Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Paul's warm letters

These are the openings of all of Paul's letters, except Galatians. Please don't skip, read them through.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:3-6).

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:4-9).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ... Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:2,7)

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers... (Ephesians 1:15-16).

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven (Colossians 1:3-5).

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 1:203).

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. (2 Thessalonians 3-4).

To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (1 Timothy 1:2).

To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. (2 Timothy 2:2-4).

To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (Titus 1:4).

To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2 and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (Philemon 1:1-7).

A hallmark of Christianity is love.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35).

Barnes Notes says of the John verse,
That is, your love for each other shall be so decisive evidence that you are like the Saviour, that all people shall see and know it. It shall be the thing by which you shall be known among all men. You shall not be known by special rites or habits; not by a special form of dress or manner of speech; not by special austerities and unusual customs, like the Pharisees, the Essenes, or the scribes, but by deep, genuine, and tender affection. And it is well known it was this which eminently distinguished the first Christians, and was the subject of remark by the surrounding pagans. "See," said the pagan, "see how they love one another! They are ready to lay down their lives for each other." 
I think it's clear that Paul genuinely loved his people and cherished his overseers. His letters were full of approbation for them. He had high regard for his fellow workers, and wasn't shy about saying so.

Wouldn't it be lovely to receive a letter like Paul's? Wouldn't it be great to be received in person the way that Paul greets his friends? It would, on both counts. I fail the standard Paul sets here, both in reaching out with loving, personal messages to warmly encourage as Paul does, and in displaying a genuine love in person for the believers "in the common faith."

How about you? Is there something more you can do to 'boast of a friend' to other friends? To pray for them earnestly? To visit with them in love, exulting in your common love of Christ?

Please re-read the letter introductions, and think of someone you can love and encourage today. I know I will.

Monday, April 24, 2017

What about a Christian's Weakness?

There's weakness, and then there's weakness. It depends on which kind you're talking about.

Christian women are noted as the weaker vessel. (1 Peter 3:7). GotQuestions explains in this excerpt:
This is not a popular idea among many women or even many men. However, the Scripture tells us that the woman was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14), she is subject to her husband (1 Peter 3:1) and that she is a “weaker” vessel. That women are usually physically weaker is undeniable, but the implication of the fall is that by virtue of her being deceived by Satan, women may also sometimes be weaker in other ways. That definitely does not mean she is less valuable (Ephesians 1:6) or that she does not have equal access to grace (Galatians 3:28). 
As for Christian weakness in general, we’re all weak, we are supposed to be. Paul said that Jesus replied to him,

'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

There's weak because we're laden with sin that makes us weak. That is one reason we strive not to sin. We pick up our cross daily and slay it. When we do sin, it's important to address it by repenting to Jesus and making things right with theother person, if you had involved another person in your sin. Sin is one reason we become weak and ineffective.

There's weak because we understand our depravity and seek the Spirit's strength. There's weak when we see how powerful Jesus is, and understand our own powerlessness in the face of His omnipotence. There's physically weak, due to illness temporary or permanent.

In some cases, God gives us weakness. He gave to Paul a "thorn in the side" both to keep Paul humble, and to demonstrate that all we need is His grace (not our own strength). (2 Corinthians 12:7)

In America where I'm from, strength is valued. Strength, bravado, and self-sufficiency are nationally recognized attributes, idols, even. In addition, American Feminism has also contributed to a national consciousness that we woman are supposed to have it all together and be capable of all things at all times. "I can bring home the bacon AND fry it up in a pan" and so on.

The attributes of weakness, meekness, and humility aren't as valued as they are in other nations. But it's OK to be weak. It's good. Why?

It's God who strengthens us. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13).

Wouldn't you rather have His strength than your own strength, anyway? :)


Further Reading

Here are a few resources on our weakness.

Desiring God: Don't Waste Your Weakness

The End Time: Are you a weak woman, or are you a weak woman?

Grace To You blog post: God's Sufficient Grace

Ligonier Devotional: Power in Weakness

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Visual Exegesis: The Life of Every Living Thing

Chris Powers of Full of Eyes creates exegetical art, still and moving images, intended to point people to the beauty of God in the crucified and risen Son. His work can be found on Youtube, Patreon, and his website, fullofeyes.com. There are study guides to accompany the videos, tracts, and art- free to use for the edification of the global church and the exaltation of Jesus' name. 
Today's presentation is called The Life of Every Living Thing. Below Powers' illustration is the artist's statement.

Job 12:10, "In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." 
It was tough to come up with a verse picture today. I spent most of my time reading this morning in Genesis considering some of the patterns we see in the Creation week....some wonderful stuff there, but nothing that seemed to lend itself to a picture. I also read a bit in Job and came across 12:10.....I was hesitant to make the picture that I did because it is similar to another that I did a few months ago, but--since I try to get these done early without spending TOO much time on them, I went ahead with this design. 
I'm also studying the "hypostatic union" right now (the orthodox understanding of Christ as one Person--God the Son--with two natures--divine and human) for a Wednesday night class I teach at our local church....that's got me thinking about some more of the glorious realities we see in Christ....one of which is that He--as God the Son--is sustaining the universe ("in His hand is the life of every living thing...") even as His hands are pierced and His creaturely life ebbs away. It's an "old" truth but one that ought always to stagger....the sovereign mingling of omnipotence and helplessness that we see at the cross is unlike anything the world can produce and a self-authenticating witness to the beauty of God's Name. 
So, I hope that this picture echoes both the idea that the God-Man upheld the life of the universe with His hands even as His flesh was pierced on the cross AND that, the piercing of His hands was also the means by which He purchased the life that He was upholding. All created life--at least all terrestrial life--would rightly have been extinguished because of sin had not the wrath a ten thousand justly-deserved Noahic floods been stored up to be poured on on the Beloved Son at Calvary.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The biblical worldview is that there is the righteous and the wicked

When you read chunks of the Bible at one time, patterns and themes emerge that may not be as noticeable as when you read just a few verses more deeply. That's why both kinds of study are valuable.

In reading the Psalms, one immediately notices David's worldview. It's stark, solid, and biblical. With David, there are the righteous, and the wicked. Period.

We live in times where Christians are pressured to blur those lines. We're told to accept and tolerate all manner of sin, value any and all professions of faith even if they're unaccompanied by fruit, and to view all people as inherently good. Failure to do the above invites catcalls of "Pharisee", "judgmental", or worse.

However, when we blur those lines, the loss to the church is that mission fields shrink and disappear. Doctrinal lines are dismissed. Sadly, if we don't know who is in and who is out, who do we evangelize?

I found this article from a church in MO, called The Righteous and the Wicked. I don't agree with their KJV-only stance, but I do agree with this article.
We believe that there is a radical and essential difference between the righteous and the wicked; that such only as through faith are justified in the name of the lord Jesus, and sanctified by the spirit of our god, are truly righteous in his esteem while all such as continue in impenitence and unbelief are in his sight wicked, and under the curse; and this distinction holds among men both in and after death. ...
This article also emphasizes the fact that with God, there is no middle ground. With men, we see much middle ground or gray area. With God it is all black or white, right or wrong, for him or against him. Joshua made this very clear in Joshua 24:14,15 when he demanded that Israel make a choice to either serve God or not serve God. "Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
The Bible makes it clear so many times, using opposites in a plethora of descriptions. This verse from Isaiah 5:20 is just one:

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

The verse presents three of the stark opposites:


We read of those who are cursed and those who are blessed.

Those who are dead and those who are living.

There are those in Christ and those who are in outer darkness.

There are those who draw near, and those who fall away.

There are those who are hot, and those who are cold. The middle ground of lukewarm is something Jesus hates!

The sad thing is that some of these unsaved, evil people are professing Christians. Others are simply true Christians who are stumbling. Without practicing biblical discernment, we are losing our ability as a global church to detect the difference. This is to our detriment. The biblical worldview is that it is either-or.

We need to be mindful of the two-path approach to Jesus. Now, we don't have the omnipotence that God does. When I try to have these conversations with fellow believers, they quickly shut it down, saying, "Only God knows the heart." That is true. I can't see the heart of people to say with the same certainty as God that a person is saved or not saved. I'm not omnipotent. But discernment doesn't require omnipotence.  "You will know them by their fruits," Jesus said, twice in the same lesson. (Matthew 7:15-20). He gave us the ability to discern the difference between a thistle and a fig, the difference between a grape and a thorn.

He didn't say, 'You won't know them.' He didn't say, 'You may know them, perhaps. Try again later.' He didn't say, 'Stay quiet because only God knows the heart.'

Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:20)

I'm not saying to go around and make unsound declarations about people's position in Christ. But I am saying two things that revolve around this concept - inconsistency and hypocrisy in Christian life bring reproach upon the cause of truth.

Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; (2 Peter 2:2).

So for that reason,

1. Remember that there are two roads and two roads only. Societal pressure, cultural tolerance, personal timidity add to the reluctance of people to remember that. The biblical worldview is that it's either-or with nothing in the middle! The middle road with mushy doctrinal lines is lukewarm. Jesus hates lukewarm. Do not tolerate sinners among you who preach false doctrine! (Revelation 2:20).

2. If you see a long-term pattern of sin in a person or a long time of no fruit, it is allowed and even commanded by His word, to do something about it. Some of these verses are aimed at pastors but it is also incumbent on lay-people to both edify and rebuke in sincere concern for their restoration. (1 Cor. 5:1-13, 1 Timothy 5:20, 2 Timothy 4:2, Titus 1:13, Galatians 2:14, Ephesians 5:11...)

In an attempt to be kind, or caring, or non-judgmental, we too often allow a believer (or a non-believer "believer") to go on their wicked path. The believer, if he is a believer, loses rewards every moment he continues on his course of sin. More importantly, professing believers who continue on a wicked path bring reproach onto the name of Jesus. (Romans 2:23-24). The professing person who is self-deluded and not a believer at all, may, in fact, be shaken out of their deluded complacency unto salvation if one confronts them about their lack of fruit.

Even if they aren't shaken out of complacency or a sinning path, and the Lord hardens them further instead, His glory is manifested in that person as a vessel of wrath. Plus, you are giving Him glory by obeying. Just as the result of our salvation discussions is left to the Holy Spirit, sin-correcting discussion results are also left to Him. Sometimes the person will be amenable, sometimes they will become angry and then amenable, and sometimes they will get mad and stay mad. If you have prayed, if you have been diligent to follow His statutes, if you've removed the log from your own eye, if you've spoken with a sincerity for the betterment and concern for the person, then leave the results to the Spirit. You've done your part.

The Takeaway:

There are two roads. There are the righteous and the wicked. The two roads people travel lead to His domain, whether it is the kingdom of Light in heaven or His domain of Outer Darkness in the Lake of Fire. After death, there is a great gulf fixed, that none many travel from one to the other. Speak the truth in love to those who you have concerns for before the roads become unalterably fixed after death.

As David said in Psalm 6:5,

For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?

Matthew Henry is concise regarding this verse, and of today's concept, his comment on Psalm 6:5 is a good way to end it:
6:1-7 These verses speak the language of a heart truly humbled, of a broken and contrite spirit under great afflictions, sent to awaken conscience and mortify corruption. Sickness brought sin to his remembrance, and he looked upon it as a token of God's displeasure against him. The affliction of his body will be tolerable, if he has comfort in his soul. Christ's sorest complaint, in his sufferings, was of the trouble of his soul, and the want of his Father's smiles. Every page of Scripture proclaims the fact, that salvation is only of the Lord.
Man is a sinner, his case can only be reached by mercy; and never is mercy more illustrious than in restoring backsliders. With good reason we may pray, that if it be the will of God, and he has any further work for us or our friends to do in this world, he will yet spare us or them to serve him. To depart and be with Christ is happiest for the saints; but for them to abide in the flesh is more profitable for the church.

Further Reading

Dealing with Sinning Christians

When Should a Christian try to correct another Christian?

In keeping with the theme of knowing there are only two roads and that there are only the righteous and the wicked, let's look at what a Biblical worldview is, and when a Christian's biblical worldview can become diluted:

What's a Christian worldview anyway?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Throwback Thursday: Sin's poison is visible in the world

A version of this was originally published on The End Time in December 2009

Jan Brueghel the Elder

In these waning days of the Age, do you think about the Garden of Eden? What untainted creation must have looked like? I do. The only mirror I have of earth as originally intended is in Genesis 1, and there, the LORD called it "good." The reverse of that is earth in today's condition. And today it looks pretty bad.

How far and deep has the effect of sin permeated our waters, our land, our food, and our very bodies and brains? Everything seems as poison now. Creation itself is laboring under the poisonous effects of a sinful world. "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now." (Romans 8:20-22)

"[T]herefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, "behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood and give them poisoned water to drink." (Jer 9:15) Matthew Henry writes of that verse, "Every thing about them, till it comes to their very meat and drink, shall be a terror and torment to them. God will curse their blessings." Malachi 2:2 is that reminder of His promise to curse even the blessings of food and water.

I am not referring to the curse of oil spills or overflowing landfills or garbage scows nor greenhouse effects. I am talking the tide of sin-pollution and its impact on a falling world. "Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets, 'Behold, I am going to feed them wormwood And make them drink poisonous water, For from the prophets of Jerusalem pollution has gone forth into all the land.'" (Jeremiah 23:15). If we insist on wallowing in sin, then the Lord obliges by sending its visible manifestation to us and causes us to eat and drink of it.

Worse, "Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it." (Malachi 2:4). Does the dung promise to mean that if we speak refuse, live in refuse, offer Him refuse, that we will eat refuse? That just as we punish a puppy who messes in the house with rubbing his face in it, God will do the same?

How we have allowed sin's effects to creep like a tide of polluted water to poison the world. How often we see the bitter herb 'wormwood' used in the bible as a visible materialization of our sin. And so it will be again: "The name of the star is called Wormwood, and a third of the waters became wormwood, and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter." (Revelation 8:11)

Sin is a terminal condition. Do not underestimate how seriously God takes it when we refuse to turn away from sin!! Do not underestimate your own sin! Do not think you will escape! The only remedy is the blessed Hope, His forgiveness, made possible because of His sacrifice of blood on the cross. If you feel burdened with guilt for your misdeeds, and believe Jesus died and rose again for your sin, then ask him with sincere heart to forgive you. Believe on His name. Only the forgiven of sin can dwell with the Most High and Holy. Those with sin in them will be given over to the poison that it truly is, now made increasingly visible and manifest in this dying world.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Help! My Friend Is Reading a Dangerous Book

A question was asked at our Bible Discussion Group on how to sensitively approach someone who is in a false religion in order to open discussion as to the truth. This same question has been asked of me personally regarding how to approach a friend whom you see carrying around a book by a false teacher.

At Discussion Group, I'd offered my process of how I deal with friends involved with false teachers, false doctrine, or false religion. I'd said that first, it depends on the relationship you have with them. If you don't know the person or are only bare acquaintances, it won't do to walk up to them and just say something brusque or out of the blue that in effect, amounts to saying "You're doing it wrong."

The Bible encourages and commands discipling relationships with one another. This is so we can keep each other accountable. We can carry each other's burdens. Ultimately, close involvement with each other means can edify and grow one another and one way we do this is by helping sisters course-correct.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

We can't build up a sister if we let them wallow in false doctrine. (Jude 1:23). Alternately, we won't build them up if we are tactless and brusque. (2 Timothy 2:25, Galatians 6:1).

Assuming you are close enough with the sister to have established trust and are known to each other in a friendly way, then what I do is begin by asking questions. Perhaps the person is reading the book for research purposes. Maybe someone less discerning gave it to them and they haven't thrown it out yet. Maybe they are getting ready to give it to someone else. Maybe a lot of things. Just ask. "Are you reading that book? What do you think of it?" "Let me know when you're done, I'd love to get your take on it..." Etc.

Finally, I always have something else to offer the person in the books' stead. It doesn't help the person as much to just say that their book is a dangerous book, without having something in which to substitute. If they'd lacked discernment enough in the first place to get or read that book, then offering them material written by a credible author steers them into a better direction.

I was pleased when I'd come across this short discussion from 2016 where Noël Piper, Kathleen Nielson, and Gloria Furman discuss this very question. I was even more pleased when they shared that they do the same: ask, be gentle, discuss. Phew, at least I'm not off the deep end with this.

The women also discuss two other questions. If you can't play back videos, here is a link to just listen.

One final thing. Their title mentions 'a dangerous book." Undoctrinal books ARE dangerous. Books like The Shack, Love Wins, The Circle Maker, any and all non-doctrinal, unorthodox books present a danger to the Christian. Adam and Eve only had to obey one command, and within a shockingly short time, satan easily managed to twist that command into a suggestion. Paul said to Titus that false doctrine upsets whole families (Titus 1:11). Paul warned Timothy that false doctrine undermines the faith. (2 Timothy 2:18). Make no mistake, (because satan isn't making the same mistake), the false doctrine contained in books, movies, pamphlets, and studies is a very present danger to the Christian mind and heart.

Here is the blurb for the short video:
Your friend is gushing about that book she’s been reading. It’s on the Christian Living bestseller list, but for whatever reason you suspect the book is more influenced by the spirit of the age than by a biblical worldview. ... Nielson cautions against the overcorrection of reading only the Bible, since reading widely can actually enhance Bible reading, and Piper warns against becoming the kind of reader who only reads books from your own "tribe."

Help! My Friend Is Reading a Dangerous Book
Noël Piper, Kathleen Nielson, and Gloria Furman Discuss

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Sad Story of the Wind Phone

The lost are in the night, the cold, the outside. The lost are stumbling around, leading each other into a pit. They know not what they do. They dwell in a land of darkness with no hope.

For that reason, we can have compassion and pity.

This week I read an article that pulled at my heart strings. It was one of those articles that evoked pity, but also gratitude. I say gratitude because the Lord transferred me from the Kingdom of Darkness into His kingdom of Light. I have hope for an afterlife, the assurance of His more sure word on what is going to happen.

The phone of the wind. CC BY-SA 4.0

Wind Telephone
A disconnected rotary phone for "calling" lost loved ones offered a unique way of dealing with grief in disaster-stricken Japan.
When Itaru Sasaki lost his cousin in 2010, he decided to build a glass-paneled phone booth in his hilltop garden with a disconnected rotary phone inside for communicating with his lost relative, to help him deal with his grief. 
Only a year later, Japan faced the horrors of a triple disaster: an earthquake followed by a tsunami, which caused a nuclear meltdown. Sasaki’s coastal hometown of Otsuchi was hit with 30-foot waves. Ten percent of the town died in the flood. 
Sasaki opened his kaze no denwa or “wind phone” to the now huge number of people in the community mourning the loss of loved ones. Eventually, word spread and others experiencing grief made the pilgrimage from around the country. It is believed that 10,000 visitors journeyed to this hilltop outside Otsuchi within three years of the disaster.
The article goes on to assure the reader that the wind phone is meant to be used as a one-way communication. In other words, the people dialing the rotary dial and speaking their grief to the wind do not expect to hear anything in return at all. It's just a symbol, a process, and an activity to help people feel more in control during their time of grief.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Not knowing about what happens after death is a number one issue for the unsaved. They might utter it, or they might never utter it, but we know that the gaping maw that is the great, unanswered question of eternity always lurks behind their thoughts. We know this because they are children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3) and the wrath abides on them all the time. (John 3:36). As Paul said, If our hope in Christ is for this life alone, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:19).

We Christians have the assurance of a sinless, perfect afterlife with Jesus. We also have the promise of loving attention by a God who hears our prayers. (Psalm 34:15). We do not need a wind phone, we have the ear of the Almighty God! What praise there is in that! We are encouraged to take our supplications to Him, He hears us from His mighty temple. (Psalm 18:6).

Doesn't it just tug your heart strings to see something like a wind phone atop a lonely hill in Japan Doesn't it pierce you, knowing the sadness and grief of the lost will not be salved? But doesn't it also pierce you (as it does me) to have the ability to pray to the Holy One, and not? While the lost are installing phantom phones to whisper their grief into the wind, we are assured we have the ear of the High Priest at our disposal.

Pray more. Jesus is the God who sees and hears. He knows the voices of His sheep. Our griefs, supplications, petitions, cares, burdens, praises, and joys reach Him even though He is an unutterable distance away. But He is this close, too, inside us, knowing our sinews and heartbeats. He knows what we will ask before we ask it. He knows the need to be comforted even as we clasp our hands and open our mouth. He is great, attentive, wise, and concerned. Pray more. And tell the lost before they need a wind phone, that there is One who will listen, if they repent.


Further Reading

The Master's Seminary: When an Unbeliever Dies: Offering Comfort without Distorting the Truth

Desiring God: How Do You Deal with the Death of an Unsaved Loved One?

Monday, April 17, 2017

David's brave prayer

In Matthew 16:24-26 we read,

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

We know that passage means we turn our back on the kingdom of darkness and everything it represents, including self-aggrandizement, self-absorption, selfishness, anything self, &etc. We know we are supposed to die to self. We know we are supposed to hold others in higher regard than ourselves. We know it is written that we should be willing to lay down our life for our friends.

It's hard.

Very hard.

Oh, does the flesh rebel against this.

We read in Psalm 7:3-5, the following prayer by David.

O Lord my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust.

In that section of the Psalm, David is saying that if he has violated his Godly principles and done evil to a friend, may the Lord crush him. He is saying that if he has done evil to an enemy without cause, may him be trampled to the ground without honor.

Barnes Notes explains,
repaid friend with evil - The meaning here is simply that if he were a guilty man, in the manner charged on him, he would be willing to be treated accordingly. He did not wish to screen himself from any just treatment; and if he had been guilty he would not complain even if he were cut off from the land of the living.
plundered enemy without cause - The allusion here is to the manner in which the vanquished were often treated in battle, when they were rode over by horses, or trampled by men into the dust. The idea of David is, that if he was guilty he would be willing that his enemy should triumph over him, should subdue him, should treat him with the utmost indignity and scorn.
No wonder David was a man after God's own heart. It is a hard thing to pray. Because, God will do it.

Sometimes I try to pray this kind of prayer. The words stick in my throat. Or, as the words come out, I soften them. I am a weakling when it comes to the battle between myself and others. 'Lay my glory in the dust'? I am far from mastering that.

Praise God for the Psalms. They are comforting yes, but they are convicting too. Lord, help me by giving me the strength to more deeply obey Your principles. As I take up my cross today and go down the dusty road, give me the strength to truly care for others beyond myself, in spite of myself, denying myself.

EPrata photo

Sunday, April 16, 2017

He is risen!

Jesus accomplished the work God sent Him here to do. He did it perfectly, sinlessly, and died on the cross after absorbing all God's wrath for sin. He even endured a horrific separation from the Father. Jesus had only ever known perfect harmony with God and love and sweet communion. O! To be cruelly dismissed from His presence! Jesus was not afeared of the pain of the crucifixion as much as he was dreading being separated from God. It was the loneliest moment in history forever.

He endured that separation and bore the wrath, so we would never have to. We can come into sweet communion with the Father, justified, sanctified, and someday, glorified.

God was pleased with His Son, and resurrected Him from the dead.

God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:24)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Woe and Lamentation!

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. (Psalm 16:10)

Therefore he says also in another psalm,
'"You will not let your Holy One see corruption.'

For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. (Acts 13:35-37).

O! It is grievous to think of our precious Lord being nailed to the cross as He was on 'Good' Friday. It IS a Good Friday because His life, death, and resurrection makes it possible for sins to be forgiven once and for all. Jesus' work on the cross made permanent reconciliation with His called ones possible. It was effectual and final.

But oh! To think of his broken body being carefully lowered from the cross, quickly prepared for burial, and laid in a dark tomb.... it wounds the conscience. It darkens the heart. It grieves the flesh. Death is final, the body no more thriving with movement and color. Only limp, pale, dead flesh- a lump of nothing that came from dust and will turn to dust.

And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. (Mark 15:46).

But no! Not Christ's body! He will not see decay. However, the grief and suffering of His disciples who did not know that at the time, is woeful to consider.

Giotto painted the lamentation over Christ's death in the early 1300s. Grief is palpable to the viewer. The dead tree on the hillside symbolizing the tree in the garden where Adam and Eve made their fatal choice...the three women surrounding his limp body, likely Mary Magdalene gently cradling His feet and the mother Mary holding His head, the angels who long to look into these thing also shown affected by the death and burial of Christ, their God whom they had known since their own creation created in eons past.

Titian also depicted the entombment of Christ, painting the more intimate scene below in 1520. The major figures are at Christ's death, including Mary, John, Nicodemus, Peter, and Joseph of Arimathea, displaying more restraint that Giotto's depiction, still carefully remove the body and prepare Him for entombement. The twilight timing allowed Titian's usual use of darkened tones to add depth to the lamentation. Christ's upper body itself is receding into the darkness, foreshadowing the tomb. What strength they had to let Him go, and place Him behind the rock!

Bela Čikoš Sesija's Mourning of Christ is an even more intimate portrait of grief. Painted sometime in the late 1800s, this Croatian painter shows the undeniably lifeless Christ in shadow, but His white robe, symbolizing purity and sinlessness is highlighted by a heavenly glow, along with the crown of thorns, symbolizing His suffering. The grief of the two women is also palpable, as is their resignation to the finality of death.

Praise God, Sunday is coming! What joy they will know in one more day's time! For all eternity, death is conquered, swallowed by His suffering and propitiation for sin, absorbing the wrath for His chosen sinners once for all. Hallelujah!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Chris Powers: In This Is Love

Full of Eyes is a support-based ministry of exegetical art that creates still and moving images intended to point people to the beauty of God in the crucified and risen Son. All art and animations are done by Chris Powers. Powers' goal is to help people see and savor the faith-strengthening, hope-instilling, love-kindling beauty of God in Christ. And he does this by creating free exegetical art in the form of pictures, animations, and discussion guides. His work is at http://patreon.com/, Youtube, and his website fullofeyes.com


In This Is Love.
Artist's statement
By Chris Powers:
1 John 4:10, "In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 
Today, from 9am to 3pm, Jesus--fully man and fully God--would swallow all of our death and hell and horror and hopelessness into Himself so that we could be drawn into eternal fellowship with God. 
May we be given grace to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge and so be filled with all the fullness of God.


I wish you all a happy Good Friday. Because of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, our sins can be forgiven. We can be reconciled to God. Praise the Lamb!

And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again. (Mark 10:34).

For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Throwback Thursday: 340 year old bible found, reminds me of Hilkiah's finding the Law in the temple

This was first published in January, 2011 at The End Time

Here is a small thing that is good and nice. It is a news piece out of Wisconsin, ripped from 2 Kings 22. First, the modern version:

"A centuries old relic has been discovered in a Bonduel (WI) church, tucked away for decades. No one realized it was even there, or what it was. In a cramped, rarely seen safe, no bigger than a kitchen pantry, at St. Paul Lutheran Church are heaps of old books and pamphlets. Many of which are more than 100 years old and in foreign languages. Most of the artifacts wouldn't fetch a high price at auction, but represent the church's nearly 150 year history and heritage. Now, one item kept there for an unknown length of time has taken the entire congregation by surprise. "This is an authentic 340-year-old Bible. We don't know how we got it. We don't know how it got into the safe. We've been asking some of our elderly folks and people in the nursing home and nobody seems to remember," said Pastor Timothy Shoup." source

How amazing! A beautiful original bible from over three centuries ago! How could they forget that it was there? Here is a bit more:

"A 340-year-old bible discovery can attest to the fact that they sure don't make things like they used to. The German bible was discovered by a sixth grade teacher inside an old safe in a small Lutheran church school where she works in Bonduel, Wisconsin. "I was looking for the old baptism records to show my students and then up here in the corner was where the Bible was tucked," explained Court, not realizing what a rare find she stumbled upon."

Imagine, in a dusty closet of the church, lay the precious treasure, there all along but quite forgotten.

And a bit more:

"How the book ended up in Bonduel is still a mystery. But either way, Pastor Shoup says the 17th century discovery has brought him closer to his faith."

How beautiful that the revealing of the Word caused the pastor such a sensitive and blessed reaction.  Did you know that the Old Testament records another, similar instance? I'm not making a huge doctrine out of it, I believe that the news spot out of Wisconsin is a nice event that happens more often than we know. But the similarities with the bible's discovery and our Sunday School lesson focusing on Hilkiah, Huldah, and King Josiah was too sweet to ignore drawing some parallels. In Josiah's reign, a long and evil, corrupt line of kingship was coming to an end. Josiah's grandfather and father were terrible kings that did much evil in the eyes of the LORD and provoked the LORD greatly. His people had not only fallen away, had forgotten Him and His word, but they engaged in perverse and horrible worship practices to other gods. Finally came Josiah, a good king of Israel, was endeavoring to have the Temple repaired. As you can imagine, no one really used the Temple for real worship and had not for a very long time. Here is the biblical piece about it:

The Lost Book (2 Kings 22:8-11)

Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan who read it. Shaphan the scribe came to the king and brought back word to the king and said, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the LORD.” Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes..."

As the workmen were moving furniture around and inventorying items, this book of the Law was found! Hilkiah the Priest wasn't sure what exactly it was, and Shaphan the scribe wasn't exactly sure, either! The two men, along with three others searched high and low at the king's command, so they could inquire of the LORD. (2Kings 22:13) They found Huldah the Prophetess, who told them.

Huldah Predicts (2 Kings 22:14)

"So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter); and they spoke to her."

Ahikam was Shaphan's son, a helper. Achbor was an officer of Josiah, as was Asaiah. Shaphan was a scribe of King Josiah. It is shame and a testament on the men that though they held lofty positions in the religious hierarchy, none felt they had the ear of the LORD, and they went to find someone who did, ending up with Huldah. Huldah is named as "keeper of the wardrobe", and wardrobe then is as it is now: a closet for storing clothes. 2 Kings 10:22 is another example of the keeper of the wardrobe: "And Jehu said to the keeper of the wardrobe, "Bring robes for all the ministers of Baal." So he brought out robes for them."

The small closet where the bible had been stored
Huldah was also a prophet. She told the men that the LORD said that since Josiah had been repentant and tender in his heart toward the LORD, the LORD would stay His wrath upon Judah until Josiah was laying peacefully in his grave.

It is interesting to note that the King's faith deepened upon finding the Word. Tearing of clothes was an act that was meant to convey either great grief or great righteous indignation. The custom was also done as a symbolic removal of authority i.e. the tearing of a king's royal robe. Here is a link to a short study on the biblical act of tearing of clothes, by Wayne Blank. Josiah was immediately convicted upon hearing the words of the LORD, and he tore his clothes. He sent out a search for a person who could relate the meaning of the words and help them come into obedience to them. It is also interesting to note that the Wisconsin Pastor's faith deepened upon finding the word. Finding the precious treasure that is God's word is always a blessing.

Josiah's men found the Scriptures in an old wardrobe when doing routine repairs and inventory, and the School teacher found the word of the Lord while doing routine rummaging in a forgotten closet in search of old records. The LORD reveals Himself when and where He chooses, and at unexpected times!
I think about the bible itself, being twenty pounds. It's huge! Someone carried that bible all the way from Germany across Europe, across the Atlantic Ocean, across half the American continent! Look at it, its size and heft. Yet, the Word of God meant so much to him that he took the trouble and expense to bring it with him , on horseback, in canoes, in ships, by hand...and protected it so well all along the way!

I hope that if you own several bibles, that none of them are laying on the back of the car window, fading as the sunlight drains the print away. I hope that your bible is meaningful to you and that it is used daily, lovingly, reverently. I hope that you do not travel so far away from the Word that you forget what it says and have trouble even finding a person who can relate its meaning to you.

The Wisconsin Pastor said of the find, "To hold something that tells us in 1670 the same message of God's grace in Christ, that tell one another other today helps me be even more thankful." Yes, the best lesson out of all of this is God's word is eternal! (Mt 24:35)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

O to see ourselves as others see us! Or maybe not...

Robert Burns was a Scottish poet who lived in the second half of the 1700s. You might know his work from singing Auld Lang Syne on New Year's Eve, or "my love is like a red, red rose." Holden Caulfield famously misquoted Burns' poem Coming' Thro the Rye as Catcher in the Rye.

Another famous poem Burns wrote is "To A Louse." Many people don't know the title nor the context of the poem, but they remember the most famous line:

O would some Power with vision teach us
To see ourselves as others see us!

The context is that Burns was attending church service one Sunday, sitting behind a lovely young lady dressed in all her finery. His attention drifted from the sermon to the lady's hat and ribbons, as Burns became captivated with watching a louse (plural, lice) wander indiscriminately through her hair, hat, and ribbons.

The bulk of the poem is wryly suggesting that the louse go off to fine more customary living grounds, perhaps a housewife's flannel tie, or maybe on some ragged boy's pale undervest. But on a lady's bonnet? Surely you jest!

The lady had dressed in all her finery and frippery that morning, and had traveled to church to see and be seen in it. She was sitting in the pew, with gloves and best dress, scrubbed and looking splendid. She was, of course, completely unaware that a louse was traversing her elaborately coiffed curls. She thought she was looking good. The man sitting behind her saw the louse that she could not. The embarrassing pestilential creature ruined the entire carefully crafted public presentation the lady had no doubt taken many pains to complete.

Burns' finals stanza with the pertinent line, To see oursels as ithers see us! is a plea which has been heard.

1. The Lord see sees us as Burns saw the lady, except worse. He sees us as we are. He sees the metaphysical lice crawling all over us, which are the sins we preform, traversing our body like Burns' so-called "hair fly". He sees the rubbish as Paul would say, the dung clinging to us in our natural state. He loved us anyway.

2. He allows us to see ourselves as He sees us, thorough the written word. The Bible is a reflection of us, in our sin and depravity, and it is a reflection of Him, in His glory and power. We see ourselves as He sees us when we go into a woman who is another man's wife, as David did. When we murder Christians because we are a religious zealot in a false religion, as Paul was. He shows us our lice ridden selves when Peter denied Christ to save himself in his own cowardice. In Cain who murdered, in Eli who was complicit in blasphemy, in Abraham who lied.

When we do see ourselves as He sees us, we cry out, O! It is too much! I cannot stand it! I am too corrupt! perverted! deviant! degenerate! debased! immoral! unprincipled!

In truth, the lice are actually better than the natural man, 'For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly' (Romans 8:20a) but Adam chose to Fall.

As we would crumble into instant dust if in the natural we saw God's glory, we also would crumble if we saw ourselves as truly depraved as we are. Sinners, all. The Bible reveals it, confirms it, shows it so any who care to look.

The cross is the place where depravity met glory. He loved us so much, He sent His Son, to live, teach, and die for sinners, who are in truth no better than the louse on the lady's hair, though we try to dress up. With every heartbeat, love flowed through His veins.

Lord, thank you for opening your veins and sharing Your love with us.

During this week upcoming to Resurrection Sunday, please be in prayer to thank the Lord for shielding us from the true depths of our own depravity and from the true heights of Your glory, both of which if we saw in the natural, we would instantly die. And yet because of the cross, we live.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Holy Week: A Personal God

God is a personal God. Even the thunderous, Mt. Sinai, pestilence-bringing, smiting God of the Old Testament. Yes. Especially the Old Testament God. And of course in the New Testament God is a personal God, too. We see Him in Jesus, who is both fully man and fully God. He had come to serve. He did so meekly and humbly, even washing feet.

We read in Genesis that God created the worlds, He did it personally and carefully, with precision. He spoke them into life.

'In the beginning, God said'... He spoke.

And God said, And God said, Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24.

When it came time to form man, God did not speak. He did it Himself, personally, and with His own breath.

then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature... (Genesis 2:7)

Therefore, we see that God's intimate formation of the world got even more intimate when He made man.

It gets even better.

Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we have an even more intimate relationship with Him and He with us. We are His body, His blood covers us. We are IN Him.

It is holy week, so it bears thinking about Him on a special level. We are "in Christ". We read it in 1 Peter 5:14; Philippians 1:1; Romans 8:1, Colossians 3:3. We have it explained in Galatians 3:26-28-

for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

John MacArthur explained about what it means to be "in Christ" in his inimitable way in the sermon, Under the Law, or In Christ? He opened the salient portion of the sermon this way before going on to spend time expounding what it means to be In Christ. I recommend the sermon.
To ask the question, "What is a Christian?" That question is simply answered, right here. A Christian is one who is in Christ. That's all. You can imagine following the teachings of Buddha, following the teachings of Confucius, or following the teachings of Muhammad, but you can't imaging anyone saying, "I'm in Confucius. I'm in Buddha. I'm in Muhammad." There's no such thing as a Christian who isn't in Christ. You see, we're not following the teachings of a man, we're in union with Him. If that boggles your brain, you haven't heard anything yet. In Christ.
We have a personal God. We have a loving God. He is expressly concerned with His creation, and particularly concerned with His children.

It is holy week. Hallelujah to the Lamb!

Monday, April 10, 2017

New England's mission drift

I saw a series of unrelated tweets and Facebook statuses which got me thinking about New England...again.

Here is the first tweet:

When Christ came to America, it was to a region later known as New England. In 1620 the Pilgrims actually landed at Provincetown, not Plymouth. They anchored and 2 weeks to long-boat around the area to scout a suitable harbor and settling spot. That ended up being Plymouth, and they later expanded to Boston and Cambridge.

The Puritans later spanned out across the region, bringing Jesus with them. The reason they left Holland and England was to find a place where they could worship in peace, and they came here to do so. The fire was in their belly and Jesus was in their heart and evangelism was on their mind. With that, by 1636 they had begun a College, established for the express purpose of educating young men in Christian ways and doctrine, so as to become godly leaders of families and good witnesses to the natives for His name. That University was Harvard. Princeton and Yale soon followed.

Wikipedia has the origins of Harvard:
With some 17,000 Puritans migrating to New England by 1636, Harvard was founded in anticipation of the need for training clergy for the new commonwealth, a "church in the wilderness." Harvard was formed in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was initially called "New College" or "the college at New Towne". In 1638 the school received a printing press‍—‌the only press in North America until Harvard acquired a second in 1659. 
In 1639, the college was renamed Harvard College after clergyman John Harvard, a University of Cambridge alumnus who had willed the new school £779 pounds sterling and (perhaps more importantly) his library of some 400 books
New Light Presbyterians founded the College of New Jersey, later Princeton University, in 1746 in order to train ministers dedicated to their views.

Yale was founded in 1701 in Saybrook Colony to train Congregationalist ministers.

New England was ground zero for religious evangelism and training, but by 2017, the original mission has drifted off center by miles. New England is he most 'godless' section of this nation

Back to Harvard. Its original mission and motto was:
Harvard’s "Rules and Precepts," adopted in 1646, stated (original spelling and Scriptural references retained): 
Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3).
Every one shall so exercise himselfe in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in Theoreticall observations of Language and Logick, and in practical and spiritual truths, as his Tutor shall require, according to his ability; seeing the entrance of the word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130).
The motto of the University adopted in 1692 was "Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae" which translated from Latin means “Truth for Christ and the Church.

Yet today (well actually in 2015) according to a major new Pew Study as reported in the LA Times,
The U.S. has become notably less Christian in the last few years, but the shift has come unevenly, with New England and the Pacific Northwest at the leading edge of the social transformation and the South holding fast to more traditional religious beliefs.
Among the 10 states with the largest percentage of adults who profess no religion, New England has four -- Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts -- and the other six are in the West, according to a major new study by the Pew Research Center.
Which is all very sad, but not surprising. After the first wave of original apostles, do we hear much about the churches there? Is there a church at Sardis? Corinth? By the time John was an aged man, Jesus gave the Revelation to him and several of the 7 churches in Asia Minor received no commendation from Jesus at all. They were charged with coasting on reputation, having their love for Him gone cold, of allowing false prophetesses to flourish uncorrected, and worse. And that was just within the lifespan of one apostle. After nearly three hundred years, of course if left unchecked, or if compromise had proceeded unaddressed, the churches of New England would falter and die.

Here are some interesting articles about New England's decline in fervor for Jesus.

Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford—Once Christian?
Most of the colleges in the United States that started over 300 years ago were Bible-proclaiming schools originally. Harvard and Yale (originally Puritan) and Princeton (originally Presbyterian) once had rich Christian histories...

Harvard was named after a Christian minister. Yale was started by clergymen, and Princeton’s first year of class was taught by Reverend Jonathan Dickinson. Princeton’s crest still says “Dei sub numine viget,” which is Latin for “Under God she flourishes.”

The cracks first appeared in the late 1700s and early 1800s, culminating with the influence of Charles Lyell’s three volumes of Principles of Geology in the 1830s. Belief in an old-earth seriously wounded widespread acceptance of the Flood and the biblical chronology, and Lyell just "finished off the victim and nailed the coffin shut," as AiG historian Dr. Terry Mortenson says.

This old-earth belief permeated universities by the mid 1800s, setting the stage for Darwin’s evolutionary model in 1859 (Origin of Species) and his later work on human evolution The Descent of Man (1871), both of which required long ages. After Christian universities adopted these compromises, the slide from biblical Christianity to naturalism soon followed.
The End Time, July 2014:

Mission New England, the city on a hill where the light has (almost) gone out
No matter where we are in the world, spiritual decline is inevitable. Fear not! The world hates Jesus. (John 15:18). No matter what the type of beginning a nation had, high or low, sacred or profane, all will fall. All parts of all nations will fall. Satan is working mightily to try and overthrow heaven’s gates. The areas we hold dear, where we grew up, or where we live now, will some day be renewed! Every Christian who dwells in the places that are so dark now, will cry with joy when the Light comes. Jesus will revive every ember, bursting into glory light of pure and holy truth.
Until then, pray for New England.
Nate Pickowicz wrote a good book called Reviving New England. Google Books has more
At one time in history, New England was a light to the nations. From its origination, the Northeast region has been a spiritual powerhouse, leading the way for Christianity to flourish in America and beyond. However, after three centuries of vibrant Christian influence, it encountered a perfect storm comprised of false doctrine, liberalism, and materialism, which crippled the church, and plunged the region into spiritual darkness. In Reviving New England, Nate Pickowicz makes a case for the inestimable value of the region, and offers a series of biblical prescriptions for faithfulness. Revival is desperately needed-a mighty work of the Spirit of God to stir the hearts of the people. Now, more than ever, the church must devote herself to the Lord. Not only will the reader be encouraged and spurred on, but Reviving New England offers plausible steps for churches to rededicate themselves, be revitalized, or be planted anew. This is a passionate call to action! (Endorsed by: Mike Abendroth, Hershael York, Dave Jenkins, Todd Friel, Scott Christensen, Terry Wragg, Jimmy Snowden, Ves Sheely)
Whatever your mission statement is or was, whether it was in your church plant, your foreign mission field, your seminary studies, your New Year's resolution, whatever it was, cherish your mission statement. Be aware of compromises that cause a drift from Christ. Be wary of making decisions that are founded on something other than Jesus and His cross. Be mindful of letting your love grow cold as you seek man's approval. Mission drift is going to happen. (Revelation 2:4, Revelation 2:14-15, Revelation 2:20, Revelation 3:1, Revelation 3:16, Galatians 1:6, 2 Corinthians 11:4...)

Pray strongly. Stay with Christ. Cling.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Salvation shall never pass away: art by Chris Powers

Full of Eyes is a support-based ministry of exegetical art that creates still and moving images intended to point people to the beauty of God in the crucified and risen Son. All art and animations are done by Chris Powers. Powers' goal is to help people see and savor the faith-strengthening, hope-instilling, love-kindling beauty of God in Christ. And he does this by creating free exegetical art in the form of pictures, animations, and discussion guides. His work is at Patreon.com, Youtube, and his website fullofeyes.com

My Salvation Will Be Forever

Isaiah 51:6, "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look to the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner, but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed."
This is one of those simple and yet profoundly beautiful and paradigmatic truths--the vastness and solidity of the heavens will pass away like smoke in the wind, and the depth and strength of the earth will wear out like the knees in my blue jeans. We live in a world of mist. As Paul said, everything that we see around us is transient (2 Cor.4:17-18). And God calls us to remember this, indeed, here in Isaiah the reason for looking at the heavens and earth is precisely to remember that they will not remain. YHWH intends for us to live with the ever present recognition that the world around us is not eternal, it is not forever, it will not always be as it is now, it is passing away.
But....the salvation of YHWH, the righteousness of YHWH--this is everlasting (because He is everlasting), this is sure, this is unshakable and will never pass away.

Oh, to get this into our heads and hearts and imaginations! The world is a tossing surf of change and uncertainty, but the strong rock of YHWH's Name and Character and of the salvation He works for His people--that is where our hope is to be found, that is where we are to cling and hold and hide and hope. And note also that if the Lord's salvation is forever, the implication is that those who are saved by this salvation will, in some way, be forever also. This is not a fully developed doctrine of the resurrection and eternal state of new creation (though I think that Isaiah does think in those categories), but it certainly hints in that direction.

And how will the Lord work this everlasting salvation? How will He reveal this never-dismayed righteousness? Through the Suffering Servant, through the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God, the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe because in it the righteousness of God is revealed. The surrounding passages in Isaiah introduce the Servant (50) and move into a foretelling of His suffering, death, and resurrection (52-53), this is how the eternal salvation of God breaks into the transient world of humanity.....And we cling to Him!.....we lay hold of this rock of salvation, this anchor of righteousness and are unmoved.......those who trust in YHWH--who trust in the crucified and risen Son--will sing songs of joy and see visions of beauty long ages after the sun has burned down and Everest has blown away in the wind.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

What does it mean to teach by allegorizing the scriptures?

Twisted scriptures

In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter wrote,

as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

First, please note that he said that those who twist the scriptures do so to their own destruction. So often when I write about false teachers, false doctrine, and actually name the false teachers of doctrine, the ignorant and unstable become upset with it. They fire angry emails and comments asking what have I done lately for the Lord. They charge me with failing to pray for these misguided souls. They claim the false teachers are just making a temporary mistake and all will come out right in the end if we but have patience and love.

Not so.

Scripture twisters to be destroyed

They twist the scriptures to their own destruction. Here is MacArthur commentary on that part of the verse:
By distorting the scriptures, the false teachers were simultaneously securing their own destruction, (cf. 2:2, 3-12, 3:7; Jude 10, 13; Rev 22:18-19) as well as the spiritual demise of their followers. That's why Peter warns his beloved readers beforehand,  so that they might be on their guard against the error of such unprincipled men (Phil 3:2; 1 Tim 4:1-7, 6:20-21; 2 Tim 2:15-19; Titus 1:16, 3:10).
Distorting the scriptures is a serious business. The many warnings not to do so should be taken seriously, not the least reason is that there are so many ways to distort the scriptures. This essay discusses two of them, spiritualization and allegorization, which are very similar.

Allegorization: A Twisted Practice

Here is John MacArthur defining spiritualization/allegorization:
What do you mean spiritualize or allegorize? Well, you use Scripture like some kind of story and make it mean whatever you want.
Here is Rev. Matt Slick defining allegorization:
To allegorize means to use a symbol as representing a more complex idea.
An example of this erroneous method of interpreting the Bible is recounted by John MacArthur, when he did just that in his very first sermon:

John MacArthur on "Don’t Spiritualize"
Third, don’t spiritualize the straightforward meaning of a Bible verse. The first sermon I ever preached was a horrible sermon. My text was "An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone" (Matthew 28:2). My sermon was “Rolling Away Stones in Your Life." I talked about the stone of doubt, the stone of fear, and the stone of anger. That is not what that verse is talking about; it’s talking about a real stone. I made it into a terrific allegory at the expense of its plain meaning. 
On another occasion I heard a sermon on "they cast four anchors…and wished for the day" (Acts 27:29 KJV); the anchor of hope, the anchor of faith, and so on. Those Acts 27 anchors were not anchors of anything but metal. ... Don’t spiritualize the Bible; study it to gain the right meaning.
It's not just men who allegorize. This wrong method of interpretation appeals to many false women teachers, too. It seems like a good method for the women who are emotionally driven and spiritually lazy. Like Beth Moore.
Exegetical ErrorsIf Mrs. Moore is exercising the position of a Bible teacher, then she should be able to properly exegete Scripture. Unfortunately, she is guilty of frequent allegorization where she misapplies Scripture. To allegorize means to use a symbol as representing a more complex idea. The problem is that with allegorizing, Scripture can be made to say almost anything. Let's take a look at a few of the many examples of Beth Moore's improper biblical interpretive practices. 
Quote: Speaking of the demoniac of Matt. 8:28-34, she says, "before we proceed to the next point, consider a fact revealed in verse 27. The demonic didn't live in a house. He resided in the tombs. I wonder how many people today are living "in the tombs"? I know a woman who is still so oppressed by despair that decades after the loss of a loved one, she still lives "in the tombs." (Jesus, the One and Only, by Beth Moore, B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tenn., 2002, p. 143-144). 
Response: The biblical text is about Jesus' authority over the demonic realm, not about people living "in the tombs." The two demoniac's that were living in these dark places were exceedingly violent (v. 28). They said to Jesus, "What do we have to do with you, Son of God?  Have you come here to torment us before the time?" Jesus then commanded the demons in these two men to leave, and they went and entered into swine (vv. 31-32). The point of the text has nothing to do with people who are held in bondage by emotional traumas. Beth's allegorizing the text to make it fit her need is a wrong use of the text.
As both John MacArthur and Matt Slick stated, the danger of spiritualizing and allegorizing is that the person who is spiritualizing can just pick out of the air any symbol they want to make mean something and use it to interpret the Bible that way. Once you unhitch from the text you can then insert any symbol for any meaning or interpretation you like. "In the tombs" are not actual tombs, but symbolizes woman in despair. The "anchors" are not anchors but stand for faith, hope, etc. The "stone" was not a stone but symbolized fear. If I decided to allegorize those same texts I could decide that tombs means marginalized people in social injustice, anchors means lack of sanctification progress, and stone means hindrance to prosperity. Voila.

The only acceptable allegorizations

The Bible does have some allegories within it that can be explained as they are. There's -
  • Nathan's parable of the rich man who killed a poor man's beloved pet lamb, 2 Samuel 12:1-4
  • Jesus' parables have a wide range of degrees of allegorical symbols, many of them explained in the text just after the recording of the parable itself.
  • In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul uses the story of the children of Sarah (Isaac) and Hagar (Ishmael) and the images of Jerusalem above and Mount Sinai as a double allegory, which Paul then goes on to explicitly explain. "Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants...(v. 24)
No need to make up our own symbols when the few times allegories are used in the Bible they are already explained for us. Nor does the presence of allegories in the Bible give us license to continue our own allegorizations. Scripture interprets scripture.

Good interpretive practices

This article from 9Marks discusses the 9 marks of a prosperity gospel church by comparing good church practices with prosperity church practices. One could just as easily substitute any false practice by comparing to these 9 good marks. Topping the list is that a good church will practice expositional preaching on a regular basis.

Expositional preaching is
...at its simplest is preaching that is focused on explaining the meaning of Scripture in its historical and grammatical context. Expositional preaching involves explaining what the Bible says to a contemporary audience that is likely unfamiliar with the cultural and historical settings that the passage was written in. 
The word exposition simply means “a setting forth or explanation.” So expositional preaching is the explanation of Scripture that is based upon diligent study and careful exegesis of a passage. It is the primary call of the pastor or preacher as we see in 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”

No need for application

Where many preachers get into trouble is that they believe their sermon needs some sort of 'application' at the end. It could be that they have interpreted rightly, have explained the text in a solid expositional sermon, but when they get to the end they feel that it needs explicit teaching on how to apply the text to their congregants' lives.

Here is an answer to the oft-asked question "Why Doesn't John MacArthur Add much Application to His Sermons?" He is asked this because he is one of America's best known-preachers for teaching exposionally, having taught verse-by-verse through the entire New Testament over the course of 42 years. Yet there is very little application in any of his sermons. Here's why:

Now let me tell you what happens when you preach effectively. You do explanation. In other words, you explain the meaning of Scripture, okay? The explanation carries with it implication. In other words, there are implications built into this truth that impact us. You add to that exhortation. And I’ve said things tonight to exhort you to follow what is implied by the text. Now when you deal with the text and the armor of God, like tonight, all I can do is explain it. That’s all it does. There aren’t any applications in that text. It doesn’t say, “And here’s how to do this if you’re 32 years old, and you live in North Hollywood.” “Here’s how to do this the next time you go to a Mall.” “Here’s how to do this when you go in your car and you’re driving in a traffic jam.” It doesn’t tell you that. And if I made my message mostly a whole lot of those little illustrations, I would be missing 90 percent of you who don’t live in that experience.
It’s not for me to do that. Application belongs to the Spirit of God. All I’m interested in is explanation and its implications. And the power comes in the implication and the Spirit of God takes the implications of what I’ve said tonight, all these things I’ve said, I don’t need to say all kinds of little scenarios to you and paint all kinds of little individual circumstances. All I need you to know is this is what the Word of God says and the implications are powerfully brought to bear with authority on your life and I exhort you to respond to those implications, it is the Spirit’s work to drive those implications into direct and personal application.

Ladies, I Warn About Beth Moore Again

I'd like to refer you again to the picture at the top. I've listened to a lot of Beth Moore as well having listened to as other ladies who claim to be good Bible teachers. Beth Moore is not a good Bible teacher. If you have gone through her "Bible studies" please think about how many of the examples Moore has used like the ones in the picture at the top. The example from Matt Slick is only one of the several of Moore's faulty interpretations he reported. Chris Rosebrough has also explained why Moore's allegorizations are faulty. So has Justin Peters. Mike Abendroth. And so on.

I consider Moore "patient zero" in the infection into conservative, evangelical circles of her faulty way of teaching through made-up allegory. She has done it that way for so long that generations coming up are now also teaching it that way.

I warn you to avoid any teacher who consistently uses allegorization as their main way of interpreting scripture. Remember, they twist to their own - and their followers'destruction.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Re-Post: Paul said, "Be Not Ignorant!"

I wrote and posted this 6 years ago, in April 2011. It's even more true today, as masses of believers are ignorant of eschatology, spiritual gifts, and Israel's future. What's worse, they think that's OK.


Paul warned his readers in three different Epistles not to be ignorant of something. In all three cases, the word is the same, agnoeó. It means ignorant of facts. In terms of comprehending the bible, there are certain things to be aware of. When imperatives are used, we need to be pay special attention. When a command is used, we should perk up to something we are being told to do, or not do. The Holy Spirit inspired all the bible writers to write these words, and the Holy Spirit is one part of the Triune God. So God is commanding something, and we have to PAY ATTENTION.

Paul said, “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in,” (Romans 11:25). Barnes Notes explains the word ‘mystery’ thus:

“Ignorant of this mystery – The word “mystery” means properly what is “concealed, hidden, or unknown.” And it especially refers, in the New Testament, to the truths or doctrines which God had reserved to himself, or had not before communicated. It does not mean, as with us often, that there was anything unintelligible or inscrutable in the nature of the doctrine itself, for it was commonly perfectly plain when it was made known. Thus, the doctrine, that the division between the Jews and the Gentiles was to be broken down, is called a mystery, because it had been, to the times of the apostles, concealed, and was then revealed fully for the first time.”

Paul was explaining to the Jews that though the Gentiles were now coming in, God would not forsake the Jews totally. After all, Paul said Jesus had saved Paul, hadn’t He? It wasn’t over for the Jews, but Paul did remind them that God was now rejecting a large part of the nation because of their past rebellion. His attention and grace would be showered on the Gentiles, who were being grafted in. The Jews would remain hardened of heart – until the full number of Gentiles was met. But just as God had always done in the past, a remnant would be saved.

The Jews would receive their Kingdom as promised, but their entry into it must as always be by faith through His grace, not birthright. As for us today who have claimed salvation through Jesus – Whom we recognize as our Messiah – we will continue in the Church Age until the full number is filled and then we fly. It is why the rapture isn’t a date, it is a number. It will not be May 21, unless that is the day that God has deemed the Church quota filled.

The second thing Paul said not to be ignorant about is spiritual gifts. “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:” (1 Corinthians 12:1-3). Paul was reminding the Church of the importance of the gifts, through which we accomplish the work the Holy Spirit wants us to accomplish to build up the church. (1 Corinthians 14:12) The gifts are important, they are given (which is a grace and a blessing) to build up the church (ditto) and they grow the Christian himself as well (bonus). Bible.org explains, “a spiritual gift is the supernatural ability to carry out the work of Christ through his church.”

And yet the spiritual gifts doctrine is precisely what many people are mixed up over. ‘You must speak in tongues or you’re not a real Christian.” “What’s my spiritual gift, let me take this questionnaire.” People certainly are ignorant of the gifts, sad to say. Satan did a good job of mixing us all up on that. If we are mixed up as to the truth of the spiritual gifts, then we are not as effectively building the church, are we?

Thirdly, Paul warned the church not to be ignorant of the doctrine of Last Days and the Coming of The Lord. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary explains:
“The leading topic of Paul’s preaching at Thessalonica having been the coming kingdom (Acts 17:7), some perverted it into a cause for fear in respect to friends lately deceased, as if these would be excluded from the glory which those found alive alone should share. This error Paul here corrects.”
What are the exact three things the Church is ignorant of? What are most arguments over these days? The rapture doctrine and what is forecast for Israel, the spiritual gifts doctrine (speaking in tongues and healing gifts, and the Charismatics, for example) and the doctrine of the Coming of the Lord.

Paul said do not be ignorant three times, and yet in this day and age so many people are three times as ignorant as they ever were.

A solution for ignorance is available. The Spirit. He helps interpret scripture: 1 Cor. 2:1,14; Eph. 1:17. If your house was on fire, you would call the fire department for help, wouldn’t you? If a robber was breaking into your house, you would call the police department wouldn’t you? Both are dire circumstances, signifying events that need an authority of higher power and skill to help you. And yet we so often fail to call the Holy Spirit, our higher authority possessing more skill and knowledge to bring to the situation than we could ever hope to see anywhere! Praise Him. Here is a good page outlining the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Ignorance leads to error. “Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29) Call on Him through prayer, and abide in the Spirit’s power:
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Romans 8:11).
Do not be blind to satan's schemes. Life is not a game and it is not to be frivolously wasted.
Collage by EPrata

Paul's warm letters

These are the openings of all of Paul's letters, except Galatians. Please don't skip, read them through. I thank my God in all my ...