Good Friday

The Jewish leaders said, “Good riddance,” as they thought they had finally gotten rid of this thorn in their side, this threat to their power and prestige.

The disciples said, “Good grief” at what they thought was the ruin of their plans and hopes for the future.

God said, “Good job,” if we can attribute such a comment to our infinite God, and raised Jesus from the dead three days later.


This is Passover week.  Passover itself was Tuesday.  I’m not Jewish, but as I read the Old Testament, I can sense the importance of this national festival.  A church I used to attend did a study on the Book of Exodus, and, of course, part of that study included ch. 12, the institution of the Passover, with instructions as to how it was to be performed and perpetuated.  As I read through this chapter in preparation for the lesson (as a student), I was struck by the absence of a particular phrase.  In all the instructions in ch. 12 and throughout the Old Testament whenever the Passover is mentioned, there is never a mention of forgiveness.  God never told the Israelites who were leaving Egypt that their sins were forgiven because they had partaken of the Passover sacrifice.  I found this fascinating.

The teacher of this class gave us something he had taken from the internet.  Among other things, the author of this article talked about how, through the Passover, the Israelites looked ahead to the sacrifice of Christ.  He talked about the Israelites being “saved.”

It’s true that Israel was being brought into covenant-relationship with God, which actually became effective at Sinai with the giving of the Mosaic Law.  Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was just the beginning of the process which was concluded at Sinai.  At the same time, according to Moses in Deuteronomy 29:4, they had no spiritual understanding of the nature of their relationship with God.  This is why they were so rebellious, why they so easily and quickly fell into gross sin, like what happened with the golden calf, or later, when they had finally entered the land of promise.  The Old Testament is filled with evidence of Israel’s failure to live righteously according to the Mosaic Law.  Yet, in spite of this, there were many individuals who did understand and who did “know God”.

The generation of Israelites who had celebrated that first Passover, for the most part, died in the wilderness under the judgment of God.  They were not “saved”, certainly not in any New Testament sense.  Israel’s national relationship  to God did not guarantee a “personal” relation with God.  The Law had no “help” when it came to keeping its requirements.  Israel was on its own.

While it is true that the Passover, in common with all the other Old Testament sacrifices, was a forerunner of the Final Sacrifice on Calvary, whenever it’s referred to, it was always a look back to the complete deliverance of Israel from Egypt, Exodus 13:8-10.  It looked back to something which had been completed, never to be repeated.

Our Lord celebrated the Passover just before His death.  But He took part of that ritual and made something new of it, something which celebrated Him, not just an historical event in the distant past.  The bread and the fruit of the vine picture a whole encyclopedia of truth about who Jesus was and what He did.  It’s continued observance also remembers His promise to return, which opens up another whole vista of truth.  But it also remembers a completed event.  It was never meant to be a “repetition” or “reenactment” of His death.  Just before Jesus died on the Cross, He shouted one word in the original text, “Tetelestai!!”  It was a cry of victory, not of defeat:  “It has been finished!!”  Redemption was accomplished, Ephesians 3:11.  Sin had been paid for.  God’s justice had been satisfied on behalf of those for whom He died.

The Lord’s Supper adds nothing to what Christ did on the Cross.  The elements themselves, the bread and the fruit of the vine, have no efficacy, no value, in themselves, any more than eating the slain lamb delivered the ancient Israelites from Egypt. There’s no mystical power in them.  Indeed, eating them can bring judgment, not blessing, 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. 

It was “the blood applied” that delivered the Israelites from the curse of death and slavery.  It is “the blood applied” that delivers believing sinners from the curse of sin and death.  In a couple of days, it’s Easter.  What does that mean to you?  Clothes?  Eggs?  Bunnies?

I hope it means faith affirmed.  Or even, faith applied, if you’ve never really thought about it before. 

Waiting Homes

This is just too good not to pass on.

Morning Story and Dilbert

My husband had to take a business trip this week. It is only the second time we have been apart in our three years of marriage.

I always hate when he leaves. I arrive at the airport at least a half hour in advance in the event his plane should arrive early. We live in Canada, and he flies through the Toronto airport.

For anyone who has ever traveled through Toronto, you know how busy it can get. I was surprised though how busy it was for a Tuesday evening. There were hundreds of people waiting in an area made for half that many people. Everyone was trying to squeeze as close as they could to the ramp where the departing passengers emerge.

I stood back a bit since I still had time to wait for my husband. For the next forty-five minutes, I watched the crowd.

There were people…

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“Look Now Toward Heaven”

When my wife and I were first married, we started each evening to read a chapter of the Bible aloud before we went to bed, beginning in Genesis.  We would alternate reading verses.  We hadn’t been doing this for very long when we came to Genesis 15.  As we were reading through that chapter, I noticed something I had never seen before.  It caused me to exclaim aloud, “Wait a minute!”  As I looked at this new thought, the chapter, as well as the Bible’s teaching of “‘faith,” opened up to me in a way that was unbelievable.  It’s the subject of this post.

One word of caution.  There is a standard understanding of this chapter, which I once held, and it’s pretty much the only way it’s looked at.  In fact, I have never seen anywhere else or heard the approach to this chapter that I now hold.  The eventful evening described in the first paragraph was more than 40 years ago, so there’s been enough time for someone else to see it.  But apparently nobody has.  I don’t think I’m wrong.  It’s just that every so often someone comes up with some hare-brained idea “from Scripture” – some new teaching – and it’s all the rage for a couple of weeks, then fades back into the woodwork.  I’m not interested in novel ideas from Scripture.  I agree with Paul in Romans 4:3, when he asked the question, “What does the Scripture say?”  Actually say?

So, first, before you go any further, I would like for you to read Genesis 15 – yes, right now.  It’ll take you less than five minutes.  Close your laptop and open your Bible.  Read Genesis 15.  Or look it up online, I guess, if you’re inclined that way.  I’m an old geezer myself and I still prefer books, though, obviously, I do use a computer.

Did you do it?  Thank you.  Did you notice anything?  Now, I’d like you to read my remarks and tell me what you think.

The usual reading of this chapter concludes with the idea that Abraham goes out at night and sees all the stars in  heaven.  He thinks, “Whoa! That’s a lot of stars!”  The trouble with this idea is that men HAD counted the stars, or so they thought.  The ancient Egyptians catalogued only 1025 stars.  That’s not a very large posterity.  Even as late as 1627, the astronomer Kepler catalogued only a little over a thousand stars.  It’s only been with the invention and improvement of the telescope that science has discovered that there are innumerable galaxies, each with innumerable stars.  (Just in passing, how did the “ignorant goatherder” who is alleged to have written this know about innumerable stars, when only a few, relatively speaking, are visible to the naked eye?)

There’s another, even more interesting, challenge to the usual understanding of Genesis 15.  That’s why I asked you to read it before reading this.  If you haven’t, please do it now….  There are two phrases which caught my attention that long ago night and changed forever my perception of this chapter.  Did you notice them?  God had told Abraham to “look now toward heaven….”  Some of the later versions omit the word “now,” but I think my interpretation is still valid.  After the conversation in vs. 1-5, we read in v. 12, “Now when the sun was going down…,” and in v. 17, “when the sun went down and it was dark,…”  My wife would have read v. 12, and I would have read v. 17.

Now, I don’t know if it was just the reading of these phrases, or hearing them read, or what, but they caught my attention.  They caused me to exclaim, “Wait a minute!”  To me, these phrases indicate it was broad daylight when God told Abraham to look at the stars.

Now I hear you say, “Wait a minute!”  It doesn’t make sense, does it?  God asking Abraham to count stars in the daytime?  Well, there are some lessons I think we can learn from this incident.  Sometimes we have to trust God when it doesn’t seem to make any sense.  There are a lot of things in Scripture that don’t “make sense.”  God told Noah to build an ark because a great flood was coming, and it had never even ever rained.  God told Israel to walk around Jericho seven days, with the priests blowing trumpets, then on the seventh day, Israel was also to give a great shout.  What kind of warfare is that?  Jesus told the disciples to feed a crowd of 15,000 or more with a few sardine-sized fish and a couple slices of bread.  Pretty slim pickings.  Yet, in each case, God was right and sense was wrong, or at least, inadequate.

In addition, Abraham had to choose between what he could see, or what God said.  Further, he had to choose between God and the science of his day.  That’s still true.  At least in this country, the US, it hardly seems like God exists.  Violence is increasing, immorality and perversion are becoming the law of the land, and the Bible is illegal in a good portion of our society.  As for science, no comment is needed.

But there’s more.  Abraham was a shepherd.  He had spent a lifetime of nights under the stars.  It was likely that he would spend a lot more nights under them.  However, God said, “Look NOW….”  Abraham couldn’t depend on experience.  God said, “Look NOW….”  Abraham couldn’t count on his expectations.  “NOW”.  “NOW”.

As Christians, we can look back of how God has blessed us.  The way I met my wife involves about 7 years and at least four states and several people, a telephone book and a phone call, but that’s a story for another time.  We can see many times God has been with us.  And, by His grace, we look forward to an eternity that will eclipse a million times what this world has to offer.  It’s the “NOW” that’s the problem.  This blog has led me to many others, telling of people and experiences I can’t even begin to imagine.  Things people are suffering.  Their “NOW” is anything but enviable.

“All” Abraham had to go on was the naked promise of God.  There was no “tangible, verifiable evidence” for him, the kind that skeptics and unbelievers keep asking for – just God and His promise.  But, you see, that’s what “faith” boils down to: an absolute reliance on and trust of God and His promise, His Word.  Why do you think there are such attacks against the Bible?  “Faith” isn’t about us getting God to do what we want.  Faith is about what God wants or has said.

Abraham had to wait 13 years for the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise, and did some foolish things in the meantime, things which echo even today in the Middle East.  Even though he was foolish, God was faithful to His promise.

Let me encourage you, dear friends, readers of this blog.  I know nothing of your “now,” but God does.  Trust Him.  Look to Him.  I don’t know what to say to ease your burden.  I just hope and pray that He will use even these few words to encourage and strengthen you.  “Look now toward heaven….”

The following was added after the post was published:

Sorry, I got to thinking about this and didn’t like where I ended it.  For all believers, Paul wrote in Romans 8:18 that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  Not “to us,” but “in us.”  I can’t wait!

What’s With All The Names? Matthew’s Genealogy

One of the difficulties in reading the Bible through is wading through all the names in genealogies – strange names, unpronounceable names.  While they may be stumbling blocks to us, they were vitally important to the Old Testament Jew.  Since inclusion in the nation was mainly by parentage, although there were converts from other nations, knowing your family tree was essential.  There were even cases where men were excluded from the priesthood because they couldn’t prove their lineage, Nehemiah 7:61-65.

In the case of Matthew’s genealogy, it’s important because it tells us that the story of Jesus doesn’t begin, “Once upon a time,….”  It’s rooted solidly in Jewish history, in the Old Testament.  However, Matthew’s purpose isn’t just to show us that Jesus is Jewish.  He connects Jesus immediately to two great Old Testament covenants: the Davidic and the Abrahamic.  Both covenants have national and global significance.  Jesus’ life and death has national and global significance.

Part of that significance, perhaps all of it, lies in another covenant essential to the founding of the nation of Israel: the Mosaic.  Moses wasn’t an ancestor of Jesus, so obviously isn’t included in the genealogy.  Nevertheless, there is a connection, not physically, but spiritually.  Israel was given the Law as a standard of righteous living, with blessings or judgment promised as a result either of obedience or rebellion.

The Old Testament is replete with stories of Israel’s rebellion against that standard, and the consequent judgments which befell her.  Israel was never able to attain to the righteousness required by the Mosaic Law.  Though that Law was never given to Gentiles – there was no “dispensation of law” for mankind –  yet, according to Paul in Romans 2:1-16, Gentiles, and that includes you and me, for the most part (there may be some Jewish folks who read this blog), Gentiles understand that there are things which are right and things which are wrong.  These may not agree with the Bible’s definition of “right” and “wrong,” but there is still that understanding.  The OT Jew never lived up to the Law, and we never live up even to our own imperfect understanding of right and wrong.  We can never attain the righteousness God requires if we are ever going to stand in His presence uncondemned.  The Lord Jesus came to procure and provide that righteousness.  So we see

Importance of the genealogy.

1.  It established Jesus as a descendant of Abraham.  This was important in that only an Israelite could be king over the nation, Deuteronomy 17:15.

2.  It established Jesus as a descendant of David.  Only a descendant of David could sit on his throne.  I know this is much debated today, with “the kingdom” being considered only as some sort of a “spiritual” entity which has nothing to do with the nation of Israel, or this world, but the Old Testament clearly prophesies something which requires more than an invisible reign of the Son of David.  Jeremiah 23:5, 6 says, “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute righteousness and judgment in the earth.  In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely.  Now this is the name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

Interesting things in the genealogy.

The genealogy is obviously incomplete.  It’s designed to show connection, not chronology. Several names are left out, and the ones included are arranged in three sections of 14.  Perhaps Matthew did this to make it easier to remember these 42 names.  Perhaps there is also a connection with David’s name.  In Hebrew, the numeric value of the letters in his name is “14”.

1.  Each segment ends with a decisive event: the rise of the monarchy, the Captivity, the coming of the Messiah.

2.  Each segment also involves a difference covenant.  The first segment includes the Abrahamic Covenant, as the promised line develops through Isaac [not Ishmael, who was rejected], then Jacob [not Esau, who was also rejected], then Judah, and down to the Lord Jesus.  The second segment has to do with the Davidic Covenant, a covenant in which the Lord promised David that he would always have a son on the throne.  That Christ Himself ultimately fulfills this is without doubt.  The question is, how and when?  The third segment introduces the New Covenant.  Even though it’s commonly understood that the New Covenant concerns the Church, we only come under its blessing because of and through the Lord Jesus.  It was actually and originally made on behalf of the nation of Israel, Jeremiah 31:31-34, 32:36-44; Ezekiel 34:20-31, 36:16-38, among others.

3.  Each segment has something to do with the Davidic kingdom.  The first segment tells of its establishment.  The second refers to its dissolution.  The third has to do with its re-establishment.

4.  The genealogy is a microcosm of grace.  Consider the names listed in it.

a.  Some were indeed famous.  Who could ask for more illustrious ancestors than Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon?

b.  On the other hand, some were forgotten.  Who knows anything about Abiud, Eliakim, or Azor, or some of the others listed in these verses?  To a church which had forgotten its roots, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

For most of us, any memory of us will die with us, except maybe for family or a few friends, and when they die, so will the memory.  But those whom the world considers worthy to be forgotten, God has remembered in His grace.

c.  Some were foul.  Consider Manasseh, for example.  Though son to a godly father, he himself was so wicked that he single-handedly brought on the judgments which later happened to Judah, 2 Kings 21:1-17.  Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that God saved you because you were so wonderful, or that you had done something that impressed Him, or obligated Him.  What is wonderful about it is that God saved you, and me!

d.   Some were feminine.  Women were seldom included in genealogies.  What is even more amazing in this genealogy are the women who were included in it!  One had been a harlot; one had played the harlot.  Two were outsiders, members of races under God’s judgment (aren’t we all?)  One brought with her the scandal of adultery and murder.  One was placed in a situation where she was, and is, by many, considered to be an adulteress.  Yet each was given her own place of responsibility, and privilege, in producing a link in the chain that led from Abraham to Jesus.

In spite of the disdain many feel for the Biblical role of women, it isn’t Christianity that burned a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre.  It’s not Christianity that considered women as mere chattel, or that requires her to walk several paces behind her husband, or reduces her to a life of drudgery and misery.  It is Christianity that commands husbands to love their wives as themselves, or, even more, to love them as Christ loves us, willingly, sacrificially and for their benefit.

There is one final thing, and perhaps this is the most important.

e.  Some were forgiven.  Only some, not all.  Some people are very interested in their ancestors.  Someone was kind enough to trace my own family back to the Old Country.  There were five families he was tracing and his and my families intersected several generations back.  My younger daughter was salutatorian for her class at the Christian school she attended.  After the graduation, the wife of the pastor of a Baptist church in the area came up to me and asked if I were the speaker’s father.  I was.  It turned out this lady and I were (very) distant cousins.  I looked in my genealogy, and, sure enough, there was her family.  I guess it is a small world, after all. 

Lincoln is quoted as saying that people who are always talking about their ancestors are like potatoes.  The only good thing about them is underground.  That’s a little cold, but it is more important about what kind of descendant my ancestors have than about what kind of ancestors their descendant has.

The thing is, and these people in the genealogy would have been looking forward, not backward, physical relationship to Jesus means nothing, as wonderful as that might have been.  Our Lord Himself taught this in Mark 3:31-35.  His ministry was still enjoying its early enormous popularity, and His family thought He was nuts, to put it bluntly.  They came to Him to try to talk to Him, and when Jesus was told they wanted to talk to Him, He said, “‘Who is My mother, or my brothers?’  And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and My mother!'”

Now, Jesus wasn’t disavowing His mother and family.  One of the last things He did on the Cross was to provide for His mother, John 19:25-27.  He was simply saying that physical relationship isn’t what gets it done spiritually.  He mentioned “the will of God,” and in John 6:40, He said, “…this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life;….”  Then, lest someone object, “How can we see Him?  He’s not here!?” He said to Thomas after the Resurrection and Thomas’ doubts on the subject, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” John 20:29.

There is only one religion (my, how I dislike that word!) in the world that has a Cross, and that Cross is empty.  Many deny the Resurrection, but those coming to the tomb that Sunday morning found it to be empty, as well.

Several of my posts have mentioned Easter, and that really has been unintentional on my part.  Even when I started this post 1700+ words ago, I wasn’t thinking about it.  But it’s a week from this coming Sunday – a reminder that Someone has broken the chains of sin, judgment and death that hold us all, apart from faith in Him.  That Someone has come and made a way of access into the presence of a holy, righteous and just God, a God Who must and will punish sin.  That Someone has come and taken that punishment on behalf of those who believe in Him, not an academic or formal or “religious” faith, but an absolute reliance on Who He was and what He did for sinners, to the point that if He failed, and He cannot! there is no other way of salvation, no other hope for you or me.

There is a TV program for children called “The Neverending Story.”  At least, I think it’s for children.  There really is a “neverending” story.  Matthew and Luke and John give us it’s beginning.

Not My Kid!!

I mentioned in an earlier post that there are things in the Old Testament which are contrary to our modern way of thinking.  The portion of Scripture for this post is perhaps at the top of the list.  It’s found in Deuteronomy 22:18-21:

“If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city.  And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’  Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.”

In Yahoo Answers, it’s usually referred to along the lines of “killing my kid”, implying a young child.  It can’t mean that, because then there would have been no next generation.

There is an idea that there weren’t any instructions after the Fall, that God left Adam and Eve to the leading of their conscience, an idea popularized by the Scofield Bible.  It is true that there is no record as such of any revelation from God between Adam and Moses, yet there are indications of it.  To name just one, cf. Genesis 26:5, where God talks about Abraham obeying “My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” Moses wouldn’t be born for centuries.  So it’s clear that there was something to which men were responsible before the giving of the Law at Sinai.  We just don’t have any record of it.

We’re not told a great deal about the instructions God may have given Adam and Eve, but we are told enough.  He set some precedents.  There is, for example, marriage, Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  Our Lord referred to this in Matthew 19:4-6, “…He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’.  So then, they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together. let not man separate.”  

When God created Adam and Eve, He told them to “multiply,” that is, to have children.  This introduces “the family.”  The family is the basic unit of society.  Marriage is the glue that’s supposed to hold the family together.

God told the first couple to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth….”  Unlike most of the animal world, bringing human offspring into the world isn’t just a matter of preservation of the species.  It means much more than just bringing the next generation into the world.  It has more to do with the idea that the next generation is raised in such a way that it doesn’t destroy the species.  We see this all around us.  Where the Biblical idea of the so-called “traditional” family has been destroyed or distorted, the younger generation often grows up in such a way that if they don’t literally destroy, that is, kill, each other, then they engage in “destructive life-styles” which just take longer to accomplish the same thing.  The concept of family as it’s found in the Bible is the foundation of society; if the family goes, society goes.

Human children require far more care than any other offspring in the world.  Most animals are able to carry on by themselves after just a few days or weeks.  Not so, children.  Not only is there the protecting of them because they are helpless, there is the nurturing and teaching which takes several years.  While it may be true that in their first three or four years children learn most of what they will ever learn, no five year old is ready for his own apartment.  Even teenagers struggle with the change from child to adult.  Parents are to be there, indeed, “the family” is there, to be a support system.

In addition, it is here, in the family, that we first learn to interact with others: our parents, and perhaps brothers and sisters, and then, to the society and world in which we live.  As we grow, our circle expands until, as adults, we enter society on our own, away from home and family.

It’s in the family that we first learn about authority and sharing.  It’s a shame and tragedy when youngsters grow up without ever learning these lessons.  The first thing a baby demonstrates is that he or she is completely absorbed in himself or herself.  I grant that the baby has a very limited understanding of what is going on around him.  At the same time, all he knows is that he is wet, hungry, thirsty, tired, or in some other way uncomfortable.  He wants immediate gratification; it doesn’t matter what needs his mother,  usually, might have – his are more important.

The state license plate that says, “kids first”, sounds good, but the thought is too often misplaced.  I understand that children are important and in many instances they do come first.  With God’s blessing and help, my wife and I raised four children to mature and responsible adulthood.  What I’m concerned about is the idea that the kids run the family, and that parents have no real say.  What the kid wants, the kid gets.  Unfortunately, he grows up with this attitude and those around him are the ones who suffer for it.

The idea of learning authority in the home is that we might come to know that there is an ultimate authority:  God.  Parents are just the first link in the chain of command.  Too many people never get even to that point; for them, there is only one link in the chain: themselves.

It is these last thoughts that are emphasized in Deuteronomy 22:18-21.  The relationship of child and parent is very important in the Bible. One of the sins Israel later was judged for was they had “made light of father and mother,” Ezekiel 22:7.  In the New Testament, Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for depriving their parents of necessary support by saying that what they should have used for that was “dedicated to God,” so was unavailable to care for their parents.

So important is this relationship that God considered it worthy of death for a child to defy his parents.  Again, we must point out that this doesn’t mean a young child.  It refers to one old enough to know better, one who is a drunkard and glutton, probably an older teenage, although the concept of “teenager” is relatively new.  Even in the history of the U.S., the first Secretary of the Navy was given command of his first ship when he was twelve.  It’s only relatively recently that “teenagers” have been consigned to the wasteland of the Xbox or X-rated activities. thereby wasting the tremendous energy and enthusiasm they have, and setting them on the path of wasting a great deal of their time and talents.

In our time, things have been turned completely around.  You see this everywhere, little children in a restaurant or at the supermarket screaming their heads off because they’re not getting their way.  Parents are at a loss to deal with this because children have “rights,” or so we’re told.  You see older kids swaggering down the middle of the street, their pants down around their knees, arrogance spread across their faces.  “Juveniles” commit the worst of crimes because they know that their “juvenile” records will be sealed, and they basically can get away with it.  High schools have become hotbeds of violence and terror, with things happening almost daily which were beyond imagining in my high school days (where, by the way, we had a rifle range in the basement for ROTC, with rifles and ammunition, locked away, of course, but still there.  Never a hint of any trouble with them.  I qualified as a marksman on that range).  That high school was in what is now “the ghetto,” but we had less trouble than preschoolers get into now.

Then, of course, there’s the complete absence of any teaching about “God.”  If anything, education is against the idea of God, or of absolutes, or of morality, which has been replaced by “political correctness”.

I’m not advocating a return to Old Testament practices, but heading in that direction would certainly take care of a lot of the problems caused by the “troubled youth” in our time.

The True God

The Maker of the universe

As man for man was made a curse.

The claims of laws which He had made

Unto the uttermost He paid.

His holy fingers made the bough

Which grew the thorns that crowned His brow;

The nails that pierced His hands were mined

In secret places He designed.

He made the forests whence there sprung

The tree on which His body hung.

He died upon a cross of wood,

Yet made the hill on which it stoood.

The sky that darkened o’er His head

By Him, above the earth, was spread.

The sun that hid from Him its face

By His decree was poised in space.

The spear which spilled His precious blood

Was tempered in the fires of God.

The grave in which His form was laid

Was hewn in rocks His hands had made.

The throne on which He now appears

Was His from everlasting years,

But a new glory crowns His brow,

And every knee to Him shall bow!

– F. W. Pitt

The Four Gospels

This is a general overview of the Gospels.

As we read through the Old Testament, we see abundant evidence of the rebellion of men in general and Israel in particular, along with many promises and foreshadowings of a coming Redeemer, like bright stars against a midnight sky.

The New Testament is the story of that Redeemer.

Two questions might be asked: “Why do we have the Gospels?” and, “Why are there four Gospels?”

We have the Gospels because without them we would have virtually no record of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus.  It is necessary that we have some such account in order to validate His teaching.  The Gospels provide the DEMONSTRATION of Who He was, in order that we might better pay attention to the DECLARATION of what He said, both during His life and in the later NT writings, including Paul’s, for all those are much His words as what He spoke while in Israel.  We include Paul, because some charge him with taking the Jewish Jesus and turning Him into something that was never meant to be.

A second reason we have the Gospels is to impress upon our minds the truth that Christianity revolves around, is founded and rests upon, and proclaims Jesus Christ Himself, and not just certain historical facts, doctrinal viewpoints or important “leaders” in the church.

There are several reasons why we have four Gospels.  Mainly, we have them because it is God’s will, but there are secondary reasons.

1. To give a more complete and satisfying portrait of the Lord Jesus.  Each Gospel has its own distinctive presentation of the life and work of Christ.

2. Each Gospel was written with a specific audience and purpose in mind.  No matter where a son or daughter of Adam finds themselves, they will never come to God on God’s terms to find that God cannot or will not help them.

We want to spend just a moment considering the men who wrote the Gospels and the unlikeliness of  any of them ever writing words from God.

Matthew, the publican, the tax-gatherer, the traitor to his own people, in league with their oppressors the Romans, yet was used to write to those same Jews of their great Messiah-King,Who would ultimately deliver them, not from the hated Roman, but from a far greater oppression and bondage – sin.

Mark, that one who deserted his fellowlaborers Paul and Barnabas, going back from service to God to the easier life at home, yet was destined to write the Gospel of the Servant-Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke, probably the “best” of the lot, humanly speaking, educated, polished, but, for all that, a Gentile, hence a stranger “from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” Ephesians 2:12, yet brought to know and write about that God, in the person of the Lord Jesus, presented by Luke as ideal, perfect Man, sent not merely to the house of Israel, but to gather His sheep out of every kindred, nation, tongue and tribe.

John, an uneducated, rough fisherman, his Gospel in the original language is by far the simplest grammatically, insomuch that beginning Greek students translate its verses in their first translation attempts; simple words, uncomplicated grammar, expressing thoughts that 2000 years of church study and wisdom have not begun to fathom.

As we noted above, each Gospel presents a different view of the Lord.  Adapting Pilate’s exclamation to the crowd prior to the Crucifixion (John 19:5), we might summarize each Gospel like this:

Matthew:  Behold the Sovereign!  Matthew wrote to Jewish readers of their Messiah, their King.

Mark:  Behold the Servant!  Mark wrote for the Roman mind, picturing Jesus as “the Servant of Jehovah”.

Luke:  Behold the Sympathetic!  Luke addressed the Greek mind, portraying Jesus as the Ideal Man.  As such, Luke is the “human interest” Gospel.

John:  Behold the Son!  John wrote to Christians, to declare and to defend the truth of Jesus as “God manifest in the flesh”.

The distinctives of each Gospel:

Matthew is the Gospel of Christ’s AUTHORITY.  Cf. 7:24-29, especially v. 29; 28:18

Mark is the Gospel of Christ’s ACTIVITY.  Mark records only one discourse and four parables, but eighteen miracles.

Luke is the Gospel of Christ’s AVAILABILITY.  Though there times of withdrawal in the Lord’s life, yet through Luke, He brings “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people,” 2:10.

John is the Gospel of Christ’s ANTIQUITY.  Not only in the prologue does John refer to the eternal dignity and existence of Jesus as The Word, but Jesus Himself does so: John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly,  I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’.”  Skeptics today may deny that Jesus ever claimed to be God, but the Jews who heard Him make this statement knew that that was exactly what He was claiming.  That’s why they tried to kill Him on the spot.

In The Flesh

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John 1:14.  See also Philippians 2:5-11.

I suppose this is really a continuation of my post “The Third Genealogy,” where I focused on the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I’ll not repeat what I said there, but encourage you to read it, especially if you haven’t read it before.

In the first place, the body of our Lord was a real body.  There have been some who have supposed that He was merely a phantom or apparition, that His body wasn’t real.  But it was as real as yours or mine.  Though He was truly God, He was also truly human.  His body developed in Mary’s womb just like any other.  His birth was like any other.

Really, it’s the virgin “conception,” not the virgin birth, though He was born of a virgin.  He grew and developed as a child, like your children or mine grew and developed, Luke 2:52.  I’ve often wondered if He “spoiled” His parents for their other children.  Yes, I know there’s a huge discussion about this, which I won’t get into here, with a large percentage of professing Christendom believing in Mary’s perpetual virginity.  It’s enough for me that Matthew 1:25 indicates that Joseph and Mary enjoyed normal marital intimacy after the birth of Jesus.  And, Jesus being called Mary’s “firstborn” is meaningless if He were her “only-born”.

Second, it was a human body.  Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, and that “flesh” was truly human.  There is also a discussion over whether or not Jesus could have sinned.  I’ll only say that I don’t think it was possible for Him to sin – He is “holy, harmless and undefiled,” Hebrews 7:26.  As I’ve said somewhere else, Satan had no “hook” in Him to get Him to sin. Sin is not an essential element of being human.  Adam and Eve were perfectly human as they came from the hand of God, before they disobeyed Him and fell from their innocence and sinlessness.

Third, it was a “prepared” body, Hebrews 10:5.  The conception and birth of Jesus wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment happening; it was carefully planned, even in eternity past, 1 Peter 1:20, and prepared for.  In Matthew 1:22, we read that “all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet….”  The immediate context refers to the virgin birth of Jesus, but the virgin herself didn’t just appear out of thin air.  I think it can be said without exaggeration that “all this” includes everything from the very creation of Adam himself.  After all, the human DNA for the Lord’s body was present in Adam, and carefully and providentially shepherded through all the generations from Adam to Jesus.  If not, when was it introduced into Mary’s ancestry?

Fourth, it was a sacrificial body, that is, Jesus came into this world to be an offering for sin, a sacrifice for sinners.  His body was carefully prepared to be the sacrifice which would pay for the “sins of the world,” that is, of the human race considered as a whole. Individually, the only ones who can say that their sins are paid for are those who have believed on Him for salvation.  Unbelievers are still subject to God’s wrath, John 3:17, 18.

Finally, it is a resurrected body.  Jesus truly died physically; He truly rose physically.  Some have questioned this on the idea that this would somehow have cancelled out His payment for sin.  But the resurrection is the receipt, if you will, for that payment.  Without it, we have no way of knowing if His death was any more effective in that regard than the death of the other two who died with Him on that fateful day.  Furthermore, read Paul’s defense of the Lord’s physical resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15.  Without that resurrection, there is no salvation from sin and, as Paul put it, if there is no salvation, Christians are to be pitied above all human beings.

A Kitchen Prayer

This poem was written many years ago by a 19 year old girl who was in domestic service in England.  It was read by Dr. G. Campbell Morgan during one of his services at Westminster Chapel, London.


Lord of all pots and pans and things,

Since I’ve no time to be

A saint by doing lovely deeds

Or watching late with Thee

Or dreaming in the dawnlight

Or storming Heaven’s gates,

Make me a saint by getting meals

And washing up the plates!

Although I must have Martha’s hands

I have a Mary mind,

And when I black the boots and shoes,

Thy sandals, Lord, I find!

I think of how they trod the earth,

What time I scrub the floor;

Accept this meditation, Lord!

I haven’t time for more.

Warm all the kitchen with Thy love,

And light it with Thy peace!

Forgive me all my worrying

And make all grumbling cease!

Thou who didst love to give men food

In a room or by the sea,

Accept this service that I do –

I do it unto Thee!