First, some background about the way I select my clothes in the morning. I generally put the freshly laundered clothes on the left side of the closet, and select clothes to wear from the right side. I suspect women select their clothes based on mood, impression, temperature, moon phase, and other factors I can’t deduce, but I’m a simple, partially colorblind engineer that needs a system so I don’t wear the same thing every day.
I select my pants first because there are fewer pants. I’ll then have a wider selection of shirts to choose from, whereas choosing a shirt first may force me to wear the same pants (black slacks) multiple days in a row. Once I have the pants, I choose a shirt that matches. Maybe. See, I’m a partially colorblind engineer, and I’m not always sure of the colors I’m choosing, nor whether the combination actually matches.
This morning, I selected a pair of slacks that are not brown. I know this because I wore these pants for a few years with brown shoes and a brown belt before my sweet wife, who fortunately is asleep when I’m dressed and leaving the house and not subject to my wardrobe infliction, noticed my combination and informed me the pants were actually green.
At least, I think it was these pants. It might have been a different pair she was referring to, but none of the other pants look brown to me. So I think I’ve selected green slacks.
Then the trick is to select a shirt that goes with the pants. I’m not really sure what goes with green. When I wear blue slacks, I know blue shirts go with them, unless they’re the wrong sort of blue. I don’t know what sort of blue that is, but I know those sorts of blues are in my closet. I don’t have any green shirts. At least, I don’t think I do.
So then the trick is to select a shirt that is least likely to clash with green. I have a pink oxford button down shirt. I know I can wear this shirt with black pants, and I suspect it’s ok to wear it with blue pants. Is it ok to wear it with green pants? What if the green pants are actually brown after all? Brown and pink sounds like a horrid combination, though whether it also looks horrid is beyond my powers of observations.
I elected to wear the pink shirt anyway because 1) it was coming up in the rotation, having journeyed from left to right in the closet, and I was going to wear it in th near future, 2) I don’t know what goes with green, and 3) I’m pretty sure red and green go together in a Christmasy sort of way, pink is basically red but faded, and being February, so has Christmas.
And now you know why I’m wearing pink and green today.
At least, I think I am.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
This week we follow Joseph into prison. If we’re headed to prison with him, let’s recap how we got here. We know that Joseph was born into a family that was trying to follow God’s will but at the same time was highly dysfunctional. Joseph had eleven other brothers, born to four different women. His own mother had passed away. His father Jacob showed favoritism to Joseph because Jacob learned that from his father Isaac.
Joseph has a dream that God will make him ruler, and Joseph’s family will bow down to him. Joseph’s brothers are less than enthused by this dream, and they throw him in a well, expecting to kill him. Now, when I was growing up, my brother and sister and I fought, but we never threw any of us in a well. At least not that I remember. At least not for very long. And we never sold one of us to the Egyptians which is what Joseph’s brother decided to do, rather than kill him.
When Joseph was at the bottom of the well, things looked pretty hopeless. No food, no water, and the only people around that could get him out of the well were the same ones that threw him into the well in the first place. Joseph knew God’s plan for him held great things in store for him, but how were they possibly going to come true if Joseph is dying at the bottom of a well? I think we can learn from Joseph about how to handle serious setbacks in our life and how we should respond. I came up with four ways, but I’m not going to tell them to you yet because the lesson would be over and it’s too early for lunch.
Instead of killing Joseph, his brother decided to sell him to the caravan to Egypt. I was always amazed at that caravan to Egypt that “happened” to come by, right at that moment, while Joseph was at the bottom of the well. How many months had that caravan been traveling to reach that exact spot at that time? From Joseph’s perspective at the bottom of the well, things must have looked bleak. Things must have looked hopeless. But God was in control all along. He knew Joseph would be in a well that day, so months earlier he sent a caravan to pick him up and take him to Egypt to fulfill His plan.
And for a while, it certainly looked like Joseph was living the dream. Head servant to Potiphar, officer to the Pharaoh himself, Joseph is given great responsibilities and freedoms because of his faithfulness and trustfulness. But then, Joseph is a victim of seduction and false accusations. Potiphar’s wife attempts to seduce Joseph, but Joseph denounces the seduction as a wicked sin. Potiphar’s wife isn’t named in the scripture; she’s one of the unnamed people in the bible, like Lot’s wife or David’s mother or the Magi. Scholars believe her name was Zulieka, married to Ptahwer, an officer of Pharoah Ahmenemhet III of the Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt. In Dante’s Divine Comedy, Zulieka’s shade is observed by Dante in the Eight Circle of Hell. She doesn’t speak, but Dante is told the Eight Circle of Hell is reserved for perjurers that violate the ninth Commandment not to bear false witness and she will spend all of eternity with a burning fever. And this is the kind of thing that sidetracks me when I’m studying and I need to get back to Joseph. Joseph flees from the sin of temptation but he leaves some article of clothing behind, and because of this evidence, Potiphar has Joseph thrown into prison.
I think sometimes we tend to think that if we follow God’s will, we will only see God’s blessings. Or perhaps we think that if we’re going through some challenge, we’re in some dark well or we’re in prison to our sin that God has forgotten us. Joseph had been in a tough position, what would be sexual harassment today, a daily temptation. If he resists Potiphar’s wife, she’ll be mad, and if he gives in, Potiphar will be mad. God will be offended. Clearly, Joseph had no choice that was without serious consequences. Joseph chose to do the right thing and was thrown into prison for it. And again, where was God? Would God send the equivalent of another caravan to rescue Joseph? Let’s read Genesis 39:21 and see.
But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that being the best darn prisoner in all of Egypt is not what Joseph expected when he decided to follow God’s will. But when all hope is lost, when we’re in a well or we’re in some prison and we don’t know how we’re going to get out, we can learn the first way we can respond to serious setbacks in our life. How many ways are we going to study? Four, that’s good, just checking to see if you were paying attention.)
I. We can trust God
We can trust God, that He has a plan and He will see His plan done. While Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him. We might be tempted to ask, well, if the Lord was with him, why was he in prison in the first place?
Well, the Lord doesn’t seem to work like that; there is a place for suffering in the lives of Christians. Paul tells us in Romans 5:3-5 that suffering will produce perseverance, character and hope. James 1:2-4 tells us that the trials we face gives us spiritual maturity. Faith in an all-benevolent, gift-giving God is easy; to increase our faith, God grants us trials so we not only believe in Him, but we learn to rely on Him. God is interested in our circumstances, but He is far, far more interested in our response to our circumstances.
Joseph was in a place of hopelessness, a life imprisonment. The only he had going for him was the fact that Potiphar didn’t execute him, the customary punishment for adultery. Potiphar must have believed him, but it didn’t keep him out of prison. Joseph has no family to comfort him; it was his family’s actions that setup this circumstance in the first place. He’s a slave, in a foreign land. Joseph had one thing and one thing only. Scripture says the Lord was with Joseph.
Sometimes, when things look bleak to us, this is the only thing that can sustain us. The Lord is with us, even when we can’t see it. Family members hospitalized, troubled marriages, abuse, traumatic accidents, lost jobs.
Q: What does it mean to you to trust God? How does the promise of God’s presence build your trust in Him?
We know Joseph’s future. Joseph only has his knowledge of what the Lord has told him in a dream. If Joseph knew what we knew, having faith in prison for a crime he didn’t commit would be easy. Joseph didn’t have such knowledge, but he did have faith that God is true. And that’s the same thing we have. We have God’s word that He is with us, no matter what. You’ve heard it said that if it is written once in the bible, it’s important, but if it’s written twice, better sit up and pay attention? Look at Deuteronomy 31:6 -
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
And Joshua 1:5 -
No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
And Hebrews 13:5 -
â€¦because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
And Matthew 28:20, Jesus says,
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
God is with us. Emmanuel. God is with us. What’s our first step to dealing with troubles in our lives? Trust in God, for He is with us.
II. We can serve others
Let’s read Genesis 40:1-8 -
Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.
After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two menâ€”the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prisonâ€”had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.
When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why are your faces so sad today?”
“We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.”
Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”
Joseph could have been wallowing in self-pity. He had a lot to wallow about. He could have used his situation as an excuse; “I can’t help you know, can’t you see I’m in prison? Sheesh!” But instead, Joseph looked to serve others. In verse 4, the term “served them” or “attended them” or “ministered to them” could mean he performed menial service, but Joseph’s care goes further than that. It was Joseph that noticed their faces were dejected. Joseph took the time to care about them, inquire about their welfare, and taking the time to listen to their stories.
And Joseph credited all the dream interpretation to God. Just like Joseph, even when we’re troubled, we can still find a way to minister to others. Joseph used his faith to reach out to others in their need, just as we can serve others in the Lord’s name as a way to comfort others.
Helping others is a sure fire way to take your mind off your own troubles. If you can do nothing else for somebody else, just take the time to listen to them.
One of the reasons we suffer is so that we may understand others who suffer. People afflicted with cancer relate better to a cancer survivor. Recovering alcoholics attend AA meetings to be with other people with the same struggles. A large reason Diane relates so well to the elderly is because many of the aches and pains they have, Diane identifies with them because she’s had them, too.
Nobody understood that better than Jesus. Jesus suffered, died and was buried for our sins. Do you think Jesus can’t identify with your pain? The humanity of Jesus gave him direct access to the worst pain that can be inflicted on a man, and His anguish troubled Him so much His sweat was like blood. Jesus knows suffering. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 -
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
Q: What kind of things can we do today that makes a difference in somebody else’s life?
III. We can seek help
So Joseph offers to interpret their dreams, and the chief cupbearer goes first. Genesis 40:9-15 -
So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, “In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.”
“This is what it means,” Joseph said to him. “The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.”
Just giving comfort to others helps us, consider that getting comfort from others blesses them, too. Joseph saw an opportunity for somebody to help him, and he wasn’t afraid to ask. Joseph’s ordeal had him in prison for the rest of his lift, and the prophecy of this dream coming true gave Joseph hope for the future. He was not afraid to ask for help. “Mention me to Pharoah and get me out of this prison.” Sometimes there is a solution to our problem that’s available if we just ask for it.
The cupbearer received good news from Joseph’s dream interpretation. The baker now asked for Joseph to interpret his dream. Genesis 40:16-19 -
When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, “I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.”
“This is what it means,” Joseph said. “The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh.”
Well. Sucks to be the baker, I guess. Actually, there is a lesson here. Joseph approached the cupbearer for help because he knew the cupbearer would eventually be in a position to help him. It’s important to use discernment when seeking help. Seek those who can provide Godly wisdom and comfort or who may be in a position to help. And don’t be a baker in Pharaoh’s prison.
Q: How did God use others to encourage Joseph? How has God used others to encourage and help you?
IV. We can be patient
And lastly, we can be patient and wait on God whose timing is perfect. Genesis 40:20-23 -
Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand, but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.
The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.
Patience is hard; patience is a virtue. Patience takes practice. There are many places we wait in life. We wait in traffic. We wait for the microwave to finish. We wait for the right job to come along. We wait for the right spouse to come along. We even wait on our spouse to become the spouse God intends, just like our spouse waits on us. We’re waiting for children to grow up, we’re waiting for children to move out, we’re waiting, waiting, waiting.
Have you ever considered that we’re sometimes just waiting in God’s waiting room? We see a situation in our lives or the lives of someone close to us, and we wonder why God doesn’t fix it now. Surely it is God’s will for this thing to happen. Why is He taking His time?
God has great plans for Joseph. Plans to prosper him and not to harm him, plans to give him hope and a future. But for now, Joseph is in God’s waiting room. And sometimes, we are, too. God has a plan for each and every one of us. He wants us to love Him, He wants us to love one another. He wants us to grow spiritually in a closer relationship with Him. And sometimes He uses time to accomplish His will.
Are you waiting on God for something? For somebody to come to faith, for somebody’s heart to soften, for somebody to apologize, for the pain to stop, for the health to improve? I understand, waiting is hard. God understands waiting is hard, but sometimes it takes time for God to work His will, not because God is slow, but because people are slow to respond. As Joseph is getting to depend on the Lord and serve the Lord, he’s waiting in prison. His hope for the chief cupbearer to tell Pharaoh at the birthday party about Joseph’s innocence did not happen. The chief cupbearer forgot. But God remembered, and when His timing was right, we’ll see Joseph delivered. But he has two more years to wait on the Lord.
Be patient. Whatever you are waiting on is a small part of the picture. God sees the whole picture in the fullness of time. When God acts, it may look like good timing, or bad timing, or no timing at all, but its God’s perfect timing. Keep Romans 8:28 in mind,
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
God will act when He knows the time is right. In the meantime, we continue to grow in Him by serving and studying and being obedient and praying. Timothy must have asked Paul about the persecutions and the injustice he saw, and Paul told him in 2 Timothy 3:14 to just continue.
Q: Why do you think the cupbearer forgot Joseph? Why is it so hard to wait when facing a hopeless situation?
Q: Which one of these four steps is the easiest to do? Which one is the hardest?
These four steps take practice. Pray and lean on Him when you’re going through difficult times. Our human nature often leads us to respond incorrectly and in ways that are ultimately destructive. Joseph could have responded with anger and bitterness. He could have said ugly things about Potiphar’s wife. He could have been mad at Potiphar. He could have harbored resentment towards his brothers. Joseph’s life so far includes abuse, abandonment, hatred, slavery, false witness, and now prison, all while Joseph tried to do the right thing. Can you picture Joseph years later, a 90 year man, eaten up with bitterness about how he was treated? Anger and bitterness are not the solution.
Or Joseph could have turned his back on God and taken the situation into his own hands. Joseph could have gossiped about Potiphar’s wife, you know how many slaves she sleeps with, she’s such a tramp. And that Potiphar, what an idiot for believing her. Sometimes we want to take charge of the situation and change it, only to make it worse. Some people see trouble and turn their back on God, not understanding the pain and the waiting could possibly be from a loving God. And they seek other sources of comfort in alcohol, drugs, infidelity, materialism, whatever. Others see the same pain and waiting and understand God’s perfect timing as a time of spiritual growth and develop a deep confidence in waiting on the Lord.
In an Expositional commentary to Genesis, I read this story told by Billy Graham. Billy Graham told a story of a friend that went through the Great Depression who lost his job, all his savings, then his wife and then his home. But he was a believer in Jesus Christ and held onto his faith even through he fought with depression about his circumstances. One day he stopped to watch some workmen doing stonework on a huge church. One man out front was chiseling a piece of stone into a triangle. Curious, he asked what the triangle was for.
See that little opening on the top of the spire? I’m chiseling this down here so it’ll fit up there. And his friend left with grateful tears; God was doing the same to him, shaping him for heaven by chiseling him through his ordeals.
So trust in God. Continue to serve, and to ask for help, and be patient and wait on God’s perfect timing.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 19 so far )
Jesus and Money
Recently in a comment, I was challenged regarding posting my stock selections; the concern from Chris was that such financial considerations were incongruous with the teachings of Jesus.
September 18th, 2007 at 11:03 am
I find it somewhat ironic and mildly amusing that your blog contains articles of spirituality along with your market trading activity, especially since the Bible states that Jesus suggested we should exercise caution in mixing the two. That said, you may be on to something. Perhaps church attendence would increase if the priests set up some of those red flashing LED signs with messages such as â€œThe Holy Father recommends a buy today on Goldman Sachs at $192.50/share.â€
First, I want to make something perfectly clear – I’m not hyping any particular stock. I’m tracking by own personal stock trades publicly based on a Mechanical Investing forum at the Motley Fool. If I buy something, feel free to sell it. Or buy it, makes no difference to me. I had been doing something similar on the Motley Fool forum but then I thought, hey, I have a blog. Shouldn’t I blog on my blog?
I challenged Chris to give me some scripture he was concerned about, and Chris brought up 3 perfect examples:
September 18th, 2007 at 9:58 pm e
I offer these passages:
â€œJesus entered the Temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. â€˜It is written,â€™ he said to them, â€˜My house will be called a house of prayer but you are making it a den of robbers.â€™â€ Matt. 21:12-13 (see similar Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46, John 2:13-16)
â€œDo not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.â€ Matt. 6:19-21 (see similar Luke 12:33-4)
Also the parable in Luke 12:16-21, which is portrays a prosperous farmer who wishes to tear down his barns and build bigger ones but is warned by God: â€œYou foolâ€¦â€, and is concluded by Jesus saying: â€œThis is how it is with those who pile up riches for themselves but are not rich in Godâ€™s sight.â€
Absolutely perfect choices; I’m going to add one more, Matthew 19:24, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Let’s tackle each of those and see how it applies.
- Matthew 21:12-13
This passage has a lot of lessons in it; for instance, it shows Jesus being angry and having a temper. Aren’t Christians supposed to be peaceful and bland? Jesus shows that there is a place for anger and we can learn from how he expressed it. Jesus was angry that religious leaders were standing between God and His people; the people could only use certain currency sold at the temple at very high exchange rates, and they could only sacrifice certain unblemished doves sold at high prices inside the temple, one couldn’t bring their own dove. Jesus was angry at those who would make money and put a barrier in front of people trying to worship God.
But… what about the money? Is Jesus somehow saying money and Christians don’t go together? I don’t see that in this passage. There *may* be some application to those who are selling Christian books, but even thatâ€™s a stretch unless youâ€™re required to buy the book to worship inside. Don’t get between people and God and attempt to make money; don’t charge for church parking or charge an admission or sell church clothing required to enter a sanctuary, stuff like that. But in this example at least, Jesus is not saying anything about Christians making money.
- Matthew 6:19-21
This is far more applicable to Christians making money. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” Jesus says you can’t take it with you; if your “treasure” is money, it’s lost when you die. If your “treasure” is the eternal presence of God, that’s far more lasting. Where is your treasure? Do you value the commands of Jesus more than the commands of your job? This is related to the commandment, “Thou shalt worship no false idols.” Some people worship money. They will run over people, be ruthless in their business dealings. Is it ok to lie, cheat and steal to make money? After all, it’s only business, not church, right? Jesus is shedding light on this fallacy; don’t make money your idol.
Does Jesus say not to make money at all? Some people certainly interpret it this way, but I think that flies in the face of examples of wealth in the bible. David and Solomon, for instance, were both incredibly wealthy, yet were also favored by God. Job was wealthy, then destitute, then wealthy again, all while being in God’s favor. I think this has to be balanced against passages like Matthew 25:14-28, the parable of the talents. Are we being good stewards of the talents God has provided? Everything comes from God; our intellect, our food, our health, our homes, everything. If we understand that our wealth, too, comes from God, we are called to use it for His glory and purposes. If we do that, we are good stewards. If we do not, but make the money itself the goal, then we are storing up treasures on earth.
So how does posting my Mechanical Investing strategy fit into this? I am showing my strategy for making money, but I haven’t shown what I’m doing with the money I’m making (or losing, as the case may be.) What am I doing with it? I appreciate the concern, but that’s between me and God. I believe I’m being faithful with what He has provided and being a good steward, but I’m not going to share the details. Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus says, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
- Luke 12:16-21
This is a stern warning to those who are storing up treasures on earth. In this parable, a rich man has an abundance. Instead of sharing, the rich man builds even bigger storage sheds so he can keep it all for himself. We are cautioned again that greed and the accumulation of wealth for its own sake offends God; we are to use what He has provided wisely, to love our neighbors as ourselves. There may be some application here to excessive saving; I’ve heard it said that millionaires feel rich if they could just have $1 million more. It’s never enough; greed corrupts and leads one to idolize money.
But notice the judgment is primarily against the second barn in the parable, not the first. Was it ok for the rich man to store up crops for himself? Jesus doesn’t address that; Jesus instead condemns the building of a bigger barn to store even more crops. This leads me to believe that as long as one is faithful with our possessions, Jesus does not condemn. Sharing our homes, contributing to charity, taking care of neighbors, serving with our time, and tithing to our church are all good uses of our money.
But making money? It doesn’t appear God condemns that. Instead, God condemns hoarding money.
- Matthew 19:24
Apparently it’s a huge balancing act. How much money is too much money? The bible doesn’t say; whether you are rich or poor, the hoarding of money is a bad thing. Even the poor widow that tithed her two pennies; if she kept the money for herself, would Jesus condemn her? I don’t know, but I do know that God looks at the heart, not the external actions or appearances. If the poor widow wanted to keep the pennies for herself but a neighbor needed one of them, I think the bible gives ample examples that we are to trust God to provide and we should be faithful with his gifts. I think it’s easier for the poor widow, though, than for the rich man; Jesus says that’s “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Ideally, when I die, I’ll have two pennies left. I’ll spend one penny on the funeral and give the other penny to charity. I don’t know what God’s plans are for me, but I’ll take this warning to heart; don’t idolize money, don’t be greedy, and that wealth has serious temptations to resist.
I was about to say something like, “See? My mechanical investing strategy is ok,” but I don’t think I’ll do that. Instead, I’ll ask you to share your thoughts. What do you think Jesus would say about investing in the stock market?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
On a Christian forum website I regularly read, one of the Christians had posted some sad news. He had participated regularly with a Christian Missionary organization called Honduras Outreach. This week in a remote mountain village in Honduras, their vehicle was in an accident in rugged terrain. There were 28 adults from four church groups from Georgia. Ten people suffered various injuries from head injuries to a broken femur; three people died. They were in Mal Pais, Honduras to bring fresh water to villages, build chimneys in homes to reduce lung inflammations, lay concrete floors, and build latrines. I found the press release and made copies for everyone; it includes the names of these heroes and links to their individual churches. Pray for their families this week and this organization that is doing so much to help people and spread the love of Christ.
The Christians that participate in this forum I read were supportive and offered prayers and condolences; the original poster was concerned that people might be afraid to serve with Honduras Outreach that does so much good for some of the poorest people on the planet. That if people realized how dangerous this missionary work is, people would not sign up for it. There are a lot of non-Christians and even atheists that participate on that forum â€“ God bless them, Iâ€™m learning a lot about what the world teaches people and itâ€™s often not pretty. One post from an atheist begins, â€œDo you really believe any of this stuff yourself? Or is Christianity just one big social club?â€ The atheist asked, â€œ”God works in mysterious ways” is usually a good one for you — but it solves nothing. For example, why didn’t God just keep his eye on his good missionaries in South America and save them from being killed in the first place? Do you suppose he wasn’t pleased with their â€˜workâ€™? Do you suppose he just wanted to â€˜call them homeâ€™?â€
Yes, God works in mysterious ways, but the more one studies God and learns these mysterious ways, the clearer answers to questions like these becomes. Many Christians â€“ and non-Christians â€“ believe that Godâ€™s primary function is to protect us, preserve us, prosper us. An omnipotent Santa Clause where we line up, confess Jesus as our Lord, and then hold a big bag open for God to pour in His blessings. A belief in a God like this cannot understand why God would lead people someplace where they would be uncomfortable or be in some sort of danger. Why God would send missionaries to Honduras and then not use His big supernatural hand to keep their bus from tipping over. Scripture confirms and comforts us that God loves us and He cares for His children. We can take great comfort in knowing the almighty Lord is in control. But Godâ€™s primary purpose is not to pamper us. Godâ€™s will is not what we will it to be, and rather than trying to find out why God isnâ€™t doing our will, we can study our entire lives to find out what Godâ€™s will is. It took Moses 40 years of study before he was able to know the will of God. We only have about 30 minutes today, not nearly enough time to learn all about God. Weâ€™re going to see today that Godâ€™s primary purpose is accomplishing His will through His people. Those purposes are not always comfortable, not always safe. Sometimes it will require sacrifice; sometimes it will require great personal risk. The Lord expects His people to exercise faith in obedience to His will in whatever situation the Lord leads.
Weâ€™re continuing the book of Esther this week, chapter 3 and 4. Last week, Fred introduced us to Esther who was a poor Jewish orphan girl. Through a series of â€œcoincidences,â€ she was elevated to a very high status, the Queen of Persia. How did she arrive there? Through submission to her faith, submission to her cousin who was her acting father, her inner and external beauty. This beauty is a gift from God, and like all gifts, we are entrusted by God to use it wisely, for His glory alone, in obedience to Him. The old Queen Anna Nicole Smith, er, I mean Queen Vashti, weâ€™re told, was very beautiful on the outside. But she was not going to use her God-given beauty to further Godâ€™s purposes, so she was removed, and Esther became queen. Esther also had external beauty, but also internal beauty.
In Chapter 3 of Esther, the plot thickens, mwahaha. Enter the villain of our lesson, Haman. In Esther 3:1-2,
After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.
This is ominous. Hamanâ€™s father was Hammedatha the Agagite, which means he was a descendant of Agag the king of the Amalekites. The Amalekites were a tribe from Canaan who had constantly opposed the Israelites throughout history, from the Exodus out of Egypt throughout the reign of David. In Exodus 17:8-16, around 1440 B.C, just after Moses struck the rock and the water flowed, the Amalekites attacked the Israelites. Joshua led the battle against the Amalekites, and Moses stood on top of a hill with his arms raised in glory to the Lord while Aaron and Hur held his arms up. When the Amalekite army fled, Exodus 17:14-16 says,
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and called it The LORD is my Banner. He said, “For hands were lifted up to the throne of the LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
Then, 400 years later around 1040 B.C, the book of 1 Samuel chapter 15, Saul is commanded by the Lord. 1 Samuel 15:1-3, it says,
Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the LORD sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ “
And of course the Israelites were obedient, right? But noooooâ€¦ Saul gets this idea to spare King Agag of the Amalekites and keep the sheep and cattle and fat calves and lambs. The next morning, Saul tells Samuel, â€œI did it, I followed the Lordâ€™s instructions!â€ And Samuel is like, â€œDo I hear sheep?â€ And Saul says, â€œAh, the sheep. Well, um, well we saved Agag and the sheep and cattle, but, um, other than that we followed the Lordâ€™s instructions.â€ The Lord kept trying to protect Israel by ordering Israel to destroy the Amalekites, and the Amalekites kept coming back and attacking Israel.
Now, another 500 years later, around 500 B.C., we find Haman, an Amalekite and descendent of Agag, has been elevated to a position of power in the kingdom or Persia where the Israelites live as subject to the king of Persia. This is really bad news for the Jews like Mordecai and Esther living there.
King Xerxes (or Ahasuerus) of Persia does orders all the royal officials to bow down and pay honor to Haman. Itâ€™s not clear what Haman did to deserve this promotion, or exactly what his new position is. From some of the other verses in Esther, it seems that King Xerxes and Haman were drinking buddies. But Haman gets a new lofty title, likeâ€¦ Darth Vader, and everybody is supposed to bow down and give homage to him.
Mordecai refuses to bow down. Now, itâ€™s not against Jewish law to bow down and give respect. The Jews bowed down before their own kings in other books of the bible, like 1st and 2nd Samuel and in 1st Kings. And Mordecai also almost certainly bowed down to King Xerxes or he wouldnâ€™t be alive.
Some scholars believe that one reason Mordecai would not bow may be that as a descendent of Agag, Haman would believe he was devine or semi-devine, a god. Mordecai would certainly not bow down before another god. Other scholars believe it was simply because Mordecai would not bow down before an enemy of God, an Amalekite who hated Jews.
Whichever one it was, Haman certainly noticed the one man standing while everybody else at the kingâ€™s gate bowed down to him. The other royal officials tried to pressure Mordecai to comply, but Mordecai refused, obeying his faith.
Haman was enraged that this one man would not pay homage to him, and when Haman found out Mordecai was a Jew, he wasnâ€™t satisfied with just killing Mordecai. No, Haman decided this would be his chance to destroy all the Jews. A religious, ethnic cleansing.
Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will put ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury for the men who carry out this business.”
Haman could not come right out and tell King Xerxes he wanted to kill all the Jews. Xerxes would know that the Jews were loyal subjects; Mordecai had himself saved King Xerxes life in the second book of Esther. So Haman mixes in half-truthsâ€¦ a â€œcertainâ€ people. Theyâ€™reâ€¦ â€œdifferent.â€ They donâ€™tâ€¦ â€œobey.â€ You shouldnâ€™t have to â€œtolerateâ€ them. By laying out an incomplete picture with half-truths, Haman was able to convince the King that these â€œcertain peopleâ€ should be killed.
As Christians, weâ€™re still at war with the Amalekites. Dagnabbit Saul, why didnâ€™t you do as you were told? The Amalekites in positions of power today still sit at the kingâ€™s gate, and weâ€™re still not bowing down. The Amalekites sit at the gate of information. They taint Christians with half-truths:
- Control freaks. Instead of focusing on attempts to save the lives of unborn children, they paint us as trying to control what women do with their own bodies.
- Hate-mongerers because we encourage people to turn from sinful ways.
- Uptight people that do not want to have fun, or let anybody else have fun.
The Amalekites sit at the gate of entertainment:
- Movies and television that portray Christians as uptight people, like Ned Flanders of the Simpsons
- The NBC show â€œThe Book of Danielâ€ that portrayed Christians as hallucinogenic, influenced by drugs and dysfunctional.
The Amalekites sit at the gate of Academia:
- No recognition of God in our schools. No Christmas, no Easter.
- We control our own destiny, evolution happens all by itself without any influence by our grand designer.
- That case in California, near Oakland, where schools used role-playing to teach seventh graders about Islamic history by making them wear nametags with Islamic imagery, memorize Islamic religious teachings as â€œfactâ€, wear Islamic clothing, recite phrases from the Koran and mimic the fasting of Ramadan. This was in 2002, after 9/11.
The Amalekites sit at the gate of the political establishment:
- The Oakland case on teaching Islam was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
- People believe the U.S. Constitution mandates a â€œseparation of church and state.â€
- â€œUnder Godâ€ removed from Pledge of Allegiance (which is still being fought in the courts).
So with half-truths and innuendos, Haman convinced Xerxes to sign the death warrant for the Jews.
Persia was a big empire, and this ethnic cleansing could not happen immediately. Haman cast lots (v7) and decided the annihilation would occur in the twelfth month of Adar, about a year away. All the royal secretaries were summoned (v12), and the decree was written in every language of Persia and then distributed to all the satraps, governors, in all the provinces. This took a lot of time since they didnâ€™t have email or FoxNews. In Esther 3:13-14,
Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews â€” young and old, women and little childrenâ€”on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods. A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so they would be ready for that day.
The Jews would have an entire year to fear their fate. Apparently this was met with a lot of confusion in the city of Susa. In verse 15, King Xerxes and Haman sit down to drink a toast to the destruction of the Jews, but the city itself was bewildered. The Jews had been loyal subjects. Why had the king ordered them destroyed?
Mordecai is a little troubled by all of this, if you can understand this. By refusing to bow down before Haman, he had set in motion the destruction of all of his people within the year. Esther 4:1 â€“
When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly.
Part of this was a public display against the orders of the king, but most of it was probably genuine grief. Heâ€™s going to die. All of his loved ones are going to die. All of the people of his faith are going to die. Esther 4:2,
But he went only as far as the king’s gate, because no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter it.
Apparently they had some sort of dress code and Mordecai was not allowed inside. Esther 4:3,
In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
All of the Jewish people are scared, mourning, praying, crying. Esther apparently is oblivious, though, because she sends the kingâ€™s eunuch that was assigned to attend her to go find out whatâ€™s up with the sackcloth.
The eunuch, Hathach, went out to Mordecai to get the scoop, and Mordecai is very prepared. Mordecai tell Hattach everything that has happened, how Haman has ordered the destruction of the Jews, and also gives him proof â€“ look, hereâ€™s a copy of the edict. Mordecai tells Hathach to explain all this to Esther and tell Esther to beg the king for mercy for the Jews.
In verse 9, Hathach reports back to Esther and tells her everything Mordecai has said, including Mordecaiâ€™s request for Esther to go before the king. Estherâ€™s like, uh, no, thatâ€™s a bad idea. As queen, Esther did not have a husband/wife relationship like we understand it today. Esther was still a servant of the king, and she could only appear to him when summoned. The law was strict â€“ if you crash the kingâ€™s party, you die. There was a possibility that the king could hold out his golden scepter and your life would be spared. But whatever relationship Esther and the king had, it was not currently in the best of conditions. Esther had not been summoned by the king for 30 days. She was certain that to appear before the king would mean her death.
How do we understand God, who created us and everything we see? Do we decide who He is, and then assume God will do what we want? Or do we decide to be obedient and try to understand what God wants? Do we stay safe, keep silent, avoid taking risks? Or do we try to be obedient?
God’s will will be done, whether we obey or not. We can choose to participate, be a spectator, or deny Him altogether, but we cannot thwart God’s will. God sees history all at once, past, present and future. God creates us for a purpose and plants us right where we are. Your job, your family, your pretty face, your intelligent brain, your feelings, your money, your talents have all come together for this one instant, this one instant that will never occur again. In another minute, in another hour, this moment will have passed.
In 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, Paul explains this concept to new Christians. It says,
Nevertheless, each of you should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to you, just as God has called you. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. Each of you should remain in the situation you were in when God called you. Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble youâ€”although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For those who were slaves when called to faith in the Lord are the Lord’s freed people; similarly, those who were free when called are Christ’s slaves. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, all of you, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation in which God called you.
In other words, Paul tells us as Christians we are to bloom where we are planted. How? It says, right in the middle of those verses, â€œkeeping Godâ€™s commands is what counts.â€ Not the legalistic old testament stuff, but the attitude and love of Christ Jesus, with all your words and all your actions.
Sometimes we feel stuck in a rut and canâ€™t bloom. I read a story about a woman who was complaining about working with heathens. The boss was mean, her coworkers poked fun at her faith, and out of a hundred employees, she was the only Christian. Her pastor complimented her and told her God must think a lot of her to trust her with 100 people. If she quit, the only light these people have would be gone. Maybe she wasnâ€™t stuck. Maybe she was just planted.
And donâ€™t fall for that â€œgrass is always greener on the other side of the fenceâ€ philosophy. The only reason grass is green is because itâ€™s watered and cared for. If you want your grass to be green, bloom where you are planted.
Mordecai knows all this. Esther is exactly where God put her. God removed Vashti and placed Esther as queen. She had every resource she needed to do Godâ€™s will. But will she do it? Will she risk everything given to her to do what God wants her to do? God had given Esther so much. God gave her external beauty, and it was her beauty that gave her and her alone access to the king. Would she put her beauty on the line and risk death? God gave her position â€“ she was queen and had access like nobody else. Would she put her position as queen on the line and risk death? Esther also had her inner beauty and love for her people. Most important, Esther had the entire kingdom of heaven behind her. She had everything she needed, but would she risk it, or would fear hold her back?
Mordecai delivers at this point one of the most memorable lines of the bible. He tells Esther that God will accomplish His purpose, nothing she does or does not do will change that fact. If Esther will not do it, the God will save His chosen people another way. Estherâ€™s choice is whether she is going to participate in Godâ€™s plan and realize that her entire being, her beauty and position, was orchestrated by God, and God will accomplish His will through His obedient people. Mordecai also tells her that if sheâ€™s trying to save her own skin, sheâ€™s probably going to lose that, too. Sheâ€™s a Jew â€“ if the Jews are eliminated, that includes her. She cannot save her own life. All she can do is choose to be obedient, or not.
Mordecai says in Esther 4:13-14,
“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”
The entire purpose of Estherâ€™s life had come to a point of decision. Her entire existence had a purpose. What was more important, being queen, or being the liberator of the Jews? God will not fail to keep His promises or fall short of His purposes, therefore, the deliverance of the Jews was certain. God had made Esther queen so that she could deliver His people. God places people exactly where they can serve Him.
Our beautiful Esther, spurred by her cousin of faith, chose to do Godâ€™s will, and fully aware of the consequences. Esther 4:15-16,
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
And if I perish, I perish. Godâ€™s will be done. Esther did the right thing, obeying God, even though it was against the law and at risk to her life. This is a key to understanding all you are. You are Godâ€™s child and entrusted with your life to serve him. If I perish, I perish.
While Christians in other nations like Sudan are risking their lives, in America the risk to life is pretty small. In fact, we mostly just risk our own comfort. Afraid to defend the words of Jesus because we donâ€™t want to look silly. Afraid to tithe because if we just had a few more dollars we could afford that Lexus. Afraid to serve because we might miss out on an episode of American Idol.
What are you doing with the resources God has given you? Are you using your talents, your money, your looks, your heart, in a way that is pleasing to God? Are you taking risks in service to Him who created you? Or are you afraid?
Dr. Young and Wallace Henley of the West Campus sent the following that I thought wrapped up todayâ€™s lesson well. It says,
79 years ago God brought us together as the family that would be known as Second Baptist Church. On that founding Sunday, the first pastor preached the first sermon in the life of this church. His text was Esther 4, the very passage we study today.
That pastor said to the congregation assembled in 1927â€”â€œWho knows but what God has brought us as a body of Christ to the kingdom for such a time as this?â€
History has proven him right. The generations who followed caught the vision, and because of that tens of thousands of people have been transformed by Jesus Christ. Theyâ€™ve impacted families, educational institutions, politics and government, businesses and the marketplace with the vision, values and worldview of Godâ€™s Kingdom.
They sacrificed, many giving sacrificially so the great ministry of this church could be carried out. They did so because they understood Godâ€™s providence and that He had a plan for them individually, and their resources.
Now the question is before usâ€”Will there be a generation a century from now who will still be standing like Mordecai, still be using the best of the themselves and their resources, like Esther, for Godâ€™s Kingdom?
That answer is in our willingness to say of our personal lives and resources, â€œIf I perish, I perishâ€¦â€
Examine yourself and where you are in this world. God placed you right here for a reason. Our talents, our money, our selves should be used for Godâ€™s purposes, every minute of the day. Take a risk at being uncomfortable for God. Bloom where you are planted.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 8 so far )
I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we completed our study of the book of Hebrews and weâ€™ll be moving on to new scripture to study. The bad news is that we completed our study of the book of Hebrews. There was a lot of good information in there, wasnâ€™t there? I learned a lot about angels, Jesus, and good solid Christian character. Iâ€™m going to miss Hebrews.
For the next month weâ€™ll be studying Ezra, then in January weâ€™ll move on to Nehemiah, then by February weâ€™ll be in the book of Esther. There will be a brief intermission around Christmas when we study Psalm 139.
God works in mysterious ways, doesnâ€™t he? As some of you know, I got called away on business this week. Iâ€™ve added it up; I was home 9 days in November, and I was supposed to be home this last week and was sent out of town again. I prayed to God; His promise is that if you are doing His work, He will provide all you need, but I was wondering where I was going to find the time to study and prepare. I left Sunday evening with all my study materials, and the plan was to return Thursday and prepare for this lesson on Saturday. Then, after I got there, I found out I had to stay longer than expected; Iâ€™d be arriving Saturday evening, last night. I continued to pray; my faith is that the Lord Godâ€™s will is always done. I boarded the plane only 20% finished with preparation and a plane flight that was too short to finish preparing.
Be careful what you pray for, God will answer you in ways you do not expect. Iâ€™m sitting on the plane, waiting for takeoff. And waiting and waitingâ€¦ and it dawned on me that Iâ€™m wondering where Iâ€™m going to find the time to finish preparing, and here the plane is delayed, giving me even more time. I whipped out the laptop and got to work. Iâ€™m still not sure Iâ€™m 100% ready today, but God gave me ample time. All the credit goes to God, all the rambling incoherency goes to me. And if I start to ramble too bad, Iâ€™m going to fake some sort of jet lag induced seizure to distract you.
And have you ever prayed for patience? What happens, how does God answer a prayer like that? Thatâ€™s right, he tries you with so many activities and events and crisis at once. How are you going to learn patience unless you have emergencies going on all simultaneously?
About a year ago, Diane & I were considering going on a mission trip to Kenya. God had moved her heart to go, and eventually my stubborn heart got out of the way and God moved mine, too. Diane tells the story so much better than me, so Iâ€™m going to ask Diane to tell you all about it. No, Iâ€™m just kidding, Iâ€™ve been traveling so much, I havenâ€™t had much chance to tease my sweetheart. We prayed for the funds to go, and for a while we werenâ€™t sure we were going. I think Diane gave up for a while. We kept praying, and eventually we relied on faith. We just planned on going as though God had already provided. And then all at once, just before we were to leave, God provided everything we needed.
I know some of you have been Christians for a lot longer than me; in fact, before I started studying the last few weeks, I wasnâ€™t sure who Ezra was. Some jazz singer, maybe. Itâ€™s only been 8 years since Iâ€™ve given my life to Christ, but God has answered so many prayers in the last 8 years. The most amazing is when God repaired our marriage; that was an absolute miracle and completely unexpected that He could repair a marriage that had broken and divorced. Your marriage is a miracle, too, donâ€™t ever take it for granted. Before you were married, did you expect your spouse would be like he or she is? Of course not, God answers prayers in expected ways. Sometimes really unexpected.
I just realized this week another miracle â€“ before I gave my life to Christ, I used to get depressed at Christmas. I even knew why â€“ nostalgia for happy Christmases past, the whole family under the tree opening presents. Then I grew up, and my parents divorce and then my own shattered Christmas for me, and I knew it was never going to be the same. What I realized this last week is that since I gave my life to Christ, I have not been down at Christmas. In fact, this year Iâ€™m almost downright giddy. I realized that getting down was my selfish state of mind, itâ€™s all about me sort of thing. It never was about me. Itâ€™s all about Him. He is the reason to celebrate.
Yes, God answers prayers and fulfills His promises, and thatâ€™s what weâ€™re going to study. So today weâ€™re going to study the book of Ezra, so letâ€™s turn to the book of Jeremiah. Bear with me, we have to get the history.
During the time of Jeremiah, the Israelites were in rebellion to the Lord. For centuries, the Lordâ€™s people refused to live up to the terms of the covenant with the Lord. First God unleashed the destruction of the Northern Kingdom Israel, and still the southern people of Judah continued their defiance. God then unleashed the Babylonians against them. Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonians (modern day Iraq) against Jerusalem and the soldiers destroyed the city, slaughtered many of the Jews, and looted the temple. The survivors either fled to Egypt or were hauled off to Babylon as slaves.
The prophet Jeremiah told the Jews that this period of captivity will last 70 years, and during this 70 years the Jews formed unhappy communities there and put down their roots. They were very bitter about their slavery, even though Jeremiah had warned them this captivity was due to their disobedience. They had no temple and they were unable to offer the sacrifices in the law of Moses.
So what happened after the seventy years? Now we have to back up to the prophet Isaiah to see the Lordâ€™s prophecy fulfilled.
Isaiah 44:24-28 (shortened), â€œThis is what the Lord says â€“ your redeemer, who formed you in the womb. I am the Lord, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, â€¦ who says to Jerusalem, â€œIt shall be inhabitedâ€™, of the towns of Judah, â€œThey shall be rebuilt,â€ and of their ruins, â€œI will restore them,â€ â€¦ who says of Cyrus, â€œHe is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, â€œLet it be rebuilt,â€ and of the temple, â€œLet its foundations be laid.â€
And the people were like, â€œCyrus? Who is Cyrus? Billie Ray Cyrus? Donâ€™t Break My Heart, Achy Breaky Heart Cyrus?â€ And they continued to wonder this until the 70 years of captivity were up
Meanwhile, in a land far, far away, the king of Anshan was getting ambitious. He built a mighty army and attacked his grandfather in Persia which is now modern day Iran. The king then conquered Sardis in Lydia (which is now Turkey), and then turned his attention to Babylonia. In 539 B.C., Babylonia fell to the king of Ashan and became the new ruler of the captive Jews living there. This kingâ€™s name wasâ€¦ thatâ€™s right, Cyrus. Amazing. Coincidence? I think not.
*Now* we can begin the book of Ezra.
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:
The Jews were not free; instead of the Babylonians, the king was now Cyrus. But while the Babylonians ruled by intimidation and fear, Cyrus chose a different method. Give the people what they want, and the people will be loyal to you. Sort of like the Democrats.
“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
” ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among youâ€”may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’ “
Was King Cyrus a believer in the Lord God of heaven? Nope, heâ€™s just lying through his teeth and Iâ€™m not going to draw any more parallels to any particular political party. Cyrus created a new policy to honor the customs and religion of the people he governed. An historical clay cylinder called the Cyprus Cylinder contains a letter to the local Babylonians where Cyrus also claims to be an instrument of the Babylonian god Marduk and asking for their blessings. You know, just giving the people what they want and pretending to be one of them. Dang politicians.
So how is it that the Lord God put this in Cyrus heart? Romans 13:1 says, â€œEveryone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.â€ Yes, God in in charge of all authority on earth, whether that authority knows it or not. God is in charge. And Proverbs 21:1 says, â€œThe kingâ€™s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.â€ The Lordâ€™s will be done, whether youâ€™re a believer or not. As a politician, Cyrus ends up doing the will of the Lord, for the Lord God can use anybody and anything He wishes. Cyrus thinks heâ€™s building his own kingdom, but God is using Cyrus for a far greater purpose.
Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levitesâ€”everyone whose heart God had movedâ€”prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings.
Notice that the proclamation provided a choice. The people did not have to go back to Jerusalem. The younger men who were physically able to reconstruct the temple had been born sometime during the last 70 years in Babylon. They had never been to Jerusalem, never seen a sacrifice offered, never offered one of their own. Now they were being given a chance to leave a place they had known all their lives and go to a place they had only heard about. They would be giving up comfort of their old home they had grown up in to go to someplace unknown. Would they be sent unprepared? Cyrusâ€™ proclamation instructed their the neighbors to help support them financially and materially with their venture in Jerusalem. God takes care of everything! A freewill offering means the neighbors were not forced to give, but asked out of the goodness of their hearts. Something similar happene when God told Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and the Egyptians provided them with gifts of gold and silver and clothing. When God leads, He also provides.
Only a small number of Jews returned to Judah. It says â€œeveryone whose heart God had movedâ€. Were the ones who stayed behind outside of Godâ€™s will? I donâ€™t know. What we do know, however, comes later on in the book of Esther â€“ those that stayed behind were the Jews that Hayman almost had exterminated until Esther spoke up. Anybody see One Night with the King? Beautiful movie of the story of the life of Esther and what happened to these Jews. We also know that there were no ill feelings between those Jews that returned to Jerusalem and those that stayed in Babylonia because of the amount of gifts provided.
I think back to the mission trip Diane and I went on. Not everybody is called to be a foreign missionary; that takes a very special spiritual gift to spread the word of God that way. I donâ€™t think I was effective; I served cheerfully to the best of my ability; providing medical care and services and monetary help was very rewarding, but door to door evangelism to people that donâ€™t speak the same language as me isnâ€™t my calling. I guess Iâ€™m saying I probably identified more with the Jews that stayed behind.
Just because God doesnâ€™t call us to be a missionary doesnâ€™t mean He doesnâ€™t call us to help. If our means allows, we should support those in the field, and back them up with prayers and encouragement. For every missionary out in the field, it can take ten or more people supporting them with money, food, clothing, medical care, bibles.
Verse 7 of Ezra also says â€œMoreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.â€
Where did Cyrus get these vessels of the Lordâ€™s house? In the book of Daniel, he records what happened that night Cyrus appeared in Babylon. The Babylon ruler Belshazzar was having a drunken feast: â€œBelshazzar, while he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, and his wives and his concubines drank in them. They drank wine and praised the god of gold and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood and stone. That very night the city of Babylon was captured.
When we get to verse 9, we see what Cyrus returned to Jerusalem:
This was the inventory:
gold dishes 30
silver dishes 1,000
silver pans [b] 29
gold bowls 30
matching silver bowls 410
other articles 1,000
In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver.
Ezra Chapter 2 gives us a list of people with unpronounceable names returning to Jerusalem. Would somebody like to volunteer to read them all? I thought not. I want to look at a couple of the names on the list though â€“ verse 2 shows a Nehemiah, but this is not the same Nehemiah weâ€™ll be studying next month. Thereâ€™s also a Mordecai listed, but this also isnâ€™t the Mordecai from the book of Esther.
Verse 7 is Elam. Verse 31 isâ€¦ the other Elam. How would you like to be known through history as â€œthe other Elam?â€ Hi, Iâ€™m Elam, but not *that* Elam. Iâ€™m the other Elam. Nice to meet you, Iâ€™m the other Nehemiah. And Iâ€™m the other Mordecai.
Look down at v23, there were 128 men of Anathoth. When Jeremiah made that prophecy that God would restore Judah after 70 years of captivity, God also had Jeremiah in Jeremiah 32 to buy a piece of land as a sign that Judah would be restored. Jeremiahâ€™s act was one of faith. God promised He would return them to their land and He did. Thereâ€™s a little town called Anathoth to this day where Jeremiah purchased the land. When the men of Anathoth returned, they had a lawful claim to the land Jeremiah had purchased.
I find all the people listed in Ezra 2 intriguing â€“ just like the body of Christ has many parts â€“ a hand, a foot, Iâ€™m a big toe â€“ we see here that God uses the Jews in many roles. Some to rebuild the temple, some to give out the Word of God, some going as missionaries and others supporting the missionaries. Someday, we will receive rewards in heaven for the work we do; all of our work will be inspected and judged and the worthless work will be burned away by fire and only the precious work of the Lord remains. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says â€œFor we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.â€ The work we do is what God calls us to do, and each part of the body needs each other part.
When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled as one man in Jerusalem. Then Jeshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening sacrifices.
About 50,000 Israelites had returned and settled in and around Jerusalem with the money and materials that were brought to begin the work on the temple. The first priority was the rebuilding of the altar, which of course the rebellious people didnâ€™t do right away. We find out elsewhere in the book of Haggai the first thing they did was build homes and Haggai had to rebuke them for putting their selfish needs before the Lord.
So after a good rebuking, they got down to work building the temple. Under the law of Moses, Jews had a sacrificial system of atonement we studied in Hebrews. The phrase â€˜the people assembled as one man in Jerusalemâ€™ showed their solidarity and unity of purpose. The two men who lead the rebuilding were Jeshua, a priest and descendant of Aaron and Zarubbabel, a descendant of David. Both the priestly and royal branches of Jews worked together to reestablish the Mosaic covenant. Then is ways they built the alter despite their fear and in accordance with the Law of Moses. It sounds like such a simple formula â€“ read the scriptures and work together as one without fear. Now thereâ€™s a goal for a church.
I think fear is still common â€“ I think about the Christians that may be working at Best Buy or Home Depot or Kroger where they are discouraged from saying â€œMerry Christmasâ€ and told to say â€œHappy Holidaysâ€ instead. I tell people that I donâ€™t celebrate â€œWinter Holidayâ€ because itâ€™s pagan. I celebrate Christmas!
Working together as one has a more positive example just this week. I got a few emails this week telling me about Angels of Light I missed this week â€“ that is such a wonderful service and it is so rewarding to see so many people working together as one.
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD :
“He is good;
his love to Israel endures forever.”
And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
The foundation for the alter was finally complete, and the Jews couldnâ€™t wait to celebrate. The Mosaic covenant was being followed exactly as described by Moses. This same order was followed when David brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 16:5-6, and when the ark was brought to the temple in 2 Chronicles 5:12-13. The priests wore their ceremonial robes, the descendants of Asaph and the priest performing sacrifices and others playing cymbals, harps, lyres and trumpets. The Jews knew this time the Lord was making this temple possible and wanted to give praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for His love for them. The temple worship has been restored after 70 years, just as prophesied.
When we receive gifts, most of us remember to say thank you. Sometimes we forget what gifts we have, though, and donâ€™t thank our Lord for them. The privilege of worshiping Him is a gift that the Jews didnâ€™t have, and weâ€™re losing, too, in part of the world and in this country, too. Fifty years ago it was unthinkable, but now our government compels children to attend purely secular public schools where the pagan â€œWinter Holidayâ€ is celebrated instead of Christmas, and instead of being taught that sex is a gift reserved for married couples, the children are taught sexual activities with cucumbers. Weâ€™re losing monuments and crosses that reflect the Judeo-Christian ideals this country was founded on, and â€œMerry Christmasâ€ is considered unwelcome. Letâ€™s give thanks weâ€™re not yet like the Jews in Babylonia and can worship our maker freely. Count every blessing, name them one by one and Praise God for all that He hath done. When the Jews realized what they had lost during captivity, they praised God for His sovereignty, faithfulness, forgiveness and restoration. Letâ€™s not take that for granted.
But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.
There were two types of people present during the dedication of the temple. On one hand were the younger generation that had never seen the original temple built by Solomon. To these younger people, this was a wonderful time. A new temple, new opportunities to worship and serve the Lord. The other group were the old-timers who remembered the old temple and were making comparisons. â€œWhy this old temple is nothing compared to the one in my day. Why, our temple would eat this temple for lunch. It was worth making the journey, and we didnâ€™t mind all the walking to get here. Weâ€™d walk uphill to get here. Both ways. We gave everything we had, even the shoes off our feet. The walk back was uphill, too, but now we were barefoot. And on cold, icy days, weâ€™d have to strap barb-wire to our feet to keep from slipping.â€
The old group wasnâ€™t exactly encouraging to the younger group, were they? Being critical of something is really easy; being encouraging is much harder. I was recently reminded of this while I was out of town yet again, griping aboutâ€¦ well, letâ€™s just say I thought this trip was much ado about nothing, mountains made from molehills. Reading some scripture in the middle of the week about encouraging one another as long as it is called Today cut me to the heart about my disobedience. I had developed some old person â€œthe old way is the right way to do thisâ€ philosophy. Younger hearts are what we all need.
As we close the first three chapters of Ezra, letâ€™s remember that Godâ€™s will be done. He can use the unbelievers for his will in order to faithfully fulfill His promise and He sometimes answer prayers in unexpected ways. Letâ€™s remember that sometimes God calls us to take action, and sometimes God calls us to be the supporting people. Letâ€™s remember that when we are in accordance with the scripture, we become like one body in unity in purpose. And letâ€™s remember to give thanks and praise for our almighty Father in Heaven from whom all blessings flow.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Like you, Iâ€™ve noticed the days getting shorter â€“ and not just the hours of daylight. The actual 24 hour cycle is getting shorter, as we hurtle from the calm eddy of our countyâ€™s brief experience of Autumn into what we call the Holiday Season.
It was only a few days ago when the trees were showing off. I noticed the chinaberry trees in bright yellow robes â€“ startlingly bright â€“ in yards all over town. And the cypress treesâ€™ needles were just starting to rust. Then the winds blew one night and these splendors were dumped in halos on the ground around newly naked trunks â€“ looking like discarded bathrobes â€“ and it seemed Fall had fallen until I remembered we still have some maples showing and the red oaks have yet to blaze. The pecans and sycamores are littering the ground just now with bran-colored drifts. Still, the sight of millions of cypress needles dusting the river made me realize it was time to gird for the onslaught of the hardest season of the year.
Our old black mailbox groans daily with catalogs of delights â€“ most beyond our means, and certainly all beyond our needs. Weâ€™ve been offered clothing (lots of clothing), fruit, travel, books, gadgets and whatnot, all presented in vibrant color, all with guaranteed delivery by Christmas, page after page of gifts. The stack of catalogs weâ€™ve received this month alone is more than two feet tall.
Iâ€™ve seen, on my way home from work, delivery trucks parked in the dark, their headlights on, delivering gifts. This must be a tough time to be a driver for the parcel companies â€“ and the volume will continue to grow, swelling like a crescendo, until the last few hours of Christmas Eve â€“ as entire mountains of gifts pour from their tributaries right to our doorsteps.
In all of this haste, all of this shopping, all of this worrying about budgets and finding the right thing for that difficult-to-shop-for friend, amidst the travel and houses full of family, the grumpy uncles and the weepy aunts, itâ€™s hard to remember this time of year offers some beautiful opportunities.
Churches will offer special musical presentations, opportunities for worship and service. Several local charities will be collecting gifts for the needy, and all of us will find appeals in our mailboxes from worthwhile groups. While many of the appeals ply on our sense of guilt (Iâ€™m thinking about the seemingly endless fundraising efforts of a San Antonio radio station), a precious few of the groups will offer a chance to share in the hope they bring to others. To those it is easy to give, and to give joyfully, if in secret.
Overhead Iâ€™ve noticed the moon dancing farther and farther away from bright Venus in the sky. A few weeks ago the moon, just a crescent, seemed close enough to the shining planet to touch it. As the gap between them grew, the moon grew fuller and fuller until it got so bright several friends complained it was interfering with their sleep. I guess the approaching holidays are like that â€“ as the noise and spectacle of the holidays grows bigger and bigger, until it seems to occupy all the available space of our feeble attentions, it gets more distant from the simple single light that is the reason for the holiday in the first place.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Andrew Coulson at the Cato Institute has a question – why are we fighting over Intelligent Deisgn vs Evolution? Does it matter to one parent if another parent teaches their child about God?
Supporters of the theory of human origins known as “intelligent design” want it taught alongside the theory of evolution. Opponents will do anything to keep it out of science classrooms. The disagreement is clear.
But why does everyone assume that we must settle it through an ideological death-match in the town square?
Intelligent design contends that life on Earth is too complex to have evolved naturally, and so must be the product of an unspecified intelligent designer. Most adherents of this idea would undoubtedly be happy just to have it taught to their own children, and most of my fellow evolutionists presumably believe they should have that right. So why are we fighting?
We’re fighting because the institution of public schooling forces us to, by permitting only one government-sanctioned explanation of human origins. The only way for one side to have its views reflected in the official curriculum is at the expense of the other side.
This manufactured conflict serves no public good. After all, does it really matter if some Americans believe intelligent design is a valid scientific theory while others see it as a Lamb of God in sheep’s clothing? Surely not. While there are certainly issues on which consensus is key â€” respect for the rule of law and the rights of fellow citizens, tolerance of differing viewpoints, etc. â€” the origin of species is not one of them.
The sad truth is that state-run schooling has created a multitude of similarly pointless battles. Nothing is gained, for instance, by compelling conformity on school prayer, random drug testing, the set of religious holidays that are worth observing, or the most appropriate forms of sex education.
Not only are these conflicts unnecessary, they are socially corrosive. Every time we fight over the official government curriculum, it breeds more resentment and animosity within our communities. These public-schooling-induced battles have done much to inflame tensions between Red and Blue America.
But while Americans bicker incessantly over pedagogical teachings, we seldom fight over theological ones. The difference, of course, is that the Bill of Rights precludes the establishment of an official religion. Our founding fathers were prescient in calling for the separation of church and state, but failed to foresee the dire social consequences of entangling education and state. Those consequences are now all too apparent.
Fortunately, there is a way to end the cycle of educational violence: parental choice. Why not reorganize our schools so that parents can easily get the sort of education they value for their own children without having to force it on their neighbors?
Doing so would not be difficult. A combination of tax relief for middle income families and financial assistance for low-income families would give everyone access to the independent education marketplace. A few strokes of the legislative pen could thus bring peace along the entire “education front” of America’s culture war.
But let’s be honest. At least a few Americans see our recurrent battles over the government curriculum as a price worth paying. Even in the “land of the free,” there is a temptation to seize the apparatus of state schooling and use it to proselytize our neighbors with our own ideas or beliefs.
In addition to being socially divisive and utterly incompatible with American ideals, such propagandizing is also ineffectual. After generations in which evolution has been public schooling’s sole explanation of human origins, only a third of Americans consider it a theory well-supported by scientific evidence. By contrast, 51 percent of Americans believe “God created human beings in their present form.”
These findings should give pause not only to evolutionists but to supporters of intelligent design as well. After all, if public schooling has made such a hash of teaching evolution, why expect it to do any better with I.D.?
Admittedly, the promotion of social harmony is an unusual justification for replacing public schools with parent-driven education markets. Most arguments for parental choice rest on the private sector’s superior academic performance or cost-effectiveness. But when you stop and think about it, doesn’t the combination of these advantages suggest that free markets would be a far more intelligent design for American education?
Incidentally, the reason those that we’ll continue to fight over this issue was mentioned yesterday – the Left hates Inequality. All children should be taught equally, and that means your child taught whatever the state decides.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 24 so far )
Apparently, the more you make, the more in debt you are.
Statistics show that the highest 20 percent of Americans — those with a pre-tax income of $110,000 and up — have seen their liabilities skyrocket since 2001.
The net change in that group’s total liabilities increased by about $40,000 on average from 2001 to 2003, the last year data was available.
Wow. If you make above $110,000, your debt increased $40,000 over… whatever it was before.
There are a lot of reasons for debt to increase, and many of them are out of our control. Loss of a job, borrowing to expand a business, unreimbursed medical expenses, lawsuits, casualty losses… but that’s not why affluent people are in debt.
Alison and Joe Guage, of Rochester, N.Y., may not like living with debt, but they don’t see much of a choice — even with his six-figure income from Eastman-Kodak.
“I think to live this kind of lifestyle that we’d like to live, we have to go into debt to a certain degree,” Alison Guage said.
Ah, the “this kind of lifestyle” justification. If you’re living beyond your means, who benefits the most? (Not exactly a trick question; it’s banks and credit card companies.) And who is deprived? Well… you, if you’re paying hundreds of dollars to the banks, but also your church, neighbors, friends. Everything we “own” is a gift from God, and when we die, we give it all back. What did we do with this gift while we were alive? Did we tithe, donate to charities, use it for God’s purpose and glory? Or did we spend half of it on a nice plasma TV and give the rest of it to the credit card company?
Nothing wrong with saving money for retirement and enjoying the fruits of your labor, of course. But if you just want to “live a certain kind of lifestyle,” then you’re stuck in a materialistic rut from which escape is difficult. For no matter how much you make, you’ll always need to live beyond your means to afford just a little bit better.
Just a friendly warning about materialism.
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. – 1 Timothy 6:7-10Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
I’m convinced the liberal left is working on a new tactic – to claim christianity for themselves. That’s right, if you believe in the right to have an abortion, they’re working on scripture interpretation to support it. Gay marriage? They push a “God is Love” approach that allows homosexuality and completely skip over the “homosexuality is bad” scripture. Whatever you want to do, they will say God approves it.
These new “progressive Christians” are insisting that it’s the liberal left that has a claim on Christianity, and any claim by the religious right is in error. From a link at Jesus Politics comes this article, The lame joke of progressive Christianity.
Are you a proponent of abortion and gay rights? Want to get in touch with your inner-sodomite, but can’t reconcile it with those bigoted Bible lessons you were taught in Sunday school? No problem, there is a place for you among a free-thinking community of leftists where, indeed, it is possible to advocate such practices and still call yourself a faithful follower of Christ. Adherents of this new, enlightened form of Christianity are sure to take the Bible “seriously but not literally.” That is, they respect the holy book but are by no means bound by what it actually says, or even what it implies. Like our Constitution, I guess one could say that the Bible has become a living document to be twisted and manipulated at will.
The “progressive” christians are for higher taxes under the umbrella of “economic justice for all” and criticize conservative fiscal policies as being incompatible with scripture. Take it from the rich give it to the poor by excessive taxation is their motto. Does that fulfill Christian scripture? The New Testamament is about giving willingly, not taking it from others by law and distributing it, but the “progressive” see it differently.
Moreover, long subjugated by the “powerful political machine” of right-wingers, Christians on the left are finally speaking out about what they see as a “clash of competing Christian values.” Yes, that’s right â€” abortionists, socialists, and sodomites are now in a perceived tug-of-war with fundamentalist conservatives for the heart of Christianity.
That’s right, don’t resist whatever sin you face – embrace it publically for all the world to see! Dang blasted conservative christians always telling people to repent – what’s up with that?
Don’t be fooled. This is a Christianity rooted not in the Scriptural truths of God, but in the personal predilections of Man. It is no alternative to salvation. The simple fact is that the “narrow gate” is narrow by design and every one of us has a particular cross to bear on our way through it â€” some admittedly heavier and more burdensome than others. Nonetheless, we are all called with equal ardor to the house of brotherhood and grace.
John Kerry bumbled this attempt during the 2004 election, but Hillary Clinton is perfecting her message now to be able to twist scripture in a way to promote radical feminism, environmentalism, gay marriage, whatever liberals want. She’ll have it ready by 2008.
Want to see an example of this progressive Christianity in action? Check out this Bill McKibben article The Christian Paradox in yesterday’s Harper’s online magazine – while under the guise of stirring Christians into action, the article spends most of its energy bashing the religious right for failing in their attempts or for not having done enough – when it’s “progressives” like the author that oppose the agenda of the religious right. They oppose the religious right’s teaching of abstinence in school, then complain teenage pregnancy is up. They complain about the divorce rate rising yet are silent on the numbers of people that choose to cohabitate without getting married. They complain about poverty yet oppose faith based initiatives.
Update: Christian CADRE has a lengthy response to the Christian Paradox article that’s well worth reading from a conservative Christian apologetics viewpoint.
2 Timothy 3:2-5
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourageâ€”with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.
Teresa Heinz Kerry in New York discussed the relief effort underway for victims of Hurricane Ivan.
“Clothing is wonderful, but let them go naked for a while, at least the kids,” said Heinz Kerry, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. “Water is necessary, and then generators, and then food, and then clothes.”
I’m sure she means well, but that’s just a bizarre way to phrase it.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )