Newsweek has dis-proven the validity of the Bible!


My family has been life-long Newsweek subscribers.  The latest edition is always in the bathroom off the living room for reading material.  As an adult, after moving back to the United States, I have continued the tradition.  And much to my amazement this week, the company has released their latest publication with the cover story attempting to discredit the Bible the very week after the entire nation (and much of the world) celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ!  What a way to bring in 2015, folks!

The catchy title reads, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin”, flaunting an authority of Biblical understanding and condemnation of Christianity today.  The satirical piece attacks Christians for not reading or understanding their Bibles, the Bible itself for having been translated and copied numerous times, and attempts to affirm Biblical inconsistencies within the Scriptures as we have them.

I am no Greek or Hebrew scholar, I studied the languages only to the extent required to receive a Master’s of Divinity.  I have never held the ancient texts in my hands or worked alongside archaeologists to determine the breadth of consistency within the oldest manuscripts.  I have, however, studied and marveled at the vast majority of ancient manuscripts that have been found and studied and the consistency therein.  It is not my intention to argue point-for-point with Kurt Eichenwald (for that would be a massive essay and a fool’s errand), but I would simply like to state the fact that people have sought to disprove and discredit the Bible and Biblical testimony since before it was compiled into a book, and that to no avail.  After Jesus had been raised from the dead and met with the women at the grave, this record is accounted in Matthew’s Gospel:

Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened.  And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’  And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.”  And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.

– Matt 28.11-15

There never was nor has been empirical proof to discredit the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  There never was nor has been empirical proof to discredit any of the Scripture, though it has been hunted for centuries.  Not only that, but our entire system of historical knowledge is based on ancient writings and artifacts that historians and archaeologists discover.  We write history books and understand the ancient world on tidbits of information gathered here and there.  We rely on parchments found in jars, and occasionally a headline will announce a discovery that completely changes how we understand history.

Josh McDowell writes,

“The history of Thucydides (460-400 BC) is available to us from only eight manuscripts dated about AD 900, almost thirteen hundred years after he wrote.  The manuscripts of the history of Herodotus are likewise late and scarce.  And yet, as F. F> Bruce, Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, concludes, “No classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest manuscripts of their works which are of use to us are over 1,300 years later than the originals.”
Aristotle wrote his poetics around 343 BC and yet the earliest copy we have is dated AD 1100 (a gap of almost fourteen hundred years), and only forty nine manuscripts exist.”

He continues to note text after text and author after author upon who we rely for our basic understanding of history – those which are never questioned by scholars for accuracy or authenticity.  If we trust Aristotle’s work to be true on 49 copies written over 1100 years after his death, why would we doubt the more than fifty six hundred (5600) Greek manuscripts of the Bible, some of which have been dated to within Jesus’ generation?!  These manuscripts are primary sources.

Jewish scholar Jacob Klausner said,

“If we had ancient sources like those in the Gospels for the history of Alexander or Caesar, we should not cast any doubt upon them whatsoever.”

An honest, journalistic study of the historical trustworthiness of the Scriptures leaves no room for discussion, if we believe any history that is documented for us and taught in grade school.

But the article was not written as a journalistic work.  It is an attack on Christianity.  And one of its foundational arguments is that the average Christian in the pew is not well-read, Biblically.  Is this true?  Possibly.  Probably.  But my ignorance, and yours does not disprove the validity of Scripture or Jesus’ work and intention to save sinners, nor does it discredit the legitimacy of the Scriptures.

The real issue here is the unashamed attack on Christianity.  We, once again, preach tolerance and slaughter those who disagree with us.  Newsweek magazine has attacked Christianity.  But we are guilty, too, dear Christian.  Eichenwald’s resentful introduction reads:

They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.

They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.

Do we tolerate nonbelievers?  Or do we crucify those who are spiritually dead for not acting morally righteously?  We must learn from these attacks.  We must humble ourselves and discern if people hate us because they hate Jesus, or if they hate us because we are hateful.

“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”

 – John 15.18-20

The world will hate us.  But let’s not give them extra ammo.  Let us study our Scriptures and the history of the Bible so that we will not be tossed around by arguments like the one Newsweek published.  But let us respond in love and wisdom.  Crying out, “that’s not true” and protesting, “you are being intolerant of us” is not the answer.  Let us turn the other cheek.  Let us love.  Let us rest confidently in our faith, the historically solid foundation of the Scripture and the inspired Word of God, let us know that the world will hate us on account of Jesus, but let us make known our faith by our love.  Let us proclaim the trustworthiness and historical foundation of the Scripture and teach others, in love.  We are educated.  We are well read. We are not looking for a crutch.  But we know that apart from Christ we are hopelessly lost and we rely on Him for salvation, life and joy.

“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

 – John 13.35

Missing Planes and Jesus

plane crash

Another plane has dropped out of the sky in SouthEast Asia.  We awoke to the news this morning that debris and bodies have been found which Indonesia has identified as remains and wreckage from the fateful flight.  This incident is pretty far from home for most Americans, and it will come and go from the news just like the missing Malaysian Air flight, the Ebola crisis, and even ongoing wars – though these situations still greatly impact many who are directly involved.

But whenever these crises hit, there is a religious response.  After 9/11, churches were full – if only for a few weeks – and people wrestle with the question of the problem of evil.  “Why do bad things happen to good people?”  “Why do good things happen to bad people?”  And perhaps the most telling of our cultural disposition, “If God is love, why would He let this happen?”

I am not going to discuss the problem of evil in the traditional, systematic approach here.  I simply want us to consider Jesus.  Jesus –  the son of God, God Himself incarnate, the only human being to walk the face of the Earth and never sin – that Jesus.  Jesus never disobeyed His mom.  He never told a white lie.  He never cheated on a test or on His income taxes.  He never deceived anyone.  He never sped on the highway.  No, there weren’t cars and interstates in His day, but my point is that He never broke a law so small that the culture at large would consider no big deal.  He was perfect.

And yet, look how Jesus was treated.  People flocked to Him because they saw His signs and miracles and they wanted something from Him.  He healed “everyone” as He traveled through cities and towns.  Twice He miraculously provided food for thousands of people, and once provided the wine for a wedding party.  He had something to offer and people took full advantage of it.  He raised people from the dead, He pardoned sinners and He healed all forms of sickness.  And people just ate it up.

Until He started saying things that they did not want to hear.  When He revealed His identity of being God, when He said “I am the living bread which came down from Heaven…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood I will raise him up on the last day”, people got angry and sought to kill Him (John 6.51, 54).  When He gave difficult teachings that people either did not understand or did not want to hear, they left.  Over and over again we see Jesus build up a massive crowd of followers who, at times, “were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king” (John 6.15), and then He disperses them by His teaching.  They wanted His benefits, but they did not want the Truth.

What, then, was the climax of their animosity?  Jesus was murdered in the most gruesome way possible.  Many studies and opinion articles have been written on the most terrible means of torture and execution and crucifixion on the Roman cross has regularly been noted at the top.  Jesus was beaten and tortured, whipped with cords, his beard pulled out and thorns crushed into His brow.  He was forced to carry his cross through the streets to the place of crucifixion, His hands and feet were nailed to the cross and He was raised up to suffocate to death on the blood and water that filled His lungs.  He was beaten beyond recognition, Scripture tells us (Is 52.14).

Jesus was the only good person by nature who has walked the face of this Earth.  And He suffered beyond what most of us can even imagine.

To me, however, that is not the most shocking part of the story.  What levels me is the fact that God sent Jesus to Earth for this purpose!  Throughout His time on Earth, Jesus continually spoke of “His hour” – the moment when He would die, go to Hell and raise victorious over death!  Even more amazing is the fact that God created the world with this plan in place:

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

– Rev 13.8

God exists outside of time and wrote all of history in a moment, at the moment He created the world, to Him it was simultaneously completed.  And His perfect plan was Jesus – His Son, He Himself – was crucified.  That is why we see in Genesis, when Adam and Eve first sinned, that God cursed the snake and promised Him that Jesus would come and crush his head after the snake bruised His heal (crucified Him on the cross) (Gen 3.15).

But the LORD was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

– Is 53.10

God was pleased to crush Jesus.  Not because He took pleasure in His suffering, but because through this action, many would be saved.

What does this have to do with missing airplanes?  It has to do with our basic assumptions.  We get angry and question God because we think we deserve a life without suffering.  Our very constitution in the United States says that it is our right to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Have you not seen your friends sharing inspirational thoughts on facebook that encourage you to believe that “You deserve to be happy”?  I would simply argue that if there were ever someone who deserved to be happy, who deserved to have an easy, trouble-free life, it was Jesus of Nazareth.

Why do bad things happen?  Because God has a will and a plan for them.  If you think you deserve better, than consider Jesus.  And cling to Him who weeps when we weep and whose heart breaks when our hearts break, because He is a compassionate God and a comforting God through the tragedies.  And ultimately trust God who works all things together for good, and remember that we do not deserve comfort but damnation.  It is His grace that sustains us, that allows the sun to rise on us for another day, that takes us on countless airplane rides without incident.

I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife


I heard a song the other day that caught my ear.  It is musically catchy and the first line of the chorus is “Take me to church”, so naturally it caught my attention.  The third line of the chorus, however, is what broke my heart: “I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife”.

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

Curious, of course, I googled the author’s meaning in the song.  These are the two direct quotes I could find from the him:

“I found the experience of falling in love or being in love was a death, a death of everything. You kind of watch yourself die in a wonderful way, and you experience for the briefest moment–if you see yourself for a moment through their eyes–everything you believed about yourself gone.  In a death-and-rebirth sense.”

“Sexuality, and sexual orientation – regardless of orientation – is just natural.  An act of sex is one of the most human things.  But an organization like the church, say, through its doctrine, would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation – that it is sinful, or that it offends God.  The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love.”

– Andrew Hozier-Byrne

He writes metaphorically; comparing his lover to religion.

The music video is about a male homosexual relationship and the backlash the couple receives from the community when they are found out.  Hozier made this statement in regards to the video:

“The song was always about humanity at its most natural, and how that is undermined ceaselessly by religious [organizations] and those who would have us believe they act in its interests. What has been seen growing in Russia is no less than nightmarish, I proposed bringing these themes into the story and Brendan liked the idea.”

As the lie continues to evolve that we have the freedom to determine right and wrong for ourselves, and that there ultimately are no moral, ethical or eternal absolutes, people will misunderstand the intentions of Jesus and Christianity and will consider themselves the victim for any public declaration of a “different truth” than what they are choosing to believe.

The extremely difficult calling for the Church, for us, for you and for me, is to learn how to walk in obedience to Scripture, to encourage others to walk in obedience to Scripture, and yet to show them love at the same time.  We are all sinners, we all were born in darkness and wickedness and we all were enemies of Christ until God breathes Spiritual life into us.  And yet we all continue to fight our sin daily, failing at times.  Are you afraid that if you confess your sins to another at church that they will “sharpen their knives” and prepare to crucify you for them?  I have seen it firsthand.  I have experienced it firsthand, and that over a non-sin issue!

The opposite extreme is just as dangerous.  Jesus always commanded the sinner who came to Him,

“From now on sin no more.”

– John 8.11

Jesus does not accept or condone our sin.  The Bible tells us clearly what God considers right and wrong, and He – as the creator – gets to decide.  Not me.  Not you.  Not the culture at large.  Only God.  He knows that we are sinners and Scripture tells us that the glory of grace is that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5.8).  Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, and He wants us to knock it out!  He most certainly did not pay the punishment so that we could keep doing those things that He hates!  He gives us the Holy Spirit to empower us and He desires that we would live according to His code of conduct, if you will.  But He does not sharpen His knife when we stumble and repent.  He forgives us – when we confess and turn away from that sin.

There in lies the problem.  What is our attitude about sin?  Hozier makes this alarming and enlightening statement in the very same song:

I was born sick,
But I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.

This is actually a quote from Christopher Hitchens, a New Atheist, with the phrase “but I love it” inserted in the middle.  Hitchens rightly observes that he was born sick.  But he is only half right.  We are all born “dead in our trespasses” (Eph 2.1).  We love sin and darkness and we choose it.  So why would someone “command me to be well”, when I am completely incapable of being well?  Hozier adds the sentiment “but I love it”.  We do love our sin.  It is a miracle of God that we are convicted of it and drawn to repentance.

“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

 – John 3.19-21

Hozier’s sentiment is Biblical.  Everyone who does evil hates the Light – and the Light is Jesus and His Truth.  The world lives in darkness and the darkness sins boldly because they receive affirmation from one another.  Being in the darkness does not mean that it is in secret.  It means that it is not in Christ: the Light.  And we are all born in darkness, in sin, in spiritual deadness.  We hate the Light, in-and-of ourselves.  We need Jesus to breathe life, to convict us of sin, to save us.

So, Church, when should we sharpen our knives?  If someone comes into our lives who was “born sick” and still loving it, then our concern is not their sin (or sins) of choice.  Our concern is their salvation.  Until the sinner realizes the truth of the Gospel and comes to Jesus for salvation, their actions simply do not matter.  It makes no eternal difference if they happen to abstain from one or more particular sins.  Apart from Jesus, that is as “filthy rags” and worthless (Is 64.6).  If you are in Christian community and someone confesses a sin of habit or temptation, if they are clinging to Jesus and trying to die to that sin, there is no place for knife sharpening either.  In fact, this is one of the most beautiful callings of the Church community:  to hold one another accountable and push one another on to righteousness.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

 – James 5.16

The only time we are commanded to take strong action against sin is when someone among us who claims Jesus gives in to sin and its temptation and will not turn from it.  An unrepentant Christian – one who knows the Truth, has claimed Jesus’ salvation for His sins, yet disgraces Jesus and God by choosing sin instead of obeying God.  Jesus gives us very clear instructions for how to handle such a situation, and it is bathed in love, giving the person multiple opportunities to obey (Matt 18).  We are never commanded to go on a witch hunt, or to crucify someone, but to remove them from our midst with the hopes that they will repent later.  Our primary concern, however, is the holiness of the community at large, and if one will not submit to God, he should be removed for the sake of the Church.

Dear Church, put down your knives.  Love the non believer as one who needs Jesus.  Love the repentant believing sinner (the vast majority of us within the Church) as one who is struggling, just like you, and push them on to righteousness and to obedience.  And love the unrepentant believer by pointing out his sin, naming it for it’s eternal danger, and removing him from the church – to the end that he would repent.

North Korea is not funny.

the interview

Unless you have been living in a bubble for the last two days, you have heard the news that Sony Pictures made a movie called “The Interview” whose premise is two guys being hired to kill Kim-Jong-un, the current supreme leader of North Korea, and after the company’s network was hacked, data stolen, and threats made against any movie theater playing the film on its upcoming release date (Christmas day), it has been cancelled.

The primary response to the terrorist threat and Sony’s submission to it is outrage over the loss of freedom of speech.

Ben Stiller called the exchange:  “a threat to freedom of expression”

Oscar Winning screen writer Aaron Sorkin said:  “Today the US succumbed to an unprecedented attack on our most cherished, bedrock principle of free speech.”

Actor Steve Carrell called it:  “a sad day for creative expression”.

So, let’s observe the facts.  There is a country who has remained on the top of the list for most major security and threat lists since the 1950’s, who has successfully hermitized their entire population and kept them alienated from the world, monitoring and barely allowing any outside influence – like the internet – and regularly locking up and sentencing people to prison camps for beliefs and minimal offenses.  They lock up foreigners who follow Jesus, they falsely accuse people and imprison and kill them for Spiritual beliefs.  Sony Entertainment decided to make a comedy about hiring two regular-joe guys to assassinate the actual leader of the country.  This country retaliates with a terrorist threat to expose secrets and blow up movie theaters.

And we are outraged over their successful bullying tactic – which infringes on our freedom of speech.

People are dying.  They have no access to the Gospel.  They have never heard the name of Jesus Christ, even though the largest church in the world is just a few hundred miles away in South Korea.  They have no hope.  They do not have enough to eat.  They suffer injustice and oppression every day.  People who go in to try to tell them about Jesus get locked up and killed.

And yet the atrocity here is an infraction of our freedom of speech?

Our focus is so wrong, folks.  Forget for a minute the fact that our entertainment industry sought to make a comedy based on assassinating one of the most terrible dictators in the world, and consider our response.

It’s all about me.  My rights.  My freedom.  My happiness.  Who cares if a terrorist threatened to blow me up, it is my right to go see whatever movie I want to see.  Because it will entertain me for 90 minutes.  It is funny.  Can you imagine if Sony had released the movie, the theaters played it, and people were blown up?  The law suits would be endless.  Families of every victim, employees and customers alike, would be seeking millions of dollars in reparation.  The risk was simply too high, even though we pride ourselves for not negotiating with terrorists.  The entertainment industry fears us as much as they fear them.  Because it’s all about me.  MY happiness, MY safety and MY entertainment.

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron…

 – 1 Tim 4.1-2

We are in the last day.  We are listening to deceitful spirits that keep us focused on our daily, temporal, physical pleasures.  Our consciences have been seared as with a branding iron to the point that we would laugh at the situation in North Korea and do not grieve – and that we would respond to the situation by focusing on our “freedom” of speech.  Jesus told us to go make disciples of all nations.  He also said,

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

 – Matt 24.14

So as long as North Korea remains closed to the Gospel and the people have not yet heard of Jesus’ saving work on the cross, the end will not come.  Jesus will not return until they have heard.  The greatest need of the people of North Korea is Jesus Christ.  Period.  Yes, they are oppressed and abused and hungry, but so were the Christians of the early Church.  So was Jesus.  So are most Christians around the world today.  America is not the norm.

This threat of terrorism is sobering.  It is sobering because as weapons continue to advance, America will soon not be out of range for our enemies.  In fact, we may already be within their range.  But it is more sobering to see the level of self-absorption we have, and our level of complacency when our desires are being satisfied.  “Don’t you dare step on my freedom of speech, but you go right on ahead and kill and imprison your people, and keep them from hearing about Jesus”.

The world needs Jesus.  Everything else is peripheral.  Everything.  Food, electricity, water, shelter, clothing, safety, rights, jobs, security.  None of those things will get anyone into right relationship with God.  None of those things will save anyone.  Let’s get over ourselves.  Let’s get over our “rights”.  Let’s not mock one of the most tragic situations in the world, and let’s take Jesus to them.

He knows what is in your heart.


And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A light of revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”  And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him.  And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

– Luke 2.25-35

Simeon’s prophecy over Jesus is one of the most beautiful and illuminating prophecies in Scripture.  The people of Israel were waiting and longing for a political king who would come in like King David and set them free, restore them to political power and dominance, and free them from Roman authority.  After seeing the life and work of Jesus, it is easy to see the prophetic voice throughout the Old Testament that spoke of a suffering servant, a king who would set us free Spiritually and focus on our eternity rather than temporal wellness, but before He came the prophecies were vastly misunderstood.

There was a season of relative silence between the Old and New Testaments, approximately four hundred years, where we have no Biblical writings.  Occasionally Bible teachers will imply that God was not active during that time but was allowing Israel to suffer in captivity because of their rebellion, but when Simeon enters the scene he is described as a devout and righteous man – and the Holy Spirit was upon him!  Simeon was old when Jesus was born, and he had lived a righteous life.  He was devoted to God.  It is no small thing that the author takes note that the Holy Spirit was upon him.  Until Jesus completed the work of salvation, people were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit would rest upon people who had been appointed and set aside for particular tasks.  King Saul, for example, had the Holy Spirit until he disobeyed God and then God removed the Spirit from him and gave the Spirit to David.

Simeon, this righteous man, had sought God and the Holy Spirit empowered him and told him that he would see the Messiah before his death.  What a phenomenal promise!  The Spirit brought Simeon into the temple at the very moment Jesus was being circumcised and named and revealed to him the Truth that Jesus was the Messiah.  At eight days old.

So clearly God was at work during this season of Biblically undocumented time (at least for a few years before!).

Two things stand out to me today about Simeon’s proclamation.  Firstly, he rocked the common understanding that Jesus was coming to politically redeem the Jews.

“for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A light of revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

– Luke 2.30-32

It is possible to interpret this declaration of Jesus as “a light of revelation to the gentiles” in political terms.  One could say, “When Jesus overthrows Rome the gentiles (all non-Jews) will see the salvation of the Jews”.  One might understand it to be God declaring His authority and everyone finally seeing it through his intervention.  But we know, by the rest of the Gospel account, that Simeon’s prophecy meant salvation would be available for people of all ethnic backgrounds.  Yet Jesus was still the glory of ethnic Israel.  Jesus fulfilled the Law, He is the Messiah, the savior, and the glory of God through His completed work amongst His chosen people.

But what Simeon says to Mary is even more shocking:

“Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

– Luke 2.34-35

God sent Jesus from Heaven and appointed Him for the rise and fall of many in Israel.  Again, when perceived with the old mindset, this could sound political.  But the nature of Jesus’ mission was Spiritual:  Jesus was appointed to reveal the thoughts of the hearts of people.  He was a sign which had to be opposed.  Unless He was opposed, His work would be incomplete!  And the end of the opposition against Him was the revelation of the hearts of men.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

– John 3.16-18

John tells us that the condition of men’s heart is established.  Those who do not believe are already condemned while those who do believe have eternal life.  And the belief is in Jesus who died and rose again in our place for the forgiveness of sins.  The wrath of God remains on those who do not believe (John 3.36).  It is already there from the beginning.  And Simeon told Mary that Jesus came to reveal that.  He was appointed as the litmus test, to cause some to fall and some to rise, to reveal the hearts of men.

Has Jesus revealed your heart?  Have you examined your heart to see how you respond to Jesus?  If you believe, cling to Him and repent you will rise with Him.  You will reign with Him.  You will love and cherish Him as your treasure.  Believe today!  And let Him reveal you to be His own.  He already knows your heart, so turn it over to Him.

Christmas: Is Christ in it?


The internet, the news and even our front yards are littered (or inundated) with messages about keeping “Christ in Christmas”.  We are concerned about the proper greeting, “Happy Holidays” offends the devout amongst us and and even Ben Stein (a Jew) has stepped up to say “I don’t think Christians like being pushed around, no one likes being pushed around…So let’s just admit this is what it is, its the birth of Christ that we are celebrating…“.  Political correctness and tolerance are getting so out of hand that we cannot decide who has the greater right:  Do Christians have more rights to declare the holiday a Christian holiday?  Or do non-Christians have the greater right to declare it non-Christian – irregardless of its history?

But the simple reality is that we are wasting all of our energy fighting over words and yet giving into materialism and worldliness and pushing Jesus completely out of the season.

Some people like to give and receive gifts.  Some people have real needs and desires and it is a pleasure for someone else to meet those needs.  Hopefully we give gifts because we are reflecting on the fact that God gave the greatest gift to the world at the first Christmas, His Son Jesus.  But is Jesus glorified in your gift exchange?  Does that transformer that you give to your eight-year-old point him to the Savior and the entire reason we celebrate the day – the word for which we fought so adamantly?  Or do you go to the store out of obligation and search the shelves just to have something to put under the tree, and then have a meaningless exchange of objects that no one needs or wants, without ever considering the gift you have been given by God Almighty?

Christmas decorating is a tradition and exciting activity for many families and individuals.  Do you set up your tree, line up your nut crackers and run tinsel, garland and lights throughout your house in praise of the Savior?  Or is it just a tradition?  Or do you put a giant blow up Santa Claus in your front yard or on your rooftop, trivializing the gift of salvation that was purchased in blood for your eternity?

Why would we spend our energy fighting over the terminology, “Christmas” when we have already removed Him from our traditions and our activities?

Christmas is not the greatest holiday.  Easter is.  Christmas is the coming of Christ to Earth, and the anticipation of His saving work.  Easter is the culmination of His Earthly ministry marking His death, burial and resurrection, and it is through this alone that we have access to God and eternal salvation.  Christmas is glorious because of what it looks forward to.  And yet the world will not help you prepare to celebrate Easter with carols, lights and over a month of anticipation.  We would, however, be well served to reflect on the humility of Jesus in coming to Earth as a man.  God Himself limited Himself in the form of an infant:  completely dependent on human beings and restraining His power.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant,and being made in the likeness of men.

– Eph 2.5-7

The media will continue to fight over the terminology of Christmas.  You will receive some cards in the mail in the next few weeks that read, “Happy Holidays”.  But let us follow the example of Jesus: let us humble ourselves.  Let us remember to make Him the center and focal point of our events and traditions.  And let us remember that the fact of a baby being born is not what we celebrate, but the coming of hope and salvation.

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

– Eph 2.8-11

If you cannot believe.


“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.”

– Is 45.22

Salvation and Spiritual life are at times difficult topics to explain.  In today’s American Christianity, many church-goers grew up in the church and became Christians when they were young.  Before the age of 10 kind of young.  How much do you remember from those years?  If you have had Spiritual life 45 out of your 52 years, it might be difficult to remember what Spiritual deadness was like.  In fact, you might wonder if you even have it!  Others can wrestle with what exactly saving faith is.  There might be an intellectual assent and affirmation of the Gospel but not a trust and awe that is part of faith.  Such a one was Charles Spurgeon, perhaps the greatest preacher of the 19th century.  Below is his own account of his salvation account.  (The date was Jan 6, 1850 and Spurgeon was 15 years old at the time.)

I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. . . . The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach. . . . He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth [Isaiah 45:22].”

He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus: “My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to college to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and yet you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look.

“But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me’. . . . Many of ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. Ye will never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the father. No, look to him by-and-by. Jesus Christ says, ‘Look unto Me.’ Some of ye say, ‘We must wait for the Spirit’s workin’.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me.’”

Then the good man followed up his text in this way: “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ and great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! Look unto Me!”

When he had gone to about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I dare say, with so few present he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart he said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “and you always will be miserable—miserable in life, and miserable in death—if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.”

Then lifting up his hands, he shouted, as only a primitive Methodists could do, “Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothing to do but to look and live.” I saw at once the way of salvation. I know not what else he said—I did not take much notice of it—I was so possessed with that one thought. Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, “Look!” What a charming word it seemed to me! Oh! I looked until I could have almost looked my eyes away.

There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness had rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen that instant, and sung with the most enthusiastic of them, of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to him. . . . And now I can say—

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And Shall be till I die.

– C. H. Spurgeon Autobiography, Volume 1, 87-88

Joy to the World!


I recently learned the history and intention behind the popular Christmas carol, “Joy to the World”.  Isaac Watts, a prolific hymn writer, first published the words to this song in 1719.  He wrote it, however, in anticipation of Jesus Christ’s second coming, the end of the age, rather than in reflection of Jesus’ first coming.  He wrote it upon reflecting on Ps 98:

O sing to the LORD a new song,
For He has done wonderful things,
His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory for Him.
The LORD has made known His salvation;
He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth;
Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre,
With the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
Shout joyfully before the King, the LORD.
Let the sea roar and fnall it contains,
The world and those who dwell in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy
Before the LORD, for He is coming to judge the earth;
He will judge the world with righteousness
And the peoples with equity.

Let us meditate today on the glory of Christ’s impending return as we praise His first coming in these glorious words:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

The Wrong Kind of Belief.

Do you like to be praised for a job well done?  Do you like a compliment?  I do.  Have you learned the reality that hard work will only get you so for, but having connections and knowing the right people will get you a lot farther?  Have you ever stopped to consider the ramifications that this mindset and disposition has on your eternity?  Jesus laid it out clearly:

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”

– John 5.44

There were many people who wanted to be around Jesus because of his benefits.  John goes so far as to say that people “believed” when they saw the signs that Jesus preformed.  But their belief was not an understanding of the cross and salvation, their belief was in the signs.  There were others who wanted to associate with Jesus because they thought He was going to rise to power and be the political king over Israel.  His brothers tried to encourage Him to go and present Himself to the people to be king – because they were, after all, his brothers:

“Therefore His brothers said to Him, ‘Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.’  For not even His brothers were believing in Him.”

– John 7.3-5

At first glance this verse makes no sense.  Jesus’ brothers were seeing the miracles that Jesus was working and they believed that He had the power to be king, to prove Himself to the world, but yet John says that “not even His brothers were believing in Him”.  His brothers were caught up in the signs, in the wonders, in the miracles and power but not in Jesus’ mission and purpose of salvation for the sinners.  They did not believe in the cross.  They wanted the benefit of knowing Christ.

We also see people who are more obvious in their sinful desires to be associated with Christ.

Now there was a man named Simon, who formerly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; and they all, from smallest to greatest, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.”  And they were giving him attention because he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts.  But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.  Even Simon himself believed; and after being baptized, he continued on with Philip, and as he observed signs and great miracles taking place, he was constantly amazed.  Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.  For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit.  Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”  But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money!  You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.  Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.  For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”

– Acts 8.9-24

Here we see that there was a man to whom was attributed belief, but as his heart was revealed we learn that his belief was self-serving.  He believed that the Holy Spirit had power, and that the Holy Spirit was the gift of Jesus through salvation, but he only wanted the power for selfish motives, not because he was repenting of His sins.  Nicodemus was a priest who believed the signs, but still needed to be born again in order to be saved.  And, perhaps the most well known verse on the subject is James 2.19:

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

But Paul and Silas told the jail keeper,

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

– Acts 16.31

So what is saving belief?  It is belief that is not self-serving.  It is belief that is not to receive glory or power, but humbles itself and repents.  It is belief that sees the miracles and signs of Jesus as proof of His deity, but that Jesus’ death and resurrection was His mission.  Belief that is focused on signs and wonders, and belief that profits man’s reputation is that which is easily swayed.  It is shallow, and it misses the boat.

“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”

– Matt 24.24

If we are looking only at the signs, only at the benefits, we will be led astray.  We will be caught up by every new teaching and whim.  Many will preform signs and wonders.  But only Jesus saves.  Is your faith a humble faith?  Have you realized your inability to do anything righteous or good, and are clinging to Jesus?  Or does Jesus supplement your reputation?  Are you using Him to get where you want to go?  Does He just look good on your resume?  Examine yourself, eternity is at stake.

Hold the Line


Israel has an extensive history documented in the Old Testament.  After being taken into captivity, Nehemiah (who was working as the cupbearer to the king) was given permission to take some of the Hebrew people back to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls.  Other people in the land were not happy to see this work taking place, and they conspired to fight against the Hebrew people, but Nehemiah had a plan:

“From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah.  Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon.  As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me.”

– Neh 4.16-18

Half of his work force stood guard.  They stood opposite those who were building the walls with their weapons drawn, watching.  Waiting.  On the alert and on the defense.  Everyone who was working had either a weapon in hand or a sword bound to his side.  Everyone was ready for battle.

Paul tells us that now, being Spiritually bound together as the people and body of Christ rather than a geopolitical nation, our primary battle is not against a physical enemy but Spiritual:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

– Eph 6.12-13

Paul goes on to explain the elements of the armor of God, girding of Truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the Gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and the Sword of the Spirit (the Bible).  The armor is how we protect ourselves and “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph 6.16).  But the one who fights for us is God.  The war has already been won.  Jesus went behind enemy lines and defeated the capital.  But there are still a few battles being forged until the king takes complete control and forces the enemy into submission.  And we are on those front lines, in the power of the Spirit.  Once we are clothed for battle through salvation, with Truth and faith guarding our hearts and righteousness as our defense, how do we fight?  Paul tells us in the very next verse:

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

– Eph 6.18

Prayer.  John Piper uses the analogy that prayer is our war-time walkie talkie.  He says that if we try to use it as a peace time intercom to call the butler for a fresh pillow, it will malfunction.  It was created for us to have immediate access to the commander in chief.  We are in a Spiritual battle, not for the outcome of the war, but for our holiness and for the salvation of souls (as God sees fit to allow us to be a part of His work in saving others).  Prayer.  Paul was on the front lines.  He was building the wall.  He had the walkie talkie in his hand and was praying continually while He preached the Gospel and got caught and put in prison, so he radioed back for reinforcements:  “Pray at all times!”  “Be on the alert”  “With perseverance and petition for the saints!”

God is the sovereign one who has won the battle, who is in control of all things, and who defeats our Spiritual enemies in and through us.  We need to petition Him and to be alert to see the schemes of the enemy.  We do that through prayer.  Without prayer all of our wall building efforts will be futile.

Nehemiah knew that everyone must be prepared.  Those building the walls had their swords on their hips.  Those bringing supplies carried stones in one hand and a sword in the other.  But half of the people were designated simply to stand guard.  How many people stand on the alert in prayer for our Churches and missionary efforts today?  No one is excused from the responsibility to pray.  But there should be a substantial portion of our congregations who invest and spend the bulk of their energy on intercession for the Church, for the battle, for the work!

Prayer is not a transition in a church service.  Prayer is not an opportunity for you to bring your wish list to Santa Clause.  Prayer is your walkie talkie to communicate with the commander in chief while you and your army lay it all down and fight.

So what does this look like?  How many people on your Church staff are employed simply to pray?  How much time does your church staff spend in prayer?  Is your prayer meeting at church the least attended meeting?  How much time do you spend in personal prayer, interceding for the saints, the missionaries, the church, the efforts to reach the lost and to fight for holiness in your own life?  Without prayer everything else will fail because we will be rogue units functioning apart from the master battle plan.  We will not receive battle instructions without radioing back to headquarters.  If we do not pray, we will not conquer.  Let’s unite in prayer.  Let’s establish the line of support, understanding the battle plan, alert and attentive to the enemy’s advances, and under the clear instruction of God.