GOD’S BOUNDARIES SET AND CONTESTED

God has made the earth by His power—established the world by His wisdom—and has stretched out the heavens at His discretion (Jer. 10:12, Ps. 119:89-91).

                The sun rises and sets its course each day as God has designed (Gen. 1:16, 18, Ps. 19:1-6).

                The moon and the stars He’s created obediently rule the night (Ps. 8:3, 19:1-6, 136:9, 147:4, Job 38:33).

                The waters have been measured in the hollow of His hand and heaven with a span.

                The dust of the earth has been calculated, the mountains weighted in scales, and the hills in a balance.

                The Spirit of the Lord requires no direction, counsel, or instruction. He embodies perfect righteousness, justice, knowledge, and understanding. Nothing compares to Him and nothing can consist without Him. All things were created by Him and for Him so that in all things He might have the preeminence (Isa. 40:12-14, 25-26, Col. 1:15-18).

It’s clear when examining what God has created to have a sense of His eternal power and wisdom (Rom. 1:19-20). One only has to read Job chapters 38-41 to be reminded of this as well.  God gives life and breath to all things.

                He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on the face of the whole earth, and has predetermined their appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings. He has done this so mankind would seek Him in the hope that they might find Him (as He is not far from them). The bounds of mankind are to live, move and have their being ultimately in God (Acts 17:24-28).  Mankind’s ultimate joy and peace is found in Christ alone (Eccl. 3:11, 12:13-14). In God’s infinitude He surrounds the finite creation and contains it. His being does not have limits nor is confined (as man’s) in time (1 Tim. 1:17, Ps. 90:2, Rev. 1:8, Eccl. 3:11). “I know that whatever God does, it will be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him” (Eccl. 3:14).

                Sadly the created has stepped outside the boundaries that God has set.

Man has departed from his original uprightness and sought out many inventions (Eccl. 7:29).

There are always consequences (if not immediately then forthcoming, Galatians 6:7). When this occurs harmony becomes disharmony, function becomes dysfunction, order becomes disorder, and peace becomes chaos.

                The pioneer of rebellion (as recorded in the Bible) is Lucifer (aka the devil, the serpent, Satan, etc. Gen. 3, Isa. 14:12, Rev. 12:9, 20:2). Lucifer was an anointed cherub and perfect in his ways from the day he was created until iniquity (perversity) was found in him. He was given a free will to obey God and stay within the boundaries that He had set for him, but he wasn’t content with the exalted position that God had given him. He wanted more— God’s position (to be like God and be worshipped like Him as well). So he was cast out as a profane thing from the mountain of God. Lucifer fell and took some of the angels with him (Isa. 14:12-15, Ezek. 11-19, Rev. 12:4) He now awaits his ultimate destruction (Gen. 3:15, Heb. 2:14, 1 John 3:8).

                God chose to teach Lucifer a lesson. He made a creature out of the dust (in His own image) and gave him dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26-27, 2:7-8, 2:8, 15). God gave this creature the same free will that He had given Lucifer. He gave him boundaries as well. He told man that he could partake of every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—if he did he would surely die (Gen. 2:17). We find that Lucifer (Satan) is already in the garden (Ezek. 28:13). Genesis chapter 3 opens up with, “Now the serpent (nachash, the shining one) was wiser than any other living being which the Lord God had made.”  He saw his opportunity to deceive man (through the woman) so they’d step outside the parameters God had given them. He knew the moment the man and woman disobeyed God they would die and he’d have dominion over the earth (Matt. 4:8-9, John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11, 2 Cor. 4:4, Eph. 2:2). Eve was naïve and didn’t realize that the shining and beautiful angel of light’s only mode of speaking was through lies (2 Cor. 11:3, 14, John 8:44). She was easily seduced into believing the lie that she could be as God (knowing good and evil) if she partook of the fruit from the forbidden tree. She gave some to Adam to eat as well (Gen. 1:26-28, 2: 15-17, 3:1-6). The consequence was death, but thankfully not imminently. God in His foreknowledge and wisdom already had another purpose for man, through the woman. They would not immediately die, but would bring forth children and a seed that would lead to a Redeemer (Gen. 3:15, 16-22). This seed would be at enmity with the evil seed. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, so that He might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). Creation and Redemption are bound up in Christ Jesus (Rev. 4:11, 5:9, Prov. 8:22-30, John 1:1, 17:5, Col. 1:15-17). The great lesson to be gleaned is that no created being can stand (upright) apart from Christ the Creator.       

                The Bible is the record of God’s purpose in the Ages and how it centers in the seed of the woman, which leads to Christ (Rom. 1:3, Gal. 3:16, 4:4, Eph. 3:11, 2 Tim. 2:8). As this purpose of God successively unfolds so does Satan’s state of opposition to it. Throughout the pages of Scriptures, it becomes a fascinating chess match as God moves and the seed of the woman is revealed and the efforts made by Satan to destroy it are recorded. References to the seed form the link between Adam and Abraham. The attack by Cain (Gen. 4:8, 1 John 3:12) upon his brother Abel manifested the enmity that existed between the two seeds, and the birth of Seth became the substitute channel for the woman’s seed to continue (Gen. 4:25). The line of Cain is given in Genesis 4:16-24, a line containing names identical in some cases, and similar in others, to names that are found in the true line through Seth. This is an indication and a warning, that deception and misdirection are the methods adopted by the enemy to divert the testimony of the Scriptures away from the true seed, to the false. So the game begins and here are some of the main moves.

                •SATAN MOVES to prevent the coming of the seed of the woman by corrupting the earth with the ‘sons of God’ (fallen angels) (Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7). Jude 6, 7 and 1 Peter 3:19-20, 2 Peter 2:4-7 all refer to the angels that went outside the habitation that God set out for them and left their first estate (principality). The progeny of this union between the fallen angels with the daughters of Adam are referred to as Nephilim (fallen ones) or giants. Their express purpose was to contaminate the seed of the woman. There was only one family (Noah’s, Gen. 6:8-9) that wasn’t contaminated.

•GOD MOVES BY STEPPING IN to preserve mankind from a total overthrow, causing a flood that wipes out all except what was in the Ark (Gen. 6-9). The seed of the woman continues through Noah’s son Shem (Gen. 11:10-27).

                As soon as it was made known that the seed of the woman was to come through Abram (Abraham), there was another irruption of fallen angels. Genesis 6:4 says that there were giants (nephilm) not only in the days before the Flood, but after that as well (Gen. 13:7, 14:5, 15:18-21, Ex. 23:23, Num. 13:32-33, Deut. 7:1-4, 20:17, Joshua 12:8).

                •SATAN MOVES NEXT to occupy Canaan in advance of Abram to contest its occupation by his seed as well as create strife (Gen. 12:6, 13:7). His attempts to destroy Abraham’s seed through his wife Sarai (Sarah) are thwarted by God (See also: Gen. 12:10-20, 20:1-18). Satan’s evil seed grows through the different tribes of the Canaanite people (Gen. 15:18-21, Ex. 3:8, 17, 23:23, Deut. 2:20-21, Josh. 3:10). Israel is warned to stay away from them (Ex. 34:12-16, Deut. 7:1-3, Ezra 9:1-2). It was for the destruction of these Canaanites (after the days of Noah) that the sword of Israel was necessary, as the purpose of the Flood had been before (Deut. 13:13-15).

                God establishes his covenant with Abraham: ”To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates—the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadomites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaims, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites” (Gen. 15:17-19). These people were to be cut off, driven out, and utterly destroyed (Deut. 20:17, Joshua 3:10). But Israel failed in this (Josh. 13:13, 15-18, Jdgs. 1:19-20, 28-36, 2:1-5, 3:1-7). The seed of the woman (and God’s promise) continues through Abraham’s son ISAAC, through Isaac’s son JACOB, and through the tribe of JUDAH (Gen. 21:12, 25:20, 26:4, 28:1, 13-15, 49:8-12).

                •SATAN’S MOVES to destroy the chosen family by famine as well as the male line altogether both backfire as GOD USES THEM for His own purposes (Gen. 50:20, Ex. 1:10-22, 2:6, 14:30-31, Heb. 11:23, 28-29).  He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot carry out their plans.  He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the cunning comes quickly upon them (Job 5:12-13).     

                •SATAN NEXT MOVES to thin down the woman’s seed by breaking up the royal line by which the seed was to come. On the death of Jehoshaphat, his son Jehoram killed all his brothers with the sword (2 Chron. 21:4) and the royal line was reduced to one life. He had children but the Arabians came, killing all his sons except for one, Ahaziah (also known as Jehoahaz). When he died, all the royal seed was gone except for one lone babe (Joash) who GOD PROTECTED for 6 years (2 Chron. 21-22, 22:10-12, 23:3).

                •SATAN MOVES with another full frontal attack on the whole nation of Israel. God MOVES BY STEPPING in to frustrate Satan’s attempt through Haman (Esther 3:6, 12-13, 6:1-3, 7:6-10).

                •SATAN, not easily discouraged, MOVES before the woman ready to devour her child as soon as it’s born (Rev. 12:4-5). The time comes when the seed of the woman enters the world (Luke 1:31, 2:7, John 1:14, Rom. 1:3, Gal. 3:16).

                •HEROD IS USED AS A PAWN to destroy the child and God MOVES BY STEPPING in again to thwart his plans by warning Joseph in a dream (Matt. 2:3-8, 13, 16, 19-21)

                •SATAN MOVES to attack through temptation and devour the seed of the woman (Jesus Christ) but his plans are blocked when JESUS COUNTERACTS HIS LIES WITH GOD’S TRUTH (Matt. 4:1-10).

                •END GAME:  When Satan sees Jesus on the cross, laid in the tomb, and the stone sealed, he thinks he’s finally achieved victory but GOD MOVES by miraculously raising Jesus from the dead. The enemy over-reached himself in the death of Christ for in that lay the purpose of God eventually “by death to destroy him who has the power of death” (Heb. 2:14).  SATAN AND HIS SEED ARE DEFEATED and will ultimately be destroyed for good (Rev. 19:20, 20:10, 14, 21:4, 22:3, 1 Cor. 15:25-26, 28, Heb. 10:13).

                    Even though the endgame is clear and Christ has ascended into heaven, our opponent Satan is still an active player. He knows he’s on the clock. He’s realigned his pawns and is trying to do all he can to prevent or hinder God’s purposes in Christ (through believers today) from being accomplished (2 Peter 5:8, Eph. 2:10, 3:10, Col. 2:8-10, 18-19, Phil. 2:13, 3:14). For reasons beyond our finite comprehension God has allowed the whole world to lie under Satan’s influence, but He uses all things for His good purpose (1 John 5:19, Rom. 11:33, Prov. 16:4). He, however, has not left us defenseless. We can stay standing as a knight clad in the spiritual armor of God where the wiles of the devil and his wicked pawns will not be able to cause us to fall (Eph. 6:10-13, 2 Cor. 10:3-5). We can trust God’s Word and the hope He’s given us through His Son (Heb. 6:13, 17-18, Titus 2:2). The game will resume when the true King of kings and Lord of lords comes upon the scene (Rev. 19:11-16). God will resume His program and fulfillment of His promises to Israel, through Christ the King, and finally put an end to the devil and his cohorts for good (Rom. 9:4, 11:26-29, 1 Cor. 15:24-28, Heb. 2:14, Rev. 22:3).  So don’t fret because of evil doers (which are growing more each day) (Prov. 24:20, 2 Tim. 3:13). Play by the rules, stay ‘hid in Christ’ and within the boundaries that God has set and stay focused on ‘things above’ in anticipation of His glorious appearing (2 Tim. 2:1-5, Col. 3:1-4, Ps. 119:105, 133, Titus 2:13).

Come Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Laura

THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD BEST SELLER

The Bible is the most read book of all time. Its beginning, Genesis, opens with the creation of the heavens and the earth, spoken into existence by God. Shortly into the third chapter there’s an event that changes the course of history that includes a pronouncement of a prophecy. By chapter 4, the first murder is recorded and soon a cataclysmic flood destroys almost everything (and this is only shortly into the first book of the Bible). There’s a cast of characters throughout its pages from shepherds to kings to harlots to virgins, and more. There’s no shortage of plot twists and shocking revelations. The Bible is a book of history (things past) as well as prophecy (things to come). It’s also an instruction manual of how to live righteously (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible at its core is a love story and a book of Redemption. What many miss or don’t realize about the Bible is the one great thread (subject) that runs throughout it is Christ. He is the promised seed of the woman in the prophecy and promise of Genesis 3:15 and the foreshadowed Redeemer throughout the Old Testament. All hope of restoration for man and for creation are centered in Him. He is the key to divine revelation in the Word and apart from Him it cannot be understood.

                Sadly the Bible is also the most misunderstood and misinterpreted book as well. This may be because the Bible is unlike any other book. Its pages have been God-breathed (divinely inspired by the power of God). It doesn’t have a special ‘About the Author’ page because God has divulged all He wants mankind to know about Himself throughout its pages from beginning to end. He has done this at different times and in various ways—all for His ultimate purpose (Heb. 1:1-2, 2:3, John 14:10, 16:13, Rom. 16:26, Eph. 3). First things first, one must believe “God is” and that “He has spoken” (Heb. 1:1-2, 11:6, Rom. 1:19-20).  “…knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

                Hebrews 4:12 says that “the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword…” That makes God’s Word a dangerous weapon against those who oppose it, so it shouldn’t be surprising in the attempts that have been made to attack, twist, and pervert it since the beginning of time (Genesis 3). The apostle Paul was concerned for the Corinthians, when he said, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). Peter, too, in his second letter to the Christian Jews of the dispersion, said, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies,…” (2 Peter 2:1).

                                Not everyone has a desire to seek God’s truth the way He intended.

The definition of TRUTH includes the words: transparent, clear, open, plain, and accurate. TRUTH comes from God and is associated with light (Psalm 33:4, 119:160, John 1:4, 14, 17, 14:6, 17:17, Titus 1:2, James 1:17). 

The definition of DECEIT is: concealment, or distortion of the truth for the purpose of misleading. It’s associated with darkness (Gen. 3:13, Eph. 4:14, 22, 5:11-13, Rev. 12:9). “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:19-21).

                Throughout time there have been many false teachers, posing as ’ministers of righteousness’ who may speak with ‘authority’ with their strong words, but have other motives (such as personal financial gain, status or power) in mind instead (2 Cor. 11:3-4). They have led many astray with their promotion of mankind’s traditions; as well as adding to God’s word with their own interpretations to fit their message and so pervert God’s truth (Deut. 4:2, Prov. 30:6, Matt. 15:1-9, Gal. 1:8-9, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, Rev. 22:18-19).  The apostle Paul in his first letter to Timothy warns him of false teachers and those that are teaching other doctrines, “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself” (1 Tim. 6:3-5).

It’s no surprise where this generates from—the father of lies (the devil) who has no truth in him (John 8:44).

The enemy is cunning enough to allow just enough truth in things, while subtly perverting it. This strategy has been working since he deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden (1 Tim. 2:14) (as well as so many throughout time). To deceive a large amount of people, a lie must ‘look’ like the truth. Today ironically it’s easier than ever (even with all the access to information we have at our finger tips) for the enemy to deceive so many. A great percentage of people have lower attention spans and prefer to eat up sound bites that are taken out of context instead of feasting on God’s truth (Jer. 15:16, John 6:33-35, 48-51). And what’s more shocking today is the compliance to allow not just the perversion of the truth, but the attempts of those in authority to negate and block it from even being read or heard (2 Cor. 4:4). 

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts, will they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they will turn away their ears from the truth, and will be turned unto fables (myths)” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). This is why it’s vital for those truly desiring to follow God’s word to heed the importance of what the apostle Paul was telling Timothy regarding believers at the time, “…not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:14-16).   

                2 Timothy 2:15 plainly teaches that our one great diligent purpose is to seek God’s approval, and not man’s. One will not be ‘approved unto God’ if care is not exercised in rightly dividing His Word. For many this will involve unlearning what they’ve heard from man and from tradition rather than directly from the Word of God (Phil. 1:10, 1 Cor. 2:13, 2 Cor. 10:3-5, Rom. 12:2, Eph. 2:10). Being a workman that’s approved unto God is not for the impatient or those that are easily distracted by worldly things and matters. It’s for those who will use great care and effort to seek God’s truth above all in a Berean-like mindedness (Acts 17:11, Heb. 11:6, Col. 3:2, Phil. 3:13-14). 

You don’t have to be a scholar or an intellectual to read and understand the Bible.

One wouldn’t just pick up a novel or a historical book and flip through its pages picking out lines and sections and read them without knowing any background or context—but that’s exactly what many do with the Bible.

One must have a willingness to question what they’ve been taught or read by others with what the Word of God actually says, rightly divided as God intended. Every word from Genesis to Revelation is written for us and for our learning but not written to us or about us (Rom. 15:4).           

                Some key things to always pay attention to while reading the Bible are:

· WHAT is being spoken or written and to WHOM? What’s the subject matter—Who are the people involved?

· WHO is it addressed to? Is it addressed to the Jew, the Gentile (Nations), or the Church of today (the One Body)?

· WHERE? Where in the Bible is it written or spoken?

· During WHAT TIME, under WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES, and for WHAT PURPOSE is it being written or spoken? God didn’t reveal His mind and will at one time, but at different times and in different ways. These differing ‘times’ and ‘ways’ are referred to as dispensations and must be distinguished in order to come to an understanding of the truth.

· In WHAT CONTEXT?  The parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage usually influence its meaning or effect.

                Every area of God-breathed Scripture reflects the perfect and infinite wisdom of God and should be treated as such. While the word of God is written FOR all persons and FOR all time, not every part of it is addressed TO all persons or ABOUT all persons IN all time.  We may make application to ourselves as long as it doesn’t conflict with what is written elsewhere concerning the Church of today.  We shouldn’t read the past into the present and confuse the “law” with the “gospel”, or confuse the “Kingdom” with the “Church”. We shouldn’t read the future (the Great Tribulation, The day of the Lord when Christ will rule the world in Judgment and Righteousness, etc.) into the present.  Each reader/student must personally and individually look at the references for him/herself. God’s word is clear when it’s rightly divided. No word or passage will contradict another. Over time word meanings change and some become obsolete all together. It’s necessary for the reader to go back to the original Hebrew text (re: the Old Testament) and the original Greek text (re: the New Testament). When one tests the things that differ he/she will discern and understand God’s true plan and purpose (Phil. 1:10).

                There are questions that lead to truth and questions that generate strife.

                Remember the rules of engagement for a believer (2 Tim. 2:1-6). Paul also warned Timothy in his second letter to him to “…avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife” (2 Timothy 2:23). The Bible says these things stir up strife: hatred, pride, wrath/anger, and perversity—all generating from the carnal flesh (Proverbs 10:12, 13:10, 15:18, 16:28, 28:25, 29:22).

                LOVE REJOICES IN TRUTH (1 Cor. 13:6)

                A believer should always approach others in love. They must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

                May you experience the fullness of the Truth as God intended, realizing the great treasure that the Bible is and the considerable joy that is found in its pages (Ps. 119:162).

Laura

WILL YOU BE LEFT IN THE DUST?

ONE EVENT

                “One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath” (Ecclesiastes 9:2).

There’s one event that happens to all living creatures that is inescapable.

That event is death.

ONE PLACE

                There is one place where the dead go when they die. That place is the grave. 

By one man (Adam) sin entered into the world and so death passed upon all mankind—for all have sinned (Rom. 5:12-19). The one event— death — that each must face, brings us back to the grave (ground/dust) where we originated from (Genesis 2:7, 3:19, Ps. 89:48, 1 Cor. 15:47-48). The Bible tells us that there is no consciousness or memory in the grave (Ps. 6:4-5, 88:11-12, 115:17, 146:4, Eccl. 9:5, 10). Death is likened to sleep (Deut. 31:16, 1 Kings 2:10, Job 14:12, Ps. 13:3, Dan. 12:2, 1 Cor. 15:6, 1 Thess. 4:13-14).

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19).

ONE RISEN SAVIOR

                Thankfully we don’t have to be left in the dust. There is one hope of escaping the grave according to the Scriptures. It is through the One Who died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. This was witnessed and recorded by men— but the witness of God is greater (1 Cor. 15:3-4, 20-22, 47-49, Ps. 16:10, Isa. 53:5, 9-11, Jonah 1:17, Matt. 12:39-40, John 11:25-26, Rom. 6:23, 2 Cor. 5:21, Heb. 2:14-15, Acts 1:3, 1 John 5:9-10).

John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” When God sent His Son into the world the first time, it was not to condemn or judge the world, but on a rescue mission to save it (John 3:17, 36). The believer may suffer death but their lives are ‘covered’ (as they are hid with Christ in God) where no man can threaten their spiritual blessings or inheritance. It’s a ‘sealed’ deal the moment one believes. After that it’s just a waiting game until Christ appears—then they’ll appear with Him in glory (Eph. 1:12-14, Col. 3:3-4, Phil. 3:20-21).

                The unsaved sinner will find an eternal dwelling in the depths of the grave forever. This is how God will eradicate wickedness; the evil man will be consumed within sheol (the grave) and forgotten (not perpetuated in an eternal hell as so many have been misled to believe) (Job 24:19-20, Ps. 92:7-9, 145:20, Prov. 13:13, 24:20, 2 Thess. 1:7-9). The last enemy that will be destroyed is death (1 Cor. 15:26). The word ‘destroyed’ means to put down and be brought to nothing. This is consistent with the Hebrew words abad and shamad used in the Old Testament (Ps. 37:18-20, 37-38, 145:20) that denote death and destruction (not an eternity of being punished and burned). When a man or woman doesn’t have a savior who can redeem them from this death, then the condition is made permanent and the wages of sin are paid out eternally. In the New Testament, as the Messiah enters there is a consistent continuation of the Old Testament teaching—contrasting life and death. Jesus Christ comes into the world and offers life in His name. Those who reject this offer will receive the opposite of eternal life—death (John 3:14-16, 36, 14:6). One of God’s great purposes throughout the Bible is the removal of sin from mankind in order to achieve perfection in the world to come (Rev. 21:4, 22:3, 1 Cor. 15:25-28). The Bible’s doctrine of death and resurrection allows that God will thoroughly and effectively accomplish the removal of sin from His creation. The penalty has been paid completely and in full by the Lord Christ Jesus.

                I grew up (like many others) believing that when someone dies, they go immediately into the presence of God. This idea (though it may be comforting) is not biblically true. In the Bible the words “immortal” and “soul” are never put together to describe mankind. The word ‘soul’ (nephesh in Hebrew and Psuche in Greek) are always associated as being mortal. Man does not possess a soul—he is a soul, a living ’being’ (one might say ’soulical’). God alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:14-16). The apostle Paul explains the differences between ‘soulical’ or natural body and the spiritual one in 1 Corinthians 15,“The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.  And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being (soul).” The last Adam became a life-giving (quickening) spirit” (1 Cor. 15:42-49).

                Some misinterpret what Jesus said to the thief who hung on the cross beside Him in Luke 23:43:And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto you, today shall you be with me in paradise.”  You will note that the comma is after ‘you’. The correct reading is to have the comma after the word ‘today’. The reason for the confusion is due to the Greek manuscripts not having punctuation of any kind until the 9th century (and then only a dot, in the middle of the line separating each word). The comma was placed incorrectly. By going back to the original Hebrew writings it is found that a common Hebrew idiom, “I say unto this day,” which was used in a consistent manner that indicated a very solemn emphasis (occurring 42 times in Deuteronomy alone). So the true meaning was ‘this day’ or ‘today’, the moment or time that Jesus told the thief (because of the great faith he expressed in Messiah’s coming Kingdom) that he would be with Him in the future paradise of Revelation 22.            

                “Absent from the body” from 2 Corinthians 5:8 is another Scripture verse that’s often misinterpreted because it’s taken out of context. The apostle Paul was not making an assertion, but expressing a choice between two alternatives, saying “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”  The ‘tent’ (or earthly house) in which we currently reside in will one day be dissolved or taken down. The wonderful alternative is not some ‘unclothed’ condition, but a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:5-8). Only in the resurrected body can a believer be at home with the Lord. No one can live eternally without his/her resurrection body. This happens, not when the believer dies, but when the corruptible puts on incorruption, and the mortal puts on immortality. So when this corruption has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then (and only then) “mortality might be swallowed up of this life” and “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:42-44, 51-55, 1 Tim. 6:14-16, Phil. 3:20-21). The believer shall pass from death to life with no awareness of the intervening years—sleeping in Christ and then awakening in glory.

 ONE LIVING GOD TO PRAISE FOREVER

                What a beautiful thing that God has allowed us to partake of. For those who choose the eternal life found in Christ alone, they can anxiously await saying, “O Death, where is your sting?  O Grave, where is your victory?” They will be satisfied when they awake in His likeness (1 Cor. 15:53-55, Ps. 17:15, 1 John 3:2).

Alleluia! Praise God! Thanks be to Him for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Laura

Note:  I’d encourage anyone who is interested in exploring these topics further (in more depth biblically), the book “Asleep in Christ” by Helaine Burch. The author not only includes an index of Hebrew and Greek words from the Bible on this subject, but she tackles problematic passages from Scripture that have been misinterpreted and improperly taken out of context. (2 Timothy 2:15, Acts 17:11)

MERCY IN A CANCEL-CULTURE WORLD

Cancel Culture” is a popular term used today. It’s a form of blacklisting by deeming someone unacceptable and ejecting them out of a social or professional circle—either on social media, in the real world, or both. Those who are subject to this blacklisting are said to be ‘cancelled’.   

                The Pharisees were the ‘cancellers’ of their day during the time when Jesus walked with men. They trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others (Luke 18:9). It was this religious sect that would follow Jesus around. They’d seek to tempt, provoke, and catch Jesus in something he said or did that went against the Law so they could accuse and condemn him (Luke 11:54). The Pharisees were known for their outward pious acts, but Jesus challenged them as he knew their inner intentions. He called out their hypocrisy before the multitudes and his disciples. He admonished them of paying tithes but neglecting the weightier matters of the Law: justice, mercy, and faith. He pointed out to them that although they outwardly appeared righteous to men, their insides were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23).

                Jesus was a friend of publicans and sinners—the outcasts of society. This caused the Pharisees to murmur against him and his disciples. Jesus explained that only sick people (not those in good health) need a physician.  In the same way Jesus didn’t come to call on the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:27-32). He displayed tenderness, compassion, and sympathy toward the lost yet never condoned sin. As the sinner received grace from Him they were told to “sin no more” (John 5:14, 8:11).

                The three parables that Jesus told in chapter 15 of Luke all center on something that is lost. They are directed to the Pharisees and scribes who complained about Jesus, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”

                The first is about a lost sheep. The shepherd in the parable has 100 sheep and one goes missing. After he finds the one that is lost he calls his friends together to rejoice with him. Jesus ends this parable saying,  “…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

                The second parable is about a woman who has lost one of her ten silver coins. When she finds her lost coin she calls her friends to rejoice with her. Jesus ends this parable saying, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”   

                Both these parables build up to the third one which is about a lost son. A father has two sons. The younger son wants his inheritance from his father now. After his father gives it to him he travels to a far country and wastes it on riotous living. He soon hits rock bottom and comes to his senses. Feeling unworthy to be his father’s son anymore he decides to go home and ask if he can work as one of his father’s servants. “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”  The father is elated that his lost son has come home and wants to rejoice and celebrate. The older son hears of this and is angry as he has been the ‘dutiful’ son and never received such a celebration. The father replies to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’ ”

                Thankfully our Father God is like the lost son’s father. None of us are righteous, yet God does not cancel us out. He is the God of all mercy (Rom. 3:10, 23). His mercy is so great that even while we were yet outcasts (sinners), Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). God did do some ‘cancelling’. He cancelled our debt of sin by substituting His One and only begotten Son (who was without blame) to pay the penalty for our sin.  Jesus Christ bore the wrath that we deserved and took it out of the way and nailed it to the cross (Isa. 53:5-6, 11, 2 Cor. 5:21, Col. 2:11-15). Now that is a merciful God! Mercy and grace cannot be earned by what we do. It must be received with a humble and contrite heart. We’d all fail if Justification was based on moral performance (Rom. 3:23, 5:12). It was the tax collector, who prayed, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” who was justified, not the Pharisee who prayed listing his outward deeds (Luke 18:9-14). God’s not asking for perfection—that’s not possible. What God does desire is a heart free of pride (Ps. 51:7, Prov. 11:2, 29:23, Phil. 2:5-8). So although a believer is not saved by works, he/she should have a desire to do the good works that God preordained for them (Eph. 2:8-10). God’s grace is in abundance for those willing to receive it and is just enough for each moment of each day (James 4:6, 2 Cor. 12:9-10). Think of it like a fresh, bottomless cup of coffee or tea.

                After Israel was taken captive and Jerusalem was made desolate, the prophet Jeremiah sat weeping and lamenting over Jerusalem. In the midst of this (in chapter 3 of Lamentations), he says, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” 

Allow the Lord to be your portion each day. Let His grace continually fill your cup and rejoice in the Lord always!

Laura

THE KEY TO A STRONG HEART

Covid-19 waited until the New Year to drop in on me—it wasn’t a nice visit. It’s actually been a while since I felt so weak and helpless. Around the same time a friend (who I hadn’t seen in a while) unexpectedly passed away at the age of 65 years old (flashback of the age that my Dad was when he died 19 years ago). These are reminders of how fragile life truly is and how frail and vulnerable we are (See Psalm 89:47-48, 103:14-16, 144:3-4, 146:4). As the Scottish poet, Robert Burns penned, “The best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.”  We can’t account for unexpected tragedies or stubborn illnesses as time and chance happen to us all (Eccl. 9:11). (See also Ps. 33:10, Prov. 16:9, 19:21). One may say, “So what’s the use? Why bother?” That defeatist attitude comes from the destroyer, not from God (1 Pet. 5:8, John 8:44).  Death is not the end for believers in Christ Jesus as the better life is to come (2 Tim. 1:10). In the meantime, wouldn’t you like to strengthen your heart?  Your heart will only weaken if you tune in to the present world for their ‘solutions’ (Ps. 60:11, 94:11, 108:12, 118:8, 146:3-4). 

The 27th psalm opens with, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  This psalm ends with, “Wait on the Lord: Be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart: Wait, I say, on the Lord.” 

The key to strengthening your heart is in an area we mortals have trouble with—waiting. 

We want the remedy to fix illness now. We want the job promotion and pay raise when we deserve it. We don’t want to wait for the prodigal to reach rock bottom before coming home, and the list goes on. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than man’s ideas and ways (Isa. 55:9). God chooses to work in ways contrary to the world’s ways. His preference is to seek the frail, broken and weak to display His glory. David was the youngest and the smallest of his brothers (1 Sam. 16:7, 10-12). Gideon’s family was poor and He was the ’least’ in his father’s house (Judges 6:15). “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27). “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” So although we can be hard-pressed on every side, we won’t be crushed. We may become perplexed, but not in despair. We may feel persecuted, but not forsaken. We may be struck down, but not destroyed (2 Cor. 4:7-9). Our mindset should be like that of the apostle Paul’s who understood the sufficiency of God’s grace. He experienced God’s strength being made perfect in his weakness, so he took pleasure in infirmities, reproaches, persecutions, and distresses for Christ’s sake. For when he was weak, he was strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).  We should welcome tribulations because they provide the opportunity to build perseverance (which requires waiting on the Lord). Perseverance develops character (that gives us good courage) and character, hope.  And it’s hope that doesn’t disappoint, but causes our heart to strengthen and be filled with God’s love (Rom. 5:3-5). 

                As we allow our minds to be renewed in the knowledge of God and think in a new spiritual mode, we’ll be synced up with God’s will and deprogrammed from the basic principles of the world (Rom. 12:2, Colossians 2:8, 3:10). 

This brings me to 2 Corinthians 4:16-18—(verses that I never grow tired of), “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

                So don’t lose heart by what you see (or experience) in this fallen world, wait on the Lord and be of good courage.  He WILL strengthen your heart!  We’ll feel blessed when our only expectation comes from the Lord. A heart that’s set on pilgrimage (the highways leading to Him) is a heart that will always be strengthened (Ps. 62:5, 84:5).

Laura

Another year–Don’t go it alone–

A new year presents a fresh start and a physical reminder to readjust our mind’s eye toward an upward and forward way of thinking. Mankind by nature is so—well… human— and prone to doubt, fear, anxiety (replaying worse-case scenarios), pain, viruses, aging, depression, and etc. I’m so very thankful that among God’s wonderful attributes are mercy, long-suffering, patience, and faithfulness. I often think, as David did in Psalm 8, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,  What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?

Isaiah 43:2-3, 5 says,

“When you pass through the waters,

I WILL BE WITH YOU;

And when you pass through

the rivers, they will not

sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;

the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the Lord your God,

the Holy One of Israel,

Your Savior…

Do not be afraid,

for I AM WITH YOU.”

                Note that the above portion of Scripture says, “When you pass through” andWhen you walk through”.  In Psalm 23:4 it says, “When you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Jesus told his disciples (in John 16:33), that in this world they would have troubles, but to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. Everything a believer needs to live a victorious life is found in Christ Jesus (2 Pet. 1:3, Gal. 5:22-23). God, sacrificially, through Christ’s shed blood on the cross, provided access for all those who believe to come to His throne of grace and obtain mercy and find grace in their time of need (Heb. 4:16, Eph. 2:13-14, 2 Cor. 12:9-11, Phil. 4:19). 

God does not prevent the believer from going through trials and tribulations, but He promises to be with them and give them His strength. The apostle Paul knew something about this as he was abandoned by all men near the end of his life, but the Lord stood with him and strengthened him (2 Tim. 4:16-18, Phil. 4:11-13). The Lord Himself was tempted like us so He is more than able to sympathize with what we are going through and provide the strength we need to sustain us (Heb. 2:18, 4:15).

                Why would we choose to live in fear by placing our trust in man rather than the Lord who has complete knowledge of our inner workings and our comings and goings? (Ps. 118:8, 139) God has provided us with His presence, protection, and purpose in the midst of the evil age we live in (Gal. 1:4). Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that mankind does not wrestle against flesh and blood, but rather against dark, wicked spiritual entities. The only recourse men and women have to withstand in this evil age is to shed their own garments of self and put on the armor of God. It’s only in Christ alone that man can be righteous and protected. Just as blood sustains the physical life, Christ (the armor of God) sustains us spiritually (Lev. 17:11, 14, Eph. 4:22-24, 6:11, Rom. 13:12). The moment we try to go it alone we become exposed to the wiles of the devil and his flaming darts (Eph. 6:11). The moment we rely on our earthly riches and material possessions we fall prey to the snares of the devil (Prov. 29:25, Ps. 52:7, 1 Tim. 6:9.17). The moment Peter took his eyes off Jesus and placed them on his own troubles he started to sink (Matt. 14:29-31).

                Satan’s end game is to distract the believer from the knowledge that God is truly with them. The enemy wants to draw the believer away from the Lord and delude them into believing that they can be sufficient and victorious on their own (just as He deceived Adam and Eve in Genesis 3). Before long a deceived heart begins to idolize and worship the dead piece of wood that they cut down to cook with (Isa. 44:15-20, James 1:14). 

                When just one area of God’s armor is lacking, a Christian’s stance becomes weakened and is susceptible for the enemy to attack (Eph. 6:10-17). A stance that’s firmly planted on the Rock of Salvation becomes unmovable. God, through Christ, is the only foundation that will sustain us through the storms of life (Ps. 118:22, Matt. 21:42, Eph. 2:19).  A believer is only safe and strong when they allow the Lord to be their strength (Eph. 6:10, Prov. 29:25). God is with us and so we need to seek His wisdom (in His Word and prayer) in all things. It will provide the discernment that’s necessary to give us a peace beyond our feeble understanding as well as protect our heart and mind through Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7, Eph. 6:17).

                Although we may not literally go through a fiery furnace like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did, there are real spiritual flaming darts of the enemy (via satanic temptations), that are out to destroy us. When our faith and trust is in the Lord, we will be protected from the fiery spiritual flames just as the three Israelites were protected from the physical flames (Dan. 1:7, 2:49, 3:12-30, 1 Cor. 10:13, 2 Peter 2:7).  We may not all (literally) be thrown into a lion’s den, as Daniel was, but we may find ourselves in impossible situations where we see no way out (Dan. 6:16-22). In all circumstances, the Lord is available to sustain us and help us through — eventually leading us into life everlasting.  You don’t have to go it alone on this journey through our fallen world. This year and beyond allow God not only to be with you, but help you navigate through the storms and fires of life. 

Choose faith over fear and have a great new year!

                Laura

Peace on God’s Terms

“I heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good will to men.”

“And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth, “I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.” 

                Most may be familiar with the first verse of the popular Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, but not the other one. The famous poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote it in 1864, a year before the end of the American Civil War.  Longfellow hated the Civil War. It pained him to see the United States of America become divided by the greed and sinful nature of man. 

                It shouldn’t be surprising that this same spirit (that emanates from the prince of the power of the air), is alive today. After all God has allowed Satan this authority for a time, but it will ultimately lead to his demise (Eph. 2:2-3, 5:6, Rom. 16:20, 1 John 3:8, Prov. 16:4). Ironically, it is the God of peace that will crush Satan (Rom. 16:20).  Genesis 3:15 provides the back drop of what we have seen throughout history to our present day.  It’s the enmity (opposition) that God set between the women’s seed and Satan’s seed after the fall. It’s the thread throughout the Scriptures and dovetails with Satan’s attempts at destroying the seed of the woman. No greater attempt was seen as the hour approached for the seed of the woman to enter the world.

                The Jewish people in Jesus’ day were ruled under the Roman Empire. Herod the Great was the king that governed over the area of Bethlehem of Judea where Jesus was born.  He was used to try and destroy the woman’s seed (Jesus) after learning from the traveling wise men that the King of the Jews had been born.  Since Herod was unable to locate this baby king, he had all the male children who were in Bethlehem (and in all it’s districts) from two years old and under killed. Joseph had been forewarned by an angel to flee with his wife and Jesus to Egypt and stay there until word came back that it was safe to return (Matthew 2). 

                In Isaiah 9:6, one of the names prophesied of Christ is ‘Prince of Peace’. Indeed Christ is the Prince who gives peace, but his coming into the world did not bring peace. In fact in Matthew 10:34, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” The battle has always been between good and evil (the spirit and the flesh). The written word is living and powerful (sharper than any two-edged sword). It divides the flesh from the spirit—the lies from the truth (Heb. 4:12, John 3:6, 1 Cor. 2:13-15, Eph. 6:17).  Jesus used it to defend Himself from Satan’s temptations (Matt. 4:1-11). The Living Word (Christ Jesus) will have a sword to smite the nations when He returns (Rev. 1:16, 2:12, 16, 19:13, 15, 21, Luke 19:27, 2 Thess. 2:8). In Luke 12:51, Jesus said this, “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.”  The effect of the Prince of Peace’s presence would bring war. The effect of His coming would bring judgment (John 9:39, 12:47-48).

TRUE PEACE IS UNATTAINABLE WITHOUT THE PRINCE OF PEACE

                In Hebrew, the word Shalom’s primary meaning is not quietness, ease, or calm—but completeness. Peace is the effect—not of compromise— but of agreement; the causes of difference being completely removed and rightly resolved (Isa. 32:17, 53:5, Ps. 85:10).  Shalom regarding our relationship to God is by virtue of the finished work of His Son. Jesus Christ is our peace and only through Him alone can we have peace with God (Eph. 2:14-18). The believer is complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). Christ alone abolished the enmity through His flesh on the cross so that we might be reconciled and have peace with God (Rom. 5:1, Col. 2:14). What a gift to be thankful for! (2 Cor. 9:15, John 3:16)  

                Jesus told his disciples at the last supper, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).  He told them that they would have tribulation in the world, but to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). 

JESUS’ PEACE IS NOT OF THIS WORLD

                As Christians we are to pursue peace and (if it’s within our power) to live peaceably with all men (2 Tim. 2:22, Rom. 12:18). The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace, but contrary to what is promoted in the world today, a believer in Christ is not to make peace with the world. The Bible is clear that friendship with the world is enmity (opposition) with God (James 4:4, Rom. 8:7, Matt. 6:24).  Satan wants to steal our peace by getting us preoccupied with the things of the world, but we are not to engage in this mindset (2 Tim. 2:4). To be earthly minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Rom. 8:6). Our peace and contentment shouldn’t be contingent on the ever changing ways of the world (Phil. 4:11-13). The experience of real peace with God guards our thoughts and minds in the midst of worldly chaos (Phil. 4:7). We can stand strong against all things Satan may tempt us with when we allow Christ to fight our battles (Eph. 6:11-18). Let’s celebrate that the Prince of Peace has come and has cleared the way for us to have access to God and eternal life with Him.  Let’s wait expectedly upon His return where He will put away all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness (as well as death, sorrow, crying and pain) (Matt. 13:41-42, 1 Cor. 15:26, Rev. 20:10, 21:4, 22:3).  This hope is in the ending verses of Longfellow’s song,

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor does He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”  

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way” (1 Thess. 3:16).

Shalom, Laura

Trusting in an All-Seeing God

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26

“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” Matthew 10:29-31

                Sometimes it appears that God is distant and unaware of our sorrow or troubles. It’s easy to get discouraged in this life on fallen earth and become transfixed on what is wrong. Each and every individual of the human race has been born with the stigmatism of sin that impairs their spiritual vision (Rom. 3:23, 5:12). In order to correct it and increase spiritual acuity, one needs to focus on the One with perfect vision. God’s vision sees past, present and future simultaneously. He notices the details as well as sees the big picture. God also has ‘x-ray’ vision and looks beyond the outward surface that man is limited to (1 Sam. 16:7, 1 Cor. 2:14, 1 John 3:20, Prov. 5:21, 15:3). In Psalm 139, the following is presented: God’s omniscience (in verses 2-5), God’s omnipresence (in verses 7-16), God’s omnipotence (in verse 19), and deliverance from self (in verses 23-24).

                Civilla Martin, who penned the lyrics of “His Eye is on the Sparrow and I Know He Watches Me”, said this:

“Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” was the outcome of that experience.”

Here are a few of the verses:

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,

Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,

When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,

And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;

Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,

When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,

I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

                Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). The key is to pay attention to where your ‘mind’s eye’ is focused. A pessimist sees only the negative and focuses on the problem. A Christian should see things differently. They may see the same problems, but understand that their spiritual vision can be corrected when these difficulties are viewed through a Biblical lens (God’s perspective).  This way of looking at things helps them from becoming discouraged and giving up. In the lyrics to DC Talk’s song, “Mind’s Eye” is, “It’s in my mind’s eye, I see Your face. You smile as you show me grace… We can ride the storm, endure the pain—you comfort me in my hurricane—and I’ll never be alone again…”  Near the end of the Apostle Paul’s earthly life, many had forsaken him in his time of need—all except the Lord. The Lord stood with him and strengthened him so he could keep fighting the good fight, finish his course, and keep the faith (2 Tim. 4:7, 16-18).

Our days will start out much better if we look to the Lord and His Word first and foremost rather than to the news or social media. The media, public opinion, political leaders, etc. can’t guide you through your own unique, individual circumstances—only God can (Ps. 139:1-13).  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye” Psalm 32:8.               

You’ll feel less strain when you take your eyes off worthless things and fix them on a Worthy God (Ps. 101:3, Heb. 12:2, 2 Cor. 4:16-18, 10:5).  Even when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there’s nothing to be fearful of because God is right there too (Ps. 23:4, Heb. 13:5). You can have peace when you cast all our cares upon Him, because He cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7, Phil. 4:6-7). You can endure as Moses did by taking your eyes off the seen (your circumstances, disappointments, worldly events…) and place them on Him Who is invisible (Heb. 11:27). Walk by faith and trust in an all-seeing God (2 Corinthians 5:7). 

Laura              

Discerning the Signs of the Times

                “It’s not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His power” (Acts 1:7). Not only does God have complete command over ‘times and seasons,’ but also over the specific ‘day and hour’ when the Son of Man will return. This knowledge is hid even from the angels (Mark 13:32, Matt. 24:36, 25:13).

                When we travel signs give us direction as well as forewarn us of things ahead. God through His Word gives us instructions to guide our life. He has given us prophecies or signs—many that have already come to pass.  Some signs point further out such as those of Matthew 24. They give information regarding the ‘beginning’ of the end as the prophetic clock’s alarm is positioning to go off to awaken Israel for their conversion, restoration, and blessing.

“You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you can’t discern the signs of the times” (Matt. 16:3).

                There are signs that believers today should discern (Matt. 16:2-3, 24:32-33). The word discernment in Greek is ‘diakrino’ and implies distinctions or differences.  It’s the exercise of judgment with special regard to ‘things that differ’ that balances pros and cons prior to reaching a conclusion (Phil. 1:10).  It’s sadly something we see very little of today where judgment is based on sound bites, partial information, emotions, and sensationalism.

Only through an all-knowing, infallible God can we have proper discernment. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with all our heart and to not rely on our own understanding. In all our ways we should acknowledge Him, and He will direct (rightly divide) our paths. 

                Only through God’s Word will one know what is profitable for instruction, reproof, and correction so that he or she may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work that God has foreordained for them to walk in (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Eph. 2:10).

                Only God’s Word can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

                Only through God’s Word (not the world) can one’s mind be renewed to discern what the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God is (Rom. 12:2, 1 Cor. 2:13-16).

                The believer’s responsibility is to be diligent in not only studying and knowing God’s Word, but in rightly dividing it (2 Tim. 2:15).  This means that although everything in the Bible is written for our learning, it’s not all written specifically to us (Rom. 15:4). The times when God spoke to “the fathers” is distinguished from the time in which He has “spoken to us.” The time in which “He spoke by the prophets” stands in contrast with the time in which He spoke by His “Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). And the “time past” is obviously distinguished from “these last days”. In order to “rightly divide” the word of truth, it’s essential to regard the times in which the words were spoken, as well as the times to which they refer. 

                Questions a Bible student must always ask when they’re reading God’s Word are:

(1) WHAT is spoken or written?, (2) WHO is it spoken or written TO?, (3) WHO is it spoken or written ABOUT?, (4) At what TIME?, (5) With what INTENT?, (6) With what WORDS?, (7) With what CIRCUMSTANCES?, (8) WHERE? 

Always consider what goes before and what comes after—taking all things in the context they were written in.

TIMES AND SEASONS

                The ‘latter times’, which are the subject of the Spirit’s ‘express’ words in 1 Timothy 4:1, are signs we should be aware of. They are a precursor to the things that pertain to Israel at the time of the end.  The only prophecies that pertain within the realm of this present dispensation are found in Paul’s epistles written since Acts 28:28 (These include: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). The first great prophetic pronouncement is found in 1 Timothy chapter 4 which opens with the words, “Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some will depart from the faith.”  If we view this passage in light of the context, it will be found that the central core of Paul’s first letter to Timothy reveals two things that are set against each other: the apostasy of the later times with the mystery of godliness. The mystery of godliness is explained as “God manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).  The apostasy (forsaking) of faith of the last days of this dispensation is vitally connected with seducing spirits, doctrines of demons, the forbidding of marriage, the abstention from meats, old wives tales, and bodily exercise (1 Tim. 4:1-8). This departure from the faith will have immediate and future consequences. The immediate consequences are reflected in the state of affairs depicted in 2 Timothy 3 and 4.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come…” (2 Tim. 3:1).

This gives us a clue of the character that will be displayed during this time. The word perilous in Greek is Chalepos and is used of things that are hard to bear, severe, grievous, rough, rugged, and dangerous.  When used of persons, it indicates that they are hostile, angry, cruel, bad-tempered, nasty, and generally mean-spirited. This same Greek word is used to describe the mental condition of the men possessed with ’devils’, who were ‘exceeding fierce’ in Matthew 8:28.

“…For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:2-5)

At the same time this falling away from the faith will prepare the way for the greater apostasy that’s prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2 (belonging to the dispensation that follows after this one). Thus the apostasy of 1 Timothy 4 is the beginning opposition to the mystery of godliness, which resistance reaches its fullness in the manifestation of the man of sin. In order for the apostasy that’s foretold in 1 Timothy 4 to be carried out, two entities need to work together. One is spiritual and the other human. The spiritual entities’ responsibility is to seduce with their doctrines of demons, while the human agents, with their seared consciences, become ‘lie-speakers’. These pawns of the devil are similar to those that will be taken in and deceived in the future because they received not the love of the truth…and had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2:9-11). Interesting to note that references to ‘The Truth’ and ‘the Word of God’ are positioned on either side of the departure in 1 Timothy 3:15 and 4:5. It’s ‘The Truth’ that sets the captive free (2 Tim. 2:25-26), and it’s away from ‘The Truth’ that the false teachers will redirect the ears of those who willingly become ensnared to do the devil’s bidding (2 Tim. 2:26, 3:6). 

                The darkness only deepens as the end of the ages draws near.  Mind you, these warnings are for believers. Just as ‘faith comes by hearing’ so does deception. Either the believer holds fast to the mystery of godliness (and the Head of the body), or they start upon a downward path that leads via the doctrine of myths to the mystery of iniquity (a ‘form of godliness’ that’s devoid of power).  This should be enough to warn the believer to be vigilant and to make sure all the armor of God is in place. It’s vital that the believer’s focus is on the Lord and His Word no matter how it becomes attacked or ignored (Eph. 6:10-18, 2 Tim. 4:2, Col. 2:8, 16-21).

                So hold fast to God’s faithful word and don’t be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17, Titus 1:9). And remember our true citizenship is in heaven where our blessed hope and our glorious and great God and Savior Jesus Christ await us (Phil. 3:20-21, Titus 2:13).

Laura

WHERE DO WARS AND FIGHTS COME FROM?

What stirs up strife, hatred, anger, wrath, and pride? (Prov. 10:12, 15:18, 28:25, 29:22, James 4:1-2, 4)               

GOD: THE LAWMAKER AND LAW ENFORCER

                God has provided an orderly world. (Gen. 1:14, Eccl. 1:4-7, 3:11, Job 38:31-33, Isa. 40:12). His creation has been designed and executed perfectly—displaying His power, holiness, and righteousness (Ps. 18:30, Ps. 19:7, Rom. 1:19-20).  “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). The universe obeys certain laws. These laws (ordinances of heaven and earth, Jer. 33:25) are precise and many of them are mathematical in nature (laws of physics, i.e. law of gravity…).  Natural laws are hierarchical in nature. Secondary laws of nature are based on primary laws of nature, which have to be just right in order for our universe to be possible. Laws are nothing in themselves. In all the works of God we find not only what we call “Law” and a “Law maker”, but we also discover a “Law enforcer”.  The most fundamental laws of nature exist only because God wills them to. He upholds and sustains them in the universe He’s created (Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:2-3). God created man and woman in His own image to have dominion over all the living creatures that He had created. God also allowed man and woman to have free will.

INSURRECTION IN THE GARDEN 

Anarchist: a person who rebels against any authority, established order, or ruling power.

                God placed man and woman in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it (Gen. 1:26-28). He had commanded them of which tree not to eat of, and told them what would happen if they did (Gen. 2:15-17). We’re not told how or when the anarchist got into the garden, but we do know a bit about his background.  He had previously challenged and revolted against God’s authority long before he ‘slithered’ into Eden.  He is known by different names: Lucifer, the Devil, Satan, and the great Dragon (Rev. 12:9). His past position was as God’s anointed cherub, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  His performance was first-rate in the role God placed him in from the day he was created until iniquity (perversity) was found in him. His heart grew prideful due to his beauty and so his wisdom became corrupted.  Lucifer wasn’t content with the high ranking post that God had given him. He wanted to be like God, the Most High. Instead God removed him from his position and cast him to the ground (and the angels that followed him) (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:13-18, Rev. 12:9). 

                We find him next persuading Eve in the garden to question what God had said. It didn’t take long to deceive her into breaking God’s command and convincing Adam to as well (Gen. 3:1-6). They were reprimanded and given the penalty for their disobedience and cast out of the garden. The chaos and calamities that befall mankind are a direct consequence of Adam and Eve’s rebellion from divine law and affect not only mankind but all of creation (Gen. 3:16-19, 23-24, Rom. 5:12, 8:20-22). 

KNOW JESUS. KNOW PEACE. 

There is one Lawgiver, Who is able to save and to destroy (James 4:12).

                The great pronouncement and prophecy in Genesis 3:15 that God gave to the serpent provided mankind with a glimmer of hope, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” See also 1 John 3:8. God, in His superior wisdom and foreknowledge had a plan already in motion. Due to His enormous mercy, He would send in an army of One Who would pay the ultimate price so that mankind could have access to eternal life as well as a new way to live in peace (in the midst of a fallen, chaotic world) (Rom. 5:12, 19, 2 Cor. 5:21, Gal. 1:4, Eph. 1:7, 2:8-9, Col. 1:4).

THE UNSEEN WAR

                “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war… Friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:1-2, 4).

                Even though the Christian’s eternal position in Christ is secure today, in order to walk in victory through the dark times on earth, a Christian must stay ‘hid in Christ’ where the enemy will have no power to tempt his flesh (Col. 3:3, Rom. 13:12, Eph. 6:10-13, 4:23-24). It’s an imperative to stay in God’s Word in order to wield His spiritual sword with discernment effectively (and not succumb to the wiles of the devil) (Heb. 4:12, 1 Cor. 2:12-14, 2 Cor. 2:11, Eph. 6:11, 17).                 

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:3).

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood…” (Eph. 6:12).

The truth is we war against spiritual, unseen entities that are principalities, powers, and rulers of the darkness of the age; spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (Eph. 6:11).  As tempting as it is today to get caught up in worldly debates, remember that a Christian’s true citizenship is in heaven, not on earth (1 John 5:19, Phil. 3:20, Col. 3:1-2). Satan is an adversary, who waits around like a lion seeking who he can devour (1 Pet. 5:8). He’s a liar and deception is his mode of operating (John 8:44, Gen. 3:13, 2 Cor. 11:3, 14, 1 Tim. 2:14, Rev. 20:10).  His realm is in the corrupt fleshly nature, which all (believer or not) carry. That’s why for the believer (who has another option) is told to put off the old nature and put on the new. The old is the area that Satan has an opportunity to agitate and rile up emotions that generate envy, self-seeking, and prideful hearts. This often leads to anger, strife, and hatred, causing one to war against another. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there (Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 4:22-27, 5:11, 2:2, Rom. 6:6, James 3:14-16). 

NO JESUS. NO PEACE.

                God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Cor. 14:33).  God cannot lie, it’s not in His nature (Titus 1:2, Num. 23:19). His wisdom is from above and is peaceful, gentle, full of mercy, without partiality and without hypocrisy (James 3:17-18). God’s Spirit bears fruit (Gal. 5:22-23, Eph. 5:9). “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).

                We shouldn’t turn our backs when injustices arise and we can be righteously angry. Our anger shouldn’t lead us to sin as this gives the devil an opportunity (Eph. 4:26-27). The way we conduct ourselves does matter. Our actions should be in love, as children of light, and with wisdom—redeeming the time because the days are evil (Eph. 5:2, 8, 15-16).

                Martin Luther King Jr., in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech said this, “…In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high place of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

STAY THE COURSE

                As the Bible tells us, the good guys win in the end (Rev. 20:10, 21:4, 22:3, 1 Cor. 15:26, 28, 1 John 3:8, 5:4-5). Be strong in God’s grace. It is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9, 2 Tim. 2:1). Don’t get caught up in the world’s ways and teachings that are ever changing, remembering they generate from the present ruler of the power of the air and demons (1 Tim. 4:1, 2 Tim. 2:4, Eph. 4:14). Speak the truth in love and preach God’s truth steadfastly and patiently (Eph. 4:15, 2 Tim. 4:2). Stay the course by fighting the good fight, keeping the faith and finishing the race (2 Tim. 4:7).

Laura