Sunday, January 31, 2016

The approachability of Jesus

There are so many attributes of Jesus Christ than we can praise and ponder. One of them is His kingliness.

He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:16). God has given Jesus all authority in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18), therefore He is above all authorities anywhere that can possibly be imagined. He is High and exalted on His throne and He is KING.

On earth few of us have actually been in the presence of a King or Queen. There are relatively few royals on earth, compared to number of the population of the plebeians like us.

If one is favored enough to visit a royal, there is strict protocol. ABC News reminds us, regarding a visit with Queen Elizabeth II-
There is a long list of protocols that guides one's behavior in the presence of Her Majesty and even though the president and the first lady are not required to abide by all of them, there are certain formalities they do have to follow.
There is the "no-touch" rule...
     Wait until the Queen extends her hand to shake it
     No gripping her hand or tightly pumping it
     No hugs, no kiss on the cheek, no touching the shoulder
Refer to the Queen as "Your Majesty" initially then "ma'am" subsequently
Bow upon being introduced
Do not turn your back to the Queen
Wear conservative clothing with not much flesh showing
And so much more.

I remember the HBO mini-series John Adams. It was an excellent series, showing the life of our second President from a fiery attorney in his youth through to old age, in other words, most of his political life.

There came the moment when the Americans had won the Revolutionary war. Adams had been given the privilege and responsibility as diplomat to begin relations with The United Kingdom as national co-equals. He was to meet with the King. The moment was fraught with tension for two reasons. He had all of the future of America resting on his shoulders in how he approached the Monarch these next few moments. Would the United Kingdom be an enemy or an ally?

The second reason was protocol. Here was a scrappy lawyer born in 1735 in British America, (Quincy MA), and was American through and through, about to meet the most powerful man in the world, King George III. Americans had not been known to stand on formality and protocol, and Adams had been strongly tutored for this meeting. Bow three times, once upon entering, once when halfway to the 'Royal Presence' and a third time as you enter the 'Royal Presence'. Avert your eyes until standing before the 'Royal Presence'. Wear suitable clothing, "something more British." Unsuitable clothing has been the undoing of many an Ambassador, we learn.

See how it went, at the link. It's an extremely memorable cinematic moment and an incredible piece of acting, as well as a visible punctuation for my point. I can't embed, HBO has disabled it.

There have always been strict protocols when meeting royalty. In Esther 4:11 we read,

All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.

This scene is described in Esther 5:1. The King is holding his scepter.

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace.

Thrones were always higher, set upon a dais in order to visibly indicate the lower position of the person approaching the Royal Presence. This is a photo of Napoleon's throne. Pharaoh is described as sitting on a throne in Exodus 11:5; Exodus 12:29.

Solomon wrote,

Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the place of great men; 7For it is better that it be said to you, "Come up here," Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen.

And yet, another aspect of the uniqueness of Jesus continues. He sits upon His throne, the highest of the high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1) and yet we may approach!

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12).

Must we dress in a certain way? Must we wait to be introduced or summoned? Must we bow in sequential order as we reach certain spots in the throne room? Must we avert our eyes until He speaks? No! No! No! No!

Our Lord Jesus is said to be the Mediator between God and man. Now, observe, that the office of mediator implies at once that he should be approachable. ~Spurgeon
He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings and yet He has told us we may approach Him with petitions large and small! He is tremendous. Every time we pray we approach Him. He is a God who sees (El Roi Genesis 16:14) and a God who hears!

In 1920 Frank Boreham wrote a book titled "A bunch of everlasting; or, Texts that made history". His book contains biographies of famous Christians who came to the saving grace of salvation as the light of one particular verse broke upon their hearts. John Bunyan met Jesus through this verse in John 6:37,

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

From Boreham's text we read,

In his pitiful distress, there broke upon the soul of John Bunyan a vision of the infinite approach-ability of Jesus. John Bunyan's text-verse was a revelation to him of this approach-ability.
'This scripture did most sweetly visit my soul; and him that Cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out." Oh ! the comfort that I had from his word, in no wise! As who should say, "By no means, for nothing whatever he hath done. 'Him that cometh I will in no wise cast out!' Like the gate that swings open on hearing the magic 'sesame'; Like the walls that fell at Jericho when the blast of the trumpets arose; the wall round Bunyan's mountain fell with a crash before that great and golden word. 'Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out!' The barriers had vanished! The way was open!

Christ is approachable. Praise Him! Approach today, with no worries of what you must say or how you must look. He will in no wise cast you out. How sweet is this knowledge.


Further Reading

Spurgeon sermon- The Approachableness of Jesus

Frank Boreham, A Bunch of Everlastings, online text

Wikipedia entry about John Bunyan

Etiquette: How to Address a King or Queen

Saturday, January 30, 2016

How big is the universe? How small is the smallest known object?

A friend sent me a link to a video where the scale of the universe is compared. We start with human size and drill down to the smallest known length/size, which is a string of String Theory.

NOVA - Official Website | A Sense of Scale: String Theory says of a string,
The strings of string theory are unimaginably small. Your average string, if it exists, is about 10-33 centimeters long. That's a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter. If an atom were magnified to the size of the solar system, a string would be the size of a tree.
Then the scale increases to compare larger objects, and ends with both the known universe's size and the estimated universe's size.

It is estimated that the diameter of the observable universe is about 28.5 gigaparsecs (93 billion light-years, 8.8×1026 metres or 5.5×1023 miles), putting the edge of the observable universe at about 46.5 billion light-years away. (Source)
God is bigger than all that.

The reason the video is fascinating is because of the comparison. It makes more sense to compare objects to determine relative size. If I'd have written "The observable universe is 28.5 gigaparsecs" you'd have gone, "hunh?!" But seeing the sizes of known things and pondering their sizes is easier and more productive when you have a known to latch an unknown onto.

Now, when I was a non-saved person, I'd have eagerly learned these facts about the scale of the universe. It is mystifying and wondrous to see the sizes of these things, a string to a neutrino to a DNA strand to a molecule to... and so on. But just knowing the facts for the sake of knowing them is self-glorifying.

The key for the saved person is making the comparison. God is not only bigger than all that, He MADE all that. In six days. There's the difference.

When we compare everything to Christ things begin to assume a supernatural element which awes and fascinates.

When Paul preached to the Gentiles, he always began with creation. Gentiles didn't know or care about the Hebrew scriptures, but every Gentile who walked the earth knew that an earth existed. Who made it? In Acts 14:14-15, the Gentiles thought Paul and Barnabas were gods. Paul told them in Lystra:
Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 
In Athens, Paul said,
For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:23-25)
It is so sweet to meditate on creation balanced against the immensity of the fact that our God made it. And His attributes are just as immense, infinite, actually. His love and mercy and omniscience and power and grace...

Friday, January 29, 2016

Bible art journaling: No, no, no (reprise)

Using one's Bible as a sketch pad for one's art is becoming even more popular than when I first wrote about it in November 2015. Housewife Theologian Aimee Byrd wrote about it this week here-

You Can Get with THIS, Or You Can Get with THAT
I’ve recently encountered a new trend among women to do some “artistic” journaling in their Bibles. ...And before I critique this, let me just say that I’m all for art. ... But what I am talking about is more like turning your Bible reading into craft time.
Erin Benziger plans to speak about it in an upcoming Equipping Eve episode. [Link will be posted when available].

I made note of the women above and I'm re-posting my essay below so ladies can get several female perspectives on the trend. In addition to looking at Bible art journaling, in my essay I commented on the trend of Adult Christian Coloring, particularly coloring Mandalas. So here you go: "Bible Art Journaling, no, no, no" redux, with some edits:


A friend made a comment on Twitter last night. She posted a photo of a Bible that had been altered by the owner having added paintings all around the edges of the margins. Apparently it's called Bible Art Journaling. Apparently Bible Art Journaling is a "movement".

Many visually oriented folks know that prayer journals and art journals are a great way to record thoughts and reactions to scripture. I mentioned in last night's essay that I made art journals and individual little books during my process of coming to salvation and just afterwards. As a new babe in Christ I had difficulty grappling with new doctrines and I'd often try to visualize them since words failed me. I also used my art journal to make collages in praise to the Lord. I was so excited! The depth of my gratitude overflowed and words failed me then, too, so I'd use pictures to express what I felt. I did them in my blank sketchbook, though, NOT in my Bible.

I have had a lifelong aversion to writing, drawing, or even underlining any book whatsoever. Not novels, not textbooks, nothing. I never even wrote my name in one. I don't write in my bible nor do I underline anything in it. Since that book is God's Holy Word I feel even more strongly that a Bible should be handled with gravitas and respect. I've never underlined or written anything in any of my Bibles. "Prettying up" a Bible with my own art is not necessary and mixes my paltry words and pictures with God's. Besides, the Bible isn't an art project! We don't need tutorials explaining why gesso is not a good idea to use on the thin pages of God's word, but stencils are!

Google Image search results page for search term "Bible art journaling"
Now, if the Bibles being decorated don't violate the Second Commandment by depicting an image from heaven nor does the owner bow down to it, then why am I writing about it? Where is the concern? Isn't it just a matter of preference?

I have three answers for that.

1. Yes, it is a matter of preference. There is no commandment that a Christian can't find solace in creative work on the pages of one's Bible. But not everything allowed is profitable. (1 Corinthians 10:23). See #2.

2. I don't want to disrespect the young woman linked to here, but I do have concerns with this approach to "encountering Jesus." This page is a tutorial page on how to "journal your Bible." It's called Bible Art Journaling Challenge, and the woman promises to "Help you encounter Jesus through creativity" through "52 weeks of life-changing creative fun!" She's not the only one. Bible Art Journaling is being promoted this way in many places.

Now here's the issue. There is nothing wrong with art. There is nothing wrong with creativity. There is nothing wrong with collages, illustrating a prayer, painting a verse. Visuals combined with words often helps us meditate on the Word. Here is a collage I did when I was a babe, regarding 2 Corinthians 4:4 and satan's blinding of men to the truth. All the while people play games with their life, never heeding the seriousness of it and the squandered worship they could be performing.

Here is another one I did as a babe in Christ, musing on Philippians 4:7 and the peace that passes all understanding. No matter if there is violence, war, explosions, the gal sipping tea is peaceful and unperturbed because she has Christ.

Another creative outlet I employ is spending a lot of time matching a verse with one of my photographs, all the while thinking of what the verse means. I shared these with you to show I'm not a wordsmith purist nor an old fuddy-duddy, lol. Creativity is good. Visuals are good. It's just not a substitute for engaging your mind totally on the unadulterated word of God. Reading God's Word is the encounter with God. Painting swirls on a Bible page is not an encounter with God.

The difference is, God's word should stand alone and not become an "fun activity."

We read that satan is the most subtle creature in the Garden. (Genesis 3:1.) If he can do anything to divert a Christian's attention from the pure, unadulterated word of God, he will do it. This Bible art journaling is just such an activity. The Bible is not an art project. Coloring on its pages does not bring you closer to Jesus. Painting on its pages does not spark an encounter with Him. Reading His word, meditating on it, and obeying it is what illuminates the mind of God to us. Satan is an incremental foe. I have no idea abut the theology of this blogger but this one paragraph struck me as the best description of satan's ploy in incrementally changing our stance on doctrine.
Incrementalism is the single best arrow in Satan's quiver...It is a subtle approach to change masked as genuinely positive, and since it always comes in slow, bite size chunks over time, you do not even feel that you have been deceived until too late.
See what this blogger said about her jump into the journaling Bible movement. Again, I don't disrespect her, but her opening statement seems to perfectly capture the incremental nature of satan's ploy as explained above,
Truth be told, I had resisted this whole "art journaling in your Bible" movement at first since I already do a lot of Bible studying and I didn't want to take time away from that in order to "play". BUT, the seed was planted. Just about every time I cracked open my Bible I could see how I could incorporate this into my life by keeping it simple and recording what I was already learning. (source)
So once the seed was planted when she opened her bible she didn't see Jesus anymore but all she saw was how to use the space for her art. See? It's a problem. We have blank sketch books for art. We have altered book tutorials. Not Bible art. As a matter of fact, bible art journaling IS a form of altered book art.
Altered books: An altered book is a form of mixed media artwork that changes a book from its original form into a different form, altering its appearance and/or meaning. An altered book artist takes a book (old, new, recycled or multiple) and cuts, tears, glues, burns, folds, paints, adds to, collages, rebinds, gold-leafs, creates pop-ups, rubber-stamps, drills, bolts, and/or be-ribbons it. The artist may add pockets and niches to hold tags, rocks, ephemera, or other three-dimensional objects.
Here is an example of altered book art:

Here is an example of MY altered book art:
EPrata art
Here is an example of altered Bible art:

Bible art journaling obscures God's word. It competes with it. To be fair, the Bible art journaling blogger does not advocate abandoning devotional time nor substituting creative time for actual bible study. But that is the subtle genius of satan. He is an incremental foe. A sly insertion of an activity with the Bible instead of reading the Bible itself is the goal. A familiar proverb or saying goes,

"If the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow."

#3. I'd said that satan is subtle. Usually there is not anything particularly wrong with an activity or practice. You can't point a finger and show the smoking gun. However the incremental nature of satan, taking an inch here, a half an inch there, over time chisels away at the foundation and all of a sudden you look around and wonder, "how did I get here?"

Just as Catholic labyrinths were re-branded as Protestant prayer walking, just as occult channeling was re-branded as "hearing from God", just as mystical "contemplative prayer" was re-branded as "Protestant contemplative prayer", just as Hindu Yoga was re-branded as 'Christian Yoga', just as Wiccan pentagrams were re-branded as "circle making"...". Remember enneagrams? Those have Sufi roots. Bible art journaling is already melding with Hindu Mandala coloring. "Color your way closer to God?" No, no, no.

This Mandala Coloring Book For Grown Ups Is The Creative's Way To Mindful Relaxation
For the unfamiliar, a mandala is a sacred symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, made from a nest of squares and circles, that represents the cosmos. As the Asian Art Museum put it: "mandalas are not just images to view, but worlds to enter -- after recreating the image in their mind’s eye, meditators imaginatively enter its realm."
Oh! You mean, an encounter with the divine through creativity! Like this Christian description!
Bible art journaling is part of the growing, Illustrated Faith and Bible doodling movement where many are creating on the pages of their Bible. The idea is to engage more freely with the Word of God in new ways and to record personally inspiring scriptures in creative and artistic ways, which serve to remind us of moments in our personal journey with God. (source)
Or like this book available at Amazon, coloring Hindu mandalas to match Christian hymns.

Abide: An Adult Coloring Book Featuring 30 Great Hymns of the Faith: Where Art-Therapy and Soul-Therapy Meet
With original mandala artwork and hymn excerpts to color, Abide is certain to stimulate spirit and heart. Turn on some background music to play along as you color. Each coloring sheet is one-sided, with hymn texts printed on the back of each design.
Carefully selected hymns to appeal to young and old. Original mandala artwork. Artistic script designs. Simple, but beautiful mandala designs.
People, Mandalas are HINDU. They are not, nor will they ever be CHRISTIAN. They represent something sacred to the unsaved. Something sacred to the unsaved is an IDOL. We are back to the Second Commandment I opened this essay with. Don't believe me? See mandalas defined-
Definition of mandala:Mandala (Sanskrit Maṇḍala, 'circle') is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Indian religions, representing the universe. The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. In Hinduism, a mandala (yantra) is a two- or three-dimensional geometric composition used in sadhanas, puja or meditative rituals. It is considered to represent the abode of the deity. Each yantra is unique and calls the deity into the presence of the practitioner through the elaborate symbolic geometric designs. According to one scholar, "Yantras function as revelatory symbols of cosmic truths and as instructional charts of the spiritual aspect of human experience". (source)
Do you really think it's innocent to color a mandala just because some money-grubbing, undiscerning author re-packaged a pagan activity by pasting a line from a beloved hymn over the top of it and adding "Christian" to the title?

That is where Bible art journaling leads. It's a diversion.

The Puritans had a high view of the Bible. Puritan Richard Baxter wrote in the mid 1600s,
The reading of the word of God, and the explication and application of it in good books, is a means to possess the mind with sound, orderly, and working apprehensions of God, and of his holy truths: so that in such reading our understandings are oft illuminated with a heavenly light, and our hearts are touched with a special delightful relish of that truth; and they are secretly attracted and engaged unto God and all the powers of our souls are excited and animated to a holy obedient life.
Therefore I do not believe that painting butterflies on my Bible's pages is an encounter with Jesus. Doing so incrementally adulterates it, alters it, and then slowly degrades the high view we should have of it. The Bible is not an art project.

See? I like butterflies. Really.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The word of the cross is the power of God

At the 2003 Ligonier Conference, John MacArthur spoke on "The Myth of Influence". His assigned topic was to speak on the myth that the Gospel advances on the back of public favor. In other words, that we can somehow influence people into the Kingdom of God if we hide the more unpalatable aspects of the Gospel, if we as a church try to look like the world, if we can stylize our churches in order to minimize resistance, if we make the church going experience comfortable for the non-believer, if we try to be cool they will see that Jesus is cool and then repent. There is only one way to enter the kingdom and it is through the gate of the Gospel.
The Gospel doesn't advance on the back of public favor, it advances on the back of the Holy Spirit despite public hostility.
Of course this is a myth.

At the beginning his two-par message, Dr MacArthur said that he had endured many battles in his decades as a pastor and teacher. He's defended the inerrancy of the Bible, battled over the authority of the word of God, battled over the deity of Jesus Christ, battles over the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, battled over paradigms over sanctification. Those were to be expected in the life of a pastor-teacher.

He said,
What I didn't expect was to spend most of my ministry life battling to rescue the Gospel from evangelicals. That has really been a shock to me. It's seemingly getting worse all the time as the Gospel sinks below the radar.
Serious worship disappears along with the public ordinances. Biblical, theological exposition of scripture vanishes. Transcendence and profundity are exchanged for mimicking shallow, worldly worship styles. Church discipline disappears, holiness is non-existent, and sin is normalized. The myth is that somehow this is going to get people into the kingdom.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Think about that deeply for a moment. The word of the cross IS the power of God. For those of us being saved, the word of the cross is THE POWER OF GOD. Alternately, for those who are perishing, it is folly. Of course the Gospel will be rejected, condemned, dismissed. It is folly to those who are perishing. But for those whom God has ordained salvation, it is power.

Gill's Exposition makes a distinction between the doctrine of the Christian's cross, which we are to pick up and follow, and the cross here intended. It is --
of the cross of Christ, the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Christ; or the doctrine of peace and reconciliation by the blood of his cross, and of righteousness, pardon, atonement, and satisfaction by the offering up of himself upon it as a sacrifice for sin,
It is interesting to read Acts 28:22, where we see that even in Christianity's heyday, the Christian message was reviled. Paul had appealed to Rome to hear his case, and the local leaders were gathered to hear Paul's argument. They opened the proceedings by saying:

But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.

There is always refreshment to get bask to the original doctrines, to ponder the power and grace of the atonement, to meditate upon the unique Person of Jesus Christ. I pray you and I be not ashamed of this word of the cross today.

If you would care to listen to the entire message, here it is. There's a part two as well.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tomb of the Unknown v. the Christian soldier: Guarding the empty tomb

This past weekend's latest 'snowmageddon' blizzard, this time, affecting Washington DC, elicited a slew of photos showing the dedicated soldiers protecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery.

The photos were made doubly interesting to me because this November at school, I listened to a speaker who explained the amount of work that must go into training the military personnel who guard the tomb. It's incredible.

The man is called "The Tomb Guard". His training begins with a look at the stats. First of all being the Tomb Guard is "an extremely demanding and humbling experience." Selection for the Tomb Guard begins from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, called "The Old Guard", which selects personnel based on "certain intangible traits, and with requirements for height and weight, physical fitness, aptitude scores, and conduct."
Their mission: The regiment's mission is to conduct memorial affairs to honor fallen comrades and ceremonies and special events to represent the U.S. Army, communicating its story to United States citizens and the world. (source)
If I remember correctly, though the candidate volunteers for the duty, about 97% of trainees flunk out or opt out of the rigorous cycle of training. The Tomb uniform standards are of the highest and strictest in nature, and are different than that of the Old Guard and regular Army. It takes about five hours alone just to prepare the uniform. The Tomb Guard trainee endures an extremely intense cycle.
...consisting of a series of five exhaustive tests over six to twelve months. The tests focus on outside performance (Changing of the Guard, and "Walking the Mat" 1), uniform preparation, and knowledge. Outside performance tests on weapons manual, ceremonial steps, cadence, military bearing, and orders. Uniform preparation tests on Tomb uniform standards 2 for the Army Dress Blues, Shoes "Spits", glasses, and brass and metals. Knowledge tests on 35 pages of information on the history of the Tomb and ANC, for which the trainee must recite verbatim - including punctuation.
The tests are progressive, demanding quantifiable improvement and demonstrated performance. If the trainee completes the training cycle and passes the tests, they will be able to flawlessly conduct seven different types of ceremonies, to meet the highest standards of uniform preparation, and recite 35 pages of information without error. (source)
And of course you have seen the photos of the Guard out in all weather.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27)

If you look into the requirements to become a tomb guard, it's amazing and incredible. Seeing the dedication and commitment of the Guards, It made me think of us as Christian Soldiers.

We are soldiers you see. We are in a war, and we must display the same preparation, diligence, and vigilance as the Tomb Guards. Can we recite 35 pages of the Bible without error? The Tomb Guards dedicate themselves to a higher cause (representing our nation and protecting the actual and the symbolical Tomb) with TOTAL commitment. The thing is, their 100% focus and attention cannot be sustained in his own strength. A typical tour of duty lasts a year on average, then most step down.

However we have the Holy Spirit in us. He is eternal, He is all-power, He is all-strength. The Spirit's 100% focus of pointing to Christ never wanes or falters. IN HIM, we can prepare. IN HIM we can maintain diligence. IN HIM we can be vigilant in protecting the deposit.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:18)

On social media during the recent blizzard, there were many news outlets posting and publishing photos such as the ones above. We are all admiring of the physical AND mental posture of such men- straight as an arrow, 100% focus on the task at hand. If it is possible to apply one's self with such resolve to a secular task in the flesh, impervious to even weather, then what are the possibilities for the Christian in the Spirit who chooses to train, guard, and maintain vigilance in the spiritual war? Endless, infinite, lavishly innumerable!

There is heavenly power available to us in the Spirit to be soldiers as the ones depicted above. We are moved by the photos showing dedication seemingly beyond human capacity. How much more moving it is, then, for new Christians, veteran Christians, and secular people, to see the power of God demonstrated in the ever-vigilant and focused soldier of God, guarding the blessedly empty tomb?

But they who wait for 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. (Isaiah 40:31)

The tomb we guard is empty and the Occupant is alive! He is in us, empowering us to remain focused on the task at hand- proclaiming Jesus, training in righteousness, vigilantly pointing to Christ, sharing His message. The Tomb Guard's vigilance is to promote the message of the United States which is represented in him. The Christian's mission on this earth is the message of Jesus Christ as salvific Messiah will become known and is represented in us. We have the Holy Spirit to empower us in this eternally glorious task.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)


Society of the Honor Guard

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Prata's Potpourri: Master's Seminary church finder, why so many bad Christian books? Mocking Christianity, Housewife theologian, etc.

On Sunday my interim church (First Baptist Watkinsville) began a 40-day journey through the devotional book The Blessing Life. Look what our devotional has for us on this Tuesday morning,

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11).

It occurred to me- And WHO is at God's right hand? Jesus. Acts 7:55, Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20, Hebrews 1:3...and so on.

At God's right hand is Jesus who IS our pleasure forevermore. There are no pleasures which do not stem from Him. Jesus IS the pleasure. We are blessed to experience Him forevermore.

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Source: Westminster Shorter Catechism


Meanwhile, here are some links to articles you might enjoy.

Ken Ham has some thoughts about a new CBS television show that mocks Christianity

Bud Ahlheim offers some advice on the problem of so many bad "Christian" books:

If you liked my recent post regarding music as music and nor worship, you'll like this post about a wonderful hymn-
I Woke, The Dungeon Flamed With Light

Joel C. Rosenberg explains The Caliphate vs. The Kingdom. What is “the gospel of the kingdom” of Christ and why is it our hope in such dark times?

Aimee Byrd the Housewife Theologian has some good thoughts on the new fad of art journaling in your Bible. She says much the same thing I did a while back, but in shorter form, lol. I've got to work on that...

The Master's Seminary Church Finder

I receive emails or Facebook messages from people who are thirsty for a good church and ask me to either advise or help them find one. A resource I always turn to is the master's Seminary Church Finder resource. You plug in your location and it finds churches either planted by or led by TMS graduates. We all know that any graduate who has gone through TMS will emerge with a solid grounding, a love for expository preaching, and right doctrines.

Here is an article with a 2minute:45second interview from TMS Alumni Relations Director explaining the origin and use of the Church Finder page. He said in the interview that it is the number one used page on The Master's Seminary website. The Church Finder receives 5000-7000 hits per month. I know at least 4 of them were mine.

And here is the Church Finder page.

Erin has some thoughts on self-promotion and selfie-righteousness in general on Social Media. Good words. I enjoy social media for the purpose of making Jesus known. However since I'm a sinner who love my own flesh, I have to constantly monitor my own Facebook Wall to ensure I'm not "using" Jesus as a way to display my own righteousness. That would be ridiculous of course, because I have no righteousness. It's all from Jesus. Good advice from Erin.

Selfie Righteousness

Monday, January 25, 2016

Are you becoming a hypocrite? Do you have an alive reputation but dead works?

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23)

They were busy, but had neglected faithfulness.
--neglect the more important matters of the law: In this fourth woe, Jesus criticizes the religious leaders’ meticulous attention to detail. Their close attention to particulars often went beyond the law, resulting in a disregard for the law’s true heart (see Isa 1:17; Jer 22:3; Zech 7:9–10; Mic 6:8; Hab 2:4). Barry, J. D.,  Faithlife Study Bible (Mt 23:23).
Source, credit: (Jonathan Woodcock/Getty Images)

The love of the Lord was not in the Pharisees, as evidenced by their neglect of the weightier matters. They tried to buy reputation cheap by being busy tithing exact amounts which in the end, cost them nothing. A few verses later, Jesus charged them with being whitewashed tombs- pretty on the outside but dead inside. (Matthew 23:27)

This is similar to the charge to the Church at Sardis where they had a reputation for being alive, but were dead. Jesus said,

I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. (Revelation 3:1a-2)

As with the Pharisees, a group of people were being charged with incomplete works. It's hypocrisy again.
Christ quickly stripped away their reputation of being alive by declaring, you are dead. Like the Pharisees, their outer appearance was a facade hiding their lack of life (cf. Matt. 23:27–28). Christ added, I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God. They were falling far short of fulfilling their obligations as believers. [The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures].
More from Matthew Henry:
With a reproof, and a very severe one: I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Hypocrisy, and a lamentable decay in religion, are the sins charged upon this church, by one who knew her well, and all her works. (1.) This church had gained a great reputation; it had a name, and a very honourable one, for a flourishing church, a name for vital lively religion, for purity of doctrine, unity among themselves, uniformity in worship, decency, and order. We read not of any unhappy divisions among themselves. Every thing appeared well, as to what falls under the observation of men. (2.) This church was not really what it was reputed to be. They had a name to live, but they were dead; there was a form of godliness, but not the power, a name to live, but not a principle of life. 
Dictionary of Bible Themes explains hypocrisy
An outward pretence masking an inner reality. Scripture condemns hypocrisy, especially in matters of faith. Believers should express their commitment to God in their words and their deeds, as well as in their inner motivation.

The origin of hypocrisy
Jer 17:9 See also Hos 10:2 Israel; Mk 7:21-22 pp Mt 15:19

The expression of hypocrisy
Insincere motives Mt 6:2 See also Mt 6:5,16; 15:7-9; 22:18; 23:5-7

When deeds do not match words Isa 29:13 See also Mt 15:7-8 pp Mk 7:6; Pr 26:24-26; Jer 9:8; 12:2; Eze 33:31; Mt 23:28; Ro 2:17-24; Jas 2:14-26

A tendency to judge others Mt 7:5 pp Lk 6:41 See also Ro 2:1

The alternative to hypocrisy
Heb 10:22 See also Ps 24:3-4; 26:4; 32:2; Jas 3:17; 4:8; 1Pe 2:1-3
I post all this to make a warning I personally take to heart for myself and I hope you do too. People tell me that in the past they have fallen under the spell of "doing church". They mean that they realize they've been coasting along doing ministry or attending as a congregant but without heart, without thought. Suddenly they understand that they are coasting along on a former reputation but have lost the warmth or the motivation for being there in the first place. They say they realize now that they had been "playing church." Sometimes the Lord uses a tragic circumstance to awaken and warm the sleepy Christian. Though it is difficult to go through a tragedy or a trial, this is one way God uses all to the good of those who love Him. Other times, the Spirit gracefully convicts us. Don't ignore those warnings.

It is easy to become a hypocrite and hard to detect it one's self. Unfortunately the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes never did come out from their hypocritical religion, which was the point of the woes Jesus leveled against them in Matthew 23. They were doomed. The church at Sardis was never complimented for one thing but grace was given to them with a personal rebuke to awaken them from their empty machinations. Did they ever awaken? One does not know since it isn't declared in scripture. One this is for sure, there is no longer a church at Sardis.

Have you been playing at church? Has your church been coasting on a reputation, looks busy, but is empty inside? I don't suppose hypocrisy comes on a person or a church like Sardis all at once like a flood, but incrementally. See this from John MacArthur. There were no drastic warnings to alert the church at Sardis that they were dead:
Like the city, the church declined. There was no mention of persecution about Sardis, though there must have been some. There was no mention of corrupt theology on the inside. There's no mention of false teachers. But the church died. It had a good reputation. It had a name that it was alive. The light was still shining even though the star had died. There was no spiritual life. It claimed to be alive. The claim was a lie.
A slow decline is the hardest to detect. We don't have the advantage of the Lord personally telling us like He did the church at Sardis that we have slidden from the warmth of a heart rightly motivated in worship, but we do have the Holy Spirit to convict us when we are beginning to hollow out our worship. We have the many warnings in the Bible about hypocrisy. Listen to Him if you feel that church or ministry reputation is all that you have, and have made your works incomplete. Attend to the mint and cumin, but do not neglect mercy and justice.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Is Music Worship? Do singers "lead worship"?

The selection of music in churches is important and is not based simply on preferences. Do not pooh-pooh the music by marginalizing it to a second tier of concerns and assigning it as simply a "preference." Music is doctrine, sacred music is unique to the redeemed because it is our response to His redeeming work, and it is either reflective of the culture or it is reflective of the worshipful heart.

EPrata photo

First, let's talk about what music in church is NOT. These are taken from John MacArthur's recent sermon "Is Music Worship?" based on the verses at Ephesians 5:18-20.
  • Music is not worship. Music is a means to express worship, but it is not worship.
  • Secondly, a misconception is that music motivates worship, music induces worship. That’s not true either. ... [T]he motive for all of our songs is not a sound, it’s a truth.
  • Another misconception is that when people have trouble worshiping, music will create worship, music will create the mood for worship. Worship is not a mood experience.
What true worship IS, is-

a permanent attitude. John 4, “We worship in spirit and truth.” That’s who we are. ... The music of the redeemed is different. We live in a different world. We are citizens of a different kingdom. The music of the redeemed is alien to the music of the world. The music of the redeemed is reflective of that which is most lofty, most elevated, most exalted, most noble: the truth of God – it never changes. So our music doesn’t ride the culture. Music doesn’t ride the culture among the redeemed, it simply reveals the truth, and the truth never changes. (Source)
I encourage you to listen to the sermon. The explanation about music and its place in worship among the redeemed is stupendously explained, especially when you arrive at the powerful ending.

Meanwhile, I'd read Gladys Aylward's autobiography and was struck by something described at the end of the book. The following is my retelling of Aylward's event.

Unsplash photo- free to use

There is a great story in China Missionary Gladys Aylward’s autobiographical book “The Little Woman.” This occurred in the mid-1930s. She is trying to escape the invading Japanese, because they had put a price on her head. So she walked in a direction no Chinese went, over some mountains where the map was blank. She was with one other missionary. At dusk, seeing no human, no town, no habitation at all, they were debating whether to go back. The man told Aylward to sit on this nearby stump and he would go ahead a bit and see what’s what. Alone, Gladys began to sing hymns.

Soon the man came back and said, no luck. They might freeze out there or if they go back they might be killed. Just then a Lama (Buddhist Monk) came up. He said, come with me, we will take you to our lamastery. No people were EVER invited into a lamastery. But the duo believed it was an ordained appointment. I mean, what were the odds, right? So they went. They were led up the side of the mountain high up to a lamastery carved into the rock. They were greeted happily and warmly and fed and made comfortable.

She asked the head Lama the next day why they had been so cordially welcomed to such a private and mysterious place. Lama said that 7 years ago they brought to town their licorice that they pick and sell. They heard a lone man in the square saying that there is a God who loves them and salvation is free, if they believe- come to this building tonight to hear more. They were astounded that such a doctrine existed. There is a God? He loves? They accepted the tract the man was handing out, simply the verse at John 3:16 and the address, nothing more.

For five years they sought to learn more but were unable. Every time they went to town to sell their licorice they asked everyone about where to find "the God who loves." No one else could tell them. Then one day a man was there and he did say yes, go to the China Inland Mission over there and they will tell you. A Mission house had been established.

They went to the Mission house and received New Testament bibles and tracts, which they brought back to the lamastery and read eagerly. They delighted in the notion that there was a “God who loves” but there was much in the book they did not understand. Still, they read, and they came to the verse where Christ had said of his apostles, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel.” And the monks believed that one day a person would come and preach to them them, because it said so in the book.

And three years later when they heard singing, they knew the person had come, because as the Monk said, “Only people who know God will sing.” And the person was Gladys and her companion. They rejoiced, knowing they were about to learn more. So she and the other missionary told all the monks about Jesus and then they left the next day, not knowing if the lamas were saved or became saved, but trusting that some would, sometime.


I had never thought about it before, but no other major religion really sings. Of course anything other than biblical Christianity is a false religion. In these false religions, there are chants, but no hymns. No singing. On that cold, dusky night, Gladys was recognized by Buddhists because she sang. Our music IS unique and we are eternally identified with it. It is not simply a preference. Toward the end of his sermon, John MacArthur said this:
And by the way, Christians are the only religion that sing. Muslims don’t sing, Buddhists don’t sing, Hindus don’t sing. They don’t sing. Some chant in a minor key; Christians sing. But when the Reformation came, music was reintroduced to the church; and you sing a hymn written by Martin Luther who launched the Reformation: A Mighty Fortress is our God. Five-hundred years after that, we’re still singing that hymn.
We sing because we have been redeemed. We sing a new song, one that the world does not hear. We sing because-

He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:2-3)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Kay Cude Art: Everything according to its season

We worship an orderly God, whose prophecies, whose seasons, whose mankind progresses according to His will. What a blessing it is to know we submit to a God who is perfect, whose mighty hand is outstretched to make Himself known and His works are a wonder.

Click to enlarge. Posted with permission.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Is doctrine important? Isn't OK just to be a simple believer in Jesus?

I'm listening to the great Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones preach through a series called "Great Biblical Doctrines." I love doctrine. By it, I come to know Christ. Through living it, I manifest a Christlike character. Far from being "head knowledge" only, learning doctrine ignites my heart in love for Christ and to obey Him more fully in all things. One cannot pursue holiness (2 Peter 1:15-16) without knowing what or Whom you pursue.

Dr Lloyd-Jones said way back in 1953 in his sermon as part of the Great Biblical Doctrines series "The Lord Jesus Christ", the following, which is something people say to me and around me all the time:

"I am anxious that I should deal with the case of anybody night be present and whom may think and say, 'Well, I don't have much time to be interested in Doctrine like this. I'm just a simple believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.' My friend, if you take up that position, you're utterly unscriptural. It was because such simple Christians were ready to believe false teachers, and DID believe false teachers, that so many of these Epistles had to be written with their stern warnings against the terrible danger to the soul of believing these wrong teachings and false ideas concerning the Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

It is not enough to say 'I believe in Jesus Christ'. The New Testament asks you a question when you say that. It asks, 'What do you believe about Him? Is He man only or is He God only? Has He come in the flesh or hasn't He? What is the meaning of His death? What did He do?' The New Testament is concerned with definitions. I suggest that there is nothing that is further removed from the teaching of the New Testament itself than to say 'it's all right as long as you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ that it doesn't matter very much what you say about Him in detail.' It is the detail that is the most important and vital to our whole position."

---end Lloyd-Jones.

Please enjoy the series Great Biblical Doctrines here:

Scripture photo: Rebukes ("Church Bulletin" series)

Church bulletins are great. They contain information the congregant will need during the week, such as which deacons are 'on call', who is going to staff the nursery next week, and what time the church supper starts on Wednesday. Some pastors include sermon notes, or a devotional.

The cover always contains a pretty picture and a lovely verse. The picture is always eye catching. One might see a meadow-covered mountain top or a close-up of a pretty flower. The verse is always likewise. Always. It's encouraging, or it speaks of God's love or a promise of God.

I'm irked by this.

Leave it to me to be irked by something pleasant, right? But just once I'd like to see a different kind of verse on the front of a bulletin, a verse that speaks of God's wrath, or His justice, or something unpleasant. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," says 2 Timothy 3:16, so let's not always focus on the verses that please us or encourage us. What about the verses that challenge us, or convict us, or make us think, or speak of an aspect of God that's increasingly denied these days, such as His wrath?

Here is today's entry:

In this Old Testament verse, God is prophesying against the Philistines. God's promise here serves as a specific warning about the Philistines and a sort of comfort to the Israelites, whom the Philistines were harassing. Matthew Henry's Commentary says of the general promise here,
Those who glory in any other defence and protection than the Divine power, providence, and promise, will, sooner or later, be ashamed of their glorying. Those who will not leave it to God to take vengeance for them, may expect that he will take vengeance on them. The equity of the Lord's judgments is to be observed, when he not only avenges injuries upon those that did them, but by those against whom they were done. Those who treasure up old hatred, and watch for the opportunity of manifesting it, are treasuring up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath.
A parallel verse to the Ezekiel verse comes from Psalm 9:16: "They shall know Me, not in mercy, but by My vengeance on them."

It is a fitting concept on which to end the imaginary "Church Bulletin" series. Far from presenting only one attribute of God, the "pleasant" side as most American worship bulletins do, it is comforting to see Him fully, including His wrathful side. His holy justice, His perfect rebukes, His righteous anger, these are comforting in their own way. Any persecuted Christian whose family has been slain would take comfort in knowing that future justice will be done to the persecutors. In Israel's Old Testament days, that would be the Philistines. In our day, it is still the Philistines, though Middle East persecutors are not called that now.

"But what if there is a lost person in the church who reads these about His anger or wrath or holy justice?" Then I say "Good." Sinners need to understand that God's anger abides on them. The sword of vengeance is pointed at their heart and soul, to be released any moment at God's good will and pleasure. Sinners must understand we have a loving and merciful God because we have a HOLY God.


Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #1, Vulture

Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #2, Anguish

Scripture photo: "Church Bulletin" Series #3, Hell

Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #4, Lake of Fire

Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #5, Wrath

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Heaven Tourism: Compare Don Piper's heaven scene with Apostle John's

I'd written a few days ago that heaven tourism books are bad. The 'heaven tourism' phrase refers to the increasing bunch of people who have a vision and claim to have visited heaven, been shown or told things, and 'came back' to write a book about it. Or go on the speaking circuit.

No one has visited heaven except He who has come down from heaven, Jesus. (John 3:13). Aside from a very few individuals such as Ezekiel and Isaiah, John and Paul (who incidentally said it was unlawful to speak of the inexpressible things he'd seen (2 Corinthians 12:2-4) heaven currently remains a closed port of call unless one has died in Christ, and even then, at present it remains a one-way trip.

Yet Don Piper claims to have gone there for an hour and a half and came back to write a whole book about it. This is what Don Piper said he saw first thing:
In my next moment of awareness, I was standing in heaven. Joy pulsated through me as I looked around, and at that moment I became aware of a large crowd of people. They stood in front of a brilliant, ornate gate. I have no idea how far away they were; such things as distance didn’t matter. As the crowd rushed toward me, I didn’t see Jesus, but I did see people I had known. (90 Minutes in Heaven, p. 26-27)
John the Apostle went to heaven. He was in the spirit in the Lord's day. He heard a voice. This is the first thing He saw:

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. 17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.

Don Piper noticed right away that his great-grandmother Hattie's teeth were white. (p. 34). That is a huge contrast to what John saw and how he behaved according to the scripture above.

Who are you going to believe? Paul, who actually went to heaven, whether in the body or the spirit he did not know, God knows, but who said that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord? Or Don Piper who wrote that to be absent from the body is to be present with Great-granny Hattie?

Be very skeptical of people who claim to have visited heaven or some dimension where Jesus is. Beth Moore claims it, Don Piper, Kim Walker-Smith of Jesus Culture band, Colton Burpo, Jesse DuPlantis, and many others. Yet have any of the people who died and were resurrected in the Bible apart from Jesus described anything they saw? Lazarus, Peter's Mother-in-Law? The sleepy youth who fell out the window? No.

John MacArthur wrote at Answers in Genesis:
Four biblical authors had visions of heaven—not near-death experiences. Isaiah and Ezekiel (Old Testament prophets) and Paul and John (New Testament apostles) all had such visions. Two other biblical figures—Micaiah and Stephen—got glimpses of heaven, but what they saw is merely mentioned, not described (2 Chronicles 18:18; Acts 7:55).
Only three of these men later wrote about what they saw—and the details they gave were comparatively sparse (Isaiah 6:1–4; Ezekiel 1, 10; Revelation 4–6). All of them focused properly on God’s glory. 
They also mentioned their own fear and shame in the presence of such glory. They had nothing to say about the mundane features that are so prominent in modern tales about heaven (things like picnics, games, juvenile attractions, familiar faces, odd conversations, and so on). Paul gave no actual description of heaven but simply said what he saw would be unlawful to utter. In short, the biblical descriptions of heaven could hardly be any more different from today’s fanciful stories about heaven.
Avoid such fanciful stories and focus on what is written for our edification: the holy word of God contained in the 66 books of the Bible. Any and all references or descriptions of heaven in that Book are true and are all that we need to know about heaven for the present time.

Scripture photo: Wrath ("Church Bulletin" series)

Church bulletins are great. They contain information the congregant will need during the week, such as which deacons are 'on call', who is going to staff the nursery next week, and what time the church supper starts on Wednesday. Some pastors include sermon notes, or a devotional.

The cover always contains a pretty picture and a lovely verse. The picture is always eye catching. One might see a meadow-covered mountain top or a close-up of a pretty flower. The verse is always likewise. Always. It's encouraging, or it speaks of God's love or a promise of God.

I'm irked by this.

Leave it to me to be irked by something pleasant, right? But just once I'd like to see a different kind of verse on the front of a bulletin, a verse that speaks of God's wrath, or His justice, or something unpleasant. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," says 2 Timothy 3:16, so let's not always focus on the verses that please us or encourage us. What about the verses that challenge us, or convict us, or make us think, or speak of an aspect of God that's increasingly denied these days, such as His wrath?

Here is today's entry:

Have you heard this statement lately? God is a gentleman, He would never..." and fill in the blank with whatever you think God is too gentlemanly to do, usually like overcome your resistance to the Holy Spirit and regenerate you anyway. However from this verse we see that our God is a God of wrath. His wrath is not only stored up for the Day of Judgment, or has exhausted itself on Jesus while suffering on the cross, or is solely a historical thing such as on the Israelites when they were carried off in war and captivity to Babylon. No. God is angry every day with sinners, He displays His wrath every day says Psalm 7:11.

In this Romans verse, Gill's Commentary explains what Paul is saying
By "the wrath of God" is meant the displicency [aversion] and indignation of God at sin and sinners; his punitive justice, and awful vengeance; the judgments which he executes in this world; and that everlasting displeasure of his, and wrath to come in another world, which all through sin are deserving of, some are appointed to, God's elect are delivered from...
Though the covers of church bulletins are always lovely and nice to look at, and the accompanying verse is always encouraging and sweet, the importance of balance can't be overstates. Through this verse we are reminded of an aspect of God's holy character, His hatred of sin. What better place to be reminded that God hates sin and is angry with sinners than at church, where one comes to repent, to hear the word, be strengthened in the Spirit to go out and be renewed in our Christ-like character? What better place to be reminded that those who aren't saved yet dwell under a mighty sword of anger, and we should be merciful to them and share Jesus with them?

Gill asks and answers the question as to where this wrath is seen?
This is said to be "revealed", where? not in the Gospel, in which the righteousness of God is revealed; unless the Gospel be taken for the books of the four Evangelists, or for the Gospel dispensation, or for that part of the ministry of a Gospel preacher, which represents the wrath of God as the desert of sin, the dreadfulness of it, and the way to escape it;  
but this wrath of God is revealed in the law, it is known by the light of nature, and to be perceived in the law of Moses, and may be observed in the Scriptures, where are many instances and examples of divine wrath and displeasure; as in the total destruction of the old world by a world wide flood, the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, turning Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, the plagues of Egypt, and the several instances mentioned in this chapter. 
I'm not thrilled with sin or wrath, of course, but I love my God and I love all His attributes. Even His holy justice will be something to behold, in solemnity (Revelation 8:1) and in awe (Habakkuk 3:2). We should not hide it or omit it from Christian and Gentile public consumption.


Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #1, Vulture

Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #2, Anguish

Scripture photo: "Church Bulletin" Series #3, Hell

Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #4, Lake of Fire

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Scripture photo: Lake of Fire ("Church Bulletin" series)

Church bulletins are great. They contain information the congregant will need during the week, such as which deacons are 'on call', who is going to staff the nursery next week, and what time the church supper starts on Wednesday. Some pastors include sermon notes, or a devotional.

The cover always contains a pretty picture and a lovely verse. The picture is always eye catching. One might see a meadow-covered mountain top or a close-up of a pretty flower. The verse is always likewise. Always. It's encouraging, or it speaks of God's love or a promise of God.

I'm irked by this.

Leave it to me to be irked by something pleasant, right? But just once I'd like to see a different kind of verse on the front of a bulletin, a verse that speaks of God's wrath, or His justice, or something unpleasant. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," says 2 Timothy 3:16, so let's not always focus on the verses that please us or encourage us. What about the verses that challenge us, or convict us, or make us think, or speak of an aspect of God that's increasingly denied these days, such as His wrath?

Here is today's entry:

It does us good to be reminded of our former destination, before the call of God came to regenerate our heart and we repented. Keeping the fate of the unsaved ever before us should spur us to witness and to urge those who dwell in wrath and in bondage to sin to turn to Jesus. The Gospel is His permanent, ever-saving message. It should also remind is of the holy justice of our Holy God, rendering wrath unto those who rebelled and rejected Him. Church bulletin photos and verses only ever seem to focus on the holy blissful side of our stance with God and His love. His holy wrathful side and His justice are also important aspects of His wonderful Being.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says of verse 15
The blissful lot of the righteous is not here specially mentioned as their bliss had commenced before the final judgment. Compare, however, Mt 25:34, 41, 46

Faithlife Study Bible reminds us of the purpose of the lake of fire:
the lake of fire: This final death, which leads to eternal separation and judgment, is permanent and inescapable
I'll finish with a comment from the great Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. How wonderful to be reminded of these things, from discomfort at the verse bringing to mind of the inescapable judgment of God, how sweet, then, is the reminder of His grace!
All those who have made a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell, shall then be condemned with their infernal confederates, cast with them into the lake of fire, as not being entitled to eternal life, according to the rules of life laid down in the scripture; but those whose names are written in that book (that is, those that are justified and acquitted by the gospel) shall then be justified and acquitted by the Judge, and shall enter into eternal life, having nothing more to fear from death, or hell, or wicked men; for these are all destroyed together. Let it be our great concern to see on what terms we stand with our Bibles, whether they justify us or condemn us now; for the Judge of all will proceed by that rule. Christ shall judge the secrets of all men according to the gospel. Happy are those who have so ordered and stated their cause according to the gospel as to know beforehand that they shall be justified in the great day of the Lord!


Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #1, Vulture

Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #2, Anguish

Scripture photo: "Church Bulletin" Series #3, Hell

Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #5, Wrath

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Anyone can find the dirt in someone"... How Facebook helps twist God's Word

Have you seen this on Facebook? It is a wonderful sentiment. I approve of the concept of looking at the positive and trying to find the good in a person.

Seeing this makes me emit an instant, "awww" and want to press "Like" and "Share."

But I don't. Why?

There is a Bible verse attached to the sentence. A Bible verse is the word of GOD. So I must treat it with respect, and at the very least, look it up to make sure that someone making the scripture picture didn't accidentally make a typo on the address. So I check to see if the verse and the address match up?

No. Here is what Proverbs 11:27 actually says.
  • Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it. (ESV)
  • The one who searches for what is good finds favor, but if someone looks for trouble, it will come to him. (HSCB)
  • If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you! (NLT)
No matter what translation you look at the verse in, the sentiment expressed on the photo is not the same as the one stated in the Word. Every translation mentions evil, but the scripture photo mentions only good. The verse is saying that the person who goes looking for trouble will find it but those who do good will receive favor from God and men.

That's the trouble with Twitter, Facebook, etc. Only half the verse is shown. Or it's ripped from its context (Jeremiah 29:11 comes immediately to mind). The context in which this verse was ripped then twisted is embedded among-
Proverbs contrasting the nature and destiny of the righteous and wicked (11:1–31). The righteous follow a clear path in life, are delivered from troubles, are generous, and strengthen their communities. The wicked hoard money but are not saved by it, are a curse to their families and communities, and face certain punishment.
Garrett, D. A. (1998). The Poetic and Wisdom Books.

In untwisting the twisted part of the verse Matthew Henry says of it:
1. Those that are industrious to do good in the world get themselves beloved both with God and man: ... that seeks opportunities of serving his friends and relieving the poor, and lays out himself therein, procures favour. All about him love him, and speak well of him, and will be ready to do him a kindness; and, which is better than that, better than life, he has God’s lovingkindness.
2. Those that are industrious to do mischief are preparing ruin for themselves: It shall come unto them; some time or other they will be paid in their own coin. And, observe, seeking mischief is here set in opposition to seeking good; for those that are not doing good are doing hurt.
Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume.

The verse is not about finding a nice quality in a person among other negative qualities. It is about a person himself doing good as opposed to evil. The one who does good receives favor from men and God. The one who does evil, piles evil back onto himself. It's actually the opposite of what the Facebook photo verse is stating.

The Facebook twisted version makes man the hero.
The Bible's version makes God the hero.
See the difference?

And does it make sense to put a scripture address on a verse that is totally re-phrased in man's words, anyway?

EPrata photo
That's the problem with twisting a verse. It's a problem also when we carelessly re-tweet it or share it without proper investigation. We add to the general confusion regarding what the Bible actually says. Of all things on this earth the one thing we should be the most careful with is God's word. Yet on social media, a powerful influencer of minds and hearts, it is the most carelessly handled. It's sad that so many have shared and liked this verse that is not a verse and means what it does not mean.

Now, I'm not condemning any of the nearly 1 million people who shared it. It's a nice sentiment. I wanted to post it myself. But if you want to send around a nice sentiment like this one, there are plenty of them in the Bible that mean exactly what they mean without omitting important parts of the verse or twisting it. You have your pick of verses that urge us to edify each other, to cover each other's sins, or to love one another.

Before pressing "Like" or "Share" please stop and look it up. Make sure the verse is addressed correctly and isn't twisted.

Don't twist the Bible

Scripture photo, Hell ("Church Bulletin" Series)

Church bulletins are great. They contain information the congregant will need during the week, such as which deacons are 'on call', who is going to staff the nursery next week, and what time the church supper starts on Wednesday. Some pastors include sermon notes, or a devotional.

The cover always contains a pretty picture and a lovely verse. The picture is always eye catching. One might see a meadow-covered mountain top or a close-up of a pretty flower. The verse is always likewise. Always. It's encouraging, or it speaks of God's love or a promise of God.

I'm irked by this.

Leave it to me to be irked by something pleasant, right? But just once I'd like to see a different kind of verse on the front of a bulletin, a verse that speaks of God's wrath, or His justice, or something unpleasant. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," says 2 Timothy 3:16, so let's not always focus on the verses that please us or encourage us. What about the verses that challenge us, or convict us, or make us think, or speak of an aspect of God that's increasingly denied these days, such as His wrath?

This week will be scripture photos of ones you never see on a church bulletin or online as a scripture picture. But I love these just as much as the flowery ones or the encouraging ones. So get ready for scripture photos, Prata-style. If anyone needs a church bulletin lady, I'm available...

EPrata photo
The Matthew 10:28 verse is saying, as Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary explains, is:
Our Lord warned his disciples to prepare for persecution. They were to avoid all things which gave advantage to their enemies, all meddling with worldly or political concerns, all appearance of evil or selfishness, and all underhand measures. Christ foretold troubles, not only that the troubles might not be a surprise, but that they might confirm their faith. He tells them what they should suffer, and from whom. Thus Christ has dealt fairly and faithfully with us, in telling us the worst we can meet with in his service
Gill's Exposition says,
this is peculiarly solemn, "I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear," even Him.
which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell—A decisive proof this that there is a hell for the body as well as the soul in the eternal world; in other words, that the torment that awaits the lost will have elements of suffering adapted to the material as well as the spiritual part of our nature, both of which, we are assured, will exist for ever. In the corresponding warning contained in Luke (Lu 12:4), Jesus calls His disciples "My friends," as if He had felt that such sufferings constituted a bond of peculiar tenderness between Him and them

Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #1, Vulture

Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #2, Anguish

Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #4, Lake of Fire

Scripture photo "Church Bulletin" series #5, Wrath

The Man of God and the old prophet (and don't forget the shriveled hand!)

1 Kings 13 has an interesting little scene. The book was written about 550BC. It's rich with drama, meaning, and life lessons even for u...