Sunday, September 21, 2014

"It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”: All About Linen


and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. (Revelation 15:6)

Flax, Linum usitatissimum, Wikipedia
Linen as a garment and flax workers as a commerce occurs throughout the bible. Did you ever wonder about linen? After all, we are going to be given linen to wear when we are finally glorified. The angels that appeared to men on earth were noted as wearing linen. What about this linen we read so much of?

It starts in Egypt. Linen is made from flax, an easily grown plant but one that is very difficult to extract the linen fibers from. Apparently, it was worth it. The ancient Egyptians called linen "woven moonlight".

Flax working was a huge industry for agricultural workers along the banks of the Nile. It was a major, major industry in Egypt 4000-5000 years ago. There are even prophecies about the flax workers.

The workers in combed flax will be in despair, and the weavers of white cotton. (Isaiah 19:9)

Smith's Bible Dictionary says of flax,
"cloth made from flax. Several different Hebrew words are rendered linen, which may denote different fabrics of linen or different modes of manufacture. Egypt was the great centre of the linen trade. Some linen, ... a flax that grew on the banks of the Nile, was exceedingly soft and of dazzling whiteness. This linen has been sold for twice its weight in gold. Sir J.G. Wilkinson says of it, "The quality of the fine linen fully justifies all the praises of antiquity, and excites equal admiration at the present day, being to the touch comparable to silk, and not inferior in texture to our finest cambric."
The Egyptians used it to wrap their mummies. The flax woven to soft linen was durable and so fine that when King Tut's tomb was opened, the linen still looked fresh.
King Tut's Linen. Source

In the bible, the finest of the woven linen was reserved for the priests.

"When they enter the gates of the inner court, they are to wear linen clothes; they must not wear any woolen garment while ministering at the gates of the inner court or inside the temple." (Ezekiel 44:17)


The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says of fine linen,
Ancient Egypt was noted for its fine linen (Genesis 41:42 Isaiah 19:9). From it a large export trade was carried on with surrounding nations, including the Hebrews, who early learned the art of spinning from the Egyptians (Exodus 35:25) and continued to rely on them for the finest linen (Proverbs 7:16 Ezekiel 27:7). The culture of flax in Palestine probably antedated the conquest, for in Joshua 2:6 we read of the stalks of flax which Rahab had laid in order upon the roof. Among the Hebrews, as apparently among the Canaanites, the spinning and weaving of linen were carried on by the women (Proverbs 31:13, 19), among whom skill in this work was considered highly praiseworthy (Exodus 35:25). One family, the house of Ashbea, attained eminence as workers in linen (1 Chronicles 4:21 2 Chronicles 2:14).
Flax in the field
In religious services by others than priests, white linen was also preferred, as in the case of the infant Samuel (1 Samuel 2:18), the Levite singers in the temple (2 Chronicles 5:12), and even royal personages (2 Samuel 6:14 1 Chronicles 15:27). Accordingly, it was ascribed to angels (Ezekiel 9:2, 3, 11; Ezekiel 10:2, 6, 7 Daniel 10:5; Daniel 12:6, 7). Fine linen, white and pure, is the raiment assigned to the armies which are in heaven following Him who is called Faithful and True (Revelation 19:14). It is deemed a fitting symbol of the righteousness and purity of the saints (Revelation 19:8).
This site is excellent in recounting the history of flax, and linen-making, complete with a how-to.
Blue flowering flax
Linen is made from Flax
Linen is woven from the spun fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum. Flax grows wild in the region extending from Northern Africa to India and north to the Caucasus Mountains in Western Europe. Long before we lounged on sunny yacht decks on gauzy linen towels, prehistoric man was busy spinning these exceptionally-strong fibers into the simple thread that changed the world.
The Taming of the Flax

Intentional cultivation of the wild flax plant likely began sometime between 5,000-4,000 BCE in the regions of North Africa and the Fertile Crescent, and from the beginning, linen was holy.

In ancient Mesopotamian city-states like Babylon and Ur, linen fabric was rare and accounted for only 10% of textile production. While the flax plant is not difficult to grow and reaches maturity in about 100 days, it also leaches most of the nutrients from the soil such that the fields must be let lie fallow for several years after a harvest. The laborious process of linen-making then took an additional 130-150 work days. Because production was so labor-intensive, only members of the elite like priests and royal figures could afford clothing and other articles made of linen. Cuneiform sources tell of thrones and statues of deities draped in bolts of fine linen inside temples.

Across the Sinai Peninsula not too many years later, the fertile Nile river valley provided a much more agreeable ecology for flax cultivation. The annual flooding of the Nile brought alluvial deposits that replenished the nutrients in the soil that had been depleted by the flax plant. Coupled with the surplus of the same slave labor that built the pyramids, flax quickly became ancient Egypt’s number one non-foodstuffs crop.

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. ... She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. (Proverbs 31:10, 13)

The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. (Revelation 19:14)

Continuing with flax history,

Unlike the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians prized linen fabric for much more than its exclusiveness. Linen fabric is durable, lightweight and wicks moisture away from sweaty skin. Linen thus became the favored material for clothing under the scorching desert sun, from the coarse linen garb of the slaves to the intricately-woven finery of the high priests.

Linen is also resistant to insects and microbial growth, and has a smooth, lint-free surface. Egyptians were obsessed with hygiene, so for these qualities, linen was considered pure. The whiter the fabric, the purer Egyptians believed it to be. By far, the greatest demand for linen was for ritual purposes.

Priests were permitted to dress only in linen. “Chief Royal Bleacher” was an actual job title, though an unenviable one. Tomb paintings and models from across the region depict the repetitive process of washing the wet linen cloth, rubbing it with detergent, pounding it on a smooth stone with wooden clubs, rubbing the surface with balls of leather, rinsing, repeating, again and again; then finally laying it out to bleach dry in the hot sun.
In Revelation 18:12-13 robust trade from Babylon in luxuries is ongoing, including fine linens.

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble...

So that is probably more than you wanted to know about linen. This link [ How Linen is Made: From Flax to Fabric ] describes the laborious process to make fine linen, and I recommend reading it. It is very interesting. But for the saints, we have to do nothing to be clothed in righteousness, for it was Jesus' work on the cross that brought us to and through the cross of salvation where righteousness reigns. His righteousness is granted to us, energizes us, and empowers us to works of righteousness in His name.

"It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints." (Revelation 19:8)

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)


Robe of Righteousness, Lars Justinen



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Preaching Divine Providence: A pair of timeless and wonderful sermons, one old and one new, to bookend your weekend

In 1857, Charles Haddon Spurgeon ascended the pulpit at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, and delivered a wonderful sermon called God's Providence.

Charles Spurgeon was an absolutely amazing pastor. His very life defines both submission, and workhorse. Of Spurgeon, Justin Taylor sums up Spurgeon's prodigious output,
He often worked 18 hours a day. His collected sermons fill 63 volumes (the largest set by a single author in church history). He read six books a week and could recall their contents. He read through The Pilgrim's Progress more than 100 times. 14,460 people were added to his church's membership, and he did most of the membership interviews himself. He trained 900 men to the pastorate. He founded an orphanage, edited a magazine, produced more than 140 books, and is said to have received 500 letters a week to respond to. More than 25,000 copies of his sermons were printed each week. He often preached 10 times a week in various churches. He did all this while suffering from gout, rheumatism, and Bright's disease—living only to the age of 57. And I think his wife was sick most of that time.
One of Spurgeon's early sermons was called "God's Providence." Spurgeon set his reasoning forth at the beginning of his text.
I am constantly talking about providence in my preaching, and I thought it quite as well to devote a whole sermon to explain what I believe are God's great wonder-working processes which we call Providence.
I love God's providence because I love God's sovereignty. The doctrine of Providence is a favorite doctrine of mine, as regular readers know. Providence of God is defined
The providence of God may be defined as His guardianship and care for His creatures and creation. Also, any manifestation of such care may be described as providence. "There is probably no point at which the Christian doctrine of God comes more into conflict with contemporary worldviews than in the matter of God’s providence. Providence means that God has not abandoned the world that he created, but rather works within that creation to manage all things according to the “immutable counsel of His own will” (Westminster Confession of Faith, V, i).
It's a comfort to ponder how involved God is in the affairs of men, His care of the saved, and His working all things together for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28).

In Spurgeon's exposition of a passage from Ezekiel, he used the biblical remarkable imagery of the wheels within wheels and the cherubim who are unique and distinct from all other creatures to illustrate Providence.

The sermon was delivered in 1857 but published October 15th, 1908. Spurgeon opened with comforting words:
WHILE READING THE SCRIPTURES, we tried to hint at the practical benefits of the doctrine of Providence. We attempted to explain that portion of Scripture which teaches us to "take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow will take thought for the things of itself." Our blessed Lord had there uttered very precious words to drive away our fears, to keep us from distrust and from distress, and to enable us so to rely upon Providence that we may say, he that feeds the ravens, and clothes the lilies, will never suffer me to famish nor to be naked.

He is a good God. Spurgeon's sermons are a blessing and this one in particular is a favorite of mine. I hope you like it too.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In October 2013, Pastor Phil Johnson delivered a sermon as part of the Strange Fire conference at John MacArthur's Grace Community Church. It is called Providence IS Remarkable. The Conference was a direct rebuttal to the Charismatic movement, which is polluting the minds and hearts of Christians and false Christians all over the world. In this sermon, Johnson relates the true reasons for the miracles of times past and points to the miracle of today, God's providence. In his sermon, Johnson explained:
Verse 29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground, apart from your Father.” That doesn’t merely mean that God watches and observes that. It means without His expressed decree and permission, even a sparrow doesn’t die. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. “Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows. Really He gives them miraculous power and He tells them, “I’m sending you out in the midst of wolves, you’re going to be attacked,” and instead of saying use that power to silence your opposition, He says, “Just bear in mind God’s there and He’s involved with you.”

I cannot stress this enough. When the Lord wants to reassure the Apostles that Almighty God is directly and personally and lovingly involved in their experience, and not only in their triumphs and successes, but also in their trials and sufferings. Jesus doesn’t point them to the miracles. He doesn’t talk about dreams and visions, or other mystical phenomena. He doesn’t tell them to listen for a still small voice inside their own heads, and He certainly doesn’t tell them that their words have creative power, so, you know, when you encounter opposition, just go ahead and make a positive confession.

Instead, Jesus teaches them a truth we know as the doctrine of providence. He stresses the fact that God is intimately involved in all the details of our lives, even when we can’t consciously sense His presence, even when we don’t understand what He’s doing or why He’s doing it.
Thinking about providence from heaven is remarkable in that it reduces us to a puddle of love in knowing our Great God is intimately involved with His people. No remote, uncaring, or unaware sovereign is He, but a Shepherd actively caring for the most lowly of His lambs. It's uplifting to ponder these things. (Philippians 4:8).

Here is the Grace To You video with transcript

Here is the stand-alone sermon on Youtube:




Whether old or new, there are sermons out there, and books, and essays, from men the Lord has raised up in truth to convict us, edify us, and comfort us. God's word is uniquely worth pondering. He has left no generation alone and has always used His people as vessels for this work. And He always will, until the Day He calls us home and we are with Him personally!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Preaching divine wrath: A pair of timeless and wonderful sermons, one old and one new, to bookend your weekend

I have four favorite sermons. In thinking about them, I realized they were two pairs, one old and one modern. Each pair was of the same subject. Of course each of the two pairs of sermons are edifying. Let me share the first pair now, and the second pair tomorrow.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead; ...
and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink
and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf,
...and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you
and keep you out of hell, than a spider's web
would have to stop a falling rock. Sinners
On July 8th, 1741, pastor Jonathan Edwards ascended the pulpit and preached one of the most famous and convicting sermons in the last 270 years, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God".

Edwards first preached an outline of it to his own congregation, then preached it fully as a guest pastor to the Enfield CT people. Sinners is part of the First Great Awakening.

The Spirit's work in the First Great Awakening, unlike the Second Great Awakening which reached the unchurched and unconverted, was to shake complacent, church-going Christians to the core and revive their somnolent Christianity to one of fervor for personal holiness and prayer under a loving but wrathful eye of God.

First Great Awakening. Edwards' use of vivid imagery combined with the powerful concepts of personal responsibility for sin in the face of a holy and sovereign God, crushed the hearts of listeners everywhere- because Edwards was asked to re-preach it often.
Edwards "is widely acknowledged to be America's most important and original philosophical theologians," and one of America's greatest intellectuals. The only son in a family of eleven children, he entered Yale in September, 1716 when he was not yet thirteen and graduated four years later (1720) as valedictorian. He received his Masters three years later. (Source)
On July 8, 1741, in Enfield CT (where a small stone marker marks the spot) Edwards delivered this great, theologically convicting sermon. Though Puritan congregations were well used to fire and brimstone teaching and preaching, the fact of hell and wrath unquestioned, the Spirit's desire to spark an awakening by using this gifted preacher and his powerful sermon with vivid imagery stands still today as one of the great sermons.

Here is JD Wetterling's foreword to the sermon, a concise recounting of the sermon's history and impact.
If you live at the turn of the third millennium after Christ walked this earth, you've probably never heard a sermon like this one. Jonathan Edwards was a renowned Puritan preacher, philosopher, theologian, and the leading intellectual figure of colonial America. He graduated from Yale at age 17, became a preacher like his father and grandfather, and is today considered one of the theological titans, along with Augustine, Luther and Calvin, of the Reformed faith.

SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD was delivered during a time called the Great Awakening, when revival was sweeping the continent and thousands were daily coming to Christ. Two-hundred-fifty years later it is generally recognized as the greatest sermon ever preached on the North American continent, and one of the prime manifestations of the Holy Spirit that brought about the first Great Awakening. While Edwards was equally fervent and eloquent in his preaching on all of God‟s infinite attributes, especially His love and mercy, he is remembered most for this powerful portrayal of God‟s infinite hatred of sin. Edwards was not considered a charismatic orator. He read his sermons, and when he looked up at all it was to stare at the rope for the church bell on the back wall. He knew that in order for lost sinners to come to Christ, their only hope for salvation, they must first be brought to the realization of the desperate state they were in and the horrendous eternal consequences of it. He brought many of his listeners to that realization this day with “remarkable effect.” Such was the power and passion of his words that moans and groans filled the sanctuary and people fainted as he spoke.

The “h-word” is used more often here than I have heard in 52 years of church attendance—it sets the standard for “fire and brimstone.” Jesus himself talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible, and Edward‟s biblical support for his awesomely graphic metaphors is correct,complete and convicting, and elicits a sense of urgency rarely heard in church pulpits today.
To read in original form-
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

To hear on Youtube:
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

----------------------------------------------------------------

Edwards was concerned with sin, complacency, and the wrath of God. His biblical exposition used vivid imagery and is the hallmark woven through the entire sermon. In this next sermon from today's times, the vivid imagery is also a powerful vehicle to bring the concepts of the devastation of sin to the listener.

The title of this sermon that has three times now brought me to a place of utter conviction, is called "Hacking Agag to Pieces." Many people consider this sermon as MacArthur's best. Its content is as vivid as the title, which is a literal event from 1 Samuel 15:33.

John MacArthur's bio from Wikipedia,
John Fullerton MacArthur, Jr. (born June 19, 1939) is an American Calvinist, Baptist pastor and author known for his internationally syndicated radio program Grace to You. A popular author and conference speaker, he has served as the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since February 9, 1969 and also currently serves as the president of The Master's College in Newhall, California and The Master's Seminary in Sun Valley, California. MacArthur has authored or edited more than 150 books.

MacArthur is ... a strong proponent of expository preaching. He has been acknowledged by Christianity Today as one of the most influential preachers of his time, and was a frequent guest on Larry King Live as a representative of an evangelical Christian perspective.
The sermon is paired with the verses from 2 Corinthians 1:12, Romans 6:14-17, both about sin and how it devastates a life, unless it is hacked to pieces. MacArthur exposition of the context of Saul's disobedience set the stage for the doctrinal explanations of the verses in Corinthians and Romans.

Both sermons bring to the listener how important it is not to give quarter to sin. We must not give the enemy any opportunity to weave his way into our hearts nor to nestle there. When we find sin in us we must deal with it immediately and vividly. Jonathan Edwards reminded his audience that it is only the pleasure of God that we draw the next breath. If you are unsaved, and your breath is taken away and death befalls you, an eternity of unutterable torment awaits. Those living a deluded life in false assurance of their salvation are at most risk.

And in MacArthur's sermon, Agag lived a pagan, rebellious life before God and until the first sword stroke never thought it would be his last breath. As for Saul, God pronounced a curse upon him for his disobedience in not killing Agag in the first place, another sin before God, because disobedience is always sin.

Both sermons remind us that sin has profound and eternal consequences.

In tomorrow's blog essay, a pair of sermons that uplift the listener, one old and one new. Prepare to be awed by His providence and His sovereignty.

The preaching of divine wrath serves as a black velvet backdrop that causes the diamond of God’s mercy to shine brighter than ten thousand suns. It is upon the dark canvas of divine wrath that the splendor of His saving grace most fully radiates. Preaching the wrath of God most brilliantly showcases His gracious mercy toward sinners. ~Steven J. Lawson

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ebola may be out of control, but God is never out of control

I've reported on the Ebola outbreak in prior weeks. It is officially an epidemic now. The facts as reported in the past day or so are:
WaPo: Ebola, Portraits of Grief

--This outbreak is actually the first Ebola epidemic the world has ever known. (CDC)
--CDC teams are deployed from the CDC 24/7 Emergency Operations Center (EOC), activated at Level 1, its highest level, because of the significance of this outbreak. (CDC)
--There have been more than 4,300 cases over the past six months. (source)
--More than 2,400 people have died from the virus (source)
--There has been a consistent mortality rate of 55.8% mortality rate. To compare, the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic had a 2.4% mortality rate.
--There is no approved cure in this outbreak. (source)
--Nations with cases in the current epidemic have been Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Senegal. (source)
--All 26 previously recorded outbreaks have been successfully contained largely by isolating patients but the WHO said cases would continue to rise for at least six more months in an epidemic that has jumped borders and erupted in urban areas. (source)

The above were the facts. Next are two published opinions about Ebola as stated in two articles that caught my eye. They are as follows:

What we're afraid to say about Ebola
THE Ebola epidemic in West Africa has the potential to alter history as much as any plague has ever done. There have been more than 4,300 cases and 2,300 deaths over the past six months. Last week, the World Health Organization warned that, by early October, there may be thousands of new cases per week in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria. What is not getting said publicly, despite briefings and discussions in the inner circles of the world’s public health agencies, is that we are in totally uncharted waters and that Mother Nature is the only force in charge of the crisis at this time.
If I was to re-write the opening line and the closing line from a Christian perspective it would be:

THE Ebola epidemic in West Africa has the potential to fulfill future history as much as any plague has ever done. ... What is not getting said publicly, despite briefings and discussions in the inner circles of the world’s public health agencies, is that we are in totally uncharted prophetic waters and that we finally understand that God and only God is in charge of the crisis at this time.

In first opinion piece, I was struck by the person's outlook that the people who are 'supposed to know what to do' ... don't know what to do. Unsolvable problems face the last generation before the Tribulation. How do I know this? Because the world's global problems are in such a Gordian knot that when the antichrist appears on the world stage with answers the world falls down in eagerness to listen to his solutions. (Luke 21:25, Daniel 11:21).

Secondly, of course the comment that Mother Nature is a force that's in charge is also interesting, in terms of how the unsaved look at it. Christians know that there is no Mother Nature. God is in control. But...is He sending plagues? Send Ebola? Would a loving God do that? More on that in a moment.

Here is opinion article #2. This is an Op-Ed from Dr Brantly, the American doctor in Western Africa who came down with Ebola, was evacuated to Atlanta's Emory Hospital for treatment and recovery. He has seen the epidemic from both sides, as doctor and as patient.

American Ebola survivor calls the outbreak "a fire straight from the pit of hell"
Many have used the analogy of a fire burning out of control to describe this unprecedented Ebola outbreak. Indeed it is a fire-a fire straight from the pit of hell. We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that the vast moat of the Atlantic Ocean will keep the flames away from our shores. Instead, we must mobilize the resources needed to keep entire nations from being reduced to ashes.
What if I was to re-write the opening line to say, "Many have used the analogy of a fire burning out of control to describe this unprecedented Ebola outbreak. Indeed it is a fire-a fire straight from bosom of heaven," would you charge me with being deluded about our "loving God"?

Today’s people, even Christians, have become so used to the concept of a God who is love-only, not love-and. As in, love and wrath, love and judgment, love and anger. All true Christians will proclaim God and not Mother Nature. But to proclaim a God who sends pestilence? Not so much.

I cannot say that God is sending Ebola specifically to West Africa, nor can I say He is sending it for this reason or that reason. I do not know the mind of God. But I know the character of God, and I know the history of God as it's revealed in the bible.

His character is such that in the past He has sent (or allowed) pestilences to consume Israel’s enemies. He has sent pestilence to consume Israel, to punish. Look at Habakkuk 3:4-5,

His radiance is like the sunlight; He has rays flashing from His hand, And there is the hiding of His power. Before Him goes pestilence, And plague comes after Him. 6He stood and surveyed the earth; He looked and startled the nations. (Habakkuk 3:4-5)

Matthew Henry commentary says of the verses,
After describing the splendour of the theophany, the prophet now turns to the purpose and effects of God's appearing. He comes to avenge and judge, therefore before him went the pestilence. Before him stalks plague, to punish his enemies and the disobedient, as in Egypt, in Canaan (Exodus 23:27; 1Samuel 5:9, 11); and among his own people (Numbers 11:33; Numbers 14:37, etc.; Leviticus 26:25).

God could be directly sending this plague...pestilence...disease, whatever olde or modern word you want to use. Or He could be allowing satan to spread it. Or He could be allowing microbes to do what they do naturally, multiply. The reason I'm interested is because the doctors are saying it is the first Ebola epidemic in history, that there is no approved cure, and that it has such a high mortality rate.

There was a terrible outbreak of bubonic plague in the 1300s and in the 1600s. Modern science has put the likely death rate average over its entire geographic area at 45-50%. In the first of the two mentioned outbreaks, half of the population of Paris died. 40% of all of Egypt died. And so on. In the current Ebola epidemic, a 55.8% death rate is very high. The rapidity and potential geographic spread due to fast modes of travel makes the potentiality of seeing those rates and even higher arise again.

We do know that in the Tribulation there will be plagues that kill a quarter of mankind. (Revelation 6:8, Matthew 24:7).

The point of this essay is to point to who God is. Yes, God is love, but God is also wrath,. He hates sin above all.
God said in times past,

I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will leave you childless. Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I the LORD have spoken. (Ezekiel 5:17)

This occurred. Do we think that modern sanitation practices and shiny needles full of medicine would prevent such a plague from happening again? Do we think that we are any better people, that the LORD would not be angry with our sin? Our apostasy? Do we think that He would send plague to His own chosen people in Ezekiel times, but let us slide?

But if God was loving, why would He send this to us? Even to unbelievers who haven't had a chance to "accept Jesus" yet? Proverbs 1:25-26 says,

And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes,

Matthew Henry again,
I also will laugh at your calamity,.... By way of retaliation, measuring measure for measure; even as they scorned him, and delighted in their scorning, now he in his turn will "laugh" at them and their distress; which act is ascribed to the Lord by an anthropopathy; see Psalm 2:4; signifying that he should not at all pity them, show no compassion to them, and have no mercy upon them; but rather express a pleasure and delight in displaying the glory of his justice in their destruction: the plain sense is, that no favour would be shown them,
He will glory in displaying His justice. That is also our God. The prophet Habakkuk says of Jesus in the Old Testament, Before Him goes pestilence, And plague comes after Him. He displays His love, and He displays His justice.

Ebola threatens to destroy Sierra Leone and Liberia
The virus is spreading like wildfire. A German Ebola expert tells Deutsche Welle, that it will not be possible to contain the virus with the measures that have been taken so far.
His statement might alarm many people. But Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg told DW that he is losing hope, that Sierra Leone and Liberia will receive the necessary aid in time. Those are two of the countries worst hit by the recent Ebola epidemic. "The right time to get this epidemic under control in these countries has been missed," he said. That time was May and June. "Now it will be much more difficult."
Justice? Punishment? God? We do not know specifically what God is doing but what we do know is that it is time to repent and fall at the feet of Jesus. Nationally and/or individually, the safest and most God-glorifying route is to acknowledge who God is, in all His aspects. Ask forgiveness of sins. That is the real enemy- sin. God hates it because it keeps His people from glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever. Sin keeps us from His love.

Another aspect of God's personality is His forgiveness. Though the news about Ebola is dire, the best news of all is this

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Compare and Contrast: lightning bug vs. lightning

A false gospel is a lightning bug


The true Gospel is lightning


The false gospel only brings insect-sized light. Fleeting, not enough to empower, and limited scope.

The true Gospel is the Light, blazing and powerful, able to pierce the darkness even behind closed eyes that do not see. It is from heaven and able to light whole cities...or destroy them.

And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (Acts 22:16)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

If a teacher teaches some things wrongly, but the Gospel rightly, is it OK to follow them?

A lot of people wonder when it is reasonable to leave off following a teacher. What are the standards for giving loving benefit of the doubt, and banning them completely from your mind, your church, and your home? Both are called for in the bible.

There are these verses,

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7)

And then there are these verses,

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, (2 John 1:10)

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us  (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

How do we know when to do which?

First, it's helpful to understand the difference between brethren and teachers. All Christians are brethren, including teachers. But the standards for becoming a Christian and the standard for teachers are different.

Pure
All brethren stand on the same, equalizing blood-soaked ground. None are qualified to do so, except by the grace of Jesus and faith alone. This standard includes teachers.

But once in the Lord's kingdom through salvation, the Spirit bestows different gifts. The gift of teaching is given to some, not many, and for those, there are different standards of behavior and of scrutiny. In James  3:1-2 we read,

"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body."

Not many of you. This indicates the seriousness of the calling. The verse also indicates the extreme fallibility in all of us. So teachers should be especially wary, because they handle the word of God, and are in a position to cause more damage and harm in Jesus' name. That is why they are judged more strictly.

So already we know that the first standard of teaching is that it is given by gift of the Spirit. It's not something that can be taught, adopted, or decided upon, and certainly not entered into casually.

The second thing we learn from that one verse alone is that it is a serious calling, and a stricter standard is given for the Christian's performance in it.

Thirdly we already know that 'not many' are given the gift.

So what are the standards for teachers from there? There are moral/behavioral standards, and there are doctrinal standards for teachers.

BEHAVIOR

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)

not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. (1 Peter 5:3)

Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. (Titus 2:3

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, (Titus 2:3)

DOCTRINE

If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. (1 Timothy 4:6)

So what IS good doctrine? Well, we know that there are teachings of demons (1 Timothy 4:1). And likewise, there are teachings of God. Theologians generally categorize doctrine into ten major headings: (source MacArthur Study Bible)
  1. Holy Scriptures
  2. God the Father
  3. God the Son
  4. God the Holy Spirit
  5. Man
  6. Sin
  7. Salvation
  8. the Church
  9. Angels 
  10. Last Things
All good teachers will teach any and all ten doctrines rightly. But what about the Gospel? If a teacher teaches The Gospel rightly but some of the other doctrines wrongly, it still OK to follow that teacher?

Well, let's look at exactly what The Gospel is.

Here is 9Marks listing of the elements of the Gospel.
  • The one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him (Gen. 1:26-28).
  • But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him (Gen. 3; Rom. 3:23).
  • In his great love, God sent his Son Jesus to come as king and rescue his people from their enemies—most significantly their own sin (Ps. 2; Luke 1:67-79).
  • Jesus established his kingdom by acting as both a mediating priest and a priestly sacrifice—he live a perfect life and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of many (Mark 10:45; John 1:14; Heb. 7:26; Rom. 3:21-26, 5:12-21); then he rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted his sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us had been exhausted (Acts 2:24, Rom. 4:25).
  • He now calls us to repent of our sins and trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness (Acts 17:30, John 1:12). If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God (John 3:16).
If you compare the Gospel to the ten doctrines, you find the doctrines permeate the Gospel and the Gospel permeates the doctrines. A teacher must know holiness, speak of and understand how exalted God is. He or she must have a true understanding of sin. So many false teachers teach sin is just a mistake, or can be controlled, or is not our fault due to generational bondage, or any number of reasons that distance ourselves from responsibility for our sins.


A teacher must have a proper understanding of who Jesus is. There's 'this same Jesus' who will return (Acts 1:11) and 'a different Jesus' preached and taught falsely. (2 Corinthians 11:4).

A flawed teaching on the law vs. grace, of the cross, of the resurrection, or of sanctification affects the Gospel relating to those elements. Not understanding what God's wrath affects the doctrine of Last Things.

So you see, if a teacher teaches "the Gospel", they are really teaching 'the good doctrine' (1 Timothy 4:6)

In addition, if you still want to follow a teacher who seems to be teaching some things well and others poorly, remember the demon possessed slave girl.

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” (Acts 16:17)

Is there anything inaccurate about what she said? No. Then why didn't Paul like the free advertising? Because nothing pure can come from a deceitful heart. Because her father is the father of lies. Who needs satan to advertise the Gospel when we have the pure word and holy servants to do so?

Matthew Henry commentary says of the slave girl verse,
Satan, though the father of lies, will declare the most important truths, when he can thereby serve his purposes. But much mischief is done to the real servants of Christ, by unholy and false preachers of the gospel, who are confounded with them by careless observers.
Mixing lies and truth is what satan did to Eve. And look what happened.

A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (Galatians 5:9 cf 1 Corinthians 5:6)

If a teacher is teaching wrongly have nothing to do with him or her.

That's not to say that a true teacher must teach all doctrines perfectly. We are imperfect individuals. But as I said in a previous essay, the Holy Spirit who is inside us will never allow a true teacher to remain in a false understanding. The Spirit always testifies of Jesus and points to Him, who is Truth. That's why discernment means being alert, and watchful and patient. A teacher should always be growing in Christ-likeness. A false teacher is always growing away from Christ.

1 Timothy 6:3 says that good teaching is sound doctrine according with godliness. An overseer's primary job is to "hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."

Jesus IS Truth. Seek Him and don't compromise for anything less.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Who do you say that I am?"

Who is Jesus?

Is He a prophet? Is He Elijah? Is He a nice, moral man with a few good things to teach?

Who you say Jesus is determines your eternal destiny.

Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, "Who do people say that I am?" They told Him, saying, "John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets". (Mark 8:27-28)

What ho, Mormon, who is Jesus?

Source
Mormons: "Mormons do not believe in the Trinity as we understand it. They believe that God and Jesus were separate physical people" who dwelled on the earth, [former Mormon Beth Johnston said. "God was Jesus' father, and both men died".

Muslims say Jesus (Isa) was a Messenger, a Prophet, not deity, never crucified.

As-salamu alaykum, O Muslim, who is Jesus?

O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say

not "Trinity" : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth
. Quran, Chapter 4 The Women An-Nisa: Verse 171

Shalom, good Hebrew. Who is Jesus?

Judaism teaches that it is heretical for any man to claim to be God, part of God, or the literal son of God. The Jerusalem Talmud (Ta'anit 2:1) states explicitly: "if a man claims to be God, he is a liar."

Wiki Commons
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29)

The exclusivity of Christianity as the sole way to salvation is an eternal truth.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Jesus is the Messiah, the promised One, the savior of all humankind.

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:17)

Anyone who rejects Jesus as Messiah...King...Lord...Savior...Forgiver of sins, will not go to heaven. They remain in their sinful flesh, and will be damned.

I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:50)

Between the sinful, perishable flesh, and the sinless imperishable kingdom which the gates of hell shall not prevail against, is a great gulf fixed--

And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ (Luke 16:26)

Except that while they are still living, you may cross from perishable to imperishable by and through Jesus, by confessing Who He Is.

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)