Archives for : May2017

There are no mixed metaphors in the Bible…or are there?

THE EVIL EYE

English professors love to catch the errors students make in their term papers, and they love nothing better than to catch mixed metaphors. The Calvin College English department collected this list of mixed metaphors and posted them on their web site:

“He swept the rug under the carpet.”
“She’s burning the midnight oil at both ends.”
“It was so cold last night I had to throw another blanket on the fire.”
“It’s time to step up to the plate and cut the mustard.”
“She’s robbing Peter to pay the piper.”
“He’s up a tree without a paddle.”
“Beware my friend…you are skating on hot water.”
“Keep your ear to the grindstone.”
“Sometimes you’ve gotta stick your neck out on a limb.”
“Some people sail through life on a bed of roses like a knife slicing through butter.”

There are no mixed metaphors in the Bible…or are there?  There are certainly many metaphors.  We are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”, Jesus is the “good shepherd” and the “bread of life” — the list could go on and on),  But surely there are no mixed metaphors.  There’s one scripture, though, that I’ve often struggled with because the metaphor seemed out of place.

In Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus is talking about our attitude toward material things — “treasures on earth”, “mammon”.  Right in the middle of this passage, though, Jesus says,

“The lamp of the body is the eye.  If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23-24)

Talking about a “good eye” and a bad eye” seems somewhat out of place in this discussion of material things.  But I learned something recently.  I was doing some research on the word “envy” and checked the dictionary to find out the derivation of our English word.  It turns out “envy” comes from two Latin words meaning “to look upon”.  Past usage included the phrase “to cast an evil eye upon”.

So, an “evil eye” is one that looks with envy,  A “good eye” is one that does not.  Knowing that sheds new light on this passage.  The metaphor (as always) is so very fitting, and serves as a reminder to me that I need to learn the value of contentment in my own life.

Is your eye good?

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

That seems so narrow-minded and maybe even mean-spirited

The book “Where’s Waldo?” challenges us to find an elusive Wally with his distinctive red-and-white- striped shirt, bobble hat, and glasses.

At times we may find the search exhilarating or perhaps frustrating. The search for Wally can also provide us with a parable as we enter the world of two young people on a train.

Sitting on a crowded commuter train side by side, a young man picked up a book presumably discarded by an earlier traveler. Turning to the bored-looking lass sitting beside him, he inquired, “Have you ever tried to find Waldo in these books before?”

Perhaps the fact that she even ventured to respond is as surprising as her words, “No, have you?”

He mused, “This will be my first time.”

Together they opened the book to the first bewildering page of colorful detail. Immediately he began methodically scanning every inch of the picture. After several minutes he announced, “Wally is not here.”

Looking up from the same page, she asked, “Why do you say that? I thought Wally was supposed to be on every page.”

Exuding a deep confidence he informed her, “I am quite sure that Waldo must have 14 stripes. And none of these characters has 14 stripes on their shirt.”

Her retort was quick. “To me that seems so narrow- minded and maybe even mean-spirited.” Then in an effort to display graciousness and pursue the high road, she announced, “I think everyone on this page is Waldo!”

The story seems far-fetched. No one would make these claims. Furthermore, we know that both of them are wrong. But why do we know this?

We recognize that we do not determine Wally’s identity.  Neither our character nor our own thinking influences who Waldo really is or is not. Instead, many years ago the illustrator Martin Handford decided what Waldo looks like. And when we apply his criteria, we are neither being narrow-minded nor gracious, just accurate.

In the same sort of way, who is and is not a Christian is not a matter of our opinion.

If in an effort to be gracious and broad-minded we extend an inclusiveness as far as our hearts can expand, this does not help us identify who Christians truly are. Conversely, if we restrict true Christianity to only those conforming to our privately constructed criteria, likewise our vision will remain muddled.

To accurately perceive Christian identity depends upon listening to the Author who created and still makes people into his new creation.

As far as I can ascertain from scripture, people become Christians when they enter the new covenant created by Christ’s death upon the cross (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27).

Specifically, when people believe the claims of the gospel about Christ and choose to receive the blessings and identity his death made possible, they are to respond to Christ by acknowledging him and relying upon him in immersion.

How accurate are we in identifying Wally? How about those who belong to Christ?

by Barry Newton

The Mormon “Seer”

And they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside by fables (2 Timothy 4:4).”

The church of Latter Day Saints, in an effort to be more transparent, recently released photos of a sacred stone called “the seer stone.” It is believed to have been used by their prophet Joseph Smith to translate what would become the Book of Mormon (BoM). According to Mormon doctrine, Smith received the revelation from an angel named Moroni 185 years ago. By those who esteem the BoM as divine, Smith is regarded as a prophet who restored the church with the aid of this very stone which we can all now see for ourselves.

On several occasions we have received fresh-faced “elders” into our home who are very earnest in sharing their faith. Without fail they ask us to pray to God to reveal if Joseph Smith is His prophet. We have gently expressed to them that this is not how God directed us to test a prophet or the truth.

In the Old Testament there were many who presumed to speak for God and He provided a test. “When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken if presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him (Deuteronomy 18:22).” If Smith is God’s prophet we merely need to inspect his words against the truth (1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 John 4:1).

In 1835, Smith prophesied that Jesus would return within 56 years (Matthew 24:23, 36). Smith also prophesied that in the Civil War the Confederacy would draw Great Britain and other nations into the conflict (Doctrines & Covenants 87:1-3). The Mormon “Seer” also spoke by “the word of the Lord” that their temple would be constructed in the western boundaries of the state of Missouri (Doctrines & Covenants 84:2-5). Genuine prophets speak only as the Lord directs them (1 Kings 22:14, 2 Peter 1:20-21) thus they are never wrong, not even once.

Worse still, Smith said that the BoM is the “most correct book of any on earth.” The cover of the book even states “ANOTHER Testament of Jesus Christ.” This particular claim puts Smith at odds with inspired Bible writers. Peter wrote that God had already “given us ALL things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).” If Peter is correct then Smith’s work is at best superfluous. If Smith is correct then the inspired Apostle is in error. Smith testified that he received new revelation from an angel. Paul wrote that even if the Apostles “or an angel from heaven, preach ANY OTHER gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8).” Jude wrote that Christians had received “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).” Why then should we trust ANOTHER testament, or covenant?

Tragically, Smith has mislead many of his faith for generations concerning the identity of Jesus Christ. Latter Day saints believe Jesus is literally the son of Elohim God. That is, they believe, He has a beginning in contrast to the teachings of the Bible that Jesus is eternal (Isaiah 9:6, Malachi 5:2, John 8:58).

Sadly, these dear people have been misled by a false prophet and this stone which is central to their faith. The true faith is also built upon a stone, and a right identification of who Jesus truly is, the eternal Son of God (Matthew 16:18). The rock upon which His church was built and endured through all generations (Ephesians 3:21) is based on this. God has long ceased to speak to men through various means and prophets and instead has given His revelation through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2) who is the chief cornerstone (Acts 4:11, Ephesians 2:20). Jesus is that “living stone chosen by God and precious (1 Peter 2:4).” Test these two stones and see for yourself.

And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder (Matthew 21:44).”

-Billy Alexander

WHAT’S ON THE OTHER SIDE?

A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room.  He said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die.  I need to know what to expect when I go to heaven.  Please tell me what lies on the other side.”

The doctor wanted to offer comfort to his patient, but he didn’t know what to say.  Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?!  Then why do you want to go to heaven if you don’t know?  You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?”

The doctor was uneasy and was holding the handle of the door.  From the other side came a sound of scratching and loud whining.  As the doctor opened the door, a dog sprang into the room with his tail wagging and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.

Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog?  He’s never been in this room before.  He didn’t know what was inside.  He knew nothing except that his master was here, and when the door opened he sprang in without fear.  I know little of what is on the other side of death, but I do know one thing: I know my Master is there, and that is enough.  And when the door opens, I shall pass through with no fear, but with gladness.”

It’s true that while we are given a glimpse of what lies ahead, there is a great deal that we don’t know and often wonder about.  Will there be a literal street of gold and a gate of pearl?  Highly unlikely. Those kinds of images may be helpful in understanding how precious heaven is, but they are not of much value in helping us to know exactly what it will look like.

And quite frankly, it doesn’t matter to me, for two reasons.  First of all, I trust my heavenly Father to provide nothing less than the very best for His children.  And secondly, as the doctor in the story above pointed out, the only thing that really matters is that we will be in the presence of God.  Living in a shack in His presence would be preferable to living in a mansion apart from Him.  Whatever else heaven may be, its essence is that we have the opportunity to have intimate fellowship with God.

“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’ ” (Rev. 20:12)

Recently, I read a quote that has convicted me more than anything I’ve heard in a long time.  John Piper asked the question, “If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”

It makes me wonder if we’re anxious to get to heaven to have the opportunity to be with God, or if we just want to go because it’s a place where we’ll enjoy ourselves and have all the comforts and pleasures that we’d like to have right now.  Think about it.

–Alan Smith

A 2 minute summary of the entire Bible

Born into the Family

I was born March 17, 1971 in St. Louis, MO, into the Holland family, which belongs to the “American Family.” The American family dwells on the North American continent. The American family, to which I belong, is defined by its laws, preeminently the U. S. Constitution. A people. A land. A law.

In order for God to become flesh, He had to be born. Therefore, He needed a family – a people – a land and a law. The Old Testament is the story of God preparing for the coming of Jesus. God chose Abraham to be the “Father of his country” because Abraham, in the midst of unbelief and paganism, obeyed God (Genesis 22:16-18).

God took Abraham’s descendants, the Hebrews, into slavery in Egypt. After 430 years, at Mount Sinai, God formed them into a people – the nation of Israel, a “holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). The people needed a law; God gave them the Law of Moses to define them as a people. They also needed a land. God had promised Abraham the land under his feet (Genesis 15:18-21). God fulfilled that promise under the leadership of Joshua (Joshua 21:43-45).

Everything was ready in its broad outlines for the coming of Jesus. The plan was for Israel to receive the birth of the Messiah and then proclaim Him as the Savior of all mankind to the entire world. But Israel had a hard time staying monotheistic (believing in one God). That issue began at Mount Sinai with the golden calf (Exodus 32). God eventually sent them into 70 years of slavery in Babylon to cure them of polytheism. The rest of the Old Testament details how God pruned the Israelite nation until He had a “faithful remnant.”

That remnant was composed of such people as Zacharias and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, Simeon and Anna, Nathaniel and others. When the Messiah did come, born of the virgin Mary, the remnant accepted Him, obeyed His word and became members of His new nation – the church.

Read the Bible with its overall theme in mind: The salvation of man through Jesus Christ to the glory of God.

–Paul Holland

Well, that joy didn’t last very long

Exo 14:12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.

The children of Israel had left Egypt with great joy. Well, that joy didn’t last very long. For upon seeing the Egyptian armies chasing behind them, their joy dried out and fear set in, “and they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11-12).

They had forgotten that it was through a mighty hand of God that they were able to leave Egypt. But now, upon seeing Pharaoh and his armies, they became slaves again. They saw death and graves. They saw hopelessness.

Maybe they were saying: “Blame it on Moses; it was all his fault. We should never have listened to him. Why has he brought us to this wilderness to die? Life was tough in Egypt but at least, we were alive. Now, we are going to die! It would be better to return to Egypt and serve the Egyptians! Let’s choose a leader who will take us back.”

How easy it is to complain, gripe and groan when things are not going as expected. Have you ever have this thought that life would be better if you had not become a Christian? You begin to look back to your former life and reminiscing how free you had been without Christ. Now, you feel God is controlling your life. You want to break free again. You want to go back to the world where you can be free again.

Perish the thought! Be on guard against this faithless form of thinking: “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:2). The devil wants you to feel defeated. He wants to rob you of your joy as Christian and go back to him. Instead, you should focus your mind on God’s promises: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelations 2:10).

Nothing on this earth is permanent; not even our troubles. When it feels like things are falling apart, we can trust that God is putting them all back together. When we focus on God, our troubles become “light afflictions”. Paul wrote: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). The trials which Paul endured, to many persons would have seemed to be anything else but light, yet Paul speaks of them as the lightest conceivable things when compared with that eternal glory awaiting him.

We need to have this same mind of Paul – the glory awaiting before us is much more glorious and eternal compared to the sufferings we may be undergoing at this moment. Heaven will surely be worth it all.

Moses told the fearful Israelites: “The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14). He directed them to leave it to God. We are never alone in this fight: The LORD shall fight for you. We need to heed the advice: “Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD” (Exodus 14:13). That’s exactly what we should do when we are troubled and worry too much – Stand Still.

A girl who will make a sacrifice to marry a poor man and it’s all because of love; life is a beautiful struggle when both are in love. Likewise, life is a beautiful struggle when we have God. Let us look forward instead of looking back: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Jimmy Lau
Psa 119:97 Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.

I’m old and can’t do much, but I have more time and still have the ability to pray

The following is part of an article from http://thejenkinsinstitute.com/ 

 About 8 years ago I got an email from a 90 year old lady that changed my life.

Barbara is an unusual woman, I’ll write about her soon. About 8 years ago she wrote me and said “I know you preach a lot in a lot of places. I’m old and can’t do much, but I have more time and still have the ability to pray. If you will send me your speaking schedule each week, the specific times and places, while you are preaching I will be praying. I’ll pray for you and for your audience.” What a gift. This became a passion of hers. It became a responsibility for me and a powerful comfort.

You want to affect your preacher. Don’t just tell him you are praying for him. Be specific and consistent and let him know you are being both – often.

When you pray for your preacher you’ll make him a better preacher and help your relationship with him.

Send him an email, short text message, or hand write him a note. Let him know you are praying for him.

I DON’T WANT TO LISTEN

I love to hear stories about the humorous things children say, but this has to be one of my all-time favorites:

In a kindergarten class, there was a boy who wasn’t listening to the teacher. The teacher said to him, “Since you don’t want to listen, you sit at that table by yourself.”

After a few minutes, a little girl in class raised her hand and said, “Teacher, I don’t want to listen either. Can I sit with him?”

We may not always be willing to admit it out loud, but most of us have experienced situations where we thought to ourselves, “I don’t want to listen.”  It may have been a teacher we didn’t want to listen to, or our parents, or that co-worker who won’t seem to shut up.  “I just don’t want to listen.”

There’s a danger, though, that we may take the same approach with God. Jesus said of some of the Jews, “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears…” (Matthew 13:15).  Basically, their attitude toward Jesus was, “We don’t want to listen.”

But, if we don’t listen, we can’t learn.  And if we don’t learn, we can’t grow.  May we all take to heart the advice of James — “Be swift to hear!” (James 1:19)

“Lord, please forgive me for those times when I have been so intent on doing things the way I wanted to do them that I closed my ears to what you had to say.  Teach me, guide me and counsel me with your wisdom.  I want to listen!  In Jesus’ name, amen.”

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Destroying National Relics

The decision to keep or remove a national relic is not a new discussion. Presently, our country is divided over what to do with the Confederate flag. But, did you know that a similar situation is actually recorded in the Bible? Read on…

As you may remember, while wandering in the wilderness, the children of Israel murmured, complained, and spoke against God. In response, God sent poisonous serpents among them as a form of discipline (Numbers 21:4). Israel quickly confessed their sin and pleaded with Moses to make intercession with God on their behalf. Moses did intercede for the people and God instructed him to make a brazen serpent, set it on a pole, and those who would look at this brazen serpent would be healed (Numbers 21:8).

Fast forward approximately 600 years and we are now in the days of King Hezekiah while he is trying to reform Israel. Hezekiah had been tearing down the altars to pagan gods, and then he commanded the unthinkable.  He commanded that the brazen serpent that Moses made in the wilderness be destroyed (2 Kings 18:4).

How could he command such a thing?  Did he not know the history and significance of this object? This brazen serpent was a national relic. In terms of comparison, it has been preserved twice as long as our “Declaration of Independence.”

Hezekiah hadn’t lost his mind, rather he took note of the fact that the people had begun worshiping this object. It had become an idol, so he called it “Nehushtan” which means, “a thing of brass.” In other words, Hezekiah justified his decision to destroy it by reminding the people that they had allowed this object (merely a thing of brass) to come between them and God, so he destroyed it.

Question: Do you have any “Nehushtans” in your life? Have you allowed anything to come between you and your God? Jobs are good, but not if they rival your devotion to God. Sports are good, but not if you are more faithful to them than to God? You get the idea. Maybe it’s time we come to the realization to which Hezekiah came. Some things may need to be seen for what they are (e.g. just a thing of brass) and not be allowed to get between us and what is of real value. Give is some thought.

Steve Higginbotham

Vision

WHEN I WAS a farm boy, being able to see the end result gave meaning to otherwise boring work I had to do…

 

For example, as I was plowing the field, I would picture my dad planting the corn.  I would visualize the corn growing, being harvested, and taken to the barn to be made into feed for the cows.  The cows produced milk, which provided food for people in the community.

 

Vision keeps the big picture in front of you.  This picture will bring motivation and energy to the daily grind of the vision coming to pass.  For a vision to be realized there has to be faith in the vision.  I call this the “faith factor”–being persuaded your vision is biblical and taking steps towards it.  The fulfillment of a vision is a process of a series of actions.  The quality of our lives is determined by our vision and the effort we are willing to put into fulfilling it.  Sam Smucker, “The Faith Factor,” God Stories from Lancaster County, 104

 

“Then the LORD answered me and said:  ‘ Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it.  For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.   Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.'”  Habakkuk 2.2-3

 

Mike Benson

Blackmail Through Snapchat

There are some things you hear that you simply can’t believe. You say, “No. No way. That’s not happening. Is it?”

There’s an epidemic going around with Snapchat and our teens. Snapchat, if you didn’t know, is a photo/video/texting service that allows people to quickly send messages and funny animations back and forth between their friends. Lots of services do this, but the distinguishing feature of Snapchat has been that the pictures and videos are only available for a short time, a few seconds, and then they disappear.

In case you didn’t know, Snapchat, as quoted by its own creators, was originally designed for sexting – sending nude photos back and forth so that they self-destructed after a few seconds, to never be seen again, and to only be seen by those viewing it at that time.

Only it doesn’t work that way.

Because we always find loopholes. Whether it’s with scripture, our taxes, or Snapchat, we always search for loopholes to justify what we want to do.

Teens are now using Snapchat to blackmail one another.

Let me walk you through a scenario. A scenario that a friend recently told me about that actually happened.

Girl meets Boy. They hit it off. Both are upper-middle school, age 14. They immediately friend each other on Snapchat, because if you’re between the ages of 13-18 these days and don’t have Snapchat on your phone, you might as well be wearing hand-me-downs and shoes from 1998.

Things are fine for a while between Girl and Boy. They send goofy pics with text on them, all of it harmless.

Then one day, Boy asks Girl to send him a nude picture of herself. She does.

Why does she? She wants approval from this Boy. She wants to be sexy. She wants him to like her. She also figures that, “Hey, he’s only going to be able to see this for 10 seconds, right? Because Snapchat photos go away.”

Only they don’t. Not when the Boy takes a screenshot on his phone.

It’s a handy tool on iPhones – you can take a screenshot of what’s on the screen by hitting the power button and the home button at the same time.

The Girl had not thought of that.

So the Boy blackmails her. “I have the photo,” he says. “Send me a video of you doing _____ or I send this picture to all your friends.”

Now, there’s lots of things that should not have happened here. But regardless, this is apparently a regular occurrence between teens on Snapchat. In talking to my friend about his situation, he said that the girl had said “Yeah, of course. This is a normal thing that happens. Especially with kids in high school.”

Parents, how are we letting this happen? Are we that clueless?

You know of a good way for this not to happen? Don’t let you children have this app!

Parents, this is out of control. We always want to assume that our child would have the sense not to do something like this, but we would be naive and wrong.

Check your children’s phones today. Have them delete Snapchat, along with any other apps that hide use from parents (apps like Whisper, Yik-Yak, and Tinder come to mind). Ask the hard questions like “Have you done this before? Do you know people who do? Have you ever been asked to send nude photos of yourself?”
Parents, make a stand. Now. Before your child gets into lots of trouble.

Eph 6:4:  And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.

Chad Landman

The Road to Jesus Is Not Thwarted by the Nations of Men Isaiah 13 – 17

    Up to this point, Isaiah has preached against primarily Jerusalem (Judah) – the southern tribes of God’s people. At this point, God will now direct His judgment in eleven chapters against the nations surrounding Judah. This is done for a few reasons:

 

    1. These nations are guilty of sin and sin has to be punished.

    2. God had warned Israel not to trust in men (2:22); therefore, they should not trust in nations for their security. God, alone, is to be trusted.

    3. God has promised that He will establish a new body of people (pictured as a Kingdom, with the Son of David as the King – 7:14; 9:6-7). How will these foreign nations react to this new kingdom? Well, on one hand, they will flow to this new kingdom (2:1-4); on the other hand, God will destroy the kingdoms so they cannot inhibit the establishment of this new kingdom.

    4. In a culture in which gods of conquering nations were viewed as more powerful than those of conquered nations, God would show that He, indeed, was God Almighty. Israel should not trust other gods as Ahaz had done.

 

    Most of the punishment God will bring on these nations will be through Assyria, the “rod of His anger” (10:5). Smith comments these chapters: “teach the principle that believers should not be motivated by fear to compromise their beliefs about the sovereignty of God. They should confidently serve God regardless of their situation, knowing that his plans are being fulfilled” (292).

 

    Babylon is the first nation critiqued by Isaiah, in chapters 13-14. Assyria was the dominant and most threatening power in Isaiah’s day, but Isaiah will begin with Babylon. Why? Although Assyria would fight against Judah, that nation would not be victorious. But, Babylon will. Babylon is the nation in which Hezekiah will place ill-founded trust – chapter 39. Babylon is the nation who will carry Judah into exile for 70 years.

 

    There is a brief message against the world empire of Assyria (14:24-27), which Isaiah delivered the year King Ahaz died. Isaiah had already spoken extensively about Assyria (chapter 10) and he will deal with Assyria more in the historical section (chapters 36-37). Here, we have just a short message that God will break and remove Assyria (verse 26).

 

    “Here is the final issue of biblical faith. If there is one almighty Creator of the universe, who is intimately and purposefully involved with his creation, then there is no power on earth, least of all human pride, which can successfully rise up against him (43:13; Ps. 33:6-11; Prov. 19:12)” (Oswalt, 328).

 

    Isaiah also preaches against Philistia (14:28-32) and Moab (chapters 15 & 16). Finally (for now), Isaiah rebukes Damascus (17:1-3) and the northern tribes of Israel (17:4-14).

 

    The key point: Don’t trust in men nor nations of men! Where is our confidence? It ought not to be in Wall St. nor in Main St. Neither in Congress or the President. Not in Republicans or Democrats. Not in the military or our own weapons. Salvation comes from the Lord! We must consent and obey His will (1:19). If there is one message that pervades these chapters it is: Be humble & submit to God! (James 4:7)

    One other key point, in the words of John from Revelation 11:15 (whose setting would be similar to Isaiah’s): “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” The Son of David will establish His kingdom and the nations of the world will not stop Him.

–Paul Holland

THE CONSEQUENCES OF SIN

The story is told of a man who tried to steal gasoline from a motor home. Attaching a siphoning hose to the vehicle, he started to work; but police found him shortly afterward writhing in agony in the street.  It seems he had attached the hose, not to the gasoline tank, but to the motor home’s sewage tank! The owner declined to press charges; he was too busy laughing.

Facing the consequences of our sin, though, is no laughing matter.  Colossians 2:25 says, “He who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done” (NASV).  And we have to face those consequences even if we seem to  “get away” with what we have done.

Two guys who were not known for being overly smart were driving a delivery truck down a road when they came to a tunnel.  The sign said “Warning: Maximum Height 10 feet zero inches”, so they got out and measured their truck.  Unfortunately, the truck was just over 12 feet high.  They didn’t know what to do, when finally one of them looked both directions and said, “I don’t see any police, let’s go for it!”

As ridiculous as that sounds, there are many folks who take the same approach to sin.  “If nobody sees us, then it’s OK to go ahead and do it.  We can get away with it!”  But just as surely as driving a 12-foot high truck through a 10-foot clearance will result in bad stuff happening (even if no one is watching), so will involvement in sin result in negative consequences, even if no one is watching (of course, we know that God is always watching!)

Moses warned the tribes of Israel who wanted to remain on the east side of the Jordan River:  “If you arm yourselves…and all your armed men cross over the Jordan….and the land is subdued….then afterward you may return…and this land shall be your possession before the Lord.  But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:20-23)

The words of Moses serve as a needed reminder to all those who think that they can violate the law of God without consequence.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Excuses, excuses and excuses

Exo 4:10  And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.

Excuses, excuses and excuses. Was Moses really speech handicapped? The evangelist Stephen in his sermon said: “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22). Egypt had taught Moses everything he needed to know and he was mighty in his speech. Moses was making an excuse when God called him.

When we do not feel like doing a certain task, we will come up with an excuse. And, many a Christian today is coming up with one excuse after another for not serving God. In essence what Moses is saying to God is – I can’t talk; I get tongue tied; I’m not a good public speaker; and I do not speak well – my grammar is terrible.

Moses didn’t think he was a great speaker. He probably stuttered somewhat. He probably didn’t have perfect grammar too. But most belong to this same group of speakers – we don’t have pitch perfect voice and we make grammatical mistakes. Admittedly, most of us do not have a great speaking voice, but that does not mean we cannot serve God.

When God calls us to do His good work, we may not always be comfortable in the calling. And we follow Moses—coming up with all the excuses of why we aren’t the ones to do His will. Well, God is angry when we make excuses (Exodus 4:14).

God is glorified when great things are done through us (Matthew 5:16). When Christ was selecting His apostles, He didn’t go to the universities to recruit scholars and professors. He didn’t go to radio stations to recruit those who have “radio voices”. He went to the ordinary folks and recruited fishermen, a tax collector, a thief, a revolution fighter and others.

We may not be the best in the things that we are doing but that does not excuse us from serving God. If life, you carry on in your job even though you are not the best. But you learn under those who have more experience in it. They aren’t the best either. My point is: How is it some continue to work even though they are not the best but when it comes to God’s work, they think they are not good enough and therefore, would not work?

I write this devotion daily. I don’t have a degree in the English language. In fact, English was not my strong subject while in school. If you are one who picks on grammar, I will probably fail in your English assessment. You will see my English is just Singlish (Singapore English) – My sentences are poorly constructed and my grammar atrocious. Yet, for those who are just as average in the language like me, they understand the message I’m conveying.

In worship, if we busy ourselves with picking out the grammatical and pronunciation errors of the preacher, we are not worshipping God. My oral message is even more horrible than my written words. Yet, I’m still teaching, preaching and writing. It’s not because I’m thick-skinned but that I believe all of us must be committed to the cause that we believe in – we believe and therefore we work: “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13).

If the faith is worth holding on to, it is worth committing our time and effort to it. Paul wrote: “For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not” (2 Corinthians 8:12). It means, just be yourself and do it. Let us be committed to the faith that we hold dearly to.

Jimmy Lau
Psa 119:97  Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.

What saves us?

Consider:

* Christ’s blood: “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood…” (Romans 5:9a; cf. Ephesians 1:7).

* Christ: “…We shall be saved from wrath through Him”
(Romans 5:9b)

* His perfect life: “…We shall be saved by His life”
(Romans 5:10b).

* The Holy Spirit: “…You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

* The Gospel: “…I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation, for everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16).

* Preaching: “…It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe…”
(1 Corinthians 1:21b).

* Baptism: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you…” (1 Peter 3:21 ESV; cf. Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5).

* Grace: “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24; cf. Titus 3:7).

* Faith: “…Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1).

* Works: “…A man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24).

* Obedience: “And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying ‘Save yourselves from this untoward generation'” (Acts 2:40, KJV).

You may be thinking, “Well Mike, which is it? Which of these factors saves us?”

Think of it this way:

A man goes out for a morning’s swim in the ocean. No sooner does he make his way out into the turbulent water than he begins to be pulled down by a fierce undertow.

Despite his desperate struggle, he simply cannot make it back to shore. His situation seems hopeless. He cries out for help, hoping that someone will intervene before it’s too late.

Three onlookers on shore witness what is happening and spring into action. In unison, they rush across the beach and then push a small boat out into the surf in an effort to reach the drowning man. They row with all of their might and make it within twenty feet of poor soul.

One of the trio on board throws out a life preserver ring to the man. There’s a rope attached to the ring.
With what little strength is left in his body, the drowning man latches on. The group pulls the man to the boat, hauls him in, and brings him back to shore.

Now think about it.

Could we accurately say that the boat saved the man?
Well, in a sense, “yes,” because without it the three could have never reached him in time. Did the oars save the man? Without them the boat could have never been positioned close enough to reach him.

Did the life preserver ring save? What about the rope?
What about the man himself? Could we, in any sense, say that he saved himself?

Had he not reached out for the ring and rope and held on, he surely would have perished. Then too, had it not been for the compassion of the three men on shore, the man surely would have died.

So, which was it–was it the boat, the oars, the ring, the rope, the man himself, or the three onlookers who rushed to help? To ask the question is to answer it.
They ALL were involved; they ALL had a part in the man’s salvation.

This parable helps me to understand what is involved in salvation today. It’s not one thing; it’s several.
Salvation involves God’s part (e.g., grace) and man’s part (e.g., obedient faith.)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith…”
(Ephesians 2:8).

by Mike Benson

From our mothers we inherit a slightly imperfect copy of her mitochondrial DNA

For almost twenty-five years a wedding gift has hung in our hallway or living room. That battery powered wooden framed clock has marked the passage of seconds, minutes and hours for decades.

Such clocks are not the only ones. The earth is filled with many different types of clocks, some more accurate than others. Tides regularly wax and wane. Trees experience periods of rapid growth and then dormancy thus producing tree rings.

A new clock has been identified. From our mothers we inherit a slightly imperfect copy of her mitochondrial DNA. Experimentation has identified the rate at which human mitochondrial DNA mutates./1

What is fascinating about this clock is that these cellular energy factories we call mitochondria can point backward in history toward the origin of humanity. How is this possible?

By knowing how many mitochondrial DNA mutations exist between different individuals as well as the rate at which mutations occur, we can calculate how long it has been since a common mitochondrial mother was shared!
How far back does it go?

Given the rate at which our mitochondrial DNA mutates, if humanity has been around for some 180,000 years as standard human evolution affirms, then we should expect to find about 174 mutational differences. Grant some wiggle room, the expectation is for at least 124 mutational differences but no more than 290.

So what does the laboratory actually reveal? On the average humans have exhibited 10 mitochondrial DNA differences, nowhere near the expected 174. A mere 10 mutations places our common mother in the neighborhood of 10,000 years ago.

The evidence gets more interesting. Mitochondrial DNA mutation rates for fruit flies and round worms have also been determined.

Standard evolutionary theory proposes that the round worm appeared 18 million years ago while the fruit fly emerged some 20 million years ago. Yet, measuring their mitochondrial DNA mutations indicate these creatures appeared about the same time as humanity.

The earth is full of clocks: radioactive decay, the accumulation of atmospheric helium, the increasing salinity of our oceans, and so forth.

A strong temptation exists to accept as reliable only those clocks producing the answers we might like, whatever those might be. Conversely, it also entices us to manufacture stories and fabricate explanations to dismiss the testimony of dissenting clocks. This can cut in both directions.

It would appear that the scientific evidence is not so black and white as dominant cultural voices would have us to believe. Similarly it also suggests that claiming science is diametrically opposed to the sort of timescale proposed by a literal reading of scripture can involve misrepresenting some of the evidence.

____

1/ N.T. Jeanson. 2013. Recent, Functionally Diverse Origin for Mitochondrial Genes from ~2700 Metazoan Species. Answers Research Journal. 6:467-501.

by Barry Newton

Spell any difficult words

A DIFFICULT WORD

I heard about an office whose answering machine was set up to instruct callers to leave their name and address, and to “spell any difficult words.”

Early one Monday, when the secretary was reviewing the weekend messages, she heard an enthusiastic young woman recite her name and address, and then confidently offer, “My difficult word is reconciliation. R-E-C-O-N-C-I-L-I-A-T-I-O-N.”

Reconciliation can be a difficult word.  It’s not that it’s difficult to understand.  Webster defines the word “reconcile” as “to restore to friendship or harmony, to settle or resolve.”  The word can be used in a variety of ways, but when it’s applied to people it basically means to get two separated people back together again.  So we talk about a husband who wants to be reconciled to a wife who has left him, a father who wants to be reconciled to a wayward son, or a lost sinner who needs to be reconciled to God.

While not difficult to understand, reconciliation can be a difficult word to put into practice.  It can be very difficult to get two family members who are at odds to be reconciled.  And it can sometimes seem very difficult for us (or for others we know) to be made right with God.

A man once went to a preacher because he was having some family problems. He wasn’t a very well-educated man and sometimes got his words confused.  He said, “Me and my wife need a re-cancellation.”  What he meant to say was reconciliation, but the word re-cancellation wasn’t a bad choice.  Because there can be peace for those who have been separated only when sin has been canceled.  As sinners before a righteous God, we need a “re-cancellation”. And that’s exactly what Jesus made available when he died on the cross.

“….by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” (Col. 1:20-22)

Thanks be to God for making this difficult word a reality in our lives.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

All change begins with you

WE CRAWL BEFORE we walk…

We learn arithmetic before algebra.

We must fix ourselves before we can fix others.

If you want to make a change in another person’s life, the place to begin is with yourself, not with your parents, or your boyfriend or girlfriend, or your professor, or your boss.

All change begins with you.

It’s inside out; not outside in.  Sean Covey

“But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”  1 Corinthians 9:27

Mike Benson

Poverty Is Not Always Depressing

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NKJV).

A friend in the U.S. is of Korean descent. We were talking about going to Nepal and he remained silent for a moment, then said, “You know, my family lives all over Korea, some of them in rural undeveloped areas. I don’t really enjoy visiting them, sitting on the floor, sleeping on a hard surface, and seeing how little they have. It is depressing to me.”

We talked about that for a few minutes, and I finally said, “I have found that many of the poorest people who have the least ‘stuff’ seem as content and happy as anyone. I don’t always know what it takes to make one happy, but I am certain it is not simply things.” He quickly agreed.

Habakkuk had learned the same lesson. Early in the book he complained to God about how evil and injustice was prevailing and prospering in Judah. The wicked people had more things than the righteous (1:1-4). That just did not seem right to the prophet.

God’s reply was that justice would be done, and the wicked would receive punishment. A mighty nation from the north would invade and take all their possessions (1:5-11). But that also seemed unjust to Habakkuk.  Those Gentiles were even more wicked than the unfaithful of Israel. How could God allow the wicked to devour those more righteous than themselves (1:12-17)?

In all this argument the prophet seems to be defining righteousness and justice in terms of prosperity. It did not seem just for the unrighteous to oppress the righteous and to be more prosperous. How could God allow that kind of inequity?

Jesus gave the answer several hundred years after Habakkuk’s death. “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). But Habakkuk had already learned that lesson. The Lord had taught him that his ways were not always plain to humans. We must be patient and trust him (2:2-20). The prophet’s response was humble, “O Lord, I have heard your speech and was afraid” (3:2).

The final chapter of the book is Habakkuk’s prayer of repentance and acceptance. He submitted to God’s will and patiently waited until God revealed all his purposes. The final verses stand as one of the greatest professions of faith in all Scripture. He simply confessed, “Whatever I have or lack, I will rejoice in the Lord.”

Just as our happiness cannot depend only upon our possessions, so too our faith in God must not be based only upon material blessings. How many have we known who questioned, doubted, or even denied God because of sickness or death? How many turn away in times of economic hardship, feeling that God has failed them?

The truth is that our material circumstance is never a reliable indication of our relationship with God. Paul stated, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content”

(Philippians 4:11).

Do we prefer abundance of possessions? Most of us clearly do. Must we have them for life to be successful and happy? Certainly not! Life is more than just things. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain”

(1 Timothy 6:6).

–by Michael E. Brooks

The Rule of Law

When candidate Trump was running for President, he stated that he was going to enforce the current laws on immigration that were already on the books. A law in 1952 gives him the right to do what he is currently doing with immigration. Other presidents have done it, so is he. Yet there is a big outcry about his decision. Laws are made to be enforced. Laws are made for our good. Some hold the view, “Laws are made to be broken.” God’s people are ones who have laws that must be obeyed.

In the Old Testament, laws were expected to be obeyed. .At the end of the Old Testament, the Lord speaking through Malachi stated, “Remember the law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments” (Mal. 4:4 NKJV). Mankind has always been reminded to obey the laws, not make new ones of their own. Many today want to make new laws on morality and number of other issues and ignore the law of God.

Some today believe there is no law in Christianity. They might emphasize the grace of God instead. However, we are under law today. That law is Christ’s law. Paul described it as “under law toward Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21). James described a law that all Christians are to obey as the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25). The Psalmist wrote: “the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Ps. 19:7). Paul described the law of the Lord as “holy, just, and good.” (Rom. 7:12). All these adjectives describing the law indicate there is nothing better. There is no need to appeal to a higher court. There is no higher court. Christ has all authority (Matt. 28:18; John 5:27). John writes, “For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.”(1 Jn. 5:3). We therefore cannot love God unless we keep His commandments or laws.

The Bible plainly indicates we are under a law today. What does it mean to be under law? It means we are to obey the law or consequences will result. Laws are meant to be obeyed, not broken. Paul commands Christians to obey civil law (Rom. 13:1). As with any law, a violation brings repercussions. This general principle is stated by Paul in Gal. 6:7 when he states, “Whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.” The punishment for obeying Christ’s law may not come in this life, however (Jn. 12:48) The punishment is far reaching and everlasting. Jesus will take vengeance on those who don’t know Him and don’t obey Him (2 Thess. 1:7, 8). However, God’s law is always superior to man’s law. That is why Peter and the other apostles stated,” We ought to obey God rather than men.”(Acts 5:29).

We ought to be content with the laws that are given to us in the New Testament. Are we satisfied with them, or do we think we can change them to fit the situation? We don’t need any others. Christ has the perfect way. To follow it means heaven will one day be our home.

– Bill Brandstatter