Is It Mean to Talk about Divorce?

February 12, 2020 at 10:47 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Question: Aren’t you afraid that, when you say that God does not condone divorce, you are insulting, embarrassing, and alienating Christians who have been divorced? It’s easy for you talk, because you haven’t been divorced, but not everyone is so blessed.

Answer: That’s certainly not my intention. Divorce is a touchy subject, and I try to be sensitive, not offensive. Let me be clear. Some of my closest friends are Christians who have been divorced, and I do not think of them as “lesser” Christians, or people who are “worse” than me or anyone else. I am well aware that only by the grace of God am I married to a wonderful, forgiving, faithful wife that I do not deserve.

When someone asks me what the Bible says, then I am bound and obligated, as a Christian, and especially as a Bible teacher, to tell the truth, and I believe that the Bible teaches that divorce and marriage-after-divorce are sins (Genesis 2:21-24; Malachi 2:16; Mark 10:6-9; Ephesians 5:23-33; Hebrews 13:4; Matthew 5:32, 19:7-9; Luke 16:18). That has nothing to do with my marriage, or whether or not I have been divorced.

However, divorce is a sin for which Jesus was punished and for which He paid in full on the Cross for all those who believe on Him. It is a forgivable sin, and not a worse sin than pride, covetousness, spite, idolatry, and the many other sins of which I am guilty. I love and respect Christians who have been divorced and/or remarried, but have also confessed and repented, and I very much want their current marriages to thrive and to glorify God. I hope and pray that does not sound mean, unkind, or unrighteously judgmental.

Persistent Pleas, Powerful Prayers, a Proud Pharisee, and a Penitent Publican

February 10, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Luke Chapter 18 starts of with the parable that is sometimes called the parable of the unjust judge or the parable of the persistent widow. The primary lesson of this parable is: keep praying; don’t quit.

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Luke 18:1-8

There are four characters in the story: the judge, God, the widow, and her adversary. Obviously setting aside any comparisons between ourselves and God, with which of the remaining three characters do you identify? The judge did not fear God, which is a huge problem for any human being. Fear of God is the solution to overcoming fear of man. The fear of man is a snare, but the fear of God is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom. This was a judge who forgot that he himself would be judged AND he didn’t care about helping others. Don’t care about people so much that you disregard God, but don’t think that God wants you to disregard people.

Widows were particularly vulnerable in the culture where the parable is set. Both because of their gender and the lack of a male protector, they were often the victims of injustice. Somebody had done her an injustice and she had no recourse, except for one thing: persistence. She would not leave the judge alone. Do you identify with the widow? Do you feel powerless because of a lack of money and influence? If so, remember that you can still be pesistent. This lady was waiting for the judge every time he showed his face, and she would plead her case continaully.

Perhaps you are like the adversary in the parable. Have you taken advantage of someone who was easy to take advantage of? I hope not, but, if so, remember that God often takes up the cause of those who seem helpless, and often punishes those who mistreat the poor.

If even an unjust judge will be moved by continual petitions, how MUCH MORE will our loving Heavenly Father be moved by our persistence in prayer?

The second parable in Luke 18 deals with the prayers of two distinct types of people.

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Luke 18:9

The parable of the praying Pharisee and the praying publican is intended to show the danger of self-righteousness.

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

Luke 18:10

One man appeard outwardly religious and one man was openly sinful, and, while we know something of Jesus’s teachings and ministry and can guess who is going to be commended by Jesus and who is going to be condemned, the lesson would have been very controversial and surprising to Jesus’s audience when He orginally taught it.

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

Luke 18:11

The Pharisee stood to pray, and there is nothing inherently wrong with standing while we pray if we are standing for the right reasons. Posture is not as important as piety when it comes to prayer. The verse says that he “prayed thus with himself,” and this is perhaps intentionally worded to make it seem like he’s somewhat unconsciously praying TO himself and addressing himself as God. The Pharisee’s prayer amounted to arrogance and contempt disguised as gratitude. He even workded in an insult to the person praying next to him.

I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

Luke 18:12

The Pharisee clearly considered himself even more religious than he was requrired to be, and was very impressed with himself.

And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Luke 18:13

Both the Pharisee and the publican were in the vicinity of the Temple, but one of them strode arrogantly right up, and one meekly stood far off.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Luke 18:14

Self-righteousness is just as much a sin as the sins of which the Pharisee accused others. Furthermore, it is an even greater bar to justification. God gives grace to, and justifies, the humble. He resists the proud and self-righteous. If we persist in trying to justify ourselves, then God will not justify us.

Truth, Torture, and Trepidation

February 7, 2020 at 11:26 am | Posted in John | 8 Comments
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Pontius Pilate had been give the appointment as governor of Judea by the Emperor Tiberius. It was not a glamorous or easy post. Pilate was known as a vindictive (sometimes petty) and petulant politician and military commander. To say that he had a troubled relationship with the Jewish people and their religious leaders before they brought Jesus to him would be an understatement.

One of his first decisions after becoming Governor was to place Roman standards with Caesar’s image on them into the the Jewish Temple. The Jewish people, already resentful of Roman occupation and taxation in their holy city, staged a sit-down protest for five days outside of Pilate’s house. In repsonse, he threatened to kill them, but they wouldn’t back down, and he was forced to relent and have the standards removed, but, as you can imagine, he remained acrimonious and held a grudge.

On later occasions he would try to get emblems proclaiming Caesar’s divinity into Herod’s palace, and even the Temple again, including the most sacrosanct inner section known as the Holy of Holies. Herod’s sons responded by peitioning Tiberius, who rebuked and reprimanded Pilate, making him take the emblems out.

Pilate also took money from the Temple treasury to pay for an aqueduct, which caused a mob scene or a riot, in which he didn’t let his soliders use their swords, although some Jewish protesters were clubbed to death and others were run over by chariots.

On still another occasion, in Galilee, he had some Jewish worshipers killed in the middle of their religious sacrifices.

This background helps to explain some of the bickering, bargaining, and badgering that went on between Pilate and the Jewish leaders concerning what was to be done with Jesus after His arrest.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.

John 18:38

Pilate found no fault in Jesus. No one ever really did. However, even as he tried to be politically expedient he found himself becoming fearful.

But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

John 18:29

Pilate hinted that this was what he wanted the Jewish leaders to do.

Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

John 18:40

Barabbas, named “the son of the father” (bar = the son; abba = the father) was a terrorist and a real insurgent zealot who sought to overthrow Rome’s rule in his homeland.

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.

John 19:1

This would be the first of two beatings Jesus received at the hands of the Romans (in addition to the blows and abuse suffered during the accusations made against Him by the Jewish High Priest and council, and their questioning of Him). There were three types of beatings used as punishment by the Romans, and the word translated as “scourged” in John 19:1 was the first type – fustigatio in Latin, from which we get the little-used English word “fustigation” and which was the least-severe of the three types. It was used for lesser offenses, but it was still plenty bad. The second-worst beating was called flagellatio (“flagellation” in English), and may have been the only type not administered to Jesus. The third type was verberatio (incorporated into the Engish word “reverberation”), so called because the blows administered to the victim were so harsh and loud that they could be heard from a distance. This was the beating that was given to convicted criminals after the sentence of crucifixion had been handed down. It involved a whip with multiple strands which had been enhanced with shards of sharp bone, metal, and possibly glass tied to them. It flayed off the skin and exposed the internal organs. Many recipients did not survive it and thus never made it to their crosses. The verberatio was intended to dehumanize the victim and to deter other would-be criminals, while at the same time taking away any sympathy the crowd of spectators might have felt seeing someone less deformed and grotesque being crucified.

And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,

John 19:2

This crown was probably made from the thorns of the date palm tree – thorns that grew up to 12 inches in length.

And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.

John 19:3

This mockery and additional abuse was not part of the official legal sentencing, but was cruelly allowed by Pilate or the Roman officer in charge as sort of a bonus, letting these sadistic soldiers have some of what they considered to be fun.

Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.

John 19:4

Pilate thought the Jews would have sympathy toward Jesus now, and would be satisfied that He had suffered enough. The scene was staged to be dramatic as Jesus was presented as thorougly beaten and non-threatening.

Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!

John 19:5

This was the Son of Man, in Whom no fault was found, as attested by the “world’s” representative, Pilate/Rome, on at least three separate occasions.

When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;

John 19:6-8 (emphasis added)

I stated earlier that, as Pilate tried to dismiss Jesus with a claim that “truth” was relative or unknowable, he had begun to be fearful. As a Roman pagan who at least professed a belief in hundreds of deities, the possibility that he might be torturing a real God (or even THE real God) was starting to make him more and more nervous.

Sinclair Fergsuson on a Difficult S.W.I.M. with Geerhardus Vos

February 3, 2020 at 11:18 am | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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Geerhardus Vos’s original writings are demanding reading for theological students, never mind for those without academic training. That is partly a stylistic matter, but mostly it is matter of the weight and profundity of his thought. He takes most readers into rivers of biblical theology in which they are unaccustomed to swimming. For some, the depth of the water and the speed of the current prove to be too much.

Sinclair Ferguson, Geerhardus Vos Anthologized

Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.

Psalm 42:7

Open Up and Say “Ah”

January 31, 2020 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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There have been many Jeremiahs, but two Jeremiahs really stand out in the history of the world. One was the famous prophet of the Book of Jeremiah in the Bible. The other one was a bullfrog featured in the 1971 hit song, “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, which starts starts off with the lyric, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine.” Okay, I will admit I am little biased about the latter Jeremiah due to the fact that I performed that song, to much consternation, in front of my K4 class at the First Baptist Church preschool back in the day, along with dance moves that were more enthusiastic than graceful.

For now, we will stick with discussing the Biblical Jeremiah, whose book is found in the Old Testament section of major prophets between Isaiah and Lamentations. It was written by the Holy Spirit through Jeremiah himself.

The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.

Jeremiah 1:1-2

Jeremiah’s father was a priest, so this means that Jeremiah probably thought he was going to be a priest also, but the Lord had other plans for his life. The Lord spoke to him directly in Josiah’s 13th year as king, when Jeremiah was probably about 20 years old. The life of a priest was not necessarily easy, but it could be very mundane: teaching the law, overseeing temple sacrifices, inspecting lepers and other clean and unclean citizens, and a steady income. It was a noble profession, but it dealt much more with external religion than with the hearts of men and women. The job a prophet was way different.

Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Jeremiah 1:4-5

Prophets were often unpopular. They had to say exactly what God told them to say. Their lives were unpredictable. They didn’t get a steady paycheck, or even room and board. Their provision came directly from God, but that requires more palpable trust. Additionally, prophets were needed when the people were disobeying and getting involved in idolatry. Whereas priests were concerned with external religion, prophets spoke directly to the heart. In a time when God’s people had forsaken His law, Jeremiah was supposed to tell them the truth about God’s justice, wrath, faithfulness to His promises, and, yes, His love.

In Jeremiah’s day, God’s people were engaging in fornication as a means of pagan worship, they were doing this in order to promote fertility in their agriculture, and they were sacrificing their own children. You might think, “How barbaric!” but I’m afraid their wickedness would not hold a candle to us today. Our culture promotes fornication (sex outside of marriage), which results in unwanted pregnancies, and, therefore, sadly, sometimes abortion and other complications and and cruelties, and this is now considered okay in order to keep the population down and protect the environment. The devil does not have lot of new tricks. He’s been lying and tempting people with the same sins since the beginning.

God told Jeremiah that He knew him before he was created: before he was “formed in the belly.” God chose Jeremiah way before Jeremiah even had any consciousness, much less an ability to decide whether he would choose God. God set him apart for a special purpose. He was sanctified to serve God with his life (“and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee,”). God chose his career (vocation) for him (“and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”). You and I need to recognize those same truths about ourselves.

God knew you before He made you. He chose you for himself before you were born. He is in charge of your life, so, whatsoever you do, you are called to do it for Him. But what was Jeremiah’s response?

Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

Jeremiah 1:6

He did not receive this news with pride or even confidence. How would you receive it? Do you like to speak in front of large groups of people? How about when you know they are going to absolutely hate what you have to say? How about speaking before “the nations” – the whole world?

Jeremiah said, “Ah.” How do we read this? Did he sound like a patient having his tonsils examined by a doctor? Was he nearly speechless? Was the “ah” a gagging sound, an attempt to prove he wouldn’t be a good spokesman-prophet? Or was he saying “ah” in the tone of Sherlock Holmes finding a clue” “Ah-ha!”? Perhaps he sounded philosophical, like Confucius rubbing his beard thoughtfully and saying “ahhhh.” I don’t think so.

Like many of us, if suddenly God came to us and said, “Forget all your life’s plans, I need to you to get up and give a speech to the whole world telling them exactly what they don’t want to hear, and, by the way, as a prophet of God, if you get anything wrong, you have to die,” we would probably say “Ahhhhh!” in a terrified exclamation like the wide-eyed and open-mouthed passenger on the world’s scariest roller coaster. That is probably closer to what the word means in the original Hebrew. It was used to express a grunt of pain. I hope you and I have not gotten so comfortable with the Word of God that it no longer produces in us a guttural, primal reaction – yes, even an emotional response – a palpable and passionate cry, depending on the condition of our heart when we read or hear it, that God is not pleased… or that God loves us… or that He has called us to the greatest service that we could never deserve… or that He would send His Beloved Son to die for a sinful worthless wicked wretch like me.

Why Not a Hospital?

January 29, 2020 at 11:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Question: If you say church is not supposed to be like a hospital, what about all the people who are hurting and come there to find acceptance and love, but instead only find judgment and hypocrisy? And keep it simple. Don’t write some long essay full of fancy words.

Answer: Okay, I’ll try. People who are really suffering SHOULD find kindness and love at their local Christian church. When people are mean to them, or treat them in ways that the Bible says is wrong, they shouldn’t do that. However, when that happens, the solution is not to stop going to church. The solution is to go to church with an attitude of honoring and obeying Christ, not depending on other people. You will always find people who don’t live up to your expectations, but you have never found anything in God Himself to cause you to go far from Him, or to walk away from Him. And, ultimately, anything that you are walking after in this life that is apart from God is vanity (emptiness, unfulfilling selfishness). See Jeremiah 2:5.

God is perfect. None of His people are. Even the best of people are only people at best. And even the worst of people cannot separate you from the love of God in Christ. When we stand before God one day, none of us will be able to blame someone else’s hypocrisy or bad behavior if we have disobeyed His direct commands to faithfully attend, and to serve in, a local assembly of Christians.

Overlooking the Kingdom

January 27, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Luke 17:20-21

Jesus answered the Pharisees’ question, but He reserved the details for the Disciples. People were especially expectant for a deliverer around the time of Passover. Moses was the deliverer at the first Passover. John the Baptist showed some promise but he had ultimately not panned out as the deliverer. Jesus seemed like a strong possibility, and He was headed to Jerusalem! The Pharisees had been listening to Jesus for about three years and they wanted to know when the Kingdom of God would appear! How sad that they were so opposed or obtuse concerning Who Jesus was. They were like patrons walking into a serve-yourself buffet restaurant, hungry, but just sitting down and waiting for a waiter to bring food.

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

Luke 17:20 (emphasis added)

The Pharisees’ “observation” amounted to hiding and looking, following secretly, and faithless testing. They acted like James Bond, when any run-of-the-mill investigator could have told them Who Jesus was in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Luke 17:21

The Kingdom was “within” their midst, but it did not penetrate the hearts of the Pharisees. The Deliverer was not some obscure person hiding in a monastery somewhere. He was the one Who had been healing blind people, raising the dead, curing lepers, saying, “I’m the One.

Christians should study future prophecy, but do not let the study of prophecy overshadow ACTIVITY. Expect the coming of the Lord Jesus not by waiting and watching idly, but by staying busy until He comes back.

A Less Lurid Account of the Crucifixion

January 21, 2020 at 5:09 pm | Posted in John | Leave a comment
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Then delivered he him therefore unto them to be crucified. And they took Jesus, and led him away. And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:

John 19:16-17

Golgotha was also known as “Calvary,” which is from the Latin word for “skull.” It is possible that the place was named that because its shape bore a resemblance to a human skull.

Where they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

John 19:18

The Biblical narrative of the events which commenced after Jesus’s arrest, and some of the historical records and information concerning the Roman penal system give us insight into some of the terrible beatings, humiliation, mockery, and abuse that Jesus suffered as a prelude to His Crucifixion. These things are difficult to talk about, especially knowing that He endured such suffering for you and me, unworthy as we were to receive the blessings of that kind of love and sacrifice. John 19:18 says, “Where they crucified him…” without going into detail about exactly what it meant to be crucified under the Roman penal system. If you’ve attended church long enough, especially around Easter or Good Friday, you’ve probaby heard a Bible teacher or preacher go to great lengths to describe just how horrible death by crucifixion was. Specific information about the nerve centers where the spikes were driven, the pain of asphyxiation, the agony of dehydration and muscle cramping, etc., is used to paint a very vivid picture which is largely absent from the Biblical account. This raises a question: “Why didn’t the Gospel writers go into more detail about the mechanics and nuances of Jesus’s Crucifixion?” I believe there may be several reasons, but the two that seem apparent to me are:

1. The Gospel writers knew that their original readers would have been very familiar with crucifixion since they were under Roman rule and subjugation, so there was no need to go into more detail.

2. While the physical torture of Jesus certainly plays a significant role in our redemption, and must never be minimized, it was not His physical suffering alone (or even primarily) that paid for our sins. Remember, the full weight of God’s wrath against the sins of every person who has been, or will be, saved was poured out upon Jesus in the eternal realm (Isaiah 53:10-12), and this was a type of punishment which no finite human could comprehend, and which no human eyes were allowed to see (Luke 23:44-46). It was a transaction between the Heavenly Father and His Divine Son (Romans 3:25; I John 2:2, 4:10), and it goes beyond the ability of mere mortals to put into words that could truly do it justice.

John mentions the two criminals crucified on either side of Jesus, but does not tell us that one of them trusted Christ before he died and was saved.

And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was Jesus Of Nazareth The King Of The Jews. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.

John 19:19-20

The title, “King of the Jews,” was intended as mockery, but it was a true statement about Jesus, and was written in three languages, proclaiming it religiously, culturally, and legally.

Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.

John 19:21 (emphasis added)

Suddenly the chief priests who had vehemently opposed Jesus as the true “I AM” were now more than willing to have those words appended to His name.

Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.

John 19:22

Pilate exacted a bit of petty revenge for what he felt they had forced him into doing.

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

John 19:23

The soldiers divided four of Jesus’s separate articles of clothing among themselves: His head covering, His belt/girdle, His outer garment, and His sandals. His seamless undergarment remained, and would have been ruined if torn, so they gambled for it.

They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

John 19:24-25

Four women remained near the Cross as Jesus was crucified: His mother, Mary; His mother’s sister (unnamed here, but traditionally known as Salome); another Mary, the wife of Cleophas, who was James’s and John’s mother; and Mary Magdalene.

When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

John 19:26

Jesus again used the term “woman” as a public name of respect from an adult son.

Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

John 19:27

Joseph, Mary’s husband, was now deceased, and Jesus’s earthly brothers were not yet believers, so He appointed John to take care of Mary.

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

John 19:28-29

Having earlier refused the soporific wine, Jesus now drank the sour wine.

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

John 19:30 (emphasis added)

The Greek term for “it is finished” (tetelestai) means that Jesus’s work of redemption for His people on the Cross was acommplished. The sin debt had been paid in full. He then laid down His own life.

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

John 19:31

God Hurts Those Who Help Themselves

January 17, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Chapter 45 is a very short chapter in the Book of Jeremiah. Chronologically it can be paired with Chapter 36 because it deals with Baruch, Jeremiah’s faithful assistant who had written down Jeremiah’s prophecies in a scroll, only to have the scroll seized and burned by the king. Baruch subsequently copied them down again. Although not mentiond in Chapter 36, apparently Baruch got discouraged as he suffered through persecution with Jeremiah, because in Chapter 45 God had Jeremiah encourage him with a personal Word.

Baruch had a brother on the king’s staff, so leaving Jeremiah for a more comfortable position was an option for him, but God promised to take care of him because of his perseverance.

Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch: Thou didst say, Woe is me now! for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest. Thus shalt thou say unto him, The Lord saith thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.

Jeremiah 45:2-5

“I’m going to do what’s best for me.”
“Always look out for number one.”
“Make sure to build up your self-esteem.”

These statements are examples of selfishness masquerading as pop psychology, and, even for those of us who try to avoid talking this way, we have to admit that all of us have a tendency to think of our own best interest first and foremost. There is no more popular section in the library or bookstore than the “self-help” section. However, God, through the prophet Jeremiah, issued a strong warning against this mind-set: “And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not…” (45:5). It would not be wrong for you to pray that the Lord would use you in a great way, but neither would it be wrong to pray for God to use your friend in a great way and to let you carry his bags. Former church leaders who may have lost their qualifications to lead can still be great helpers and assistants, and God often greatly blesses those who labor behind the scenes. We might recognize Billy Graham or D.L. Moody in Heaven with all their crowns, but we might wonder who that anonymous church janitor or bus driver over there is with 10 times as many crowns.

As Jeremiah began to prophesy to the nations around Judah – nations which would also experienced defeat at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army – he used some striking imagery, describing them as stampeding heifers, slithering serpents, and chopped-down trees. This is a good reminder to parents and grandparents of young children, and those who work in children’s ministry, that we can draw spiritual lessons from the things we find in nature. Children are often drawn to animals, trees, flowers, and water, and these, being given to us as blessings from God, can be easily adapted as illustrations to make a point about faithfulness, obedience, provision, or courage.

Egypt was dealt with first because Egypt’s army looked mighty. The image used is of the Nile River overflowing its banks in a great flood.

Egypt riseth up like a flood, and his waters are moved like the rivers; and he saith, I will go up, and will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof.

Jeremiah 46:8

However, God said that when the Babylonian army came their Pharaoh would be exposed as just a noise-maker (a “bigmouth”).

They did cry there, Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise; he hath passed the time appointed.

Jeremiah 46:17

Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north. Also her hired men are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back, and are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation. The voice thereof shall go like a serpent; for they shall march with an army, and come against her with axes, as hewers of wood. They shall cut down her forest, saith the Lord, though it cannot be searched; because they are more than the grasshoppers, and are innumerable.

Jeremiah 46:20-23

Chapter 47 deals with the Philistines – longtime enemies of God’s people  – even though they had actually tried to join the alliance with Judah and the other nations against Babylon. Their doom would be so scary that even fathers would run away, abandoning their children (which back then would be seen as the ultimate in cowardice, but today is just another Tuesday in America).

At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses, at the rushing of his chariots, and at the rumbling of his wheels, the fathers shall not look back to their children for feebleness of hands;

Jeremiah 47:3

Chapter 48 addresses the Moabites, descendants of Lot through his incestuous relationship with one of his daughters, who were another longtime enemy of Judah, and who had also joined the alliance, along with Ammon, against Babylon. Moab was a very proud nation, and of course God always opposes the proud.

How say ye, We are mighty and strong men for the war? Moab is spoiled, and gone up out of her cities, and his chosen young men are gone down to the slaughter, saith the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts. The calamity of Moab is near to come, and his affliction hasteth fast.

Jeremiah 48:14-16

They would turn into frightened doves hiding in a cave.

O ye that dwell in Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock, and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the sides of the hole’s mouth. We have heard the pride of Moab, (he is exceeding proud) his loftiness, and his arrogancy, and his pride, and the haughtiness of his heart.

Jeremiah 48:28-29

There is a theme of the Lord opposing the pride that dwells in human hearts all throughout the Book of Jeremiah.

Chapter 49 is about the Ammonites, who were descended from Lot’s other daughter. They were related to the Jews by blood, but had been their enemies for centuries until tempted into joining the alliance out of fear of Nebuchadnezzar. Although their ancestor Lot had narrowly escaped the fire of his beloved Sodom, his descendants would experience it generations later.

Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will cause an alarm of war to be heard in Rabbah of the Ammonites; and it shall be a desolate heap, and her daughters shall be burned with fire: then shall Israel be heir unto them that were his heirs, saith the Lord.

Jeremiah 49:2

Next, Jeremiah prophesied againts the Edomites, descendants of Jacob’s brother, Esau. This was another nation consumed by pride, who thought their rock-enclosed cities were impregnable against outside attack.

Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the Lord. Also Edom shall be a desolation: every one that goeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof. As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the Lord, no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it.

Jeremiah 49:16-18

Nebuchadnezzar would attack them like a lion.

Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the habitation of the strong: but I will suddenly make him run away from her: and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over her? for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?

Jeremiah 49:19

A Hospital for Sinners?

January 15, 2020 at 12:50 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: What do you think about the expression, “Church is supposed to be a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints?”

Answer: Is that the expression? I’ve always heard that, “Church is a hospital for sinners, not a SHOWPLACE for saints.” Either way, though, I’m not that crazy about it, for a number of reasons. I’ll list some of these reasons.

First, it doesn’t do a good job of defining “church.” I’m as guilty as the next person of referring to “church” as the physical locale where we meet for scheduled worship services and activities, but when we’re talking about people who need a “hospital,” there is nothing inherently therapeutic about a building or a geographical address. The local “church” is really a called-out assembly of true Christians (the body of Christ), and it is made up of “members” that are analagous to your physical body parts and organs: some people are the arms, some the legs, some the eyes, ears, larynx, lower intestines, and pineal glands, just to name a few. Some are visibly serving and up front like foreheads, knee caps, and bulging biceps, and some are buried deep in the guts, doing really, really important jobs that nobody ever sees. Hospitals are sitting around waiting for sick people to show up, and then they treat them (and charge them an obscene fortune), and then hopefully send them on their way. Human bodies go forth and interact with their environment. They know their own weaknesses, but they also see the needs of others, and go to where they are. Bodies are guided by the “head,” and they go and do what the “head” tells them to do. Christ is the “Head” of His spiritual body. You really need to get that straight before you can try to evaluate the rest of the statement about hospitals vs. museums.

Second, the expression doesn’t do a good job of defining “sinners.” In a sense, we are all “sinners,” in that we sin against God often and egregiously. However, those of us who are truly born-again have had our status changed from “sinner” to “son” or “daughter” of God by the washing away of sinful guilt in Christ’s blood, and by His imputed righteousness having been credited to us by His grace. This is even more important to understand before moving on.

Third, the expression begs us to assume that “sinners” need a “hospital” without telling us the nature of their illness. Are we talking about people who are literally injured or sick, or are we taking about people who have given in to temptation, now reaping the spiritual consequences of what they have sown, OR are we talking about people who are in wanton rebellion against God, sinning intentionally with the full force of their energy (perhaps even calling calling it a “lifestyle choice” or their “identity”)? We need to know that before we can determine if “hospital” is a good description.

Fourth, the expression presents a logical fallacy known as a “false dichotomy.” By this I mean that it presents an “either-or” proposition as if there were only two possibilities. Who would reasonably admit that they think of church as a “museum” – just a place to stand around and be seen – or a “showplace” – an opportunity to come show off their clothes, wealth, good looks, or perceived self-righteousness? Oh, I’m sure there are people who THINK that way, but nobody is going to really argue that the showplace/museum option has some actual merit. In reality, though, if we agree it’s not a museum, then “hospital” is only one of many alternatives (and not even the best one). I can show from the Bible that the purpose of meeting together with God’s people in what we call a “church” service is for:
a. corporate worship
b. prayer
c. instruction in the Word of God
d. training for spiritual battle
e. fellowship
f. accountability
g. discipleship
h. exhortation to grow up from immature to mature believers
h. and more, including, I guess, some of the “healing” benefits you would expect to receive at a literal hospital (as long as it doesn’t turn into an extended convalescence that provokes apathy and a “woe-is-me” attitude)

So, to sum up, the expression probably has a good intention at its heart, but, if it is only a platitude meant to replace real hands-on ministry done in love, and done in different ways for different types of hurting and/or sinning people, then we are better off ditching it and replacing it with actual Bible verses that tell us the real purpose of the local “church,” like Ephesians 4.

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