Inspiration for Today's World

Category: Shadows (Page 1 of 8)

Threats to Religion

Threats over one’s belief in a God are nothing new. Adam and Eve immediately encountered Satan after their creation. Jewish history is filled with stories of enslavement and exile because of their beliefs. Just pick up the Bible and you can read about King Herod’s direct assault to kill the newborn Christ child (Matthew 2:16-18). Our world thought that the job was finished with Jesus’s crucifixion. Little did they know that evil is powerless against our God. One might say that since the beginning of time, the godly family has been under constant assault. In recent years, Christians have awakened to this reality. Society and governments now embrace everything from the destruction of marriage and family to forbidding parents from disciplining their children and even restricting parental rights regarding health care. But before we go off and blame others, it is worthwhile to conduct some self-reflection. Are some of the serious threats coming from within?

Are we moral enough?

Morality matters! But is any means to an end considered moral behavior if the cable news says so? Where have you heard a good discussion on morals lately? Was in church or maybe you no longer go to church? Is your family laboring to simply do good, but not just good for society’s sake, to do good to the glory of God? To have a moral family, one must be able to point to a set of basic principles. There first must be the belief that God exists. We must believe that God is real and that God is in control of our universe. People, the government, are not in charge of the universe! The leaders of our world (those good and those bad) hold their positions at the pleasure of our God. Humanity is expected to pass God on to its subsequent generations. Yet, we no longer expose our children to God in schools or even in many of our homes. Society has equated the removal of God from the government as necessary and good. Read the founding documents for our country, that was never the intention. 1 With the removal of God, so went the removal of morality and ethics. Are you happy with our world now? We threw the baby out with the bathwater!

George Washington, General of the Revolutionary Army, president of the Constitutional Convention, First President of the United States of America, Father of our nation, “Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.”

Thomas Aquinas was the first theologian and philosopher to articulate ethics based on natural law. The first axiom of natural law is that God has placed within the natural world discernable qualities that present guiding principles and an alternative source of revelation to assist “human reason.” Humans, though flawed, are expected to use observation, common sense, and reasoning, aided by the Holy Spirit, to understand their world. The results would provide humanity with an understanding of God’s Truth.

(Matthew 7:17) 2 – “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

The Apostle Matthew points out a simple truth, when something is good, there is evidence, “good fruit.” Bad fruit would be chaos, crime, drugs, trafficking, irresponsible debt, lying, cheating, theft, murder, etc. There is a problem with our “tree!” Where is all of that “good fruit?” There are many analogies to explain what is going on here. Roots need continuous nutrition and water. Branches need periodic pruning. Unfortunately, the tree (our society) is not being fed and people no longer see the fruit as part of true repentance and faith. When Tik Tok, Facebook, and Twitter define the fruit, morality suffers. It is time to prune some branches!

Have we become lukewarm toward God?

(Revelation 3:15-16) – “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

Jesus had some rather harsh words for the church of Laodicea (See Lostpine’s Study: Laodicea). The affluent city had found it easier to accommodate the world’s morality rather than live by God’s Truth. Unfortunately, it is not enough to consistently attend church, have children enrolled in the youth group, and volunteer on Sunday mornings. To save our families, the entire family must be centered upon Christ. It is time for the Word of God to dominate homes, shape our families, and permeate our conversations. It is also time to demand that our leaders follow God’s moral Truth.

The Impact of COVID Policies on our Nation

(Romans 12:5) – “so in Christ, we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

The Christian Church is a community. Our Sovereign God placed us in this Body. As members of the Body of Christ, we know we belong to others. Therefore, isolation is inconsistent with God’s plan for humanity. In the past several years of forced isolation, “solitary confinement,” has been used effectively as a tool of evil in our world. As families engage each other in the church, we exercise hospitality, sacrificial love, and gracefully allow others to minister to us. We live in a mission field that we dare not neglect. God in our neighborhood, city, and county working together for a better world. Fight the isolation! God intended us to be “face-to-face” people (2 John 1:12)!

Do we have too much STUFF?

(1 John 2:15-17) – “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

The American Dream seems to be to fill whatever space, closets, basement, attic, garage, or storage unit until it is time for another garage sale. Have you ever walked through a flea market? If proof is needed that people have too much stuff, go to a flea market! In our world today, the slippery slope of excess does not lead to God. Accumulating more than one needs is just another creative form of idolatry. Here is where God just asks us to abandon a few things our family would enjoy and desire and make time/use a few resources to serve Him. Considering God sent His one and only Son to die for us, that is not asking too much is it?

Do we have enough time for God?

Technology is fun, the desire for more toys, success, and accomplishments can become consuming.

(Hebrews 12:1) – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”

The Apostle Paul only reminds us to choose our outside engagements carefully so that we are not so busy that we miss the singular most important thing in life. That is, to pursue Christ and serve His Church. As any runner knows, a marathon is much more analogous to life than the 100-meter dash. When our goals align with God’s goals for us, when our priorities align with God’s priorities for us, reaching the finish line is assured. The world gets an A+ for distractions. The good news is that most of the world’s distractions come with an on/off switch. Try it sometime!

Closing Thoughts

The Christian family has always been a battleground. Attacks will always come from outside. Our world, however, views a moral family as a threat. We need to guard against complacency or Satan will attack from within. Our families need us more than ever to see God in our world and trust Him for their future. Know God is good! Know that God has proven Himself good to those who trust Him. Most importantly, know and recognize God and all that He has done for you.

(Psalm 73:25-26) – “Who have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Contemplations

  • Where do you see the pressure coming against the family?
    • Ideas to Explore: Public educational systems, government, segments withing our society, family needs, church, etc.
  • How has the pressure against religion impacted you?
    • Ideas to Explore: Talk less about it to friends, no longer involved in church, shelter children from public view, avoid references to religion at work, etc.
  • What would happen if you put a big sign on your lawn that says, “My family has turned their lives over to Jesus!”?
    • Ideas to Explore: Neighbors would complain, you might find other neighbors who love Jesus too, your children would be ostracized, The HOA would fine you, etc.
  • How do you keep God and Jesus alive and well in your family?
    • Ideas to Explore: Church as a family, watch Godly shows, discuss God and Jesus at home, help your children with Bible Study, etc.
  • Sort the following categories by the amount of time you spend in each activity:
    • Reading, learning God’s Word.
    • Watching TV, movies
    • Sharing your faith with family and friends.
    • Helping neighbors and your community with everyday problems.
    • Sharing your faith with others.
    • On the Internet.
    • Sports.
    • Work.
    • Other.
  • Do you engage with people eye to eye or via technology?
    • Ideas to Explore: What methods are the most satisfying? Which is more effective?
  • What worldly ideas have you adopted just because you are tired of the fight?
    • Ideas to Explore: Are you setting an example for the world or blending in?

Just Look to God for Answers

There was Columbine, then Shady Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School came next, and recently we had Uvalde Elementary. Each time, our nation wept at the horror and loss of those innocent lives. Is there any answer? Does God even care? The book of Leviticus is often not one that excites many believers when they read the Bible. It is rarely chosen for sermon text. Even those who followed Jesus rarely reflected upon its wisdom. Leviticus is a record of God’s instructions to Moses and Israel after His presence fell upon the nation. It contains lessons on sacrifice, worship, the priesthood, ceremonial cleanness, the Day of Atonement, feasts and holy days, and the Year of Jubilee. While these topics seem out of favor for most of us today, there is one lesson that may help us understand our world. In a time when we are too often burdened by the pain of death from within our schools, there is the question of whether those who perpetrate such heinous crimes were somehow assisted by the lack of God within today’s homes, classrooms, and country.

In the United States, one out of every five students reports being bullied. 1 A higher percentage of those bullied are males. What is bullying? Bullying is being made fun of, called names, or insulted; being the subject of rumors; being pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; and being excluded from activities on purpose. Add to the fact that we are an interconnected society, cyberbullying reaches beyond the schools into the home lives of many children. A study by the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) says that most school shooters not only showed warning signs before committing their crimes but most of them had been bullied. Many had physical limitations and mental issues, that when bullied, escalated into horrific deeds. 2 A byproduct of cyberbullying is increased suicide in children and adolescents. 3. Where does such hate emanate from? Is it the schools, the home or is there something more dangerous affecting our society?

We might start with the fact that removing God from the daily lives of children carries consequences. Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school. Students who are both targets of bullying and engage in bullying behavior are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems. Evil only needs fertile soil to grow and bear fruit! It is especially prevalent in how children treat those in our schools with special needs such as physical and mental impairments. It is unfair to place all the blame on schools. Parents have too often subcontracted their children’s morality to the schools. God would be the first to say, it starts in the home!

(Leviticus 19:14)[ ref]NIV New International Version Translations[/ref] – “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.”

God gave the Israelites a set of ordinances and laws that commanded them to take care of the poor and weak. This shows God’s heart for justice and the social welfare of even the seemingly most insignificant people. In God’s eyes, no one is more and less important. God demands equality by establishing that everyone is of the same value. God expects that His people show consideration for those who had physical and mental limitations. For example, the Israelites were not to curse a deaf man, threaten them or treat them as a lesser person. This is reinforced by the example of Jesus’s compassion for those who had such limitations.

(Luke 7:20-22) – “When the men came to Jesus, they said, ‘John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ At that very time, Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses, and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.’“

Christians are called to imitate Jesus’ compassionate attitude toward those who have physical and mental needs. Within our schools (and homes) daily lessons must include those on kindness, not divisiveness and hate. Children must learn to be considerate and patient with those who are not like themselves. While we may not have the power to perform miracles of healing, every person, young and old, we are called to “show and tell” those who are physically, mentally, or spiritually blind the good news about a paradise where humankind will be restored to full physical and spiritual health.

(Luke 4:18) – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,”

Most of us know of cases in which a person has held a grudge against a coworker, a schoolmate, a relative, or a family member, even for years! Recall that Joseph’s ten half-brothers harbored a grudge against him, which finally led them to attempt murder. (Genesis. 37:2-8, 25-28) How differently Joseph acted toward them! God holds us responsible for our responses to injustice.

(Leviticus 19:18) – “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. “

The principles behind the law stated in Leviticus 19:18 still hold today. The problem is that we no longer teach God’s Truth at home or school. On June 25, 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court declared school-sponsored prayers unconstitutional in the landmark case Engel v. Vitale. It was the final removal of any moral compass for students in public education. What have we accomplished in these past fifty years? We also have done a good job of taking God out of the family too. The decline of moral guidance is universal in our society. It has extended to our businesses and government. Leviticus covers this also.

(Leviticus 19:35-36) – “Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight, or quantity. Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah 4, and an honest hin 5. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.”

What harm could come from a little “white lie,” a thumb on the scales? Truth in advertising, truth in our daily news, and truth from our politicians all reflect a need for Truth from within our society. Leviticus expanded the Ten Commandments to make sure everyone understood the standards were to be applied to life. If we reflect on bullying for a moment and the tragedies that have happened in our schools, no one is solely responsible. Failure of adults within homes, schools, and communities all share responsibility. Students today are merely a reflection of the adults in their lives. Children also learn at home and through all forms of media!

It might be interesting to see what Jesus Himself chose to emphasize from Leviticus. A Pharisee once asked Jesus: “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied that “the greatest and first commandment” is to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind. Then Jesus quoted Leviticus 19:18, saying: “The second, like it, is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt. 22:35-40)

(Leviticus 19:17-18) – “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Our world will not be saved because of electric cars and solar panels. No political party holds the keys to happiness and eternity. Our schools will not be saved by resources officers and hardened entry doors. Our world will only be saved when we look to make God the number one priority within our families and schools again. The Bible does not promise to save us all. But that does not mean that a godly father or mother does not have a profound moral and spiritual influence on the children in that family. It takes leadership in schools, homes, and a government to set examples of high moral standards. We all need to pray and work for the salvation of our families and our country.

Your laws ignore our deepest needs,

Your words are empty air.

You’ve stripped away our heritage,

You’ve outlawed simple prayer.

Now gunshots fill our classrooms,

And precious children die.

You seek for answers everywhere,

And ask the question “Why?”

You regulate restrictive laws,

Through legislative creed.

And yet you fail to understand,

That God is what we need!

~ Darrel Scott, 1999

The above poem is from Darrel Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, killed at Columbine High School. He included the poem written after his daughter’s death in his address to the U.S. Congress. To read his entire comments, click Here.

Contemplations

  • Many blame access to weapons as the reason for school violence. Is it that simple?
    • Ideas to Explore: Drugs, cars, knives are killing many more than guns. Why now is there a problem when so many people for hundreds of years, grew up with weapons in their households? 
  • What is your opinion on the effects of violent video games and movies on young minds?
  • If parents demonstrate hatred in the home, what impact do you think it has on the children?
    • Ideas to Explore: Children do model their parent’s behavior! How can parents promote a healthy respectful attitude for their children?
  • How does the hatred demonstrated through movies, social media and news affect our youth?
    • Ideas to Explore: Have you watched a broad spectrum of the 24 by 7 news lately? What about the talk shows that spew hatred? How does this affect families?
  • What are the small ways children learn that cheating is OK?
    • Ideas to Explore: How a parent drives; how a parent speaks about others; how people in their lives treat others who have special needs; involvement of family with education.
  • If a school or enforcement agency is made aware of a child with issues that threaten those around them, what would you do?
    • Ideas to Explore: What would assure the safety of the innocent? How would you address corrective counseling or education?

Notes:

  1. https://www.pacer.org/bullying/info/stats.asp
  2. https://www.securitymagazine.com/articles/91243-federal-report-says-most-school-shooters-were-bullied
  3. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/1840250
  4. an ancient Hebrew unit of dry measure equal to ¹/₁₀ homer or a little over a bushel
  5. an ancient Hebrew unit of liquid measure equal to about 1.5 U.S. gallons (5.7 liters)

Surviving in a Crazy World!

You should be concerned by now if you spend any time keeping up with the news. Nothing is good, promising, or even hopeful lately. We are being told that our world is poised to go into a nuclear war. Our country has no borders. Along with millions of people coming to the US, there are now terrorists and tons of drugs pouring in with them. Inflation is moving everyday products like gas and food beyond the reach of many people. The supply chain crisis has impacted our ability to even feed our babies. Then again, half our country doesn’t want any babies. COVID is still here, we are now on our third booster. Are you ready for number four? And yes, there is now Monkey Pox. And this is just the first page of our news. No wonder the number one health issue in the world is mental illness! As Christians, we all know the standard lines, God is in charge, just hang in there, and in the end, justice will prevail. But isn’t there something that we all should be doing in the meantime? Isn’t there a way everyone who believes in God should be responding to the chaos?

If you search the Internet, you will find lots of ideas for everyone to practice. The belief is that there are basic responsibilities each of us has to help each other survive times like we are in. 1 Let’s look at a few good ideas and set some goals that will help get through this.

Seek God, not sin

(Amos 5:4) 2 – “This is what the Lord says to Israel: ‘Seek me and live;’”

God is where you find life. (See Lostpine’s Study: When did you first exist? ) You will not find a source for creating life anywhere else but in God. One quickly concludes that the human being has been created to pursue God. We have no other earthly purpose. However, sin, our flawed human nature, separates us from our Creator. The evidence surrounds us in this world of God’s existence. It will never be found inside the “Metaverse.” When the people living in Amos’s time suffered famine and other hardships, they never really got Amos’s point. “Seek Me and live” is God’s call to us. Want life, seek God not sin!

Do not fear the people of this world, fear God

(Proverbs 19:23) – “The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.”

Be in awe of the power God holds. Life and death are in His hands. God offers us a home with Him forever. There is no earthly kingdom that can match God’s offer. Fear God’s commandments and give Him respect. Know that His Son is the Door to Eternity. For the unbeliever, the fear of God is the fear of the judgment of God and eternal death. This is eternal separation from God (Luke 12:5; Hebrews 10:31). For the believer, the fear of God is something much different. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ’God is a consuming fire.’” (Hebrews 12:28-29) Once we have surrendered our lives to the Creator of the Universe, what more is there to fear?

Love God, not the world

(1 John 2:15-17) – “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

Who or what do you love? Power, money, possessions, family, position. Each is temporal in the world. God has offered to share His kingdom with us, all He has, His love, His Power, His eternity. Go for the gusto, go for the best. Loving God requires knowing Him, and that knowledge begins with His Word. To love God is to worship and praise Him. “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only” (Luke 4:8).

To love God is to put Him first. The number-one commandment is to love God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). It’s an undivided love. God becomes our number one priority. If we love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, then we won’t allow other things to ever crowd God out of our lives.

Don’t fall for Satan’s lies

(John 8:44) – “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Even as Christians, sometimes the truth is elusive. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you have an enemy. When life and Scripture collide, which one do you believe and trust? Satan wants us to believe the lies, but will you seek God’s Truth? The world will destroy you while God’s Word will save you! Notice that seek is a verb, an action verb. It takes work to know the Truth! God’s revealed Truth is something we discover, not invent. God reveals it to us through His Word. Truth is rooted in the eternal, all-powerful, and unchangeable God. Therefore His promises cannot fail: “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Proverbs 30:5).

Be a servant

(Isaiah 6:8) – “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’”

God’s call is not a call to be a pushover in today’s world. As Bible-believing Christians, we are to live at peace with our neighbors. Where and when possible, our lives are to draw unbelievers to God (Psalms 119:98). However, God and His Son, Jesus, never compromised their values. Jesus was crucified for those values. We are to live as a light in the darkness of our world. There are times, however, when peace is not possible and retreating from the field of battle that is put before you is not an option. God does not ask you to be a coward but, instead, to rely on Him for your strength (Psalms 149:6-7).

The job is not done until we pass God on to the next generation

(Psalm 71:17-18) – “Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.”

How did you learn there was a God? Each generation must be taught who God is, and what He has done for humankind. Children have always learned from their parents’ religious experiences. As a family prays together, they too will pray with you. When you are no longer there to be a direct influence on your children, their desire to seek God needs to remain. Our world attacks the family. Rightly so, because it is through the strength of the family that faith and God are transferred from one generation to the next. No books, no movies, no social media is more powerful than a family who shares their faith publicly and with each other. Do not abandon our children to the world.

Setting Goals in Today’s Crazy World

If you like the idea of setting goals, then it may be time to write out a list of things yet to achieve. It is always a good idea to talk about them as a family. Goals should be revisited periodically for adjustments. To achieve any goal, here are a few secular tips:

  1. Mission statements are the highest-level goal for living. You should know your mission in life. It is a nice idea to find a single Bible verse that matches your mission. Make it part of how you live your life. Live the verse. Tell everyone about it. Study it. Make it YOUR VERSE!
  2. Goals are those areas that you would like to accomplish in life. Think of it as a “bucket list” of sorts. Don’t take the time to create a huge list. Good goals are usually a short and simple. Pick goals that will take you and your family closer to God.
  3. Look at each goal. Now develop strategies to address success toward that goal. One goal might be to teach your children about God, the Bible, and then have them seek God by their own declaration of faith and baptism. It might take years, but this is a goal that is worthy of effort. A strategy would include going to church and worshiping regularly. Scriptures are full of strategies. Pick those that speak to your heart. The Holy Spirit is there to help!
  4. Now, look at all your strategies that cover all your goals. Wow, you have work ahead of you. 
  5. To accomplish a strategy, you need tactics. These are the day-to-day operational activities that move you in the right direction. Tactics might include youth groups for your children, mission work as a family, Bible studies, regular worship, and time reading Scripture together. This is the fun part of God’s world; He loves helping families achieve their goals. 
  6. Here comes the critical part necessary for success. Be honest with yourself and do a “strengths and weakness” assessment. Some things you will be good at and some lousy. Now build your plan. What is a plan? A plan is to arrange your life to choose tactics that leverage your strengths and fix your weaknesses. Then march forward toward your goals and live your mission. Every business in the world does it this way. Jesus did it this way with His three years of ministry. The apostles were just one strategy that he considered and used effectively. His mission was to carry the sins of humankind upon His back to the Cross! Hallelujah!

It doesn’t seem that the world is getting much better. Let’s hope it is not getting worse. To survive, however, we need to get closer to God. Whoever we are and whatever our situation, God wants us to put Him first, even before family and friends. As Paul put it, Jesus is “the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (Colossians 1:18) Jesus accepts no rival substitutions for our affections and attention!

Contemplations

  • Where does the “noise” in your life come from?
    • Ideas to Explore: Family, friends, news, work, other challenges? 
  • What do you do to control the noise? How do you find time to plan for positive change in your life?
    • Ideas to Explore: Quiet time, reading God’s Word, time with loved ones, spending time outdoors, hobbies, etc.
  • Society seems to be surviving “ad hoc” without a plan. Where do you see the need for strategies and tactics the most in your world today?
    • Ideas to Explore: Do we have too many conflicting messages that drown out the good ideas? Is life just too busy? Do we need to spend more time actually developing ideas for living well?
  • How would you prepare children for the time ahead when you are no longer able to guide and influence them?
    • Ideas to Explore: Spend time with them now. Write down your beliefs. Teach them your faith. Involve them in your life’s struggles and show them how to “Survive.”
  • What do you think the next generation’s survival skills must look like?
    • Ideas to Explore: Can youth survive without a belief in God? Is prayer, time with God alone necessary for a healthy mind and body? 

Notes:

  1. Concepts reflect information from https://www.cru.org/us/en/communities/families/7-essentials-for-christian-life.html
  2. NIV New International Version Translations

Who was Malachi?

Malachi is the last book in the Christian Old Testament. He is considered the last of the prophets who wrote down his prophetic call. Malachi’s name means “my messenger,” an appropriate title for a prophet. Malachi was writing to the remnant of Israelites who had returned after 70 years in Babylonian captivity. His ministry existed at the same time as Nehemiah but after the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. To set the stage for Malachi, the temple had been rebuilt, and the people of Israel were once again in the Promised Land. However, old sinful habits were creeping into their society again. All we know about Malachi is inferred from his public messages, recorded in his book.

Malachi lived during a time of great injustice, corruption, and poverty in Jerusalem. Jesus was not due on the scene for several hundred years. Every day, as people witnessed the society around them, they were reminded of the promises God had spoken through Haggai and Zechariah. These prophets had encouraged them to rebuild the temple with the hope that God would bring prosperity and peace. It now was almost fifty years since they had returned, the temple rebuilt. Yet, Israel was still overcome by injustice and corruption, while they witnessed the nations around them all prospering.

The people were questioning the promises and if God still loved them. Through the prophet Malachi, God responds to the concerns of His people. When God tells Israel, “I have loved you,” the people respond, “how have you loved us?” God responds by reminding them that they were chosen, and His love is not dependent upon anything that they can do.

(Malachi 3:6-7) 1 – “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty….”

The book that Malachi wrote is distinguished as being the only prophetic book that ends not in deliverance but judgment. It ends with a curse.

(Malachi 4:1-5) – “’ Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with destruction.’”

Judgment would historically come in the form of the Roman general Pompey who captured Jerusalem in 63 BC. Caesar Augustus (63 BC – 14 AD) would be the first Roman emperor and one of the most successful. He would reign for 45 years ruling at the time of Jesus’ birth. Today we are faced with uncertain but not unprecedented times. God’s people have been here before. Malachi, therefore, is a great place to review. Not only does Malachi teach us of the unchanging character of our God, but it also leaves us with hope. The book of Malachi ends with God promising His people, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays….” (Malachi 4:2).

Not only was this promise fulfilled in the first coming of Christ, but this promise will be completed in the great Day of the Lord as He returns to bring final justice and peace to our world. The words in the brief four chapters of Malachi are the concluding message from our God to his people before almost 400 years of silence. These words bore the weight of the New Christian Church and became the cornerstone of hope for the people of God. Malachi is a beautiful picture of a conversation between God and His people, as they seek Him and question His promises.

A summary of the book of Malachi covers these areas:
  • Malachi rebuked the sins of the priests – Priests were the political leaders of the times. They mocked God by using God to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. The leaders were also derelict in their official duties which were to guide the moral values of the nation.
  • Malachi rebuked the sins of the people – The people had divorced their rightful wives; they had married foreign wives; they doubted God’s justice; and they were neglecting to pay first fruits, their tithes to God, giving God their leftovers.
  • The people did nothing about the poverty that existed in their nation.
  • Malachi admonished the people because they had not learned from the consequences of their past sins.
  • Despite Israel’s doubts, to the contrary, Malachi assured them that the Lord God still loved them (Malachi 1:2–5).
  • Part of Malachi’s ministry was to prepare the hearts of God’s people and the way for John the Baptist, who would then prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus.

(Malachi 3:1) – “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.”

In the Old Testament, the message of the prophets, repentance is a recurring theme. Repentance was demonstrated through rituals such as fasting, wearing sackcloth, sitting in ashes, wailing, and liturgical laments that expressed strong sorrow for sin. These rituals were supposed to be accompanied by authentic repentance, which involved a commitment to a renewed relationship with God, a walk of obedience to His Word, and living right. Too often, however, these rituals merely represented remorse and a desire to escape the consequences of sin.

The word repentance means “the act of changing one’s mind.” True biblical repentance goes beyond remorse, regret, or feeling bad about one’s sin. It even involves more than turning away from sin. It is a dedication to redirect oneself to a future life with God based on His Truth (His rules). Our nation, any nation cannot continue to ignore its Creator, living as if God doesn’t matter. He does!

Contemplations

  • Why are good people quiet about sin when they see it?
    • Ideas to Explore: Fear? Don’t see it as a problem? Does the media endorse it? Leadership is all doing it?
  • Do you think God cares about corruption in society?
    • Ideas to Explore: Why do our leaders and courts permit it? Do the wealthy or popular get a free pass?
  • Use your favorite issue with society today – Now, ask does God care and what is His Truth about that issue? 
    • Ideas to Explore: We all seem to have pet peeves.  Why are there so few activists for God’s Truth?
  • How do you help society see that God wants repentance?
    • Ideas to Explore: God has stated in our Bible that repentance is a prerequisite to His blessing for a nation. How are you helping?
  • There is a war against our children – Where and when do you see it ending?
    • Ideas to Explore: Drugs, education, destruction of the family, crime, all hurt the youth of our country. How would you fix it?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations

The difference between Good and Evil – Can we tell the difference anymore?

A waterfall of opinion in a socially connected world constantly bathes our human conscience. One common attribute of discernment is that God has placed an expectation on humanity. It is expected to tell the difference between right and wrong, good and evil. God expects us to sort things out, make good decisions, and support good causes. We have also been given the Good News that our imperfections with discernment were left upon Christ’s cross. But what exactly are humanity’s responsibilities in this world? Does God expect us to tell the difference between what is sin and what is good?

Whether you agree with this premise or not, our daily lives are filled with society’s poor decisions. People have opinions about what is right and wrong, but opinions don’t make something morally good or bad. People still choose sin over God’s Truth. Opinions, like who we vote for, are subjective and are not universal truths applicable to everyone. Opinions are formed through experiences, education, and family. On a lesser scale, there are news media and social media. Our world today considers morality more of a concept. Our world often believes that anything can be morally right if it supports its cause. In other words, the justification for sinful behavior is often based on one’s beliefs and desired outcomes.

If we are to accept universal moral truths, then there must also be universal standards that can be applied. But concepts such as these require reasoning and common sense. Truth implies that standards were once established as a foundation for society. In a materialistic world without God, saying something is evil by nature means that it is evil everywhere, all the time. The Bible goes to great lengths to make known to us that our God is good. Here are just a few examples Psalm 136:1, Psalm 34:8, Psalm 119:68, and Psalm 135:3:

(Nahum 1:7) 1 – “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,”

But what then is evil if God is what is good? Is there a moral standard for this? Evil should be defined as hurting others who have been made in the image of God. When we destroy life (created by God), when we destroy our environment (created by God), we are making a direct assault on God’s Creation. Evil is an offense against God’s perfect and Holy character. When humanity sees God, sees His spectacular creation, and then decides something else is better, we found evil. Even Jesus confirms God’s goodness:

(Mark 10:18) – “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.”

Evil, therefore, is that which is contrary to the will of God. Evil is counter to God’s Holiness. Evil is wickedness, an attempt to cause unnecessary harm and deceit. Objects are not evil. A rock, a cloud, or water are not evil by nature. They are things. People are held to a different standard by God. Pain and suffering caused to save a life are not evil. When pain and suffering are present for simple cruelty, unkindness, selfishness, greed, or just callousness disregard for God’s Creation, we are at the threshold of God’s displeasure, we found the gates of hell.

Our world is witness to events that require taking sides. The war in Ukraine, the fentanyl drug crisis in our cities, trafficking, the theft of innocence for our young children, and the crime that is rampant in our streets all require more than opinions on morality. Have you ever questioned why convicted felons serve year after year in our Senate and Congress 2? Good Christians as well as godless people elect them over and over. Yet, where will Godly people go for their standards? How do Godly people discern God’s Truth? Who is right, who is wrong?

Society must be willing to demonstrate its discernment by upholding a universal set of moral standards. This is exactly what our founding fathers believed in, sinful as they were. Without moral standards, there would be little hope for our new nation to prosper without those standards based upon Godly values. Here are a few ideas to ponder.

Avoid Denying Reality

As Solomon stated in Ecclesiastes 11:3, “If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth. Whether a tree falls to the south or the north, in the place where it falls, there it will lie.” This often requires a back-to-basics view of the world. Death may be inevitable, but murder is always wrong. Why do people try to rationalize reality! How many sexes are there? Is a fetus a living human? Is social justice without repentance and accountability of any value at all? God placed a conscience (a moral sense) into every individual as part of Natural Law. God also established “first principles” such as law, government, education, politics, and economics, all to be discovered by “common sense.” Where will you search for reality?

The Means do not Justify the End!

It is wrong to assume that any means to accomplish a human belief is morally correct. A poor woman, pregnant with an unwanted child, is not better off to abort the life of the unborn child. Her economic well-being is not the means to the end God is interested in. What does God want? He wants to see a society that honors the widows and orphans and feeds and clothes the poor. He wants to see the unborn child raised to honor God and serve the world.

(James 1:27) – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

James, Jesus’s brother, knew very well that we would always have a world of needy people around us. God simply asks us to take care of them, not dilute their faith, not move them to worldly goals, but to move them closer to God Himself. This is the end God wants!

Get Good at Untwisting the Facts

The secret of a liar’s trade is in their ability to twist any fact into any outcome. Any fact that does not agree with their goals is manipulated into the reality they are trying to impose. Things are often taken out of context, or worse yet, attached to other things taken out of context. When the truth is twisted in such a misleading way that you feel afraid, vulnerable, attacked, hated, or incompetent, there is a good chance that there has been some “twisting” going on. In a world where “cancel culture” reigns supreme, it just means it is time to search harder for the facts! The Apostle Paul lays it out as clear as anyone:

(Romans 1:18-22) – “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness since what may be known about God is plain to them because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Withholding Information is Just as Wrong as Giving Bad Information

Those who withhold relevant information are just using a creative form of lying to you. That is exactly what censorship means, a lie. (see Lostpine’s Study: Censorship and Freedom of Speech-What does the Bible Say) Blocking access to dissent is a direct affront to God’s Truth. Our world lies to gain power and wealth, but it also lies for the simple pleasure of spreading disinformation. Sincerity is useless. In the end, you will start believing in the bad information. Remember that words are the weapon of evil too, and they know how to use them effectively. The Word of God withholds no Truth from humanity!

(Proverbs 6:16-19) – “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”

Avoiding Responsibility is a Powerful Clue

Evil people do not have a moral compass. They do as they please and they will never feel responsible for the pain they cause. If they sense that some sort of blame will be directed toward them, expect them to redirect to new topics or new information. Apologizing is considered a virtue of the weak by evil people.

(Proverbs 28:13) – “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

Only Christ was perfect. That is why we need Him! There is nothing better to purge the soul than an old fashion apology. By now, we should all know that one of the key attributes of God’s Truth is Humility!

Hypocrisy is Always a Cover for Sin

One rich man purchases a liberal newspaper, another tries to purchase a social media site. Any case study of these events would be perfect to teach hypocrisy in action. When hypocrisy is present, sin is present. Jesus made that very clear:

(Matthew 23:13) – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

Hypocrisy always represents sinful bias. First, look for it. Next, take an unbiased review of both sides. That is all that God is asking us to do. Avoid selfishness, be honest with those around us. When this becomes too much for society to tolerate, let’s hope it never becomes too much for God to tolerate!

Where does this leave you? Do you know what standards lead to a Christ-like life? There is only one, it is called the Bible. Without bathing one’s mind in the curative wisdom of God’s Word, humanity has no hope. And what are we doing as a society? We separated our government from God. Removed God from our schools. Accepted virtually every sinful nature of mankind as the “new normal.” Our society now demands allegiance to the world’s wisdom. The simple truth is that there is no hope for us unless God is part of our life.

(Romans 12:2) – “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

What did our Founding Fathers think a moral society needed to survive?

“Because power corrupts, society’s demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.” – John Adams

“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” – John Adams

“I have carefully examined the evidence of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity, I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man.” – Alexander Hamilton

“The only thing that is more expensive than education is ignorance.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Only virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” – Benjamin Franklin

“Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society.” – George Washington

Contemplations

  • Why do you think our society (world) struggles with the concepts of what is good and what is evil?
    • Ideas to Explore: Sin is fun. We have removed God from the world. We have the wrong leaders. People are too busy to worry about such details.
  • Where or what is your basis for your morality?
    • Ideas to Explore: Family, education, church, media, Bible, etc. How do you validate it?
  • Why do we elect immoral leaders?
    • Ideas to Explore: We fall for their lies. Don’t spend enough time researching their history.
  • What are the actions of a society that is trying to move its morality toward that which God teaches?
    • Ideas to Explore: What are the signs that you see if any of our world is getting better. What do you think it will take?

What does it mean to turn one’s life over to Jesus?

When this expression is used, it’s often heard along with things like “doing the will of God, crucifying the flesh, or dying to oneself.” These are not particularly simple concepts to understand. They typically mean pursuing a life pleasing to God, mirroring Jesus’ life. Before the journey for an answer can begin, there is one critical question that must be answered first, Is God real? You may wonder why this is even a legitimate question to ask self-professed Christians. Have you looked lately at who our self-professed Christians are electing to the critical offices of our States and country? They support murder: abortion takes 2,300+ innocent lives a day just in the US. Our leaders support the importation of fentanyl. A grain of fentanyl the size of a grain of salt kills. We lose over 100,000 young lives a year just in the US to this one drug alone. And not let us forget the war against our children’s very souls. When parents abrogate their responsibility to raise children who know God’s Truth, the question of whether we believe God exists becomes a legitimate question. [see Lostpine’s Study: Has the World Gone Mad] Because if He does, our world is in for a very unpleasant surprise!

For all of history, humankind has been in search of an answer, an indisputable answer, to the existence of God. The journey toward an answer has included archaeology, science, history, and literature, including the human experience. Virtually all societies on earth have a belief in a form of a Creator. This, no doubt, comes from the visible evidence of God’s existence. Think of it as “God’s footprints in the sands of the earth.” When logic is applied to those “footprints,” it is not possible to draw any other understanding for the existence of humanity unless a Creator also exists.  Much of what we assume as part of daily life, including reason, morality, and human rights requires such a belief. Therefore, the first step in our journey must be to decide on the question of God’s existence. If we can answer “yes,” the journey can begin.

Now using the Words of God, Himself, He says He exists, that nature demonstrates a Creator exists (Psalm 19:1), and that God reveals enough of Himself in the world for people to know of Him (Romans 1:20). The early Christian church was founded on the use of eyewitnesses, evidence, and good reasoning (Luke 1:1–2; 2 Peter 1:16; Acts 17:11; 1 Corinthians 14:20). Even Jesus Himself would use evidence when defending His claims (John 5:31–47).

Any good search for truth, therefore, must include the Bible. We are told that the Bible contains the inspired words of God.

(2 Timothy 3:16) 1 – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,”

Billy Graham, a renowned theologian, was scheduled to speak at a conference in the mountains east of Los Angeles. On a warm August night, Graham took a break from his room and walked out into the woods. He came to a tree stump, where he knelt, with his Bible on the stump in front of him. In prayer, Graham confessed that he did not understand everything in the Bible. But God blessed him with the understanding that his task was not to prove God’s Words as truthful but to accept God’s Words as Truth. Billy Graham had concluded that it is only the limitations of humanity that cloud our Biblical Wisdom. 2

(2 Peter 1:21) – “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Everything, therefore, in the Bible was given to us for a purpose. While we may not understand that purpose because of our lack of knowledge, it should not be negated. One of Graham’s struggles had been with the book of Jonah. It is a hard story to fully embrace, the thought of surviving for days in the belly of a whale. There were no whales in the Mediterranean Sea! Yet, like so many of Jesus’s parables, the value of Jonah as a parable was just as significant as the parable of the Prodigal Son, or Jesus calming the sea of Galilee. The risk of picking and choosing God’s Words we believe is that they can leave you standing at an empty tomb with a dead Savior! To have a relationship with someone requires that they are alive, that they exist. To have a relationship with Jesus requires full faith in His death and His resurrection. The Bible is not about dead things, it is about living things, God, and His Son. They are living now with us here on earth and will live with us after our world ceases to exist.

Often hidden in the story of the Bible is the role of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is the process of the Holy Spirit stripping away our sinful habits, convicting us to move toward a Christ-like life. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the power to accomplish things we cannot logically do, love people that are unlovable, and provide the self-discipline to overcome sin.

(John 16:13) – “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

Yet, Jesus might have summarized the task of following Him better than anyone when He said: “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Do you want to follow Jesus? Then Learn God’s Truth. Where do you find God’s Truth? In God’s own Words! Jesus is co-equal in power to God the Father. Yet Jesus was willing to submit His personal will to that of God’s Will and die on the Cross. And what did Jesus end up with by His perfect submission to God’s Will?

(Philippians 2:9-11) – “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and 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, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

We are now at the heart of the question behind this study. Humans have free will but turning one’s life over to Jesus means turning one’s free will over to follow God’s will. Our own interests must be put behind the interests of God. But do you know God’s interests for you? They are written in the Bible and exemplified in the life of Jesus. Your footprints on earth are meant to match “God’s footprints in the sands of the earth.” None of this is easy. Jesus told those who would follow Him, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) And we cannot follow Jesus if we don’t accept where He is trying to take us!

Can you accept that we have a living Christ who longs to show us the pathway to eternal life? If the answer is yes, the journey will be to follow Jesus wherever He leads you. Your old self, your passions, desires, wants, your earthly desires, will be left on the cross you are asked to carry for yourself. You become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Following Jesus means recognizing Him for who He really is. Messiah. Lord. The Son of God. He is the Savior of the world. The Apostle Paul says, “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). Then obey His teachings. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31).

All who follow Jesus will have a place in His Church. Find your place in “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12). All have been uniquely gifted to fulfill a role in His Church. The Church today needs you now more than ever. Not everyone’s relationship with Jesus will look the same nor will their journey. Just remember that with the help of the Holy Spirit, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13).

Contemplations

  • Where does your belief in God come from?
    • Ideas to Explore: Family, Church, experiences, a personal encounter, study?
  • Where do doubts about God’s existence come from?
    • Ideas to Explore: Our world, society? A personal experience? Bad experience at church?
  • What are you doing in your life to build confidence in God’s existence?
    • Ideas to Explore: Church, Read/study the Bible, read/study other materials, prayer, etc.
  • Why do you believe that Jesus is alive today?
    • Ideas to Explore: Past witnesses, personal encounters, just faith?
  • Where do you think Jesus wants your journey to go?
    • Ideas to Explore: Do you know God’s Truth? Do you know God’s will for your life? 
  • People know that they are on the correct journey by signs that their destination is getting closer. What are the signs for you?
    • Ideas to Explore: Peace, understanding, better relationships, less hatred, etc.

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. (Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham, pp.135-139).

When did you first exist?

10 weeks – the size of a kidney bean

Our world currently is undergoing an explosion of emotion regarding the question, when does the life of a human begin to exist and who holds the power over life? This may be a good time to review God’s Word for wisdom and guidance on this subject. We know that humankind was created as the master over everything on earth and everything on earth is subservient to humankind. Humans were never created to serve things on earth.

(Genesis 2:7) 1 -” Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

The story of creation begins with a metaphor. God takes that which exists, useless and dead dust, and with His breath, creates life. It is important to understand that, as living beings, we give full credit for life to God. Humans have a very poor track record for creating life other than through sex between a man and woman. Humans, however, do a great job destroying life.

(Psalm 139:15-16) – “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

The power of God is part of the formation of life from the very beginning in the womb, even though that life is not yet perfect. The Hebrew word used in our psalm for “unformed body” is (gā-lə-mî). It is not the same as the word used for “my frame” in verse 15. This is the only usage of the word golem: an embryo in the Bible except for 2 Kings 2:8, where it means wrapped together. The psalmist specifically intends to state that God is watching the unformed embryonic mass, which over time, is being fashioned daily in a fetal form into a human being from its conception! The psalmist (thought to be David) says that God’s great power is guiding the very formation of life in the womb. Even though that life is still imperfect or just an unformed embryonic mass, in the mind of God, that life is a human a life. Then from “God’s perspective,” in His Book of Life, the blueprint for a human is recorded.

Does this match up with science?

Science teaches without reservation that life begins at fertilization (conception). It is a scientific fact that an organism exists after fertilization that did not exist before. This new organism has its DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) distinct from the mother and father, meaning that it is a unique person. As the embryo grows, it develops a heartbeat (22 days after fertilization), has its own circulatory system, and its own organs. From fertilization, it is a new organism that is alive and will continue to grow and develop as long as nutrition is provided and its life is not ended through violence or illness.” 2

Together with God, a man, and a woman, whether voluntary or not, create human beings in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). The creation of human life begins with the decision to have sex. With sex typically comes conception unless steps are taken to stop conception. The decision to have mutual sex comes with responsibility. To disregard the possible outcomes is irresponsible! As God Himself established, the purpose of sex is to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28). During the time of pregnancy, the growing life within its mother (the womb) is fully dependent upon her. The care and feeding of the mother sustain the fetus until birth. Then after birth, it is the responsibility of both the child’s mother and father to sustain the child, feeding, nurturing, educating, protecting, and raising the newborn. Biblically, God intended this to be the foundation of a family. The concept of family is extremely important in the Bible, both in a physical sense and in a theological sense. The concept of family was introduced at the very beginning of our world by God, as we find in Genesis 1:28.

Society (our world) is telling us that because the child is in the womb, the child is just property, owned by the mother. However, that is reminiscent of a time when slavery and property rights were assigned to human beings. Scriptures do not support this position. God’s position is that when life was created by the acts of a man and a woman, the resulting human being gained certain inalienable rights. Those rights include life, liberty, and an opportunity to pursue happiness.

(Exodus 20:13) – “You shall not murder.”

In God’s “Big 10 List,” Number six is the prohibition against murder. Murder is a term that is reserved for the intentional killing of another human being. Any instance where the death of a human being is because of malicious intent and action of another person is referred to as murder. There are no provisions from God for intentionally killing an unborn child, even if it is not wanted. Our society stands on a slippery slope when it assigns the decision to terminate life as a “heath decision.” Are we also to believe that a handicapped child, a dismembered military veteran, or just an older adult with dementia could, one day, have their life terminated by the simple decision of others! Life is never an “inconvenient truth. “The primary reason God hates murder is that out of all creation, only humans are made in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26 – 27, 9:4 – 6). Even before the codification of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, the murder of other human beings was wrong (Genesis 4:8 – 12, 4:23 – 24, 9:4 – 6, Exodus 1:16 – 17).

While on earth, Jesus spoke out against murder (Matthew 5:21 – 26, Mark 10:17 – 19). We also see in the writings of Paul (Romans 1:18, 29 – 32, 13:8 – 10, Galatians 5:19 – 21), James (James 2:8 – 11, 4:1 – 3), Peter (1 Peter 4:15 – 16) and John (Revelation 9:20 – 21, 21:7 – 8, 22:14 – 15) that murder is wrong. Every Christian must take a stand on whether the 63 million abortions performed since Roe v. Wade was established, is a right granted to a mother or an abhorrent sin against the very Creator Himself.

God’s first commandments to His people were intended to guide and protect the family (Exodus 20:1-17). The interests and characteristics of a person are not formed by accident. You along with every other human are unique in God’s eyes. Unfortunately, so were the 63 million aborted children that never experienced life. God has great plans for every life, and those plans were established at the moment of conception. God created every life for a purpose. In those plans and purposes are the hopes, desires, and discoveries that make living in this world worthwhile.

(Psalm 139:13-16) – “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

There are things God has in store for every life that only they can experience. Created in His image, each human is priceless, intentional, and valued. Each was created for a personal relationship with God, knowing Him in deep and personal ways, and representing Him to a world in need of His love and Truth.

(Ephesians 2:10) – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Do not let the world define what is right and what is wrong. Only God defines His Truth! Do not stand upon the slippery slope and find yourself sliding farther away from the God who loves you.

Contemplations

  • One area causing continued controversy is the subject of life created through rape or incest (an involuntary act on the part of the mother of a child). How do you think our God views the decision to terminate life under those circumstances?
    • Ideas to Explore: What are the rights of the life that was created? Who should suffer the punishment for the sin, the child, the parents, or others? How would you solve this dilemma?
  • Society has become comfortable with the decision to prioritize the mother’s life over that of an unborn child. In such an instance, how would you make sure that all parties (mother, father and child) involved were served fairly in the eyes of God?
    • Ideas to Explore: What is a fair process to make such a difficult decision? Who should be involved in such a decision, the mother of course but what about the father? Doctors? Existing children in the family? Government? Church?
  • If the conclusion is that aborting life is wrong, how do you personally feel about leaders who support abortion?
    • Ideas To Explore: We have leaders who fight to maintain Roe v. Wade yet profess to place their faith in Jesus and call themselves Christians. How do you personally reconcile this within your own faith?

Who were the Samaritans?

Our Bible mentions Samaria and its people over one hundred times. But we remember the Samaritan people most for two parables that Jesus tells. To find the roots of the Samaritan people and understand their full story, we need to look to Jacob and his twelve sons. Joseph, his favorite son, was despised by his other brothers (Genesis 37:3-4), and they attempted to do away with him. God intervened and not only preserved Joseph’s life but used him to preserve the lives of his entire family. Before Jacob’s death, Joseph’s father gave him a special blessing:

(Genesis 49:22) 1 – “Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.”

The blessing was fulfilled by God.

(Genesis 41:51-52) – “Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, ‘It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’”

When Jacob (representing the nation of Israel) migrated with his entire family to be with his son Joseph in Egypt, he “adopted” the two boys and made them the primary partakers of God’s blessings. Although not the firstborn, God selected Ephraim and his descendants to be the leading Israelite tribe (Genesis 48). The land allotted to the tribes of Joseph’s two sons was the fertile land that would eventually become Samaria. Later, Israel would divide itself into two kingdoms. In 722 BC, the Assyrians conquered the northern lands known as Israel. The Assyrians were aggressive and effective; the history of their dominance over the Middle East is a history of constant warfare. To assure that conquered territories would remain pacified, the Assyrians would force many of the native inhabitants to relocate to other parts of their empire. They would also send Assyrians to relocate into the conquered territory.

The Assyrians did not settle the Israelites in one place but scattered them in small populations all over the Middle East. When the Babylonians later conquered the southern kingdom, Judah, they, too, would relocate a massive amount of the population. However, they moved that population to a single location so that the Jews could set up a separate community and still retain their religion and identity.

An additional consequence of the Assyrian invasion of Israel involved the settling of a group in the capital of Israel, Samaria. This group took with them Assyrian gods and cultic practices. Within a short time, the Assyrians in Samaria were worshipping Yahweh as well as their gods. Within a few centuries, however, they would be worshipping Yahweh exclusively. Fast forward to Jesus’ time, the Jews called the Samaritans “half-breeds.” The Samaritan people were viewed as being neither Jewish nor pagan anymore. Hence, hatred and division existed between them.

Why then would Jesus refer to Samaritans in a positive way in His parables? Jesus was simply pointing out that a new attitude must be taken toward people that appear different from us. Jesus chose to pass through their towns instead of crossing the Jordan to avoid them (John 4:4-5). Jesus would also talk to a Samaritan woman, contrary to Jewish custom (John 4:9). On Mount Gerizim, the Samaritans had built their own separate Temple in Samaria. Jesus would meet and talk with the Samaritan woman at the well near Gerizim where the Samarians worshiped (John 4:19–20). Samaritans had even created their version of the Torah now known as the Samaritan Pentateuch. Yet, when Jesus gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), He was asked who is our neighbor? In this history, is our lesson!

What if technology like functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) was used to investigate our brain, could we see divisiveness and hatred? In 2021, a neurobiologist in a University College London laboratory tried to do this 2. What he found was that love and hate are closely related. Love seemed to deactivate areas of the brain associated with judgment while hatred activated areas in the frontal cortex that are used when attempting to predict another person’s behavior (being judgmental). If you add to this information, history, and the impact of prior experiences, it is possible to understand why countries, peoples, families, etc. can find themselves divided by long-standing differences. Once our experiences with someone are programmed to expect behavior that does not meet our standards, the gap between understanding and divisiveness can only grow wider. In other words, hatred grows the more judgmental we become.

(Luke 6:37) – “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Jesus was implying that we should begin by regarding everyone’s viewpoint equally. However, Jesus didn’t mean we should ignore and tolerate evil. Jesus wasn’t passively tolerant toward people who were doing evil things and promoting evil values. [see Lostpine’s Study: Is it All About Compromise?] He often made judgments regarding their actions and confronted them (Matthew 21:13; 23:13-36; John 6:70-71; 8:39-47). Jesus taught in the tradition of the Old Testament where prophets consistently confronted evil, even at the risk of their lives (2 Samuel 12:1-12; 1 Kings 18:18). A parent who gives their children anything will spoil them. God sets limits for us for this purpose.

Judging, as Jesus condemned it in these verses, is unforgiving condemnation. It comes from a hypercritical, self-righteous, vindictive spirit that continually seeks to find faults in others while overlooking one’s shortcomings. The apostles recognized that in the new Christian Church, Samaritans must be accepted as equal to Jews. Peter and John conducted a special mission to Samaria to confirm Samaritans who had already been baptized by Philip (Acts 8:14-17). This initiation of the Samaritans was a middle stage between the preaching of the gospel to the Jews (Acts 2) and the preaching of the gospel to full-blooded Gentiles (Acts 10).

There are countless modern parallels to the Jewish-Samaritan hatred. We can see it wherever people are divided by racial and ethnic barriers. We can see it through the brutalities of war where hatred can be generational. Perhaps that’s why the Bible provides so many instances of Samaritans. It is not the person from the radically different culture on the other side of the world that is hardest to understand. Jesus is pointing out that it is often a nearby neighbor whose skin color, language, rituals, values, ancestry, history, and customs are different from our own. The questions then become how do we stay focused on God’s Truth but avoid judgment on inconsequential matters?

  • Before passing judgment, seek wisdom and discernment (Proverbs 10:13).
  • Not everyone makes decisions like you (Matthew 7:12).
  • Resist the temptation to form quick opinions when you are short on facts (1 Samuel 1:1-15).
  • It is only God that knows everything (Proverbs 16:2).
  • Respect the diversity within the body of Christ throughout the world (1 Corinthians 12:27).

Yes, there were idols everywhere in Samaria, even in Jesus’ day. Samaritans were hated even more than the conquering Romans were. After the history of King Ahab [see Lostpine’s Study” Who was King Ahab?], the son of Omri reigned, he built a house of worship for Baal and “laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub” (1 Kings 16:34). The history of the people had sunk so low that they sacrificed their children, and to a god that is no god at all but is merely a representation of Satan himself in Baal.

Irreconcilable differences! Samaria had become a place of refuge for all the outlaws of Judea (Joshua 20:6-7; 21:21). The Samaritans willingly received Jewish criminals and refugees from justice. The violators of the Jewish laws, and those who had been excommunicated, found safety for themselves in Samaria, greatly increasing the hatred which existed between the two nations. Despite the hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans, Jesus broke down the barriers between them, preaching the gospel to the Samaritans (John 4:6-26), and the apostles later followed His example (Acts 8:25). God’s Truth came for reconciliation and salvation. It is humanity’s only hope.

The most significant lesson in the Samaritan story may come from the risks of forced migration and the effects on religious beliefs and cultures. Jacob’s family all started their historical journey from the same place, the same God. Different experiences, different cultures would expose multiple generations to much sin and corruption. Their paths through history would lead them in the end divided, filled with hatred for each other. That was clearly Jesus’ point, it doesn’t have to end this way!

(John 5:22) – “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son,”

Contemplations

  • Think of the current mass migration going on in our world. Where do you see future cultural issues?
    • Ideas to Explore: US Border Crisis? Expansion of Russia into Europe? Challenges coming from Muslim countries. Migration from the Blue States into the Red States?
  • How do we prepare our families for living within a sinful and corrupt world? In other words, how do we keep our families focused on God and Christ in the middle of our world’s spiritual storms?
    • Ideas to Explore: The importance of having a nuclear family in place. The importance of a church. The importance of the Word of God in your life.
  • How would you and your family survive being exiled into a strange country or place?
    • Ideas to Explore: How would you retain your faith? How would you protect your family against the sins of the world around them?
  • How do we keep from worshipping false gods?
    • Ideas to Explore: What are the false gods around us today? When everyone around you is wrong, how will you stay right, right with God?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. The Origin of Hatred – Scientific American

Are we getting any smarter?

The English dictionary defines learning as:

  1. The act, process, or experience of gaining knowledge or skill.
  2. Knowledge or skill gained through schooling or study.
  3. Behavioral modification especially through experience or conditioning.

We learn in many ways, through observation, experience, and education. But the bottom line on learning, getting smarter, should be measured by the “lasting change it makes in our behavior.” Science says people are getting smarter. Over the past 100 years, the U.S. mean IQ has been on a slow but steady climb. Between 1900 and 2012, it rose nearly 30 points. Yet, our country is over 30 trillion dollars in debt, crime is rising and at an all-time high. Over twenty million people in the U.S. battle addictions, yet we are legalizing more drugs. These are just the tip of the iceberg (See Lostpine’s Study: Has the World Gone Mad?). And to cap this discussion off, the average life expectancy in the United States is expected to drop by 2.26 years from 2019 to 2021, the sharpest decrease during that time among high-income nations. Something is not right here!

Where is the understanding that leads to smarter behavior?

(Exodus 20:16) 1 – “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

The ninth commandment given to us from God is about telling the truth. Why would “truth” make the BIG LIST of the top 10? Because you cannot grow smarter on a foundation of lies!  Understanding, one of the key attributes of growing smarter, relies on clarity in our communication. What type of communication then do we need to better understand our world?

(Proverbs 18:2) – “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.”

When someone delights in their own opinion, there are some common traits to look for. First, you will find them argumentative. Discourse, mutual discourse requires mutual respect for all sides. There always seems to be a condescending attitude. When someone is convinced they hold the correct answers, you will find pity for you in their voice. They will be quick, however, should you have a point of value, to change the argument, change the goalposts. Why? Their illusion of knowledge and self-value is necessary to feed their ego. Nowhere in their discourse is pleasure found in being correct, in knowing the truth. Here are a few of society’s reasons for elevating their opinions.

  • Few people enjoy punishment. Avoidance is one of the greatest motivators for lying. Sometimes it is to protect others from punishment. Avoiding physical harm is often the basis for untruthfulness.
  • Personal rewards require time and work. Some rewards may not be available or even obtainable by being truthful.
  • Social pressures to increase one’s popularity frequently bend the truth. Just listen to a politician and their promises. Much of a person’s behavior is often to assure their privacy and protection.
  • Finally, the greatest motivation to ignore facts, and to elevate one’s opinion is to exercise power over others by controlling knowledge. We see that today within Social Media, search engines, and Cable News.

How then can we get smarter, change our behavior to be more Christ-like, and avoid the downhill slide our society is going through these days? To begin with, know that any untruth is a sin! Sins are anything contrary to the law or will of God. Society cannot define sin! Only God who is Truth and Honesty can establish the boundaries of humanity which should not be crossed. Anything else is a lie. When we start believing our lies, we start justifying sinful behavior. Lying then becomes a pathway to a long, slow walk away from God. This requires each of us to know God, know His Truth, and labor to follow His will. Notice the word is labor. Humanity is imperfect and will be so until the return of our Savior. The good news is that Christ has reconciled us (made right) to God. To know that we are getting smarter is to measure life against God’s Truth and to stand against the lies of the world. When we have been wrong, the truth hurts. Repentance is the healing ointment. Telling the truth does not mean that the world will accept you. Most of the world will hate you.

(2 Timothy 4:3-4) – “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

We began this lesson by stating that you grow smarter in many ways, through observation, experience, and education.

  • Open your eyes and observe our world! Pain, death, drugs, crime, disease, war, and debt are just the breadcrumbs left by a sinful society. Help change it!
  • Do not become part of the experiences that negatively impact lives. Children need our protection from society until they can learn to trust God for who He is. Satan is after the children, make your experiences in life a mirror of God’s Truth.
  • We have removed God from education, we have stripped our history out of the books. That has not gone well. Pray that God’s rich history, His Holy Word, is placed back again into the communication to our nation.

(John 3:19) – “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

Not only do people today not want the truth, but they will also hate anyone who attempts to tell them the truth. Truth is hate to those who hate the truth.

Contemplations

  • Make a list of the places where you see the most lying going on?
    • Ideas to Explore: Now try to determine why they made your list? What was it you saw in their communications that you did not trust?
  • What were the consequences of those in your group telling the lies? What happens when they are caught in a lie?
    • Ideas to Explore: Consequences might be loss of trust, public apology, removal from the communication platform, litigation, increase in popularity, more power, etc.
  • What societal lie are you troubled by the most? What do you do about them?
    • Ideas to Explore: Lies to our children, lies from our leaders, lies from our friends, family, lies from our children, etc.
  • How do you tell if you have heard the truth?
    • Ideas to Explore: Trust the source, do your research, compare it to something in the Bible, etc.
  • Where might the world be lying to you and how can you bolster your spiritual protections against those lies?
    • Ideas to Explore: Become more open-minded, expand your sources for information, seek only trusted friends for advice, etc.
  • Is there any justifiable lie?
    • Ideas to Explore: Many believe that the end justifies the mean? Is there any lie that is justifiable in God’s Eyes?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations

What exactly is free will?

Free will is the idea that humans were created with the ability to make their own choices. Through these choices, they could determine their own fate. This is probably too simplistic to just take this definition at face value. Circumstances can and do impact many of life’s decisions. The Bible teaches us that humanity possesses free will, and that humanity is capable of originating evil. To understand this gift from God, we can begin in the first chapter of the Bible.

(Genesis 1:26) 1 – “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’”

God’s command to be productive and exercise dominion over the earth reveals that we were never forced to carry out His will. We were given a choice to either obey God or not. Human free will is manifested in the fact that, throughout Scripture, God gives us lots of choices and lets us choose. With choice came accountability and responsibility. Both good choices and poor choices have consequences.

(Deuteronomy 30:15-19) – “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death, and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways…then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed…I have set before you life and death, blessings, and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live….”

There are four ways to look at the idea of free choice:

  1. You should always read the directions first!
  2. You should consider choosing God’s way!
  3. You can always make your own choices. But when you are wrong, God is going to do His best to guide you to Him in the end!
  4. You can always do whatever you want, including avoiding God’s advice!

The choices we make are often influenced by forces outside of our control. There is genetics, and what our environment may be that we cannot control. Children born in the inner-city of Chicago will have different choices forced upon them in life than a child growing up on a rural farm. Genetics may keep someone out of the Olympics despite their competitive nature. Education and training opportunities can also broaden one’s ability to make both good and bad decisions. And of course, we have the big Gorilla in the room, the world’s influence on us all. While there are many reasons to believe that a person’s will is not completely free of influence, humanity is still free to make conscious decisions affecting the outcomes of a person’s life.

(Proverbs 16:9) – “In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

In the wisdom of Proverbs, we are told that humanity also holds the power of choice. It is this simple in the eyes of God. Good choices, choosing God, was never meant to be hard. From God’s perspective, He followed up the creation of humanity by creating a full set of instructions for our use. Yes, we are free to make choices, and yes, God still oversees our world. Therefore, life should be about getting better at making good, Godly choices that are consistent with God’s directions for life.

  • First, we must remain faithful to our Core Values. Core Values are those virtues in life that bind our choices to our goals. It is the glue of life. To have core values, one needs a reference point. God’s Word, God’s Son is the glue of eternal life. A person cannot have meaningful values if the values are of this world.
  • Choices require thought. If there was a problem in our world today, too many of life’s decisions have become spontaneous. Impulse, compulsion, perversion, habit, or luck are alive and well in our world’s choices. Making poor life-altering decisions often leads to sin and always leads to disappointment. They lead to everything bad in our world today. Remember, you have the power of the choice! Take time, make good ones.
  • Try listening for the whisper of the Holy Spirit. He can be a Comforter, Counselor, and Advocate (Isaiah 11:2; John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7); the Convicter of Sin (John 16:7-11); a Guide: (John 16:13). Not only did God give you instructions, but He also gave you “Power Tools”.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid of mistakes. When Jesus died on the cross, He erased your guilt forever. Just don’t keep making them! Do your homework. Examine the outcome of each choice you make. Let history guide you. If you need to, change where you get your information, change how you study God’s Word, change who you let influence your choices, change what you believe to be consistent with God’s Truth.

We are living in a world filled with leaders, politicians, profit-seekers, narcissists, even a few despots, who were all empowered by the very people they are harming. Our world now watches peaceful nations being destroyed, thousands dying, starving. Instead of action, there is inaction. Remember, Jesus threw caution to the wind on Calvary. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus was arrested, He prayed to his Father three times, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). The human nature of Jesus led Him to ask His Father to lift the hard choice to die on the cross, but Jesus said, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) The ultimate hard choice! With that eternal gift of free will comes a responsibility for us to learn how to make good choices in life. If you don’t like the world you are in, then make better choices, Godly choices. Where your sneakers are made makes a difference, where our oil comes from makes a difference, the people who lead our country make a difference. Choices matter!

Contemplations

  • Why do you think we still purchase products and services from places that do not honor our God nor uphold basic human rights?
    • Ideas to Explore: Our sources for knowledge insulate us from the truth. Do we care? It is all about the price! It keeps other countries dependent upon us and therefore, peaceful? Do you believe that the choices you make have power?
  • Why does our government try to do business with evil leaders who hate us? How are these choices being made?
    • Ideas to Explore: It is all about the money. We are fearful of the bad actors. Our leaders just don’t care? We’ve picked the wrong leaders?
  • Why is the world reluctant to get involved with helping a country whose hospitals, children, even bread lines are being bombed and shot at? What is driving the choices of complacency and/or caution?
    • Ideas to Explore: What do you think Jesus would do with the present world conditions? Why is our country different than what Jesus would do? How do we make our country more Godly?
  • How would you help keep the free will of the people focused on God?
    • Ideas to Explore: Start making your choices better. Be more open and evangelical about how you make decisions. Teach people by example?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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