About vonhonnauldt

I'm just an old guy, married to my amazing wife for more than 50 years. We have five children and nine grandchildren. No dogs or cats or fish. Just us two. Sorry about the no picture. Ran out of cameras :) I love to read and teach the Word of God. There's always something new, even in the difficult chapters. Thanks for stopping by. Come visit us at nightlightblogdotcom. We pray God's best for you.

The Final “Fact-Check”

NOTE:  Below the line is the original post that was supposed to be published.  Thanks to the “updated,” “improved” platform it appears on, a different version of this post was published – one of the earlier versions that developed as I worked on and wrote it.  I apologize for the mix-up.
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This has recently become a thing on social media – “fact-checking” posts that are made.  This is probably a good idea, because there is a lot of stuff floating around out there that ought not to.  It does seem, however, to be done to only one side of the political spectrum.

Something that seems generally to have been overlooked or forgotten these days is that there is coming a time when “the facts” will indeed be brought out into the full light, 1 Corinthians 4:5.  Although Paul is addressing a particular situation in a local church, there is an application that could be made to our situation.  He wrote that there is coming a time when the Lord Jesus will return to this earth, at which time He will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the heart.

That is the application:  there is coming a time when God will “fact-check” the entire history of this world and the lives of every one who has ever lived on it.  Nothing will be left out, overlooked, misrepresented, forgotten or swept under the rug.

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 and Revelation 20:11-15 are two Scriptures which teach this.

In 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Paul wrote,

According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it.  But let each one take heed how he builds on it.  For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.  If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet as through fire.  NKJV, emphasis added.

In Revelation 20:11-15, the Apostle John wrote,

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away.  And there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.  The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.  And they were judged, each one according to his works.  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.  And everyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire, NKJV.

1 Corinthians 3 describes the judgment of believers.  Revelation  20 describes the judgment of unbelievers.  Regardless of the discussion that surrounds these two Scriptures, whether they are just two descriptions of the same judgment, or if they are indeed separate events, it is clear that “fact-checking” is on the way.  For what it’s worth, I believe they are distinct and separate events.

There is another verse which bears on this idea, especially as it regards the first reference above.  In Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV, our Lord warned, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your Name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ “

It’s for good reason that the Lord said that there will be weeping and…wailing and gnashing of teeth, Matthew 8:12; 13:42.  This world has pretty much thrown out anything the Bible says.  Even many churches don’t really take the Word of God seriously.  One day, though, it and they will find out that the God who wrote it takes a dim view of that.  In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul wrote of believers, For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  

Psalm 9:8 says that He shall judge the world in righteousness.  In Acts 17:31, Paul quoted this verse in his teaching in Athens:  “He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.  He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”  Our Bibles have a period at the end of that last sentence, but I don’t think Paul got to finish his thought.  It seems to me that the verse should end like this:  “…raising Him from the dead….”  When these worldly-wise Athenians heard of this idea of resurrection, Scripture says, some mocked.  The very idea!  Life from the dead!  It’s ridiculous! Everyone knows that when you’re dead, you’re dead!  Regardless of the ridicule and chuckles from worldly-wisdom, though, a handful of folks who became believers.  Paul never got to finish his message.  God finished it for him.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul recognized that if the resurrection is a false hope, beside being a false witness for preaching it as truth, if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable, v. 19, or, literally, the most to be pitied.

Why is that?  Because having the idea that this life isn’t all there is, that judgment is coming and there is an eternity either of happiness or hell, believers deny themselves many of the “pleasures” of this world.  If there is no resurrection….

Beyond that, though, throughout the 2000 years of church history, innumerable believers have suffered or been martyred, often by those who claimed to be representatives of the true religion.  And today there are those who are suffering for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, Jude 3.  If there is no resurrection, then all that suffering and agony is for nothing.

If there is no resurrection, even Paul wrote, If the dead do not rise, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die, v. 32

But resurrection is a true hope for believers, and the day will come in which it will be found indeed to be true, and then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:  “Death is swallowed up in victory,” v. 54.

It’s a solemn thought, this idea of dying and eternity and heaven and hell. This standing before a holy, righteous and just God to give an account for these years on this earth. Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s an unbearable thought.

Also in Matthew 7 above, our Lord taught that the only ones who will enter heaven are those who do the will of My Father who is in heaven, v. 21.

What is that will?

In John 6:40, the Lord answers, as it were, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

The Lord Jesus said that God’s will is for folks to believe on Him. This means to trust Him with the salvation of our eternal souls. To know that His death is the only possible payment for our sins, and that when He shed His blood on Calvary, He did so as our Substitute. He died in order that our sins would be forgiven and that we would live.

Forever.

Now, we don’t physically see the Son, but we do see Him through the Scriptures. They tell us that He, and He alone, is the Savior, that one day He will return to this world as its rightful Ruler, Lord and Judge, 1 Peter 4:5; Revelation 19:11-16.

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

Has The Time Come?

2 Timothy 4:3 says, “…the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, and Paul goes on from there to say that this time will be characterized by people who will follow their own desires.

In some of my last posts, I’ve said that I never thought that I would live to see this day, whatever “day” that was.  I’m sorry to say that I have to say it again.  I never thought that I would live to see this day.  One of the other blogs that I follow has the following cartoon: a picture of a piece of paper with a frowny face, and a message saying, “Sorry, the page you have been looking for has been removed or is temporarily unavailable.”  One of the other blogs I follow, a conservative one, has had a couple of posts partially blocked out on a particular social media with the disclaimer that said post is being “fact-checked”; the post is unavailable.

Very seldom on this blog have I entered into politics, except maybe as it impinges on Scriptural teaching; I’ll admit, the particular blog mentioned above is definitely conservative – and supportive of our current, and soon to be ex-, President.  This seems to have become politically incorrect. 

As I meander around the internet, I’ve just in the last few days come across some very disturbing posts and pictures.  There has been always been discontent with our current President.  He has dared to love this country and to advance her interests.  Further, he has undone a lot of things a former, much-admired President has done.  And, I admit, he seems to delight in “poking the bear,” as it were, deliberately tweeting things which upset his opponents.  This apparently has only served to enrage them, and now, with his defeat, they seem determined to obliterate his own achievements.  Some of his supporters still seem to hold out the hope that his defeat will be overturned.  I don’t think so.  Some of them hope that things can be turned around in 2024.  Probably not.

Here is what concerns me.  Because our current President is identified as a Christian conservative, some of those who are enraged at him not only want to get rid of him, but also to vent their rage on Christian conservatives in general, and to get rid of them.

As I said, “I never thought I’d live to see this day.”

With the things that have happened recently, things that never should have happened, and the uproar that’s accompanied them, some Christians talk about the Rapture and that it must be time for the Lord to come back for His people.  That may or may not be.  What they seem to fail to realize with this hope, and it is a blessed hope, is that there is nothing in Scripture which says that believers will be spared from all the suffering and misery that will happen just before He comes back.

Though it may very well be preparing for the end times with all the troubles around COVID-19, there is still nothing approaching “the mark of the beast,” which is perhaps the main “mark” of the end.  And believers throughout church history have seen in their current events that which has led them to hope it would soon be over. 

Some in our day claim that the vaccines being worked on to cure the coronavirus will contain a micro-chip to enable tracking of the inoculated.  Even if that turns out to be the case, it still seems to me to fall short of the final “mark”.  According to Revelation 7, the “mark of the beast” will be public and visible, to counteract the public and very visible protective mark of the 144,000 Jews, vs. 4-8, not hidden away in a micro-chip under the skin.  So far as I can see, nothing has happened in Israel anywhere at all approaching Revelation 7.  In addition, the rest of that chapter tells us, there will be a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, peoples, tribes and tongues standing before the throne, and before the Lamb.  As bad as it might seem, the enemy will not win.

In the meantime, even though the apostle Paul didn’t know anything about “democracy,” he still wrote that it is our responsibility as believers that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, 1 Timothy 2:1, 2, emphasis added.  He didn’t say anything about having to agree with their politics or governance.  In fact, he lived during the rule of one of the worst, if not the worst, of the Roman emperors, a man who delighted in the agonizing deaths of Christians in the Coliseum and who took part in their tortures.

The Founders of this once-great nation had themselves, many of them, come from places where there was governmental control over spiritual things, that is, “religion”.  The Constitution they formulated was designed to prevent that.

However, as with all things merely human since the Garden of Eden, the road only leads downhill.  We may yet, and not that far off, see the end of religious liberty in this country.  It’s already begun in some of our states with the prohibition of religious, that is, church, meetings, though nightclubs and casinos are still free to operate as usual.  We’ll see if this restriction ends when the pandemic is over.  Censorship is beginning, as with the blog mentioned above.  It likely won’t get any better.

As our Lord was coming to the close of His earthly ministry, He told His disciples some of the things that would happen just before His return, and He said to them, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near,” Luke 21:28 NKJV.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few days or weeks or months.  I don’t even know for sure what will happen in the next five minutes.  But, one way or another, all things will come to an end.  I don’t know if the things that we see happening around us are “the beginning” of that end or not.  But maybe it’s time to “lift up” our heads.

In the meantime, January 20, 2021, is 10 days away as I write this.  At that time, it will become our responsibility as Christians to pray earnestly, faithfully, and truthfully for Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., the 46th President of these United States – as well as for all of our governing officials, down to the most local level.

Weight Problems

No, this will not be a plug for the latest diet.

My reading the other morning was in Amos, which describes God’s controversy with Israel. In 2:13 NKJV, He says, “Behold, I am weighed down by you, As a cart full of sheaves is weighed down.”

Scripture has a lot of things to say about weight, some interesting, some convicting.  For example, in the story of David and Goliath, Goliath is described as wearing armor that weighed 5000 shekels of bronze.  That means little to us, but his armor would have weighed about 125 pounds.  The tip of his spear weighed about 16 pounds, or about the weight of a bowling ball.  He himself was over nine feet tall, so his equipment would be unusual.   Still.

Job gives us the account of a man who suffered extraordinarily and said some things he regretted later.  He said in 6:1, “Oh, that my grief were fully weighed, and my calamity laid with it on the scales,” then in 6:2, he makes this comparison, “For then it would be heavier than the sand of the sea”.

As we might put it, Job asked for a sit-down with God to ask Him why he, Job, was suffering so badly.  He hadn’t done anything to deserve it.  Why was God treating him like this? 

He got his wish.  In effect, God asked him, “Do you really want to go there?”  In Job 38-41, He asked Job a series of questions beginning with, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” 

He had this same conversation centuries later with Israel.  Among other things, He said to them that He weighed the mountains in scales And the hills in a balance, Isaiah 40:12.

He could tell us how much Mt. Everest weighs.  Or Pikes Peak, the mountain pictured in the header for this blog. 

Those aren’t really the problem.

These are the problem:

“Talk no more so proudly;
Let no arrogance come from your mouth,
For the LORD is the God of knowledge;
And by Him actions are weighed,
1 Samuel 2:3.

Surely men of low degree are a vapor,
Men of high degree are a lie;
If they are weighed on the scales,
They are altogether lighter than vapor,
Psalm 62:9.

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
But the LORD weighs the spirits,
Proverbs 16:2.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
But the LORD weighs the hearts,
Proverbs 21:12.

If you say, “Surely we did not know this,”
Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it:
He who keeps your soul, does He not know it?
And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?
Proverbs 24:12.  All references NKJV, emphases added

And probably the most well-known one of all these.  Daniel 5:27, where Daniel, interpreting the handwriting on the wall, tells the party king Belshazzar, “TEKEL:  You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting [lacking], emphasis added.

Some folks have the idea that, when we stand before God, He’s going to weigh everything we did.  If the good outweighs the bad, then we get to go to heaven.  If it  doesn’t, well, then there’s the other place. 

Since folks recognize that they aren’t what they should be, they try to add some weights to the scale:  church or ritual or good works or any number of things.  What they don’t realize is that, apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no good, that all these things go on the wrong side and only add to our spiritual problems.  They have and are no answer.  

Scripture tells us that, apart from the Lord Jesus, we all stand condemned in the sight of God.  We have already been pronounced “guilty”. 

But don’t even our own consciences tell us that, that we fall short even of what we think is right or wrong.  The new year is a week old.  How many of you have already broken “New Year’s Resolutions”?  I quit making such things a long time ago.  It may be a new year, but it’s still the same ol’ me.

Like Belshazzar of old, we have been found lacking. 

There has only ever been One who could say, “I always do those things which please Him,” John 8:29.  There’s only ever been One who could ask His enemies, “Which one of you convicts Me of sin?” John 8:46.  There’s only ever been One of or to whom God said, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well pleased,” Luke 3:22.

No one, when they finally stand before God to give an account of their life, will be able to go up to the throne and say, “Move over, Jesus.  Now there are two of us.”

In this world, there is no antidote, no counter-weight, no counter-balance, to sin.

Jesus didn’t come into this world in order for us to have a reason to give each other presents or to put cookies out for Santa or to go out and buy a new outfit or have Easter egg hunts.

I used to work in retail and the busiest day of the year was the day after Christmas, when people came in to get refunds or to exchange something for something else.

Jesus came into this world to make a much more important exchange.

In the words of 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  As I’ve said before, I’m old. and often prefer the KJV, with which I grew up.  In that version, this verse, slightly updated, reads, in part, He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.  I like this version because it puts first the amazing, the unbelievable, the incredible truth about Calvary:  He made Him to be sin for us… 

He made Him to be sin for us.

He made Him to be sin for us.

He took all our corruption, all our depravity, all our wickedness, and put it on the head of His only-begotten Son, that One who was holy, harmless and undefiled, Hebrews 7:26.

But that’s not all!

…that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

…we…

…the righteousness of God….

Two things as far apart as east and west.

In the Lord Jesus Christ, they meet…

…and are made real to and for us.

But they are only to be found in Him.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

Legacy

On the opening screen of my laptop every day, there are several “recommended sites,” covering a wide variety of topics and interests. There’s one there today entitled “Troubled Times for Alternatives to Einstein’s Theory of……” Or, this one, “Was I wrong to fall for a cheating cat?”  But they purr.  That’s why I like them.  This article goes with one down the page: “A Brief History of House Cats.” Or there’s this one, “You’re Never Going To Have a Legacy, So Give up Trying”.

I may or may not read this last one – if I do decide to read it later, it may already be gone.

However, judging by the picture and comment accompanying the teaser, I would disagree with it. I have no wish to rub salt into wounds, or anything like that, but the picture is of several gravestones, and the comment says, “Acknowledging the death of our lives and legacy can help us live better.” Both the picture and comment are from something called “qz.com”.

We’ve been occupied the last few days with ideas surrounding the picture and comment.  My thoughts and prayers are still with all those involved in those days.  I think about the idea conveyed by the picture quite often as well, having recently entered the ninth decade of my own life. If “qz.com” means by “legacy” that I’m never going to be rich or famous or powerful, as the world understands those things, they’re right. But I am rich, beyond their understanding, and I do have a legacy:  children.  Some of them have their own legacies like that, as well.  But if the article means that I’m going to die and leave them, my much-better-half wife, and everything else, it’s right. (And no, she’s not a “half-wife”. She’s given me a half a century of patience, love and home-cooking. [Sorry, too many “halfs”?] ) As for the riches, James 2:1-6 has something to say about the riches of this world, in contrast to those who are rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which God has promised to those who love Him.  qz.com knows nothing of those riches.  And then, there are the riches of the friendships that have come my way through means of this blog.  Maybe not like friends who can gossip over the backyard fence or borrow a cup of sugar, but friends, nevertheless. 

The Final Tap of the Hammer

This post begins with a partial repeat of a post I wrote on 9/8/14 titled, “Why All This Hammering and Cutting?”  I’ll have more to say afterward.  The post that’s repeated is about a visit Sharon and I had more than 6 years ago with a friend of ours who, after suffering a lifetime with Lupus, had been diagnosed with ALS.

Here is the partial repeat:

“Christians sometimes wonder why they have to suffer so much.  And there are a whole flock of people making a good living convincing them that they don’t have to, that they should have everything they want, if only they had ‘faith.’

“Dear friends, some of you are suffering things I can’t begin to imagine.  Over the Labor Day weekend, my wife and I went to visit a dear, dear sister who was recently diagnosed with ALS, after a lifetime of suffering with lupus, among other things.  I think she blessed us with her cheerful spirit more than we blessed her.  I can not imagine being completely unable to do ANYTHING for yourself, but having to depend on others for EVERYTHING, though, thankfully, she can still talk – and smile and laugh. [Note: she did get to the point where speech was taken from her before she died.]

“So, why suffering?

“If we could imagine a block of stone suddenly finding its voice, we might hear something like the following:

” ‘Oh, why all this hammering and cutting on me?  This chipping and sanding and buffing?  Why me?’

“The artist replies, ‘Be patient.  There’s a beautiful statue inside you’.”
__________

Now, we grant that there is no “beautiful statue,” no “divine spark” inside of us just waiting to be released or kindled, like so many would have us believe.

There’s no statue, true, but…

…for the believer, there’s something better….

That other post finishes like this:

God “doesn’t come to us and fix us up a little bit.  He doesn’t just slap on a new coat of paint or put down a new carpet.  He makes us a “new creation.”  As in the original creation, He started with nothing, so in the new creation, He starts with nothing.
…..
“And He will finish what He started.  He chips, and cuts and hammers and buffs and polishes to get rid of what we are in order that we might see a little of what we are to become.

Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, 1 John 3:2.
___________
You see, God has a master plan for His people, a blueprint.  We only see a tiny, tiny portion of it.  But He tells us a little about it in His Word, as we just saw.  There is more.

According to Romans 8:29, it is God’s purpose and plan for His children to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

It’s hard to believe as we look in the mirror on the wall, or the mirror of the Word, but even as God said in the original creation, Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, and it was so, 1:9, 11, 15, 24, so He has said of the new creation, that His children are to be “conformed to the image of His Son,” and it will be so.

Death is just the final tap of the hammer.

The Valley of Achor

I write this with a heavy heart and tearful eyes – on two accounts.

A beloved sister in Christ is grieving with a friend over the loss of the friend’s nine year old daughter in a traffic accident.  I grieve with her, even though I’ve never met her, only through our blogs, and don’t know her friend.

A brother whose Unshakeable Hope spoke to me and to countless others has also gone through that door that leads into eternity.  Completely paralyzed by ALS for 23 years, though the doctors when he was first diagnosed gave him 3-5 years, yet his love for and dedication to the Lord Jesus shone through his life and his blog.  He could only write with eye-movements toward a special computer.  But he did what he could and only eternity will reveal the fruit of his labor.

The name of the valley in the title means, “trouble” or “troubled”.

This place is referred to five times in Scripture:  Joshua 7:24, 26; 15:7; Isaiah 65:10 and Hosea 2:15.

Joshua 7 is a story which happened in the initial conquest of the land of Canaan.  Israel had finally been able to begin to possess that land.  They were given specific instructions that all the plunder from their first conquest was dedicated to the LORD.  They were not to take any of it.  It wasn’t theirs.

Israel was successful and easily defeated Jericho, Joshua 6.  The next day or so, Joshua sent just a few men to defeat the next town:  Ai.  It was little and wouldn’t require much effort. 

Israel was badly defeated, Joshua 7.

Joshua was badly shaken.  How would this defeat reflect against his God?

God said,  “Don’t come to Me.  It’s Israel’s fault.  They sinned, and until that sin is judged, they will never be victorious.”  I’m paraphrasing. 

Turned out, someone had seen some treasure and some nice clothes among the belongings of the defeated foe.  He had taken them and hidden them in his tent.  

Joshua told Achan, the man, that he had “troubled” Israel, and that, now, he would be “troubled.”  Achan, all his possessions and his entire family were destroyed as a result of his sin.  A great heap of stones was raised over their grave, and the place was named “the Valley of Achor,” Joshua 7:26.

In Joshua 15:7, the Valley became one of the boundary markers for the fledgling nation of Israel.

Truly, “Trouble” is often a boundary marker for our lives.  As with the sister and brother above, things happen which cause sorrow and grief.  I really don’t have the words for what I want to say.

There are two more Scriptures.

Isaiah 65:10 says, Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, For My people [Israel] who have sought Me.

Hosea 2:15, I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; She shall sing there, As in the days of her youth, As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.

I don’t want to get into the prophetic implications of these verses, but just want to make a couple of observations. 

There is unbearable grief and sorrow in this world.  The two friends above are just two examples out of countless thousands as I write, and you read, these words.  Perhaps you, as you read these words, are walking through your own Valley of Achor.  My prayer is that God will pleased to comfort you and to walk with you.  To much of this world, too much of this world, these are meaningless words.  I hope and pray not to you.  

Bill Sweeney, to honor him in his struggles and his victory, may very well be like the man in Acts 3:8, who was healed by Paul. The man just healed was walking and leaping and praising God.  Certainly with Bill, his Unshakable Hope has come to fruition.

According to Hosea, there is coming a time of hope and singing in the Valley of Achor.  but it’s only for those who know the Lord Jesus, whose sins have been forgiven because of Him, through faith in Him, His death and resurrection.  For others, Achor will still just be trouble.  

There is one more Scripture.

2 Corinthians 4:17, For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

The things which weigh us down today may very well become the building blocks for a glorious future.  In view of eternal glory, the difficulties of this life are indeed “light”.

Oh, listen, on this last day of 2020 or on the first days of 2021, might you turn from yourself and your sin and turn to Him, Who alone is able to do anything about them.  

” Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31. 

Courage and Romans 7

This seems like a strange grouping: courage and a Scripture, Romans 7, which is somewhat dark, to say the least.  I’m thinking especially of verse 18a, For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells NKJV.

Just in passing, the rest of the verse has something to say about the “free will” controversy, which is still very much alive and well.  Pay careful attention to what Paul wrote:  for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good, I do not find (emphasis added).  Do you not find this to be true?  Have you ever tried to do something – lose weight, quit some bad habit?  Perhaps start some good habit?  Eat better, be more faithful in prayer or Bible reading?  How has either of those worked out?  “To will,” to decide, make a decision, can be easy; “to perform,” to actually follow through – and keep following through, sometimes, not so much.

When Paul refers to his “flesh,” he wasn’t writing about his physical body, but the human nature he, and all the rest of us, inherited from Adam, that fallen, sinful human nature.  He says of that part of us that there’s nothing good in it Godward.  He writes about the struggle, the warfare, v. 23, of that Adamic nature – “the law of sin” – with the new nature God gives us at our new birth, when we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  And it is a warfare, make no mistake about it.  The Adamic nature – “the flesh,” still believes Satan’s lie in the Garden, that it is God, determining for itself what is “good” and what is “evil”.  We see the evidence of this everywhere.  Even in our country, we’ve seen pictures of the recent burning of a pile of Bibles. 

I think even the modern tendency to use a small “b” when referring to God’s Word is a part of this warfare, or the use of a small “g” when referring to “God”.  I had a discussion about this with the publisher of my latest book.  The proof came back with “bible”.  I can hardly type that sitting here in my comfortable recliner.  I have no problem with “a sportsman’s bible,” or, “a fisherman’s bible,” books talking about those respective activities, but God’s Word is the Bible; it’s not just another “how-to” volume. 

I’m afraid the time might be coming when God’s Word will be illegal in this country, as it is in much of this world already, and even in parts of this country.  It’s already illegal in school, in government.  Even many religious organizations which call themselves “churches” don’t really believe its teachings or live by it. 

This is where the other part of the post’s title will come in:  “courage”.

For the most part, we’ve been very blessed in this country.  True, there have been those who have suffered for their faith, but we haven’t had to worry about our doors being broken down and us hauled off to jail for even possessing a Bible.  This happened in the very beginning of our country, before the Constitution was formalized, guaranteeing freedom of religion.  “The flesh,” though, reads that as “freedom from religion.” 

Believers have suffered throughout church history, and are suffering even today in parts of this world, for daring to profess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs may yet have a chapter about modern America. 

Zechariah 2:8: Poking God In The Eye

For thus says the LORD of hosts, “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye,” NKJV.

“He who touches you….”

Though the Hebrew verb translated “touches” is translated in a number of ways, it’s basic meaning is “to lay a hand on.”  “He who lays a hand on you…”  Perhaps the title to this post is a bridge too far for the meaning of the word, but, still, Zechariah warns those who would harm, that is, “lay a hand on,” the nation of Israel. 

Years ago, I read an explanation of the word translated, “apple,” that it refers to or means, “the little man of the eye;” i. e., it describes the reflection one would see looking closely at the pupil of someone looking at someone else.  You would see a reflection of what the other person saw, “the little man” in their eye.  I no longer have that source, though that’s where I got the idea for the title.  However, the ever-present internet, unless the electricity is out, tells me that the Hebrew word is actually feminine:  the little woman. 

Regardless, the idea is that God has His eye on Israel and, even though she might temporarily have been put aside, Romans 9-11, the time is coming – the end times – when her enemies will try to bother her- the little woman of the eye – and they will find out, once and for all, that it bothers God – immeasurably.  How can I write that?  Because God Himself had Isaiah write,

7). “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD And the praises of the LORD, According to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, And the great goodness toward the house of Israel, Which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, According to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.  8). For He said, “Surely they are My people, Children who will not lie.”  So He became their Savior.”  9). In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the Angel of His presence saved them; 

Isaiah 63:7-9a NKJV, emphasis added.

“In all their affliction He was afflicted.”

This doesn’t mean that Israel “got away with” their rebellion and unbelief.  They’ve suffered greatly throughout their history, and will yet suffer, to the point seemingly of annihilation.  In spite of all their waywardness, God blessed has them greatly.  That’s a good definition of grace: blessing in spite of sinfulness.  BUT, God also judged them for that sinfulness, that waywardness.  Verse  10, the next verse, says, But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit: So He turned Himself against them as an enemy, And He fought against them.  Now, it doesn’t say that He became their enemy, just that He acted like one. 

Though we won’t look at verses later in Isaiah, they say that there is coming a time of “reconciliation” between Israel and her God.  Israel doesn’t know it yet but one day, they will learn of that One was born so long ago – who He really is.  The season of the year we’re in is the beginning….

 

Christmas Day Musings

(content reprinted from December 25, 2013, edited)

At last we come to the central figure in the nativity story:  someplace near a feeding trough for animals – a makeshift bed for the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and of each and every one of us, because there was no room for Him elsewhere.  We understand the situation.  It wasn’t because of the hardheartedness of people.  There was just simply no room.

No doubt, there were many babies in Israel that night.  Our focus is on one of them: an unknown infant in an obscure village in a small, troublesome nation, an infant generally ignored in the hustle and bustle of the happenings of the day.  Pretty much like today.

Even among Christians.

And nativity scenes.

And the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

The celebration of the birth of our Lord brings about a curious situation.  Have you ever noticed that the Lord Jesus is the only historical character never allowed to grow up?  (And yes, I know that some think that He never existed.)  I made a comment on a blog about this and someone replied, “Easter.”  That’s not what I meant.

What do I mean?

Nelson Mandela died a few days ago (on December 5, 2013).  In the future, when his birthday comes around, the focus will not remain on his birth among the Tempu tribe in Transkei, South Africa, on July 18. 1918.  That could be included, but the focus will be on what he accomplished in his life.

By way of contrast, the Lord Jesus remains forever a Babe on Christmas Day.

Why do you suppose that is?

Nobody’s afraid of a baby.

I don’t know what the situation was back in the Lord’s day, but folks today will come up to the parents of a little one and “ooh” and “aah” over how cute he or she is.  They’ll smile at the little one, want to know his or her name, and then go on their way because he or she isn’t theirs.  They have no real interest in that little one beyond today’s cuteness.  But the baby certainly poses no threat to them or to their well-being.

What about the Baby in the manger?

He grew up.

The Lord Jesus began His ministry by commanding people to repent.  He talked about sin and death and judgment and hell, where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched,” Mark 9:43-48.  Now these were not ignorant heathen in some out-of-the-way place somewhere.  These were people who for centuries had prided themselves on being God’s people.  After all, they were the chosen nation.  And no doubt many of them did know the Lord.  But the idea to some of them that they should repent just like Gentiles who converted was just too much.

He told them that unless their “righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,” they would “by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,”  Matthew 5:20.  You have to understand that the scribes and Pharisees were looked upon in their day as the paragons of virtue and righteousness.  The idea that something more than what they had was required – why, that was unthinkable!   Furthermore, more than once, the Lord scolded them publicly for their hypocrisy.  No wonder they perceived Him as a threat to them and their way of life, cf. John 11:48.  Granted, this was the leaders of the nation, but it apparently didn’t take much to incite the crowds later to cry out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  Luke 23:20; John 19:15.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby poses no threat to folks.  They can ignore Him and go their way.  But as the incarnate God and Judge of all mankind – well, He’s a threat.  They don’t want to think about things like death and the judgment to follow.  They don’t want to be told that they’re sinners, and that, apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, they stand condemned in the sight of God.  They want to hear about “love,” not righteousness; about a “better place,” not that other other place.  They want “health,” not holiness.  Riches, not redemption.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby is safe.

But He grew up.

Thank you, Lord.

Happy Birthday.

Zechariah 2:5-13: The Lords of Hosts.

2:5).For I,’ says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.’ “

6). “Up, up!  Flee from the land of the north,” says the LORD; “for I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven,” says the LORD.  7). “Up, Zion!  Escape, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon.”

8). For thus says the LORD of hosts: He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. 9). For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants.  Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me.

10). Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion!  For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the LORD.  11). “Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people.  And I will dwell in your midst.  Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.  12). And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem.  13). Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!”

Zechariah 2:5-13, NKJV, emphasis added.

There are some profound truths in this portion of Scripture, although that could be said of almost any verse in the Word of God.  And, no, the title isn’t a mistake.  We’ll get to that in a minute.

The phrase, “the Holy Land,” is used a lot in our day to describe Israel, but it occurs only one  time in Scripture, in v. 12 in our reading above.  The ground that makes up the land of Israel is no different than the dirt in any other part of the world.  It’s all part of what God created in Genesis 1:9, 10, regardless of how the Great Flood might have rearranged things.  What will make it “holy” won’t be any innate attribute of its own, but rather, it will be the presence of the LORD that will make it holy.

Then there’s the phrase, “the LORD of hosts,” found twice in v. 8.  Go back to the beginning of this post and read it.  Did you notice anything?

Verse 8 starts off with, For thus says the LORD of hosts:  “He sent Me after glory,” emphasis added, and goes on to describe some things, to which we’ll return, Lord willing, in the next post.  Verse 9 continues in this vein, and then concludes that, when these things happen, “then you will know” – and pay attention to this.  Remember who is talking in v. 8 – the LORD of hosts, and He says, in v. 9,  “[t]hen you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me.”  These verses clearly teach the interactions of two different LORDs of hosts.  In v. 8, One sends the Other.  In v. 9, One is sent by the Other, also v. 11.

This is just one of many, what someone has called, incidental proofs or statements in Scripture that teach plurality in the Godhead.  This does not mean a plurality of gods!  It means that, within what we call God, or the Godhead, there are distinct and separate personalities.  We know Them from Scripture as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Even though the Spirit is never directly called “The LORD of hosts,” as are the Father and the Son, He is identified with Them as Their equal.  For example, in the Great Commission, the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples to “go…and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Matthew 28:19, emphasis added.  There is only one “name” given in Scripture to the Father and to the Son, the name of Jehovah.  The Son tells us here that it is also the name of the Holy Spirit.  He, too, is Jehovah.  If it’s argued that this refers to the authority of God and not just to a “name,” that doesn’t make any difference.  The Spirit is still put on an equal plane with the Father and the Son.

The Old Testament, which puts the focus on the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people and, recognizing her congenital and stubborn tendency toward idolatry, emphasized the unity of the Godhead:  Hear, O Israel:  the LORD our God is one! Deuteronomy 6:4.  There are not several Gods.  This verse is known as the Shema, from the first word in the Hebrew verse.  As a young man, I worked for a while in a Jewish synagogue.  The Rabbi’s son, only about 6 or 7, if I remember correctly – it’s been a while  – that little fellow knew this verse – in Hebrew.  It’s only six words – but they are eternally important words!

Because of that emphasis on the unity of God, Jewish people have a lot of trouble with the idea of His plurality, that is, of the Trinity.  God is One!  How could there be plurality!  And because of that, they have a lot of trouble with the idea that Jesus Christ is God.  So did His contemporaries, cf. John 10:33, also Matthew 27:42  This latter verse tells us that the Jews who heard the Lord Jesus knew exactly what He was saying, unlike those today who deny that He ever claimed to be God.  The Jews who heard Him knew that He was indeed claiming to be Divine, to be God, not just to know Him or be “related” to Him, as the Jews themselves might have said.  But the Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 6:4 does not rule out plurality.  That same word is used in Numbers 13:23 in the narrative of the two men who returned from their original survey of the Promised Land, carrying one cluster of grapes on a pole between them.  There was one cluster, with a lot of individual grapes.  There is another Hebrew word for “one” which does mean “single,” as in one unit or item.  That’s not the word used in the Shema.

God is One, but there’s room in the word for plurality in the Godhead.  That is why there are two Beings in Zechariah 5:8, 9 who are called “The LORD of hosts.”

Perhaps an illustration or two from God’s own creation will help.  God did not make a one-dimensional world, like a sheet of paper held at eye level and you look at the edge.  It doesn’t matter what the page says or a picture might show.  There’s just a line.  There is neither “depth” or content to that picture.  Nor did He make a two-dimensional world.  Even though there is some “content” to the picture when you look at it, it still doesn’t look as it does in real life.  It’s still “flat”.  God made a world of three-dimensions.  We are designed to live in that world.  We see a three-dimensional world, a world of depth and perception.  It isn’t just a flat photo or movie.  Because of three dimensions, we have an idea of how far away something is, or how tall it is or what relationship one thing has with another..

Furthermore, we hear with perception.

What do I mean by that?

I am deaf in one ear.  When I hear a noise behind me, or someone talks to me, I turn to see what made the noise or the person talking to me, as you probably do.  Invariably, I will turn to the left, in the direction of the ear that still hears.  I never realized the idea of “depth perception” in hearing, or “directional perception,” until I lost it.  I can’t tell on which side – in back – the noise or the voice is coming from.  If you still have hearing in both ears, pay attention the next time something happens in back of you – or to one side.  Which way do you turn to see?  Didn’t your ears tell you which way to turn – on which side or where in back the noise or voice came from?

So what does this have to do with the Godhead?

It has to do with a three-dimensional world.

Perhaps the idea of a cube will help illustrate my point.  A cube has height, depth and width.  The three dimensions of a cube are equal: height, depth and width.  But the height is not the depth or width, the depth is not the height or width and the width is not the height or depth.

The Bible tells us that, like Their creation, the Godhead is “three-dimensional”, if I can put it like that.  It consists of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  These three are equal in being, power and dignity.   But the Father is not the Son or the Spirit, the Son is not the Father or the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son.

This is how the Godhead is both One and Three.

This is how, in Zechariah 2:8, 9, there are two “Lords of hosts”.