A Fawning Farewell

August 8, 2017 at 4:51 pm | Posted in Q&A | 2 Comments
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Question: I don’t understand why the Egyptians would give the Israelites their gold and silver and jewels when they were leaving.

Answer: There are a couple of possible reasons found in Exodus 12:33-36. One, it could be that the Egyptians were anxious to get rid of them, since the plagues were obviously because of their presence in Egypt. They had come to recognize the truth: God was going to keep sending plagues until the Egyptians let them go, and they already thought of themselves as “dead men” because of all they had suffered. That is indicated by Verse 33.

And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.

Exodus 12:33

Giving them gifts was a way to encourage them to hurry up and leave.

Second, Verse 36 indicates that this was a supernatural phenomenon where the Lord simply made it so that the Egyptians “favored” the Israelites with gifts without fully understanding why they themselves were doing it.

And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.

Exodus 12:36

It says that they “spoiled” the Egyptians, which is language used when a victorious army takes away the property of a defeated army after a battle. The Irsaelites had won a war without lifting a finger (which means that God actually fought and won it for them).

There is another possibility which I stumbled upon while researching something else. Apparently all ancient cultures practiced some form of “exorcism” (casting out demons). In most cultures this was done by berating or commanding demons, trying to force them to come out of their hosts and leave. However, the form of exorcism practiced in ancient Egypt was quite different. Egyptians priests believed that the way to get rid of demons was to be extremely polite to them. This is pure speculation, but it is fun to imagine the Egyptians (wrongly believing that the children of Israel were under the influence of agents of Yahweh, whom they considered “demons”) trying to coax them to leave the land. “Would you mind taking my coat, sir? I shan’t need it anymore. Oh! and here you are mi’lady, please take this gold necklace and these silver earrings. We fixed you a canteen and a picnic basket for your trip into the wilderness. So sorry to see you go!”

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The Servant Prophet

August 4, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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Jesus the Servant was a Servant King, a Servant Judge, and a Servant Prophet. A true prophet teaches, but He stresses obedience. Prophetic teaching is about more than just imparting information. Many of us Christians are educated beyond our level of obedience. Jesus wants us to understand what He says, and to DO what He says.

What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

Mark 12:9

Why would the Lord of the vineyard do this? Because of what had been done to His servants, messengers, and his son:

And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.

Mark 12:1-8

If you’re rejecting one truth from God, you have no right to ask Him for a second truth to examine. The Jewish leaders rejected John the Baptist, so why were they examining the teaching of Jesus? Have you ever heard a professing Christian complain that, “I’m just not getting anything out of reading the Bible?” If we are not “getting anything” out of the Bible, it is because we are not “doing” what we do get.

A true prophet stresses obedience, and obedience brings responsibility. Prophets prophesy, but they don’t force people to act on their prophecies by putting a gun to their head or a sword to their neck. The responsibility to obey falls on the hearers.

And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

Mark 12:13-17

Caesar’s image is on Caesar’s money, so it belongs to Caesar. God’s image is on me, so I belong to God.

Head Knowledge

August 2, 2017 at 3:26 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 1 Comment
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I Corinthians Chapter 11 begins with a compliment (“now I praise you”) to offset the criticism of the previous chapters.

Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.

I Corinthians 11:1-2

Paul could exhort people to follow him because He followed Christ. The Holy Spirit had him praise the Corinthian Christians for remembering the ecclesiastical practices that he put in place among them when he was in Corinth, but he was also aware of a problem concerning what the women were wearing on their heads during church meetings.

But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.

I Corinthians 11:5

The women that were “prophesying” were not necessarily giving new revelation, but rather “proclaiming” the Word. Short hair on a woman in 1st Century Corinth was disgraceful. It was the sign of a prostitute or of a woman who had been sanctioned for immoral behavior. For Christian women, it showed a defiance of authority – of getting out of rank.

For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

I Corinthians 11:6

“Shorn” referred to a short, manly haircut; “shaven” meant completely bald. The women in church were not forbidden from prophesying OR praying. They were forbidden from getting out of rank. Men and women have equal standing before God, but different roles in church.

But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.

I Corinthians 11:3

Head coverings symbolized their submission. God is the head of Christ; Christ is the head of the man; the man is the head of the woman – in marriage and in church. Head coverings in Bible times symbolized submission and purity. Going to church without a head covering, for women, and especially daring to pray aloud or prophesy without it, was a show of defiance.

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

I Corinthians 11:7

There were symbols of the proper rank for BOTH men and women.

Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

I Corinthians 11:13-15

The symbol for men: short hair and no head covering. The symbol for women: long hair and head covering. Head coverings – either in the form of veils or hats – do not carry the same stigma today; they do not have the same symbolic meanings, although I would argue that hairstyles do carry symbolic meanings, and that it would be wise for men and women not to distort God’s ordained roles with hairstyles that are confusing. What a person has to say about his or her gender, these days, is more important than actual hair length. Modesty and distinction (Deuteronomy 22:5) should be the main criteria in our choices about our outward appearance.

Listening with One Ear

July 31, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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There was a time when God’s people were in captivity for a period of 70 years as chastening for their disobedience and idolatry. During that time, they formally fasted and wept in the fifth and seventh months of each year. These practices were done in obedience to God’s law, but they were done halfheartedly, and God was not deceived.

Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?

Zechariah 7:5-6

How often are we guilty of observing some type of religious routine without really doing it for the Lord? Have you ever read your Bible or done your devotions with only half of your mind engaged? Doing the assignment or reading the regularly scheduled passage without really listening for the voice of God to speak to you personally? How often do we sit through church sermons with one ear attuned to the preaching of God’s Word and the other ear tuned to other matters, drifting in and out of attentiveness as though we were attending a history lecture or a math lesson while waiting for the school bell to ring?

There is a real danger that, in our selfishness and laziness, we will miss out on what God wants us to know. His Work and His Spirit were not given for our amusement and they are not optional if we are to live victorious Christian lives. God has given us a great gift in being able to listen to His voice through the reading, preaching, and teaching of His Word. The consequences of listening casually without really hearing can be dire.

But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts: But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.

Zechariah 7:11-14

A man with only one ear engaged when God is speaking may not necessarily hear half as MUCH as the man with two ears, but the problem is that he only hears half as WELL.

The Servant King and Servant Judge

July 27, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Posted in Mark, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Jesus Christ was the greatest servant of all time, but He is also the greatest King. A worldly king receives honor by making his people suffer, but the Servant King suffers FOR His own people. Jesus allowed a public demonstration in His honor knowing it would bring about His suffering and death.

And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.

March 11:1-6

At first glance, this looks like a God-condoned car-jacking! Can you imagine just walking up to a stranger’s car (or this case, his donkey), and driving it (leading it) away – and when the owner says, “Hey, what are you doing?” you tell him, “Jesus told me to do it!” Actually, this wasn’t a theft because the owners actually gave their consent based on the Disciples’ explanation.

And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed [them] in the way. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:

Mark 11:7-9

“Hosanna” meant “save now.” The crowd meant it politically and militarily, but Jesus was fulfilling it prophetically and soteriologically. The culmination of His eternal plan of redemption was going into action NOW.

Jesus was also a Judge, and now He acted as the Servant Judge.

And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;

Mark 11:15

He cleansed the Temple, which had become a den of thieves and a place for the religious leaders to hide and conceal what they were really doing. Jesus served in judgment by cleansing the place where “undesirable” people were supposed to worship – poor people and Gentiles – because these people were being exploited and kept from drawing nearer to God by the religious leaders. Is the local church that you belong to in line for this sort of judgment? Is it a house of merchandise or a house of prayer? Has it become a place to exploit people, or is it a place for people to meet and worship God?

Adiaphora and Analyzing Ambiguous Activities

July 24, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Posted in I Corinthians | 1 Comment
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Adiaphora is a word used in Christian theology to describe activities about which it would be questionable for Christians to participate, even if such activities are not explicitly condemned or forbidden in Scripture. The word had a connotation in its original Greek and Latin contexts of things about which it “makes no difference.” It should be noted that, when it comes to a Christian’s conscience, and the the principles and precepts about which the Bible speaks, Scripture is not as silent on as many behaviors as most people think. And while there are certainly things which are what we would call “morally neutral,” especially things having to do with purely personal preferences and tastes (such as whether a church building should have chairs or pews, and whether a man’s hair should be parted on the side, in the middle, or at all), there are other matters (whether a Christian should get a tattoo or buy a raffle ticket) about which we should think (and pray!) carefully, and do an exhaustive study on what the Bible might or might not have to say about them, before making a decision. One danger when dealing with adiaphora is that we fall into the trap of legalism, condemning things which are permissible under our Christian liberty, but another danger is that we seek to justify behavior that we happen to like in our flesh on the basis that it is not spelled out word-for-word as sinful in the Bible.

We looked last time at some important considerations in this regard in I Corinthians Chapter 10. Now we will continue with some specific steps that can be utilized in analyzing whether we, as Christians, should participate in ambiguous activities.

1. Will this activity capture my heart or mind, or create a physical addiction?

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

I Corinthians 6:12

2. Will my participation in this activity cause someone else to stumble, or will it build someone else up?

Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

I Corinthians 8:13

3. Will it make ME stumble, or will it build up MY testimony or fellowship with God?

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

I Corinthians 10:23

4. Will this activity bring glory to God, no matter how much I enjoy it?

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

I Corinthian 10:31

5. Will this activity help or hinder my evangelistic efforts?

Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

I Corinthians 10:33

Does “Everyone” Include Satan?

July 21, 2017 at 10:01 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: We were telling our children that God loves everyone, but then they asked, “Does God love the devil?” What should I tell them?

Answer: First of all, you are correct in telling them that God loves everyone “in the world” (John 3:16). Of course, we also need to let our children know that God loves in greater ways than we do, and that God is so much greater than, and different from us, that it is possible for Him to harmonize His will and His feelings in ways that are not possible for us. In other words, God’s feelings are perfectly controlled, and are more holy than ours, so it is possible for Him to love His enemies (Romans 5:8) and hate His enemies (Psalm 5:5, 11:5) at the same time.

When it comes to the devil (and the angels for that matter), the Bible does not give us specific information on God’s “feelings” about them. He created them, and the angels obey Him, which must please Him, and He is love (I John 4:8), so it is possible that He loves them, but the Bible never really emphasizes that, as far as I know. Satan and his demons, on the other hand, disobeyed Him, and He cast them out, and He has not devised a plan of redemption for them the way that He has for us fallen human beings, so it is probably reasonable to say that God does not love them in the same way that He loves us (if He loves them at all).

What I would emphasize to children is that the devil made a horrible choice in trying to make himself equal to God (Isaiah 14:12-14) and he paid for it. Still, he does not want to be forgiven. He hated God first without a cause, and that will never change. Our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, committed the same sin: disobedience and self-idolatry (and, sadly, we still do it too, every day). But the fact that God was still willing to die for us, and forgive us, shows how great His love for us truly is. Meanwhile, no matter what His feelings toward Satan are, because He loves us, He will one day imprison Satan forever and ever in order to protect us from him (Revelation 20:3-10).

Moving toward the Immovable

July 19, 2017 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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We use the word “move” not only to describe a physical action involving going from one area to another, but also to describe something that stirs an emotional reaction in us. “That song was beautiful. It really moved me.” Or, “I was moved to tears at the sight of my newborn daughter.” In the Bible, however, the word “moved” is sometimes combined with a negative prefix to describe something which can not be shaken loose, or something that is unassailable or someone that is unchangeable in his convictions or determination. The Kingdom of God is an especially pertinent example.

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

Hebrews 12:28

No kingdom will ever supplant or replace the Kingdom of God. He shall reign and rule forever. Those of us who – in Christ alone – are subjects and heirs of this Kingdom have access to the grace of God, and, therefore, the power to likewise be unmovable in our service to God.

However, we must remember that a King Who rules a Kingdom which can not be moved is a mighty and awe-inspiringly powerful King, so our service to Him must never be cavalier or casual. He is worthy to be loved, yes, but He is also infinitely worthy to be reverenced and feared.

For our God is a consuming fire.

Hebrews 12:29

Moses moved toward the bush which burned with fire but was NOT consumed. We have the amazing opportunity to move toward the fire which WILL consume all those who would pass it by in indifference or unfaithfulness. Even as we are moved with terror at His blazing majesty, we are invited to move nearer and nearer. This is a King in Whom safety is found not by fleeing away, but by drawing closer and closer in the grace of His Holy Prince, Jesus.

What about Those Who Haven’t Heard?

July 14, 2017 at 9:36 am | Posted in Q&A | Leave a comment
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Question: If there’s an isolated community/tribe that has little to no contact with the outside world, and have never heard of the Lord, how are they judged on Judgment Day?

Answer: Let’s start by thinking about the reason for God’s judgment in general. For what is He judging anyone and everyone? As noted in the Children’s Bible Catechism, specifically questions 6,7, and 8, and the Bible verses that answer them, people are judged for sinning against God.

So how can people be guilty of sinning against a God about Whom they’ve never heard, and by breaking laws they did not know existed? The answer is found in Romans Chapter 1, starting in Verse 18: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;”

Everyone in the world knows that there is a God. They may not know His name, but His external creation and their own inner consciences reveal that He exists and that some things are “right” and some things are “wrong.” Sinful people have access to this truth, but “hold it unrighteousness,” which means they try to suppress it or hold it down by pretending it isn’t really there.

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

Romans 1:19

This attempt to suppress whatever revelation of truth that a person has received is, in itself, also a sin, which means that no one has a valid “excuse” for rejecting God and His revelation of Himself and His “wrath” against sin:

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Romans 1:20

Those of us who live in America often think of rejecting Christ as the sin which would condemn us on Judgment Day, and it would definitely be one of the sins (probably the worst) for which we would be judged. But rejecting Christ is not the only sin which will merit judgment on Judgment Day. Those who die apart from Christ will also be judged for lying and stealing and immoral thoughts and immoral actions and covetousness and idolatry and many, many more sins. Romans 3:23 tells us that everyone does these things, but Romans 1 tells us that the people who do them KNOW that they are wrong even if they don’t have immediate access to a Bible or the name of Jesus.

One reason why it is so important to try to get missionaries and the Gospel to remote people groups – from the Inuit people in the Arctic, to villages in Togo, West Africa, and everywhere else – is so that they can hear the Truth that Christ is their only hope for forgiveness. A heart that has been “darkened” (Romans 1:21) needs special “illumination” from the Word of God.

Blind Beggar Boldly Beats Bandwagoners

July 12, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Posted in Mark | 2 Comments
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In Mark Chapter 10 we have been identifying some paradoxical ideas that Jesus used in His teaching:

1. Two shall be one.
2. Adults shall be as little children.

3. The first shall be last.
4. Servants shall be rulers.

A fifth paradox found in Chapter 10 is: Beggars shall be rich.

And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

Mark 10:46-48

When you read about “Blind Bartimaeus” there is a tendency to cheer for him that way you would for the underdog in a sports movie like Rocky or Rudy, except in Bartimaeus’s case even the crowd was against him. Yet, despite all the odds, he wouldn’t give up.

And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee.

Mark 10:49

Of course, once he did attract Jesus’s favorable attention, the crowd DID start to cheer for him. People are fickle – God is faithful.

All five of these paradoxes help to show how Jesus the Servant was paradoxically the greatest King of all, and that He truly deserves OUR service.

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