Category Archives: Bible

Sharpen Your Sword

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: (Ephesians 6:17)

Earlier this past week, my BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) group met to study Matthew 4, where the Gospel writer recounts Jesus’ temptation by Satan after He spent 40 days and 40 nights without food in the wilderness. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews states that “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). In his first general epistle, the Apostle John lists three points whereby we are tempted: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.[1] We have evidence of this from the very beginning. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [pride of life], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat…” (Genesis 3:6).

Matthew records that Satan tempted Jesus by the same means, albeit not in the same order.[2] The order of the temptations is not as relevant as the fact that the temptations are the same as those to which we succumb. Satan first came at Him with the lust of the flesh, “command that these stones be made bread.” [3] Next he tried tempting Him with the pride of life, “cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.”[4] It behooves us to take note that Satan quoted Scripture[5] to Jesus, although it was misapplied. (We must take that as a lesson; knowledge of Scripture is not the path to salvation.) Finally, Satan went for the lust of the eyes. “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9). Satan is the “prince and god of this world;”[6] therefore, he had a legitimate right to make that claim.

Jesus did not take the bait. Jesus answered each temptation with a passage from Scripture. The Bible reminds us that “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, emphasis mine). And do not think that because Jesus is God that He held a higher advantage. Satan attacked Jesus’ humanity, and He is every bit as human as you and I.

If Jesus had an advantage, it was His perfect knowledge of the Word of God, which brings me to the reason for the title of this article. Scripture often refers to the Word of God as a “sword.” Our leading verse (above) refers to the Word of God as “the sword of the Spirit.” “For the word of God is quick [i.e., alive/living], and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword…” (Hebrews 4:12). In Revelation, the Word proceeding from Jesus’ mouth is described as a sword.[7]

The “sword” is the final piece of the Christian soldier’s armor.[8] All the pieces of the soldier’s armor are defensive in nature. They are designed to protect the wearer, but the sword is both a defensive and offensive weapon. As a Christian you have surely experienced opposition when you made an argument based on the Word of God. Of course! It hurts. It cuts, “piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Naturally, the lost hearer will recoil at the message of the Bible.

However, as a Christian, if you have not experienced such reactions, perhaps your sword is dull. Maybe you have hidden your sword away somewhere, and it has become pitted and rusted. Then, when you attempt to use it only bruises but does not cut, and the bruises quickly heal and are forgotten. If that is the case, you need to sharpen your sword! You cannot sharpen your sword with a 30-minute sermon or a 45-minute Sunday school lesson every Sunday. You need to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15, emphasis mine). “Study” does not mean to sit down and casually read a few chapters as one would a dime-store novel. The Greek word, spoudazō, means to “to use speed, that is, to make effort, be prompt or earnest: – do (give) diligence, be diligent (forward), endeavour, labour, study.”[9] If you will take just one or two chapters daily, read slowly and carefully, question the text, seek out the meaning of difficult words, etc. you will gain a deeper understanding of the Word of God. And, because you dug it out for yourself, it will stick better in your mind than what you can get out of casually reading it or listening to what the preacher may have to say about it. This is how you sharpen your sword and prepare yourself for the spiritual battle you face every day

Notes:


[1]  1 John 2:16

[2]  Luke records the same account in the order prescribed by John – Luke 4:1-14

[3]  Matthew 4:3

[4]  Matthew 4:6

[5]  Psalm 91:11-12

[6]  John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4

[7]  Revelation 1:16; 2:12, 16; 19:15

[8]  Ephesians 6:13-17

[9]  Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance by James Strong, S.T.D., LL.D., G4704

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Church And Politics

For our [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: (Philippians 3:20)

I am at the end of my three-year term as a member of the personnel committee of my church. One of the final tasks of my term is to bring in a new ministerial staff member. This week the personnel committee met with the candidate for an interview by the entire committee. In the process of the interview one of the committee members asked the candidate how he felt about politics in the church. He gave what I thought was an appropriate answer. Basically, he said that the church is not about politics but rather about accomplishing the Great Commission.[1] He said that if we teach the Bible correctly, politics will take care of itself. He pointed out that Jesus is neither Democrat nor Republican (nor was He a Pharisee or a Sadducee). As our lead verse (above) states, we are citizens of heaven, not of this world. This world is passing away, but our eternal home in heaven is without end.

I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. The primary focus of the Church – the Bride of Christ – is to enlarge His kingdom, not the kingdoms of this world. That said, the Church, whether it wants to be or not, is involved in politics and must be active in politics. While the Church is not of this world, yet we are in the world for the purpose of being salt and light in the world.[2] That does not mean that the Church must choose one political party or the other, but those parties, that direct our government make laws that either confirm or deny the Word of God. The Church must stand firmly on the Word of God in the world.

When Jesus said, “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18), He did not mean that the gates of hell would attack the Church and somehow the Church would survive. Rather, He meant that the Church would storm the gates of hell and the gates of hell would not withstand the assault. However, it seems to me that the Church is not doing much assaulting lately, rather it seems to be in retreat.

Again, this does not have anything to do with picking a political party. In many ways, they are equally corrupt. However, the Church must stand against ungodliness regardless of the party that promotes it. To do that, the Church must get involved in politics, not partisanism.

Abortion is murder. It is the destruction of the image of God. Child sacrifice is an abomination to God; therefore, the Church must stand up against it with all the resources it can muster. Because politicians take tax dollars to fund Planned Parenthood, and make laws that protect the abortionists, the issue has become political and the Church must get involved.

The gay-rights alphabet movement tirelessly works to promote their perverted lifestyle onto the general public in an effort to “normalize” their perversion. They are not content to impose their aberration on the adult population; that is not enough. They go beyond and seek to corrupt little children with their deviance. This too, is an abomination to God, and He makes that very clear in His Word. Here again, politicians enthusiastically make laws to “protect” the twisted “rights” of sodomites. The Church must fight against such perversion, and that means getting involved in politics.

There are many other ungodly legislations that could be addressed. The crisis on our southern border for example, is a cesspool of human and drug trafficking. It is all an affront to God and His Word. If the Church is going to storm the gates of hell, it must get involved in politics.

How do we do this? Unless you are living under a rock, the evidence is all around us.  The news media (as far as it can be trusted) tells us it is taking place. There are other independent news outlets that can inform us on what the mainstream media withholds. There are many other Christian resources on platforms such as YouTube, Rumble and others that tell you what the mainstream media does not want you to hear. It takes effort, but God does not have us here in this world sit on our blessed assurance, watching the world go by on the way to hell. Pastors should be reading the new media almost as much as the Bible so that they can identify sinful legislation and those promoting it, regardless of political party, and call on the church to get involved in fighting it.

Just because the Church is non-partisan does not mean that it should not engage in politics. One way or another, the Church is involved in politics. It can either fight for righteousness or allow itself to be overcome by wickedness.

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 28:18-20

[2]  Matthew 5:13-16

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Plugged Ears

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Matthew 11:15)

Lately I find myself at a loss for subject matter about which to write. I want to make my articles encouraging and uplifting, but as I look at what is going on around me, in our nation, and in the world, I find very little that is positive. Our government lacks leadership. Those in positions of power seem to be following the dictates of some unseen puppet master. Ultimately, that puppet master is Satan, but that is another topic altogether. Our world fares no better. Economies are failing all over the world placing the whole world at the brink of war. The powers that be continue to increase control over the populous through fear tactics over the supposed pandemic that threatens to kill us all. Pressure to take “the jab” comes from all directions so that, at least in the USA, the government can feign innocence in pushing an unconstitutional mandate. Soon we will not be able to travel, work, buy, or sell without proof that we have been jabbed. No, the jab is not the “mark of the beast,” but it is a good conditioning method to train a compliant society.

All of this may sound depressing to some, but I am actually encouraged. These “signs” indicate that the return of Christ is very near. Jesus foretold all of these things in his Olivet Discourse.[1] Of course, Jesus prophesied of the events that would take place during the Tribulation period seven years before[2] His Second Coming. Before that happens, those who are part of the “true Church,” His Bride, will be raptured out of this world to meet Him in the air.[3]

Some imagine that the Tribulation will begin as soon as Jesus takes His Church out of the world. Then all the Tribulation judgments will begin and escalate rapidly. However, I do not hold that opinion. I believe that the signs will begin slowly, and then steadily increase in frequency and intensity. Jesus described His Second Coming (at the end of the Tribulation) as “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21). “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh … So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” (Luke 21:28; 31).

All the things of which Jesus spoke cannot take place in an instant. Things have to progress (or regress depending on your perspective) slowly. Economies must fail. Desperation must increase. Distrust in leaders must diminish. Governments must maneuver to gain advantage and power. Wars and rumors of wars will increase. Currently, the USA is under threat from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Israel is surrounded by hostile nations. Iran, Turkey and Russia along with their allies are staging their armies in Syria and Lebanon to threaten Israel’s northern border.

The situation seems rather grim. I have heard several prophecy teachers offer this illustration: “When you see the Christmas decorations going up in all the stores, you know Thanksgiving is near.” In the same way, as we see all of the signs for His Second Coming intensify in number and frequency, we can be sure that the Rapture of the Church is very close.

For the believer, that should be cause for joy, hope, and anticipation! At least, that is how I feel about it. So, imagine my surprise when I recently shared a link to one of Jan Markell’s pod casts[4] and a “sister” asked me to remove her from my mailing list because she did not want to hear anything “political.” It occurred to me that some of our brothers and sisters in Christ want to plug their ears and not hear about what is going on in our world. They want to live their lives as “normal” without anything to disrupt the status quo. Ignorance is bliss, the saying goes. Jesus described these days as the days of Noah and the days of Lot[5] when people carried out their lives as normal without a care in the world of the impending doom. When judgment came, they were caught by surprise. In context, Jesus referred to the time of Tribulation, but the same principle can be applied to the time before the Rapture.

Many “blissful” Christians will be caught by surprise when Jesus snatches them out of this world. That is not so bad you may think. However, think of all those left behind who did not hear the Gospel because Jesus’ servants were carrying on their lives as if nothing were happening. Jesus described such servants in two separate parables.[6] In both examples, one servant did nothing with the charge left to him by his Master, and when the Master returned demanding an accounting, the unfaithful servant was chastised and demoted. So, how will these blissful Christians react when Jesus asks for a reckoning? “Lord! I didn’t know you were coming so soon!”

That is what will happen when you go around with plugged ears refusing to hear what is going on around you and what the Bible has to say about it. At least a third of the Bible, I am told, deals with end-times prophecy. It stands to reason that God put that much prophecy in the Bible to prepare us for the things to come. We cannot prepare for the coming days if we go around with plugged ears. The Bible commends the children of Issachar for their situational awareness. “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment” (1 Chronicles 12:32, emphasis mine). We should follow their example. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15)

Reader, perhaps you do not have plugged ears, you are very aware of the decaying condition of the world around you, and you wonder what in the world is going on. I have many articles on the topic of last days under “Categories” that may help answer some of your questions. However, it will all be moot if you do not know the Savior. I encourage you to please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21

[2]  Daniel 9:27

[3]  1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17

[4]  “Who’s Behind the Shadow Government” Jan Markell with guest Bill Koenig, posted July 29, 2021 on Rumble: https://rumble.com/vkhgxr-whos-behind-the-shadow-government-bill-koenig.html

[5]  Luke 17:26-30

[6]  Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27

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Like As We

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Our starting verse assures us that in Christ, we (who belong to Him) have a high priest – an advocate, an intercessor, or a “go-between” – that can relate to “the feeling of our infirmities,” i.e., our weaknesses or frailties both physical and emotional. He understands because He “… made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). He knows our struggles because He experienced our struggles Himself.

We may find ourselves on trial some day in a court of law for some alleged infraction of the law. In our defense, a lawyer – an advocate – will plead our case, but that lawyer goes only by what evidence we can offer. He cannot plead our case from personal experience. Jesus can.

Satan, our prosecutor/accuser, started his practice from the very beginning of creation. He not only brings the accusation, but he initiates the offense to begin with. His first victim was Eve in the Garden of Eden[1] and his tactics have not changed from the beginning. He introduces doubt in God’s Word – “Yea, hath God said?” Then he asserts that God’s Word is a lie – “Ye shall not surely die!” Next he accuses God of withholding something good and implies that he can offer something better – “God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Of course, Satan cannot take all of the blame. God gave humans free will to choose whether to obey or disobey and a nature capable of enjoying all the pleasures God created for us to enjoy. John the Beloved warned, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). The Greek word translated “world” – kosmos – has a broad range of meanings. However, in this context, John is referring to “the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ.”[2]

John sums up “the world” three ways. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16, emphasis mine). Eve demonstrated all three of these frailties. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [lust of the flesh], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [pride of life], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6). We are no different today. Satan employs the same tactics and we still have the same weaknesses.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke both record Satan’s attempt to cause Jesus to sin.[3] At the beginning of His ministry, John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Jesus went into the wilderness, and for forty days and nights he fasted in preparation for His ministry. At the end of the forty days, he was physically exhausted, malnourished, and hungry. He was at His weakest point both physically and emotionally.

Satan assessed his victim’s weakened condition and availed himself of a prime opportunity to attack. Knowing with whom he was dealing, Satan dispensed with his usual tactics. He knew that he could not cause doubt in God’s Word. He was facing the Word Himself.[4] He could not slander the Word of God because he was in the presence of the Truth.[5] He could not tempt Him with “ye shall be as gods”[6] because he was in the company of God. Rather, Satan attacked Jesus’ human nature through human weaknesses. “And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread” (Luke 4:3). Here, the lust of the flesh, was especially challenging to a starving man. Who could fault Him for succumbing to that temptation? Yet Jesus answered Satan’s challenge with the Word of God. “And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” (Luke 4:4, emphasis mine).

Failing at his first attempt, Satan tried again. “And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time [the lust of the eyes]. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine” (Luke 4:5-7). Again, Jesus responded with Scripture. “And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:8).

Satan knows Scripture too, and he knows how to twist it to suit his purpose. “And he brought [Jesus] to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone [the pride of life]” (Luke 4:9-11, emphasis mine). The final fail – Jesus sent Satan packing with His final Word making clear to Satan with whom he was dealing. “And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Luke 4:12, emphasis mine). Satan knew he met his match, so, “he departed from him for a season” (Luke 4:13, emphasis mine). Satan is a highly intelligent being, but he is stupid. Knowing full well that he is out matched by God, he still thinks he can somehow pull off a win.

We continue to struggle with our frailties, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Jesus faced those challenges also, just as we do, “yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Because we, who belong to Him, have His Holy Spirit in us, we can conquer our temptations the same way Jesus did, by standing on the Word of God. However, the Holy Spirit in us can only use the amount of ammunition that we provide, so it is vitally important that we maintain a well-stocked arsenal of God’s Word by reading and studying it daily. And when we fail, and we do fail, we can be sure that “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15) that intercedes on our behalf.

Reader, if you do not have this assurance, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 3:1-5

[2] Joseph Henry Thayer, D.D., The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, (Hendrickson Publishing, Peabody, MA, 1981), Strong’s Number G2889, p.357.

[3]  Matthew 4:1-11Luke 4:1-13

[4]  John 1:1

[5]  John 14:6

[6]  Genesis 3:5

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Crazy!

And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus. (Luke 6:11)

These days I find it difficult to find topics about which to write. I want to write about encouraging topics, but politics and the social condition of our times occupy much of my thinking, and the only encouraging thing that comes to mind is the proximity of our Lord’s return to call His Bride home. As I look forward and look up, I am excited with anticipation, and I am encouraged. However, when I, like Peter,[1] look at the raging storm around me, my mood changes to desperation.

So, like Peter, I cried out “Lord, save me!” I took my Bible, and without looking, opened it at random, zigzagged my finger down the page and stopped at the verse above (Luke 6:11). This is not my usual method of Bible study, nor do I recommend it as an acceptable practice for searching the Scriptures, but on this occasion the Lord was merciful and gave me a thought.

It is never good to take one verse out of context and build a lesson on it, so I went to the top of the chapter and read the full context of the verse. At the beginning of Chapter 6, we find Jesus and His disciples walking through a grain field (barely or wheat, we are not told). Luke points out that it was “on the second sabbath after the first” (Luke 6:1). One commentator suggests that it is “an obscure expression, occurring here only, generally understood to mean, the first sabbath after the second day of unleavened bread. The reasons cannot be stated here, nor is the opinion itself quite free from difficulty.”[2]

Whatever Luke meant by including this detail, the issue remains that the act took place on a Sabbath. As usual, the Pharisees hovered around Jesus like vultures to see what infractions they could find for which to accuse Him. As Jesus and His disciples walked through the grain field, they plucked off heads of grain, rubbed them together between their hands to remove the chaff, and ate the grain. Ah ha! They were harvesting and winnowing on the Sabbath. That was work, and a clear violation of the fourth commandment![3] The Pharisees wasted no time in accusing Jesus of breaking the Sabbath law. Jesus responded by citing Scripture of the time when David ate the “show bread” from the Tabernacle that was reserved for the priests alone.[4] Then He made the audacious statement “That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath” (Luke 6:5). Well, it may have been an audacious statement to the Pharisees but Jesus made a truth claim, and it did not go unnoticed by the Pharisees.

Luke then goes on to recount another Sabbath in which Jesus was teaching in a local synagogue. Again, the Pharisees were present taking notes. In attendance was a man with a withered right hand.[5] He may have been there as a “plant” by the Pharisees as the verse seems to suggest. “And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him” (Luke 6:7). A well respected Bible teacher suggested that the man’s condition may have been a birth defect where the right arm never developed properly. Therefore, the miracle Jesus performed in healing the man gave evidence of Jesus’ divine power of creation.

However, that detail escaped the Pharisees who were more concerned about their legalities than in the welfare of the disabled man. Luke records that “they were filled with madness” (Luke 6:11). The Greek word translated “madness” is anoia. It sounds like it may be the root of our English word “annoy,” but it means more than that. It means to be “without understanding,” i.e. “foolish.” It is a “madness expressing itself in rage.” These men were so outraged at Jesus’ supposed infraction of their standards on top of Jesus’ claim to be “Lord of the Sabbath” that they failed to comprehend the significance of the miracle before their eyes. Crazy!

As I considered this, my mind drifted back to our current condition. Without getting into specifics, we see a mounting intolerance toward Bible-believing Christians. Regardless of the good acts performed by Christian organizations, just the fact that Christians believe that there is only one way to salvation makes Christians akin to “haters” and “terrorists.” Well, we can take courage knowing that the trend only brings us closer to the soon return of Christ. As for “crazy,” you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Reader, if you are not sure of your eternal destiny, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.” There really is only One Way.

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 14:22-33

[2]  Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary, A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Note on Luke 6:1.

[3]  Exodus 20:8-11

[4]  1 Samuel 21:1-6

[5]  Luke 6:6

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