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One Bible = One Belief: The Dilemma of Biblical Authenticity


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The authenticity of The Bible has come under increasing criticism in the last 150 years from a plurality of sources. However, that is largely to be expected. As the Bible itself explains, it is impossible for the unsaved person who (by definition) is uninhabited by the Spirit of God to understand the things of God:

“Now we have received… the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God… But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:12, 14

Therefore, criticism from such sources is hardly offensive.

What is more disturbing, however, is the number of people who identify themselves as Believers/Christians yet similarly cast doubt on the Bible as representing the pure and unadulterated, complete and unabridged truth of God. Can the Bible, for a Believer, be anything less than completely authentic?

The Basics of Biblical Authenticity

To explore the notion of the authenticity of Scripture, let us consider what The Bible is and what The Bible says about itself.

SOURCE of Scripture

First, let us examine its source

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” ~ 2 Timothy 3:16a

If ALL scripture is God-inspired then which parts did a perfect God get wrong? Clearly, if God is perfect then the Scripture He authored must be perfect too. Nevertheless, some will say, “Man has corrupted the Scripture.” Certainly, mankind has tried to corrupt the scripture and has had some illusory success. However, if the Scripture points the way to God, we must believe that God Himself will preserve it; that, despite mankind’s greatest effort, the omnipotent God will uphold His Holy Word. For we know that:

“…faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” ~ Romans 10:17

If God does not safeguard His Word, what hope can we have of coming to Him in faith to receive salvation? What would be the point of Jesus’ redemptive death on the cross? Moreover, what is the identity of the God whom we would seek? Surely, we would not be able to find Him through a flawed imperfect scripture. Even more appalling, each person would have to define God for himself because there is no reliable standard. Is my ‘god’ better than yours?

PURPOSE of Scripture

Second, let us examine how The Bible defines its purpose:

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Doctrine is fundamental truths about God, reproof is the act of verifying our actions against God’s truth, correction is the act of replacing the false in our heart with God’s truth and righteousness is the condition of living/walking in God’s truth. In other words, ALL Scripture tells us the truth; it shows us the difference between the truth and the false; it enables us to replace the false in our lives/thinking with the truth; and it teaches us to walk/live in the truth. In short, ALL Scripture is all about the truth ALL-ways and therefore must its self be true.

Now the determined naysayer may question the legitimacy of the Scripture claiming its own validity. Such antagonists demand independent verification. However, this is logically futile since an independent document would have to be of the same or higher qualitative standing as the Scripture. One cannot test the accuracy of a computer with an abacus; one cannot calibrate a micrometer with a yardstick.

Consequently, if there exists a document of comparative standing to the Bible then it must be the Bible. To wit, if there is a device exactly (no more and no less) as accurate as a micrometer then it is the equivalent to a micrometer.

Likewise, if there is a document superior in every way to the Bible, then it would be superfluous to validate the Bible; it would simply render the Bible obsolete. We don’t do our calculations on an abacus and then check the results with a computer. We simply use the computer to do our calculations.

Accordingly, before questioning whether ALL Scripture is true ALL-ways one must answer the question:

“Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” ~ James 3:11

With the only reasonable answer being “No”, one must conclude the Scripture to be ALL true or ALL false.

VALUE of Scripture

Third, let us examine what Scripture says about its value/status.

“The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver. …I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.” (Psalm 119:72, 127b)

“I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” ~ Psalm 138:2

God holds His Word in a much higher status than His Name! There are various names for God in Scripture (Elohim, Jehovah, etc.). But it is Scripture itself that explains the meaning of those names. In other words, Scripture gives us both the richest and the most accurate description of God. Names do give identity, but to really understand someone we have to know more than just their name. It is not sufficient just to call on His Name; we must also get to know His character. And that character is uniquely defined in His Word.

The Crisis of Biblical Authenticity

If the Scripture is authentic, indispensable and invaluable, why does it come under unrelenting attack? To answer this question, let us explore three crises that face us when we confront the implications of the authenticity of Scripture: Conformation, Consequences, and Comprehension.

The Crisis of CONFORMATION

One problem with an authentic Scripture is that it demands our conformation. Scripture defines good and evil and demands that we choose the former and reject the latter. On issues/subjects that matter, Scripture delineates a single path for us to follow. However, because of a desire to have things our way, we are tempted to ignore inconvenient parts of Scripture. To justify this, of course, requires that we deny and decry the validity of the parts we don’t like. So we try to make Scripture conform to our lives, instead of conforming our lives to Scripture. This has been true since the time of the prophets: e.g., (Jeremiah 7:1-34) the Israelites ignored the Scriptures that warned them of impending punishment for their rejection of God, and only focused on the parts that told them of God’s abiding love/protection (because of the presence of His temple).

Consider the following conversation Jesus had with His disciples:

When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.”
He saith unto them, “But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.~ Matthew 16:13-17

“For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.” (Psalm 33:4)

People had various ideas about Jesus’ identity and His ministry. Some thought (ostensibly due to mistaken identity) Jesus was John the Baptist: here to teach them about true righteousness. Some thought he was Elias (Elijah) whose return had been prophesied (Malachi 4:5): here to work great miracles. Yet others thought he was Jeremias (Jeremiah): here to prophecy of things to come. Jesus’ did teach, prophesy and work miracles. But He was far more than a teacher, prophet, or a miracle worker. He was The Christ: The Messiah! He came to bring salvation through His death and fellowship (with God) though His resurrection.

If the people could hold on to their preferred definitions of Jesus, then they could ignore His true purpose and the life changing challenge that He presented. If Jesus was just a teacher, then scholarly communication was all that was required. If Jesus was just miracle worker, then they just needed to bring him their sick/problems. If Jesus was just a prophet, they only needed to heed his warnings of impending doom. But, if Jesus was Messiah they had to yield to Him every facet of their very lives. Their concepts, their values, their goals, their aspirations would no longer be their own to shape; they would now have to conform to Him.

Regardless of our noble thoughts/definitions of Jesus only one definition of His identity is true: Messiah. All other definitions are, at best, only partial truths and therefore, by definition, false. Moreover, the true identity of Jesus was/is not obtained from human deliberation; it was/is given by divine revelation (vs. 17). Therefore, it does not matter who we think Jesus is. What matters is who God says Jesus is in His divinely inspired authentic Word.

In short, Jesus does not conform to our notions/ideas. Rather, we must conform our notions/ideas to who Jesus really is. Moreover, by extension, we don’t define who God is and what a ‘reasonable’ God does. Instead, we learn from God’s Word who He is and how He reigns over the universe in justice and righteousness. We must conform our philosophy to God’s directives, as they are described in His Word.

Crucially, this is the basis on which the Kingdom of God is built and the source of power for all believer’s:

And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.~ Matthew 16:17-19

“The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:2)

The kingdom of heaven is founded on the revealed truth of God accepted through the faith of an individual: that forms the basis of the church (Ephesians 2:8-9) and it empowers the church to perform the work of God here on earth (Ephesians 2:10).

If we don’t accept God’s revealed truth by faith, if we hang on to our own notions/ideas of who God/Jesus is, then the church falls apart for lack of a foundation and the remnants of the church as we (not God) choose to define it is powerless, ineffectual in changing the fabric and outcome of the society it inhabits.

The crisis of conformation is that we must either conform our ideas to the Scripture or conform the Scripture to our ideas. If we accept the divinely inspired truth in God’s authentic Word, it means that our lives have to change. But, if we can define which parts of Scripture are true and which parts are tainted by historical bias, then we can have the scripture that suits us.

Therefore, when Scripture says, e.g., homosexuality is wrong (Genesis 19:1-25, Romans 1:16-32); we say that was just historical context. We pretend that God is ONLY love (two references in scripture) and choose to rationalize and/or dispensationalize all Biblical evidence that God is JUST; that God is HOLY; that God is set apart from sin (as He defines it) and will punish the guilty.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4

The Crisis of CONSEQUENCES

Another problem with having an authentic Scripture is that it outlines consequences. Authentic Scripture defines absolute truths AND absolute consequences to ignoring those truths.

“…Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” (Daniel 5:27)

“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth… And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD… For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed… If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good… Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.” ~ Joshua 24: 14-23

“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” ~ Revelation 21:7-8

“Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” ~ Revelation 22:14-15

God defines righteousness and salvation and describes their consequences. Similarly, God defines unrighteousness and sinfulness and describes their consequences. The crisis of consequences is that they (the consequences) cannot be ignored if Scripture is authentic. If Scripture is true, then there is a price to pay for ignoring its teachings. Therefore, the only way to continue on our own autonomous path through life is by presuming that Scripture has somehow misstated the consequences. “How can a loving God send someone to hell?” Because God doesn’t just love, God also judges.

Because the consequences in an authentic Scripture are inconvenient and unpleasant, it is preferable for many to ignore its authenticity instead.

The Crisis of COMPREHENSION

Yet another problem with a divinely-inspired, authentic Scripture is that it is difficult to fully understand.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” ~ Isaiah 55:9

There are many difficult concepts that believers have wrestled mightily with almost from Jesus’ resurrection. For example: Predestination vs. free will; eternal security vs. temporal insecurity of salvation; the gifts of the Spirit; the Rapture; the millennial rule of Jesus Christ; the identity of the two witnesses in the Book of Revelation, etc. The crisis of comprehension is whether to accept by faith what is difficult to understand or to discard those things that elude our understanding. Shall we choose faith in God or strength of (human) logic?

It is hard to understand why God permits such dreadful suffering in this world, especially when that suffering is “close to home”. Does that mean the Scripture is false when it tells us that God loves us? We should never forget that God calls us to faith in Him, not to logic. He tells us to trust in Him, not in our understanding.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-7

Newton’s laws of motion are not wrong because we don’t understand them. And they don’t suddenly become true when we do understand them. Likewise, the truth of Scripture does not depend on our ability to comprehend it; it depends solely on the Omniscience of God.

Salvation and Biblical Authenticity

The purpose of Scripture is first to bring us to faith in God, which then enables us to receive salvation through the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). The second purpose of Scripture is to enable us to know God, which empowers us to serve Him by accomplishing the work He preordained for us to do (Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 3:8-11). Central to both these functions, is the identity of God. All of Scripture works in harmony to present the true and complete identity of God. If we selectively remove certain parts of Scripture (because we deem them to be irrelevant or in some way inaccurate), then we distort the identity of God. Consequently, one must ask: “Which God do you have faith in?” A god that conforms to our desired image is not god at all. Such a god is merely the figment of our Sophistri-cation.

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

Moreover, salvation requires faith in the true God: the God described by the Authentic Scripture: The Bible. If we do not believe in the God of the Scripture, then we are not saved by the God of the Scripture. Every god defines his/her/its own terms of salvation.

The God of the pure unabridged Scriptures defines His terms too. If we do not like His salvation plan, we are free to construct our own god from the parts of the scripture we find convenient to our lifestyle and philosophy. But, make no mistake, that god is NOT the God of the Bible.

And the Heaven described by the Bible is reserved for those who believe in the God of the Bible. But, the Hell described in the Bible is available for those who reject the God of the Bible: whether they believe in it or not.

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" ~Romans 3:23

Sin Doesn’t Come in Sizes

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Recently someone asked (paraphrase): “I’ve been praying to God for help to overcome my addiction. Why hasn’t He helped me to do it?”

This question is not uncommon and reveals some problems with the way that we think about sin and how God works in our lives to enable us to overcome the power of sin. To understand this it is useful to first define what an addiction is.  An addiction is any action/practice or sequence of actions/practices that is repeated enough that a permanent (but not necessarily irreversible) change in  the brain architecture of the addicted occurs in order to perpetuate the action/practice.  Addictions can range from thumb-sucking to drug-abuse, from workaholic-ism  to pornography.

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" ~Romans 3:23

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” ~Romans 3:23

Generally, addictions are only overcome when a new agent hierarchically replaces the importance of the addiction in the mind of the addict: when a competing structure develops.  Even when this happens, the neuron-network associated with the addiction does not disappear immediately:  it takes time for the brain to gradually re-organizes its structure.   Hence, the likelihood of relapse is an ever-present danger for many.  The key to overcoming addictions and potential relapses is the strength and constancy of the new agent neural-network.

As long as the neuronal  pathways of the new agent fire more strongly and consistently than that of the addiction, then the addict is in good position to overcome his/her addiction.     For example, kids usually stop sucking their thumbs when social pressures related to the habit and to the resulting orthodontic damage supersede  any comfort they got from it.   Likewise, some drug abusers are “scared straight” by the fear of dying from the drug use.  Fear of death overrides the neural-network of the addiction, thereby allowing them to quit.

It is true that more people are addicted to various actions than they might realize.  This unawareness arises because people mostly only consider socially unacceptable habits as addictions.  More important, however, is to realize that ALL addictions are sins, because they are, by definition, the antithesis of self-control and the Christian is commanded to bring his/her entire body under the control of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

The essential difference between addictions and “regular” sins, is that addictions are sins that have become “hardwired” in the brain with an associated reward (usually dopamine) to reinforce the behavior. But, as will be argued below, the cure for addictions and non-addiction sins is the same:  Love for God must grow in us (in our minds) until it is preeminent.  That love for God will then overwhelm  the addiction network as well as all other desires to sin.

“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” ~James 1:14-15

That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days… ~Deuteronomy 30:20a

Finally, we must avoid conflating salvation with the absence of addiction.  Only God determines who is saved (addiction or not). Moreover, the Scripture makes it clear that sinlessness is neither a prerequisite for salvation nor sanctification.  That means some Believers might be in bondage to unsavory addictions.  However, while we should always clearly and unequivocally declare addictions (unsavory or not) as sin.  We cannot refute the work of God in the addicted. Some of us have further to go than others.  And, the person addicted to food should never look down on the person addicted to drugs.  Indeed, both are listed together as heading for the same end:

For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags. ~Proverbs 23:21

Let us, therefore, examine the Proper Perspective for sin, the Prescribed Procedure to overcome sin and God’s Precious Promise to never give up on us.

THE PROPER PERSPECTIVE
First, the question (above) suggests that the addiction is a bigger sin than the other sins that we (including the questioner also) all struggle with. Certainly, if God took addictions from all of our lives it is unlikely that any of us (including the questioner) would be perfect. More pointedly, eliminating addictions of any sort, does not guarantee that we will draw closer to God’s and walk in obedience.

The problem here is the perception that some sins, such as addictions, are worse than others. This notion implies that if I get rid of some “bad”, really “ugly” sins then I will be a better person; even though the “not-so-bad”, “not-so-ugly” sins remain. But, that is not God’s calculus. Romans 14:23b tells us that sin is anything that is not done in a faith response to God.

…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. ~Romans 14:23b

And, Romans 6:23a tells us that all sin has the same punishment.

For the wages of sin is death… ~Romans 6:23a

So, we must deduce that ALL sins are equally offensive to God.

Therefore, God’s ultimate purpose is not to excise the “uglier” sins (such as addictions) while the “not-so-ugly” sins remain. His purpose is to enable us to overcome ALL sin. And to accomplish this, Romans 12:1-2 tells us that we should offer ourselves to God and allow Him to transform us, by the renewing of our minds. Only then will we know His will and have the power to walk in it: the power to overcome ALL sin!

“All unrighteousness is sin…” 1 John 5:17a

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. ~Romans 12:1-2

Accordingly, God focuses on the state of our ‘minds’, i.e., our mindset, rather than any specific sin. God intends to change our entire attitude to sin, so that we will choose His way instead of going our own way.

God sent The Holy Spirit to indwell our lives in order to change the way we think about life: to replace our values with God’s values. Therefore, we must constantly ask ourselves: “Am I beginning to look at life through God’s eyes?”; “Do I delight in the things that please God?”

If I overcome an addiction but my mindset is unchanged then I have not benefitted, because sins (even if they don’t look as “ugly” as an addiction) are still rampant in my life.  On the other hand, as God transforms our minds, all the sin-strongholds in our lives are likewise weakened.

To be clear, God is NOT ‘comfortable’ with an addiction or any other sin: God hates sin! And that’s why His purpose is to overcome ALL sin, in your life and in my life.

THE PRESCRIBED PROCEDURE
Overcoming sin, even addictions, does not occur magically. Moreover, God never forces us to obey Him; He gave us free will. However, God will always lead us to a point where we choose to change.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. ~Psalm 51:1-4

However, we Christians often want God to override our wills. We want God to take away enough of our freedom of choice so that decisions are “easier” to make. We want, somehow, not to have to make the decision not to sin: we want God to make that decision for us, to have Him force His will on us.

“…my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.” ~Psalm 69:13

In other words, we want God to treat the symptoms instead of the disease. The disease is a heart (mind) that is not completely yielded to God. And sins, all types of sins, are the symptoms. As a good doctor would, God intends to treat the disease so that the symptoms will end. God will not remove our sins and leave behind un-yielded hearts. Indeed, it’s our heart that He is after.

Thus, we should stop our preoccupation with ‘ugly’ sins (like certain addictions) and instead seek to draw ever closer to God to enable our ‘mental’ transformation to accelerate. To that end God has given us these keys for success:

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. ~Psalm 119:11

By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. ~Proverbs 16:6

First, it is the word of God (the truth of God) in our hearts that washes sin out of our lives. As we study, memorize and meditate on His word, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, it renews our mind. As we orient our lives according to the Scripture, as we base our lives on His commands, we are able to overcome sin, because we are walking in daily fellowship with our God.

Second, we must accept His mercy. Accepting God’s mercy is not being presumptuous. Presumptuousness arises when we demand/expect God to sanction our plans; when we tell God what to do. To accept God’s mercy is to acknowledge our inadequacy. It is to realize that our transformation, from a self-focused mindset to a God-focused mindset, is slow and sometimes painful BECAUSE of our weakness.

It is the combination of God’s mercy, as He patiently works with us, and His Word, as it transforms our mindset, which ultimately breaks the power of sin over our lives.
Therefore, we do not draw back or hide from God when we fall into any sin; neither the ‘ugly’ ones, nor the not so ‘ugly’ ones. God instructs us to confess our sins, not hide from Him (like Adam and Eve, Genesis 3:8). He then MERCIFULLY promises to forgive us (1 John 1:9) and continue the transformation process in us (Philippians 1:6).

“…This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 3:13-14

We must never allow the devil to separate us from God. The closer we draw to our Father, the faster our transformation and the sooner our victory over all forms of sin, even the uglier-looking ones!!! We should take courage, continue to walk with God and continue to allow Him to change us. We must journey deep into God’s word and fellowship with Him, even when we are discouraged.

THE PRECIOUS PROMISE
Finally, let us always remember

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. ~Philippians 1:6

If God has started the transformation process in us, He won’t stop working (even if He has to use trials to get it done).

God won’t quit on you… so don’t quit on yourself!!!

.

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Reflections-in-the-WORD would like to thank INSPIKS for inspiration and for insightful comments on this topic.

The Proper Way for a Man to Pray


“Pray without ceasing.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17


“The proper way for a man to pray,”
Said Deacon Lemuel Keys,
“The only proper attitude
is down upon his knees.”
“No, I should say, the way to pray,”
Said Reverend Doctor Wise,
“Is standing straight with outstretched arms
And rapturous upturned eyes.”

“Oh, no, no, no,” said Elder Slow;
“Such posture is too proud:
“A man should pray with eyes fast closed
“And head contritely bowed.”
“It seems to me his hands should be
Devoutly clasped in front,
With both thumbs pointing t’ward the ground,”
Said Reverend Doctor Blunt.

“Last year I fell in Hodgkin’s well
Head first,” said Cyrus Brown.
“With both my heels a’sticking up,
My head a’pointing down.
And I made a prayer right then and there,
Best prayer I ever said—
The prayerest prayer I ever prayed
Was standing on my head.”

–Author unknown

God hath not promised…


“…Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.  For I am the Lord thy God…” ~ Isaiah 43:1b-3a


God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower–strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.

But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the laborer, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.

by Annie Johnson Flint

When God Calls Your Name – A Word for Moms

Reading through the books of Kings, I was amazed at how many times both books recorded the names of mothers of the kings of Israel – for both the good kings and the bad kings (e.g., see 1 Kings 15:1-2, 9-10; 2 Kings 21:1; 2 Kings 22:1).  This is in addition to several other references to mothers.

Some of the well-known mothers in the Bible include Jochebed (Moses’ mother); Hannah (Samuel’s  mother); Rebekah (Esau’s and Jacob’s mother); Bathsheba (Solomon’s mother); and Mary, our Lord’s mother.

God’s word is deliberate with what it allows to be recorded. Therefore, God’s record of those mothers was done deliberately.  What might be the reason for God to mention their names?

Could it be that God does take note of what we do as mothers?

Could it be that what we do with our children is important to God?

Could it be that this mighty God sees our work as part of His eternal purpose, that how we train our children does count towards an eternal purpose?


“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward.”
~ Psalm 127:3


God has entrusted to us, as mothers, His heritage (our children), to be used by Him in the time He has appointed; a time of which we know not and may not even live to know.mother-and-child-sunset

How will God record your name, as a mother? Are you building into His kingdom?

Proverbs 14:1 tells us Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. So, look to God’s word to become wise and have your name recorded among God’s godly women.

by Nicole Duncan

REMEMBER Your Redemption: Free at Last!

“And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm…” ~ Deuteronomy 5:15a

“But thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee thence…” ~ Deuteronomy 24:18a


In his farewell address to the Hebrew people that he had led for more than forty years, Moses repeatedly (at least seven times) reminded them to remember that God had redeemed them from slavery/bondage in Egypt. And, therefore, they should not live as if they were still in Egypt. Nor should they live in a way that would lead to their re-enslavement.

The Hebrews had been (physically) taken out of Egypt, the next step was for Egypt to be (spiritually) taken out of the Hebrews. The Hebrews were made free men, but they had to learn to live as free men.

God, speaking through Moses, gave them the key: for the Hebrews to live free they must think free.

The word “remember” (whether in Hebrew or English) means “bring to mind”. Therefore, the Hebrews were being encouraged to keep thinking about the fact that they were free. They were not obliged to live as the Egyptians did: they were not obliged to live sinfully: They now had a choice: IF they wanted to, they could serve God as He had taught them to do.

The redemption of the Hebrews from Egypt parallels the redemption obtained through Jesus’ death on the Cross. The Lord redeemed the Hebrews from enslavement to Egypt and The Lord has redeemed Believers from enslavement to sin.

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Like the Hebrews, Believers are no longer obliged to live as slaves to sin.

Like the Hebrews, Believers must learn to live as free men/women.

Like the Hebrews, the key is to change our thinking so that we are constantly conscious that we are no longer in bondage.

By the grace of God, I can overcome sin!

Believers: We have been redeemed from the bondage of sin.


“For ye are bought with a price [redeemed]: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:20


Believers: We are not slaves to sin.


“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” ~ Romans 6:14


Believers: We can overcome temptation.


“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13


Believers: We are not alone, we have Jesus to triumph through us.


“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” ~ Galatians 2:20


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The first step needed to walk victoriously in the abundant life God has given us is to remember, remember, remember, that we are redeemed. Sin is no longer our master.

Moreover, the power of redemption is exercised when we LIVE as free men/women. If we live as slaves to sin, though our redemption remains a reality, we squander its power.

Believers living as though they are still enslaved to sin are like a blind man who receives his sight but then walks around with his eyes closed. He can see, but his newfound sight has no effect on his life. And he misses out on all the beauty before him.

Let us never forget that we are redeemed, we are born again: we are new creations. It cost Jesus His life to redeem us. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we have been reborn. Let us live every day as the children of God our Father.


“And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them…
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;” ~ Ephesians 2:1, 8-10, 19

 


This is the fifth of a nine-part series on Principles for the Promised Land summarized from the book of Deuteronomy.

REMEMBER God is our Judge

“Remember what the Lord thy God did unto Miriam by the way, after that ye were come forth out of Egypt.” ~ Deuteronomy 24:9


Miriam, Moses’ sister, had (along with Aaron) challenged his authority as the leader of the Hebrew nation (Numbers 12:1-16). God was furious because of Miriam’s rebellion and she became leprous: Challenging the authority of God’s appointed leader is the same as challenging God’s authority.

To prevent transmission of the disease, lepers, like Miriam, had to live outside of the community and generally had very little fellowship with their non-leprous brethren/countrymen (Leviticus 13:44-46). Therefore, when Hebrews became leprous, though they remained Hebrew, they were unable to fully enjoy the blessings God provided for His people and they were unable to fully enjoy the fellowship of their brethren.

Just like Miriam, when we resist/reject God’s authority in our lives, we bring God’s judgment upon ourselves: we deprive ourselves of many of the blessings He has already appointed for us. And, denying God’s complete authority in our lives compromises and degrades ALL of our relationships.

God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), therefore there is no love without God.  In other words, we cannot enjoy, give, or receive love without God, without submitting to God’s authority.

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The problems we have with relationships in our communities are all consequences of our rejection of God.  We cannot truly love anyone without God: because God is love.  And if we cannot love our neighbors, how can we have healthy relationships with them?

As Jesus pointed out, the first great commandment is to “Love God”, the second great commandment is to “Love your neighbor”.  And the second great commandment cannot be fulfilled without the first great commandment (Matthew 22:35-40).

Furthermore, if the rebellious Believer is not “quarantined” from the rest of the brethren, i.e., if his/her rebellion is not confronted and condemned, his/her rebellious attitude towards God can spread to others and infect entire communities (1 Corinthians 5:1-6:11).  Indeed, this latent rebelliousness against God’s authority hinders genuine fellowship among church members and prevents us from fully shouldering the mantle of ministry God reserves for each Believer.

God’s authority over our lives is not burdensome, God’s authority is a blessing.

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous.” ~ 1 John 5:3

God’s judgments, God’s corrective disciplinary actions, are not a terror to His children. Miriam became leprous, but she never stopped being a Hebrew. When Believers are disciplined, we don’t lose our salvation: we don’t stop being children in the family of God, joint heirs with Jesus.

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“I remembered thy judgments of old, O Lord; and have comforted myself.” ~ Psalm 119:52

Like any child should, we remember God’s judgments because we do not want to dishonor our Father: He is holy, He is to be respected and reverenced.

We remember God’s judgments so that we don’t have to repeat our mistakes or repeat the mistakes of others.

We remember God’s judgments so that they will motivate us to do what we know is right.

We remember God’s judgments because they are demonstrations of His love for us: God cares, He is not indifferent toward us.

5 …despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: 6For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.
11Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” ~ Hebrews 12:5b-6, 11

We are encouraged to remember God’s judgments so that we stay in glorious fellowship with Him.   So that we can fully enjoy the blessings, the ministry, He has in store for us, as members of the Body of Christ.  And so that we can enjoy the beauty of brotherly love with other Believers, i.e., other members of the Body of Christ.

 


This is the fourth of a nine-part series on Principles for the Promised Land summarized from the book of Deuteronomy.

God’s No

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” ~ Matthew 7:11


God’s “no” means “Something better”
I can trust Him with my all.
The God who formed the universe
Attendeth when I call;
And when in love and wisdom
He withholds my heart’s request
His “no” means “something better”.
He will give me what is best.

God’s “wait-a-while’s” bring blessings
That His “right-away’s” withhold.
When He’s tried me in the fire
I shall [then] come forth as gold.
Oh what peace it brings in sorrow,
And what comfort fills my breast
Just to know, whate’er His answer
He will give me what is best.

– by Barbara C. Ryberg

“How do you know if what you are praying for is in God’s will?”

Knowing whether or not what we are praying for is part of God’s will for us, can be challenging for Believers.  We can sometimes be beset by doubt:

“Am I praying/asking for the right outcome?” “Should I stop praying?” “Should I keep praying?”

The Bible gives us some useful examples that might help us answer the questions.

First, let us look at Jesus.  When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked for the “Cup” (his imminent death on the Cross) to pass if it was possible (Matthew 26:39). He repeated that prayer we are told, two more times (v. 42 and v.44). Eventually, it became clear to Him that it was not possible and He went ahead to die for our sins (it really was the ONLY way).

For a second example, consider David.  David prayed (and fasted) asking God to spare his gravely ill infant son. God declined.  David’s son died.  And David stopped fasting (2 Samuel 12:15-23).

In both examples, until God’s will became clear, both Jesus and David prayed. We should do the same. We should pray, study God’s Word, fast, repeatedly/continually until God’s will becomes clear to us.

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Sadly, most of us (myself included) are too impatient: we want an answer now: right now. And we are unwilling to be patient until we “hear God’s voice”, i.e., until we perceive God’s will.

Consider this: God already knows the problem we are facing.  And He already knows the answer.   We don’t give God new information when we pray.  Therefore, prayer (and fasting and studying God’s Word) is really designed to help us to get in tune with Him.

It is not that God has difficulty hearing us, it’s that we have difficulty hearing Him.  Prayer is really a means by which God prepares our hearts and minds to “hear” Him, i.e., to perceive His will. If we allow Him to help us, if we give ourselves the time to learn, God will teach us what His perfect will is for us.

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” ~ Jeremiah 33:3

Keep praying until God’s answer becomes clear.

Sometimes, like David, we will need to keep praying until the issue we are praying about is conclusively resolved.  David prayed for his sick baby until the child died: only then did he know God’s answer was “no”.

Finally, notice that once God’s will was clear, Jesus obeyed.  While God’s will is genuinely unclear, we should keep praying.  But, once God reveals to us what we should do, we should get off our knees and obey.  The sincere prayer of the Believer always results in the obedience of the Believer.

 


This article was written as a response to a question asked by a visitor who commented on “Perspective on Prayer“.

REMEMBER God is our Provider

“But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” ~ Deuteronomy 8:18


The Promised Land that God was leading the Hebrews into was fertile and super-productive (Numbers 14:7-8). Once they settled down to work the land they would thrive. However, while thriving, it is often easy to forget the One who made us succeed and forget the purpose of our success.

It is God that provides everything we need to do well. He gives us strength, health, intelligence, and opportunity.  Moreover, He protects us and guides us in ways we often don’t understand or even perceive. For example, Job prospered greatly until God allowed satan to attack him (Job 1).  And, once God restrained satan again, Job prospered again.  Without God’s protection, Job could not have prospered.

“Bless the Lord , O my soul, and forget not all His benefits:” ~ Psalm 103:2

If we fail to recognize that God is the one who supplies all our needs, instead of being thankful to Him, we will attribute our blessings to ourselves (or to a god/source we invent). Sadly, Israel would make this mistake and it would lead to their downfall.

“For [Israel] did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal.” ~ Hosea 2:8

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Nevertheless, success is not an end in itself. God would allow the Hebrews to prosper so that He could “establish His covenant” with them. In the covenant God made with them, He promised to bless them if they were faithful (Deuteronomy 7:8-16).

The intended result of this arrangement was that Israel would become an example to all nations: the world would recognize the everlasting benefits of faithful obedience to God (Deuteronomy 4:5-7). In other words, God would make Israel succeed so that other nations would seek to have a relationship with Him. The ultimate purpose of Israel’s blessings was the salvation of the world.

Similarly, in the covenant of The Cross, Christians are promised the indwelling of The Holy Spirit if we put our trust for salvation in Christ Jesus.

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” ~ Luke 11:13

God gives His children many different gifts to meet their various needs.  However, the Holy Spirit is the gift that every Believer is guaranteed to receive.  The Holy Spirit applies God’s Word to our lives, thereby enabling us to thrive: to become mature Christians growing to “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13-15, 2 Peter 1:3).

However, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in the life of a Believer, is not an end in itself. Rather, we are to become witnesses: testifying of the mercies of God to the world around us (Matthew 28:18-20, 1 John 4:13-15).

“Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” ~ 1 John 4:13-14

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The ultimate purpose of the blessings of God, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in the life of a Believer is the salvation of the world.

But there is a problem.

Our definition of success/prosperity often differs from God’s definition. God’s gift to us is the Holy Spirit, through Jesus’ redemptive death and empowering resurrection. But that’s usually not what we desire when we think of success/prosperity. Usually, our focus is on material wealth and/or physical health.  Material wealth and physical health are gifts from God, but they are not always beneficial.  Therefore, God does not always provide them to us.

If we are primarily concerned with material wealth and/or physical health, it is easy for us to become insensitive, even blind, to God’s desired work in us (to conform us to the image of Christ, Romans 8:29, Ephesians 4:13) and through us (to reconcile the world to Himself, 2 Corinthians 5:19).

Remembering that God is our provider also means that we trust in His provision. Whether He gives us material wealth, physical health or the forgotten gift of suffering (Philippians 1:29), we trust that God provides us with everything necessary for us to thrive BECAUSE He is The Good Father.

“According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” ~ 2 Peter 1:3


This is the third of a nine-part series on Principles for the Promised Land summarized from the book of Deuteronomy

REMEMBER God is our Lord

“Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping His commandments, and His judgments, and His statutes, which I command thee this day:” ~ Deuteronomy 8:11


As the Hebrews entered into the Promised Land, they would be confronted by new cultures, new philosophies, and new religions.

Would they still honor Jehovah as their Lord?  Or would they abandon their covenant with Him to serve new gods?

Would they keep His commands, His judgments, and His statutes?  Or would they exchange them for worldly commands, worldly judgments, and worldly statutes?

The Scripture teaches us that

8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” ~ Psalm 19:8-10

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Therefore, the key factor in remaining faithful to God is our esteem, our valuation, of His Word. If God’s Word is precious to us, we will obey it. And, if we obey God’s Word, we will remain faithful to Him.

Conversely, if God’s Word is not precious to us, we will ignore it and very quickly be lured away by the world’s philosophies, cultures, and religions.

“Order my steps in Thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.” ~ Psalm 119:133

If our steps (our decisions about life and how to live it) are ordered in God’s Word, we will live by God’s rules. And if we live by God’s rules, then God is our King, our Lord.

Conversely, if our steps are ordered in the world’s value-system, we will live the world’s rules. And, if we live by the world’s rules, then the world is our king, our lord.

In a world that bombards us with its own “truths” and its own values, the only way to stay faithful to God is to uphold and infuse His word in every facet of our lives.

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” ~ Psalm 119:11

“I will delight myself in Thy statutes: I will not forget Thy word.” ~ Psalm 119:16


This is the second of a nine-part series on Principles for the Promised Land summarized from the book of Deuteronomy.

REMEMBER God is our Protector

“Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the Lord thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt;” ~ Deuteronomy 7:18


As the Hebrew people were about to enter the Promised Land, security was at the forefront of their concerns. Would they be able to defeat the Canaanites? Would they be safe? The battles ahead meant their lives were at risk.

Moses instructed them to gain the courage they need by remembering that God had protected them from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The Hebrews had been enslaved and oppressed them greatly. But, as a people, they had thrived: They had continued to grow in number despite the persecution they suffered BECAUSE God had a plan for them (Exodus 1:10-12).

If God could protect them in Egypt, surely He could and would protect them in Canaan. If God protected them at the start of their mission, surely God would protect them all the way to the completion of that mission.

Like the Hebrew nation, Believers also must remember that God has a plan for each of us (Ephesians 2:10). And, therefore, while we are walking in His will there is nothing that can prevent that mission from being accomplished. God protects us so that we can accomplish His purpose for us.

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We can see this principle at work in Jesus’ life.  Jesus was protected by God so that He could complete His mission by dying on the cross, crucified for our redemption.  Despite efforts to kill Him (e.g., John 7:30, 45-46, Luke 4:28-30), no one was successful until the time was right.

The key then to God’s protection is to be about His business.  As long as we are in His will, we can be sure of His protection.

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” ~ Psalm 20:7

But, wrapped in the remembrance of God’s protection is also God’s priority of protection. When we think of protection, safety from all types of physical harm is usually at the forefront of our thoughts.

Conversely, as Scripture shows, God prioritizes the spiritual man over the physical man (e.g., consider Job). Indeed, God will often allow the body to suffer so that the spirit can thrive.

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16

For most of us, the real challenge of relying on God’s protection is accepting His prioritization. Our struggle then is more about whether God will protect us the way we want Him to, rather than whether or not God will protect us.

But there is no other way: God is our ONLY protector. The devil seeks to destroy us and we can’t protect ourselves. We must, therefore, look to God and trust Him.  We must learn to value the spiritual man over the physical man.

“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.” ~ Psalm 91:2


This is the first of a nine-part series on Principles for the Promised Land summarized from the book of Deuteronomy