Doomed to repeat

God’s word teaches that even the most powerful nation in the world cannot avoid its responsibility for or its punishment of sin.

Possibly a little more than 200 years after the prophet Isaiah wrote the 21st chapter of the book that bears his name, judgment came to Babylon. Although the Assyrians defeated Babylon, it rose to power and eventually took control of Nineveh. But, Babylon was taken without a struggle in 539 B.C. by King Cyrus as God’s prophet had written (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1).

Isaiah identified the nation that would overcome the powerful, but evil Babylon (Isaiah 21:2). The prophet correctly predicted the Babylonians would be unprepared for the coming of King Cyrus (Isaiah 21:5), and the Scripture announces Babylon’s fall as if it had already happened (Isaiah 21:9).

The word of God teaches from history that judgment comes to all who commit sin and live in its bondage. Indeed it is impossible for a man to take fire to his bosom and remain unburned (Proverbs 6:27). If the Bible teaches anything, it teaches punishment comes to all sinners who refuse to repent — even the most powerful of nations — in time.

Americans currently live in the most powerful nation in the world. Yet, sin has reared its ugly head in this nation. The grievous sin of abortion has claimed the lives of millions of innocent babies because people have believed the lie that the unborn are not alive. This lie continues even though these unborn children have hearts that are beating and blood coursing through their bodies. God is not ignorant of this sin, and many others.

There is, however, the old saying: “Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Let us hope and pray that America will come to its senses before the Lord God of heaven sends his judgment.

Careful students

perry“Perry Mason,” the hit television program of the 1950s and 1960s is having a resurgence in re-runs.

Raymond Burr, the title actor, does a masterful job bringing Erle Stanley Gardner’s character to life. The short one-hour programs try to strike a balance between murder crimes and Mason’s ultimate victory in the courts.

After watching for a few days (I record the program from a television station in Nashville, Tennessee). Lt. Arthur Tragg, the L.A. police investigator, is not very good at what he does. He’s just not a very careful investigator. Tragg basically finds fingerprints on the gun, at the crime scene and then he goes and gets a warrant.

Mason, on the contrary, seeks out all the pertinent facts and details of the case and wears down witnesses until the murderer confesses. Usually, the culprit is sitting in the witness gallery and is worn down by the tension in the courtroom.

If “Perry Mason” was the real world, Tragg (and his subsequent investigator Andy Anderson whose record was just as dismal) would have been fired for incompetence. Investigators, as other professionals, must be careful students and not careless ones.

This brings us to another popular type of person — the careless preacher or teacher of the Bible. This person has some flaws when it comes to steering people the right way of biblical interpretation.

Some of these careless preachers are too proud of themselves. There are some whose education has given them an air of proficiency with the Bible they do not possess. When they are corrected, instead of meekness and humility, they become proud and arrogant denying any mistakes at all. Like the Pope, these think they are infallible. No one is.

Some of these careless preachers were once careless students. In school, they defended their mistaken interpretations of the Bible against all comers. They, too, have a problem with pride. Instead of taking time to go back to the Bible and find the truth, they refuse to consider anyone else may be right.

Some of these careless preachers defend doctrines that are just not taught in the Bible. Their traditions, however, prevent them from honestly studying the Bible carefully.

As students of the scriptures, we must ever watch our teachers carefully. Why? Because our eternal souls are in their hands. Before we engage in a spirited defense of these careless preachers, we need to ask if the Bible actually teaches what they’re talking about, or are they simply deceived into thinking that it does.

Choosing evil

lesserOne of the central themes of the Bible is that good men can often make mistakes.

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was a good man and did much to restore God’s place over the land (2 Chronicles 17:1-6). The Bible tells us he rid Judah of its idols, the high places and the groves where idolatry was done.

Perhaps it was the case the king feared the Syrians who had seized Ramoth-Gilead only a few miles from Jerusalem that he made an alliance with the ungodly Baal-worshipper Ahab. No one knows for certain, but it is certain Jehoshaphat went to Ahab and told him he would be his ally in the fight to retake Ramoth-Gilead (2 Chronicles 18:3 NASB).

The Bible teaches the battle for the city was lost and Ahab was killed. Jehoshaphat returned to Jerusalem, but was also defeated in the battle. Jehu the prophet went to Jehoshaphat and told him, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD and so bring wrath on yourself from the LORD?” (2 Chronicles 19:2 NASB).

Although Jehoshaphat’s heart was fundamentally good, every evil act has its consequences. For this king, his was to face the combined armies of  Moab and Ammon (2 Chronicles 20).

This time, Jehoshaphat would not be deterred by false prophets as was Ahab. He “set himself to seek the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:3). Jehoshaphat’s prayer is a model showing he had changed his mind — he repented — of his association with Ahab. As a result, the battle was Jehoshaphat’s victory.

The lesson is clear. Whenever good people enter the orbit of a sinful person, there may be (and usually will be) consequences. Why? The answer to that question is in Jehoshaphat’s alliance with Ahab. Jehoshaphat had allowed himself to be influenced by Ahab into accepting the counsel of ungodly men (2 Chronicles 18:5). In doing so, he placed himself and his country at risk and loss of life.

Christians must ever remember that there is no such thing as the “lesser of two evils.” Ahab was king of Israel. Perhaps Jehoshaphat felt it would be better to deal with him than to face Syria alone. Jehoshaphat didn’t consider that the alliance he made displeased God (2 Chronicles 19:2).

There is no such thing as the “lesser of two evils.” There is only evil, and evil is always opposed to God. There is no way Christians can make an alliance with evil and pretend it doesn’t stain their own souls. We are to be set apart to the service of God and holy (Colossians 1:22). How can we maintain our holiness and yet serve the whims of ungodly men?

The fact remains that when one chooses the “lesser of two evils,” one is only choosing evil.


Prayer to God

There was recently a paper that published an article that didn’t quite say addressing Jesus Christ, God the Son, in prayer was quite wrong, but that we ought to treat the Lord like he was a Post Office.

The article basically said we pray through Christ and not to him. The article hinted that any prayer to Christ was wrong. It said only God the Father should be addressed in prayer.

The article was wrong in many ways, but I will put forward only two. First, and foremost, God is one being in his characteristics and his attributes. Although God is three persons, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit all possess omnipotence (all-powerful), omniscience (all-knowing), and omnipresence (everywhere at the same time). Which one would be unable to hear a prayer?

Does the editor of the paper and its author think that a prayer said to God is not also in the “ears” of the Son and the Holy Spirit? What part of omniscience don’t they get? What the writer tried to do was bend John 16:24-29 and make the Son of God look like a postal clerk stamping letters. “Oh, this one is just for the Father,” he would have the Son of God say.

Would not all of the godhead hear the same prayer?

Secondly, in Acts 7:59-60, Stephen, as he was being stoned, prayed and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Now, according to the writer and editor of this paper, Stephen was wrong — almost sinful — to do this. I don’t think he was. You see, Jesus is our Paraclete (1 John 2:1-2) as well as the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-28). Could they intercede for us without hearing our prayers? Such nonsense.

The Fragrance of Christ

Trent Key, minister for the Mt. Leo Church of Christ in McMinnville, TN wrote, “God expects Christians to put on and diffuse the fragrance of Christ (II Corinthians 2:14ff). To God that’s the sweetest aroma of any (Ephesians 5:2). God will not accept knock off fragrances on Judgment Day. We have to smell like Christ and be immersed into His blood (Romans 6:3:5; Acts 22:16; Ephesians 1:7; Acts 20:28). The aroma of sin can not attractive at all. ‘Put on Christ’ today (Galatians 3:27)!”

Remembering 9/11/2001

Sunday is September 11, and as our thoughts turn to the tragic events in New York and Washington, D.C., let us remember those who died, their families, and the ones who still suffer as a result of the terror attacks.

“USA Today” marked the anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center by remembering its victims, both alive and dead. The article written by Melanie Eversley focused not only on one of the Port Authority officers whose life has been changed by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but also on the fact there are many families that lost loved ones and the only recovered remains included only a few teeth or a wedding ring.

Dozens of emergency workers have been plagued with respiratory diseases after breathing the contaminated air around Ground Zero after the attack. They still require medical care for which they cannot pay. Many of them shed their tears in silence.

So, in addition to the families that have lost loved ones, let us remember those who are still trying to live with the effects of this cowardly attack. Stop and say a prayer for those who are still in pain and suffering from September 11, 2001.

The newspaper story can be found here:

Practical Reflections from James

Some thbook-of-jamesink that when one is done with formal education, one stops learning.

Nothing can be further from the truth. Every day when I study the Bible, I learn new things. Today, I learned many new things from my daily reading I want to share.

In James 1:19-21, the writer moves into hearing and doing the word of God. Reading God’s word is a fine thing, but not obeying it misses the reason why God gave it. God has done man an incredible kindness in giving his word so that we may learn it and obey it. By contrast, God gave his word to Israel, and they basically cast it back into his teeth by disobedience.

As in most of this book, James focused on a very practical idea. He wrote (and this is my translation), “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to begin speaking and slow into anger. For the anger of man does not continue to practice the righteousness of God. Instead, put away all filthiness and overflowing wickedness and embrace the implanted word which is able to save your souls.”

We must be quick to hear. There’s an old saying that we have all been born with two ears and one mouth. We should, therefore, hear twice as much as we speak. That’s good advice. How many of us have ever regretted not practicing this? How many have said things they regret because they did not keep their ears open and their mouths shut? I know I’ve been guilty of this.

We must be slow to begin speaking. A.T. Robertson wrote the construction of the phrase is the ingressive aorist active infinitive, and gives this idea of being slow to begin speaking.[1] One person told me, “Be sure that before you start talking that your brain is engaged first. How many begin speaking before thinking? How many live to regret not having thought first?

We must be slow into wrath. In other words, we must not rush headlong into anger. Instead, move slowing into wrath. One of the things I’ve learned driving a car and that moving slowly can help one avoid the damages and costly repairs that can come by blasting ahead on an unknown road at high speed.

But, there’s another reason for being slow into wrath. Once there, a person’s anger will make it almost impossible to remember to keep on practicing the things God expects of us. I don’t believe in spirits or demons possessing my mind. I do believe that anger can, and when it does it does not give up until it has damaged those I love or those who are trying to see Christ in me. In fact, it keeps me from continually practicing the righteous God expects from me.

There are practical ideas like this throughout the book of James. I look forward to going back tomorrow and finding more gold from this book. I encourage you to do the same.

[1] “Word Pictures in the New Testament,” by A.T. Robertson, Volume VI, Page 21.