Sat, Feb 27th - 9:44PM
Book of Isaiah Study
And the Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising(60:3)."
It would appear, according to God, that the greatest revival of all is still to come in the future. In Romans 11:15 apostle Paul said, "For if the casting away of them[Israel] be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" In essence God seems to be saying that He shall cause the nation of Israel to repent, that there will be mass resurrection of Jews. You and I live upon a globe suspended in space around a star that is a cemetary. The question is, will you and I choose to become resurrected to eternal life or shall we remain stubbornly rejecting the Living God?
Lift up your eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to you: your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side(60:4).
Having been rebellious and scattered around the world, these people are going to come back to the Land of Promise; but in obedience to God.
Then you shall see, and flow together, and your heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto you, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto you(60:5).
Here can be seen a tremendous movement of peoples towards Jerusalem. Has this already happened in history? I do not think so. We have seen in recent times a very large movement of Jewish people back to the Middle East but this does not reflect anything having to do with Gentile peoples. This verse speaks of a time of plenty.
The multitude of camels shall cover you, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah, all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the LORD(60:6).
Notice here that there is no myrrh mentioned. Myrrh spoke of Christ's death at His first coming. At His second coming they bring no myrrh, only gold and incense. After Christ returns and begins His rule from out of Jerusalem all people will flock to this city to give praise and honor to the King of kings.
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto you: they shall come up with acceptance on My altar, and I will glorify the house of My glory(60:7).
Here I think we see animals used to represent groups of people. To try and understand this verse as saying that rams will minister nation Israel is a stretch of some magnitude. Animal sacrifice is no longer accepted by God and so this is not what is being spoken of here. Rather, people will come to Christ and be accepted in the sacrifice of their hearts to Him. This will glorify God's house, Jesus Christ. Christ said that we needed to come to His cross, willing to repent of our pride, our arrogance, and our sin nature for this is acceptable to God. Some scholars feel that animal sacrifce will be reinstituted in the Temple and that this will point back to the death of Christ just as the sacrifices pointed towards the death of Christ in the Old Testament. Is there some validity to this premise? At this time I simply do not know. I haven't yet uncovered enough evidence of this being condoned by God in the Old Testament. Right now, I will stick with the flocks representing the multitudes of people who shall travel to Jerusalem to minister to Christ.
God willing, we shall look into more verses next time that speak of future events. They are still future for us today, none have taken place as of yet. I pray that Christ richly blesses you this day. I pray that you have been uplifted by this study. Until next time, grace and peace by yours.
Fri, Feb 26th - 1:24PM
Who shall live by faith?
"Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith (Habakkuk 2:4)."
Here we find the principle that so inflamed Martin Luther and thus became the watchword of the Reformation, "the just shall live by faith." It is found first in the Book of Habakkuk of the Old Testament, but is then quoted three times in the New Testament. "Just" means "justified" or "righteous." God says that a person is enabled to live righteously by his/her faith.
What is the nature of this faith? This is clarified by three other quotations: first, Romans 1:17: "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." "From faith to faith" means from the beginning of faith to the end of faith and the context indicates that the foundational item of faith is faith in "From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse(Romans 1:20)." And that verse is very familiar to me. Comprehension of God comes from proper understanding of everything around us in nature. Improper understanding leads to unbelief in God and self-deception.
Jumping to the last occurence: "Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him(Hebrews 10:38)." And "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear(Hebrews 11:3)." Here we are set down next to the crux of the origins of our universe. How did everything begin? From what did everything come from? Those minds which are anchored deeply in the world of science cannot conceive of a way for matter to come into existence from absolutely nothing. It would defy the established natural laws of man. I can accept that view. I do not agree with it, but I can accept it. The problem with this viewpoint is that it assumes that mankind has already discovered all the natural laws that can possibly exist. Any careful reader, and student, of the Bible would quite naturally disagree. Take God completely out of consideration and man becomes quite limited in potentialities. Bring God into the equation and possibliities become endless. Scientists claim that they are the ones with the open minds when in reality they are the ones who have closed and locked a door to endless possibilities. Strange. Through faith in Christ we can approach understanding that with God anything is possible. With man, only a few things are possible. Through God everything was made, nothing that is made was made with anything that can be seen. Through God all things are sustained. Ever wonder what causes molecular bonds to remain in place? What causes them to even exist in the first place? Why must they exist at all? Science claims that they "have to exist!" Well, sure. But why do they exist at all?
The middle occurence is found in Galatians 3:11: "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith." So, following and obeying the Ten Commandments does not justify anyone in the sight of God. It can justify you in your own sight maybe, but it does not impress God at all. Have you accepted Christ into your heart? There is the key.
Here is the beginning of Paul's long explanation to the Galatian legalists: "Even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ." Thus if we desire to become justified we must become so through our faith of Christ. We must accept the Lamb of God as our Lord and Savior in order to become justified in God's sight. We are only righteous through Christ.
And so, justifying, saving, living faith begins and centers in Jesus Christ, first as Creator of all things, then as the Savior who "has redeemed us from the curse of the law(Galatians 3:13)." Who will live by faith? Those who have been justified in Christ by accepting Him as their Lord and Savior, who have thrown themselves upon His mercy and grace, who have given all of their trust to God.
Thu, Feb 25th - 9:12PM
Book of Isaiah Study
And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, says the LORD.
As for Me, this is My covenant with them, says the LORD; My spirit that is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, nor out of the mouth of your seed, nor out of the mouth of your seed's seed, says the LORD, from henceforth and for ever(59:20-21).
The Redeemer is returning one day in our future, and at that time there will be a great confession of sin around the world for Zechariah 12:10 speaks of it as does the latter part of Revelation. Jehovah has made a covenant with the remnant of Israel that the Redeemer will return to Zion. It is God's purpose, it shall be done.
We can also see that the Spirit and the Word go together, and by them the church is kept up. For the Word in the mouths of our ministers/pastors, no even more so, the Word in our own mouths, will not profit us, unless the Spirit work with the Word, and give us understanding. But the Spirit does His work by the Word and in agreement with it; and whatever is pretended to be a commandment of the Spirit must be tried by the scriptures. On these foundations the church is built, stands firmly, and shall stand for ever, Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone.
This completes chapter 59 and we now move on into chapter 60. Certain schools of Bible interpretation place very little importance on prophecy because they neglect sections of the Bible like this chapter and the Book of Revelation. To attempt to spiritualize Israel and the church into being one and the same entity is an error. This interpretation does not meet the magnitude of these prophecies.
To briefly summarize, this third and final division of Isaiah presents the Redeemer on the cross (chapter 53). After that there has been a definite progression which speaks not of the government of God, but rather of the grace of God. In the first section the emphasis was upon law; here it is upon grace. The reader finds here that there is love in the law. Also in this section the reader finds that there is law in love.
This chapter will bring us to the full manifestation of the Millennium, that which many today claim is merely allegory. At the end of chapter 59 the Redeemer would come, and here in chapter 60 He has come. In the Hebrew language there is what is known as the prophetic tense; when the prophet goes beyond the event and looks back at it as if it were past history. The prophet speaks of many things as having already taken place. How does this happen? Isaiah is simply repeating what God has said to him. For God, when he says something is going to happen, He is already on the other side of it and for Him it is just the same as having taken place. And so prophecy is the mold into which human history is poured.
Arise, shine; for your Light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon you (60:1).
This is the Light of which Malachi spoke of in 4:2, "But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings..." This is the moment of Christ's return to earth.
For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon you, and His glory shall be seen upon you(60:2).
Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, as he claimed when He was here the first time. Upon His second coming He shall literally be the Light. Light is necessary since the world is covered in spiritual darkness and light reveals all. Even though the gospel has been preached for over 1900 years there is a more comprehensive covering of darkness than ever before. Light must precede future blessings. The Sun of Righteousness must arise to bring the millennial period into existence. Preaching the gospel to the world was never God's intended method of ushering in the Millennium. That is man's intention. The Kingdom will be ushered in when Christ's two feet touch down upon solid earth once again. The King is needed to be on the throne before a kingdom can be established. Spreading the gospel prepares the way before the return of the King, but does not create the kingdom.
That is all for tonight my friends. God willing, we shall gather together here once again and study His Word. Until then may God watch over you, and keep you. May grace and peace abide in your heart.
Thu, Feb 25th - 1:15PM
Lake of Fire and Brimstone
"Moreover King Ahaz burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel(II Chronicles 28:3)."
The word Hinnom in Greek means "gehanna." Because of a horrible pagan ritual of child sacrifice this valley was not a place where people felt the warm fuzzies. It finally ceased when King Josiah "defiled" this valley(II Kings 23:10). The image of Molech, with its outstretched arms forming a ring of fire through which the children were forced to pass, was broken down into pieces and the valley thereafter became the public dump for all of Jerusalem's garbage and was kept burning continually so that it appeared to be "a lake of fire." Because of this and the place's name it became associated with hell and its name actually was regarded as the name of hell, the place of everlasting fire where lost souls go after physical death.
This concept of hell and its associated flames is a very unpopular subject in our modern world. You can talk about Jesus all you want, just as long as you focus upon the love. Embark upon explaining how hell exists for those souls who reject Jesus and you become ridiculed by skeptics and largely ignored by even many evangelicals. Still, Jesus Christ referred to it many times. "If your hand offend you, cut it off: it is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched (Mark 9:43)." That indicates a rather serious nature to this place called "hell." To those who are not saved, He will say, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41)." The term "lake of fire" is used five times in the Book of Revelation to identify the eternal prison of Satan, his angels, and "whomsoever was not found written in the book of life (Revelation 20:15)."
Does anyone know the location of this lake of fire? No. It cannot be known, it will not be known until its appointed time arrives for it to appear. Then God will unveil its position. In any case, it is very real. We can also see that hell and death ultimately end up being thrown into this lake of fire, "Death and hell were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14)." Of importance to note here is the progression given to us in Revelation. First we have the return of Christ the King to earth to chain Satan in the Pit for 1000 years. Christ then reigns over the entire earth from Jerusalem for 1000 years. Then Satan is unbound for a very short period of time which concludes with God's Great White Throne Judgment of the entire earth. Satan and his angels are thrown into the lake of fire. Then all those people whose name is not written in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire. Then Death and Hell are thrown into the lake of fire. Sin infested mankind has been expunged from the sin infested creation. Now, finally, the sin-plagued old creation is done away with and the new heavens and the new earth are created by God to be ruled over from the New Jerusalem. The progression is logical in nature. The saints of Christ have incorruptible glorified bodies and cannot reinfect a new creation with sin. All shall be back in harmony with Jehovah. That which rejected the Creator of everything has been removed to a place where it cannot affect anyone or anything ever again. Sin and the cost of sin has been removed from creation. Now the saints of Christ can begin doing perhaps the true work of God? That we shall be directed by Christ in what He wishes us to do goes without any doubt whatsoever. He shall speak directly to us and we shall have angels to help us accomplish the tasks that He assigns to each of us. We shall praise and worship our King daily, He shall Light our way daily. We truly will be part of God's Family and we shall see our God face to face.
Wed, Feb 24th - 9:48PM
Book of Isaiah Study
We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us.
For our transgressions are multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them;
In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood(59;11-13).
Israel realizes its errors. They become listed here in verse 14 for us to consider today. Their iniquites became known and were acknowledged openly. Too bad that today there are not more people willing to admit that they transgress and ly against God, that they speak of oppression and revolt from God. Too many people today think up and speak falsely about who and what God is, and what He has done. Yet many of these same people seek to find salvation from their lives, but it is nowhere to be found, it is far away.
And judgment is turned away backward, and justice stands afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
Yea, truth fails; and he that departs from evil makes himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no judgment.
And He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore His arm brought salvation unto him; and His righteousness, it sustained him(59:14-16).
Here truth is laid out for us to find. Once we turn our backs upon wickedness and evil doings and turn back toward God we automatically become the hunted. Satan had us in his back pocket but now we are leaving him and so he must strive to turn us once again back to him. This was happening all throughout history prior to the time of Christ Jesus. We see that Jehovah saw it and was not happy at all. But He did have a plan that would be put into motion at its appointed time. Jesus came and provided mankind with an intercessor, a savior, and with righteousness.
For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon His head; and He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.
According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; to the islands He will repay recompense.
So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him(59:17-19).
What wonderful assurances are given to us today, beloved! When our adversaries surround us, when they threathen to drown us out, then the Spirit of God lifts up against them in our defense. As they have done so shall it be accounted to them. Their wickedness will be counted against them and they shall be required to pay. The wicked never think that they shall be held accountable for their actions but they surely will be held accountable by Christ our Lord and Savior.
This brings us to a section which shall reveal the coming of the Redeemer. Christ is highlighted in the several following verses which continue on into the next chapter. I hope that you will follow along as I continue this study and, God willing, we meet here again to open up His Word.
Tue, Feb 23rd - 12:34PM
"Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time(I John 2:18)."
Evangelicals fully expect "the" Antichrist to be revealed in the future end times, yet there exist more warnings about "many" antichrists who are currently and actively plotting wickedness and evil. John lists two specific identifying factors that enable us to spot these "anti" Christs.
In I John 2:22, "Who is a liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son," we see one identifier. "This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now(I John 4:3)," is the other identifier.
Clearly, anyone who refuses to accept the incarnated Christ as the Son of God is anti-Christ. Anti-Christ simply means "opposed to, reject, against, opposite to, before, instead of, or in place of." All of the "instead ofs" found in society are anti-Christ, there is no way around the truth. Instead of Creation taking place in six days, instead of Christ coming in the flesh, instead of Jesus dying upon a cross for our sin, instead of Christ rising from the dead, instead of Christ returning a second time, instead of Christ ruling on this earth for a millennium, instead of being born again, instead of accepting the wages of sin being death, instead of accepting Christ is God, these all are indicators of the spirit of antichrist working in our world today. This spirit has worked all throughout history concocting evil and wickedness against God and His creation. Do not be fooled into thinking that siding with Satan is a viable option. Satan shall not end up ruling over anything and can not promise you anything except eternal torment and anguish dwelling within the lake of fire.
Peter warns us that false prophets and false teachers are also "anti" Christ; they may well come from among the Lord's visible Kingdom on earth. "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction(II Peter 2:1)."
So, we are told that Satan's "ministers also are transformed as the ministers of righteousness(II Corinthians 11:15)." No wonder that many people become confused. No wonder that we all need to exercise caution. No wonder that believers must know the truth and must be able to recognize which spirits are not of God. These are the last days, and we must remain ever alert! We must be effective watchmen who are on guard for our enemy!
Mon, Feb 22nd - 5:59PM
Book of Isaiah Study
They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he that eats of their eggs dies, and that which is crushed breaks out into a viper.
Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.
Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.
The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goes therein shall not know peace(59:5-8).
A continuing condemnation of government when its members only seek out personal gain for themselves and their friends. The picture painted here is a dark one. Mankind is exposed for what it is: self serving, uncaring, violent, faithless, conniving, and wicked. That is the general condition of mankind, with exceptions in various places of course. No nation or people is entirely wicked in nature just as no nation or people is entirely good either.
Therefore is judgment far from us, neither does justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness(59:9).
Notice how now the Israelis are speaking of themselves, the change of pronoun is indicative of this. This is the beginning of their confession to God. They admit that justice does not exist within their midst, they look for light but find only darkness, obscurity. Their religious rituals have all been a pretense for the genuine article.
The same goes for many people today. There are very many members of Christian denominations who live hypocritical lives, thinking that they are clean and pure in God's sight. But they live wickedly all during the workweek. These are the ones who must come to confess to Christ their "lostness." This is what is needed most today in our world. This would bring revival to all of our churches.
We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men(59:10).
Oh, what a confession! In broad daylight they knew that they were blind men spiritually, stumbling about unseeing of the truth. This is how atheists are living today except that they are unaware of their circumstances. Too many so-called believers are living this way and are unaware of their error. Mankind needs to confess its sins and shortcomings before God but the majority will never relent and turn back to God. Too much pride, too much arrogance, too much faith in themselves prevents them from even catching glimpses of truth.
We see here a picture of every person who does not have a personal relationship with Christ Jesus. It is not about knowing about God, or admitting that God exists. Satan and his demons know full well that God exists and is real. One must accept Christ into their hearts and completely trust in Him.
But a question surfaces here. When will Israel make this confession to these specific charges and repudiate their sins? We too ought to confess our sins and THEN repudiate them. This needs to be done privately, just you and God. Am I boasting that I am exluded from this group of people? No, I may have fewer sins than others but I still have more sins than I ought to.
Beloved, God willing, next time I shall finish up with these verses dealing with the transgressions of nation Israel which are also an accurate reflection of our world's sins today. Until then, may Christ bless you and your loved ones.
Sun, Feb 21st - 11:32AM
Book of Isaiah Study
Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear (59:1).
Here God declares the facts: He is able to save and He can hear very well. There is nothing wrong with His abilities, any wrongness resides within each of us. The reason that Israel was not saved during Isaiah's time was due to their sin not being repented of. God's hand was not weak, nor was God's communication with man faulty in any fashion. Even today it is not the mental hurdles that man has to leap over nor is it any of his many problems, but his sin separates him from God.
Israel's sins are mentioned some 32 times in upcoming passages. Many, many words are used to describe their sins: iniquities, sins, defiled with blood, lies, perverseness, vanity, mischief, adder's eggs, spider's web, viper, works, violence, evil, wasting, destruction, crooked paths, darkness, transgressions, departing, oppression, revolt, conceiving, and uttering falsehood. Twenty-three separate charges are brought against the Israelites. A time of national confession will come for the nation and great mourning will happen. This time can be read about in Zechariah 12:11-14.
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear (59:2).
I could quote from Alexander Maclaren's The Books of Isaiah and Jeremiah but this verse speaks quite clearly. We are separated from God because of our sins. We cannot see God because of our sins.
Throughout this first section God spells out Israel's sins. It is a rather discouraging picture of the human family, don't you think? It is a picture of you and me beloved.
For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perverseness.
None call for justice, nor any plead for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity(59:3-4).
How apt a description of the politics of Washington in America! I am sure those of you around the rest of the world see similarities in your governments also. Abortions, political correctness, caving in to the agendas of various special interest groups. All of these things separate us from God. Turning away from the plight of those in need, ignoring truth and seeking monetary gain instead, trusting in physical, sexual appeal all bring out into the open iniquity. Yet again we have found an individual who has apologized for infidelity to their spouse. Tiger Woods appears to have "seen the light" and now realizes that he has a long road of redemption and healing to go through. I hope he has. But it merely highlights the problems American culture faces in the private lives of its individuals. These problems end up surfacing in the lives of its politicians and professional athletes.
Until such time as Americans begin to call for justice, seek out and demand truth, and personally live out these concepts their culture will not return to health. The social rot will continue unabated and will infect our public institutions to the point of destruction.
That is all for today, beloved. I hope and pray that you have already vowed to seek justice for all, and to plead for the truth to be found and followed. Leave vanity behind, plead the cause of those who cannot speak for themselves, and protect the unborn. God willing, we shall meet here again to open up God's Word. Until then, grace and peace be yours.
Fri, Feb 19th - 1:20PM
Whose Advice to Follow?
I am going to quote something that David Roper wrote for an article for housetohouse.com and want you to think about it.
"Two people were sitting on a park bench discussing what had made them failures. The first said, 'I am a failure because I didn't take anybody's advice.' The second said, 'I am a failure because I took everybody's advice.' Among the greatest mistakes a person can make are these: (1) Never listen to anyone, and (2) Accept what others say without investigation and thinking for one's self!"
God is expecting each of us to listen, "So, faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the Word of God(Romans 10:17)." God is also expecting us to think for ourselves. The Bereans were commended because, after Paul preached the Word to them they went and searched the scriptures every day to discover whether or not what Paul had said were found there(Acts 17:11). The message is painfully obvious: Don't accept anything spiritually, or religiously, just because someone says it is so, but take the time to check it out for yourself whether or not it is true to the Bible.
Now, inspite of what unbelievers may say about believers' lack of intelligence and gullibility I must say that believers are anything but shallow, unthinking, and gullible. We are instructed thusly in I Thessalonians 5:21: "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." The Bible does not glory in our ignorance for it says this in Mark 12:30: "...love the Lord with all your heart, soul...and mind." We are told to be totally engaged in our walk with Christ. There is no way God accepts a partial commitment to Him. Simply go and read the letters to the churches in the Book of Revelation and you are disabused of that erroneous notion.
Here's another quote: "All propaganda has to be popular and has to adapt its spiritual level to the perception of the least intelligent of those for whom it intends to direct itself" (Adolph Hitler, Mein Kamph). Hhhhmmm. That takes Christianity out of being propaganda since it is not popular among American society. The secret to propaganda is to bring all of society down to the level of the lowest common denominator, just like in mathematics. It must appeal to the basest prejudices, the shallowest lusts. Hitler's propaganda was a mix of fabrications and half-truths. It took Europe's most organized and advanced nation and dumbed it down untill it was the dictator's dummy, he pulled the strings and the nation jumped to respond.
Does this ring any bells for you? What could be worse than a dictator who imposes thought control upon his people? What about a society that imposes limitations on itself, a sort of ignorance by peer pressure? Does this ring a bell for any of you? It sure does for me! It is an ever more accurate picture of American society, especially academic society.
Christians must stand up and begin actively guarding the breaches in the spiritual walls of American society. Wickedness continually whittles away at morality, ethics, and overall goodness of society. Family values and marital values are under tremendous amounts of stress and abuse. No one in our government is willing to stand up in defense of the unborn. No one is willing in our government to stand up and declare that earmarks are simply wrong, that porkbarrel spending is simply wrong. Why? Because it is difficult. There will be a price to be paid. No one is willing to stand up in our government and tell hospitals that charging 25 times what I pay for a diabetic teststrip is wrong and that that is going to stop. Cost control is non-existant. We are losing doctors every day and yet our government believes that the system can service 30 million more patients? How? Who in the government is strong enough in their faith to demand bipartisanship legislation on everything? And settle for nothing less than full engagement by both sides on every single issue brought to the floor? President Obama is not showing such strength yet. I wish that he would. Rather, he appears to be acting for the public stage so that his poll numbers will improve. The President likes orating too much and he needs to get down to the hard work of governing this country.
You see, American education has spent twenty or thirty years "dumbing down" each successive generation of children passing through its hallowed halls. Oh, our children understand how to use computers, iPods, video games, cellphones, Notebooks, and a myriad of other electronic gadgets. But they do not possess a solid core knowledge of basic subjects. They have poor writing skills, poor reading skills, poor math skills, a lack of comprehension of the natural world, and a lack of critical thinking skills. They lack knowledge of history and thus are doomed to repeating the mistakes of the past.
I do not hold much optimism for America in the future based upon the state of its national educational system which only wishes to conduct social experiments upon the citizenry's children and ultimately to change American culture and society into something that will be unrecognizable.
This is my own personal opinion, do not take it at face value without doing some research of your own. The first six paragraphs I think hold very true, the remainder are up for debate and I suppose time will tell.
May grace and peace be yours today!
Thu, Feb 18th - 8:07PM
Book of Isaiah Study
And if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall your light rise in obscurity, and your darkness be as the noon day(58:10).
God asked them to practice only one specific thing in order that He might bless them. God could have picked out a dozen things but chose only one for them to accomplish. God promised to bless them if they would show reality in their religion. Isn't this the exact same promise that He has given unto believers in Christ? Simply show some reality in our religion and He will bless us.
And the Lord shall guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and make fat your bones: and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not(58:11).
Oh, beloved, what promises to have! A watered garden, when surrounded by drought conditions, attracts all sorts of wildlife. I know in August of each summer here in Virginia, when we have entered into extended dry spells, the deer begin to frequent my vegetable garden because it gets watered and everything in it is green, succulent, and growing. They know that they will be satisfied after entering into my garden. This is the picture that God draws for us here in verse 11. God promises to guide us always, to make sure that we never thirst spiritually during trying times. He says that He shall make us grow and our refreshing life will never fail.
And they that shall be of you shall build the old waste places: you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
If you turn away your foot from the sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words(58:12-13).
If Israel had done what God asked of them they would have become "the repairer of the breach." But they stumbled, they fell into idolatry. God gave the sabbath to them(Exodus 31:12-18)as a sign between them and Himself. For us today it is a little different. We are told: "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it(Hebrews 4:1)." The word for "rest" is sabbath---we ought not to come up short of entering into His rest. "For he that is entered into His rest[that is, the sabbath], he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from His(Hebrews 4:10)." God ceased from His work of Creation, and also from His work of redemption through Christ, and so like Him we too ought to cease from our work and enter into God's rest. It is a rest of redemption. The question today is have we come to the place where we completely trust Christ; that He has done everything necessary for our salvation and we are resting in His finished work? Christ said on the cross that it was finished. Or are we still feeling compelled to do something in order to earn or not lose our salvation? Beloved, Christ wants us to fully trust Him. For us to enter into His rest will mean not only great blessing for us, but it will open up a way of service for us. What brought the apostle Paul to a life of missionary activity? Entering into the rest of redemption. So we must do so also.
Then shall you delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it(58:14).
Verse 13 began with an "if" and now in verse 14 we see the "then." If Israel did something then they would receive something. The heritage of Jacob is brought into the discussion, something that flings open the doors to the future. The horizon is dramatically expanded. Israel may delay the coming glory, but their actions cannot stop God's plan for the coming manifestation of His glory, Jesus Christ.
That ends chapter 58 of Isaiah. It was a chapter containing some valuable promises for Israelites and for believers today. The next chapter continues to lay out God's charges against Israel. Their sins had brought their sad state of affairs. God refused to hear because of their sin, not because He was hard of hearing or hated them. Many people today seem to think that God has a hearing problem, or a distance problem. God hears us all right. The problem resides with us.
God willing, I shall move on into the text of this chapter when we meet next time. May God bless you all!
Thu, Feb 18th - 1:25PM
Repent and Be Saved
"Therefore also now, says the Lord, turn you even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning(Joel 2:12)."
We find within the writings of this Old Testament prophet some nuggets of wisdom which directly apply to all of us today. The word "turn" means "repent." God informs His people that if they would but turn their hearts to Him He would welcome them back. Repent means primarily to change your mind. This is indicated by our turning around and going in a different direction. The by-product of repentance is fasting, weeping and mourning. I knew a young man who would shed copious tears as he tearfully repented of the sinful things that he had committed against me and my wife and requested everyone pray for him. It is not sufficient to merely shed tears during a confession. One must show a legitimate change of heart afterwards. No conversion can take place on that alone.
"And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents Himself of the evil(Joel 2:13)."
This was to be a heart experience, not a head experience. The Mosaic Law forbade the priest from tearing his garments. He could not do that. Fanaticism was not to be the means of showing repentance. The tear was to be in the heart.
Throughout the Old Testament are examples of God saying what He would do if people would not repent of their wicked ways. Ninevah repented and so God did not destroy it. Did God change His mind? No, He knew that they would repent, the exercise of preaching the message to them was for Jonah's benefit, and for theirs as well. God is immutable, He is always gracious, always merciful, and always slow to anger.
Beloved, the only way to come to God is as sinners wanting desparately to turn from our sins. Once you turn to God, all you must do is call upon Him and He will hear you and He will save you. This is what we are told in Acts 16:31 and it is all that we need to be saved. You do not need to stop doing drugs, having illicit sex, or berating your spouse. You don't need to join a church, go through any rituals, or promise Him to be good. You simply need to turn as a sinner to Christ Jesus for His mercy, Christ will then do the rest.
May the grace and peace of Christ be made known to you this beautiful day!
Wed, Feb 17th - 9:58PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? when you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh(58:7)?
The religious folk of that day were turning their backs on the poor and needy. They refused to even show kindness and love to their own flesh and blood. Their type of religion was cold, cold, cold. They had no heart for God. Having a heart for God makes you have a heart for other people as well. You will want to be helpful, to be a blessing in their time of need. All of the criticism and negativity today is harmful to the cause of Jesus Christ.
God told His people back then He didn't enjoy their "playing church." They may have felt that they were having fun and pleasing God. But it became wearying to them, trying to maintain a front before everyone.
In relaying this message from God to his people Isaiah became rather unpopular. It is hard to find any liberal theologian willing to deal with this part of the Bible. They turn to the Sermon on the Mount and pick out a few verses to focus upon. There is nothing wrong specifically in doing that, but it is much more important to confess our sin to God and allow Christ to live His life through us. Religion is merely a cover-up.
Then shall your light break forth as the morning, and your health shall spring forth speedily: and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rereward(58:8).
God could not manifest His blessing and glory to those who practiced a religion, and did so so badly. Today the world is passing by the church because they don't believe God is there. How many of us are blocking the way? We ought to get out of His way and allow His light to shine through us.
Then shall you call, and the Lord shall answer; you shall cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity(58:9).
Don't misunderstand. God wanted to hear their prayers and He wanted to bless them. God wanted to open up the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing upon the people. But the people's hearts weren't open to receive it. If our prayers go unanswered, perhaps it is because of the condition of our heart.
That is all for today beloved. God willing, we shall meet once more to study God's Word.
Wed, Feb 17th - 1:00PM
The Place of Children in Church?
The question often arises as to where children ought to be during worship services. Should they be secreted away into classrooms far, far away from the worship service? Should they be involved in the worship service? Which is more important, the children learning about God in private or the children learning how adults worship Christ? Now, if parents are doing their job properly at home the children do not need maximum amount of time being taught about God when the congregation gathers together to worship each week. Children most certainly must see, and hear, how their parents and other adults worship God and how they pray.
The New Testament pattern would appear to support the concept of children being a part of the worship service, at least for a significant portion of it. Paul wrote, and intended some of his letters to be read aloud to the entire church(Colossians 4:16). Based upon Ephesians 6:1-3 children were present at the reading of this letter to that church. Other examples to look at would be Matthew 19:13-15, Luke 2:41-50, and Acts 21:5. We ought to also consider that Christ commanded that Revelation be read to all of the churches, which would then automatically include the children.
Very small children who begin to cry need to be removed in order to be consoled and their needs met. Older children ought to be taught to sit still and quietly listen or play silently without distracting others. If a parent is oblivious to this need then an elder ought to speak to them privately to get their cooperation in managing their children.
This pattern ought to hold true whether we are meeting in a public worship hall or in private homes. Our children need to be able to find out how the adult world functions and to do so in intimate and safe ways.
The entire purpose of worship services should be to edify each participant, to bring them a bit closer to Christ than when they entered the service. Singing assists in this process, offerings, praises, prayer requests, and communion also draw the believer further along the path to a more intimate relationship with Christ. By service's conclusion each person ought to have arrived at a point of greater knowledge about Christ, of a deeper love of God, of a deeper commitment to serving Christ, or to a saving knowledge of Christ for the first time. If our worship is genuine and fully engaging in nature then all who attend shall leave with something precious gained.
I hope this short post may aid you in discerning areas in which your church family may need to improve in so that you may reach out to all age groups and welcome them genuinely into God's family of believers.
Tue, Feb 16th - 2:41PM
Finite or Infinite Universe?
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts(Isaiah 55:9)."
Here in our text is a repeat of a verse I have previously covered in the study on the Book of Isaiah. It points out a basic flaw in mankind's logic in considering what is the extent of our universe. Since God's ways are infinite and His thoughts utterly beyond human understanding, we are told plainly that the height of heaven is also infinite.
Human thought is limited by its finiteness. It is necessarily so since all of the data and sensory imput we receive of our universe comes through finite senses. Sight, smell, hearing, feeling, and tasting all provide us sensory imput through finite sensory organs. Our minds are limited from using a finite brain which processes finite sensory data. In trying to comprehend Jehovah we too frequently fall back upon natural tendencies to ascribe human characteristics and limitations to God. It is a snare, a trap, which both believers and unbelievers fall into. Can my boss stand against God? Can my wife stand against God? Can my government stand against God? Can anyone legitimately declare that God is dead? All are answered with a resounding "NO!" Can scientists find the center or the edges of our universe? Not according to our text today.
Any modern relativistic cosmologies that involve a finite universe, or bounded universe, are bound to be wrong. They are all based upon esoteric, or difficult to understand, mathematical models, not upon observation or measurement. Space is still as far beyond our mathematical comprehension as is God Himself. Our minds, operating in space as they do, can't even comprehend the idea of an end, or limit, to space itself. What could possibly be beyond any supposed boundary of space, except more space?
This fact also means that our speculations about the location of the center of our universe are pointless. How can anyone define the center of infinite space? Any point could, with equal geometric appropriateness, be chosen as the center, since space extends infinitely in all directions from any point!
In the eternal ages yet to come, the new earth can at least be defined as the center of God's interest in the universe. New Jerusalem will rest here on earth, and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it(Revelation 22:3).
Meanwhile, each of us can rejoice that such an infinite God is directly concerned with each of us. It is absurd and foolish for us to question Him, or His ways, or His thoughts. Can any of us figure out how to create an entire universe which works so perfectly? What God does is right, simply by definition! It is our great privilege to believe and trust His word and His ways. "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!...For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen(Romans 11:33-36)." And again, Amen!
Sat, Feb 13th - 9:59PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and You see not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and You take no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exact all your labors(58:3).
The Israelites petulantly complained. They asked for the reason to fast and commit self-infliction if God doesn't take note of it and nod in acceptance of their rituals. But their hearts were not in the rituals. They made fasting a very important aspect of their religion. Had Jehovah given them "fast days" or "feast days?" He gave them feast days. Yes, they were to afflict their souls in connection with the Day of Atonement, and in times of sin they were to fast. Fasting was supposed to be the outward expression of the soul, but these people had made it a form which stroked their ego and pride. They boasted of the fact that they fasted. They made their self-affliction a public show. These two things were to be a private matter between God and the soul. Matthew 6:16 allows us to see how God viewed this approach to fasting. The religious folk of that day did everything in public in order to impress others. For the saints approach to fasting look to Matthew 6:17-18. Real, genuine religion is a personal relationship with Christ and it is as secret and private as anything can possibly be. Does one tell about the secret, intimate details of one's relationship with one's spouse? Of course not. Beloved, neither are we to reveal our intimate moments with Christ. We may, upon occasion, give brief glimpses into our relationship with Christ to others but we must keep our integrity at all times.
Just as back in Isaiah's day the very religious made great show of their rituals and religious practices so too today we can witness the exact same approach in many denominations and churches. Their religion is superficial, only skin deep. Their hearts have never become intimately involved in their religion, they are far from God.
Behold, you fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: you shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high(58:4).
God begins explaining why He rejects this show of religiosity. He cannot accept their fasting for they do it to alienate other people. They thought that doing so would give them a special place with Jehovah. Instead it simply gave them his condemnation for they disobeyed Him.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord(58:5)?
God had not commanded their fasting. Their acts of worship were entirely outward in nature and did not involve their hearts.
Could this still be the condition of our contemporary church? I am not saying that congregations are fasting for the wrong reasons, or that they are fasting at all. I am not saying that this is the state of your particular church either. But, the organized church has only a form of godliness and not a strong, vibrant heart of godliness.
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke(58:6)?
Here is where the rubber meets the road! God states the type of fasting that He is seeking to find in each of us. Instead of smearing ashes on our foreheads or walking around with a sad look on our face or wearing dreary clothing out in public we should start being honest in all that we do. Be truthful in what we say. God desires to see us clean on the inside.
Beloved, I think that God could come this Sunday and stop many a church service and say, "Listen to Me, let's cut this out. Why are you going through these forms, these rituals? You are not getting closer to Me. You are not pleasing Me. When you leave this place, you are going to begin gossiping again, you will still harbor bitterness in your heart, you will not be any more moral in your conduct, your dress, or your speech. I am extremely displeased in you and I reject your prayers and supplications."
That is all for tonight beloved. God willing, I hope to move on to cover the next four or five verses of this chapter of Isaiah. We shall see a continuation of a delineation as to what our fast ought to be. God lays out in the open what our holy, daily lives ought to entail. He shows how we ought to be using our offerings to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. If only we would utilize that which God has blessed us with properly we would witness the true power and glory of Christ in this world of ours. The light of Christ would properly shine out through us into the world around us and spread His gospel far and wide.
I pray that you invite Christ this weekend to become your "Valentine." Make Him your sweetheart, your best friend. Talk to Him intimately. Your life will change dramatically if you would do so. You will be filled with unspeakeable joy and peacefulness.
Fri, Feb 12th - 5:51PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Chapter 58 introduces the final division of the prophecy of Isaiah---"The Glory of Jehovah which comes through the suffering Servant." We are to discover that inward wicked ways and outward religious forms simply delay the grace and glory of God and hurt the cause of Christ as much as anything. Anyone who is religious and a church member and yet curses like any unbelieving person, anyone who is dishonest in business, immoral in their personal lives, yet talk about being good enough to meet God's standards, actually block the grace and glory of God.
This chapter gives us the explanation as to why the glory was withheld back then, and that still applies to us today. The people of Isaiah's time were supercilious and cynical about their relationship with God. In other words, they were patronizing, disdainfully proud, and contemptuously distrustful of all human motives. They observed the forms and dared to question the actions of God towards them. They sat in judgment upon God and His methods. Don't many people today still do this? Go to Yahoo Answers.com and visit the Religion and Spiritual group and discover the depth of mistrust people there have in God's motives. In spite of any outward observance of religion they still indulge in their own personal wicked ways.
This same "spirit" was visible after the Babylonian captivity, meaning that that experience did not cure the people of their error-filled ways. All we need do is turn to Malachi 3:13-14 and we find that they still criticized God for not blessing them enough. Oh, they were very religious! They went to the Temple and they made sacrifices. They prayed. They went through all of the motions. But their hearts were cold, stone cold. That is the spirit of natural man with his outward show of religion. Today we still see this thin veneer of godliness exhibited by mankind and it still is nauseating to Jesus Christ. Read Revelation 3:16 and you know exactly how God feels about most of today's churches. We see much "Churchianity" and very little Christianity today.
Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins(58:1).
The prophet is commanded to cry aloud this message to his people. It is always an unpopular message to point out the sins and errors of people who think they are "good." It is unpopular to point out the errors and sins of those who believe that they are very religious and thus are on their way to heaven. To do so invites slander, anger, vindictiveness, and outrage. Perhaps the basic weakness of today's liberalism from the pulpit is its purpose to please the natural man without telling him the actual truth about his fatal disease. It is gross negligence on the part of wide swaths of Christianity today to not trumpet the truth from its pulpits. God wants His servants to tell mankind that they are suffering from the mortal disease of sin, which is going to terminate in eternal death, eternal separation from the Living God.
Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God (58:2).
It almost seems that we see them willing to follow the forms, the rituals, but to not be willing to really live out their faith in God. They read their Penteteuch, they took time to publically pray, they beseeched God for justice and they were happy to approach God in the Temple. All of this shows their incomprehension of what God expected from them. They were meticulous in following the forms of worship at the synagogue, they followed all of the cleansing rituals before meals, they tithed faithfully, they attended worship regularly. Yet their lives held no resemblance to lives lived according to faith in the Living God. What was true back then is still true today in our churches.
That is all for today my friends. We have seen here how God desires his prophet to trumpet the truth to all of the people. He desires them to hear, and know, the truth. Christ was not impressed with how the people were worshipping Him and how they had transformed His House of Worship. The religious people were into public shows of praying and tithing and regular attendance at the Temple. They felt that they were "good" people. God willing, next time I shall cover the next few verses and see how they relate to our times today. I hope that you can visit here again so that we can open up God's Word and study it out together! Grace and peace of Christ our Lord be with you.
Thu, Feb 11th - 7:47PM
Book of Isaiah Study
For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always angry: for the spirit should fall before Me, and the souls which I have made.
For the iniquity of his covetousness was I angry, and struck him: I hid Me, and was angry, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart(57:16-17).
God is eternal but He says that He shall not always be angry and contend with our sin. This is true for God intends to remove sin from this world. God tells us why He punishes the wicked. They are punished because they are covetous, and they continue in their rebellion against God. A holy God must one day put a stop to all rebelliousness. At that time God will have to punish those with rebellious and proud hearts.
I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.
I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, says the LORD; and I will heal him(57:18-19).
But those who forsake their wicked ways God will heal them. He is a gracious God toward them who are righteous. God shall speak peace to the heart of the sinner whether they are far from Him or close at hand. But the sinner must take it upon him/herself to respond to God's voice.
But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt(57:20).
There is to be a noticeable markoff in each of these last three divisions of this book. As the prophet did back in 48:22, "There is no peace, says the LORD, unto the wicked." we now find that phrase appearing again and again. Mankind's history is one of warfare and conflict. It is true among nations and also true between individuals. It is evident in the business world, the social world, and even in the religious world. Conflict can be found in virtually every town, every hamlet, and in many homes across the world. There is no peace for the wicked. You and I cannot make peace in the human heart apart from God.
The wicked are pictured as the troubled sea. Ever been at the seashore when a big storm is approaching? The waves get larger, spray is blown every which way, and breakers thunder ashore in endless assaults on the beaches. The wicked are depicted as being in the same straits. They are like a leaf caught in the wind, they drift afar with no purpose or direction to their lives. They are captives, slaves to their lusts and fears and cannot escape to any oasis of calm and peace. All of their efforts in life seemingly only create a mess.
There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked(57:21).
And there is the mark off for this section of scripture. If mankind can devise peace without God, then this scripture is a lie. But we all know that mankind has not been able to figure out how to have everyone experience peace at the same time. Man has been a failure at creating utopias. This is a law from God, no peace for the wicked. Even if they appear to have plenty of money and possessions they still have no peace. Just look at Hollywood celebrities and see how many of them ought to be joyful at how much money they have accumulated, but they rarely are. Or how about professional athletes? Making millions of dollars per year, and yet they normally end up in trouble. God's Word tells us the truth concerning these matters and we ought to trust in the truth.
That completes chapter 57 of Isaiah and now we begin chapter 58. We are going to see exposure of Israel's wicked ways, an explanation from God for rejecting religious acts, and God's concern for their welfare.
God willing that shall begin tomorrow when we meet here again to open up God's Word. May Christ richly bless you in all that you do. May His grace and peace be with you each and every day.
Thu, Feb 11th - 1:16PM
Let's Be Biblical: Preaching and Teaching
So, in light of yesterday's proffered thoughts, I want to take a look at what can be considered to be an answer to doubts of having one person dominate our worship services on a weekly basis. Turn with me to Acts 20:7. Here we find that Paul and the church in Troas came together on the first day of the week to break bread. In other words, they came together to eat their main meal of that day. Fellowship was freely flowing. Paul spoke to them and since he was planning on leaving the next day he kept on speaking until midnight. Hhhmmm, sounds like one person dominating a meeting for hours. Some translations have this verse say that Paul "preached unto them." Oh no. That sounds like a Sunday morning sermon, perhaps the grand daddy of sermons. But we really need to take a look at the Greek word from the manuscripts that has been translated as such. The word is dialogemai, which means "to converse, to discuss, to reason or dispute with." This indicates a two-way discussion between multiple persons and it is the root word from which we get our English term, dialogue.
Preaching is a monologue and might be best suited to mid-week meetings where questions can be put forward afterwards. Sunday morning classes also seem to fall into this realm as well. One person teaches on a topic or passage and then may expand upon its application in our lives, leading ultimately to lively discussion of other passages which might be tied to the original verses. Both of these instances are of someone teaching the congregation, and it would appear that Paul was doing something similar to this. But there must have been active interaction for he was attempting to reason with them, to persuade them of the truth of his words.
I am not attempting to downplay Biblical teaching in the life of the Church. Far from it. I am merely pointing out that we appear to have it backwards. The first century apostolic church gatherings appear to have been more relational than anything else. Teaching entered in after the meeting.
We can see in Acts 2:42 that after the 3000 accepted Christ and were baptized that they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Today we all have the apostles' teaching written down in the Bible. We need therefore to be reading and studying it regularly. The teaching appears to have been happening in a setting of koinonia, eating and praying together. I believe that people are in a better place mentally and emotionally after a meal to listen to teaching from the Scriptures. Opening up God's Word after a meal can be satisfying and lead to genuinely thankful prayers from those who normally have difficulty opening up their mouths to say anything in front of others. These more informal settings allow people to feel comfortable and more open to learning new things. Worship songs can be sung, requests taken for songs to be sung, and prayers interspersed in the midst of singing praise to God. Singing can be done while cleaning up the mealtime dishes and make the work go by quickly for all. Children can be involved as well in this sort of setting and allows them to observe love in action among their congregation. The children can quickly learn how to relate to others properly.
I bring us back to that meeting where Paul spoke until midnight to the saints. The purpose of the meeting was to break bread. But discussion, serious discussion, also took place during that setting. The Corinthians obviously felt that speaking in tongues ought to be done by everyone. But Paul corrected this faulty over-focus upon just certain manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In chapter 14 of that book he wants the spontaneity and multiple participation to continue, but also desired for prophecy to be central, and for everything to be done for edification, or learning. Prophecy by "all" results in strengthening, encouragement, comfort and instruction. Isn't that what ought to be happening in each congregation within Christ's church? We cannot forbid tongues/languages nor can we forbid teaching. We as an assembly of saints need to learn how to study the Bible together with a motivation toward figuring out the Lord's mind and then acting upon it.
In the early church apostolic letters were read out loud to the assembled saints. That is something that needs to be done once again in today's congregations on a regular basis. Our goal must always be to exalt Jesus Christ together and obey what He reveals to us through His Word. Our motto needs to become: Not I, but Christ.
That is all for today, beloved. I only ask for you to seriously consider what I have said here today. Study this out, ponder upon it, pray about it. Decide for yourself if this is what Christ desires from our gatherings in His name. As always, the choice is yours.
Grace and peace,
Wed, Feb 10th - 1:52PM
To the Roots of Biblical Church Life?
When we actually stop, and think about the things that Christ spoke out against, we then realize that Jesus' conflict with Israel, particularly their religious leaders, was not over the Mosaic Law. Jesus kept the Old Covenant to the letter. What infuriated the Sanhedrin was that He challenged and meant to destroy that which was called the tradition of the elders. In the account of Mark we find that the Pharisees and some of the scribes noticed that some of the disciples did not wash their hands before eating. This was required through the "tradition of the elders." This can be read in 7:1-5 but what exactly was going on there? Quite simply Israel theoretically considered the Pentateuch to be it's final authority but in reality they paid more attention to the Oral Law of their elders.
Pharisaic Judaism taught that when Moses received the Law on tablets he also was given the Oral Law by God. No where can this be substantiated in scripture. The inevitable conflict came when Christ walked the earth. Which will you choose to serve, the Old Testament or the Oral Law? Israel had gone with the Oral Law rather than the Mosaic Law and that choice alienated them from Jehovah. To break the Oral Law of the elders was esteemed to be worse than breaking Mosaic Law. Christ called them out as hypocrites, and rightfully so. We all readily see the error that they participated in. But what about us?
In our choices of worshipping God, have we fallen into the exact same type of trap? Have we established traditions which now hold more sway than the commandments of our God? What we see revealed in the pages of the New Testament, is this what we incorporate into our gatherings of the brethren? Or have we merely followed the footsteps of men who came along years after the Apostles of Christ were dead?
What I hope and pray can be grasped here is that these "traditions" that we all follow, to lesser or greater extent, all tend to completely vary from what is taught in the Scriptures. In many instances we have reverted back to a form of Judaism. All of which was blatantly and unwaveringly condemned by God.
I am simply going to describe what it was like when a group of believers met together as a church as we are told in scripture. So, let us enter our "way back machine" to the midpoint of the first century to see what worship was like. The very first thing that jumps out at us is that we all were going to someone's house to meet. There were no hundreds meeting there, or thousands upon thousands. A small group of people met together intimately. Everyone knew each other. Almost like extended family would these people be to each other. Informality would be the rule, a relaxed atmosphere of fellowship.
Not meaning to imply any rigid chronology here, there would have been a time of sharing together, a time when all were free to take part as the Lord moved them. There could be worshipful singing, prayer and intercession, teaching, prophesy, or sharing a burden. All free to participate as the Spirit moved them. No one was the formal leader of the proceedings from the "front." All sat facing each other which led to spontaneous, free, unstructured, and Spirit-led interaction. The atmosphere is of worshipful, reverent, and casual joy in Christ.
There would also have been a communal meal which all would have participated in. This would be the main meal of your day. Incorporated into this meal would have been a loaf of bread and a cup of wine to commonly share, reminding all that Jesus Christ is the guest of honor and remembering His New Covenant with us. This meal helped bind everyone together as an extended family of God.
Another thing noticed would be that any leadership was very low-key. They would act as servants, making sure everyone else received what they were in need of. Different people would pray from one meeting to the next. There were no designated prayers who did all of the praying. Certain leaders might circulate from one home to another week by week teaching each congregation. No one lead from the front, that implied authority.
So, how do we do things today when we gather together as congregations?
First of all, we generally meet in public buildings that are designed to hold a hundred or more people. Frequently we meet in groups of 1000 or more. Secondly, we have services, which are lead from the front by either paid leaders or official praise teams. This guarentees that all are not free to act as the Spirit leads and scripture teaches. Thirdly, we occasionally throw in an element to observe Communion with bread and wine. No meal together, no fellowship during the meeting. Lastly, we come to leadership. What do leaders look like in our meetings of today? Well, we tend to put in place individuals who participate in a hierarchical leadership. We have a pastor, then elders, then deacons, and then teachers and worship team members who take care of ushering and music. There are official titles given out to these people which tends to force everyone else to look up to them for leadership in almost all matters. Today the person at the top of this particular pyramid typically comes from a seminary school where they have been taught how to do this stuff. Other men have given them thoughts on how to accomplish certain things and what things they ought to accomplish. Where is the Holy Spirit in all of this choosing? How many of their ideas actually originate from Christ?
It is irrelevant as to which church denomination we are talking about in this discussion. Whether Orthodox, Catholic, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, Mormon, Jehovah Witness, Anglican, Pentecostal, Methodist, or Episcolpalian, when it comes to church practice all are similarly based on the exact same traditions and teachings of men after the New Testament had been made available to all who can read. All, in various extents, go against the teachings of the New Testament regarding leadership and format of worship. All have codified and formalized worship to the point of shoving the Holy Spirit out of the building entirely. The Early Church Fathers did much good, but they erred badly in the area of worship and gathering together.
Should we simply continue blindly along, committing the same error over and over simply because it is comfortable? Or ought we to admit the mistake and try to reform ourselves as best we may to conform to the commandments of the New Testament? I know that this is a hard thing to consider. But is it to be the traditions of death, or the traditions of the Divine? Sermons are nice, but teaching face to face is so much better! Becoming accountable to those who know me well is so much better than being unaccountable to anyone because no one is able to get to know me. Getting to know my brothers and sisters in Christ to the point where I know what to pray for them before they even ask for it, that is truly priceless!
I leave this open to all of you to consider within yourselves. I am not going to spend exorbitant time and space attempting to persuade you. You may have some scriptures that are coming to mind that talk about the New Testament meetings, I hope that you reconsider them in this light. Draw your own conclusions, do not simply accept what I am writing this day.
Grace and peace be yours!
Tue, Feb 9th - 2:59PM
Abiding In Him
"And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming(I John 2:28)."
There is nothing sophisticated about this Greek word, meno, used so many times in the New Testament. The meanings vary from "remaining" to "staying" to "dwell." All are easily understood from the context and the focus is on a consistent and even permanent situation.
So we look at our text above and see that saints are expected to "remain" in a relationship with Christ. The implication is that this relationship is permanent and personal. This relationship is to be so intimate that we become like a branch growing from a vine, John 15:4-5. We are to remain in His Word to the extent necessary for our prayers to be synchronized with His will, John 15:7. Finally, our behavior will be synchronized with His commandments, I John 3:24.
The consistent "dwelling" in Christ promises to produce confidence in our eternal relationship. This leads to a freeness of speech when we witness to others just as Peter freely spoke at Pentecost, Acts 2:29. Thus our "plainness of speech" (II Corinthians 3:12) in witnessing leads ultimately for our "boldness in the day of judgment"(I John 4:17).
Of course, our lifestyle of abiding in Christ constructs a sanctified relationship with Christ that we will enjoy for all eternity. Consider this: "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which has great recompence of reward. For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise(Hebrews 10:35-36)."
What is the promise? I leave that up to you to discover!
Mon, Feb 8th - 6:50PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Among the smooth stones of the stream is your portion; they, they are your lot: even to them have you poured a drink offering, you have offered a meat offering. Should I receive comfort in these(57:6)?
This merely points out that people will worship just about anything other than God. God asks the rhetorical question of whether or not He ought to be comforted by these paltry drink and meat offerings of theirs. The same situation exists with people today, beloved. People think that if they give enough in the offering plate each Sunday morning that God will be comforted, or if they serve soup down at the homeless shelter He will smile down upon them, or if they build homes for the poor that He will welcome them into heaven with a wave. All of these things are not faulty on their own merits, but God is looking for what we do with His Son, Jesus Christ. The other deeds do not comfort God at all, only what we decide to do with Christ and His sacrifice to atone for our sin will reconcile ourselves to Jehovah.
Upon a lofty and high mountain have you set your bed: even there you went up to offer sacrifice(57:7).
These are all pictures of idolatry. God applied them to Isaiah's society and they apply to ours today. They shall also apply to the last days of this current age.
Behind the doors also and the posts have you set up your remembrance: for you have discovered yourself to another than Me, and are gone up; you have enlarged your bed, and made you a covenant with them; you loved their bed where you saw it(57:8).
In times past, sin was committed in secret, away from prying eyes but today sin has become more and more brazen and flaunts itself in public. There may have been just as much immorality in times past as today but it was not out in the open for all to see. Men used to be ashamed of their sin, but now they are told to not be ashamed of what they do. People are proud of living together in sexual immorality, they are told that they are not being hypocrites. That may be true, but they are still living in sin. Things that ten or twenty years ago would not have been seen in malls and mainstreets are witnessed on a regular basis in our communities and our children get to see it too. Sin has been approved, been made okay, given a stamp of acceptance by the liberals of this world. There are no high standards any more. The lowest common denominator is what the liberal thinkers of this world wish to regress to. What we have witnessed happening over the past thirty years is the wheat and the tares growing together, just as the Lord said they would.
And you went to the king with ointment, and did increase your perfumes, and did send your messengers far off, and did debase yourself even unto hell.
You are wearied in the greatness of your way; yet said you not, There is no hope: you have found the life of your hand; therefore you were not grieved.
And of whom have you been afraid or fearful, that you have lied, and have not remembered Me, nor laid it to your heart? have not I held My peace even of old, and you feared Me not(57:9-11)?
Are we not of this mold? We discover what we may erect, or construct, with our hand and we build our lives upon that "rock." We are proud and dependent upon our perceived picture of who we are. We are so blind that most of the time we are unaware that we have no hope in the future. We rest assured in "the life of our hands." Why do we forget about God and do not keep Him close to our hearts? It is not because God has been on the warpath over the centuries for He has kept His silence, waiting for us to repent and return to Him.
I will declare your righteousness, and your works; for they shall not profit you.
When you cry, let your companies deliver you; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take them: but he that puts his trust in Me shall possess the land, and shall inherit My holy mountain;
And shall say, Cast you up, cast you up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling block out of the way of My people(57:12-14).
Those who refuse to rely upon God and accept His Son shall turn to their companions and friends to save them but God will remove them all through their own vanity. The righteous shall have put their trust in God and thus will inherit the land and God's holy mountain. They shall also speak of taking the stumbling block away from the path of the righteous. This is continuous comparison of the wicked and the righteous which is needed in order to properly identify which is which in our current society since wheat and tares grow together now.
For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones(57:15).
Here is the comfort of the saints. God shall live with those who have a contrite and humble spirit. Contrite means "feeling or showing sorrow and remorse for a sin or shortcoming." So saints are to feel and/or show sorrow or remorse for those sins or shortcomings that they have become personally aware of. We are to be contrite. In being thus, we can therefore view the shortcomings of others and not be overbearing in pointing out these things to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. God awaits us to become contrite and humble before reviving our spirits and our hearts. Eternal God promises to take those who do not trust in themselves, but trust Him, and cover them as a mother hen covers her brood of chicks. Peace and security belong to those who trust in Christ! And this verse also looks ahead to the time of the Great Tribulation. But that is for next time!
May grace and peace permeate your heart and life this day. God willing, I shall finish out this chapter the next time we meet. Until then, draw near unto your God and bask in His love and security!
Sat, Feb 6th - 8:28PM
Book of Isaiah Study
Come you, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant(56:12).
Drowning their sad condition in alcohol, and they faced their future as drunkards and blind optimists. How many people today are facing life like that? Even with a recession in place, unemployment at 9+%, very few companies hiring, there are many people who continue to walk through their lives as blind optimists. They think that tomorrow will be just like today. Alcohol in America is un unbridled problem that causes accidental deaths in the thousands each year. Drugs on the streets cause even more deaths through burglaries and holdups. The morality of America is gone, my friends. And too many Christians do not want to hear about it; they would rather listen to soft, sweet Christian music.
No one ever gets into trouble when they listen to soft music, but you sure do when you give out the Word of God. Isaiah handed out the Word exactly the way it was given to him by God, and I desire to do likewise.
That completes this chapter of Isaiah. Now I wish to begin immediately chapter 57 which contrasts the righteous and the wicked. Today it appears that the wicked have it easy, they are living in comfort at the expenxe of others. But when we all get to the end of the age the righteous will be the ones living in comfort and the wicked will be experiencing condemnation.
The righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come(57:1).
This chapter marks the end of the second section of the final division of Isaiah as Dr. McGee has labeled, "The salvation of Jehovah which comes through the suffering Servant." All who come in humility and accept it are made righteous. Those who reject it, continue on their way to judgment. This chapter brings us to the crossroads where the way that leads to life goes one way and the broad way to destruction goes another way. Each of us must choose wisely!
Many of God's wonderful saints are being taken away through the doorway of death. God is removing them from experiencing the degradation of society. Adrian Rodgers, J. Vernon McGee, Jerry Falwell, and many others have gone on before us to heaven. I am reaching a point in my life where I do not worry overmuch about myself but I do worry about my sons and daughters along with my four grandchildren. I am concerned about their lot in life as the future unfolds before us. I do not see enough saints lifting up the legacies of the fallen warriors of Christ. I do not see enough saints determining in their hearts to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors.
He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness(57:2).
We see here the assurance that the righteous shall have peace upon their death. If they pass away while asleep in bed they shall be saved from experiencing the Great Tribulation and will be in heaven.
But draw near here, you sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore(57:3).
God addresses the wicked. He points out their ancestry as being very bad. God motions for them to draw near so that they can hear what He has to say to them.
Against whom do you sport yourselves? against whom make you a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? are you not children of transgression, a seed of falsehood(57:4),
Up to this point in time, God has chosen to not actively intervene. Attacks are made daily upon the righteous believers in Christ. These attacks are not becoming less but rather are coming faster and fiercer. What's worse, the wicked appear to get away with it. Yet we see that God correctly identifies them: children of transgression, seeds of falsehood. They are the ones who revel in their sin, thinking that it is "good."
Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the cliffs of the rocks(57:5)?
The wicked are idolaters, in Isaiah's time they turned away from God and worshiped all sorts of things in all sorts of places. They were guilty of gross immorality and murder then, and today we see that this is taking place once more all over our world. These two sins rank among the worst of our day along with covetousness. Immodesty and immorality have become cornerstones of the entertainment industry and thus have become the cornerstones of our society in America. No one has been willing to stand up and voice opposition to this insidious erosion of the moral fabric of this nation. When Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority stood up years ago people mocked them as being teetotalers and rightwing fanatics. What do we have in society today? Sex and immorality painted all across the day time soap operas, R rated movies almost to exclusivity in the theaters, R rated programming on prime time television in every home in the country. We have an adolescent generation who feel entitled to most everything, have little to no modesty, have little self esteem, little to no respect for their parents or other adults, and a dwindling respect for the property of others. Little or no value is placed upon anything for they continually lose their valued belongings each time they have to move, or their families break apart through divorce. It is a sad picture of the American family, the unit which was the backbone of this nation for two hundred years. Something must be done soon, or the fabric of our society shall come undone completely.
That is all for tonight beloved. God willing, I shall continue tomorrow with this study. My heartfelt prayers go out to all those without power due to the blizzard which struck the Mid Atlantic today. After spending the better part of today shoveling out my driveway and rear deck I can commiserate with the massive snow removal efforts needed to deal with 2-3 feet of snow. Just be safe, and do not refuse to take breaks for rest! And remember: The sun will come out tomorrow!
Thu, Feb 4th - 2:11PM
Knowledge of the Truth
"This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth(I Timothy 2:3-4)."
The verses prior to this text encourage the reader to be in prayer "for all men" (verse 1), including "all that are in authority", that our lives might be "quiet and peaceable," as well as for their salvation.
God does not desire to punish anyone. He desires for "all men to be saved," and He has therefore done all that is necessary to bring this about, He paid the wages of sin which is death. Now not everyone will decide to gain themselves this opportunity. They will choose to continue in their unacknowledged sin. We, through prayer, are used by God to bring some of them "to the knowledge of the truth."
What is the truth then? The truth necessary for salvation is this: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave Himself a ransom for all(verses 5-6)." That lays bare for all of us what exactly is meant by truth.
In order to be saved, we must accept, embrace, the fact that there is only one God who alone holds the key to eternity, and that there is only one way by which we can reach that one God, "the man Christ Jesus." We cannot reach Him through priests in confessionals, or through reciting liturgies, or through tithes, or through gifts of money, or through any other deed of our conception. Each of us, in our natural state, are at war with God, estranged/separated from Him, and separated by the presence of sin in our lives. Christ Jesus, acting as our mediator, our peacemaker, our advocate, who being both fully God and fully man bridges the gap between Jehovah and mankind. As Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father but by Me(John 14:6)." Christ is the truth. Eternal life is only through Christ. Our way to life eternal is Christ. There are no shortcuts my friends.
How has Christ bridged this gap? He "gave Himself a ransom for all." The Bible elsewhere teaches that "the wages of sin is death(Romans 6:23)" but that "Christ died for our sins(I Corinthians 15:3)." Since He willingly gave Himself as a punishment for our sins, we now can stand before Jehovah in Christ's sinlessness and righteousness. We are justified by having faith in Christ. We become joint heirs with Christ.
I hope that this post helps some to accept Christ into their hearts for the very first time. I hope that this post may help some who have accepted Christ to trust Him even more and to clean up their lives even more. I hope that this post helps some to more deeply believe that there is only one God; that there is only one Mediator, one Advocate between us and God and that is Christ Jesus. The only one we ought to be praying to is Christ. Not to past saints, not to Mary, not to the Pope, not to our pastor, not to our boss, not to anyone or anything. We need to be praying to Christ to influence our government. This is necessary for us to be able to live peaceably and quiet, without turmoil and strife. Prayer is also necessary in order for the truth to be brought before those who do not know Christ. So I hope that all of us shall continue to pray regularly for the truth to be made known to those who are ignorant of it.
Wed, Feb 3rd - 9:00PM
Book of Isaiah Study
All you beasts of the field, come to devour, yes, all you beasts in the forest(56:9).
The vision of the reader is shifted from the lofty thought of the glorious future kingdom to the sorry condition of the then existing kingdom. God allowed the Gentile peoples of the world to come in and savage and pillage His people. Assyria had already invaded, Babylon was soon to do likewise, and others would follow suit. Jerusalem has been rebuilt several times. History records some 20 odd times of it being destroyed. Today, to reach the very streets that Christ walked we must dig down through probably almost 50 feet of debris. Why did God allow the Gentile nations to plunder and pillage Israel? Because they failed to follow Him, they chased after idols.
His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are al dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber(56:10).
What a picture of the prophets and priests who were supposedly speaking for God in Isaiah's day! God allowed the enemy to take Jerusalem because of the weak ineffective leadership of the people. The people, and their leadership, were spiritually blind and ignorant. The leadership was called out as being dumb as dogs. Here false prophets and spiritual teachers have been identified as dogs and in the New Testament Paul warns us to beware of dogs. Paul warns us of those false preachers and teachers who do not declare the full counsel of God. Watchmen were to warn people of approaching enemies, God had placed his priests and prophets as "watchmen" over Israel. By Isaiah's time these two groups had become ignorant of God's Word, they did not understand God's statutes. They were "asleep" and unable to alert the people of coming danger.
It could very well be that liberalism came into being simply because leaders who were cowardly did not want to step on other people's feelings by preaching the truth. To preach God's Word straight up means that you will offend some people. It is inevitable. I can teach it, or preach it, as nice as I can possibly figure out but it will still come out stronger than some people can stomach. God says the person who stands in the pulpit and does not give out the Word of God is a dumb dog! I'm not giving out my opinion, this is God's opinion! The temptation is great for a pastor to try to please the congregation, it is much more comfortable that way.
Yes, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter(56:11).
Greed motivates too many of today's pastors and ministers of the faith. They desire personal gain over meeting the needs of the people around them. Shepherds are meant to watch carefully over their flocks, protecting them from all harm, leading them to good pastures and fresh waters. Our shepherds today too frequently fail to do these things for their congregations. The leadership is looking to its own way, not God's way. This is a huge problem within every denomination within Christianity. The solution is very simple: preach God's Word, the whole Word, and believe it!
That is all for tonight my friends. Next, God willing, I shall finish up this chapter of isaiah and prepare to move on into chapter 57. May God inspire you to read His Word, comprehend it's message, and move to make it a vital part of your everyday life! Grace and peace be yours!
Wed, Feb 3rd - 1:15PM
To Be Truly Converted
"Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord(Acts 3:19)."
The Greek word for "converted" can mean several things. In its usage here it is translated as "turn" or "change directions." So conversion does mean to change one's direction, or to turn in your ways. But Christian conversion refers to turning away from the entire world-system and turning instead to God through Christ Jesus. Again, to "repent" means to "think differently" and, in the Christian context, to change one's whole thought process from worldly reasoning to spiritual, as centered in Christ and the Scriptures. To repent, and be converted through Christ Jesus then results in having one's sins blotted out, forgiven and forgotten, and ushers in true times of refreshing from God Himself.
Many people today feel that they are already forgiven because Christ came and died for all of our sins. This sounds nice at face value, but one must compare that concept with what Jesus said. In Luke 13:3, 5 He said, "...except you repent, you shall all likewise perish." And again in Matthew 18:3, "Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Without real repentance and conversion there will be no salvation of anyone. Without salvation you will be unable to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Logic here is irrefusable. You and I cannot live carnally and lustfully each day and still expect that we shall enter into heaven. We must turn away from these things, pick a fresh, new path to walk in order to enter heaven.
Sad to say, there are millions upon millions of men and women who think that they are Christians, but are not. It is evidenced by the lack of real change in their thinking and living from the beliefs and practices of the world around them. We see the necessity of change when we read II Corinthians 5:17, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." It does not say, "Some things are become new," but rather that all things have become new. Lost your virtue? You can gain it back. Lost your innocence? You can gain it back. Lost your trust in your fellowman? You can gain it back. Lost your peace of mind? You can gain it back!
Christ Himself warned us that: "Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, ...? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you(Matthew 7:22-23)." So, it profits all who profess Christ to seriously review their personal belief and behavior in terms of their conformity to the world of man OR to the Word of God. We need to do what Paul exhorts: "Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves(II Corinthians 13:5)."
And so I exhort myself, and all of you who claim to be Christians, all around this world of ours. Let's examine ourselves according to the Word of God and find out if we are truly of the faith, or are we still of the world. Do not examine according to your own personal beliefs, or that of someone who preaches on television or the internet. Examine yourself according to the Bible and nothing else. Do you line up with how it says you ought to be living, thinking, believing? You cannot clutch Love to your chest and throw away justice and truth. Likewise, you cannot teach justice and truth and ignore love. We need all of the Word of God to become a part of us.
Grace and peace be yours this wonderful day which our God has given unto us all!
Mon, Feb 1st - 7:57PM
Book of Isaiah Study
For thus says the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep My sabbaths, and choose the things that please Me, and take hold of My covenant;
Even unto them will I give in Mine house and within My walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off(56:4-5).
This reinforces, and expands upon, the thought we were left with yesterday. That of no one who is handicapped, a stranger, or an outcast, shall not be invited to accept God's gracious offer of a position that is better than a son or a daughter and a security that is everlasting. The Law could not give this to anyone.
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, every one that keeps the sabbath from polluting it, and takes hold of My covenant(56:6).
They take hold of His covenant, and that is a thing that pleases God as much as any thing. The covenant of grace is proposed and offered to us in the gospel; to take hold of it is to consent to it, to accept the offer and come up to the terms, deliberately and sincerely to take God to be to us a God and to give up ourselves to Him to be to Him a people. Taking hold of the covenant denotes an entire and resolute consent to it, taking hold as those that are afraid of coming short, catching at it as a good bargain, and as those that are determined never to let it go, for it is our life: and we take hold of it as a criminal took hold of the horns of the altar to which he fled for refuge. This reference to the sabbath was as the Israelites observed it on the seventh day of each week. For us the sabbath has become Christ Himself, in whom we rest from our own works. We are not to pollute the altar of sacrifice which now resides within each of us. The Temple also now resides within each of us and we are to keep that holy.
Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon Mine altar; for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people(56:7).
Here is the verse from which the Lord quoted when he cleansed the temple the second time. It was God's intention that the temple was to be for all peoples irrespective of their race, tongue, class, or condition. By Christ's time it had long ceased to function as such.
Also the present day church is as far removed from its primary objective as the temple was. The church has become like a suburban country club. It has moved from the house church to the institutional elephant of today. It often has good basketball and volleyball teams in church leagues. It has the latest technology and power point presentations. But there is a shortage of personal workers bringing the lost into contact with God. All too often entire congregations fail to practice prayer of any sort, let alone diligently pray en masse during worship services. Few understand what Christ accomplished and what He expects us to accomplish in our lives.
The Lord God which gathers the outcasts of Israel says, Yet will I gather others to Him, beside those that are gathered unto Him(56:8).
The coming kingdom is to be worldwide it its extent and will include members from every family of mankind. God tells us that in those very last days they are going to go out after people. I think that the greatest time of repentance and turning to Christ will take place during the Millennium. Besides gathering Israelites, Gentiles will also be gathered unto Christ.
The next verses are a return to the problems of the kingdom in Isaiah's day. We see the same things as we look around us today. But that is for tomorrow, God willing. Until then, determine in your heart to serve Christ whole-heartedly, to spread the gospel, to teach others the ways of God, to reserve quality time each day for prayer.
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