Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Triune God

In this post I am going to continue to look at some basics that we as Christians must believe. None of these posts are meant to be exhaustive by any stretch, therefore, I encourage you to be a diligent student of the Word of God yourself (2 Timothy 2:15). 

Next on the list is that God is eternally existent in three separate persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Actually, it is this belief that separates Christianity from all others. Any group that rejects the Triune Godhead cannot identify themselves as truly Christian. However, this subject cannot be adequately addressed without acknowledging the Deity of Christ. That is to say that Jesus is God. Not a God. He is the one and only God, Maker of Heaven and Earth. We believe that Jesus was and is the God-Man. All God. All human. Son of God and Son of Man. That is what the word "incarnate" implies. God poured into flesh almost 2000 years ago. To deny the Triune Godhead or the Deity of Christ is to make Jesus merely a man or something other than God. For example, Islam says that he was merely a prophet and not God. Mormonism says that he is actually Michael the Archangel and not God. Jehovah's Witnesses say that he and Lucifer are actually brothers and not God. Sorry, but neither of these can be found in the Bible.  

No, it is not something that the early church fathers just pulled out of a hat at a council, instead, it is found throughout the Bible. I believe that it starts in the very first verse of Genesis when it says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." The Hebrew word used for God is "Elohim" which is in the plural form. The singular is "El" or "Eloi". However, it is the "im" at the end of this word that makes it plural. We see this with other words in the Bible as well. For example, the plural of the word Cherub is Cherubim. The plural of the word Seraph is Seraphim. The plural of the word Anak is Anakim. So, the name "Elohim" is plural, and in it, we see the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

We see this more clearly as we work our way through the first three chapters of Genesis. In 1:26-27, it says, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Do you see the plural personal pronouns? Also, in 3:22, it says, "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil." 

To further the point, God created man in His own image. As God is a Superior Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; man is an inferior trinity: Man the soul, Man the body, and Man the spirit. God is to the Soul (mind), as Jesus is the Body, and the Holy Spirit is to the Spirit. Do you see how these two church doctrines go together? They must both be believed. 

We see it proven further in John 1:1-5; 14 where it says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." And then John goes on to identify the "Word" that he is talking about in v.14 when he says, "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." The Word is Jesus. Jesus is God. Not a God, not only a prophet, not the brother of Lucifer, and not an archangel, but God!  

That is why John wrote later in the book of Revelation, “And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war. And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems; and He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself. And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God (Revelation 19:11-13). The Bible clearly teaches the Triune Godhead and the Deity of Christ. These, we believe. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Biblical Inspiration, Part 1

We continue today to look at something else that we as believers in Christ must embrace, and that is that the Bible is inspired by God. While there are many proofs, today we will look at its scientific accuracy. Although not a science book, the Bible is accurate when it speaks on scientific matters, and this does serve as another proof to its inspiration. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Life in the Blood
The Bible says in Leviticus 17:11 that life is in the blood when it says,  "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement." Have you ever read how our first president, George Washington died? - Leeching. They believed that illness was carried in the blood. Check out this website HERE for more history on that.

Paths of the Sea
The Bible says that there are paths in the sea. We see this in Psalm 8:8 when it says, "The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas." Have you ever read the story of Matthew Maury and how he discovered these paths? For more history on that, go HERE.

The Earth is Spherical
The Bible says that the earth is spherical in shape in Isaiah 40:22 when it says, "It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in." For years people thought that the earth was flat! I believe this was in part because the Bible often refers to the "four corners" (Revelation 7:1)

Suspended Earth
The Bible also says that the earth is actually suspended in space. Job 26:7 says, "He stretches out the north over empty space And hangs the earth on nothing." That is a lot more believable than the belief that it is actually on the back of a giant turtle holding four elephants! Read more HERE

Innumerable Stars
The Bible also says in Genesis 15:5 that the stars of the heavens are innumerable: "And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." This was not realized to its fullest extent until the invention of the telescope. 

Mountains and Canyons in the Sea
The Bible says that there are actually mountians and canyons in the sea in 2 Samuel 22:16  when it says, "Then the channels of the sea appeared, The foundations of the world were laid bare By the rebuke of the LORD, At the blast of the breath of His nostrils." They are also referred to in Jonah 2:6 "I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, But You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God."

Springs and Fountains in the Sea
The Bible says that there are springs and fountains in the sea in Genesis 7:11 when it says, "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened." Also, it says in Genesis 8:2, "Also the fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky were closed, and the rain from the sky was restrained;" And again, it is found in Proverbs 8:28 where it says that "when He made firm the skies above, when the springs of the deep became fixed,"

Hydrologic Cycle
The Bible also shows us the hydrolic cycle in Ecclesiastes 1:6-7 when it says, "Blowing toward the south, Then turning toward the north, The wind continues swirling along; And on its circular courses the wind returns. All the rivers flow into the sea, Yet the sea is not full. To the place where the rivers flow, There they flow again." Also, it is seen all throughout the book of Job. Job 26:8 "He wraps up the waters in His clouds, And the cloud does not burst under them." Job 36:27-28 "For He draws up the drops of water, They distill rain from the mist, Which the clouds pour down, They drip upon man abundantly." Job 38:25-27 "Who has cleft a channel for the flood, Or a way for the thunderbolt, To bring rain on a land without people, On a desert without a man in it, To satisfy the waste and desolate land And to make the seeds of grass to sprout?" Job 37:16 "Do you know about the layers of the thick clouds, The wonders of one perfect in knowledge," The psalmist also refers to it in Psalm 135:7, "He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; Who makes lightnings for the rain, Who brings forth the wind from His treasuries." Want some more interesting reading on this, click HERE

Existence of Matter
Paul actually spoke of matter in Romans 1:20 when he said, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." Cool video can be found HERE.

The Bible speaks of reproduction and kind (i.e., humans produce humans, cats produce cats, etc.) in Genesis 1:21 when it says that "God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good." Also in Genesis 6:19 it says, "And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female."

The Bible also addresses the issue of sanitation in Deuteronomy 23:12-13 when the Israelites are encouraged to "have a place outside the camp and go out there, and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement." An interesting fact is that during the Black Plague of the 1300s, many blamed it on the Jews because they seemed to be less affected by it. Truth be known, it was their practice of sanitation as prescribed in the Bible that kept many of them safe. 

The Bible also warned that there comes a time when quarantine is necessary to protect others. We see this in Leviticus 13:45-46 "As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!'  "He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp."

Rest for the LandThe need for the land to rest
The Bible also speaks to the fact that land needs rest. We see this in Leviticus 25:1-12 when it says, "The LORD then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying, 'Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the LORD. 'Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 'Your harvest's aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. 'All of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you. 'Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat. 'You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. 'You shall then sound a ram's horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement, you shall sound a horn all through your land. 'You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.   'You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. 'For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field."

The Bible actually prescribes circumcision for the Israelites, but it was to only take place eight days after birth. It says in Genesis 17:9-12, "Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. "This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. "And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you."And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servant who is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your descendants." We know today that God had a reason for waiting eight days. The reason was that it takes between five to seven days for a newborn's blood to have sufficient vitamin K which allows for blood coagulation which prevented the child from bleeding to death! Want more? Read HERE

The bottom line is that the Bible, while not a science book, is accurate when it speaks to matters of science. Further proof of inspiration! 

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Intelligent Worship

We continue today to look at something else that we as believers in Christ must embrace, and that is that our worship of God must be intelligent. Nowhere do I find in Scripture that we are to have blind faith. The dictionary defines blind faith as a belief without true understanding, perception, or discrimination. It is a faith that places confidence in someone or something without any reason to do so. No, we must have a reason to believe! Our faith is not without evidence.

Sure, there are some things that we will never understand. Think about it, how can the finite possibly fully grasp the Infinite? Not even remotely possible. However, that does not mean that we are to “check our brains at the door” either. A faith untested is no faith at all. The Apostle Paul told us in 2 Timothy 2:15 that we are to study to show ourselves approved unto God, workmen that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. This is a command, not a suggestion. We are to study the Word of God passionately. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you…”

Paul spoke volumes in regards to the weight that is placed upon each of us to go to the well for ourselves. He said in 2 Corinthians 1:8, “For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant…” He also said in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep…” In 1 Corinthians 12:1 he said, “Now concerning spiritual gifts brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” I could go on and on. Look how many times Paul admonished us not to be ignorant in the New Testament, and so many still choose to be so. The word ignorant just means a lack of knowledge or awareness in general. God forbid that should be said of us. Of course, Paul knew that some would still chooe ignorance. To those he said in 1 Corinthians 14:38, “But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant still.” The burden lies upon each of us to grow our own faith. 

I am reminded of a very humorous story that has been around for many years, but I must share it again because it sounds like some Facebook theologians that I know. 

A candidate for church membership was asked, "What part of the Bible do you like best?" He said: "I like the New Testament best. Then he was asked, "What Book in the New Testament is your favorite?" He answered, the Book of the Parables, Sir." They then asked him to relate one of the parables to the membership committee. And a bit uncertain, he began...

Once upon a time a man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves; and the thorns grew up and choked the man. And he went on and met the Queen of Sheba, and she gave that man, Sir, a thousand talents of silver, and a hundred changes of raiment. And he got in his chariot and drove furiously, and as he was driving along under a big tree, his hair got caught in a limb and left him hanging here! And he hung there many days and many nights. The ravens brought him food to eat and water to drink. And one night while he was hanging there asleep, his wife Delilah came along and cut off his hair, and he fell on stoney ground. And it begin to rain, and rained forty days and forty nights. And he hid himself in a cave. Later he went on and met a man who said, "Come in and take supper with me." But he said, "I can't come in, for I have married a wife." And the man went out into the highways and hedges and compelled him to come in! He then came to Jerusalem and saw Queen Jezebel sitting high and lifted up in a window of the wall. When she saw him she laughed, and he said, "Throw her down out of there," and they threw her down. And he said "Throw her down again," and they threw her down seventy-times-seven. And the fragments which they picked up filled twelve baskets full! NOW, whose wife will she be in the day of the Judgment?" The membership committee agreed that this was indeed a knowledgeable candidate! 

Do not be that membership committee or candidate!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Spiritual Worship

Today, I will continue my new series on the basics of what we believe. Last time we looked at the need for unconditional love for our fellow man. Today,  we will take a look at why our worship of God must be spiritual. Our proof text is John 4:24 which says that God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

To begin, we must adequately understand just what happened in the Garden. When the Lord told Adam and Eve that the consequences of their disobedience would be death, he meant physically and spiritually. We see this in the fact that after having disobeyed, they did eventually physically die many years later, but they immediately died spiritually in that their fellowship with God was broken. This was the lie of the Devil in that he told them that they would not surely die (Genesis 3:4). Thus it had to be restored, blood was spilled, and they were covered or atoned for (Genesis 3:21; Hebrews 9:22). Of course, while the sacrifices of the Old Testament were temporary (Hebrews 10:4),  the ultimate blood sacrifice came through our Lord's forever atoning death on the cross (Hebrews 9:12-14).

This is where the need to be "born again" comes from. To be saved, our spirits must be re-born. This is exactly what our Lord was telling Nicodemus in John 3:3-7 when he said, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." 

The bottom line is that to worship God, it must be in the spirit. That means that we must be born again to do so. Without it, there is no worship. Do you remember the conversation that our Lord has with the woman at the well? In John 4:20, the woman said, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Our Lord responded in vv.21-24 by saying, "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." 

So, you see, being born again is salvation. Being born again is a restoration of the fellowship that was broken by our sin. That is why Paul said in Ephesians 2:1 “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,” Also, in Colossians 2:12-13 “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” It is only then that we can truly worship the Lord.  

Warren Wiersbe once said, “Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose -- and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.” What wonderful news! 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Unconditional Love

Today, I will begin a new series of posts on the basics of what we believe. Peter encouraged the early Jewish believers in I Peter 3:15, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."  I fear that far too many in the church today are far too quick to proclaim what they believe, quite confidently I might add, but have no earthly idea as to why; let alone defend it. This is exactly what Peter is speaking against. Instead, he said that we must be prepared at all times to have an answer for the hope that lies within us. To not do so is a failure.

There is a tale told of that great English actor Macready. An eminent preacher once said to him: "I wish you would explain to me something." "Well, what is it? I don't know that I can explain anything to a preacher." "What is the reason for the difference between you and me? You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all." Macready's answer was this: "This is quite simple. I can tell you the difference between us. I present my fiction as though it were truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction." In order to do this, we must know what we believe and why we believe it.

The first basic I believe that we are to hold as children of God is that the only true basis of Christian fellowship is Christ's agape love, which is greater than any differences we possess, and without which we have no right to claim ourselves Christians. That is exactly what the Apostle Paul said when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth:" This is called the love chapter of the Bible.  Of course, the word charity, which is also translated as "love", is from the Greek word agape. In this chapter, we find a display of love, not a definition. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much you know, without love it is for naught. Understanding and knowledge is not enough, without love they are virtually useless. 

Also, the Apostle John further elaborated on the need for love when he spoke in 1 John 3:10-23, "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." He went on to say in 1 John 4:7-11, "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." In other words, if God so loved us before we done anything to impress Him, how much more should we love those “unimpressive” souls around us. After all, as our Lord challenged in Matthew 5:46, "For if you love those who love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" We must love the same way that God loves; unconditionally.

In conclusion, William Gladstone, in announcing the death of Princess Alice to the House of Commons, told a touching story. The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter and endanger her life by breathing the child's breath. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Rasping and struggling for her life, the child said, "Momma, kiss me!" Without thinking of herself the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and some days thereafter she went to be forever with the Lord. You see, real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love doesn't count the cost. That is the love that we are to have for one another. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Matthew - Mustard Seed

In today's study from Matthew 13:31-32, we take a look at the right and wrong interpretations of the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

The Mustard Seed
vv.31-32 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: (32) Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

The purpose of this parable is to show us what will happen to Christianity as we enter the last day’s right before the Second Coming of Jesus for His church (the wheat). Unlike the first two, no interpretation is given by our Lord. hat does the mustard seed represent?

Wrong Interpretation 
However, this parable is very often misinterpreted because many teachers will say that since the mustard seed represents faith, it represents the spread of Christianity throughout the world to become as the greatest tree. This leads them to further teach that through the preaching of the gospel, we will bring in the kingdom of Heaven. The result of this teaching is that it puts pressure on the church to spread the Word of God as quickly as possible because Jesus isn’t coming back until we do. Some will go so far as to say that the result of this spreading of Christianity is that everyone will ultimately be saved. The Bible simply does not teach that. Instead, in Rev 20:15 “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Let’s look at the types found in this parable.

Type Association Reference
Mustard Seed, Faith, Faith Matt. 17:20
Field, World, Matt. 13:38
Tree, Kingdom, Dan. 4:10-12, 20-22
Birds, Devils/Evil, Matt. 13:4, 19; Rev. 18:2

In conclusion, by comparing Scripture with Scripture, this parable cannot be about Christianity spreading throughout the world and thus, bringing in the Kingdom.

Correct Interpretation
Now that we’ve looked at what this parable does not mean, “What does it mean?” It shows us that as we near the coming of the Lord, Christianity is going into apostasy. Apostasy by definition is “a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party or cause.” Paul refers to this in 2 Th. 2:3 “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.”

We see evidence of this all around us today. This is evidenced in several ways. a. The number of "professing" Christians is huge by comparison to the number of truly saved believers. b. It’s estimated that only six out of ten are truly Christians in the average church today. c. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said that he has come to the conclusion that at least 50% of their members are lost due to the lack of evangelism that is taking place from the pews. d. The average American will identify themselves as Christian by virtue of birth. e. The largest single group of “Christians” in the world will not even refer to themselves as Christians (Roman Catholics) and claim salvation by virtue of keeping the sacraments and rituals of the church which is a clear violation of Scripture (1 Tim 4:1-3). f. Yes, the tree in this parable is large, but only because it is filled with devils. 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Alone with God

Just a little reflection this morning for me. I remember when I was a young Christian, I found my identity in relationships, and usually those relationships centered around the local church. After all, I was young, had a million unanswered questions, and heavily leaned upon my fellow brothers and sisters for the answers and support that I needed during my transition "into the light". Some of my greatest memories come from that time of my life.

However, as I have grown in my walk and faith, I have found that, while Christianity is meant to be lived in community, it is not meant to depend exclusively upon said community. We all have to grow up and stand on our own two spiritual feet eventually. Our Lord went it alone. Paul went it alone. Elijah went it alone. John the Baptist went it alone. Moses went it alone. Untold numbers of our church's founding fathers went it alone. The bottom line is that there will come a point in each of our lives that we must go it alone. 

With that said, I find myself spending much more time with the Lord in private time. Just me and Him. I look forward to my devotions in the morning, reading a thought for the day, reading through Scripture, prayer, and then again in the evening. I would strongly encourage you to do the same. Yes, community is awesome, and should never be completely shunned, but there are some valleys that each of us must simply traverse alone. Just us and Him. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Hell is a Place of Memory

Last time, we looked at the purpose and the place of hell. Today we are going to look at one final point to see that hell is also a place of memory. 

I believe this is what our Lord was referring to in Mark 9:43-44 when he said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched-- where their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'” 

What is up with this worm that doesn't die? Is this referring to a literal worm? I do not think so because of Isaiah 66:24 which says, "And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me.  For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched.  They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh." Of course, there are various views on what this worm is referring to, but most will agree that it is not a literal worm, but instead has to be metaphorical. The word in the original Greek refers to a grub or maggot. As such, some would say that it just speaks to the eternality of hell and our Lord using the dump, that continually burned outside of Jerusalem as an example. Its proper name was the Valley of Hinnom, but it was also known as Gehenna. It was a place in which trash, refuse, animal carcasses, and even the dead bodies of despised criminals were thrown to be destroyed by the fires that burned perpetually. Those who take this view see our Lord's point as being that whatever was thrown into it never came out again as that it was totally consumed either by fire or by maggots. In other words, just as nothing and no one exterminated the maggots or extinguished the flames there, so there would be no escape from the certain fate that God has decreed for all unrepentant sinners—death in the "lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14-15).

Others would say that the worm speaks more to the consciousness of hell's occupants who still have memories of opportunities lost. Opportunities in their past life in which they were given to repent and believe in the message of the gospel. In other words, they will remember every service they attended, every altar call they refused, every conversation they walked away from and yet still refused to submit their lives to Christ. These memories will knaw on them just like the maggots did to the refuse in the Valley of Hinnom.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Purpose and Place of Hell

We have already looked at the reality of hell and dealt with what if it doesn't exist. Next, I want to look at five things: its purpose, place, punishment, why the average Christian doesn't believe in it, and the provision that God has made for us all against going there.

First, let's take a look at the purpose of hell. Really? Why must there be one anyway? Our Lord answers this in Matthew 25:41 when he said, “Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” So, it was initially prepared for the devil and his angels. 

We see this historical account in Isaiah 14:12-17 where it recounts, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. 16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; 17 That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?" In other words, it was not prepared for man at all.

However, for man, just like the devil and his angels, hell is the natural and inevitable consequence of sin. Sin must be punished in God's economy. Sin damns just as water drowns and fire burns. Hell is God’s penitentiary for the wicked. The Psalmist said, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:1). Just as we have prisons for those who refuse to keep the laws of earth, so God has a way of dealing with those who refuse to keep His. It is the legitimate end of a sinful, Christ-rejecting, God-dishonoring life.

Second, we are going to look at the place of hell. The Bible describes it as a real place and not simply a state of mind like some have wishfully suggested. As such, the Bible says several things to confirm this. The first of which is that it is a place of separation from God's presence and blessing as we have previously mentioned in Matthew 25:41-42. It is a separation from everything that is good. 

The Bible also says that it is a place of fire. Fire all throughout the Bible is symbolic of Divine judgment, but make no mistake, this judgment is not symbolic. Our Lord said in Matthew 5:22, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.” No symbolic language to be found there. 

The Bible also says that hell is a place of fire. Our Lord said in Mark 9:43 “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched.” When the rich died, he declared that he was in literal flames in Luke 16:24 when he cried, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” Just assuredly as the gold of heaven is real, so are the flames of hell.

Finally, another proof text that hell is a real place with a real fire that will never cease to burn is found in Matthew 25:41 when our Lord said that one day he "will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Make no mistake, hell has a purpose and is a real place. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

What If There Is No Hell?

In my last blog, we looked at the reality of hell according to the Scriptures. Today, I want to address the question to the best of ability, "What if there is really no hell?" Just some things to think about. I am sure that there could be more. 

Just a few things to think about. First, if there is no hell, then the Bible is just a fairy tale and cannot be trusted. If some parts of it are true and some parts of it are false, how are we to determine which is which? Rely on the experts? Second, if there is no hell, the prophets, apostles, and preachers of old were all liars at worst and deluded at best. The same could be said of Jesus. Third, if there is no hell, Jesus' death on the cross was a mistake and really served no purpose because he would have saved us from nothing. Fourth, if there is no hell, then there is no heaven either; and if there was, what would be the point?  Fifth, if there is no hell, Christianity is of little use other than possibly for a set of moral codes. Even then, those codes would be built upon the lies and delusions of others. Sixth, if there is no hell to receive us, then there is no God to condemn us. In the end, if there is no hell, Christianity is false and virtually a waste of time.

This reminds me of a story of two men who were fishing two or three miles from a dangerous waterfall. Eventually, after a little conversation, they got on the subject of hell.  One man asked his friend, “Do you believe in hell?” “No,” replied the other man. All of a sudden they looked up and found they were about fifty feet from the falls. They grabbed the paddles, pulled for dear life toward the shore, and finally reached safety. The fellow said, “I thought you didn’t believe in hell, what was the matter when you thought that you were going to die?” He responded, “Listen, this business of no hell is alright to go fishing with, but not over the falls with.” I explain it to people this way. If there is no hell, I have absolutely nothing to lose. I would have lived a moral life. However, if there is a hell, you will lose everything.

To that same point, there is an occasion when Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, an agnostic lecturer of the last century, was announced to give an address on hell. He declared he would prove conclusively that hell was a wild dream of some scheming theologians who invented it to terrify credulous people. As he was launching into his subject, a half-drunken man arose in the audience and exclaimed, "Make it strong, Bob. There are a lot of us poor fellows depending on you. If you are wrong, we are all lost. So be sure you prove it clear and plain."

I believe that there have been two occasions for great joy among Satan and his angels since creation. The first is when he tricked Eve by telling her that she would not suffer the consequences of her disobedience, and the second, when he persuaded preachers to not preach on the subject of hell anymore. After all, we’re an educated society! It is repugnant to reason! It is on the level of “Dante’s Inferno”. It is the product of a crazy person. We live in the age of enlightenment.  No one believes in hell anymore, right?

My summation is quite simple. Either the Bible is true or it is not. Stop playing games. It is one or the other, and nothing in between. You believe in its totality or you don't. It clearly teaches that there is a heaven for the saints and a hell for the aints. Denying it will not erase it no matter how much we wish it so.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Is There Really a Hell?

I open this blog with the humorous story of a new believer who was on a plane with an intellectual nonbeliever. He sneered at her reading the Bible. Asked if she believed it? "Yes." "Jonah and the whale story?" "Yes." "How did it happen?" "Don't know, but I'll find out when I get to heaven." "What if Jonah isn't there?" "Then I guess you'll have to ask him for me." Of course, the supposition of this little story is that men either go to one of two places after death: heaven or hell. 

I was speaking with a young man the other day who really had a lot of questions about the afterlife. In particular, he seemed more concerned with the issue of hell. I have found that most people find heaven much easier to believe in than hell. Of course, the best place to search this subject out is the Scriptures themselves. Our Lord spoke on the subject more than any other, if you can imagine that. I can only conclude that he might have been a bit concerned that none of us go there. In Matthew 13:24-30, he said, "The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? 28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? 29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn." He continued in verses 37-43, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; 39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. 40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. 41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
He also spoke on the subject in Mark 9:42-48 when he said, "And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. 43 And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 44 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 45 And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: 46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. 47 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: 48 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

Unfortunately, while our Lord spoke of it frequently, twice as much as heaven, it is not spoken of very much in the church today. As a matter of fact, it is my opinion that most church members do not truly believe in it at all even though the New Testament refers to it some 162 times.

So, what are some of the prevailing thoughts on the subject today? Some will say that it is repugnant to reason. To be direct, the very thought of a literal hell tends to be a bit too simple for our finite minds to grasp. Others will go on to say that the very thought of hell is a nightmare of a disordered mind. Something akin to "Dante’s Inferno”. It must be simply the product of a crazy person. Finally, others say that hell is an antiquated, moth-eaten, disproven theory which belongs to the age of superstition. After all, we live in the age of enlightenment. No one believes in hell anymore, right? Gotta be just a flashback to a product of our superstitious past. Well, I say to that that no one believed in rain in Noah's day, but it still destroyed them all. The bottom line is that unbelief does not negate reality.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Is The Virgin Birth Optional?

I remember one time as a younger student at a Christian university in South Carolina, we were asked if the virgin birth was necessary for salvation. I, unlike most of the younger students in the class, responded with an emphatic yes. The professor then proceeded to explain why it was not by pointing out Romans 8:9-10 to prove that only faith was required. I then proceeded to remind him, I was a bit older than most of the students in the class, that without the virgin birth, Romans 8:9-10 would be irrelevant, for if Christ was not born of a virgin, then he was conceived in sin just like the rest of us. 

This backdrop brings me to the texts at hand today: the genealogies of Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38. Matthew is the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph. Luke is the genealogy of Jesus through Mary. A careful study of these two genealogies would reveal that they are identical except in two points: 1. the genealogy of Joseph works forward and Mary’s works backward, and 2. they differ from King David on. In Matthew 1:6, we discover that the genealogy works from David through Solomon to Joseph, while in Luke 3:31, the genealogy works from one of David's other sons, Nathan, to Mary.

Why is this important? - Because it proves the necessity of the virgin birth. In Joseph’s genealogy through Solomon, it goes through a king by the name of Jeconiah (or Coniah), while Mary's does not. In Jeremiah 22:24-30, it says, "As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence; And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans. And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die. But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return. Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not? O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah." 

In the end, if Joseph were truly the biological father of Jesus, he would not be qualified to sit on the throne of David because of this curse. That is why the Bible says in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” No, the virgin birth is not optional.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

What Does It Mean to Be Born Again?

As I mentioned in the last post, our Lord knew exactly why Nicodemus was there and what Nicodemus needed. He knew that he was a slave to sin and that is why he told in John 3:3 that he needed to be born again when he said, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." This is the first time in the Bible “born again” is mentioned. 

What does it mean to be “born again”? In its simplest terms, it means to be born a second time. The Bible teaches that all men are born physically, but they also need to be born a second time or “again” spiritually. This is what Jesus was telling Nicodemus.

In v.4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Obviously, Nicodemus didn’t have a clue as what Jesus meant with the word “born again.” Why? - 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. You see, Nicodemus wasn’t thinking in the spiritual, but in the physical.

In v.5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Notice He says, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Jesus is talking about two different births here. One is a natural birth while the other is a spiritual birth. There is an old saying, “Born once, die twice; Born twice, die once.” In other words, you must have two birthdays: a physical one and a spiritual one.

In v.6, our Lord goes on to explain that that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Man can only give physical life, while God can give both physical and spiritual life.

In v.7, he must have seen some astonishment on his face because he says, "marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again." Nicodemus obviously showed some signs of amazement at what Jesus was saying to him.

In v.8, he says, "the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." In other words, the wind is sovereign and men cannot control it. We can hear the wind, but we can see it. In essence, he saying to Nicodemus to stop trying to see with your physical eyes what you know is there.

In vv.v.9-10 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Now it’s Jesus’ turn to respond in amazement, Jesus is accusing him of being a teacher without any knowledge of his subject.

Our Lord continued to say in vv.11-14 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: Now Jesus bottom lines it for Nicodemus by reminding him of a story in the Old Testament. The story is of Moses and the serpents in Numbers 21:1-9 

Through this account in the Old Testamen, our Lord is saying, "Nicodemus, just as Moses lifted up the serpent on the pole in the wilderness so that all could look on it and be saved…so am I going to be lifted up on a cross so that all who look to me can be saved." There are snakes (sin) in all of our lives and unless each and every one of us look to Jesus and the cross, we shall all likewise perish. That is why he said in Luke 13:3, I tell you, Nay, but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 

Our Lord goes on to say in vv.15-16 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (16) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. You see, your physical birth put you into the family of man, but it’s your spiritual birth that will put you into the family of God! Remember the story of the “The Little Boy and the Duck” and his Grandmother standing at the window? 

I don't know what's in your past. I don't know what one sin the enemy keeps throwing up in your face. But whatever it is, I want you to know something. Jesus Christ was standing at the window and He saw the whole thing. And because He loves us, He is ready to forgive us. Perhaps He is just wondering how long we will allow the enemy to make slaves out of us.