Truth is not Like a Litter of Puppies

Posted on January 15, 2019 by
Filed Under General | 1 Comment |

Recently, I was watching a TV show that had an interesting interaction between two of the characters. One said something to the effect of, “Maybe this is his truth. It might not be your truth, or mine, but it has become his reality.” To this, the second character responded, “Truth is not like a litter of puppies!  You can’t just choose which one you like the best!” This makes a good point, which is applicable to our present time, both with secular and spiritual implications. We live in a time (and it is not anything new) in which people view “truth” as arbitrary. They believe they can choose their truth, and it must be accepted, regardless of the absurdity of their belief. That is not, however, how truth works!

Some have tried to separate the idea of dealing with truth in the secular world from how we might deal with it in the religious world. Of course we must be careful with THE truth.  But, some would say that when it comes to being truthful in the secular arena, it is not so imperative that we show the same care and concern. I would suggest that the two cannot be separated. There is a certain attitude that is required to seek out and honor truth in general that will impact how we perceive the truth of the gospel and scripture. This is why Paul could write: Read more


Posted on October 27, 2018 by
Filed Under Exhortation, For Further Thought... | 1 Comment |

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to do something that I immensely enjoy:  I went elk hunting here in Southwest Montana. I had a great day, right up to the last two hours of the day. In those last two hours we ended up in a pretty difficult situation. My son and I ended up in the bottom of a steep gorge that was covered pretty extensively with deadfall trees. To make matters worse, we were in an area that has a high grizzly bear population. We only had a couple of hours to get out of the area before dark set in, and we were beginning to get a little nervous as we saw the sea of fallen trees ahead of us, and the nearly 1000 foot climb up the mountain to our escape. All of this came after about 8 miles of hiking and over 2000 feet of elevation climb.

It seemed like all we could do to make it over the last of the fallen trees. Then, staring us in the face, was a steep climb. As I looked at that mountain, I didn’t know if I could make it up. I was exhausted. I did not know if I could make my feet and legs move forward any more! I had pushed my body further than I had in a long while. As we climbed the mountain, we would pick a tree, or a rock that was part way of the hill, and set it as our next goal, hoping we could make it just a little Further…and then a little further than that. Eventually, we made it to the top of that mountain, and to the relative safety (in the dark) of a more open field. We still had about 2 miles or more to make it to our vehicle.  While hiking down the trail to the truck, I had a couple of flare ups of severe cramps in my legs because of dehydration, yet another sign that my body had been pushed to its limits.

While I enjoy hunting stories, I am really recounting this experience because in the process of hiking that evening, I got to thinking about the spiritual applications I could take away from the experience. There are parallels that can be drawn and lessons that can be learned from a difficult experience. Sometimes, we find the internal fortitude to overcome physical difficulties, but when it comes to spiritual challenges, we cannot seem to persevere.  We need to learn how to push ourselves, often outside of our comfort zones, in order to be successful in difficult spiritual circumstances. Let’s consider just a few lessons that we can learn from physical difficulties. Read more

Making a Mockery of God’s Judgment

Posted on August 31, 2018 by
Filed Under For Further Thought... | Leave a Comment |

“I already know that I’m going to Hell…At this point it’s really go big or go home!”

A friend of mine on Facebook saw this bumper sticker while driving around in her part of the world last week, and made a post about it, condemning the idea. This post got me thinking about how many people have come to view most of what we see in scripture. The ideas of Satan, judgment and Hell have become nothing more than a joke. I searched Google for the phrase above, and found that it is not only on bumper stickers, but on every type of merchandise you can imagine. It provides evidence that many people have become proud of just how wicked they can be.

I believe we have gotten to this point in society because we have had our consciences hardened by turning wickedness into humor. Think about how Satan (the ultimate example of evil) is often portrayed. He is a cute little, mischievous devil with a long tail, a beard and a pitchfork. Wickedness has been portrayed as a mere joke. In fact, there have been many abominable practices that have been normalized into our society by making them into a joke on various television shows. Divorce, homosexuality, transgenderism and abortion have all been written into scripts to make them seem more acceptable and normal. At the same time, moral practices such as virginity before marriage and monogamy are ridiculed to make them seem like they are extreme and ridiculous practices.  This illustrates the very warning that Isaiah gave:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

By mocking good, and making evil just seem like a humorous situation, we have (in our society) done just what Isaiah warned of.  We call evil good and good evil! Society has certainly bought into this premise. In just one or two generations, immorality has been normalized to the point that it is accepted by most of society. Even those who would disagree with the immoral action would have been conditioned to say, “Well, I wouldn’t do that, but I’m not going to say that it is wrong for someone else!” Even we as Christians have been influenced, laughing at the sinful practices that are the punch lines of the jokes.  Read more

God’s Justice and Mercy

Posted on July 26, 2018 by
Filed Under General, What I'm Studying... | Leave a Comment |

There seems to be a common misconception regarding the nature and characteristics of God when viewed in the Old Testament as opposed to the New Testament. Many seem to believe that the God of the Old Testament was a vengeful, punishing God, bent only on justice. They also believe that the God of the New Testament is a loving, merciful God. It is sometimes difficult to convey the message that there is only one God, and His nature and characteristics are unchanging. However, there are hints interspersed throughout the Old Testament that show that God was both a God of justice and a God of mercy.

One such example can be found in the giving of the law concerning cities of refuge.

Cities of refuge were a part of the cities that were given to the Levites upon the conquest of the Promised Land. They were to be given 48 cities total, six of which were designated as cities of refuge (Numbers 35:6). These six cities would serve as a sanctuary for the manslayer; one who had accidentally killed another person, without malice.

The law concerning murder was very clear. There was no sanctuary for the one who used a weapon and killed another (see Numbers 35:9-34). The murderer was to be put to death!

God provided a way for the family of a person who was killed by another to exact justice from the murderer. A relative could operate as the “avenger of blood,” and could take the life of the one who had slain his family member. However, if one who had slain another fled to a city of refuge, he was to be protected until he could stand trial before the congregation. If he was found guilty of murder, he would be put to death. There was no protection for the murderer! If he was found to be guilty of manslaughter (an accidental killing), then he was required to stay inside the city of refuge to which he had fled until the death of the sitting High Priest. If he left the confines of the refuge city, then the avenger of blood was permitted to take vengeance on him. Only after the death of the sitting High Priest could the manslayer return to his home without fear of the avenger of blood.

Demonstrating God’s Characteristics…

The creation of these cities of refuge demonstrated God’s characteristics of both justice and mercy. Especially under the theocratic system that God instituted for Israel, there was a need for moral justice. Those who did wrong, who violated the Law, had to be punished. Those who were guilty of the vilest and most violent crimes had to be punished with death. For the sake of those wronged, there needed to be a punishment commensurate with crime committed. That is justice. God ensured that there was a just punishment for the one who killed another.

God’s mercy was demonstrated when He made an exception for the one who killed another unintentionally. Taking the life of another is no less terrible just because it was not intended. This is evident by the fact that God had to put restraints on the avenger of blood, to keep him from killing the manslayer. Justice would demand that when a life was taken, the one responsible would lose his life as well. God was, however, merciful. He provided an exception which would allow for leniency in limited cases (though it would still bear some serious consequences for the guilty).  Mercy is the characteristic of God that keeps Him from giving the consequence that is rightfully deserved.

God’s mercy and justice were both demonstrated throughout the Old Testament. The way that God interacted with His people showed these characteristics over and over. God promised, for example, that He would deliver His people into captivity if they failed to be obedient to Him. He did not send them into captivity the moment they were disobedient. In fact, He gave them multiple opportunities to repent of their wickedness and return to faithful service. The message of the prophets Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah were all tailored toward the repentance of the people. This was a manifestation of His mercy. Eventually God had to bring the punishment that He promised. His people, both in the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, were taken away into captivity. This was a manifestation of God’s justice.

It is clear that God was not lacking in either mercy or justice under the first covenant. He expressed both, providing every opportunity for His people to be obedient to Him. He showed both characteristics at various times.

God’s Mercy And Justice in the New Testament Covenant…

The misconception many hold concerning the God of the New Testament is that He is only concerned with mercy, and His punishing justice is a thing of the past. Looking to the writings of the New Testament make it evident that this is simply not the case. The God of the New Testament is exactly the same God (with the same characteristics) as the God of the Old Testament. He provides both mercy and justice!

Nothing displays both God’s mercy and justice like the institution of His plan for the salvation of mankind from the consequences of sin. Justice demands that we be punished for our sin, our disobedience.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

But, like with the cities of refuge, God has set a plan in motion that will provide mercy. This plan, when followed, makes it possible to avoid the punishment that is just, and receive that “gift of God” that Paul referenced in the verse above.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned…” (Mark 16:15–16).

God’s mercy is made available to those who are willing to be obedient to Him. He is willing to remove the consequence for sin, but only for those who are willing to turn to Him with obedient hearts. Those who refuse to be obedient will still suffer the appropriate punishment that comes with justice. There will even be many who act like they are obedient, but are actually rejecting the instructions of the Lord. The punishment of disobedience is the same for them as for those who reject Him completely:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21–23)

God is a God of mercy. But He is also a God of justice. We cannot separate these two characteristics. If we want His mercy, we must be obedient. If we refuse to be obedient, then we will receive His justice. There is no escaping it!

Presuming Too Much

Posted on June 15, 2018 by
Filed Under OT History, What I'm Studying... | Leave a Comment |

There is an interesting passage that is found in the middle of the giving of the Old Law in Leviticus 24, in which a situation arose prior to God giving specific instruction on how to handle it (Leviticus 24:10-23). A young man, who was the son of an Egyptian man and an Israelite woman, blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed in the midst of a fight with another man. The people, because of what had already been revealed, knew that what the young man did was wrong, but they did not know how to deal with the transgression. They chose to incarcerate the man and wait for the Lord to declare His will on the matter:

Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the LORD might be shown to them. (Leviticus 24:12)

Moses was intent on waiting on the Lord to reveal His mind in the matter. He was not presumptuous, determining that he could know what God wanted without God proclaiming His mind! God gave Moses specific instructions as to how this young man was to be dealt with, and the outcome was certainly not pleasant for him. God determined that this man was to be taken out of the camp, have the witnesses to his crime lay their hands on him, and then have him stoned by the whole congregation. This was declared to be the consequence for all who would commit the same transgression against the Lord. Read more

School Shootings: What is at the Heart?

Posted on February 16, 2018 by
Filed Under Current Events | 1 Comment |

I have been reading, with great interest, the coverage and responses to the recent school shooting in Florida. I am appalled that a person could be so calloused as to enter a place like that to kill and maim fellow students and faculty. One thing that I believe everyone agrees with: we need to do something to stop these violent actions!  Unfortunately, the agreement usually stops right there. That is one of the main reasons nothing ever changes. We cannot agree on what needs to be changed!  Some declare that writing more gun laws will magically stop the violence. Others declare that placing armed guards in the schools will magically stop the violence. The truth is, both types of responses are only knee jerk reactions to the problem, a mere band-aid on the symptoms that afflict our society. There may be some perceptible improvements with properly implemented strategies, but then the locations or methodologies would just change, and the violence would remain the same.

We really need to get down to the heart of the problem. The real problem is not guns. The amount of lawfully held guns used in crime is negligible at best. That means that many “common sense gun laws” have already been broken before a criminal every shoots his first victim. That tells us that adding more “common sense laws” is really not the answer. Video games are not the problem. Some people want to cast all of the woes of these violent acts at the feet of the video game manufacturers, and more recently even at the feet of the social media developers. However, these venues are not the problem, but a symptom of the problems that have been responsible for destroying our society as a whole. They didn’t come first, they came riding the wave of the other, more significant problems!

The root of these violent attacks is far more significant, and severe than kids figuring out how to get their hands on guns, or other implements that can be unlawfully used for destruction. The root is at the very heart of what we have done to and with our children for nearly 5 generations. I recently read an article that the stated that the problem had to do with self-image. This article declared that we haven’t focused enough on every child’s own self-perception. In other words, we haven’t made them feel important enough, and so they go on a rampage and take the lives of other children whom they perceive to be “more important” than themselves. Quite frankly, I disagree in the most vehement terms. Please allow me express what I think to be the problem in our society that leads to so much violence. Read more

Eschewing Sin

Posted on May 2, 2017 by
Filed Under From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | 1 Comment |

Repentance seems to be an evil word (or at least an evil concept) in today’s religious world. One cannot talk about what practices need to be removed from the life of another without being accused of judging…and we all know that Jesus said that you should not judge! While a further discussion of Matthew 7:1-2 (the source most use to claim that Jesus said that we should not judge) would certainly be beneficial, it is beyond the scope of this particular study. However, there is much in the epistles of Paul that convey the importance of repentance. We will be considering, at least briefly, Ephesians 5:1-21.

Be imitators of God…

Paul encouraged the Ephesian brethren to imitate God, as a child would imitate his father (Ephesians 5:1). Lest the reader be left in the dark about what such a teaching could mean, Paul spent several verses addressing the specific actions that one would adopt, or that one would reject, if he were to be an imitator of God, our Father.

Paul’s instructions were not merely a suggestion for the first century Christians. These instructions were delivered so that Christians could know what God expected of them. That point was made abundantly clear by Paul in the following verses!   Read more

Every Spiritual Blessing

Posted on March 22, 2017 by
Filed Under Exhortation, From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | 2 Comments |

Paul, as he began the epistle to the Ephesians (chapter 1), wrote of how they had available to them “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” This begins a powerful section of scripture in which Paul enumerates several (but not all) of these blessings. The importance of this statement is far reaching!

If every spiritual blessing is “in Christ” then that leaves no room for any other source of blessing! This is the same idea that Peter and John conveyed to the Sanhedrin concerning Jesus:

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

All spiritual blessing, including that of eternal salvation, is found only in Christ!

Paul, when writing to the Galatian brethren made it clear that there was one way to be in Christ:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)

Only when one is baptized into Christ has he put on Christ. One is not “in Christ” if he has not yet been baptized into Christ!

Paul was, therefore, writing to those in Ephesus who had already been baptized into Christ, and reminding them of the blessings that were available to them in Christ. We can briefly consider the blessings that Paul enumerated for these brethren, and understand that the same blessings are available to those who are baptized into Christ today as well!   Read more

Trusting the Source of the Gospel

Posted on February 23, 2017 by
Filed Under From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | Leave a Comment |

In our last article, we examined Paul’s warning to the Galatian brethren that they not follow after a “different gospel,” which he declared to be a perversion or distortion of the one true gospel message.

After issuing this warning, Paul gave several reasons why the Galatian brethren could trust that the message he delivered to them was in fact the one true gospel message, and not a perversion or distortion.

It was not man’s gospel.  The first test of the true gospel was its source. Paul declared that he had not received the message of the gospel he taught from other men (Galatians 1:12), but that he had instead received it directly from the Lord.

After his conversion, Paul did not go directly to the other apostles or anyone else to learn the whole of the message that was to be declared throughout the  world. Instead, he went to Arabia      (Galatians 1:17). Where had the message of the Judaizing teachers originated? It was clear that it had not come from Jerusalem (see Acts 15), which means it was not from the apostles. They had not received a new revelation that confirmed their proclamations (that was the point of Paul’s initial warning in Galatians 1:6-10). Therefore, the source of their message was not divine in nature, but, rather, was from man.

There are really only two possibilities when it comes to the source of information. Jesus faced the same issue and confronted those who sought to challenge Him:

But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”  (Matthew 21:24–25)

Every teaching is either from man, or from God. That which comes from God is what He expects His people to follow and obey. That which comes from man is at best a perversion of His message! Why would anyone want to follow that which is a perversion of God’s will?   Read more

The Threat of Another Gospel…

Posted on February 23, 2017 by
Filed Under From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | 1 Comment |

Paul, as he wrote to the Galatian brethren, warned them that there would be some who would come to them and teach something other than the pure, uncorrupted gospel message (Galatians 1:6-10). From the earliest of times, the danger of mankind corrupting the true gospel was real, and it was dangerous!

While Paul was dealing with the specific problem of Judaizing teachers insisting that Gentiles follow the law of Moses before becoming Christians, the principle Paul was teaching continues on today. There are those who make changes to the gospel message, either by adding to or taking away from that which was revealed in the first century. The consequence of these changes is the same as it was when Paul gave his warning to the Galatians!

Paul made it clear that there was only one gospel message. There were some who were trying to teach “another gospel,” but Paul emphasized the point that this “other gospel” was really not another gospel at all!

…which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:7)

To really understand the full import of Paul’s statement, we must understand what the gospel is. Essentially, gospel means: good tidings. The true gospel message was indeed a message of good tidings to those who heard it, and especially to those who obeyed. However, a corrupted message, while it may have made those proclaiming it, or those receiving it, feel good about themselves, would not provide true good tidings. The true gospel was a message of salvation, but the corrupted gospel led to destruction. Because of this, Paul declared that those who taught such a corrupted gospel were to be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9). This indicates just how seriously God takes the one true gospel message. Those who teach something that is different, something that corrupts the true gospel message, are accursed. Their message does not bring the true good tidings of salvation, but rather a message that leads to condemnation; for themselves and all those who follow after them! Read more

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