Righteous Jealousy

September 30, 2009 at 8:42 am | Posted in Biblical Violence | 23 Comments
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A currently popular television talk show host grew up attending traditional Christian churches, holding to fundamental Biblical teaching and preaching. She recently explained her rejection of these beliefs by referring to something, at the age of 28, she heard preached in church: The God of the Bible is a jealous God. This struck her as very strange. How could God, Who is all-powerful, and Who owns everything, be jealous of human beings? What a tragic misunderstanding, and what a shallow view of Scripture.

Oh, God is jealous, alright.

God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.

Nahum 1:2

But He is not jealous of what people have or what they are able to do. He is jealous because of the love He has for his Own people. We might say He is jealous over His people, not of His people – the way a loving and faithful husband would be jealous over anything that would tend to steal his wife’s affection away from him.

God loves His people very much. And although we would rather hear about the love of God, we must not ignore the fact that God reserves wrath for the enemies of His people. Did you know that, even though God is love (I John 4:8), He also hates (Psalm 11:5)?

Recently, my wife and I visited California. On the flight I was reading Nahum Chapter 1, and looking down at the tops of the clouds, which the Bible calls “the dust of his feet,” and I got to thinking about some of the ways the Lord shows His righteous anger, and His power over His creation.

The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

Nahum 1:3 (tornadoes, hurricanes, and storms)

He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.

Nahum 1:4 (droughts)

The mountains quake at him, and the hills melt, and the earth is burned at his presence, yea, the world, and all that dwell therein.

Nahum 1:5 (earthquakes, mudslides, and forest fires)

Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.

Nahum 1:6 (volcanoes, avalanches)

But with an overrunning flood he will make an utter end of the place thereof, and darkness shall pursue his enemies.

Nahum 1:8 (floods)

Most people, when asked to quickly name the opposite of “love,” will blurt out, “hate.” But this is incorrect. The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference. And our loving and just and jealous God is anything but indifferent.

Hijacked Hearts

September 29, 2009 at 9:14 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting | 4 Comments
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It sounds like a crazy notion, but we might wonder if Satan has been reading his Bible. If he has seen Malachi Chapter 4, Verse 6, then he would know that God’s desire is to see the hearts of children turned toward, not away from, their parents. “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” And that would motivate the devil to work very hard to do just the opposite of what God wants. Does this explain the state of most of the parent-child relationships we see in the world today?

Malachi 4:6 is actually the very last verse in the entire Old Testament. Malachi is prophesying in part about the ministry of John the Baptist.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

Malachi 4:5

John the Baptist was not Elijah reincarnated, but he did minister in the spirit of Elijah.

Between the end of Malachi and the beginning of the New Testament there is about 400 years of silence, as far as recorded Scripture. Then, in Luke 1:17, the angel of the Lord tells Zacharias, concerning John the Baptist: “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

The devil has turned the hearts of many of our children. He has turned them to drugs, immorality, worldly entertainment, popular culture, their own vanity, and even to their peers. Dads, moms: no modern-day John the Baptist is going to catch your children at the shopping mall, rock concert, or make-out party, and convince them to repent. However, we have One greater than John the Baptist. If we can get them to Jesus, He will turn their hearts to Himself, and back to us. It’s a great thing to pray for your kids. God can protect them in ways we can’t. However, He has ordained us, parents, in a very real, personal, and hands-on way, to take the steering wheel of their hearts, and guide them in the right direction.

Character and Integrity Part 5

September 25, 2009 at 5:03 pm | Posted in character and integrity | 4 Comments
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Last time, we looked at character and integrity in the life of Daniel. Daniel was not slothful in business. (Romans 12:11) When the Babylonians undertook to increase his education, he and his friends learned the lessons better than any of the others. Daniel knew that his flesh would want to follow the ways of those around him (Jeremiah 17:9), so he maintained his separated position. When Daniel was forced to disobey authority he tried to do it as graciously as possible, not being puffed up with pride. (James 4:10) Daniel was faithful to God in the test of whether he would eat the king’s defiled food, so God gave him a position of great authority. (Luke 16:10)

Lesson number 5 begins, not with Daniel, however, but with the strange subject of animal butchery. Personally, I have never skinned or gutted a deer, although I have seen it done. It is a gruesome sight. I think of it when I read about some of the requirements for preparing the Levitical sacrifices.

If this offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. And he shall kill the bullock before the LORD: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood, and sprinkle the blood round about upon the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And he shall flay the burnt offering, and cut it into his pieces. And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire upon the altar, and lay the wood in order upon the fire: And the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat, in order upon the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar: But his inwards and his legs shall he wash in water: and the priest shall burn all on the altar, to be a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.

Leviticus 1:3-9

The offering was a burnt offering. It was prepared in a very hands-on way. The priest had to physically touch the animal himself. He had to kill it himself, not from far away, with a rifle, but right up close with his own hands. There would have been a great deal of blood since it was a “fresh kill” – spurting blood, blood everywhere, a “blood bath.” The priest flayed it open, and cut the guts out. Then, there was even more cutting – cutting through the skin, through the muscle, through the sacs around the organs, maybe through some bones, some tendons and ligaments, sawing, slick with blood, guts, bits of raw meat, and nerves. He would cut the head off, and slice the fat from the muscles. Then he would wash out the guts, and various parts and pieces, and take the legs, and burn them up. Frankly, it grosses me out to think about it, and you’re probably wondering what it has to do with character and integrity, but we’ll come back to it later.

For now, let’s skip over to the Book of Judges, which describes a very dark time in Israel’s history. God’s chosen people were rebelling against Him, worshiping false idols and false gods. Sadly, they believed, like many of the people around them (the Amalekites, the Philistines, the Amorites, the Ammonites), that God was just one of many gods. And it seemed like they were constantly under attack. The “Judges” were rulers or military leaders or deliverers. They were supposed to protect God’s people or rescue them or punish God’s enemies.

Judges Chapter 10 tells the account of Jephthah. He was the son of Gilead. Gilead was married, and had sons, but Jephthah was the result of a mistake he made with a prostitute. Therefore, Jephthah’s brothers really didn’t like him. When their father died they chased Jephthah away.

The Bible says that Jephthah left home and became a mighty man of valor. That is an encouragement to people today who believe that, because their parents did not intentionally conceive them, they are a “mistake.” Whatever your background, or the facts of your birth, you were never a “mistake” to God. Some people go through their whole childhood, and even much of their adult lives, believing that, if their parents had not made the “mistake” which brought them into this world, their lives would have been better and easier. Please remember that God was not surprised when you were born. He planned some great things for you before you were even conceived. Maybe your parents really let you down, but God will never let you down. We must live our lives in a such a way as to please HIM.

Jephthah had to learn how to take care of himself. In fact, he was so good at fighting and surviving that he attracted a group of followers, but Judges 11:3 calls them “vain men.” They were men without a purpose – outlaws, brigands, adventurers – and Jephthah was their leader.

When the Ammonites attacked Israel, the Israelites pretended to repent for God’s help, but God told them no.

Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.

Judges 10:13-14

The Israelites knew they would have to fight, but they needed a leader. Someone suggested Jephthah.

Jephthah might not have realized it, but his response is his own echoed version of God’s response.

And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house? and why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?

Judges 11:7

However, the Israelites promised him that he could be leader of Gilead if he helped them, so he agreed.

Imagine how embarrassed and mad his brothers must have been – they ran him off, and now he was coming back as the ruler of their land! Jephthah did not rub it in, though; he gave the credit to God.

And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, If ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon, and the LORD deliver them before me, shall I be your head?

Judges 11:9

Jephthah’s first plan of action was to start out trying to reason with the Ammonites. He was no hothead. He knew his Bible, and he knew his Bible history. He informed the Ammonites that Israel had not “stolen” the land – they had “captured” it. He told them that Israel’s God had given Israel the victory. In effect, he told the Ammonites that, if they had any complaining to do, they should have done it 300 years ago. He went on to explain the futility of their fighting against the true God.

However, they wouldn’t listen. So Jephthah went to war.

Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah…

Judges 11:29

In our previous studies on character and integrity, we have seen this same statement about David and Mary: the Spirit of the Lord came upon them.

And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,

Judges 11:30

The worst word in Judges 11:30 is the word “if.” Jephthah was a man of faith (Hebrews 11:32), but he failed the test of faith at a crucial time, and he tried to make a bargain with God.

Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands …Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

Judges 11:31-33

When Jephthah came home victorious, what do you think came out of his house to meet him?

And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.

Judges 11:34-35

What came out of his house to meet him was not a “what” at all! It was a “who:” his beloved daughter!

Now, if we believe that Jephthah was under a vow to make his daughter a burnt offering, and if we review the details of what that meant in Leviticus 1:3-9 described above, we have to gasp in horror. I want to be very fair at this point and state that I believe that Jephthah did believe he was under such a vow. Most modern Bible scholars and commentators disagree with me. Even the best Bible teacher I know believes that Jephthah’s vow only resulted in his daughter being forced never to marry. There are quite a few older (by decades or even centuries) theologians and Bible scholars who do agree with me. I have studied most of the arguments for and against, and I truly believe that Jephthah did the unthinkable due to his fear of the Lord in light of the vow he had made. Obviously, you are free to disagree.

To return to the narrative, though, what do you think Jephthah’s daughter said when he told her the tragic news?

“It’s not fair!”
“I’m going to run away!”
“Can’t you pay some money and get me out of this?”
“I wish you weren’t my father!”
“I don’t love you anymore!”
“None of my friends have to do this!”
“I don’t have to listen to you!”
“I need to know why??!!”

None of those are correct. Instead, we read:

And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.

Judges 11:36-37

Jephthah had done a terrible thing. His vow, his bargain with God, was a mistake – worse, it was a foolish sin. We must be very careful about what we say. “I swear…” “God, I promise, if you get me out of trouble this time… I’ll never do it again.” Vows to God are a serious thing.

What about the integrity, though, of Jephthah’s daughter? Could Jephthah trust his daughter?

And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.

Judges 11:38

If you are reading this, and you are someone’s teenaged daughter, can you be trusted? Can you be trusted to take take out the trash? To keep your room clean? To be respectful even when your parents are not around? To be home on time?

Jephthah’s daughter had true integrity, and Jephthah knew her character. He knew he could trust her to obey – even in something like this.

And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.

Judges 11:39-40

God is not going to require your parents to offer you up for a burnt offering. We don’t live in the days of Judges. But God is serious about your obedience. We all need to remember this story – when children feel like saying, “But why can’t I do this..?” or “It’s not fair, all my friends get to do it.”

Remember Jephthah’s daughter the next time your parents tell you they can’t afford to pay for something or they don’t want to spend the money for something. Maybe God wants them to stay within their budget to give that money to the church or to missions. You have no room for whining or complaining.

“And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father…”

Can you be trusted? If you won’t even do your homework, if you won’t study, if you won’t help clean up without being asked – then your parents shouldn’t trust you to even go next door, much less to a friend’s house. You have free access on your home computer to the most evil garbage in the world – only a mouse click away. If you can’t be trusted not to curse or gossip in a text message or an email, then you shouldn’t even be allowed to touch it.

Your parents, I pray, are trying to protect you. God has great plans for some of you. Don’t settle for just being popular, being cool, just getting by in school, even for having a great career, or falling in love. Those things are going to pass away. Worldly fun, fleshly fun, the kind of fun that pleases Satan and grieves the Spirit of God now mortgages the good things in life that God has in store for you later. Some of the people I knew who had the most fun when they were teenaged kids are completely miserable now: divorced, in jail, on drugs, can’t get a job. They had a blast for 7 years, but they’ve been miserable for 20 – and they’re looking at another 30.

Lord God, thank You that you haven’t put us in the same predicament as Jephthah’s daughter. But please let us be as obedient, as trustworthy, as she was. Let us be content with what we have. Let us be thankful, and let us spend our time getting ready for the good things You have planned for us. Help us to do the simple things: read our Bibles; pray every day; be obedient; be a blessing to others. In Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen.

Varied Results

September 24, 2009 at 9:29 am | Posted in Acts | 5 Comments
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From Thessalonica the Apostle Paul and his missionary team went to Berea.

And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:10-11

These were people who met daily to study the Scriptures. They must have almost been an easy “slam-dunk” for the Apostle Paul in terms of making converts, since his practice was to always use the Bible to witness in the synagogues.

In the meantime, Satan was using Jews from Thessalonica to continue to hound Paul in Berea.

But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.

Acts 17:13

Satan must have thought he was accomplishing something by at least keeping Paul constantly on the move – but that was exactly what God wanted.

In Athens Paul encountered a city of idolatry, novelty, and philosophy. The Athenians were so open-minded that it was as if their brains had fallen out.

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.

Acts 17:16

Paul had another “paroxysm” – a fit. He seemed to be caught between Epicureans, whose theme was “enjoy life,” and Stoics, whose theme was “endure life.” He went to the synagogues and the marketplace. He was mocked and ridiculed.

Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

Acts 17:22

When Paul was invited to speak on Mars Hill he proclaimed that God is great.

God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;

Acts 17:24

Then he proclaimed that God is good.

Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

Acts 17:25

Then he proclaimed that God governs.

And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;

Acts 17:26

Then he proclaimed the grace of God.

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

Acts 17:30-31

Some rejected the message, some wanted to hear more, and a small group was saved.

The Bad News and the Good News

September 23, 2009 at 11:40 am | Posted in Salvation | 14 Comments
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Take a moment to consider the way you live your life. Do you find yourself trapped in the same sins day after day? Do you feel like you simply can not change? Are you truly miserable because of this condition? If so, there is some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that, even though you may be able to walk, talk, breathe, and think, you are in fact spiritually dead in your trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1) You are under the power of the devil and you have no choice but to obey his spirit, and to disobey God. (Ephesians 2:2)

But here is the good news! You do not have to stay in this condition! God is rich in mercy and love, and He sent Someone to take your place, to pay the price for your sins, to set you free, and to give you eternal life.

But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

Ephesians 2:4-5

If you are tired of being defeated and miserable in your sins, admit the truth about yourself to God and call upon Jesus Christ right now to save you, believing the truth about Who He is and what He has done.

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Acts 4:12

Where to Find Yourself

September 22, 2009 at 2:08 pm | Posted in Genesis | 7 Comments
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“Genesis” means “beginning.” The Book of Genesis is the beginning of the Bible, but not the beginning of God. He had no beginning and He will have no end.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Genesis 1:1

The first verse of the Bible presupposes the prior existence of God. God did not create the heavens and the earth and all the things and living creatures because He was lonely or bored. The triune God is eternally self-sufficient in glory. And He has enjoyed the fellowship of Perfect Father, Perfect Son, and Perfect Holy Spirit throughout all eternity. To be perfect means to be complete, to need or lack nothing.

In Genesis we can see some very basic things about God’s existence, and some of the basics of His plan concerning His creation.

We should not get frustrated that we can not understand more about God. The fullness of His glory is not comprehensible, but the glory of God is not discouraging or “hopelessly confusing.” Actually, it’s hopeFULLY confusing. If we are not motivated to service and worship by God’s glory and utter “otherness,” then there is a serious problem with our doctrine.

God is called by the Hebrew name Elohim 32 times in Genesis before the first appearance of “YHWH” – Jehovah.

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,

Genesis 2:4

Jehovah is “the mighty God.” Elohim is plural – God in three Persons. Also, in Hebrew, there is a great reverence of God’s name. The plural form Elohim is used because plural forms are used to give greater emphasis and magnitude to that which is being described. For example, some have argued that we shouldn’t speak of the majesty, beauty, and perfection of God. Rather we should speak of His majesties, beauties, and perfections. The glories of God – all His attributes – are overwhelming and unending.

So, we see that Genesis is a book of basics – a book of fundamentals. When you really want to learn as much as you can about something, you start at the fundamentals. This is true of academic, athletic, and practical endeavors. When I coached tee-ball, we didn’t start off by learning how to turn a double play, or hit the cut-off man. We started by learning what a ball is, what a bat is, and the order in which to run the bases. Sometimes – even in Bible study – you have to start at the basics.

Passages from Genesis are found quoted over 200 times in the New Testament. In Genesis we find the blueprint for God’s whole plan of redemption.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

Revelation 21:1, referencing Genesis 1:1

In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

Revelation 22:2, 14, referencing Genesis 2:8-9, 3:24

In Genesis the tree of life is forbidden and guarded. In Revelation it is open and available.

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

Revelation 19:7-9, referencing Genesis 2:24

Genesis has the first marriage. Revelation has the last.

And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Revelation 20:10, referencing Genesis 3:1

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Revelation 21:4, referencing Genesis 2:17

And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.

Revelation 18:21, referencing Genesis 11:9

In Genesis Babylon is built. In Revelation it is destroyed.

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

Revelation 11:15, referencing Genesis 3:15

In Genesis the Redeemer is promised. In Revelation the Redeemer reigns.

In Genesis the first Adam disobeyed in a garden. In the Gospels the last Adam accomplished the ultimate obedience in a garden. (Luke 22:41-42)

Genesis tells us a great deal about ourselves. It tells us where we came from, why we are here, and what God expects us to do.

In Genesis we learn about God, ourselves, and our world. When you first meet Christ, you learn about God. Then you learn about yourself. Then you learn about the world.

There is a heresy which says that Biblical Christianity is “all about me.” But there is also a heresy that says, “It’s not about me at all.” No psychologist, self-help program, chemical, or worldly experience will help you “find yourself.” However, if you look, you will find yourself in the Bible.

The Deposit on Your Soul

September 21, 2009 at 8:29 am | Posted in Eternity, I Corinthians | 12 Comments
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You may have heard the old joke about the immoral traveling salesman. He had lady-friends in two different cities, but he always tried to be extra careful, so they would not find out about each other, while he pretended that each one was his true sweetheart. One day, though, his boss discovered this arrangement and called him on the carpet.

“Look here,” said the boss, “this company has a reputation for integrity and trustworthiness. I’m shocked at your behavior.”

The salesman looked back innocently. “Why sir, I don’t think you should question my character like that. I always try to be frank and earnest.”

The boss grew even more exasperated. “How in the world can you say that? ‘Frank and earnest’ means ‘open and honest.’ You are busy two-timing ladies in two different cities! What do you mean, you always try to be ‘frank and earnest!??’”

“Well,” said the salesman confidently, “I’m always ‘Frank’ Jones when I’m in Chicago, and I’m always ‘Ernest’ Smith when I’m in Detroit.”

We may be thankful, when we see the word “earnest” in our Bibles, that our Lord is not duplicitous or disingenuous.

Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

II Corinthians 5:5

“Earnest” in this verse means a deposit, a sort of a down-payment, guaranteeing the eventual ushering-in to Heaven of all true Christians.

The Holy Spirit has a number of functions in the lives of born-again believers. Among them, He teaches us the Bible; He convicts us of sin; He produces in us the ability to love others and to obey God. He also is God’s seal upon our eternal soul, acting as proof of the promise that all those whom Christ Jesus has saved, will, without fail, go to be with Him one day.

One reason that I know I am going to Heaven is because of the Scriptures, but another reason is because, at the moment of salvation, God’s Spirit came to live in the temple of my body. One day God’s Spirit is going to Heaven forever. Because God cannot lie, and because God will never take His Spirit away from one of His children, and because God’s seal can never be broken or erased, I know that when God’s Spirit goes to Heaven, I, too, must go with Him. God’s earnest is not based on my good works, the strength of my self-generated faith, or my own personal post-salvation pronouncements about what I think, feel, or experience. God’s earnest is based on His unchanging character, His Truth, and His righteousness.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

John 14:3

Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

II Corinthians 1:21-22

That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:12-14

The Grace of Running Water

September 18, 2009 at 8:25 am | Posted in BiblicalSwimming, Ezekiel | 7 Comments
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When Ezekiel was given the vision of God’s healing waters, he noticed that some of the waters were running out from the “right” side of the altar.

Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side.

Ezekiel 47:1-2

This meant that some of the waters were flowing on the right hand, as opposed to the left hand, side, from Ezekiel’s point of view. However, we also use the word “right” to refer to something that is “correct” or “proper.” Therefore, we may take these verses as reminders that God’s grace, like running water, if not impeded by some barrier, will naturally go where it needs to go. In fact, water will seek the lowest level. The place where people are at their lowest, where they are most in need of help, and often where they are most desperate, is when they realize they are mired in sin. A person’s “lowest place” is the place where he is most in need of God’s grace, and, like the waters in Ezekiel’s vision, God’s grace always goes to the “right” place.

The Raptor and the Captor

September 17, 2009 at 9:54 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting, Biblical Violence, Micah | 11 Comments
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Lemuel Briggs was a farmer in Mendocino County, California, in 1895. He had a lamb and two sons. Bald eagles were not as scarce in those days as they are today.

bald eagles

One day, a bald eagle left its nest in the mountains near Mr. Briggs’s farm, soaring on wings that measured over eight feet across, and carried off Mr. Briggs’s lamb. He was furious.

He sent his sons, Willie, aged 13, and Eddie, 11, up into the mountains to find the eagle’s nest. They obeyed.

However, as they went up the narrow mountain path, they neared the eagle’s nest before they realized it, and the eagle attacked. It circled around them, swooping in relentlessly, talons tearing and beak pecking. The attack ended with Eddie permanently scarred, having lost an eye.

One can only imagine the grief felt by Lemuel Briggs every time he saw his boy’s patched and scarred face. In the Bible, there was a tradition among the Jewish people of cutting off their hair or shaving their heads during times of devastating grief. As God’s people faced the chastening of God for their idol-worship and spiritual adultery, the prophet Micah used a bit of holy irony to drive home what would have been a sore point.

Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.

Micah 1:16

The irony has to do with his description of their children as “delicate.” Parents who are not strict with their children when it comes to Bible study, church attendance, and Christian conduct, may gloss over the suggestion that they are spoiling them. However, when the enemy comes to take them captive, it will quickly become apparent that children who were too “delicate” to be subjected to discipline, are likewise too delicate to withstand the rough treatment they will experience at the hands of their captor.

Don’t Let Distraction Lead to Division

September 16, 2009 at 7:24 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting | 5 Comments
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The prophet Joel had a message from God, and it was not restricted to certain age groups. In Joel 2:15-16, God convened the most serious kind of church service there was, and nobody was to be left out. From senior citizens, to children, to little babies, to young adults of marrying age, He wanted everybody present.

Joel didn’t even kowtow to the religious leaders of his day.

Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?

Joel 2:17

When God’s people go astray, they need to be cleansed before they are restored. This is because God loves His people, but His chief concern is for His Own name. God alone is worthy of praise and worship, and for Him to seek glory for any other – even His beloved creations – would be a form of idolatry.

Let us pray that we never send a message to our children, or to any group of our church family, that our comfort, our convenience, or our own concerns are to be sought above God’s Own glory.

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