Monday, December 28, 2009

The Heartrending Consequences of Sin

“Jerusalem hath grievously sinned…She did not consider her destiny” (Lamentations 1:8-9, ASV, NKJV). Those who knew better—her priests, her elders, her leaders—“rebelled against His commandment” (1:18). Thus, “the Lord has afflicted her because of the multitude of her transgressions” (1:5). Now consider the ones who paid the ultimate price—read these two verses and weep with Jeremiah: “The children and the infants faint in the streets of the city. They say to their mothers, ‘Where is grain and wine?’ As they swoon like the wounded in the streets of the city, as their life is poured out in their mothers' bosom” (2:11-12). No food. No drink. Children, not understanding, perishing at their mothers’ breasts, begging for something to eat and drink…not understanding. Innocents suffering—dying—and all because men refused to do what they knew they should have done—obey the word of the Lord.

Is there anything…anything…more heinous than sin?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Love Makes Me Sick

I love chocolate cake. A nice, wide piece, melts in your mouth, just oozing with thick, yummy icing. And, of course, that's just the gravy after I get to lick the bowl before the cake ever goes into the oven. Yes, I love chocolate cake.

But I don't want it for breakfast, lunch, and supper--every meal, every day. Eventually, it would make me sick.

We have a wonderful, loving God. His grace and mercy are boundless, and we, as sinners, would be utterly hopeless without them. Love is the greatest motivating factor in existence, and it moved God to attempt to save mankind through the offering of His Son. The denominations don't really understand what John 3:16 means, but that doesn't keep it from being a marvelous verse of Scripture: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." It's a message the world needs to hear, frequently.

But not every sermon and Bible class.

There is more in the Bible than love. Once the love of God is preached, repentance--man's repsonsibilities and duties--must be emphasized every bit as much as God's love, if not more. The love of Jehovah won't save a single soul that doesn't respond to it in humble obedience.

At some congregations, it seems the only message is "love, love, love." Yes, we need love. But, like chocolate cake, too much love can be sickening.

"From that time, Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Matthew 4:17). Notice what the first word of Jesus' message was when He "began to preach." It wasn't "love."

In fact, gentle reader, did you know that the New Testament never records Jesus using the word "grace"?

Yes, Jesus believed in the love and grace of God; of course, He did, that's why He came to the earth. But there was a whole lot more to His doctrine than that, and there needs to be a whole lot more to our message as well.

Preach love, preacher, but don't preach it every sermon. Otherwise, you won't be truly helping mankind and you'll make a lot of godly people sick.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

11/21 Ezra’s Example

Ezra was a priest and scribe of Israel after the return from Babylonian captivity. He is indeed one of the great and godly men in the Bible. His prayer in chapter 9 of his book is one of the most magnificent in Scripture and worthy of deep study.

But it is Ezra 7:10 that I wish to briefly analyze in this post for it tells us why he was such an example for us: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Let me break this down.

“Ezra had prepared..”. Spiritual growth does not happen automatically. One doesn’t just jump into it and start maturing. Understanding what is involved, and what is not, is essential to godly living. Meditating on the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2) will go a long way in preparing us for service to God.

“Ezra had prepared his heart...” In Scripture, the heart, as often as not, refers not to that organ that pumps blood, but to the will and intellect. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Ezra made up his mind he was going to serve the Lord. He made a conscious decision to set aside sin and live a godly, righteous life. Again, it was no accident. He didn’t “stumble” into salvation. The intellect and the will are involved, every bit as much as the emotions.

“Ezra had prepared his heart to seek…” Effort is involved. Anything of value is worth time and dedication. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). It isn’t surprising that finding the Lord is after a search with all our heart. And it isn’t surprising that “heart” and “seek” are both in Ezra 7:10.

“Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord…” A lot of people search for a lot of things, most of them worldly and valueless. Ezra knew the treasures found in God’s word and that’s what he wanted. What are YOU searching for?

“Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord and to do it…” It doesn’t do much good to know wisdom if one is not going to act upon it. Ezra wanted an intimate acquaintance with the law of God so that he could live by it. Study is necessary (II Timothy 2:15), and without it, we can never learn what God wishes of us. But unless we are willing to apply what we learn, all the study in the world will avail us nothing.

“Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.” Don’t hog what you know. Understanding God’s word and doing it are wonderful things. Helping others to know and do simply fulfills our relationship and duty to the Almighty.

It’s pretty obvious, from this verse, why God chose Ezra to author at least one book in His divine message to man.

Monday, November 16, 2009

11/17 Bible Briefs: Justifying the Wicked

Proverbs 17:15--He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD. There is way too much of this going on. The Lord expects us to condemn evil and support righteousness. Praising false teachers and berating teachers of truth is a common occurrence even in the Lord's church. And our country is full of people who exalt wickedness and condemn godliness. It's not a new phenomenon, though. Note the following.

II Chronicles 19:2--And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD. In other words, "Jehoshaphat, what in the world are you doing helping Ahab, the most ungodly king Israel ever had?" Look closely at what Jehu said of Jehoshaphat: He "help[ed] the ungodly and
love[d] them that hate the LORD?" How can a child of God love those who hate Him? Yes, in a general sense, we are to love all men; but that doesn't mean we are to let them think we condone their wickedness. Jehoshaphat fully supported his godless counterpart, Ahab, and this was repulsive to Jehovah. Yet it's only fair to Jehoshaphat to say that, in general, he was a godly man (v. 3). But even those--especially those--who have prepared their hearts to seek the Lord must watch their actions.

It gets worse.

II Chronicles 21:6--And he [Jehoram] walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD. Jehoshaphat had some good qualities; the choice of his companions wasn't always wise, and he did pretty lousy job raising his kid. After his death, Jehoshaphat's son, Jehoram, came to the throne, and immediately "killed all his brothers with the sword, and also others of the princes of Israel" (II Chron. 21:4). Verse 6, quoted above, is a sufficient explanation as to why Jehoram was such a murderous scumbag--look whom he married. How many men--and women--have been drawn to the dark side of sin and iniquity by their spouse? You can start with the first man who ever walked the face of the earth (Genesis 3).

But there's more to this than just avoiding giving sanction and credibility to the wicked. We must not only actively oppose evil, but even neutrality is unacceptable to God:

Judges 5:23--Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD, to the help of the LORD against the mighty. When God's cause is under attack, standing on the sidelines and whistling into the wind is insufficient. In fact, God equates it with supporting the enemy. In regards to Edom when Israel was under seige, Obadiah wrote "For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever. In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them" (Obadiah 10-11). The Lord's cause is the greatest on earth. You are either with Him--supporting the righteous--or against Him--justifying the wicked. There is no third option.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

11/5 Bible Briefs

II Chronicles 17:9-10--"...they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people [the law of the Lord]. And the fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah..." There is a direct corollary between the two actions described in the verses above--teaching the Word of God and the fear of the Lord coming upon those who hear it. We don't see a lot of "fear of the Lord" in our churches or country today. Is it perhaps because we have ceased teaching "the law of the Lord"?

Acts 5:42-6:1--"And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Now in those days, when the number of disciples was multiplying..." Didn't I, in effect, just say that in the II Chronicles 17 brief above?

Acts 18:8--"And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized." I'm getting repetitive. The Word of the Lord is still the most powerful thing on earth. But it's not very effective in the cowardly hands of worldly church members.

Acts 4:29--""Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word." Maybe that's why they succeeded, and we haven't done so well.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Being Astonished at the Teaching of the Lord"

Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark were in Paphos, teaching the word of the Lord. They met there a proconsul named Sergius Paulus, "an intelligent man," Luke tells us (Acts 13:7). But where the message of God goes, so follows false teachers. A Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus (or, more popularly, Elymas), "withstood them (Paul and his companions), seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith" (v. 8). Paul then rebuked him strongly and performed a notable miracle--Elymas was struck blind, "and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand" (v. 11).

You would think seeing something like that would be very impressive and awe-inspiring--even in Biblical times, miracles were rare and performed only for specific purposes. And Sergius Paulus might indeed have marveled at what Paul did. But that isn't what really amazed him: "Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord" (v. 12). Truly an intelligent man.

You see, it wasn't the miracle that astonished him. It was the fact that the Lord could save a wretched sinner like Sergius Paulus. Or you and me. That is truly an amazing thing, much, much more amazing than any miracle that God ever performed. There are people today who get so wrapped up in the miraculous that they forget that the true wonder is the grace of God, that He would stoop so low as to send His only begotten Son to die for contemptible, unworthy rogues like us.

The "teaching of the Lord" is indeed an astonishing thing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

10/24 Bible Briefs

I'm going to start something new on the blog called "Bible briefs." I will do it with some frequency--short comments on various Bible verses. Many people, to their own disadvantage, won't read or listen to longer articles, but they will read shorter ones. And there is some benefit to that as well. So hopefully these briefs will provide some thought-provoking lessons and truths. I'll put the date in the subject line so the reader will know a new set of "briefs" is available.

I John 2:25--"And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life." This is what it's all about. It is our soul, not our flesh, that will spend eternity somewhere--heaven or hell. Life's joys and sorrows are fleeting. We must never take our eyes off the prize. We have "the promised that he hath promised us, even eternal life." The promise of God to the faithful: "be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). Eternal life.

I John 2:15--"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." Based upon the verse above, this thought is wholesome and good advice, indeed. Don't fall in love with this world because you aren't going to be here very long. "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). "The earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (II Peter 3:10). The Lord's going to burn it all up. Wise we are if we don't get attached to it.

Acts 1:3--"To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs." This is how we know the two verses above are true. The Greed word for "infallible" is an ancient one, used as early as Aeschylus and Herodotus (5th century B.C.), and means “that from which something is surely and plainly known; an indubitable evidence, a proof” (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon). Luke did his homework, his research, his investigations. He was as good an historian as any living today, and the evidence of Jesus's resurrection derives from "indisputable evidence," "many infallible proofs." Hence, don't tie yourself to this world. Prepare for the eternal life which God has promised to us.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cave Men

Everybody knows that cave men lived millions of years ago, right? Or half-man/half-ape, whatever it was. He (it?) sat around on his (its?) haunches, dressed in animal skins, staring into the fire, grunting, and drawing inane pictures on the wall. Occasionally, he (it?) would leave the safety of his (its?) cave to hunt for food, or perhaps bop a female it on the head with his (its?) club and drag her by the hair into his (its?) lair. In this way, he (it?) could produce more its like himself (itself?) until finally, at long last, these its were no longer its and were fully human. And thus no longer living in caves. One of the signs of the development of man is that these cave men lived eons ago and we have "evolved" beyond that stage and build houses, apartments, tipis, homeless shelters--whatever.

No more cave men. Correct?

Judges 6:1-2--"Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years, and the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of the Midianites, the children of Israel made for themselves the dens, THE CAVES, and the strongholds which are in the mountains..."

I guess these Israelite its living in caves sat around on their haunches, dressed in animal skins, staring into the fire, etc. etc. etc. and forgot that cave men died out a long time ago.

Actually, if you will go to my current events blog (, you can read about a modern day cave man. And his name sounds like something an ancient cave man would mumble. And he has about as much brains. My apologies to the ancient cave men.

Monday, October 12, 2009

“The Lord Gave, and the Lord Hath Taken Away”

(You can view a copy of this post in the column to the right.)

Certainly the most tragic figure in the Bible—if not Jesus Himself—is the Old Testament patriarch Job. This godly man, for reasons he never learned on this earth, was struck by all of man’s greatest fears—financial ruin, family loss, and prolonged sickness. He was the “greatest (richest) of all the men of the east” (Job 1:3); yet he lost it all, stolen or destroyed (1:14-17). He had 10 children—certainly the delight of any man’s soul, but even more so in ancient times when large families were considered a supreme blessing from God; but they were all killed, at the same time, by a “great wind from the wilderness” (1:19). Then, he was struck with “sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown” (2:7), a condition that corroded his bones (30:17) and so drastically changed his appearance that his best friends hardly recognized him (2:12). Apparently his fellows citizens were so repulsed they isolated him in the city dump (2:8). And the condition lasted for months (7:3). Even his wife turned against him. No doubt grieved herself, she said to Job, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (2:9). And then these “friends” of his come to him and try to convince him that all this has happened to him because he must be the worst sinner who ever lived. Not a pleasant period in Job’s life, to say the least.

What would you have done in such a circumstance? You lose every bit of your material wealth, all of your children are killed at one time, you become ghastly ill for several months, your nearest and dearest and best friends turn against you: could you keep your faith in God through all that? Job’s response? ”What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10). And, “naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21). There are few, if any, examples of faith greater than that which this man showed. And he apparently lived hundreds of years before one word of the Bible was penned. How could he maintain his righteous character under such a brutal assault?

Job apparently understood something that the vast majority of humankind has never learned, and certainly is lacking in the understanding of most some 5,000 later, viz., this world is not our home. We are mere pilgrims here, passing through, and we won’t be here for very long. I am convinced this is one reason why Jesus, while on earth, did not concern Himself in the least with political affairs. I’ve heard people say, “Well, if Jesus were here today, He would be marching for civil rights and supporting Obamacare, yada yada yada…” No, He wouldn’t. There were plenty of injustices—including slavery—that Jesus could have “marched against” in His own day, but He came for a much greater purpose: “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus had been in heaven—He’s God, of course; that’s where He had come from (John 6:38). He knew the beauties and wonders of an existence with God, and He knew that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus, being man’s creator, was aware that “the days of our years are threescore and ten (70),” and perhaps 80, “for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). And “the cares of this world and pleasure of this life” (Luke 8:14) are brief, fleeting, and ultimately vain.

Jesus wasn’t interested in making Republicans or Democrats out of people, a nomenclature that will not last, for long, for any of us. Jesus was interested in leading us into a condition that will last forever—a home in heaven. Is last year’s election more important than that? Will Obamacare be vital—for you—100 years from now? Indeed, quickly, tell me who was elected President in 1908, 100 years ago?.....I’m waiting….Now, do you think that anyone who voted in the 1908 election cares, right now, who won the election in 2008? And, yes, I even have my own “current events” blog, on which I post my political rants. But will any of us care who wins the presidency in 2108?

But will we care where our eternal soul resides?

Job did ask, implicitly, in his subsequent conversations with his friends, “Why? Why did this happen to me? I’ve been righteous, I didn’t deserve this. I’d sure like to talk to God and tell Him a few things!” But that great man never did, while alive on earth, learn the answer to his question “why?” What he learned was the answer to a far greater question: “Who.” For if we know the “Who,” then the “why” really doesn’t matter, does it.

“I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).

“The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Who Are the "Wicked"?

The Bible says a lot about wickedness, of course, much more than this short article can recount. But I did run across four passages about these people in Proverbs 15 which I wish to share with you, one of them perhaps a bit surprising.

Proverbs 15:28-"...the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil." Nothing terribly surprising about this. Wicked people use foul language, lie, slander, gossip, sow discord, teach error, and a few other sins of the tongue that the reader can ponder over at leisure.

Proverbs 15:26-"The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord..." No surprise here, either. "For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he," (Prov. 23:7). A man first wills to do sin, mulls it over, thinking about it, then does it. Please note that even the thought is evil. Commiting adultery, for example, is bad enough; but even lusting without the actual act is condemned by Jesus (Mt. 5:27-28). This "lusting" person might appear, on the outside, to be an angel robed in white; but inwardly, he's full of dead men's bones. Just because a person thinks wicked thoughts does not always mean he will perform them. The Lord knows and is not pleased.

Proverbs 15:9-"The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord." Frequently, after he has thought about it, the wicked fulfills his actions. Such a course obviously is contrary to righteousness. But once more, there is nothing shocking in this verse; naturally, the path the wicked person treads is abhorrent to the Lord.

Proverbs 15:8-"The sacrifice of the wicked is an abominiation to the Lord." Did you ever realize that you might be sitting next to a wicked person in worship? What in the world is the wicked doing "sacrificing" to God? This doesn't exactly fit our stereotype of "wickedness." Evil people are wicked--that's who is "wicked," correct? Yes, they are. But so are hypocrites. And they are "an abominiation to the Lord."

Ultimately, there are only two kinds of people--the saved and lost, the sheep and the goats, the saint and the sinner, the righteous and the wicked. Indeed, there are some "wicked" people who are "wickeder" than others; but, anyone who is not right with the Lord can properly fit the definition of wicked. And they might be shaking hands with you in worship next Sunday morning.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Noah and the Ark: Inspiration of the Bible II

See the video of this post in the right hand column.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Rich, Young...and Lost...Ruler

Watch the video in the right hand column.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Inspiration of the Bible-I

(Watch the video of this post in the right hand column. There is a slight error on the video. I say that Micah wrote 500 years before Christ; he actually wrote approximately 700 B.C. That error is corrected in the written version below.)

The attacks on the Bible and Christianity continue unabated from the secular left and those who do not wish to submit themselves to the will and dictates of the Christian God. These so-called “intellectuals” think that, in their cleverness, they have disproven the divine inspiration of the Bible. In fact, it is no longer even an issue among them. Just like Al Gore has said that the debate on man-caused global warming is over, even so the debate on the Bible’s inspiration is over.

I beg to differ.

The Bible gives many evidences that it could not have been written by man. Indeed, the Bible is not the kind of book man would have written if he could have or could have written if he would have. But, in this video, let me just give one line of reasoning which powerfully proves the divine authorship of the sacred volume. I speak hear of predictive prophecy.

Men do not, and cannot, know the future. Oh, we can make some good guesses about what might happen in the near future, but we certainly have no knowledge of what will happen, say 500 years from now. God, who can see the future, does have that knowledge. And in the Old Testament, He demonstrates it.

That the Old Testament predicts the coming of some great personage is not a subject for debate, and I’ll only mention it in passing. Deut. 18:18-19, Ezek. 36:23-24, Is. 40:3, 42:1, Zech. 5:9 and many other passages speak of the coming of the Messiah; the Jews understood this, and some, to this day, still await his coming. But He’s already come—Jesus of Nazareth. And the Old Testaments tells us of that coming is ways that humans could not possibly have known.

For example, in Micah 5:2, that prophet tells us that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. How did Micah, writing some 700 years before the event, know that? Zechariah 9:9 speaks of his riding into Jerusalem on a donkey—something that Jesus did some 500 years later; Zechariah also said he would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (11:9). How was it possible for the prophet to know what would happen 500 years afterwards? Isaiah chapter 53 perfectly describes Christ’s work, including his trial, death, and burial. Isaiah lived well over 700 years before this event. That would be like someone today telling us, accurately, what was going to come to pass in the 2700s of our era. There is no way we humans have that kind of ability. How did Isaiah do it? The prophet Daniel, in chapter 2 of his book, tells us when God’s kingdom, the church, would be established—in the days of the Roman empire, three great empires beyond the Babylonian in which he lived. There is no way Daniel could have known of these empires or when God would set up His kingdom on earth. Indeed, in Dan. 9:24-27, the prophet predicts the exact year the Messiah would be crucified. Folks, if you want to read about the life of Christ, you can read the New Testament. Or you can read it beforehand in the Old Testament. Only God could have this kind of knowledge. Thus, only God could have written these books.

There is one more passage I want to study with you quickly. In Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1, we read this language: “Who says of Cyrus, He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, you shall be built, and to the temple, your foundation shall be laid. Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings; to open before him the double doors. So that the gates will not be shut.” Folks, Cyrus, king of Persia, allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland, in 536 BC, and rebuild their sacred city and temple. You can read this even in the Bible—Ezra writes about it. Cyrus was born over 100 years after Isaiah died, and yet the prophet names him by name, as the one who would restore Jerusalem. How did Isaiah know that? There’s only one way. God told him. And if someone wants to shout, “But that’s just an interpolation in Isaiah. Somebody wrote that after Cyrus lived,” my only response is “Prove it.” Every single manuscript we have of Isaiah, going back even before the time of Christ, has these two passages in it. There is no physical evidence of interpolation. If you want to stick with evidence, Isaiah ben Amoz wrote this—by the inspiration of God—over 150 years before it happened. There is no other explanation.

I can, and will soon on this blog, take the story of Noah and the ark and prove that the Bible is inspired of God. But what I’ve done here is sufficient for the moment. The Old Testament predicts, hundreds of years in advance, with minute accuracy, of the coming of Jesus. Men could not have done that without the aid of an all-seeing, all-knowing God.

Monday, September 14, 2009

“Is It Nothing to You, All Ye That Pass By?”

(See a video of this post in the right column.)

He sat and viewed the ruins, the destruction of a once great city, the City of David, the earthly home of the God of heaven and earth. He had given everything he had to avert this catastrophe; but people never listen. And the despondency overwhelmed him: “My eyes fail with tears, my heart is troubled; my bile is poured on the ground…” And why? “…because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because the children and the infants faint in the streets of the city” (Lamentations 2:11). And the people seemingly didn’t care. “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?” (Lam. 1:12) Had the people of Judah become so calloused, so apathetic to their religion, that the destruction of their temple, the mocking of their God by their enemies was a trivial thing to them? Apparently they didn’t care, and as a result, “Judah has gone into captivity,” (Lamentations 1:3).

Jeremiah had done all he could. Now he mourned while the uncaring inhabitants of the “princess among the provinces” (Lam. 1:1) trailed meekly into a humiliating slavery. It didn’t have to be. But it was.

Why? Why did it happen? Jeremiah tells us and we will briefly relate the sad tale.

1. “The Lord hath afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions” (Lam. 1:5). It took a “multitude” of those sins before Jehovah was finally fed up. He has mercies that are boundless; even this sad book tells us so: “The Lord is good to unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (3:25). But, “Jerusalem has sinned gravely, therefore she has become vile” (1:8). The Lord’s patience will run out. "They that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills" (4:5).

2. Judah listened to the wrong people. “Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not uncovered your iniquity, to bring back the captives, but have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions” (Lam. 1:14). As mentioned before on this blog, living a righteous life is difficult; it’s sin that’s easy. And there is always a market for false prophets. “If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink, he shall even be the prophet of this people” (Micah 2:11). Those who tell people what they want to hear will always have a larger audience than those who will speak the truth. It was in Micah and Jeremiah’s days, and it is so now. God's word cannot be gainsayed: "Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?" (Lam. 3:37).

3. Judah failed to consider the consequences of their foolish actions. “She did not consider her destiny; therefore her collapse was awesome” (Lam. 1:9). Moses had warned them nearly 900 years before: “Oh, that they were wise, that they would understand this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deuteronomy 32:29). God warned the people repeatedly in the Law of Moses that disobedience would bring destruction (e.g., Deut. 8:19; Lev. 26:14ff). But men do not heed the words of the wise and prudent; they prefer the flattery of fools. The Lord, however, meant what He had said: “The Lord has done what He purposed; He has fulfilled His word” (Lam. 2:17). Actions have consequences and if we fail to consider them—especially when explicitly warmed by the Lord and His servants—we have no one to blame but ourselves when destruction comes.

“How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! How is she become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!” (Lamentations 1:1). It can happen again. But there is an answer: "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again the the Lord" (Lam. 3:40

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More on the Wonders of Evolution

See the video in the right hand column.

Friday, September 4, 2009

When God Laughs

Laughter is a good thing. "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine" (Proverbs 17:22), and God gave us this ability to help us enjoy our earthly existence. But it's interesting that the Bible never records Jesus laughing. And when we read of God laughing, it is not because someone told a good joke. Indeed, the joke, sadly, will be upon man.

"Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?" David asks in Psalm 2:1. "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us" (verses 2-3). This is a pretty fair commentary on the world today, including, tragically, the "rulers" of our own country. They do not want to obey God, they will not submit to His counsel, they rebel against the true ruler of heaven and earth. And tragically, too often the people follow. "O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err" (Isaiah 3:12).

God's response? "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision" (Psalm 2:4). It is, as the verse notes, a derisive, scornful laugh, not a laugh of merriment. We think we can get away with sin. We try every excuse. God doesn't exist (Psalm 14:1). God doesn't see or forgets what we do (Psalm 10:11). Punishment is delayed so it will never come (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

And all the while, God sits in the heavens and laughs at us. For some day, our soul will be required of us (Luke 12:20)--and it will be no laughing matter if have broken asunder the bands of God's word.

Is God laughing at you?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Helping the Poor

The Bible is replete with admonitions that God's people are to help those who are in financial misfortune, the "poor." Both Old Testament Judaism and New Testament Christianity command such. The passages are so plentiful I'm not even going to bother referencing it; it is known by all. And yet, how faithfully and extensively do Christians and churches practice this valuable and needy element of their religion?

Let's take, for example, the current health care debate in this country. There are people who genuinely are in need here, though not as many as the figures bandied about by those who wish for government control of this industry. How many of our churches are providing--even if temporarily--the medical care coverage needed by those who find themselves in financial straits? I'm sure some are, but I don't hear much about it. Frankly, most churches don't have the money. Oh, they do, but not after "expenses." After we build our million dollar church buildings, pay our preacher, youth minister, involvement minister, secretary and add in a few other costs, most of which are not mentioned in the New Testament, there just isn't much left for benevolence--or world evangelism, which is even more important. We could meet in rented halls, have the men of the congregation do the preaching and teaching, get parents involved in working with young people, have our membership committed enough to do the work which their Savior assigned them to do--and how much money would we save? I guess church buildings are my biggest peeve. I've always wondered where those 5,000 new Christians met in the early days of the church. And how in the world did the apostles "turn the world upside down" without church buildings? I'm not saying church buildings are sinful. But it does smack of priorities. Our comfort and convenience are more important to us than truly doing the work God has given us to do. Like helping the poor. They are still out there, they always will be, and one of the supreme manifestations of New Testament Christianity is to support them in their need. But we won't. So the government will. We let Barack Obama get the credit, instead of Jesus Christ. Quite a commentary on our religion today.

I fear there is more of the world in the church than visa versa.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Be Strong and of Good Courage"

Joshua took over as the leader of Israel after Moses' death. He was a good man and led his people into battle to conquer the land God had promised them. But before he did that, Jehovah gave Joshua some instructions, recorded in chapter 1 of Joshua. I find it interesting that the Lord told his new captain four times: "be strong and of good courage" (vs. 6, 7, 9, and 18).

But it's also noteworthy, I think, to consider in what Joshua was to have this strength and courage. Verse 7: "Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do all the law, which Moses my servant commanded..." One would think that the Lord, given the military endeavors Joshua faced, would encourage him to strength and courage in the battles to come. But, no--the strength and courage needed was to be obedient to the will of God. And verse 8 concludes, "for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." Prosperity and success--military victory in this case--follow obedience to divine dictates.

We live in a degenerative world today, folks. Our enemies are spiritual, not physical (Ephesians 6:12). If we are going to be obedient in the midst of this wicked and untoward generation, like Joshua we will need to "be strong and of good courage." The Lord expects--demands--that, and spiritual prosperity will not follow unless we do. Joshua did it, and we can, too.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Bringing Into Captivity Every Thought..."

"Joy" should certainly be a part of a Christian's life; it is the second of the "fruits of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23) and a frequent theme of Bible writers (e.g., Psalm 30:5; John 15:11). But Christian joy is not some better felt than told experience or some outpouring of gushy emotion. It is based upon the fact that we have been forgiven of our sins, the greatest blessing man could possible have. We ought to pour out our hearts in joyful thanksgiving for the redemption found in Jesus Christ.

And while that joy is an underlying happenstance in a Christian's life, the forgiveness that produces it brings responsibilities. As noted in an earlier post, Psalm 130:4 reads, "But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." Not "that thou mayest have joy," but that, first of all, God is to be feared and obeyed. And the Christian life is not easy and anyone who truly tries to live it will indeed discover just how difficult it is.

In Luke 13:24, Jesus said, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate." Two thoughts here. The Greek word for "strive" is agonizomai, from which our English words "agony" and "agonize" come from. And notice the word "strait"--not "straight," but a narrow, difficult passage, full of treacherous obstacles. The fight against sin is agonizing and the way to glory is strenuous and demanding. Rewarding, yes. But difficult? Absolutely.

If you think Christianity is easy, check out the following verses:

"Blessed are the pure in heart in heart; for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). How many of us can truly claim that every motive from within is holy before God? No one can rightfully make that claim. And "if I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear" (Psalm 66:18). If our hearts are pure, we we'll see God. An impure heart causes God to close his ears. What can we imperfect humans do?

Here's one you can work on for the rest of your life: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good resport, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8; the New King James version reads "meditate on these things."). As the title of this post reads, from II Corinthians 10:5, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Every, single solitary thought--not just action--is to be pure, holy, righteous before God. Try that for a day and see how successful you are. And be honest with yourself because your salvation depends upon it.

And it doesn't get any easier: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Mt. 5:48). In this powerful, awesome, frightening verse, Jesus brings us face-to-face with the perfect ethical standard, with what we ought to be, exposing every fallacy and iniquity within us by the harsh light of the absolute truth and holiness of the Christian moral code. We are created in God's image and nothing short of being exactly like Him is acceptable.

How many of us do that? It isn't hard to understand why the apostle Paul, when comparing his own life to the perfect law of God, could moan, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 8:24). Anyone who truly tries to overcome sin in their life will understand the agony of trying to enter in by the strait gate.

Do you understand now why there is joy in forgiveness? It's the only hope we've got.

Psalm 13:5 reads, "But I have trusted in thy mercy." From Psalm 130:4, we learned that the mercy of God is no justification for presumption on man's part. God demands our obedience, our effort, our purity of heart and mind, that we think (meditate) only upon godly, righteous things, that we lasso our every thought and subject it to the will of Him Who formed us from the beginning. That we be perfect as He is perfect. Impossible? Theoretically, no, because we are free moral people who could make the right choice, every time. But we don't.

And that is why, at the end of each day, when all is said and done--and thought--when we have agonized through another day's battle against the sin that so easily besets us, we should "not lift up so much as [our] eyes unto heaven," but smite our breasts and say, "God be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 18:13).

"The king shall joy in thy strength, O God; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice" (Psalm 21:1).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Psalm 130:4--A Reaction to Forgiveness

(Check the end of the article for a YouTube video of this post.)

Psalm 130:4 reads, "But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be presumed upon."

If that doesn't quite sound right, it's because it isn't. That's just the way most people want to interpret it. I've had people tell me, "I know that what I'm doing is a sin, but God will forgive me." Indeed, God will forgive any sin that is repented of (Luke 13:3), but "repentance" means, as much as in us is, cessation of sin. To say that "God will forgive, so I can continue in my sin" is...presuming on the forgiveness and grace of God. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Romans 6:1-2). Christians died to sin; that means, to the best of their ability, they stop doing it as a way of life. The continual, habitual, rebellious committing of sin is NOT repentance, and it is a presumption upon the grace of God. And "if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26).

Psalm 130:4 actually says, "But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared." Forgiveness should produce an appreciation for God, a respect, reverence, and obedience--not a presumption upon His grace and goodness. And that "fearing" of God will result in uncompromising obedience. Indeed, "Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

Isn't Evolution a Marvelous Thing?

I posted this on my other blog as well ("Mark's Blog"), so if you read it there, you don't need to read it here.

Some facts about the DNA in your body.

1. You have 46 segments of DNA in most of the 100,000,000,000,000 (that's 100 trillion) cells in your body. You got 23 segments from your mother, and 23 from your father. DNA contains the unique information that determines what you look like, much of your personality, and how every cell in your body is to function as long as you live.

2. If the DNA in just one of your cells were uncoiled, connected, and stretched out, it would be about 7 feet long. It would be so thin that it could not be seen even under an electron microscope. If all this coded infromation from just one cell in your body were written in books, it would fill a library of about 4,000 books of 500 pages with 300 words per page. If all the DNA in your body were placed end-to-end, it would stretch from here to the moon more than 500,000 times. In book form, the information would completely fill the Grand Canyon more than 75 times. If one set of DNA (one cell's worth) from every person who ever lived were placed in a pile, it would weigh less than an aspirin. And evolution did all of that by chance. Isn't evolution a wonderful thing?

Just in case you can't tell, I'm being extremely sarcastic about what "evolution" can do. I cannot explain the utter comtempt I have for the "intelligence" of people who believe that absurd theory. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made," the Bible says. We ought to be in awe of a Creator who has the unlimited knowledge and ability to create DNA. And that's just one simple part of the human body, which is just one simple structure in this universe.

Is there no end to the foolishness men will invent to avoid obeying the God of heaven and earth?

(The above information on DNA came from Walt Brown, In the Beginning, who got much of his information from Carl Pagan, er, Sagan.)