Category Archives: Gleanings

Fame!

“It is not good to eat much honey; so to seek one’s own glory is not glory”, said wise Solomon under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (Proverbs 25:27)

Philosopher George Santayana (A.D. 1863 – 1952) grasped the gist of that godly wisdom when he said, “the highest form of vanity is love of fame.”

One notable Biblical example of this inglorious seeking of one’s own glory is recorded in the Gospels, and the future apostles James and John are the perps.

“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” (Matthew 20:20,21)

(Mark’s account, 10:35-37, makes clear that James and John were complicit with their mother, and not innocent of her wrongful desire to see her sons in the limelight.)

One evil in our lust to shine brighter than anyone else is the desire for that which belongs to God alone,  in  direct rebellion to God’s own jealous (Exodus 34:14, Deuteronomy 4:24, Nahum 1:2 et. al.) declaration about His glory: “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.” (Isaiah 42:8, cf. vs. 11)

And the folly of this particular sin is made clear by the truth that no frail creature could even bear such glory! If the light in which He dwells is unapproachable and which no man can see or has seen (1 Timothy 6:16), how much less could any creature be the source of such light?

Our place is to reflect the light of divine glory, attributing all glory to God as its source as we show it forth to others. Those who will receive praise from God…those who will hear those thrilling words, “well done, good and faithful servant” therein have enough to fill their hearts with everlasting satisfaction and joy!

“Let them praise the name of the LORD, for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:13)

The allure of glory was what the evil one used when he vainly tempted our Lord to worship him. “…the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘all these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me’.” (Matthew 4:8,9)

But let’s consider what His Father’s ultimate purpose was for the Son: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.” (Philippians 2:8,9)

So because He did not seek glory, but to do His Father’s will, the Man Christ Jesus ultimately received an eternal renown that the evil one could never have given! And so it is for His disciples, when we aim at obedience instead of looking to be famous, well known, and admired. For the inspired prophet Daniel writes: “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)

And the same Holy Spirit proclaims through the apostle that there will be “… glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 2:10)

Previously published August 21, A.D. 2016  

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The Great Taboo

Matthew 7:1 is a favorite Bible verse of those who want to justify themselves: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Jesus speaking, parallel verse Luke 6:37). Other passages warn against unrighteous judgment, public or personal. Does this mean that ALL judgment is wrong? Apparently many answer that question affirmatively.

Concluding that something is ethically wrong and expressing that conclusion is the great taboo. Sure, you can advise someone that a certain act is presently criminal. And with a  smile you can express approval (another word for favorable judgment) of almost any behavior, even behaviors that once were illegal. And of course you can keep silent and bottle up your disapproval. But whatever you do, never, never express your conviction that another’s beliefs or actions are to be condemned as wrong.

It is true (judged this writer) that vigilantism – usurping the role of a lawful executor of justice – is wrong. Yet the Psalmist asks God to teach him good judgment, see Psalm 119:66. In other passages, God’s word commands or expects us to judge…to have a righteous estimation of human behavior.

For example Proverbs 31:9 reads, “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”

Paul includes judgment as he envisions a peaceful congregation in ancient Corinth: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

In the same letter Christ’s servant further teaches the disciples at Corinth about the proper place of judgment in the Chrisitan community: “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? (1 Corinthians 6:1-5)

Further on in that letter the apostle instructs them about judgment as it relates to religious teaching (a form of prophesying.) “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.” 1 Corinthians 14:29.

And the same Christ who said “judge not that you be not judged” also said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment, John 7:24.” The word judge in that saying of His and the word love in another well known saying of His – “love your enemies” – have something in common. They are imperatives. They have the force of a command. Thus spoke the King of kings.

Merciless judgment? No, “…for judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment,” James 2:13. Unrighteous, superficial, biased judgment? Of course not, consider Luke 18:2ff and Romans 2:1.

But no ethical discernment at all? No universal standard of  right and wrong? You be the judge!

Previously published August 14, A.D. 2016 

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The Calendar

BC  OR  BCE,
AD  OR  CE:
JESUS ANCHORS
THE CALENDAR!

Shortly after this message was posted on the street sign outside of a local church, a neighbor came over to share not only the encouragement that she and her husband read and appreciate the sign’s brief weekly notes, but to inquire further about the exact meaning of this particular one. An expanded version of the answer she was given follows.

B.C. of course stands for Before Christ. Traditionally, anything that occurred in history prior to Christ’s advent is dated recessively with reference to that advent. In other words the further into the past we explore, the higher the number of an event’s date. For example Greek philosopher Aristotle began tutoring military conqueror Alexander the Great in 343 B.C. and King Solomon, through whom the Holy Spirit tutors to this day by way of Solomon’s inspired Proverbs, died about 930 B.C.

A.D. does not stand for “after death,” that is the death (and resurrection) of the Lord Jesus, as some have supposed. It represents the short Latin phrase Anno Domini, meaning year of our Lord. As time moves onward with reference to our Lord’s advent, each year has a higher number.

So Jesus anchors the calendar* in that sense that ALL of history is reckoned with His first advent as its central event! The calendar in use by all mankind declares this: anything that has happened from creation to the present, happened either B.C. or A.D. – “before Christ” or “in the year of our Lord!”

This in itself is a powerful testimony to His glorious Name. In ancient times, nations and empires counted years according to kingly dynasties or other significant events such as the Greek olympics. Today, the entire world uses the same calendar. Everyone reckons time according to history’s most significant event: the coming of the Son of God into the world!

As you might surmise, some don’t like that! Enter our other two acronyms, B.C.E. and C.E. They represent, respectively, “Before Common Era” and “Common Era.” In other words, those who want to marginalize the Lord Jesus Christ realize that they can’t change the numbering of the years, but they hope to eradicate awareness of WHY the years are numbered in the way they are.

Thus as you might have noticed, your friendly neighborhood gleaning author makes profuse use of the terms A.D., or “year of our Lord,” or “year of grace” both in things written for public consumption and in private, such as dating paper checks, correspondence, etc. He regards this as one small way to fight the spirit of antichrist, and to bear witness to Him Who in the year A.D. Unknown will come again to put a final punctuation mark on history – which might be called, as someone cleverly has pointed out, HIS STORY!

* Two facts should be noted in connection with this. One, there is no “year zero.” The next calendar year after 1 B.C. is A.D. 1. Two, though the actual date of Christ’s birth is a few years before A.D.1, this does represent any error in the Bible.

adapted from a former “Gleaning”, originally published January 3, A.D. 2016

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Futurism and Preterism

Those terms relate to the interpretation* of prophecy in Scripture – specifically to its foretelling aspect, i.e. predicting the future. Bible prophecy includes foretelling, but its primary purpose is not merely to give information about the future. Prediction is subservient to prophetic exhortations to repent and believe. Prophecy comforts God’s people and calls them to obedience in dark times. In fact “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10)

Here are a couple of nutshell definitions: Futurism regards a Scriptural prediction as NOT having come to pass yet. Preterism regards a Scriptural prediction as ALREADY having come to pass.

Regarding some predictions, all Bible believing people are preterists. For instance, all believe that specific predictions made by inspired men like David (Psalm 16), Isaiah (chapters 9 and 53), and Micah (5:2) about Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection have all come to pass.

Likewise, all Bible believing people are futurists about other predictions. Jesus foretold the bodily resurrection of all mankind (John 5:28,29), but that is yet to come to pass. And all confess that the ultimate destruction by King Jesus of all His enemies foretold in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26, where death itself is identified as the very last enemy, has not yet happened.

What about the book of Revelation? Is it full of predictions which are still in the future? Or have most of its predictions been fulfilled already? Here are a few reasons for taking a generally preteristic view of this book which is full of symbolism and so challenging to our understanding.

1. According to Revelation’s opening and closing portions (see 1:1, 1:3, 22:6, and 22:10) certain events were shortly to come to pass…the time was near. The revelation was given to John on the island Patmos about the middle of the first century. Are we showing faith in God’s word to hold that those clear time indicator phrases refer to some point in the 21st century or beyond?

2. Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus are commonly known as the pastoral epistles. They give very practical instructions to their recipients about shepherding the congregations over which they had oversight (1 Timothy 1:3ff, Titus 1:5, et. al.) Christ’s seven letters in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are best considered as seven more pastoral epistles to real Christians for whom those time indicator phrases gave much blessing as they read (see 1:3).

In those letters, the Chief Shepherd directly addresses the angels, i.e. human messengers, of the seven churches. He counsels them about then present conditions and circumstances. No doubt the seven letters and the rest of the book of Revelation have instruction for all congregations of all ages, as does all Scripture. But our interpretation* is sloppy if we disregard the original purpose and intent of Scripture in its historical context.

3. Revelation 11:1 refers to the “temple of God and those who worship there.” In His Olivet discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) Jesus predicted the temple’s destruction and Jerusalem’s desolation. Nowhere in the New Testament do we read of the fulfillment of that prediction. But the temple in earthly Jerusalem was destroyed and the city sacked by Roman military might in A.D. 70, about forty years after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, as He foretold.

We have no reason to believe that any of the New Testament was written after that epoch terminating date. So does Revelation 11 refer to a temple that would be built in earthly Jerusalem sometime in the apostles’ distant future? Nowhere does the Bible predict that. The new covenant in Jesus’ blood has swallowed up and superseded the foreshadows of the old covenant temple and its animal sacrifices; they are gone forever. The letter to the Hebrews labors to teach us that.

If a structure is built by man in the 21st century or later in earthly Jerusalem and called a temple, it will have no more significance in terms of God’s plan than the erection of a Hindu temple in New York or an Islamic mosque in Michigan. Revelation 11 refers to that temple to which Peter and John went up to pray sometime after Pentecost but before its A.D. 70 destruction (Acts 3:1).

*Interpretation does not mean assigning a meaning one finds attractive, but discovering the meaning which God and His inspired author intended!

Previously published elsewhere, June 12 A.D. 2016

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Restroom Unrest

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” (King Jesus, per Mark 9:42)


On May 13th A.D. 2016 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued a joint “dear colleague” letter to ALL state run (public) school districts in America regarding access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and athletic activities for so-called transgender students. The full letter can be found online here:  www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201605-title-ix-transgender.pdf

The letter claims to provide guidance but not new legal requirements. Yet,  appealing to Title IX of the Education Amendment of A.D. 1972, it presumes that non-compliance with this “guidance” would nullify a district’s eligibility for federal funds. This is yet another unconstitutional encroachment by the federal government on our liberties; another nanny state overreach. And like the Obergefell vs. Hodges Supreme court opinion regarding marriage before it, this directive seeks to institutionalize wickedness.

Let us consider just one aspect of this morally horrifying and imperialistic decree – namely its revelation of the lowly view of PARENTS taken by the DOJ and the ED. The directive allows not only a parent or guardian, but a minor student acting independently of his or her parents to claim a new “gender identity,” i.e. to claim to be of the sex opposite to the one divine providence assigned. It reads:

“Under Title IX there is no medical diagnosis or treatment requirement that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity.” It goes on to assert that no documenation such as a birth certificate must be provided in order to treat students “consistent with their gender identity.”

In other words according to our federal government, a high school, middle school, or even elementary school student can choose his or her own sex with no input from his or her parents or guardians required!

Some parents choose to involve the state or other parties they trust in the nurture, care, and instruction of their children. But President Truman’s proverbial buck stops with parents. To them alone belongs sovereign authority over every area of the lives of those they beget or adopt, including that of child education.

This dictatorial overreach by the incumbent administration meddles with both hands. One is clenched into a perverse fist, foolishly being shaken in the face of the thrice holy God Who at the beginning made us male and female. “Do you indeed speak righteousness, O gods? Do you judge uprightly, O sons of men? No, in heart you work unrighteousness; on earth you weigh out the violence of your hands.” (from Psalm 58)

The other mischievous hand is busily eviscerating the Fifth Commandment, the first one with a promise: Honor your father and your mother. It violently slaps the faces of parents, God’s vice regents to whom God has given responsibility for His little ones. It is another attempt by the state to annul parental rights.

Will all the pro-abortion voices calling for “reproductive rights” also cry out for the nurturing and instructional rights of the parents of school children? Or will their silence reveal a lack of concern for children outside of the womb identical to their callous, brutal attitude toward CHILDREN still in utero?

Don’t hold your breath, fellow abortion abolitionists!

Previously published May 22, A.D. 2016 

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Images of the Christian

God reveals Himself as the great I AM – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He makes Himself known as the only One to be worshiped, the Lord of all, the Savior of all who call upon Him, the Teacher, the Provider, the One in Whom we live, move, have our being (Acts 17:28), and more.

Even so, in His word He depicts His people in different but complEmentary ways. Here are several of them:

First of all the true Christian is a child of God, unlike others who are described as children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). All people come into this world as what we might call spiritual still births – already dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13), condemned as guilty and under the wrath of God (John 3:18, Romans 5:12).

But the true Christian is what 2 Corinthians 5:17 proclaims: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” In Christ he both has been born again (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:23) and adopted (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5) into God’s forever family. The sons and daughters of God are marked by obedience to their heavenly Father. Sharing in the Gospel work of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), they are peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).

Being eternal children of God makes all Christians eternal brothers and sisters. As such, they live in community as we see exampled in Acts chapter 4 and other places. They bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). They look out for one another (Philippians 2:4). In short, they LOVE one another (Romans 12:10, Hebrews 13:1)

The Christian is pictured as a spiritual brick in the temple (1 Peter 2:5) in which God dwells by His Spirit. In another figure, the apostle Paul compares each believer to a member (i.e. a part, like an eye, a hand, or a foot) of a spiritual body, which body is the church (Romans 12:4,5; 1 Corinthians 12:12)

In His days on Earth, Jesus chose SOME of his disciples to be apostles, but ALL Christians are His disciples – disciplined ones (Matthew 10:24,25). They imitate His way of life, walk as He walked doing deeds of charity and mercy, and experiencing what He experienced in the world (1 John 4:17).

In a way that by no means contradicts his estate as a “child of the King,” the Christian is also a servant in the Kingdom of God (Colossians 1:7, Revelation 1:1). He puts the advancement and prosperity of that Kingdom above his own interests. Therefore according to 2 Timothy 2:3-7 he is like a soldier enduring hardship, unencumbered with civilian life…like an athlete competing according to the rules…like a hardworking, patient farmer who will be first to partake of the harvest.

Finally, the Christian is a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:17), destined to inherit all things (Revelation 21:7). “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

When it comes to self esteem, (how one feels and thinks about himself), let us not assume the world’s categories of value. Let the Christian form his estimate of himself (and how self needs to grow and change) in Biblical terms. Let the Christian recognize that Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:13,14)

Previously published elsewhere, November 8, A.D. 2015

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Emphasis Meditation

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

With that commandment, found in the first chapter of the book bearing Joshua’s name, God himself encouraged Moses’ successor, and we do well to heed that commandment as well. In this high tech, high noise, high speed time a disciple of Jesus is in danger of losing the still and quiet blessing of meditation.

Isaac was out in a field one evening meditating, probably at the end of his work day, when God brought him a very special blessing (Genesis 24:6ff). The Psalmist both prescribes meditation as a means of dealing with anger (Psalm 4:4) and describes the blessed man as one whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on God’s law day and night (Psalm 1:2).

Some of the Psalms are themselves meditations (e.g. 5, 7, 9). The 19th Psalm includes the well known prayer, “let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight.”

In other Psalm passages meditation is encouraged and exampled, and its value extolled. The prophet Malachi (3:16) identifies those who fear the LORD with those who meditate on His name. And in at least two places in the New Testament, meditation is commanded (Philippians 4:8, 1 Timothy 4:15).

The lost world has many vain and foolish ideas about meditation. Some involve bodily contortions, others use the endless repetition of a syllable to which magical power is assigned, still others attempt to “empty” the mind (while the devil smirks in anticipation of filling the vacuum). The Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is concerned with Biblical meditation. What is it, and how does one do it?

We might compare it to digestion. Man does not live by bread alone. We open our spiritual mouths and take in a “chunk” of the inspired word that proceeded from the mouth of God. That chunk might be a precept of wisdom, an abiding commandment, an inerrant historical account of God’s dealings with men, a reflection on one of His righteous judgments or tender mercies. We chew on it, then take it down the spiritual esophagus into our innermost being. There, by God’s grace it provides nourishment for those in Christ, Who is the great Subject of all Scripture. (Cf. Isaiah 25:6-9)

Let’s press the analogy. We know that we should chew a bite of an apple or a steak slowly and thoroughly, and not “wolf it down.” Emphasis meditation is one way to do likewise with a wholesome morsel of Scripture. Here’s an example, suggesting Hebrews 12:14 as a seven course meditation meal. Using the following plan, it takes seven days, not seven seconds, to consume it.

The Lord’s day – PURSUE peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. Each day consider the whole verse, but on this first day of the week target the truth that zealously GOING AFTER peace and holiness is necessary. Attainment is by grace, but that does not mean it will “just happen.” Grace energizes. It puts us hot on the trail, pressing toward the goal.

Monday – Pursue PEACE with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. Today, zero in on the beauty and wonder of peace, and how those who pursue it can know the blessedness of being a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9). “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18).

Tuesday – Pursue peace with ALL PEOPLE, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. On the third day of week, as you again meditate on the entire verse which by now you likely know by heart, emphasize that your pursuit relates to every person in your life. “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7) How much more his wife, relatives, friends, and neighbors?

Wednesday – Pursue peace with all people, and HOLINESS, without which no one will see the Lord. Today, concentrate on how the pursuit of peace is linked with the pursuit of this beautiful adornment of the Christian walk, holiness. Are my thoughts holy? Is my speech holy? In what ways does unholiness still characterize my life? How do peacemaking and holiness go together? “…be renewed in the spirit of your mind…put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23,24 condensed)

Thursday – Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which NO ONE will see the Lord. Thursday is warning day! Recognize the obvious – “no one” includes YOU! Holiness is not optional. “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1B). In 2 Timothy 3 and elsewhere, we learn that the unholy have no future – at least no desirable one.

Friday – Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will SEE the Lord. Today, emphasize that when we walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7), by faith we see Him at work here and now in our relentless pursuit of peace and holiness. And what a thrilling truth: in God’s time, hope and faith will give way to glorious realization and sight! And filled with that hope, we move on to dessert day.

Saturday – Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the LORD. On this last day of the week, put the accent where Job put it in the midst of severe trial. “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall SEE GOD, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27). May God cause our hearts so to yearn.

Next week, take another passage. Do a longer passage over a month, or a shorter one over a few days. Do an express emphasis meditation as a morning devotional, or at any time. Let the word of Christ dwell richly within you. Hmm, there are seven key words in that short statement.

Previously published elsewhere, October 18, A.D. 2015

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