Don’t Be A Grape (Of Wrath)

Mine eyes have seen the glory
Of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage
Where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning
Of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.

Chorus
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
His truth is marching on.

The great Battle Hymn Of The Republic! Words penned by Julia Ward Howe in 1861 to rally up the troops at the early stages of the Civil War in America. The beginning stanza instantly creates images of the Lord’s return, as shared through the Holy Spirit to John in the book of Revelation. In chapter 14, we see the angels of the Lord harvesting the “grapes” for the wrath of the Lord.

[18] And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” [19] So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. [20] And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

God’s wrath. 

Something that is often times avoided in conversations is the reality of God’s wrath.  Sadly, it is seldom spoken of in today’s pulpits. I have to believe that it is because church leaders don’t want to scare people away from attending church. The people of today have turned from accepting harsh and demanding teachings to making  their own demands for soft and easy-to-digest therapy sessions. Yes, historically there have been extreme levels that the church took, when everything they presented was all hell, fire, and brimstone…a repetitive damning message that threatened everyone’s souls every day. But I have to agree with R C Sproul when he said that “people aren’t afraid of the wrath of God anymore, because preachers are out there telling people that God loves them unconditionally.” 

Most of todays’ teachings within the walls of modern churches are clearly unbiblical. The wide scope of Biblical topics within the covers of Scripture have been extremely diluted, or even removed, so much that His Word has become a flower garden of sunshine, rainbows, and soft, fuzzy kittens. The modern teachers will completely avoid anything in text that shows God executing His full wrath! And yet the Bible clearly has plenty to say about His wrath and judgements onto the earth…specially in the last days!

Christ’s return to earth is to be the complete and final judgement, a time to separate true believers and non-believers. Further on in Revelation we read in chapter 19, verse 15, that Christ will strike down the nations. He will “tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” God’s wrath has been, and will be, a reality that should strike a fear within the hearts of people. 

There are two ways to define fearing God: fear of His anger and wrath (like a frightened child facing an angry parent), and fearing God with reverence and awe. Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10 both declare that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Psalm 111:10 says The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts gain rich understanding. His praise endures forever! 

We can both fear God and fear God! But to those who have salvation through Jesus Christ, we can stand in peace from the fear of God’s wrath because we won’t be classified as a “grape” that will be tread upon in the winepress! But no matter if you are a Christian or not, all the people should be praising God right now for His patience with this world. 

We see in the Old Testament the level of God’s patience when dealing with Israel. We also learn from the historical records that His patience has limits. When even a chosen people of God, blessed above all nations, had to be judged and punished for their complacency and sins, that should be a warning to us Gentile believers as well that no one is exempt!

In Genesis 18, we read the account of God’s patience with the most wicked of cities at that time; Sodom and Gomorrah. God’s decree was to destroy those evil places by fire from heaven. But Abraham’s pleading with God to forgo His wrath for a time, so as to rescue the (the few) righteous people that are within the cities, delayed that destruction. God had even dispatched two angels to get Abraham’s nephew, Lot and his family, out of the city! But, this delay was for just a short time. God is patient, merciful, and yet, just. With this patience we do not want to make a mistake of thinking that God will not judge just because something doesn’t happen instantly!

In 2 Peter 3:9 we see that “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Meaning we need to recognize that the time of His wrath could come at any moment. In the very next verse we are warned that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved”. There is a clear and definite absolute that the God of heaven is going to exact His wrath upon the earth and those who have thumbed their nose at Jesus and the gift of salvation will face an eternal judgement of damnation. 

Hell 

That destination for those that reject the mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ will not be a beach paradise and eternal party that so many of this world seem to believe. What is worse is that there are many people who sit in today’s churches that are on the list of rejection by the Savior. Jesus said “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ The churches have grown exceedingly weak in their preaching and teaching of the Bible, thus allowing many to have a dangerous complacency and casualness in light of sin’s consequences. They are the people who look to have their feelings satisfied instead of satisfying the demands of God laws.

Without getting into a legalistic path, we do have obligations on our part to obey God and His Word. God has set forth His commandments within the Scriptures. Our duty is to obey them. Jesus even summed up the whole of God’s requirements in Matthew 22 by stating that “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the Prophets.” But if we examine our hearts and minds in the light of the Scriptures, we know that we fall short of following the commandments of God. After all…it says in the Bible that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

So, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. What shall we say then? We are sinners. And sinners don’t get into heaven. In fact, God has a winepress of wrath readied! And His justice will be meted out when He comes on the Day of the Lord. Pretty scary stuff when you think that there are eternal consequences for our actions in the here and now. But thankfully, there is a way; a hope, that reaches down through eternity and gives us hope and peace from that wrath! But it is not something to be taken lightly!

You see, when people say a prayer to accept Jesus as their Savior, they need to realize that these are not just some magic words to bail you out of lake of fire. Nor is having a membership to a church or being baptized your get-out-of-hell-free card Being saved from the coming judgement will not be avoided by having several Bibles in your home or by doing lots of good things for others. All of those things are important, but they are not your salvation from the wrath of God. So many people can say a prayer, go to church, do good things, and yet still miss out on God’s call. People want all the gifts and blessings from God, but all without following God’s requirements. God doesn’t give His Word as recommendations. They are commandments! And it is a daily struggle, battle, and conscientious decision every moment of every day to chose this day who you will serve!

Salvation: A gift from God

Salvation from the wrath to come is one side of a two-sided coin. Salvation is a gift from God to redeem us from the punishment of our sins. But, there is responsibility on our part as well as we journey the new path. We have to strive daily. In Hebrews 3:6 it says “but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (firm to the end).

If indeed we hold fast in our hope firmly to the end. We cannot just make some gestures one day and then coast the rest of the way. We have actions do daily. We have battles to fight daily. We have changes to implement daily. We have to start and end each day with a checklist of commitment to God and His Word. 

Lip service versus actions. 

1 John 1:5-10 says:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

We must take action, every day. We have to walk the walk. We confess daily our sins to God. The word confess is translated from the Greek word homologeo which actually means of one mind. It means to speak the same language, agree with, acknowledge. When we confess, we are agreeing with the God of the universe who already knows our hearts and minds, who already knows our sins. We are telling Him that through the Holy Spirit illuminating us within, we recognize our trespasses against His laws. We plead through our advocate, Jesus Christ, who has already paid the penalty for the sins. And we repent of the actions by turning away from the sins. 

A daily battle, a daily conscience effort! And God gives us the strength to win by the power of the Holy Spirit! God promised that we who believe, when tempted, will be given a way out! We need to daily meditate on the Word, keep in prayer, trust Jesus through faith, and run the race with endurance!

There are only two paths in this life. Not three. The middle ground is also called “lukewarm” and is not a path to eternal salvation. The lukewarm folks are what populate most churches today. Unfortunately they will end up being added into the path inhabited by those who reject Jesus Christ. And all on that path are heading straight to the winepress. They will fall under the wrath of God and be cast into the lake of fire. It is very clear in the Bible. Despite what people might imagine how their god should act like, the God of the Bible will punish those who have violated His Commandments.

For those who enter in through the narrow gate, stay firm on the narrow path, and walk in the Light of God’s Word every day, there will be eternal reward in Heaven for their faith and steadfastness. Those who walk this path will be tempted, stumble, and encounter many pitfalls and snares from the enemy. But Christ has overcome the world! He is our guide, our strength, and our Savior! So be encouraged and trust daily! Never taking our eyes off the prize! Always doing the will of the Father!

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17

Beliefs?

It is without apology that I take to writing my beliefs in what the Word of God, the Bible, says about various subjects that seem to be dividing those who claim to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. These beliefs are not what I “feel” it says. Nor are they what I just blindly accept because others follow this or that particular viewpoint. These are actually what I know based on my own reading, research, and study within the covers of the Bible alone. 

I know that many things are considered subjective. One might believe one particular way about a topic, when someone else may perceive it quite differently. When you look at the history of theology (the study of God and His Word), it is very clear that there has been, and still are, divisive understandings about what is actually being conveyed to the listener/reader. Since the Bible came together, some of the greatest minds have perused through every jot and tittle looking for the truest and deepest meanings that God in His providence is telling the people. 

On certain points, most scholars and students of Scripture have a common understanding. Most will certainly state that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, sent to be the sacrificial lamb to atone for the sins of the world. Most will claim that Jesus came in human form, born of a virgin, taught His message through His disciples, and that after His death on the cross rose from the dead 3 days later…appearing to multitudes…and then rising to the heavens, is seated on the right hand of God’s throne. Many still agree that there will be a return of Jesus to claim His own (believers) who will go to heaven with Him forever. But, it is when we get to the periphery things of theology that lines blur, ideas differ, and dissension erupts.

Some of the points of contention that are often debated are things like; how are we saved, when are we saved, did God elect some and not others, when is Christ returning, will He come a brief second time for saints but then return for the end battle, is the coming pre/mid/post tribulation, is there a literal or figurative millennial period, and do we reside on the new earth or in heaven or both? 

I have written in the past of my understanding on a few of these questions. A few points I admittedly can say that I do waffle between views because I can understand both (or multiple) explanations making sense from what others claim it says in the Bible. Since I am no formally trained scholar, theologian, seminary graduate, or am extra-versed in the Bible, I will say that all of my approaches come from trying to see what the Bible says about a certain subject without adding in too many outside views or slants.

Which leads me to labelling. One of the greatest wars that has raged since the early 1600’s has been what our level of involvement with the salvation process really is. Between the defined views of Jacobus Arminius (Arminianism) and John Calvin (Calvinism) came a rift that deepened as the reformation was steaming through Protestantism around the world. I do not want to delve into the specifics of all that historically was going on, other than to say that a multitude of factions were created and followers of particular ideologies labelled themselves according to their defined group. What I will say is that, though I may lean particular to certain teachings or understandings of interpretations from the leaders long ago, I do not commit to any one as definitive.

Examples are that some say I am a Calvinist. Some say I am a Puritan. Some label me based on my eschatology (end times) views. Some label me purely a heretic because I don’t read their version of the Bible. Some say I am simply ignorant and should not espouse an opinion. 

Whatever the view of me, I will say in my defense: you don’t know me.

But, to satisfy those who want to pigeonhole me, label me a particular sway, I will put out what I see as Biblical truth. Be warned though, as some views of mine have changed over the years…because experience, learning, and understandings have grown and shaped my belief system. I will also warn that if you really believe that your view, way, ideology, and stance is the only and right way…then you are either the first person in the history of theology to fully nail the exact truth that God is teaching us, or, you are a self-centered narcissist who stopped up your eyes and ears, set your feet in concrete, and yell foul at everyone else who may differ from you. In the Bible, many of those folks had their own labels: Pharisees and Scribes. Self-righteous people who thought they knew everything, but in reality missed out on the Savior that they “thought” they would find. Nowadays, I call them “arm-chair theologians”. People who, with or without formal education, have settled in their minds and hearts that they are right and that everyone else is wrong…unless they agree with them.

If the greatest and most learned men in history have had differing views of particular areas of study, (such as has been listed above), what makes you think that you have the absolute and accurate understanding? 

I will say this about those topics. People need to understand that there are aspects discussed in the Bible that do NOT change the salvation of a person. Salvation is a gift from God and we have no power to change God! Certain aspects of Scripture are pure black-and-white…no grey, debatable areas. But most of the topics that are (still) hotly contested really don’t change our standing before the Holy God! Believing that the rapture comes before the tribulation or after does in NO WAY change whether you get to heaven or not! Standing on all 5 points of Calvinism versus agreeing with only 4 of them does NOT change your status if you are a saved believer or not! 

The fact that people get so heated over periphery matters really baffles me! If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ as your savior, then Hallelujah! But to get violently angry with each other over whether or not the book of Enoch should be studied within the Scriptures is utter nonsense! And speaking of books…this ridiculous mentality people have that if you don’t read the King James Version of the Bible then you are wrong, that you are studying the devil’s words, and that you are now going to hell! This has become the most ludicrous debate I have ever heard. If you read the KJV only…great! It is a great translation from the original languages! Yet, it always amazes me that people really think that anything outside of the (rehashed from the Geneva Bible) 1611 translation, God can’t communicate with you. That if you’re reading any translation OTHER THAN the KJV, you are getting the wrong Word. What that really tells me is that; a) the KJV-only crowd has never studied or understood how translations come about and from where; b) that they forget that God is bigger than your translations; and c) that God has brought countless numbers to salvation through a multitude of versions outside of KJV!

Anyway, I digress. Back to what I believe.

I believe that the KJV, NKJV, NASB, and ESV are great translations of the original texts. But, I also believe that God uses many forms and translations to communicate His Truths to people, through various languages, reaching to their understanding level in ways that they need at the right time…by the power of the Holy Spirit. I will NEVER discount God’s ability to use even the most mundane manner or translation to get His Word to those who need to hear it. His Word NEVER returns void. Look at the underground church in China. How many of them that will study even the most partial of pages of Scripture to be fed His Word! They memorize even small sections so they can commit it to heart! They may never have a chance to see the full body of text, but there is no doubt that God uses that to edify those believers who will be exalted in heaven for their devotion and faithfulness!

As for eschatology, I had started off in the pre-tribulation rapture belief, primarily because that is what everyone around me was believing. I have changed my views on that stance over the last couple of years for a few reasons. I am not here to try to sway or alter your belief in any way…primarily because you believe what you believe and that is between you and God. I will say that through my own personal studies in Scripture that I just don’t see pre-trib. That being said, I will contend that I strongly believe that we should be walking today as if we were going to be raptured midway or at the end of the tribulation period, but always living in hope that the rapture is before the tribulation! Also in these camps are the big words of preterism, historicism, futurism, idealism and many others. Again, I will say with complete confidence that no matter what view you hold to, it does NOT alter your salvation. Debate it all you want, but if you are dispensationalist or a covenant theologist, in the big picture of God’s plan, there is no reason to get argumentative and split communion with other believers over these differences as they don’t affect the final outcome of salvation.

In regards to denominations, I will say strongly this; there are many denominations that have come along under the guise of being true to the Word of God, yet have either come as wolves in sheep’s clothing or have started out with right intentions only to be swallowed and changed by the world. General titles such as Methodist, Wesleyan, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Presbyterian,   and the like have even fractured into various groups because of indwelling disagreements. Most of the issues have arose because of the affect of worldliness. Most of the groups have decided to conform more to the world than they have the Word. I’ve written about this particular issue before and won’t labor it too much, other than to say that finding a true Bible-believing church that preaches the Gospel, reveres God in worship, and studies to conform to our Lord Jesus’ teachings is the ONLY place you want to be. Anything less is a compromise to God’s Holy standards and the end result is not fitting for heaven.

Which brings me to a most contentious point: Salvation. This hotly debated study is one that has split churches, destroyed fellowship, and even created violent reactions. The debate contains within itself these particulars: 1) does God pre-elect certain people to salvation; 2) is this conditional; 3) can we lose salvation; 4) what role do we have (if any) in accepting or rejecting.

Obviously, I cannot spend time explaining/defining every aspect of each of these topics as they are so deep, divisive, and contested, that it would take volumes of books. And even with all the books, there are so many viewpoints that are addressed that we really never get a set, definitive absolute answer. Consider the history of the greatest theologians that have gone before us that have written extensively on these particular topics! As I mentioned before, this understanding of salvation became a hotbed back in the early 1600’s within Protestantism with theologians debating some of these very unclear matters. Arminius held to the 5 solas of the Reformation, but had differing teachings on some aspects from the teachings of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and others. As with so many other periods in history, sides were taken, debates occurred, factions split, and denominations struggled. Unfortunately, the division between the two schools of thought have driven wedges deeper within the body of believers and have caused unbelievers to avoid church because they see the dissensions and hypocrisy within the church body.

As for me, after careful study of Scripture and the history of the debate (the Synod of Dort and the five articles of remonstrance), I have come to the conclusion that these “labels” are fine for historical teachings, but have no bearing on my personal salvation or walk with God. To label me one or the other is really a moot point. Specially since both “sides” agreed on the really key issues! We are depraved. Atonement is for all. Jesus’s death satisfies God’s justice. When it comes to whether grace is resistible or not, or if election is conditional or not, I know that I have to trust in the Scriptures, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. I know that whatever the Bible says, that’s what I need to focus on in my walk. If I take my eyes off of the prize to worry about matters of whether God predestines or not, I have taken my focus on the more important part: God’s will in my life. 

We fret and worry so much about small, minute details more than we do about the big picture. If I am driving a car down the road and keep my focus only on a pothole in the other lane, I miss out on all the other things going on around me. If Satan can drive your focus off the whole of Scripture to a small, debatable matter that causes you to stumble, then he has succeeded. The devil constantly challenges people to question God’s Word. His goal is to cause to you to doubt. I’ve done a lot of doubting, questioning, worrying, debating and struggled with many of these issues in the past to the point where I threw up my hands in frustration and walked away. Isn’t that the demon’s goal? To create division, strangle the truth, alter our beliefs, and get people to give up? Christ said that a house divided does not stand. That house can be a multitude of believers or can simply mean each of us individually. 

Bottom line is that I believe what I believe because I see it in the Word of God. Not because I need a label. Not because this preacher or that teacher says it is so. Not because my brothers and sisters all believe a particular theological ideology. But because I have read it in the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit has illuminated that particular area of understanding to me, and that I cannot see it differently. Does it make me right? NO! What it does do is open me up to understanding the Word so that when I do hear a teaching related to it, I can go back and learn and discern if what I heard is true. More times than not I find myself learning and growing in my faith and knowledge of the Bible. Many times I hear or read something and quickly can see that the thoughts being conveyed contradict the Word. 

But, I also believe that there is absolutely NO reasons for self-proclaiming followers of Christ to be so arrogant, so pompous, so narcissistic as to be judgmental and condemning to others because they don’t agree with you. I see it time and time again on social media and other platforms. It is utterly abhorrent and contradictory to the teaching of Jesus! There is a time to call out heretical false teaching and there is a time discuss differences in theology. Someone teaching that works saves and gets you into heaven should be gently shown God’s Word that explains otherwise. But if someone thinks that you reading anything other than the KJV is heresy and that you are not reading God’s Word, well, therein lies a difference that has absolutely NO bearing on whether or not someone is saved by God! 

I find we love to judge. To compare everyone else to ourselves. Yet, it is obviously clear that everyone is different. Not only are my neighbors around me different than me, but a Christian brother halfway around the world is also different than me. Our circumstances and histories are different. God, in His providence and wisdom, reaches down from Heaven to each of us…meeting us exactly where we are! He teaches us exactly what we need, when we need it. At just the right moment, He illuminates our hearts and minds to His Truths. He feeds us understanding when we are ready to receive it. Had I known long ago what I know now, I might have rejected things because they were too weighty for my mindset then. God knows what I need and when. He knows that we all need the core, the Gospel, which is clear and concise…fitting for everyone! He wants us to share it with others, not wondering whether someone is “elect” or not. It is a command from our savior Jesus, to preach the Gospel. How will they know if they don’t hear it? Even if predestined, who are we to decide? Maybe God is using YOU to call that one person! 

His ways are not our ways. So, I will just have to believe, trust, and obey to the best of my ability. 

Amen

Idol Gomer

I have moments where I will smile, shake my head, even roll my eyes with a chuckle, as I reflect on my old life, when I was living without a thought of God in it. Not surprisingly, and due to my ignorance and rebellion back in the day, there were many situations that, had it not been for the hand of God interceding, I would probably be dead. I was always slow to learn and even slower to recognize that God was, and still is, in control, despite my dangerous decisions and activities. And because He has plans for me, there was nothing I could have done that would ever thwart His plans! I’ve come to accept that I didn’t have a lot of wisdom flowing through my brain cells, nor was sound discernment involved in many of my decisions. I chased after my own gods, idols, desires; to do what I wanted in life. I thought I was a god.

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the LORD are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.

This Scripture verse is the last in the book of Hosea, chapter 14 verse 9. I start here because it speaks of two paths we all have the choice to venture down: God’s way or our way. Unfortunately, most people who read the book of Hosea never get past the storyline regarding his marriage to his God-given, yet wayward, wife. Beyond the marriage issues lie the important message that is in the heart of this great book of warning. And because some people will assume it to be directed only to a certain people of a certain time, the bulk of the chapters (4-14) often get overlooked. But the message has great application to the church today. And since our Savior Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, it is imperative that we understand how the warnings should impact our lives in this day and age. 

Hosea is filled with warnings to the Israelites (using his own marriage as an example) that they have committed spiritual adultery against the Lord God. They have chased after other gods and have become idolaters instead of worshipping the one true God. The prophet spent about 45 years preaching this message to a stiff-necked peoples who wanted to live life their way. (Sound familiar?) If it wasn’t for the amazing love and mercy of God, they would have been vanquished from His sight forever. Yet, despite their unfaithfulness, God is always faithful. Despite their lack of love towards God, God still loves them. 

To understand the reasons of God’s anger because of their violations, we need to review the first three Commandments, or Laws, that God has given to mankind. Exodus chapter 20 covers them:

1- “You shall have no other gods before me.”
2- “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
3- “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

In respect to the beginning storyline of Hosea and his “extracurricular” wife (chapter 1:1-9, chapter 3:1-5), I will throw in the seventh Commandment from God: “You shall not commit adultery.-Exodus 20:14

Without overstating the obvious, we can clearly see that our God is a jealous God. “You shall have NO other gods.” In clarifying terms; any religious activity focused on someone or something outside of the God of the Bible is clearly a violation of His Commandments. There is not a lawyer or judge that could double-speak any other interpretation based on God’s decrees. So, with that said, it is clear why God is justified in His anger. Whether you call it spiritual adultery, spiritual idolatry, or spiritual apostasy, it is a sin against the Holy God. But this is not just an issue that Hosea was facing during the Old Testament writing, it is also an issue of today’s church. We are living and acting no different today than the Israelites were back then!

The book of Hosea’s warnings are applicable to the people of God as a collective, yet also have deep relevance to individuals as well. If you and I were to stop for a moment, to truly and honestly reflect on our life; all our thoughts, our lifestyles, our focus, our priorities, our inner desires, our goals…we would see that we have been living a spiritually adulterous life. We fill time, effort, and energy on temporal things far more than we do spiritual. Jesus warned us that we are to store up our treasures in heaven, not on earth. He also said that “where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:19-21) If our heart’s desire is on the things of this world more than God, then perhaps our passions are skewed.

The number of idols, or gods, that people worship in their daily life are far more than we might think.  For some, it could be the drive for great success at work. Some might put emphasis on chasing after money and prosperity. Some might place their highest importance on appearances. Some might seek fleshly pleasures, while yet others may be seeking to fulfill inward emotional needs. Some seek praise and popularity. Some cherish other people more than they do God. And some will chase dreams of fame. But regardless of where they are focusing their heart’s desires, they all want it according to their will, their way, their timing, their effort. And all the while they are placing God on the back burner of their lives. What is most sad about these people, those who are busy in their daily idol worship, is that they are usually the people who claim to be church-attending, Bible-believing, Christians. And while there is nothing wrong with working hard, making an income, taking care of others, and having a respectable image, what matters is their source: God or self.

If we truly understand God, how He explicitly time and time again warns people through His Word to stay clear of idols, that we are to be on our guard against them, and to not even mention the name of other gods (Exodus 23:13), we would be more conscientious regarding the things we place as important. Even within the walls of the church throughout history, priority has been misplaced on things like status, buildings, mannerisms, and even material objects…so much more than the truth of God. And despite what you would think about the church today, idolatry is still a very prevalent problem. When non-believers struggle to see the difference between the world and the church, you have rampant idolatry happening. 

Psalm 106:35-36 points out the issue; how the church has diminished their worship of God, “but mingled themselves with the nations, and learned their works, and served their idols, which became a snare unto them.” And in 1 Corinthians 10:21-22, Paul warns that “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?”

So how do we respond to this? Have you chosen this day whom you will serve? Do you cherish with lust the material things of this world or do you place importance on fulfilling the desires of God? Do you focus on pleasing others by your outward appearance or focus on how to present yourself before the living God? Do the things of this world take precedence before your walk with God? Has television, media, social media, computers, phones, tablets, games, become gods to you? Even many of the spiritual leaders (false teachers) of today have become so engrossed with garnering worldly idols that they even invent ways to obtain more through their misguided followers. The multitude of idols are there, all aiming to fulfill you with immediate gratification. And all of these idols are what people use to replace God and His Word as the sole want and desire in life.

Gomer was given to Hosea by God to be his wife. Yet, she wanted something else. Her selfishness was a higher priority over God’s ways. And when she went out to fulfill that desire, it fueled her pride and made chasing after her lusts irresistible. Don’t we all have that at times? Where we crave something that might be outside of God’s will? Something that we might place as high priority, even though we know it goes against God and our duties to Him? And though we might have a momentary bit of success that gives us a boost in our ego and we feel accomplished, the insatiable desire never subsides. We just want more. Thus, our downward spiral to idolatry.

As I mentioned before, God’s plans for our lives will never be altered; even by our waywardness and sinful passions. Yet, when we chase after our own wants and needs, we are literally committing spiritual adultery. We are prostituting ourselves out to the highest bidder, as it were, so that we can get what we want, when we want it. Our pride then closes our ears to the Word of God and fills us up like poison…leading us slowly away from the true joy and peace that only God through Christ Jesus can provide. 

I like to compare this overriding pride to driving a car in traffic. When I drive, I do it in a certain manner on the various roadways. Yet when others around me don’t drive at the speed or fashion I want, I find my impatience growing and my attitude toward them becoming hostile. I flair up with frustration that they are impeding my way! I plan on driving at such-and-such speed, yet the person in front of me is going slower than what I want. What’s really happening is my personal pride and demand for things my way are being challenged. We have this very same attitude with God and His Word! His ways are not our ways, yet we want things our way! And with that, we become hostile toward God, ignoring His Word, and ending up being a prodigal chasing after our own gods.

Can you imagine the heart of God as He watches the people that He not only created, but also loves with an everlasting love; continually turning their backs on Him and chasing after statues and false gods and lusts of the flesh? And though His love transcends the understanding of man, He still wants our complete and full love and adoration and obedience. We are created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. His love is unfailing. Yet, we fail Him by turning our devotion to things created instead of the Creator. In Romans chapter one, it says that “…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” That is what the fallen do. That is what the unbelievers do. But, sadly, that is also what many professing believers do…worship any and every thing other than our Lord God.

God shows us by examples throughout the Old Testament that He is the only true God, a patient God, and yet a jealous God. God’s love and patience is beyond understanding, yet it also has limits. There has been in the past, and will occur in the future, God unleashing His wrath on the wicked and unrepentant. The Israelites learned this time and time again. Look at how many times they were punished and lost favor with God for their sinful rebellions and idol worshipping! How many of God’s people were destroyed eternally because of their impenitent hearts? But for the people who repent of their pride, their waywardness, their selfish desires, He welcomes them back! Those who turned away from idols and ceased worshipping other gods were granted forgiveness! 

And we also see this very love from God in the New Testament. That God manifested Himself in His Son Jesus to come and bring His elect a way of salvation from the coming wrath, by paying the penalty for our sins on the cross, so that whosoever believes in Him and repents of their sins (turning away from them), and puts their faith in Him, will be forgiven! When Christ rose from the grave, he defeated the last enemy, death, so that we, who have received His mercy of forgiveness, will have eternal life with Him! We worship God alone through Christ Jesus alone by the power of the Holy Spirit. We shall have NO other gods before Him. 

God is mercy and His grace is given to those who put away their idols and follow Him. It says in the Scriptures that He calls you back if you will “Only acknowledge your guilt, that you rebelled against the LORD your God and scattered your favors among foreigners under every green tree, and that you have not obeyed my voice, declares the LORD. Return, O faithless children, declares the LORD; for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.” -Jeremiah 3:13-14

I can attest that I have had my attention distracted by wants and desires very easily at times. I end up taking my focus off of the prize, the goal set before me (Philippians 3:14). It’s a daily struggle. I doubt anyone can say that they don’t encounter this in their lives from time to time. But it’s when we find or create idols that consume our priorities, when we put our hope, trust, and faith in them, it’s then that we lose out on precious fellowship with the Lord. It’s worshiping these other gods that create an emptiness in our spirit and causes God to become angry. A. W. Pink said “So long as we are occupied with any other object than God Himself, there will be neither rest for the heart nor peace for the mind.” This is a war that we must fight to win, because our souls, and perhaps the souls of others, depend on it! 

Our only solution is keeping God as our only God (first Commandment) and by keeping the Word of God in our hearts and minds by daily meditating on it (Psalm 119:9-11, 2 Timothy 3:16-17), and continually asking God’s Spirit for leading (1 Thessalonians 5:17), so that we can overcome this world and be ready for the glory of the next! 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” -Hebrews 12:1-2

If we are wise and discerning, we know that the Lord’s ways are perfect when compared to our ways. Because his plans will not be ruined, we should walk in His ways, upright, not stumbling about as the lost are in this lost world. Hosea paid the full price to restore his bride back to himself. God paid the full price for the penalty of our sins through Jesus to restore us to Himself. 

Our sign of true faith is our obedience, keeping His Word, and worshipping the one true God. We shall have no other gods or idols. Instead of worshipping ourselves, submit to God and “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:1

By this, we shall revere and honor and obey the True and Living God! 

Amen

Forgiven And Forgetting.

Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

One of the many battles that some people face is memory. I happen to have horrible short-term memory. I will often think of something I need to do or get while I’m out driving and by the time I can stop and write it down, it’s gone! I’ve had to learn to use voice memos so that I can note the task while driving and later write it down. In fact, I’ve resorted to using an app on my phone that not only states what I need to remember, but I can also set an alarm for a day and time! It has been a lifesaver!

The hardest part of memory issues for me though is remembering the Words of God. Many devout Christians will memorize Scripture. The Bible says in Psalm 119:11 “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The more words from God we carry in our hearts and mind, the stronger we become standing firm against the evils of this world that try to derail us in our walk. In my previous writing and podcast (Things I Preach To Myself About…“Where’s My Sword”), I talked about the importance of reading the Bible and how the Bible is the Sword of the Spirit, the Sword of Truth. With this at our side at all times, we can defend ourselves from the attacks of the enemy.

But is our forgetfulness simply a psychological or physical matter? There certainly are many contributing factors that affect our capabilities to remember things. Everything from stress and anxiety, depression, injuries to the brain, all can affect someone’s short-term (and/or long-term) memory. But today I want to delve into another area that can be a factor against our ability to remember God’s word: Sin

One thing that can thwart our ability to memorize Scripture is sin. Within each of us is a disease. It is a disease that we have carried since birth. This sin disease will be with us until our last breath. As with any disease, it affects various parts of our body (mind and soul). And, as with any ailment, once it’s discovered, it has to be addressed and treated; often daily! When we identify that we have this sin nature and we want to be rid of it, we begin a working process to keep it from flaring up in our lives.

As sin erupts, God becomes quite distant to us. Our only desire during this moment is for self-gratification. Our natural inclination leans toward the flesh, the strongest pull at the time. Without help, we become weak and powerless to resist. James puts it this way in chapter 1, verse 14; “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” As Bonhoeffer says, we are not hating God, but forgetting God.

The Ten Commandments

Yes, we do have a natural animosity against God and His ways. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, we have been natural-born sinners! Psalm 51 says “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We enter into this world already at odds with God and His laws (10 Commandments). And until the Spirit changes our hearts, we relish sin over salvation. But when God does quicken us, we are then able to see Him in a different light; now wanting His ways in our life, not the world’s ways! We are able to believe and trust our life to Jesus Christ through his death, burial, and resurrection from the grave. We enter into newness of life! Now we place Jesus as our Lord and Savior!

That doesn’t necessarily make the disease go away though. What it does do is cause us to actually see the disease and want it gone! Thus, our trusting in God and His Word is key to the process of fighting this sin! 

Which brings me back to memory. As I’ve said before, Christians will often memorize Scripture as a means of strengthening their walk and building up a defense against the devil’s lies. Being able to quote Bible verses from memory is paramount to a growing faith. But for some of us who struggle to even remember what we were going to do as we walk into another room, or forget our ideas or tasks the moment our attention is distracted; we need a different remedy.

One thing I’ve discovered lately is to meditate on Scripture. There is a difference between memorizing and meditating. Memorization is planting something into your mind for recall whenever needed. Meditation is delving deep into something so intently, that it becomes imbedded in your heart. Learning a set of words by rote memorization is essentially a mechanical or habitual repetition. But to thoroughly and intimately learn, we meditate on the Word of God. 

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. Psalm 119:15

Many of the great Puritans devoted vast amounts of time delving deep into the Bible, meditating on them to fill their hearts complete with the truth of God. Dr. Joel Beeke, in his essay on “The Puritan Practice of Meditation,” lists some benefits that meditating on Scripture has to offer (compared to just memorizing):

  1. Meditation helps us focus on the Triune God, to love and to enjoy Him in all His persons (1 John 4:8)—intellectually, spiritually, aesthetically.
  2. Meditation helps increase knowledge of sacred truth. It “takes the veil from the face of truth” (Prov. 4:2).
  3. Meditation is the “nurse of wisdom,” for it promotes the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:8).
  4. Meditation enlarges our faith by helping us to trust the God of promises in all our spiritual troubles and the God of providence in all our outward troubles.

These are just a few that Dr. Beeke lists. But what it does point to is the importance of absorbing God’s Truths deeper into our being rather than just reciting words. For a deeper insight to the Puritan study of God’s Word, I would also recommend the book “God’s Battle Plan For The Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation” by David W. Saxton. The book not only shows the necessity for personal meditation on the Scriptures, but also gives motivation by showing us how the great Puritans meditated on the Word themselves! 

There are so many great benefits to meditating on the Word of God instead of just memorizing them. And don’t get me wrong, memorization is a great option for many who can do it and it does work. But we all need to imbed these truths in our minds, as well as our hearts, no matter the method. But, for those of us who struggle with the duty of memorizing, we do have an option that can actually take us deeper into His word AND get those words within us to recall when needed!

In the Garden of Eden, the first challenge to Eve by the serpent (the devil, himself) was to ask “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Thus, seeing if she knew the words of the Lord. As we face the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life that surround us every day, we need to be on guard with the Sword of the Sprit, the Word of God! We won’t always have an opportunity to sit down and look up Scripture to challenge back the temptations set before us. In most instances, we will need to draw on our understanding and knowledge of the Word of God that is deeply set within us. Words of Scripture that we have committed to our hearts and minds for just such an occasion! 

Not only do we strive to know God through His word daily in our lives, but we are called to persevere onward in our sanctification, always remembering that God is working in us through His Son Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit! Joshua 1:8a says: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.” 

Amen

Where’s My Sword?

Oh, pilgrim!

If you think God is nothing but love, love, love…you are sadly mistaken.

God is love, but he is also a God of wrath against the wicked! And lest Christ as Lord, you are wicked!

So flee!

Flee from the wrath to come!

Flee!

Into the arms of the Savior!

-Rich

I cannot count the number of times, over my many years, that I have wandered through life with my mind solely focused in the world, completely unaware of God’s presence. I lived like I am the one who controls all that I say and do. I don’t give a moments concern to the Heavenly realm or my future home. I think, therefore I am.

As such, I can do what I want, when I want, however I want! I can indulge myself to the satisfactions of the flesh. And if even a tinge of guilt or concern should wash over me, I can dismiss it quickly; never worrying about the consequences my activities might reap. After all, I’m not hurting others. Nor does a little here, a little there, really do any damage to me at all! It’s just a little thing, nothing really that bad after all! Like a little white lie. Sometimes it is necessary to spare people of a grievous hurt! It’s just a minor infraction when measured against all the bigger, badder things people do! If anything, it makes everyone feel good at the moment and there really is no reason to make a fuss. God understands!

“Those little things are harmless,” we think. When you look at the bad in this world, these little things are small. They can be compared to, say, a brick. You pick it up, enjoy it, set it down in front of you. No big deal! Then the you pick up the next one. Use it, enjoy it and set it down next to the other. Again, no issues! Then another. Then more. And before you know it, you have made yourself a nice little wall of “my ways”. But, since you started to run out of room in front of you, you’ll have to keep adding all the upcoming ones all around the sides until…You are completely walled in by your own desires, deceits, and doings!

The wants and ways you’ve been enjoying until now have surrounded you, entrapped you, and are causing misery and anguish because all those little things have now become a huge mess that is consuming your life! Amazing how those little things you thought were harmless have added up so quickly! You find yourself overwhelmed and drowning, all as a result of your dabbling with those little sins. Sins? Yes, sins! And, there are no degrees or sizes of sin to a Holy God. Sin is sin! And it only takes one sin to keep a person out of Heaven!

“But, God loves us and understands and he won’t condemn us for a couple of minor infractions!”

Because God is Holy, and sin is the breaking of His laws (see the 10 Commandments), and God cannot permit any type or degree of sin to go unpunished, he will condemn. The Bible clearly says that the “…wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). And Biblical death refers to the eternal lake of fire or hell! Not the place you want to spend forever!

“But, Jesus died for our sins so we can all go to Heaven!”

Absolutely he did! Romans 3:22-24 says we can have “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. Which is to say that he paid the price for our sins on the cross and rose again to make intercession for us to the Father in Heaven! But there are conditions!

Unfortunately, many of the worldly “churches” leave out parts of the Bible. Specially important ones that say things like “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). To continue to build up our wall of sins, brick by brick, means that we have not repented, forsaken the world, and turned our lives to God through Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul continues on in chapter 6 of his letter to Romans saying “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you over its passions.” (Verse 12). There is a choice to be made and there is NO middle ground!

This is a daily choice as well. We need to be reminded that we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” daily. God tells us that his mercies are “new every morning”. So what we have here is a battle between the our fleshly desires and God’s ways. We are either building our wall of sins and living entrapped in them, or we are walking in the freedoms of God’s grace and forgiveness! Now don’t get me wrong, we will sin…often. But when we do, we must repent (which means to turn away from those sinful ways) and strive harder to follow God and his ways, leaning on the Holy Spirit for strength to do this. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Ok, so we have made a decision to walk in righteousness with Jesus as our Lord! Great! But, the battle is harsh and I fail quite a bit. The world is ever before me and I easily revert to my old ways. This is the struggle that many poor pilgrims have during their journey! And, unfortunately with a weak faith, the sojourner can at times fall and not get back up! Many souls lost are littered along the very road we travel on toward eternity with God. But know this; that God does provide us with the means and way to faithfully arrive at his calling!

First, he provides a helper to guide and strengthen us. God is faithful to be with us! Even for the Israelites that he brought out of Egypt, God, in his “great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness” (Nehemiah 9:19). Jesus promised that the “Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things”. The Holy Spirit resides within us, guiding us, encouraging us, and showing us the darkened areas of our lives by illuminating the truth of God and his word to us.

Which leads me to the Word of God, the Bible (or Scriptures).

In our daily battles, like any good soldier, we need to be equipped to stand against the enemy of our souls, and even defeat them. Sin is our enemy. It is the very cause of destruction in so many lives. The enemy of God, the devil, wants us to sin against God. God wants us to defeat sin in our lives. So, God provided his word! The Bible refers to the word of God as the “sword of the Spirit” and “the sword of truth”.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:4-5‬

In Ephesians 6, God gives us a list of spiritual armor to wear as we battle the forces of evil in this world. The weapon in our hand is the “sword of the Spirit”, which is the word of God. In order to use any weapon, the first thing we have to do is physically pick it up in our hands! It would be shocking to how many “professing Christians” have Bibles sitting in their homes, yet have rarely (if ever) picked them up to read. Based on conversations with people over the years (many of whom own several Bibles), there are very few people who have even the slightest clue as to what is really inside the pages. The sword is worthless if it is sitting on a book shelf or in a closet or tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

The other issue is knowing how to use it. Once it is in your hands, you have to know what to do with it! As with anything, taking time to get acquainted with it is paramount. Anyone can pick up a Bible, but to know what it contains and where to look for truths to help in your daily walk is not something you know instantly. There are 66 books contained within the covers of the Bible. Knowing what each book says and teaches takes time and effort. You don’t have to become a Bible scholar or take deep theology courses to understand it, but you do need to open the pages and read them for yourself! The Holy Spirit is there to illuminate those words to you!

Another thing is that you should not rely solely on others for how to use the sword as well! What I mean by that is in today’s technology-driven culture, people seem to resort to videos and Google to shortcut everything. Someone might go to a church once in a while and listen to a pastor teach, then watch some videos or read something online and get a brief overview and think they are ready for war. But that doesn’t replace knowing for yourself how to read and interpret the Word of God and apply it to your personal walk! Just as watching someone wield a sword in a video doesn’t make you proficient to use one in an actual battle, the same goes with watching a 10 minute video of someone else’s interpretation of Scripture, how that doesn’t equip you for the battlefront in your spiritual walk.

That is NOT to say that listening and learning from others is wrong. On the contrary, just as in Acts chapter 8, the Ethiopian eunuch needed Philip’s help in understanding the Scripture he was struggling with, we all need helps understanding various parts of the Bible! But we have to read the Bible for ourselves so that the Holy Spirit can open our eyes and heart to receive the words and store them up inside! Psalm 119:9-12 says “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!”

There are many great teachers and teaching aids out there to help us with our study of the Bible. But personally knowing the Scriptures helps us identify what is right and what is wrong teaching. The devil uses many false teachers and preachers, heretical churches, and twisting of Scripture to knock pilgrims off the course and even bring them to ruin. Having a good personal study of the Bible strengthens us to stand firm to God’s truth and avoid the lies of the enemy. The Jews in Berea studied the word of God and would daily search the Scriptures and compare what they read to what was being taught or presented around them. Like them, we must take the time to search the Scriptures…daily!

The Bible is right when it says that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. I get it. It’s a struggle some days just to get out of bed! We struggle not only with daily duties, but we get flooded with the chaos of the world and eventually doubts and fears start to take hold of us! I pray almost continuously to God saying “I believe, help my unbelief!” But the deeper God brings us through sanctification, (our walk with him), the more we see our faults and weaknesses before him. This helps us know where we need to focus and grow so we can draw closer to God! And it is through his word that he opens up those areas! One of God’s commands to us that many overlook is written in various places within the Bible (Leviticus, Joel, Ephesians, 1Peter, to name a few): “sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy”.

He humbles me greatly, daily to see my sins.

He lifts me up by showing me his grace.

Oh, that I may know him more, follow him more, glorify him more!

We flee from sin. We flee to Christ!

Each day is a battle that we need to take seriously and diligently. We first need to put down the bricks of sin, even the “little” ones. Life already gives us plenty of extra weight to carry every day, we don’t need to add extra! Hebrews 12:1 says to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” God sets a fountain to cleanse us from all sin and impurity. But if we continually return and wallow in the filth over and over, all we are essentially doing is deny Christ and rejecting his work on the cross.

“…shall we continue in sin…?”

We also need to take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word…daily. Don’t neglect it. How can anyone fight the good fight when they don’t know where their weapon is or how to even use it! The great Puritan leader, Richard Baxter, said “study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.” There is so much to learn in our walk with God! And reading Scripture with a glancing blow hardly ripples the surface of the truth within. As with gold, you must dig deep for the best deposits. You will never become rich with just pebbles.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33

God’s wrath is being stayed by his love. Yes, for God so loved the world that he did give us a way from the wrath to come; his Son Jesus. That whosoever shall believe in him will be saved. We commit our lives to God through his son Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit by repenting of sins and being baptized into new life!

Prepare! The battle is here!

Amen

Sons Of Belial?

Some pretty deep and prolific words are found within the covers of the Holy Bible. There is no doubt about that. Even pagan religions have a level of reverence when it comes to the Christian Bible. It is filled with historical truths, poetic visualizations, proverbial guidances, and revelations of the very nature of God Himself. To read the pages is to get introduced to the God of the universe, to understand His will and ways, and to hold a roadmap for our life.

Yet as powerful and impacting as the Words are, it is amazing how people still live like the Scriptures have an insignificant influence. Even people who claim to be followers of Christ Jesus, the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, still live daily under the control of worldly ways instead of God’s ways. Obviously we reside in this world and, as such, we have to contend with it no matter how holy and pious we try to be. But you can tell a lot about what has the strongest inclinations or sway in someone’s life by how that person lives.

Taking into consideration that all will stand before the judgement of God at the end, which will determine where we spend eternity, one would think that a decision to follow God’s way would be an easy choice. Now, for some, that decision is easy. Yet, many others don’t want to give up the creature comforts of the secular life. They may find that walking in the ways of God is not easy or too burdensome . Plus, we need to note that there is another side to things working in our lives that also has great influence: sin. Sin’s influence goes against God’s ways, yet is very strong and many have fallen by its trappings. 

“Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord” 1 Samuel 2:12

While reading through some Old Testament scripture, I came across an interesting verse that caused me to stop and think. What caught my attention in 1st Samuel chapter 2 were the words “They did not know the Lord”. Looking at the context of that statement, it shows a sad and harsh reality that I think can apply to many within the very walls of today’s church. Let me explain.

Eli was a descendant of Aaron, the brother of Moses and the great high priest. Eli was a high priest in the temple at Shiloh. He was a godly man who was one of the judges over Israel. He had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, both of whom were raised to be in the service of God. But for Scripture to describe them as ‘Sons of Belial’, (which means worthless, and is also used in the New Testament to describe Satan!), it really shows the true nature of those boys.

To earn such an evil moniker from the writer of First Samuel, we need to understand what they were doing. First of all, as workers in the temple or sanctuary, their job was to gather and prepare the sacrifices prescribed by the Law and follow the exact instructions. The problem is that they were selfish, greedy, and very much living in the flesh for themselves. Instead of sacrificing the best cuts of the meat, they would take the best cuts of meat from the sacrifices for themselves. Adding to their debauchery, these married men would commit adultery with the various women who served at the sanctuary gates. (And we all know how clergy adultery turns out, even in our modern day and age!)

Of course these activities garnered the anger of God. Eli was admonished to scold his sons for their behavior, but he did it so lightly that they didn’t listen to him. Long story short; subsequently both of the sons would end up dying on the same day that the Philistines defeated Israel in a battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant. Their father, Eli, would subsequently fall over and die of a broken neck upon hearing of the loss of his two sons and the Ark. Shortly after all this, Phinehas’ wife gave birth to a son when she heard of her husband and father-in-law’s deaths and the loss of the Ark, thus causing her to name the child Ichabod (which means the Glory Has Departed). Afterward she would also die. All this came about because God cursed the lineage of Eli and his sons for their behaviors.

So, what does all this mean?

This serves to show that even people who stand in the most reverential of duties, who interact in the most religious of environments, and who have the appearance of walking with God outwardly, might not truly know God!

That is a very scary prospect to think about! Jesus said in Matthew 6 to “beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Psalm 139 says that the Lord has searched us and knows us! Verse 4 says “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” These are truths that should have us reflecting not only on our outward life, but on our hearts as well!

You can be the most pious, religious, and reverential person on the entire planet in front of the people around you and still not know God. There are countless religious leaders that go through the motions, and yet don’t have a clue who God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit of the Bible truly are. Hophni and Phinehas went through the motions daily with their father, a high priest, yet they did not know God. Just because you say and do the right things or have great knowledge about the Bible, doesn’t make you right before the Lord.

So why is this? How can someone be exposed to the truth every day and still not know?

God’s way or sin’s way? Let me point out here that there are two motivations people face when entering into any type of religion or ministry; God or self. The Apostle Paul was a good example of a Godly motivation. He declared in 2 Corinthians 5 “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.” Paul did everything for God through Christ Jesus and his love for God’s people was beyond a heartfelt passion. He did nothing in selfishness that can be shown in any of the Bible! He wrote to the Church in Rome Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)

But there are many examples of people in a ministry platform strictly motivated by self. We see a prime example in Acts Chapter 8. In Samaria there was a magician named Simon who many claimed that “this man is the power of God that is called Great.” When the Gospel of Christ was preached in the area, many became converts and were baptized, including Simon. He became very zealous, working with the evangelist in the area, and saw the miracles performed. When the Apostles Peter and John came to the area, they laid hands on the people to receive the Holy Spirit. Simon saw this and offered to pay them money for “this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” He wanted to keep his great reputation before the people. But he was admonished by Peter saying “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God.” (Acts 8:20-21). Peter demanded he repent from his wickedness and intentions as he was in the bond of iniquity.

Another prime example, (that I won’t go into great depth right now), are the Pharisee and Sadducees. They enjoyed the praises of the people, walked in the highest honors in the cities, and enjoyed their power. They were also used by Jesus as examples of holy and pious men whose hearts were far from God. Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs, filled with dead men’s bones”. Sepulchres that look great on the outside, but inside were vile and filth. Their motivations were known to God; greed and selfishness. Essentially, hearts filled with sin.

The question we need to ask ourselves is; are we like Hophni and Phinehas? Are we claiming the Christian walk in appearance like the Pharisees, yet without Christ as our motivation? Are we talking a big game of being right with God, yet wanting the accolades from people? You might be able to deceive your family and friends with an illusion of Christianity by going to church. You might be able to talk all the Christian jargon online and post Scripture verses to strangers. You may even have Bible verses and stories memorized. But if your heart’s motivation in all these things is for self adulation, then not of your relationship with God is true. If you going through the motions to impress or puff yourself up, then you are only lying to yourself and those around you, which will only lead you to the lake of fire.

You see, God knows your heart. He knew Hophni and Phinehas. He knew the Pharisees and Sadducees. He knew Simon. He knows all things; and the heart of man is especially known. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” Jeremiah 17:9-10

Eventually, like the two sons of Eli, all things we say and do will catch up to us and the truth will be revealed. As mentioned above, all will stand before the throne of God to give an account. Now is the perfect time to check your heart, check your motivation, your standing with the living God. Saying some words that you believe in Jesus are just that; words. It comes down to your true motivation. God or sin? Don’t let it be said of you “they did not know the Lord”

Amen

To Mask Or Not To Mask: Sin

With the inundation of mask-wearing around the world, people are losing out on seeing full facial expressions during face-to-face conversations.  In a conversation, there are 3 parts that are essential to a complete understanding of what is being said: verbal, non-verbal, and visual. I, for one, am someone that really relies on seeing the facial expressions when I am talking with someone. You can get a lot more information about the deeper intentions of the discussion by watching the person’s eyes, lips, and other facial movements. Sure, we can hear the fluctuations of the words or can see the obvious visual displays such as hand gestures and such, but we miss out on crucial insights when we lose the non-verbal expressions of the face!

Obviously, the mask is to blame. Throughout history, the mask has been used in all sorts of ways to disguise or shield the face and to keep others from knowing the true identity of the wearer. (Think Zoro or the Lone Ranger!)

But, we don’t always need a physical mask to conceal who we really are though. People will either lie about themselves or just not share the whole story at all. We all tend to keep some aspects of our lives guarded and secret. Even in close relationships people might withhold a portion of their true self that they don’t necessarily want to share with the other. Similarities can be applied when we talk about our sin nature. We all have sin in our life, but we don’t necessarily go around announcing them daily to everyone we know or meet! 

As Christians though, we have a conundrum we need to address regarding sin and our desire to mask them. Why do we hide sin? The very thing we do, though we don’t want to, we become convicted over and ashamed. Inside we know that sin is an abomination to God and that sin is what separates us from Him. But doesn’t God know everything? Including our sins? O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. — Psalm 69:5.

The Scriptures say “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” — 1 John 1:9-10. Of course this confession does pertain to talking with God directly; repenting before Him through Jesus Christ and walking anew. But there is another aspect of confessing our sins when it comes to others. Our sinful actions, whether direct or indirect, can, and often does, affect those around us and cause problems or harm. And when it does, it is important to repent and seek forgiveness from those who have been hurt by the sins. 

By confessing to others, you are essentially pulling off the mask and showing your true face. This can be very difficult for many people because we like to keep all our little secrets, well…secret! Our human nature likes to keep us from embarrassing situations, thus we easily hide the dark parts of our lives from others. Just know that all secrets do eventually become exposed though. And if not now, they certainly will before God on the day of judgement.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. — Revelation 20:12

There is no such thing as hidden or secret sin. There is no such thing as a little sin (think: little white lie). Like a disease, sin grows and festers within us, eventually creeping into other parts of our life, until it consumes you with guilt, shame, and pain. Thankfully, God in His infinite wisdom will use the Holy Spirit to shine His light on these dark shadows and bring them into the light. “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” — John 1:5  Whether we see them on our own, or perhaps we are called out by one of our fellow sojourners, the exposure of our sins…though painful and embarrassing as it is…is to be a time of healing, cleansing, rejuvenation, and renewal in the Lord. 

“but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” — 1 John 1:7

There is nothing more freeing than having guilt and sin washed away from us through the grace and mercy of God. As I said before, we all have sins, commit sins, and we will continue to fight that sin nature within us until the Day of the Lord and His return. But in the meantime, we shouldn’t keep it masked up, hidden inside, eating us up with its desires. This is a fight, Christian! A daily fight to kill sin and walk in the righteousness of life! 

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. — Romans 8:13

Confessing, repenting, renewing, refreshing, rewarding! Remember that confessing (whether to God or God and others) and repentance is not a one time, past action in the Christian life; it’s an ongoing project. And confessing our sin isn’t just to make ourselves feel better or rescue us from Hell; the goal of our salvation is holiness to the glory of God. We are working daily to walk upright before God in the full likeness of His Son Jesus Christ. This is called sanctification.  

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 35, defines sanctification as this: Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

And all this starts when we turn our lives to God through Jesus Christ; walking in newness of life. But when we keep hiding behind the masks that conceal our sin nature, that only leads to destruction…of soul and peace with God.

Remove the masks!

Amen

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

Is 2021 The New 2020?

Time for God

So as I write this, today is January 1st of the year 2021. The new year that everyone hopes is a refreshment, a new start, and a definitive change from last year‘s chaos and utter pain. I recognize that this is a bit late coming to publish, but pray you can forgive me…it has taken a bit to shake off last year!

Normally for the new year people will make resolutions. They resolve to do things differently or to just do something, anything. Weight loss, quit smoking, eat better, be nicer, and so much more, the lists go on! I, for one, am not a resolution maker. I don’t need to set myself up for failure! On average, only 8% of Americans who make resolutions keep them. 80 percent fail by February 1st! But if I were to make any resolution, I would think that following in the footsteps of the great preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) would be the best.

In the early 1700’s, he wrote down over 60 resolutions that covered a variety of topics. Areas such as relationships, spirituality, overall life mission, and devotion to God. He categorized things under good works, time management, and character. He resolved to a deeper self examination for sin and keeping a personal check on things like pride and honesty. He had many powerful resolutions for a better spiritual life. And with these many resolutions, he would lay them all at the throne of God declaring; “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake”.

He then noted that he would “remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.” That is one sure way of keeping them!

But what makes his resolutions special is that they were to address his walk with God first and foremost! If there be any resolution for a Christian, it should be made to draw closer to God and be more keenly aware of our spiritual lot before Him.

We all (preaching to myself here!), have a tendency to walk complacent. Because we don’t see/feel/hear God’s presence every moment of every day, we tend to go about our daily lives in the light of what is around us at the moment. We focus our thoughts on things that involve our livelihood, react to the things happening to us, and interact with those people and things we see and remember, but, yet, in the larger scope of things, we often forget God.

Sure, we pause and think of God here and there, maybe toss a prayer now and again, or get a spiritual zip on the Lord’s day once a week. But to energize our desire and passions to follow wholly and completely…that is something that many Christians, specially American Christians, struggle with.

When looking at how our attitude toward God in our lives should be in light of Scripture, I thing many of us can say that we are a far cry from God’s heart. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians “so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). He also said to the Colossians to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord”. And to the Galatians in 5:25 said “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

In the Old Testament, there are numerous examples of God’s people living in a deep reverence and fear of God. Their entire lives were God-centered. Yes, they faltered and would stray. A lot. But have we gotten ourselves to the point where we can say that we are daily even remotely God-centered in the slightest bit? When you look at the lives of the early Puritans, you have to understand that they left home and family to travel across an entire ocean just to live a life that was God-centered, Biblically founded, and completely committed to God in all they say and do. It certainly would be a rare sight in today’s times to find people like that.

People today walk a thin line with God. Having a flippant attitude and approach to His holiness is something that I’m sure will draw His wrath. And His wrath is something that many churches refuse to even acknowledge. But unfortunately for many, that doesn’t dismiss the reality that God will exact is wrath on people. Edwards is famous for one of the most powerful sermons ever given that occurred back in July of 1741, called “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God”. The text was a simple line from Deuteronomy 32:35 that states “their foot shall slide in due time.” The opening text states “There is nothing the keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”

I personally truly recognize more and more every day that by God’s grace and mercy I still exist on this planet, and that is a true testament to God‘s character and love! He holds back His wrath on us! But that isn’t forever. His patience extends only so long! Though the sermon actually speaks more about the love of God and His lovingkindness toward us than the title would give cause to believe, that doesn’t mean we can be complacent with our relationship to God.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
— 2 Peter 3:9

Though I’ve studied the Word of God more last year than I had previously regarding our relationship with God, I still look inward and recognize that I, too, am complacent in my walk with God often, that I am lacking in my prayers and devotions daily, and that I tend to forget my religious duties. So, for me, I find it very simple to come up with resolutions that need to be addressed. I find there are plenty of things I preach to myself about!

Just as we are to take up our Bibles daily and study, we should also be taking time out of our lives to the devotion of our sanctification as Christians. It is written in scripture that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling and always be striving to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And we can through the power of the Holy Spirit! It says in James 4:8 that we are to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded”.

When it says in Matthew 6 to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you, that isn’t seeking God for benefits and pleasures, but that is seeking God‘s righteousness and holiness into our life, which means walking upright daily, the way God wants us to.

We are to use the Scriptures as a mirror to see the blemishes of our sins and continue to beseech God‘s help by the power of the Holy Spirit to strive daily to mortify the flesh. That is the meaning of taking up our cross DAILY!

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
— Romans 12:1

2020 was a tough year for many. People are looking for answers. It has been reported that Bible sales were at an all-time high. We can reflect Christ to people looking for hope and show them God’s peace and love by our own lives. But we need to make sure our resolutions are set with God, so as to strengthen our righteousness that we can “in the same way let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven“.

So my prayer for us this new year is that we continue to offer ourselves a living sacrifice, examining ourselves daily by diving into the Word fully, and submitting ourselves in prayer and worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We all must continually take His Word that has been given to us and preach to ourselves daily! For 2021, if the Lord wills, I will continue to share with you those things that God impresses on my heart and mind as I look to His word and learn as well!

May God bless you richly this year, may His healing hand be upon you, and may you grow in sanctification daily, drawing closer to the Lord! Amen

Peter’s Principles

Do you struggle with hope? Does your assurance waver? I know that I do in my Christian walk. But what is the source of this?

Did you know that in a military conflict, one of the greatest tactics used by one side is the diversion? Essentially this is a means of causing a disturbance in one place to draw attention away from the another place. Then, the attack would occur when the forces were preoccupied elsewhere. This has been used throughout the ages as a means of tipping the scales in a battle. It is effective and quite simple to engage. The devil uses this tactic quite a bit. I have lost many battles this way.

Initially I intended to discuss just a couple of attributes to the Christian walk that I sometimes struggle with; hope and assurance. But as I was working on that writing, I ran into wall after wall. Distractions would easily pry my attention away and I’d lose track of where I was headed. I couldn’t seem to get my thoughts together. This really frustrated me and caused me a great deal of discouragement as to my ability to share these things. I really hit a dark point.

It also got me thinking about what’s wrong with me. And that’s what turned out to be my problem! I’ll explain.

I tend to overthink, over analyze issues when they come to light. For example; why I couldn’t seem to write about my struggles with hope and assurance when that was on my heart? So my solution was to evaluate the problem. Then I dwell on it, fighting through the matter, even trying to force it. And always asking God what’s wrong with me. I’d pray that He would change my mind and heart.

Often times as I was trying to address the problem, my mind would drift away and attention would be diverted elsewhere and I would forget about the original issue. Sound familiar? Do you have those moments where you get up to do one thing, but quickly lose track and start something else? I do…a lot! What it turns out that I suffer from is what I call the Peter Principle.

This isn’t the Peter Principle you may have heard about decades ago, the one based on the book by the same title that theorized that people are promoted upward until they arrive at a level of incompetence. In other words, you do well, get promoted, do well, get promoted, then next arrive at a level in the hierarchy that you are really not skilled enough to do. This isn’t what I mean when I say that term. (Though that theory could have applications regarding me trying to be something I am not equipped to be…but that’s another story!)

My version of this comes from the Apostle Peter himself. Matthew 14:28-33 tells of the encounter the Apostle had with Jesus who was coming to them walking on water as they were on a boat on the Sea of Galilee.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

We can easily see the application here: the storms, the waves, the uncertainties, the distractions, the annoyances, the feelings…all diversionary tactics that cause us to lose focus, take our eyes off of the goal, the prize, the direction we were headed to: our Savior Jesus!

So, are we glaring too much at our problems and missing what should be our vision? You know the words to the great hymn: Be thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart! What a prayer!

But don’t get me wrong, as I don’t want to give too much credit to the enemy. We have our own flesh nature, our own sin-filled capacity. We are, after all, a fallen being before the Throne of God. So many times we trip ourselves all on our own…without any help from the enemy! It doesn’t take much for me to get distracted in thought and I have to believe that the bulk of those issues is self-inflicted! But, giving the devil his due, he is also at work daily trying to fail our faith.

Peter had a moment of doubt. He was human. Plain and simple. We have to remember that the great Apostles were mere men who were imperfect. All the amazing faith that is ascribed to them and the forefathers of our faith (as mentioned in Hebrews chapter 11) came supernaturally from God! They were ordinary men and women who faced the same worldly issues that we do. Though the times and means have changed, the underlying issue is the same. By doubting and taking our eyes off of God, we start to sink. Then our human nature kicks in more and we panic, we start trying things under our own strength, and before you know it, we are sinking under the waves.

I think that’s my problem when over analyzing…I tend to keep my focus too much on the waves and not where it should be. So I praise God for people like Peter. He shows me that though we doubt, struggle with faith, fall into temptations, mess up, falter and even fail, yet we can be saved by God in a mighty way despite ourselves! Peter had the right answer to his sinking into the sea of doubt and fear: He called upon Jesus to save him!

Verse 30, But seeing the wind (there’s the distraction), he became frightened (there’s the fear), and beginning to sink (there’s the consequences), he cried out (there’s the solution), “Lord, save me!”

There’s the whole of every problem we face in our daily sojourn. Jesus told him why he failed this attempt; it was because of his little faith that then caused him to doubt. I can identify with the Apostle in that my struggle with little faith in my daily battle here has caused me so many sinking moments that have led to near drownings. But, thankfully, He who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it! We need to rely on that promise, trust in God’s provision of saving faith. We will struggle in the flesh, just like the greatest men of faith like Peter and Paul! But we don’t need to go under the waves when all we need to do is call out to Jesus! Verse 31: Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him…! What an blessed assurance in our darkness!

The great evangelical bishop J.C. Ryle wrote the perfect summary;

“Go on, and be not cast down because you are troubled by doubts and fears. You are yet in the body—this world is not your rest. The devil hates you because you have escaped from him, and he will do all he can to rob you of peace. The very fact that you have fears is an evidence that you feel you have something to lose. The true Christian may ever be discerned by his warfare—quite as much as by his peace; and by his fears—quite as much as by his hopes. The ships at anchor may swing to and fro with the tide, and pitch heavily in a south-eastern gale; but so long as their anchors hold the ground they ride safely, and have no cause to fear. The hope of the true Christian is the “anchor of his soul, sure and steadfast.” (Hebrews 6:19.) His heart may be tossed to and fro sometimes—but he is safe in Christ. The waves may swell, and lift him up and down—but he will not be wrecked.”

Amen!

Remember, we are human, in the flesh. We will be tossed to and fro on this earth. There are many storms inside and out that will cause us grief, doubt, fear, and have uncertainties, but we don’t need to live in the dark, consumed by the waves all around us. We just need to call out to the one who is always there, always ready to reach out and take hold of your hand. No longer do we need to sink in the waves of doubt. Peter’s principles showed us how we simply call on Him, Jesus.

A Word About The Word

In recent posts I’ve come across harsh when talking about certain “churches, or denominations, or various theologies within the sphere of Christianity. Some may have scoffed and labelled me as being self-righteous or exclusive. Some think that God is love and would never reject people because of the way they think, act, or live. To all of you I can only say; read the Scriptures and show me the error of my thinking.

I have been saying many of these things for a long time because it is very clear that people have redefined the God of the Bible and quite honestly, that has frustrated me. Not only have people redefined who God is, His attributes and character, but they have also rewritten the Bible itself, God’s Word, by editing clearly defined words, rewriting stories and narratives, and even challenging the validity and authenticity of the Word completely.

The Word, unchanging!

I find it interesting that for countless centuries and with hundreds of thousands of learned scholars, theologians, teachers, researchers, and preachers that have all had the Book, even the manuscripts in their original languages, and have combed every jot and tittle with every resource available to them, that they come to conclude that the Bible IS complete and true. It doesn’t even contradict itself. Many prophecies of old have come to pass. Historically it is accurate and proven without question.

So, with all that being said…who are we to question God’s Words? 

There are many disputes that come up regarding interpretations of the pages of the divine words. I’ve mentioned a couple of theological differences in the past, but I can assure you that there are more groups and ideologies that exist than there are church denominations! People for centuries have split off from one church or society to form their own because of a difference in opinion over major and minor understandings of the interpretations. Even various topics within the Bible, such as eschatology (the study of end times) or soteriology (the study of the means of salvation, including the law and the gospel, grace, justification, and sanctification), have caused great rifts, even to the extent of wars. 

First, let’s define theology. Theology is simply the study of the nature of God and religious belief. We get to know God through His creation around us, through His laws imbedded within our souls, and through His Word, the Holy Bible. As I have stated numerous times, I am not a theologian. Nor am I a graduate or student of higher learning when it comes to the Bible. Thus, my thoughts and views are just that…my thoughts and views as I believe God has impressed on me through my studies. I believe that the Holy Spirit of God has opened my eyes to an understanding that I didn’t grasp before, just as I also believe that He does this same work with others…giving people what they need to understand who He is and His Word, the Bible and apply it into their life. Still, conflicts arise!

I will go on record to say though that there is a core truth found within the pages of the Bible that is, without doubt or compromise, essential to every believer. It shouldn’t matter your doctrinal stance or theological views. This truth is clear within the pages of the Bible as the overriding message from Genesis through to Revelation, and it is this:

We were created, man and woman, within the creation of the universe to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Since man is not perfect and holy like God, man (starting with Adam and Eve) was tempted by Satan, the enemy of God, and they sinned against God, thus separating us all from God. We try to reach God through our own efforts such as living a good life or going to church, but inevitably we fail. We cannot atone for our sins (which means to pay the price and punishment to cleanse us from guilt). But God in His love and mercy provided the ultimate sacrifice to pay for our sins…through His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth and lived the perfect holy life, which lead Him to the cross where He took all our deserved punishment from God by death. But Jesus defeated death by rising from the dead and ascending to Heaven to take His rightful place at God’s right side as King and Lord!

Where does that leave us? We must individually receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord; then we can know God personally and experience His love! We are no longer estranged from God, but can have fellowship and worship the God who created all things!

We receive Christ through faith, by turning (repenting) away from our sins and following God’s laws and ways. By our repentance, God forgives us and the blood of Jesus washes us from the blemish of sin, thus we are able to approach God. This renews our hearts and minds, giving us hope for eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven! It is a daily walk, a spiritual battle against our flesh and human desires. The process after being saved is called sanctification. We don’t depend on our feelings, we depend on the promise of God’s Word, the Bible. The Bible, with the help of the Holy Spirit, is the only “how to” manual for the Christian, no matter what anyone else would say.

And this is where the enemy, the devil himself, Satan, gets his power. By causing dissension within the body of Christ believers. Satan trips up mankind by causing doubts and getting humans to question God and His Word. The very first sins committed were in the Garden of Eden where the devil asked “did God say…”, thus creating doubts and unbelief in God and His Word. This is where so many churches and theologians get tripped up as well. They questionthe Word of God.

I’ve found in my many years of studies that everyone has an opinion and everyone feels their way is the only right way. We know just by looking at all the different schools of thought concerning the Bible’s teachings. And with all of these ideologies and structures, it is easy to become overwhelmed and confused. Add to all that the multitude of instant media access we have nowadays and you get an exponential number of opinions and viewpoints immediately! This problem has caused many to fall away from their initial faith and also has created chaos and bitterness within the church body itself. 

So, what is the answer? The answer is to personally go to God in prayer daily, talking with Him about everything! This is the first and foremost step! You’ve claimed Christ as your Savior and Lord, which now gives you access to the Throne Room of God, so why not go directly to the Source Himself? Will you instantly hear His voice and get your answers? Not necessarily, but God is faithful and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will lead you to the answer. And please know that His answer might not meet your expectations. Since He knows best what we need compared to what we think we need, you can be assured it’s for your best to go with God. And because our impatience these days is fueled so much with a demand for instant gratification, we need to take the time, in faith, to wait on God’s answers.  

We also need to take steps ourselves to answering the issues by going to His Word provided: The Bible. You don’t need to be a theologian, pastor, or anything else to read the Word for yourself. Prayerfully reading through the Words He has provided to us for our daily instruction gives you everything you need to know about God, Jesus, and our walk with Him! There is no simple way around this. If you are wanting shortcuts and condensed methods, then you are completely missing the point of the Bible. People now days want short, quick answers to their immediate dilemmas, but that is not how God works. You must delve slowly, methodically, and deliberately into His Word and He will enlighten your spirit with His truth. His ways drive these truths and knowledge deep within and help us when we don’t have it front of us.

Obeying God and trusting Him for every detail of our lives is the key. His Word is deep and rich, filled with more than we can comprehend in this lifetime. But it is also everything we need. I truly believe that many times people look too hard at the words within the covers of the Scriptures, trying to find and formulate things that are quite honestly not really there. Sometimes His Word is plain and true and we need to take it at face value, hide it in our hearts, and meditate on His promises to guide us every day closer to Him and His Kingdom. 

Much of the Bible is historical, some of it is prophetic, parts of it contain beautiful prose and poetry, many parts give instruction for living our lives as Christians, and there are also warnings throughout the pages for us as we sojourn through this fallen world filled with people that do not know the God of the Bible…nor do they want to know Him. No matter what, God’s word is enough for us as it stands. It is without errors. It is sufficient for us as is. 

Many men over the centuries have used the Scriptures in deceitful ways, twisting it’s meanings and causing people a lot of harm. There is no denying that the church period is fraught with charlatans and liars. They have done extensive damage to a countless number of people who relied on the teachers and preachers to share and interpret the Word faithfully and completely. Thus, this is why there have been many diligent scholars and everyday people who have sacrificed everything they have, including their own lives, to get the Word of God into the hands of the people in their own languages, so that every person of every tribe, tongue, and nation can look into the pages of the Word themselves and, like the Bereans, search the Scriptures diligently to see if what they see and hear is true!

We have the Word of God from the mouth of God through men of God inspired by the Holy Spirit of God so that we can know God, know His laws, know his truths, and once again have fellowship with Him. We have this when we hid His Word in our hearts, walk faithfully and fully with Him, and trust His promises until we can see Him high and lifted up on His throne of glory in Heaven. Amen