Thursday, February 18, 2021

Ice and Snow

Johnny Bench is probably the best hitting catcher of all time with a career .267 batting average. That means he failed 73% of the time. If he would have carried that average into a career as a weatherman, he'd been the greatest meteorologist of all time. I check the weather like anyone else, and I know they do their best to predict the somewhat unpredictable, and I treat it as such, a guess based on the best data they have at the moment. And that's a 3 day forecast. Why anyone would believe the same group of people can predict what the weather is going to be like in 20 years is beyond me.

Besides baseball and being wrong about the weather, another favorite American pastime is complaining about the weather. Sometimes I think we watch the forecast so we can prepare our hearts for how best to complain about it. But really, Christians should praise the Lord for the weather He sends us. To be sure, I have my favorites, but the Lord sends us the weather He wants us to have. In fact, it's a point of praise and source of comfort in the 147th Psalm. The Lord heals the brokenhearted, binds up our wounds, and lifts up the meek. Can the Lord Jesus really do that? Well, he is the same God who made the stars, knows their number, and knows the name He gave them. You can buy a certificate and name a star, but God already has named them. God is all powerful and loves his people. Those two facts should comfort you.

Psalms 147:16-18, "He giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes. He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold? He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow." I was thinking about this verse early Thursday morning. I walked outside to see if the weatherman was right. Everything was covered in white, as if someone laid wool over the earth. It was rather peaceful. No trucks rumbling down the road late for work. Just the quiet of a snow fall. Snow dampens sound waves, so that's why it's so quiet after a big snow. That's also the Lord's blessing to us. We got a little bit of ice and that's my God as well. He sends the ice like crumbs of bread. And, maybe, by the time you read this, the snow is already a distant memory. The Lord will cause the wind to blow and warm air will make its way to the region, the snow will melt and make its way to the creeks and rivers and the waters will flow. That's the way the world works and as long as Earth remains, that's how it will continue to be (Genesis 8:22). Snow, ice, and frigid cold come from God. And so does the Spring, which is just around the corner. The Lord is faithful.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Poor in Spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). A startling opening to the Lord's sermon. Don't miss the point by missing a key word. It's not material poverty that makes you blessed and noble. Jesus clearly says, "blessed are the poor in spirit." Spiritual destitution is the point, not low on funds. Still, being a spiritual beggar is the beginning of happiness? The world says you should feel good about yourself. The last thing you should do is see something deficient in yourself? But worldly wisdom is foolish and empty (1 Corinthians 3:18-23). Jesus doesn't say we need to learn to be poor in spirit or become minimalist and give away all possessions, but the truth is, we need to understand how spiritually poor we truly are. It deals with our relationship to God and our view of ourselves. Poor in spirit is recognizing our spiritual state before God. It's to be humbled before God, knowing our sinful condition and knowing we are sinners before a holy God begging for mercy. Psalms 51:17, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."

It's not having some weak points – but destitute of good thing within. If I have a bad attitude, I can change my attitude. Many quit drinking every day. Gamblers can call the hotline West Virginia has plastered on billboards on their way home from the casinos. But what if the problem is me? What do you do when you come to see there can be no reformation? What happens when you realize you do wrong because that's who you are? Blessed are the poor in spirit, who sees they are not worthy for the kingdom and come as a beggar to the king, pleading for mercy.

King Jesus has pronounced that all who come to Him, contrite and poor in spirit, renouncing their pride, and seeking pardon will be saved (Isaiah 57:15). The poor in spirit see the riches of God and the alms of grace in Christ. When we are poor in spirit, Christ is high and lofty. When we see that there truly in us is no good thing, when we see how helpless and hopeless we really are, when we realize that we have nothing to offer God, our best efforts are sinful in His eyes, our greatest praise is folly in His ears, when we have nothing in our hands to bring Him, then we are poor, and when we then look to the Lord Jesus for grace, He will give us life. James 4:10, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."

I won't sugar coat it – you have a sin problem and the diagnosis is really bad (Romans 6:23). But until you realize your poverty of spirit you won't see the need for the Saviour. You see the kingdom by finding grace in the King. Christ will provide rest for your impoverished soul (Matthew 11:28).

Monday, February 8, 2021

Pray and Don't Despair


Once upon a time (Luke 18:1-8), there was a big city judge who didn't care what anyone thought. A lot of people say it – this many lived it. He didn't fear God or man. By and by, there was a widow who came to the judge and wanted him to help her with her problem, she needed justice. But she was a poor and powerless widow. She didn't have any political pull or financial influence. In other words, this judge had no reason to pay any attention to her, so he didn't. But, she didn't stop asking. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore. He said, "I don't regard the opinion of God or man. I do what I please. But this woman is going to wear me out. I'll answer her request just so she'll stop asking. 

Matthew Henry said this parable has the "key hanging at the door," so we don't have to wonder what's inside or crack the code to make our way in. Sometimes parables are difficult to understand. Sometimes they are easy to understand and difficult to apply. The Lord provides the meaning and the application at the beginning so we know what it's about before we get started. Spoilers ahead. Now that we know what it's about, we proceed following the rules to parables. Not every little detail in the parable has to have meaning. Sometimes a city is just a city. Keep your imagination in check. Parables usually have one main point so stick to it and you won't go wrong. Here, it's pretty straight forward – you should always pray and not despair. Two points, we ought to always pray (Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). And when we pray, don't  be spiritless and give up in hopelessness.

In verse 7, Jesus says to listen to the unjust judge. This man didn't care for truth or righteousness. He didn't care for the widow, but still, he answered the request. But God is a good judge, a righteous and a holy king. If an unjust judge hears and answers, how much more shall a loving God? God hears the prayers of His elect in Christ and answers according to His good will.  Jesus said the Father will avenge His people, or vindicate and to show justice, though he bear long with them. God hears, though he might not answer the way we want. Or God might not answer in the timing we want. Sometimes God says no, but sometimes God says no before he says yes. Christian, pray and don't give up, don't despair. Pray, and don't lose heart. Have you trusted in Christ? Then have confidence, because God is good. Have confidence, because the Father sent His only begotten into the world to save sinners. Have confidence because God has chosen you unto salvation, and unto glory, and He who did that great work of Grace, will not leave the lesser things in this life undone. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

There is a purpose to the Bible

  There is a purpose to the Bible. Well, actually, more than one purpose. Indeed the Scriptures point us to Christ, but they also do more than one thing. 2 Peter 1:3-4, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” The Bible pertains to life and godliness. How to live, how to have life, and how to live in this world. What God has promised, and what God forbids and commands of his people. The Second London Baptist Confession says,  “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

Psalm 119 is a song in the Bible, about the Bible. The Psalmist loves the Word of God and tells us what we ought to think about the Bible, deal with the Bible, and believe about the Bible (119:140). From this one song, you learn the Bible is true (119:151) and you can trust it (119:42) because it is stable and fixed (119:89) and perfect (119:96). Since it is fixed, it will fix you too (119:38). You’ll never be ashamed by believing the Bible (119:31). We learn from the Bible what is right (119:75) and then how to think rightly (119:66). God will teach you how He blesses and the way to happiness (119:1-2). A counselor to guide us (119:24) and it strengthens us when we are weak (119:28) and in this world of trial and tribulation, it gives hope (119:43). It’s sweet to the soul who loves the Lord (119:103).

The Bible is a great treasure, but only if you read it.  B.H. Carroll said,  “In this Book alone I found the origin and destiny of all created things and beings — hear alone the nature of man, and his relations to God, the universe and fellow man, out of which arise all his obligations and aspirations, and in conformity to which lie his usefulness and happiness. This book alone discloses man’s chief good and chief end. I saw it as the only living oracle, replying instantly and freely in simple, unambiguous language to every interrogatory propounded by life’s problems and perplexities.”

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Proud Ignorance

The Dunning-Kruger effect is when people don't see their weak spots because they don't have enough knowledge or expertise to know they have weak spots. The less a person knows about a subject, the more confident they are in their limited knowledge. The less expertise we have, the more apt we are to be proud of ourselves and confident in our ability. That's why people who can't balance their checkbook think they could do a better job running the economy than those who do, with their 'fancy education'. Years ago, in a job interview, I was asked to rate my skills in an area, on a scale of one to ten. I thought for a moment, and I didn't want to seem proud, so I said a seven. Then they tested me. I was more of a three. I didn't get the job, but I did put the first part of Proverbs 29:23 to the test. I wasn't lying to get the job. I just had no idea how much I didn't know. Some of the most confident people I've ever spoken to about the things of God are people who know very little about the Bible, and some of the most humble believers are people who know a great deal. They know enough to understand the true scope of their understanding.

We are not born (or born again) with a perfect understanding of truth. It takes time, work, prayer, and God's grace. But it's not spiritual to remain in ignorance when the mystery is revealed. Ignorance means to be without knowledge. Over and over in the New Testament, the Bible says, " I would not have you be ignorant," and then proceed to give instruction on a particular doctrine or revelation of a mystery. Yes, there are the secret things that belong to God, but regarding that which is revealed, we shouldn't be ignorant, especially if the Bible says not to be.

Having a little bit of knowledge brings its own perils. The Thessalonians didn't have a good understanding of life after death and the resurrection of the body and so they worried about the death of their loved ones. The cure was knowing the truth and taking comfort in God's promises (1 Thessalonians 4:13). In Romans 11:25, Paul winds up a several chapter section on God's sovereignty in salvation, leading to a discussion on God's final plan for the restoration of the people of Israel. "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits…" Bible prophecy is important and should be known by God's people. I've heard many preachers downplay these truths and act, rather proudly, that only extremists worry themselves with the prophetic word. There is a good example of how willful ignorance makes a man wise in his own conceits – a man, rather boldly, telling people not to concern themselves with what the Bible tells us to know. They'll reap the consequences.

Monday, January 25, 2021

There is Unity in the Bible

I used to be sort of a Luddite, but then I couldn’t find that happy medium of when I would chose to decide technology became bad. Even those who shun reading on electric devices still are using a rather new technology in the book, when you look at it from world history. Starting somewhere around the 1st century, the idea of a codex came into the Roman Empire. Prior to that, the “books” were scrolls. But with the codex you have the idea of stacking the payprus and binding and it became the standard almost immediately. I’m sure there were a few people who said, “back in my day, we didn’t have these fancy ‘bindings’ . If we wanted to read something, we’d get the scroll.” But, the technology (thankfully) caught on. That being said, with scrolls, you would have collections of scrolls, not just one giant scroll of the “Old Testament”.

But, prior to the New Testament, the people wouldn’t have called their Bible the “Old Testament” because it wasn’t yet old. So why do we? Why are there two different sections? Jeremiah 31:31-34 tells us the old covenant was the promise made to Israel, but also tells us there was a new covenant coming. What is it and when did it come? Hebrews 10:12-18 tells us the new covenant comes with Jesus (Hebrews 12:24). The New Testament is the new covenant. You can think of it this way, it’s not the “last will and testament” but rather it is the promise of what the testament provided, the promises of God to His people. So the Old Testament is the first covenant God made with Israel, until the fulfillment of those promises in Jesus Christ. The New Covenant begins with Jesus. They don’t contradict, since it was part of God’s plan from the start.

The Bible is a little library, divided into sections of the Old and New Testaments and not each book is written in the same style. The Lord divided the Old testament into three sections, the law, the prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44). In the New Testament, you start with the gospels, which tells the story of Jesus from four different perspectives, for four different purposes. Luke, was a physical by trade, wrote his gospel as a historian, gathering the facts of eyewitness accounts (Luke 1:1-4). John said he wrote his gospel so you would have faith in Jesus Christ (John 20:31). Matthew wrote his gospel primarily for Jewish readers, and Mark gives a brief account of Jesus life, hitting the high points of His earthly ministry in quick detail. You have history (Acts) and the epistles (which is just a different way of saying letters) written to either individuals or churches, and closing out with prophecy in Revelation.

This is important to better understand what it is you are reading. For example, Psalms 23:1-2, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” Here is a truth taught in a poetic way. I don’t think the Lord will literally make me lay down in a pasture, but this is a poem and the image of a shepherd (the Lord) and a sheep (me) and from it I can understand the truth of the Lord’s care for me. Understanding the books and their purposes will help you to read it. Let’s imagine we are back in school, and it’s 8 am and it’s time for history class. You get out your book and you read about the American Civil War. What would you expect to find? Information about key people, important battles, political struggles. You might even find some interesting tidbits about minor players playing a big role. The bell rings and now it’s English Literature class and you get out your copy of Shakespeare’s King Lear and read, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.” Now, that’s a truth spoken it a way to make you stop and think about it. The child doesn’t literally have sharp edges, but metaphorically speaking, a sharp tongue. The bell rings and it’s time for Math. You get your book out and there is a brief section on the theory but it’s mostly examples to look at and formulas to remember. You read the problems, think about the theory, spot the concept in the example, then work it out yourself. God also teaches us in the Bible in various ways (Hebrews 1:1-2). Sometimes we read history, sometimes, a poem, or you might read the dimensions of the tabernacle or the sacrifices and offerings in Exodus and Leviticus and look at that pattern and formula for worship and sacrifice and work out from that picture truth about heavenly patterns (Hebrews 9:23).

That being said, just because there are two divisions doesn’t mean there are two different Scriptures. There is unity with the Bible. God inspired the Word from Genesis to Revelation and there is a common and unified plan of salvation, by grace, through faith, in Christ. The old testament saints were waiting on the promise of the Messiah and had faith in what he would do and we look back to the promises fulfilled and what Jesus did for us. The Bible points us to Christ because all of God’s people have always looked to Christ (Luke 24:27; John 5:39). The Bible developed, in time, as God gave more light. The more light added to the unity of the whole. But just because Moses didn’t have the full light of the finished Book, doesn’t mean you should read Exodus without the light of the New Testament. It also means that you can also study the Bible topically, since there is unity. You can learn the Bible as a whole, to see what God says about a topic to gain fuller understanding of God’s will in a particular area. The Bible wasn’t written in a systematic theology, where every truth is found in a certain chapter. There isn’t a Trinity chapter or a “family chapter” but, the Bible teaches those truths throughout, and we mine the depths of Scripture to learn God’s will for us.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Pray for the President

The Roman Empire was hardly friendly to Christianity and filled with gospel-minded men. It was full of corruption, and wickedness. Paul gives Timothy a list of how he can resist the government, fight back against the onslaught of corrupt politics, and take Rome back to her Republic principles. Timothy needed to focus much time and attention in spreading stories about Caesar, and making sure everyone knew his political stand. Oh, that's not what it said in 1 Timothy 2:1-7? 

Do you know what pleases the Lord? It's not political memes. The Lord says we should pray for our leaders, from our local representation all the way up to the White House.   Paul instructed Timothy that the church of God should be a house of prayer. Particularly, Paul narrows in on praying for governmental leadership. Sometimes we know we should pray, but don't know how to pray. Thankfully, this isn't the case here because 1 Timothy 2:1-7  says how to pray for those in authority.

We pray to be able to live quiet, peaceful, godly, and honest lives without persecution or government intrusion. We need to pray that the government would leave us alone and allow us to live Christian lives. To be able to work, and live for God's glory. To be able to raise our children as Christians in peace. To be good neighbors, in the name of Christ for the glory of Christ. To bless those that curse us and bless those we know and love.  To be able to quietly and peaceably, and honestly, live sacrificially for the good of others in our community for the glory of God. To be able to tell that blessed story of our crucified and risen Saviour and openly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. We should, as Americans, thank God for the freedom of conscience have now and not take it for granted.

We should pray for our leaders because God has placed them in office for His purpose, and we don't know what that purpose is. I pray because I believe Proverbs 21:1  "The king's (and president’s) heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will." Nothing is too difficult for God – and that includes directing the policies of politicians. Let's "lobby" to our God and not put our trust in men. We should also pray for the salvation of their souls and that they would come to the knowledge of the truth. Whether we like or dislike those in authority, they are men and women, flesh and blood. They have souls and will stand before a God who is no respecter of persons. May God send revival. This is one reason why Paul told us to pray for them, because God saves all types of people (I Timothy 2:4). 

Does your Facebook posts show that you believe this verse? If you are publicly mocking the president because he's old, then you are not praying for him. 

I pray for myself. That my words, thoughts, prayers following the election will be seasoned with love. Love for my neighbors  love for my Saviour, and love for my fellow citizens. It is so easy to get angry and hasty with our words when it comes to politics. Let's remember that no matter who is President, as Christians, we are loyal subjects to the King of King's.

Finally, this is a slight edit and repost from 2016. Why? Because it's still true, no matter who the president is and no matter what his politics are. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

The Bible is God's Word

 The Bible says its every word is pure (Proverbs 30:5) and that it shall stand forever (Isaiah 40:8). What this means, then, is that the Bible IS the Word of God. The quickest way a man can make himself seem rather intelligent, is to take a complicated issue and make it more complicated. Many scholars do that with Bible translations.  But let’s simplify the matter. My Bible is the Word of God. It’s doesn’t “contain” the Word of God, but it is. It’s not my view that causes people to doubt their Bibles. I want you to have confidence in your Bible. What does the Bible demand of us, God’s people, who have a vested interest in reading the Word of God? The Lord God has commanded us to read and study  (John 5:29; 2 Timothy 2:15). God has commanded His people to teach and preach the word, throughout all the world (Matthew 28:18-20). But the Bible never tells us we must learn Hebrew or Greek to hear God or to obey these commands. In fact, the New Testament quotes Greek translations of Hebrew, therefore affirming that a translation doesn’t contain the Word but is the Word of God. The Lord in His good will and providential dealings with man ordained His word to be translated into the language of the people because it does no good to have a word in another language that the people can’t understand (1 Corinthians 14:6-28). And since the Lord ordained God’s word to be preached throughout the world, and it is His will for His churches to know, possess, and keep His Word (Colossians 3:16) preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2) and learn and live by the Word that transforms the heart and mind (Romans 12:2) which is also that same incorruptible seed the used of the Holy Spirit in our regeneration (1 Peter 1:22-25) which is also that same Word the Spirit uses in our sanctification and belief of the truth, you can know that we have God’s Word in English. If we don’t have the Word of God in our own language, then we cannot know God, know His will, or obey his command for us. God in His providence has persevered His Word for us, just as God in His providence preserved His church.

 When you read the Bible, it’s God’s Word. When the penmen wrote, it was the the Lord speaking through the prophet. Matthew 1:22-23, “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us,” The internal witness of the Bible says it is God’s Word. Moses may have said it, but he was “moved by the Holy Ghost,” (2 Peter 2:21). Isn’t that a logical fallacy? The Bible is God’s Word because it said it is? I am of the opinion that all statements of ultimate truth are circular. You have to start somewhere for authority and then return to that authority. For example, the humanist, says reason is man’s way of understanding and through the process of science, logic, reason, man can understand the world. But how do I know that’s true? Through logic, reason, and understanding? So, when talking about ultimate, foundational truths, a circular argument isn’t a fallacy. Everyone MUST do that, because you have to have a place to start. I believe God’s Word is that starting point, not the fallible mind and structure of men. Besides, I don’t need or have to “prove” the Bible is true. But even if we did, the Bible is a historical document and isn’t determined to be true by “the scientific method” but by evidence. Simon Greenleaf, professor at Harvard  from 1833-48, who was instrumental in founding Harvard Law, wrote a book, “The Testimony of the Evangelist.” He treated Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as witnesses and whether or not what they wrote would be admissible in a court as reliable witnesses. Using the same guidelines he would use in a court of law, he found their testimony to be trustworthy and would absolutely be considered reliable witnesses.

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Bible is no ordinary book

The English word comes to us through the Latin and Greek language, that means “book”.  The Bible is a little library of 66 different books, written by around 40 different people over the space of approximately 1500 years. Smith’s Bible Dictionary says, “Twenty-two of [the books of the Bible] are historical, five are poetical, eighteen are prophetical, twenty-one are epistolary. They contain logical arguments, poetry, songs and hymns, history, biography, stories, parables, fables, eloquence, law, letters and philosophy. There are at least thirty-six different authors, who wrote in three continents, in many countries, in three languages, and from every possible human standpoint. Among these authors were kings, farmers, mechanics, scientific men, lawyers, generals, fishermen, ministers and priests, a tax-collector, a doctor, some rich, some poor, some city bred, some country born -- thus touching all the experiences of men extending over 1500 years.” That is a marvel, of itself. My guess is if I got 40 Baptist preachers to write 40 articles on the church, we wouldn’t all agree on everything and there would be some inconsistency in the work. But not the Bible.

 What is the Bible? Let’s ask the Bible! What does the Bible say about itself? It’s the book (Psalm 40:7). The Scriptures (John 10:35; 20:9; Romans 4:3; 2Peter 1:20), which just mean “the writings.” They are the Scripture of truth (Daniel 10:21) and the Oracles of God. The Word, the testament, and as Psalm 119 says, it’s the law, the law of the Lord, the precepts, the statues, commandments, righteous judgments, and God’s ways. The testimony of the Bible, about the Bible is it is the Word of God. Over and over again, you read, “the Lord said…thus saith the Lord”  or some such expression, attributing the words in the text to God. W.A Criswell said he found that formula around 3800 times. Therefore, it is no ordinary book.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

What is the Bible?

 Acts 8:26-40 tells of when Philip spoke to an Ethiopian man of great authority about the Bible. This man was sitting in his chariot, reading the Scripture, a passage from Isaiah and Philip asked him, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” The man gives an interesting reply. If I was sitting on a park bench, and as stranger came up to me and asked me if I understood what I was reading, I’d probably wouldn’t have replied as the Ethiopian did — unless, I was really struggling to grasp what I was reading and desperate to know what it meant. So he said, “How can I, except some man should guide me?”  I remember, as a young boy, sitting in my room, trying to start to read the Bible for the first time. It’s a big book, and I had no clue where to begin. I knew in my Bible, the red letters meant Jesus was speaking, but that was a long way from the beginning of the book. Do you start at the beginning or with the New Testament? I knew the preacher would preach from various texts of Scripture and I tried to follow along. He read the Bible before the service, but also read in various passages, so is that how you also read it and if so, where do you start and how do you know where to start? And if you can start with John’s gospel, as recommended, how do I know what is going on since it’s toward the end of the book? What kind of book is this? It may be common knowledge, but it’s not knowledge that a person is born with. With that in mind, maybe you are in the same boat, and have some questions about the Bible.

 The Bible is a book. Yes, a spiritual book that needs to be understood spiritually (1 Corinthians 2:6-16) with the Holy Spirit. But a book nonetheless. The Ethiopian was not an unintelligent man. As far as education and learning, it is likely the Ethiopian was far more intelligent that Philip. You don’t put a dummy in charge of your treasure (Acts 8:27) if you want to keep it very long. It wasn’t a lack of intelligence but a lack of spiritual understanding. You need to read it prayerfully, with the dependence upon the Holy Spirit. But also, don’t make it overly complicated. Seminaries only get paid if people enroll. Book publishers only get paid if people buy the book giving deep insight into stratagems of study and reading. Websites need the clicks on why the Bible is so complicated, so the best way to do that is make a person feel like they need someone or some system to understand the Bible. Here’s God’s system. Pray, read, and go to church. Repeat. Certainly, there are some good resources on reading the Bible and they will be a great help to you. But that’s covered under the “going to church” part. Ask your pastor for some trusted resources or some helps. He cares for your soul, whereas Crossway and The Gospel Coalition do not, since you are their market, not the people the Holy Spirit has given charge over. But don’t think you must have those resources first before you can read the Bible and profit.  Any book you read, where you are unfamiliar with the people, the setting, the culture, will make you feel like you a little lost. War and Peace starts out written in French. Then, it goes to a party, talking about fictional characters, as if you are supposed to know who they are. It’s a little disorienting. But by and by, if you stick with it, you’ll figure out who is who. If you stick with the Bible and keep reading, you’ll get more and more comfortable with what’s going on. Not only will you know who Jeroboam is, you’ll know the Jeroboam type. So, not to be glib, but it’s a pretty simple formula. Pray, read, and go to church. It’s a spiritual book, but it is a book.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Principle Design

What do you think would be the principle design of the life of a Christian? John Owen, in his preface to The Glory of Christ wrote that it is to acquaint themselves with Christ, to Trust Christ, to love and honor Christ, and to endeavor after conformity to Christ. "In these things," Owen wrote, "consist the soul, life, power, beauty, and efficacy of the Christian religion; without which…it is a useless, lifeless carcass." This is actually a summary of Paul's statement in Philippians 3:8-12. Paul counted all his worldly attainments as loss that he might know Christ. I very much doubt a majority of people would count acquainting themselves with Christ a high priority, let alone a defining purpose of life. Everything else would fall by the wayside and be worthless compared to being acquainted with Christ and all efforts and all costs to obtain it would be small by comparison. To know Christ is to truly know Him intimately and personally. Not to know about Him, but to love Him. Yet while He is not here physically, the Spirit of God illuminates the eyes of faith, through His Word, that He speaks to us, comforts us, communes with us. He is present in the darkest trial, He is there in our greatest sorrow. He is there in the times of peace and rest when all is well. 

I know Jesus. He saved me from my sins. I know Him as a redeemer, His blood has washed me clean. I know Him as Lord, the shepherd of my soul. I know Him as king in the beauty of holiness. I know Him as the water of life that satisfies and the bread from Heaven that endures to eternal life. It is through Scripture that we grow in love towards Him. 

To know Christ is to want to be like Christ. To know Christ is to love him. To love him is to follow him. Paul loved Christ and wanted nothing more than to learn of him, to follow him wherever that may lead. His life belonged to Christ and He desired that life to be conformed in every way to be more like Jesus. Even in suffering, Paul saw it as a way to follow in His master's steps. Paul was not perfect. He was nowhere near where he desired to be spiritually. He desired Christ, that calling of holiness, the hope of eternal life. So Paul had his gaze fixed on Christ, and pressed on following him and calls us to do the same.

Is Jesus precious to you? Is Jesus the principle design of your life and do you long to know him and be like him? Can you see, with eyes of faith, the sinless lamb of God, covered in blood, dying for your sins, crying out "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and not be moved? If Jesus is not precious to you, then you have a religion without power and life.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Mrs. Horseleach and Her Girls

 “Although leeches are often rated high on the gross-out scale, they've recently become famous for their medicinal uses…” That’s a quote, not from the year 1725, but from By Jacob Freiman, M.D. in a 2018 piece in U.S. News and World Report. It’s called hirudotherapy, named after the medicinal leech. When I was a boy, there were two dangers, according to TV shows, that I expected were looming everywhere: quicksand and leeches. But they aren’t as dangerous as I thought they were, unless you are in the Amazon. Not too long ago, a leech proved the settled science wrong by existing, becaulse it was long considered extinct. This leech was around 17 inches long, and you can see it a the Smithsonian. They named it Grandma Moses. Leeches are good at their job, albeit a rather gruesome one and perhaps because they are sort of gross and nightmarish, they are a useful metaphor. Agur thought so, in Proverbs 30:15 where he wrote, “The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give.”
 Mrs. Horseleach (no relation to Grandma Moses) had two daughters and they were just like their mother — never satisfied. Go near the water, and they are ready to latch on and drain their host dry. Though I don’t speak leech, if you listen closely, you can hear them crying, “GIVE! GIVE!” I’m not sure how useful leeches are in medicine, but they are very useful as metaphor. The covetous, like the leech, are never satisfied and always asking for more. If I’m not mistaken, some of the ancient relatives of Mrs. Horseleach are alive today and working as politicians. Of course, the only reason they have jobs is because they promise to give other covetous people free stuff. We have covetous leaders because we are a covetous people. 

 The awful thing about covetousness is the very thing you desire so much never satisfies and always leaves you thirsting for more. John D. Rockefeller, when asked how much money is enough, spoke for all of Adam’s children by saying, “just a little bit more.” You don’t have to be rich to love money, just just have to desire to have more and more. But it doesn’t satisfy. You could covet food, drink, pleasure, possessions, a perfect body type, but it won’t satisfy. Most of the time, it’s not the desired thing that’s the problem because you can covet after good things. Paul tells us the heart of the matter in Colossians 3:5, covetousness is idolatry. The idolater is looking for satisfaction in some person or some thing. Like a leech, hungry for blood, that insatiable desire will never go away, even when they get what they covet because they’ll need to have more of it. Flee covetousness Follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and meekness. Fight the good fight. Look for and desire eternal life. And to borrow a line from the Horsleech gals — give, give, me Jesus (1 Timothy 6:11-12; Philippians 3:8).

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The Reason for the Season

2020 has been a particularly hard time for a lot of people. But there is a reason for the season. 1 Peter 1:6, "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations." A season is a temporary point in time that's anchored by a event or characteristic. The season of winter is characterized by short days, cold, snow, while baseball seasons has less to do with the weather, but balls and strikes. When the characteristic is over, so is the season. It's temporary. Peter looks at pitiful, sad, state of God's people who were enduring heavy trials and temptations and reminds them, their struggle is a season. It's just a little while longer. That's a comfort, but that's not the only comfort, or even the main thing here. Many trials will follow us our whole life, and come to an end when we leave this world. The main comfort here is our trials are temporary but also necessary. There is a reason for the season of suffering.

I believe in the absolute sovereignty of God. The Lord declared, from before the world was created, the end of all things and ordained it to come to pass. God's plan will stand. God will do what He pleases and all He pleases. The Lord not only declares it, but will bring it to pass (Isaiah 46:9-11). Even the bad times? Yes, even the bad times. It's an odd theology to have a God who only does the things we want Him to do and would never do anything that we would object to. Peter understood the Lord often does things we don't understand or that we would rather not see happen. We must submit to His will and have faith if we "need be" go through a hard season. Why do bad things happen to God's people? Because they are necessary. The temporary season is needed, and designed in the plan of our Heavenly Father. Do we doubt Him?

How could bad times be needful or necessary? For God's people, Peter says in verse seven, "the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." God sends us hard seasons to try our faith. Hardships put our faith to the test for our benefit, to strengthen our faith in Jesus. The trial has more value to you than pure gold in light of the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Trials for the Christian should bring us to Christ, and focus our hearts on him, who, though we haven't seen with our eyes, love in our hearts. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Now would be a good time to stop murmuring and remember there is a reason for this season, and for God's children, it will work out for our good (Romans 8:28). 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Church is Essential

Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, "…thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Jesus is the rock (not Peter) and the church is built upon the Saviour of Men, not Simon Barjona. The ever-living Christ, is the head of the church, and is united to and with his church (Colossians 2:19) to nourish, strengthen, and "increase with the increase of God." The church is also built upon the doctrine of Jesus – the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the revealed truth of Heaven.

Such an organization may seem like a social club, or a charity organization, but it is the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15). The place where the Almighty is worshipped and glorified (Ephesians 3:21), and the place where God meets with His people (Matthew 18:20 in a special way. It is where the Lord Jesus walks among His own (Revelation 2:1). It the place that Jesus loves, so much so, husbands are to look to Christ's love for His church as the supreme example of how to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25). The organization He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

The church is essential for the members. It's where we are strengthened by God's Spirit and provoked unto love and good works, and exhorting one another to persevere in the faith (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is the only place on earth where you can take the Lord's Supper, that Jesus Himself commanded to keep to remember his death till He returns. It's where penitent believers can follow the Lord Jesus in the waters of Baptism. It is the organization the King of Kings has commissioned and authorized to make disciples, teach the doctrine, and baptize believers.

The church is not essential? Tell that to the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. Tell the one with "eyes as a flame of fire" and the one whose "voice as is the sound of many waters" whose "countenance was as the sun" His church is not essential. Stand before the one whom John fell at his feet as dead and let He that liveth and was dead, and now is alive for evermore that His assembly, His house, His worship is not essential (Revelation 1:11-20).

If Wal-Mart is essential, and if Lowe's and Home Depot are essential, then the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is essential. If the members of Congress can assemble during the lockdown for the "Greg LeMond Congressional Gold Medal Act" (H.R.3589) or such vital and essential work as S.4762 – "a bill to designate the airport traffic control tower located at Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro, NC, as the "Senator Kay Hagan Airport Traffic Control Tower", then I'll assemble to worship the Son of God. 

But is it safe? Probably not. Is it safe for your soul to forsake the Lord's assembly? Definitely not.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Words of a Mother

 Words of a mother

King Lemul’s mom was a wise woman (Proverbs 31:1-9). We don’t know who she was (or her son for that matter) but her words of wisdom live on. The Hebrew word translated prophesy in verse one is “a burden” and when it refers to a prophetic word, it’s a burden of the heart (cf. Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Zechariah 9:1; Malachi 1:1). Her burden was the instruction she had for her son. A burden that could only be lifted  by getting it out of her head and into Lemul’s. The Lord burdened her heart and it would have crushed her unless she spoke. She was a wise woman because she told her son what he needed to hear. I’m sure his mother told him a great many things. She probably told about how to behave in public, how to dress, and how to wash his face.  But she also had important conversations with her son.  She was wise because she taught her son truth.

She reminded Lemul what she endured to bring him in the world, carrying him in her womb those many months. The morning sickness, the sleepless nights, the labor pains. He was the son of her vows, the son she longed for, prayed for. The son God had given her and she didn’t take that lightly. This wasn’t merely guilt manipulation, but a reminder of her authority and love for her son. 

Proverbs 31:1-9 are the words his mother told him and when the king took power, his mind returned to those the lessons of his youth. Mothers have a lot of power. That’s why the government wants your kids in their control as early as possible. Proverbs 22:6  is a warning and a promise. There is a right way and and wrong way to train up a child, and most of the time, that training will stick, for good or ill. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Lemul had a mother that shaped her son’s mind in truth and when he was old, he didn’t forget. She prepared him for his future personal life and future employment as king. “It’s not for kings” to drink. That’s not how kings act. The dying and sick may relieve his pain, the downcast can relieve his mind, but the king has no such luxury. It may be acceptable the way for others, but not for you. She encourages him to do right. He needs to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves and stand up for the powerless.

Christian mother, you have a most important job. Train your child to walk with Christ. In 18 years, there are 936 Lord’s Days. That’s a lot, but not an unlimited quantity, will you bring your kids to church? Will you tell them about Jesus? Will you teach them how to live, like Lemul’s mom did?

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

A Lazy Hunter

Proverbs 12:27, "The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious."

I don't believe in luck. But, if I did, I would have nothing but bad when it comes to hunting. Since it I know God is ordains my steps, it can't be luck that makes me a bad hunter, so that excuse is out the window. I'm not a bad fisherman though. As a preacher, I think that's fine to continue the tradition of the Apostles in doctrine and catching fish. I don't think they caught trout though, but let's not split hairs. But our verse is about hunting and I was beating around the bush to say that if you didn't get a deer this year, the proverb doesn't mean you are lazy. Israel didn't have a DNR back in Solomon's day. And, for people of this time, hunting was not a hobby, but one legitimate and necessary year-round way to put food on the table.

Genesis 27 is the chapter where Jacob steals Esau's blessing in his dirty trick of pretending to be Esau, since Isaac was old, and blind, and could tell them apart. But, one rather trivial and unimportant overlooked detail, is the fact that Isaac told Esau he'd like some venison, "Sure thing Dad," and off he went. And in a relatively short time later, he was back with game killed, cleaned, and cooked. Esau was a cunning hunter, no doubt (Genesis 25:27).

Nimrod, the founder of Babylon, was a mighty hunter and famous for his skills (Genesis 10:9). Prior to Genesis 9:3, everyone was a vegetarian. It wasn't until after the flood that God gave Noah permission to kill and eat meat. I think prior to the flood the vegetation and climate was different, and likely much of the plant life that sustained the pre-flood people couldn't survive in the post-flood world. Maybe Nimrod was the great dinosaur slayer? Who knows. But he was really good at the relatively new occupation. And yes, hunting was a job. Which is the point of the proverb. The slothful man is not going to cook what he didn't go and kill. He's going to have to roll out of bed and go out into the weather and out into the field and be uncomfortable. He's going to have to clean and haul his game back home. He's going to have to do something with the meat and the carcass after. He's not going to enjoy the work of his hands if his hands never do any work. The diligent man is going to enjoy what he has because he worked for it.

In God's universe, the best way to have "good luck" is diligence in your work. But, I don’t believe in luck. The lazy man does though. It's bad luck that keeps him from succeeding. Someone is always out to get him. It's always someone else's fault there is no deer steak for supper.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving in Heaven

Revelation 11:17-18, tells us about a Thanksgiving service in Heaven. While there is no turkey, dressing, and sweet potato pie, there is actual thanksgiving. Revelation 11:15-19 is a prophesy of the seventh trumpet, a judgment upon the earth just prior to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Earth, where He will rule and reign as King of King's.

We don’t have a whole lot of detail as to what we will do in Heaven, but what we know might not sound appealing to most. Singing praises to Jesus (Revelation 5:9;15:3) shouting praises for His mercy (Revelation 7:9-12) and serving Him forever (Revelation 7:15). I would think a heart suited for Heaven would look for Heavenly activities on Earth. Do you expect to love worshiping Christ then, if you won't do it now?

The thanksgiving in Heaven is directed to the Lord God Almighty. There has been a lot to say about canceling Thanksgiving, but not much said about being thankful. We, as a nation, must be the most ungrateful people on Earth. Of all the foolish things that go on, the one thing, especially now, that should not be "canceled" is Thanksgiving. You don't need a turkey or ham to be grateful. But you do need a renewed heart and love for the Giver. But, we'll be thankful Thursday, and hoard toilet paper again on Friday.

The text gives us a few particular things to be thankful for – the Lord reigns, He will judge the earth, and will reward his people. Would you ever think to be thankful for that list? One day, the people of God will gather round the throne and lift up their voices in thanksgiving to the Lord God, who is, was, and always will be, to praise Him for His sovereign ruler over the world. We should be thankful that God is in control. Thanksgiving will be given to God for rewarding the saints. How do you get to be a saint? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and fear His name. Thanksgiving to the Almighty will sound through Glory, for judging the wicked. This might not sound very Christ-like to you, if you don't think Biblically, but God's judgment of the wicked brings honor and glory to His holiness and His justice.

When I think about praising God, for judging the wicked, an immediate thought comes to mind – my sins. I know I should be and have every right to be numbered with the wicked. I have sinned and come short of God's glory and justice doesn't measure good and evil in the balance to see which side comes out on top. But when I read of God's judgment of the wicked, my mind returns guilt and how I deserve judgment. Then, I go to the cross, where my blessed Saviour took my place and died in my stead, taking away my sin and now rejoice that there is no condemnation for me in Christ Jesus. And that makes me thankful.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

It's a Joke

"As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?" Proverbs 26:18-19.

Standing at the end of the road is a wild man who has clearly lost his mind. He can't be reasoned with and has lost all control of his emotions. Pacing back and forth around his bonfire, muttering under his breath, he picks a stick out of the fire and throws it in the woods. Grabbing a few more brands he walks down the road and tosses one into a field setting it ablaze. A little further, he throws another in someone's yard and catches their leaves on fire. The last one lands on the front porch of the next house he comes to. Not content with arson, he takes up his bow and fires up in the air toward town. He doesn't care where they land. He aims at houses and turns and fires them into the streets. This madman pulls back the bow and lets arrows sail at a random passersby, unaware of their peril. He is causing trouble, even worse, working death. Truly, a mad man. Solomon paints a picture of a wicked man who is a danger to everyone around him.

Solomon said the man who lies to his neighbor and then tells him, "I was just joking," is just as wicked. There's a time for fun and a time to laugh. But there is certainly a limit to what passes for fun into sinfulness. "It was a joke" is not a trump card for hateful actions and sinful words. It's not an excuse for evil. Some say the most hateful and vile things to people and cover their hate with a disguise of jest. The, "I was just joking" excuse often comes when the man gets caught. To escape judgment or condemnation, it's quite the handy excuse to say you were just teasing. Let someone have it and really tell them what you think of them and then when the consequences roll around, they say they were just joking around and didn't really mean it. "You are so sensitive. Can't you take a joke?" This is a favorite device of mean husbands to the unfortunate women they married.

Lying to your neighbor is bad. Lying to your neighbor twice is twice as bad – first by deceiving him and the second by covering it up by saying it was a joke. It's wrong because of the harm it causes. Like the mad man starting fires, treating your someone this way works unintended consequences. First, they have the wound of being deceived but when they hear, "am not I in sport?" they now have the burden of a wounded conscience. It's their fault they were deceived and hurt because they are too sensitive and dimwitted to take a joke. 

Christians should have their speech be always with grace (Colossians 4:6) and should follow the spirit of our Redeemer and not the Devil.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

John Owen on Matthew 16:18, Church councils, and heresy

This is long, but worth your time, I think. John Owen writing on Matthew 16:18 in his preface to The Glory of Christ, shows it is Christ's church, not men, councils, or assemblies, that is the pillar and ground of truth. 

The interesting point he makes is that before the universal church was a practice, heresies came and went but didn't make great headway. It wasn't until the universal church and councils tried to "nail down" and define truth, that heresies grew. These "church councils"  then did more harm than good. When men try to improve upon a divine institution, by dividing or taking away, they make it worse.

Think how much error and division has come from groups like The Gospel Coalition or any number of "ministries" ran by celebrity pastors and book sellers. Though they have published many good things, the harm they have done outstrips the good.

"The defense of the truth, from the beginning, was left in charge unto, and managed by, the guides and rulers of the church in their several capacities. And by the Scripture it was that they discharged their duty, confirmed with apostolical tradition consonant thereunto. This was left in charge unto them by the great apostle, (Acts xx. 28–31; 1 Tim. vi. 13, 14; 2 Tim. ii. 1, 2, 15, 23, 24, iv. 1-5,) and wherein any of them failed in this duty, they were reproved by Christ himself: Rev. ii. 14, 15, 20. Nor were private believers (in their places and capacities) either unable for this duty or exempt from it, but discharged themselves faithfully therein, according unto commandment given unto them: 1 John ii. 20, 27, iv. 1-3; 2 John 8, 9. All true believers, in their several stations—by mutual watchfulness, preaching, or writing, according unto their calls and abilities—effectually used the outward means for the preservation and propagation of the faith of the church. And the same means are still sufficient unto the same ends, were they attended unto with conscience and diligence. The pretended defence of truth with arts and arms of another kind hath been the bane of religion, and lost the peace of Christians beyond recovery. And it may be observed, that whilst this way alone for the preservation of the truth was insisted on and pursued, although innumerable heresies arose one after another, and sometimes many together, yet they never made any great progress, nor arrived unto any such consistency as to make a stated opposition unto the truth; but the errors themselves, and their authors, were as vagrant meteors, which appeared for a little while, and vanished away. Afterwards it was not so, when other ways and means for the suppression of heresies were judged convenient and needful.

For in process of time, when the power of the Roman empire gave countenance and protection unto the Christian religion, another way was fixed on for this end, viz., the use of such assemblies of bishops and others as they called General Councils, armed with a mixed power, partly civil and partly ecclesiastical—with respect unto the authority of the emperors and that jurisdiction in the church which began then to be first talked of. This way was begun in the Council of Nice, wherein, although there was a determination of the doctrine concerning the person of Christ—then in agitation, and opposed, as unto his divine nature therein-according unto the truth, yet sundry evils and inconveniences ensued thereon. For thenceforth the faith of Christians began greatly to be resolved into the authority of men, and as much, if not more weight to be laid on what was decreed by the fathers there assembled, than on what was clearly taught in the Scriptures. Besides, being necessitated, as they thought, to explain their conceptions of the divine nature of Christ in words either not used in the Scripture, or whose significa-, tion unto that purpose was not determined therein, occasion was given unto endless contentions about them. The Grecians themselves could not for a long season agree among themselves whether oủsia and iTÓCTCOIS were of the same signification or no, (both of them denoting essence and substance,) or whether they differed in their signification, or if they did, wherein that difference lay. Athanasius at first affirmed them to be the same: Orat. v. con. Arian., and Epist. ad African Basil denied them so to be, or that they were used unto the same purpose in the Council of Nice: Epist. lxxviii. The like difference immediately fell out between the Grecians and Latins about “hypostasis” and “persona.” For the Latins rendered “hypostasis” by “substantia," and mpóOWTOV by “ persona.” Hereof Jerome complains, in his Epistle to Damasus, that they required of him in the East to confess“ tres hypostases,” and he would only acknowledge“ tres personas:" Epist. lxxi. And Augustine gives an account of the same difference: De Trinitate, lib. v. cap. 8, 9. Athanasius endeavoured the composing of this difference, and in a good measure effected it, as Gregory Nazianzen affirms in his oration concerning his praise. It was done by him in a synod at Alexandria, in the first year of Julian's reign. On this occasion many contests arose even among them who all pleaded their adhe. rence unto the doctrine of the Council of Nice. And as the subtle Arians made incredible advantage hereof at first, pretending that they opposed not the deity of Christ, but only the expression of it by ouoouolos, so afterwards they countenanced themselves in coining words and terms, to express their minds with, which utterly rejected it. Hence were their oworoccios, ¿Tepovolos, oủx övrwv, and the like names of blasphemy, about which the contests were fierce and endless. And there were yet farther evils that ensued hereon. For the curious and serpentine wits of men, finding themselves by this means set at liberty to think and discourse of those mysteries of the blessed Trinity, and the person of Christ, without much regard unto plain divine testimonies, (in such ways wherein cunning and sophistry did much bear sway,) began to multiply such new, curious, and false notions about them, especially about the latter, as caused new disturbances, and those of large extent and long continuance. For their suppression, councils were called on the neck of one another, whereon commonly new occasions of differences did arise, and most of them managed with great scandal unto the Christian religion. For men began much to forego the primitive ways of opposing errors and extinguishing heresies; betaking themselves unto their interest, the number of their party, and their prevalency with the present emperors. And although it so fell out--as in that at Constantinople, the first at Ephesus, and that at Chalcedon--that the truth (for the substance of it) did prevail, (for in many others it happened quite otherwise,) yet did they always give occasions unto new divisions, animosities, and even mutual hatreds, among the principal leaders of the Christian people. And great contests there were among some of those who pretended to believe the same truth, whether such or such a council should be received—that is, plainly, whether the church should resolve its faith into their authority. The strifes of this nature about the first Ephesian Council, and that at Chalcedon, not to mention those wherein the Arians prevailed, take up a good part of the ecclesiastical story of those days. And it cannot be denied, but that some of the principal persons and assemblies who adhered unto the truth did, in the heat of opposition unto the heresies of other men, fall into unjustifiable excess themselves.

We may take an instance hereof with respect unto the Nestorian heresy, condemned in the first Ephesian Council, and afterward in that at Chalcedon. Cyril of Alexandria, a man learned and vehement, designed by all means to be unto it what his predecessor Athanasius had been to the Arian; but he fell into such excesses in ķis undertakings, as gave great occasion unto farther tumults. For it is evident that he distinguisheth not between υπόστασις and φύσις, and therefore affirms, that the divine Word and humanity had uicer qúorv, one nature only. So he doth plainly in Epist. ad Successum : “ They are ignorant,” saith he, őri nat' årýderav goti uía púois toũ hóyou GEOAprouévn. Hence Eutyches the Archimandrite took occasion to run into a contrary extreme, being a no less fierce enemy to Nestorius than Cyril was. For to oppose him who divided the person of Christ into two, he confounded his natures into one—his delirant folly being confirmed by that goodly assembly, the second at Ephesus. Besides, it is confessed that Cyril—through the vehemency of his spirit, hatred unto Nestorius, and following the conduct of his own mind in nice and subtle expressions of the great mystery of the person of Christ-did utter many things exceeding the bounds of sobriety prescribed unto us by the apostle, (Rom. xii. 3,) if not those of truth itself. Hence it is come to pass, that many learned men begin to think and write that Cyril was in the wrong, and Nestorius by his means condemned undeservedly. However, it is certain to me, that the doctrine condemned at Ephesus and Chalcedon as the doctrine of Nestorius, was destructive of the true person of Christ; and that Cyril, though he missed it in sundry expressions, yet aimed at the declaration and confirmation of the truth; as he was long since vindicated by Theorianus: Dialog. con. Armenios.

However, such was the watchful care of Christ over the church, as unto the preservation of this sacred, fundamental truth, concerning his divine person, and the union of his natures therein, retaining their distinct properties and operations, that—notwithstanding all the faction and disorder that were in those primitive councils, and the scandalous contests of many of the members of them; notwithstanding the determination contrary unto it in great and numerous councils—the faith of it was preserved entire in the hearts of all that truly believed, and triumphed over the gates of hell.

I have mentioned these few things, which belong unto the promise and prediction of our blessed Saviour in Matthew 16:18, (the place insisted on,) to show that the church, without any disadvantage to the truth, may be preserved without such general assemblies, which, in the following ages, proved the most pernicious engines for the corruption of the faith, worship, and manners of it. Yea, from the beginning, they were so far from being the only way of preserving truth, that it was almost constantly prejudiced by the addition of their authority unto the confirmation of it. Nor was there any one of them wherein “ the mystery of iniquity” did not work, unto the laying of some rubbish in the foundation of that fatal apostasy which afterwards openly ensued. The Lord Christ himself hath taken it upon him to build his church on this rock of his person, by true faith of it and in it. He sends his Holy Spirit to bear testimony unto him, in all the blessed effects of his power and grace. He continueth his Word, with the faithful ministry of it, to reveal, declare, make known, and vindicate his sacred truth, unto the conviction of gainsayers. He keeps up that faith in him, that love unto him, in the hearts of all his elect, as shall not be prevailed against. Wherefore, although the oppositions unto this sacred truth, this fundamental article of the church and the Christian religion—concerning his divine person, its constitution, and use, as the human nature conjoined substantially unto it, and subsisting in it-are in this last age increased; although they are managed under so great a variety of forms, as that they are not reducible unto any heads of order; although they are promoted with more subtlety and specious pretences than in former ages; yet, if we are not wanting unto our duty, with the aids of grace proposed unto us, we shall finally triumph in this cause, and transmit this sacred truth inviolate unto them that succeed us in the profession of it."

A Form of Godliness

I lived in North Carolina for a time, quite close to a very big seminary. In town, you couldn't throw a rock without hitting a preacher in training. I couldn’t begin to guess how many times I was told that I was told that, “I didn’t look like a pastor.” I started replying by asking them what a pastor was supposed to look like? But I never got any answers. I knew what they meant. I didn't look like all the other pastors in town. I was weighed in the balance of their perceptions and found wanting because I didn't look like a slicked-faced salesman in a suit and tie. What does the Bible say a pastor ought to look like? Chapter and verse, please. 

Paul warns in 2 Timothy 3:5 about false teachers who have a " form of godliness." They look the part, or at least they look the part of what people perceive the part is supposed to look like. Godliness has a form because there is such a thing as godliness and it can be defined. Godliness is practical piety, or when someone is expressing love and devotion to God by their fidelity to Him in obeying His word and following His Lordship. Godliness is loving the true and living God as He has revealed Himself in the Scriptures where the Lord has given us “all things all things that pertain unto life and godliness.” Christians have everything needed to live godly lives, including what actually defines godliness. 

The Enemy of souls likes to copy the Lord’s work. There are missionaries of darkness, deceivers who go out into the world, taking the name of Christ and living with a form of godliness defined by the perception of the people he is preaching to. False teachers have a form of godliness, but not the real thing. They are a copy, patterned after what they have seen and heard and perceive a Christian ought to be. It’s all on the outside. They dress in a way that gives the appearance of godliness. Or, they may speak in a way that gives an appearance of godliness. They talk the lingo, and dress the part and sell a product. To the undiscerning eye, they are the picture of what a Christian ought to be. But they deny the power of godliness. They have a form but stumble over shibboleth. 

Godliness is not an abstract but it’s something real, with genuine power. 2 Peter 1:3-8 shows us that knowledge is connected to godliness. How can you be a godly person if you don’t know what it means? But godliness is more than knowledge. There is a genuine love of Christ, wrought in the heart by the effectual working power of the Spirit of God. Without being made a partaker of the divine nature, you’ll never escape the corruption of the world. Are you a godly person? Does your life characterize a person who loves and is dedicated to the Lord Jesus?

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Examples of Grace

"That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus," Ephesians 2:7.

The Lord has greatly blessed me. He saved my unworthy soul when I deserved to go to Hell. Jesus rescued me, certainly not because I deserved it, but because He showed this wretched sinner mercy. I'm thankful for what Christ did for me and what He's doing for me now, and what He has promised to do in the future. Our text isn't talking about the here and now, but in ages and generations to come. Do you every think about life after death? Does this world have such a hold on you that you are captive to its every whim? God showed mercy to sinners to make the redeemed displays of His grace. He brought us from under wrath to the trophies of His mercy.

In the ages to come, in the New Earth, God's people, washed in the blood of the Lamb, will be the demonstrations of God's awesome kindness. The Lord saved sinners so He might show through all eternity, how gracious and kind He is to us through Jesus. God, to glorify His kindness, has planned to use His people as the means on which to show that kindness. The Almighty will show how good He is in eternity by continually showing kindness to his children. God has already shown more mercy and kindness to a sinner like me than I can calculate, but the storehouse of goodness will never empty. I'll never get to the bottom of the treasure house of grace. In the ages to come, God will STILL be showing me how good He is through Christ Jesus

I know this life is hard and it may seem like one battle after the other and can easily get discouraged and downcast. But if you are in Christ, you have this eternal joy waiting for you. You have the unending, multiplied blessings waiting. Look to His promises and live by faith. Don't become a slave to what the world tells you to think and how the world tells you to feel. I have liberty in Christ, and I am His freeman. I need not live in the bondage of fear any longer, that's not the spirit of God within. Do you know Christ? Then consider the end of His great sacrifice that redeems, justifies, and glorifies. You have a living hope in a living Saviour, who wills that His people, His purchased possessions will be where He is and see Him as He is. It was Christ that loved me, sought me, saved me, died for me in my place, redeemed me, gave me life, granted me repentance, and unites Himself to me, so that I am one with Him – and it is Christ in whom I have hope in for the future. He has never done me wrong or failed to do what He promised.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Feast of Tabernacles.

During the Feast of Tabernacles the children of Israel went camping. Personally, I prefer hammock camping, but they had some regulations and had to use a tent (also called tabernacles, or booths) constructed from trees. In West Virginia, wilderness camping means go to Dolly Sods and camping amongst the bears in the wild. But for the children of Israel, wilderness camping meant something else. Leaving Egypt and wandering in the wilderness before entering the promised land for 40 years was wilderness camping for Israel.

 God established an annual, weeklong camping trip/feast, where they gathered together and lived in tents like their forefathers did when they left Egypt (Leviticus 23:42-44). Every year, away from home, they and remembered the old days and how God delivered their ancestors from Pharaoh and brought them into the good land, flowing with milk and honey. They also recalled, though God kept His promise, it was because of the disobedience and hard hearts of their forefathers, they spent 40 years in booths, rather than a couple weeks. "I know you want to go back home Johnny, but imagine living like this for 40 years!"

 The Feast of Tabernacles wasn't just a family reunion, it was a solemn feast, a religious festival. They rejoiced in God's goodness, in faith and thanksgiving (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).  A weeklong Thanksgiving (sounds good to me!) praising the Lord for the blessing in harvest and the hope God will bless in the future. They took a week after the hard work of harvest was over, and praised God for his goodness, mercy, and provision – He is the covenant keeping God.


The feast of tabernacles was also a bloody week because there where a whole lot of sacrifices – 191 meat offerings, 191 drink offerings and 199 animal sacrifices. So much bloodshed and offering, just in this one week, but it never appeased God’s wrath. Hebrews 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. The sin was never taken away. Day after day, month after month, year after year the priests offered sacrifice  because the blood of bulls and goats was not sufficient to take away sins. But this man [Jesus Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (Hebrews 10:12-14). Old testament animal sacrifices picture the true substitutionary atonement and blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin.  We see in the unmarred, spotless animal sacrifice the picture of the pure and sinless life, body and blood of the Lord Christ Jesus. Most strikingly, we see the inability to appease God’s wrath with blood of bulls and goats. Rivers of blood flowed in the Old Testament sacrifices, but God’s wrath was never satisfied. Only in Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross was it said that God was satisfied (Isaiah 53:11). 


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Walk at Home

Since March, many people have the option (required?) to work from home. Online schools, Zoom meetings, live stream events are a way of life for a lot of people now. It's a blessing for some ,but a curse for others. The BBC reported that during the first seven weeks of their lockdown, the police received one domestic abuse call every 30 seconds. For many women and children, the government locked them in a prison and doomed them to far worse suffering than COVID. Sadly, we don't know how many homes are not what they ought to be or even appear to be on the outside. Psalms 101:2  "…I will walk within my house with a perfect heart."

You are who you are at home. If you are a paradigm of piety in public but a scoundrel at home, I can tell you which persona is the real one. David was the same man at home as he was in public. He sang of God's mercy and judgment in public worship as well as private. David's faith had feet. He "walked" in his home, which is talking about his character, his integrity, and the principles that guided his life. His guiding principle for public and private life, was the Word of God. David's goal was to walk with a perfect heart everywhere, but especially at home. Charles Spurgeon called it, "The Psalm of Pious Resolutions." Most agree this was written as prior to David becoming king, and maybe before David was married as he thought about life as the head of his home. When he thought about what it meant to lead, he didn't imagine using and abusing authority, but he purposed to do what was right, even when he was out of the prying and critical public eye. When he came home and sat down to rest, away from his enemies and away from the public pressure of being a man of authority, he wasn't going to give himself over to sin because he "deserved a break." But he loved God in the public square, and loved him at home. David's resolution was to be a holy man, starting and especially at home. Some Christians get so wrapped up in their testimony to the lost and yet never give a moments consideration to their testimony at home. Do you treat your family better or worse than your co-workers?

If you know your Bible, you might be reading with a furrowed brow of disapproval, thinking, "David wasn't much of a family man, look at what he did in his life!" Which is true. David was a sinner and he wasn't the best husband who ever lived, or the best father. But consider all David's problems in his later years came from his failure to walk in his house with a perfect heart. It should be your desire to walk with integrity in public, but just as much in private. Christ must be Lord of your life, and that includes your home.


Tuesday, October 6, 2020


“The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them,” Proverbs 11:3. Integrity means to be whole, complete, or sound. A building, with structural integrity, will stand strong when the storm comes rolling in. Or, when people talk about the “integrity of our elections,” they are talking about the soundness and reliability of the process. If a person has integrity they are morally whole and sound. To have integrity you need convictions and the gumption to stand upright by them. A man of integrity stands upright. But what’s the difference between a man of integrity and a hardheaded individual? Many confuse their cantankerousness for conviction but how can we distinguish the two? To stand with integrity, you need a foundation. If the structure of your conviction is going to have any integrity, it needs a strong base, the truth of God’s Word. It’s hard to remain upright slipping and sliding in the mud, no matter how confident you are about your footing. Having opinions and sticking to them isn’t necessarily a recipe for holiness. Being truly convinced and being wrong is not a good road to travel. Know truth and stick to it.

When your foundational belief is to do whatever benefits them in the moment, your own crooked ways will be your doom. The sin and their deceitfulness used to get what you want, in the end, becomes your own judgment. Like wicked Haman, in the book of Esther, who built the gallows to hang his enemy Mordecai in a treacherous and murderous plot, was in the end, the one who was swinging from them when his plan backfired. Having no core convictions or compromising the truth can be beneficial for a little while, but in the end, you’ll pay a heavy price.

The man of integrity is not going to bend due to public pressure. He won’t be swayed by the popularity of his positions. He won’t change, even if he knows it will cost him. In Paul’s letter to Titus, the second chapter deals with issues he wanted Titus to preach. To the young men in the church, he wanted them to be sound in doctrine and their life. They should believe the truth, speak the truth sincerely and live the truth with integrity (Titus 2:7-8). If you want to be a person of integrity you need to have integrity in your belief. When Moses sent Joshua and Caleb to spy out the promised land before entering, they came back with an honest report. But the people didn’t like what they heard. The tide of public opinion was beginning to turn against them. Because they were men of integrity, they stood on the promises of God and rebuked the people for their lack of faith and exhorted them to take the land. The result? The people wanted to stone them. Men of integrity are rarely popular while they live because the have to stand against the majority. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

I’m Offended

Are you offended? Seems like most people are today. Offend came from the Latin word offenden, which means “to sin against,” and offendere, which means to “attack or to strike.” But, since our culture no longer has any moral common ground, and has forgone the Biblical doctrine of sin, we have no basis for offense, other than our feelings. I think the last thing we all agree is wrong is hurting someone’s feelings. We are more offended by being told we are wrong than sin itself and demand apologies for our words. But we shouldn’t apologize simply because someone is offended when we simply state what we believe. You definitely should apologize if you sin against someone but not for saying something that makes some sensitive soul’s bottom lip quiver. 

After the Lord’s famous teaching in John 6, some disciples who followed said (in John 6:59-65) it was a “hard saying.” This doesn’t mean the Lord’s sermon was difficult to understand. It means they thought Jesus harsh, intolerable, and offensive (compare Matthew 25:24 and James 3:4 where it’s translated “fierce”). The Lord’s message wasn’t a hard saying because it was difficult to understand. It was a hard saying because it was completely understood. These students were offended by the Teacher. There are two main themes in Jesus message, the sovereignty of God in salvation and the exclusivity of salvation by grace, through faith, in Christ alone which is the true teaching and meaning of the Lord’s teaching on “eating his flesh and drinking his blood.” These doctrines are offensive. I believe in God’s sovereign grace in salvation and sometimes that doctrine is labeled as unloving, or cold or callus, but it’s interesting the same charge was levied against the Lord. Jesus never sinned with his words but he certainly offended people. God’s sovereignty in salvation hurt their feelings and their pride, so they said the problem was with the doctrine. 

Are you offended by the sovereignty of God?  Will you be offended if you see Jesus coming again in the clouds? Will you be offended by his sovereignty THEN? Would you be offended at the sight of the glorified and risen Christ? Then why be offended at the sovereignty of God now? It’s the Spirit that quickens. It is the Spirit that gives life. They were offended by God’s sovereignty because they loved their perceived  “autonomy” but the flesh profits nothing. The flesh doesn’t give life, but it is the sovereign Spirit. The words, this truth, the gospel, they are life. And despite this truth, there are some who will not believe because they are dead in their sin. That’s why Jesus said, no man can come to him, except it were given unto him of the Father. Jesus didn’t apologize when he lost the crowd. The truth of the gospel is offensive but that’s not the gospel’s fault. Don’t apologize for believing what the Bible says just because someone is offended by truth. Jesus didn’t. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

The Root Cause

Someone recently told me everything was political. I disagreed because I took a walk that evening and saw the sunset over the hills and enjoyed a crisp September evening and there wasn't a thing political about it. Oh, but that's where I was wrong. Because, as I was informed, if we don't tackle climate change, then there won't be a sunset in the future and the fact that I couldn't see it was proof of my privilege. I was blind and need to be given eyes to see, apparently. Everything this fellow thought about was filtered through a political ideology. It's a sad way to live your life. Imagine ordering your life by a political ideology dreamed up by power hungry individuals. I made a trip once and used my GPS to guide me. When it said I arrived, I was in the middle of a Country Road, neither taking me home, nor to the place where I belonged. Either the GPS was busted or the address I was given was off, or maybe user error. But I trusted a lie and ended up in the middle of nowhere. What happens when we believe a lie about a diagnosis to a problem? I knew someone who had terrible wrist pain. They tried medicine, ointments, wrist braces, but nothing worked. Come to find out, the problem wasn't the wrist, but they had elbow tendonitis. The pain in the wrist started with a problem in the elbow. All the treatments to the wrist were never getting to the root cause and the more they tried the worse things got.

We live in a country where a good portion of children are raised by government schools and taught government morals. Parents are more concerned if their boy can shoot foul shots or field a grounder than their souls. Little girls are dressed up like harlots and told that's empowering. No amount of money or good teachers can counterbalance disregarding Exodus 20:12. Children are raised to be selfish and full of themselves. It's never little Johnny's fault. He got bad grades because his teacher didn't like him (Proverbs 23:9). He didn't make the team because the coach had a grudge against him (Proverbs 16:2). He can't get a job because the employers are against him (Proverbs 10:4). Why, the whole world is against him (Proverbs 12:15). What else can he do, but riot (Proverbs 17:19 ). It's the system – it's the nation that's at fault and rigged against him (Proverbs 14:34). It can't be Johnny's fault, he's not to blame (Proverbs 17:15).

We are applying the wrong medicine to the wrong problem and no presidential election will ever fix this. Parents raise their children in a lie, to believe a lie and then wonder why they end up adrift. Don't talk to me about politics and tell me your answers for the ills of this nation if you don't have your kids in church. You don't know enough about the problem to provide an answer. 
“When the youths of a nation grow up with the idea that it unmanly to honor their parents, or to venerate old age, or to respect authority, I say of this nation that, whatever be the richness of her natural products, or the spread of her commerce, or the wealth of her revenue, or the bravery of her citizens, or the learning of her scholars, or the genius of her statesmen, or the grandeur of her history, her foundation stones are already unsettled and heaving and that it only needs the slightest jar, and all that shall remain to tell of her prosperity and liberty and richness and glory will be the magnificent terribleness of her ruins. Believe me, the surest guarantee which the patriot has that the people of the next generation will be a prosperous, virtuous, law-abiding people, consist in the fidelity with which in this generation parents enforce and children obey the commandment “Honor thy father and thy mother." - GD Boardman

Or, if we were wise, we could look at the problem and work backwards. We have a nation of riotous, unfaithful, slothful, unthankful, and unholy citizens. How did we get here? If our society is rotten to the core, should parents work hard to make sure they fit in to and conform society? 

Maybe it's not just the 5th commandment. Maybe it's because Americans have spent the last 40 years of Sunday's glued to TV sets watching men play football instead of worshiping Christ. Maybe, its because we said church was important to our kids, but found every excuse not to go and then are shocked when they don't think it's important either. Maybe we condemned fornication at church and then laughed at it on television, or we condemn those "Hollywood elites" and all their filth and spend so much of our time and money consuming their goods and drinking their poison. 

2 Chronicles 7:14  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.**

** I know it's popular to scoff at men who quote 2 Chronicles 7:14. Indeed, this was a promise to Israel and not America, but let me ask you this - what would the United States look like, if God's people humbled themselves, prayed, sought his face, and turned from their wicked ways? What would the consequences of such revival be? The evangelical elites would do well to keep their mouth shut when God's people call for self-examination and repentance. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Known Knowns

Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

In 2002, Donald Rumsfeld, speaking about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq said, “…there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know.” This of course, sounds funny (especially the way he said it) but it is true. I know I don’t know astrophysics (I’m sure you are shocked) — but there are things in the vastness of the universe no one knows are there, so we don’t know exactly what it is we don’t know. There are also things we think we know, but don’t. I read a book published in 17th century on Romans 8. He was illustrating how bad things can work for good and said even the leeches work for our good, by sucking out only the bad blood. He knew his theology, but not medicine. He knew the “settled science” of the day, but didn’t know the consensus was wrong.

There is a lot we don’t know. The Bible says we don’t know what we should pray for as we ought (Romans 8:26). We don’t know all the blessed details of the future glory (1 John 3:2). We don’t even know what is going to happen tomorrow (James 4:14). We don’t know the hearts of other people, though God knows the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). 

But we do know this —  “All things work together for good, to them that love called, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” We don’t “feel this”. We don’t “assume” this. We know this truth. We know from God’s Word.  The Word of God doesn’t go through revisions to change doctrine with the times. Truth is eternal and unchanging, so when we know God’s promises, we really and truly know, and can know we know (1 John 2:3). We know from God’s character all things work together for good. We know that our holy, wise, sovereign, loving, merciful Father has called His people, according to His purpose, that “none should be lost” and be presented before Him holy and without blame in love, so that in the ages to come, he would demonstrate his kindness through eternity toward us, in Christ (Ephesians 1:4; 2:7).  And I know that if my Father, who has adopted me, and made me, not only a child, but an heir and if an heir,  joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, has promised me eternal life and a glorified body in the resurrection, and has so perfectly ordained eternal redemption for me, I can trust him and know that all things that are happening now for good to them that love God.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Everything's Against Me?

Jacob lived a hard life and most of his difficulties were the consequences of his own bad decisions. He cheated his brother out of his inheritance, twice, and then ran from home to avoid getting murdered. His father-in-law took advantage of him for over two decades. He had 13 kids by four women and married two of them at the same time. If he wasn’t gray-headed by that point, the way his boys turned out likely finished the job. When Joseph, Jacob’s favorite boy, told the family about his dream, how one day they’d all bow down to him, the brothers made an odd choice — murder? Reuben, the voice of moral reason, made the case against murder. Judah also came down against fratricide, they’d just sell him into slavery. After turning  a quick profit, they made up a story about how wild beasts slaughtered Joseph. It broke Jacob’s heart. Joseph was gone.

Joseph lived a hard life and most of his difficulties were because of persecution. He was sold twice. Became the head servant of a powerful man in Egypt, then falsely accused of an impropriety by his wife. Because they believed all women in Egypt, Joseph went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. In jail, he met up with a couple of other men who fell on hard times. Joseph interpreted their dreams  and in return, he asked the incarcerated butler for help getting out jail when he was released. But he forgot, until Pharaoh had a dream and needed interpretation. Pharaoh like Joseph’s skills and became Pharaoh’s right hand man and shepherded Egypt through 7 years of feast, to prepare them for 7 years of famine, predicted in Pharaoh’s dream.

In the famine, Jacob and the boys got hungry and they heard there was corn in Egypt, so he sent the boys to get some groceries. Little did they know it was Joseph they had to buy from. Joseph, orchestrated a few scenarios in which he sent the brothers back home, first without Simeon and then wanted to keep Benjamin. When the brothers told Jacob what happened, he said in Genesis 42:36, “Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.” It only seemed that way.  Because he was loved of God, all things were not against him, but all things were for him (Romans 8:28). All these troubles worked together for his good, though he couldn’t see and didn’t see it for a long time. But Joseph saw it. When the brothers feared retribution, Joseph said “Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” There is no pointless suffering for the people of God.  Look at life, through eyes of faith, like Joseph. If you are in Christ, nothing is ever really “against you” but all things are for you.