Take Courage. Fear Not.


I’ve discovered in the last ten years or so just how relevant the various books of prophecy are. Some of them seem as if they could have been written about contemporary America. So I was not surprised when I came upon a verse that speaks to many in today’s climate of . . . worry.

I don’t know how else to say it, but there are small businesses that have had to close their doors; people who have lost their jobs; others who are worried about finding the paper products they need, when they need them; people who are concerned about getting sick or wearing masks or getting a vaccine or not getting a vaccine.

Isaiah comes along in chapter 35 and says

Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.
Say to those with anxious heart,
“Take courage, fear not. (vv 3-4a)

Interestingly, the passage starts out by announcing a reason for nature to be glad and to rejoice: “They will see the glory of the LORD/The majesty of our God.”

Essentially Isaiah is describing how things will be when Messiah comes again. He will set things right—bring His vengeance on those who deserve vengeance, save those who trust in Him, provide a “Highway of Holiness” to the redeemed, to enable gladness and joy to the ransomed of the LORD, to chase away sorrow and sighing.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it a relief, refreshing, to hear good news. Not only that, this passage reinforces the fact that God is in control, even when circumstances seem so far from what we imagined or hoped for.

For instance, I grew up in the era which taught that the US is a melting pot. We all have one thing in common: we have come from somewhere else, whether recently or in the distant past, and we have come together, blending our identities into Americans. It’s a wonderful ideal.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would see the day when students are taught “Critical Race Theory,” such that they had to identify which racial, religious, economic, gender, sexual preference oppressed group they belonged to. Those who could not, were part of the oppressors. In other words, these ideas are Marxist and they are the antithesis of the American ideal based on the creed that all people are created equal.

That idea is clearly one embedded in the Bible. God loves the whole world, for instance, and promised a blessing through Abraham for all the world. Paul specifically said all the divisions of ethnicity, gender, economics melted away at the foot of the cross. In the Church, made up of those who are reconciled to God through the sacrifice, the payment for sin, which Jesus provided, there are no distinctions.

But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:21-24–emphasis mine)

So in the face of the many difficulties in 2020, our hope does not lie in a change in the calendar. I know a lot of people are talking about how they can’t wait to be done with 2020, as if the covid virus will disappear at midnight New Year’s Eve. Or jobs will suddenly come back and restaurants will miraculously open or racial tension will vanish or any number of other problems this year has uncovered, will suddenly be solved.

The change of calendar is not the answer, but the knowledge that Jesus, our Savior, will indeed come to reign as our King eternal, heaping gladness and joy on our heads and driving sorrow and sighing away, gives us a reason to take courage, to fear not.

God will handle the problems. He will set things right. It’s in the bank, a done deal. And we have His word on it.

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:17-18)

So now we can ask—are we in the company of those who have taken refuge in the promise of God? If so, Scripture gives us strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. Which means we can take courage. We can fear not.

Published in: on December 29, 2020 at 5:24 pm  Comments (1)  
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God Is In Control. Really, He Is


I just listened to a video from various citizens of Georgia who were witnessing to problems in the 2020 election. Despite so many people who have come forward, despite clear violations of state election laws, despite numerical impossibilities, despite verified anomalies such as more votes than registered voters in some counties, any number of court cases in the “contested states” have been thrown out for one reason or another. Though any number of state representatives seem convinced that there is “something to see” in regards to election fraud, so far no one with the authority to make a difference seems interested in a real study of what happened and how to make it right.

There have been hearings before legislative committees in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, too, all with the same result—some state legislators seem convinced, some people who listen to the testimony, as I have, are convinced that something happened. But no legal body with the authority to do anything has looked at the evidence.

That’s just the election, the latest of the twists and turns in 2020. Of course an ongoing issue in many states is the mandated “lock down” which state governors have implemented because of the increased number of people contracting the Chinese Communist Party Corona Virus.

The fight has become all about whether or not a governor can make these “temporary” mandates that last for nearly a year. The latest in California is that restaurants, which had been allowed to host outdoor dining by following a variety of protocols which required the businesses to buy appropriate equipment, such as outdoor lighting, tents, tables, all located at least six feet apart, suddenly, and without explanation, were no longer allowed outdoor dining. Couple this action with the restrictions on churches, which have now been declared unconstitutional, and government “servants” time and again being exposed as law-breakers of these very onerous laws.

Take, for instance, the incident in November when California Governor Newsom urged us on a Friday to avoid air travel, and if we did so, to self-quarantine. Then the following Monday, he and a dozen or so legislators boarded a plane and flew to Hawaii for a conference. “Rules for thee, and not for me,” is the way one YouTube critic puts it.

And of course all rules about mask wearing and social distancing were out the window during the Black Lives Matter protests and riots. Rules for thee if you don’t agree with me, I guess that one could be called.

But of course, the racial tensions of the summer are just one more area of 2020 madness. People robbing and looting and burning, all in the name of Black Lives Matter? And then the disparaging remarks and even threats against anyone saying all lives matter—as if black lives aren’t included in “all lives.” On the tail of these protests came the “de-fund the police” movement, and in cities that did so, an immediate and steep rise in crime.

But apparently, the message was really “black lives matter more.” That certainly seems to be the message of the critical race theory which seems to have found a foothold in some educational institutions. To the point that a high school boy in Nevada is suing a “tax-payer funded charter school” for “coercive, ideological indoctrination” in regard to this Marxist way of looking at people as either members of the oppressor group or the oppressed group.

And yet, I say, God is in control?

Aren’t the lists of things that tore society apart this year proof that God is NOT in control? It can feel that way. Especially when so many people were dying from the virus early on, when people who are hospitalized or are in a nursing home can have no visitors. Surely God is not behind all this.

Or is He?

Another way to ask the question is this: Is God sovereign? In other words, is He really the supreme ruler, the One ultimately in charge, the final authority? And if not God, then who? Satan? Would we ever say Satan has more authority than God? How about Mankind? You know, free will and all. But do we not have free will only because God gave it to us?

In fact, did He not say to Adam, eat whatever you want, just not this one thing which I’ve determined is not good for you. Because if it was good for him, God would surely have given it. So God, in his infinite wisdom and all knowing power, put one small restriction on Adam’s free will. Meaning, God was and is the ultimate authority, the Sovereign Who is in charge.

The patriarch Job struggled with the idea that God was in charge while terrible things happened to him and his family. Joseph may have struggled in the same way, though we have no record of it. What we do have is his great declaration that though his brothers had truly planned evil against him, and had carried it out, God took their actions and used them as a means to preserve and protect Joseph’s whole family.

James, the writer of the New Testament letter, addresses the issue, saying right from the start that believers should rejoice in trials because something greater than the trial itself would result.

Paul sums up the point in Romans, in a misunderstood verse:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren(8:28-29)

God causes. All things. Covid, riots, election fraud. For good.

The part that too many people miss is that the good God is doing in and through all things is to bring those of us who love Him into conformity to the image of His Son.

In other words, to refine gold, to shape it into a valuable ring, there’s a lot of heat and melting and separating out the impurities and hammering and pressing into the mold so that the ring will be just right.

God does that for us as individuals and He does it for His Church. I know He did so for Israel and other nations in the past, and since He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, I suspect He still works with nations today in the same way.

Published in: on December 28, 2020 at 5:04 pm  Comments (7)  
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What It Means To Love


The Bible gives us the greatest example of love that exists: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

God gave His only Son because He loved the very people that were spitting in His face. Not literally at first, but eventually that happened too.

The thing is, the Bible also gives pictures of this love throughout the Bible. The one perhaps best known is Abraham willing to offer his son as a sacrifice, not for another person but in obedience to God as an evidence of his love for Him.

Interestingly, there’s a kind of reverse illustration, too. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob actually had twelve sons, but he loved one more than all the others. The jealous brothers kidnapped him and sold him into slavery, then lied to their dad to make him think the teen had been killed by a wild animal.

Years later a famine hit the land, so ten of Jacob’s sons traveled to Egypt to purchase grain because they heard in all the region hit by the famine, Egypt still had a supply of grain available.

When they arrived, they came face to face with the brother they’d sold into slavery. He recognized them, but they did not recognize him. After all, he was dressed like an Egyptian, was obviously in charge of the grain selling operation, and communicated with them through a translator.

Long story short, Joseph, the despised and forsaken brother who became a ruler, challenged his brothers—if you want to buy and sell in Egypt, bring me your other brother, the one who stayed home with his dad. That was Benjamin, Joseph’s full-blood brother.

Not sure what Joseph’s intentions were. Maybe he wanted to see if the ten had become as hateful toward Benjamin as they had been toward him. In that case, he could actually rescue Benjamin from them. Or perhaps he wanted to know if they had repented of their evil and were changed men. In which case, he’d have the chance to include his family in his life again. There is the possibility that he was toying with the idea of revenge against the ten. The point is, Scripture doesn’t tell us what he was thinking.

What we do know is that Joseph’s brothers, all except one he kept on condition of their return with the younger brother, went back to their dad, with food but without one of their number. Jacob was distraught. He’d never gotten over losing Joseph, and now one of his older boys was held captive in Egypt, and would not be released unless Benjamin went with the guys on their next trip.

So he delayed. And delayed. At some point things were becoming desperate. The famine continued and the food ran out. His sons needed to go back to Egypt to get food.

But Jacob said, “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.”

At that point Jacob didn’t love anyone but himself. He was not willing to sacrifice his son.

But he didn’t stay in that state of mind. After time, he came to realize the severity of their situation, and he gave permission for Benjamin to go.

The story ends with Joseph revealing his identity to his brothers and telling them to bring their father and their entire households to Egypt to live because there were still years left of the famine. They did, and he was reunited with his father.

Of course Jacob was not sacrificing his only son, and he wasn’t even sacrificing him. More like risking him. Sort of an “all in” decision. But I think that might be part of love. Going all in. It certainly was the way in which God showed His love for the world.

Published in: on November 10, 2020 at 5:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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Turning To God


If it’s true that the problems the US faces today are not going to be fixed by government, that they actually need a spiritual answer, that such an answer starts with turning to God, what does that mean? What does it look like?

I’ve talked to a number of atheists over the years, and clearly their belief (although they say they don’t believe anything) is that there’s no evidence for God. What they are actually saying is a refutation of Romans 1, and an agreement.

Paul says in the first chapter of this letter that “that which is known about God is evident within them because God made it evident to them.” This, he explains, has been so since the creation of the world, in which God’s invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature have been clearly seen through what He made.

So the atheist starts by denying creation.

Paul addressed that, too, saying that though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God. So we refer to “Mother Nature,” not God. Maybe Mother Nature will give us a break in the weather so the fires will be brought under control.

In the same breath, many of the same people declare that humans are in control of that which has been made. So everything will be fine if we just don’t screw it up. All the climate warming and the resulting floods and hurricanes and fires, are our fault because we aren’t doing a good enough job.

So, on one hand, Mother Nature is in charge and we’re just along for the ride, but on the other hand humans are in charge of not making a mess of “our home.” How this Earth became our home, doesn’t ever seem to cross their minds.

But the bottom line is this: those who do not believe in God claim there is no evidence for His existence, then distort that very evidence, suggesting instead that this world and our place in it happened randomly and yet in an orderly progression of random events that can’t be replicated. But it was random. Not a result of an intelligent mind or a loving Father who chose to bring the world into existence and chose to put us humans in charge of it.

Interestingly, I had one atheist tell me she kept the Ten Commandments. Clearly she didn’t really know what they say, because they start with “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Mother =Nature is another god. And so are we humans, if we credit ourselves with what only God does.

I don’t want to get too far from the point. If we are to turn to God, we first have to acknowledge that He is. The writer of the book of Hebrews says that: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

So the first part of turning to God, I think, is to live what we say we believe. If we believe God is, then we need to trust Him, even when things don’t go the way we want. We need to trust that He sees the end from the beginning, that He knows what’s right.

I remember playing as a kid that I was a pirate looking through a telescope (usually the cardboard tube after all the Christmas wrapping had been used up). The problem with looking through a narrow cylinder is that you don’t get the panorama. You only see one small portion, and sometimes that is so close up it seems as if it is everything, or at least all that is important.

Unlike that kind of limited perspective, God sees and knows what we need, today, ten years from today, what our neighbor needs and our nephew we see at Thanksgiving. God can be trusted, if He is God. And if believers want to lead the way for our nation to return to Him, we need to trust Him, even when we don’t understand what He’s doing.

The prophet Habakkuk had the same issue. He wanted the nation Israel to turn back to God. God told him He was about to send a far more wicked nation to put them into captivity. That made no sense to Habakkuk. Until God told him about the remnant and the Messiah which was part of this overall plan.

So, too, for us, we don’t know what God’s plans are for the world or even for us individually. But we can count on His promises and we can turn to Him as our shield, our refuge, our safety net.

Published in: on October 1, 2020 at 5:12 pm  Comments (9)  
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The Solution Is Not Political


The US has been pulled in two this year by all the rancor and accusations and rushing to judgment and anarchists and rioters. And then came the first Presidential debate.

Nothing could have demonstrated how divided we are more than those 90 minutes. At the same time, nothing could have demonstrated so clearly that what the US needs is not a political solution. It’s spiritual.

Pointing fingers and claiming that this person lied or said or did or didn’t do this or that doesn’t actually solve anything. It doesn’t bring clarity to the issues. It doesn’t actually answer the questions because those who agree with President Trump will believe him and those who agree with the former Vice President, will believe him.

This should surprise no Christian.

I understand, Christians like so many other Americans love their country, and it is hard to see people steadily dismantle what it has stood for all these years, to actually hate it and accuse those who are their neighbors and co-workers of hate.

I know this is old school, but all through my history and sociology courses, the clear ideal for which America stood was a place where all peoples from anywhere could find freedom and the pursuit of happiness. We though of ourselves during those years as a “melting pot,” a place where various peoples all became one—Americans.

No one hid from us the failings of our country—of slavery and the scar it left, of the Japanese interment camps during WWII, of the hatred Germans endured at that same time. But no one hid the great accomplishments of “people of color,” either.

I could spend a lot of time elaborating, but that’s not the point here. Rather, despite the wonderful ideal and the good instruction that certainly did play a part in forming the attitudes of many of us, we are far more divided now than we ever were. Ever.

In other words, the public policy, the political solutions, the social engineering have not brought peace and harmony to our land. In fact, they’ve hardly moved the needle.

The fact is, each and every one of us needs to bow the knee to the Sovereign Lord God Almighty.

Interestingly the Bible has a lot to say about harmony and unity, most addressing believers. “To sum up, all of you, be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead.” (1 Peter 3:8-9, I believe).

Of course the Apostle Paul called the church in Philippi (and us right along with them) to have the same attitude Jesus had. To regard others as more important than ourselves.

Do you think we would have racial or political division if we were doing what Scripture calls us to do?

But people who don’t follow Jesus likely won’t ever get there. For one, they don’t recognize the Bible as an authority, and two they don’t have any motive to do what Jesus did. Christians have that motive: “But you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also died for you leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” (also in 1 Peter 3).

So the real need is not to try and make people with no motive do what Christ taught and did, nor is it to try and fashion a government after His principles that is void of the heart of what He said.

Christ came to preach good news—release for the captives, the forgiveness of sins. He didn’t come to set up an earthly kingdom. Various people groups have tried to do this before—the Puritans in England, the Calvinists in Geneva, and perhaps that’s what the Pilgrims wanted when they came to America. I know here the Amish have tried for the same idea.

It doesn’t work. Some might think the Amish have been successful, but that’s because they don’t know about the church splits over the use of a hook and eye instead of a button or zippers instead of either. Or about the Amish that excommunicate others for having a telephone or any number of other legalistic trivia. No, the Amish community is not an example of a successful earthly group that lives in harmony.

The only such group is the Church, and we aren’t setting up an earthly place to gather or to rule. That’s part of our heavenly inheritance. But what I’ve noticed is this: since God calls us brothers and sisters, there is an instant affinity, Christian with Christian. So if I’m talking to a Kenyan I’ve only just met or if I’m sitting on a small stool in the hut of a poor Guatemalan or I’m sitting at a sushi meal in Tokyo, there is a rapport, a recognition, that we are family.

The family of Christ supersedes earthly cultures or nations or ethnicities. When I sat in a church in Harlem and sang with an all black congregation, I was with my brothers and sisters. That’s the unity that can transform a nation.

I know a lot of Christians are familiar with a part of this verse:

[If] My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

Too many people are only interested in these parts, when they pray, I will heal their land.

First God spoke these words to Israel, and He was referring to the Promised Land. I don’t think there’s any evidence that the US is a Promised Land replacement.

But more importantly, the verse says if we call on God’s name, if we humble ourselves, if we pray, if we seek His face, if we turn from our wicked ways . . . then God will hear and forgive and heal.

So where is a national turning to God? Israel had the temple and the Mosaic Law and kings anointed by God’s prophet as David was, and still needed God to explain to them that they had to be ready and willing to turn back to Him. Their God established nation and political system was not enough.

Certainly, certainly we must see that it’s also not what we need today either. We need repentant hearts and a turning to God. That’s what we should be preaching.

Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels

Published in: on September 30, 2020 at 5:13 pm  Comments (5)  
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Praying For Leaders


I know many Christians pray for our leaders. Scripture is clear that we should obey them, honor them, pray for them.

Here in the US, we have lots of leaders: the President, our Federal legislators, our Governor, our state legislators. But I wonder, in all this, do our judges get lost in the shuffle?

As it happens, what takes place in our courts matters a great deal to the direction of our country.

I don’t know how many people were aware that this past Saturday there was a Prayer March in Washington DC, sponsored by Franklin Graham.

Here’s the thank you video that came out yesterday:

These are people praying for our nation in a way that I would have liked to do as well.

In truth, praying for our nation starts with repentance. We cannot continue in our sins and expect God to ignore them and shower His blessings on us, regardless.

My blogger friend, InsanityBytes, wrote a really good post today about sin and how the recognition of our sin actually makes all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. I highly recommend “What Are Conservatives Conserving?”

I’ve written about sin on this blog before, and I’ve had discussions with people who think it’s “abusive” to tell children that they are sinners.

Well, it would be if all we said is, You’re a sinner and you’ll do horrible things all during your life and then you’ll die. That would be cruel.

Our culture takes the “everyone gets a trophy” approach: we are all wonderful, good people who just have the misfortune to have bad things happen which causes us to do bad things in return. But we’re actually, really good.

That way of thinking has so many problems. First, if people are good, how did the bad things enter into the world and make our systems bad and our actions bad? In other words, the people who actually have a problem of evil is not Christians. It’s the irreligious who think humans are good.

The Bible clearly teaches where evil comes from, how it is something passed down from Adam, and something that actually has a solution. It’s not mysterious or unclear. Because of our sin, we need a Savior.

That’s the message that America needs to hear. The whole package, including, and actually starting with, the sin part. Because if people do not recognize the sin problem, they likely won’t recognize the Savior part. I mean, who needs a Savior if you’re not lost or drowning or buffeted beyond your ability to endure?

But lost people know they need to be found, drowning people know they need to be pulled to shore, buffeted people need someone who will rescue them.

As it happens, this Prayer March was an important part of our nation turning back to God. Some 50,000 people gathered to recognize our need for God, starting with repentance, and including prayer for our leaders.

I just hope we all include our judges and the debates tonight and the voting for both national and federal offices. If we Christians don’t care, if we don’t come before God and ask Him to act on our behalf, why would we think our nation will change in a positive way?

There’s a verse in Proverbs that says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD. / He turns it wherever He wishes (21:1).

May we unite to pray that God will turn the reigns of our US government into the path of righteousness through our elected officials and appointed judges.

BTW, Vice President Pence spoke at the Prayer March. You can see the whole of the march here, and his remarks are right at the beginning (about the 1 minute mark until the 5 minute mark or so):

Published in: on September 29, 2020 at 5:07 pm  Comments (5)  
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A Revolution In Culture


From time to time I have listed the various inventions in my life time. Once I listed the things I knew about that had come into existence and went extinct. You know, things like cassettes and VCRs.

What I haven’t thought about before are the many cultural changes. For instance, when I was growing up, grocery stores weren’t open on Sunday. They also didn’t sell liquor. That seems a little shocking, I know, because it’s so far from what we know today.

Here’s another one. When I was young we had one person come to our door and ask for a handout. We lived next to a building that had once been a church, and possibly this man though this was where the parish priest lived. Today, I routinely see homeless people when I’m on my walk. I mean, pretty much every day.

There are lots of other things. For instance, gambling was against the law. Now various states encourage it with their state-run lotteries. Colorado has approved sports betting. And any number of states have casinos.

Maybe the biggest change has been in church. When I grew up, most churches had a Sunday morning service, Sunday school, a Sunday evening service, and a midweek service, usually on Wednesday. Now very few churches have a Sunday evening service (I’m speaking Pre-Pandemic), and the only midweek services are small groups that meet in homes (if that).

When I went to “middle school” which we called “junior high,” the girls wore dresses to school. “Transgender” was not a teenage issue yet and “homosexual” still appeared in the college psychology books under deviant behavior.

Were there problems with drugs? The use of hallucinogens took hold during the hippie era and the Viet Nam War, so people might think there has been no change there. But wait. There are prescription drugs that are in common use now that no one had even heard of. So many more people, adults and children, take drugs of one sort or the other. Reminds me of the dystopian novel that had the whole society taking drugs, which kept them under control.

When I was a kid, people would whisper about someone who grew up with divorced parents. Now divorce is common, and so is living together and not marrying.

Have I mentioned abortion? Well, yes, there were whispered “back alley” abortions. But all that changed in 1973 (in the name of “choice”) when the flood gates opened for the abortion of thousands upon thousands of babies.

Of course, the problem was that many of the cultural mores of those days were not based on anything more than tradition. There was not a particular reason grocery stores didn’t open on Sunday. Once there had been a reason—Sunday was the Lord’s day, not a day for commerce. But when Sunday changed from being the Lord’s day to being a day off work, there was no more motivation to keeping grocery stores closed for business. (Which, of course, meant that more and more people began to work on Sunday. And not go to church.)

There was not a reason for people to refrain from divorce, or to stay celibate until their wedding night, or even to get married.

The point is simple. As we see racial tension grow and riots and hatred fanned in various cities across the US, so many people have said, I just want my country back. But we aren’t “getting our country back” until the heart of our country changes.

Here’s one woman who gave her thoughts on the matter.

I admit, I stopped listening when she got to the part about the guns, but I went back to it, and I’m glad I did because she got to the crux of the issue: prayer.

Well, actually, God.

We have left our first love. We Christians have adopted many of the same attitudes and beliefs that our secular neighbors hold. We are listening more to athletes and stars than we are to Scripture.

The Bible says the beginning of wisdom, and of knowledge, is the fear of the LORD.

I can’t say there’s much fear—awesome respect and reverence—for God these days. In fact as the elements of our society march us toward anarchy, there’s seemingly a disregard for all forms of authority.

While God is a loving heavenly Father, He is still the ultimate authority. He is the One True Judge who, James says, is able to save and to destroy.

When we return to the fear of the LORD, when we bow before Him and admit our sin, maybe then we can have our nation back.

There’s actually something better. Maranatha. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Published in: on September 25, 2020 at 6:03 pm  Comments (4)  
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Behind The Mess, Evil


Where did evil come from? In this unprecedented year of trouble, the question about evil seems quite practical, not theoretical or philosophical.

Biblical Christianity has a clear, concise, and practical answer.

Solomon spelled out the answer in the book of Proverbs. In the first chapter, he personified Wisdom, and it is Wisdom that gives the answers to the question of evil.

“Because I called and you refused,
I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;
And you neglected all my counsel
And did not want my reproof;
I will also laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your dread comes,
When your dread comes like a storm
And your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
When distress and anguish come upon you.

“Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,
Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the LORD.

“They would not accept my counsel,
They spurned all my reproof.

“So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way
And be satiated with their own devices.

“For the waywardness of the naive will kill them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them.

“But he who listens to me shall live securely
And will be at ease from the dread of evil.” (Prov. 1:24-33)

In a nutshell, humankind hated God’s way, so He gave us over to our own way.

So many miss this point. Our good and loving God delegated to us the care of the rest of creation, and He told us what we needed to know to be successful.

Instead of embracing God’s way, we hated His way, thought we could figure out a way around it, and decided we knew better than He.

Simply put, that’s evil. There is no better way than the perfect way. Our embracing something less than perfect drags us further and further from God and from His plan for us. If it weren’t for His intervention, we would have no hope.

But thanks be to our loving, good God who knows exactly what we need, we have a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who has brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Later in the book of Proverbs, Solomon says

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov. 9:10)

God is entwined in it all—the beginning of wisdom, our response to wisdom, the reproof when we ignore wisdom, the consequences for hating wisdom. And the point of wisdom is to lead us to the fear of the Lord.

It’s self-fulfilling. The more we fear the Lord, the more we fear the Lord.

But “fear” doesn’t mean get all terrified, though that’s a part of it. The Hebrew word is yir’ah, and it’s various meanings are these:

I. fear, terror, fearing

A. fear, terror
B. awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear)
C. fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety
D. revered

It is use C that applies here—fear, respect, reverence, and devotion. These are the heart attitudes, applied to our relationship with God, that yield wisdom.

Today there are a lot of ideas about God—he’s our buddy, he’s our Sugar Daddy, he’s an it or a she or an unknown, he’s nonexistent. All these are ways of neglecting wisdom’s counsel. We think we can ignore God or deny Him or treat Him with disrespect and still reap the benefits of His kindness and mercy. We don’t realize how much we pay for the existence of evil.

All the sin and sickness and death that plague the world and everything in it, is a direct result of turning our back on God instead of fearing Him.

Evil is here because of how humankind treats God. If we don’t love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (the first commandment), then how can we think we’ll be able to love our neighbors as ourselves (the second commandment)?

In short, evil is not something rightly dropped at God’s doorstep. He created a perfect world, and it is we who let Him down, not He who bungled the oversight of what He made.

My guess is, the same pride that said we could bypass the requirements God laid down, also is the reason we don’t want to admit evil exists in us and on earth, because of us. But that’s the truth—the Biblical answer to the question of evil.

Photo by brakou abdelghani from Pexels

This post is an adaptation of one that appeared here in January, 2015</span

Published in: on September 23, 2020 at 4:17 pm  Comments (2)  
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What’s It Going To Take?


Political upheaval in the form of an impeachment hearing back in January, and finally resolved in February, in time for the various state caucuses and primary elections to take place, started all the 2020 craziness.

Also in early February a spate of tornadoes took place. “Across the three-day outbreak, 37 tornadoes were confirmed, including several that were strong and long-tracked. In the pre-dawn hours of February 6, an EF1 tornado near Demopolis, Alabama killed one person. Total economic losses from the event exceeded $925 million” (Wikipedia)

A month later a pandemic that spread faster than anyone expected, reached the US and caused overcrowding in some hospitals, a shortage of ventilators, and a shocking number of deaths.

Panic buying followed. Sanitizer, rubber gloves, masks, bleach and other sterilizing agents, water and, for some unknown reason, toilet paper, all disappeared from store shelves. For about a week, so did canned foods and meat and cheese and fresh fruits.

No shortages, we were reassured, but because of high demand, the distribution grid was overloaded. Thankfully goods came back, but closures started. Schools, all but essential businesses, churches, restaurants and bars.

In March, the much anticipated college basketball tournament, fondly called March Madness, was cancelled. Soon after, professional sports came to a screeching halt.

Social distancing became the watch word, and incrementally the death rate of those contracting the deadly Covid virus, dropped, from 19 percent of those infected in the US, to the current rate of 5 percent.

In April, more Tornado events took place, the Easter storms lasting 2 days and hitting the southeastern part of the US. At the end of the month another collection of tornadoes hit parts of Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.

May came and an African American died while being arrested by police. His mistreatment is caught on camera and caused nationwide protests, even some in other countries. Many protests in the US quickly turned into riots. In Seattle a group of people took over a six-block area they declared to be a police-free zone. The city allowed the group to continue for weeks, breaking into businesses, looting, leaving waste and graffiti everywhere. Until there were several shooting incidents and a march on the mayor’s home.

As part of the riots, a number of statues were either defaced or torn down most of historical figures the rioters did not approve of, but also including one statue paid for by freed slaves to memorialize their freedom and one of abolitionist Hans Christian Heg.

Reports began to come in that rioters were paid participants, moving from city to city to foment unrest.

Meanwhile, the US economy pretty much tanked, a number of essential workers walked off the job because of unsafe conditions, and grocery stores and pharmacies all began requiring masks (at least in some states).

June saw more of the same. Then in July, the National Football League opened training camps all around the nation and Major League Baseball resumed, the pro basketball league began to hold their playoffs, in a bubble.

At the same time, the first of the California fires started, and a less reported fire in Colorado swept through several counties and soon became the largest in Colorado history.

Intermingled with all the rest have been the hurricanes. “So far, it [hurricane season] has featured a total of 24 tropical or subtropical cyclones, 23 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. With 23 named storms, it is the second most active Atlantic hurricane season on record” (Wikipedia).

In August, more shootings, riots, and fires. And now in September one of the Supreme Court Justices passed away. The fires in Oregon, Washington, and California continue. A protest that lasted for weeks in Portland finally ended. And the political animosity builds as we draw closer to the November election.

Believe it or not, these are only the high spots. The year 2020 has been . . . pick your adjective. Crazy, horrible, abnormal, abysmal, unprecedented.

The divisions in our nation are only becoming greater. There is the Cancel Culture movement and the dispute over wearing masks or not wearing masks, and the far left push for anarchy and socialism seems to have gained a foothold in the universities.

There is a #WalkAway movement that reports people walking away from the Democratic Party, often because they come to realize they have been lied to all along (Republicans are evil, hateful, bigots, racist, and so on, they have been told. And then they actually have occasion to talk to some Republicans).

Why have I taken so long to point out all the problems of 2020?

I want to make the point that what we are experiencing is not just like any other . . . sweeping illness or storm season or violence or fires or political unrest. For one thing, all these have happened all at the same time, within one calendar year.

The people who want to dismiss any or all of these as just something that happens, are wrong.

God moves through storms and riots and illness. Often these kinds of events, whether rooted in the sinfulness of humans or in natural events, comes for the very purpose of giving us a warning. Here’s what Jesus said about this exact situation:

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

No, Jesus said, those who died didn’t “deserve it.” But their deaths are a warning that all who do not repent will suffer the same fate. The clear point is, REPENT.

I’m not sure why American Christians seem to be slow to see God’s warning. It feels as if He’s writing it in the smoke that hovers over our land, in the storms that crash onto our shores and rip apart our buildings. And of course in the social distancing and the funerals which result from the illness that still takes its toll on people.

Now is the time for repentance. Now is the time for the US, for the world, to turn back to God. His message through it all, is, at a minimum, this: I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Published in: on September 22, 2020 at 5:48 pm  Comments (6)  
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What’s Behind Mistaken Beliefs


Jesus was pretty clear about the reasons for the very religious Jews of His day getting their theology off the track of truth.

In the days leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion, both Pharisees and Sadducees worked overtime to trip Jesus up. He faced question after question that was designed to paint Him into a corner, either with the Romans or with the Jews.

While Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, the Pharisees had brought up a point of Law—Mosaic Law. I suspect this was their “gray area” question, bound to get one group or another upset, no matter how Jesus answered.

Using flawless logic, coupled with knowledge of Scripture Jesus squelched their plan. The question: is it right to divorce? After all, Moses made provision for it in the Law.

Jesus’s answer: Sure he did because of the hardness of your hearts, but from the beginning, that was not God’s plan. He then laid out one of His, “But I say to you” statements as He did in the Sermon on the Mount: “I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. (Matt. 19:9)” In other words, he breaks God’s Law.

When He reached Jerusalem, the questions continued: Where did you get your authority? Did they have in mind Jesus’s “But I say to you” statements? Or did this question refer to Jesus taking it on Himself to kick all the money changers out of the temple? No matter which motivated them, the question was another way of asking, Who do you think you are? Because clearly Jesus was taking authority the Chief Priests and the scribes had not taken.

Jesus sidestepped that authority question. In fact, He answered with a counter trap: Where did John get his authority. They wouldn’t answer, so Jesus declined to give their question an answer.

Then came the question designed to get Him in trouble with Rome: should we pay taxes to Caesar? Here Jesus again used impeccable logic: since Caesar’s picture was on every coin, the money belonged to him, but then give to God the things that belong to Him.

Rome certainly couldn’t accuse Him of rebellion from that answer. And the Jews couldn’t accuse Him of turning His back on God.

Pivoting from trying to catch Jesus saying something against Rome, the Pharisees gave way to the Sadducees. These guys didn’t believe in the supernatural. Not sure what they actually thought about God, but they denied the existence of angels and didn’t believe in the resurrection from the dead.

In answer to these false teachers, Jesus gave the answer that fits all false teachers, down through time. His statement was really simple. Basic even. But profound. Of course He went on to apply His answer to their specific question about marriage in heaven, but here’s the principle:

But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God (Matt. 22:29).”

Their false ideas, the very foundation of their sect and what they taught, developed because they did not understand Scripture, and because they did not understand the power of God.

I can think of any number of cults that have gone astray for one or both of those reasons. They don’t understand what the Bible says about Jesus. So Mormons think He was a created being who worked his way up until he became a god, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t think He was God at all.

Other people don’t understand the power of God, so they deny that He created the world out of nothing by the words He spoke. They deny the miracles of Scripture. No worldwide flood, no path through the Red Sea, no walking on water, or stopping a storm with His word, no healing of the lame and blind, no resurrection from the dead. Those things couldn’t happen, they say, because look around you: they don’t happen.

Ah, but you are mistaken because you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God.

What a load of dung, they may answer in return. Your Bible is full of errors and no one knows what the originals actually said.

Well, that’s not true, but at the heart of your statement, you are mistaken because you do not understand the power of God. The Word God inspired, He can also preserve and protect. Many facts support the idea the Bible we have today, even in various translations, has been preserved and does faithfully reflect what God said about who He is, what His plan for and His work in the world is.

So yes, people who don’t understand the Scriptures or who deny the power of God, are going to get swallowed up by false teaching of one kind or the other.

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