From Egypt to Canaan – III

August 31, 2016

Exodus 1:8-11

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

We will focus on Exodus 1:8 through 11 one more time as we examine our own slavery to sin.  It is foreshadowed by the Hebrews slavery in Egypt:

      Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.  And he
      said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and
      mightier than we; come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and
      it happen, in the event of war, that they join our enemies and fight against
      us, and so go up out of the land.”  Therefore they set taskmasters over them
      to afflict them with their burdens.

This family of Israel (Jacob’s new name given to him by God – see Genesis 32:28) had no inkling of the coming subjection to forced servitude that awaited them in Egypt in the future.  But a generation after Joseph died (Joseph being the prime minister of Egypt – see Genesis 41:37-44) the current pharaoh did not know Joseph or remember all the good he had done for the country!  And so the Israelites were enslaved!

We so often start out facing this life with big dreams and plans.  I did. I wanted to be a farmer, taking over the 200 plus acre family dairy farm in the Berkshire Mountains of Connecticut.  I knew it would be hard work, but at ten years old I was already doing a lot of farm labor – and I loved that farm!  My parents having bought it in 1937, it was the most secure place for me in the world!  It always had been there and always would be!

But my father left the family in 1956, before I turned eleven, and my mother had to sell our farm the next spring.  My world fell apart!  I did not understand it all until a 30 years or so later, but I was so deeply hurt, I started medicating myself with alcohol at age twelve!  By the time I was 15, I was a binge alcoholic!  I considered myself a loser, and ran with companions of the same kind!  Several of those ‘buddies’ are today either dead or incarcerated!

The point is, I started out fine, with good dreams and plans, but sin got its hold and I increasingly became enslaved!  I was rebellious in school and in trouble different times with the police.  It was as Jesus said in John 8:34, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.”  And I think one of my worst enslavements was to pornography!  I was in the Boy Scouts for several years.  That is one good thing I pursued – I made Eagle Scout at age 15!  But I was living a double life in sin as well!  My troop’s Assistant Scoutmaster introduce three of us older boys to pornography, showing us pictures from a very explicit book!  I was only 14, but I remember that initial thrill!  I was hooked!  I struggled with that addiction for the next 40 years!

Sin often starts out as something inviting and pleasurable!  I liked the feelings alcohol and viewing porn gave me.  I was also addicted to nicotine – having smoked my first cigarette at age five!  But it is no fun to be increasingly addicted – a slave to sin!  I remember a cartoon drawing of a man with a key in his hand crawling up to unlock the chain cuffed around the ankle of a creature calledaddiction’.  The man had good intentions of freeing this poor beast that was chained and restricted.  But the creature’s designs were plainly evident!  He was ready to pounce on the man as soon as it was let loose!

That is what happened to me, and I hated it!  It took me many years – even as a Christian – to understand God’s dynamics of freedom and allow my Lord Jesus Christ to give me that freedom from habitual sin!  As Jesus told the Jews in John 8:36, “Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”  By the grace of God I am free of my prison of addictions today!

That freedom started when I was 19 and in the Air Force.  In talking with a friend who had converted to become a Roman Catholic, I wanted to know why he had done it.  As he explained his devotion, I thought, “I might as well become a Catholic too.”  I really didn’t have much religious training in my young life.  But something happened.  I began to read my Air Force issued New Testament, and I realized three things:

•      Jesus was alive!

•      He was real!

•      He loved me!

…and I fell head over heels in love with Him!  It wasn’t until about five years later that I began to understand enough to articulate what the Lord had done for me:

•      Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God the Son, came to earth, incarnate as a human being, and lived the perfect life none of us could ever live!  He fully obeyed and pleased the Father! (See John 8:29).

•      He then offered Himself, that perfect life, as a sacrifice before God for sin – not His own, for He had none! (See II Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 2:22).  It was for us!  He took upon Himself our sins – all the sin that ever was or will be committed, and He died as the condemned sinner before God in our place! (See Galatians 3:13; I Peter 2:24).

•      As proof that His sacrifice was sufficient and acceptable before the Father, Jesus rose from the dead after three days, never to die again, always to live to apply that salvation to those who come to Him by faith believing! (See Hebrews 7:25; 10:10).

•      Jesus not only took our sins upon Himself, but when we come and put our faith in Him, He wraps His own perfect righteousness about us as a robe. (See II Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 61:10).  We can then stand before God as forgiven and perfect!

•      All that is left for us to do is believe – believe it was for me that the Lord died and rose again!  He paid for my sins!  And He offers me eternal life – escaping from condemnation in hell, and being with Him forever in heaven! (See John 1:12; 5:24).

•      He promises to be with Christians forever (see Matthew 29:20, Hebrews 13:5), guiding us (see Isaiah 30:21), and providing for all our needs! (See Philippians 4:19).

The Israelites had Moses as their God-directed deliverer!  We have Jesus as ours!

From Egypt to Canaan – II

August 29, 2016

Exodus 1:8-11

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Again, our attention is on Exodus 1:8 through 11:

      Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.  And he
      said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and
      mightier than we; come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and
      it happen, in the event of war, that they join our enemies and fight against
      us, and so go up out of the land.”  Therefore they set taskmasters over them
      to afflict them with their burdens.

I mentioned in the last blog that this Scripture tells of the Hebrews’ slavery in Egypt.  Paul wrote in I Corinthians 10:11 that “…all these things happened to them as examples; and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.”  So their experience of bondage can teach us some valuable truths concerning our slavery to sin before we come to Christ!

Yes, Pharoah “…set taskmasters over the…[Israelites] to afflict them with their burdens.”  They were enslaved and mistreated (see Exodus 1:13, 14; 2:11; 5:6-19), even to condemning their baby boys to death! (See Exodus 1:15-22).

How does that relate to us?  Remember Didymus the Blind from the last blog?  I quoted him as saying, “Egypt represents the world…Pharaoh and his soldiers are the Devil and his satellites.”  The Bible instructs us about the godless world, the devil, sin and slavery!

•      The world

      ✞      Luke 4:5, 6 – “Then the devil, taking Him [Jesus] up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.’

      ✞      John 17:14 – “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

      ✞      James 4:4 – “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?

      ✞      II Peter 3:10 – “…both the earth and the works in that are in it will be burned up.

      ✞      I John 2:15-17 – “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it….

•      The devil

      ✞      John 8:44 – “…the devil…was a murderer from the beginning, and…a liar and the father of it.

      ✞      John 10:10 – “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.

      ✞      II Thessalonians 2:3, 4 – The antichrist (the devil incarnate) is identified here as, “…the man of sin…the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God showing himself that he is God.

      ✞      I Peter 5:8 – “…your adversary, the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

•       Sin

      ✞      Romans 3:10 – “As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one.

      ✞      Romans 3:23 – “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

•      Slavery

      ✞      John 8:34 – “Jesus answered them [the Jews] ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.’

      ✞      Romans 6:16 – “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?

We are naturally in slavery to sin, Satan and the world’s ways!  We need deliverance from such slavery as much as the Israelites needed deliverance from their taskmaster Egyptians!  But as Moses was their deliverer, Jesus Christ is ours!  More on this in the next blog coming on Wednesday.

From Egypt to Canaan – I

August 26, 2016

Exodus 1:8-11

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Saint Paul wrote in the first ten verses of I Corinthians 10 of things that happened to the Israelites as they left Egypt and wandered in the Sinai Peninsula.  In the first four verses, he described the blessings God gave His people – deliverance, His presence, protection, and provision.  But in the next six verses the apostle turns to half a dozen incidences of God’s judgment and discipline upon the Israelites because of their unbelief and disobedience.  Then in verse 11 he writes, “Now all these things happened to them as examples; and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.”  This principle holds true throughout the Old Testament – we are to learn from what happened to people in the Old Testament, and apply it to our Christian lives today!

The experiences of the Israelites From Egypt To Canaan are our examples showing us how to better live out the Christian life!  Let’s start with Exodus 1:8 through 11:

      Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.  And he
      said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and
      mightier than we; come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and
      it happen, in the event of war, that they join our enemies and fight against
      us, and so go up out of the land.”  Therefore they set taskmasters over them
      to afflict them with their burdens.

You probably know the story of Joseph – sold into Egypt by his jealous brothers, he rose to be prime minister of the entire country, and was instrumental in saving his family (and many, many others) from starvation!  But Joseph had died, and the current Pharaoh was not familiar with his life-saving advice and leadership.  What that Egyptian king did know was that the Israelites had multiplied so greatly, he perceived them as a threat!  So he gave the order to enslave the Hebrew nation!

It has long been recognized by Bible scholars through the ages that Egypt represents the godless world!  Didymus the Blind ( c. 313 – c. 398) headed the catechetical school of New Alexandria in Egypt.  He is thus quoted in De Trinitate II:14:

      Egypt represents the world, in which we harm ourselves if we live badly; the
      people are those who are now enlightened…the waters, which are for these
      people the means of salvation, represent Baptism; Pharaoh and his soldiers
      are the Devil and his satellites.

The website, Jesus Plus Nothing (http://www.jesusplusnothing.com/studies/online/exodus1.htm) features an article by Iain Gordon of New Zealand, part of which I quote here as a good summary of how the Bible views Egypt as representing the world:

      As a picture of ‘worldliness’, the Egyptian empire oozed power, wealth and
      control, and it was from this empire that God called His people out so that
      they would be separate for Him.  The same applies today….

      The Pharaoh had absolute control over Egypt, and was even worshiped as
      a god by his subjects.  In the actions of Pharaoh, in stubbornly refusing to
      allow God’s people to leave Egypt we have a picture of Satan – the ‘god of
      this world’ who exercises his power and control to prevent those called to-
      day from leaving his worldly system and coming to God.

Is it any wonder that in the Scriptures the Israelites are thus challenged to stay away from Egypt…

•      …by Nehemiah in Nehemiah 9:16, 17 – “But they [the Israelites] and our fathers acted proudly, hardened their necks, and did not heed Your commandments.  They refused to obey, and they were not mindful of Your wonders that You did among them.  But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion they appointed a leader to return to their bondage.

•      …by God in Isaiah 30:1-3 – “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ says the LORD, ‘who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who walk to go down to Egypt and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!  Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation.’

•      …God in Hosea 8:11-13 – “Because Ephraim has made many altars for sin, they have become altars for sinning.  I have written to him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing.  For the sacrifices of My offerings they sacrifice flesh and eat it, but the LORD does not accept them.  Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.  They shall return to Egypt.  For Israel has forgotten his Maker….

In our next blog, we will consider how the Hebrews slavery in Egypt is a picture of our slavery to sin!

Well Done

August 24, 2016

Matthew 25:19-21

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

What do you hope to experience in heaven when you leave this life, Christian?  In talking with others, I have heard several answers.  One told me, “I want to see the Lord Jesus’ hands and feet and, like Thomas was told, to put my fingers into the holes.  For He died for me.”  Another said, “I want to see my believing loved ones again, and be with them forever.”  A monetary-focused person answered, “I want to walk the streets of gold!”  All are responses that reflect Biblical truths.  But the one thing I desire above all else is simply to hear my Lord say,Well done, good and faithful servant.

These words are from the Parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25:14 through 30.  The master of the estate went away and gave to his servants money – called talents.  A talent was a unit of weight and weighed about 75 pounds.  If the talents of this parable were silver, by today’s spot prices they would each be worth almost $23,500!  Five talents given to the first servant was today’s equivalent of over $117,000!  But to give it another perspective, a silver denarius was considered one day’s wage for a laboring man.  And 6,000 denarii weighed one talent.  Five talents would then be equal to 30,000 days’ wages – or over 96 years for a laboring man to earn that much!

In the parable, the master gave three servants the sums of five talents, two talents, and one talent.  They were to use the money wisely in business and investing, and give an account of their activity when the master came back from his journey.  Then the servants would return the money to him.  The first servant gained five more talents from his ventures, returning ten to his master.  The second also doubled his money, from two to four.  The third did nothing with his single talent, but we will not concentrate on him.  I want to focus on this:  both the first and second servants were heartily commended by their master.  Here is Matthew 25:19 through 21:

      After a long time the lord of those servants came, and settled accounts
      with them.  So he who had received five talents came and brought five
      other talents, saying, “Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I
      have gained five more talents besides them.”  His lord said to him,
      “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few
      things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of
      your lord.”

The second servant received equal praise and great reward.

Yes, I know heaven is beyond what I can even imagine!  Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2:9 (quoting Isaiah 64:4):  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”  And yes, I believe I am going to receive great rewards!  Jesus said in Mark 9:41 that “…whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”  How much of a reward?  In Matthew 19:29 (1965 Bible in Basic English), the Lord tells us, “And everyone who has given up houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or child, or land, for my name, will be given a hundred times as much, and have eternal life.”  And yes, I will so enjoy being reunited with my believing loved ones.  And, oh, how I want to see my Savior and Lord face to face!  But to hear Him say to me,Well done, good and faithful servant…,is the ultimate reward in my thinking!

But one more thing comes to my mind when I think of the phrase Well Done!  Since I am a carnivore (meat-eater), and I like my steaks cooked medium (hot pink center), I consider Well Done to be over-cooked – too long in the fire!

Too long in the fire!  In the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), we get the idea that the rich man was in hell just a few minutes when he cried out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (verse 24).  What would he be screaming after a year – a thousand years, a million years – tormented in this flame?  Hell is forever! (See Isaiah 66:24; Matthew 9:48; Revelation 14:10, 11; 19:3).  And to be tormented in this flame forever would result in truly being over-cooked!  By the way, I don’t say this in a humorous way.  This is a very serious matter with eternal consequences!  And the remedy is by faith accepting Jesus Christ into your heart and life to be your Savior!

Let’s take a look now at the last servant in the Parable of the Talents.  He hid the money entrusted to him, and did not return to his master any profit from it.  The master addressed him thus:

      You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown,
      and gather where I have not scattered seed.  Therefore you ought to have
      deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have re-
      ceived back my own with interest.  Therefore take the talent from him…and
      cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.  There will be weeping
      and gnashing of teeth.

Why was where he was cast a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth?  Because he was in eternal flames!  He would be Well Done forever!

So strive to hear Well done… from the Lord when you stand before Him!  But don’t be Well Done in hell!

Blessings And Cursings

August 22, 2016

Deuteronomy 11:26-28

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Israel was about to enter the Promised Land of Canaan after their departure from slavery in Egypt, which was followed by 40 years of wandering in the Sinai Peninsula due to disobedience.  Deuteronomy consists of three sermons Moses gave to the Israelites in the plains of Moab, across the Jordan River from Jericho to the west.  Their leader for the last 40 years, Moses was preparing the Israelites to enter and claim the land God had promised to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, hundreds of years before (Deuteronomy 1:8).  This last of the five books of Moses (the Pentateuch) mentions Blessings And Cursings in several places, but sets them forth in two main passages, Deuteronomy 11:8 through 32 (from which we draw our featured Scripture); and Deuteronomy 28:1 through 68 (a more extended version, especially of the Cursings.)
Here is Deuteronomy 11:26 through 28 (Brenton’s English Septuigent):

      Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and shalt observe His appoint-
      ments, and His ordinances, and His commandments, and His judgments,
      always…that your days may be long, and the days of your children, upon
      the land which the Lord sware to your fathers to give to them, as the days
      of heaven upon the earth.

Just before our Scripture, in verses 1 and 21 (King James Version), God summarizes in this way the Blessings He will give:

      Therefore thou shalt love the LORD thy God, and keep His charge, and
      His statutes, and His judgments, and His commandments, alway[s]….that
      your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land
      which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of
      heaven upon the earth.

I don’t know about you, but I want to experience…the days of heaven upon the earth…!  I especially desire those kind of days when I read this about the characteristics of heaven in Revelation 21:4:  “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow nor crying, and there shall be no more pain….”  With all that is happening in the world – terrorist strikes, political upheaval, economic troubles, family and health concerns – who would not want the days of heaven in this life here and now?

However, there is a caveat: We have a part! It is called obedience! And it is obedience to God’s revealed will and way! And where do we find God’s revealed will and way? In the Bible! This is what is written in Deuteronomy 11:18 and 19 just before our featured Scripture:

      Therefore you shall lay up these words of Mine in your heart and in your
      soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, that they may be as frontlets
      between your eyes.  You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them
      when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down,
      and when you rise up.

If you examine the time-perimeters outlined above, there is no portion of the day or night left when you should not be in the Word!  Paul summed it up in Colossians 3:16:  “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly….

The point is that God lays before His children Blessings And Cursings!  As listed in Deuteronomy, they apply especially to the Old Testament Israelites and the quality of life they will live in the Promised Land of Canaan.  But New Testament Christians have a similar challenge, and this from Galatians 5:19 through 23 (Good News Bible):

      What human nature does is quite plain.  It shows itself in immoral, filthy,
      and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft.  People become
      enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious.  They
      separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies,
      and do other things like these….But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace,
      patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control.

Human nature is fed and strengthened by this world’s godless society which is controlled by the devil! (See Luke 4:5, 6).  But the Holy Spirit working within us produces the second list of characteristics above.  And that lifestyle is fed by the Word of God! (See Psalm 119:9, 11; Jeremiah 15:16; John 17:17; Colossians 3:10; II Timothy 3:16, 17; I Peter 2:2; II Peter 1:4).

Joshua famously challenged his fellow Israelites, “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15).  He was following the plea Moses gave the Jews in Deuteronomy 30:19:

      I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set
      before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life,
      that both you and your descendants may live….

If you want life – both eternal and abundant (see John 10:10) – then choose life, and determine to do the work that God has designed to produce such a life – abiding in His Word!  Why would anyone choose anything else?!!

Holy Dirt!

August 19, 2016

Exodus 3:2-5

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Exodus 3 records the introduction of Moses to Jehovah God.  At the time Moses was 80 years old – having spent his first 40 years being instructed “…in all the wisdom of the Egyptians…” (Acts 7:22), and the next 40 serving as a Midianite shepherd after running for his life because he murdered an Egyptian.  The following incident, from Exodus 3:2 through 5, happened on Mount Sinai in the Arabian Peninsula:

      …the angel of the LORD appeared to [Moses]…in a flame of fire from the
      midst of a bush.  So he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, but
      the bush was not consumed.  Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and
      see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”  So when the LORD saw
      that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush
      and said, “Moses, Moses!”  And he said, “Here I am.”  And He said, “Do
      not draw near this place.  Take your sandals off your feet, for the place
      where you stand is holy ground.”

…the bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed.”  In the hot, dry wilderness such a spectacle would catch anyone’s attention, especially someone familiar with that environment.  A bush that had caught fire – and Moses had probably seen a few over the course of 40 years – would be quickly consumed.  But this bush just continued to burn and burn and burn – yet remained whole!  It was God!

By the way, if it seems unusual that flames could burn without destroying that which hosts the fire, consider hell!  It says in Revelation 14:9 through 12 concerning those who…worship…the beast [the antichrist]…shall be tormented with fire and brimstone….And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night….”  The fires of hell burn ferociously but do not consume!

But back to the burning bush:  The thing which strikes me is that this was just a common bush occupying a common piece of ground on an ordinary mountain in the wilderness!  What made it so special was the presence of God!  And God’s presence made that spot, that ground, that dirt holy!  Holy Dirt!  Moses was commanded to take off his sandals – why?  “…for the place where you stand is holy ground.”  This is what is written about it in the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary:

      The direction was in conformity with a usage which was well known to Moses,
      for the Egyptian priests observed it in their temples, and it is observed in all
      Eastern countries where the people take off their shoes or sandals, as we do
      our hats.  But the Eastern idea is not precisely the same as the Western.  With
      us, the removal of the hat is an expression of reverence for the place we enter,
      or rather of Him who is worshiped there.  With them the removal of the shoes
      is a confession of personal defilement and conscious unworthiness to stand in
      the presence of unspotted holiness.

Here is one simple application of this burning bush incident, and I received it at the end of a missionary e-mail from a friend, Rev. Jerry Coleman.  This is how he closed his Notes from Jerry – July:

A Scripture I’m thinking about: Exodus 3:4, 5

      When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from
      within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”  And Moses said, “Here I am.”  “Do not
      come any closer,” God said.  “Take off your sandals, for the place where you
      are standing is holy ground.”

If GOD can make dirt holy…

If God can make DIRT holy…

IF GOD CAN MAKE DIRT HOLY…

He can make ME holy!

Think about it!  God also made Moses holy and useful unto Himself!  Moses was a murderer (see Exodus 2:11, 12); a poor speaker (see Exodus 4:10); not adept at organization (see Exodus 18:13-26); and disobedient! (See Numbers 20:7-12).  Yet Moses is recognized by two world religions – Jews and Christians – as the greatest man of the Old Testament!  How did God do it?  He brought Moses into His presence and changed him from a sinful man into someone who was God-fearing and faithful!  He can do it for you!

As Rev. Jerry wrote, “IF GOD CAN MAKE DIRT HOLY…He can make ME holy!

When Bad Things Happen

August 17, 2016

Romans 8:28, 29

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

In 1981 Rabbi Harold Kushner authored a book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People.  In it he writes:

      I believe in God.  But I do not believe the same things about Him that I did
      years ago, when I was growing up or when I was a theological student.  I
      recognize His limitations.  He is limited in what He can do by laws of na-
      ture and by the evolution of human nature and human moral freedom.

The problem with such thinking is that it calls into question God’s omnipotence (that He is all-powerful.)  Do we have a God who cannot control all of Hie creation?  That certainly is not what the Scriptures teach!

There are many Scriptures that teach us of God’s ultimate power.  Perhaps a summery passage can be found in Daniel 4:34 and 35:

      …His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from
      generation to generation.  All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed
      as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and
      among the inhabitants of the earth.  No one can restrain His hand or
      say to Him, “What have You done?”

This brings us to our featured Scripture – Romans 8:28 and 29:

      And we know that all things work together for good to those who love
      God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom
      He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His
      Son, that He [Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Romans 8:28 is often quoted to show that only good things will happen to believers!  But too many times the last part of verse 28 and all of verse 29 are left out!  God’s purpose is plainly stated:  His children are to be conformed to the image of His Son!  I don’t know about you, but I suspect that, like me, you have a long way to go to be like just like Jesus!  We have a lot of rough edges in our lives that need to be ‘ground off’ (like putting metal to a grinding wheel) to become like God’s Son.  Such action can hurt!  But it is necessary!

So does God’s good purpose always feel good?  Sometimes, what God sends into our lives to make us more and more like Jesus really hurts!  But, if the ultimate good is to be conformed to the image of His Son, then it is good even if it hurts and seems bad to us!

It says in James 1:17 that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”  According to Job’s example in Job 1:12 and 2:6 where Satan tested this ancient believer, even the devil’s temptations and trials that touch our lives are under God’s control!  Such trials and temptations give us spiritual backbone (maturity – see Ephesians 4:12-16).  Yes, even Satan’s workings God uses to make us increasingly like Jesus Christ! (See Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).

So what should we do when such testings come into our lives?  Are we to just sit back and let them happen since they are in God’s will for us?  No! There are several things we need to do!

•      God’s Word tells us we are to thank God “…for all things…” (Ephesians 5:20), and “…in everything…” (I Thessalonians 5:18).  If, as it says in our featured Scripture, “…that all things work together for good…” (Romans 8:28), then certainly we can and should offer thanks to our heavenly Father – even if what is happening to us hurts!

•      According to James 1:2 through 5, we are to “Count it all joy when…[we] fall into various trials…” (verse 2).  The idea in the Greek is to mark it down in the joy column, as if we are making a bookkeeping entry.  God is making us…perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (verse 4).  The only One perfect and complete is Jesus!  So God, through trials, is making us more like our Lord!  But I include verse 5 here also:  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…and it shall be given him.”  Our heavenly Father wants us to understand the reason for our trials and what He is doing in our lives through them!

•      While God allows Satan to inflict his dirty work on us, and the Lord’s intention is to produce good from such trials in our lives, the devil will do his best to turn those trials and testings into that which will steal our joy, kill our faith, and destroy our Christian testimony! (See John 10:10).  So, in trails, we are to redouble our efforts to stay close to the Lord!  By the way, the best time to prepare for the hard seasons of life is not when they are upon us!  Prepare now, when things are going more smoothly in life, and you have more time and opportunity!

•      There is a spiritual war raging in and around us – God against Satan!  We are to stand solidly with our Lord and fight against the devil’s inroads!  As Paul implores us in Ephesians 6:13:  “…take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (See II Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18).  Jesus victoriously battled the evil one during His tri-fold temptation on the mount (see Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).  And He showed us also how to battle – to…submit to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7).

•      We are to seek God’s healing in our trials and testings – whether that healing is physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, or material (see Psalm 41:4; 103:3; Jeremiah 17:14; Luke 4:18). As it says in James 5:14:

      Is anyone among you sick?  Let him all for the elders of the church, and
      let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 
      And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up
      ….pray for one another, that you may be healed.

•      We are to believe and apply to our situation what it says in Deuteronomy 33:25:  “As your days, so shall your strength be.”  No matter how hard the trial we are facing, God’s strength is always greater!  And He will impart to us His strength to match – yea, even to exceed – our trial!

•      And finally, we are to trust God as our loving heavenly Father – that He will always do the best for His children in any situation!  As it is written in Matthew 7:11, “If you…know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father…in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

 Red/Black = White……Gold……Green!

August 15, 2016

Isaiah 1:18; Acts 26:18; II Corinthians 5:8; II Peter 3:18

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

   Red
It is an unusual title in the form of an equation: Black = White……Gold……Green!  But it is Biblical!  And it is based on four verses I have selected – Isaiah 1:18, Acts 26:18, II Corinthians 5:8 and II Peter 3:18.

There is a little gospel tract especially for children called “The Wordless Book.”  Indeed, there are no words in it, just solid color pages.  One version (from which I took my inspiration for this blog) has the colors in this order – black, red, white, gold, and green.  Black stands for sin, red for the blood of Christ, white for His cleansing, gold for the glory of God (heaven), and green for growing in the Lord.

As said above, it is Biblical!  The title is taken first of all from…

•      Isaiah 1:18 – “‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’ ”  But we need another verse to show the blackness of sin, for here it is described as scarlet, or red like crimson.  But the title represents sin as black – and so does The Wordless Book.  That verse we need is…

•      Acts 26:18 – …where Paul is relating how the Lord told him he was being sent to unbelievers, “…to open their eyes and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.

I searched the New King James Scriptures (as well as other versions) for verses that described the blackness of sin.  There are a lot of allusions to it, and Acts 26:18 is one of the strongest!  But there are no verses I could find that tell us sin is black!  Acts 26:18 ties together two ideas: darkness and sin!  Forgiveness of sins, first of all is shown to be turning from darkness to light.  Second, turning from sin is turning from the power of Satan to God.  I found multiple other Scriptures that identify sin with darkness! (See Psalm 82:4, 5; 107:10-14; Proverbs 2:10-15; 4:19; Isaiah 5:20; Jeremiah 23:10-12; Matthew 6:23; Luke 1:76-79; John 3:19-21; Romans 1:21; 13:12; Ephesians 4:18, 19; 6:12; Colossians 1:13, 14; I John 1:5-10; 2:11; Jude 1:11-16).

But back to the first three parts of the equation that is the title for this blog that are covered in these first two Scriptures:  The blackness of sin, when covered by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, makes us white as snow…as [pure and washed] wool, according to Isaiah 1:18.  I John 1:7 describes it this way: “…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  It is in a sense a two–part cleansing:

      ✞      The initial cleansing – According to I Peter 2:24, Christ already…bore our sins in His own body on the tree [the cross]….”  When we receive Him by faith, trusting Him as our own Savior, we are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb of God! (See Revelation 7:14).  He removes our sins from us…as far as the east is from the west…” (Psalm 103:12), and He gives us His own righteousness to wear! (See Isaiah 61:10; II Corinthians 5:21).  We are…accepted in the Beloved…” (Ephesians 1:6) by God the Father – as much as He would accept His own perfect Son, Jesus!.

      ✞      The continual cleansing – John 1:7, quoted above, has a marvelous construction in the Greek.  The word cleanses actually means a continuing activity.  He keeps on cleansing us from all sin!  I am constantly under the blood bath of Jesus Christ!  This keeps me accepted in the Beloved !  If I could possibly take myself out from under the blood of the Lamb of God (which I can’t – see John 6:37; 10:27-30), I would immediately be a stench to the nostrils of God!  For I would then be standing in my own righteousness instead of Christ’s!  And my…righteousnesses are like filthy rags…before the Father! (Isaiah 64:6).  My righteousnesses, by the way, are the very best I can do!

•      Next comes the gold!  Jesus plainly told us in John 5:24:

      Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him
      who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but
      has passed [already] from death into life.

And so Paul can boldly say our third featured Scripture – II Corinthians 5:8:  “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”  The moment we close our eyes in death here on earth, we will be escorted by the angels into the Lord’s presence! (See Luke 16:22).  And what amazing golden riches await us! (See I John 14:2; Corinthians 2:9; Revelation 21:18-21).

•      Finally comes the green, which stands for growth!  Peter encourages us in the last verse of his second epistle, II Peter 3:18: “…grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”  Until we see Him face to face (see I Corinthians 13:12) we should be growing up in Him (see Ephesians 4:15), becoming more and more like Him! (See Romans 8:29; II Corinthians 3:18).

Live out this equation in your life! It truly leads to glory!

Hidden Messages

August 12, 2016

Genesis 5 and Isaiah 53

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

A couple of years ago, our church featured a fascinating series of 24 hour-long DVD teachings by Dr. Chuck Missler – “…author, evangelical Christian, Bible teacher, engineer, and former businessman [and] the founder of the Koinonia House ministry based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.” (Wikipedia). The series is called Learn The Bible in 24 hours, and I still have the accompanying text and study guide. While the whole study was fascinating, let me stir up some excitement from just two of the hour-long sessions.

First, let me say that the Bible is an amazing book! Actually it is a collection of 66 books by at least 39 authors over 1,500 years! Yet it is a cohesive unit that has the answer to anything life can throw at you! Oh, you can find critics who will tear apart that unity and try to make it less (or non) divine than what it really is. But its cohesiveness comes from the fact that the One who inspired all the authors is God Himself! (See II Peter 1:21).

The greatness of the mind of God is unfathomable! And I will feature two examples in this blog that show just how great the mind of God is! These two examples involve Hidden Messages in the plain text of Scripture:

•      The first is in Genesis chapter 5 – a genealogical listing of Adam and his descendants. The first 10 people named are Adam, Seth, Enosh, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah. What isn’t apparent are the Hebrew meanings of those names – and the message they give as they are read together in a sentence!

      ✞      Adam means man.

      ✞      Seth means appointed.

      ✞      Enosh (from root anash,to be incurable” ) means mortal, frail, miserable.

      ✞      Cainan (or Kenan – I Chronicles 1:2) can mean sorrow, dirge, or lamentation.

      ✞      Mahalal’el means praise of God, or blessed God.

      ✞      Jared (from the verb yaradh) means descent, or shall come down.

      ✞      Enoch means initiated or begin, commencement, teaching.

      ✞      Methuselah means his death shall bring forth [the flood]. (muth, a root meaning death, shalach means bring or send forth.

      ✞      Lamech means to make low, or bring down, despairing.

      ✞      Noah means comfort, or rest.

The sentence can read thus (and remember, this is thousands of years before Jesus Christ came to walk upon this earth!): “Man [is] appointed mortal sorrow, [but] the blessed God shall come down teaching [that His] death shall bring the despairing rest.This is just another example of how the whole Bibleboth the Old Testament and the Newpoints to the sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross for our sins!

•      The second is in Isaiah 53. While I am not going to reproduce the twelve verses of this chapter here, Isaiah 53 is an amazing prophecy of the Savior’s sacrifice on the cross for us! Read it for yourself! But here is a brief overview of some of the events of Isaiah 53: Messiah suffered at the hands of men; He was rejected of men; His was a substitutionary sacrifice; though totally innocent, He was put to death; He died with criminals but was buried with the rich; God laid our sins on Him!

But hidden beneath the surface text (equidistant Hebrew letter sequencing, spelling out words) are these amazing phrase discoveries:

      ✞     Yeshua’s my name.

      ✞     Messiah

      ✞     Nazarene

      ✞     Galilee

      ✞     Pharisee

      ✞     Levites

      ✞     Caiaphas

      ✞     Annas

      ✞     Passover

      ✞     Moriah

      ✞     the Cross

      ✞     Pierce

      ✞     the Atonement Lamb

                   …and more, including…

…the names of everyone at the cross:

      ✞     Peter

      ✞     Matthew

      ✞      “John

      ✞     Andrew

      ✞     Philip

      ✞     Thomas

      ✞     James, John’s brother

      ✞     James, Alphaeus’ son

      ✞     Simon

      ✞     Thaddeus

      ✞     Matthias

                           …all except Judas!

      ✞      The three Marys

      ✞     Salome

While my faith does not rest on the encrypted code underneath the plain text of the Bible – the plain text is enough for me – it does show that the Word of God is the result of a mind far greater than we can even imagine! The Bible is the work of God!

Τιτεδιος Αμεριμνος – V

August 10, 2016

Matthew 6:24-34

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Today we will finish with Titedios Amerimnosthe man who didn’t worry!  That’s what his name means, translated from the Greek inscription on his second century ossuary burial box.  If you review the first four Titedios Amerimnos blogs, you will in the first blog find from Matthew 6:24 the cause of worry (which is serving the wrong thing).  Then in blogs two through four there are eight reasons not to worry featured in Matthew 6:25 through 34.  I won’t list them here as it will take up too much space.

In this last blog we’ll look at the one sure cure for worry!  And that sure cure for worry is summed up in Matthew 6:33:  “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  Seek first these two:

•      “Seek first the kingdom of God….”  His kingdom stands opposed to “…the kingdoms of the world…” (Luke 4:5), which are now under Satan’s control until the Lord Jesus reclaims them when He returns (see Revelation 11:15).  The character of the kingdoms of the world as well as the kingdom of God are represented by the societies within them.  And the characteristics of each society is spelled out by Saint Paul very succinctly in Galatians 5.

      ✞      In Galatians 5:19 through 21 (Modern King James Version), the characteristics of society of the kingdoms of the world are called “…the works of the flesh…:

            Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are:  adul-
            tery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds,
            fightings, jealousies, angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings,
            murders, drunkennesses, revelings, and things like these…

       ✞      In contrast, in Galatians 5:22 and 23 (English Standard Version), these characteristics are called “…the fruit of the Spirit…,” and they represent the society that inhabits the kingdom of God:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….

The titles of these two lists of characteristics identify the origins of them.  The works of the flesh are generated from within the deceitful and wicked hearts of the unsaved! (See Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19).  And that which is from such an origin will not last! (See Matthew 6:19; II Peter 3:10; I John 2:15-17).  That which will not last becomes a source of constant worry for those who generate those works and try to protect them from destruction!  The fruit of the Spirit is of divine generation!  You don’t produce it – God does through His Holy Spirit residing in you!  And you don’t have to worry about keeping it!  All you have to do in concentrate onSeek[ing] first the kingdom of God…!  Paul puts it this way in Colossians 3:1 through 3:

      If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above,
      where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things
      above, not on things on the earth.  For you died, and your life is hidden
      with Christ in God.

•      “Seek first…His righteousness….”  This could be put even before the kingdom of God.  For we stand before God as righteous only when we are wearing the righteousness of Jesus Christ! (See Isaiah 61:10; II Corinthians 5:21).  However (and in another sense) we are to daily seek to become more like Christ (see Matthew 10:24, 25; Romans 8:29), and so we will become more righteous in our living out the Christian life!

How do we seek first these two things?  How do we set our affections on things above – and keep them there?  God has given us what we need in one neat package the Word of God, the Bible!

•      As weLet the word of Christ dwell in us richly…” (Colossians 3:16), we build our faith! (See Romans 10:17).

•      By faith we keep our eyes on Jesus! (See Hebrews 12:2).

•      As we behold our Lord, we become more and more like Him! (See II Corinthians 3:18).

This is how we are to…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…!

If we concentrate on these two things His kingdom and His righteousness – as it says in our featured Scripture, “…all these [other] things [we need in our lives – food, drink, clothes, and all else] shall be added to you.” (See also Philippians 4:19).  And this is the sure cure for worry!