The One that Didn’t Get Away

September 2, 2009 at 9:47 am | Posted in Biblical Violence | 5 Comments
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My grandfather, Leslie Cassels, was 94 years old when he went home to be with the Lord. Although I never had a chance to personally witness it, he used to fascinate me with stories of how he and his father, uncles, and brothers would go fishing when he was a boy.

Not having fishing rods or poles, they would wade into shallow, murky pits or ponds with relatively steep embankments. In the sides of the banks, well below the surface of the water, they could feel holes. Reaching into the holes, every so often, they would find a huge catfish lurking. Their technique was to suddenly seize hold of the fish, and attempt to wrestle it onto the shore bare-handed. The seizing was important, but it was only the beginning of the battle.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to his apprentice, Timothy, whom he had left to fulfill the office of evangelist at the church in Ephesus, he had greater concerns than catching catfish. But it seems that some of the same principles applied.

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

I Timothy 6:12

The Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, was concerned about the battle for the faith. In this battle, Timothy was to “lay hold” on the doctrine of eternal life. In other words, he was to seize it and hold on tight. But, as with the prize of a big catfish, the laying hold was only the beginning of the fight.

Timothy would have to struggle with three main types of enemies in his battle: (1) those who saw the freedom of the Gospel as a chance to rebel against the social order (I Timothy 6:1-2); (2) those that loved money (I Timothy 6:9-10); and (3) those who were proud of what they thought was their own knowledge, and who called it “science” (I Timothy 6:20).

When my grandfather heaved a wriggling fish onto shore, it meant his Depression-era family would eat well that night. When we, like Timothy, emerge victorious in the good fight of faith, we will feast at the eternal table of Lord, and receive a crown of righteousness. (II Timothy 4:7-8)

Up for the Count

July 27, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Biblical Violence | 2 Comments
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When a boxer is badly beaten, knocked down by his opponent, and cannot get up, the referee counts to ten, and the fight is over. This is the idea behind the common expression we use for someone who appears to be defeated, when we say he is “down for the count.”

The Bible, however, says that Christians – even when the powerful punches of life are landing relentlessly – are not “counted out.” Instead, they are counted “up” (happy) if they endure.

Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

James 5:11

“But wait,” says the skeptic, “I thought Christians were supposed to claim their blessings by faith… Isn’t suffering a sign of faithlessness for a believer?” Dear friend, be not deceived. Faith is not blindly grabbing for rewards. True faith is obeying the Lord in spite of consequences, and enduring – like Job did – by depending on His grace, His time, and His Word.

The Grudge-Match of the Century: The Lion of God vs. Double-Wicked Cushan

July 7, 2009 at 9:30 am | Posted in Biblical Violence | 5 Comments
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In the land of Canaan, in the days of the Judges of Israel, God’s people often failed to act like God’s people. As their priests failed to instruct the people in the keeping of God’s law, and as a new generation of parents failed to hold their children accountable for their sins, the people of Israel began to intermarry with the pagan idol-worshippers around them. When this happened it wasn’t long before the Israelites began worshiping the false gods of their spouses, and began to “do evil in the sight of the Lord” (Judges 3:5-7), including sacrificing their own children.

Therefore, to chasten the people whom He loved, but whose sin He hated, the Lord God allowed the king of Mesopotamia to enslave them. This king’s name translates to the charming moniker, “Double-Wicked Cushan.”

God heard the cries of His people, however, and raised up Othniel to deliver them. It was the “Lion of God” versus “Ol’ Double-Evil.” How did Othniel win the victory and restore the freedom of God’s people for 40 years? Not by having the largest army or the sturdiest weapons. Rather, the key to Othniel’s success is found in Judges 3:10: “And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war…”

Othniel responded to the power of the Holy Spirit, and he had a willingness to fight for God. Most Christians today are not commanded to be in a military war, and we are forbidden from using carnal weapons. We are in a war, but it’s a spiritual war, and our main weapons are prayer, the Word of God, love, and, like Othniel, a willingness to serve. What a waste it would be to have the empowering gift of the Holy Spirit residing in the temple of your body, but to refuse to walk in His strength, and to be enslaved to the enemy’s strongholds.

Frightening Words

June 9, 2009 at 8:33 am | Posted in Biblical Violence, Exodus | 14 Comments
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The Old Testament law, given by God to His people, was first presented to them with a great show of power. The noise and sights it produced caused great fear of its Giver. In fact, there were those present who feared that the Word of God would kill them.

And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.

Exodus 20:18-20

Today, Christians are “under grace,” not “the law.” (Romans 6:14) However, the law itself was given for God’s glory, and the people’s good. It inspired a fear which was a healthy reminder of the seriousness of obedience to God. The real problem was not Old Testament law. The real problem was – and it remains today – man’s sinful condition which kept him from keeping the law, thus pointing the way to our need for a Savior Who could truly save from sin. We have that Savior today in the resurrected Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Trust Him today, and be eternally saved!

Panicked Pressing

May 29, 2009 at 9:41 am | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical Violence, Luke | 7 Comments
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What would a person who is truly in danger of losing his life do to be saved? What about a person who is in danger of losing his eternal soul?

As Jesus taught and lived the Word and will of His Father, He was sometimes scorned and mocked by those who believed their religious rites, rituals, and self-righteous “good works” made them “too good” to repent of their sins. However, when John the Baptist came on the scene, announcing the entrance of Christ, even those who had been told by the religious elite that they had no hope of salvation began to see for the first time that the kingdom of God actually was open to them.

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

Luke 16:16

These men and women who “pressed in” included publicans, harlots, and sinners, who cast aside public perception and the lukewarm attitude of the falsely secure when they saw the Way of salvation. In their violent excitement they thrust themselves forward, and thrust the naysayers aside, rushing headlong, and storming the kingdom of God.

What if today men and women began to see their true peril? To realize that they needed a Savior more than they needed the approval of men or the sanction of a religious leader? Would not such an attitude stoke the fires of revival in a society that so seldom sees the dire consequences of going into eternity without the cleansing blood of Christ having been applied through receiving Christ personally as Savior?

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Mark 16:16

When God Condones Violence

May 18, 2009 at 9:52 am | Posted in Biblical Violence, Matthew | 13 Comments
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Bible scholars believe that John the Baptist first appeared on the scene approximately two years before Jesus made this exceptional statement about his ministry:

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.

Matthew 11:12

The word “suffereth” in this verse does not mean that the Kingdom of Heaven “suffers” in the sense of having pain or damage inflicted on it. Rather, “suffer” in the Bible means “to let” or “to allow” (Matthew 19:14). Christ is saying that the Kingdom of Heaven, although it is ruled over by the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), does make allowances for certain types of violence.

Chiefly, this is the violence of those who suddenly recognize their lost condition, and see their urgent need for a Savior. Under conviction of God’s Holy Spirit, these lost souls may be excused for having an unruly and even desperate desire to get to Jesus – He being the only Way (John 14:6) to get to the Father, and to escape the merited punishment for our sins.

Those who trusted Christ years ago certainly find a peace and a comfort in resting on the promises of God’s Word, and knowing their eternal inheritance is secure. However, it pays to remember the Kingdom of Heaven still suffers violence, and that there are times when we should desire the abiding presence of God on our lives so desperately that we become intensely serious about seeking His will and the filling of His Spirit.

The God-Mastered Man

May 4, 2009 at 3:59 pm | Posted in Biblical Violence, Genesis | 16 Comments
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God has a special relationship with the people and nation of Israel. There is no denying the importance of this relationship in the pages of Scripture and in God’s plans for the people of the world. However, not everyone agrees on the meaning of the name “Israel.” Some believe it means “struggler” or “wrestler with God.” Others believe it means “one with whom God strives” or “one ruled by God.”

We know from Genesis 32 that it is the name God gave to Jacob after he wrestled with the Lord. First, the Lord asked Jacob what his name was. Not because God didn’t know – God is omniscient! But because He was making a point. The name “Jacob” meant “heel grabber” or “supplanter,” with the connotation of one who struggles through trickery. Jacob had spent most of his life “wrestling:” wrestling with his brother, his father, his employer, even his wives.

Now Jacob was being taught a lesson about the reward of struggling to know God and to receive His blessings, and at the same time, the futility of struggling against God’s will. This is why the best translation of the name “Israel” might be “the God-mastered man.” A man who desperately wants more of God’s blessings, and has been broken by God, can truly be used by God to change the world.

And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

Genesis 32:26-28

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