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Sidney Powell claims she has obtained extraordinary evidence about election fraud that will rock the people of the United States. She will “release the Kraken,” she said, and “Expose every one of them.” She maintained that, upon seeing that evidence, she would have been criminally negligent not to bring it forth. Attorney Lin Wood has verified what Ms. Powell has said. They are either lying, misled, misinformed, or telling the truth.

The citizens of the United States, one would surely think, want to know with certainty who won this election. They want to know—or should—the truth of whether the election system in this country is corrupt or not, and if the votes were counted fairly. If we cannot trust that our elections are free from corruption, we are sailing into dangerous, tumultuous waters. Secure elections are the foundation of what we are as a democratic republic.

It may be that our country and government are under attack from within and, perhaps, from without. In that, we are not unique in the history of the world. What happens when one’s country is in danger of attack? When such assaults occur, we hope that our national defenses will be able to defeat the enemy. We desire safety. Peace. Stability.  How should we respond to insure that?

We get many accounts in the Old Testament of how God’s people responded when they were under threat of war. It makes sense to us, for example, that Israel would rally behind David when he was attacking the Philistines, who were a constant menace. But they, like us, would have had to walk a tightrope between trusting in their leader and the Lord. God made it clear in the Old Testament whom they should trust in such threatening situations. “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Psalm 146:3).1 Let’s be honest and admit that it would be a challenge not to put our trust in a leader when there is a massive army marching toward our city. “President! Send the army and defend us!”

Let’s look at Joshua and the people of Israel entering the Land of Promise. It was enemy territory. Jericho with its enormous walls loomed ahead. Israel did not know if or when they would be attacked. One day when he was out and about, Joshua encountered an individual with a sword in his hand. Joshua asked a logical question. “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” (Joshua 5:13b). Joshua was probably thinking, “This fellow looks like he’s ready to fight. Should I draw my sword, too?” Joshua expected a binary answer from this warrior. After all, when you are in danger of attack, one must know if the one before you is for you or against you.

The man said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come” (Joshua 5:14a).

Interesting answer, is it not? The man rejected Joshua’s premise outright. “Are you on our side or on the side our enemy?”

“No.”

The man’s explanation: “I am commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” In other words, “I am here, ready to fight, and I will. I command Yahweh’s army.” However, this heavenly warrior’s words imply this: “I will bring victory to glorify God and accomplish His purpose.”

Immediately, Joshua hit the dirt. He knew He was in the presence of God. But Joshua, the leader of Israel’s army, wanted to know what he should do next. The answer: “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy” (Joshua 5:15).

That, apparently, was Jesus’ number one priority for this leader of Israel. God is holy. God is sovereign.

Joshua, you are not.

What lesson shall we take from this?

It is not wrong to hope that one’s government will defeat its enemies, whether foreign or domestic. But there is a tension between putting one’s trust in officials—in our case, attorneys and judges—and in our Savior and King. Everyone wants fair and trustworthy elections. No one wants our system of voting to be corrupted by an evil adversary attacking us. Whose side is God on in all of this?

No.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.  

Gif courtesy Bing images.

If I were to write that this election and pandemic season has not affected me, I would be lying. But it is also true that I have been distressed for years by the decline of a country that, while struggling to improve, has been a blessing to the world. We Americans were given the best opportunity in history to create a nation that would continue to bless us and the world, but we are failing—and falling. When I factor in the reality of the ongoing persistence of God’s sovereign will, I realize that someday this nation will come to nothing as all nations will.

There is nothing you or I can do about the determination of that will. Prophecy must and shall be fulfilled. The best we Christians can do is to pray for this country, be a light that glorifies Jesus, and testify of His great love and sacrifice, hoping the Lord will, in His kindness, grant us repentance, save, and redeem us. Perhaps by doing so we will be able to delay the awful things that must transpire before the great and terrible Day of the Lord.

Is this selfish? I don’t know. Probably. However, I also dread the fate of so many of my countrymen, so I pray earnestly for mercy.

In the meantime, I must be a voice for peace. Oh, yes, a voice for peace among individuals, but a voice for peace found in God alone. I can only do that by living in Him as best as I can. David wrote that he only wanted one thing and one thing only:

“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).1

Why would he seek after this alone?

Because he was so often found himself in trouble from many different sources, as he wrote in the very next verse:

“For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5).

This is my—and if you are a Christian, your—only place of peace, rescue, and security. It is not in our strength. It is not in our political system. It is not in our nation.

It is in the Lord God Almighty alone.

When we think about this, it makes perfect sense. Who or what else could offer and provide such massive protection? When I write “massive,” I mean that He possesses a power that to us is inconceivable, an immense power that makes the military and industrial powers of the earth less than nothing, which is precisely what Isaiah wrote of Him:

“All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness” (Isaiah 40:17).

We must remember and believe this about our Savior and Creator:

“They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

Jesus is the Lamb and the King, an interesting mix of attributes. He was the sacrifice offered to wash us of the sins that makes us repulsive in the presence of God, but He is also ruler over—everything.

Join with me in endeavoring to seek Him because He will hide us in the day of trouble, as David wrote.

Father please give us the will to seek You and to abide in You, by Your grace.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy of Bing images.

I arrived late at the bi-weekly meeting of the Old Boys, Christian men who have known each other since the early 1970’s. As I sat down at the table, we talked a bit about my entrance, but they soon returned to the topic they were discussing before I came. It was something called the Soul-Winning Plan. It was—or is—a script that the one ministering memorized along with four different verses from the Bible. The one they were ready to discuss was Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”1 The man sharing it is a retired architect who made his living doing architectural renderings. He is a gifted artist. As he looked across the table at his already-a-Christian friend, he spoke those words while engaging him with his eyes. I was sitting next to that friend, so I couldn’t see if he had any reaction, but unexpectedly, I experienced a reaction myself. More on that in a minute.

After our conversation drifted away from evangelism, I told the architect that he was particularly good at sharing the gospel. I said he was sincere when he shared God’s truth, and it was striking. Later in the week, however, I realized that what I experienced in his recitation of Romans 6:23 was less about my friend’s sincerity and more about the Holy Spirit confirming the truth of God’s words. I realized I hadn’t thought much about it deeply at all because, as strange as it seems, I knew it so well. I, too, had memorized the Soul-Winning Plan back in the day. So, I focused in on the meaning of those beautiful words.

The Greek word for “wages” that Paul used is opsṓnion, which is defined as “a figurative extension of meaning of ὀψώνιονa ‘a soldier’s wages, the end result from some activity, viewed as something which one receives in return—‘wages, result.’”2 Why Paul used a military word here I don’t know, but one thing is certain: when we sin, there is a result; that sinful activity earns us something, as surely as a soldier gets wages for performing his duty. The result of that “work” is death. This is just the truth—real-life, spiritual reality. There is no side-stepping it, trying to get around it by denial or clever reasoning. This is truth for both Christians and non-Christians alike. Every time one sins, death ensues in some fashion. The more one sins, the more death occurs. For Christians, there is a remedy. We repent and ask forgiveness. If we don’t, death will continue to creep in. That’s just the way it is. For unbelievers, the death continues to work its will. Life does not become better. It becomes worse and worse over time. A sinful life can never flourish.

However, following this terrible, soul-jarring truth is a beautiful, comforting one:

The free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus.

A free gift. Eternal life. Even our earth-bound parents didn’t give us gifts because we had earned them. That is not a gift, it’s a wage. No, we can’t do anything at all that will impress God enough to give us the kind of lives which are the polar opposite of dark death.

This amazing gift is free.

Let’s pause for a moment.

It is impossible to imagine that I suppose, but let’s try, regardless. You are opening a gift someone has given you, and after you’ve torn off the paper and opened the box, you find eternal life inside, beautiful, freeing, and joyous; life in a kingdom without end with a King who will love and provide for you forever. Would you throw that gift across the room like a child who didn’t get what she wanted for her birthday?

Believe it.

Believe Him.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 781). New York: United Bible Societies.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

Before Laurie and I traveled to Bangladesh in late October and early November of 2019, I made preparations to speak to a group of pastors in that Muslim nation. We have no experience in Bangladesh whatsoever, but, thankfully, we have the Word of God, which transcends culture. My heart was to teach these men lessons in Scripture, encourage them to study their Bibles diligently, and preach the Scripture in context. So, every time I got up to speak to these men, I held up my Bible and said, “I love this book!”

I am truly gratified that the Lord has brought me to a place where I can teach God’s words while hopefully reducing as much Western influence as possible. How that truth is lived out within cultures will vary, but Christians, prayerfully before the Lord, must work out with Him how to do that and still remain obedient to His Word.

God’s truth is true for all cultures, objective truth for all people. There is no other truth by which we find what is required to know our Creator and Savior and walk in His ways. There is no other truth that brings us life, abundant life here and life eternally. In fact, He is the truth. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6a).1

The Bible tells us that the Father will make Christians His sons and daughters. There is no way or method that this can be accomplished. Think about it. The Creator of all things, the One who created all mass, energy, time, and gravity in less than a second—you will be His son or daughter if you are a Christian. This God, whose power is inconceivable to us, loves you. He is merciful. He is humble and low in heart. In fact, He, as the Son, lowered Himself and came to Earth to sacrifice Himself for you. If you are a Christian, He has given you a new heart. He has created a new person, indwelled by His Spirit. The Lord God Almighty has clothed you in His own righteousness. You are a saint, a holy one.

You will live forever.

You will not go to hell.

All of this—freely given.

Recently, Laurie read to me that preface to a New Testament distributed by the Gideons.

“The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.

It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed.

Christ is the grand subject, our good the design, and the glory of God its end.

It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.”2

Amen. Thank You for Your Word. Be glorified, Lord God.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2The Gideon Bible, The Gideons International, Nashville, TN

Gif courtesy Bing images.

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To all of my friends, both here in the United States and all over the world:

May you have a happy celebration of our Creator God coming to earth in the body of a baby.

This baby, this Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, grew to be a man and humbled and emptied Himself.

He offered Himself in sacrifice so we could become forgiven, holy sons of our Father and servants of the Lord Almighty, the sovereign God of the universe.

Because of Jesus, we will never die but live eternally in the Lord’s heavenly kingdom.

May the whole earth be filled with His glory.

Best to you, and may the Lord bless you and your families, from Laurie and me to you!

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I grew up with Pentecostals. I value highly my upbringing there. I would encourage non-Pentecostals to tread lightly in their criticisms and be certain they are biblical. Many of these brothers and sisters have had supernatural experiences that cannot be denied. Are you going to be the one who maintains they were false? Be careful. You may number yourselves with those who went after Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets who had dynamic spiritual experiences. Let’s not forget Paul, Peter, Stephen, and Phillip. I myself cannot deny having experienced supernatural, biblically true gifts and experiences throughout my Christian life. They were and are real; I am thankful to the Lord for them. Nevertheless, I understand a lot of wackiness has gone on since the renewal of the early 20th Century, and a lot of wackiness persists. Pentecostals are the wild riders of the Christian world. They need to exercise care in what they accept as biblical manifestations of the Spirit.

In addition, Charismatics and Pentecostals should stop playing loosey-goosey with the truths of Scripture. It undermines their credibility and does not give glory to God, who is the Truth. I want to discuss one of the errors many of my brothers and sisters believe. It boils down to one truth written by Isaiah in the well-known, Messianic fifty-third chapter. This is the portion in view:

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5).1

The funny business with this beautiful passage about Jesus the Messiah originates from the King James Version of the Bible, in which the word “wounds” was translated “stripes.” A well-known song from the days of the Charismatic renewal used the words “wounds,” as well. It became embedded in our minds. Word of faith folks did and still do “claim” this half-verse when they seek healing for themselves or others. It became a traditional belief, and traditional beliefs are hard to shake. But be shaken they must, when held in the light of biblical truth.

The Enhanced Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon offers this concerning the word “stripes” or “wounds”: “Seven occurrences; AV translates as “stripe” three times, “hurt” once, “wounds” once, “blueness” once, and “bruise” once. 1 bruise, stripe, wound, blow.” 2 So, why do modern translators change the translation of the word from “stripes” to “wounds”? The answer can be found in this critical and necessary truth about biblical interpretation: The Bible interprets itself. In other words, if you want to know more about a certain truth, you look in other places in Scripture that will enlighten it to you. That is not always possible, but it works more often than not, especially for essential truths. Thus, we look for other passages where the quote, “By His stripes (or wounds) we are healed.” This is an easy one. It appears only one time in the New Testament, in the second chapter of First Peter. Let’s look at the passage in which it occurs a few verses at a time. We’ll start with verses 20b–23.

“But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

What is the topic thus far? Suffering and enduring for doing good, as Jesus did, without committing sin by reviling “in return” or threatening.

Now to the first part of verse 24: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

The topic remains the same, but it has been enlarged. The good that Jesus suffered for was bearing our sins in His body on the tree, so we “might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

Then comes the statement under question, in the second part of verse 24–25: “By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

The topic remains the same. Jesus has suffered for our salvation. He has borne our sins in His body that we might live to righteousness. We have been “healed” because or “for”—important word here—we were “straying like sheep” but have returned to Jesus, our Shepherd.

Do you see an inkling of anything concerning the healing of our bodies here? No. The topic is the good thing Jesus did by suffering and dying for us and returning us to Him. Peter was not only quoting a truth from of Isaiah 53:5 but possibly thinking of Isaiah 6:10, where being healed also refers to salvation:

“Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

Now, does this mean that healing is not available today? Absolutely not. However, it does mean that Pentecostals and Charismatics, if they want to maintain their integrity before the Lord and His Church, must be honest and deal with the truths of revealed Scripture. Jesus heals. However, we should not and cannot use Isaiah 53:5 to proclaim it. It will never benefit believers to proclaim a truth without adequate proof. It only puts our integrity and knowledge of Scripture into question.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

2Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Gif courtesy Bing images.

 

 

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In this post, I’d like us to look at a beautiful story about the Israelites in the wilderness that we find in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Numbers. Because God’s people had not believed the good report delivered by two of the spies—Joshua and Caleb, who had scouted out the Promised Land—they were sentenced to forty years of wandering. Only those who were twenty years and younger would live to inherit the land the Lord had promised. After this sad consequence, some of their disgruntled number revolted against Moses, whom the Lord then swiftly dispatched, sending them directly to their death without passing go. After this strong judgment—it’s hard to believe, “But on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, ‘You have killed the people of the LORD’” (Numbers 16:41).1 Perhaps the Lord will give us insight someday into why the people of Israel, having just seen the earth open up and swallow people would, first, dare to challenge Moses about this judgment, or, second, somehow think that Moses and Aaron caused it. It is difficult to understand their behavior.

Nevertheless, the Lord responded to this rebellion by sending a plague in which 14,700 people died. Moses and Aaron interceded, and the Lord relented. Perhaps by now you’re asking, “Jim, I thought you said that this was a beautiful story.” Well, here it is.

“The Lord told the people The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, and get from them staffs, one for each fathers’ house, from all their chiefs according to their fathers’ houses, twelve staffs. Write each man’s name on his staff, and write Aaron’s name on the staff of Levi. For there shall be one staff for the head of each fathers’ house. Then you shall deposit them in the tent of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you. And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you” (Numbers 17:1–5).

Then, “On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds” (Numbers 17:8).

That’s the beautiful part. Beautiful because the Lord God Almighty brought a dead stick to life and sprout with delightful buds, blossoms, and ripe almonds. I love this. Let’s think about this for a moment. Why buds, blossoms, and ripe almonds? Was it because images of the almond tree decorated the tabernacle? I think it is more than this. This is not a representation of power, as we understand power. If this had happened in a superhero movie, the staff would have been glowing and humming and perhaps killed those who were unprepared to pick it up. Or perhaps the staff would have gotten bigger and heavier. No, the Lord God demonstrated His choice of priest with life, beauty, and fruitfulness.

He just doesn’t think the way we do.

This account is a foreshadowing of what happened to our great high Priest, Jesus. When the tomb had been opened, like the tent containing the twelves staffs, He was found alive, overflowing with flourishing fruit, ripe and ready to nourish the ones He loved.

It is also a foreshadowing of what our great high Priest does when He brings us from death to life.

Recently, I heard a well-known biblical scholar refute the metaphor that a person who is not a Christian is like someone drowning at sea, clawing at the waves, shouting out for rescue. No, he said, that’s not what it is like at all. Being saved, becoming a Christian, becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is like someone dead at the bottom of sea with a few chomps taken out of him by the sharks. That’s our condition when our Jesus brings thriving life from lifelessness.

Fruit production is how we know the Lord is at work or not in those formerly dead “sticks.”

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15–20).

The men in the account from Numbers were shown to be dead pieces of wood. There is only one Priest who brings life, and the rest of those men did not have the goods. All the rest were false priests. We knew them by their fruit; rather their lack of it.

Christians must be careful. It is dangerous to measure life and fruitfulness as the world perceives it, and not by the Lord’s measure. We must not be deceived by false prophets, dead “sticks” without the loveliness of the life and fruit of the one, true Priest.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com

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I suppose my readership would increase if I wrote about Donald Trump. Or politics. Who is right; who is wrong. Who is to blame for whatever “breaking news” drives across the media’s headlights.

I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to do this:

I love this nation, but I, like all Christians, must face the biblical truth that the United States is, like other countries, one that the Lord has raised up and can cast down for His own purposes. For now, despite past sins and the troubles of the hour, we have been raised up. However, anyone paying attention will know that we as a people are on a road to moral destruction.

Donald Trump has nothing to do with this. Neither he, the legislative branch, nor the judicial branch can control it; neither can they stop it. It is the direction that an increasing majority of our population has embraced. For a time, cultural Judeo-Christianity kept the decline mostly in check. However, much has changed over the last fifty years or so. For example, the sin of “free sex” has been heartily welcomed by an overwhelming majority of our citizens. It is common to see movies where a man and a woman who fall in love—or really, just meet in a grocery aisle—proceed to have intimate relations, if not within a few minutes, at least that very night. Such encounters are shown in varying degrees of intimacy, the least offensive ones only revealing the couple awakening the next morning in bed together. This attitude toward sexual immorality is called “sexual liberation.” A woman commenting on the film A Private War, starring Rosamund Pike, who portrayed the life of deceased journalist Marie Colvin, remarked that Ms. Colvin “took men wherever she found them.” That’s an elitist and euphemistic way of describing a woman who had multiple sexual partners indiscriminately. Such films rarely mention the possibility of venereal disease from such encounters. The CDC reports that all STDs have increased since 2013: chlamydia, 22%, gonorrhea, 67%, primary and secondary syphilis, 76%, and congenital syphilis, 154%.1 But who cares? “Free” sex is mandatory. Today, men and women are ridiculed for remaining chaste until marriage. Almost nowhere in this culture will people utter a word that such actions are sins against the Lord God Almighty. If sexual morality were spoken of this way, it would be in connection with some strange Christian cult that keeps women in bondage.

This sexual immorality is also common in the Church. Christians have caved to the “sexually free” culture. When I was the marriage and family pastor for two large churches, many couples wanting to get married would not forgo the pleasures of living together before marriage and thus had to be turned away. The biblical proof texts for the sin of sexual immorality—once called fornication—are many, but here’s one from Jesus: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:19). 2

Although “sexual liberation” has become the dominant reality for over fifty years, it was not always so, although sexual immorality and adultery have been simmering under the culture’s surface since the beginnings of the American experience. Read a biography about Benjamin Franklin, for example.

In addition, homosexuality has become an accepted behavior in the United States, but is clearly an abominable sin against God:

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:26–27).

“Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9b-10).

“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).

However, it has become a shameless act that Christians are to celebrate, not oppose. To oppose it identifies a person as a homophobe. Interesting choice of words, isn’t it? Such people are afraid, apparently, of homosexuality. However, that is not how the word is applied. To be a homophobe is to be a bigot, comparable to being a racist. “Why aren’t you happy that people are just loving each other? Why are you so full of hate?” I often wonder what an interview with the men in Sodom and Gomorrah who were demanding entrance to Lot’s home would look like.

I could go on at length about the immoral condition of the United States. (You may have noticed I didn’t address abortion, as I have in the past.) It is sad to me. Mind-bendingly perplexing. Tragic.

I pray for this nation often, as Christians have since its inception. However, if we think the United States is not hurtling toward increasing God-mocking lawlessness, our heads are in the sand. My Charismatic and Pentecostal friends tell me they have heard prophecies about a great revival coming. I sincerely hope those prophecies are right, although the words from the Lord I hear are the opposite:

Judgment is coming. However, the Lord is merciful and long-suffering. Lord, be merciful to us. Forgive us for our sins, which must surely mount up to heaven.

 

1https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats17/default.htm

2All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Gif courtesy giphy.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Catastrophes. Everywhere.

What—or who—causes them?

One can run through the list of natural disasters in the United States and the world—I was surprised how many there were—to see the cost in human lives and wealth. New Orleans and Katrina. Hurricane Maria in 2017 which struck the East Coast, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, and in that same year, Hurricane Harvey, which mangled Texas and Louisiana. The earthquake and tsunami that overwhelmed Southeast Asia in 2004 and took a quarter of a million lives. What caused these calamities? Is it Mother Nature/Earth raging, paying us back for what we have done to her? That is a silly, superstitious attempt at anthropomorphism to give Mother Nature/Earth motives and will. The second explanation for weather-related disasters is just a guess. Global warming or climate change. Weather disasters occurred for many years before temperatures began to rise or the climate changed, whatever that means. And earthquakes? Just the Earth doing its thing.

How about disasters caused by humans? The attack on Pearl Harbor. The starvation of 600 million Chinese in the Great Leap Forward. The Great Purge under Stalin. Forty million dead in World War I; sixty million in World War II. The attempt by Nazis to annihilate the Jews. Two million killed under Pol Pot. Eight hundred thousand slaughtered, mostly with machetes, in the Rwandan Genocide. The Twin Towers. The mass shooting in Las Vegas. School massacres. To these we assign motive or try to. “Why did people do these things?” we ask over and over again, with no real answers from a human perspective. Christians maintain that these terrors are the result of sin and the fallenness of mankind. This answer, of course, is rejected out of hand by the unbelieving. No, they are more likely to mock God and His followers, saying, “Your God is either impotent or doesn’t care. You can’t have it both ways.” Is that true? Is the Lord impotent? Does He care about human suffering? Can’t He stop both natural and human disasters?

Of course He could. God is sovereign over all things. Nothing happens on the earth or in the universe that He doesn’t cause or allow. Many Christians, however, reject this truth. Certainly, their God would not do this. He loves the world. He brings life and hope, not horrendous events.

Apparently, these Christians have not read the Old Testament.

Or I guess they think God got saved between the Old and New Testaments.

Consider this verse: “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6b).1 This is a rhetorical question. The obvious answer the Lord required was, “No.”

And this: “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things (Isaiah 45:7).

I think the common response to these two verses would be, “That’s the Old Testament. Things are different now.” This untruth brings to mind some Christian women we met in a Mexican town in which we lived a few years ago, who were, sadly, asking God to reveal to them their sins which had made them sick. I brought up Job, whom God caused to suffer without giving a reason why. One responded, “That was in the Old Testament.”

So, I suppose we are to ignore the horrifying prophesies and warnings from the Savior whom they consider always only gentle and kind, that the Lord was going to destroy the temple and Jerusalem—which He did—at great human cost. Josephus wrote that 1.1 million Jews died in 70 A.D., and 97,000 enslaved by the Romans and their army.

Does disaster come to a city unless the Lord has done it? Does He make well-being and create calamity? We can read these truths plainly in Scripture.

However, a caution. We must remember this passage: “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish’” (Luke 13:1–5).

It is not for us to know why God brings disasters to pass. Therefore, it would be unwise, unjust, and harmfully ignorant for us to claim that the Lord brought calamity at a certain time to a certain place because of the sinful people there. Really? All of them were sinners and deserved this earthly justice? What about the place where you live? Any sinners there? Believers suffer these catastrophes along with unbelievers. The principal thing, Jesus said, is that we repent and come to know Him.

Everyone dies by some means or another. The years between adolescent and elderly is, in eternity’s scope, one flutter of a humming bird’s wing. It’s a matter of knowing the Lord that ultimately matters.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

 

 

 

 

200r

To all those who read this blog, all over the world:

May you have a happy celebration of our Creator God coming to earth in the body of a baby, growing to be a man who humbled Himself, lowered and emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant–unto death. He offered Himself in sacrifice so we could become holy, righteous sons of God and servants of the Lord God Almighty. May the whole earth be filled with His glory.

Best to you, and may the Lord bless you and your families.

A merry and peaceful Christmas from Laurie and me to you!

 

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