Friday, 7/5/19 – Tough Question

Why is a funeral better than a party?

This question grows from Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 where Solomon summarizes

“Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies—so the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time.” (Eccl. 7:2-4 – NLT)

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Many people try to run from facing the inevitability of their own demise. They drown out thoughts of death with loud music, alcohol, drugs, or keeping constantly busy. They resort to fantasy games in a virtual world that promises unending rebirths. They immerse their minds and bodies in pornography, gluttony, materialism or crime. “Eat, drink, be merry… grab the gusto… squeeze every drop of pleasure you can from this world and try not to think about what may come next.” 

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In verse 6 Solomon compares the strained and superficial laughter of these sorts of pleasures to quickly burning twigs that puff into smoke and are gone! Such is the life of one whose hope is only in this world. James says something similar, “Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:14 – NLT) And Paul, “…if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Cor. 15:19 – NLT).

What Solomon is saying here is that the wise man will face the fact of His own mortality. Rather than run, he will allow the truth of life’s brevity to have “a refining influence” on his character and actions. He will become ever conscious that he lives out his days under the all-seeing eyes of His Creator, for “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:13) and “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

Jameson, Faussett and Brown note, “The house of feasting often shuts out thoughts of God and eternity. The sight of the dead in the ‘house of mourning’ causes ‘the living’ to think of their own ‘end.’”

After just such reflection the prophet Micah asks, then replies, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

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Indeed, after searching out all the pleasures of life, Solomon himself summarizes, “Here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Eccl. 12:13-14)

Adam Clarke observes “…it is much more profitable to visit the house of mourning for the dead than the house of festivity. In the former we find occasion for serious and deeply edifying thoughts and reflections; from the latter we seldom return with one profitable thought or one solid impression.”

“It is the character of a fool that his heart is in the house of mirth,” comments Matthew Henry. “His whole delight is in sport and gaiety, in merry stories, merry songs, and merry company, merry days and merry nights.” Even if he were physically in “the house of mourning,” adds Henry, “his heart… is in the house of mirth; this is his folly, and helps to make him more and more foolish.”

Press on…

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

Friday, 6/28/19 – Tough Question

What’s this about judging the world and judging angels?

In 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 Paul writes “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? Do you not know that we will judge angels?” To what is he referring here?

20190622_212601Paul is scolding the Corinthian Christians for taking disputes among themselves to heathen law courts for resolution. “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” He asks. “How much more the things of this life!” (v.3). “…Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?” (v.5). To take these disputes to unbelievers to resolve is a shame to the Corinthians and a dishonour to Christ.

But wait a minute – What is this judging of the world and of angels to which Paul alludes? In what way are we to “judge the world”…and “judge angels?”

That we will have some role in the judgment of men and fallen angels is further made clear in these passages:

Jesus promised His disciples,

Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matt. 19:27,28)

Jude, citing from the Jewish First Book of Enoch, writes

See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude v.14, 15)

Paul prays for the Thessalonians,

May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” (1 Thess. 3:13).

I remember one summer I had a job with a landscaping company. It was probably the hottest, most physically demanding job I ever held, working up to 14-hour days – but I loved it! Food and drink were never so rewarding and sleep never so enriching as during those days.

20190622_102033One day we were working near a convenience store offering ‘all-you-could-drink’ refills on their super-large soft drinks. During lunch break my workmates hatched a plan: we would each order up a drink, pour it into the large cooler we carried in the truck, and then collect refills, thus storing up refreshments for the rest of the long, hot day ahead. I felt this was deceptive and refused to participate. The rest of the guys were upset with me because I now made them all look more suspicious. Four parched guys might conceivably down six 40oz sodas, but three? Hmm.

Throw in your lot with us, We shall all have one purse.” (Prov. 1:14) shouts this world. But when we don’t, the world is aggravated. Why? Because righteousness condemns unrighteousness not necessarily by accusation or denouncement, but simply by its presence.

Matthew Henry says as redeemed saints we are privileged “…to approve and applaud the righteous judgment of Christ both on men and angels. …[to] see his proceeding against the wicked world, and approve it.” Our presence with Christ at the judgement will serve as a host of witnesses with Him that His judgment is just.

In my own mind I see our participation in Christ’s final judgment in a vicarious manner, much like we participate in prayer in church as someone at the podium “leads us in prayer.” We agree, affirm, and participate together with the one front and center. Before God our prayers are just as much true prayers as that of the one leading us.

Perhaps in this like manner we will participate with Christ in judging the world and angels. What an awesome privilege!

Press on…

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

Friday, 6/21/19 – Tough Question

What is Apologetics?

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

The thing that throws most people off about the word “apologetics” is that it sounds and looks so much like the word “apology.” They’ve been told perhaps that is means “to defend the faith” but still the word throws them off.

A bit of basic Greek word-root awareness may be helpful.

The Greek word roots “ap,” or “apo” carry the meaning of something “away from,” “separate,” or “at the farthest point.” We see it in English words like “apogee” (at the highest point), or “apostate” (away from the faith).

The Greek word roots “log,” “logo,” or “ology” denote the idea of “word,” “study,” or some aspects of “speech.” In English we find this word root in terms like – “prologue” (the words going before), “dialogue” (words between two or more people), and “zoology” (the study of animals).

black and white book browse dictionary

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “apologetics” [apo+log] as the “formal argumentation in defense of something, such as a position or system.” i.e., in apologetics you are speaking words away from, or against, the words spoken against you by skeptics, heretics, or slanderers. [As an aside, I suppose in the case of an apology you are speaking words away from, or against, the words you yourself perhaps rashly said (or deeds you perhaps rashly did).]

20190620_094311Ravi Zecharias Ministries states: “We use the word ‘apology’ in the sense that we give a defense of the Christian faith. We answer people’s questions about the truth of the gospel. To the questions of the skeptic and the believer we offer an apologetic – we give an answer – to the counterclaims of secularism and other worldviews. We try to demonstrate that the claims of Jesus are true, make sense intellectually, and offer the best picture of our world and of reality.”

We see this word in scripture: Peter urges Christians in his letter, “…Always be prepared to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15).

The Greek word “ἀπολογία,” transliterated “apologia,” means “verbal defence, speech in defence, a reasoned statement or argument.” (Thayer).

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When you think about it, every believer is an “apologist.” RZIM cites C. S. Lewis, “The question is not as a Christian whether you do apologetics or not, but the question is whether you do it well or not.”

For this reason Paul urges young Timothy: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Good counsel for us all.

Press on…

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

Friday, 6/14/19 – 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.