Sunday, September 30, 2012

Christians and Social Justice

Christians and Social Justice

Stan Feldsine September 27, 2012

Jesus commanded us to care for the poor; of this we are sure. In Matthew 25:34-40 Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is our inheritance if we take in the poor, feed and clothe them, a clear and unmistakable message.

In today’s Christian world, there seems to be considerable confusion about just how to do that though. In particular, should we feed them by throwing our support behind government sponsored social justice programs, and tax the rich so we can give to the poor, or is there a better way?

What is Social Justice?

The aim of “social justice”[1] as it is known today is “equality of outcome”[2]. Equality of outcome is defined as “a state in which people have approximately the same material wealth or, more generally, in which the general economic conditions of their lives are similar. Achieving this requires reducing or eliminating material inequalities between individuals or households in a society.”[3] This fairly accurately describes the current political strategy for balancing the living standards of the poor and rich through taxation and redistribution. This is being done through various government programs in an effort to raise the living standards of the poor. It is supported by a large segment of Americans who have a well-meaning concern for the plight of the poor and the more vocal among them are making their voices heard in Occupy Wall Street and other movements as well as the anti-rich and anti-conservative rhetoric being heard on the streets and public forums today.

As Christians, we should be very concerned with what the Bible teaches, and question whether social justice is a legitimate primary strategy that will match the model that Jesus provided to feed the poor.

God’s Model for Caring for the Poor

In attempting to find solutions to poverty, one thing that cannot be ignored is that in all Jesus’ and His follower’s teachings, there is never a mention of partnering with the state, the Roman government to feed the poor. Rather, Jesus teaches that the poor are cared for first by their family, then by the church. Paul is quite clear about this in his first letter to Timothy.

1Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1Timothy 5:16 If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows

Note that in 1 Timothy 5:16, the church is called to care for those widows who are without family, and by application, this principle can be applied to caring for the poor as well. The principle of care for the poor by the family and the church is corroborated in Acts 4:31-35, the story of the Pentecost where the multitudes of believers had received the Holy Spirit. These Spirit filled people were acting out what would later be confirmed in Paul’s letter to Timothy. These initial members of the church shared their possessions as each had abundance, and as others had need. Additionally, in Acts 6:1-7 we read of the administration of the daily distribution of a public charity. In each of these passages we see the well off giving of their abundance to those less well off. Scripture is consistent in that there is nothing to indicate that either Jesus taught, nor anyone subscribed to a line of thought that a program of “equality of outcome” was needed to raise the living standard of the poor. There is no evidence of coerced giving to balance inequalities between individuals or households anywhere in scripture. God’s plan for caring for the poor is for the family to care for them. If the family is unable, then the spirit filled church will share what they have as each has need. This mode of operation is consistent throughout scripture, we are always invited to participate, and never coerced.

It should be noted that the church spoke of here is a body of believers, the Bride of Christ, not a church building. The bride could be manifested as the members of a church who meet on Sunday, home fellowships, believers organized by common interests, charity groups, or any other gathering of believers.

The Causes of Poverty

Today, as Christians, many of us tend to look at the problem of the poor through worldly eyes. Through those eyes, the problems seem insurmountable, impossible to solve. God’s lifelines for the poor appear to have been broken for some time, if not for all time. Our families, our churches, charities and so on are falling far short, and poverty, which always seems to be with us, is on the rise. The empirical evidence seems to indicate that God’s plan is failing.

Should we as Christians abandon God’s plan, and decide for ourselves what the best plan is, or should we stay with God’s plan no matter how it seems to be doing? Before we can answer questions regarding how to address systemic poverty, we need to determine what makes a person poor. There are a number of causes for poverty, not the least of which is laziness:

Proverbs 19:15 Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, And an idle person will suffer hunger.

Proverbs 24:30-34 I once walked by the field and the vineyard of a lazy fool. (31) Thorns and weeds were everywhere, and the stone wall had fallen down. (32) When I saw this, it taught me a lesson: (33) Sleep a little. Doze a little. Fold your hands and twiddle your thumbs. (34) Suddenly poverty hits you and everything is gone!

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 Try your best to live quietly, to mind your own business, and to work hard, just as we taught you to do. (12) Then you will be respected by people who are not followers of the Lord, and you won't have to depend on anyone.

Poverty can also be caused by injustice:

Proverbs 13:23 Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor, And for lack of justice there is waste.

Poverty can also be brought on by a number of other factors, including death in the family, oppression, and other causes.

The Remedy for Poverty

The following passage from Ezekiel is interesting for it tells us what the primary need of the poor is, as well as illustrates the justice eventually delivered when a nation does not care for it’s poor.

Ezekiel 16:49 Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy

Note that Sodom was condemned in part for “not strengthening the hand of the poor and needy”. It does not say they were condemned for holding back food and provisions. The Hebrew for “strengthen” here is ‘to strengthen, cure, help, fortify’ and to ‘encourage’. These verbs clearly indicate that the role of the family and church is to rise up the poor out of poverty by encouraging and helping them, with the implication that they would be taught to become productive and learn to care for themselves. This truth gives understanding that programs put into place by the family, church, or even the state to address poverty should primarily “strengthen their hands”.

This is corroborated in 1 Timothy 5:9-16, where Paul is instructing Timothy in the care of widows, with practical application to the poor as well. Widows are not to be taken under the care of the church unless “she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.” Furthermore, Paul warns Timothy regarding the tendency of younger widows, “they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle but also gossips and busybodies, saying things which they ought not.” Paul instructs Timothy, “Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”

This passage is loaded with information that guides us in how to lift a person out of poverty. Clearly, Paul is teaching Timothy that widows who have been industrious have learned to be productive, and it is these who are taken under the care of the church when they have need. Those who tend to idleness are turned away from the churches care and sent to the care of the family. An implication here is that how to lead productive lives is taught in the home.

It is clear that a significant cause of poverty according to God is idleness, and that the remedy for it is “strengthening of the hands”, rather than in-discriminant distribution of food.

There are additional passages that indicate that the greater need of the poor is other than satisfying their hunger needs. One of these passages is frequently used out of context by the social justice advocates, John 21:15-17:

John 21:15-17 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." (16) He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." (17) He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep.

In this passage, Jesus tells Peter once each to feed his lambs and his sheep, and once to tend to His sheep. Many Christians use this passage to justify their advocacy of social justice programs to feed the poor, as indeed, Peter is told to feed the lambs and sheep food twice. However, a deeper look at this passage reveals truths that may be overlooked, and Matthew Henry in his commentary helps us to understand this passage. The first thing to note is that Jesus is primarily commissioning Peter to feed his sheep spiritual food. The following passages corroborate the importance of spiritual food over physical food:

John 6:27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."

Matthew 6:31-33 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' (32) For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. (33) But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Additionally it is interesting to note when taking a look through the history of Peter that after hearing these words of Jesus, did not set up a great food distribution system, but rather, he was a great teacher in the early days of the church, and he fed the sheep spiritual food. Peter’s life and teachings were a great example of “strengthening the hands” of the poor, and this seems to be completely overlooked in the general argument that handouts to the poor should be without expectation that they should learn to be productive.

Another important observation is how sheep actually are fed. Sheep of the day had shepherds, whom fed the sheep by leading them to green pastures. They were led to where the food was, and did not simply have the food laid before them. There is a real picture here that reemphasizes the plan God has for feeding the poor that their providers should lead them to where the food is, helping them along and giving them a role to play, rather than just laying the food before them.

A well-known and applicable quote comes to mind, especially considering Peter was a fisherman, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime”.

Although it may seem incongruous to claim we can end poverty by providing the poor with spiritual food, in reality, this is in fact the most effective way to end poverty according to God’s Word. We read above in Proverbs that idleness leads to poverty, and God’s word teaches us to “strengthen their hands” thus helping to eliminate idleness..

The Christian Response to Poverty

Modern social justice seeks to reduce the disparity between the rich and poor by legislating programs and taxes that manipulate the flow of money. These programs forcibly move money from those who are well off into state programs with budgets that seek to uplift the poor. In spite of what appears to be a caring response to the poor, as we have seen, there is no scriptural precedent for this. These policies are fraught with pitfalls. Clearly, those who have worked hard and earned what they have are being robbed when coerced via unequal taxation. These policies do little to “strengthen the hand” of the poor. There is no scriptural involvement of family nor church, in fact, the state appears to be creating dependents, rather than assisting families and churches in taking on that role.

As Christians we have to ask ourselves whether or not the problem of poverty today isn’t due to our failure at large to believe that God is able to care for the poor. Our actions and words of encouragement to each other demonstrate what we believe. During this election season so many of us are promoting a primary message to vote for one candidate or the other so that they can make inroads into the elimination of poverty. We have turned to the state, rather than to God and his model to solve this problem. Rather than understanding the biblical view of salvation from poverty, we ignorantly promote secular state policies that have no chance of success. They have no chance of success because God is being left out of the solution, and his model is being ignored.

The problem of poverty is persistent, and we fall short in part because we as the church promote political solutions by secular government at the forefront rather than making our primary message about God, His care and love for the poor, and His biblical model for dealing with poverty.


In conveying this message in public forums, I have been accused of wanting to “starve the poor until they turn to Jesus”, by more than one liberal Christian. No, I have no desire to starve them, but only that we find the true way out of poverty, a way that will “strengthen the hand” of the poor, feed them, AND secure their eternal destiny.

I believe that our nation has gone so far off course that Christians among us who are not grounded in the Word are unable to see the truth. Sin has overlaid sin, nationally and individually, and confusion reigns. When we, as Christians fail to promote and encourage the biblical role of the family and the church as God’s solution to poverty, and promote politicians who promise secular social justice instead, we are directing our fellow brothers and sisters away from God’s plan and model. And ultimately, any plan other than God’s is going to fall short.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

20 Prophecies of the 1st Coming of Jesus Christ

20 Prophecies of the 1st Coming of Jesus Christ

Thanks to Chuck Missler, on the Beyond Coincidence DVD.

2Pe 1:19-21  And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;  (20)  knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,  (21)  for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

The coming Messiah, Jesus, was to be a Decendant from King David's family line.

2Sa_7:12-17  And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.  (13)  He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.  (14)  I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:  (15)  But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.  (16)  And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.  (17)  According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.

Psa_89:3-4  I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant,  (4)  Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah.

Psa_110:1-4  The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.  (2)  The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.  (3)  Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.  (4)  The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

Psa_132:11  The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne.

Isa_9:6-7  For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  (7)  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Isa_11:1-4  And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:  (2)  And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;  (3)  And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:  (4)  But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

He would be born of a virgin

Gen_3:15  And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Isa 7:14  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

He would be born in Bethlehem

Mic_5:2  But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

He would sojourn in Egypt

Hos_11:1  When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.

He would live in Galiliee

Isa_9:1-2  Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.  (2)  The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Mat_4:12-16  Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;  (13)  And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:  (14)  That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,  (15)  The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;  (16)  The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.

...In Nazareth

Isa_11:1-2  And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:  (2)  And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

He would be announced by an Elijah-like herald

Isa 40:2-5  Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.  (3)  The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  (4)  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:  (5)  And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

Mal 3:1  Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.

Mal 4:5  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

Would occasion massacre of Bethlehem's children

Gen 35:19-20  And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.  (20)  And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day.

Jer 31:15  Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.

Would proclaim a Jubilee to the world

Isa 58:6  Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

Isa 61:1  The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

His mission would include the Gentiles

Isa 42:1-4  Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.  (2)  He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.  (3)  A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.  (4)  He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law.

Ministry would be one of healing

Isa 53:4-5  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  (5)  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

He would teach through parables

Isa 6:9-10  And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.  (10)  Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Psa 78:1-7  Maschil of Asaph. Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.  (2)  I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:  (3)  Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.  (4)  We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.  (5)  For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:  (6)  That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:  (7)  That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:

He would be disbelieved, rejected by Rulers

Psa 69:4  They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.

Psa 118:22  The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

Isa 6:10  Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Isa 29:13  Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Isa 53:1  Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

Would make a triumphal entry into Jerusalem

Zec 9:9  Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

Psa 118:20  This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter.

Betrayed by friend for 30 pieces of silver

Zec 11:1-13  Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.  (2)  Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.  (3)  There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled.  (4)  Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;  (5)  Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the LORD; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not.  (6)  For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour's hand, and into the hand of his king: and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them.  (7)  And I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock. And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock.  (8)  Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.  (9)  Then said I, I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another.  (10)  And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.  (11)  And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD.  (12)  And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.  (13)  And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.

Psa 41:9  Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.

Would be like a smitten shepherd

Zec 13:7  Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.

Would be given vinegar and gall

Psa 69:21  They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

They would cast lots for His garments

Psa 22:18  They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

His side, hands and feet would be pierced   

Zec 12:10  And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

Psa 22:16  For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

Not a bone would be broken

Exo 12:46  In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.

Num 9:12  They shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break any bone of it: according to all the ordinances of the passover they shall keep it.

Psa 34:20  He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.

Would die among malefactors

Isa 53:9  And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Isa 53:12  Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

His dying words foretold

Psa 22:1   My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

Psa 31:5  Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.

Would be buried by a rich man

Isa 53:9  And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Rise from the dead on the 3rd day

Gen 22:4  Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

Psa 16:10-11  For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.  (11)  Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

Jon 1:17  Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Hos 6:2  After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.

Resurrection followed by the destruction of Jerusalem

Dan 9:26  And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

Dan 11:31  And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.

Dan 12:1  And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

Dan 12:11  And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Chick Fil A as a Signpost

In May, when our president made his endorsement of gay marriage, I recall an almost physical chill that settled on America. Our highest leaders, Biden and Obama officially entered into full rebellion with our Holy God, and the course of America turned toward a future of darkness that is hard to imagine. The president, on June 1st, proclaimed June 2012 to be LGBT Pride Month, thus turning the nation to a celebration of immorality. The American military is fully engaged in a celebration of immorality as well, with troops marching in gay pride parades in full uniform.
Isa 5:20  Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! 

Jeremiah calls out to America from the past, and speaks about droughts, and their cause.
Jer 14:1-7  The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the droughts.  (2)  "Judah mourns, And her gates languish; They mourn for the land, And the cry of Jerusalem has gone up.  (3)  Their nobles have sent their lads for water; They went to the cisterns and found no water. They returned with their vessels empty; They were ashamed and confounded And covered their heads.  (4)  Because the ground is parched, For there was no rain in the land, The plowmen were ashamed; They covered their heads.  (5)  Yes, the deer also gave birth in the field, But left because there was no grass.  (6)  And the wild donkeys stood in the desolate heights; They sniffed at the wind like jackals; Their eyes failed because there was no grass."  (7)  O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, Do it for Your name's sake; For our backslidings are many, We have sinned against You.
It is no coincidence that drought, the worst in 50 years so far, also started in June 2012, the month America as a nation began celebrating immorality.
God’s justice through drought is sobering.

What is also sobering, is that Christian persecution in America has started with strength at the same time. In the Middle East, it is epidemic. Our Christian society in America is disappearing, and in it’s place is coming the same sort of persecution the Middle East is experiencing. John McTernnan has written about this better than I could. I encourage you to read this article.  He is confirming what I have said regarding the reprobates (those with wicked minds) beginning to bring the fight for immorality directly to those that are standing against it, Christian churches, businesses, and individuals.

Dan Cathy, the COO of Chick Fil A recently stated that he was for traditional marriage and biblical principles in news interviews. As a result, aside from the reprobate uproar, which has reached the mainstream media, the leaders of the cities of Boston and Chicago have declared that they will make it as difficult as possible for Chick Fil A to open restaurants in their cities. What is happening to Chick Fil A is, to me, a signpost. It is a sign showing us what time it is, and the time when we are beginning to be significantly persecuted because of a stand for God’s holiness is at hand.

If you would like to see how this is affecting individuals, simply take a stand for your Christian values and against the sins of immorality in the secular arena and see what kind of response you get. There is a good chance you will be met with unreasonable and abusive ranting. Ask me how I know.
I write this in the interest of making you aware of what is going on, so you can be ready. Ezekiel speaks of the responsibilities of a watchman.

Eze 33:1-6  Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying,  (2)  "Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: 'When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman,  (3)  when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people,  (4)  then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head.  (5)  He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life.  (6)  But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand.'

I believe this battle will come to all of us eventually, and we will be forced to make a decision. We will either make our stand for God and His Holiness, or we will be pushed down by the evil roiling this country. We won’t be able to avoid it. I pray that we are all able to stand in the evil day.

Eph 6:13  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

A question frequently asked. A question infrequently answered. I suspect that most of the time, we just want to figure out how to have more good things come our way, and we are frustrated with our inability to figure out the formula. We have been told that God is good, and we believe that we are good, and good plus good should equal even more goodness. But frequently it doesn’t seem to work out that way. As good as we believe we are, or someone close to us is, sometimes it just seems like bad things just keep piling on them or us unjustly.
This paper will pull back the veil on the spiritual realm from which good and bad comes, and show who is a truly good person.  This paper will not seek to reveal specifics such as why did this bad thing happen to this good person, but rather, will seek to give you understanding of the principles involved, so that you can make appropriate changes yourself, and thus change your life dramatically for the better.

God’s Desire is Goodness

I would like to suggest that a greater understanding of good and bad things in relation to good and bad people lies in seeing things from God’s perspective. If God is so frequently accused of causing bad things to happen to good people, then let’s look into the mind of God and see what He says about this topic for ourselves. Does God really want good things to happen to us, or is this just a lie that people tell, and God is really just indifferent, or at worst, mean and vindictive?
In the book of Jeremiah, we are told:
Jeremiah 29:11-13  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  (12)  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  (13)  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah says that God’s thoughts toward us are of peace, and not evil, that we might be given by Him a future and a hope.  That sounds good, let’s also look at a couple of the Psalms and see what others have to say about this:
Psalms_84:11  For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.

Psalms 91:1-4  He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.  (2)  I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust."  (3)  Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence.  (4)  He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

Psalms 91:9-11  Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place,  (10)  No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;  (11)  For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.

The Psalmist here corroborates what Jeremiah said.  In Psalm 84, the Lord is a sun and shield. This means that when we lack understanding, he will give it to us kind of like when we have an “aha” moment and the light is turned on. And He is a shield and protects us from evil.  In Psalm 91, God is trustworthy, and will keep us from being trapped by bad things, and from sickness.  He provides a refuge for us. Indeed, it is plainly stated in verse 10, no evil will befall us, nor shall sickness come near our dwelling.

Conditional Goodness

There are hundreds of other passages that speak of the goodness of God, and His desire for good to us. A study of these passages clearly shows that when bad things happen to good people, this is not God’s desire for us. But there is a clue in these passages that might help us to understand what is really going on when we see so much bad happening to so many good people.
Notice that there is an overriding theme of drawing close to God in these passages. In Jeremiah, we read that God will hear us if we call to Him and pray. The implication here is if we seek Him, He will acknowledge us, with goodness. In the Psalm 84, we read that no good thing will be withheld from us, if, we walk uprightly. In the Bible, walking uprightly means to walk by faith, believing in God. In Psalm 91, these good things are conditional upon our drawing close to God, abiding under His shadow, making Him our dwelling place, etc. meaning that we are searching Him out and are drawing close to Him. The negative implication here is important. If we are not under His covering, we are exposed, in the same way that chicks are exposed if they chose to run in the wild, outside the hen’s covering.
So what we have read so far is that God’s desire for us is goodness, and that goodness is available to all those who draw close to Him. So does this mean that if we are not drawing close to Him, that bad things will happen? Let’s look at some more passages and see what we can learn.

Conditional Badness

In the Old Testament we find the history of the Israelites. The New Testament tells us that the Israelites and their history is for our example. (1 Corinthians 10:1-11)  Their history reveals some astonishing truths regarding good and bad things, good and bad people. In this passage from Leviticus, we read of God’s promise of goodness, and again, we see the condition. If they walk close to God, they will be prosperous.
Leviticus 26:3-7  'If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them,  (4)  then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.  (5)  Your threshing shall last till the time of vintage, and the vintage shall last till the time of sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.  (6)  I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land.  (7)  You will chase your enemies, and they shall fall by the sword before you.

Throughout the history of the Israelites, we see that they turned their back on God, and the results are recorded over and over again for us.  The following passage from Jeremiah is one example.
Jer 14:1-7  The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the droughts.  (2)  "Judah mourns, And her gates languish; They mourn for the land, And the cry of Jerusalem has gone up.  (3)  Their nobles have sent their lads for water; They went to the cisterns and found no water. They returned with their vessels empty; They were ashamed and confounded And covered their heads.  (4)  Because the ground is parched, For there was no rain in the land, The plowmen were ashamed; They covered their heads.  (5)  Yes, the deer also gave birth in the field, But left because there was no grass.  (6)  And the wild donkeys stood in the desolate heights; They sniffed at the wind like jackals; Their eyes failed because there was no grass."  (7)  O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, Do it for Your name's sake; For our backslidings are many, We have sinned against You.

Clearly, bad things were happening here, and we read that the cause was their iniquities and backsliding. In other words, they turned away from God and did what seemed to be right in their own eyes.  I don’t believe this is the result of a vindictive God, this is simply what happens according to God’s spiritual principles when someone or some nation turns so their back is to God.

Our Response

To me, these principles are like physical laws. No one argues with the Law of Thermodynamics, or the Law of Gravity. These laws describe physical things as they are, and mankind has no power to change them. So to, the Bible describes God’s spiritual realm as it is, and mankind has no power to change it. Our response is to either accept things as they are, or reject them. But as rejecting the Law of Gravity won’t save you from harm if you jump off a building, so too, rejecting the Biblical principles of the spiritual realm will not render them ineffective either. Like gravity, we live under the power of Biblical principles even when we are unaware of it.  Listen to this passage from Isaiah, who muses about the greatness of God and the smallness of man:

Isaiah 45:9-10  "Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'?  (10)  Woe to him who says to his father, 'What are you begetting?' Or to the woman, 'What have you brought forth?' "

This passage in Isaiah agrees with the foolishness that ignoring God won’t make His principles ineffective.  Here is another passage from Job that exhibits the same folly. God is talking to Job:
Job 38:2-12  Why do you talk so much when you know so little?  (3)  Now get ready to face me! Can you answer the questions I ask?  (4)  How did I lay the foundation for the earth? Were you there?  (5)  Doubtless you know who decided its length and width.  (6)  What supports the foundation? Who placed the cornerstone,  (7)  while morning stars sang, and angels rejoiced?  (8)  When the ocean was born, I set its boundaries  (9)  and wrapped it in blankets of thickest fog.  (10)  Then I built a wall around it, locked the gates,  (11)  and said, "Your powerful waves stop here! They can go no farther."  (12)  Did you ever tell the sun to rise? And did it obey?

It seems clear that our response to what we have read so far is one of humility and acceptance. Rebelling against God will get us bad results. Drawing close to him will get us good results. Deuteronomy give us a great set of actions to take in response to what we have read.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21  "Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  (19)  You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  (20)  And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,  (21)  that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.

How to Draw Close to God

To be sure, we should clearly understand that there is no formula or set of carefully followed rules that will turn the hand of God in your favor. There is nothing that you can do that will cause God to see you as good enough to merit His goodness.  You may have noticed the conditions God places on His blessings are to draw near to Him. To draw near to God, you must first believe that He exists, and then you must talk about it with other people. Let’s see what the Apostle Paul had to say about this in the New Testament:
Romans 10:8-10  All who are acceptable because of their faith simply say, "The message is as near as your mouth or your heart." And this is the same message we preach about faith.  (9)  So you will be saved, if you honestly say, "Jesus is Lord," and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death.  (10)  God will accept you and save you, if you truly believe this and tell it to others.

Here again, in the New Testament, we read the consistent message that we are acceptable to God, if we draw near to Him. Paul gives us some important insight into how we can begin to draw near to God, by honestly saying that “Jesus is Lord”, and believing that God raised Him from death. The act of believing will naturally bring you closer to Him, and making the statement that “Jesus is Lord” verbally to others will endear you to Him.
In this next passage, Paul is speaking to people who have just started believing, and tells them that he is praying that they come to know God, and that God will make them truly happy.
Colossians 1:9-11  We have not stopped praying for you since the first day we heard about you. In fact, we always pray that God will show you everything he wants you to do and that you may have all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives.  (10)  Then you will live a life that honors the Lord, and you will always please him by doing good deeds. You will come to know God even better.  (11)  His glorious power will make you patient and strong enough to endure anything, and you will be truly happy.

I pray that you will consider drawing close to God today, and begin to receive the goodness that He has for you.

How Much a Christian Can Be Tested

How Much a Christian Can Be Tested
1 Corinthians 10:12-13

Topic Explanation

The topic of this paper is temptation and testing of new Christians.  1 Corinthians 10:13 states that God will not allow us be tempted or tested beyond what we can endure, and that He will provide a way of escape. We will look at the historical and literary context these words were written in, explain its importance to the original hearers in Corinth, and make application to today’s new Christian readers.

The General Historical Context / Cultural Background / Letter Form

Corinth was a major metropolitan city of approximately 600,000 people made so by it’s strategic location. It is located on an isthmus, a necessary travel connection between the landmasses north and south of it, but also between the seas to the east and the west. The isthmus is narrow enough to facilitate shipping passage between the Aegean and Adriatic Seas by moving ships across the 4 miles wide landmass on rollers.[1] 
This central location for land and see travel meant that Corinth had a very diverse population, which resulted in the city having a population steeped in religious syncretism as well as immorality. This city was immoral to such a degree that the name of the city was used in a word coined to mean “to practice fornication”, korinthiazomai, meaning Corinthianize.
The people of Corinth were also lovers of wisdom and knowledge, and were proud and arrogant.[2]  Their accomplishments, accumulation of knowledge, and the mixture of religions caused them to be puffed up with pride. Their high opinions of themselves lead to a diluted worldly understanding of scripture. They became dogmatic and split into various factions, each believing that their scriptural understanding was correct, and others were wrong. These factions caused divisions in the body of Christ.
It is the problems formed within this environment that Paul addressed his letters to the Corinthians. This letter takes the form of a “real letter”, meaning that this letter to the Corinthians is intended for specifically the persons addressed, and not the public in general. This letter addresses specific issues the Corinthians were dealing with.

Literary Context

To establish the literary context for 1Co 10:12-13, we will take a quick look back at Chapters 8 & 9. Interestingly, and pertinent to the topic of this paper, Paul starts by reminding his readers that “knowledge makes us proud of ourselves” and that “people who think they know so much don't know anything at all.”  1Co 8:1-2 (CEV).  He is addressing the proud arrogance of the Corinthians, which has lead them into all sorts of error. Paul, using an example of one of their points of error, reminds them of their responsibility not to “cause problems for someone with a weak conscience, just because you have the right to eat anything.” 1Co 8:9 (CEV) Paul reminds the proud Corinthians that he is “willing to put up with anything to keep from causing trouble for the message about Christ.’ 1Co 9:12b (CEV)
Clearly, it would seem that the proud Corinthian Greeks had allowed their accumulation of knowledge to puff them up to the point where they believed that their accumulated knowledge had elevated them to a point above concern for their fellow believer. They were using this self-perceived elevation for their own freedoms, giving place to pride, and causing their fellow Corinthians in the church to stumble and fall, and creating confusion. Paul was correcting this arrogant behavior and teaching them that they should be more concerned about the less mature followers of Christ.
Paul tells them that he has “never used these privileges of mine, and I am not writing this because I want to start now. I would rather die than have someone rob me of the right to take pride in this.” 1Co 9:15 (CEV) This is an amazing statement that indicates how highly Paul valued care and not being a stumbling block to those around him, vs. personally enjoying certain freedoms afforded him by Christ at their expense. Rather, he has “become all things to all men, that (he) might by all means save some.” 1Co 9:22 (NKJV)  Paul is teaching that the individual salvation of those around us is far more important than our enjoyment of our individual freedom at their expense.

Particular Context of Passage

This bring us to our text, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.  Paul brought his teaching into the prevailing haughty crowds of believers, who have for all intents and purposes, have raised themselves up in their own minds to the pinnacles of wisdom.  Paul seeks to turn a light on by providing warnings from history showing that they were (and we are) just as susceptible of displeasing God as their “fathers”, the people of great priviledge whom God supernaturally cared for during the exodus. (1Co 10:1-6)  He warns them; saying “Even if you think you can stand up to temptation, be careful not to fall.” 1Co 10:12 (CEV) Paul was addressing those proud believers with the warning learned from the Israelites of times past that they should not be so confident in their ability to stand up to temptation without falling. He continues with the admonition that they “are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted. But God can be trusted not to let (them) be tempted too much, and he will show (them) how to escape from (their) temptations.”, 1Co 10-13 (CEV), indicating that they were no different than those privileged people who fell so hard, and that it was God who would provide their escape.

Practical Applications for Today’s Christian

Let’s look at these two verses in some detail:

1Co 10:12-13  Even if you think you can stand up to temptation, be careful not to fall.  (13)  You are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted. But God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much, and he will show you how to escape from your temptations. (CEV)
In 1Co 10-12, the idea behind “standing” means to abide, or continue.  To me means to presume that we would be able to abide or continue in, or allow temptation to linger, without giving in to it, or falling. 
The word “temptation” being translated means solicitation or provocation. The devil seeks to solicit or provoke us to sin, such as in the case of the Corinthians, to immorality, fornication, pride, and every other sin. Temptation occurs in the mind, before sin actually takes place. We are tempted to sin in our mind with our desires.
The word for “fall” means just that, to fall down.
Thus, in verse 12, Paul is warning us that we are to be careful, that our perceived ability to resist sin while allowing temptations to linger is not sure, and by implication, likely to result in a fall, and giving in to the sin. We should not attempt to stand up to temptation, but rather, put it out of our minds immediately.
In 1Co 10:13, Paul continues, instructing that all of us, new Christians and old, are tempted in the same manner.  The struggles of new Christians are no harder nor easier than the struggles of the Israelites of history or veteran Christians in the days of Paul or of Christians today. Satan tempts everyone equally across all times. 
God will not let us be tempted beyond what we are able to endure, and will always provide a way out. Knowing then that temptation begins in the mind, by our desires, Paul would have us know that when we are tempted, from the very first awareness in our minds of such temptation, we are given the ability to turn away from the sin we are being tempted into.
In the case of immorality for example, whether adultery, homosexuality, watching pornography, and so on, there is always an initial temptation prior to our acting out and performing the actual sin.  The way God gives us an out is apparent in these early stages of temptation.  From the onset of temptation, we would best immediately turn to God, ask for His strength to endure and escape, and turn our minds to other things, thus avoiding the sin.
If we look back on a time we fell into sin, and we are honest with ourselves, we can see that indeed, we were initially tempted, and we did not turn away when God told us to. We forfeited His escape route, perhaps thinking we in our own strength could stand through the temptation without falling, and were carried into sin. [3]
This is the same with pride. There is always an initial temptation, which if turned from, will not give birth to the actual sin of pride.
Another example is regarding contemporary views of homosexuality. Homosexuality is a choice. At some point in every homosexual’s life, they were faced with the choice wherein they could turn away from the sin of homosexuality, or give into it. Either their eyes are blinded from the truth that they have a choice (ignorance) or they ignore the truth (rebellion) and believe that this temptation is beyond what they can endure, and they believe that there is no escape. But the fact remains, at some point, a choice was made, and a path to sin was traversed. God faithfully provided an escape, and the fault of the fall was with the individual.


[2] Gordon Fee, How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth, pg 61
[3] ?AuthorID=1&contentID=7210&commInfo=25&topic=1%20Corinthians