December 29, 2016
This year, as usual, two different people gave me a couple hundred 2017 pocket calendars to pass out while witnessing. Yesterday I gave these out, used four different signs, and conversed with numerous individuals concerning the Lord, His ways, and His Word. May the Lord shine brightly His Truth, His Light, and His mercy on all those who took a step closer to Him.
Though I very rarely encounter an atheist, or even an agnostic (though maybe they are the ones who pretend I don’t exist as they walk past me), the very last guy I crossed paths with, and this as I was walking back to my car, was presumably of such persuasion. For when I spoke to him, pointing to the Bible I was holding, he shook his head, saying, “Nawwww.” I then asked him what his religion is, and in broken English he said he had none. I reminded him about DNA and that there most certainly must be a Creator. –And that He sees everything and that we are accountable to Him. This communication all happened within the space of about a minute. As our paths separated and I pointed up to the sky, saying, “The Creator”, the man seemed suddenly convicted as he acknowledged with a sincere, “Ohhhh, yeah!” that he understood my warning to him and was taking it to heart. I pointed again at my Bible and waved good-bye, then called back, “Happy New Year!” He smiled and responded with the same.
This type of very short conversation would usually strike me as insignificant / unsuccessful. But when that thought came to me as I went on to my car, I thought, “No, I can pray that it is not insignificant. I can pray that the Lord uses it and brings that man to the Truth and Salvation.” And I have indeed prayed this many times.
The point is this: Just one minute of something we say, can, by the help of God’s Holy Spirit, “turn the lightbulb on” for someone. I mean, it appeared that one minute the guy was an agnostic and that the next minute he was acknowledging that there is a Creator, that the Creator could see him and knew all about him, that the Creator was going to hold everyone, including him, accountable for all actions, words, and thoughts, and that he had better look into the Word of God for himself. Of course I’m not sure all the guy’s thought processes, but I should, and do, have faith that something supernatural took place in that one minute. –And that mixed with the power of prayer, that man did have an encounter, however small, with the Creator, who is Jesus. –That that man “saw” a glimpse of Truth and realized he has to make a choice concerning that Truth. I do pray he will go forward and not choose to forget or reject Him.
A few sentences. A couple expressions. A smile. A word. A gift. “Five small barley loaves and two small fish.” (John 6:9) Anything we can give out to someone –if the Lord is in it, it can make an eternal difference.
December 23, 2016
The story of Christmas is that Jesus, the Eternal God and Creator (John 1:1,2,10), came to earth as a human baby so that, in bearing witness to the Truth (18:37), He would conquer sin (John 1:29 // Rom. 6:18), the devil (John 12:31 & 16:11), and death (8:51 & 11:25,26), would pay mankind’s ransom (1 John 2:2), thus liberating us from the dark kingdom (Col. 1:13,14), and would, in His sinlessness (Heb. 4:15), model for us how to live (1 John 2:6), while also baptizing us in the Holy Spirit (Mt. 3:11) –He whose power we are to use to imitate Christ. (Gal. 5:16)
The story of Christmas is that Jesus came to His own people –the descendants of Jacob whom He irrevocably chose (Jer. 31:35-37 // Rom. 11:1,2,28,29) as His treasured possession (Ps. 135:4), the nation He calls “My nation” (Isa. 51:4), and the bloodline He chose to identify with (John 4:22 // Rom. 1:3)– but they, the majority, did not accept Him. As John 1:11 says, “He came to His own, but His own did not receive Him.” Even so, the next verse says, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” This was first offered to the Jews (Rom. 1:16), but God, knowing they, as a nation, would reject Him, allowed the rejection so as to bring salvation to the Gentiles. (Acts 28:17,23-28 // Rom. 11:12,15) Therefore, whoever believes (believes with true repentance, faith, and trust) has crossed over into Salvation. (John 3:15 & 5:24)
The story of Christmas is that the eternal blessings which were offered to Abraham belong also to all “who are of the faith of Abraham.” (Rom. 4:16) God made The Covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Israelites, and King David, and the people of Israel are thus the recipients of God’s promises. (9:4,5 & 11:18) However, the Good News declares that the Gentiles have been invited, through Christ’s work, to submit to being grafted into the Covenant so that they, along with believing Jews, may “share in the nourishing sap from the olive root.” (11:17)
This, though, does not make Gentiles into Jews. Indeed, Scripture maintains that one’s faith does not change one’s bloodline or race. We see the Jewish/Gentile racial distinction evidenced at least three times in Acts chapter 13 alone. Once is in verse 16 where Paul says, “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!” Another is in verse 26 where Paul says, “Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.” Another is in verse 43: “When the congregation [of the synagogue, which is where the Jewish Law and Prophets are read –v. 14,15,42] was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.” (Scripture has a multitude of this evidence, but just two more examples in this same chapter can be seen through the statements, “They are now His [Jesus’] witnesses to our people” in verse 31, and “What God promised our fathers He has fulfilled for us, their children” in verses 32 & 33.)
The story of Christmas is that from David’s “descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as He promised.” (Acts 13:23) Yes, Jesus, “the Root and Offspring of David” (Rev. 22:16), the One the Lord God promised would reign over the house of Jacob forever (Isa. 9:6,7 // Luke 1:31-33), is the King of the Jews (Mt. 2:6) whose all-mighty rule, based in Jerusalem, will extend across the whole earth. (Ps. ch. 2 // Zech. 14:9,16,17 // Rev. 11:15 & 19:11-16 & 21:24-26)
The story of Christmas proclaims glory to God and the invitation of reconciliation to those with whom He is pleased. (Luke 2:14 // 2 Cor. 5:19,20) As Jesus says in Rev. 22:14, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” This opportunity is not only for the Jew, but it is, most assuredly, also for the Gentile. Yes, anyone, anywhere, can pledge allegiance to the King of Kings –the One who was born a Jew, in a stable, that first Christmas night.
December 15, 2016
At this Christmas season, when parties are abundant, as well as eggnog and the anticipation of cheer given and received by those whom we believe share our affection, lies a terrible reality for many. It is called domestic abuse. Please view this about one beautiful woman:
Though there certainly are men in the world who are abused by their wives or their children, it is, for the most part, men who are abusing their wives and/or children. This is therefore not “a women’s issue”, as if men are allowed to tune out when abuse is spotlighted, but instead it is primarily “a man’s issue”. In other words, there is something terribly wrong with the majority of men and their culture rather than women and children being the ones to blame. Please watch this:
Since even the strongest and most successful of women can be abused by their husbands, society needs to better inform itself as to why women stay with their abusers. Please watch this:
Abuse, particularly wife abuse, is rampant. For many it is not cheer and warmth and love and security that surrounds this Christmas season, or any season, but instead cursing, lies, threats, screaming, and violence.
Let us help stop the terror by exposing it, by asking that good men take a stand against their culture’s status quo, and by holding abusers accountable for their words and actions.
December 6, 2016
2 Chron. 36:15 says that the LORD sent word to the people of Judah “again and again, because He had pity on His people and on His dwelling place.” And how did God send them word? He did so “through His messengers.” (Same verse) This IS very often how God speaks to people, particularly if they have turned a calloused ear to His voice in creation, circumstances, or Scripture. Indeed, He sends other people to speak to them and relay His words to them.
True, we now have the completed written Word, but the Jews also already had, by the time referenced in 2 Chron. ch. 36, plenty of God’s written Word. They could compare God’s written Word with the words another person uttered as from the Lord, and this is what we are to do. Having the Holy Spirit and the written Word of God, we possess all that is adequate in responding appropriately to messengers claiming to speak in God’s name. Certainly after fervent prayer, we should have no excuse to not discern the Source/source of the words.
But mocking the words of messengers? This is dangerous, and rejecting a “word” should never be done flippantly. The “word” may not be from God, but, it just may be. We’d best be humble enough to discern carefully and prayerfully. Let’s not forget that God used a donkey to speak His words to a reckless prophet. (Num. ch. 22) Moreover, there are several instances we can read of in Scripture where God used not only someone not considered a prophet, but even the heathen to declare His words to others. An example of the latter can be seen right there in 2 Chron., this time in chapter 35. It tells us that Josiah, who was actually a godly king, would not heed the words of Neco, king of Egypt, who advised him not to join the quarrel at the Euphrates. (v. 20-22) As verse 22b says, “He [Josiah] would not listen to what Neco had said at God’s command but went to fight him…” Yes, Neco, at God’s command, had warned Josiah to stay out of the battle, but Josiah didn’t listen and so went to his death. (v. 22-24) Let’s take note that even though Neco claimed God was with him, and did prophesy that God would destroy Josiah if he entered the battle, there actually is no indication that this Egyptian king was a worshipper of Yahweh. How much more so then should we recognize that a “word from the Lord” given by a Christ-follower is to be given special, sober attention.
But what do so many people do, particularly if they consider themselves Bible-teachers themselves? They reject the “word”, and even show contempt toward the messenger. This is what “all the leaders of the priests and the people” (2 Chron. 36:14) did right before they were devastated (slaughtered or exiled) by the Babylonians –which happened by the decree of the Lord. (v. 16-21) Verse 16 is a terrifying warning, and it follows the verse I began this post with about the Lord sending His word again and again through His messengers, for it (v. 16) says, “But they mocked God’s messengers, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against His people and there was no remedy.” No remedy. Is this not terrifying concerning anyone who would do the same?
Has anyone engaged in this type of unwise attitude? Does anyone think that they could have possibly attributed the words of the Lord, given through a person, as coming from “another spirit”? Claiming a message is of “another spirit” pretty much equates with saying the source is an evil spirit. Thus the person has just declared that the words, being not from the Holy Spirit, are coming from a counterfeit spirit / a spirit from the evil side. Is making such a judgement call not something we should be extremely cautious about? I would think so, especially considering what Jesus warns of in Mark 3:28,29, saying, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” And verse 30 makes the warning very clear: “He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.'”
Let’s look carefully at the whole of Mark ch. 3, for we can read that it was the teachers of the law who, after seeing and hearing of the miracles of Jesus and of His messengers, stated that Jesus was able to do such things because He was possessed by the prince of demons. It was because of this accusation, that Jesus gave the warning about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. A parallel passage is found in Mt. ch. 12, while in ch. 10 we read that Jesus, after giving His disciples / messengers spiritual authority and instructions, promised them that their words, as His ambassadors, would not be their own, but instead be “the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (v. 20) A few statements later, Jesus then informs His messengers that if the Master is called Beelzebub, his servants will also likely be called such. (v. 25)
This being the case, then, what about the ones from whom the blasphemy comes? Likely Mt. 18:6 applies where Jesus warns that it would be better that a person have a large milestone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea than for that person to cause one of God’s humble and honorable children to stumble –to falter in faith or commit some other sin.
Yes, it would be better to be drowned in the sea than to associate an evil spirit with a message actually coming from the Holy Spirit. Because for committing such a sin, there is no forgiveness –ever.