Friday, 8/13/21 – Does God really blind eyes and harden hearts?

Does God really blind eyes and harden hearts?

Brenda asks... “In his gospel John cites Isaiah saying, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and turn to me, and I would heal them.” (John 12:40). Will God cause those who continually turn their back on Him to not be able to see, feel and know Him?

This is indeed a very tough question and I’m not going to score a hundred percent on it! But perhaps I can offer a way of viewing this blinding or hardening that will be helpful.

Scripture teaches it is the Presence of the Holy Spirit upon this earth Who creates conviction of sin in the heart of an unbeliever and woos a soul to the Mercy and Grace of God.

And He, when He comes, will convict the world about [the guilt of] sin [and the need for a Savior], and about righteousness, and about judgment:” (John 16:8, AMP).

But this Mercy and Grace of God will not be extended to mankind forever. This has been clear from the beginning…

And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” (Gen. 6:3, NKJV).

Remember, God does not owe us salvation! We are in the wrong here. “All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Ps. 14:3). It is because of His great ‘compassion and favor’ that God acts to restore us to Himself,

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. (Eph. 2:8-9, AMP).

Once the Holy Spirit is removed from this earth His conviction and wooing will cease; there will be nothing acting upon sinful souls to draw them to Christ and salvation.

For the mystery of lawlessness [rebellion against divine authority and the coming reign of lawlessness] is already at work; [but it is restrained] only until he who now restrains it is taken out of the way.” (2 Thess. 2:7, AMP).

This is why the hour is urgent as Paul writes, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2). Or as we read in Hebrews, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” (Heb. 3:15, Ps. 95:8).

But all of this aside we must still bow to the Sovereignty of God. God has every right to hardened hearts if it so pleases Him. However God is also always Just. He is also always Loving, and above all He is also always Holy. In all his actions God acts in consistency with all his attributes. He does nothing arbitrarily and all his works are good.

Tony Reinke comments,

“God’s judicial hardening is not presented as the capricious manipulation of an arbitrary potentate cursing morally neutral or even morally pure beings, but as a holy condemnation of a guilty people who are condemned to do and be what they themselves have chosen.” *

How blessed we are to be children of such a great and gracious God!

Press on…

* Source: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/you-asked-does-god-harden-a-believers-heart/

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

Friday, 8/6/21 – Today’s Friday Question: Caiaphas prophecy?

Caiaphas prophecy?

A blog reader, Brenda, writes

“In John 11:51-52 it says that Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation and for the scattered children of God. Is his prophesy written somewhere else in the Scriptures or is this the only reference to his prophesy.”

Jesus had just performed the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, a man already decaying four days entombed. So shaking was this miracle that, as John records, “many… believed in him” (v. 45). When the Pharisees got wind of this they panicked. What if everyone began to chase after Him, want to make Him ruler? The Romans would surely see this threat to their rule. They would destroy our temple, the place which taught of a coming messiah, and ruin our nation removing all possible threat of insurgency.

To this Caiaphas responds “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”. His thinking is this: Jesus must simply be removed. To kill him, one man, is better than to allow the potential death and suffering of many. Strategically the comment made sense. One death is better than many deaths. But no doubt their motives were mixed.

In any event, God is utilizing Caiaphas to orchestrate a great irony. Caiaphas has in mind the immediate: kill the upstart, save the present population. God has in mind the eternal: sacrifice the Son, save the millions that will trust in Him.

John now sees this as he writes his gospel narrative. John, the dearest and most loved disciple. He has insights others perhaps do not.

John mentions this prophecy again in 18:14, and the dilemma is again alluded to in 19:12. This following statement appears to come from the Torah, but I am puzzled at this as the Torah deals only with the O.T. Pentateuch. Documenting this precisely was difficult.

“The Holy Spirit spoke a prophecy and proclaimed the gospel through the mouth of the wicked Caiaphas, a reminder that God works in many ways one hardly expects, and He speaks through many voices one would never anticipate.” (https://torahportions.ffoz.org/)

Other than this dubious reference to the Torah I have found no other sources.

Press on…

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

Friday, 7/30/21 – More thoughts on Christ and Temptation…

More thoughts on Christ and Temptation…

One of these days I really must look at changing my blog layout. Though I do like the one I’ve been using there is one aspect I wish were different: the poor visibility of your comments, and the even poorer visibility of my responses to them.

If you look very carefully, down at the bottom of each post you will find in small, very light font a list if options… something like this,

but it looks like this,

Most miss-able indeed!

If you click on the “Leave a Comment” link you will be able to do so, but few readers notice the link and consequently comments are rare. Once a comment has been left, however, it is easy to be seen following that blog.

The July 9 post, “Could Jesus Have Sinned,” was such a post with a good reader comment. Because these are easily overlooked I repeat my responses here as today’s post for your consideration…

* * * * * *

In Gal. 5:16 Paul writes, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” We tend to walk in and out of the Spirit and likely will until heaven. Jesus walked always in vital union with the Spirit and Father, excepting that dreadful moment on the cross (Matt.27:46).

A Spirit filled Christian seeing someone drop their wallet would be compelled to chase after the owner and return it. If this Christian is asked, “Why didn’t you keep it?” he may well reply, “Oh, I couldn’t do that!” Well, he could, but He couldn’t. Why? “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set [him] free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). So long as he walks in the Spirit, and until all sin is taken from him. Christ always walked by the Spirit.

On the matter of Christ being tempted “in all points like as we are” (Heb. 4:15), I think it important to distinguish between the virtue being tested and the means used to effect that testing.

When a man is tempted to vanity he may be enticed to purchase and flaunt an extravagant sports car, a fine yacht, or expensive electronics. When a woman is tempted to vanity she may be excessive in her clothing, beauty treatments, or socializations with some elite clique. Both are tempted on the same point, vanity, but the bait must necessarily be different. Christ was tempted to vanity also. It was the second of his great temptations while Jesus was in the wilderness.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’” (Matt. 4:5-6).

The devil had been taunting Jesus, challenging His identity. He dared Christ to prove His divinity by performing this act of indulgence. “If you are the Son of God,” he said. But Jesus asserted the Word of God over competition of vanity. He said, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”(v.7).

Like the man and the woman, so too Christ was tempted on the point of vanity, and as in the case of the man and the woman, so too with Christ the bait had to be tailor-made.

* * * * * *

Press On…

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

Friday, 7/23/21 – Why do we wiggle?

Why do we wiggle?

The manifestations of a demon-possessed person can be most unsettling: intense strength, growls and glares, cursing, flailing about, frothing like a rabid animal and convulsing. All the while a frightful spiritual darkness presses down upon the scene. Enough to rattle the nerves and shake the faith of many.

But the Truth is, the demons fear you, the believer in our Lord Jesus Christ. Even the weakest of us is, to the devil and his host, like a toddler with a loaded pistol. The devil knows what we hold in our hands. Drop the Name of Jesus and the demons must flee:

“…do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20).
Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:7b-8).
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:19).
God… gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth… to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11).

Mark writes of one such individual brought by his father to Jesus. The fearful challenge had proved too much for the apostles; “I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out,” the man recounted to Jesus, “but they could not.” (Mark 9:18). “Since childhood,”‘ the man continued, “whenever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid,” the man explained, ”…and often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him.”

Sure enough, as soon as the demon-possessed son saw Jesus scripture records, “…immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.”

But Jesus wasn’t wiggling. He knew who had the upper hand here. Despite the loud display of demonic madness before Him, Jesus calmly says, “…all things are possible to him who believes.” Oh, how we want to believe when circumstances shout otherwise! We do… but we don’t.

Let’s be wise like this father… How? By being honest. “Lord, I believe,” he cried, “help my unbelief!

That son was delivered that day. — Even though the father’s faith wobbled at best, he had at least a grain… and that grain was enough. As Jesus elsewhere said, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20).

Now I’m not saying we should all go out and seek to fight demons or move mountains around, but… well… Remember that brook trout? [See Tuesday’s blog] When situations looked tense brother Jim, Don’s dad, would often say “God’s not wiggling.” Whether it’s surrendering to some personal change or stepping boldly forward to a new level of faith and confidence in God — neither 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, 7/16/21 – How Strong is God?

How Strong is God?

The development of atomic radiation, atomic change and nuclear fission occurred from 1895 to 1945. From 1939 to 1945 most of this development centered upon the atomic bomb.*

It was on this day July 16, 1945 near Alamogordo, New Mexico that the United States tested the first atomic bomb. Just one month later they dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, an act that soon led to the end of World War II.

Since then the focus has been on controlling and using this energy in more productive ways such as naval propulsion and the creation of electricity. From 1956 on the focus has been on creating reliable nuclear power plants.* The Chernobyl disaster of April 26, 1986 was a sobering example of the mighty destructive power of the atom.

But mankind is capable of imagining far greater powers that these. A viewing of the latest sci-fi or superhero movie will testify to that. Consider the planet destroying power of Star Trek TOS ‘Doomsday Machine’ or the universe destroying power of ‘Thanos’ of Marvel’s Avengers flicks.

Yet all of these are laughable when compared against the Almighty power of God! Just look at His creation, the universe, and it’s vastness against the dust speck that is Earth. How puny are our goings-on and imaginings when seen beside it! And our God made all this.

How strong is God? More that you think! God is omnipotent! Your ability to conceive the greatness of His strength is finite. Thus, God’s strength is always “more than you think” because is always “more than you can think.”

Paul wrote to the Ephesians of God “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20, ESV). Or as the NIV has it, “…able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Years earlier the psalmist extolled, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” (Psalm 147:5).

No limit! — How great indeed is our God. Yet He stoops to love us, and to all who will receive Him to live within us!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21).

Press on…

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

 *SOURCE: https://world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/outline-history-of-nuclear-energy.aspx

Friday, 7/9/21 – Tough Question: Could Jesus have sinned?

Could Jesus have sinned?

I think this is such a difficult question for us because it is finite and fallen minds that are trying to grasp it. But I’ll give it a try…

At the outset, there are a few things that scripture identifies as certain.

  1. Jesus was genuinely tempted: “ …for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:2). “[Christ] …was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15).

  2. Jesus never actually sinned: “[Christ] committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22). “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf…” (2 Cor. 5:21a). “…tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15). “…in Him there is no sin.” (1 John 3:5b).

But the question is, Could Jesus have sinned? Was Jesus impeccable (unable to sin), or was He peccable (able to sin)?

The temptations Christ experienced were indeed very real, although of necessity a bit unique. For example, have you ever been tempted to turn rocks into bread? To leap off a tall building forcing angels to your rescue? To kneel before Satan to close a deal for all the kingdom’s of the world?

Similarly it is pretty safe to assume Jesus was never tempted to cheat on His Income Tax, envy or steal another person’s possessions (He owned all things anyway), or lust after a woman. In Christ God indeed became a very real man, but not a fallen man. Having no fallen nature which the devil might entice “God cannot be tempted by evil” (James 1:13b).

Yet still, He was tempted.

But could He have sinned? Could He have opted to turn a few stones to bread? Perhaps we find a clue in part of last Sunday’s message. If you recall, I mentioned how Christ acknowledged “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does…. By myself I can do nothing” (John 5:19, 30a).

And don’t we all feel that way when we are facing temptations? The flesh wants to say ‘yes’ and by itself it can do nothing to stop itself from yielding; but the spirit says ‘no’ and when we choose it we find victory!

John notes something interesting regarding this. He says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” (1 John 3:9). And “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.” (1 John 5:18).

When God is in full control of us, we cannot sin either! And in Christ incarnate, God was in control at all times! What an example for us to strive to emulate!

Press on…

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

Friday, 7/2/21 – What does it mean to pray “in Jesus’ Name”?

What does it mean to pray “in Jesus’ Name”?

Christians need to understand this lest we end up actually using our Lord’s Name in vain. The Lord’s Name is taken in vain not only in blasphemous cursing but also any time it is used thoughtlessly. We must guard our hearts and minds that our prayers “in Jesus’s Name” do not become mere form or ritual – a standard closing as an executive might dictate to his secretary in ending some business letter. (“Sincerely, John Doe, Vice President of Research, such and such… etc, etc etc…”)

We do well to remember that apart from the Name of Jesus we have no right whatsoever to approach the throne of Almighty God. It is only by His grace that He bears us audience with Him, that grace made possible only because of the atonement of Christ. We “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16) only because of the truth stated two verses previous, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God…” (Heb. 4:14).

When we pray “in Jesus’ Name” we ought be reminding ourselves of this great privilege and, knowing we ask in Jesus’ Name, be forming only requests that we know Jesus would form. James says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3, NIV). Christ-like praying will have the kingdom of God in mind, the welfare of all the Family of God at heart and the glory of God in outcome. Our personal requests ought not be at the expense of any of these! Christ-like praying will also accept the answers God gives – be they yes, no, or wait — adding also “Thy Will be done,” as caveat to what we may presently think best.

When we pray “in Jesus’ Name” We pray soberly, as if we are handling explosives, and in a way, we are. Paul writes “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This is the Name by which we are privileged to pray. We dare not speak it lightly!

Press on…

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

Friday, 6/25/21 – YGWYPF: “How can salvation be free?”

YGWYPF: “How can salvation be free?”

YGWYPF

YGWYPF is social media slang, an abbreviation used for the English idiom “You Get What You Pay For” which is used to say that if an item that can be bought for a very low price, it probably isn’t very good. An item is usually only as good as the price one pays to procure it.

$$$

People invent social media abbreviations for words or phrases which are frequently used . The existence of YGWYPF demonstrates that the sentiment it represents is widely held.

Indeed, we live in a society that is always looking for the “catch.” This is not unwise. Jesus told us to “be wise as serpents” (Matt. 10:16) in this world; He commented on how “the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” (Luke 16:8b). But this fact also makes it difficult for the worldly-conditioned mind to comprehend God’s Grace.

Grace gives what the recipient cannot earn. Grace gives not because of the recipient’s merit, but because of the Giver’s Love. John 3:16 reads “God so loved… that He gave…” not “Mankind so merited… that it received…” In fact, scripture clearly states, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9). Grace is God giving what no one can deserve.

How do you receive this gift? Admit your helpless state and that God’s sacrificial gift of salvation in Christ is the only means of your eternal restoration. Acknowledge Him as your rightful Lord and obey Him daily. That is God’s offer to you, and it is free. You must only trust. That is what we call faith.

If it still seems difficult for you to comprehend that such a gift as eternal life is offered freely to you, realize this: no gift you have ever received was free to the giver, but only to you. The gift of God’s Son cost the Giver a very great deal indeed! But He offers it to you nonetheless.

Press on…

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

Friday, 6/18/21 – Father’s Day, Fathers’ Day or Fathers Day?

Father’s Day, Fathers’ Day or Fathers Day?

Grammatically the apostrophe denotes ownership by the person/s, place/s, or thing/s named immediately preceding it. E.g. The cat’s fur is shedding, refers to one cat, but, The cats’ fur is shedding, would refer to the fur of several cats. The words cat and cats in my previous sentence refer to singular and plural of the word only, not possession.

The term Father’s Day, with the apostrophe before the “s,” thus means the day that you may be celebrating for one particular dad – a day for that father (singular). Fathers’ Day, however, with the apostrophe after the “s,” refers to the broader celebration shared alike among all dads – a day for all fathers (plural).

Thankfully, when it comes to our Heavenly Father, things are a lot less complicated! With God there is only ONE Father

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.’” / “I am the Lord, and there is none else.” (Isa. 44:6; 45:18).
Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord”’” (Mark 12:29).
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven… ‘” (Matt. 6:9).
“But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.” (Matt. 23:8-10).
“There is… one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:4a, 6).

Father’s Day emerged back in 1910 just shortly after the establishment of Mother’s Day. It was officially dubbed “Father’s Day,” with apostrophe before the “s,” back in 1913 to align it with other annual special days. But our Heavenly Father’s Day existed from creation (Gen. 2:2).

52 times a year, on Sunday, Christians world-wide celebrate Our Heavenly Father’s Day! We gather at His House, bring spiritual “gifts” of ministry before Him, we sing to Him… we praise His Goodness, give thanks for His workings and mercies, and worship Him.

In all your celebrations this weekend give fathers their deserving honor, but never neglect the honor due the Heavenly Father. All earthly fathers will fade. Our Heavenly Father is Eternal!

Press on…

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

Friday, 6/11/21 – Where do you find the Trinity of God in the Bible?

Where do you find the Trinity of God in the Bible?

Skeptics of the doctrine the Trinity often point to the fact that the word “Trinity” does not appear anywhere in scripture. Further ‘evidence,’ they say, that the doctrine is merely man-made. They are correct that the term does not appear in scripture, but neither do the words omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent appear. These words, and the word ‘Trinity,’ are words created for convenience to capsulate a doctrine found throughout the Word of God.

Do you believe God is all-knowing? That is omniscience (omni = all + science = knowledge). Do you believe God is all-powerful? That is omnipotence (omni = all + potent = power). Do you believe God is present everywhere? That is omnipresence (omni = all + present = in that place). Likewise ‘Trinity’ is a man-made word capsulizing the truth that God is tri-une (tri = three + unity = one), three Persons, one God. ‘Universe’ is a similarly constructed word (unity = one + diversity = many different), one system, many varied components.

So, where in scripture do we find thus tri-unity of God indicated? Here are some examples…

Jesus’ baptism: Voice of the Father, Son baptized, Spirit descending like a dove.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” (Matt. 3:16-17).

Salvation: Chosen by the Father, sanctified by the Spirit, sprinkled with the blood of Jesus.

…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood“ (1 Pet. 1:2).

Sanctification: Grace of the Lord Jesus, love of God, fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. “ (2 Cor. 13:14).

Baptism: Baptized in one name, yet three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

“…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit“ (Matt. 28:19).

Prayer: Strengthened by his Spirit, know the love of Christ, filled with fullness of God.

“…I kneel before the Father, … strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.“ (Eph. 3:14-17).

Christian Growth: Chosen by God, loved by the Lord, sanctified by the Spirit.

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.“ (2 Thess. 2:13).

Add to this the many scriptures which state there is only one God…

For e.g.

“To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him.” (Deut. 4:35).

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” (Deut. 6:4).

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19).

…and we understand that God is ONE God, eternally existent in THREE Persons.

Press on…

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