Shame for Sin

To experience shame for sin is a hopeful sign that repentance and faith in God is still a real possibility.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 43-44; 2 Peter 2

10 “As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan. 11 And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its laws and all its statutes and carry them out.          Ezekiel 43:10-11

9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.                                                2 Peter 2:9-10a

God gave Ezekiel an elaborate vision of a new temple. The details go on and on. Ezekiel dutifully records all of the measurements and the layout of this temple. God tells him that he is to describe the temple to the people of Israel so that they may be ashamed of their iniquities. The glory of God was reflected in the temple and it seemed possible that this description would spur some to shame for their sin. At the same time, the temple held a message of hope of salvation. Here in this place of God’s throne provision was made for a sacrifice for sin. The gospel of Jesus Christ was in the temple, if we rightly understand it.

In Peter’s time, there were false prophets and teachers who were completely insensitive to sin. He goes into detail about their deceptions and schemes to lead believers astray. Peter shows how God in the past has brought judgment on those who rebelled against Him: evil angels, the wicked society of Noah’s day, and Lot’s neighbors in Sodom and Gomorrah. So God has shown that He is able to rescue the godly, like Noah and Lot, and keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. In view here in particular are those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

If there is anything which describes the mainstream of our society today, it is indulgence “in the lust of defiling passion” and the despising of authority. But is there shame for this kind of sin? Shame is seen not as a good emotion leading to healthy repentance and to seeking God’s forgiveness but rather as a result of poor self-esteem often brought on by a severe religious upbringing.

If this world is trying you, trust Him who knows how to rescue the godly from trials in amazing ways. Pray that God may grant our unbelieving loved ones shame for sin that leads to repentance and faith.

Equality and Calling

The New Covenant brought a wonderful equality and calling in the Church unknown under the Old Covenant, but created a tension we must maintain.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 41-42; 2 Peter 1

14 When the priests enter the Holy Place, they shall not go out of it into the outer court without laying there the garments in which they minister, for these are holy. They shall put on other garments before they go near to that which is for the people.” Ezekiel 42:14

1Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 2 Peter 1:1-2

In the new temple of Ezekiel’s vision, provision was made for the priestly functions and the designated places for those functions. Great care had to be taken in the ordering of the ministry. Priests wore holy garments for their service and they were not to leave the Holy Place and mix with the people in those vestments. God was teaching them to respect His holiness and the service being offered to Him.

What a contrast with the New Covenant! Peter identifies himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, but then tells his readers that they “have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours…” That standing is based on “the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” No wonder there was equality in the Church of Jesus Christ not known in ancient Israel. The old covenant people observed sacrifices that could, at best, point to the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world ((Isaiah 53:4-7; John 1:29-35). All those who believed in Christ were and are on equal standing before God. As the saying goes, “the ground is level at the cross.”

Of course, this equality is not absolute. There are differences in gifts and calling within the Church. Believers will distinguish themselves by their growth in God. Not everyone will “make every effort to supplement [their] faith with virtue (vs 5).”  Some will be more or less ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ (vs. 8). Some, but not all, are called to shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:1-5). There are a variety of gifts given by the Spirit to the members of the Body (1 Corinthians 12:4-31; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16;1 Peter 4:10-11). The equality is not of gifts and calling but of standing before God based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Peter models both a respect for the office to which he was called and a respect for all other believers who, like him, stand before God because of Christ alone. In your relationships with fellow believers, be sure to maintain the tension between the equality and calling each of us has.

 

 

The Sufferings of Christ

The sufferings of Christ not only ended the elaborate but futile Old Covenant sacrifices but actually bring sinners to God.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 40; 1 Peter 5

39 And in the vestibule of the gate were two tables on either side, on which the burnt offering and the sin offering and the guilt offering were to be slaughtered. Ezekiel 40:39

1So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 1 Peter 5:1

In Ezekiel’s vision of the new temple, he is taken into the inner chamber where there are tables for the washing and slaughter of the various kinds of sacrifices: burnt, guilt, and sin offerings. Such was the enormity of the sin of God’s chosen people that the sacrifices were repeated over and over with no seeming conclusion. Sin and sacrifices were the way of life on a daily basis. Talk about life on an endless treadmill!

Would there be no deliverance from the sin or the futility of the animal sacrifices? Yes, indeed, there would.

Peter was a witness to that deliverance which was accomplished by the sufferings of Christ. The Apostle knew what those sufferings meant. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…” he wrote (I Peter 3:18). Christ’s sufferings meant that a sufficient offering had finally been made. Christ suffered once for sins. His one offering was sufficient because He was righteous. No other person and no sacrificial animal could accomplish what His sufferings accomplished which was to bring unrighteous people to God.

Peter knew that he was one of those unrighteous people who had been brought to God. [See Luke 5:8]. The rest of his life and ministry was lived and executed in the light of the cross of Christ. When he appealed to the elders among his readers to be faithful and humble shepherds of God’s flock, he did so as one who had never lost sight of the reason for Jesus’ sufferings.

Have you grasped the meaning of the sufferings of Christ? Lay aside every effort to earn forgiveness through any merit of your own, or any feeble offerings to God. They cannot suffice. Only the One who suffered for His people on the cross can bring us to God. Trust in the sufferings of Christ.

A Tribute to my Dad at 100

One hundred years, where have they gone? The world had him for almost 81 years and I had him for 51 of those years, but, then, I still have him in my heart and mind these past 19 years. And, I think, if you knew him, you do, too.

He was born on November 27, 1915 in New York, NY, a tiny twin who appeared to be dying at birth. His sister, Edith, named for her mother, got most of the medical attention. Then, little John Michael Jr. (“Jack” to his family) rallied.

And he survived.

Oh, yes, he pulled through all right. He also survived getting hit by a car when only eight. His broken leg healed up just fine. About that time, he was sent, purportedly for the summer, to live with an aunt in Mineola. Fall came and with it the first day of school. His aunt got him ready and sent him off saying nothing about him going home. Gradually, it dawned on him that he was never going home again. He was right about that, but he never understood it. In 1924, children were only informed on a need-to-know basis and the adults in his world were sure he didn’t need to know.

But he survived.

Dad

John Michael Carroll, Jr.

Fast forward 15 years, Dad had finished high school and college. His degree from Hofstra University was a BA in Business. He took a job with the Ward Leonard Company in NY. His father died soon after this and he moved to Mount Vernon to live with his mother. In college, he often listened to a radio preacher, William Ward Ayer, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in the city. Dad heard the gospel and believed. In Mount Vernon, he looked for a church and began attending the First Methodist Church, pastored by Dr. Otho Bartholow. There he found a vibrant youth and singles group which included several siblings from the Trout family.

Mom

Dot Trout

The Trouts were a fixture in the church. The seven siblings included five boys and two girls. Their ages ranged from 26 down to 6. My guess is that four or five of the oldest ones were very active with the “young peoples’” group. It didn’t take Dad long to spot the fourth member of the Trout clan, a gregarious, 22 year old prankster named, Dorothy, or usually, Dot.

He did not survive Dot.

She was everything he could want: happy, confident, fun-loving, popular. Her family was everything he dreamed of: loyal, loving, welcoming, and carefree.

Dot said he followed her around everywhere. She could not shake him until, one day, she decided maybe she didn’t want to shake him. They were married on Valentine’s Day, 1942 at that Methodist Church where they met.

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Valentine’s Day 1942

But World War II was in full swing. The USA was in. On Christmas Eve, only 10 months after the wedding, the draft notice came and Dad would report for induction. He entered the Army and was sent to Camp (now Fort) Campbell, KY. His unit was scheduled to deploy to Europe upon completion of basic training. We now know that would have meant his participation in the D Day invasion being planned. But…

 

 

 

 

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Dad served in the 20th Armored Infantry

Raw recruits were being added by the thousands. Deployment of Dad’s unit was delayed as they were assigned to train a new group of inductees. Again, his unit was scheduled to deploy to Europe. Again, his unit was held back to assist in training. This happened several times. Finally, D Day was history. Dad was still at Camp Campbell but allowed to live off base in a boarding house. So Mom was there with him. Oh, apparently I was, too.

So he survived D Day.

Then, in January, 1945, with Mom eight months pregnant with me, Dad was shipped out to France. He got news of my birth in France, three weeks after the delivery.

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Dad’s Bronze Star

Meanwhile, the Allies advanced across Europe and into Germany. Dad as a Tech Sergeant was responsible for a small detachment which handled replacement parts for military vehicles. As they pushed into Germany, far behind the front lines, they drove through a small village. Suddenly, a white flag appeared out of a window. Then another. And another. The villagers were surrendering to an almost unarmed unit consisting of a sergeant and a couple of corporals driving a truck and two Jeeps with lots of fan belts and spark plugs. For that he received the bronze star which we still proudly display on our dining room wall.

Soon the war in Europe ended. Dad was sent back to the US to prepare for the final push in Asia. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended it abruptly. Dad was discharged and returned home which was now the picturesque village of Montvale on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge in Virginia.

The years ahead had joys and sorrows. Joys included the births of his wonderful daughters, Nancy and Betty, the building of their home on one acre of land on Grandpa Trout’s farm, and a resurgence of Dad and Mom’s faith and service to the Lord largely  through the pastoral ministry of Dr. Jack Arnold at Grace Church in Roanoke. Dad was a ruling elder, Sunday school teacher, and a member of the Grace Academy Board.

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John and Dot with children, spouses, and 8 of the grandchildren (c. 1991).

He and Mom were blessed to see each of us children married and thanked God for Charlie Brenneman, Mary Lackey, and Russell Knouff as well as the nine grandchildren that came from those marriages. He would have been delighted to meet his (so far) thirteen great-grandchildren.

Sorrows were present, too, like the financial struggles brought on by the loss of his stucco refinishing business and some tense years raising a difficult teenage son.

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Dad and Abbey Knouff, his ninth grandchild in April, 1995.

After his retirement as assistant to the president of Shepherds Auto Supply Co, Dad’s health declined. The last years were marked by two major surgeries for aneurisms and by Myelodysplastic Syndrome which caused his death on Sunday, September 15, 1996.

Mom related the last conversation she had with him, a conversation he would have had thousands of times over the fifty-four years of their marriage. But now he was wearing a large collar to support his head after a fall that resulted in a broken neck ten weeks earlier. He had gotten up for a few minutes and was about to get back in bed. He rested on the side of the bed and looked at Dot sitting nearby.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” he said, kindly.

“No, dear. Thanks.”

He then laid down, went to sleep and to glory. Did he survive? Yes, he more than survived for, to borrow from the Apostle Paul, he was more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ who loved him (Romans 8:37).

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Mom and Dad at Monticello. Fall 1986

 

 

One hundred years, where have they gone? But I expect to see them again, forever.

Glory Revealed

History shows the ongoing conflict between Christ and Satan, but, it will culminate in glory revealed.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 38-39; 1 Peter 4

23 So I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am the Lord.  Ezekiel 38:23

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 1 Peter 4:12-14

Israel and Judah were casualties in the cosmic battle of good and evil. As God’s people they suffered for their sin and idolatry, but they would not ultimately be lost because God had chosen them for Himself. He promised to do a new thing with them, make a new covenant with them, and restore them. Here Ezekiel warns the enemy ruler, Gog of the destruction which is coming upon him and his forces. God will show His greatness and His holiness and make Himself known to them.

In short, God would be glorified before the seemingly invincible forces of evil. What an encouragement to the exiles in the Babylonian captivity, far from Jerusalem.

Peter, too, assures the suffering believers of his day that God is not unaware of their plight. They suffer with Christ. They do not suffer as a means of discipline for their sin but rather as a means to show the power and grace of God. Blessing will be theirs, but, first, there is a time of trial to endure. While they are not suffering for sin but for Christ, they do have God’s presence with them and assurance that their suffering will produce the purification of their faith (1 Peter 1:6-7).

There will come a day when God’s glory will be fully revealed and His judgment will be finalized. Those who have suffered malign for Him will be rewarded with vindication and their growth in purity of faith will bring glory to Christ.

Do you suffer for Christ today? Peter says be sure you suffer for Him and not for your sin. Meanwhile, entrust your soul to your faithful Creator because the day of glory revealed is coming.

 

 

Honoring Christ

Honoring Christ by maintaining hope even in the midst of great trials and suffering, can make the Christian life a curiosity to unbelievers.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 36-37; 1 Peter 3

In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. 20 But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ 21 But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.                                                                               Ezekiel 36:19b-21

14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.                                                                                                 1 Peter 3:14-16

The persistent idolatry of Israel and Judah brought on their downfall, but did they learn from it? No! They continued to profane the name of the Lord by not recognizing before their captors that God was punishing them for their sin. It was not because of any weakness or limitations of the Sovereign God of the universe that they had been overthrown and sent out of their land. So the captors scratched their heads and asked, “Why did this happen to them?”

Israel and Judah were given a perfect opportunity to show repentance and to honor their God before pagan nations, but they failed. So Ezekiel declared their guilt before them. We will learn in the book of Daniel that there were a few Jews who were very faithful to God while in captivity, but they seem to have been the exception and not the rule.

Peter tells his readers who are also in a kind of captivity in the first century A.D., that they should suffer for righteousness sake. In other words, they should submit to undeserved persecution and maintain hope and trust in the Lord. He tells them to be ready “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Hope in the midst of unjust suffering is as rare as it is hard to explain. The question they should anticipate is, “Why are these people still so hopeful under all this opposition?”

How do we prepare for the possibility of suffering for righteousness sake? Should we prepare little sound bites or memorize trite phrases? Peter told his readers then, and, I think, he would tell us now “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy.” Be not like the Old Testament Israelites who profaned the Lord’s name, but by honoring Christ in your heart be ready to honor Him with your words.

The Soul Shepherd

God provided someone to be the Soul Shepherd of His people, but His identity was a surprise.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 34-35; 1 Peter 2

22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken. Ezekiel 34:22-24

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2:24-25

Not infrequently, the Bible uses the analogy of sheep to people. Sheep need constant care. They cannot survive without a shepherd. They are prone to make foolish decisions and get themselves in big trouble. Not being able to defend themselves, they are susceptible to predators.

Ezekiel condemns those who were supposed to be the shepherds of Israel and Judah. They looked out for themselves and neglected those in their care. God declared to them that He would rescue His flock. He would get them to safety. He would pronounce judgment. He would provide one shepherd who would feed them and faithfully fulfill the role of shepherd to them. This shepherd to come is identified as God’s “servant David.” Of course, at the time of Ezekiel’s ministry, David had been dead for four centuries, so the prophet would have been thinking of a descendant of David. We know Him as Jesus Christ, of the lineage of David through Joseph (Matthew 1:1,16; Luke 3:23).

Peter refers to Christ as the Shepherd and Overseer of the souls of those to whom he wrote. Clearly, it is Jesus who fulfilled the prophecy of Ezekiel and rescued His flock. He has fed His people with truth and He will come again to judge those who have rejected His Lordship and His Priesthood. Meanwhile, those He has saved by His death and healed by His wounds are called to die to sin and live to righteousness. In the first century, the vast majority of the Jews rejected the Soul Shepherd that God had sent them. He didn’t fit the stereotype they had imagined for their Messiah.

I hope you have been rescued from the agony of straying like sheep and know the joy of returning to your Soul Shepherd. If so, give Him all the praise and seek to live to righteousness until we enter His presence through death or His return for us.

Seeing Yourself Correctly

Seeing yourself correctly is important. Not everyone does, so how can you be sure you do?

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 32-33; 1 Peter 1

“You consider yourself a lion of the nations,
but you are like a dragon in the seas;
you burst forth in your rivers,
trouble the waters with your feet,
and foul their rivers.
Thus says the Lord God:
I will throw my net over you
with a host of many peoples,
and they will haul you up in my dragnet.                                         Ezekiel 32:2b-3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.                                             1 Peter 1:3-5

Pharaoh was one of those people who had a faulty and exalted opinion of himself. He saw himself as a “lion of the nations”, but God had another view of him. Through Ezekiel, the Lord told the king of Egypt that he was no lion but a dragon who was fouling the rivers and who was about to be caught and destroyed.

Peter wrote that Christians are heirs of God. It is not their own doing. They didn’t earn this status. God, by His mercy, has granted it to His people. There is a process. First, He caused them to be born again. He did it. They did not will themselves to be reborn. Jesus told Nicodemus a new birth was an absolute prerequisite in order to see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). Rebirth is a gracious gift from God’s mercy. Second, because of that new birth, believers have a living hope through Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Whatever they hoped in before is perishable, defiled, and fading. This new living hope is in an inheritance  totally unlike any material and earthly inheritance. Thirdly, they cannot lose this hope because the inheritance is kept in heaven (not Wall Street!) for them and they are guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation which they will see at the last time.

Do you see yourself in the way Peter described, an heir of God with a living hope? If you know the new birth has been granted to you and your faith is in Jesus Christ, you should. Consider if your view of yourself is accurate in accordance with the way God sees you. Remember seeing yourself correctly glorifies God.

God’s Wrath

God’s wrath is coming in judgment, but the targets of His judgment might surprise you.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 29-31; James 5

Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will bring a sword upon you, and will cut off from you man and beast, 9 and the land of Egypt shall be a desolation and a waste. Then they will know that I am the Lord.

“Because you said, ‘The Nile is mine, and I made it,’                       Ezekiel 29:8-9

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.                                            James 5:1-3

Who will be the target of God’s judgment?

In Ezekiel’s day, the Lord pronounced judgment on Egypt. What had they done? It was not so much what they had done or not done, but their arrogant attitude. They prided themselves in the things that God had done. They did not glorify Him, but made idiotic statements like “The Nile is mine, and I made it…” Those who refuse to give God the glory He is due are in special trouble with Him. He would bring His judgment on them and they would know that He is the Lord.

Another target of judgment will be the fraudulent and heartless rich. These are the people James singled out for a stern warning. In the day of judgment, they would be in misery. The riches they trusted in would not serve them at all, but be rotted, moth-eaten, and corroded. There may have been a time when they could buy their way out of trouble but no longer. But take note, it is not the fact that they are rich but that they cheated their workers to expand their wealth. Furthermore, they trusted in their wealth and not in the Lord.

Pride and self-sufficiency robs God of His glory and brings His judgment. Beware of any tendency toward these quiet ways of rebelling. Do not be found among those who have attempted to exalt themselves on that coming day of God’s wrath.

Humility before God

It behooves every human being to learn humility before God. One nation learned the hard way.

Today’s reading: Ezekiel 27-28; James 4

Because you make your heart
like the heart of a god,
therefore, behold, I will bring foreigners upon you,
the most ruthless of the nations;
and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom
and defile your splendor.                                                    Ezekiel 28:6b-7

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”                                                                                   James 4:13-15

The prophet Ezekiel spoke for the Creator God, the God of all flesh. So he addressed the neighboring nations of Judah, like Tyre. God indicted Tyre for her arrogance and pride. She was prosperous and presumptuous. Tyre boasted of her greatness, her wealth, and her beauty. She elevated herself and brought on the judgment of God.

James warned his readers of the same danger on a personal level. Some were guilty of a total lack of humility before God. They set goals and made their plans and schedules as if they controlled their own destinies, as if they were immortal, unstoppable. Where is the recognition that we are all no more than “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes?”

In centuries past, godly people routinely wrote D.V. in their correspondence when making plans. “I will come to see you by New Years, D.V.” I googled “D.V.” to see what came up. On the third page of hits, I found a list of 50 possible options for D.V., things like Darth Vader, Death Valley, and Desktop Virtualization. Obviously, none of these were what the Puritans had in mind.About 35th in the list was “Deo Volente (Latin for ‘Lord willing’).” Yeah, that’s it.

In our society, few know Latin and too few know the Lord who reigns and has the final say-so over our lives. I don’t think the folks in ancient Tyre used D.V in their correspondence and neither do we, but, even if you don’t write it or say it, my fellow mist, remember to keep it in your mind and heart as you make plans. Always seek to maintain humility before God.