Enjoy these entries - we hope they make you think.
They Hate Christians Because They Hate RealityMonday, May 22, 2023
Christians are not always the brightest bulbs, but we do shine in this dark world. We obstinately refuse to disagree with God, even when we don’t completely understand the how or the why. A scientist insists gravity is the law that makes things fall. It’s nothing special, he says; it’s just the way it is. The Christian enjoys the fact that God made the apple to fall down and not up. Why should it not fall up, after all?
Christians love reality. God paraded all the animals before Adam and told him to name them, and man has not stopped naming God’s created things. “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (Proverbs 25.2). A Christian understands categories and design, and he knows the Designer. Reality reflects the Creator, and the Christian revels in what is, not in what he wishes or hopes it were.
Satan is the father of lies (John 8.44); he lies because he hates the truth, and he hates the truth because he hates what God loves. Christians love what God loves. Enemies of God deny truth and speak against reality. They seek not necessarily to define things differently than God but to rid the world of definitions altogether because definitions recognize limitations, and God’s enemies hate limits.
Christians recognize and love God’s limits. “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out of the womb…and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?” (Job 38.8–11). Oh, how the world hates God’s “Thou shalt nots”!
The mega church down the road advertises their teen program: “Limitless.” I’d really like to hear the rationale on that one. Are they really teaching their teens they have no limits in Christ? No boundaries? What?
Matt Walsh has become famous recently with his bombshell documentary, What Is a Woman? The single point of the entire program centers on defining the word woman. It’s not that the current culture can’t define it—they refuse to because they realize giving a definition boxes them in. They don’t want to be confined to the reality of what a woman is, so they refuse to speak. Likewise, Jesus asked the chief priests, scribes, and elders of His day, “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” He challenged them to define John’s baptism. They refused, specifically to avoid being trapped by their answer (Mark 11.27–33). They were not interested in reality; they were interested in getting their own way.
Because Christians seek to define terms, to categorize things properly, to accept reality, enemies of the cross hate us for it.
We say, “Marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman, as designed by God.” We say, “A man cannot change into a woman, nor can a woman change into a man.” We say, “A human baby is a life inside the womb, and killing him is murder.” We say, “A father should live with, provide for, and protect his wife and family.” We say, “A man will reap what he sows, and if you do not repent, you will die in your sins.”
In none of these things are we forcing a person to do or not to do something. We are simply recognizing reality as God designed it and giving voice to the truth. But don’t you know that silence is violence? And words are also violence. Everything is violence, and if God’s enemies don’t like what a Christian says, that gives them the moral green light to slander, malign, and even physically attack the Christian. They simply redefine violence to fit the need of their hour.
It has always been thus. They hated the Shepherd; they will hate the sheep. They hated the Master; they will hate the servants. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5.11–12).
Dear brothers and sisters, do not be surprised by abuse from Christ’s enemies. We cannot stop speaking the truth and recognizing reality because that would dishonor the Word and Designer. Speak the truth in love, keep your head up, and see what the Lord works through your faithfulness.
Where Can Wisdom Be Found?Monday, May 15, 2023
Do you know where to go to find wisdom? Wisdom means “skill,” and we see men and women through the Bible have wisdom in various ways. Some have wisdom in woodworking or metalworking or art or music. Some have wisdom in understanding nature and life. Wise people are skillful in life. Where does one find true wisdom?
Job 3–27 contains a debate between Job and his three friends, and Job 28 is a continuation of Job's reasoning. The main question of the chapter arrives in verses 12 and 20, but watch how Job builds up to the question in verses 1-11:
1 “Surely there is a mine for silver, And a place where gold is refined.
2 Iron is taken from the earth,
And copper is smelted from ore.
3 Man puts an end to darkness,
And searches every recess
For ore in the darkness and the shadow of death.
4 He breaks open a shaft away from people;
In places forgotten by feet
They hang far away from men;
They swing to and fro.
5 As for the earth, from it comes bread,
But underneath it is turned up as by fire;
6 Its stones are the source of sapphires,
And it contains gold dust.
7 That path no bird knows,
Nor has the falcon’s eye seen it.
8 The proud lions have not trodden it,
Nor has the fierce lion passed over it.
9 He puts his hand on the flint;
He overturns the mountains at the roots.
10 He cuts out channels in the rocks,
And his eye sees every precious thing.
11 He dams up the streams from trickling;
What is hidden he brings forth to light.
Through this gorgeous imagery, Job transports us into the recesses of the earth, into the mines, into the center of the rock. What does man find hidden there in the darkness? He finds precious things: gold, silver, iron, glittering jewels, sparkling dust.
What's the point, Job? We read on...
12 “But where can wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
13 Man does not know its value,
Nor is it found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me’;
And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
15 It cannot be purchased for gold,
Nor can silver be weighed for its price.
16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
In precious onyx or sapphire.
17 Neither gold nor crystal can equal it,
Nor can it be exchanged for jewelry of fine gold.
18 No mention shall be made of coral or quartz,
For the price of wisdom is above rubies.
19 The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
Nor can it be valued in pure gold.
20 “From where then does wisdom come?
And where is the place of understanding?
Verses 12 and 20 create an inclusio, which is a section bracketed by two nearly identical statements. The twin statements expose the main point of the section: "Where can wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?"
We brilliant humans can search and find so many wonderful, valuable, precious items hidden in the earth...but can we find wisdom in any of those places? Man doesn't even know the value of wisdom—it cannot be measured like gold or silver. You cannot find wisdom in the ocean, you cannot purchase wisdom from a merchant, and you cannot measure wisdom's value using any earthly economic system.
So, Job again asks, from where does wisdom come?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
And concealed from the birds of the air.
22 Destruction and Death say,
‘We have heard a report about it with our ears.’
23 God understands its way,
And He knows its place.
24 For He looks to the ends of the earth,
And sees under the whole heavens,
25 To establish a weight for the wind,
And apportion the waters by measure.
26 When He made a law for the rain,
And a path for the thunderbolt,
27 Then He saw wisdom and declared it;
He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out.
28 And to man He said,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
And to depart from evil is understanding.’ ”
Wisdom is hidden from mankind. There is a wisdom which comes with age and experience, but not the wisdom which Job seeks: the wisdom of the ages, the rock-solid truth, the understanding of life. That wisdom is hidden from all the living. In fact, those irresistible forces of nature, Destruction and Death, have only heard rumors about wisdom!
God understands wisdom. Of course He does! Being the Creator of this life, He surely knows how this life operates! He sees and establishes everything. He's the one who created the physical laws in the first place. Even wisdom He spoke into being.
But God not only understands wisdom, He gracefully reveals wisdom to us! He says to man, "The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding."
Apart from God's revelation, man cannot be truly wise. The most learned scientist, the most widely-traveled archaeologist, the most introspective guru among men still has not found wisdom until he opens up the word of God and examines what God has actually revealed about man and about Himself. In His word we find truth and wisdom; those things which are hidden from mankind God teaches through special revelation.
Does that fill you with excitement? Isn't that brilliant? Doesn't that make you want to dig into God's book and share it with your children? That's the way I feel, too!
Let us fear the Lord, our Maker. Let us depart from evil. Therein lies wisdom.
Is Jesus Your Personal Savior?Monday, May 08, 2023
In The Message—an interpretation, not a translation (so read with caution!)—the introduction to Galatians includes the following:
Through Jesus, Paul learned that God was not an impersonal force to be used to make people behave in certain prescribed ways, but a personal Savior who set us free to live a free life.
The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary includes under its entry for "Logos":
In relation to humanity, Jesus the Logos was not the impersonal principle of Stoicism, but He was a personal Savior who took on human flesh in the incarnation (John 1:4–14).
Most of the evangelical world employs this phrase. Perhaps "Are you a born again Christian?" (isn't that redundant?) is even more popular, but "Have you made Jesus your own personal Savior?" definitely competes.
Can we claim Jesus as our own "personal Savior"?
Personal is used here in the relational sense—that Jesus saves me personally; He and I share a personal relationship. The alternative to this personal relationship, I suppose, would be a relationship between Jesus and His body, the church, which does not somehow translate into a relationship between Him and me or Him and you, personally.
What does the Bible teach on this?
The Bible does not contain those exact words—"personal Savior"—but what about the concept? Consider two of the most God-fearing and God-loving men in the Bible, one who lived under the Old Covenant and one under the New: David and Paul.
David wrote of his relationship with God, even as his Savior, in the Psalms.
I love you, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Ps. 18.1-2)
I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. (Ps. 3.4)
Do not forsake me, O Lord!
O my God, be not far from me!
Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation! (Ps. 38.21-22)
Do you sense a personal relationship in David's words? Yahweh was not just the God of Israel; He was David's God! This relationship comforts and empowers because it does not depend upon the state of anyone else in the world—it's directly between a man and his God.
Paul also helps us understand the nature of our relationship with Jesus the Savior.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2.20)
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Phil. 3.12)
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 1.12-14)
Can you say Jesus is your personal Savior? Do you have a personal relationship with Him? I dearly hope you do! It is the single most important relationship any human being can have—and you either are His or you aren't.
Reading the Bible LiterallyMonday, May 01, 2023
In yesterday’s sermon (April 30, 2023), we reviewed Dispensationalism. The dispensationalist claims and tries with all his might to read the Bible literally. Notice what dispensationalist Ken Blue wrote:
B. Dispensationalists hold to the literal principles of interpretation of Scripture. Someone has said that men spiritualize because they have no 'spiritual eyes.' The most dangerous method of Bible interpretation is that of spiritualizing a text or making everything a type.
Illustration: God promised Adam and Eve that the Seed of the woman would come. He did. Noah was warned of a flood. It came. Abraham's seed were promised a land. They received it. Moses was promised victory in leading Israel from Egypt; he did it. Rebellious Israel was warned of their coming dispersion; it came. The prophets promised Israel that God would return them to their home-land. He is doing it as we write. The virgin birth was foretold. It came to pass. The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ was prophesied. It took place. The destruction of the temple and of the nation was prophesied. It happened.
If these and hundreds of prophecies like them were literal and proved to be so, why should the Bible believer assume that remaining prophesies are to be spiritualized and applied to the church? One opens himself to serious error when the literal approach to the Bible is rejected. A study of dispensations demands a literal interpretation of Scripture.
Have you ever heard of the logical fallacy of equivocation? It’s when someone uses a definition for something one way (usually a way in which most everyone agrees), and then he subtly switches the definition a bit later in his argument. Equivocation is “calling two different things by the same name.”
For example, “Dairy is good for me, so I eat a gallon of ice cream a day.” The argument equates dairy and ice cream. Ice cream has milk in it, but it also has a bunch of other stuff that, unfortunately, makes it unhealthy in great quantities.
Often, we omit important information to get our equivocation argument to go through. My child might say, “Can I go over to my friend’s house for a little while? He’s having a couple of friends over to play some games.” I might ask my child to further clarify because those statements are quite general. I’m picturing four or five guys sitting around a table playing Risk, when the real plan is for half the school to come over and have a pool party with illicit refreshments freely flowing. If I confronted him later about his deception, he would say, “We didn’t say how long and who can say how many ‘a couple’ of friends is?”
Dispensationalists often (though not necessarily on purpose) equivocate with this idea of reading the Bible literally. You see what Ken Blue wrote above. Read through all his illustrations of how the Bible literally says something and that thing literally happened. There is practically nothing you would argue with, right? He seals his argument up at the end with a question: “Why should the Bible believer assume that remaining prophesies are to be spiritualized and applied to the church?”
Well, he didn’t give us any examples of some of the other prophecies he takes literally. Neither does he explain what “spiritualizing” means to him. If we take the land promise and nation promise of Genesis 12.1–3 and apply those now to the church age, is that spiritualizing, or is that seeing how God is literally carrying out His promise in the way He had determined before time began? The dispensationalist waits today for God to fulfill the land promise to the nation of Israel. We read Jesus in Matthew 5.5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” and we realize this is connected directly back to Old Covenant language such as Psalm 25.13; 37.9, 11, 22, 29, 34. Jesus applies that language to citizens of His Kingdom under the New Covenant, so why should we not connect the land promise to ourselves who are citizens of Christ’s Kingdom?
There’s a reason why we interpret all those things Ken Blue listed as literally true. Almost all of them come from historical narratives in the Old Testament. When we read history, of course we interpret it literally. We believe it happened just as it is written.
However, other genres exist among the books of the Bible. Not everything is historical narrative. Prophecy in scripture is often proclaimed through poetry, and sometimes a certain type of prophetic language which we call “apocalyptic” is used.
For example, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream in Daniel 2 about a statue which had different body parts composed of different metals: a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, middle and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay. A huge rock was cut out without man’s hands and was hurled at the feet of the statue, breaking it to pieces. Daniel interpreted the dream, and we understand each part of the statue stood for a kingdom in present or future history (future to Daniel). Was the statue literal? It was a literal dream of a statue, but Nebuchadnezzar would not be looking for a literal statue like that because he discovered that it was merely symbolic of historical realities to come.
We could also look at Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great tree in Daniel 4. Again, the tree symbolized Nebuchadnezzar himself and what God had planned for him in his near future.
The last six chapters of Daniel are full of prophetic imagery. Daniel 7 reveals a dream Daniel had of four great beasts: one like a lion and had eagles’ wings which had the voice of a man given to it; one like a bear raised up on one side with three ribs in his mouth; one like a leopard with four wings of a bird on its back and four heads; and one with ten horns and great iron teeth which it used to devour and break in pieces. Are we to take Daniel’s dream literally? In what sense do we take it literally? We believe he literally had a dream, but we also understand that those four beasts were not literal freaks of nature that God brought or will bring to earth. They stood, again, for four kingdoms which would come. We know that because Daniel received an interpretation at the end of the chapter (“As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth…” Dan. 7.23).
When Jesus spoke in parables, He interpreted a few of them (Matthew 13) but not all of them. His interpretations of the few instructs us on how to interpret the rest of them. He teaches us how to listen to parables, to find a deeper meaning behind the simple stories. Likewise, God gives us interpretations for some apocalyptic language (such as in Daniel 7), which helps us understand how to read other apocalyptic literature, even when God does not supply the interpretation. We understand how to read this kind of literature. We are not supposed to read it literally but as it is given in symbols and signs.
Take Revelation 14.1–5. The premillennial dispensationalist believes in a literal 144,000 who have the literal name of the Father written on their literal foreheads. I assume they also believe these 144,000 will be literal viren men who never lie.
In Revelation 20.1–6, John five times mentions a 1,000-year period. The dispensationalist believes in a literal 1,000 years, and they believe it has not yet begun. They believe Jesus will come to earth to reign for this 1,000 years. You will notice, as you read those verses, that they do not say that Christ will reign on earth during those 1,000 years. That is read into the passage by bringing in other passages and ideas.
Are we to understand those numbers as literal? If we take them as figurative or symbolic, are we guilty of “spiritualizing” the text? Or are we reading it the way God intended us to read that genre of literature?
Reading the Bible is not always cut-and-dry easy, and that’s one reason it is so thrilling! We have much to learn, many mysteries to investigate, and wonders to behold of which we probably have no clue. As the Jews under the Old Covenant completely failed to understand the exact nature of God’s plan, even though it was revealed throughout the prophecies, so I expect we completely fail to understand the exact nature of what God is planning for us. Two things should be true: (1) we should investigate what God has revealed, asking questions and digging deep; and (2) we should be comfortable with not knowing all the details and waiting for the reality to come upon us.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3.5). Walk in humility. Love those who think they have it figured out, and encourage them to walk with God in faithfulness whether or not history works out exactly like they think it will.
God has the plan, and He’s working it!
Worship...Not Just a State of MindMonday, April 24, 2023
Is worship just a state of mind? Is it a special feeling that lets you know you are properly connected to God? Is it a great swelling in your chest or a fire in your bones?
Some Pictures of Worship in the Old Testament
Genesis 24.26, 48, and 47.31 reference the action of bowing low in worship, and that wording is found all over the Old Testament.
We often find Service together with worship (i.e., Deut. 29.26; 30.17).
Nehemiah brought true worship back to Israel:
On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served. For they performed the worship of their God and the service of purification, together with the singers and the gatekeepers in accordance with the command of David and of his son Solomon. For in the days of David and Asaph, in ancient times, there were leaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God. (Neh. 12.44-46)
It is said "they performed the worship," which again couples the concepts of worship and service, specifically temple service, in this case.
In Psalm 66.4, God is worshiped through songs of praises:
“All the earth will worship You,
And will sing praises to You;
They will sing praises to Your name.”
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
Worship the LORD in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
This does not mean we should dress in our finest clothing; some who would impress their brothers and sisters by outward dress do not dress themselves in holiness. This has to do with the heart's attire, an attitude of holiness before YHWH.
Some Pictures of Worship in the New Testament
In the New Testament, worship often involves some physical posturing or activity of service.
The wise men "fell to the ground and worshiped" the Holy Child (Matt. 2.11). Satan demanded Jesus "fall down and worship me" (Matt. 4.9). Jesus speaks of worship with service in His answer to Satan: "You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only" (Matt. 4.10). Towards the end of Jesus' ministry, the disciples "took hold of His feet and worshiped Him" (Matt. 28.9).
In the early church, Paul writes of an unbeliever who "will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you" (1 Cor. 14.25), and in the Apocalypse "the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne..." (Rev. 4.10).
How Do We Worship?
Does our worship look like how the Hebrews worshipped? Does it look like how the New Testament disciples worshipped? When was the last time you fell on your face or knelt in worship?
But it's not really about the posture; it's about the heart, isn’t it?
It certainly is about the heart...but the heart should drive us to actively serve the Lord. Although the word worship is never directly associated with singing, praying, or preaching in the New Testament, we understand those activities to be spiritual services of worship. In those activities, you might fall prostrate before Him, reflecting on how great, glorious, and magnificent God is. You might kneel and bow your head, dwelling on His majesty and holiness.
Worship is a state of mind, but not just a state of mind. In worship, we actively and intentionally diminish ourselves and magnify God.
Worship is not just a good mood we get when we hear religious music. Many Christians today think only of music ministry when they think of worship. For them worship is when the people on stage play music and get the crowd all worked up. When they cry, laugh, or feel a great swelling in their chests, they feel they have worshiped. Those feelings may (and should) result from true worship, but it's the God-praising, God-glorifying, God-magnifying activities we do which are the actual worship—not the feelings which result from worship.
The best thing we can do is look in God's word to see how He desires to be worshiped. Then do those things with all our might!
Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143.10)
YHWH be praised!