce their pedigree also by watching them entertain themselves. They inflame themselves with their gods under every green tree, v5. I can imagine just how they did that by looking at today's fatherless youth. Their music would be loud, the lyrics not only sensual but also provocative and daring, as they would sing of seduction and violence. "Come on baby, light my fire!" in this "House of the Rising Sun." There was a time that the youth would offer up their virginity on the altar of immediate pleasure during the night, but now as in the days of Isaiah, they revel in the daytime out in the open, on the beaches and under every green tree.
You could tell they were illegitimate by their attitude toward children. They would slay them in the valleys, under the clefts of the rocks. To them, children are not a blessed gift of God but a hindrance to self-absorbed living. "Better that they should die than grow up unloved!" they say as they kill the innocent fruit of their bodies. The childish youth who is given to pleasure remembers that their parents never loved them enough to give them a good home with discipline, self-control and the wisdom to delay pleasure until it was right and good for the future of the family and pleasing to God.
You could tell they were illegitimate because they loved to take off their clothes in public, v8, and worship the gods of nature by sharing their beds with many. They smell of strong perfume as if to cover the odious things that they do, v9. They wear themselves out in their religious pursuit of fun, good-times, and "real living." That is why they are not grieved by the awful way they treat others, v10. Today they leave a trail of garbage everywhere they go. Someone has to clean up after them.
Why are they not afraid of God? v11. They think, that just because He has not struck them down, He will not. They are sadly mistaken. 2 Peter 3:9.
September 2, 2012
Less than two hundred years after the beginning of the church, Antonius in Egypt was impressed by the conversation between Jesus and the "rich young ruler" as found in Mark 10:17. He concluded that he could succeed where the young man had failed by selling all that he had and separate himself from the "world" by living a secluded life. At first he lived near home, but then it was a tomb, and later in an abandoned fort. Finally he lived out his life on top of a mountain. Twice a year his friends brought him food which he ate with a little drinking only water. He would not comb or cut his hair except once a year on Easter and he never bathed. He died at 106 years of age. In the fifth century, another group followed Simeon who lived on the top of a pillar: at first a 6 foot pillar, but later he opted for larger and larger ones until he spent 30 years on one that was 60 feet high. I can't imagine the logistics of such a life!
Jesus teaches us that we are not of this world, John 15:19. We are saints, set apart for God's holy use, 1 Corinthians 1:2. Should we not participate in the affairs of this world? There seems to be a sentiment in our times that Christians ought not be involved in secular things, at least that we should not bring our faith into the secular arena. We are embarrassed to bring our "God-talk" into our work or play because that might offend someone and we must maintain "a strict separation of church and state," right? In other words, we are saints only when we are seated on our pillars somewhere between heaven and earth.
In John 17:15, Jesus prayed not that God should take Christians out of the world, but that He would keep them from the evil one. In verse 20, He prayed for all who would believe in Jesus through their word. Early in His teachings, He told His followers that they were the "light of the world" and that they should display that light by the good works that they should do before the eyes of the world, Matthew 5:14-16.
The Gospel recommends marriage and the raising of children, Ephesians 5:22-6:4. Asceticism that forbids marriage and the care of the body is condemned, Colossians 2:21, 23; 1 Timothy 4:3-4. We are to lead a quiet life, mind our own business, work with our hands, and walk properly toward those who are outside, that we might lack nothing, 1 Thess. 4:11. Remember, Acts 8:4, when the church was scattered by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the Gospel. That is how the cause of Christ came to be such a blessing to so many.
August 26, 2012
Chatter, cacophony, noise: our world is filled with many talking, but few who are listening carefully. They are talking to us on the cellphone, from the TV and radio, iPad, iPod, and Smartphone. Our music is loud, our sports stadiums are loud, our theaters are loud, and our trucks are loud. There comes a time when we wish to flee the aggressive sounds of the worldly and wrap ourselves in the silence of private thought. How must our Lord feel about such in-your-face carnality that ignores His Sacred Will for human-kind!
Zephaniah writes, "Be silent in the presence of the Lord God; For the day of the Lord is at hand" (1:7). This is the silence of recognition and respect. There comes a time to be silent and listen because God is about to do something that will shake our world. Our world goes silent when a tornado passes through Jefferson County and rips up the power lines and cell towers. We sit in stunned silence because the radio and television don't work, we can't go anywhere to escape the silence because the roads are blocked, and we don't even have the buzz of the air conditioner and refrigerator compressors to fill the silence.
Sometimes, we hear nothing but the crickets when someone has been rebuked. Jeremiah wrote, "let us enter the fortified cities, and let us be silent there. For the Lord our God has put us to silence and given us water of gall to drink, because we have sinned against the Lord." (8:14) Very bad behavior can masquerade as acceptable until someone raises a protest against it and exposes it for what it is. "You could hear a pin drip." The apostle Paul once wrote, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light." (Ephesians 5:11)
There is another silence which is the silence of hopeful service to God. Jeremiah writes, "The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him;" (Lamentations 3:25) We often find ourselves in a time or place that is very unpleasant and the test begins. How shall we bear it? Will glorify God in the bad times as well?
The way we behave in such times can "put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." Silence can be golden.
Freedom Versus Moral Anarchy
August 19, 2012
In our generation, it has been very difficult to control the increase in immorality especially as it is encouraged by the film industry and the print media (even more so now with the internet). One of the strengths of a government elected by the vote of its citizens, is the liberty that results for the common man. In our constitution, we have a built-in amendment to guarantee our freedom of speech along with our freedom to worship God according to our own individual belief. Those who openly rejected the righteousness of the Bible began at the same time to formulate an alternative political system that would give the state god-like power which would of course eliminate personal liberty for most common people.
How do you persuade vast numbers of people to give up their personal freedoms? You start by telling them that moral laws prevent them from really living. The weak and immature will believe that liberty is possible only if they are free from law. To prove that they are free, they will break every law of decency until every relationship that promised a future is left in ruins. Eventually such anarchy leaves men crying out for an all-powerful state to bring order back into their lives, and tyranny will be born: freedom from law ends always in a freedom from liberty!
Moral anarchy which is promoted by pornography destroys our homes and families. If anything goes, it will certainly be perverse. It opposes monogamy "till death do us part." It denies the very concept of law. It believes in a world without law and without God. It is dedicated to creating such a world.
Obscenity, like porn, is a political movement which we must oppose. This movement not only cries out for permission but for hatred of morality, because to truly live in his mind he must commit every imaginable sexual sin. Evil is life! Furthermore, morality is death. This is the religion of the pornographic entertainment industry. Many today commit adultery out of fear that they will miss out on life if they do not sin. Man's greatest enemy then is religion, morality, and law. Eliminate these and all the evils of human life will disappear. Only thus can man and state build the great society of humanism, the city of man.
Christ gives to man the faith and character for self-government, morality, and self-discipline. Marxists want the destruction of the bourgeois family and exemption from worship, so that by sexual lawlessness they can pave the way for totalitarian order. It will be a social necessity.
Being Men, They Died
July 29, 2012
Three of those who died in the Aurora theater were men who shielded the women in their company. Feminism has taken the manhood away from a generation of American men, but not from all of them. It is the man's instinct to protect and provide for his companions. Deep inside himself, he wants to be seen by women as strong and self-sacrificing. When the shooting began, the supposed equality of the sexes vanished, and noble men stepped forward and took their bullets. They could do no less and still be men.
When Lot and his family were taken captive by marauding Mesopotamians, Abram stepped forward taking his male servants and friends and pursued them, rescuing them by a daring night-time attack. He could not have done otherwise because he was the "patriarch" responsible for the protection and provision of the family.
1 Peter 3:7, "Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered." If the wife is the weaker vessel in a marriage, it stands to reason that men generally must recognize that women are physically weaker and more vulnerable to injury or danger. The men being greater in strength must accept their duty to protect the weaker women and children, even as Christians must have compassion on the needy or the injured who are our neighbors as in the parable of the good Samaritan.
Romans 15:1 "We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves." If indeed you are strong, you have an obligation toward those who are weaker to bear with them, protect them, and help them out of their dangers.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all." It is our God-given culture to protect and support the weak and vulnerable. God severely condemns those who take advantage of the widow, orphans and strangers. This is the sting of Matthew 23:14: "Woe to you Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers." 25:43, "I was a stranger and you did not take Me in,..." Deut. 10:18 "He (God) administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger,, giving him food and clothing." God loves the weak and vulnerable and calls on us to love them too, especially, if we are men.
He Just Snapped!
July 22, 2012
That is what they always say. James Holmes, 24 year-old medical student, entered a theater heavily armed and tried to kill over 70 people. Galatians 5:21 says that murder is a work of the flesh. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what good thing he should do that he might have eternal life, Jesus said, "if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." Which ones? "You shall not murder," was the first commandment that Jesus named. Revelation 21:8 says that murderers "shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." As I write these words, we don't know what Mr. Holmes may be saying as to why he tried to kill so many people.
Just a few days ago Nathan Wilkins attempted to kill 17 people in the Coppertop bar in Tuscaloosa. What ever he might have been thinking when he shot so many people, there are a few things that we can say about him and James Holmes. 1. They both were fulfilling the the lust of the flesh and were not walking in the Spirit. 2. They both failed to bear the fruit of the Spirit. 3. Neither were doing the things that we must do to inherit eternal life. 4. If they are not forgiven by God before they die, they shall certainly have their part in the lake of fire along with the devil and his angels.
People kill for all kinds of reasons. Some kill like Cain who killed Abel out of anger and hate for his brother. Some kill out of greed like Ahab killed Naboth in order to take his family vineyard. Some murder to avenge a past injury such as Joab who killed Abner because he had killed Asahel, Joab's brother. Some murder for political gain such as Abimelech who murdered his brothers in order to claim a royal authority or such as Athaliah who murdered her own children in order to become queen of Israel.
Jesus was murdered for several reasons. Pilate delivered Him over to be crucified because he could not stand up before the howling mob in Jerusalem (John 19:12). The priests sentenced Jesus to death because they saw Him as a threat to their place and nation (John 12:48). The Pharisees and scribes demanded His death because of envy (Matthew 27:18). Would you have joined them in asking for the death of Jesus? No one could have touched Him without His permission. He gave Himself into their hands because of our sins (Galatians 1:4; 2:20; Titus 2:14) In return Jesus demands that we give our selves to His service.
July 15, 2012
The churches of the past 50 years have given us female political leaders crying out for more "inclusive" language in the Bible, by which they mean that all "patriarchal" or male terms must be bent to open the possibility of female personality. They were embarrassed by the Bible's narrow doctrine about gender roles even as they had been embarrassed by the Bible's obvious rejection of so-called "scientific evolution". There have been some unintended consequences to changing the Bible language. Making God feminine has led to a drift toward pantheism, the religion of pagans or idolaters, as well as a softening toward the cults of witchcraft. Making God feminine has led to a moral transformation toward all sexual sin. The leaders have struggled to give women the equal right to commit fornication with impunity leading to a defense of all gay and lesbian fornication.
Mary Daly, Rosemary Reuther, and Virginia Mollenkott wrote influential books claiming the right to define words in order to change reality. In the following years, we accommodated them and began to speak in gender-neutral terms. We have agreed to reduce the authority of patriarchs in spite of what the Bible says. In so doing, we have made a grave error. We forget that the Bible is verbally inspired of God and God chose the terminology that stands written, words that will continue to stand long after you and I are dust in the wind.
God Himself placed great emphasis on words, their meanings, and the names that He gave to Himself. He named Himself "Jehovah" or the great "I AM" because He is who He is and does not change. Therefore His words and promises can be believed and trusted. The promised Messiah of Isaiah 9 is named Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We need not be embarrassed that our Savior, Jesus Christ, was born a Man. His lordship brings peace with God as well as with our neighbor and our family. It is He that demands that men take the leadership in the community and in the family. It is He that demands that women take the role of subjection to their husbands as well as to their patriarchs.
When you change the words and redefine the laws of God, you humanize the divine and leave it vulgar, earthy, and corrupt. Apostasy always changes the words: words like sin, saint, justice, faith, grace, church, baptism, heaven, hell, spirit, flesh, ... need I go on? When we read or teach the Scriptures, we tread on holy ground. May we bow before Him.
Herstory not History
July 8, 2012
When the churches began to pass judgment on the Scriptures, accepting or rejecting parts of the text according to what they thought was believable or not believable, God's divine Word became human and its laws and counsels subject to ridicule. Faithful Christians have argued that if we can set aside any part of the Bible, anything goes. There can be no sin if there is no divine law to define what sin is.
Well, now our generation has taken this use of the Bible to meld "feminism" with the "Gospel," setting aside any of the troublesome New Testament texts that might conflict with its goals. Elizabeth Fiorenza of the University of Notre Dame writes that since the Bible is dominated by a patriarchal culture and expresses an androcentric point of view, we must have a new hermeneutic consisting in four elements: suspicion, remembrance, proclamation, and creative actualization. The hermeneutic of suspicion regards women such as Jezebel, although not always nice, yet powerful and feared women. Maybe the patriarchal Bible is prejudiced against female goddesses and female rulers. The hermeneutic of proclamation declares that if any text of the Bible insists on "sexist" traditions or oppressive patriarchy, it cannot claim the authority of divine revelation. This would allow Galatians 3:28 to be authoritative but leave out 1 Corinthians 11. Romans 16:1 is good, but 1 Timothy 2:11 is bad. The hermeneutic of remembrance urges us to explore the suffering of women in the Bible and learn from it. See how unfair the Bible is to allow Abraham to laugh at the promise of Isaac but not Sarah. When Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses, why did Miriam get the leprosy and not Aaron? Maybe the story teller felt more threatened by a woman usurping Moses' authority. Feminists cry misogyny to provoke bitterness and anger toward the God of the Bible so that they may rewrite the Scriptures as they please. The Hermeneutic of Actualization allows women to add to the Bible women-centered stories and rituals to raise our esteem of the women. In Genesis, God formed Adam and Lilith from the dust. When Lilith refused to serve Adam, they split up leaving Adam alone. God felt sorry for him and made Eve from his side to make her more compatible. All was well until Lilith came back, tempted Eve with the apple and she saw Lilith as a kindred spirit. Eve felt left out by Adam's bond with God so she drew closer to Lilith. Adam asked God what had happened but He was confused too.
Does that help you?
Take it Easy
July 1, 2012
Apparently it was Jackson Browne who coined the phrase "take it easy" that I find myself using so much. That would make it a child of the 70s hippie era and directly introduced to us by the Eagles' song. Now in the dictionaries, it is defined as: "Don't hurry, proceed at a comfortable pace, relax. Something you say in order to tell someone to be calm and not to get angry or excited." It is used as a benediction meaning, "Goodbye and be careful." or as an exhortation meaning, "Be gentle; treat someone carefully." but more often as a plea, "Calm down, relax, do not get excited."
We live in a high pressure culture. We are pressed to work to the max, play to the max, and even to love to the max. With the invention of the incandescent light bulb, we cannot go to bed with the chickens when it gets dark outside. It never gets truly dark in the city. Our work days press into the night or if not, then we must rush to entertain ourselves or to enjoy the fruits of our labors through sports, music and dancing, watching a movie or video game or social networking by computer. Addictions used to be mainly chemical, but now we speak of addictions to many of the above activities. And then there are the addictions to the pleasures of sin such as sensuality and adultery. The Scriptures say, "But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives." (1 Timothy 5:6) "Whoa, now," you will say to me, "take it easy! Don't be so uptight!" By which you mean that I need to relax my overly strict standards. In truth, our compulsion to seek pleasure and "live life to the full," has made us uptight and slaves who must breathlessly pursue all manner of work and play until we drop from sheer exhaustion, and then we can not sleep. The Lord says to us, "Calm down!" Don't take your "living life to the full" to such an extreme that you leave little for serious thought and pursuits. The word used above for living in pleasure in found in Amos 6:4 (LXX) "Who lie on beds of ivory, stretch out on your couches, eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall; who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David; who drink wine from bowls, and anoint yourselves with the best ointments, but are not grieved for the afflictions of Joseph." In Ephesians 4:19, the futility of life without Christ is "having their understanding darkened, ... have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." We have so much that we are compelled to take full advantage. And doing so, we become greedy. Take it easy!
Kindness in the midst of Savagery
June 24, 2012
God in heaven had to be smiling as He watched Elijah's great victory over the forces of deception and evil. The 450 lying, thieving, murdering prophets of Baal had been "rehabilitated" beside the Kishon river just before a great rain storm likely washed them out to sea. Elijah may have hoped that the king and queen would have been converted to the only true and living God by seeing the fire come down from heaven and consume the sacrifice that he had offered to Jehovah, the God of Israel. That hope was promptly abandoned when queen Jezebel ignored this evidence and flew into a rage on behalf of Baal and swore she would immediately kill Elijah, the prophet of Jehovah.
He ran for his life. He ran to Beersheba then a day's journey into the wilderness where he sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. He had prayed a few days earlier for rain and God brought rain for the first time in over 3 years. That same day he had prayed and God had sent fire from heaven to consume his sacrifice. However, God denied this last request. Elijah said, "It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!" He lay down and went asleep waiting for God to take his life, but suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, "Arise and eat." He ate the food that was provided, twice and then journeyed to the southern tip of the Sinai desert ascending Mt Horeb where God had revealed Himself to Moses: a forty days journey.
God was brief. "What are you doing here Elijah?" The complaint, the discouragement, and his sense of defeat poured out from the heart. God sent a great wind that tore into the mountains and broke the rocks, but He was not in the wind. He sent an earthquake and then a fire, but He was not in the earthquake or the fire. There followed a still small voice. God again asked, "What are you doing here Elijah?" Elijah repeated his despair at the apparent success of the wicked. This time, God revealed His plans to deal with the wicked adding that Elijah was wrong about being the only one left that served the Lord. There were 7,000 that Elijah did not know about who had not submitted to Baal.. The Lord's plan was to raise up champions to reverse the tide of wickedness. One of the champions was to become his aide and successor, Elisha.
God understands how disheartening it is sometimes to stand alone against sin and deception. His kindness to the old warrior prophet should enlarge our hearts.
Elijah, Jehovah is God
June 17, 2012
In Elijah's time, Baal worship was fashionable. When Ahab married Jezebel and made her his queen, the Israelites had already become quite flexible like the rest of the nations of the world. Religions and gods were always evolving. Only the small minded would exclude his neighbor's gods. There were two worship centers conveniently located to replace Jerusalem where the patterns of the Law were observed in the Temple by lawful priests. Before Ahab, they mainly served Jehovah even though they symbolized Him with calves of gold. The new queen came from Tyre with her devotion to the Baal Melqart who was a lot more fun than Jehovah and certainly a lot more broadminded. The temples at Tyre and Sidon were world famous for their beauty. Melqart was worshiped all around the Mediterranean coasts where the Phoenicians had established their influence and trade. The Greeks called him Heracles or Hercules. In their myths he was a god who liked to travel and every year they celebrated his awakening from winter's sleep. He was a god of extraordinary strength, courage, ingenuity, and sexual prowess with both men and women. He was a champion of the Olympic games and enjoyed relaxing and playing with children. How could anyone not love a god like that? He is worshiped to this day wherever paganism is in fashion (e.g. in Japanese Buddhist temples).
Jezebel had led Ahab and Israel to tear down the altars of Jehovah and persecute His prophets. This Baal was going to make them prosper! Suddenly, "Jehovah is my God" (Elijah) stood before the king Ahab and declared, "As Jehovah God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years except at my word." Then he walked away in his quaint wilderness prophet's clothes and was not seen again for three years.
Reality is a sobering thing. No one worried whether it was true or not that Baal gave them their rain and fruitful seasons. Every spring at the end of the winter rainy season, they celebrated the awakening of Baal. The first year without rain gave them crop failure and the question: Where is Baal? The second year without rain might have brought them panic since they like their ancestor Jacob probably had to import food from Egypt and there was no end in sight. After the third year without rain, they were desperately poor and needy. The king had to search far and wide for a little grass to keep from slaughtering all of his cattle. Faith in Baal Melqart had failed miserably.
Out of nowhere came Elijah and stood before Ahab throwing down a challenge, another test for Baal. The fertility god clearly could not bring a fruitful harvest, but could he as the sun god even bring fire to consume his own sacrifice? Elijah's contention had been that Jehovah will bring the rain only by his word and now he contended that He would bring fire. 450 prophets were rounded up to call on Baal in their traditional way with all day long camp meeting weeping and wailing and self-flagellation with no effect. The prophet of Jehovah rebuilt the altar that had been torn down with twelve stones, prepared the sacrifice, soaked it with water and called on the God who is living and active and able to answer our prayers. Fire came down and consumed everything. Another prayer and the rains came.
No matter how pleasurable, elegant, or popular the religion might be, it is not much help after three and a half years drought. If God is not pleased with your worship, it does not matter how good you feel, your efforts are vain. God knows every detail that He wrote in the Bible that you and I neglect to honor by obedience.
Education is a Religious Task
-- June 10, 2012
The dictionary definition of education is described as "the impartation or acquisition of knowledge, skill, or discipline of character." Education basically schools people in how to think and evaluate their world. This is necessarily a religious task that has always been linked to the faith of a people. For that reason parents and churches have been at the vanguard until they were persuaded that it was only an economic issue. In our times, we are awakening to the fact that our schools never stopped being religious and in truth have been slowly disestablishing the faith of our fathers in favor of the faith of statism in which man is god and moral standards may change with the whims of the sinful majority. If you want to know what the faith of our people is, just look at our concept of education.
The education curriculum expresses the religious standards of a people. Curriculum is a Latin word which means a running, a race course, chariot, thus it is the chariot or vehicle by which a culture expresses its faith and standards. In our times we have a "liberal arts curriculum" which is a course in the arts of liberty or freedom. We teach our children the meaning of liberty and the answer to "How does a man prepare himself to be a free man?" Jesus said, "ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Curriculum is designed to teach freedom and salvation. It is the means by which parents save their children from the encroaching evils and threats and prepares them for life by knowledge, skill and discipline of character such as is needed by free men. This is necessarily a religious task.
Our people have abandoned the curriculum of Christ and chosen the Greek and Roman one which is by nature idolatrous making man our god. The Greeks based their morality on the wants of human flesh without regard to what the eternal gods might think. They did not know the Righteous, Holy, and Omniscient God that we know. Make no mistake about it, like our modern unbelievers, everything was religious for the Greeks: their poetry, their dance, their sports, all designed to help man realize his "divine" potential which always meant doing what the group or state decided was good for the people. Roman morality (Caesar is god!) subjugated the individual to the City, for the gods were gods of the City. It is no wonder that the early Christians quickly came into conflict with Rome and the entire pagan world. As our people become more pagan, it will happen again, because the Bible is our standard and not the whims of man.
June 3, 2012
The economies of several European countries are collapsing. The talk of politicians swirls around the questions about why some are failing and some are succeeding. Victor David Hansen observes that failing and corrupt countries can be predicted by a few social habits. 1. Do most people throw down or pick up litter? 2. Is honking constant or sporadic? 3. Do restaurant dinners usually start or wind down at 9 pm? 4. Are construction sites clearly marked and fenced to protect pedestrians, or do you risk walking into an open pit or getting stabbed by exposed rebar? 5. After a minor fender-bender, do drivers politely exchange information, or do they scream and yell with wild gesticulations?
Why is it that successful people tend to be nicer people to be around? May I suggest that the influence of the Gospel and its application in many families for generations past explains these patterns of behavior?
1. Throwing litter on the ground instead of a trash can reflects a lack interest in the well-being of other people. Jesus taught that we should love and be merciful to our neighbors no matter how good or evil they might be, Matthew 5:43-48. Disciples of Christ have learned to leave their space on this earth in better condition than they have found it.
2. Honking can be a way of "screaming" at everyone around in order to demand that they let me have my way. Such behavior is the opposite of courtesy, giving others first choice, first entrance, or other expressions of kindness. "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil..."
3. Jesus retrains us to live in the day time. "You are sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation." (1 Thess 5:5)
4. Protecting everyone from the dangers that we may be responsible for is also a part of Bible teaching. "When you build a new house, then you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring guilt of bloodshed on your house-hold if anyone falls from it." (Deut 22:8)
We must be responsible for others. The fear of civil suits should not be necessary to make us protect others from a slippery floor or a hazardous situation.
Did Muhammad Exist?
May 27, 2012
That is a rather bold question to ask in today's world, now that there seem to be many Muslims who are willing to kill themselves in order to kill anyone who questions their faith. Robert Spencer has written a book with that title.
From the beginning the Bible was a written book or Scripture. To the contrary, the Qur'an, literally, the Recitation, was originally a memorized oral tradition of the Arab people. The accepted story of Islam's origins is that in 610 AD the angel Gabriel told Muhammad to recite the sayings that he gave him. For the next 23 years, he recited these sayings and a few others memorized them.
There are at least 5 reasons why this tradition does not seem likely. 1. There is no record of Muhammad's death for over a century after 632. 2. The early written accounts of people who were conquered by the Arabs never mention Islam or the Qur'an. They call them: Ishmaelites, Saracens, Muhajirun, or Hagarians, but never Muslims. 3. The Arabs during the first 60 years of their conquests left coins and inscriptions but there is no mention of Islam or the Qur'an. The name Muhammad on two occasions is accompanied by a cross and is used either as a proper name or an honorific. 4. The accepted tradition is that the Qur'an was distributed in 650, but neither the Arabs, nor the Christians or Jews in that region mention the Qur'an until the early eighth century. 5. During the reign of the caliph Muawiya (661-680), the Arabs constructed at least one public building whose inscription was headed by a cross, a symbol abhorrent to Islam.
There is little that can be confirmed about Muhammad and the Qur'an in the supposed times from which they spring. However, there is plenty of evidence for the Arab conquests of the late 600's and into the 700's. Their sword dominated the Middle East during the following centuries reaching well into Europe for the next 700 years. When Peter defended his King with a sword, Jesus told him to put his sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. If Jesus is truly the Prophet of God, you can be sure that both the religion and the kingdom established by force of arms will certainly perish in the same way. The kingdom of Christ will endure until the end of time.
When you compare the eye-witness testimony and the lives of the witnesses who gave their lives to persuade others to become reconciled to God and live righteous lives, the message of Islam pales by comparison.
God With Us
January 1, 2012
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."
Psalm 23:4 portrays the assurance of walking with the Lord. Jesus states the same promise in John 10 as He describes the relation between the Good Shepherd and His sheep: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand..." 27-30. In the letter of 1 John 1:7, "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." We need not fear evil or the evil things that may touch us because our God is our Shepherd and His rod and staff are powerful protectors. Our Shepherd protects us who hear His voice and do what He commands, follow where He leads in His Bible, and thus know Him. We walk in the light of His teachings even as He Himself demonstrated when He walked among men. Because we walk with Him, we have fellowship with Him and we are the ones that His blood can cleanse from all sin.
This great relationship is prophesied in Isaiah 43 in the Servant narratives. We are His "creation" v1 (Eph 2:10;4:24). We are redeemed, we are His. "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you." v2 "Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west...everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him." v5-7 Who are these beloved people that God claims as His own? Who are these protected people that God pledges never to forsake? They are the "blind people who have eyes and the deaf who have ears." v8 They are the people from all nations who gather together into His heavenly kingdom because they know Him and demonstrate that knowledge by obeying Him, doing His will and thus glorifying Him.
It is not an easy task to forsake the worldly and their well ingrained habits. The battle is always fierce and God's children endure many painful wounds, but their God has made them His and He will fight for them and they will win because they trust in Him and in the help that He offers. tp
Justice to the Gentiles
December 25, 2011
God in heaven has looked down on us with a firm resolve to bring good things to us even as it seems that evil must have its way and make our lives miserable, hopeless and helpless. Jesus knows. He has always known. As the Christ, the Messiah of Isaiah 42, the Elect Servant who refused to raise His voice, break a bruised reed or quench a smoking wick, Jesus is called of God as a covenant to all the nations of the world. His promise to us is that He will open blind eyes and free the prisoners who waste away in darkness. The chains and darkness refer to the results of sin and ignorance in the personal lives of all people.
Jesus has composed a new song. God wants us to see that the righteous life is joyous! When someone obeys God, the angels in heaven rejoice along with all who are part of that club of devotees to moral and conscientious living.
God is patient and suffers the indignities of watching His highest creations on this earth malfunction and self-destruct. He suffers long, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, 2 Peter 3:9. God is not passive in His patience. He held His peace a long time and restrained Himself, but now He will cry out like a man of war but also like a woman in labor, panting and gasping at once. He will demolish all earthly obstacles, laying wate the mountains and hills, and drying up all their vegetation, rivers and pools. He says He will lead us, even we who are blind, by a way that we did not know and make our darkness light before us. He says that He can make our crooked paths straight. He says that He will never forsake us.
Not a word of His promises has failed over the past 20 centuries. He has not failed those people who have listened to Him. He has taught those who blindly degrade their bodies by immorality to live another way which honors marriage and treasures the children. He has taught those who blindly lie and deceive their neighbors for ecomonic reasons another way which builds trust, respect and courtesy. Sing, rejoice! for we don't have to take that road to pain and heartache and a life sentence of misery! Jesus shows us a way out. He has taught us that we don't have to blindly strike back or defend our "honor" when someone hurts us. He has shown us the joy and glory of forgiving those who mistreat us, praying for them and blessing them.
The new song is a song of giving and kindness that leads us out of the darkness of fear, insecurity and taking. tp
December 18, 2011
The angel said to Lot, "Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain... lest you be destroyed." I don't believe this was a moral test or a test of the heart's affections. It was very simple: escape while you still can. The angel mercifully took them by the hand and physically drew them each one out of harm's way. As they escaped, Lot's wife looked behind him and was turned into stone. The details are limited. Was she struck down by poisonous sulfuric vapors and left to become encrusted by mineral deposits (a pillar of stone) as still happens in that region to this day? Or was it an instant punishment for disobeying the voice of the angel? Lot had been a wealthy man while living in tents beside his uncle Abraham, and now he had moved into the city and had his own house and the comforts and the interesting diversions of the city. He was losing it all. Could he be blamed for looking behind him at such great economic and personal loss?
When Jesus prophesied the total destruction of Jerusalem, He said that it would be as in the days of Lot when God rained fire and sulfur on Sodom. "Remember Lot's wife," He said. If you are in the field, don't turn back and if you are on the roof top, don't come down to get your goods, but flee! In both cases, God is saying that it is better to lose everything that you have and escape, than to be caught in the wrath of God.
Jesus spoke in a similar way when He called men out of the world to become His followers. They had to be ready to leave behind economic ambitions and even family ties sometimes. Then He said, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." In this case, it was not a burning city that they were escaping but rather the earthly ties and ambitions that can bind us to a world that is perishing because of sin and its worldly ways of thinking. Jesus calls us to plow in His fields but demands that we not look behind us as we press onward. Where we have been is not as important as where we are going. We may very well suffer great losses as did Lot. He that would love his life shall lose it. He that would lose his life for Jesus' sake shall indeed find it. What would you give in exchange for your soul? "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works." (Matthew 16:24-27) Just like driving a car, isn't it? You cannot get to where you are going if you are focused on where you have been. tp
What is my life worth?
December 11, 2011
That depends on your point of view. If a man's life is measured by the amount of things that he possesses, then the life of a poor man is worth less that the life of a rich man. Jesus denied that one's life consists in the abundance of the things he possesses, Luke 12:15. If the value of a man is measured according to what he does with that life, we are closer to the truth from God's point of view, although we must hasten to point out that all human life is sacred and therefore priceless. We are made in the image of God, so He demanded that Noah and his descendants shed the blood of murderers, Genesis 9:6. We commonly protect more vigorously the lives of those who are doing things vital to our communities such as kings and generals. We guard and treasure the lives of our wives and daughters not just because they bear our children and carry the future life of the family, but also because they are the weaker and more vulnerable members and our men are given greater strength and size along with the responsibility to protect and provide for the weak.
But God is the ultimate Judge of all men and their worth, so we must consider what criteria He would use to assess the value of a human life. In the poetry of the Psalms and prophets, the servants of God often cry out to Him when they see their lives are in danger. Their pleas often resemble the prayer of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38:10-20. The king was sick with an infection which had brought him to the portals of death. He turned his face to the wall, prayed and wept bitterly. God sent Isaiah to tell him that his prayer and heard and he was given fifteen more years of life. What exactly did Hezekiah say that persuaded God? God said it was the tears. Of course, it was also the life that Hezekiah had offered to the glory of God. He reminded God in his prayer that living he praised and gave thanks to God, v. 19: "The living, the living man, he shall praise You, as I do this day; the father shall make known your truth to the children." A man who praises God both by words and deeds has a life worth living and extending an extra 15 years!
You and I have an allotted period of days or years. How we spend those days determines the worth of our lives before God who watches and listens and is either pleased or displeased. We sing and prayer together to give thanks and glorify His name. That is time well spent in the eyes of our Creator. We make known the Truth of our God to our children, family, and friends. That also is life that is of great value before Him. tp
December 4, 2011
The Orlando Women's Center recently offered a promotional discount of $50 to women who had their abortions performed on Sunday. Also in the ad was the inducement of "free WiFi" during the office visit and surgical procedure. It is the premeditated murder of a weak and vulnerable human being who is located in one of the safest places on the earth: his mother's womb. God has placed one of the strongest and fiercest instincts in the heart of mothers, an instinct stronger than the survival instinct. But of course modern culture has so thoroughly indoctrinated our young that motherly instincts are effectively suppressed and inconvenient pregnancies go away by an act that could only be called cold blooded murder if the baby had already been born, as in the recent case of Casey Anthony who was tried in Florida court for murdering her child so that she could return to the partying that she longed for.
Florida law will not allow an abortion if the baby still has a heart beat after 24 weeks. The promotional literature offered by the Women's Center, suggests a way around that law. If you can fly to Washington DC, there is a clinic that will stop the baby's heart beat with an injection into his heart. It is called "intra-cardiac injection of medication into the fetal heart." Then you can return to Florida's Women Center to induce labor since the baby has no heartbeat. The ad called this procedure both "compassionate" and "a much needed service." Does anyone feel compassion toward the baby? Does the baby deserve any consideration for the inconvenience that sudden violent medical procedures cause him? The innocent, undefiled and completely helpless child has needs too. Is his death really what he needs? No, of course not. It is his callous and unfeeling mother or perhaps her boy friend who needs the service so that they will not have to delay their fleshly ambitions. After all, he is just a baby. What can he do for me? What is he worth? What is his life worth? He is just a little package of wants and needs. What is a man profited if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what would a man give in exchange for his life? A man would give all that he owned to save his life. That baby would give you everything that he had, but then again what does he have to give? Gimme, gimme, gimme, is all you will hear from that one.
A man fell among thieves, beaten and robbed. A priest and a Levite passed him by. Just a stranger with nothing to give. A Samaritan stopped and took care of him and Jesus praised him. tp
November 27, 2011
It seemed the right thing to do at the time. Their position of power and influence was intact after the crisis brought on by Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus had been crucified in shame by the hated Romans, but now His surviving disciples were filling Jerusalem with His teaching saying that He is risen and that they, the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees, were guilty of unjustly murdering Him.
In Acts 4:1-3, they were greatly disturbed that the apostles were teaching the people such things. What did it matter that they healed a well known beggar in the name of Jesus! Their names were being tarnished and they were filled with indignation, 5:17. They arrested the apostles. When the prisoners showed no disposition to cooperate with the authorities, they were furious and plotted to kill them. Why not? They were a threat simply because of what they were saying both publicly and privately about the death of Jesus and His place at the right hand of the Father. Such words painted these leaders in a very evil light. Only the calm words of Gamaliel prevented them from slaughtering the apostles just as they did Jesus. Nevertheless they beat them with the traditional 40 stripes save one (we don't want to break the law here) and then prohibited them from teaching any more in the name of Jesus.
Their efforts to cover up failed because the power of the truth on the conscience is irresistible in the hearts of honest men. The resolute stance of the apostles reached a great number of the priests even though they were under the authority of the High Priest and the Chief Priests. In the next chapter, 6:7, we read that "the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith."
They had heard all of the testimony from both sides. They knew who was covering up their guilt and who was telling the truth. The lame man had been healed at the Beautiful Gate. That was their own domain. None of the priests had such authority over physical deformity. Only God can grow bone and flesh giving strength to the useless muscles of the lame. The apostles claimed no special powers: only the authority of the risen Jesus whom they proclaimed Lord and Judge of all the living. That of course would include the High Priest, his heirs, and all the rest of the Jews who had conspired to condemn the Innocent Jesus, who could only be the Christ who was promised in the prophecies that they knew so well. tp
Angry Without Cause
November 20, 2011
There is always a reason why someone gets mad but it is not always a good reason, a just cause. Matthew 5:22, at the head of the list of issues which Jesus must address, the issues that define the ways in which our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, we find the issue of anger. Anger itself is only a form of passion which is not evil in and of itself. Ephesians 4:26 teaches us that when we learn Christ, the first thing that we do after putting off lying and telling the truth, is to "be angry and sin not, let not the sun go down on your wrath." Jesus says that just like the murderer who is in danger of the judgment, likewise the one who is angry with his brother without cause is in danger of the judgment.
I am afraid that we are tempted to trivialize Jesus' next words that specify two words that we must never use against our brother: "Raca" and "Thou Fool" as if we could never be guilty of such a sin because we don't speak Greek or Hebrew and would never call anyone "racha" or "moros." Or rather it maybe because we so often, under provocation, call someone, "idiot" "imbecile" or "fool" that Jesus surely must not be talking about our "innocent" venting while driving in heavy traffic. May I suggest that Jesus had a narrow application in mind?
"Raca" was Hebrew for empty and was used of empty or vain people both intellectually as well as morally. This sense was often "good for nothing" as James 2:20 calls the "vain man" who could not see that faith without works is useless. Judges 11:3 uses the term of unscrupulous men who could be used for evil purposes. Like the Greek word for "fool," moros from which we get "moron" or "moronic" accuses one of dullness or silliness or stupidity. Jesus used the term freely in Matt 7:26; 23:17, 19; 25:2,3,8.
Jesus is not advocating a sort of blind political correctness of language by telling us not to use the correct word to describe a true condition. He has begun the context by saying, "angry without cause" which we might apply to calling someone "raca" who is not empty-headed in any sense or to calling someone "fool" who is not doing or saying anything foolish. Jesus is condemning in advance the very practice of the scribes and Pharisees of calling Him and His disciples fools and demon possessed when they were being exposed as sinners or in error as they followed some human tradition or whatever form of carnality. The standard practice of the rebellious when confronted by his sins or errors and unable to answer or refute is to insult. Of course ultimately they did murder Him. tp
The Treasure in Relationships
November 6, 2011
"The poor man uses entreaties, but the rich answers roughly. A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:23-24. The Bible does not regard the inequities between the poor and the rich as evil or a problem that must be remedied. The sly Marxist begins by condemning the unjust distribution of wealth and then stirs up discontent until the have-nots are willing to overthrown the culture and government in order to place a politically correct leadership in place that will steal from the rich and give to the poor. In the end, the new leaders are just tyrants who enrich themselves and impoverish everyone else.
In a socialist society driven by envy, you will find sloth, disrespect, and a collapse of character, manners, home and family. The poor no longer need the rich for their mercy or for their business opportunities. Who needs to maintain good working relationships with wealthy business owners? A poor man cannot afford to lose any of the business relationships that he has cultivated. That would mean possible starvation for his family. Meanwhile the rich do not learn to be civil or develop relationships because he is too busy. We tend to think like the wealthy who are too busy to make friends with our neighbors. Our bonds with family and with the church tend to be fairly weak since we don't feel the need for the help of others. The desire to become rich or wealthier is the cause of many of our deficiencies. "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." 1 Timothy 6:9. Many of us are drowning in foolish and harmful lusts that destroy our relationships to neighbors, both rich and poor.
You cannot buy friendships on a quid pro quo basis. Those who seek friendships no matter how hard they try often lose them! You must be friendly. You are friendly the way that Jesus teaches us by anticipating the wants and needs of your neighbors according to the Golden Rule. This rule is the mother of all the rules of courtesy, nobility and respect. Gifts and hospitality are not given with the expectation of something in return, even friendship. Good friendships are rare today. We move around too much, church to church, to develop life-long friends. tp
The Key of David
October 30, 2011
"He who opens and no one shuts and shuts and no one opens." Rev 3:7. Only the king has authority to open and shut. He gives an open door to the church in Philadelphia even though the synagogs may have excluded them from their clubs.
The Jews questioned Jesus' authority to cleanse the Temple as well as to teach there. Matt 21:23. By the right of the Messiah King, He had that undeniable authority. Actually any righteous Jew had that right to challenge the ungodly merchandizing of the Temple. Many, as matter of fact believed in Jesus but would not confess Him because they feared that the Jews would cast them out of their synagog, John 9:22, 34; 12:42. They accepted the arrogant usurping of the authority of the true King who reigns in righteousness. Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them." John 10:7.
Jesus promised the keys of the kingdom of God to Peter, Matt 16:18-19. Only on the terms of the Gospel that was preached by Peter and the other apostles can men enter God's kingdom and ultimately into heaven itself. Jesus as the Messiah-Christ has the authority to dictate the terms of entrance. That is to say, The Lord Jesus has in fact dictated the conditions upon which one may be forgiven of sins, washed from contamination, and be saved and sanctified by the blood that He shed on the cross. Those who deny that there are conditions, are denying the lordship of Jesus, He who bears the Key of David.
Jesus Himself entered heaven by death, that is, the veil of His flesh, Hebrews 10:19-22. When we bind ourselves to Him by baptism into death, God opens to us the doors to heaven. We spend our days on the earth as servants of righteousness so that one day we may hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servants -- Enter into the joy of your Lord."
Jesus also has the power to shut the door. He casts out the unprofitable servant into out darkness, Matt 25:30.
When Noah entered the ark, God shut the door, Gen 7:16. Inside it was safe and dry but outside it was stormy, a killer storm that destroyed the remaining living beings outside of the ark. When God shut the door, it was too late for all other living creatures to enter. All men had the opportunity while Noah was preaching righteousness and truth to repent and be granted asylum within the confines of safety inside the ark. Instead they mocked so God shut them out.
Open doors are good, aren't they. tp
Hidden From Evil
"Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord's anger." Zephaniah 2:3.
If we just participate a little in their worldly humor and accept just a little of their worldly fashions (blouse fashionably open, skirt or pants fashionably tight in the "right" places), we can hide from the hostility of the profane unbelievers. As long as we are willing to occasionally compromise the truth, look the other way when they defraud, or flirt with another's spouse, we can hide from their wrath.
The Psalmist cried out to the Lord, "Save me from all those who persecute me; and deliver me, lest they tear me like a lion, rending me in pieces, while there is none to deliver." Psalm 7:1-2. It is a frightening thing to live in a world apparently dominated by elements hostile to righteousness, honesty, and moral purity. It seems that we live in the midst of a people as described by Agur in Proverbs 30 "a generation that curses its father, and does not bless its mother; a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness... a generation -- oh, how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up...a generation whose teeth are swords and whose fangs knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men. The leech has two daughters -- Give and Give! (v. 11-15) In their false virtue they arrogantly injure and impoverish the meek who live by sacred principles.
Persecution is not only the result of openly sharing the Gospel. More often it is the result of the wicked being provoked by seeing a truly virtuous life and realizing the true nobility of someone obviously superior as judged by the conscience of that same wicked person. It has always been thus. The repeated theme of the Psalms is the cry of an innocent righteous person before our Holy God against the injustice of wicked persecutors.
Jesus gives us courage to stand in our virtue and convictions trusting our God and fearing His greater power. "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28.
Psalm 7 continues, "God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he does not turn back, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready. He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes his arrows into fiery shafts." v. 11-13
The Pain of the Conscience
We recently heard of Congressional testimony from a former leader of China about the loss of 400 million children there to abortion and infanticide. Many are the essays and testimonials concerning the tragedies of attacking the defenseless unborn some of whom survive the ordeal howbeit with disabilities and scars. The little ones are not the only ones who suffer. Because of the conscience that God has placed deep inside the soul of all human beings, there is an undeniable torment attached to knowing that one, who is a mother, has killed her own child. God has given all mothers a protective instinct, that is one of the most powerful and ferocious forces known to mankind. Under normal circumstances, the sadness that a mother feels on losing a child is a painful burden that remains with her the rest of her life. But, intentional abortion is even worse.
Three separate journals have published studies of women who have aborted a child and their conclusions confirm just how much harm is done to the mothers themselves as a result of their "medical procedure." Southern Medical Journal, 2002: 62% higher risk of death from all causes, 2.5 times higher risk of suicide compared to women who give birth. This risk persists for at least eight years. That amounts to 2,000 to 5,000 more deaths each year. European Journal of Public Health, 2005: 3.5 times higher death rates from suicide, accidents, homicides. In Finland these are figures of the first year after an abortion. Suicides rates were six times higher than their other peers and twice as high as women who had miscarried. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 2008: Abortion linked to wide range of mental health disorders. A survey of 5,877 women found that women who had abortions were at higher risk for 12 of 15 mental health disorders studied.
The conscience is a powerful gift of God to be respected and treated as sacred. As an evangelist, Paul's approach was very simple: "But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Cor 4:2) Jesus spoke to the conscience of the hypocrite accusers, John 8:9. "He that is without sin, let him first cast a stone at her." Then He just wrote in the sand as one by one from the oldest to the youngest, pricked by the conscience they walked away. Jesus still has the answer for an evil conscience, 1 Peter 3:21. tp
Enriched in Everything
In the opening verses of 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul tells that church how grateful he is that they are enriched in everything by the grace of Christ Jesus, both in their manner of speaking and in the knowledge that they express, 1:5. The testimony of Christ was confirmed in them. That is, the power and blessing of the Gospel was obviously working as evidenced by the dramatic improvement in their lives. They were not lacking in any of the gifts that God wanted them to have.
The same God who will faithfully keep His promises until the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, is the God who called Christians into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. What a beautiful relationship we have with our Lord! How rich He has made us! The church did not make them rich, Christ Jesus our Lord had filled them with holiness and righteousness and peace. In the church, they had the opportunity to put those virtues to work, edifying one another and drawing their neighbors out of the world into the salvation and grace that meets our needs.
Right away, the apostle launches an appeal to these saints that they speak the same thing, be joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. Their lack of compatibility with each other highlighted a fleshly mindedness, 3:1, a carnality that was disabling them. Although they loved God and Jesus Christ, they did not much like each other and were dividing into groups of "soul-mates" or "kindred-spirits" whose judgments they favored. Their pretext was a preference for differing teachers as if their inspired prophets would have endorsed such carnality. Clearly not! While they were in fellowship with God, they preferred not to have fellowship with other groups. That is, they obviously could work better together with some brethren than with others, so some would call themselves after one teacher or the other. The Lord cries out against such trivial divisions or segregations that form over a preference for the "wisdom" or special skills of a teacher. If we are saved by the "wisdom" of the teacher, the cross is made of no effect, v. 17. They implied, "It does not matter so much WHAT you say, but HOW you say it!" Sounds like they believed that they were enriched by the church or one or other of her teachers, when Christ wanted them to realize they were blessed by Him to serve together with the church which might contain certain members that they might not like or prefer but should learn how to love. Are you "shopping" for a church that will meet your needs? tp
Casting Fire upon the Earth
Jesus said, "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!" (Luke 12:49) Already the fires seem to have been kindled. Earlier in the chapter, many thousands of the multitude had gathered together to hear Jesus and were stepping on one another, and yet Jesus quickly warned the disciples of the "leaven" or hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He said in the same breath that they should not fear those who would murder them! The simple teachings of Jesus which could give life to men who were destroyed by their own sins, would polarize friends and family to the point of fiery conflict. Money would be a issue because lacking trust in God as the ultimate source of all prosperity, most men would stay in the slavery of the world and worldly thinking in order to "prosper" and please those within the circles of prosperity. Jesus' answer is to live each day as slaves of God knowing that our Lord will call us to account for what we have done at any given moment. There will be a judgment day. What a tragedy it will be when one is called to God's throne on the very day he has lied, defrauded, or simply abused his neighbor! What a tragedy if one is called to account on the day that he has betrayed his wife and children to seek pleasures in the arms of a strange woman!
But who wants to hear such things? Jesus was casting fire on the earth by his morally demanding teachings and by stirring men to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him ... into the fields of evangelism casting fire on the earth. Many would be slaughtered and how could Jesus who loved all men so much bear to cause such a thing? Stephen who loved much, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and then taking his stand at Jesus' side was stoned for his goodness. James was beheaded. Paul and Silas were beaten mercilessly and then bound in stocks in the dungeon. Everywhere the evangelists went preaching the Gospel, there was anger, hatred, riots, and cities turned upside down. As painful as it was to Jesus and to all of His disciples, it bore the peaceable fruit of righteousness in the lives of many. Men were reconciled to God rejoicing on their way. Men lay aside their regionalism, racism, and all belligerence toward strangers and formed a family loving their neighbors as themselves. Homes and marriages were healed and built again on divine principles. They were fruitful, multiplied and filled the earth! tp