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Believe the Bible

For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth … By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. (Psalm 33:4, 6)

My father only completed the third grade in Mexico. He learned to read, write and do simple arithmetic. Education was not greatly valued in his youth. More highly prized were his skills at handling horses and cattle on the family ranch, so his education was good enough to get by. Later in life, he felt called of God to enter the ministry and become a pastor/church planter of Spanish-speaking churches. His third-grade education allowed him to enter the Mexican Bible Institute in San Antonio, TX where, after five years of difficult study, he left without earning his diploma. However, he gained valuable skills in sermon preparation, preaching and pastoring churches. His lack of education did not diminish his love for God’s Word nor discourage him from the constant study of it.

My father taught me many things, but the lesson I treasure most was his love for and trust in God’s Word. He taught me that God’s Word is true in all things and applicable in every situation. Even in those areas of Scripture that are difficult to understand, Dad taught me to trust the Bible simply because it is God’s Word. Dad provided no other apologetic than that.

I grew up with that firmly implanted in my mind, and when confronted with skeptics, my defense defaulted to, “the Bible says.” That answer satisfied me, but it did not impress my challengers. They were convinced that everything started with a Big Bang, that earth formed by itself more than 4.54 billion years ago, and that life sprang up from some mysterious chemical reaction 3.6 – 4.0 billion years ago. That story might make logical sense to some, but it does not line up with the biblical account very well especially when it comes to the topic of the evolution of life. Some “Christian” skeptics suggest that God used evolution to create life over millions of years. My response simply stated that God can do whatever He wants. He could have created slowly over millions or billions of years or He could have created instantly. However, the Bible says He did it in just six 24-hour days.

The arguments have not changed much over the years although the skeptics have gotten more hostile. Even “Christians” come against young-earth creationists charging that a young-earth stance is controversial and divisive. However, today I can offer a better defense besides “the Bible says so,” albeit, that really should be the only defense needed against a “Christian.”

A “mature” gentleman confronted me this week with the “old earth” challenge. He claimed to believe the Bible but he believed the earth was billions of years old, not 6000 years old as young-earth creationists believe. He pointed out that light from distant stars takes billions of years to get to earth and that radiometric dating proves that the earth is old. He excused his disbelief in a literal six 24-hour day creation by stating that we really do not know what the Bible means by “day.”

Given that I was not in an appropriate place to properly respond to his challenge, I gave him some simple answers. A light-year measures distance, not time. Just because a galaxy is 14 billion light-years from earth does not necessarily mean that the light from that galaxy took 14 billion years to arrive at earth. Science has yet to measure the one-way speed of light. For all we know, it could be instantaneous. The Bible also hints that God “gave” the light in place when He created the stars. “And God set [the stars] in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth” (Genesis 1:17, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word translated “set” is nâthan and it means “to give.” Also, the phrase “to give light” is only one word in Hebrew – ‘ôr, i.e., “light.” The verse could be translated, “And God gave them [the stars] in the firmament of the heaven to light upon the earth.” This seems to say that light from distant stars took no time to arrive on earth; it was here from the start.

Then there is the matter of radiometric dating. Besides radiocarbon dating, there are several other methods of radiometric dating none of which are reliable. Dr. Vernon Cupps, a nuclear physicist at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), recently wrote a book[1] that goes into great detail explaining the fallacies of radiometric dating. Indeed, all radiometric dating methods fail to prove that the earth is billions of years old.

The argument from Scripture that we do not have a clear understanding of what a “day” is in the creation account only betrays a lack of understanding of what Scripture really says. In this, the gentleman alluded to Peter’s statement that to God a day is as a 1000 years and 1000 years is as a day. Peter draws his comparison from the psalm of Moses. [2] In his statement, Peter does not make an equivalence between a day and a year but rather draws a simile. The use of the word “as” makes this clear. Peter’s point is that God is not fettered by time; He is timeless. God created time. He created in six 24-hour days and rested on the seventh for our benefit.[3] Furthermore, the word for day used in the creation account is defined by “evening and morning” and confirmed with the assignment of ordinal numbers to distinguish the days.[4]

I left the man with this final thought. We place too much confidence in scientists who are no more than fallen, fallible human beings rather than trusting God’s Word and believing that God did exactly what He told us He did. God is all-knowing and all-powerful and He can do whatever He chooses to do. He could have created the universe, the earth, and all life on earth over billions of years if He chose to do that, but that is not what He told us in His Word. He could have created everything in an instant if He chose to do that, but that is not what He recorded in His Word. What God tells us is that He created everything in six 24-hour days. It is clearly spelled out in His Word. Believe the Bible!

Notes:


[1]  Vernon R. Cupps, Rethinking Radio Metric Dating: Evidence for a Young Earth from a Nuclear Physicist, (Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX, 2019). Available from the ICR online bookstore at http://store.icr.org/.

[2]  2 Peter 3:8; Psalm 90:4

[3]  Exodus 20:10-11

[4]  “A Day Is A Day” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/25/a-day-is-a-day/

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What the Law Does

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20)

Many Christians today adopt the attitude that the Old Testament Law no longer applies because we are not under the Law but under Grace. That is certainly true. However, the fact that we are under Grace does in no way render the Law irrelevant or make it of no effect.

The Law given in the Old Testament accomplished two things. It codified what God expected of His people, Israel, and it provided specific practices for God’s people to follow that set them apart from the pagan nations among whom they lived. They were to be “holy” as their God in heaven is holy, i.e., set apart, consecrated, distinct.

The Law provided a third way for the people to relate to God through the sacrificial system which provided a way to atone for or “cover” the sins of the people. However, the sacrificial system did not provide a permanent solution to the sin problem. Sacrifices were made for all kinds of infractions of the Law, and like sin, they were a perpetual practice. The continual offering of sacrifices illustrated the insufficiency of sacrifices to fully atone for the sin of the people. Even so, the sacrifices required faith in the offering otherwise they became a ritual practice akin to pagan practices. God rejected such sacrifices.

To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. (Isaiah 1:11)

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)

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. (Hebrews 10:4)

One thing we learn from the Old Testament is that it is impossible to keep the Law, and that it is insufficient to atone for sin. Our opening verse makes it clear, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Romans 3:20). The only sacrifice sufficient to atone for sin is the one offered by God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ and the blood He shed on the cross. Sin – all sin, for all time – was paid in full when Jesus exclaimed, “It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30). However, Jesus did not remain dead. On the third day, He rose from the dead and conquered the “last enemy”[1] giving us access to eternal life by the simple act of believing. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The Old Testament teaches us that we are incapable of keeping God’s Law, therefore we are doomed by that standard. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, emphasis mine). Grace is God’s gift to us. Grace is “unmerited favor.” Grace cannot be earned through any human effort because “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Romans 3:20). Grace is a gift, bought and paid for by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). As with any gift, it must be accepted before it becomes one’s own possession.

What good, then, is the Old Testament Law, if one cannot gain salvation, i.e., eternal life, by keeping it (not that you could if you tried)? Paul provides the following affirmation: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). We are declared “just” when we place our “faith” in what Jesus did for us on the cross. That is a “done deal” outside the keeping (“the deeds”) of the law. Then Paul poses and responds to our question. “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). The Greek word translated “establish” is histēmi, and it means “to cause to stand.”

The Law still stands. It is not required to gain eternal life nor is it needed to maintain our salvation. However, it does serve as our guide to holy living which God still requires of His children. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). Jesus tied our love for Him to the keeping of His commandments.[2] Jesus spoke these words 25-30 years before the first Gospel was written, so His commandments were the same commandments He gave to Moses, which are summarized in two great commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind (your whole being), and love your neighbor as yourself.[3]

But what does that look like? Our opening verse tells us: “for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20). Granted, much of the Mosaic Law had direct application to the culture of that time, however, the principles therein apply to our modern time. Take for instance the laws given to dress. The reason for those laws served to make the children of Israel distinct from the people among whom they lived. God still wants the same for us today. We shouldn’t dress and look like the lost world around us. We should be distinct. We should be holy as our Father in heaven is holy – set apart from the world. Speaking of us, Jesus said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). What the law does is show us how not to live like the world.

Notes:


[1]  1 Corinthians 15:26

[2]  John 14:15, 21; 15:10

[3]  Matthew 22:36-40

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Ye of Little Faith

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. (Hebrews 11:17-19)

The African impala can jump to a height of over ten feet and cover a distance of more than thirty feet (in the jump).  Yet these magnificent creatures can be securely contained in zoos with no more than a three-foot wall.  You see the animals will not jump unless they can see where their feet will fall.  Far too often, we are rendered useless to God because we are unwilling to trust Him with what is unknown (to us).  When He calls on us to take a leap of faith, we are unwilling to obey because we cannot see where our feet will fall.  In his many years of walking with God, Abraham had come to a place in his life where he could absolutely trust God no matter what God might ask of him — including sacrificing his only son.

Genesis 22 opens with the phrase “Now it came about after these things,” (v. 1).  After what things?  Beginning in Chapter 12 of Genesis, the story of Abraham unfolds.  At the age of 75, after being well established in the city of Ur, God told Abraham (Abram at that time) to pack up his belongings, leave his home and family and go to some undisclosed land with the promise that God would make of him a great nation.  So Abram trusted and obeyed God even though he had no idea where his feet would fall.  For ten more years Abram wandered the deserts of Canaan without ever finding a place that he could call his own, but he believed God would keep His word.  Then at the age of 85, God once again paid Abram a visit to reconfirm His promise to make of him a great nation.  This time, Abram just had to ask, “O Lord GOD, what wilt Thou give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” (Genesis 15:2).  Again, God assured him that he would indeed procreate and be the father of many nations. Then, in order to help God out with His plan a bit (and how many of us have ever been guilty of that?), Sarai (Sarah) considering the fact that she was no spring chicken and had been barren all these many years, proposed a solution.[1]  She offered her handmaid to Abram so that he might sire a child through her.  That makes sense, humanly speaking. We might have suggested the same thing today along with fertility drugs or in vitro fertilization.  We might even justify it by saying that we are putting “feet to our prayers.”  At any rate, it was a feeble attempt to help God out with His plan, but a surrogate mother was not what God had in mind.  So Abram waited another fourteen years and again God paid him a personal visit to reconfirm His promise.  By now, Abram is 99 years old and Sarai is 89.  God had promised, and Abram had waited.  He still had no homeland that he could call his own, no child “of promise” that would engender a nation, and he was getting really old!  Yet Abram believed God, and at the ripe old age of 100, God granted the old couple a son, Isaac – “laughter”!

“And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham …” (Genesis 22:1).  Now, before we accuse God of child abuse or bloodthirstiness, please notice that this was a “test.”  It was only a test, but Abraham did not know that.  “A and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.”  (Don’t you just love it when you call your son or your daughter by name and they answer immediately, “Yes, Dad!” or “Yes, Mom!”  Of course, just the opposite is true when you call them and there is a deliberate silence.)  “Here I am.”  Whatever God wanted, Abraham was ready.

Then God said, And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:2). Wow!  Can you imagine!  By now Isaac was between 16 and 22 years old, and Abraham was between 116 and 122, and Sarah between 106 and 112.  And God had not missed the fact that Isaac was Abraham’s “only son” – the son whom he loved.  Oh, the pain that must have pierced the heart of Abraham!  In the movie, The Bible (1966), Abraham is portrayed as rebellious at first.  “No!  No!” he growls at God as he beats his fists into a desert rock, but ultimately he complies.  That is not how the Bible portrays Abraham.  Yes, his heart must have ached, but look at how he responds.  “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3).  Abraham did not hesitate.  He did not question.  He just obeyed.  Again, at least for the second time in his life, Abraham was going to some undisclosed location – in the “land of Moriah … on one of the mountains of which I will tell you” – not knowing where his feet would fall – just because God told him to do it.

After a three-day’s journey, they arrived at the general vicinity of the sacrifice.  Abraham instructed his two servants to remain with the donkey and says, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you” (Genesis 22:5, emphasis mine).  What could Abraham have been thinking?  “We will come again to you?”  Was he forgetting something here?  Did God not tell him to offer Isaac up as a burnt offering?  Some have suggested that Abraham said this in order to conceal what he was about to do from his servants.  That makes sense.  Isaac, being the only son of Abraham, was probably the darling of the whole household.  Surely if Abraham had divulged his plans to his servants, he would have met with opposition.  But I think there is more to it than that.  The writer of the book of Hebrews says that Abraham “Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Hebrews 11:19).  “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). He could not see where his feet would fall, but he knew God was well in control.

As they traveled up the mountain, Isaac asked the obvious question, “And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together” (Genesis 22:7-8). Can you picture the scene?  There, Abraham leads the way with calm assurance and determination on his face, fully trusting his heavenly Father.  There, Isaac follows not knowing what lies ahead, but he too trusts his earthly father.  What a pair those two must have made!  “God will provide for Himself the lamb!”

Finally, they came to the place that God had designated, Mount Moriah.  The Bible tells us that this very place was the site upon which the Temple would be built.[2]  Oblivious to God’s plan and going only on what God had instructed him to do, Abraham built the altar, prepared the wood, bound his son, his only son, Isaac, and placed him on the altar.  Imagine this! Here was a strong young man who by now knew exactly what was about to happen, and yet he complied with his father’s will. Isaac could have very easily overpowered the 116-plus-year old Abraham and said, “No, sir!  I will not be roasted!”  This was a test of Abraham’s faith, but Isaac’s faith should not be discounted.  He willingly complied with his father’s wishes.  There he lay, on the stack of wood that he had carried up the mountain on his back, looking full into his father’s face as Abraham, knife in hand, raises his hand to strike the lethal blow.  Abraham, his eyes raised toward heaven, unable to look into his beloved son’s eyes, not knowing where his feet would fall, was fully committed to God and to His will.  In Abraham’s mind, the sacrifice was completed.  Isaac was God’s!

Two thousand years later on the same hill, another Father and another Son would replay the same scene, but this time, God intervened.  “And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I” (Genesis 22:11).  Once again, Abraham was ready to obey his Lord’s command.  And Jesus said, “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:12).

Why do I say that this was Jesus speaking to Abraham?  For one thing, Abraham had received his orders directly from God, and no subordinate angel could have made him deviate from what God had told him to do directly; only God Himself could have changed Abraham’s orders.  Secondly, how could an ordinary angel say, “You have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me?”  Abraham was not offering Isaac up to an angel but to God.  And finally, Jesus would later remind the Jews, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).

So Jesus prevents Abraham from completing the physical act of sacrifice. Isaac was now fully offered both by his father and by himself.  The father yielded up his son, the son gave up his life; from both parties, as far as will and purpose could go, the sacrifice was complete.  There was no need for Abraham to endure the torture of running the knife through his son.  In his mind and in his heart, he had made the sacrifice.  And God said, “for now I know that thou fearest God” (Genesis 22:12).  Is it possible that God did not know that prior to the test?  Could the omniscient, the all-knowing, God, the God that searches the hearts and minds of men, have been ignorant of Abraham’s faith and devotion to Him?  Impossible!  God knew exactly what Abraham would do.  He knew that Abraham would do just as He commanded even to the point of giving up his only son.  God did not need any proof for Himself.  The test was for Abraham.  Abraham is the one that needed to know just how far he was willing to go for God.  Abraham was the one that needed to know that he could implicitly trust God to provide all of his needs “according to his riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19).  And Isaac, the heir to God’s promises needed to know that too, because neither Abraham nor Isaac would ever see the day when Abraham would become a great nation.  Neither one of them would ever see the fruit of the “seed” in which “all the nations of the earth” would be blessed (Genesis 22:18).  Neither one of them would ever see where their feet would fall, but they needed to know that God would keep His promises and that He would always provide.

So God provided a substitute. “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (Genesis 22:13-14).

Abraham learned that in all things God will provide.  Even when things are unclear, God will provide.  Even when the outcome is unsure, God will provide.  Even when we cannot understand, God will provide.  Even when we cannot see where our feet will fall, God will provide.

Then Jesus came to him again to reconfirm the promise. “And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:15-18).

“By Myself I have sworn, saith the LORD” (v. 16) because the writer of Hebrews tells us, “he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself” (Hebrews 6:13).  God’s promises are true.  God is faithful and He will do what He says.  Did Abraham ever see God’s promise fulfilled in his lifetime? Only in his dreams! Did God keep His promise to Abraham?  Absolutely! Why? “Because thou hast obeyed my voice” (v. 18).  Abraham did not know where his feet would fall, but he obeyed God anyway. “So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba” (Genesis 22:19).

Two thousand years later, the drama was replayed.  Only this time, the Son, the only Son, the beloved Son, and His Father were the players.  Once again, the Father and the Son walked up together to the summit of Mount Moriah, and there the Father offered up His Son.  The Son, knowing full well what was about to transpire, willingly carried on his back the wood upon which He would be offered.  Together, He and the Father walked up the lonely hill, both determined that this offering would take place.  This time, there was no “Angel of the Lord” to stay the hand of the Father because it was the “Angel of the Lord” that laid upon the wood.  And the Father strikes and the nails were driven into the hands and feet of the Son, and the spear pierced His side.  The Son dies, and the Father weeps.  This time there is no substitute.  This is the way it had to be.  The only Son of God the Father was offered up for your sins and mine.  Why?  So that you and I might have eternal life by taking a leap of faith and trusting in the sacrifice made on our behalf.  The Bible says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, emphasis mine).

God gave His one and only Son for you and for me. He has the absolute right to expect your obedience by trusting in the sacrifice of His Son. Are you unsure because you cannot see where your feet will fall? You may hesitate because you do not know how your friends or your spouse or your family will react if you give your life to Christ.  You may hesitate because you fear that you will have to give up a lifestyle of sin with which you have grown comfortable.  You may feel that you are doing alright on your own, and that you have no need for God in your life because you have everything under your control.  Besides all of that, you don’t know if your decision to trust Christ will ever pay off.  You cannot see where your feet will fall, so you would rather remain confined in a world that you can see rather than to obey God and trust Him with what you cannot see.  Let me assure you, you are not as safe and secure as you think you are.  Why not take that leap in faith by trusting Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord.  He alone holds the future and in Him you can find true security.

Perhaps you already know the Savior. You possess the assurance of an eternal future with Him in heaven, but you haven’t learned to trust Him with your present life.  Perhaps you are not serving Him as you should because you have too many other things that occupy your time.  Maybe you are not the witness for Him at school, at work, or at home that you ought to be because you worry that you might offend someone, or you may lose your job or your credibility or your relationships.  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).  Perhaps you haven’t trusted God with the giving of your tithe because you worry that you won’t have enough month left over at the end of your paycheck. Remember the words of Jesus: “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matthew 6:25).  He went on to say, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-33).

God knows all of your needs, and He will meet them.  He doesn’t need your help to take care of you.  He can do just fine without you, if you will only trust Him to care for you as He promised.  Do not stay trapped by what you cannot see; “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Abraham could not see where his feet would fall, but he trusted God, and he obeyed.  “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3).  Do not allow the cares of this world hold you captive like a three-foot wall keeps the African impala imprisoned. “Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”[3]

Notes:


[1]  Genesis 16

[2]   2 Samuel 24:10-25; 2 Chronicles 3:1)

[3]  From the hymn, “Trust And Obey,”

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Same Old Tricks

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

We think we are so smart! We carry around in our pockets devices with more computing power than the computers that sent the first American astronaut, Alan Shepard, into space. With it, we talk or send text messages to friends and loved ones instantly. We stay in touch with current events, check the weather, watch video programs (even live TV), find answers to all of our questions with a few clicks of the tiny keyboard, just entertain ourselves with mind-numbing games. We fly across the country in a matter of hours, send probes to distant planets, or view the ends of the universe with our powerful satellite telescopes. We have developed medical devices that look inside our bodies to produce images of injured or diseased tissues. According to a 2013 report, knowledge doubled every 12 months, and the report predicted that it would soon double every 12 hours.[1] God told the Prophet Daniel that this would happen. “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Daniel 12:4, emphasis mine).

However, for all our smarts, we still fall for the same old tricks[2] Satan has used since the beginning of time. Look at what transpired in the Garden of Eden. God had given man absolute freedom and dominion over the entire planet[3] and placed them in a perfect environment[4] with only one stipulation. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 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 2:16-17, emphasis mine).

Satan’s goal is to separate God’s supreme creation, humankind, from their Creator and he continues to employ the same strategy and tactics that he used in the Garden to cause man to fall.[5] His strategy is to cause man to doubt God and to turn to him to meet their perceived needs. His tactics are threefold. First, he instills doubt in God’s Word – “Is that really what the Bible says?”[6] Second, he declares God’s Word as untrue – “You can’t believe the Bible. It was written by man, and it is full of myths and factual errors. You can’t trust the Bible!”[7] Finally, he slanders God by accusing Him of withholding total autonomy from you – “God knows you will be like gods, and He doesn’t want competition!”[8]

Man does not need Satan to cause him to sin. Man succeeds at sinning very well on his own, and Satan uses man’s own natural bent to sin against him. The Apostle John warns us against loving the world system[9] which is really man’s system. John characterizes it in three ways: (1) the lust of the flesh, (2) the lust of the eyes, and (3) the pride of life. Look at how Satan used man’s own nature against Eve. He first executed his strategy to cause doubt in God, and then he stood back and allowed Eve’s own human nature go to work. “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, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6).

It seems we are not so smart after all. In almost 6000 years, Satan has not changed his methods one bit, and man’s nature has not improved through countless unlearned lessons. As the Preacher said, “there is no new thing under the sun.”

“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). The Son of God and Son of Man accomplished what no other man could; He did not succumb to the wiles of Satan. “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, emphasis mine).

After He was baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days in preparation for His earthly ministry. Satan took advantage of His weakened condition to make his attack. Satan knew who he was facing. Jesus is the Word of God and very God indeed,[10] so there was no point in trying to cause Him to doubt God’s Word. Instead, Satan attacked His human nature. First, he went for the lust of the flesh. “And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread” (Luke 4:3). Then he attacked through the lust of the eyes. “And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 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” (Luke 4:5-6). Finally, he used the pride of life to make Jesus fall into sin. “And he brought him 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” (Luke 4:9-11).

There is nothing that you or I face that Jesus did not experience fully. Satan uses the same old tricks and we have all the same weaknesses of all who have come before us. However, as the Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). Christians, if they will take advantage of it, have the power to defend against Satan’s assaults and to combat the weaknesses of the flesh because, as the Apostle John reminds us, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Jesus defeated the devil, and now His power is available to us, if we will only take advantage of it. We do not have to fall for the same old tricks Satan uses. The way to defeat Satan is to pray daily and often, meditate on God’s Word daily,[11] and “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25), i.e., get involved in a good church and fellowship with other believers.

Reader, if you lack the power to withstand the devil, read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  http://www.industrytap.com/knowledge-doubling-every-12-months-soon-to-be-every-12-hours/3950

[2]  “Nothing Changes” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2018/04/15/nothing-changes/

[3]  Genesis 1:26

[4]  Genesis 2:8

[5]  “Why Satan?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/11/02/why-satan/

[6]  Genesis 3:1

[7]  Genesis 3:4

[8]  Genesis 3:5

[9]  1 John 2:15

[10]  John 1:1

[11]  Reading the Bible is good practice, however, meditating on God’s Word requires a little more effort than just reading. One has to read and think (meditate) on what God is saying. Paul said to “Study to shew thyself approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15). That requires diligent effort.

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The Man Upstairs

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

I am certain that every writer experiences “writer’s block” occasionally. For me, it occurs more often than I would like. Most often it happens when I have neglected spending consistent time in the Word. Since this blog is biblically based, it is important that I remain faithful to Bible reading from which I draw my inspiration.

Those who follow this blog know that I post something every Sunday morning. I have no obligation to write. This blog does not contribute to my livelihood in any way, so if the “well is dry” no harm is done if I skip a week or two. However, when I started this blog, I committed to produce something regularly that would benefit the readers. Besides those who subscribe to this blog, I get readers from all over the world, so I take care to rightly divide the Word of truth[1] knowing that I am accountable to God for the way I handle His Word. I am also keenly aware that not everyone that reads my blog is a born-again Christian. So, I do my best and pray that God will use it for His glory.

Anyway, this was one of those weeks, and I kept praying that God would give me something for subject matter. When I find myself in an empty well, God often gives me inspiration from the most unusual sources.

This week I received it from the evening sportscast. I am not at all interested in sports. Oh, I like to watch a good game now and then, but I am not a fanatic about any sport or any team. However, as I sat in front of my TV set with my reheated Tex-Mex leftovers, paying more attention to my refried beans and enchiladas than to the programming, I caught a brief sound bite from the sportscaster that perked up my ears. As I said, I am uninterested in sports so the details eluded me. He mentioned some football player who was traded for a better deal. The sportscaster attributed the player’s windfall to divine intervention from “the big guy upstairs.” Why did he not just say “God”?

I hear similar epithets for God all the time – “the man upstairs,” “the big guy upstairs,” or just “the big guy” (spoken with eyes cast skyward), etc. It always bothers me when I hear this, but it bothers me worse when I hear it from Christians.

What! You’re embarrassed to say, “God”?

I am sure it bothers me more than it bothers God. After all, judgment day is coming, and that matter will be settled when all creation stands before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.[2] When Isaiah came face to face before God, he fell on his face and cried, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

Perhaps such epithets sprang up from a desire not to violate the third commandment (our verse above)[3] much like Jews avoid pronouncing the name of God, Yahweh. To avoid the infraction, they will say Adoni (“Lord”) or Ha-Shem (“The Name”). However, the intent of the commandment was for us to hold the name of God in reverence and not to cast it about carelessly.

How we use God’s name betrays how we value Him in our heart.[4] The sportscaster could have said that God intervened on behalf of the football player, and it would have been just as demeaning. The reason for this is the assumption that God had anything to do with it in the first place, and the sportscaster’s smirk indicating that he did not believe what he was saying to begin with. (I do not know that for certain as only God knows the heart.)

The practice of using epithets for God violates the third commandment, although not always. Referring to God in any careless way breaks the commandment. Even when one intends to be respectful by not using the name of God, the use of the epithet demeans the name of God. He is not the “man upstairs.” He is not a man at all.[5] He is the Creator of heaven and earth. He is the One who gives life and breath to all.[6] We should never refer to Him lightly or carelessly in our conversation. When we speak His name, it should only be with reverence and in a way that honors and glorifies Him, and we should never be ashamed or embarrassed to say His name. We do this when we testify what great things God has done for us. We do this when we speak of His love for us and for others, how He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. This is how we should use God’s name, and use it often. Do not use His name frivolously, and certainly do not demean His great character by calling Him “the man upstairs.”

Notes:


[1]  2 Timothy 2:15

[2]  1 Timothy 6:14-15

[3]  Exodus 20:7

[4]  Note: “God” is what He is, not who He is. His name is Yahweh and He has other names ascribed to Him that tell us something about His nature – like, God Almighty, God of Hosts, LORD Provider, et al.

[5]  John 4:24

[6]  Isaiah 42:5; John 6:33

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Watch!

Photo by Giovanni Triggiani

Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. (Revelation 16:15)

Situated in the middle of John’s description of the “bowl” or “vile” judgments and the final battle of Armageddon, this parenthetical verse commends those who watch and keep, i.e., “guard,” their garments. Garments cover our nakedness and offer protection against the elements. The picture here reminds us of the clothing with which Christians must be clothed. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).

The Lord Jesus Christ offers this word of encouragement to the “Tribulation Saints” that, due to their prior unbelief, missed the Rapture[1] and now must endure the horrors of the Tribulation. That Jesus will come “as a thief” is not a warning for these saints who by now should know the “game plan” as laid out in Scripture. Rather, He will come suddenly and unexpectedly for those who reject Christ and “upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image” (Revelation 16:2). Jesus promises that the “Tribulation Saints” who watch, for His return will be blessed. At this point in the Tribulation, according to the Revelation account, the wait will not be long.

What about Christians today? Often pastors, Bible teachers, and other Christians discourage us from watching. They remind us that, “ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:13). They omit the imperative phrase that precedes that statement. In context, Jesus made this statement as “the moral” to the parable of the Ten Virgins[2] who fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom to come for them. The virgins represent the Church and the bridegroom represents the Lord Jesus Christ, who has left to prepare a place[3] for His Bride, but whose return for His Bride depends on the Father’s approval of the bride chamber. At midnight, when the virgins least expected, a trumpet sounds to announce the Bridegroom is coming. Five of the virgins have prepared extra oil (representative of the Holy Spirit) for their lamps and are ready to be taken by the Bridegroom. The remaining five imprudent virgins get left behind. Jesus said, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (emphasis mine).

While it is true that we cannot know the day nor the hour when the Lord will return for His Bride, the Church, we are still instructed to WATCH! For what are we to watch? Jesus gave the signs for which to watch prior to His return.[4] The admonition advises us to look for these signs coming together to let us know that the time is near.

Waiting is hard. Watching is tiring. Many have become discouraged and “leave their posts” choosing rather to invest their time on the things of this world – sports, entertainment, and all sorts of distractions and diversions. Some even become critical of those who are watching. Such scoffing and criticism should not surprise us. “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4, emphasis mine). Sadly, these scoffers are “Christians.”

Sometimes these scoffers will compare the “watchers” to the “boy who cried wolf.” What they forget is that in the story, when the villagers stopped responding to the boy’s cries, the wolf did indeed come.

Jesus’ second coming is near. His return to “snatch up” His Bride is even nearer. “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6, emphasis mine). “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7, emphasis mine). “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (Revelation 3:3, emphasis mine). “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36, emphasis mine).

WATCH!

Notes:


[1]  1 Corinthians 15:50-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18

[2]  Matthew 25:1-13

[3]  John 14:3

[4]  Matthew 24:4-44; Mark 13:5-37; Luke 21:8-38

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Homesick

Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. (Luke 12:40)

“Better to be seen than viewed” someone responds when greeted with, “Good to see you!” Sometimes the salutation of “How’re you doing” gets the retort, “Any day above ground is a good day!” Someone else might say, “Better than the alternative!”

Those are funny ways to say that it is good to be alive, but those who make such remarks have not given the “alternative” a lot of thought. In their mind they see death something to delay or avoid altogether. The truth is that no one gets out of this world alive.[1] “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

The Christian should welcome death “willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Having circled the sun 69.33 times, the miles have taken their toll, and I feel the aches and pains that accompany the second law of thermodynamics. I have no fear of death, however, the process of dying does not appeal to me. When someone suggests that this life is better than the alternative, I quickly reply, “Oh no it’s not.”

I am homesick for my eternal home. My mother and father and many of my relatives wait for me there. I look forward to seeing friends that have gone ahead of me. I often wonder if I will recognize them. They will all be young – no wrinkles, no gray hair, no bald heads (yay!). “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). I have arthritic knees that prevent me from doing things I used to do; I do not bend as well as I used to. I have carpal tunnel syndrome that makes my hands tingle all the time, and I get these horrible leg cramps that wake me up in the middle of the night. I really look forward to “no more pain.”

Before going to the cross, Jesus promised, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2, emphasis mine). From this translation, we get the crazy idea that Jesus will build us all palatial mansions in heaven. Reading this verse brings the words of the old gospel song to mind: “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop in that bright land where we’ll never grow old.” However, that minimizes what Jesus has in store for us. The word “mansion” is a poor translation for the Greek word monē which simply means “a staying, abiding, dwelling, abode.” Heaven will be our dwelling place, and from the description I read in the Bible, we will have no need for “shelter” there.

The dwelling place Jesus has prepared for us is the New Jerusalem.[2] The place is illuminated by the presence of God so that “the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it” (Revelation 21:23). The river of life and the tree of life are there; all our physical needs will be met. “And there shall be no more curse…” (Revelation 22:3). “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). What need is there for any mansion!

No pain. No tears. No sorrow. No death. No curse. No hunger or thirst. No night. No need for shelter in the perfect climate. The best part about heaven, the New Jerusalem, will be to dwell in the presence of our Creator and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

An old friend from my distant past used to say, “Heaven is my home, but I’m not homesick for it yet.” Tommy was at least 15 years older than me when he said this. I have not heard from him in years. It is very possible that Tommy is experiencing heaven now and may be saying, “I am not homesick for heaven anymore.”

The longer I live in this fallen world that grows more wicked every day, the more homesick I get for my forever home. As I see the moral decline and the violence plaguing our land, the more I desire to go home. The signs of the times indicate that Jesus’ return is very near, but whether I cross the veil or meet Him in the air, I long to be home with my Lord. In the meantime, I will occupy until He comes.[3]

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Oh lord you know I have no friend like you

If heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Just over in gloryland we’ll live eternally

The saints on every hand are shouting victory

Their songs of sweetest praise drift back from heaven’s shore

And I can’t feel at home In this world anymore

Oh lord, you know I have no friend like you

If heaven’s not my home Then Lord what will I do

The angels beckon me From heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home In this world anymore[4]

Notes:


[1]  Actually, some will get out of this world alive (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).

[2]  Revelation 21:2, 10-25

[3]  Luke 19:13

[4]  “This World Is Not My Home” – Jim Reeves

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