Friday, 6/14/19 – Tough Question

Could you please explain again about the origin of the Jewish Nation?

Our speaker last Sunday touched briefly on the genealogy of Abraham leading to the emergence of the Nation of Israel, the Jews. I’ve been asked to review and expand on this, which I will do as blog space allows.

In Genesis, chapters 15 through 21 we read of God’s promise to Abraham that despite Abraham’s age and the barrenness of Sarah’s womb, He would make Abraham the “father of many nations.” Abraham believed God. He believed despite all evidence to the contrary that God both could and would do this. God was pleased at Abraham’s faith and the scriptures tell us that God considered this as “righteousness.” (Gen. 15:6).

Several things transpire throughout the following chapters, but sure enough by chapter 21 the child Isaac is born to them. Isaac later marries and father’s Esau and Jacob, who in turn sires twelve sons who eventually become the twelve tribes of IsraelIsrael being the new name God gave Jacob after he wrestled all night with an angel. (see Gen. 32:28).

20190611_053228One of Jacob’s sons was Joseph, who you may recall was sold by His brothers and ended up second to Pharaoh in Egypt. Famine brings his brothers to him, they are reunited and along with their father Jacob settle in the land of Goshen in Egypt. Time goes on and a new Pharaoh comes on the scene. The growing population of Hebrews is seen as a threat and they are made slaves, constructing clay bricks.

Well you probably know the story from there: God sends Moses to deliverer the Hebrews from slavery and after multiple plagues, and the parting and passing of the Red Sea, they begin 40 years of wilderness wanderings. This independent mass of people are now their own people the Jewish Nation seeking and finally arriving to their earthly Promised Land.

For this reason the Jews call themselves “sons of Abraham.” They take the name “Jew” as a derivative from the name Judah, the tribe of David’s line which led to the Messiah.

The New Testament contains two genealogies tracing through Adam to Jesus. These genealogies are found in Matthew 1:1-17 which traces Mary’s husband Joseph’s lineage from Abraham to Jesus, and in Luke 3:23-38 which traces Mary’s lineage in reverse chronology from Jesus to Adam.

We too are now “sons (and daughters) of Abraham” as Paul masterfully outlines in his letter to the Galatians, because we too trust in Christ by faith, just as did Abraham.

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 6/7/19 – Tough Question

Answers to nearly two million questions!

1. Eat less, exercise more.
2. 8.
3. The 2nd Sunday in May.
4. 16.

There! That should satisfy upwards of nearly two million questioners for a full year!

You see, according to Google the top four general questions asked in 2018 were

7. How to lose weight? – 550,000
8. How many ounces in a cup? – 450,000
9. When is Mothers Day? – 450,000
10. How many ounces in a pound? – 450,000

coffee composition computer desk

The first six questions were questions specific to the one asking. Among them were questions like, “What is my ip?” (3,350,000), “What time is it?” (1,830,000), and “What song is this?” (550,000). Answers to these questions were obviously different in each case.

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But none of the top four general questions are essential questions. None would be an individual’s dying plea. Can you imagine that? A soul lay suffering, struggling for just one breath more. He motions you to bend low to hear what his whisper begs as he faces eternity. You tilt your head positioning ear to mouth and he gasps, “How many ounces in a cup?”

No, I don’t think so. Ultimately, for each of us, the ultimate question has not changed…

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Some 2,000 years ago the Holy Spirit fell. He sent out emboldened men to shout the gospel, and conviction made once blind souls desperate. As scripture records, “…they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

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A few years later an earthquake shook a Philippian dungeon and a once brazen guard shuddered at imminent death, if not by debris then by decree; he thought to slay himself but heard a voice shout “Don’t…!” Urgently, he “called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?‘” (Acts 16:29).

This is the essential question! This is the urgent one when it is only you – and Almighty, Just and Holy God! What will you grasp at then? Some tuft of grass here, a reed there as you plummet over that precipice?

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The best prayer is that made long ago by Peter; “Lord, save me!” he shouted as he sank into stormy sea (Matt. 14:30). Yes, this same Peter turned fiery preacher above, for all must come to Christ the one same way.

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” answered Peter. (Acts 2:38). “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” replied Paul and Silas (Acts 16:31).

“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Peter announced (Acts 2:39)… “—you and your household,” echoed the two (Acts 16:31).

This is the essential question. The answer is freely available to all. It is childlike in simplicity, overflowing with Christ’s Love. You need only be humble enough to ask it, willing enough to surrender, remorseful enough to repent.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.” (Romans 10: 9).

Press on…

Need help seeking salvation? Got a question? Use the Contact page.

Friday, 5/31/19 – Tough Question

Why did Jesus pray three times?

20190528_231056The questioner here has Gethsemane in mind. In the final moments before His arrest, as Judas was going about the business of betrayal, Jesus knowing all that was about to happen retreats to Gethsemane with the eleven. Taking Peter, James and John apart from the others He leads them a little deeper into the garden. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” He said to them. “Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He takes a few steps away from them, falls face down and prays,

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

He finds the disciples sleeping, exhorts them, then prays again,

“My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

He finds the disciples sleeping yet again, and as Matthew records,

“…He left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.” (see Matt. 26:36-46).

Why did Jesus pray three times asking the Father if there was any way other than the cross to bring about redemption?

20190528_231022The number three is a curious thing in scripture. Looking only at the ministry of Jesus, He lived 30 years among the people before being baptized by John with the threefold witness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. After 40 days fasting He was tempted three times by Satan, but resisted three times by citing scripture. His earthly ministry spanned three years. Peter three times denied Christ and three times Christ provided opportunity for Peter to reaffirm his love and loyalty. So perhaps it should not be surprising to see this threefold prayer.

It’s not that Jesus was petitioning the Father multiple times to persuade Him to manufacture an ‘escape clause.’ (The diabolic plan was already underway.) But if we look closely at the prayers we see some distinction.

20190528_230955Only the first prayer expressly asks that the cup of the cross might pass from Him. The first prayer asks if the trial might be avoided, and, the Father’s will being “No,” the remaining two prayers seek stamina and strength to endure it. Just as after the temptation “angels came and ministered to Him” so here Christ, before this ordeal, seeks strengthening from above.

There is good lesson in this for us. It is the same lesson our Lord taught Paul,

…in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:7-9)

When It was clear to Paul that God’s Will was “No,” Paul stopped praying for his own will, but instead chose to accept and find grace in what God had allowed.

So too should we.

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 5/24/19 – Tough Question

Why did David love the Law?

Full question: In Psalm 119:97 David writes, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” He says things like this in many of his psalms. I don’t get it! How can someone love the law? Besides, doesn’t the Bible teach that the law just brings us grief?

I know what you are thinking of when you say the Bible teaches the law just brings grief. The Apostle Paul discussed this in his treatise to the Romans. He writes, “the law brings wrath…” (Rom. 4:15) and a few chapters later he states, “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.” (Rom. 7:10).

20190523_184256The other day I was driving to an appointment at normal city speed when I suddenly realized I was half-way into a school zone. My foot quickly pressed on the brake, reducing my speed to the school zone limit. As I did this my eyes darted about, scanning the area for signs of a police car. Where I had not feared the presence of the police a few moments prior, now the thought brought brief panic.

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

Whether or not you might love the Law depends very much upon which side of it you stand. As Paul said, “Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died.” (Rom. 7:9). He’s saying “I hadn’t a care in the world until I found God had rules and expectations for me… until I learned of His holy standards and of the moral code exemplified in Christ.” Now Paul realized his shortcomings. Now the Law meant grief!

Paul reminds Timothy, “…the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers…” (1 Tim. 1:9). But with Jesus the requirements grew stricter. Jesus did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. (Matt. 5:17). In Christ we see fully human man living righteously, living holy in a sin-filled world.

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David exulted in the Law because the Law set a standard. In his age this standard required dutiful attention to the sacrificial system, a forward look to the coming Messiah, and an uprightness of living. David rejoiced because the Law showed the way…

“The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7, 8)

Now things are a little different. Now God “commands all people everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30). The standard of the Law is holiness and Christ has become our final sacrifice.

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If you have confessed that you fall short and placed your confidence in the righteousness of Christ, then you too will love the statutes of God. But if you remain stubborn and guilty before Him then the law is a fearful thing indeed.

On which side of the cross are you?

Press on…

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 5/17/19 – Tough Question

“Why do bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people?”

When a person asks this question they reveal they hold a number of prior beliefs…

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First, they believe there exists some moral standard by which good should be rewarded with good and bad should be penalized with bad. Persons who ask the above question would never think to ask “Why shouldn’t bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people?” “Why shouldn’t an innocent child be robbed of his/her parents before their very eyes at the whim of a brutal axe murderer?” “Why shouldn’t a person be rude, selfish, indifferent to others, and destructive to their possessions?” No! These injustices scream out at them as “injustices” simply because they believe in the existence of some higher standard of justice!

Now if some over-arching standard of justice exists, it follows that some moral higher force or being is responsible, or rather is the source of this morality. Or, as Ravi Zacharias states it, “The existence of a moral law requires the existence of a moral law-giver.”

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In fact, people who ask the title question are people who believe very much in God. Their very sense of “oughtness” and “ought-not-ness” demonstrates they believe there exists some moral code, some ultimate just-ness and that there exists also some moral arbiter who is ‘slipping up’ by allowing what the questioner deems ‘unfairness’ to happen.

Well the Christian knows this Entity is God… Jehovah, the Almighty tri-une Father, Word, and Spirit. The Christian knows God has such a world where the moral code runs perfectly, a world of angel beings who do his bidding always,* for they can do none other. The Christian knows that God created mankind a new sort of creation… a creation with the freedom of will to chose… to choose to obey, to love, or not.

Only with this sort of creation might the Creator have relationship… fellowship… friendship… and true worship.

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Unfortunately this creation chose poorly!

Evil entered this world and the free-thinking creatures did unspeakable things…. And they continue to do worse and worse things as wickedness increases more and more.

Yes, God could step in. He could eliminate the worst of us, but He would also need to eliminate the best of us, for no one is holy.

So God stepped in in another way. He came to us. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14): He took all the bad due to us. He rose, conquered it all and offers that victory and newness to us. He does not uproot us yet, but lets good and evil grow together. The day will come when it shall all be sorted out. But for now, Jesus words to us are these:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

Press on…

*The question of Lucifer’s rebellion has been discussed under other ‘Tough Questions.” Check out the list under “Other Stuff” or click here.

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 5/10/19 – Tough Question

How do you get 3 days and 3 nights?

Here is the full question as I received it:

In Matthew 12:40 Jesus is speaking “For as Jonah was 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth.” But if he died on Friday and rose up on Sunday, that does not add up to 3 days and 3 nights.

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There are two important facts of Jewish culture which quickly help us to understand thus seeming enigma. First, the Jewish day began not at midnight but at sundown, roughly 6 pm. Second, it was natural in Jewish culture to count any portion of a 24-hour period as one day. We do this too actually.. just go rent a moving van or a hotel room for example. You’ll often find fees are based on “so much per day or any portion thereof.” For such a rental business any part if a day counts as a full day… a full 24 hours… having day and night.

So, following this logic, the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Christ looks like this:

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Jesus is crucified, expires and is entombed before sundown on Friday (which 24 hour period began at sundown on Thursday). Thus, by Jewish calculation, He has already spent a night and a day entombed. Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown constitutes a second night and day. Then the third night and day begins at sundown on Saturday to sundown on Sunday. Jesus rises Sunday morning completing the Jewish count of three days of both night and day.

We see this odd (to us) way of counting days elsewhere through scripture.

In Esther 4:16, for example, Esther has Mordecai tell the Jews to fast “for three days, night or day” at which time she would dare to approach the king. Yet, in Esther 5:1, we read that “on the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace.” Not after 72 hours, but on the third day, sufficient enough to count any portion of a day as the full day and night 24 hour period.

To the Jewish mindset “the third day” is the same as “after three days.” Just like the rental contract example I mentioned above, you pay the full day rate “so much per day or any portion thereof.”

Great question! Thank you!

Press on…
Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.

Friday, 5/3/19 – Tough Question

What are your thoughts on The Shack?

20190501_113545With the appearance on Netflix of the movie The Shack, folk are beginning to revisit the book again and controversy around this work is resurfacing. Here are my thoughts on this fictional work…

The Shack is a structure built on sand (Matt. 7:24-27). On closer analysis one soon sees it is sliding on its slippery slope about to crash upon the Rock below (Matt. 21:42-44).

The Shack presents a god who does not judge sin. This fictional god states, “Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” Such a gospel requires no Saviour. Instead, the god of The Shack surrenders Justice by overriding it with a weak love, a ‘philia’ love which accepts the sin in order to keep the sinner. There is no hell, no eternal judgment in the world of The Shack.

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But the Truth of scripture is this: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life…. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16, 18). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 3:23; 6:23)

The Shack presents a god who simply forgives all people, whether or not they recognize their sin, repent and reach out to Christ. The gospel of The Shack does not need faith or salvation; all people, of all religions eventually arrive at heaven.

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But scripture is very clear: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12), “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6), “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 10:9).

The Shack proposes that the Bible is an inadequate revelation of God. This teaching opens a door to inviting all sorts of ‘New Age’ type imaginings to mix with gospel Truth, “undermining the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:18).

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Yet Jesus Himself used scripture to defeat the devil during His temptation thus teaching believers to do likewise. He also used Scripture in explain His actions, purposes and identity. (see Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 24:44-47). As Paul counseled Timothy: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:14-17)

These are but three heresies found in The Shack and these alone are enough to shun it. John MacArthur scrutinizes the following twenty-six deceptions.

1. God does not punish sin.
2. There is no absolute authority in The Trinity.
3. It is not okay for God to hate.
4. Authority is bad.
5. God does not exercise power over human will.
6. It is not necessary to please God.
7. God is not justifying His own; He is only redeeming the earth and humanity in general.
8. God is submissive to humanity.
9. Mankind has determined what is good and evil.
10. Jesus did not intend to be an example for us.
11. In eating the forbidden fruit, we demanded our independence from God and He granted it.
12. Justice and mercy are competitive, with the one over-ruling the other.
13. God requires only that we love Him and others.
14. Jesus does not associate Himself with the term ‘Christian.’
15. There is no need to grieve over our sin.
16. God’s love for believers, unbelievers, and creation is equal. 
17. God is reconciled to all humanity, through Christ.
18. It would be unloving of God to over-ride our free will to bring us into relationship with Him.
19. The principles in the Bible are not important.
20. The law can no longer accuse or command.
21. We are free from responsibilities or expectations in any relationship.
22. Repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation can occur after physical death.
23. God is not involved in the humiliation, guilt, or condemnation of anyone.
24. God needs us to forgive those who have offended us in order to redeem them.
25. Jesus has forgiven all humans for their sin, but only some choose relationship with Him.
26. Chaos Theory, fractals, and time-dimensional coupling bring new and different truth about God.

Randy Alcorn notes, “My concern is for those who think they are coming closer to God, when they may actually be altering the biblical revelation of God into a form that is more pleasant to them because He seems less holy and fearsome…. a false God, an idol… forged by our resistance to repentance, submission, and accountability.”

If a truth-seeker were to get their first impressions of God and Christianity from The Shack, they would have no incentive to repent and no understanding of Biblical Grace or Mercy. They would leave thinking everything will be just fine. Nothing needs to be done.

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Follow truth not emotion. “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” (Matt. 24:24).

Be wise and alert. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8).

“The best place to meet God is not at the shack, but at the cross.”Michael Youseff

Here are some online resources for your further study:

https://scripturallyspeaking.org/archive/tag/dr-john-macarthur/

https://ca.ltw.org/read/articles/2017/03/six-major-problems-with-the-shack

https://answersingenesis.org/reviews/movies/staying-outside-the-shack/

https://albertmohler.com/2010/01/27/the-shack-the-missing-art-of-evangelical-discernment/

Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.