Tag Archives: Old Testament

Truth Exchanged for Lies ~ Jeremiah 3:6-5:31

“A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?” ~ Jeremiah 5:30-31

Throughout this passage God is pronouncing his judgment against Israel and Judah for abandoning Him. They have embraced the gods of foreign lands. They are living the proverbial “good life” as they turned their collective backs on God. Not only have they rejected God’s way of living, they have rejected His sovereignty. God is clearly angered by their sin. As a consequence for their sins, God promises to raise up an army from a foreign land to overtake Judah and Israel; they will destroy them, but not completely.

As I read Jeremiah, I continue to see many parallels between Israel at the time of Jeremiah and the United States today. We are a blessed nation that has turned from God. Our society rejects Christ as it embraces various false understandings of God. Those who follow such false religions are often lauded as full of wisdom in our society. Open-mindedness is a religion unto itself as it celebrates so-called progressive thought and false teachings. Indeed, we are a nation that embraces such modern-day “foreign gods” as we reject the True God and look down on those who stand firmly upon God’s Holy Word.

Even the American Christian church-at-large is guilty of seeking after false gods. The Episcopalian church, for example, has developed a rite of union for gay couples (see http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2012/12/03/liturgy-for-blessing-same-gender-relationships-begins-provisional-use/). Many believers have embraced the notion of “universal salvation” rather than stand firmly on the teachings of Scripture that Jesus is the only means of salvation (see John 14:6). Many churches today refuse to read and study the Old Testament, claiming it has no relevance in a “New Testament world”. When the church cherry-picks the Scriptures it will preach and teach while rejecting the rest, the church is acting under its own authority rather than God’s, just as God said it would in the passage above. And when it sets out down that deceitful path, it’s no wonder that many believers are led astray by the very people God has entrusted with the Truth. Yes, even in the church, we reject God’s ways of living for philosophies and lifestyles based on prevailing thought or human wisdom. May God have mercy upon us.

God says in chapter five “If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city” (5:1b). The fact is, that person does not exist – not then and not today. There is, however, one Person who fits this description. He is Truth Himself: our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As I shudder at the depravity of modern-day living I rejoice at the reality of God’s mercy shown through His Son. God is angered by sin, and the consequences of sin are clear. But even in His anger He offers reconciliation and redemption through Jesus. Let us confess our sins to Him and seek the forgiveness God so freely offers through His Son. And upon doing so, let us reject society’s false gods and stand firmly upon God’s Holy Word – all of it.

Ponder this: Are there teachings in God’s Word that I have set aside in exchange for human wisdom?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, the enemy is active among us as he seeks to distract and deceive us. Forgive me, Lord, for the times I have rejected Your Truth and instead placed my confidence in human wisdom. Help me to seek You, and only You, as I live out my time on Earth. And as I do so, help me, Lord, to always speak Your truth in Christian love. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Remove the Yoke! ~ Acts 15:1-41

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses.” The apostles and elders met to consider this question. ~ Acts 15:5-6

Upon arriving back in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas were advised that some of the Pharisaic Jewish believers still questioned the validity of Gentile salvation through the Messiah. They felt that Gentile believers must first obey the Law as handed down by Moses and be circumcised before they could be accepted into the church. The Pharisees are known for their legalism, so this comes really as no surprise.

English: Strongmen event: the Yoke Walk or the...

English: Strongmen event: the Yoke Walk or the Heavy Yoke or the Super Yoke. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Paul and Barnabas traveled to Jerusalem to address this question with church elders. Peter reminds the brethren that God has given the gift of the Holy Spirit to Gentile believers, just as He has to Jewish believers. He continues, “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (15:10-11) James, citing Old Testament prophecy, validates Peter’s position. The decision is reached not to hold Gentile believers to a legalistic, law-based set of rules as proposed by the Pharisaic Jews; rather, to direct them to follow these precepts for living, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (15:19-20). A letter is written and sent with messengers to be shared with Gentile believers. “The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.” (15:31)

Even today, there are some in the church who seek to burden we believers with complicated rules. To be clear, we are to glorify God in the way we live our lives, but when legalistic preaching and teaching supplants the Gospel it’s time to reexamine our priorities. That’s exactly what the brethren did in this passage. The Law cannot save us; only the Savior can do that. Let us go forth and celebrate our freedom from sin and death by sharing the Gospel with those still living under the yoke of sin.

Ponder this: Am I overburdened with rules to the point at which I forget the Gospel?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Law, for through the Law I see clearly my need for a Savior. Thank you also for the gift of faith in your Son, Jesus Christ, through whom my transgressions are forgiven. Let my living be a witness to You today and every day. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

Stoning Paula Deen

Paula Deen is a terrible person who doesn’t deserve anything good in life. At least, that is the conclusion one might draw from listening to our national discourse after her confession and subsequent apology for using the offensive “N” word in a conversation that took place some 20-or-so years ago. The fallout for Deen has been significant. Walmart, Target, and other retailers are removing Paula Deen’s products from their inventory. The Food Network will not renew their contract with Deen. And, if that wasn’t enough, a significant number of Americans are having a field day casting stones at this woman and celebrating her professional downfall as if she was the very manifestation of Satan himself.

Those who know me well know that I am no fan of political correctness (PC). PC, in my opinion, is contributing to the ruin of our society. With that said, I find the “N” word horribly offensive. This piece is in no way intended to defend Deen’s use of the word; I find that disturbing and disappointing. However, I am disgusted and angered by the vitriolic reaction of many of my fellow Americans and the business partners that have cast Deen aside as if she were poison. I’m disgusted and angered, but I’m also saddened, for many of my fellow Americans who are dancing in the streets over Deen’s professional downfall profess to be Christians. This piece is for them.

God teaches us through His Word that we are equal with one another in one very important aspect. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23). In the context of the Paula Deen controversy, the Bible tells us that Paula Deen is no better than any of us, and we are no better than Deen, either. The playing field here is completely level; each of us is a sinner and each of us falls short of God’s glory. Was Deen’s use of the “N” word a sin? I believe it was. Because she sinned in this manner is she a lower person in God’s ranking than me? I believe the Bible tells us she is not.

Jesus gave us an example of how we Christians should respond to an individual caught in transgression:

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:3-11)

Look what happens here: A woman, caught in a sin considered particularly egregious, is brought before the Pharisees. The Pharisees, in an attempt to trap Jesus with a trick question, cite Old Testament law as they state their intention to stone her. Instead of answering their question directly, Jesus levels the playing field, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, her accusers drop their stones and walk away. Does this mean that Jesus thinks the woman’s sin was “OK”? Of course not! This was a lesson in pride; a lesson in humility. Jesus’ parting words to this woman are also very important, “Go now and leave your life of sin,” (italics added for emphasis).

As Christians, we know that the way we live our lives testifies to who we truly are and what we truly believe. Our life is our witness, and people draw conclusions about us based on what we put on display. More importantly, people draw conclusions about God based on what we who profess Christ display in our daily living. Our response and reaction to Deen’s use of the “N” word is an opportunity for Christian witness. The worldly response is to dog pile; tear her down; rip her to shreds then dance in the streets as she fades into the background. Sadly, many Christians have chosen that response.

I believe that the Bible teaches a different response for the Christian. We acknowledge her sin, just as we acknowledge our own. But then we forgive her sin, just as God forgives her sin and our sins. And, in the words of Jesus, we say, “Go and sin no more.”

Before I pick up a stone to cast at Deen I must look in the mirror and examine myself. I quickly see that I am no better than she is. And, fellow Christian, neither are you.

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