Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wayback Wednesday: The Bride Awaits her Groom

This first appeared on The End Time in February 2012

What a lovely and spotless bride Jesus is creating! We often look around and see the mud and grime of the world and despair. For those of us who are older, we remember innocent days when children played outside unsupervised, roamed the streets with sticks and balls and bats, safe and happy. We remember when crime was lower and people were nicer. Today is it pretty ugly out there, and that of course is because of sin. But...the Bride of Jesus is shining, spotless, and beautiful! Do not forget that! Wearing garments white as snow, standing by the crystal sea, singing praises to Jesus! His acceptance of all the wrath of God on our behalf made possible our entrance into heaven. Our ugly and putrid sins were forgiven through His sacrificial act.

This is the long betrothal period, when the bride is separated from her groom. The bride are all those people past, present and future in the Age of Grace who have believed on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, and His resurrection. We are anxious, waiting. We are making preparations such as remaining faithful. We are looking forward to the wedding day when everything will be perfect and we will be ready! (Revelation 19:7)

All brides on her wedding day are beautiful. She is radiant, and glowing and smiling and happy. Her white garment is spotless and adorns and wraps her gracefully. All the believers are installed in New Jerusalem, the holy city, which takes on the characteristics of the bride herself, because we who are His bride are in it. (Revelation 21:2).

"I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."

We are finally united with our Groom!

The world is ugly and putrid and dripping with evil and poison and sin. But that is not us, thanks to Jesus our Christ. We are not of the world. Believers are spotless and beautiful in Christ's eyes.

 "...Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." (Ephesians 25b-27)

Stand up, you believers, and make ready for the Groom. You are so pure and lovely in His eyes. We who eagerly await Him are also eagerly awaited BY Him!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Gadara & Sychar: A Tale of Two Towns

A Tale of Two Towns

Gadara, where Jesus healed a demoniac

When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. 35 Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 36 And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. (Luke 8:34-37).

Sychar, where Jesus met a woman at the well

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, "He told me all that I ever did." 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world." (John 4:39-42).

In one town, they saw Jesus perform a miracle, delivering the man from his legion of demons. Jesus demonstrated his sovereignty over creation, including the demons in the spiritual realm. The people saw, and rejected.

In another town, one woman's testimony, a well-known immoral woman, seemed to have been changed. Her shame was gone, or at least diminished in the face of the incredible news that this man who told her all she ever (shamefully) did (but seemed to love her anyway), could be the Christ.

Things to ponder:

1. Just because they witnessed a miracle does not mean that belief always follows. Some believed because of the signs (John 2:11, John 2:23, John 11:45). Others saw signs and miracles and did not believe (John 11:46).

2. Far from being dry, dusty, and unnecessary, doctrine leads one to faith and repentance. Doctrine is the act of teaching or that which is taught. "Doctrine is teaching imparted by an authoritative source." (GotQuestions). Like the Bereans who consulted the word after hearing Paul, the townsmen of Sychar were open to hearing Jesus teach. They listened and heard. "And many more believed because of his word".

3. Some in the same crowd or the same room or the same family believe, and others don't. That's the way it always has been and always will be. Some wonder why that is when we all have free will. Our will isn't as free as one thinks it is. Our will is a slave to sin, it's bound. Belief comes when Jesus opens ears and eyes to see and repent, gives a spirit of repentance. He intervenes from outside of earth, outside of ourselves, from heaven and breaks the binding of our soul to sin by giving us the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in us that can awaken our dead soul. Picture Lazarus dead in grave cloths, awakened by the sovereign call of Jesus. That was a picture of God's sovereign election of individuals to save whom He decided in eternity past to save, before history began. Did Lazarus have free will? Only to remain dead.
The Reformed view of election, known as unconditional election, means that God does not foresee an action or condition on our part that induces Him to save us. Rather, election rests on God’s sovereign decision to save whomever He is pleased to save. (Source: Ligonier, Tulip & Reformed Theology: Unconditional Election)
Two towns, Gadara and Sychar. Two individuals in the same family, the unconverted and the saved. One rejects and departs, one repents and believes. Continue to pray for those in unbelief.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Bible reading Plan thoughts: Hagar in the desert

Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness, Gustave Doré
Today's Bible reading Plan brings us to Genesis 16-19.

There are so many powerful moments in the bible. Where does one begin? Genesis 1, God creates everything, are verses that are awesome to ponder. The resurrection, when Jesus emerged from the tomb alive. God is all-powerful.

There are thunderous moments too. When Mt Sinai trembles, when God was in the earthquake, when He split the ground under Korah and closed it back up again. God is to be feared.

But there are tender moments too. The God of thunder and wrath and all-power is so tender. I'm not one of these who believes the wrathful God is the Old Testament turned into the sensitive ("boyfriend") Jesus of the New Testament. Read Revelation and you see it is the same God of wrath and anger against unrighteousness and sin. In the Old Testament (as well as the New), there are very tender moments which show us our Holy God is everything. He is simply everything good- including tenderness.

In Genesis 16 we see Hagar running away from Sarai, who was abusing Hagar in jealousy because Abram got Hagar pregnant (at Sarai's urging) and Hagar conceived. Sarai didn't.

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the Lord said to her,

“Behold, you are pregnant
    and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
    because the Lord has listened to your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
    his hand against everyone
    and everyone's hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
 She sat in the desert, alone,

So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,”[d] for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”
(Genesis 16:7-12).

In Genesis 21:15-19, slave girl Hagar had been misused by Sarah (and Abraham). She and her son Ishmael ran away to the wilderness, and there, thirsty, alone, and weak, they prepared to die.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. 16Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.

"God heard", "The Angel of God" [Jesus] called to her from heaven. He assured her. He made promises to her. He opened her eyes so she could drink. What direct, intimate ministration from Holy God in heaven!

Speaking up for discernment ministries

Aw. Poor discernment ministries. They are getting such a bad rap these days.

Richard Caldwell tweeted,

That makes sense, and I agree. However the "scare quotes" might not be totally necessary. Discerning the true from the false is a Ministry. Not a "Ministry".

Randy White says there's a Sickness in Discernment Ministries(Not THAT Randy White)
I can only think of a few things that the church needs more today than discernment. But I am completely convinced that discernment ministry is not the way the church is going to gain this discernment.

Perhaps this author and I have a different view of the goal of discernment ministries. The individual Christian is the one responsible responsible for cultivating their discernment, not ministries external to the local church. They are a resource, not the sole training ground for the Christian. Hebrews 5:14 says,

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

So, whether or not we specifically possess the spiritual gift, we're supposed to practice discernment constantly and train ourselves to detect good from evil, or as Charles Spurgeon says, detecting right from almost right. The pastor, if he preaches expositionally verse-by-verse, helps his people learn discernment because they are getting a good grounding in the word. Daily study and weekly sermons and personal study are the training we need in order to discern. We don't rely on outside ministries to train us. We do consult ministries as an additional resource. Discernment ministries can be a good educational source, but a secondary one. So, in that sense, no, external discernment ministries are not the way the church is going to gain this discernment - or shouldn't. However, that isn't their intent.

Pastor John Chester of Piedmont Bible Church and Parking Space 23, says that we need discernment. However, in his view, "many of my concerns about many of these ministries have been magnified as some prominent ones have degenerated into de facto internet gossip columns and platforms to pursue personal grudges against pastors, theologians and churches." Further, he believes 'they are unbiblical, they are unhealthy, they are not very helpful, they often have significant blindspots' and Pastor Chester has sworn off them.

Yes, some of these ministries have devolved. That's sad but true. But swearing off all discernment ministries because a few, and I say a few, have devolved, is throwing the baby out with the bathwater in my opinion. Satan has the purpose and ability to corrupt every ministry that's based on a spiritual gift. He has corrupted Preaching. He has corrupted Helps. He has corrupted Missions. He has corrupted Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, and Leadership. Discernment is no different. Or maybe it is, because discernment is the gift that aids the Christian in detecting when any spiritual gift-based ministry locally or globally is going adrift.

Eric Barger writes When Discernment Turns Ugly, that "Until the Church rejects the venomous battering of Christians by other Christians merely pushing their pet theologies, we will continue to exist in various "us and them" camps where some are simply intent on impugning others for the sake of making points with their followers and proving themselves "right." "


But again, I agree to a point. Some Discernment Ministries that devolve entrench themselves into an us-and-them camp. Paul warned about dividing into camps based on who the leader is. (1 Corinthians 1:12). This isn't new. It's an old tendency not restricted to Discernment Ministries. Not new are theological debates with entrenched sides and camps. (Synod of Dort, anyone?). Sometimes theological debates on gross or fine points of theology are important, and by necessity, whenever you have debates, there are sides. That's OK sometimes. Good debates help the cause and keep the doctrinal lines clear. Bad debates can simply be ignored. It's that simple.

Add to this, biblical illiteracy is at an all-time high. Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace To You and a pastor at GraceLife, and a conference speaker, said recently that he believes that the state of the church now equals or exceeds the doctrinal mess and moral decay evident in Corinth. Isn't it interesting that just when biblical literacy and by extension, discernment, is most needed, discernment ministries are being tarnished and urged to be done away with? Another brick in the wall.

There is a great need for discernment.

Pastor Gabriel Hughes of First Southern Baptist Church in Junction City, KS and the voice of When We Understand the Text ( said this week,
Just witnessed to 36 high school students, mostly churched. I asked them, "How do we talk to God?" Unanimously they said, "Prayer!" I then asked, "How does God talk to us?" They said revelations, visions, voices, dreams, someone said, "He just does." No one said the Bible.
This week also, a pastor studying in a Maine seminary wrote a short letter to the editor at Lighthouse Trails, mourning the lack of discernment in seminaries and churches.
Letter to Editor: Pastor Studying at Christian College in Maine Discouraged by Lack of Discernment

Yet discernment ministries are getting slammed

Michelle Lesley does a gracious and expert job of defending discernment ministry. Again.
Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections

You notice that lack of discernment in general arose during an era when expositional preaching is in decline. Topical, hip preaching based on felt needs and pragmatism (whatever works) was the fad these last couple of decades. And as a result, lack of discernment has risen. Since it is not to be found in many local churches, or is absolutely rejected when brought up, then the need for outside ministries filled that need for many. People searched for confirmation of the things they were identifying in various books, sermons, ministries and the like in their home churches. They weren't getting help at home, so they went to web-based ministries. At least they were trying to follow the Hebrews verse. Good for them. Good for the good Discernment Ministries that were able to provide good information.

I was blessed. Back in 2011, I had a difficult time accepting that Beth Moore was a credible teacher. Yet everyone around me was applauding her and enthusiastically using her books and materials. I broached the question respectfully to a leader and received a less than respectful reply. Unknown to me then, I was also marked as a troublemaker. When the leadership later flogged Jentezen Franklin's Daniel Fast book from the pulpit and urged us all to publicly contract to do his Fasting Plan, I again respectfully questioned it. I was veritably tossed out on my ear. But in between those two events I searched online for help with the Beth Moore issue and Franklin's Daniel Fast issue. Chris Rosebrough was helpful with the Moore issue. He not only declared that she was wrong, but taught why, point by point. In this practical fashion, I learned how to discern. Tim Challies' book reviews and John MacArthur's expositional preaching helped so much also.

In my experience, far from Discernment Ministries promoting "venomous battering of Christians by other Christians merely pushing their pet theologies" as Eric Barger said above, I've seen venomous battering of Christians by other Christians for merely questioning their pet teachers. But these internal bickerings, protections of pet teachers and theologies, and take-downs, are invisible when they happen inside a church. More noisy and visible are the few Discernment Ministries crashing spectacularly. Those get the attention. But the real problem is inside churches that marginalize discerners, and fail to cultivate knowledgeable members through preaching strong and correct biblical doctrine.

To me, the big issue isn't discernment ministries. It's lack of discernment from elders, pastors, and leaders who are actively teaching inside local churches. And it's lack of tolerance or respect to hear those members out when an issue does arise who either trying to follow Hebrews 5:14's example, or specifically attempting to edify their home church via the spiritual gift of discernment .

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

Discernment is both a duty of every Christian and a spiritual gift given to some for the purpose of edifying the body.

As with all spiritual gifts, it's incumbent upon the gift to use it wisely for the edification of the local body. (1 Corinthians 14:3-5, 12, 17, 26; Ephesians 4:12). If you have the gift of discernment, please use it wisely and humbly. We would say the same about those with the gift of giving, helps, leadership, teaching, mercy, and the rest.

Most discernment ministries (or ministries that partly deal with discernment among other issues) are good. Justin Peters Ministries, Michelle Lesley, Gabe Hughes/WWUTT, Tim Challies, DebbieLynne Kespert, Chris Rosebrough, Phil Johnson, Berean Research,, and others manage to maintain a clean discernment ministry and also use their other gifts in balance, and do so wisely, humbly, and doctrinally. There are many others I could name.

This issue arose because some false brothers were brought in under false pretenses to spy on our freedom in Christ Jesus, in order to enslave us. (Galatians 2:4)

If there was somebody out there who could correctly help us avoid enslavement to false doctrines, why would we want to say no that that?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: The power of greed

And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:34)

Yesterday's Bible Reading in Matthew 8-10 has a tremendous scene where Jesus traveled to Gadara, where there were two demon-possessed men. The men were wild, unclothed, screaming demonically and tearing apart rocks and breaking the chains the people put on them to hold them back. They did not let anyone pass that area, and they lived in the tombs. If there was ever a living monster, these two men were it. (Luke 8:26-39 holds more details than the Matthew verse).

Imagine the pain the demon-possessed men were in. Their spiritual despair, their grief, their torment. Imagine the upset they caused for the people of the region, with commerce and trade and simple passage having to be altered just to avoid them. The night-time screams, the scared children, the harm that undoubtedly had come to hapless victims who ventured too near.

In a miraculous moment, Jesus healed the men and dispatched the demons. The man was clothed and in his right mind. All the people of the area came out to see it. What did they do? Did they praise Jesus for His sovereignty over all creation, even demons? Did they congratulate and welcome the man who was now returned to human habitability? Did they fall down and worship the One who was obviously the Messiah? No. They didn't do any of that.

They were more concerned about their money. Their pigs were dead. "Jesus, go away! You ruined our commerce!"

Avarice is a strong motivator. Don't underestimate greed. Greed is the basis for false teachers to perpetuate lies. (2 Peter 2:32; 2 Corinthians 2:17). Loving money too much is the root of all evil. (1 Timothy 6:10). How shocking and sad their greed blinded them to the wonders of God. They preferred the pigs.

EPrata photo

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Children of the kingdom thrown into outer darkness?

We might be startled to read these words (promises) from Jesus in today's Bible Plan reading:

But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 8:12).

Aren't the children of the kingdom of Jesus assured of entry into it? Yes. And no. It all comes down to, which children of the kingdom did He mean?

Barnes' Notes explains:
The children of the kingdom - That is, the children, or the people, who "expected the kingdom," or to whom it properly belonged; or, in other words, the Jews. they supposed themselves to be the special favorites of heaven. They thought that the Messiah would enlarge their nation and spread the triumphs of their kingdom. They called themselves, therefore, the children or the members of the kingdom of God, to the exclusion of the Gentiles. Our Saviour used the manner of speech to which they were accustomed, and said that "many of the pagans would be saved, and many Jews lost."
Jews by ethnicity were not assured of entry to the Kingdom of Jesus. Jews by works of keeping the ceremonial law were not assured of entry into it. Only by faith in the Messiah, on the graceful foundation and simple childlike faith after repentance assures one of entry to it. Mary knew this. Simeon knew this. Anna knew this. In the Matthew verse, Jesus is warning the self-satisfied not to rely on ethnicity, but upon faith in the One who created them.

William Blake illustration for Robert Blair's poem "The Grave".

Friday, January 26, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Prophecy for Egypt

Our daily Bible Reading Plan for today is Isaiah 18-22. Isaiah 19 is one of my most favorite chapters in the Bible. I love God's prophecies and this one at the end of chapter 19 is a great one.

The near future of Egypt is extremely dim. If you read Isaiah 19 it foretells of some dire things for the Egyptian people. The prophetic chapter is easy to read and understand. Toward the end of the chapter, the future becomes gloriously brighter as we read verse 20 to verse 25:

"When they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them. And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them. In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Assyria will come into Egypt, and Egypt into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”

Those are the only three nations to be specifically mentioned as existing in the Millennium Kingdom and even more incredible is that each receives a specific compliment from the Lord unique to them. He considers Egypt His people...and why not, Hosea 11:1 reminds us, "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son." He allowed Egypt to shelter His own Son when Herod was chasing Him.

The fact that He calls Egypt back to Himself in the above verses is so wonderful to read. Tears come to my eyes when I read of how specific His plans are and how perfectly they all come together.

There will be a highway...worshipers will flow to the source.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Sleepless Job

Our Bible Reading Plan brings us to Job 7-8 today. Poor Job!

When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. (Job 7:13-15)

Job is so tormented he can't even relieve his daytime suffering through sleep or rest. He tosses so badly with the specter of visions and dark thoughts that he would rather choose death.

Not to compare my sufferings with Job's but I was in a period almost 20 years ago where I was daily tormented and in the night, I could not sleep. I'd close my eyes and toss and turn and my mind would not turn off and I relived all the agonies of the day all over again. If the sleep was there, it was shallow.

I was working 16-18 hours in the day and I'd soooo yearn for sleep and a refreshing rest, that I'd eagerly look forward to a good sleep. But I never got it.

Perplexed as to my nightly torments, even on vacation,
I took a photo in wonderment of my visible struggle.
Even on vacation far away from the place of my troubles and cares, I'd toss so that the bed clothes would veritably be twisted in an abhorrent embodiment of the agonies I was enduring even while unconscious. It got so that when bed-time arrived, I'd just stand at the bed and glare at it, as if it was a bed of nails, it being a punishing enemy and not the welcoming friend it should be.

After a while with struggle so deep and relief nowhere to be found, even in sweet rest that constantly eludes, I can well understand Job's feeling.

Thankfully, our seasons of struggle do not last forever, if we are in Christ. Job did not know that God had already pronounced him blameless. (Job 1:8). The Preacher Solomon reminds us that there is a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) but he also said that,

no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11b).

As far as we know, Job never knew about God's conversation with satan. He never knew about the activity regarding him that occurred in the heavenlies and perpetrated by demons against him on earth. The point of the book of Job was to vindicate God's integrity and His wisdom, not Job's. Job's  task was to persevere in trusting God through it all.

And so it was.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: The Terrible Duty of Truth

Our Bible Reading Plan for today brings us to some difficult Psalms, Psalms 9-11.

I love these Psalms where David exhorts to God for justice, for the wicked to perish, for nations that rebel to be put down.

In today's loving and tolerant climate, such imprecations are seen as unworthy of the Christian.

But they're not.

The wicked (as we all were, to be sure) who reject the kingship of Messiah and refuse to repent, do polluted things against our most Holy God. These things are evil, they are wrong, they are a grief and a cause for mourning in the Christian that our God should have mud splattered on His holy name. We concentrate so long on the wicked person, praying for salvation, urging repentance, we forget the reason we do these things is to proclaim the name of Jesus among men and urge men everywhere to repent of the evil they do against Him.

I'm with John MacArthur when he said in his book Found: God's Will:
"If the truth offends, then let it offend. People have been living their whole lives in offense to God; let them be offended for a while." John Macarthur
In today's Psalm, David said,

The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. (Psalm 9:17)

O, terrible thought! It gives me no delight to proclaim the fact of hell and the individual's sure condemnation of those who reject Jesus. It gives no consolation to know that nations will fall into the lake of fire to remain trapped in punishing fire for all eternity. Yet Spurgeon said it so well,
Many of God’s ministers have been accused of taking pleasure in preaching upon this terrible subject of "the wrath to come." Indeed we would be strange beings if so doleful a subject could afford us any comfort. I should count myself to be infinitely less than a man, if it did not cause me more pain in speaking about the impending sentence of condemnation, than it can possibly cause my hearers in the listening to it. 
God’s ministers, I can assure you, if they feel it to be often their solemn duty, feel it always to be a heavy burden to speak about the terrors of the law. To preach Christ is our delight; to uplift his Cross is the joy of our heart; our Master is our witness, we love to blow the silver trumpet, and we have blown it with all our might. But knowing the terror of the Lord, these solemn things lie upon our conscience, and while it is hard to preach about them, it would be harder still to bear the doom which must rest upon the silent minister...

Reminding the world of the wrath to come is part of the terrible duty of truth. We stand firm in it.

Photo EPrata

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Spectacular earth as seen in low flying drone photos

The headline hooked me

20 of the Most Spectacular Drone Photographs of 2017

The photos stunned me.

I have always loved the view from above. When I was small, maybe between 6 or 8 years old, we started vacationing on Cape Cod during summers. At some point we ended up in Provincetown. This is a town at the very tip of that arms that curls out into Massachusetts Bay. It's the end of the Cape. At the elbow is a lighthouse called Wood End.

In one of these vacations, my father paid for a scenic plane ride. Barnstormers with biplanes were popular then and one of them appealed my dad and he and I and my brother went up. I'll never forget the utter beauty of the scene. The winds were calm and so the Bay was calm too. Vivid blue bay with a curling arm of green dune grass fringed by tan sand until the tip, where the sand trailed off into the ocean like a dream fragment. The short lighthouse was at the elbow, dune grass waving all around it but the lighthouse motionless as a sentinel. One lone man sat nestled against the lighthouse, his back to it and knees drawn up, staring out to sea. It was a serene moment, and the memory of it from above stays with me.

I love photos from above.

So, intrigued, I clicked on My Modern Met's link of the spectacular drone pics of 2017. With drones becoming a personal item even the layman can use, photos from above are becoming more popular. I looked at the pictures, admiring the loveliness of God's earth. I love maps, topography, satellite photos, all of it. Drone pics are right up my alley.

The photos display the wonder and variety of earth. If you think about Genesis 1, God made it all inside of a week. It's astounding to think of His creation from the perspective of a saved person. I can attribute all of it to Him, which is a relief and a joy.

I wonder what God thinks of us as he looks down. We truly are children from His daunting perspective. Even from the perspective of a few hundred feet up, we look like children on a playground.

I hope you enjoy these photos, and there are more at the link. Praise our God for His creaive wonders of earth, plants, seas, flowers, animals, and people. Enjoy His might in upholding it all with a word. Just enjoy the prettiness.

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
Psalm 33:6

More at the link

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Till Shiloh Comes

And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.(Joshua 18:1)

Our Bible Reading Plan for today is Joshua 16-20. There is a lot of land-giving and border-setting in these passages. The Land is extremely important. Interesting to me is the mention of Shiloh.

This mention of the city 25 or so miles north of Jerusalem is intriguing. This is partly because it was the location of the tabernacle for 400 years. From this point on and for the next 4 centuries. the Israelites worshiped here.

And partly because it could be a prophetic, Messianic title for Jesus. Genesis 49:10 KJV has the prophecy-

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.

For some reason the phrase "till Shiloh come" moves me. I certainly have no real knowledge of either the city of Shiloh nor the prophecy as stated in Genesis 49. So let's dig in. Here is what we know about the place of Shiloh-
SHILOH A town in Mount Ephraim. Its location is described in the Bible as ‘a place which is on the north side of Beth-El, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-El to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah’ (Judg. 21:19). Shiloh was a religious center of the tribes and after the conquest of the country by Joshua the tabernacle of the congregation was set up there (Josh. 18:1). It was there also that Joshua distributed allotments to the tribes who had not previously received them (Josh. 18:2–10). The house of God (Judg. 18:31) in which Eli and his sons officiated was at Shiloh, and God appeared there before Samuel (1 Sam. 1:19; 3:1 ff.). Source: Negev, A. (1990). In The Archaeological encyclopedia of the Holy Land
Shiloh itself as a name or a word has been difficult to interpret with lots of academic discussion.
The only possible mention of Shiloh in the Pentateuch is at Gen 49:10, where the word occurs within Jacob’s blessing of Judah. However, the interpretation of this word is contested. There are five interpretations of this word (Fitzmyer, The One, 29):

• It is a personal name.
• It is the name of the city.
• It is an Akkadian loanword meaning “ruler” or “prince.”
• It means “to whom it belongs,” referring to the scepter.
• It should appear as two words meaning “tribute to him.”

If the occurrence in Gen 49:10 is a reference to the city of Shiloh, then it is spelled differently here than elsewhere in the Old Testament. Source The Lexham Bible Dictionary.
And one more:
The book of Psalms contains one reference to Shiloh (Psa 78:60), and the book of Jeremiah contains five. Besides the passing geographical reference in Jer 41:5, all of the references in these two books indicate that Yahweh purposely rejected Shiloh as the place where He would make His name dwell, choosing Jerusalem instead (Psa 78:60; Jer 7:12, 14; 26:6, 9). Schley suggests Psalm 78 refers to Yahweh’s abandonment of Shiloh with the loss of the ark (Psa 78:60–61), while Jeremiah refers to the later destruction of the city (Schley, Shiloh, 171–72). Finkelstein disagrees, arguing instead that they refer to the same incident (Finkelstein, Shiloh, 385–387). Ultimately, both texts speak of the theological reality of the importance of Jerusalem. Source: The Lexham Bible Dictionary.

Ruins of an ancient synagogue at the site of the city of Shiloh.
Source Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1487).

No explicit biblical reference was made to Shiloh’s final fate. According to archaeological evidence, Shiloh apparently was destroyed about 1050 B.C. by the Philistines. Supporting this was the fact that when the Philistines finally returned the ark of the covenant, it was housed at Kiriathjearim rather than Shiloh (1 Sam. 7:1). Also, Jeremiah warned Jerusalem that it might suffer the same destructive fate as Shiloh (7:12).
Centuries later, Jeremiah used Shiloh and the tabernacle as illustrations to warn Jerusalem that it was not safe merely because it housed the temple (7:12–14). Hearing the same message again, the people sought to kill Jeremiah (26:6–9). Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary 
That was Shiloh the place. What about Shiloh the Messiah, if that is how the word is to be interpreted?
"nor a lawgiver from between His feet until Shiloh come," that's the messianic promise. Shiloh means the one who is right it is or the one to whom it belongs. There's going to be a king and He's going to hold the sceptre and He'll be from the line of Judah. Now watch the end of the verse, "unto Him shall the gathering of the people be." Listen to me, the first time Jesus came was the gathering of the people to Him. No, John says He came unto His own and what? His own received Him not. He was in the world, the world was made by Him and what? The world knew Him not. That prophecy has not yet been fulfilled beloved. Therefore He must return. ~John MacArthur
Praise God for the soon return of Shiloh, the messiah, Jesus the Christ.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Pay closer attention, lest we drift away: A sailing story

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. (Hebrews 2:1).

The question was raised at Bible Family Group last night, how does a Christian prevent developing a hardened heart? One wise older man said by staying in the Word.

The word is the only antidote for developing poor habits, shrinking our biblical worldview, and drifting away. I agree.

The word drift away used in the Hebrews verse in Greek means-

properly, to float (flow) alongside, drifting past a destination because pushed along by current. /pararrhyéō ("drift away from") only occurs in Heb 2:1 where it refers to going spiritually adrift – "sinning by slipping away" (from God's anchor). 3901 /pararrhyéō ("gradually drift away") means to "lapse" into spiritual defeat, describing how we slowly move away from our moorings in Christ.

Paul often used nautical allusions and marine metaphors. Last night at Family Group I'd shared the experience from when I was living on the sailboat that relates to the verse. We usually sailed during the day, unless we were on an overnight passage out in the ocean. But if we traveled down the Intracoastal Waterway, we'd find a snug spot to anchor in at night and went to bed after the sun sank.

The anchor becomes all-important. The anchor holds you in place, prevents you from drifting and damaging other boats anchored or moored nearby, and keeps you afloat rather than crashing into the rocks or going aground.

We spent a lot of time tending the anchor. When we initially set it, we'd take time to ensure it was set correctly. Is the rode taut and not tangled? Are the flukes digging into the ground? Is there enough depth under us for when we swing with the tide or current?

Then we'd watch it a while. We took reference points ashore to compare with our position. One reference point isn't really enough. Drift is deceptive and incremental. You could be drifting away and still seem like you're lined up with the same reference point. So we'd take two references. Three references are better so you can triangulate.

During the night, we'd sleep lightly, listening carefully for any change in the pattern of the waves slapping the bow, or any other untoward noises that meant there was likely a problem.

We spent a lot of time tending the anchor.

Do I spend an equal amount of time tending the anchor of my spiritual life, the Word? Do I treat it carefully, thoughtfully? Do I employ reference points to ensure I'm not drifting? Reference points in our spiritual lives that help us against drifting away from the truth are: visiting our prayer closet, studying His word, corporate worship, small groups, discipling and being discipled, and so on. Are we in position, standing firm in the center line of that narrow way, not going to the right or the left? Are we vigilant, listening for any variation in pattern of our sanctification in life?

We spent much time tending the anchor because our lives depended on it. We should take an even greater amount of time tending the anchor of our spiritual life because our spiritual life depends on it. When Paul says we must pay closer attention, the word in Greek means exceedingly, abundantly, vehemently.

When man sails upon the waters, he is not in his element. It is a foreign environment. It's an environment that's hostile, with many things in it either actively or benignly trying to kill him. Just so, Christian man on earth is not in his element. There are many things in this environment actively or benignly trying to kill him. We should pay the closest attention so we do not drift away. Remember all the nature documentaries...what always happens to the gazelle that lags behind and is alone?

Stay anchored to the Word, in position, with lots of reference points and a growing biblical worldview :)

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Abram Built an Altar

I first published part of this on The End Time 8 years ago in 2010. It aligns well with our Bible Reading Plan reading for today.


Genesis is such an amazing book of the bible. In re-reading Genesis 12, I was again astounded by the depth and complexity of human history and our relationship with God. Gen. 12 is the famous chapter in which God called Abram (later name changed to Abraham) and made a significant promise:
I will make you a great nation; ... I will bless those who bless you. And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:2a & 3a)
You can be sure that the promise of God is solid, and that we are seeing the curse of nations who curse Israel beginning before our eyes. In verse 7 of Genesis 12, "Then the LORD appeared to Abram," God appeared to Abraham. God appeared to Abram! Think on that for a moment. The El-Shaddai, the I AM, the ALMIGHTY, appeared to a man, walked with him, spoke to him, comforted him, and commanded him. It is a shuddering thought to ponder the gravity of those moments. That gravity was not lost on Abraham, who built altars to Him all over the Land wherever he went. Abraham did not build houses for himself, he built altars to God.
Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." And there he built an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. And he moved from there to the mountain east of Bethel, and he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; there he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. So Abram journeyed, going on still toward the South.
Abraham built altars right away, to mark his obedience to the LORD, and to sacrifice and worship. When Abraham came back from Egypt, "to the place of the altar which he had made there at first. And there Abram called on the name of the LORD." (Gen. 13:3-4) which is another way of saying worship and sacrifice. When Abraham and Lot had separated and Abram moved to the region of Hebron, he "built an altar there to the Lord" (Gen. 13:18).

Abraham communed with the LORD by building altars for worship. Building an altar is an intentional, physical act. Worshiping on front of an altar is an intentional, physical act. When Abraham returned from Egypt, Abraham saw the altar he had originally made and 'called on the name of the LORD' in worship and thanks. In this case, the altar was a reminder of his relationship with the great I AM.

We do not need to build altars, but we do need to be as dedicated and as intentional as Abraham in our relationship with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, our Triune God. You note that when Abraham and Lot separated, there was no mention of Lot building an altar to the LORD. Lot was with Abraham when Abraham got the calling from God (Gen. 12:5) and was with Abraham throughout the blessing of his peoples' increase. Lot saw God working in his family's life. He reaped the blessings of Abraham's obedience. But Lot did not build an altar.

And from the biblical record we see how the distance between man and God can slowly grow when we fail to consistently commune with the LORD. Lot crept toward Sodom, closer and closer he pitched his tent, until he was finally living inside the city with all its sin and perversity. Though the sins of the city grieved Lot greatly (2 Pet. 2:6-8) Lot did not build an altar. And in the end, Lot lost his city, his possessions, his family, his wife, ("Remember Lot's wife" Luke 17:32) and sin fell upon his daughters, who lay with their father.

We do not build altars ... but we pray. Our part of the correspondence between ourselves and God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is maintained through prayer, corporate worship, Bible study, and fellowship in the body of the believers. Is your heart an altar to I AM? Do you pray constantly? Do you worship in faith and obedience, as Abraham did? No? Remember Lot's wife.

Build an altar of prayer in your life. There will be comfort and attention of the I AM Himself!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Setting our Minds

But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:6).

Hallelujah! He has made a way for us to be released from both the eternal convicting aspect of the Law (which does not save but only informs) and the bondage of sin through His Son and His Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5).

I notice the active facet of this verse. They have set their minds. Paul means that Christians purposely intend setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. It doesn't happen by osmosis. In another epistle, Paul said:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8).

The phrase 'set their minds' comes from the Greek word phronousin, the meaning from Strong's is defined,
5426 phronéō (from 5424 /phrḗn, "the midriff or diaphragm; the parts around the heart," J. Thayer) – properly, regulate (moderate) from within, as inner-perspective (insight) shows itself in corresponding, outward behavior. 5426 (phronéō) essentially equates to personal opinion fleshing itself out in action (see J. Thayer). This idea is difficult to translate into English because it combines the visceral and cognitive aspects of thinking.
Again, I mention the intention. We have to purposely set our minds to know, then act. Christianity is a thinking religion. We are constantly transforming our mind into the mind of Christ, day by day, step by step, inch by inch...

To live by the Spirit we set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

John MacArthur on Romans 8:5, The Transforming Work of the Spirit, part 1
There is as clear a definition of the distinction between a believer and a non-believer as you will find anywhere. Believers set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Non-believers set their minds on the things of the flesh. That couldn't be more clear. Again, I remind you that this is a matter of behavior. Listen carefully. Behavior based on the word "walk" in verse 4, but behavior is a product of what? The mind. Thinking.

What are the things of the Spirit that we set our minds on? From the same sermon,
These people are in the realm of the Spirit and are drawn by the truest impulses in their heart to the Spirit. They submit to His direction. They concentrate their attention, purpose, desire on whatever is precious to the Holy Spirit. They love what He loves. They... That's what it means when it says, They...they seek the things of the Spirit."
Think on these things...

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Sins in the heart

In our Bible Reading Plan today we read Matthew 5-7.

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:28)

Here's a bit of hiostory for you. President Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States. He was elected in November 1976 when I was almost 16. He served one term until I was 20 years old.

He was an active Christian, the first one I'd had any 'contact' with. In my personal life growing up, religion didn't play a role at all. I knew no Christians. Because Carter was a public figure, President, his beliefs were public and often passed before my eyes in TV interviews and newscasts as he was interviewed about them.

During Carter's campaign he was interviewed by a freelance writer for an article to be published in Playboy Magazine. Carter offered unprompted,
"I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times."
Time Magazine's opinion of the incident was put this way:
The decision to do an interview with Playboy magazine was possibly not the best call of President Carter's tenure. Yet, it was all going pretty well until he started talking about the Bible and adultery. Now, Carter's not actually admitting anything shocking. Most men would probably say, "Yep, been there." But presidents rarely (and for good reason) venture into the land of "too much information": Ideally, they should exist on a higher plane than the rest of us. It was an uncomfortable moment for America.
I agree with the secular view of offering too much unprompted information. We all want to dwell in a fiction of our leaders being above reproach. But since Carter said it, and I heard it, I was left with the problem of trying to figure out what it meant. Having no knowledge of the Bible, I was strenuously trying to reconcile my own knowledge of sin, which I called immorality. I didn't understand that sin came from a completely depraved heart. Being unsaved, I thought sin was a private matter, nobody's business. Adultery I well understood, having two parents who both indulged in it. It seemed wrong to me but I was too young to have any firm basis for saying so. However I believed that thoughts about adultery were one's own and thus a private matter.

I learned after salvation that God reads the heart and knows the intentions of man. Sin actually springs from the heart and mind. All sins, even the unacted-upon sins, even thoughts only, are just as damaging. But back then, it was perplexing to me that a man should feel ashamed of his 'normal' thoughts. As long as he didn't act on it, I thought he should be termed "a good man." I thought Carter was silly for saying anything about it.

The Matthew verse today shows me that I was the silly one. Carter might have made a political faux pas, but he was biblically correct. It's wrong to commit adultery in your thoughts. What a radical thought. It was to me then, and the reactions of the listeners of the sermon on the mount and others later thought so too. (Matthew 7:28-29; John 6:60). Guard your thought life.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: The Howl in Isaiah

Our Bible Reading Plan for today is Isaiah 12-17. The cycle in the Prophets is one of promise of judgment, judgment, repentance, and restoration. Repeat. The judgment parts are rough. In the passage from chapter 13, in the KJV we read,

Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. (Isaiah 13:6)

The promised judgment was coming soon, and it did. This chapter also looks ahead to the final judgment of Babylon in the Day of the LORD as seen in Revelation 18:2. Isaiah 12 was a comforting passage, a song of praise. Then in this chapter we get to the promise of destruction against that most unholy of cities: Babylon. I read once someone termed the Bible as a tale of Two Cities: Babylon and Jerusalem. They weren't far off.

Of course, what the cities represent is what it's all about. Unholiness of Babylon, the world and its systems, and the holiness of Jerusalem, where God has set His name and soon will dwell personally.

Having come to the Lord later in life, I vividly remember being inside the unholy world system and wondering why I felt uncertainty, restlessness, and fear at different times. The specter of death with the unknown beyond will definitely do that to you.

In the KJV the word 'howl' made me think of Allen Ginsberg's famous poem called Howl. Its imagery burns into one's mind with a sulfur strike white hotness emblazoned like a photo negative. It's an angry poem, raging against the darkness and essentially crying out "Why is it like this? Why?" The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 2:1, Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? and Howl (as are so many poems) is just the pagan version of that scripture.

Ginsberg said some of the imagery in the poem came from a bad peyote trip he'd taken where he saw the apartment building he was staying in morphed into the face of a child-eating demon he later called Moloch.

In the Bible, there really is a child-eating demon-god named Moloch to whom the people sacrificed their children.

Romans 1:18 says that the unrighteous suppress the truth. They are aware of the truth, and despite pressing it down away from consciousness, at some level they connect with it. They detect its convicting tendrils creeping upward from the polluted recesses of their heart, only to be smashed down in howling rage. We see that in Ginsberg's Howl, and we see it in Yeats' poem The Second Coming, where Yeats used religious imagery to make his point.

Yeats hadn't taken a peyote button, but he was heavily involved in occult practices such as calling up demons and channeling and seances and the like. He sought visions, and he got them. So, similar to Ginsberg, the imagery in Yeats' vision tapped the well of dark truth suppressed deep within his soul. Not comprehending it, the pagans rage. Yeats' soul seethed and stormed, you can feel that his poem is a bellow into the gaping maw of black eternity, only to be silently swallowed by a dark and depraved infinite, and in the end, his pitiful howl making no more noise than an owl's winged whisper.

In the Isaiah passage today, the LORD promises destruction upon Babylon. Their near future and their far future contain the coming of the LORD in wrath for their unrighteous deeds. He is telling them in advance, 'Howl, for your destruction is sure!' This is the end which the pagans rail against. It is the end that all the unrighteous suppress in wickedness, but still lay coiled nasty to spring up and swallow souls whole. Howl, you Babylonians. Wail, you pagans, because justice, knife sharp and cleanly pure, will separate you from this earth with a flick.


Comparing the language and imagery used in various poems. Click to enlarge.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Eliphaz v. Job

Our Bible reading today brings us to Job 5-6

Eliphaz rebukes Job
Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves;
therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. ...
Behold, this we have searched out; it is true.

Hear, and know it for your good
(Job 5:17, 27)

Job's physical misery was extreme, his wife was tempting him, and now Job had to deal with his friend's insensitive advice. Oy. With friends like Eliphaz, who needs enemies?

In the Bible Gateway list of All Named Men of the Bible, (they also have lists of unnamed men, and the same for women, it's a handy list!) they describe Eliphaz thus:
Teman was noted for its wisdom and this Temanite descendant was a law unto himself. His name means "refined gold" but his fine gold was that of self-glory and of self-opinion from which he would not budge. As a wise man he gloried in his wisdom, and represented the orthodox wisdom of his day. This wise man from the East declared that God was just and did not dispense happiness or misery in a despot fashion, committing people to what He deemed best.
In his first speech (Job 4, 5), Eliphaz begins by informing Job of all his affliction, namely, sin. Approaching Job in a courteous yet cold manner, Eliphaz seeks to prove that all calamity is judgment upon sin. The crux of his argument is: "Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?" (Job 4:7).
Eliphaz was so sure Job had sinned and so sure he knew God and His plan well enough to rebuke Job for Job's invisible sins.

I think it's a skill to be sure about what you believe, yet teachable. We should be settled in our convictions, but pliable as we add wisdom and understanding as we grow in sanctification.

Here is an example: Theologian RC Sproul, who was recently called home to heaven, for most of his career believed in an old-earth. After more study, changed his mind and believed in a literal 6-day, young earth in the end. (source).

Sadly Eliphaz was too dogmatic. He would not countenance the fact that there might be something he did not know. He was sure of his philosophical construct: that God did not penalize the righteous. Suffering comes from personal sin, either overt or hidden. But there was something Eliphaz did not know: the conversation God had initiated with Satan about Job's piety.

Here, David Clines (recommended as best Job Commentary) weighs in:
Eliphaz here announces the premise on which the whole speech depends: if Job is suffering (and he is) and God has nothing to gain or lose personally from Job (and he hasn't) and God is just (and he is), then Job is suffering for his sins. And is he is suffering much (as he is), it follows that he has offended much. And if there is no evidence of Job's sins, then all his sins must be secret and observable ones. However what undermines Eliphaz's logic is something he does not know, but we readers know; that God indeed has much to gain (or lose) from Job's behavior; for Job is a test case for the gratuitousness of piety. If Job does not remain pious when all his blessings have been taken away, it proves humans serve God for the sake of the rewards and it shows religion up as a self-seeking practice of humans.
Eliphaz relied on the strength of his logic, rather than the frailty of human knowledge in the face of God's higher wisdom.

True wisdom remains in God only. Whether we veer from settled conviction to extreme dogmatism, through it all we should maintain a teachable spirit. By Chapter 22, Eliphaz was blatantly calling for Job to repent of his evil wickedness (Job 22:21-23) because Eliphaz was sure Job had sinned.

Job did not heatedly rebut. He humbly expressed his longing to maintain fellowship with God so he could experience God's love and goodness and hear from him the meaning of all his suffering. (John MacArthur Study Bible).

Who had the more teachable spirit?

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, (Proverbs 1:5)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Are we supposed to feel God's presence?

Some ladies who teach the Bible claim to have had special feelings of a tangible presence of God. Sarah Young, author of Jesus Calling, Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, Beth Moore, author of lots of books, and other women, claim to feel God. They report a warm mist, a force entering them, a tingle and so on.

The question often arises, if I don't feel God, am I doing something wrong?


You might sense God as you commune with Him in prayer or the Word, but maybe you don't. Feeling physical sensations are not a requirement for communion with the Lord. Most people do not feel a tangible presence of God at any time. Here, we look to Job. He expresses that in fact God feels far from Him but still Job will commune with God via treasuring the words of His mouth more than even the food that keeps Job alive.

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there,
and backward, but I do not perceive him;
on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him;
he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
My foot has held fast to his steps;
I have kept his way and have not turned aside.
I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.
(Job 23: 8-12)

Be encouraged. Leave the warm mists, forcible compelling, tingles and other sensations to the ladies who claim such things. More than likely they are not even sensations from God. Be satisfied as Job was, with the words of God's mouth. It's enough, isn't it? More than enough.

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Reading the introductions

The Bible Reading Plan for today is to read Psalm 6-8. I've resolved of late to read the introductions of the passages and not skip them. Also, to read the endings and read the notes, like these in the Psalms I'm about to discuss. If all scripture is profitable, then I shouldn't skip the intros, conclusions, lists of names, genealogies, or musical directions, lol.

Often David or the other Psalmist would make notes to the musicians who were going to play the songs, like this that begins Psalm 6-

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.

Of course, once I read the note and see something like 'Sheminith', I got curious. Like, what is a Sheminith?

I read in Easton's Bible Dictionary about Sheminith:
That the Hebrew of shemini is an ordinal number, eight. The Easton's Bible Dictionary says sheminith is Eight; octave, a musical term, supposed to denote the lowest note sung by men's voices (1 Chronicles 15:21; Psalm 6; 12, title).
Nobody really knows for sure. Other Bible dictionaries defined it slightly differently, but along the same lines. Some said, 'we dunno, the word has passed out of use and understanding.' I'ts still interesting to look these things up, though.

Psalm 7 is a Shiggaion. Easton's Bible Dictionary defines Shiggaion,
From the verb shagah, "to reel about through drink," occurs in the title of Psalm 7. The plural form, shigionoth, is found in Habakkuk 3:1. The word denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music; a dithyrambic ode.
Psalm 8 is "according to The Gittith: A stringed instrument of music."
This word is found in the titles of Psalm 8, 81, 84. In these places the LXX. render the word by "on the wine-fats." The Targum explains by "on the harp which David brought from Gath." It is the only stringed instrument named in the titles of the Psalms. Easton's Bible Dictionary
 Well, that was about as clear as mud.

I do know that once we're in heaven, we'll likely be singing. (Revelation 5:9). Will we be singing these Psalms in heaven, properly as David originally wrote them, (According to sheminith, a Shiggaion, or with The Gittith?). I hope so. Wouldn't it be nice if we did!

Meanwhile I resolve not to skip the intros, conclusions, lists, or notations. All scripture is profitable... I don't always understand how scripture profits me, but I trust that it does.


Further reading

I always enjoy Phil Johnson's knowledge of the Psalms and his clear delivery in explaining them.

Here is a page of Phil preaching the Psalms, including one we are to read today, Psalm 8. Interestingly, Phil introduces his sermon by explaining what can be known about the mysterious term 'according to the Gitteth'.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The power of crafty words

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1)

We are introduced to satan early and his introduction contained an extremely negative assertion about his character. He's crafty.

Satan is an angel. He is an unholy angel, as opposed to Gabriel or Michael who are holy angels. If you look at the angels' activity you see just how powerful and intelligent they are. They administer judgment. (e.g. Revelation 8:6-13). They give the Law. (Acts 7:53, Hebrews 2:2, Galatians 3:19). They give the Gospel to the whole earth at once. (Revelation 14:6). They stand on the sun. (Revelation 19:7). They hold back the wind. (Revelation 7:1).

They're powerful.

We'll come back to that in a moment.

I'm enjoying the buzz around a couple of movies just out. Darkest Hour is the story of Winston Churchill's early days as England's Prime Minister. He was leading the United Kingdom through tough times as WWII rages on the continent and is about to hit home for Britain. Much of the focus of the movie is on Churchill's oratory. It's a movie largely without action and is tightly confined to the bunker tunnels and small rooms below the city. Churchill made several famous speeches which roused the populace, enabled changed minds and hearts to make decisions, and cemented the nation in unity to face the evil force that was soon to come upon them. It's a movie about speeches.

Another movie just out is called The Post. It depicts the editor Ben Bradlee and owner/publisher Katherine Graham of the Washington Post during the critical years of the decisions about whether to release the Pentagon Papers, and leading up to their coverage of the Watergate Break-in, which eventually led to the downfall and resignation of American President Richard Nixon. It's a movie about words.

Words, whether written or spoken have power. Where would we be without Thomas Paine's Common Sense, Lincoln's Gettysburg address, Kennedy's 'to the moon and back', Reagan's 'tear down this wall'? We remember Chief Joseph's surrender speech, 'I will fight no more forever.' Lou Gehrig's farewell to baseball 'luckiest man alive' speech. President Reagan reassuring a shocked nation after the space shuttle Challenger exploded and the astronauts having 'slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’

Look at the impact of President Franklin Roosevelt's Fireside Chats:
Fireside chats is the term used to describe a series of 28 evening radio addresses given by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt between 1933 and 1944. Roosevelt spoke with familiarity to millions of Americans about the promulgation of the Emergency Banking Act in response to the banking crisis, the recession, New Deal initiatives, and the course of World War II. On radio, he was able to quell rumors and explain his policies. His tone and demeanor communicated self-assurance during times of despair and uncertainty. Roosevelt was a great communicator on radio, and the fireside chats kept him in high public regard throughout his presidency. Their introduction was later described as a "revolutionary experiment with a nascent media platform".
I'm brought back to the early chapters of Genesis. The serpent. What was his mode of attack? Did he hold Eve hostage and force her to eat the fruit? Did he call for his legions of followers to surround them and attack? No. He did it with words. Satan attacks with words.

We should not pay attention to satan.

Of course we don't pay attention to satan, you say. Of course not, silly! But we do. We come across a false teacher and we listen. We rationalize that we have the power to 'eat the meat and spit out the bones'. We wail, 'But he/she helped me so much!' Of course false teachers are skilled at oratory. They can make fine speeches. They use words well. They're crafty!

False doctrine is sin because false doctrine doesn't originate from God. (John 7:16, Titus 1:2). God hates false doctrine. (Revelation 2:15). Several of the letters in the New Testament were written to address errors of false doctrine (Galatians 1:6–9; Colossians 2:20–23; Titus 1:10–11). Take false doctrine seriously. Why? Its words will affect you.

Why do we know that speeches, movies, newspapers, and advertising affect us, but mistakenly think that listening to false doctrine won't?

The Bible says that those who listen to false teachers are heaping these teachers up so they can 'suit their own passions.' (2 Timothy 4:3). Don't indulge your passions by falling into satan's crafty trap of words.


Further reading

Challies: The Five Tests of False Doctrine

Michelle Lesley: Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on your Own

Got Questions: How can I recognize a false teacher / false prophet?

Art of Manliness: Resurrecting the Lost Art of Oratory

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: The LORD hardened their heart and killed them all

For it was the Lord's doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses. (Joshua 11:20).

The Bible Reading Plan passage for today is Joshua 11-15. I read and re-read this verse from chapter 11. It's a hard passage. It's Old Testament passages like these where God gets his stern and tyrant reputation.

The John MacArthur Study Bible helps here:
God turned the Canannites' hearts to fight in order that Israel might be his judging instrument to destroy them. They were willfully guilty of rejecting the true God with consequent great wickedness, and were as fit to remain in the land as vomit spewed out of the mouth (Leviticus 18:24-25).
Individual and national sin is a serious offense against God. RC Sproul called it cosmic treason. And for all that, God is patient. He waited 400 years for the Amorites' sin to come to full measure. (Genesis 15:16). He gave the false prophetess Jezebel who was teaching his children sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols time to repent. (Revelation 2:21). Whether it is an individual person or a national sin, He is patient. It is said in 2 Peter 3:9 that God is not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance. This is the same God. He is immutable, unchangeable, the same yesterday, today, and forever.

His patience and willingness to give time to repent does not mean that he will forget His promise to deal with sin. Sin is a crime and all crimes have punishments. For the Canaanites, that day eventually came, and they were judged for their cosmic treason.

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:3).

Monday, January 15, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: The Flood recedes

This chapter 8 of the first book of the Bible, can be thought of as "Judgment and Grace" as pastor S. Lewis Johnson put it in his sermon. It is no surprise that Noah and his family worshiped and sacrificed upon emerging from the ark.
Not only was the ark and Noah and their experience, a revelation of judgment, it was also a beautiful display of grace. And therefore it is not surprising that the first thing that Noah and his family did after they emerged from the ark is to offer the sacrifices of the burnt offerings. ~S. Lewis Johnson
I was struck by the leaf in the dove's beak.

When the dove came to him at evening, there was a plucked olive leaf in her beak. So Noah knew that the water on the earth’s surface had gone down. (Genesis 8:11).

In the previous verse 10, Noah sent out the bird but the waters were still upon the earth, and she found no place to put her foot. Noah waited the 7 days, and sent the bird out again. She returned this time, and with a freshly plucked leaf in her beak. Johnson said that olive trees tended to grow in the valleys, not the mountain tops, so the leaf indicated that the waters had indeed gone down from top to bottom.

In the space of a week, not only had the waters gone down but life had grown very quickly! Olive trees are extremely hearty and can survive most anything, so maybe this tree was a survivor of the flood. It's amazing that life had sprung up so quickly after a global devastation such as this.

I believe that we will see such a rapid restoration after the devastating 7-year period of the Great Tribulation. The LORD is not going to renew the earth until after the period of the 1000-year kingdom has concluded. After that, He will melt the earth and then renew it because He will have administered judgment upon all the resurrected dead and sent them - and satan and his demons - to the outer darkness. Death will be no more. The earth with its graves and dead animals and cursed ground will be melted and the earth renewed completely so that death and sin will no longer even be present upon it.

But the Tribulation will take its toll on the earth. It is the uncreation if you will, the islands will have fled away and the mountains crumbled down and the grass and trees burned up and so on. (Revelation 6-16). Then the Lord Jesus will return and put a stop to the rebellion at Armageddon, (Revelation 19:19-21), save his remnant at Petra (Isaiah 63:1), and land on top of the newly split Mt of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).

Saved mortals will make it through the Tribulation alive to see this, and will enter the 1000-year kingdom. The earth will repopulate quickly and lives will grow long again. The earth refreshes itself rapidly so as to sustain the mortals alive and dwelling and being born and generations ensuing. (Isaiah 65:20).

Jesus is the Great Gardener and He will quickly refresh the earth at the end of time after the Tribulation Judgment as He did after the Flood Judgment.

This should help us ponder His omnipotence.
Matt 28:18 -- "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." Rev.1:8; John 17:2; Eph. I:20-22. Here is power over three realms: First, all power on earth: over disease (Luke 4:38-41); death (John 11); nature, water into wine (John 2); tempest (Matt.8). Second, all power in hell: over demons (Luke 4:35, 36, 41); evil angels (Eph.6). Third, all power in heaven: (Eph.1:20-22). Finally, power over all things: (Heb.2:8; 1:3; Matt.28:18). Source

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Lavish Love

In our Bible Reading plan today we are progressing through Romans. We are to read today chapters 5-6. Romans, a book that a famous pastor had said he thought is the greatest philosophical treatise of any kind ever written down anywhere. (Sorry, I forget which pastor said it). Romans certainly is demanding, and the thoughts I have about the first few chapters, especially the interplay between the Law & Grace, are immature and unformed. I dare not offer anything of my own because I don't think it would be of value.

But except for this: Romans 5:5

and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I love the visual picture here, God's love is a liquid poured out, gushing, lavishly splashing into our hearts. And that love is the Holy Spirit Himself, who is God. He is said to be almost the forgotten member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is introduced in this epistle. And here in Romans he is shown to be a full member of the Triune God and a token of God's love for His people lavishly given to us.

Before salvation: Enmity. War. Rebellion. Struggle. Uncertainty.
After salvation: PEACE

Preacher S. Lewis Johnson said of this passage-
So the apostle’s argument is this. We were enemies. When we were enemies, when we hated God, when we did not want him to minister to us, he came to us, and through the alluring power of the Holy Spirit, he wrought within us, in his own mysterious way, a change of our wills, a change of our disposition, so that the thing that we did not want we ultimately came to want. We, who hated him, by the work of the Holy Spirit, were reconciled as the Holy Spirit brought to us the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. As he says, "When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son."
The Holy Spirit's part in this is that He draws us to Jesus, and He dwells in our hearts to sanctify us, each one of us, throughout our post-salvation lives. What joy.


Further reading

John MacArthur, article The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

GotQuestions: What does the Holy Spirit do?

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