Friday, November 24, 2017

The Idlers at the Gate


‎This celebrated sixty-ninth psalm has been called the missionary’s psalm. It speaks of the miseries of one far from home and kindred, of one who proclaims God to those who will not heed. The unbelievers, in their rage and scorn, heap injury upon the preacher, afflict him both in body and in mind. "Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children. “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up, and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me."

‎Then follows the picture of this good man mocked by the idlers who even to-day, as in the psalmist’s time, gather about the gate of every Eastern city, to chat with those who pass, and comment upon them. The ridicule of these falls heavily upon the psalmist; he cries out, "Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee. Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness; and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none."

Source: The Bible and its Story, Volume 6: Poetry–Prophets, Psalms to Isaiah

The Bible and Its Story is a massive collection of images which illuminate the story of Scripture. The images are taken from modern paintings, illustrations, and other renderings of the ancient text. Together, The Bible and its Story serves as a pictorial narrative of the entire story of the Bible—from beginning to end. It compiles the best of modern artwork to bring the Bible vividly to life.


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

I wish you all a blessed day with friends and/or family. For those who can't be with friends or family, if you're working as a first responder such as nurse, doctor, law enforcement, and the like, or serving in the Armed Forces, thank you!

Grace to you all.



Free vintage postcard courtesy of thegraphicsfairy.com

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Lot received so much mercy

Picture by Violet Nesdoly, patterned after
“Escape for thy life” by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld
The story of Lot is an interesting one. Abraham's nephew, we're familiar with Lot's origins from Genesis 11:27,

Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot.

When Haran died, Terah took in Lot and raised him. Later when Abram heard God and prepared to leave his home in obedience, Lot went with his uncle Abram. (Genesis 12:4).

Much later as their joined herds grew so large that the pastures would not feed them all, Lot chose the plain toward Sodom and Abram let Lot have that choice and Abram went the other way. The two separated. It wasn't long after that Lot was living IN Sodom and had become one of its elders sitting at the gate. You know all this. Lot received mercy through all these choices and his downward spiral.

Now, when the outcry against Sodom had grown terrible, God sent Jesus and two angels to destroy Sodom and the other 4 cities of the plain (Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and tiny Zoar). Abram pleaded to save Sodom for the sake of ten righteous people that may live in it. Unfortunately, the city was so wicked, ten righteous could not be found, and its destruction was scheduled. The Lord again offered mercy to Lot and here are the examples.

He sent the two angels into the city to warn Lot, his wife, and any family members. We see again that Lot's character isn't the best. Lot knew the angels were from God and he understood that judgment was coming. He even had seen the angels perform a miracle by striking all the men of the lustful mob blind. Even at the very last moments of Sodom's life as a city, Lot was still making incredibly bad choices.

Pleading with the mob, he offers them his virginal daughters to rape instead. That was a craven and unconscionable thing for a father to do.

Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof. (Genesis 19:8).

Then when Lot attempted to warn his sons-in-law, Lot's witness was so poor that they thought he was joking. Lot was not spiritual convincing in the least.

So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, "Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city." But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. (Genesis 18:14).

Even then, Lot lingered. We all know that Mrs Lot turned her head and looked back, violating the angels' command, but Lot lingered in Sodom too!

But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. (Genesis 19:16).

Even through all this, the Lord is still offering Lot mercy. But when the angels told Lot to run and go fast away from Sodom to the hills, he whined and complained that he couldn't! He asked instead to be allowed to run to Zoar.

I'd like to think that if two of God's holy angels arrived and told me to leave because the place where I lived was about to be destroyed, I'd listen. Moreover, I'd like to think that I wouldn't disobey, and would not be bold enough to negotiate the terms! But Lot did.

Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved. (Genesis 19:20).

And finally, even though the angels told Lot that they would not overthrow the little town Lot spoke of, Lot was still afraid!

Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. (Genesis 19:30).

In 2 Peter 2:7 Lot is called righteous. Three times.

Take comfort from Lot's string of decisions. I am sure that I have made such poor decisions in my Christian life, one after another. I surely would have deserved death. But the Lord strove with Lot and allowed the angels to grant him favor after favor. The Lord loves whom He loves and He has mercy upon whom He has mercy.

Do you know why Lot was called righteous by Peter under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit not just once but three times in the verses from 2 Peter?

"because he was oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men, for by what he saw and heard that righteous man while living among them felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds."

Lot hated sin.

That's it. The Lord has mercy on fathers who fail their daughters, on morally weak men, on stumblers and whiners and bumblers. Like I am, and you are. When we hate sin, our own and others', we are on the right side of God - for He is holy.

Take comfort in Lot's example. Hate sin, love God, and trust that He has mercy for those who strive to holiness and fight against sin.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Prata Potpourri: Women's discipleship, Librarians on horseback, reviving prayer time, more

A selection of links I've come across that you might find edifying, interesting, or amusing!

Rachelle Cox at Each Passing Phase wrote about Getting Real About Women's Discipleship.
In his book Discipling, author Mark Dever offers a to-the-point definition of discipleship as "helping others follow Jesus". This doesn't seem to be the definition many women are applying in their personal lives. If Instagram is any clue, most Christian women think discipleship is limited to hosting thoughtfully curated Bible studies in tasteful homes where shrieking children and dirty dishes don’t exist. This glossy ideal sits like a yoke on many women's shoulders rather than spurring them onward in Christ’s Great Commission.
From The Master's Seminary we read How to Revive a Lifeless Prayer Time
I want to share with you ten practical ideas to stimulate our times in prayer. If we are honest, most admit that a consistent life of prayer can be a struggle to sustain. But it need not be that way since prayer is truly a vital aspect of our walk of faith.
From Christian Book Shop Talk On the Smell of Books, and Bookstores
If you've been in this business for awhile, you know there's nothing like walking into a bookstore or book warehouse and breathing in the smell of books. Perhaps you're one of the people who cracks open a recent arrival to the middle page and inhales deeply.
Founder's Ministries writes about Fear and the Christian
Fear is a natural emotion common to all human beings, and it is neither inherently sinful or godly. Our fears are often connected to the things we love the most. We may fear losing something or someone we love. Or we might fear that we will fail to obtain something we desire. We may fear offending one we love. Or perhaps we feel a reverential fear of something or someone we admire. The cause of our fears is often the love or admiration of some created thing or of God Himself.
Christa Threlfall at Brown Sugar Toast writes about Sacrificing Holiness for Authenticity
It was Saturday morning. Driving home from an early morning run, I stopped by a yard sale and snagged the classic game of Battleship for the low, low price of $1. I had fond memories of playing this game in elementary school and looked forward to wowing my family with my incredible skills. Only that’s not quite what happened.
Nicholas T. Batzing at Feeding on Christ reminds us that when speaking of Jesus' Church we speak of His Bride in this piece, When speaking about Jesus' Bride
The visible church–in whatever shapes or forms it may take–is the bride of Christ. We must resist the urge to speak critically of her without giving her the requisite love and care that Jesus wants us to give those for whom he has shed his precious blood.
GotQuestions isn't a static repository of articles. The authors there constantly publish new ones. Here's a new article, answering the question, What does it mean that "to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21)?
What does it mean that "to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21)? How can I come to the point that I consider dying to be gain?
History:

Female Librarians on Horseback Delivering Books, ca. 1930s
In the 1930s, many people living in isolated communities had very little access to jobs, let alone a good education for their children. In Kentucky, they had isolated mountain communities which could only get their books and reading material from one source… librarians on horseback.

Photography:

Photos taken by helicopter reveal stunning symmetry of airports




Monday, November 20, 2017

Real life Christian confession, Bible reading, study, and stuff

Real Christianity Confession Time:

I had a terrible week last week. I encountered some adverse conditions and I became petulant, grumpy, irritable, and self-pitying. I forewent Bible reading, rationalizing that I was too upset and couldn't think just now. Of course, in adverse conditions, Bible reading is the first place one should go, not the last. But there you have it.

By the grace of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit I recovered my equilibrium. I attended to some things I'd neglected the last week all day on Saturday, and on Sunday I devoted myself to church service, prayer, and small group fellowship. I'd promised the Lord that on Monday (today) I'd get back to it with a vengeance, since I was home from work on Thanksgiving break and had all the time in the world.

So by 11:00 this morning, I'd done-

10 chapters of Bible reading,
1 chapter read in Hidden Life of Prayer,
1 chapter read in Gerstner's Theology in Dialogue,
1 chapter lesson completed in Jess Pickowicz's Biblical Doctrine study,
Lecture 1 of Hebrews by Dr Abner Chou listened to, plus NT overview
4 pages of notes on legal pad

I am a Theology BEAST. Sadly, by a few days from now I know that I'll be a theology wimp. I tend to slide. I start out good but slacken, then speed up and then slow down. Goodness, I totally understand Paul when he said

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do. (Romans 7:15).

O Lord, have mercy on this weak woman, and help me stay consistent in Bible reading and study!!

Here are some thoughts and insights gained by the Spirit during today's studying bonanza.

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

EPrata photo
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" 17And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." 18He said to him, "Which ones?" (Matthew 19:16-18a).

This made me laugh out loud. Which ones? Like we can pick and choose? Whether as Gill's Expositions says, the Rich Young Ruler
Whether those commandments of a moral, or of a ceremonial kind; whether the commands of the written, or of the oral law; of God, or of the elders, or both; or whether he did not mean some new commandments of his own, which he delivered as a teacher sent from God:
or whether the Rich Young Ruler had the original ten laws in mind, asking "which ones" just shows how blind he was. No one can keep any of the laws perfectly their whole life. But the man confidently replied to Jesus' answer as to which laws that "all these I have kept". Some believe that the Rich Young Ruler was indeed Saul of Tarsus. If he was, then the Lord's mercy is great. If he wasn't, I pray that mercy came to that young ruler sometime before his death, when eternity becomes fixed.

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

I do my daily Bible reading in the NKJV. The verse at Psalm 18:4 says,

The cords of death encompassed me, And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me.

Me too, David, me too.

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

The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation— (Psalm 18:46).

A GREAT verse!

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

Job 18: man, this is rough, very rough, It's not only rough because Bildad is heaping scorn on Job, and telling him to snap out of it, but Bildad is excruciating in his detailed list of what and how the wicked endure the coming punishment. Read Job 18 if you begin to lose your compassion for the lost.

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

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it. (Matthew 19:12)

Yes.

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Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)

God is generous. We may only understand Him through His word, and we can only understand the word via His Spirit, but He has given to us His Spirit. Freely.

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

"You don't want to just know the word of God. You want to know the God of the word." Dr Abner Chou, The Master's Seminary, Hebrews lecture #1.

Read the word to gain an understanding of who Jesus is, to commune with Him, to understand His revealed attributes, commands, precepts, and plans. Every time I let Bible reading go and then return to it, I am refreshed and wonder why I let it go in the first place. I am a silly person, stumbling and bumbling along. No doubt I'll mourn my wastrel ways when I get to heaven and see the glories Jesus has set before us. All I can do now is try again. And again...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

They were Talking with Jesus

The Transfiguration

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (Matthew 17:1-3).

The Transfiguration

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-31).

The disciples were heavy with sleep and initially did not notice the change in Jesus' appearance. He was with them though, praying, and then, as He changed, talking with two men. The men were Moses and Elijah. The Bible identifies them for us.

Moss and Elijah had departed the earth centuries before. Moses had died (Deuteronomy 34:4) but his body was never found. Satan and Michael had been disputing over it so God just took the body and put it somewhere. Elijah the Prophet had personally been taken by God, bodily to heaven. (2 Kings 2:11). So these two men had been in heaven for many centuries, and Jesus was talking with them. Yet Jesus was bodily here on earth, too, and shortly before this had been talking with the three Disciples. When they awoke, Peter talked with all three of them- Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Then God broke into the conversation! What an amazing scene.

This is an example of the attribute of Jesus we call omnipresence.

Omni means all. Think of omniscient or omnivirous. And presence means presence. Jesus promised in Matthew 28:20b that he would always be with all His people.

"behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

"For where two or three gather together in My name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20).

Jesus was talking with two men who were in heaven, and He was also with the sleeping and soon-to-wake disciples on earth - at the same time.

No matter how alone you feel, or what you are going through, He IS with you and will be forever. It is an insanely difficult concept to grasp, that He is eternally in body form ascended in heaven, but He is also with each and every saint who is in His fold, even if they're here on earth. We can trust His promise though. He is with you. We serve a great and loving God.

Linked below are a few resources for you on the Omnipresence of Jesus

What does it mean that God is omnipresent?

How is Jesus omnipresent?

The Omnipresent Son of God

God: What is He Like? (exploring His attribute of omnipresence)

"'Do not I fill heaven and earth,’ saith the Lord?" (Jeremiah 23:24).


Saturday, November 18, 2017

"What does this verse mean to you?" Not manifold meanings, but one

"What does this verse mean to you?" is a phrase oft-heard at Bible Study groups and the like. It suggests that Bible verses and passages can be interpreted variably, or that there can be multiple meanings to one text.

This is not so. The question should be "What does this verse mean?" Period.

The Author intended one meaning to any verse, any passage, and to all of scripture. There might be many applications the Spirit puts in our mind as He illuminates it, but there is one meaning and one meaning only.

As RC Sproul says in his course Knowing God, a 12-part lecture series on interpreting the Bible:
There is only one correct meaning of any biblical text.
The Westminster Confession states,
IX. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
The implications of this understanding about how to interpret the Bible are as follows:

Some say there is a rapture. Some say there is no rapture. Only one interpretation is right. It's not both. It can't be.

Some say the rapture will happen prior to the Tribulation. Some say it will happen afterward. Only one interpretation is right.

Some say that the Church is the new Israel. Others say that the Church and Israel's destinies are separate and distinct. Only one interpretation is right.

Some say that any person can, on their own initiative, ignite an internal faith in Jesus and be saved. Others say that faith is ignited by the Sovereign alone, and it only comes upon those whom He has chosen since before the foundation of the world. Only one interpretation is right.

Some say that there will be a 1000-year Kingdom on earth after the Tribulation. Others say there will not be any such literal Kingdom. Only one interpretation is right.

Some hold to believer’s baptism (credobaptism) and state that only those who make a credible profession of faith ought to be baptized. Others hold to infant baptism (paedobaptism) and believe that the children of believers ought to be baptized. (Challies). Only one interpretation is right.

The doctrines noted above from eschatology or covenant theology or ecclesiology are diametrically opposed. One cannot believe both at the same time. It is unwise to believe the Bible projects both as true. Therefore, if a person believes one interpretation is true, by necessity, one must reject the other as false.

To help get you started on interpreting the Bible correctly, here is a booklet you can order if you never contacted Grace To You before, or purchase for $1.50, or just read for free online,

How to Study Your Bible
Learn specifically how to read, interpret, meditate on, and teach the Bible in this life-changing study!



Friday, November 17, 2017

Throwback Friday: A Tale of Two Shepherds

This essay first appeared on The End Time on November 17, 2011

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

Prophecy of the Shepherds

EPrata photo


The LORD said to me, “Take again for yourself the equipment of a foolish shepherd. For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces.
“Woe to the worthless shepherd,
Who leaves the flock!
A sword shall be against his arm
And against his right eye;
His arm shall completely wither,
And his right eye shall be totally blinded.” (Zechariah 11:17).

That is the Antichrist. In Daniel 11:36 we see more about this foolish, worthless shepherd.

"Then the king [the foolish shepherd] will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done."

"Jesus said of this worthless shepherd, "I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive." (John 5:43)

O, such blindness to reject the True Shepherd for a man of character so evil, so foolish, so worthless! What they gave up:

"He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young." (Isaiah 40:11).

Look what He does for His sheep! "For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." (1 Peter 2:25)

He is the Good Shepherd!

"Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd." (John 10:1-18)

You can be in the flock, cared for by the Overseer of Souls! You can be carried in the bosom of the One who lives in glory! If you repent of your sins and submit to the Shepherd, you will be.

"I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one." (John 10:28)

Follow Him!

Glory to Jesus, the Highest!


Thursday, November 16, 2017

"My Real Mom"

Photo by Nine Köpfer on Unsplash
As my day working in an elementary school goes along, I hear kids talking to each other. They chat in the halls coming in for the day, they talk in the gym as they await the opening bell, they talk at lunch and at recess... Sometimes I overhear snippets of what they share with each other as they pass me. What kids say is at turns funny, silly, or heartbreaking. This essay is about one particular phrase I overhear that just breaks my heart.

We all know that nuclear family depicted in The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie, for example, have expanded to include all manner of blended configurations. Divorce is rampant. People marry and divorce for all kinds of reasons, and some don't even try to stick it out. If a set of parents stay together over the course of a child's life, that is the miracle now. Divorce is a violent act.

Kids chatting with each other will say, if they have parents that are divorced and one or both spouses have remarried, for example,

My real mom is getting a new job
My real dad doesn't live with us

They distinguish the step-parent from the original parent with that heartbreaking word "real." Kids know. It's true that nothing can ever, ever replace the real parent. I'm not talking about foster-child cases or adoption, though the lack of the biological parent in a child's life will also leave wounds, but different ones than divorce. I do not mean to disrespect any step-parents. I know you work hard to provide a loving home for your blended family. It's just that, the fact is, there is only one real mom, only one real dad. Divorce affects the children tremendously.

As for divorce being a violent act, I don't mean that people act violently after a divorce because they are in turmoil. I mean that it's a violent act because divorce itself is a violent act. In the secular world we know that divorces at best are almost always emotion-filled, bitter experiences. At worst, they are war. And it IS a war, in the flesh on earth, for booty (furniture) and for territory (house) and for captives (children.) It's also a spiritual war in the celestial realms to directly attack one of the most important foundations Jesus laid down: the family. Let's look at the language the Bible uses:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

Cleave is to adhere, cling, or stick fast. If you use wood glue and then after it dries, if you want to separate the two pieces that you made into one, you have to tear it apart by force, and they never come apart cleanly. There are splits in the wood, pits, damage.

The oft-used phrase during marriage vows, "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate" comes from Matthew 19:6 NIV. The World English Translation puts it this way: "So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, don't let man tear apart." Tear apart. We see in Genesis that the man and woman (not man-man nor woman-woman) who are to be married cleave, stick, become ONE flesh. Splitting that apart causes damage because to separate something that has become one, into two, is violent. It requires tearing, pulling, splitting, cutting.

Marriage is a covenant between three people: man, woman, God. A covenant is an eternal promise, a sacred thing. God discusses it here, "You ask, 'Why?' It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. (Malachi 2:14). Satan hates any and all Godly covenants. Therefore marriage and the family become prime targets for satan's evil will to be done

So why is divorce so violent? Satan is behind it. God said: "I hate divorce..." (Malachi 2:16). What God loves, satan hates. What God hates, satan loves.

John MacArthur on the scriptures regarding divorce:
In Matthew 19, Jesus states that God ordained the institution of marriage, and He has decreed that in every marriage, the husband and wife are to become one for life. Divorce destroys the marriage and thus breaks asunder a union God Himself has established (Mark 10:9). "I hate divorce," says the Lord (Mal. 2:16). Jesus' teaching on divorce is clear. He restricted divorce under most circumstances, and He forbade the remarriage of those who divorce on improper grounds, calling such remarriage adultery (Matthew 5:32). ... So God's utter hatred of divorce is very clear in Scripture. Nonetheless, there are two extraordinary cases in which Scripture teaches that God does permit divorced people to remarry.
Those cases are if the spouse commits adultery and if the unbelieving spouse abandons the believer. (1 Corinthians 7:14). That's it. God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16).

When two people are united, they become one flesh. Ripping apart one flesh back into two is painful and creates wounds, deep wounds. It seems strange in my 58 years of life I've watched divorce go from a stigma whispered about to an almost respectable sin, as Jerry Bridges had termed the so-called lighter sins, such as gossip or worry.

We Christians talk a lot about homosexuality, and also hammer on about pre-marital sex. But divorce is an event that occurs under the umbrella of sins, too. So many casually divorced people sit in the pews, remarried to boot, with few words said about this sin. If a believing spouse has divorced for a reason not listed above, he is in sin. If a spouse has remarried after a spiritually illegal divorce, he remains in sin.

Someday, children will not describe their family as having 'a real mother' or 'a real father'. Divorce is a sin. It is also a violent act that directly contradicts the standards for moral behavior Jesus set forth.

If your marriage is on the rocks, Jesus can heal it. He ordained it, He witnessed it, and He keeps you in His fold. As His sheep, He has already regenerated your heart once from pagan to Christian. He can help you two get back on track and re-ignite your covenant love for one another. Here is a page of testimonies and resources of couples who had been on the brink of divorce, but who are thriving as a united couple now.


Further Reading

To a Spouse Considering Divorce

How Should a Christian View Marriage and Divorce?

Why Does God Hate Divorce?



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Left Behind in Labrador

Youtube offers endless hours of entertainment for those wanting a brief escape. My cousin posts a positive and humorous vlog every day, which I enjoy watching. Then I might browse videos showing funny antics of children or animals.

One Vlogger I enjoy is Don's Family Vacations, who focuses a lot on tips for cruisers. I don't enjoy traditional large ship cruising, but I enjoy his tips anyway. He's kind, engaging, and the information about the Cruise Ships is interesting.

He stresses in several of his vlogs that the Cruise Ship always leaves on time. If you attend an off-ship excursion, be sure to arrive back at the dock before they take in the gangway and cast off. They will leave you behind.

This is from Cruise Critic:
Far be it from us to take joy from another's misery, but we admit there's something inherently amusing about passengers sprinting the length of the dock -- often to the mocking cheers of those already onboard -- when they realize they're late getting back to their cruise ship. Usually these aptly named "pier runners" are lucky. They throw themselves across the gangway, and the doors close behind them. Others, however, aren't so fortunate. Mistakes happen, in spite of the best-laid plans; if you find yourself still on dry land while your ship is sailing off into the sunset, it's not the end of the world. Check out our tips and advice for how to avoid missing your ship, how to prepare in case you do miss it and what to do if your cruise ship leaves you behind.
Sometimes I go on Youtube to watch short vlogs of people running to catch the ship, always in vain. I look at the pier runners as the ship steams away, thinking about their predicament of being in a foreign country without resource. It must be scary to arrive from your excursion to an empty, deserted pier! Cruise Critic did say,
What must those people with unfortunate timing think? How awful to be left behind. According to Don of Don's Family Vacations, they must somehow get home using their own money and resources. Once the passenger has missed the ship, the Cruise Line is not responsible for them any longer.
I laughed along with the  observers in these videos, until I remember that once, I'd been a pier runner too!

My husband and I took a cruise that wasn't a cruise. We traveled as passengers aboard an icebreaker/ferry/cargo ship in Upper Quebec and Labrador. (Relais Nordik). At that time, there were few roads connecting the villages that dotted the shoreline of this large Province, and the boat acted as ferry, mail boat, grocery delivery, and human transportation from one port to another. In between the towns after Sept-Iles, there was only tundra.

Back in the 1990s when we were aboard, conditions were primitive. The sole aim of the ship was to transport cargo and passengers, not to cater to people boarding the boat as a cruiser. We slept in a quadruple bunk room, ate with the crew, and played cards or watched the scenery because there were no on-board activities. Now, the Ship has nicer cabins for people who want to take the route as a cruising passenger, they suggest shore excursions, and provide dinner seatings with set tables and everything! It's still rough and tumble though. The ship is still mainly a ferry. Due to variable and potentially rough conditions, the cruise line disclaims a specific return time shorter than a 36-48 hour window, lol.

The run went from Rimouski to Blanc-Sablon, and included Anticosti Island

I collect shells. At one stop, we walked the beach and I noticed that Canada grows some giant scallops! The shells cast up on the beach were 3 to 4 inches across. I got absorbed looking at all the shells on the beach. I saw some species I'd never been able to collect, and there were other species I wasn't familiar with. Time passed.

Gradually I noticed that it was quiet. Too quiet. Everyone had left! Oh no!

I ran as fast as my short legs could go, and I saw the ship with engines on and lines casting off. The crew was trying to take in the gangway but my husband was standing on it and wouldn't let them. I got up there and ran up the ramp and they withdrew the gangway and we were off. That was a close one!

They said that on this route, if we're left behind, we're supposed to knock on doors of the few homes until one of the homeowners takes pity on you and lets you sleep there till the ship is on the return route. When the ship returns you can get back on and resume your journey. Depending on where the ship left you behind, it may be 2-4 days until it returns.

As I hustled up to the ship I was wondering what I would do if I was left behind. I had a nasty knot in my stomach and I was breathing hard, and it wasn't just from the running! I was almost left behind to dwell in a unfamiliar land

It makes me wonder even more about the people who will be left behind when the real ship sails. The real ship I'm talking about is the Ship of State, the Church. Paul said in Romans 11:25,

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in,

The term 'full number' is from the Greek pleroo, and means full number, completeness. The word was usually used in reference to a ship and its full number of crew. Admiralty law at the time banned any ship from sailing until the full number of necessary sailors were staffed to man it.

What will it feel like to be left behind for those people in the world who aren't saved, and have some familiarity with Christianity? Maybe they've heard someone give the Gospel, or know of the rapture and left behind from the books or movies. The devastating feeling the cruiser has in the pit of their stomach when they've been left behind at the pier will be magnified a million-fold. You've been left behind on earth. There will be no running to catch the ship, for it will disappear in the blink of an eye. One moment here, the next...gone.

There is a solution that will ensure your participation in the rapture. When it sails will it have you in it? The solution is to repent of your sins. Ask Jesus to forgive them, and lay your life down at His feet. Once you trust in Jesus as the Savior King, then He will consider you not an enemy any more but a sheep in his fold.

Don't be a pier runner.

Here are some fictionalized versions of what the rapture might look like.







Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Is it OK for Christians to be vegetarians/vegans?

I receive questions from time to time and usually answer them via email. This was on a topic not often raised (in my sphere) so I thought I'd answer it here as well as having answered the person individually.

Q. I have a question.

Lately I have been reading about health benefits of eating primarily vegetables and eliminating or reducing meats and dairy from a person's diet. I listened to one of John Macarthur's sermons on seducing spirits from 1 Timothy 4, and it does say everything God created is good.

Meat and dairy seem to be linked to many of the diseases we have in this country and western civilization. For health reasons is it ok for a Christian to refrain from certain foods?

I would think we are free to choose based on health reasons, but 1 Tim 4 says everything God created is good. So I wonder.

A. Thank you for your question and for your long readership of my blog! I appreciate both so much.


The 1 Timothy 4 verse mentioned above is in verse 1-5,

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

The false teachers were forcing an asceticism on the Ephesians that the Bible doesn't command or even suggest. The John MacArthur Study Bible note says,
The false teachers' asceticism contradicted scripture, which teaches that since God created both marriage and food, (Genesis 1:28-31, 2:18-24, 9:3) they are intrinsically good (Genesis 1:31). and to be enjoyed with gratitude by believers. Obviously food and marriage are essential to life and procreation.
The point was, no one has the right to force an asceticism on anyone, and all foods should be gratefully received because when God made them, they were good.

In Acts 10:10-15 God declared all foods clean, meaning the dietary restrictions placed on the Israelites was lifted.

On the more practical side of things, everything God created was good. Key detail: was. In the original creation, everything was perfect. When Man sinned and fell from grace, pollution and death entered the world. Botulism, salmonella, e coli, and other diseases cause us to select and prepare food very carefully. Our compromised human immune systems and tendency toward disease means we have to watch what we eat, especially if we have been diagnosed with celiac disease, diabetes, or other food-related conditions.

It falls to an individual's Christian conscience as to what foods you would like to consume and how clean the conditions are when you prepare it.

I myself refrain from eating meat for both financial and taste reasons. I'm also a celiac and so for health reasons have to restrict gluten from my diet. There are many reasons one may want to restrict certain foods from their diet.

Because food restrictions are not prohibited nor commanded in the New Testament for NT believers, it falls in the gray area of Christian liberty. Even within these matters where there are no details, the Bible gives guidance.

Paul wrote about the law of Liberty in Romans 14 and one of his examples was food. See the verses below.

For one man has faith to eat all things, while another, who is weak, eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Rom 14:2-4.

In his example of those who eat only vegetables being 'weak', don't worry, he is not saying vegetarianism is a character flaw, lol. The context is one where the Christian who was refraining from eating meat was afraid to get involved in eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. That's no longer an issue since even the last remnants of the sacrificial system have dwindled away.

1 Timothy 4:3 says, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

Here we see that food only becomes an issue when someone holding to some kind of authority imposes restrictions upon another. This is wrong, for God declared all foods clean. (Acts 10:15-16).

So if the question is one of personal conscience, health, or desire, and is not biblically forbidden, then not eating meat becomes a question of individual liberty, i.e. individual choice. As long as we're not doing something that might cause a weaker brother to stumble, or judging someone by what they do/don't eat, and we're not violating a biblical prescription, one may eat or not eat as one feels is physically wise and spiritually acceptable.

It's worth noting that in the original creation, man was a vegetarian. He will be again in the future Millennial Kingdom.

Here is a resource John MacArthur recommended on the topic of dietary restrictions for the Israelites,
There's an excellent paperback book called None of These Diseases, a little paperback by Dr. S.I. McMillen. Some of you may have read it. It's very helpful in telling you why God gave Israel many of their laws regarding communicable diseases and dietary laws and what they could eat and so forth and so on.
Here is Ligonier Ministry with an essay on Christian Liberty guiding the believer when it comes to gray areas-

4 Principles for the Exercise of Christian Liberty

Friends, weigh in. What has been your experience with eating or not eating certain foods? (a different topic from the spiritual discipline of fasting)

Comments welcome below.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Physics and the Bible

Men have been yearning to learn of the mysteries of life, the universe, and our world since the beginning. Genesis 4:20-22 recounts the start of livestock husbandry, musical instrument making, and metal forging. By Genesis 11:3-4, not long after the Flood, people were building with the invention of bricks and mortar. They were also once again rejecting God and substituting their own selves for the deity as had occurred in Genesis 3.

This sinful attitude has never abated. In Romans 1:23 we read that man 'exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.'

Man sees himself as God and as such he looks for answers within himself, using his own capabilities, never acknowledging that life itself is a gift from above, as is power (John 19:11) and even the conscience. (Isaiah 30:21, Romans 2:15).

But that doesn't stop today's scientists for looking for answers in all the wrong places. Or, they look for answers to the big questions of life in the right places, but fail to see or acknowledge God as the originator, author, architect, and ultimate Source.

Answers to the deep mysteries of life are not scientific, because they are supernatural, being originated from God. Science can only go so far.

I love science and I see God's fingerprints all over it. The Bible is not a book of science, but it is a book of answers. If you have a biblical worldview, science fits right in. It's the secular worldview that makes scientists perplexed when things don't fit in, because they look, but do not see. (Matthew 13:13).

The BBC Documentary Atom is a multi-part series narrated by British physicist Jim al-Khalili. He makes particle physics and quantum physics understandable. Well, he makes a lot of it clear, lol, but not all of it is clear in my puny mind. That doesn't matter, because where I fail to make connections scientifically, I can see the answers biblically. And that's enough.

Example #1.

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about. Early in the series, the narrator is describing the scientists' upset of discovering that everything is made up of atoms. Then they got more upset learning that atoms are (seemingly) mainly empty space.

1957 atom. Source

If you picture a football field, with the center being the nucleus, and a soccer ball rolling around the edge of it, that's the proportional distance. How does the electron know to remain in orbit around its designated nucleus? Why doesn't it dance off to another location, and what holds it there? These questions were posed in the documentary. There is a scientific answer. But also, there is a biblical answer.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17.

Jesus holds the electrons in their place.

Example #2.

In this section of the documentary, al-Khalili explains how genius Paul Dirac sought the unification solution before Feynman came up with it. Dirac is quoted as saying "a physical theory must have mathematical beauty". The disparity between special relativity and quantum mechanics was not just inconvenient to Dirac, it was downright ugly.

The soul thirsts for God and not just a utilitarian God. We intuitively understand that God is orderly. His perfections include symmetry, and beauty. If the world emerged from a bang and chaos, why did it evolve to produce such beauty everywhere? The universe must be harmonious, it just seems right to believe this, as Dirac was sure of.

As RC Sproul explained in his lesson titled Recovering the Beauty of the Arts,
Will our art be beautiful or ugly? Harmonious or cacophonous? Orderly or chaotic? Once we see that God is the foundation of Beauty, since He Himself is Beauty, we shall see that God is the ultimate artist. He spoke and worlds were created. His word of order triumphed over the chaotic abyss present in Genesis 1:2. Any example of creation points to His majestic artistry.
God made the worlds beautiful and pronounced it all good. Dirac's quest for a harmonious resolution of all things is an innate understanding that beauty comes from the Originator of it, God Himself. Not just colors and such, but even the laws of nature are beautiful, harmonious, and elegant.

Example #3.

One issue that the documentary raised is that the laws operate differently when looking at the grand things in Einstein's special relativity and at the small world of quantum mechanics. Space and time laws operate differently than the laws at the small level as the atom. It drove Einstein crazy that the physical laws at the macro and the micro were different. Physicists try to reconcile these two in a unification theory, which they think they have reached. This unifying theory is called quantum electrodynamics (QED) "and is the first theory where full agreement between quantum mechanics and special relativity is achieved."

In a third example from Atom, Dirac sought his unification theory through his mathematical equations, and discovered something stunning. al-Khalili said, "Another universe exists where we never noticed before. There is a mirror image of our universe, where properties are reversed. For every particle that can exist, there is a corresponding antiparticle with the same mass, but exactly the same in every other way- a mirror of the universe."
I don't understand Dirac's equation above, and I have a hard time understanding matter and antimatter. But biblically I do understand a parallel universe. Think of the Transfiguration. Peter, John, and James are atop Mt Olive with Jesus, and when Jesus is transfigured, He is suddenly talking with Moses and Elijah, who have appeared out of nowhere.

And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (Matthew 17:3).

Or of Elisha's chariots-

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17).

Note that as the two men appeared, they were already talking with Jesus. Jesus exists in all places at once- He is omnipresent. Heaven is that alternate universe Dirac and other scientists have discovered. It is next to us, close, somewhere in a parallel dimension. When we die, our bodies remain here, but our soul goes there. A multiverse does exist, one that's here and one that's there where the dead go. Who are living. Matter and antimatter? I don't know, but I am sure the two worlds, exist, not because of an equation, but because Jesus told us there was.

In a fourth example from Atom, physicist Richard Feynman pushed the envelope further than Dirac. He played a large part in developing the next phase of quantum mechanics. Like Dirac's antimatter equation before, the intent of Feynman's new theory was unification. He aimed to explain how everything works, through the electromagnetic field. Once again, the theory is called quantum-electrodynamics, or QED.

Feynman diagram
QED is difficult to understand, said Feynman. Even he didn't understand it, he said. But at root, it explains that empty space isn't empty. Even in a vacuum, there is stuff and the stuff is heaving with activity. Atoms borrow energy from the future, and pay it back again very quickly. This exchange is repeated billions of times with many matter and antimatter particles being created and destroyed very quickly. But what it tells physicists is that ultimately the activity of these electrons popping in and out of existence, are simply leftovers of a deeper more permanent reality.

Yes. That's called heaven. 'Empty space' is seething with energy we can't feel and particles we can't see. For example, angels both holy and unholy are spirit beings, but pop into physical existence. Somehow. The deeper, more permanent reality is the one that's there, after death. The reality we experience in this temporary tent called a fleshly body is the impermanent one.

A final unification of these two realities that the physicists feverishly seek, will be completed after the universe is melted in a fervent heat and remade. (2 Peter 3:10). Life in heaven that's going on now with Jesus, the angels, and dead souls, and life on earth, with living people breathing and working and consciously producing what they (we) believe is finite reality, will unite.

To conclude this journey through physics and the Bible, Physicist Hendrik Casimir discovered that in that so-called empty space, there exists a mysterious force that eventually, for example pull two inert metal plates together. Like the wind that pushes the sails of a boat, the stuff that emptiness is made of is pushing the metal plates together. This is called the Casimir Effect. al-Khalili said of the Casimir Effect,
"The fact that nothingness, real emptiness, could exert a small force, is surely one of nature's greatest magic tricks." ~Jim al-Khalili, Atom, part 3
The biblical view of this is not that a force that connects all things is a magic trick, but that it is the scriptures explaining God to us.

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word. (Hebrews 1:3).

The Bible is not a book of science, but it is a book of answers. Where physicists are stumped, or marvel at mysteries, or deem the foundational properties of God's work as a magic trick, we understand that He revealed Himself to us through His creation. It is wonderful that men seek to understand through harmonies of art, music, and science, but ultimately the answers are contained in God's mind, and insofar as He has revealed some answers to us, we can and should read them in His word. Where science fails, and it does, many times, we believers have the knowledge of Him who created all things, and is before all things. Sadly, peering into the great mysteries didn't bring Dirac closer to God, it actually hardened him into worshiping the creature instead.
If we are honest — and scientists have to be — we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can't for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. ~Paul Dirac, Fifth Solvay International Conference (October 1927)
Dirac's fundamental belief, as he answered a student's question, was not that there is an intelligent God who made all things and upholds all things, but that
the laws of nature should be expressed in beautiful equations.
Dirac was a genius, who advanced our understanding of how the universe works in measurable and interesting ways, but he is dead now. Now he knows the truth. He has the answers, but they are not helping him in any way.

Jesus is the answer, He is before all things.

For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. (Colossians 1:16)



Sunday, November 12, 2017

Praise, for kings will shut their mouths

Chris Powers at fullofeyes.com and on Patreon, created this illustration recently based on a verse from Isaiah. We praise the Lord for all His ways, not just on Sundays but every day.

He was, and is, and is to come.

Illustrator and artist Chris Powers wrote:
Isaiah 52:15, "...he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand."

May it be so.....

Below you can read the string of thoughts from my journal that led me to this text in Isaiah and, eventually, to today’s picture.
_________________________
Surely there is at no time a divorce between the Son’s outer form or experience and His revelation of the Father. Surely, the Son is no less the perfect image and radiance of God’s glory when He is stripped and beaten than when He is transfigured in splendor. Surely, the face shining like the sun in full strength and the face marred beyond human recognition are both the face in which we see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God....and no less in one than in the other. 

Or perhaps, in our present state, there is less we can see in one....in the face that shines like the sun, we can see nothing....our eyes are overwhelmed, our faces turn away and hide.......But when that same resplendence clothes itself with flesh...and submits that flesh to be beaten and torn and wounded in the place of enemies....then....then we know what we could not know before. Then we shut our mouths for wonder because that which had not been told to us, we can now see, and that which we had not heard, we understand....




Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pleading for a reduced charge

People who are unsaved have a list of charges against them. These are the sins (crimes) they have committed against Jesus during their lifetime. At the end of time, Jesus will assemble all the unsaved and judge them. The judgment is not whether or not they will be going to heaven or hell. The one and only standard against which people are judged is whether they believed in the Son.

They will be judged on their crimes. God keeps track.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. (Revelation 20:12).

For the Son of Man will come in His Father's glory with His angels, and then He will repay each one according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27)

This is not just a New Testament concept. It is in the Old Testament too, seen in the eschatological book of Daniel.

A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened. (Daniel 7:10).

Unsaved people are judged according to their deeds they did in life, and their words, and their thoughts. (Luke 8:17, Romans 2:16, Matthew 12:37).

The sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead, and each one was judged according to his deeds. (Revelation 20:13).

John MacArthur said of this verse,
The record, by the way, for each person will be unique and so will the punishment. That's an important thing to think about. Hell is not like some great big hole where everybody gets thrown into the same place with the same level of torment. No. Every person's life will be evaluated uniquely and every person's punishment will be consistent with that unique evaluation.
For example, and I need to explain this cause it's very important to understand there are degrees of punishment consistent with degrees of sinfulness. ... So there is a more and a less tolerable punishment, fitting the level of sin.
Knowing this, all this foundation I just laid, that we're judged on our deeds, thoughts, and words, and that the punishment corresponds in relativity to other how many crimes they committed, let's turn now to two other verses.

And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60).

Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up His garments by casting lots. (Luke 23:34).

What does this mean? I'm sorry that after looking at the scriptures and many commentaries, I do not have an answer. I don't know how this plea turns out in the heavenlies. But my thoughts are, if punishment is relative, and if we plead with God to forgive a sinner's sin against us, would He remove that sin from their charge, reducing the severity of the punishment by a jot or a tittle? Stephen prayed so. Jesus did as well. It's worth thinking about.

You've heard, no doubt, in the earthly judicial system about a reduced charge. You've seen lawyers on TV plea bargaining and listing the charges and then the judge might decide to remove a charge or two and the person serves a sentence with a lesser degree of punishment. There legal terms are familiar to to you.

Recently the adult son of a well-known theologian-pastor was charged with two felonies and two misdemeanors. When it came time for sentencing they decided to forego a trial. The judge wiped one felony and two misdemeanors from the list of this man's charges and the man was only charged with one misdemeanor. He's serving 18 months of probation and no jail time. Some charges were removed and thus the punishment was lessened.

Jesus commanded in the Lord's prayer to forgive those who trespass against us. Is it too bold to plea that He remove the charge of those who trespassed against us from their list of crimes thus lessening their punishment? Stephen did not think it too bold. Does God actually do so if we pray it? I do not know.

I do know that when I pray for my enemies, and specifically for God to remove the charge of their crimes against me from the list of crimes which we know are ultimately perpetrated against Him, it is a prayer of grace and humility that changes me.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 4:3).

Can I forgive as God asked us to forgive? Can I pray this as Stephen had? If I think of others more highly than myself, I will.

Gill's Exposition says of the Acts 7 verse and Stephen:
Lord, lay not this sin to their charge: do not impute it to them, or place it to their account; let it not rise and stand in judgment against them, or they be condemned for it; grant them forgiveness for it, and for every other sin: there is a great deal of likeness between Christ and this first martyr of his at their deaths; Christ committed his Spirit into the hands of his Father, and Stephen commits his into the hands of Christ; both prayed for forgiveness for their enemies; and both cried with a loud voice before they expired; for so it follows here,
Pray for your enemies, for those who have done you wrong. God will dole out the punishment as He wills, but meanwhile, we grow in grace when we think of others more highly than ourselves, even our enemies, and plead witht he Lord to remove this charge from their list of deeds and not hold it against them

Pray for your enemies, for those who have done you wrong. God will dole out the punishment as He wills, the Lord knows, I do not know. But meanwhile, we grow in grace when we think of others more highly than ourselves, even our enemies, and plead with the Lord to remove this charge from their list of deeds and not hold it against them.



Thursday, November 9, 2017

The death of a Christian

And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60)

Today I want to look at the kind of death Christians are afforded, as opposed to the unsaved. Tomorrow I'll look at what Stephen cried out, the mater of pleading to the Judge for a reduced charge.

Death is the final frontier for unsaved people. That is the very edge of the precipice of knowledge which the unsaved person can tread. Beyond death, they do not know. And in the not knowing, they fear. What happens after death? Is there life? Do we blink out of existence? Death is the final frontier, and to the unsaved, ti's one from which no one ever returns. There is no hope.

William Shakespeare's character Hamlet said,
Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
...
To grunt and sweat under a weary life;
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
It surely puzzles the will. The world has spit up millions of poems, stories, essays, and books musing on 'the undiscovered country', and all are in vain, they only wind.

Yet that undiscovered country is one the born-again person knows well, from His word and through prayer, we are familiar with the other side. When, as Hamlet opined, 'we shuffle off this mortal coil' we know that we know that we know what lies ahead: glory, peace, perfection, and Light.

Some were blessed with glimpses of it on this side of the mortal coil. Stephen, when in the throes of preaching God's word to the Pharisees, was seen to have the countenance of an angel, because he saw the Lord standing beside the father. Paul said he had been afforded a glimpse of glory so inexpressible and beautiful he had no words to describe it. Moses, upon having been with God atop Mt. Zion, still permeated with His glory when he descended the mountain, his face shining so brightly the people were afraid.

When the unsaved attempt to gaze into the beyond they only see darkness, question marks, and unwelcoming shadows and gloomy fear, behind which their perception stalls.

The saved person has had their heart regenerated, eyes opened, and mind illuminated to the scriptures, knows what comes after death. Life! The peace one feels now that one is no longer at enmity with the Savior permeates all of a born-again person's life, even into and through death. Barnes' Notes says of the Acts scripture above:
how peaceful and calm is a death like that of Stephen, when compared with the alarms and anguish of a sinner! One moment of such peace in that trying time is better than all the pleasures and honors which the world can bestow;and to obtain such peace then, the dying sinner would be willing to give all the wealth of the Indies, and all the crowns of the earth. So may I die and so may all my readers - enabled, like this dying martyr, to commit my departing spirit to the sure keeping of the great Redeemer! When we take a parting view of the world; when our eyes shall be turned for the last time to take a look of friends and relatives; when the darkness of death shall begin to come around us, then may we be enabled to cast the eye of faith to the heavens, and say, "Lord Jesus, receive our spirits." Thus, may we fall asleep, peaceful in death, in the hope of the resurrection of the just.
What a blessing the Lord has given us, His imparted knowledge of what comes next. Even better, we have the assurance of His presence and love throughout eternity. No cold darkness for us! No gate of hell with sign affixed, as Dante mused,

"Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate", or "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."

Instead we may hear, as the servant in the parable heard,

‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:23).

Hamlet soliloquized upon contemplation of his suicide, ' to sleep, perchance to dream.' No, friend, we have the assurance of life beyond life, love, light, activity, and a reality so real this present mortal coil will become the dream instead.

Beyond this mortal coil, we will live where righteousness dwells. Pray to thank the Lord for His many manifold blessings.

EPrata photo


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Man Who Will Change the World

On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. Two days ahead of president-elect Barack Obama's inauguration, the Independent UK newspaper published this article:
John Rentoul: The man who will change the world
There will setbacks, there will be frustrations, but Barack Obama's presidency heralds a better future for his country and for us all.
It's nearly 9 years since that was written. Are you having a better future yet? If so, was it thanks to Obama? The article continued,
On that slight prospectus, he secured the support of the voters of the United States and, by proxy, the non-voters of the rest of the world, to assume leadership not just of the most powerful nation but of the entire planet.
I was unaware that by proxy, the American President was actually a Global King.

But that is how they viewed Obama. "The world will be a better place" the author concluded. He was sure that Obama was a savior come to rescue us from...whatever the secular world believes we need rescuing from.

Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, then and throughout his 2 terms, co-opted the word hope and twisted it into a political slogan that drained it of meaning. The Gentile world hopes for what they cannot see, do not know, and yearn for an unnameable something. They dwell in a cloud of foggy wisps of aspirations, desires, wishes, expectations, that cannot ever be grasped.

The born-again Christian knows that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1). Assurance and conviction are key words there.

The Obama debacle was a forerunner (in my opinion) of how the world seeks and will embrace the final false savior- The Antichrist. They look for a savior, a man, who will bring them temporal comfort, political savvy, global dynamism. They want someone handsome, accomplished, smooth-tongued, who will tell them everything will be all right and all they have to do is ride his coattails.

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. (1 John 2:18).

However, there is a prophecy that one is to come who will embody all the negative qualities of all sinners who ever existed. A man who will be so full of sin he is called The Man of Sin. (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

They want everything except the Man-God who tells them they need forgiveness of sin, to sacrifice self for neighbor, to help the poor and widows, to obey, to submit, and to release their hold on this world. Those words and concepts are anathema. The Man of Sin will speak much more flatteringly to the people and ignite their heart of what they really want. They want luxuries, delicacies, cargoes, and splendors. (Revelation 18:14). In other words, they want this world.

Anyone who does not believe in Jesus is an antichrist, little 'a', as John wrote-

In his place shall arise a contemptible person to whom royal majesty has not been given. He shall come in without warning and obtain the kingdom by flatteries. (Daniel 11:21).

The coming antichrist will be a man, a regular, mortal man, but satanically imbued with charisma, charm, apparent skill, deftness, and solutions, the world will go after him, hard.

This prophesied time that is not yet here, will be a time like the author wrote of when Obama rode the crest of popularity and was actually whispered to be a savior. The above author's glee and relief that a savior in Obama had come and the world will be fixed was not just his own, most of the world thought so too. Amplify that wave of popularity by ten thousand million and you have an idea of the reception the Antichrist will receive.

There is only one Man who can ever fix the world.

Jesus Christ is that Man, who is Man-God. He is creator of the world, reader of hearts, intercessor of His people, King above all, bringer of wrath.

He already came, taught, lived a sinless life, died as a sacrifice for redemption's sake, imputed His righteousness to those who confess Him, ascended into heaven, and has been building His church. He will come again. He will allow the Antichrist to have his time, prophesied for three and a half short years, but then The Man-God, Savior of the world will return in wrath and kill those who make war against Him.

Repent now, while Jesus is building His church and receives with grace, not wrath. Your sins would be forgiven, and thrown into a place as far as the east is from the west.

For whether is easier, to say, Your sins be forgiven you, or to say, Arise, and walk? (Matthew 9:5)

Barnes' Notes on the Bible
For whether is easier to say - Thy "sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise and walk?" The one involves divine "power," the other divine "authority," and neither can be done but by God. One is as easy as the other; and to be able to do the one, involves the right and the power to do the other.

Jesus is the only savior. Not any other man. Turn to Him now.




Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Why I love prophecy

In 2008 Pastor Phil Johnson wrote,
My own assessment would be that evangelicalism's spiritual condition at the beginning of the twenty-first century is reminiscent of the medieval church just prior to the Protestant Reformation.
No, I take it back. Things are much worse among evangelicals today than they were in the Catholic Church in those days. Modern and postmodern evangelicalism is just like medieval Catholicism was—only more superficial.
He made the same assessment again last week during the Reformation reminiscing.

The news just keeps getting more bewildering. Sometimes I look at people who perpetrate these heinous crimes and see these faux-pastors who perform blasphemous services and I think, Jesus please come.

Prophecy promises us that He IS returning. We don't know when, but I am glad to know, as I saw on Twitter, that "Evil has an expiration date."

Prophecy is all about movement. It is always moving toward fulfillment. For example, the lineage of Jesus was ordained from the beginning. Each generation of unions resulting in a child was a movement toward Mary's birth of the Messiah. Sometimes prophecy seems to be fulfilled suddenly, sometimes extremely so by those who have not been following it. Other times it was impossible to follow, as in the generations that preceded Jesus. Who knew that 1300 or so years prior to the birth of the Messiah that Rahab's faith would save her and that she would subsequently be included in the line that would produce the Savior? Who could know that the perfect line of generations that came before Him would result in the One who would fulfill all? So sometimes it seems to come out of the blue. But God's hand is always moving, His Divine Providence is always working in the world.

Divine providence is the means by and through which God governs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. This includes the universe as a whole (Psalm 103:19), the physical world (Matthew 5:45), the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7), human birth and destiny (Galatians 1:15), human successes and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Psalm 4:8)." (source)

So everything that happens, He is aware of, causes, or allows. And that means everything that happens is on a path toward fulfilled promises, including prophecy.

Is the movement speeding up? It feels like it. And what it is speeding up toward? Remember, the last days of the Tribulation is the end this age. It is the culmination of all of God's works regarding sin, with the exception of the short rebellion at the end of the 1000 year Millennium Kingdom.

If you are interested in studying eschatology AKA prophecy, AKA Last Things, AKA prophecy, good for you. Prophecy is pre-written history. It is a demonstration of the Bible's inspiration by the Holy Spirit and its accuracy as being a book delivered to us outside of time by our sovereign and omnipotent God. He proves Himself over and over by its accuracy and fulfillment. Israel's re-emergence in 1948, an prophetic fulfillment that occurred in some of our lifetimes, is an example. The fulfillment of prophecy and its constant movement toward fulfillment is the very word of God, validated.

God accomplishes prophecy: "Who confirms the word of His servant, And performs the counsel of His messengers; Who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited,’ To the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built,’ And I will raise up her waste places;" (Isaiah 44:26)

Ultimately, we study prophecy because Christ is THE great subject of it, since the beginning. We love prophecy because we trust His word, we love God's timeless sovereignty, and we want to seek the face of Christ, the great subject of all time.

"For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days." (Acts 3:22-24).


Monday, November 6, 2017

What happens to children who die?

When the September 11, 2001 attacks happened, television interviewer Larry King invited pastor-teacher John MacArthur to his program to discuss the event. King asked MacArthur, "What happens to babies who die?"

MacArthur simply replied "instant heaven." Knowing the vagaries of television, MacArthur explained later that he had purposely given a clear and short answer because he knew about sound bites. However, on the following Sunday he chose to further explain to his own flock the biblical reasoning behind his stance.

The Bible doesn't definitively declare one way or another where the unborn, stillborn, babies, and children go when they die. However, there is a cumulative body of scriptural evidence that supports the stance that they do go to heaven.

A horrific church massacre that happened in Texas this past Sunday, and several of the killed were children. A one-year-old, 5-year-old, 7-year-old, were among the killed, as well as a woman who was 8-months pregnant, so that unborn child died as well. I believe there were others, though their ages were not listed among the victims'list yet.

I thought it would be a good time to raise the issue again. What happens to children who die?

I can't begin to imagine the grief that the parents and relatives feel, especially of the youngsters who were killed. If we are believers,

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

We have hope of Jesus, eternal life, reunion with friends and relatives...and our children.

The 2003 book that emerged from MacArthur's series on the issue is called "Safe in the Arms of God".

Tim Challies reviewed it here,favorably.

We mourn when there is a tragedy - of any kind - but "our concerns related to death always seem more profound and heartrending when we are dealing with the death of a child. An accident or illness seems especially tragic and poignant when the life of a little one is lost," wrote John MacArthur.
According to Genesis 1:26-28, mankind was given the power to produce life in a deathless world. Adam and Eve were expected to "be fruitful and multiply" - to procreate and fill the earth with children who would never know death. God's original plan was that all lives ever conceived would live for all eternity." MacArthur, Safe in the Arms of God


We know that sin entered the world and death not only came into it but personally touched Adam and Eve, who lost their son.

I wrote about that here, in an essay titled after the painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau's rendition of the moment, called "The First Mourning." Adam and Eve lost their son to violence, and they wept knowing their sin brought its wages: death. No, Abel was not a youngster, but his loss must have been no less agonizing for the parents.

Please take a moment to read it. It's profound and encouraging.
Yet we are called to love. It is our love that is supposed to make us distinct from all others.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)

Hard, I know. I can't even tread close to the fire of anger and grief in the loss of a loved one. But knowing the child is safe in the arms of God offers a comfort and a mercy that should dissipate the anger and give room to forgiveness. "Lack of forgiveness destroys relationships" said John MacArthur in a recent sermon "Forgiveness in the Age of Rage".

This lack of forgiveness that destroys our relationships includes our relationship with God. Forgiving the one who murdered a child is necessary. Forgiving God who allowed the death of a child is necessary. Our relationships should be characterized by love, forgiveness, charity, and Gospel.
The little ones who died in the Sutherland Springs church massacre, and also the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012 where 20 children were gunned down, and all the other little ones who have died throughout the ages due to illness, war, or abortion, are safe in the arms of God.
The book is small and short, but scriptural as to explanations why those who die in the womb, infancy, or young are now safe in the arms of God. You can read it and be comforted or offer it as a comfort to one who is grieving.


The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

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Further reading

Forgiveness in the Age of Rage

The First Mourning - painting

These essays show from scripture why their authors believe children who die go to heaven.

Charles Spurgeon: Infant Salvation

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and Daniel L. Akin: The Salvation of the ‘Little Ones': Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?

John Piper: What Happens to Infants Who Die?

The Idlers at the Gate

‎This celebrated sixty-ninth psalm has been called the missionary’s psalm. It speaks of the miseries of one far from home and kindred, of o...