Category Archives: Evangelism

The Fullness of Time

Adoration of the Child

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.  (Galatians 4:4-5)

It’s that time of year again; Christmas is in the air. Regardless of your perception of Christmas – it’s too commercial, it’s under attack, it’s just a pagan celebration dressed up in Christian garb, etc. – it is altogether appropriate that Christians set time aside to commemorate the first advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

At this time we remember the miraculous conception and birth of God made man (John 1:14), but too often our focus shifts away from the significance of that event to the sappy sentimentality of the Nativity scene. As sweet as the image of a cuddly infant lying in a feeding trough adored by loving parents and worshipped by shepherds and wise men may be, the fact remains that this baby was God clothed in human flesh. The thought that the Creator condescended to take the form of His fallen creation (Philippians 2:7) to redeem as many as would receive Him (John 1:12), should leave us awestruck.

This was no afterthought on the part of God. In my article, “Why Satan?,” I address the issue of why God allowed sin in the first place, but along with the possibility of sin, God provided a way out (Hebrews 4:3; Revelation 13:8). From the very beginning there was the promise of a Savior (Genesis 3:15). Eve understood this promise, and at the birth of her first-born she rejoiced, “and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD” (Genesis 4:1). The literal translation of the Hebrew actually says “I have gotten a man Yahweh (the Lord).” She believed that she had given birth to the Savior according to the promise of God. But the time was not right. God wanted His creation, man in particular, to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28; 9:1). Abraham “Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be” (Romans 4:18).  That promise was not only for Abraham, “But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25). For “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). So, when the time was right, God entered the world He created (John 1:3) as a helpless baby – fully God and fully man – to give up His life to buy back and restore His fallen creation. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Very soon, at the fullness of time, He will return for His own as He promised: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). So, regardless of your perspective on Christmas, as Christians it is a good time to remember that baby in the manger was God who came to die for us that we may live with Him, and soon we will be with Him.

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I’m Thankful

Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:11-13)

We have once again arrived at that time of year when we set aside a special time to give thanks to God for all the blessings He has lavished on us. We can focus on the commercialization of the season; following right on the heels of that demonic “holiday” that glorifies death (which is highly commercialized). The focus then quickly changes to the “Holidays,” formerly known as Christmas, without even a cursory mention of Thanksgiving Day. Over the years, I have beaten this dead horse with no sign of revival. I have come to the realization that “it is what it is,” so all I can do is practice what I preach regardless of what others do.

Four years ago, I wrote “One Was Thankful” where I detail the attitude of gratitude, so there is no need for a rehash here. I would encourage my readers to follow the link and read the article. I think I did a fair job of handling the topic. In addition, I have other articles on Thanksgiving Day that I will share on Facebook throughout the week of Thanksgiving. For now, I want to share some of the things for which I am thankful.

First of all, I thank God for life. When God created man,[1] He breathed His breath into his nostrils.[2] What a precious gift, the breath of God, withheld from all other creatures. Only mankind has this special spark of life, and it is eternal. So special is human life that God demands capital punishment for that taking of human life. He even requires that of animals that take human life.[3] The psalmist put it like this: “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalm 139:14). He goes on to describe God’s handiwork in the development of a baby in the womb,[4] which directly confronts those who would kill a baby at any stage of development. Every breath that I take, and every beat of my heart is a precious gift from God, which He can take whenever He wills.

Second, I thank God for eternal life. The Bible says that we all have sinned[5] and we are due the wages for that sin, which is death.[6] With no prospect of rectifying the matter on our own, God took on human flesh[7] and took the penalty of sin upon Himself in order so that we might be saved.[8] It seems too easy, but our only requirement is that we believe in Him and what He has accomplished by His death and resurrection by faith. I made that choice 66 years ago at the age of six and my faith in Him has only grown and has never disappointed. Because I know that my life is His, I know that when He comes to call His children home, or if He calls me home in death, I will be with Him for eternity in a place that I am sure is far more beautiful than that the Apostle John could describe.[9]

Third, I thank God for my wife. She blesses my life daily and has done so for over 34 years. I know she truly loves me even when I am not so loveable.

Fourth, I am thankful for family. I am thankful for Christian parents that were instrumental in leading me to Christ. I am thankful for my brothers and sister who love the Lord and for the love we have for one another. I am also thankful for my wife’s family who has taken me in as a real part of their family. We are family! And I am thankful that we all love the Lord and share that common bond.

Fifth, I am thankful for my church family. In my many years as a Christian, I have found that whenever I am among Christian, even those I have never met, I am among family; I never feel out of place. That sense of family is exponentially stronger in our local church. There we do share one another’s burdens and rejoice with the joy of others. We are truly brothers and sisters in Christ.

Finally, I am thankful for all the “stuff” with which God has blessed us (June and me). We have a house, our home. We have two, not-too-old vehicles. We have no debt. We have more clothes than our closets will accommodate. We have plenty of food to eat. We are blessed with good health. We live in a wonderful town filled with wonderful people. All of these things, as described in the leading verse above, come from the hand of God who richly blesses us even though we are undeserving. When God has so richly lavished His love on us, spiritually and materially, how can we be anything but thankful! God is good, and I am so thankful for Who He is and for His love for me. He loves you, too.

Dear reader, do you know this great and loving God? If not, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 1:26-28

[2]  Genesis 2:7

[3]  Genesis 9:5-6

[4]  Psalm 139:15-16

[5]  Romans 3:10, 23

[6]  Romans 6:23

[7]  John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-11

[8]  Romans 5:8

[9]  Revelation 21-22

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Answering For What You Know

And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; (Daniel 5:22)

Following the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 562 B.C., Babylon started to decline from its former glory. Evil-Merodach succeeded his father and reigned for two years. He was murdered by his brother-in-law, Neriglissar (referred to as Nergal-Sharezer in Jeremiah 39:3, 13), in 560 B.C. He reigned four years, died in 556 B.C., and was succeeded by his young son, Labashi-Marduk, who ruled for two months and was assassinated by Nebonitus. Although Nebonitus became king, his interests in restoring the religion of the moon god, Sin, kept him away from Babylon for 10 out of the 17 years he reigned. In his stead, he named his son, Belshazzar as coregent of the kingdom.[1]

On October 12, 539 B.C., while the Persian army, led by Ugbaru, besieged Babylon, Belshazzar threw a party for 1000 of his nobles proudly trusting in the impregnable walls of that great city. Babylon straddled the banks of the Euphrates River. The river’s entrance and exit through the city were protected by iron-bar gates preventing man or beast from passing through. The Persians were not so easily deterred. While Belshazzar partied, the Persians were busy diverting the waters of the Euphrates so that the flow through the middle of the city dried up. The dry riverbed now provided unrestricted entry into the city, and the Persians caught the Babylonians with their proverbial pants down. Considering the engineering effort to divert the Euphrates around the city, it seems apparent that no one was watching. The Persians conquered Babylon, they killed Belshazzar, and Nebonitus was somewhere in Arabia clueless that he lost his kingdom.

In the middle of all of this drama, Daniel records the final night of Babylon’s glory.[2] As the wine freely flowed into vessels taken from God’s Temple in Jerusalem, Belshazzar saw “the fingers of a man’s hand” writing on the wall. The “vision” so terrified him that he lost control of his bowels.[3] The writing was real. It was not imagined. Belshazzar called his “wise” men to interpret the writing, but they failed. Then Belshazzar’s mother remembered about Daniel and his abilities, so she came to the king to offer advice. “There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers. Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will shew the interpretation.” (Daniel 5:11-12).

Belshazzar called for Daniel and offered him a third of the kingdom if he would interpret the writing. Such status would put Daniel on equal standing with Nebonitus and Belshazzar. However, Daniel refused the offer. He knew it would be short-lived anyway; he knew what was coming. Rather than meet the request directly, Daniel recited Nebuchadnezzar’s history.[4]

O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father[5] a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. (Daniel 5:18-21, emphasis mine)

Daniel charged Belshazzar with the same pride that brought Nebuchadnezzar down. “And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this” (Daniel 5:22, emphasis mine). Belshazzar was not ignorant of this fairly recent history, and yet he blasphemed the only God that could save him.

He knew this, and God held him accountable for what he knew to be true. He would answer for it. Daniel read the writing and gave the interpretation:

And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. (Daniel 5:25-28, emphasis mine)

“In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old” (Daniel 5:30-31).

God has given every human on earth enough information so that they can recognize and worship Him as God. “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20, emphasis mine).

Indeed, Paul says that those who do not know the law of God follow that law instinctively. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Romans 2:14-15, emphasis mine).

Everyone will have to answer for what they know. However, God’s standard requires perfection, and no one – whether knowing the written law of God, or whether knowing the law of God instinctively – can keep the law perfectly. And James says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10, emphasis mine). In the end, everyone will have to answer for what they know. “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works … and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12-15, emphasis mine).

Reader, Jesus is coming very soon. Are you prepared to meet Him? Now especially, having read this, you will answer for what you know. There is only one way to avoid that judgment. Ask Jesus to be your Savior. Please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Victor Books, SP Publications Inc., 1985), p. 1344.

[2]  Daniel 5

[3]  Daniel 5:6 “his loins were loosed”

[4]  Recorded in Daniel 4

[5]  Belshazzar was not related to Nebuchadnezzar. The term “father” is used as a metaphor meaning predecessor or founder.

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Then Came Sunday

Empty Tomb

And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun … And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. (Mark 16:2, 4)

The story of mankind is brief and straightforward despite the naturalistic stories invented by evolutionists. God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26). God created man to enjoy fellowship with Him, but man erected a barrier between himself and God by his disobedience to God’s only command: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). That disobedience brought the curse of death – separation from God who is life and the giver of life. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26). Holy God cannot abide sin. “Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?” (Psalm 94:20).

From that time on, innocent blood has been shed to cover or atone for the sins of man “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Starting with that first sacrificial lamb slaughtered by the Lamb of God (Genesis 3:21), the innocent pay the penalty for the sins of the guilty. So the sacrificial system began carried on by Abel (Genesis 4:4), Noah (Genesis 8:20) and the law delivered by Moses. But the practice failed to bridge the chasm rived by sin “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).

This hopeless situation required a better and permanent solution. This was mankind’s problem and the responsibility fell upon man for resolution. But Holy God cannot be satisfied with anything less a perfect, sinless sacrifice. Only the blood of a perfect, sinless man would do. Where could such a man be found? For, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one … They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, 12). Such a conundrum was no puzzle for an omniscient God. “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8). “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). So, God in human form died in the stead of His human creation, and He took upon Himself the penalty that was due to each one of us individually. This is an awesome thing! In all the world religions of man, man sacrifices himself to his god, but the Bible teaches that God sacrificed Himself for man. Is that not incredible!

So Jesus died on the cross at Passover. He became the sacrificial Lamb of God to atone for the sins of mankind. He took on the crushing blow of the curse of death. In His final words He declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), and He died. Death took its greatest prize, but then came Sunday! The curse of death was broken. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Romans 5:18).

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

(“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” – Isaac Watts, 1707)

His death on the cross covered our sins once and for all. His resurrection bridged the chasm of death separating sinful humanity from Holy God. He has made the way for you and for me. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). After all He has done for you, the least you can do is follow the way He has prepared. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!”

 

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Limited Patience

For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. (Jeremiah 4:22)

Jeremiah prophesied at the time just before, during and after the Babylonian captivity of Judah. As I read the first chapters of Jeremiah, I recognized the United States in the litany of charges God leveled against the nation of Judah. I mourn as the words on the page ring true as applied to the nation that I love.

Judah abandoned God and turned to and worshiped demonic gods. They still went to the Temple and offered sacrifices, but it had become a meaningless routine. “To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me” (Jeremiah 6:20). They were going through the motions, but treating the LORD no different than any of the other gods they worshiped. By this point in their history, Judah had gradually fallen into idolatry in the course of 200 years or more. God had been patient with them sending prophet after prophet to warn them of the dangerous road they were on, but they did not listen. “Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it” (Jeremiah 6:19, emphasis mine).

God had it with Judah! On three separate occasions God told Jeremiah, “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (Jeremiah 7:16, emphasis mine). Imagine offending God so badly that He will not listen to the prayers of those who pray for you! This is how low Judah had sunk. “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble” (Jeremiah 11:14, emphasis mine). Judah had crossed the line. “Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them” (Jeremiah 11:11, emphasis mine). “Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good” (Jeremiah 14:11).

Judah’s list of sins was long and wicked. Not only did they worship idols fashioned after demonic gods, but they offered their babies as burnt sacrifices to these gods. They practiced sexual sins of all kinds. They took advantage of the poor and the widows. They listened to false prophets and rejected the prophets of God who spoke God’s truth like Jeremiah. This was no small thing and they breached the limit of God’s patience. Their rejection of God resulted in their demise at the hands of the Babylonians.

The warning God gave had both a short-term and a long-term application. The Babylonians carried out the short-term application and the Romans carried out the long-term application in A.D. 70 that lasted for almost 2000 years. However, God demonstrates His mercy in that He does not retain His anger forever. He also demonstrates His faithfulness in that He will not break His promise.

Although Israel and Judah were unfaithful to God with their idolatry, He determined to keep His word, not for any merit of this unfaithful nation, but because of His own integrity. He made a promise to Abraham long before Israel became a nation and the only collateral, He gave was His name.[1]God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19, emphasis mine).

As an object lesson, God instructed Jeremiah to go to the house of the potter. There, Jeremiah saw the potter working at the wheel forming a clay vessel. In the process, the vessel developed a flaw at which time the potter crushed it and started over until he completed a vessel that suited his liking. “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel” (Jeremiah 18:5-6).

We see the fulfillment of this prophecy today. For almost 2000 years the Jews wandered from country to country never having a homeland of their own. Linguists considered the Hebrew language a dead language. The Jews did not speak it, yet they maintained their identity as a people and carried on all of their traditions. They never assimilated into the cultures of the lands in which they lived. Then, on May 14, 1948 God brought them back into their Promised Land from all over the world, made them a nation once, and revived their dead language. No other people group in the history of the world had maintained their identity after such a dispersion. The Jewish people returning to their land and the rebirth of their nation is a miracle of God and a promise kept! Of this day the Prophet Isaiah said, “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isaiah 66:8).

There is more to come for Israel. However, what is true for Israel is not necessarily true for the United States of America. We can see many parallels. Regardless of what revisionist historians say, America was founded on biblical principles giving glory to God for His providence. Four hundred years have gone by since the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. For most of our History, God was central to our government and our nation, but slowly the leaven of humanism crept in and started eating away at our foundations. About 50 years ago, the cracks in the foundation became more obvious, until now they seem to have crumbled altogether.

One big difference sets America apart from Israel. God never made an unconditional promise to any one of our founding fathers, not even to George Washington. God made an unconditional promise to Abraham; therefore, Israel survives as a nation. We have no such guarantee. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance” (Psalm 33:12); but we, as a nation, have rejected God and made the earth our god. Unless we, as a nation, repent and return to God, no hope remains for our survival. I see no prospect of a national repentance. God’s patience is limited, and I fear we have breached the limit.

Yet, even though the nation crumbles – that seems evident to me – God’s people will survive. While God still has His people here, it is incumbent on His people to carry on His work until Jesus comes to take us home. As God’s people, we need to remember that this world is not our home.[2] We are citizens of heaven[3] and we are ambassadors of the king[4] in this foreign land. Let us do the work of an ambassador until the Lord closes down our embassy and calls us home.

If you do not know God and are unsure of where you will spend eternity, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 12:2-3; 13:15-16; 15:18

[2]  John 15:19

[3]  Philippians 3:20

[4]  2 Corinthians 5:20

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