Sunday, December 21, 2014

In Memoriam: John Baptiste Prata, Jr.

One never knows when the numbers of our days will reach the last digit. It did for my 81-year-old father on December 15, 2014. He never expected a short vehicular errand to result in his last breath on earth, but it did. The fatal crash, which sent two others to the hospital, sent John Baptiste Prata, Jr to his eternal destiny. He did not know the Lord.

The news reports say that he was attempting to make a left turn onto a busy highway, and failed to yield to oncoming traffic. He left this earth the way he lived, failing to yield to the Holy One, who for all of my father's 81 years, stood ready to forgive his sins. But my father never repented. He failed to yield.

Naples Daily News: Driver in fatal wreck identified

NBC-2: Fatal crash on US-41 in Collier County

As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. (Ecclesiastes 5:15)

Charles Spurgeon on "The Immutability of God"

The unchangeability of God. In biblical theology God is described as unchanging in His nature and in His character. This includes God’s being (essence), purposes, and promises.

Psalm 102:25–27 contrasts God’s unchanging nature with that of the created order. Numbers 23:19 and 1 Sam. 15:29 indicate that God changes neither His plans nor His actions, for these rest on His unchanging nature. James finds assurance of God’s future blessings in that there is in God “no variation or shadow cast by turning” (James 1:17 HCSB). After referring to His constant patience, long-suffering, and mercy, God concludes with a general statement of His immutability: “For I, the LORD, do not change” (Mal. 3:6 NASB).
Source: Johnson, W. (2003). Immutability of God. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 810–811). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Since God never changes, we like to think more about His unchanging nature as expressed in endless patience, constant mercy, persistent protection, etc. We love to ponder the 'good' outflows from His immutability. In his Sermon #1 delivered at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark in 1855, Charles Spurgeon chose to preach on the immutability of God. After an introduction of extolling what immutability means in terms of the outflow of His other 'positive' attributes, Spurgeon said, "But now comes one jarring note to spoil the theme."

"I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." (Malachi 3:6)
To some of you God is unchanging in his threatenings. If every promise stands fast, and every oath of the covenant is fulfilled, hark thee, sinner!—mark the word—hear the death-knell of thy carnal hopes; see the funeral of thy fleshly trustings. Every threatening of God, as well as every promise shall be fulfilled. Talk of decrees! I will tell you of a decree: "He that believeth not shall be damned." That is a decree, and a statute that can never change. Be as good as you please, be as moral as you can, be as honest as you will, walk as uprightly as you may,—there stands the unchangeable threatening: "He that believeth not shall be damned." What sayest thou to that, moralist? Oh, thou wishest thou couldst alter it, and say, "He that does not live a holy life shall be damned." That will be true; but it does not say so. It says, "He that believeth not."

Here is the stone of stumbling, and the rock of offence; but you cannot alter it. You must believe or be damned, saith the Bible; and mark, that threat of God is an unchangeable as God himself. And when a thousand years of hell's torments shall have passed away, you shall look on high, and see written in burning letters of fire, "He that believeth not shall be damned." "But, Lord, I am damned." Nevertheless it says "shall be" still. And when a million ages have rolled away, and you are exhausted by your pains and agonies, you shall turn up your eye and still read "SHALL BE DAMNED," unchanged, unaltered. And when you shall have thought that eternity must have spun out its last thread—that every particle of that which we call eternity, must have run out, you shall still see it written up there, "SHALL BE DAMNED."


Further Reading

Joel Osteen talked about Jesus how many times?

Joel Osteen likes God, he just doesn't like Jesus

The Shocking Word that Joel Osteen has almost never Tweeted

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Way of Baalam

The bible warns us several times about not going the 'way of Balaam'. You might remember the incident, where Balaam was a false prophet who was hired by King Balak of Moab to curse Israel. When Balaam's donkey refused to go any further, and Balaam was beating on it, the donkey spoke! It chided Balaam for not seeing the angel in the road blocking the way.

Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, (2 Peter 2:15)

But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:14)

Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion. (Jude 1:11)

Micah reminds the People that the Lord defeated King Balak and defeated the sorceries of Balaam. (Micah 6:5)

The Graphics Fairy
We are also reminded of how Balaam came to his end--

They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. And they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword. (Numbers 31:8).

Because we are reminded so often in scripture about Balaam, we should remember. Balaam was a diviner, who charged fees for divination. (Numbers 22:5,7). Of course Balaam would say what the buyer wanted said, especially if he was the highest bidder.
What he did was seduce the people of Israel into immorality and idolatry. Balaam then represents two things, the covetousness of the false teacher who loves money and the apostate who influences others to sin. (source)
For all those people who refuse to admit that there are false teachers who need calling out, beware. We call them out because they cause divisions. (Romans 16:17). We need to mark and avoid them because they seduce people into immorality and into idolatry. (Revelation 2:14). Immorality and idolatry are sins, and the wages of sin is death. Therefore we say, false teachers kill.

The Graphics Fairy
Pulpit Commentary-
But I have a few things against thee. They are few in comparison with the things commended; but they are very serious; and there must be a sad want of care in the Church at Pergamum to allow such things. These corrupt teachers are alluded to in 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 1:11. Like Balaam, they debased spiritual gifts to the vilest purposes, and thus became a snare or stumbling block, to others.

The bible is clear- Jesus tolerates neither those who teach falsely, nor those who tolerate false teachers. Both are sin.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Are you sin-killing? Or just sin-managing?

The Gospel Project editor Trevin Wax interviewed pastor and writer Jared Wilson. Wax asked,

Why are Christians tempted toward sin-management instead of sin-killing? What’s the difference?

Jared Wilson answered:
Sin-killing is more painful and requires more self-honesty. Any schmuck can change his behavior. The Pharisees did. Buddhists do. The unsaved working the program in addiction recovery can do that. But it’s the desire, something much more elusive, much deeper, more rooted in our interior life and worship-wiring, that has to be fixed.
It’s the difference between mowing over weeds and actually uprooting them. And it’s a pain to pull weeds; we’d all just rather mow them down. Over and over and over again. It takes some grit to manage our sin — and then we can feel proud of ourselves — but it takes grace to kill sin.

Sin management versus sin-killing. It is a convicting notion, and one that has stayed with me for a few days, mainly because I've been sin managing instead of sin killing. I started thinking about mowing over versus uprooting. These thoughts unearthed a memory.

My husband used to hate dandelions. He had a virulent hatred of them, one of the only things in life that he didn't like. Or didn't like enough so that he was instantly moved to action.

Blackwell's Herbarium, 1757
We didn't have a lush yard. It was surrounded by towering pine trees, which drop acidic needles that spoil the soil for grass. It was on a slope, which helped any loose soil run off. It also bounded a lake, so the soil was sandy. At most there might be five or six dandelions cropping up, but whether there was five or or five hundred, the moment a yellow petal reared its head above the ground, my husband would launch off the couch and warrior-like go out to slay those persistent mangy weeds.

He had a special screwdriver that was too twisted and blunt to use for its intended purpose. He would grab it and march out to the offending weed. He'd bend over and jab the long screwdriver next to the stem, deep into the ground, He would use one hand to lift the dandelion and use the other to wiggle the screwdriver under the taproot. He'd grab it up and hold it aloft as if he was David brandishing Goliath's head.

One reason he, and all people who have dealt with dandelions on the lawn know, is that they are almost impossible to eradicate. The Ortho lawn maintenance company says of dandelions,
Kill Dandelions in the Lawn: Even the best cared for lawns will have an occasional dandelion. They are difficult to completely eliminate, and the entire plant (root and all) of the dandelion needs to be removed or they can grow right back.
Kill Visible Dandelions The best way to attack dandelions is to kill the whole plant, taproot and all, and then keep new weeds from establishing themselves in your lawn. Don't hand-pull them, as they will grow right back unless the tap root (often 2-3 feet deep) is completely removed.
When I mowed the lawn, it was more like pushing the mower between desert-like dunes to reach the few tufts of grass weakly standing in clumps. But even in our scraggly yard where it was tough to maintain grass or flowers, dandelions grew easily. The few my husband didn't uproot, I'd mow them over but then they'd pop up in a day or two, all new and fresh.

Puritan John Owen said of killing sin,
Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.
Jesus said,
And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, (Mark 9:47)
When we are drawn into sin, we are drawn away from Christ. When we sin, we are committing adultery with our Groom standing right there, watching. Sin is serious.

The dandelions-as-sin motif isn't new or glitzy or insightful, it's just an apt metaphor for the very important concept of sin killing vs. sin managing. Because you know what happens when you only manage sin. It will soon run away from you. The Satanic Sirens sing a sweet song ... But just because I've mowed over the dandelion doesn't mean it's gone. It's just easier to think it's gone, because I can't see it.

You know that 'sin is crouching at our door, its desire is to have you, but you must rule over it.' (Genesis 4:7).

How do we rule over it? But submitting to the One who has already won His victory over sin. Do it in these ways, as Sinclair Ferguson advises in his essay "How to Mortify Sin", here. In summary, Ferguson wrote in part:

Turn to the Scriptures
Remember our new identity in Christ
Expose the workings of sin in every area of our lives
Acknowledge what sin really is: sin. Not a mistake, or a little problem or any other euphemism.

And so on. Please read the essay, it's short.

Ferguson said, "You cannot “mortify” sin without the pain of the kill. There is no other way!" How true this is.

The sirens of sin crouch at our door, trying to convince us that a mowed over sin is just as good as an uprooted or plucked out sin.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)


Further reading/listening-

Hacking Agag to Pieces

What is mortification of the flesh?

Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers By John Owen (1616-1683)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A little known prophecy in Job

I'm sure you have  read (and admired) the following verse from Job a million times. But have you ever considered the prophetic aspects of this powerfully packed scripture? Job 38 is the climactic chapter where God speaks to Job about His own sovereignty over creation, time, and over all the peoples of earth.

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?" (Job 38:22-23)

Have you ever noticed the phrase, "the time of trouble"? Other translations say reserved for "the time of distress". You will also notice the reference to "the day" of battle and war. These are standard phrases referring to the final days of the Tribulation. (For example, Jeremiah 30:7, Obadiah 1:14, Joel 2:11).

God has used hail before in judgment and He will do so again. In the past, He used hail during the plagues He sent to Pharaoh, in themselves pictures of the revelation judgments of the coming Tribulation.

"The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field". (Exodus 9:25)

The future judgment will contain another plague of hail-

And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe. (Revelation 16:21)

Gill's Exposition says of the Job 38 verse,
Of hail we have instances in Scripture, as employed against the Egyptians and Canaanites, Exodus 9:25; and of a reserve of it in the purposes of God, and in prophecy against the day of battle with antichrist, Revelation 16:21.
And though there are no instances of snow being used in this way in Scripture, yet there is in history. Strabo reports, that at Corzena and Cambysena, which join to Mount Caucasus, such snows have fallen, that whole companies of men have been swallowed up in them; and even armies have been overwhelmed with them, as the army of the Gauls and such quantities have been thrown down from mountains, on which they have been lodged, that towns, towers, and villages, have been laid prostrate by them and in the year 443, a vast snow destroyed many.
I am so awed by prophecy. The (probably) oldest book of the bible, Job, contains a prophecy that is parallel to the last book of the bible, Revelation. God has His plan and who can thwart it? He has set aside some for eternal condemnation and others for eternal joy. He has stored aside His wrath to be unleashed upon them, and hail will be part of that stored-up unleashing. He is precise and will do what He says and it will come to pass to the Nth degree.

The bible is awe-inspiring in its depiction of our God, who authored it and revealed to us what He wants us to know. Part of that knowing is seeing His prophetic mind and His plans come to pass. I praise Him for all His plans, ways, perfections, prophecies.

The purpose of prophecy is:
The disclosing of the will and purposes of God through inspired or Spirit-filled human beings. The OT emphasises the importance of prophecy as a means of knowing God. Many OT prophecies find their fulfilment in Jesus Christ.
Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

1. Contents of Prophecy
That which is given by the Spirit to the prophet can refer to the past and to the present as well as to the future. However, that which is revealed to the prophet finds its inner unity in this, that it all aims to establish the supremacy of Jehovah. Prophecy views also the detailed events in their relation to the Divine plan, and this latter has for its purpose the absolute establishment of the supremacy of Jehovah in Israel and eventually on the entire earth.
von, O. C. (1915). Prophecy, Prophets. In J. Orr, J. L. Nuelsen, E. Y. Mullins, & M. O. Evans (Eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 2464). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company.

Above all, prophecy shows who is LORD over all creation. It points to Jesus. It is history unfolding as it was laid down from the beginning. The LORD has stored up hail and snow, reserved for the day of distress. He will do it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Is it better to be here, or there?

As I arrived to work, someone passed me in the hallway and said, "Good morning how are you?" I said, "Great! Just great. It's a good day." My colleague said, "It surely is a blessing to be on this side."

I thought about that for a while. I suppose it is a blessing to be on this side of the veil, praising Jesus and worshiping Him and working for Him. He put us here. Therefore, I agree with the sentiment.

However, it is also good to remember that the curse is all around us and it is in us.

Woman, and all mankind, is cursed. (Genesis 3:15-16)

The ground is cursed. (Genesis 3:17-18)

The creation is cursed. (Romans 8:20-21)

The animals are cursed. (Genesis 3:14)

The creation which was once perfect is subject to futility, in slavery to corruption, is cursed and dying. Our hope is Jesus and His kingdom. While we are part of His kingdom now, being indwelled with the Spirit at our regeneration, which gained us entry into it, the glorified kingdom is in heaven. What a day when the curse is lifted and the Kingdom of Heaven descends to earth!

O, it is a double edged sword, wanting to be here and do well, wanting to be there and be glorified. Wanting to shed our sin-nature and desiring to be in the presence of Jesus! But we are not without Jesus now, for prayer is so sweet, our victories here sweeter- because they are accomplished through the Spirit in spite of our sin-nature. Yet we long for release, it is our ultimate aim.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Is there such a thing as the "Seven Deadly Sins" in the bible?

To answer the question in short form: no. There is no list of ‘7 deadly sins’ in the bible.

It's one of those things that's been around so long it seems as though it should be in the bible. Like, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness". That's not in the bible either. Or "This too shall pass" or "There but for the grace of God go I."

So where did we get the notion of seven deadly sins? Roman Catholicism, with a lot of help from Renaissance painters, novelists, poets, and cultural icons, which embedded the false notion of 7 deadly sins so that it carries weight even to this day. But first, let's go back to the bible.

Malachi lists 6 sins the priests did that brought destruction upon the nation. As John MacArthur lists them in his introduction to Malachi:

1) repudiating God’s love (1:2–5);
2) refusing God His due honor (1:6–2:9);
3) rejecting God’s faithfulness (2:10–16);
4) redefining God’s righteousness (2:17–3:5);
5) robbing God’s riches (3:6–12); and
6) reviling God’s grace (3:13–15).

Paul makes several lists of sins, but they’re longer than 7. (Galatians 5:19-21, for example).

Proverbs 6:16-19 lists six things the Lord hates, no, seven, but those sins are not the same as the renowned ‘Seven Deadly.’

So why seven? And why are these deadly? Isn't all sin deadly? (Romans 6:23)