Under Or Over? – I

May 31, 2017

Image result for photo troubles

Isaiah 40:28-31

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

So when troubles come do you ever feel like they might plow you under?  That troubles, trials, and testings will come is evident!  Job bemoaned in Job 5:7, “…man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.”  We had a cookout for our grandboys last week.  We built a fire and roasted hot dogs.  And, guess what?  Sparks from the fire flew upward!  They always do!  Later, in Job 14:1, he lamented, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.  He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue.”  Have you ever felt like that – just inundated by troubles that seem to wash over your head?  The prophet Isaiah received some encouraging news straight from the LORD in Isaiah 40:28 through 31:

      Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The everlasting God, the
      LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. 
      There is no searching of His understanding.  He gives power to the weak,
      and to those who have no might He increases strength.  Even the youths
      shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those
      who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up
      with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk
      and not faint.

This Scripture does not specifically mention troubles.  But it implies such because it encourages the weak, those who have no might or strength, those who faint and are weary, and those who are ready to fall !  These verses give the idea of help being offered to those weighted down with troubles to the point of being crushed by them!  I think we have all been there – or we are experiencing such problems even now!

According to our blog title, Under Or Over? the alternative to being Under the troubles is to be Over them in victory, having them underfoot!  How do we accomplish that?  The ‘secret’ is in verse 31:  “…but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  So how do we wait on the LORD?

•      We realize He is in control – of everything!  Yes, Job was inundated with troubles.  He lost his wealth, his family, his health, and – according to the record – even the encouragement of his friends!  As the old saying goes, “With friends like that, who needs enemies? ”  Is God in control?

      ✞      Psalm 83:18 – “…that men may know that You, whose name alone is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.

      ✞      Psalm 103:19 – “The LORD has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.

      ✞      Daniel 4:32 (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible) – “…the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of men, and that He gives it to whomever He desires.” (See also Daniel 4:17, 24; 5:21).

•      What doesGod in controlmean to us as believers?  Consider the following passages:

      ✞      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.”  God’s idea of good is not always the same as ours!  Sometimes all things working together for our good is very painful!  God’s good purpose is to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ.  And, considering our natural sinful and rebellious nature, He has got to remove stuff from our lives that does not so conform – and that can cause pain!  Although such process is ultimately good, it can seem like a severe trial as we are going through it!

      ✞      A related Scripture is James 1:2 through 4 – “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  Who is perfect and complete, lacking nothing?  Only Jesus!  James is telling us that trials are making us more and more like our Lord Jesus!

      ✞      Back to Romans 5:3 through 5 (English Standard Version) – “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Recognizing and appropriating God’s love is always in and through Jesus Christ!  If we want this highly desirable characteristic of divine love in our lives (see I Corinthians 13:13), it comes often through sufferings!

      ✞      I Corinthians 10:12 and 13 (Bible in Basic English) – “You have been put to no test but such as is common to man:  and God is true, who will not let any test come on you which you are not able to undergo; but He will make with the test a way out of it, so that you may be able to go through it.

More on this in Wednesday’s blog.

And It Came To Pass…

May 29, 2017

Image result for photo noah flood

Genesis 7:10-12

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

And it came to pass…is found 396 times in the King James Version of the Bible!  It is translated in other versions as “it happened, when, just before, now,” and a few other phrases.  But as I was considering “And it came to pass…,” it occurred to me that there is another significant meaning!  And for this blog, I would like to concentrate on this alternative meaning.

One of the first uses of this phrase is found in Genesis 7:10 in reference to Noah’s flood.  I chose this incident because it was perhaps the most catastrophic event in the history of the world!  Here is Genesis 7:10-12:

      And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were
      upon the earth.  In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second
      month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains
      of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were
      opened.  And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.

The flood lasted more than forty days and forty nights.  That was just the number of days that it rained!  Noah and his family were confined in the ark about 371 days – over a year!  Finally, it was done!  But I wonder what those eight people inside the ark (see Genesis 7:13; I Peter 3:20) were feeling and saying during those 371 days?  “Is this flood ever going to end? ”  “It has been months and months and months!”  “Are we going to be here in this ark forever?”  But it did end!  And, according to Genesis 8:13 through 19, eventually, Noah, his family, and all the animals, birds, and reptiles left the ark to live on dry land!  So, even though the flood was massive and of long duration,…it came to pass…!  God planned it and sent it to happen!  But He also intended to have it pass!  So, yes, it came!  But it also passed!

Back when I was about six years old, my older brother George whacked me over the head with a book.  I developed a headache shortly thereafter, and it only got worse as time went on!  Our doctor was called, and he examined me at our house.  The diagnosis?  I had encephalitis – an inflamation of the brain!  I later learned that there had recently been an outbreak in New Jersey which, the doctor told us, “…was killing nine out of ten of those afflicted, and the one who survived often suffered brain damage.”  My brother did not cause the encephalitis!  He actually saved my life because the book pounding brought out the first symptoms early – severe headaches – and our doctor was able to treat me!  But it was a long haul – well over a month!  That is a long time for a six year old!  But It Came To Pass!  And after more than a month of recuperation, I remember the Spring day when I was let out of the house.  I walked half a mile down the country road where we lived on our family farm, and I went into the woods a short distance.  Sitting down beside a brook on the bank, I recall thinking, “How great it is to be outside again!  How beautiful all this around me is! ”  It was so good to have it all pass!  By the way, the only damage I suffered was some slowing down of my reaction time, which corrected itself over the next couple of years.

What are you going through?  Are you experiencing a severe trial?  Some of the hard things that life throws at you can seem overpowering and never-ending.  But God is in control!  And what He allows to touch your life is designed to test you for just a season – And It Came To Pass!

•      Yes, it Came.  It has affected your life and the lives of your family – sometimes in a very significant way!

•      But (and my daughter has this sign hanging in her bathroom!) “This too shall pass!”  God does not let the trials go on forever!

However, you might say, “The doctors say that I am not going to get well.  I only have a relatively short time left on this earth!  How then has what I am experiencing Come To Pass? ”  This morning, as I and my prayer partner met for our regular sessions of supplication, intercession, and thanksgiving (see Philippians 4:6), he shared concerning (and we prayed for) both his wife’s sister and sister-in-law.  Each one is near death.  They have each battled cancer a long time and the end is near.  Do they lose out because they were not healed during this earthly life?  No!  They are both Christians and will experience God’s complete and eternal healing very soon!

Dear one, think of Saint Paul who suffered prison with no release in sight.  As a matter of fact, his last imprisonment in Rome ended when he was taken out and beheaded under orders from Emperor Nero!  But here is what he wrote to his spiritual son Timothy just before he was killed:

      …the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought the good fight, I
      have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is laid up
      for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge,
      will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have
      loved His appearing. (II Timothy 4:6 through 8).

As he also said in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Yes, even those hard trials that end in our death or the death of a loved one – they only come To Pass!

And It Came (yes, it did!) To Pass… (yes, it will!)!  Hang in there!

The Mark

May 26, 2017

Related image

Ezekiel 9:1, 2, 4

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

We have been examining Ezekiel chapter 8 in the last four blogs, looking at the four incidents of Judah’s idolatry in Ezekiel’s first Jerusalem vision.  In the next chapter, the LORD calls for His warrior angels to bring judgment upon the idolatrous nation.  Here is what is written in Ezekiel 9:1, 2, and 4:

      He [the LORD] called out…“Let those who have charge over the city
      draw near, each with a deadly weapon in his hand.”  And suddenly
      six men came…each with a battle-ax in his hand.  One man among
      them was clothed with linen and had a writer’s inkhorn at his side…
      and the LORD said to him, “Go through…the midst of Jerusalem,
      and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over
      all the abominations that are done in it.

When we hear about The Mark, usually the first thing that comes to mind is the mark of the anitchrist in Revelation 13:16 and 17:

      And he [the antichrist] causes all, both small and great, rich and poor,
      free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand, or on their fore-
      heads, and that no one may buy or sell, except one who has the mark….

But The Mark goes back long before the antichrist – and the originator is God, not the devil!

•      In Genesis 4 is the record of the first murder – when Cain killed his brother Abel.  Unrepentant Cain was driven out from the LORD’s presence to wander the earth.  He complained, “My punishment is greater than I can bear….anyone who finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:13 and 14).  God responded in verse 15, “…whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’  And the LORD set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him.

•      Revelation 7 is a pause between the sixth and seventh seal judgments (see Revelation 6:1-17; 9:1).  The opening verses of Revelation 7 introduce us to “…four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea….” (Revelation 7:2) in coming judgments.  But in the next verse, these angels are told, “Do not harm the earth, the sea or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” (See also Revelation 9:4).

Let us here make the point that Satan is not an originator, but a duplicator!  What he sees God do (or what God has done) the devil will copy it, twist it, and pass it off as truth – as with The Mark!  For example…

•      …Jesus as the light of the world (John 1:7-9; 8:12; 9:5) is impersonated by the devil who “…transforms himself into an angel of light.” (II Corinthians 11:14).

•      …the resurrection of Christ is imitated by the anitchrist in Revelation 13:3.

•      …and perhaps the most egregious example is in II Thessalonians 2:4, when the evil one, as the antichrist,…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.

What is The Mark given in Ezekiel 9:4, and who are the ones so marked?

•      It is probably a mark that is invisible to unspiritual eyes!  For it was administered by an angel equipped with writing equipment (see Ezekiel 9:3).  According to Hebrews 1:14, angels “…are…all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who will inherit salvation.”  Being spirits, they cannot usually be beheld by unspiritual people! (See II Kings 6:15-17; I Corinthians 2:14).  But God would recognize the mark because it came from Him! It sets the LORD’s faithful people apart as belonging to Him!

•      The ones so marked were those…who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done in… their city, Jerusalem! (Ezekiel 9:4).  Just as Jesus “…beheld the city [of Jerusalem] and wept over it…” (Luke 19:41) because of the inhabitants rejection of God’s ways; and just as Jeremiah wept because of the sins of Israel (see Jeremiah 9:1-26); just as Ezra cried over the iniquities of the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity (see Ezra 9:1-10:1); just as Paul had “…great sorrow and continued grief in…[his] heart…” over his fellow Jews who rejected Christ (see Romans 10:1-5); so these Israelites in Ezra 9:4 were heart-broken because those around them continued in sin, and so were headed for destruction!

Are you so marked by God?  Are you crying with a broken heart over those lost ones who reject God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ (see John 14:6), and continue in their sinful ways?  Do you plead with God to save them (see I Timothy 2:4; II Peter 3:9) – to open their blind eyes so they can see the light of the truth? (See II Corinthians 4:4).

If not, why not?

By the way, at the end of the age those who are not marked by God will be marked by the antichrist!  Think about it!

Worshiping The Sun

May 24, 2017

Image result for photo worship the sun

Ezekiel 8:16

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

The fourth part of Ezekiel’s first Jerusalem vision has to do with Worshiping The Sun.  All four parts of this vision have to do with idolatry.  This part is found in Ezekiel 8:16:

      So He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house, and there,
      at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar,
      were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the
      LORD and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun
      toward the east.

One thing that strikes me is that the first three times the LORD showed the prophet an instance of blatant idolatry, He would tell Ezekiel, “Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.” (verses 6, 13, and 15).  Why was each instance of idolatry greater than the one before?  I think it may have to do with God’s greater disappointment, anger, and indignation at His people’s obvious affront to Him!  After all, He had been blessing, guiding, and guarding Israel for centuries!  And this is the thanks He gets?  Remember, the LORD had plainly told them…

•      …in Exodus 20:2 through 5 (the first of the Ten Commandments) – “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  You shall have no other gods before Me.  You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them, nor serve them….

•      …in Deuteronomy 6:14 and 15 – “You shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people who are all around you (For the LORD your God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.

•      …in Isaiah 42:8 – “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to graven images.

                                         …and many other such warnings!

It also seems from descriptions in this vision that, in each instance, the idolatry in which these Jews were engaged was ever closer to the temple proper!  Keep in mind that in approaching the Temple, you went through four courts – the court of the Gentiles (non-Jews), the court of the women, the court of the men, and the priests’ court.  Upon entering the Temple building itself, you were in the Holy Place, and then (divided off by the veil) there was the Holy of Holies where the glory of God was manifested above the Mercy Seat, between the cherubim!  You would be ever closer to the presence of the LORD!  That would make the idolatry mentioned in this chapter ever more abominable to God!

But considering our featured Scripture of Ezekiel 8 – Here is what Paul tells us about such worship in Romans 1:25:  Those who practiced idolatry…exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator….”  The creature?  It means that which is created!  And, according to Genesis 1:14 through 18, God created the sun!

Remember Satan’s lie of Genesis 3:5 (International Standard Version)?  “…your eyes will be opened and you’ll become like God, knowing good and evil.”  Now, what is God’s highest created thing?  It is man – men and women!  For only of mankind does the Bible say,…God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  So, logically, the highest form of idolatry is worshiping man in some form or way – for man, you might say, is next to God!  If that is true, then any other created thing is less than man!  So if you make some created thing your god, that puts you higher (greater) than God!  To sum it up, any form of idolatry either makes man equal to or greater than the LORD God Himself!  Is it any wonder that Worshiping The Sun is an abomination to God?

An added feature to this abominable idolatry is that these twenty-five men had their backs toward the temple of the LORD!  But that is what idolatry is!  Whatever you may put in the place that God should occupy in your life – the first place! (see Mark 12:30) – you are turning your back to Him!

What is the result of all this idolatry exposed in Ezekiel 8:5 through 16?  Here is what God said in Ezekiel 8:17 and 18:

      …they…have returned to provoke Me to anger.  Indeed, they put the
      branch to the nose [kind of like ‘thumbing our nose’ at someone or some-
      thing].  Therefore I also will act in fury.  My eye will not spare nor will
      I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not
      hear them.

So do not be caught Worshiping The Sun – or anything else besides the true God!  How much better it is to be Worshiping The Son – the Lord Jesus Christ!

Tammuz Idolatry

May 22, 2017

Image resultEzekiel 8:13, 14

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

The third part of Ezekiel’s Jerusalem vision has to do with Tammuz Idolatry, recorded in Ezekiel 8:13 and 14:

      And He said to me, “Turn again, and you will see greater abominations
      that they are doing.”  So He brought me to the door of the north gate of
      the LORD’s house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping
      for Tammuz.

Who or what is Tammuz?  According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Tammuz was…

      …The name of a Phoenician deity, the Adonis of the Greeks.  He was orig-
      inally a Sumerian or Babylonian sun-god, called Dumuzu, the husband of
      Ishtar, who corresponds to Aphrodite of the Greeks….The Babylonian myth
      represents Dumuzu, or Tammuz, as a beautiful shepherd slain by a wild
      boar, the symbol of winter.  Ishtar long mourned for him and descended in-
      to the underworld to deliver him from the embrace of death….This mourn-
      ing for Tammuz was celebrated in Babylonia by women on the 2nd day of
      the 4th month [mid-June into July].

The cult became widespread, even into Israel, and was celebrated with not only weeping and mourning, but with obscene and licentious rites.  That the women were sitting there in the courtyard of Jehovah’s temple weeping for Tammuz, was a great abomination to God, and caused Ezekiel much dismay!  How is it that God’s people, called by His very name, can descend into such blatant idolatry?

How were they called by God’s name?

•      The Jews were called by God’s name because the very name ‘Jew’ is derived from Jacob’s fourth son, Judah.  The name came to designate all Israelites, for the rulership of Israel was given to the tribe of Judah (see Genesis 49:10; Revelation 5:5).  Judah means “praise”.

Another etemological word for Jew is Yahudi.  The first person to be called such in the Bible was Mordecai in the book of Esther.  Pronounced Yahu-di, it refers to “The prophetic and scripture name of the COVENANT PEOPLE those who loyal follow and obey YAH….YAHU-DI means in Hebrew ‘YAHWEH’S PRAISER’ ” (http://www.eliyah.com/forum 2/Forum1/HTML/000250.html).

•      The nation was known as Israel, and the Jews as the Israelites!  The name Israel comes from Genesis 32 where Jacob wrestled with God’s angel (probably the pre-incarnate Christ).  Before the angel left the struggle with the patriarch, there was this interchange in verses 27 and 28:

      …He said to him, “What is your name?”  And he said, “Jacob.”  And
      He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for
      you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

The name could mean one of several phrases:  He who struggles with God; the prince of God; God rules; or God judgesAll the possibilities have to do with Jehovah God!  As we Christians carry the name of Christ, so the Jews were carrying (called by) His name!

As said above, this Tammuz Idolatry was taking place in the temple complex.  God told Solomon in I Kings 9:3, “I have sanctified this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there forever.”  In that very place, the women were weeping for Tammuz and (apparently) practicing obscene sexual conduct associated with such worship!  Of course, we would never do that!

But the most common form of idolatry of which man is capable is that which introduced sin into human nature in the first place!  Genesis 3:5 (International Standard Version) tells us, “…on the day you eat from it [the tree of knowledge of good and evilsee Genesis 2:16, 17], your eyes will be opened and you’ll become like God, knowing good and evil.”  Becoming like God we put ourselves in His place!  We then make the decisions that affect our lives and the lives of those around us, not Him!  Our hearts (minds) apart from God are deceitful and desperately wicked (see Jeremiah 17:9) because Satan has control (see John 8:44; I John 3:8-10).  We find ourselves in the dilemma of Romans 1:21, 24, and 28 through 30:

      …they…became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was dark-
      ened….Therefore God…gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their
      hearts, to dishonor their bodies between themselves….God gave them over
      to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled
      with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness,
      maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife deceit, evil-mindedness; they
      are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inven-
      tors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy,
      unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful….

This Romans Scripture certainly presents a picture of us that is not pretty.  Can you imagine how terrible we then would look to our holy and righteous God?  Now not everyone will manifest all this Romans description.  But mankind, taken together, does!  No wonder we are called sinners! (See Romans 3:10, 23).

The point is this:  love and serve God through the Lord Jesus Christ!  Consistently put Him first, and you will not fall into any form of Tammuz Idolatry!

Secret Idolatry

May 19, 2017

Image result for photo secretsEzekiel 8:7-10, 12

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

The second part of Ezekiel’s first Jerusalem vision we will examine by looking at Ezekiel 8:7 through 10, and 12:

      …He brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, there was
      a hole in the wall.  Then He said to me, “Son of man, dig into the wall”;
      and when I dug into the wall, there was a door.  And He said to me, “Go
      in, and see the wicked abominations which they are doing there.”  So I
      went in and saw, and there — every sort of creeping thing, abominable
      beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed all around on
      the walls….Then He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the
      elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of
      his idols?  For they say, ‘The LORD does not see us, the LORD has for-
      saken the land.’”

The majority of the commentaries that I consulted say that this describes an actual secret cult practiced away from the eyes of others, and even in the priests’ temple rooms.  But I have always read this as a description of what secretly went on in the imagination of these Jewish elders’ minds!  Here, in the New King James Version, the translation reads, “…every man in the room of his idols…” (verse 12).  But in the King James Version, this phrase is translated, “…every man in the chambers of his imagery….” “…of his imagery…” is from the Hebrew word מַשְׂכִּית (pronounced mas-keeth’); and, according to Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, it can figuratively mean imagination.  I go by this interpretation, and that is why I call this blog Secret Idolatry.

In verse 11 of Ezekiel 8 (the verse I left out to save space), we read that “…seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel…” were involved in this Secret Idolatry.  I think this is symbolic of the whole nation since God told Moses in Numbers 11:16 and 17 to “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel…[who] shall bear the burden of the people with you….”  Moses needed help in governing the new nation of two to three million people!  The Jews of Jesus’ day used this Scripture from Numbers to establish the number of leaders who made up the ruling Jewish body of Israel called the Sanhedrin – seventy one (seventy elders plus Moses).  If this is the correct interpretation of “…seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel…” (Ezekiel 8:11), most of Israel – especially the Jewish leaders – were involved in Secret Idolatry!

But was it Secret?  These practitioners thought so, saying, “The LORD does not see us, the LORD has forsaken the land.”  But here are several Scriptures from both testaments that prove otherwise:

•      Psalm 139:1 through 4 – “O LORD, You have searched me and known me.  You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.  You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.  For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.

•      Proverbes 15:9 (Easy-to-Read Version) – “The LORD knows everything, even what happens in the place of death.  So surely He knows what people are thinking.

•      Ecclesiastes 12:13 and 14 – “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good, or whether it is evil.

•      Matthew 9:4 – “…Jesus, knowing their thoughts….

•      John 2:24 and 25 – “…Jesus…knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

•      Hebrews 4:13 – “…there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

I think you can see that we can’t hide anything from God – what we do, what we say, or even what we think!

So what Secret Idolatry are you allowing your mind to dwell on?  Because before God, the thoughts of your mind – even if they do not become outward acts – are just as if you had acted upon those thoughts!  For instance…

•      Matthew 5:28 – “…I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

•      I John 3:14, 15 – “He who does not love his brother abides in death.  Whoever hates his brother is a murderer….

•      In like manner, covetousness and envy are thievery!

We could continue, but the point is, what we allow to go on in our minds matters!  And though we might not be outward idolaters, if we allow anything to come before God – even if only in our imaginations – we are descending into idolatry!  And, as Ezekiel dug through the wall and opened to door to witness what was happening in the secret imaginations of the Jewish leaders, so God will expose unrepented secret sins for all to see! (See Luke 8:17; I Corinthians 3:13).  But, as it says in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  And when God forgives us because we have trusted in Christ for our salvation, He tell us in Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17, “Their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.”  Sins covered by the blood of the Lord will never be brought into the light for others to see!  Praise God!

Do not allow Secret Idolatry to take hold in your mind!

Idolatry Of Jealousy

May 17, 2017

Image result for photo fertility goddessEzekiel 8:3, 5, 6

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

In my daily Bible reading, I was struck by the relevance of Scripture written over two and a half millennia ago!  Ezekiel wrote in the time of Nebachudnezzar, king of Babylon’s reign, during the first decades of the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews – about 592 to 565 BC.  In chapter 8 of his book, Ezekiel describes a series of visions God gave him that deal with Jewish idolatry.  The first is Idolatry Of Jealousy.  Here is Ezekiel 8:3, 5, and 6:

      …the Spirit lifted me up…and brought me in visions of God to Jerusalem,
      to the door of the north gate of the inner court, where…the image of jeal-
      ousy was, which provokes to jealousy….Then He said to me, “Son of man,
      lift up your eyes now toward the north.”  …and there, north of the altar
      gate, was this image of jealousy in the entrance.  Furthermore He said to
      me, “Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations
      that the house of Israel commits here, to make Me go far away from My

Jehovah declared in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to graven images.”  God is jealous of His name, of His glory, and of the praise due to His person!  He jealously protects these things because He is the only true God (see John 17:3), and there is no other way available to Him and eternal life except through His Son Jesus Christ! (See John 14:6; 17:3; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:5).  Trusting anything other than that God-ordained way leads to a wasted life and eternal death! (See Matthew 6:19; Luke 12:20; John 10:1; Revelation 21:8).

This vision that Ezekiel experienced happened before the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC (see Isaiah 64:11; Jeremiah 52:13).  So worship at the Jerusalem temple was still happening at this time – and by such worship, the name (the person) of God was to be glorified and praised!  But the Jewish priests and other leaders had erected the image of jealousy and were bowing down to it!  And they did this in the temple complex – at the door of the north gate of the inner court !  How brazen!  How corrupt!  How pagan!  No wonder God said such worship of this image,…provokes [Me] to jealousy…!

This idol they erected is called, “…the image of jealousy….”  Just what does this mean?  It was probably an Asherah pole, along with an altar to receive offerings to this Phoenician goddess!  II Kings 21:7 (International Standard Version) tells us that Manasseh (king of Judah from 687 to 642 BC), “…erected the carved image of Asherah that he had made inside the Temple….”  Translated in the King James Version as “…a graven image of the grove…,Asherah was the goddess of fertility and happiness!  Often, worship of Asherah involved sexual orgies, and the pole erected in her honor was probably in the image of a phallus!

Two years after Manessah’s death, his grandson Josiah became king.  Twelve years into Josiah’s reign, at 20 years of age (628 BC), it tells us in II Chronicles 34:4 (Modern King James Version) that he “…broke down the altars of the Baals in his presence.  And he cut down the images…and the Asherahs.”  But now, barely 30 years later, the image of Asherah had been replaced – again, right in the temple complex!  No wonder God was angry!  As we read through Ezekiel chapters 8 through 10, we see God was angry enough to remove His presence from the Holy of Holies, the temple complex, Jerusalem itself, and the whole nation of Israel!  And He will not return His glory there until the Millennial temple and worship is established! (See Ezekiel 43:1-5).

Obviously, the Jewish leadership was practicing idolatry in Ezekiel’s day.  Surely we don’t worship Asherah-like idols today!  No, generally we don’t worship physical idols in our enlightened western society as they did back then!  But what is idolatry?  We are told in the Great Commandment of Mark 12:30, “…you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (See also Deuteronomy 6:4, 5; Matthew 22:27; Luke 10:27).  Love Him first and foremost!  Why?  BecauseWe love Him because He first loved us…and sent His Son to the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:19, 10).  And Jesus also told us in John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”  If you love God, obey Him!  And love and obey Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength!

If anything is put before loving and obeying God in this way, it is idolatry – idolatry as blatant as that which was practiced long ago by the Jewish leaders of Ezekiel’s day!  And God will not manifest His glory and power in the life of someone who is practicing idolatry!  So heed what two Scripture writers tell us…

•      …Paul in I Corinthians 10:14:  “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

•      …John in I John 5:21:  “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.


May 15, 2017

Image result for photo dividedII Chronicles 10:16, 17

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

From II Chronicles 10:16 and 17:

      And when all Israel saw that the king would not listen to them, the people
      answered the king, saying, “What portion have we in David?  We have no
      inheritance in the son of Jesse.  Every man to your tents, O Israel!  Now,
      see to your own house, O David!”  So all Israel departed to their tents.  But
      Rehoboam reigned over the children of Israel who dwelt in the cities of

This is a portion of Scripture that records the division of the one kingdom of Israel into two kingdoms – Israel to the north and Judah to the south!  They were never reunited during the next two hundred plus years!  How did this Division happen?

•      The immediate cause was King Rehoboam’s response to the Israelites’ request.  The people petitioned him in verse 4 of II Chronicles 10:  “Your father [King Solomon] made out yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.”  But, taking the advice of his younger contemporaries over the older and wiser advisors of his father, Rehoboam in verse 14 told his subjects, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!”  And the people rebelled – resulting in a Divided kingdom!

•      The cause behind Rehoboam’s response to the people was a Divided loyalty to and respect for his father, King Solomon!  Apparently, his son was not overly impressed with Solomon’s role as a father.

      ✡      Although the Scripture record does not specifically say so, Solomon most likely fell far short of Godly fatherhood!  It is recorded in I Kings 11:3 that Solomon, “…had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines….”  The number of children he fathered is not given, but from a thousand women with whom he was intimate, a great number of offspring must have been produced!  A conservative estimate might be a thousand children!  How can one man be a proper father to a thousand children, especially when he was ruling a thriving and prosperous nation?

      ✡      The practice of wealthy and busy men of the time was to commit their sons to “…a schoolmaster…” (Galatians 3:24, 25 – see also II Kings 10:6) to bring them up properly trained and educated in the ways of life, and to be presented back to the father some time later as full sons.  So Solomon probably had little personal fatherly influence over his son Rehoboam!

•      In the time of Solomon, we are told in II Chronicles 9:20, “All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold…not one was of silver; for this was accounted as nothing in the days of Solomon.”  And in II Chronicles 9:22 it is written:  “…King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom.” (See also II Chronicles 1:7-12).  Jesus warned us in Matthew 6:19 through 21, and 24:

      Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…but lay up for yourselves
      treasures in heaven….For where your treasure is, there your heart will be
      also….No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and
      love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. 
      You cannot serve God and mammon [money and the things money can buy].

Most likely Solomon was negatively affected by his great wealth, and it seems for certain that his son Rehoboam was!  The burdens from which the people were asking relief included heavy taxes levied to run the vast kingdom.  But Rehoboam wanted to increase the oppressive burdens!  Although it does not tell us directly, it seems the new king was in love withmammonand wanted more and more!  How could he love and pursue both God and mammon?  He could not!  His heart was Divided!

•      Examining Sololmon’s life further, it becomes evident that the great king had a heart Divided when it came to spiritual issues!  His 1,000 women did more than take his attention away from rearing his children.  They tore his loyalty away from following Jehovah God!  I quoted I Kings 11:3 above.  Here is the end of the verse along with the next one, I Kings 11:4:

      …and his wives turned away his heart.  For it was so, when Solomon was
      old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not
      loyal with the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David.

The next verses name the gods Solomon worshiped:  “…Astoroth the goddess of the Sidonians…Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites…Chemosh the abomination of Moab…Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon.” (I Kings 11:5, 7).  All these were false gods of the pagan Canaanites!  And Israel was strictly forbidden to worship them! (See Exodus 23:23, 24, 32, 33).  Some practices of Canaanite pagan worship directed to these false gods even involved burning alive the adherent’s children as an offering to them! (See Jeremiah 19:5).

We could go back to further divisions of heart and mind among God’s chosen people.  But the point is this:  Divided allegiance to God will result in Divided affections, families, and even nations!  Be sure your devotion to the Lord is undivided!  As it says in Luke 10:27:  “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.”  And do this all the time!

Switched Stickers – III

May 12, 2017

Image result for photo price stickersIsaiah 5:20-23

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

We have been using Isaiah 5:20 through 23 to show how Satan practices Switched Stickers!  The title of this blog series comes from the practice of those who try to replace the sticker on a higher priced item with one from a lower priced item to save themselves money.  Obviously, such a practice is a form of stealing!  And it is wrong!  But, as Jesus said in John 10:10, the devil is a thief who only comes…to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.”  So it should be of no surprise to find Switched Stickers in Satan’s bag of tricks!

Here is our featured Scripture, Isaiah 5:20 through 23:

      Woe unto those who call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for
      light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bit-
      ter!  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their
      own sight!  Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, woe to men valiant for
      mixing intoxicating drink, who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take
      away justice from the righteous man!

In light of who Satan is, I readily understand the first and last parts of the text which describe the actions of those who have the devil as their father! (See John 8:44):

•      The first part:  “…those who call evil good, and good evil…,” as well as the next two paired examples:  “…those who put darkness for light, and light for darkness…bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

      ▸      Satan takes the original sticker off of something God calls evil, and slaps one on that says it is good …and vice versa!

      ▸      The devil lifts the sticker off of something that belongs to the darkness, and pastes on a label saying light !  …and vice versa!

      ▸      He who deceives peels off God’s sticker that tells us something is bitter, and puts one on that sayssweet !  …and vice verse!

•      The last part:  “…men…who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away justice from the righteous man! ”  Here, the evil one has Switched God’s Stickers for his own that saythe wicked are not wicked andthe righteous are not right!

But it is that which is in between the first and last parts that I had trouble understanding how it fit in:  “Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink….”  How does this part of the text help us understand Switched Stickers?

•      I believe God has given all people the innate desire to be mighty and valiant !  After all, we were originally created “…in the image of God…” (Genesis 1:27).  And God is certainly mighty (see Isaiah 42:13) and valiant (see Isaiah 10:13)!  And if sinful man (see Romans 3:10, 23) cannot be mighty and valiant in God’s sight, then they will try to gain those attributes by ways in which Satan has Switched Stickers

      ▸     Such people who are mighty at drinking wine and valiant for mixing intoxicating drink will be praised because as they say, “Drunkenness and the altered mind it produces is good!  It puts you at ease and helps you escape reality for a little while.

      ▸      Imbibing of mind-altering drugs (and, yes, alcohol is a mind-altering drug!see http://www.narconon.org/drug-education/videos/is-alcohol-a-drug.html) make it easier to bypass the conscience God has given to all of us (see Acts 24:16; I Timothy 1:5, 19; Titus 1:15).  We generally have an innate sense of right and wrong, as Paul wrote in Romans 2:14 and 15 (Contemporary English Version):

      Some people naturally obey the Law’s commands, even though
      they don’t have the Law.  This proves that the conscience is like
      a law written in the human heart.  And it will show whether we
      are forgiven or condemned….

Forgiven or condemned – right or wrong!  That’s what the God-given conscience is supposed to do!  But when mind-altering drugs are imbibed, the conscience is compromised!  As Paul wrote in I Timothy 4:1and 2, “…some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron….”  If you burn a human organ enough, it will scar to the point that it will be past feeling!  Drugs will do that!  A person with a seared conscience won’t be able to tell right from wrong…………..Switched Stickers!

•      Satan will use any addiction to destroy a person’s ability to discern right and wrong, good and evil, darkness and light, bitter and sweet, justice and wickedness!

So how are we to avoid the devil’s Switched Stickers?  We must know the truth!

•      Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, and follow Him as your Lord!

      ✞      He died to pay for your sins, sacrificing His perfect life on the cross for you!

      ✞      He rose again from the dead, never to die, ever to live to apply salvation to you and all who come to Him in faith believing!

•      In John 17:17 the Son prayed to the Father, “Your word is truth.”  Get into the Bible andLet the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Colossians 3:16).

•      In I Timothy 3:15 Paul writes, “…the church of the living God…[is] the pillar and ground of the truth.”  Become active in a strong Christian church!

As Jesus tells us in John 8:32, “…you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  Don’t be a victim of Switched Stickers!

Switched Stickers – II

May 10, 2017

Image result for photo price stickersIsaiah 5:20-23

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

As some nefarious people try to switch price stickers to get an high-priced item for a reduced cost, so Satan practices Switched Stickers!  What do I mean?  I think Isaiah 5:20 through 23 describes what happens when the devil does his dirty work:

      Woe unto those who call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for
      light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bit-
      ter!  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their
      own sight!  Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, woe to men valiant for
      mixing intoxicating drink, who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take
      away justice from the righteous man!

In our last blog, we looked at what God calls good by examining Micah 6:8, the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3 through 17, the Great Commandment of Mark 12:29 through 31, Romans 13:8 through 10, John 13:34 and 35, and I Corinthians 13:13.  I encourage you to read again Monday’s blog, Switched Stickers – I, to see how it all fits together.

But God is also not hesitant to call the bad just that – bad!  Now, some may get upset because the Scriptures that I highlight are not considered to be socially and politically correct is some circles.  But they are in the Bible nonetheless!  And if what is said offends someone, that one will have to argue it out with God!

•      Concerning homosexuality:  It is plainly written in…

      ✞      …the Old Testament in Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.  They shall surely be put to death.  Their blood shall be upon them.

      ✞      …the New Testament in Romans 1:21, 24, 26-28 – “…although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God…but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened….Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves….God gave them up to vile passions.  For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with me committing what is shameful…. God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting….
You can see that today’s “correct” social outlook is quite different from God’s viewpoint in the Bible!  In a 2013 Pew Research poll (http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/06/04/the-global- divide-on- homosexuality) it was found that 60% of Americans believed homosexuality should be accepted as a legitimate lifestyle, with 33% opposed!  The same poll said 70% of young people, age 18 to 29, agree that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle!  Another Pew Research poll conducted in 2015 found that overall 54% of Christians believe homosexuality should be accepted by society!  If God’s directive is correct, then someone has effectively Switched Stickers!

Even among those who claim Christianity as their faith belief, there is a wide division on what is true and what is not.  I was talking to a friend who is lesbian, discussing the issue.  She told me “I view the Bible differently than you do.”  Yes, she has to – since she is holding the belief that God does not condemn homosexuality!

•      Concerning sexual mores in general:  consider what God says in I Corinthians 6:16 through 18 – “…do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her?  For ‘The two,’ He [God] says, ‘shall become one flesh.’  But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.  Flee sexual immorality.

This is not just to be applied to an affair with a harlot (a prostitute).  According to Strong’s Greek Dictionary, the Greek word is πόρνη (pronounced porna) translated harlot, whore.  And a related word is πορνεία (pronounced porneia) which is translated fornication in verse 18.  It means “harlotry (including adultery and incest).”  A third related word is πορνεύω (pronounced porneuo), meaning “to act the harlot,” and translated commit (fornication).  Our English word, pornography comes from these Greek words.  It all has to do with behaving like a harlot, either male or female indulging in unlawful sexual actions!  And what is unlawful sexual action in God’s sight?  Among other things (see Leviticus 20:10-21), it is sex outside of marriage! (See Genesis 2:24; I Corinthians 7:9; Hebrews 13:4).

But consider what is so common in our society today – living together without being married!  In an article by Lauren Fox from March 20, 2014 The Atlantic magazine, “The Science of Cohabitation:  A Step Toward Marriage, Not a Rebellion”, she writes:

      Cohabitation has increased by nearly 900 percent over the last 50 years.  More
      and more, couples are testing the waters before diving into marriage.  Census
      data from 2012 shows that 7.8 million couples are living together without walk-
      ing down the aisle, compared to 2.9 million in 1996.

A 900% increase since 1950!  Almost a 300% increase since 1996!  Living together has become the ‘new normal’ for western society!  NBC News reported on April 4, 2013, that:

      …a new government study…tracks the continuing climb of cohabitation in the
      U.S….By the time they’re 20, 1 in 4 women ages 15 to 44 in the U.S. have lived
      with a man, and by the time they’re 30, that ratio climbs to 3 in 4….

Someone has Switched Stickers!  And where God’s Word, the Bible is concerned, that someone is the devil!

      ✞      In Jeremiah 29:11 the Lord says, “‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,’ says the LORD, ‘thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.’

      ✞      And in Romans 8:31 and 32 it is written: “What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

      ✞      But in John 10:10 Jesus warns us, “The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.

Which one are you going to believe and follow?  Which Sticker price will youbuy!