Designer Disaster and Divine Destruction

September 29, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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In Chapter 6 the prophecy that the Lord gave to Jeremiah is in the form of poetry, but it is a dark poem, containing gloomy and frightening imagery. It describes God’s use of a terrible invading army which He allows and even directs against His own people because of their idolatry, wickedness, hypocrisy, and rebellion against Him.

O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Bethhaccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction. I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman. The shepherds with their flocks shall come unto her; they shall pitch their tents against her round about; they shall feed every one in his place. Prepare ye war against her; arise, and let us go up at noon. Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out. Arise, and let us go by night, and let us destroy her palaces.

Jeremiah 6:1-5

This ominous threat from “out of the north” would bring both evil and destruction. The “evil” is not necessarily a reference to moral evil, but rather a conveyance of the idea of a catastrophic (although designed rather than random) experience of destruction from the point of view of the nation of Judah. While the Hebrew ra is sometimes translated as “disaster” (from the original meaning of a bad event brought about by a bad alignment of the stars or planets: astro), it is clear that God’s people were about (absent some severe and urgent repentance) to be overwhelmed by God’s specifically and forewarned justice.

On the other hand, while “disaster” would convey the wrong sense of this attack, the parallel description of “destruction” is spot-on, for, just as “construction” means “a building up,” “destruction” means a “tearing-down,” and that is exactly what the invaders would do to the walls, homes, Temple, and buildings in Jerusalem.

Christians today who are in a state of backsliding or rebellion against God, need to heed these prophetic warnings. Whether reprieve or destruction befalls us is ultimately up to God. He is not subject to any circumstances, accidents, or astrological omens. He could have a very well-thought-out and serious plan of chastening on the verge of landing in our land, luxuries, or laps, and if it catches us unaware or unrepentant, we would only have ourselves to blame. Likewise, He is more than capable of tearing down any materialistic idols that we have built up in our lives should He choose discipline us and bring us back to Himself in love.

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Did Jesus Claim to be God?

September 25, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: I am having trouble understanding how Christians can believe in one God, and still believe that Jesus is God. It seems like Jesus never actually said, “I am God,” and if I worship Jesus and the Holy Spirit wouldn’t I be committing idolatry by making them equal with God the Father?

Answer: Jesus did claim to be God, and proved that He is God by rising from the dead. Jesus said:

I and my Father are one.

John 10:30

Jesus was claiming to be God when He said this because that is what “one” means. God is one in essence, but is three in “person.” This does not violate any law of logic because “person” and “essence” are not the same category. You are judging God by human standards, but He is infinite, and we are finite, so we would not expect Him to be limited in the ways that we are. He is free to take humanity unto Himself while still remaining fully divine, and this in fact is what He did so that He could identify with human beings in our suffering because He loves us even though we have sinned against Him.

The Bible does not record Jesus saying “I am God” in those exact words, because God was never bound to express Himself in terms just to satisfy our objections. When Jesus said the words “I AM” (at least seven times in the Gospel of John), that was clearly a claim to be God, because “I AM” was the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses in the Old Testament. Furthermore, look at the evidence: (1) Jesus said that those who had seen Him had seen God (John 14:9). Jesus is equated with the Creator of the universe (John 1:1-14; Colossians 1:16-17). Jesus said He existed before Abraham (John 8:58). The Bible calls Him God manifest in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16). He claimed to be equal with God, and only God can be equal with Himself (John 5:18). He forgave sins, and only God can forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7).

You may or may not like these particular expressions that Jesus used to claim that He was God, but His enemies obviously understood what He was saying. They did not arrest Jesus and sentence Him to death simply for being a prophet (John 10:30-33). They wanted to kill Him because He claimed to be God.

A.W. Tozer Challenged Us to S.W.I.M. in God the Father

September 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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What a broad world to roam in, what a sea to swim in is this God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is eternal, which means that He antedates time and is wholly independent of it. Time began in Him and will end in Him. To it He pays no tribute and from it He suffers no change.

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.

Isaiah 40:28

Luke’s Gospel

September 19, 2017 at 11:56 am | Posted in Luke | 2 Comments
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The Book of Luke is one of the four “Gospels.” The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are accounts of Jesus’s earthly ministry, and, to some extent, of His earthly life. The term “Gospel,” of course, also refers to the Good News of Jesus’s incarnation, sinless life, sacrificial death, victorious Resurrection, and saving power, although, in common vernacular, “gospel” has come to mean “anything that’s true.”

The word “Gospel” is from the old English word for “good news.” In ancient Greek it would be called the Evangelion, combining eu (with the “v” now replaced by “u”) meaning “good,” as in “euphemism” (a “good” way to say a “bad” thing) or eulogy (a “good word” about a deceased person), with the word angel, meaning “message” (easy to remember because the “angels” are God’s messengers).

The Holy Spirit authored the Gospel of Luke through (obviously) a man named Luke, whose primary occupation had been as a physician. The Holy Spirit appears to have used Luke’s medical training and experience in order to cause Luke’s account of Jesus’s life and ministry to have an orderly composition, often with an emphasis on “medical” events, such as illnesses and healings, and to stress Jesus’s compassion on those who were hurting. It is not known if Luke had the typical doctor’s bad handwriting, but we can be sure that what he recorded was the accurate and infallible Word of God.

Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

Luke 1:1

At the time that Luke wrote down his Gospel, there were other scrolls circulating about, purporting to be accounts of the life of Jesus. The things most surely believed among “us” likely means that Luke knew he was recording true Christian doctrine and the real facts about Jesus, and that what he was reporting was for public dissemination, but mainly with fellow Christians in mind as his primary audience.

Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

Luke 1:2

Luke was part of Paul’s missionary team, and his personal physician, but he had not walked with Jesus personally while Jesus was on earth as a man.

It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

Luke 1:3-4

Luke’s statement about “having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first” also seems to indicate that he was aware of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. Theophilus was probably a gentile who had been saved and converted to Christianity (known in Bible times as a “lover of God” or a “friend of God”). It is also likely that he held some official public position because of the formal nature of Luke’s address to him. Once again, Luke referred to “the certainty” of what he was writing, giving even more credence to the idea that he was aware of the Holy inspiration under which he was operating.

Next came the account of the announcement and birth of John the Baptist. He was the last Old Testament prophet, even though he’s found in the New Testament.

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

Malachi 4:5-6

The Holy Ghost closed the Old Testament with a reference to Elijah and the pronouncement of a CURSE, after which there was about 400 years of prophetic silence, during which God gave no (that we know of) verbal or written revelation, until John the Baptist came on the scene. He was the prophet who fulfilled – in a sense – the prophecy of Malachi 4:5. He was the prophet who himself fulfilled a prophecy.

There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

Luke 1:5-6

Zacharias and Elizabeth were considered righteous and blameless, although they were not sinless.

And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

Luke 1:7-10

This burning of incense was a major event in the life of the religious Jewish people each year.

And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

Luke 1:11-13

One can only imagine the fear that overcame Zacharias! Elisabeth would be related to Jesus through Mary. The couple’s first-born son would be named John, not Zacharias Jr.

And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.

Luke 1:14-15

John would be under a Nazarite vow, as an angel had also informed Samson’s father Manoah, and his wife, and like Elkanah’s and Hannah’s son, Samuel. Elijah was yet another Old Testament example of someone under a life-long Nazarite vow – meaning he was not to touch grapes or dead things, and not to cut his hair. Another similarity between John the Baptist and Elijah is that much of their lives would be spent as outcasts from society, living in the wilderness. John the Baptist had the amazing distinction of being filled by the Holy Spirit while he was still in his mother’s womb.

And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 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.

Luke 1:16-17

John would be instrumental in turning the hearts of children back to their fathers – and to their HEAVENLY FATHER. He would have a spirit like Elijah’s and be endued with the power of Elijah, but he would not be Elijah reincarnated. This announcement was so astonishing to Zacharias that he disbelieved the Word of God, and thereby lost his voice until it was time for Elisabeth to have the baby.

On Your Mark…

September 14, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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I admit it: One of my many faults is that I’m a slow reader. It’s not that I usually have trouble understanding the words or comprehending the sense of what I’m reading. It’s just that I tend to fixate on sentence structure, word choices, and even ambiguous grammar and punctuation. So, while I do read “a lot,” it often takes me far longer than it should to do it.

This goes double for my Bible reading. Bible verses can be so packed with spiritual truth that, if you truly love God’s Word, there is a temptation to go over certain verses, clauses, or even words, multiple times before moving on. Recently I’ve been seeing articles advocating the practice of reading whole books of the Bible in one sitting. While I have done this before, it is a tremendous challenge for me, and I personally don’t recommend it as a proven study method. However, if I had to pick a book which seems most suitable to this practice, I would probably choose the Book of Mark. I’m not saying that I taught or wrote the lessons in this series after a rush-through nonstop reading of Mark, but there is something about the way the Holy Ghost inspired Mark to write about Jesus’s earthly ministry that seems to prompt a desire for “movement,” and “activity,” even “busyness.” Mark shows us Jesus “on the move,” the Divine, yet earthly, Servant Who for about three and a half years went “straightway” about His Father’s business, always on the verge of sprinting off toward the next miracle, teaching opportunity, event, or activity. My prayer is that these lessons will motivate us to stay active and energetic and enthusiastic in emulating His example, as we are motivated by His glorious Gospel:

1. Immediate Service (Mark 1:12-13)
2. A Major Breaking News Story (Mark 1:15)
3. The Ordo Salutis (Mark 1:15)
3. Casting FOR Fish, and Casting OUT Fiends (Mark 1:16-28)
4. Compassion for the Crowds (Mark 1:32-45)
5. Forgiveness, Fulfillment, and Freedom (Mark 2-3)
6. The Gross-Out Factor for Kids (Mark 2:16-17)
7. He Was Beside Himself (Mark 3:21)
8. Serving without Fear (Mark 4-5)
9. Beware the Furious Fiend (Mark 5:5)
10. Rising Faith (Mark 5:33-42)
11. Faith in Service (Mark 6:1-9)
12. The Direction of True Faith (Mark 6:20-46)
13. Disciples, Defilement, and Division (Mark 7)
14. Clean Hands and Pure Hearts (Mark 7:1-13)
15. Biblical S.T.O.P. Signs
(Mark 8)
16. Okay, Who Forgot to Bring the Food?! (Mark 8:12-18)
17. Doubting Disciples Duped by Demonic Distractions (Mark 8:27-36)
18. The One Question You MUST NOT Get Wrong (Mark 8:29) *
19. What Lack I Yet? (Mark 8:35-36)
20. Overcoming Shame (Mark 8:38)
21. His Glory and His Word (Mark 9)
22. Water, Water, Everywhere… (Mark 9:41)
23. Becoming Part of the Family (Mark 9:42)
24. A Pair of Paradoxes (Mark 10:2-16)
25. The POV of Marriage (Mark 10:2-9)
26. Defining “Impossible” (Mark 10:26-27)
27. A Second Pair of Paradoxes (Mark 10:28-45)
28. Role Reversal Ransom (Mark 10:45)
29. Blind Beggar Boldly Beats Bandwagoners (Mark 10:46-49)
30. The Servant King and Servant Judge (Mark 11)
31. The Servant Prophet (Mark 12)
32. Especially the Family (Mark 12:28-31)
33. Flipping the Script on the Passover (Mark 14)
34. Cross-Eyed (Mark 15:29-32)

*most-read post in category

Flipping the Script on the Passover

September 11, 2017 at 4:14 pm | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured [it] on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

Mark 14:3-5

We know from John 12 that Judas Iscariot was the main instigator of this criticism against Mary because of her supposed wastefulness. It is ironic that Judas (fittingly named “the son of perdition“) criticized Mary for wastefulness, since he is the one who wasted his life following Jesus, but probably never truly believing unto salvation.

There is much scholarly debate and theological dispute about the precise Biblical event which should count as the “birth of the Church,” but here in Mark 14 Jesus institutes the New Covenant.

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.

Mark 14:22

Jesus was following the traditional passover pattern as He blessed and broke the bread, but then He flipped the script drastically by revealing that this was to be a representation of His own broken body.

And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

Mark 14:23-24

Jesus, despite Roman Catholic dogma, did not literally transform the bread and the wine into His body and blood.

Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

Mark 14:25-26

It seems odd to me that the pattern for almost all modern Christian church services is to sing first, and then to proceed with the rest of the service (preaching, etc.), when, IF this really was the first true meeting of the “Church,” they sang last. In any event, the ordinance of communion is for the purposes of memory and fellowship. Its observance holds no saving merit whatsoever, and it does not infuse any grace ex opere operato.

And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;

Mark 14:32-33

The experiences of Peter, James, and John mirror what would later be expressed by the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul.

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Philippians 3:9-10

They would see Christ’s deity on the Mount of Transfiguation (“that I may know Him;” they would see “the power of His Resurrection” at the home of Jairus; and they would witness “the fellowship of His sufferings” at the Garden of Gethsemane.

And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

Mark 14:34-35

Jesus, even in His humanity, said, “Abba, Father.” We who are truly Christians have this privilege also, but we can only call God “Abba” IN CHRIST. As a general rule I don’t like to criticize the way people pray out loud in public or in church meetings. I’m certainly awkward at it myself. But I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of closing public prayers with a mumbled “in Your name we pray.” It is such an awesome privilege to be able to intimately call upon the Father in prayer, and such an enormously high price was paid to purchase this privilege for us, that we ought to be extremely clear about in Whom we dare to approach the Most High with our requests, intercessions, praises, and thanksgivings.

The Big Five-Oh!

September 8, 2017 at 3:56 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Because I am joyfully married, and because of the exalted view of marriage given to us by God in the Bible – and because I have been blessed with such a wonderful, beautiful, and intelligent wifeI love marriage. And because I love marriage, I love wedding anniversaries. This weekend my wife’s parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary! What an accomplishment, and what a glorious testimony to the grace of God in a day and age where marriage is so rapidly becoming devalued, desecrated, and even demonized.

It is truly humbling for me to consider all that my father-in-law and mother-in-law have been through in their marriage – from health issues, to financial pressures, to weather catastrophes, to relocations, to family crises – not to mention the challenges and stress of rearing four successful children (with my wife being just one example of the awesome parenting job they have done – and are still doing!)

Words like “congratulations” and “thank you” just don’t seem big enough or profound enough to express the gratitude and esteem I feel for a couple who, knowing that I was bringing far more detriment than benefit into their family when I married their daughter, still accepted me, loved me, and made me welcome. I will never be able to repay the debt I owe them for that, or for their continued love toward me and my family over the years. I could not have asked for better in-laws or for better grandparents for my children. They have set an example of faithfulness, grace, mercy, longsuffering, perseverance, kindness, generosity, and wisdom that I can only scratch the surface of describing. I thank God for them, and ask Him to bless the rest of their lives with joy, fulfillment, and peace.


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