Cultural Collision Coming

There is no place for both the true God of heaven and earth and the idols of humankind.  The gospel and popular culture are on a collision course.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 19-21; Acts 19:21-41

Selected Verses

Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.  Psalm 21:13

“Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.  And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.  And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”  Acts 19:25-27

Reflections

The Psalmist exemplifies true worship as he praises God for all He is and has done.  He thanks the Lord for His mercy, grace, and goodness to His people and  prays for God to be exalted.  He commits to sing and praise God’s power.  And he desires that God be pleased with his thoughts and words (Psalm 19:14).

On the other hand, Paul was preaching in Ephesus,a stronghold of false worship and idolatry. His message threatened the lucrative business of the silversmiths and others who profited from the cult of Artemis.  One of the tradesmen, Demetrius, called a meeting to warn the community of the danger that would come to them if Paul should succeed in diminishing the worship of this false goddess.  Chaos ensued.  The crowd worked itself up to a frenzy until the town clerk quieted them.

Think about it

Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father, except through me”  (John 14:6).  We may not impose the gospel by force on unbelievers. But the secular culture convulses when  we proclaim the truth and hearers believe.  We cannot settle for some benign multicultural coexistence because Jesus calls His disciples to tell the good news of life in His name.  They will teach, preach, explain, reason, debate, prove, and live by faith before the watching world.  Force can silence them, but they will not shrink back in fear nor shut up.

Are you prepared for the impact of the gospel on a culture which is increasingly hostile to the exclusivity of the message?  Prepare yourself.  Remember it is enough to please God with the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart.

The Authority of the Bible

The Christian church spread widely and rapidly in the First Century.  Do you know why?  It can happen again if we follow the Apostles’ example.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 13-16; Acts 18

Selected Verses

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.  Psalm 16:9-10

And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews is public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. Acts 18:27-28

Reflections

In the First Century, the Apostles used the Scriptures of the Old Testament powerfully and effectively as they spread throughout the known world proclaiming that the promised Christ had come. Later the New Testament containing the Apostles’ teaching would be added, completing our Bible.

The Messiah, Christ, was promised to Israel and sent to them. He lived out His life and ministry culminating in His death by crucifixion, His resurrection, and His commissioning of His Apostles to go into the entire world and make disciples of all nations. That work which Jesus commissioned still goes on today throughout the earth.

The Psalms are filled with references which had immediate relevance to their time but would later be more completely fulfilled by Jesus in His earthly life. Here we have a prophecy which both Peter and Paul understood to point clearly to His resurrection (Acts 2:25-28; 13:35). To see Christ in the Psalms and other Old Testament scriptures motivated the Apostles and fueled their boldness as they preached to the Jews.

One of those Jewish converts to Jesus Christ was a gifted man named Apollos. He displayed great eloquence in his speech and diligence in his study of the Word of God, but he received needed help from the mentoring of Paul’s disciples, Aquila and Priscilla. Apollos went on to Achaia and had an effective ministry encouraging the believers and showing the Jews from the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Think about it

Do you rely on the Scriptures as the basis for your faith and in your presenting Jesus to others? We need to beware of relying on arguments based on mere human reasoning and logic and neglecting to point people to the claims of Christ made in God’s Word. Let the Word of God be your authority for your life and your ministry. The Apostles modeled this and we will be wise to follow their example. We may yet see amazing growth in Christ’s Church.

God’s Righteous Judgment

Final divine judgment is not a popular topic today.  Might that explain why we struggle to find meaning and purpose in life?

Today’s Reading

Psalms 10-12; Acts 17:16-34

Selected Verses

Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.   Psalm 10:13-15

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. Acts 17:30-31

Reflections

The Psalmist analyzes the thought processes of the wicked who say, in essence, “God is not going to judge people.” They assume that God doesn’t know what is going on, but He does. They assume that He will not take action against their evil schemes, but He will. The idea of final judgment runs throughout the Bible. God is both holy and sovereign, so He must put right the injustice of mankind. God helps the fatherless and the weak and the poor. He hears their pleas and will bring full justice.

In Athens, Paul declares the existence of the God that they call the “unknown god.” They had many idols, but, in case they had overlooked a god, they added this one for good measure. Paul tells them about the God who is Creator and Sustainer of life. This God cannot be contained in a temple because He is infinite. He is the God who needs nothing and depends on nothing for His existence. He is not distant and aloof but will judge the world in righteousness on the appointed day by a Man whom He has raised from the dead, namely Jesus Christ. Like the wicked of Psalm 10, some of the people of Athens mocked the idea of judgment.  Some wanted to hear more.

Think about it

Many today dismiss the idea of final judgment.  At the same time, they search desperately for a reason to live. Without a clear understanding of the judgment of God we will neither have a reason to live nor motivation to seek God’s forgiveness and to live in holiness before Him. Be sure you are clear on the judgment of God and how Jesus said we may escape it (John 5:24).

 

Everyone’s a Theologian

RC Sproul says, “Everyone’s a theologian, but not all are good theologians.” See how speech under great stress revealed two men to be excellent theologians.

Today’s Reading

Job 1-3; Acts 7:1-19

Selected Verses

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”  But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:9-10

And the high priest said, “Are these things so?”  And Stephen said:  “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran.  Acts 7:1,2

Reflections

Job was an upright man. In every way, his life was exemplary. He was chosen by God for a special task, although he did not consent to it nor did he know what it was. He suffered every imaginable loss: his wealth, his children, and his health. Even his wife urged him to “curse God and die.” But he would not. He clung to his belief that God had given him good things and it was only right to accept “evil” from Him. Job was not in denial as we see throughout the book, and he certainly lamented his situation. He wished he had never been born. But he never sinned with his lips. He knew God and determined to keep trusting Him even when his pain-wracked life made no sense.

Stephen spoke so powerfully about Christ that the authorities concocted a plan to eliminate him through a mock trial with false witnesses. They charged that he blasphemed Moses and God and that he stated that Jesus would destroy the temple and change the customs of the Mosaic law. At his trial Stephen gave a brilliant and God-honoring review of the history of Israel. Clearly he understood how God is the One working in the world and showing grace, mercy, and power to His people. Here he had common ground with the Jews, so they listened. Stephen was no blasphemer. He told the story of the great Jehovah who guided Israel and still wisely and sovereignly works to bring about His purposes.

Think about it

What does your speech say about your theology? Does it reveal an awareness of the presence and power of God in both your personal life as well as the world around you? Rewind today’s tape. What would your hearers say is your view of God? Be a good theologian, and honor God in your speech.

Light or Darkness? Which will you choose?

Everyone is faced with a choice of two paths: light or darkness.  You must take one but only one. In which one will you walk?

Today’s Reading

First Chronicles 3-5; John 8:1-20

Selected Verses

But they broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day.  1 Chronicles 5:25-26

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Reflections

The half-tribe of Manasseh included a large population, mighty warriors, famous men, and heads of their fathers’ houses (1 Chronicles 5:23-24).  But they did not walk in the light of the truth of God.  They served other gods who had shown their inability to deliver the nations that served them in the past.  Despite the long list of accolades mentioned about this half-tribe they failed in the most important matter, to remain faithful to the God of Israel.  They were in “Who’s Who” as far as their contemporary society was concerned, but they got only scorn and judgment from the Lord.

Jesus proclaimed Himself to be the Light of the world.  Those who follow Him have the light of life.  Those who do not must walk in darkness, like the half-tribe of Manasseh.

Think about it

The fame and acclaim of this world can contribute nothing to one who is walking in darkness.  Have you determined to walk in the light?  Better to walk in the light and be in societal obscurity than the reverse.  The Apostle John wrote: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Seek to walk in the light of Christ today.  Your steps may not be easy, but they will be sure.  You will walk in freedom from guilt and in the great fellowship of all those who walk in the light.

The Trap of Popular Opinion

Seeking glory from society is a sure stumbling block to believing the truth and to living wisely and godly.  Here’s a warning to flee the trap.

Today’s reading

Second Kings 12-14; John 5:25-47

Selected Verses

You have indeed struck down Edom, and your heart has lifted you up. Be content with your glory, and stay at home, for why should you provoke trouble so that you fall, you and Judah with you?”  2 Kings 14:10

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? John 5:44

Reflections

Amaziah, king of Judah, defeated Edom. Then he called on Jehoash, king of Israel, for a face off on the battlefield. Jehoash called his bluff and told him to “be content with [his] glory.”  Good advice, but Amaziah wasn’t buying it. They fought and Amaziah lost badly, not only the battle but all the gold and silver in the temple and the palace. He would die in a conspiracy. He foolishly started and lost a war that was about his own glory, not God’s.

Jesus confronted the Jews who were increasingly opposed to Him and His teaching. He unmasked their motives. They sought glory from one another and not from God. No wonder they could not see that God had sent Jesus, His Son, and that there was overwhelming support for His claims. John the Baptist, Jesus’ own works, the Father’s approval, and the Scriptures all pointed to Him as the Messiah. Those who sought public approval and acclaim were too blinded by their pursuit to see and accept the obvious truth.

Think about it

Amaziah, though a king, fell into the trap of popular opinion.  The Jews who rejected Jesus were also guilty of seeking glory from their peers.  Our sin nature has an insatiable desire for glory.  Nothing will suffice.

How much does popular opinion affect your decisions and your viewpoints? Jesus calls us to follow Him, the One who did not seek glory from people. We will never follow Christ until we rid ourselves of the desire to please others. Follow Him alone and be free from the tyranny of the fear and praise of men. You will be glad in that hour when the dead are called to the resurrection of life and judgment.

Two Erroneous Thoughts about God

A two-part error of many is to think they know God, but that God doesn’t know them. Building on these false assumptions never works.

Today’s Reading

1 Kings 19-20; John 2

Selected Verses

And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’”  1 Kings 20:28

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people  and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.   John 2:23-25

Reflections

The Syrians under King Benhadad suffered a defeat by King Ahab and the army of Israel. Behadad’s advisers told him that the power of the God of Israel was limited to the hills and that He could do nothing if they fought Israel in the plains. God sent a prophet to tell Ahab that He would give them victory over Syria in the valleys to show His power. Although Israel’s army is described as “two little flocks of goats” and the Syrian invaders “filled the country,” God did give Israel the victory and King Benhadad was captured (1 Kings 20:26, 29).

When Jesus came to Jerusalem, He demonstrated His authority by cleansing the temple. Perhaps the people had heard that He turned water to wine previously. They professed to believe in Him, but Jesus saw through them. He knew that they only believed superficially. They wanted signs, bread, and healing, but they would not truly commit themselves to Him. To them Jesus was a source of power and provision but not their Lord and Master.

Think about it

It is futile to try to manipulate God for personal advantage. We may not defy Him, believing that He is in any way limited. He is God, omniscient and omnipotent. Paul warned “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

To those who believe in Him, God is loving and He has given His Son as an offering for our sins. But He calls us to show our faith by submitting ourselves joyfully and gratefully to Him in worship and obedience. Serve God and flee all erroneous thoughts of Him.

Facing the Truth

God’s word calls us to quit believing lies and deceiving ourselves.  Jesus tells us why the time is now to begin facing the truth.

Today’s reading

Judges 6-7; Luke 8:1-21

Selected Verses

But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.”   Judges 6:31

For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.  Luke 8:17

Reflections

The moment of truth had come in Israel. The angel of the Lord sent Gideon to tear down the altar of Baal that his father had erected. The local folks cried out in rage, but Joash, Gideon’s father, showing a complete change of heart stood up against the mob. He astutely observed that if Baal were a god, he would be able to take vengeance on the perpetrators himself. Thus, in one moment the light of truth shone on the lie of Baal. That false god was a mere invention of men, not a god with power to do anything for himself or against others.

Jesus in a more general statement announced that all hidden things would be made known and every secret was going to come to light. One of the secrets is that those who disregard God and His word and who trust in other gods believe lies. They delude themselves. This is why Jesus warned His hearers to “take care” how they hear.

Think about it

Hearing God’s Word and believing it have long been a problem. It began with the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It is crucial to hear and believe God’s instructions and commands. Those who don’t hear or who hear and ignore what they have heard will stand before God’s judgment and lose what they thought they had.

Are you an eager hearer and careful doer of God’s word? Check your attitude and be sure you are. Better to face the truth now and follow it, than to suffer exposure as a fool on that day when God uncovers every lie and makes manifest every hidden thing.

 

Warning! Dangerous Road Ahead

The Bible gives many examples both positive and negative for our instruction. In today’s reading we can learn much from two bad examples.

Today’s reading

Deuteronomy 5-7; Mark 12:1-27

Selected Verses

Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!  Deuteronomy 2:29

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?”  Mark 12:24

Reflections

The Lord took delight in the initial enthusiasm of the Israelites for His law.  They indicated a commitment to be faithful and obedient, but God knew their resolve would not last.  They would be drawn away by false gods and pagan people.  Their hearts would not remain steadfast to fear Yahweh and to keep all His commandments.  They would risk deprivation rather than believe God.

The Sadducees in Jesus’ day went off track for two reasons.  They didn’t know the Scriptures, and they didn’t know the power of God.  Why did they not know the Scriptures?  The Sadducees disregarded any supernatural incidents in the Old Testament.  They did not count on God’s power or intervention in human history.  Since they assumed nothing supernatural was possible, they also assumed that the resurrection was impossible.  They plotted to ridicule the idea of a resurrection by creating a dilemma for Jesus.

We know how that ended.  The Sadducees came out looking foolish because Jesus used the Pentateuch (which they held to) to prove their position untenable.  God is God of the living.  To the Lord those who have died physically in this world are still alive to Him and always will be.  The resurrection is true. Jesus Himself would prove it.

Think about it

The ancient Israelites veered off from obedience to God. Why? They replaced the fear of the Lord with fascination for other gods.  The Sadducees erred because they did not know God’s Word well and they did not believe in the power of God.  They trusted their own minds and their own five senses to arrive at truth.

These sorts of spiritual maladies abound today. Beware of the dangerous roads ahead.  Let it not be said of us that our hearts were not wholly the Lord’s or that we failed to know His Word and His power.

Jesus’ Claims: True or False?

Truth is essential. The claims of Jesus Christ rest in actual historical events, not merely philosophical theory. If true, how can they be ignored?

Today’s reading

 Leviticus 18-19; Matthew 27:32-66

Selected Verses

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. Leviticus 19:11

 Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise.” Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, “He has risen from the dead,” and the last fraud will be worse than the first.

Matthew 27:63b-64

Reflections

The law of Moses commanded truthfulness.   It needed to be commanded because honesty died early in human history when the serpent lied and deceived the woman in the garden.  Jesus referred to the devil as the father of lies (John 8:44).  All enter into his realm by natural birth.  Only by a new birth are we set free from this kingdom of lies and deceit.

The scribes and Pharisees knew the claim Jesus made that He would rise from the dead on the third day.  The disciples hid fearing that Jesus might be gone forever.  Meanwhile, the religious leaders worried that people might actually believe Jesus’ prediction about  rising from the dead.  Was there really a danger of the disciples stealing the body and starting a rumor that the Lord had risen?  I doubt it. After all, they had shown no courage when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:56b).  Nevertheless, the stated position of Jesus’ enemies was that He had made a false claim and that the disciples would lie to cover for it creating a hoax of monumental magnitude.

It was their stated position. But, I suspect, some of those opponents wondered if Jesus would make good on the claim.  Tomorrow we will see how this all worked out and, in the end, the unbelievers inadvertently enhanced the claim that Jesus had risen from the dead.

Think about it

Truth is essential.  The claims of Jesus Christ rest on actual historical events, not merely philosophical theory.  Consider the historical evidence for the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord.  It is either true or false.  Everyone must face the truth.  Jesus was no imposter.  His claims proved true and we must all take them seriously.