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Real life Christian confession, Bible reading, study, and stuff

Real Christianity Confession Time:

I had a terrible week last week. I encountered some adverse conditions and I became petulant, grumpy, irritable, and self-pitying. I forewent Bible reading, rationalizing that I was too upset and couldn’t think just now. Of course, in adverse conditions, Bible reading is the first place one should go, not the last. But there you have it.

By the grace of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit I recovered my equilibrium. I attended to some things I’d neglected the last week all day on Saturday, and on Sunday I devoted myself to church service, prayer, and small group fellowship. I’d promised the Lord that on Monday (today) I’d get back to it with a vengeance, since I was home from work on Thanksgiving break and had all the time in the world.

So by 11:00 this morning, I’d done-

10 chapters of Bible reading,
1 chapter read in Hidden Life of Prayer,
1 chapter read in Gerstner’s Theology in Dialogue,
1 chapter lesson completed in Jess Pickowicz’s Biblical Doctrine study,
Lecture 1 of Hebrews by Dr Abner Chou listened to, plus NT overview
4 pages of notes on legal pad

I am a Theology BEAST. Sadly, by a few days from now I know that I’ll be a theology wimp. I tend to slide. I start out good but slacken, then speed up and then slow down. Goodness, I totally understand Paul when he said,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do. (Romans 7:15).

O Lord, have mercy on this weak woman, and help me stay consistent in Bible reading and study!!

Here are some thoughts and insights gained by the Spirit during today’s studying bonanza.

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rich young ruler verse

EPrata photo

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18He said to him, “Which ones?” (Matthew 19:16-18a).

This made me laugh out loud. Which ones? Like we can pick and choose? Whether as Gill’s Expositions says, the Rich Young Ruler

Whether those commandments of a moral, or of a ceremonial kind; whether the commands of the written, or of the oral law; of God, or of the elders, or both; or whether he did not mean some new commandments of his own, which he delivered as a teacher sent from God:

or whether the Rich Young Ruler had the original ten laws in mind, asking “which ones” just shows how blind he was. No one can keep any of the laws perfectly their whole life. But the man confidently replied to Jesus’ answer as to ‘which laws’ that “all these I have kept”. Some believe that the Rich Young Ruler was indeed Saul of Tarsus. If he was, then the Lord’s mercy is great. If he wasn’t, I pray that mercy came to that young ruler sometime before his death, when eternity becomes fixed.

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I do my daily Bible reading in the NKJV. The verse at Psalm 18:4 says,

The cords of death encompassed me, And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me.

Me too, David, me too.

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The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation— (Psalm 18:46).

A GREAT verse!

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Job 18: man, this is rough, very rough, It’s not only rough because Bildad is heaping scorn on Job, and telling him to snap out of it, but Bildad is excruciating in his detailed list of what and how the wicked endure the coming punishment. Read Job 18 if you begin to lose your compassion for the lost.

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For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it. (Matthew 19:12)

Yes.

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Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)

God is generous. We may only understand Him through His word, and we can only understand the word via His Spirit, but He has given to us His Spirit. Freely.

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“You don’t want to just know the word of God. You want to know the God of the word.” Dr Abner Chou, The Master’s Seminary, Hebrews lecture #1.

Read the word to gain an understanding of who Jesus is, to commune with Him, to understand His revealed attributes, commands, precepts, and plans. Every time I let Bible reading go and then return to it, I am refreshed and wonder why I let it go in the first place. I am a silly person, stumbling and bumbling along. No doubt I’ll mourn my wastrel ways when I get to heaven and see the glories Jesus has set before us. All I can do now is try again. And again…

They were talking with Jesus

The Transfiguration

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (Matthew 17:1-3).

The Transfiguration

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-31).

The disciples were heavy with sleep and initially did not notice the change in Jesus’ appearance. He was with them though, praying, and then, as He changed, talking with two men. The men were Moses and Elijah. The Bible identifies them for us.

Moss and Elijah had departed the earth centuries before. Moses had died (Deuteronomy 34:4) but his body was never found. Satan and Michael had been disputing over it so God just took the body and put it somewhere. Elijah the Prophet had personally been taken by God, bodily to heaven. (2 Kings 2:11). So these two men had been in heaven for many centuries, and Jesus was talking with them. Yet Jesus was bodily here on earth, too, and shortly before this had been talking with the three Disciples. When they awoke, Peter talked with all three of them- Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Then God broke into the conversation! What an amazing scene.

This is an example of the attribute of Jesus we call omnipresence.

Omni means all. Think of omniscient or omnivirous. And presence means presence. Jesus promised in Matthew 28:20b that he would always be with all His people.

behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

“For where two or three gather together in My name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20).

Jesus was talking with two men who were in heaven, and He was also with the sleeping and soon-to-wake disciples on earth – at the same time.

No matter how alone you feel, or what you are going through, He IS with you and will be forever. It is an insanely difficult concept to grasp, that He is eternally in body form ascended in heaven, but He is also with each and every saint who is in His fold, even if they’re here on earth. We can trust His promise though. He is with you. We serve a great and loving God.

Linked below are a few resources for you on the Omnipresence of Jesus

What does it mean that God is omnipresent?

How is Jesus omnipresent?

The Omnipresent Son of God

God: What is He Like? (exploring His attribute of omnipresence)

“‘Do not I fill heaven and earth,’ saith the Lord?” (Jeremiah 23:24).

 

Throwback Friday: A Tale of Two Shepherds

This essay first appeared on The End Time on November 17, 2011

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Prophecy of the Shepherds

sheep grazing at dawn

The LORD said to me, “Take again for yourself the equipment of a foolish shepherd. For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces.
“Woe to the worthless shepherd,
Who leaves the flock!
A sword shall be against his arm
And against his right eye;
His arm shall completely wither,
And his right eye shall be totally blinded.” (Zechariah 11:17).

That is the Antichrist. In Daniel 11:36 we see more about this foolish, worthless shepherd.

“Then the king [the foolish shepherd] will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done.”

“Jesus said of this worthless shepherd, “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.” (John 5:43)

O, such blindness to reject the True Shepherd for a man of character so evil, so foolish, so worthless! What they gave up:

“He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.” (Isaiah 40:11).

Look what He does for His sheep! “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25)

He is the Good Shepherd!

“Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (John 10:1-18)

You can be in the flock, cared for by the Overseer of Souls! You can be carried in the bosom of the One who lives in glory! If you repent of your sins and submit to the Shepherd, you will be.

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” (John 10:28)

Follow Him!

Glory to Jesus, the Highest!

Is it OK for Christians to be vegetarians/vegans?

I receive questions from time to time and usually answer them via email. This was on a topic not often raised (in my sphere) so I thought I’d answer it here as well as having answered the person individually.

Q. I have a question.

Lately I have been reading about health benefits of eating primarily vegetables and eliminating or reducing meats and dairy from a person’s diet. I listened to one of John Macarthur’s sermons on seducing spirits from 1 Timothy 4, and it does say everything God created is good.

Meat and dairy seem to be linked to many of the diseases we have in this country and western civilization. For health reasons is it ok for a Christian to refrain from certain foods?

I would think we are free to choose based on health reasons, but 1 Tim 4 says everything God created is good. So I wonder.

A. Thank you for your question and for your long readership of my blog! I appreciate both so much.

collage
The 1 Timothy 4 verse mentioned above is in verse 1-5,

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

The false teachers were forcing an asceticism on the Ephesians that the Bible doesn’t command or even suggest. The John MacArthur Study Bible note says,

The false teachers’ asceticism contradicted scripture, which teaches that since God created both marriage and food, (Genesis 1:28-31, 2:18-24, 9:3) they are intrinsically good (Genesis 1:31). and to be enjoyed with gratitude by believers. Obviously food and marriage are essential to life and procreation.

The point was, no one has the right to force an asceticism on anyone, and all foods should be gratefully received because when God made them, they were good.

In Acts 10:10-15 God declared all foods clean, meaning the dietary restrictions placed on the Israelites was lifted.

On the more practical side of things, everything God created was good. Key detail: was. In the original creation, everything was perfect. When Man sinned and fell from grace, pollution and death entered the world. Botulism, salmonella, e coli, and other diseases cause us to select and prepare food very carefully. Our compromised human immune systems and tendency toward disease means we have to watch what we eat, especially if we have been diagnosed with celiac disease, diabetes, or other food-related conditions..

It falls to an individual’s Christian conscience as to what foods you would like to consume and how clean the conditions are when you prepare it.

I myself refrain from eating meat for both financial and taste reasons. I’m also a celiac and so for health reasons have to restrict gluten from my diet. There are many reasons one may want to restrict certain foods from their diet.

Because food restrictions are not prohibited nor commanded in the New Testament for NT believers, it falls in the gray area of Christian liberty. Even within these matters where there are no details, the Bible gives guidance.

Paul wrote about the law of liberty in Romans 14 and one of his examples was food. See the verses below.

For one man has faith to eat all things, while another, who is weak, eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Rom 14:2-4.

In his example of those who eat only vegetables being ‘weak’, don’t worry, he is not saying vegetarianism is a character flaw, lol. The context is one where the Christian who was refraining from eating meat was afraid to get involved in eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. That’s no longer an issue since even the last remnants of the sacrificial system have dwindled away.

1 Timothy 4:3 says, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

Here we see that food only becomes an issue when someone holding to some kind of authority imposes restrictions upon another. This is wrong, for God declared all foods clean. (Acts 10:15-16).

So if the question is one of personal conscience, health, or desire, and is not biblically forbidden, then not eating meat becomes a question of individual liberty, i.e. individual choice. As long as we’re not doing something that might cause a weaker brother to stumble, or judging someone by what they do/don’t eat, and we’re not violating a biblical prescription, then we may eat or not eat as one feels is physically wise and spiritually acceptable.

It’s worth noting that in the original creation, man was a vegetarian. He will be again in the future Millennial Kingdom.

Here is a resource John MacArthur recommended on the topic of dietary restrictions for the Israelites,

There’s an excellent paperback book called None of These Diseases, a little paperback by Dr. S.I. McMillen. Some of you may have read it. It’s very helpful in telling you why God gave Israel many of their laws regarding communicable diseases and dietary laws and what they could eat and so forth and so on.

Here is Ligonier Ministry with an essay on Christian Liberty guiding the believer when it comes to gray areas-

4 Principles for the Exercise of Christian Liberty

Friends, weigh in. What has been your experience with eating or not eating certain foods? (a different topic from the spiritual discipline of fasting)

Comments welcome below.

The death of a Christian

And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:60)

Today I want to look at the kind of death Christians are afforded, as opposed to the unsaved. Tomorrow I’ll look at what Stephen cried out, the mater of pleading to the Judge for a reduced charge.

Death is the final frontier for unsaved people. That is the very edge of the precipice of knowledge which the unsaved person can tread. Beyond death, they do not know. And in the not knowing, they fear. What happens after death? Is there life? Do we blink out of existence? Death is the final frontier, and to the unsaved, ti’s one from which no one ever returns. There is no hope.

William Shakespeare’s character Hamlet said,

Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.

To grunt and sweat under a weary life;
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will

It surely puzzles the will. The world has spit up millions of poems, stories, essays, and books musing on the undiscovered country, and all are in vain, they’re only wind.

Yet that undiscovered country is one the born-again person knows well, from His word and through prayer, we are familiar with the other side. When, as Hamlet opined, ‘we shuffle off this mortal coil’ we know that we know that we know what lies ahead: glory, peace, perfection, and Light.

Some were blessed with glimpses of it on this side of the mortal coil. Stephen, when in the throes of preaching God’s word to the Pharisees, was seen to have the countenance of an angel, because he saw the Lord standing beside the father. Paul said he had been afforded a glimpse of glory so inexpressible and beautiful he had no words to describe it. Moses, upon having been with God atop Mt. Zion, still permeated with His glory when he descended the mountain, his face shining so brightly the people were afraid.

When the unsaved attempt to gaze into the beyond they only see darkness, question marks, and unwelcoming shadows and gloomy fear, behind which their perception stalls.

The saved person has had their heart regenerated, eyes opened, and mind illuminated to the scriptures, knows what comes after death. Life! The peace one feels now that one is no longer at enmity with the Savior permeates all of a born-again person’s life, even into and through death. Barnes’ Notes says of the Acts scripture above:

how peaceful and calm is a death like that of Stephen, when compared with the alarms and anguish of a sinner! One moment of such peace in that trying time is better than all the pleasures and honors which the world can bestow;and to obtain such peace then, the dying sinner would be willing to give all the wealth of the Indies, and all the crowns of the earth. So may I die and so may all my readers – enabled, like this dying martyr, to commit my departing spirit to the sure keeping of the great Redeemer! When we take a parting view of the world; when our eyes shall be turned for the last time to take a look of friends and relatives; when the darkness of death shall begin to come around us, then may we be enabled to cast the eye of faith to the heavens, and say, “Lord Jesus, receive our spirits.” Thus, may we fall asleep, peaceful in death, in the hope of the resurrection of the just.

What a blessing the Lord has given us, His imparted knowledge of what comes next. Even better, we have the assurance of His presence and love throughout eternity. No cold darkness for us! No gate of hell with sign affixed, as Dante mused,

“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate”, or “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Instead we may hear, as the servant in the parable heard,

‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:23).

Hamlet soliloquized upon contemplation of his suicide, ‘ to sleep, perchance to dream.’ No, friend, we have the assurance of life beyond life, love, light, activity, and a reality so real this present mortal coil will become the dream instead.

Beyond this mortal coil, we will live where righteousness dwells. Pray to thank the Lord for His many manifold blessings.

new heavens rigteousness dwells verse

EPrata photo

 

What happens to children who die?

When the September 11, 2001 attacks happened, television interviewer Larry King invited pastor-teacher John MacArthur to his program to discuss the event. King asked MacArthur, “What happens to babies who die?”

MacArthur simply replied “instant heaven.” Knowing the vagaries of television, MacArthur explained later that he had purposely given a clear and short answer because he knew about sound bites. However, on the following Sunday he chose to further explain to his own flock the biblical reasoning behind his stance.

The Bible doesn’t definitively declare one way or another where the unborn, stillborn, babies, and children go when they die. However, there is a cumulative body of scriptural evidence that supports the stance that they do go to heaven.

A horrific church massacre that happened in Texas this past Sunday, and several of the killed were children. A one-year-old, 5-year-old, 7-year-old, were among the killed, as well as a woman who was 8-months pregnant, so that unborn child died as well. I believe there were others, though their ages were not listed among the victims’list yet.

I thought it would be a good time to raise the issue again. What happens to children who die?

I can’t begin to imagine the grief that the parents and relatives feel, especially of the youngsters who were killed. If we are believers,

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

We have hope of Jesus, eternal life, reunion with friends and relatives…and our children.

The 2003 book that emerged from MacArthur’s series on the issue is called “Safe in the Arms of God”.

Tim Challies reviewed it herefavorably.

We mourn when there is a tragedy – of any kind – but “our concerns related to death always seem more profound and heartrending when we are dealing with the death of a child. An accident or illness seems especially tragic and poignant when the life of a little one is lost,” wrote John MacArthur.

According to Genesis 1:26-28, mankind was given the power to produce life in a deathless world. Adam and Eve were expected to “be fruitful and multiply” – to procreate and fill the earth with children who would never know death. God’s original plan was that all lives ever conceived would live for all eternity.” MacArthur, Safe in the Arms of God

We know that sin entered the world and death not only came into it but personally touched Adam and Eve, who lost their son.

I wrote about that here, in an essay titled after the painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s rendition of the moment, called “The First Mourning.” Adam and Eve lost their son to violence, and they wept knowing their sin brought its wages: death. No, Abel was not a youngster, but his loss must have been no less agonizing for the parents.

Please take a moment to read it. It’s profound and encouraging.

Yet we are called to love. It is our love that is supposed to make us distinct from all others.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)

Hard, I know. I can’t even tread close to the fire of anger and grief in the loss of a loved one. But knowing the child is safe in the arms of God offers a comfort and a mercy that should dissipate the anger and give room to forgiveness. “Lack of forgiveness destroys relationships” said John MacArthur in a recent sermon “Forgiveness in the Age of Rage.

This lack of forgiveness that destroys our relationships includes our relationship with God. Forgiving the one who murdered a child is necessary. Forgiving God who allowed the death of a child is necessary. Our relationships should be characterized by love, forgiveness, charity, and Gospel.

The little ones who died in the Sutherland Springs church massacre, and also the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012 where 20 children were gunned down, and all the other little ones who have died throughout the ages due to illness, war, or abortion, are safe in the arms of God.

The book is small and short, but scriptural as to explanations why those who die in the womb, infancy, or young are now safe in the arms of God. You can read it and be comforted or offer it as a comfort to one who is grieving.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18

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Further reading

Forgiveness in the Age of Rage

The First Mourning – painting

These essays show from scripture why their authors believe children who die go to heaven.

Charles Spurgeon: Infant Salvation

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and Daniel L. Akin: The Salvation of the ‘Little Ones’: Do Infants who Die Go to Heaven?

John Piper: What Happens to Infants Who Die?