Peace

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

What images enter your mind’s eye when you hear the word “peace”? Do you picture cloudless blue skies over a quiet deserted palm-lined tropical beach disturbed only by the lapping of the rising tide, the whisper of the ocean breeze, and the occasional caw of a soaring seagull? Or, do you imagine a silent stony perch atop a tall Rocky Mountain overlooking a thick pine and aspen forest below alternately lighted and shaded by passing puffy clouds? Is your idea of peace a serene humble home on five or ten acres of land far, far away from the rush and bustle of urban life? Do you think of a world without crime, without war, without pestilence and hunger, and without hate?

All those visions of peace exist only in the imagination, and if by experience, they are only temporary. The quiet beach will soon fill with noisy sunbathers. The silent mountain scene gets interrupted by an unpredicted thunderstorm. The endless chores disturb the serene little farm house. As for peace in the world, you can forget that.

As Jesus faced the cross, He tried to prepare His disciples for what lay ahead. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). He offered His peace, unlike the peace that the world can give. We personally enjoy quiet peaceful moments in this life, but they are temporary and fleeting. The world knows no peace. The interval between World War I, “the war to end all wars,” lasted less than 21 years before World War II flared up. Since then the United States prosecuted wars in Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, along with several “peace-keeping” skirmishes here and there. Meanwhile, the Middle East experiences fighting periodically and consistently throughout the Muslim world. If that were not enough, rioting breaks out in almost every country all the time. Now the entire world lives in fear of a man-made global pandemic. The world knows no peace.

Yet Jesus said, “My peace I give unto you.” To whom was this gift directed? Jesus addressed a very specific audience, His disciples. His peace is not for the world. It is for His disciples only. On that night, He spoke only to the twelve, but He intends all of His disciples to have the gift, that means you and me if we are truly His disciples – believers, followers of Jesus. In His high-priestly prayer He said, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (John 17:9, emphasis mine). Then, so as not to exclude those that would follow, He said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (John 17:20, emphasis mine).

The peace Jesus gives silences the most tempestuous storms of life, allays the deepest fear, and quiets the troubled mind. His supernatural peace confounds any false peace the world can offer. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, emphasis mine). His peace does not exempt us from the affliction, pressure, persecution, tribulation, or trouble that comes as part and parcel with life in this world. Indeed, He requested, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil [one]” (John 17:15, emphasis mine). Our peace comes from knowing that “[We] are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). “For our [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

The world labors in vain for peace. The world alters language to stifle hate. The world blames the weather for rioting in the streets, so it implements draconian measures to curtail carbon emissions. The world cries, “Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11). The world knows no peace, but the believer in Jesus can know peace. As the axiom makes clear, “No Jesus, no peace; know Jesus, know peace.” One day soon, the world will know peace, but not now.

Every true believer, every Christian should know peace. If not, there can only be two reasons that a Christian does not have peace. Either they have not been “born again” and do not know Jesus personally, or they have momentarily taken their eyes off of Him like Peter did when he tried to walk on the water (Matthew 14:22-32). If you do not know Jesus, but you want to know peace, see my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

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Hate Speech

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)

The Left have gone completely Orwellian. Romans 1:28 explains their mental decline. Their problem would not be so bad if it were confined to them individually. However, the Left are so fully entrenched in the seat of power that their insanity permeates all of our society. Of course, I speak of the U.S.S.A (United Socialist States of America), formerly known as the United States of America (U.S.A.), but this perverted way of thinking infests the globe. Somewhere or somehow they reached the conclusion that they possess the power to dictate thought and speech to the lower caste. They are the elite that possess superior intellect and greater moral virtue than all others, so they assume the right to control the inferior masses.

Some very recent examples of their high-minded acts include disdain for anyone who supported President Trump. Trump supporters have been degraded to the level of “deplorables” and “Neanderthals.” The Left have elevated themselves to social autocrats whose status permits them to determine right and wrong in all areas of life. All of society must conform to the utopia of their imagination, so their objective is to cancel, do away with, all former vestiges of social and historical norms. The Left are everywhere, in government, in medicine, and in business. Recently, Mike Lindell, the My Pillow ™ guy, was “cancelled” by a large number of retailers[1] simply for voicing his support for President Trump. Facebook and Twitter also cancelled his accounts. The Left have determined that some of Dr. Seuss’ books are not suitable for children,[2] so the books have been pulled off the shelves. Amazon, which started out as a bookseller, quickly removed the books from its inventory; meanwhile, it still carries Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler, The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, and Rules for Radicals by Saul D. Alinsky. Can you say “hypocrisy”? Disney has also joined the cancel-culture bandwagon by removing many of its animated children’s films.

That is just in the secular world. The Left are coming after Christians[3] who take the Bible literally because the Bible opposes most of what they favor. The Bible opposes evolution which the Left favor.[4] The Left say that everything either originated from a cosmic accident or as a result of the “seeding” of the planet by aliens from other worlds; therefore, the survival of the fittest is the law of nature, and they, of course, are the fittest. The Bible claims that God created one original pair of humans, male and female.[5] The Left denies genetics, basic biology, and favors gender diversity based on individual preferences-as if one can will away one’s biological gender. The Bible says that God created ALL life, therefore only He has the right to give or take life. Human life is of great value to God.[6] The Left maintains a low regard for life; therefore any human life that does not contribute to society is worthy of elimination. Abortion of a baby, even up to term, is acceptable if the birth inconveniences the mother. Euthanasia is permissible for ridding society of “useless eaters.”  The Bible calls homosexuality an abomination to God.[7] The Left promote all forms of depravity as “normal” and acceptable. The Bible emphatically states that only one way leads to eternal life.[8] The Left are all over the place on that question, and whatever one believes in that regard is valid.

Anyone who professes what the Bible teaches in opposition to the Left is guilty of “hate speech” and subject to cancellation. Are you up to it, Christian?

Notes:


[1]  https://welovetrump.com/2021/02/11/heres-the-full-list-of-all-retailers-who-have-cut-ties-with-mike-lindells-mypillow/

[2]  https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/02/us/dr-seuss-books-cease-publication-trnd/index.html

[3]  “Is Cancel Culture Canceling God? – https://www.crosswalk.com/faith/spiritual-life/is-cancel-culture-canceling-god.html

[4]  Genesis 1

[5]  Genesis 1:26-27

[6]  Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5

[7]  Leviticus 18:22-23; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:8-11;

[8]  John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 16:30-31; Romans 1:16; 3:20; 10:9-10; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Titus 3:5-7; Hebrews 7:25; 9:12-14; James 2:10; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 3:18; 1 John 1:9; 4:9-10

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It’s the Word!

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

This past Saturday morning, I met with my Gideon[1] brothers for our weekly breakfast gathering at IHOP.™ Frankly, I did not feel like getting up that early on a Saturday morning. It was damp and gloomy and not very inspiring for an early morning rising. I knew it would be that way from the previous day’s weather forecast, so I made up my mind that I would skip this meeting unless God woke me up to get me to go. At six A.M. God woke me up, but I rolled over in bed and told Him I really didn’t feel like going. Then at 6:15 A.M., the alarm clock, which neither my wife nor I had set, went off, so I said, “OK, Lord. I’ll get dressed and go.” I am learning not to argue with God when He wants me to do something.

The meeting was typical. We read Scripture, offered praises and prayer requests, and then enjoyed fellowship over breakfast. In the course of conversation, one of my Gideon brothers asked if any of us had heard about the sexual misconduct allegations recently made about Ravi Zacharias.[2] Zacharias, who died on May 19, 2020, was previously accused by a woman of inappropriate advances in an email scandal of which he was later cleared. Now, almost a year after his death, other questionable women, “massage therapists,” have come out accusing the evangelist of inappropriate touching, rape, and “spiritual abuse.” The ministry (RZIM) launched an investigation into the matter and issued an open letter[3] regarding the findings of the investigation.

Regardless of the findings of the investigations or RZIM’s renouncement of Ravi’s alleged misconduct, I am not prepared to assign guilt. As I told my Gideon brothers, we cannot know the facts. We take the accusers’ words at face value without knowing the motive behind the accusation or whether the misconduct really took place. The man is dead. He cannot defend himself. Why bring up these charges now?

This I know. “… [A]ll have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). No man is above sin. The allegations against Ravi Zacharias, may be true, and if true any heavenly rewards he earned here on earth will probably be cast aside as “wood, hay, and stubble,”[4] but “he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”[5] God will make that determination.

I also know this. Satan is a liar and the father of lies.[6] Ravi had a powerful apologetics ministry. He destroyed enemies of the Gospel with his tremendous intellect and logic, and nothing would give Satan greater satisfaction than to destroy Ravi’s ministry and legacy, especially in these Last Days when the return of our Lord draws near.

This, too, I know. Regardless of the man, God’s Word will remain true. God promised, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11, emphasis mine). Jesus put it this way, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

The human source from which God’s Word procedes matters not. It is God’s Word that will prevail. Consider the false prophet Balaam.[7] He was hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the children of Israel, but every time Balaam opened his mouth, nothing but blessings came forth. Consider King David. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband Uriah killed, took a census of Israel that God did not authorize. Yet, he was called a man after God’s own heart, and he wrote, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, most of the psalms in the Hebrew Psalter that bless us today. Take, also, Jonah as another example. God told him to go preach to the people of Nineveh, but Jonah boarded a ship bound for Spain in direct opposition to God’s command. Jonah became fish bait and fish vomit, but eventually, he preached to the people of Nineveh and they repented. God’s Word prevailed.

I also recall a modern-day evangelist, by the name of Bob Harrington.[8] He was known as the “Chaplain of Bourbon Street” because he would go into New Orleans strip clubs and witness to the ladies that danced there. Harrington would draw large crowds in his evangelistic campaigns. I first heard him preach while I was stationed in San Diego in the Navy. His messages were powerful, and he preached the Gospel straight. Many came to the Lord through his preaching of God’s Word. Later in life,[9] Harrington renounced the faith and pursued worldly pleasures, but that does not negate the Word he preached, or cancel the salvation of those who received the message he preached and accepted Christ because of it.

All of God’s messengers are flawed, and we, as Christians, need to take care not to allow them to become idols. They are fallen men, but it’s the Word of God they preach that matters. I do not know if Ravi Zacharias is guilty of the charges brought against him. However, I suspect that it is a ploy of the Devil to denigrate the Word of God. “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged” (Romans 3:4, emphasis mine). Men will always let you down, but God’s Word will always be proven true. It’s the Word, not the man. It’s the message, not the messenger. 

Notes:


[1] The Gideons International – https://www.gideons.org/

[2]  Ravi Zacharias International Ministry – https://www.rzim.org/

[3]  Open Letter/Board Statement – https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-updates/board-statement

[4]  1 Corinthians 3:12

[5]  1 Corinthians 3:15

[6]  John 8:44

[7]  Numbers 22-24

[8]  “ ‘Chaplain of Bourbon Street’ dies at 89” – https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/chaplain-of-bourbon-street-dies-at-89/

[9]  “My Renewed Life Story” – http://www.thechaplain.com/testimony.htm

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Secret Believers

Image Credit: Sheri Johnson, “the Jesus Chick” Website: https://thejesuschick.com/

Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)

A cursory reading of the Gospels can give one the impression that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day unanimously rejected the teachings of Jesus, but like all generalizations, that is not altogether true. Actually, many accepted His claims as true.

Take Nicodemus, for example. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1). By this introduction, we know that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. “The Pharisees were an ancient Jewish group who laid the foundation for what would become rabbinic Judaism. The name, ‘Pharisee,’ likely comes from the Hebrew word prushim, meaning ‘separated ones,’ but it’s unclear what exactly this label signified. Some of the Pharisees’ biggest contributions to Judaism were: (1) Emphasizing the “oral tradition” (which they argued was equal to the written tradition of the Torah), (2) Extending Jewish practices into life outside the temple, (3) Instilling greater piety in “the common people,” (4) Promoting belief in the afterlife. Despite their influence on rabbinic Judaism and their prominence in the New Testament, the Pharisees are a notoriously difficult group to define. No ancient Jewish group referred to themselves as Pharisees. The label originated with people who didn’t belong to this group … Modern Christians tend to see the Pharisees in a negative light—mostly because the New Testament authors portray the Pharisees as legalistic and hypocritical. While that might describe their confrontations with Jesus and early Christians, it hardly tells the whole story of this important Jewish group.”[1]

That John identifies Nicodemus as a “ruler of the Jews” suggests that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the supreme council and tribunal of the Jews during postexilic times headed by a High Priest and having religious, civil, and criminal jurisdiction. This is further confirmed when this group issued a warrant for Jesus’ arrest.[2] After listening to Jesus’ teachings, the officers could not bring themselves to arrest Him. When questioned why they had returned empty-handed, “The officers answered, Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). Nicodemus was in that group of the Sanhedrin, and he questioned their motives. “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:51).

Jesus further identified Nicodemus as “a master of Israel.”[3] The Greek word translated as “master” is didaskalos meaning “an instructor (generally or specifically): – doctor, master, teacher.” Nicodemus knew the Scriptures, therefore he came to Jesus (by night)[4] to hear directly from the source.

Nicodemus along with another named Pharisee came to believe in Jesus. The other was Joseph of Arimathaea who requested Jesus’ body for burial.[5] John notes that Joseph was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews.” [6] That he was a “disciple” indicates that he was a “student” of Jesus. He followed Jesus (secretly) for His teaching and Joseph, like Nicodemus, believed.

They were not the only ones. John records, in our verse above, that “among the chief rulers also many believed on him.” “Many” suggests more than just Nicodemus and Joseph. However, they kept their discipleship to themselves for fear, “lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” Earlier in his Gospel, John records Jesus’ healing of a man that was born blind.[7] When the religious rulers questioned the man’s parents about their son’s healing, they responded, “we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:21-22, emphasis mine). The fear of excommunication held powerful sway in keeping the religious in line, but perhaps it went deeper than that. John’s assessment makes it clear, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, more of these secret disciples came out of the closet. After Pentecost, Luke records, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7, emphasis mine). No matter how the elites tried to spin it, the fact of Jesus’ resurrection could not be denied except for the willfully ignorant.

Are you a secret believer, an undercover disciple, an incognito follower of Christ? Do you fear being cast out of the “synagogue” of your social or peer group? Do you love “the praise of men more than the praise of God”? If so, Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). If Jesus lived in an “adulterous and sinful generation” think how much truer that is for our generation! Jesus’ return is very near. You do not want Him to be ashamed of you when He comes? Don’t be a secret believer. Instead, adopt Paul’s attitude. He said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Notes:


[1] “Who Were the Pharisees? The Beginner’s Guide” — https://overviewbible.com/pharisees/

[2]  John 7:32

[3]  John 3:10

[4]  John 3:1

[5]  John 19:38

[6]  ibid

[7]  John 9

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Love

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

I have trouble finding uplifting topics about which to write these days. If you are a Christian, and a conservative, the outlook, except for the hope of the Rapture, seems less than cheery. But today is Valentine’s Day, so what better topic to cover than “Love.”

The English word “love” appears 311 times in the King James Bible, 131 times in the Old Testament and 180 times in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, “love” is used to translate eight different Hebrew words. The most common Hebrew word translated as “love” is ‘âhab, and its first appearance is in Genesis 27:4 when Isaac asks Esau to prepare some “savory meat such as I “love.” The Hebrew word ‘âhab means “to have affection for (sexually or otherwise),” so it allows for a lot of latitude in the way that it can be used, much like the way we use the word “love” in our day. I “love” Whataburger!

The second most used Hebrew word translated “love” is ra‛yâh used nine times and all in the Song of Solomon. The word means “a female associate” and it is used in the same way we would use it in speaking to a girlfriend or wife – “my love.”

The third most used Hebrew word translated “love” is dôd (translated “love” seven times), which means “to boil, that is (figuratively) to love; by implication a love token, lover, friend; specifically an uncle.” I can easily associate “boil” with “love,” i.e., “passion,” but I do not get “uncle,” which is the way it is often translated. The Song of Solomon finds the most uses of the word dôd, which makes sense considering the content of the poem. It is used in Proverbs 7:18 by the adulterous woman seducing the fool, and in Ezekiel 16:8 describing God’s passion for Israel. Also in Ezekiel 23:17 it is used to describe Israel’s and Judah’s passion for idolatry like an adulterous woman.

There is no word in the Old Testament (that I could find) that describes God’s love like there is in the New Testament. Love appears as a verb (agapaō) 140 times and as a noun (agapē) 117 times (sometimes translated “charity”). Strong’s Dictionary translates it as “affection or benevolence,” but biblical scholars have long assigned greater meaning to the word. Indeed, when reading the “Love Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) in the KJV, agapē is translated as “charity” because “charity” better conveys the deeper significance of the word. As charity is selfless giving without expectation of reciprocation, so agapē expresses the love of God completely.

John expressed God’s love in the third chapter of his Gospel, “For God so loved (agapaō) the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus said (our starting verse), “Greater love (agapē) hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He proved this by giving His own life on the cross to rescue us from eternal damnation.

In like manner, Paul exhorts, “Husbands, love (agapaō) your wives, even as Christ also loved (agapaō) the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Love unselfishly without expecting anything in return. Although, I believe you will be rewarded.

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