Inspiration for Today's World

Category: Shadows (Page 1 of 11)

Is Anything Sacred Anymore?

There is (or was) a wooden chest, covered in pure gold, with an elaborately designed lid called the mercy seat. In history, it is called the Ark of the Covenant. This is believed to be the most sacred relic of the Israelites. But in 597 and 586 B.C., the Babylonian Empire conquered the Israelites. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Ark, stored in the Temple, disappeared from history. No one knows for sure whether it was moved, destroyed, or hidden. What we do know is that it is still missing. The Ark was so sacred that touching it meant instant death. Stored in the Temple of Jerusalem’s holiest chamber, only the high priest was allowed in its presence and only once a year. Everything about the contents of the Ark of the Covenant is a mystery. It hasn’t been seen for nearly three thousand years. All we know about the Ark and its contents is what the Bible tells us. And what is written in the Bible was written long after the Ark disappeared.

(Hebrews 9:1-5) 1 – “Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.”

According to the Hebrews, the Ark of the Covenant contained the two stone tablets with the original ten commandments written upon them, Aaron’s rod (staff), and a gold jar containing manna. Why these three items? Let’s see if we can understand the importance of the Israelites and our faith even today.

The Stone Tablets of the Ten Commandments

Rabbinical Judaism as found in the Talmud and Mishnah (written collection of the Jewish oral traditions known as the Oral Torah) teaches that the tablets of the Law were made of blue sapphire stone (also called lapis lazuli) 2 Scripture supports this. “And saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky.” (Exodus 24:10). Since the lapis is the only stone mentioned in this context, we can conclude that this is the stone that God used to write on. The Bible also says that God not only engraved the Ten Commandments, but He also made the stone: “The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.” (Exodus 32:16).

Why were there two Ten Commandments Tablets? It is not because the commandments would not fit on one. Hollywood got this all wrong. Half of the commandments were not on the front of each stone tablet. Scriptures describe the tablets in detail and tell us there is writing on both the front and the back of each tablet. The tablets, in Exodus 32:15, are more accurately described “Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back.” There were two copies of a Covenant Oath, where each party had a copy. This is not unlike our legal contracts of today. Both God and the descendants of Abraham had entered into a binding agreement. Both testimony documents would be required for the agreement to be lawful and enforceable on both parties to the covenant. They were kept together in the Ark of the Covenant. That is why it is called the Ark of the Covenant because it houses the two testimony tablets of the covenant. The agreement, the Covenant, was simply that God would be the eternal provider of care in exchange for the commitment of His people to follow the terms of the contract (covenant). If you had a written contract of any form that affected your livelihood, you too would consider it important.

Manna in a Gold Jar

The manna (mon) was the miraculous edible substance that fell each morning as dew from heaven during the 40 years between the Exodus from Egypt and the conquest of Israel of the promised land. You need to stop and think about that for a moment. For 40 years, God would provide sustenance to the people of Israel as they traveled across a desert. The manna would last only for that day and could not be stored up. One exception, the manna that fell as dew on the day before the Sabbath would last until the Sabbath was over. Each evening, the Israelites would find quail for meat. There could be no greater proof of God’s Covenant to His people than His demonstration of this sustenance for their travels and their faith in His provisioning.

(Exodus 16:33-34) – “So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.”

Moses was instructed by God to preserve an omer (3.7 Quarts) of manna as a reminder of the bread He gave them to eat in the wilderness on their escape from Egypt. God had kept His Covenant with His people. Whether it would last beyond a day or not is often debated. But again, God could have preserved the manna forever if He wished.

The Budding of Aaron’s Staff

(Numbers 16:1-7) – “ Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

Moses ran into a leadership problem. A few of the Levites became disgruntled about the extra authority given to Moses and his older brother, Aaron. Korah, who was also a Levite, joined with two others, Dathan and Abiram, to incite a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. To put an end to the unrest, God commanded Moses to have the leader of each tribe of Israel bring his rod or staff to the tent of meeting, with Aaron’s rod representing the tribe of Levi. Each of the twelve leaders was to have his name inscribed on his rod. The Lord told Moses, “The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.” (Numbers 17:5). They left their rods before the Lord, and in the morning, Moses entered the tent and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the tribe of Levi, had not only sprouted but had blossomed and produced almonds. (Numbers 17:8). This was a clear demonstration of the power of the One who gives life. God then instructed Moses to place Aaron’s staff permanently with the Ark of the Covenant to serve as a warning to future rebels.

Aaron’s rod would become the perfect metaphor to represent the priesthood itself. It would solidify Aaron as the head of God’s church as the Israelites moved onto the promised land. Christ would later go on to ordain His apostles and ministers to those same goals, that they should go forth and bring fruit, and that their fruit should remain for the people.

(John 15:5-8) – “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me ,you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire , and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

No wonder the Ark of the Covenant was considered the most sacred of artifacts! But do we hold anything sacred anymore? What would you fill the ornate box with today?

  • The Ark of the Covenant represented God’s contract with humanity.
  • The Covenant included God’s Laws for humanity to follow.
  • The gold jar of Manna would represent the outstanding patience, reliability, and provisioning of God to sustain us even when it seems impossible. That was God’s end of the bargain!
  • Aaron’s Staff (rod) would serve to remind everyone that even death can be defeated by God. As it was through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and Christ’s resurrection, even a dead stick can bud, blossom, and bear fruit through God.

Contemplations

  • What makes something sacred?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is it up to God? Can humankind make something sacred without God? Who chose the items that would be gathered within the Ark of the Covenant?
  • What things do you consider sacred in your life?
    • Ideas to Explore: Are there examples of God’s handiwork or His provisioning in your life? Do they represent things along your faith journey when God seemed closest? Are they people, things to remember events by or actual items?
  • Would it help or hurt your faith in God if the Ark was found?
    • Ideas to Explore: Even when the Ark was with Israel, they still would periodically abandon God.
  • What is it about human nature that would let someone forget forty years of God’s provisioning and abandon Him for a false God?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is it the embedded sinfulness of humanity? Is it that we need constant reminders?
  • What would society consider to be most sacred today?
    • Ideas to Explore: Are they wealth like stocks, or bonds? Are they power, such as position or title? Are they physical things like land? Are they living things like people? Are they Godly things? Would the Constitution and Bill of Rights be considered sacred?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. (Obadiah Bertinoro on Mishnah, Avot 5:6. Cf. Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 38a).

Work, is it a Curse or Blessing?

Where would you look to find the origin of the concept of work? We might start in the book of Genesis. Chapter One opens with God as the primary worker. He is busy creating our world (Genesis 1:1-15). The Creation Story states that God worked for six days and rested on the seventh day. These first biblical passages reveal that God was the first to do work on earth. One then must conclude that legitimate work reflects the activity of God. Because our God is inherently good, work is also inherently good (Psalm 25:8; Ephesians 4:28). Genesis 1:31 declares that, when God viewed the fruits of His labor, He called the results of His work “very good.

To help us zero in on a better understanding of work, several points must not be missed in our introduction to God’s work here on earth:

  • God’s work was productive. In other words, there were results, tangible results that emanated from God’s work.
  • God’s results were visible. People can see God’s work.
  • God worked to produce the highest quality outcome.
  • And when He did, God received honor and satisfaction from the results of His labors.

The concept of work was important enough to God that He chose work to reveal Himself to the world through His work.

(Psalm 19:1-14) 1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens, God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth. The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

As humans, we observe God’s hand through natural revelation. Because all work reveals something about the one doing the work, we are exposed to the character of our God through His work creating our world. Because God created man in His image, humans share characteristics with God (Genesis 1:26-31). One of these characteristics is our necessity to work, to spread the evidence of God’s hand through our hands to those around us. Adam and Eve’s original job description was defined in (Genesis 2:8, 15). They were to cultivate and maintain the garden that God had created. Their work was to include fostering the growth of what was there already and improve upon it. As anyone who has attempted to maintain a garden, it takes work to preserve its health so that it remains fruitful.

The Fall of humankind as described in Genesis 3, did nothing to change God’s definition (job description) of work. It did, however, change the very nature of work. When God cursed the ground, He generated a change in work. In response to Adam’s sin, God pronounced several judgments in Genesis 3:17-19, the most severe of which is death. However, labor and the results of labor figure centrally in the rest of the judgments. God’s cursing of the ground made work more difficult. The word toil is used, implying challenge, difficulty, exhaustion, and struggle. Work itself would remain good, but humans would now accomplish their work by “the sweat of their brow.” Work would be hard. Fields would also produce thorns and thistles. The harvest would no longer be assured despite the labors of the workers.

We can also note that Adam and Eve could no longer eat from the garden God created. They would be forced to sustain themselves from the crops in the fields that they planted and tended. Just as Adam and Eve were now living in the world around them, we too are forced to exist outside of paradise (the garden) and work to survive in a hostile world (Genesis 39:1-23; Exodus 1:8-22; Nehemiah 4).

Summarizing Genesis, one can conclude that work is good because our wages help us meet our financial responsibilities. Through work, we support our family members, the Church, and the people God brings to our attention, the poor. Scripture consistently condemns those who can work and can work but will not work because of laziness (Proverbs 10:4; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). A Hebrew word, “shalom,” means a state of flourishing. That well-known blessing meant as a greeting was nothing more than reaffirming the value of work for creating order out of chaos. There is no shalom without work!

Today, we have a society struggling with unemployed, under-employed, or uneducated people. Our nation has had numerous economic downturns caused by poor leadership, pandemics, drugs, open boarders, war, etc. The Bible is clear in its condemnation of laziness (Proverbs 18:9). The Apostle Paul makes the Christian work ethic abundantly clear: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8). But what was the biblical welfare system like?

(Leviticus 19:10; 23:22) – “Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.”

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.”

Biblical welfare was based on gleaning. Gleaning is the gathering of grain or other harvested material left behind by reapers for those in need. The Israelites were commanded to allow the poor to follow behind reapers and pick up leftover spears of grain and fallen grapes. Yes, even welfare was work! Therefore, we are to conclude that work, in general, is good. It was ordained by God and Scripture tells us that everything God creates is good (James 1:17). When work is done well, there is personal satisfaction. When our work helps others, it becomes a service to God.

Gallup research shows that approximately one-third of Americans are not engaged in work. The current US Employment-Population of working-age population (age 16+) is 60.10% 2. Yet there are currently 11+ million jobs open that cannot be filled 3. These statistics are but the tip of the iceberg concerning the issues in our nation today. The trend for “quiet or silent quitting” is also on the rise all over the world. It is just one more indication of a slide that is happening when God is no longer relevant to people’s lives. What then is good work? Good work has the glory of God as its principal outcome. Good work reveals the will of God (Deuteronomy 12:32; Revelation 22:18 Revelation 22:19). Good work is an expression of gratitude in our heart (John 14:15 John 14:23; Galatians 5:6). Good work comes from the fruits of the Spirit (Titus 2:10-12). Good work always honors God. It is good work that brings a child into this world and raises them to be productive citizens who honor our God.

(Colossians 3:23) – “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,”

Contemplations

  • Do you think you will work when you are in eternity (heaven)?
    • Ideas to Explore: Do you believe you will work forever, just not find the thorns and thistles? Why or why not? Do you think you could be happy in eternity if you did not have a fulfilling purpose?
  • What issues are driving abortion?
    • Ideas to Explore: Has society placed too low a value on motherhood? Is raising a child no longer a Godly purpose? What human emotions drive the death of an unborn for convenience rather than the good works of motherhood?
  • What is it about work that you either love or hate?
    • Ideas to Explore: The relationships with people? The value society place on your role or title? Ethics of an organization? Is the physical effort or sacrifice involved? Do you even know what work will bring you joy?
  • What would you tell your child about the role of working for life?
    • Ideas to Explore: Are you encouraging or discouraging? Do you work to prepare them for a life of labor?
  • Does retirement end work?
    • Ideas to Explore: Volunteerism. Can you afford to retire these days? Do you see God’s purpose for you as you grow older?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. August 2022
  3. https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/job-offers

When Disappointment Comes

Everyone has experienced that sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach when their expectations were not met. It is called disappointment. It gets even worse if it’s caused by something you cannot go back and change. It’s an emotion that can lead to rage, apathy, or some of both. Rage and apathy typically bring our productivity to a halt.

A Biblical Example

King David (1035 – 970 B.C.) was the second king of the ancient United Kingdom of Israel. His lineage can be traced directly to Jesus Himself. He was a simple shepherd, known for his passion for God. David would reign for 40 years in one of the highest and most prosperous periods in Israel’s history. The Bible presents David as a model king, but as kings went, he was as sinful as most other kings. Yes, he was devoted to God and would eventually become repentant. As a king, David had a deep desire to bring the Ark of the Covenant into his city and place it in a permanent building. It would be a legacy for him and a tribute to God. At that time, the Ark was still housed in a tent.

Let’s step back a moment and understand how king David got to this point in history. King David had elected to stay in his palace instead of being with his army. It would be these circumstances that caused Dave to notice a beautiful married woman, named Bathsheba. In his lust, he arranges to have her husband Uriah die in battle to cover up her pregnancy from his affair. In his desperation, King David forgot that God sees and knows everything. God sends the Prophet Nathan, the Prophet Samuel’s successor, to expose David’s sin (2 Samuel 12:5). Hence, this begins a close relationship between Nathan and David.

(2 Samuel 7:2-12) 1 – “he said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.’ Nathan replied to the king, ‘Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.’ But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: ‘Go and tell my servant, David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ ‘Now then, tell my servant, David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time, I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.’”

Fast forward a few years, and king David is talking to Nathan about building the temple (see Scripture above). Nathan’s advice is that it sounds like a great idea. But Nathan is given a message from God that is different. God’s plan is:

(1 Chronicles 28:2-3) – “King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.”

David’s initial zeal for God and ethical integrity paved the way for his early fame and fortune. David was not suitable to be the one to build God’s temple because he was a man of war and blood. That task would be placed in the hands of his son, Solomon. Hence, David would receive a disappointing judgment from God.

David disappointment

(1 Chronicles 29:1-5) – “Then King David said to the whole assembly: ‘My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced. The task is great because this palatial structure is not for man but for the Lord God. With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God—gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, iron for the iron and wood for the wood, as well as onyx for the settings, turquoise, stones of various colors, and all kinds of fine stone and marble—all of these in large quantities. Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple: 4 three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the buildings, for the gold work and the silver work, and for all the work to be done by the craftsmen. Now, who is willing to consecrate themselves to the Lord today?”

To say the least, the king is disappointed for sure! He is the king; doesn’t that mean anything? David, however, doesn’t get angry, there is no rage and there is no apathy.  David doesn’t decide on strategies to cause Solomon to fail at what will be a legacy-building project. David immediately decides that he will use his personal wealth to acquire and stage all the materials that his son, Solomon, will need. David doesn’t stop there. He uses his example of generosity toward God to influence the leaders of Israel. All the people also give generously. Note, however, that David wanted them to do this willingly for God, not under duress or pressure from him. As the staging of the materials reaches completion, David reaches out to God in Prayer (1 Chronicles 29:10-13). His prayer acknowledges God’s greatness, the source of all power and wealth, the true ruler of all things, and thanks, God.

David reminds us that everything belongs to God anyway. What we have comes from God! Our time here on earth is short. Knowing the task of leadership, David not only gave his son the materials and resources but gives him the complete design.  There is no jealousy here! David includes plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms, and the place of atonement. The plans include the courts of the temple of the Lord and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God, and for the treasuries for the dedicated things to be stored there. Finally, David gave Solomon instructions for the divisions of the priests and Levites, and for all the work of serving in the temple of the Lord, as well as for all the articles to be used in its service. King David took his disappointment and used it to set up his son, the next leader, for success. That is the way God would like us to handle our disappointments.  Interesting perspective, isn’t it?

Contemplations

  • After a contentious election, how do you see all parties behave?
    • Ideas to Explore: Do you see cooperation? Do you see humility in defeat? Do you see humility in victory? Do you see a joint focus on the success from the people’s and God’s perspective? Does the victor get the “spoils?”
  • Did you know that the 2022 U.S. elections spent 9.3 Billion dollars! 2
    • Ideas to Explore: What other uses could some of those funds go toward if we were united with common goals and had a more reasonable process? Are politicians buying their elections?
  • What are your goals now that this election season is over?
    • Ideas to Explore: How can we help our children? How can we help the unborn? How can we help those in need? What goals do you see?
  • If you are disappointed in our nation’s choices, do you have a survival plan?
    • How to we help, how do we protect those who are vulnerable?
  • Did you see God in our political process anywhere?
    • Ideas to Explore: Why is God so hard to see in our world? Shouldn’t God be part of it?
  • Who were the beneficiaries of king David’s generosity?
    • Ideas to Explore: God, the people, Solomon, David himself, maybe the world?

Why the Silence?

It was a cool spring day in Lexington and Concord, MA on April 19, 1775, when 700 British Regulars would march to the town green. By the end of the day, there would be 49 colonists dead, 39 wounded, and 5 missing.

Our response: Outrage, we went to war!

It was a quiet Sunday, December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked the United States of America. The attack at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178.

Our response: Outrage, we went to war!

It was a normal workday in New York City on September 11, 2001. Two hijacked planes would fly into the Twin Towers. A third plane would hit the Pentagon and a fourth plane, intended to hit somewhere in Washington D.C., would crash in a field in Pennsylvania. A total of 2,996 people died including 2,977 victims and 19 hijackers.

Our response: Outrage, we went to war!

Fast forward to today. Fentanyl overdoses are the No. 1 cause of death among US adults, ages 18-45. More adults between 18 and 45 died of fentanyl overdoses in 2020 than COVID-19, motor vehicle accidents, cancer, and suicide. Between 2020 and 2021, nearly 79,000 people between 18 and 45 years old — 37,208 in 2020 and 41,587 in 2021 — died of fentanyl overdoses.

Fentanyl is produced in China. China openly proclaims they have a mandate of “Heaven over Tianxia” (All Under One Heaven) 1  They consider this mandate an obligation to rule the world. China produces fentanyl and then ships it to Mexico where it is packaged into pills (counterfeit medications). Fentanyl is then smuggled into the United States by organized Mexican cartels. It is even put in candy, packaged as candy for consumption by the youngest of our children. Why? China considers the United States its enemy, working to rule over us one day! The cartels find our consumption of illegal drugs profitable. The US does nothing to stop either China or Mexican cartels.

Our Response: Outrage, but we have done nothing!

The US Congress’ move toward the takeover of America’s children is chilling. Their desire to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child is also a threat to the loss of parental rights. Many social programs of today include restraining parental rights like the one example in Canada where a court overturned a father’s grounding of his 12-year-old child, deeming it unfair to the child. Educational systems have compared concerned parents to domestic terrorists. Being a concerned parent at a school board meeting could get you a visit from the Federal Bureau of Investigation or worse. Where are parental rights in all of this?

Our Response: Outrage, but we have done nothing!

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) 2 – “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

The question Solomon would ask us today is whether we can continue to be silent, to do nothing. History would tell us that it is time to do something to protect our children. Why is nothing being done to stop the injustice? It is a hard question, but one must first ask themselves is whether it is OK to kill children through drugs. One must ask themselves if it is OK to send children off into an educational system that perverts God. Is it OK to let a little child watch a drag show but suspend them for prayer or make boys and girls question birth gender and share what used to be private, safe spaces with complete indifference to their sex? Is it OK to let our government raise our children or worse yet, the United Nations?

(Psalm 127:3-5) – “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”

Psalm 127 is a family psalm, written by King David for his son, Solomon. David is directing his son to look up to God, and to depend upon His providence, without which all Solomon’s wisdom and service would serve no purpose. The psalm shows how necessary it is that we keep in favor with God. King David views his children as blessings, gifts from God. Is not a child the future? And if so, what does our country’s future look like? God points out that He must be paramount in the parenting of our children. (Deuteronomy 6:7) stating, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Parenting is full-time, and protecting children is full-time. It also takes a government, and leaders who respect the sanctity of a family. The leaders we choose must be those who honor life and family. The good news is that God is on our side when it comes to raising Godly children. “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42).

A millstone is a set of two stones used to grind grain with one stone stationary and the other turning on top. Millstones were so important to Jewish society that Mosaic Law forbid anyone in taking someone’s millstone as collateral against a debt. (Deuteronomy 24:6). A millstone was needed to grind grain to make bread. The bread was considered a life-sustaining food. Millstones were also heavy. Therefore, to put it bluntly, Jesus said that you would be cast into the deep sea with a millstone tied around your neck if you harmed or even caused a single child to sin. One might surmise that based on our society today, we will need a lot of millstones when Jesus returns. What has happened to our current social order and the concept of sin? Does the government now define for us what is sinful? Can anyone erase what God Himself has called detestable? There is a reality here that is being used to confuse society. Only God defines sin!

Why has our society become so silent?  This year, over 100,000 young people will die of fentanyl. Yet the consumption of Chinese goods and services by the US is approximately 500 billion dollars a year and growing. Our southern border remains open to Mexican cartels to import Fentanyl in quantities so great, that there is enough to kill everyone in the United States multiple times. Is this not reason enough to try to stop the flow of drugs? Has our society become so comfortable with sin that we are sacrificing our children upon Satan’s altar? And for what purpose? Is legalization, calling drugs no longer sinful, a useful strategy?

(Deuteronomy 6:1-25) – “These are the commands, decrees, and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children, and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy a long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and your gates. When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Fear the Lord your God, serve him only, and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord, your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said. In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees, and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes, the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”

Now be truthful. Did you take time to read all (Deuteronomy 6:1-25)? You see, that is the problem we face today. Under the ruse of social justice, equity, and peace at any price, people have abandoned looking to God for His advice. It is not a complex problem we have here. God simply says to take responsibility for your nation’s sinful behavior. You might want to re-read (Deuteronomy 6:1-25). God calls us to appoint godly leadership. God calls us to protect children because they are our future. And to love Him with all your heart, soul, and strength!

You can also read Lostpine’s Study called “Woe to the Children of our World” by clicking HERE.

Contemplations

  • Are fentanyl, child trafficking, and parental rights worth going to war over?
    • Ideas to Explore: In some cases, war may be real as our nation stops the flow of drugs across the border. In other cases, it may be economic as we shift our economic purchasing power away from China. How would you solve the problem?
  • How do we make our society safe for children?
    • Ideas to Explore: Where would you start? Where do parental rights fit in this fight?
  • Why do you think that our society is not holding its leaders accountable for the issues we face as a nation?
    • Ideas to Explore: Whose values are guiding society, the media, the government, political parties, outside forces, etc.?
  • Pick one item in our society that you are unhappy with. What would you do to change it in our nation?
    • Ideas to Explore: Does the change involve bringing God back to our nation? Is the change motivated by selfless and/or selfish reasons? Is there safety for children in the end?
  • Why are our leaders afraid to confront our enemies like China? Why have we let the Mexican cartel run our southern border?
    • Ideas to Explore: Are we tough enough on our enemies? Do our leaders profit off our weaknesses? Do our leaders concern themselves with their special interests over our nation’s citizens?

Notes:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tianxia.
  2. NIV New International Version Translations

Can You Spot It When You See It?

What is truth? To be true, something must explain reality. Truth by all worldly standards must point in the direction of what is right. We live in a world where truth seems almost impossible to find anymore. How then, if you are fortunate enough to stumble upon something truthful, do you recognize it? It is easy to blame others in our society. There is surely enough blame to go around. Politics, Government, Education, and Media are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hatred, deception, and divisiveness. Yet, as our Savior walked this earth, the same issues were true. Can we find answers in God’s Words to help us recognize what is true?

(Luke 6:43-45) 1 – “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

We live in a rather binary world. Ideas, motives, and people’s lives can be either good or bad. To be indifferent, to be in the middle is never a good place to stand. The Apostle Luke is telling us that you can tell a person’s goodness or badness by the “fruits” they bear. If a person is mean and nasty, selfish, rude, and has no joy, they produce bad fruit. If a person is good, joyful, charitable, and merciful, they produce good fruit. Let’s start with a look at bad fruit.

(Galatians 5:19-23) – “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

How might we rewrite the list from Galatians today? Sex trafficking of our children, legalization of drugs, the importation of fentanyl, crime, murder, the failure to educate our children in Godly ways, abortion, and the constant drum beat of name calling (fascist, woke, racist, MAGA, bigot, birther, traitor, fanatic, extremist), lying, bribery, and the list goes on and on. To sum it up, a life, (a tree), is meant to produce good fruit, and a bad life, (either a corrupt or non-productive tree), produces nothing of lasting value. Hence, a tree (our life) will be known for its fruit. You can see right off the bat, that we are left to argue and disagree on what fruit is good and what fruit is bad. You need to decide. Is freedom good? Is socialism better? Is social justice without repentance good fruit or does true justice require a change in direction to be called good? Must a criminal stop committing crimes to become part of society again? Is it wrong to devalue life or is every life, no matter what color, social status, or accumulated wealth worth the same? Before you can tell what is true, you must decide what good fruit looks like. Eve thought the apple looked pretty good until after that first bite! Care must be taken here!

(Mark 4:3-8) – “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where they did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no roots. Other seeds fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants so that they did not bear grain. Still, other seeds fell on good soil. It came up, grew, and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

How the tree is planted and nourished can provide a few more clues. The Parable of the Sower (planter or farmer) gives us our first reasonable clues. The seeds (which produce trees) are all created equal. Each seed on its own contains the hope and joy of becoming a productive plant. It is a safe assumption that the Sower (God) wants to produce a crop and have good fruit from His harvest. But wait just one minute! The quality of the soil is paramount to the health of the tree. What clues can we see on how this pertains to humanity? Good soil might begin with sustaining a healthy family unit, mother, father, and siblings who respect each other. Wholesome work, a safe home and neighborhood would provide a fertile place to take root. Safety, the elimination of crime, and an educational system that provided the necessary skills to live a productive adult life might remain high on the list of “good soil.” While God created all seeds equal, we are responsible for the soil, its nutrients, and where we plant those seeds.

(Jeremiah 17:8) – “They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

And again the Word of God comes through for us. Our tree needs water. Such an obvious ingredient. Water is life. No life form can exist without it. But where does a nation, bent on self-destruction through sin find water? Jeremiah prophesied a long time ago that “’ Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:1). Jeremiah is clear, God will hold our country’s leaders accountable for all their greed, bribery, and corruption. But to live with the joy God has promised in His Covenant requires a very special kind of water. This choice is totally up to us to make! Without Christ, without our Savior Jesus, there is no hope. Without Jesus, there is no water!

(John 4:13-15) – “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”

Finding God’s Truth is all about the rich fertile soil upon which to send our roots and the roots of our families for its nourishment. God’s Truth will correct us when we are wrong if we are not so arrogant as to ignore it! God’s Truth will always explain reality. Remember, God’s sense is the perfection of common sense. When the bias of a sinful world is finally set aside, the presence of God will always be the clearest. And finally, God’s Truth will always lead us to what is right. God’s Truth always leads us to God!

(2 Chronicles 7:14) – “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Contemplations

  • Who is dividing the people of our nation, of other nations, so they hate each other?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is it that each group wants something different? Is it the constant drumbeat of negativism in our world?
  • What is a good fruit to you?
    • Ideas to Explore: Why would someone say over 2,300 abortions a day are a good fruit? Why would someone say 100K fentanyl deaths a year are good fruit? Will people ever agree on good fruit?
  • Why have people divided themselves into two groups that are so opposite of each other?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is there any common ground? Who is provoking each side? Who benefits from discord and who loses with peace?
  • Why are our children the brunt of so much destructive and sinful behavior?
    • Ideas to Explore: What does a nation lose if it loses the soul of its children?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations

It Seems the World has been Here Before

Manasseh was the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah. He became king at the age of twelve years old. His father had a close relationship with God, one who did “This is what Hezekiah did throughout Judah, doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God.” (2 Chronicles 31:20). During Hezekiah’s reign, the prophets Isaiah and Micah ministered in Judah. Hezekiah had undertaken reforms in Judah to rid the land of idolatry. The story of his son, King Manasseh, is told in 2 Kings 21:1–18 and 2 Chronicles 32:33–33:20. He is also mentioned briefly in Jeremiah 15:4. Manasseh, was considered a wicked king, not only reversing his father’s reforms but instituting even worse changes. We find the beginning of King Manasseh’s rule as follows:

(2 Kings 21:3-5) 1 – “He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem, I will put my Name.” In the two courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts.”

Manasseh was the child of late marriage. As a young ruler, he was immediately surrounded by a group of court notables who, during Hezekiah’s reign, had gone into hiding. After his father’s death, Manasseh’s weak character and his youthful susceptibility to idolatry made him a willing party in the hands of these selfish people. Despite the ceaseless efforts from the greatest prophets of all times, Isaiah and others, the people of Judea eagerly followed in the steps of their new king. Manasseh not only sinned personally, but he sinned boldly. As the king of Judah, he led his people in abandoning God and worshiping idols. The sins of Judah were so bad that God declared He would wipe out Jerusalem as He had the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 21:13–15). Jeremiah 15:4 notes that it was the sin of Judah, initiated by Manasseh, that brought the judgment that Jeremiah proclaimed (the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the exile of the people). Jewish tradition assigns the murder of Isaiah to King Manasseh. The king’s behavior influenced his entire nation.

(2 Chronicles 33:9-10) – “But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites. The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention.”

It is important to pause here for a moment and not miss the history behind what would eventually lead the entire nation of Judah into exile. Hezekiah, and his court, had just led Judah into a period of peace and prosperity. The people of Judah had upheld their end of God’s covenant relationship, obeying God’s Laws. Waiting in the “wings” so to speak, were those who were ready to take advantage of an inexperienced ruler. Pouncing upon the opportunity, a new court of advisors moved in right after the change in leadership. This new group proceeded to undo all that Hezekiah had done. The new advisors convinced the inexperienced king put in place a course of action that eventually led to the collapse of Judah. One needs to reflect on how a nation that had been following God could so quickly, within a single generation, abandon God. It only took a few corrupt people, and an inexperienced king and the rest is history! Whom would you blame?

Returning to our biblical story, God continued to reach out to His people. This time, with a heavier hand. God sent the Assyrians who captured Manasseh and took him into exile (2 Chronicles 33:11).

(2 Chronicles 33:12–13) – “In his distress, he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.”

While in exile, Manasseh finally gets it! He repents, and God returns him to Jerusalem. He begins to rebuild Judah, both militarily (2 Chronicles 11:14) and through religious reforms (2 Chronicles 33:15-16). Manasseh tries to bring the people back to God. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and his people did not follow him in his reforms (2 Chronicles 33:17). After Manasseh died, his son Amon takes over. “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done. Amon worshiped and offered sacrifices to all the idols Manasseh had made. But unlike his father Manasseh, he did not humble himself before the Lord; Amon increased his guilt.” (2 Chronicles 33:22–23). Amon set the stage for exile.

This is just one of the tragic stories of leadership found in the Bible. Even though Manasseh had a personal conversion, he could not change the hearts of his people. The nation of Judah would eventually endure the pain and suffering of exile and slavery again. When Manasseh died, his son Amon did as his father had originally done. Amon worshiped and offered sacrifices to all the old idols his father had made. The story of Manasseh demonstrates that, while any sin may be forgiven when we repent, forgiveness does not necessarily remove the consequences that flow from disobedience.

Contemplations

  • Do you see any parallels in this story to that of today’s leaders?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is this a story about our nation today? Are you concerned with the direction of today’s leadership?
  • Can you see where our nation is growing away from God?
    • Ideas to Explore: Are we becoming self-centered? Is our leadership corrupt? Are you closer today to God or farther away because of your leaders?
  • Can you find places in our nation today where the purpose of leadership, bringing a nation closer to God, is being fulfilled?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is religious freedom greater? Is freedom of expression greater? Do we have personal freedoms? How is our educational system doing in bringing our children closer to God?
  • Who was at fault for Manasseh’s failure?
    • Ideas to Explore: Corruption in the king’s court? The people’s failure to adhere to God’s Law and repent? The enemies within the nation? The enemies outside the nation?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations

God’s Tips on Voting

Because our nation is a constitutional republic, its citizens enjoy the privilege of electing those who represent them. That is the entire point of being a republic, citizens appoint others to administer their nation within the boundaries of rights and controls established by their constitution. Because there is evidence of sin’s grip on this world, it is important to understand our responsibilities when we vote. God has given us guidance in His Word. This lesson will look at just a few of the 100 biblical verses that offer guidance on voting.

Does a person have a duty to vote?

About 100 million citizens in our nation do not vote. This represents about fifty percent of eligible voters. While God is most certainly in control, that does not mean we carry no responsibility to further His will here on earth. There is evidence in Scripture that at times in history, God has been displeased with the people’s choices for leadership. Anyone electing not to vote is not taking advantage of a gift from our Creator. Every citizen should share in the decision-making that affects their nation. Why? All citizens will be affected by the choices being made by their leaders. Character matters!

(Hosea 8:4) 1– “They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval. With their silver and gold, they make idols for themselves to their destruction.”

Deuteronomy, the final book in the Pentateuch, contains Moses’ last three sermons and two prophetic poems about Israel’s future. Reflecting on the nation’s past mistakes, Moses urges the people not to repeat those errors when they enter the Promised Land. Speaking on behalf of God, Moses commanded His followers with instructions on who they should pick as their leaders.

(Deuteronomy 1:13) – “Choose some wise, understanding, and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.”

God lets His people choose their leaders, but God enabled the leaders to rule. This is an example of free will at work. You get to choose who you want to be led by. God, however, gives them their power over you. The role of leadership is to serve God. A leader’s responsibility is both to their people and to God: “’Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:1)

(Daniel 4:17) – “The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.”

Why should we Care?

To understand our obligations, the Apostle Paul set out the guidelines of citizenship.

(Romans 13:1–6) – “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.”

The Apostle Paul believed that the state (nation), the Romans at that time, existed to protect its citizens against attacks from outsiders and local crime. It was the responsibility of the state to also punish people who broke the law but to reward people who followed the law. To Paul, the state gave him the benefits of traveling safely on good Roman roads and the freedom to preach the message of the Gospel. The Christians in Rome followed Paul’s advice until the Roman laws ordered them to serve false gods. They obeyed all the laws that did not oppose their faith. Citizenry should have no reason to fear Godly leadership. Citizens have no responsibility to follow ungodly leadership. “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings!’” (Acts 5:29)

Picking Godly Leaders

Much of the suffering on earth is because of godless leadership, “When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.” (Proverbs 28:12). Those who believe in a Creator, should strive to choose leaders who will be themselves led by our Creator. There is only one Godly purpose for the leaders of a nation, and that is to lead its citizenry closer to God!

(1 Samuel 12:13-15) – “Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the Lord has set a king over you. If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good! But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors.”

The choosing of any elected official should begin with prayer, the study of both God’s Word, and the realities of the choices on the ballot. Candidates or ballot proposals that violate the Bible’s commands for life, family, marriage, or faith should never be supported. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” (Proverbs 14:34). Candidates must be qualified for the office they are running for. Without experience and the proper qualifications, bad decisions made by those in power will affect all the people adversely, and sometimes it can years before they can be reversed. Be wary of those who only seek to enrich themselves. Godly leaders always serve and protect their flock first.

(Hosea 4:6) – “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.”

The Important Qualifications of Leadership

Promises that you hear should be overlaid against a person’s past performance. Politicians should be allowed to change their opinions in circumstances where the circumstances have themselves changed. However, there should always be transparency as to the necessity of not keeping one’s word. Our role as citizens is to check for the truth and facts in all matters. For a leader who has a past voting record, understanding their values should be a high priority before any support. Truth is everything! “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. (Proverbs 12:19). To know the truth about any candidate, requires the personal effort of sorting through the myriad of conflicting claims and statements you will hear. To trust others is fine but not trusting anyone is safer.

The burden of fact-checking must rest on your shoulders. Expand your search for information to include the families of those running for office. “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:5) Once elections are over, our free society and our constitutional democracy then must work together for success. Our citizens must respect each other’s choices after the votes are counted.

(1 Timothy 2:1–2) – “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

When There Seems to be No Good Choice

There may be times when there appears to be no Godly choice. The Word of God is very clear that when we agree with God we will be blessed, but when we agree with things that are against His Word, we will receive a curse. Not every good choice is God’s choice and seeking God’s will is the most important part of any serious decision.

(Deuteronomy 30:19) – “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”

Our society today has stressed our “right to choose” but has not balanced it with the message that our choices also have consequences (especially those made in lust and selfishness.) For instance, our world glamorizes many things such as smoking, drugs, drinking, adultery, fornication, gambling, abortion, etc. All choices carry with them the risk that things can get better or worse for us. All choices have consequences. These consequences can be for our betterment or will work to destroy us. It is the duty and responsibility of every Christian to vote for leaders who promote Godly principles.

A Closing Thought

(Proverbs 6:16-17) – “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 man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

This study can be summarized by saying that God has given us the free will to choose who will lead us. He has also established through His Word, the kind of people that should be chosen. Once we make our selections, God will empower our choices to govern. God requires us to fully support our choices with prayer. Make your voice heard and choose wisely! Good choices will lead our nation closer to God!

Contemplations

  • Do you trust the integrity of our nation’s voting system?
    • Ideas to Explore: What do you base your opinion on? How trustworthy are those sources?
  • Will a godly leader be better for the people than one who chases the world?
    • Ideas to Explore: What is a godly leader? How can you tell?
  • In your opinion, what is a godly leader?
    • Ideas to Explore: What issues do they stand for? Have they enriched themselves off the backs of those they rule over? What are their families like?
  • Would you trust today’s leaders with your soul?
    • Ideas to Explore: When a godly leader is leading people toward God, that is a good thing, right?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations

Who Were God’s Prophets?

Bible history is filled with many people. However, the 16 prophets in the Old Testament are no doubt some of the most famous. Their role was not to tell the future. Their prophecies were more of a side effect of their main role and function. There are four major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. All are featured in books from the Bible, and Jeremiah may have written two of those books himself. The Minor Prophets are Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The difference between the major and minor prophets is not an issue of importance, but rather the length of material written. All gave valuable, biblical insight that foretold important events that were to happen, that had already happened, and how those events reflected God’s plans for His people.

God Himself defined the role and function of the prophets at the beginning of Israel’s history as a nation:

(Deuteronomy 18:18-19) 1– “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.”

The primary role of the prophets was to speak with the people about God’s Will for them. The prophets served as God’s social media and news channels, declaring whatever God commanded them to say. God chose gifted people with insight into the present and future that was more than the average person had. Their revelations and insights, however, could only be attributed to God and not human intellect. The role of the prophet continues even today. The test to see if God is really behind a prophecy and a prophet is given to us in Jeremiah 8:9, “But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.” In other words, history is to show that they were correct. This is just one of the key reasons why teaching history and protecting its integrity is critical to God’s plan for humanity. It is history that continually points us to God. Destroy history and you will lose the breadcrumbs that can lead a nation back to God!

To be called a true prophet, one must be called directly by God. Numbers 12:6 states, “he said, ‘Listen to my words: ‘When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.’” Both the prophets of yesterday and those of today must be advocates for the Truth about Jesus. All of God’s prophecies will lead someone to Jesus Christ. When the attention is not on Christ, the message is not of God. The prophetic messages of the past and those of the present have consistency with God’s Word (Scripture). As a result, God’s prophets always bring good fruit.

(Matthew 7:15-17) – “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit, you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.”

The prophets of history were typically sent to warn God’s people of their wayward behavior. It is always important to remember that God’s Covenant to bless and care for His people came with a caveat. The people had to follow God’s commands and be true to His Word. Fast forwarding to the New Testament. And what is that message today? Being true to Jesus Christ. Ultimately, that is the only prophetic message that counts! It is a message that supports Christ’s Church and creates disciples to share the Gospel’s message with a fallen world. Any true prophet of today edifies, builds, comforts, exhorts, and uplifts Christ’s Church by her/his testimony and messages.

(2 Corinthians 11:3-4) – “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”

False prophets have always been around. The Apostle Paul warned those in Corinth of that very fact in his letter noted above. False Prophets prevent people from knowing God and knowing His Truth. False prophets teach people to follow and/or depend on other gods, the gods of denominations, prosperity, worldly riches, money, and even government. Jesus gave the world one plan of salvation to build one church, and that is the only Church He recognizes. The risk we face today is that the intolerance for God is growing. No one seems to be concerned about the consequences of earthly life without God and without Jesus Christ. We are busy erasing God’s history, changing God’s Truth, and abandoning the boundaries and authority of our Creator.

(2 Timothy 4: 3-4) – “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own 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.”

To guard against the risks associated with false wisdom and false prophesy, consider these Truths:

  1. Jesus did not teach about a Gospel of worldly prosperity; He taught about a new world of service, sacrifice, and eternal prosperity.
  2. Jesus never hesitated to call out sin. No one except our God can define what is sinful or not! No one, no church, or no government can redefine what is right and what is wrong in the eyes of God.
  3. Jesus preached a need for repentance as one of the steps to avoid the eternal separation from God’s eternal joy. No repentance, no joy! Sorry but there is no easy way out of sin. You need to stop, and you need to change!
  4. The true gospel is also very plain, No Jesus, No Salvation! Good works get you stone statues in this world!
  5. God’s Word has no “holes.” Any alleged contradictions in Scripture are due to the intellectual limitations of humanity. God passed us His full wisdom. Unfortunately, the nature of our mind has been to always to pervert the truth. The real truth is found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

“It is my duty to say to you that the need was never greater for new revelation than now…The doctrine of inspiration is lost. Miracles, prophecy, the holy life, exist as ancient history [only]. Men have come to speak of revelation as somewhat long ago given and done, as if God were dead. It is the office of a true teacher to show us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake.” 

~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) | The Complete Essays and Other Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Contemplations

  • Do you know anyone who claims to be a contemporary prophet?
    • Ideas to Explore: Can their role be matched against the five points listed above? What is their score? Is it a job for them or can you say that it is an “appointment” from God?
  • For many years, denominations have been redefining what our Bible has called sinful behavior. How do you personally reconcile what they are doing?
    • Ideas to Explore: Does redefining a biblical sin to a non-sin get anything for mankind? What forces are driving these changes? Is there any evidence in Scripture that this is OK?
  • How does the war against history affect people’s belief in God?
    • Ideas to Explore: Diminishes the value of the Bible. Allows people to repeat mistakes. Affects upcoming generations. What are your ideas?
  • What do you think is driving the hatred of history?
    • Ideas to Explore: Racism, atheism, ignorance, power (the desire for more).

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations

Have You Ever Heard a Sermon about the “Song of Songs?”

I checked my notes and found that I had never actually heard a sermon from Solomon’s book called the Song of Songs. Song of Songs is not a book we even read a lot. It is not only hard to interpret, but its subject matter is also of a romantic, sensual nature. The question comes as to whether we can trust that King Solomon who had 700 wives and 300 concubines can offer any advice about a loving relationship between a man and a woman. Even a harder question is whether there is any Godly advice in Song of Songs.

The Song of Songs, sometimes also called the Song of Solomon, is one of two books in the Bible that does not mention God. The other is the book of Esther. It was written approximately 940-960 BC as advice for married couples and singles contemplating marriage. The story is about the courtship and marriage of a maiden referred to as the Shulammite and takes place in ancient Israel, in the woman’s garden and the king’s palace. The Song of Songs is a beautiful love story between a man and a woman, bride, and bridegroom. King Solomon poetically declares his love for a beautiful Jewish maiden. She responds to the king’s advances and adds her heartfelt desire for him. It is written as a dialogue, a conversation, between two people who love each other. Let’s meander through the poetry and find a few bits of wisdom for today!

God Will Take the Initiative

(Song of Songs 2:13) 1 – “The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.”

Solomon is stating that he is taking the initiative. It is just like our God who takes the initiative and comes to us. Just as Solomon refuses to be deterred from the pursuit of his beloved, so is God determined to pursue us with His love. While this is a beautiful image when attributed to human lovers, once we take the time to understand that God is determined to come to us, we should be humbled. In that determination, any obstacles and deterrents are removed. Nothing stands in God’s way except us.

(Psalm 53:2) – “God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.”

Grace is God’s favor toward the unworthy (God’s benevolence on the undeserving). In His grace, God is willing to forgive us and bless us, even though we fall short of living righteously. However, grace may be received “in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 6:1). If we refuse the grace that God offers or presume to receive it on anything other than His terms, the opportunity for salvation could pass by. There was no greater tragedy than to hear Jesus’s lamenting those in His day who had refused His grace:

(Matthew 23:37) – “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Love is a Pursuit

(Song of Solomon 5:2-3) – “I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My beloved is knocking: ‘Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one. My head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of the night.’ I have taken off my robe—must I put it on again? I have washed my feet— must I soil them again?”

The above verses could easily have come from a comedy sitcom. In the scene, a wife is pursued by her husband for an evening’s pleasure.  However, she is ready for bed. Hence, the clean feet comment. There is a common theme in the Song of Songs. It involves seeking each other. The husband and wife each have the drive to discover and enjoy the other. From this, we see love is active. It is an attitude to serve rather than be served. Hesitation leads to lost opportunity. The same holds for our God. We need to pursue our God with full energy. Waiting for tomorrow can lead to the loss of eternal opportunities.

By the time the Shulammite overcomes her hesitation, she realizes she is too late. Her king has left the door. Our learnings here are that resentment or just regret is foolish emotion. She instead pursues reconciliation, going to search for him. When God knocks, we should answer. If we have missed the opportunity somehow in life, then pursue, pursue, pursue.

(Psalm 119:2) – “Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart”

A Healthy Relationship is Protective

(Song of Songs 2:3) – “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.”

The Shulamite woman uses a metaphor, comparing Solomon, her king, and a warrior, to an apple tree within a forest of trees. Such a tree would have been strong and sturdy. Its shade offers protection from the scorching rays of the sun. Its fruit is nourishing and refreshing. She sees Solomon, her bridegroom, In the same way. Strong, protective, and nourishing to their relationship.

(1 Corinthians 13:6-7) – “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. t always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always persevere.”

The metaphor can be extended to include the love of God and our Savior, Jesus. It is through God’s grace and Jesus’s sacrificial love for us that we are offered protection from our enemies. God loves us more deeply than any experience or expression we can relate to in our life. God’s love is abounding, encompassing, and transformative. There is nothing that can interfere with God’s love except for our obstructions. God came to us in human form and removed all barriers between Himself and us. The young woman simply records “Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.” (Song of Songs 2:4). This is the relationship to be held between husband and wife and between ourselves and Jesus. Jesus, our perfect Bridegroom, shelters us with the power of his unfailing love. God’s Word is there to nourish us!

(Ephesians 5:25-27) – “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”

True Love is Worth Waiting For

(Song of Songs 2:7) – “Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”

It must have been the ultimate ego trip to find herself pursued by Solomon. He was King, the world’s wealthiest man, and the wisest too. The Shulamite bride repeats her plea two more times in the book of Song of Songs. She is urging her fellow maidens to wait for love’s perfect timing. The Hebrew word for love in this verse is believed to mean sexual desire. Today, society laughs at this idea. God, however, encourages us to follow His advice:

(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.”

Even the best relationships fall short of the glory of God. Human love always falls short. There is One whose love will never falter; whose love will never let us down. The Song of Songs was never meant to focus on the imperfect love of humans, but to direct us to the perfect love of Jesus Christ.

The True Love of God Will Never Fail

The end of this love song concludes with the resounding melody of the strong, unrelenting love of the king and his fair maiden. In (Song of Songs 8) his beloved bride describes the great power and depth of true love. We see the same passion in the greatest love story ever told, the story about the Son of God. The humble human who came to us and carried the sins of the world on His shoulders to His death so that you and I could have a relationship with our Creator. While speculative, it is thought Solomon wrote Song of Songs early in his life. Solomon would later lose much of his tenderness. Too many wives and concubines would corrupt his view of the purity of love. In his book Ecclesiastes, Solomon would claim that life has no meaning. He was right in a sense, without God’s love in the forefront, life has little meaning!

Contemplations

  • Where do you think the permissive attitudes come from in our society about sex and marriage?
    • Ideas to Explore: Do we learn them from our parents? Do we learn them from our educational institutions? Do we learn them from social media, news, or the entertainment industry? Are they learned on the street?
  • God holds the leaders of a nation accountable for the moral values of that nation. What are our leaders doing to strengthen the institutions of marriage and family?
    • Ideas to Explore: Be specific in your thoughts. Are the people our nation is electing acting responsibly for the moral values of its people? If so, what are they doing? If not, what should they be doing?
  • How do these attitudes help or hinder the strength of a marriage and family?
    • Ideas to Explore: Who is supporting the philosophy of living together before marriage? Does this strengthen or weaken family relationships?
  • Are churches too tolerant in their attitudes towards marriage and sex?
    • Ideas to Explore: Are churches too concerned over financing? Do churches tolerate ungodly things to keep their congregations together? Are churches just modeling the world today rather than the world God wants for today?
  •  Denominations today no longer exclude people from their leadership that would have been excluded just a few years ago. Does this strengthen or weaken the church?
    • Ideas to Explore: Since all people are sinners, shouldn’t our church be a melting pot of society? Should someone who openly disobeys the Bible become a church leader? How does leadership affect the congregation?
  • Do weak families impact future generations in negative ways?
    • Ideas to Explore: Does divorce, children born out of wedlock, and children raised in single-parent family homes cause societal issues in later years? How does crime impact families? How do drugs impact families?
  • Do you think that people believe there is a loving God?
    • Ideas to Explore: Do people even think about God these days? Why are fewer people going to church? Is the family structure weaker or stronger these days?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations

What was History’s First Lie?

In Genesis, we can find the roots of deception used by Satan when our world was first created. Who’s Satan? Satan is the angelic enemy of God and the enemy and opponent of those who follow God. Although everything God created was good (Genesis 1:31), Satan chose to rebel against God taking other angels with him in his rebellion (Ezekiel 28:15; Isaiah 14:12–17). Satan is a murderer and the father of lies. He promotes false doctrines and craftily seeks to keep unbelievers in spiritual bondage (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 11:14; 1 Timothy 4:1). Let’s look at how Satan handled the first lie!

(Genesis 3:1) 1– “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”

The above verses in Genesis are the famous “fall of humankind” verses resulting in humans separation from God. We need to use this first deception to understand the strategy used by evil in our world. The analogy of the infamous Trojan Horse 2 is perfect for explaining Satan. Hidden within the wooden horse were enemy soldiers. The horse seemed safe and was brought inside the walls of the city of Troy. Once the darkness of night came, the enemy inside the horse slipped out, opened the gates, and let the Greek army into Troy to destroy the city. Satan’s first lie was a trojan horse! He opens to Eve with a challenge, Did God say you must not eat from any tree? That is the setup, the use of a derogatory challenge to make Eve question her beliefs. To peel back the onion, what Satan is asking Eve is if she believes God’s Words to her were true. Beware, that type of questioning is nothing more than a hollow  wooden horse with evil hiding inside. Satan is always actively working to nullify the effects of the Word of God in our world.

Satan tricked Eve into opening the gates to her beliefs and letting doubt in. Satan is still doing it to people’s hearts today. Eve accepted the challenge and brought the Trojan Horse into her heart. She assumed that God did not mean what He said and did not accept God’s own Words as Truth. The rest is history.

(Matthew 13:3–4, 19) – “Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. . . . . . When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.’“

Satan is not some omnipresent power. He oversees a horde of demons, called “the powers of this dark world and . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). He uses this network to tempt and deceive people. Satan actively works to nullify the effect of the Word of God in people’s hearts (Matthew 13:3–4, 19), and he blinds the intellect of those who do not believe so they cannot understand the gospel’s message of salvation (2 Corinthians 4:4). Once the people of Troy brought the wooden horse into their city, they were no longer secure. While they slept, their lives and the kingdom were being set up for destruction.

Metaphorically, a “Trojan horse” has come to mean any trick or strategy that causes a target to invite a foe into a securely protected bastion or place. A malicious computer program that tricks users into willingly running it is also called a “Trojan horse.” This metaphor holds for our acceptance of God’s Word and of Scripture as the Truth. Once you open your heart to doubt, you are no longer safe. You have let the enemy into your beliefs.

It is important to know that Satan is not the opposite of God because only God is all-powerful, and Satan is lower than God. He is a created and limited spiritual being. Satan needs God’s permission to do anything and everything. Satan cannot read our thoughts (Isaiah 40:28; 1 Kings 8:39; Psalm 94:11). Satan does not know the future (Isaiah 46:9-10). And above all, Satan is a coward (James 4:7). Yet humans are still prone to doubting God. Why? Because we fail to see God at work in all our circumstances. We asked, and nothing happened. But God is not some snake oil salesperson or cosmic ATM ready fund to our requests. God sees past, present, and future and knows the right timing for every petition. 

Psalm 119 is the longest of the psalms and certainly the longest chapter in the Bible. In this Psalm, there are at least three essential characteristics we should believe about God’s Word.

God’s Word is the Truth

(Psalm 119:42) – “then I can answer anyone who taunts me, for I trust in your word.”
(Psalm 119:142) – “Your righteousness is everlasting, and your law is true.

God’s word is firmly fixed in the heavens (Psalm 119:89); it doesn’t change. There is no limit to its perfection (Psalm 119:96); it contains nothing corrupt. All God’s righteous rules endure forever (Psalm 119:160); they never get old and never wear out.

God’s Word demands what is right

(Psalm 119:75) – “I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”
(Psalm 119:82) – “All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.”
(Psalm 119:128) – “and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.”

We are to humbly accept God’s Word as the Truth. It is not ours to pick and choose how to define our Creator’s rules.

God’s Word provides what is good

According to Psalm 119, the word of God is the way of happiness (Psalm 119:1–2), the way to avoid shame (Psalm 119:6), the way of safety (Psalm 119:9), and the way of good counsel (Psalm 119:24). The word gives us strength (Psalm 119:28) and hope (Psalm 119:43). It provides wisdom (Psalm 119:98–100, 130) and shows us the way we should go (Psalm 119:105).

Keeping the Trojan Horse outside Your Gates

A recent Gallup Poll 3 shows that a record-low 20% of Americans now say the Bible is the literal word of God, down from 24% the last time the question was asked in 2017. There is a new high of 29% who say the Bible is a collection of “fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.” Interesting isn’t it, there is record crime, drugs, human trafficking, hatred, and poverty growing inversely to our nation’s lack of belief that God’s Word is True. All God has ever asked is to place our trust in Him first.  It is tough once the enemy climbs out of the Trojan horse and he is in your heart, isn’t it?

Contemplations

  • Do you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God?
    • Ideas to Explore: As a foundational question, does being a disciple of Jesus require this belief? Why is it important to believe that God gave us His Word? Can you exist as a believer of Jesus and His gospel if you don’t believe in the Bible?
  • Do you believe in Satan?
    • Ideas to Explore: Where do your opinions come from? Is evil a real thing in the world? Why does evil exist?
  • Can we make up our own rules for God?
    • Ideas to Explore: With humankind existing as a flawed creation, can humanity ever make a rule that supersedes God’s rules that make sense?
  • If you have doubts about God’s Word, where does that doubt come from?
    • Ideas to Explore: What are the sources of doubt in our world today?
  • Is the Church today making up rules contrary to those given to us by God? What do you think the ramifications of that will be?
    • Ideas to Explore: Can you think of a rule that humankind has created that supersedes God? Why would such a rule even be necessary?
« Older posts

Copyright: © 2001 - 2022 Lostpine

Translate »