What does the Bible say?

Love, be hospitiable, be wise!

Looking Ahead

Life is Fleeting

God's Word is Eternal!

God is My strength and Power

And He makes my way perfect.

God's Promises!

God's Grace!

Does radical Christianity make you extreme?

Laying up treasures in heaven

God's word Will Never Change!

The Sifted Generation: Tested, Tried, and Found True

The Sifting is Already in Progress. Jesus knows those who are His - So does the enemy!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Does God Change His Mind?

God's majesty is never ending   

This topic is not a new issue. It has been written about by theologians much smarter than I on numerous occasions. The reason I am taking it up, is because there are still articles and books being printed that would like you to believe that God is not truly immutable (unchanging) because our actions can change God's will in response to our prayers. Therefore, because of this, I will write this in two parts. Let me first ask that you please read this prayerfully. Ask God for wisdom. If what I write flies in the face of everything you have been taught or, true biblical/classical/orthodox theology, then weigh the two in the balance and let God's word be the judge.

First of all, the Bible teaches that God is "immutable." This is defined as His unchangeable nature. Nelson's puts it this way: "a characteristic of God signifying that He does not change in His basic nature (Mal. 3:6). In Him, “there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). God does not “mutate” from being one kind of God to being another, nor is He subject to the limitations of time and space, since in Christ He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3)."1 Theologian, Norman Geisler concurs:
The biblical basis for God’s unchangeability is found in numerous texts. Consider the following: “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind” (Num. 23:19). “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind” (1 Sam. 15:29). “They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.… But you remain the same, and your years will never end” (Ps. 102:26–27; cf. Heb. 1:10–12). “God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie …” (Heb. 6:18). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). “Resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time” (Titus 1:2). “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

It is clear from these verses that not only does God not change, but it is also impossible for Him to change. There are things He cannot do, namely, He cannot act contrary to His immutable (unchangeable) nature.2
Yet, if this is so, why do so many teach that by living "positively" (not allowing any negative thoughts to surface in our minds or actions), we can change God's direction in our lives? This is more a teaching of Eastern Mystical Religion and Hinduism (involving "karma," good or bad) than the Bible. How did this slip in to our churches? There are also those believers who by their so-called "faith statements" ignore Psalm 139:16, "Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them." This passage simply tells us that God has already seen our days being the one who fashioned them. In other words, they have already been ordained by God. When Jesus spoke of faithlessness, anxiety, and worry, He told us to consider the lilies of the field "which neither toil nor spin" yet they are clothed just as God desires (Matt. 6:28-29). Toiling and spinning in a believers life, are nothing more than physical and emotional labors spent to bring events to bear that fit into what we desire—deeming it better than what an immutable (unchanging - all knowing) God knows to be good for us. God does not desire we toil and spin, He desires we trust and wait.

Now, we come to the topic of prayer. I recently read a devotional by Robert Morris, which either knowingly or unknowingly, promotes what is known in the theological world as "Open Theism" (see footnote3). His devotional at one point stated: "When the Bible says that God is unchangeable, however, it isn’t saying that God doesn’t change His mind. It is saying that God doesn’t change His character. God cannot and will not change His character. He is who He is. But according to Scripture, He can and will change His mind!"4 Morris goes on to list three examples where he believes God changed his mind, Genesis 18:16-33 (Abraham's conversation with God concerning destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the number of righteous in the cities), Exodus 32:9-10, 14 (God's desire to destroy the rebellious nation of Israel), and Jonah 3:4, 4:2 (God's staying of judgment against Nineveh). In each of the cases, Morris quotes a passage where it seems to state that God changed His mind or would change His mind given certain criteria. Morris reasons that in each case either prayer or repentance was the determinant moving God to change His mind.

So, how are we to approach such biblical passages as Morris quotes? They certainly seem to speak of God changing His mind. But do they really teach this? Before we go any further, take a moment to consider Millard Erickson's thoughts on a changing God's mind and our experience with Him:
This idea of divine changelessness is also supported by personal religious experience, for God is depicted as never failing those who trust in him (Deut. 31:6, 8; Josh. 1:5; Isa. 43:1–2; 49:15–16; Heb. 13:5). Such faithfulness, however, requires an unchanging and unchangeable God, for if he could change, how could we trust him and obey his commands unreservedly?5
Erickson's words bring peace to the one who is seeking it because he dares not make the Lord God out to be a fickle, waffling Creator, instead we can trust Him because we know His promises are sure. In a word, "trust," is what all believers must have in their relationship to God. Also, if our Lord is not omniscient (all knowing, Psalm 139:1-12), then He would be always gadding about to see what our next move would be! This being the case, let's answer Morris' thesis that God can be influenced to change His position through prayer and or obedient actions.

Remember Morris' words. He stated, God does not change His character, but, "God will change His mind." This is based upon an open theist or free-will theist supposition that God does not know all of the future (he is not omniscient or all-knowing). He can only know some of it, because He cannot know what humanity (having a free-will) will ever do. Therefore, if we choose to pray and have faith then we (the creature), possess the power to coerce the Creator and make Him act according to our will. Listen to how Morris draws the reader into his tempting persuasion:
So we learn that God is immutable and will never, ever change His character. But He can and will change His mind when His people pray. And when we pray, we can remind Him of His unchanging character [persuasion]. He has always been and will always be compassionate. He has always been merciful, He is merciful at this very moment, and He will be that way right into eternity.6
In the above, Morris tells the reader that through prayer and persuasion and by reminding God of His character, God will be moved to answer our prayer and change circumstances. Now do not get me wrong, I think it is very biblical to tell God you are aware of His character as revealed in the Bible. Where I falter is in using it as a tool of persuasion. It is kind of like, putting God between "a rock and a hard-spot." You are trying to force Him to act in a way incompatible to His nature. The key word being, "force."

The downside of this way of thinking is this: If I have the power to persuade God, by reminding Him of His character, and He does not do what I ask, then I must be a flawed, weak, faithless, unloved, and insignificant negative person in God's eyes. But is that true? No, not according to orthodox theology and the classic biblical view. On the contrary, the Bible (Jesus) teaches that you are of more worth than the smallest sparrow. "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Mat 10:29-31, emphasis mine). This simple passage teaches that God is omniscient (all knowing) and that if He is aware of when a sparrow dies (his will) how much more is He aware of us and our day-to-day activities. We are worth more than the sparrow.

So, we have a choice to make concerning our theology and our biblical worldview. (1) We can believe that our prayer coerces God to act because He never knows our future and must be coerced to act in mercy according to our request, knowing when we do, there is a risk of becoming entrapped to a depressive "God must not love me" because He does not answer my prayer attitude, launching worry and anger, or, (2) We can believe that God loves us infinitely and knows what is best for us. His will be done, not mine. That He does have each of our days numbered (He has seen them), and that His knowledge of what is best for me is better than my greatest wishes for myself. This is so because, God's will for believers is transformation into the likeness of Christ not God transfoming into the likeness of me. Remember Romans 8:29: "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (emphasis mine). If transformation and conforming to change into what Christ desires us to be was left up to us, it would never happen. Face it, we are more selfish than we sometimes think. Besides, we were created to serve God, not God be our servant. Believing we can coerce God into doing what we desire, presumes we also perfectly know what God's will for our future is. But do we?

Before you read and take something at face value, practice pausing a second to consider, whether what you are being told is true to Scripture. God is working in and through us and He alone knows the direction He has laid out for our lives. We need to join Him in His work, not He join us in our work.
Prayer??? God answers prayer according to His will. He asks us to wait upon Him for the answer.

To close, consider another devotional entry, this time by O. S. Hawkins, on waiting:
First, we have to wait for the sunrise. We cannot hurry it. It does not rise any sooner if I move the hour hand on my watch. Second, the sun always rises. We never wait in vain for the sun. Every sunset since time began has been followed by a sunrise — and God is just as faithful as the sun He created. Those who wait on Him are like those who “watch for the morning.” He is always right on time, and no matter how desperate we may be, we can count on god to rise and meet us according to His perfect timing.

Worry does not change what God is going to do, instead, it makes the path to getting there painful.
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [provision for our needs] shall be added to you. — Matthew 6:337

____________
1 Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, Thomas Nelson Publishers, eds., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995).

2 Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Two: God, Creation (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 74–75.

3 Open Theism or free-will theism purports the belief "that God does not know future free actions of human beings so that the future is to Him uncertain." (Steve Wellum, “God,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary [Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003], 660.) Interestingly, this belief is very similar to the Islamic analogue, "Al-Qadiriyyah, [which] contends that people possess complete control over their actions and that even God lacks knowledge of what humans will freely choose to do (Piamenta, Islam, 147–49)." (Kirk R. MacGregor, “Predestination,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016]. Therefore, God acts in response to our actions.

4 Robert Morris, "Why Keep Praying? God Changes His Mind," Devotionals Daily, March 28, 2017, accessed March 29, 2017, http://contentz.mkt4728.com/mson/2017/03/29/sIwcvYyMoff0/index.html.

5 Millard J. Erickson, God the Father Almighty: A Contemporary Exploration of the Divine Attributes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 70.

6 Morris, "Why Keep Praying"

7 O. S. HAwkins, "What Good Does Worry Do?" Devotionals Daily, March 30, 2017, accessed March, 31, 2017, http://www.faithgateway.com/what-good-does-worry-do/#.WN4vx2e1vZ

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Refugee's and the Christian Responsibility






The refugee crisis in our world today, has sparked a lot of talk concerning the Christian's responsibility toward foreigners. Because it seems to be a touchy subject for some, I would like to come at it from a non-biased point of view. Pointedly, I want to highlight a few important passages that I believe offer an honest understanding of the topic.

People, in general, do not ever like to be wrong. Some will go as far as only providing one side of a story to prove their point, even if they know the other side to be true as well. This can be seen in politics and main stream journalism all the time. The truth is censured based upon what side you want to support. Although this is unbalanced, and unfair, it seems to be easier than trying to sort through both sides and come up with a rationale that satisfies all. That said, there are many factors that motivate a person to stand for this or that, or to side with this person or another. Balance and truth is what I desire to present today, showing that in order for truth to be truth we must avoid half truths. 

What does the Bible say that can be applied to the believer when it comes to international refugees and our responsibility?

1) Concerning hospitality: "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" (1Pet. 4:9). (see also Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8) I have chosen this verse because it seems to be one of the obvious choice passages used to defend allowing a stranger into our home or even simply serving him/her. It strikes at the heart of service, and no true Christian can deny that we are called to serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13). This includes refugees.

2) Concerning Christian love: "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,' you do well" (James 2:8). This will be the most quoted verse when it comes to service toward refugees. It is clear and concise. It is mentioned twice in the Old Testament, Lev. 19:18; Zech. 8:17. It is mentioned eight times in the New Testament, Matt. 4:43-44, 19:19, 22:39, 12:31; Luke 10:27; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; and James 2:8. The question most associated with this passage came from the lips of a religious lawyer in Luke 10. In verse 27 Jesus quoted from the old law, something a religious lawyer would be well aware of, considering interpreting the law was his responsibility. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27). The lawyer then replied, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus' reply was with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:30-37.

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”1
 


One of the many points of the parable is that my neighbor is anyone who is in need. In this case, a Samaritan (foreigner), one despised by the Jews, was the one who helped out the unnamed man. Something, most likely, the lawyer in question was lacking. Therefore, we are called to love all people not just those of our own nationality.

3) Concerning safety: "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into" (Luke 12:39). In this command of Jesus, concerning the spiritual state of believers, and in reference to the return of the Lord, we are told to always be aware and alert to the Lord's coming, which could happen at any time. Those who are not watchful are in a dilapidated spiritual state and are like the unwise master of the house who allowed the thief to break in and wreak havoc.


The argument could be made that the Lord recognizes that to live wisely means to live in such a way that we are hospitable to all people, that we love all people, but that we also be proper stewards of what we own, which includes security and safeguards. Not allowing our homes to be broken into is not just so that our belongings will not be stolen, but more certainly, that our loved ones are not harmed in the process.

So then, biblically speaking, I think a case can be made for putting proper (as opposed to improper or unreasonable) safeguards in place to protect our country from external danger. Does this mean we live scared? No. not at all. Does this mean we snub those that are already here? No, on the contrary, we love and serve as Jesus did. It also does not mean we hold up everyone who wants to enter the US for the sake of a few. However, it does mean that it is wise to properly vett those who are coming over illegally in order to make sure we are not allowing danger to sit on our couch. There is nothing wrong or unwise about that. We can love, serve with hospitality, and still safeguard our homes or country with out being labeled a hater.

     1The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Lk 10:30–37.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Life's Reminisces and Future Glory




The image above reminds me of my childhood Kansas. Every winter my brothers and I would go down to a wooded patch behind our home where a low-lying seep would freeze over in winter to make our very own skating rink. We were not wealthy enough to have ice skates, and it didn't matter, our boots sufficed just fine. For hours on end we would skate or play stick hockey, all the time being so thankful that winter had come. For us winter was special. It allowed a closer time to bond together as siblings and to appreciate things such as a home and heat to warm it, hot soup, and of course snow...and in Kansas we got plenty! 

Those days are gone just like the year that has just passed. I no longer live in Kansas, but Illinois. Nevertheless, the childhood memories will linger and I do hope that all of us can find something to be thankful for in our past.

Here in Illinois, Christmas passed us as fast as it arrived and the New Year has now come. We are all anticipating how the Lord will use us in this coming year. As I think about this I wonder what thoughts passed through Mary's mind as she held the Lord Jesus in her arms. Christmas, at least as we celebrate it, would have passed and the days that followed were before her. All she may have known for sure was what had been revealed to her by the angel Gabriel (Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2). Did she know that wise-men would come from the East bearing gifts for the Babe? Did she know that shortly after she brought the Lord into this world, that the family would be soon whisked off into Egypt? I wonder if she wondered if they would ever make it back to Nazareth of Galilee? Her life and that of the Lord Jesus was purely providential at this early time. Of course, we know the many prophecies that foretold His birth and I suppose she was also aware or, at least, made aware of them as well. But even still, with much of the life of Jesus laid out in the Old Testament, she, being human, may have wondered "what did" and "what did not" apply to the future life of her Son. Its kind of like us knowing the Lord is to one day come with the clouds, whisk His church to heaven, then return to earth to set up His millennial kingdom; we still wonder about when it will be and even squabble about the particulars. But one thing I am sure of, Mary, knew her life was in God's hands and that the miracle produced in her womb would one day rule the world. This she expresses in her song:


Luke 1:46–55 (NKJV)

46 And Mary said:

My soul magnifies the Lord,

47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,

And holy is His name.

50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him

From generation to generation.

51 He has shown strength with His arm;

He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,

And exalted the lowly.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things,

And the rich He has sent away empty.

54 He has helped His servant Israel,

In remembrance of His mercy,

55 As He spoke to our fathers,

To Abraham and to his seed forever.

It is my prayer for all, and for all who read this, that you will place your faith solidly in the hands of Jesus, the Creator of the world and the universe, the Savior and Lord over this world and for all who will believe in Him. The angel said "...you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1;21). 

We maybe clueless as to the outcome of the days ahead, but we will never be alone if we will place our faith in the Son of God, Jesus, who also promised to all who believe, "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Heb. 13:5; Josh. 1:5). With Him, the days ahead will one day be memories of our childhood, and we will look back and say "Great is the Lord" and like Mary, "who is mighty has done great things for me." 

God Bless you and 2017


Friday, November 11, 2016

A Salute to Veterans



To all my fellow veterans, active, retired, and having served, I salute you for your gallantry, professionalism, ethic, heroism, sacrifice, and love for the our nation. It has been your dedication to God and country that has compelled you to step up when our national security and interests were threatened. When the oppressed around the world cry out it has been the US Service members who have gone to their rescue. When called upon you never shied away. You stood strong and proud. For this and so much more I salute you and pray the Lord's blessing upon our nation and upon you and your families. May the USA consider to prosper. May we continue to be the right arm of the outcast lifting them from harms way. May we continue to persist in our support of what is right over what is wrong. May we continue to wave the banner of old glory proudly for all that she has stood for.

God Bless the USA!

Happy Veterans Day!

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Sifted Heart and It's Lord



The "Prince of Preachers," Charles Spurgeon, was not a stranger to spiritual sifting in his day. He once wrote of how the Bible speaks of it in the following way:

  “For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.”—Amos 9:9.

The sifting process is going on still. Wherever we go, we are still being winnowed and sifted. In all countries God’s people are being tried “like as corn is sifted in a sieve.” Sometimes the devil holds the sieve, and tosses us up and down at a great rate, with the earnest desire to get rid of us for ever. Unbelief is not slow to agitate our heart and mind with its restless fears. The world lends a willing hand at the same process, and shakes us to the right and to the left with great vigour. Worst of all, the church, so largely apostate as it is, comes in to give a more furious force to the sifting process.
Well, well! let it go on. Thus is the chaff severed from the wheat. Thus is the wheat delivered from dust and chaff. And how great is the mercy which comes to us in the text, “yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth”! All shall be preserved that is good, true, gracious. Not one of the least of believers shall be lost, neither shall any believer lose anything worth calling a loss. We shall be so kept in the sifting that it shall be a real gain to us through Christ Jesus.1

What is amazing about Amos' text and Spurgeon's sentiments is that all who are true believers need not worry on that final day, for it is Christ who upholds the faithful. The chaff mixed in with the wheat will have long since been swished away by the sifting breeze of the winnow and the sharp slice of the divine scythe. Only those intimately acquainted by the blood of Christ will be found in His mercy--yes, from the wafting wisp of the dimly burning flax of a believer, to the ambassador for Christ on mission--all will be saved on that day.

Although we can rejoice in these facts, it is no secret that this sifting of the church is taking place right before our eyes. The true believers are making a stand and the false are on the sidelines. Self-gratification has gripped the hearts of Western civilization even to the point that many believe they do not need the Lord.

Dear church-goer, please make sure your salvation is sure. Please make sure you are in the faith. Here are a few litmus tests:

  • Have you  turned your heart over to Jesus?  - John 1:12-13
  • Do you put Him first in your life? - Col. 1:18
  • Do you love the saints? - John 13:35; 1 John 4:20-21
  • Do you practice lawlessness firsthand? Continually? - Matt. 13:41, 23:28; 1 John 3:4
  • Do you strive to keep the commandments of Christ? Dan. 9:4; John 14:21
  • Does the "Fruit of the Spirit" exude from your life? - Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 5:8-11
  • Do you actively lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven? - Matt. 6:19-21, 19:21
  • Do you love the world and it's dimming glimmer more than the luster of heaven? - 1 John 2:15-16, 4:4; Matt. 6:24
  • Do you consider yourself an alien in the world? - Phil. 3:20; Heb. 11:13; Eph. 2:19; 1 Pet. 2:11

These are not exhaustive and are only meant to take you to a place of consideration. It is a known fact that in the church today there are many who profess to be Christians but are only deceiving themselves. It is my sincere desire to see all believers turn fully to Jesus. Consider this: Jesus said, "Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" 2 All this passage is really saying is there are many who are lying to themselves. But on that day no lie will stand even though one is proffered. We must remember, "For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light."3 the Apostle Paul echoes this with, "In the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel."4

The best time for sifting the heart and the church is now, while there is still time to repent and turn to God. For on that final day when the world stands before God, time will be spent, and salvation will no longer be available, (Rev. 20:11-15). What stops you from doing this now? What holds you back from the inheritance of eternity with Christ and life-everlasting?





1- C. H. Spurgeon, The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith: Being Precious Promises Arranged for Daily Use with Brief Comments (New York: American Tract Society, 1893), 267.
2 - The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Mt 7:22–23.
3 - Mark 4:22
4 - The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ro 2:16.

The Sifted Generation on Kindle $3.99


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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Day Truth is Taken Captive Pt. 2


This is a wake-up message. 

In pre-exilic Judah, there was a spiritual famine in the land. In Pt. 1, we looked at how their worship had become mechanical and self-centered. It was a pitiful sight. Worship and personal devotion had become drudgery and they were not living out what their lips said they believed. The death knell was sounding and on the wind its peal echoed with the distant vibration of approaching enemy hoof beats. Truth was inflight and its surrogate had settled in. God was not pleased.  If Isaiah 58 warns of the impending consequence in forgetting God, Isaiah 59 exposes the impossibility of a return.

How did Jesus see mechanical and non-committal worship?
In repudiation of the rigid, merciless, and unloving way the religious leaders carried out their practice of worship and consecrated living, Jesus stated twice in the Gospels, "I desire mercy and not sacrifice" (Matt. 9:13, 12:7). Here is why. In Matt. 9, Jesus was condemned for eating with tax collectors and sinnersthe outcasts of Jewish "spiritual" circlesthe unclean. In Matt. 12, He is called out for allowing His disciples to pluck heads of grain to quell their hunger on the Sabbath. In both cases, and in God's eyes, mercy had encountered the necessities of life. Despised as he was, the outcast tax collector encounters mercy as one born in the image of God and as equally valued as any other who needs spiritual life. The hungry disciples pit physical sustenance as a qualifier for receiving God's mercy. In both cases, God meets the needs and lifts truth from its fallen state to make it meaningful, loving, refreshing, and sustainable. Instead of the heavy burden of heretical and dry religious interpretation being flung oppressively on the people, Jesus showed that proper faith and proper interpretation would balance holiness with mercy. A beautiful lesson in love and wise judgment. Jesus taught that the law was never meant to overrule mercy and grace.

In the West today, we are also facing a war on truth
Os Guinness, in writing of the death of of Judeo/Christian ethics in the West states the following:

But we can say with an organic certainty, which is as sure as any mathematical certainty, that the growth and the flowers that they [Christianity] once produced will eventually die. Cut-flower civilization? The destruction of a root system and a moral ecology? A civilization without a soul? We could give more sophisticated names to this crisis. We might call it a “legitimation crisis” or a “crisis of cultural authority” in that the beliefs and ideas that once inspired and drove the West have been repudiated and have almost lost their compelling power.1

Sadly, Os is correct. Christianity is waning, but not because all Christians have abandoned truth, but because Christianity is seen as a burden on the hedonistic, liberal, and humanistic religious philosophies of darkness. Truth is still preached and truth is still lived out, but the unbelieving world is not listening. God's truth is being suppressed in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18, 28).

Tipping points
The lesson of Judah (and previously, the Ten Tribes to the north of Judah) is when a nation forgets God and becomes self-serving, placing unrighteous living over what is right for the preservation of civility and society, God abandons that society to its own preservation. In Judah, because truth had lost its persuasiveness, what God desired to give to Judah He could no longer do. Consequently, what would eventually become of these truth slayers was exile. Instead of being a servant of their own pastures they would now serve over the pastures of foreigners. Isa. 59 justifies the Lord in His allowing the future exile of Judahit shows He means business. Truth had fallen and those responsible for disseminating that truth would fall with it.

Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear  Isaiah 59:1-2

How sad. Hypocrisy, power, narcissism, a lack of love and dozens of other reasons caused Israel to become merciless in their devotion to God. To borrow from Os Guinness, our society today is their "cut-flower" society of old. If the end of Judah, as they knew it, was the captivity of darkness to the external forces of Babylon, what will the end of the West be, but a fall into the exilic captivity of current spiritual forces of darkness. As the snake slithers under the threshold of the church so shall the viper slay the one preparing its pit under the altar

In a few words, the Lord tells them that He can hear and that He can save, but their iniquities, which include the trampling of truth, morality, ethics, and justice, had raised obstacles to His love. In Noah's day, God gave the world 120 years to repent (Gen. 6:3). After that, His longsuffering mercy was lifted. He had had all He could take (Gen. 6:3, 5, 6). In His wrath all but Noah and his family died in the flood. MacArthur writes of the type of judgment which would befall Judah calling it the "wrath of abandonment." Writing on Romans 1, He states, "God's wrath is already at work in our culture.  We're not waiting for it, folks.  We're in it.  "That's a pretty bold statement, what makes you say that?"  Scripture here proves it.  Look at verse [Rom. 1:] 24, "Therefore God gave them over."  Verse 26, "For this reason, God gave them over."  Verse 28, middle of the verse: "God gave them over."  Now, in verse 18, he says, "The wrath of God is revealed."2 

This is the same type wrath that is hanging over the West.
Below is a simple outline and some commentary on Isa. 59

I. The Lord is able to Hear and Save but Judah's sin impedes it (59:1-2)

II The People are Guilty as Charged (59:3-13)
   i. Accusations attested (59:3-4)
  ii  Descriptions of their Sin and Rebellion (59:5-8)
 iii  Confessions of Sin and Recognition of Consequence (59:9-15a) - Truth has Fallen - Fled


"In transgressing and lying against the LORD, And departing from our God, Speaking oppression and revolt, Conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, And equity cannot enter. So truth fails, And he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him That there was no justice" (Isaiah 59:13-15)

 

When truth is fully suppressed through apathy toward God and continual rebellion and injustice, the hammer falls. 

It is here that Judah (and Israel) lost its independence as a free nation. Soon they would be lamenting their captivity as Psalm 137 indicates:

Psalm 137:1–4 (NKJV)
1 By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.


2 We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.


3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested mirth,
Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”


4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song
In a foreign land?

The outline continues with HOPE!

III.  Eschatological Promises (future) (59:15b-21
   i.  By His Own Arm God would bring Salvation (59:16) 

Isaiah 59:16 (NKJV)
16 He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.


The inauguration of the New Covenant (Heb. 10:16-17) would begin after Jesus was crucified where He signed the covenant in His blood on the cross. He arose from deaths grip to validate its authority. This covenant was extended to all people, through the church, and is still in effect today. One day soon, the recipients of God's grace, His church, will rise to glory (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Thereafter, this Covenant will be extended to cover national of Israel during the days prior to Jesus returning to the earth at His second coming, where as Rom. 11:26 states, "All Israel will be saved." (Rom 11:25, 26; Zech. 12:10, 13:9).

Concerning All Israel being saved, Norman Geisler writes:

A consistent, straightforward reading of this passage [...] yields several crucial facts.

  • First, the messianic kingdom of Israel had not yet been fulfilled.
  • Second, God would restore the kingdom to Israel at a yet future time.
  • Third, this will not occur until after Jesus returns.
  • Fourth, there is not the slightest hint that any spiritual kingdom had replaced these prophecies.
  • Fifth, the Old Testament promises were not just for Israel but also for their literal descendants, whom Peter calls “heirs” of the promises.
  • Sixth, and finally, these covenants made by God include an unconditional promise for Israel to inherit forever the Holy Land, from Egypt to the Euphrates (Gen. 15:18).3
Outline cont.
ii  Sin will be Judged and Justice will be Legislated (59:17-18)

Isaiah 59:17–18 (NKJV)

17 For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,
And was clad with zeal as a cloak.


18 According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay,
Fury to His adversaries,
Recompense to His enemies;
The coastlands He will fully repay.
 


From the passage note the uniform of war: 
* Breastplate - Righteousness (Pure righteousness when executed is justice in action - Rev. 19:11)
* Helmet - Salvation originates from the top down. Pictures complete readiness. No one goes to physical war without his helmet and neither can spiritual battle be fought without first enlisting on the side of righteousness (Messiah- Jesus).
* Garments - The uniform of vengeance - Identifies Jesus coming as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to "tread the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" against all oppression and iniquity (Rev. 19:15-16)
* Zeal - Cloaked and covered in a love for truth and justice - This pictures the fervent desire of a true believer and is modeled by Jesus. With zeal for justice the earth will be judged for its sinfulness which resulted in: 1) apathy toward truth and justice 2) harm to their fellow man

A View of Mt. Zion from the Hill of Offense4
Isa. 59 closes with one of the most powerful passages of promise in all of the Bible:
Isaiah 59:20–21 (NKJV)
20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion,
And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,”
Says the Lord.

21 “As for Me,” says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the Lord, “from this time and forevermore.”

The Redeemer is the Lord Jesus. In the Days before He sets up His kingdom on earth (Rev. 20:1-6) He will come to Zion (Jerusalem - Zech 14:4-5) - Those who turn from transgression in Israel (Jacob) will worship Him. Israel will finally, as a nation, come into the bond of the New Covenant accepting Jesus as the Messiah (see below).


Ezekiel 20:33–37 (NKJV)

God Will Restore Israel

33 “As I live,” says the Lord God, “surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. 34 I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. 35 And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. 36 Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you,” says the Lord God.

37 “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant;


In conclusion
This has been a rather long entry. But it is a post that is needed. In America and the West today, truth has fallen. Injustice is on the throne. Secular humanism, naturalism, and hedonism have played their cards. The politicians fear their constituents and few are standing for the absolute truths of the Bible. Christianity and Judaism are both tolerated and hated. America was founded upon biblical principles and as a Christian nation but she is no more. She has been properly labeled  as "Post- Christian" by most and the sexual revolution has won the hearts of America's majority. 

A recent Lifeway poll shows the following disastrous results, proving America has lost its moral compass:5



 and:



So where do we go from Here? Judah, when faced with the same indictments as a nation, was exiled. Is that where we are headed next? Will we be abandoned by God? Is His wrath on the horizon.


Luke 21:29–36 (NKJV) - Parable of the Fig Tree

29 Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

Warning to Watch for His Coming

34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”


The Day Truth is taken Captive Pt. 1

1 - Guinness, Os. Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization (Kindle Locations 406-411). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

2 - MacArthur, John, The Reality of God's Wrath, https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/80-184/The-Reality-of-Gods-Wrath (accessed 07/19/2016)

3 - Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Four: Church, Last Things (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2005), 489.

4 - Photo courtesy - Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2201.

5 - Green, Lisa Cannon, Changing genders isn't morally wrong, Americans say, http://www.bpnews.net/47223/changing-genders-isnt-morally-wrong-americans-say (Accessed July 19, 2016)


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Day Truth is Taken Captive Pt. 1



As Sunday morning came, I was in deep thought concerning the era that we Christians have been placed into by our Holy God. As I made supplication before the Lord, He divinely led me to the prophet Isaiah for some instruction. I must say, as I read Isaiah 58-59, I became very burdened in my spirit. What God revealed was the practice of worship in ancient Judah was nothing more than a snapshot of Christianity in the West today.

What Isaiah saw was a carelessness in worship and love of God. This halfhearted devotion was moving swiftly toward their downfall. Judah was in a downward spiral. God was not moving among them because they were not truly faithful to Him. Mercy was nonexistent. Putting others first was unheard of. True love was sadly absent. In short, their worship had become self-centered and mechanical. The blessing and favor of God was not found in their nation. The result was God's word, His life changing truth, had fled, it was missing, truth had fallen in the street. The influence of God's people had become null and void and the population, including the leaders, no longer cared to hear what God had to say.

The lesson: When we forsake the Lord through mechanical devotion; when we become self-serving and forget about what matters to the Lord, He does not move among us in mighty ways. We know this because we see it. We even ask why is God not listening? We must examine ourselves to see where we have strayed. God summed up Judah's devotion and found it severely lacking. The result was a nation that once could boast of the mighty power of God among them being carried away captive into exile. God had to perform a restart.

In Part one of this post, Isaiah 58, we cover Judah's apathy in worship, How God views it, and what they have really rejected in choosing to reject Him. In part two, Isaiah 59, we will come face-to-face with the reality that what goes around, comes around. Truth, really never fails. When society rejects God all that can remain is judgment. Could the Lord be readying for another restart?

The Big Picture
Isaiah was a chosen vessel of God who, like all prophets, was tasked at times with words of comfort, and at others, with words of rebuke and chastisement.

The time frame Isaiah speaks of is that time just before the Babylonian destruction of Judah and eventually, Jerusalem (606- 587 B.C.). Without getting to exhaustive, I would like to note two things that were at play then and also, I believe, are at play today.

First, the government of Judah had become corrupt and had snubbed the message of repentance the prophets had been commissioned to bring. Instead, they chose to listen to false prophetsthose who would tell them what they desired to hear. Later, Ezekiel and Jeremiah would bring this to light, Ezek. 13:6-8; Jer. 23:31-32. Isaiah uses the phrase "her  dignitaries are starving, and her  masses are parched with thirst," to express how falsehood and injustice had brought the nation to the brink of spiritual bankruptcy.1 From the highest leader in government to the lowest man on the street, spiritual drought was the clothing they wore. "If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials will be wicked" (Prov. 29:12 HCSB)

Second, the priests of the temple and the land had displaced true faith and religion with a system of works that was empty, futile, and regurgitating. Even Jesus, hundreds of years later, would rebuke the religious leaders as "whitewashed tombs full of dead men's bones and every impurity" (Matt. 23:27). They never learned.

Let's begin by validating the stale devotion of the priests and the people in their worship of God and their service to one another.

Reading from the Complete Jewish Bible, Isa. 58 states:

    58:1 Shout out loud! Don’t hold back!
    Raise your voice like a shofar!
    Proclaim to my people what rebels they are,
    to the house of Ya‘akov [Jacob] their sins.
    2 “Oh yes, they seek me day after day
    and [claim to] delight in knowing my ways.
    As if they were an upright nation
    that had not abandoned the rulings of their God,
    they ask me for just rulings
    and [claim] to take pleasure in closeness to God,
    3a [asking,] ‘Why should we fast, if you don’t see?
    Why mortify ourselves, if you don’t notice?’2

Note the text begins with Jehovah calling for the prophet to uncover their sins. To let them know that despite the fact they believe they are living righteously, God is not pleased in any way or fashion. Their worship was not real worship. One thing they do notice is that God is not moving among them in life-changing ways as He once did. But, instead of examining themselves, whether they are truly living righteously, they blame God saying, "Why should we fast, if you don't see? Why mortify ourselves, if you don’t notice?" Surely they know nothing escapes God's notice, but here they act as if He is not omniscient (all knowing). However, under the surface, what we see is an unrighteous complaint. 

God Answer to their Complaint.

    3b “Here is my answer: when you fast,
    you go about doing whatever you like,
    while keeping your laborers hard at work.
    4 Your fasts lead to quarreling and fighting,
    to lashing out with violent blows.
    On a day like today, fasting like yours
    will not make your voice heard on high.
   
    5 “Is this the sort of fast I want,
    a day when a person mortifies himself?
    Is the object to hang your head like a reed
    and spread sackcloth and ashes under yourself?
    Is this what you call a fast,
    a day that pleases ADONAI?3

H. C. Leupold, makes the following comments:

The prophet follows them to their place of assembly on a fast day. There, off in a corner, two men are not evaluating their own conduct and that of their nation; they are not seeking the face of God in true repentance. They are carrying on a business transaction. Or again, while they are publicly engaged in holy exercises, at home the laborer who is working for them is slaving under heavy burdens and is being oppressed. Heavy social wrong-doings are being tolerated and practiced.

More than that, while they fast to obtain peace with God, as it were, their abstaining from food makes them so irritable that quarrels and squabbles are continually occurring, and that publicly; yes, even to the point of making a public spectacle of it all, by engaging in fisticuffs with their fellow men. There is something telling about the term used in this connection: they hit  with “a wicked fist.” No thought is given to the high and noble purpose for which the fasts were designed, the expression of sincere sorrow for manifest sins. In other words, it is not with the design of “making [their] voice heard on high.”4

The point is that the people of Judah were so spiritually bankrupt that they didn't know how to truly worship God. In vs. 5, Isaiah tells us they would "mortify themselves" and "hang their head like a reed" as if this was what God wanted. This is exactly what Jesus referred to when He exhorted the disciples to not fast with "disfigured faces" (Matt. 6:16) that others may see this. Our fasting is to be alone and before God in humble worship, relying on Him for our sustenance. Do we seek to please God or man?

God is merciful, so He tells them in vss. 6-7 what an acceptable fast would be.

    6 “Here is the sort of fast I want—
    releasing those unjustly bound,
    untying the thongs of the yoke,
    letting the oppressed go free,
    breaking every yoke,

    7 sharing your food with the hungry,
    taking the homeless poor into your house,
    clothing the naked when you see them,
    fulfilling your duty to your kinsmen!"5

Fasting has always been a form of abstinence from food6 and there were many fasts Israel observed throughout their year (Lev. 23). The fast here in Isaiah takes on the nature of personal non-obligatory fastings in order to bring about favor from God. That said, they had it partially right, but left many other things that would show true personal devotion left undone. They did not set the day aside to do things to glorify God. No. Instead, they fought with one another (even to fists) with their contemptible attitudes.They oppressed their workers and did not treat them kindly. They went about as if they were to be pitied because of hunger. But they were not cognizant of the needs of others, so they were remiss in serving those around them, nor were they merciful. Neither did they free others during their fast from being yoked to them, whether by labor or any other debt. 

The remaining verses of Isaiah 58 pronounce the blessings God would give to all who would serve Him in a genuine way. This includes worship to God service toward fellow man, and fasting for the right reasons. These are the words of comfort that show our Lord to be One who will be faithful to all who serve Him in truth.

    8 Then your light will burst forth like the morning,
    your new skin will quickly grow over your wound;
    your righteousness will precede you,
    and ADONAI’s glory will follow you.
    9 Then you will call, and ADONAI will answer;
    you will cry, and he will say, “Here I am.”
    If you will remove the yoke from among you,
    stop false accusation and slander,
    10 generously offer food to the hungry
    and meet the needs of the person in trouble;
    then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your gloom become like noon.
    11 ADONAI will always guide you;
    he will satisfy your needs in the desert,
    he will renew the strength in your limbs;
    so that you will be like a watered garden,
    like a spring whose water never fails.
    12 You will rebuild the ancient ruins,
    raise foundations from ages past,
    and be called “Repairer of broken walls,
    Restorer of streets to live in.”
    13  “If you hold back your foot on Shabbat
    from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;
    if you call Shabbat a delight,
    ADONAI’s holy day, worth honoring;
    then honor it by not doing your usual things
    or pursuing your interests or speaking about them.
    14 If you do, you will find delight in ADONAI
    I will make you ride on the heights of the land
    and feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Ya‘akov [Jacob],
    for the mouth of ADONAI has spoken.”7

These promises in many ways mirror the promises God gives to all His faithful today. But in considering when this prophecy was uttered we have to ask: Did Israel stand for truth? Did they heed the words of the Lord? Or, will the final fulfillment of these promises be withheld until such a time that they finally surrender in fullness to Yeshua [Jesus] as Lord?


Click here for Part two of "The Day Truth is Taken Captive Pt.2"

God Bless
Pastor Mike

1 - The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Is 5:13."

2 - David H. Stern, Complete Jewish Bible: An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New Testament), 1st ed. (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1998), Is 58.

3 - Ibid Is 58:3–5.

4 - H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Isaiah, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1971), 286.

5 - David H. Stern, Complete Jewish Bible: An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New Testament), 1st ed. (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1998), Is 58:6–7

6 - "Fasting is the deliberate, temporary abstention from food for religious reasons." John Muddiman, “Fast, Fasting,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 773.

7 - David H. Stern, Complete Jewish Bible: An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New Testament), 1st ed. (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1998), Is 58:8–14.