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Hearing God

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Scratching Itching Ears

All of us have itchy ears. The question is, how do you scratch?

If you’ve been around church for very long, you may have heard Paul’s warning in today’s Bible reading. “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

All of us Believers have our favorite Bible teachers and preachers. And we have our favorite Christian music. Some of our favorites are well worth the time to listen to! These are the kind of Bible teachers, preachers and songs that will lift your spirits when you’re down. They’ll feed your hungry soul. They’ll point your eyes to Jesus and the glory of God. They’ll give you a hunger for more of God!

Some of our favorites are OK. I mean, they aren’t bad, but they aren’t really good either. These Bible teachers and preachers will tell you what God says in the Bible. The songs will give you a nice beat to keep your toe tapping. But in the grand sceme of things, they are simply “amusing”.

One of my professors warned about Christian “amusement”. The word literally means “not-thinking”.

And then there are the favorites that shouldn’t be. These Bible teachers and preachers have so little nourishing content, it’s difficult to sort through all the chaff just to get to the wheat. And some are so bad, there’s actually no spiritual nourishment to be gained. And some of the songs have pretty melodies and harmonies, and some of the words are sentimental, but the songs lack anything of real substance.

Application

Paul’s concern was not about the outright “bad” teaching and songs. Yes, bad teaching should be avoided. Yes, bad Bible teachers and preachers should be avoided.

But we should also avoid a steady diet of marginal and questionable teaching. We should avoid a steady diet of one-dimensional Christian music that only looks back at the day we were saved and the day we get to heaven. We should vary our songs so we don’t just sing and listen to songs about God; we should sing and listen to songs to God at least as much as we sing about Him! Now, lest anyone think I’m bashing one type of music and promoting any other type, I’ll just say that there’s good and there’s bad in all kinds of Christian music. Some of the “old” stuff is good and some of it is bad. Some of the “new” stuff is good and some of it is bad.

There are lots of ways to scratch our itchy ears. Some are very good and helpful. Some are OK. But some are to be avoided completely.

So how do you scratch your itching ears? Remember: Don’t be “amused”!

This devotional was originally published on September 21, 2019.

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The Scales of Justice

Liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away yesterday evening. And my Facebook and Twitter feeds blew up.

President Trump will nominate a new justice in the coming days. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will bring a vote on the President’s nomination to the Senate floor. We could have a new justice on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) before or shortly after the November 3, 2020 elections.

According to the US Constitution, the President’s job is to nominate SCOTUS Justices and the Senate’s job is to give “advice and consent”. Legally, the process could begin immediately. But is that the right thing to do?

We are a country of Law and Order. The Constitution was written to preserve the rights of the People and restrain the US Government (in sharp contrast to the Left’s suggestions that the Constitution is to restrain the People, preserving the right of the Government).

Our nation is deeply divided among political lines. Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minnesota Police Officer, we have already seen months of nightly riots (called “mostly peaceful protests” by the “mainstream” media) in the streets of Portland, Seattle, New York, among other cities. Conservative activist Candace Owens tweeted, “Ruth Badger (sic) Ginsburg has passed away. Pray for the Ginsburg family, but also pray for America. If you thought you saw the face of true evil with the Democrats’ treatment of Brett Kavanaugh— you ain’t see nothing yet.”

Last night, as Twitter lit up on news of Justice Ginsburg’s death, Reza Aslan tweeted, “If they even TRY to replace RBG we burn the entire f*cking thing down.” I don’t know what Aslan threatens to burn down, but it doesn’t sound good.

Even in the day of “tolerance”, we are at a point where bullies’ comments are taken seriously and played out. But then again, I don’t remember any of President Trump’s “bully rhetoric” played out, resulting in any lives lost. But I digress.

In 2016, SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia died. Then-President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s vacancy. Mitch McConnell said that he would block Garland’s nomination until after the upcoming election in order for the People to decide, which resulted in Donald Trump getting to nominate Neil Gorsuch to the SCOTUS.

Many on the Left are calling McConnell hypocritical now. But a few months ago, McConnell clarified his statement by saying that since the President (Obama) and the Senate majority were led by opposite parties, the People should decide in the election which way they want to go. And the People decided. In the interview a few months ago, McConnell said that since the President (Trump) and the Senate were led by the same party, he would have no problem presenting the President’s nominated justice. On a side note, in 2016, then-Vice President Joe Biden was in favor of Garland’s nomination and said the Senate should be allowed to consider Garland.

Senator Ted Cruz pointed out on Sean Hannity’s TV show last night — and Tweeted today — that especially in light of the Democrats’ threats to contest the election — and Hillary Clinton’s admonition that “Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances”, having an even number of SCOTUS Justices could lead to a Constitutional Crisis if the 2020 election is challenged, as was the 2000 election. Cruz is in favor of the Senate considering a nominee. National Review wrote this article on August 7, 2020, “History Is on the Side of Republicans Filling a Supreme Court Vacancy in 2020“. It’s worth the read.

A couple of friends on Facebook stated last night that the stakes of the election had just been raised significantly. As President Obama stated several years ago, “Elections have consequences.” I agree.

In recent years, SCOTUS has made several anti-Constitutional decisions — at least as I read the Constitution. In fact, the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 was Unconstitutional; the Constitution does not guarantee a “right to privacy” as argued, which was the main reason for approving nation-wide abortions. The SCOTUS decision in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges case legalizing same-sex marriage was decided on a 5-4 split decision. (Note: Ted Cruz, in his recent book One Vote Away, chronicles other narrow 5-4 SCOTUS decisions).

So where does that leave us? Clearly, we are at a crossroads. Clearly, the Rule of Law allows going forward with a Supreme Court nomination. If we — as a nation — choose to postpone the nomination, we should do so independent of threats of riots. We cannot allow bullying to deter following the Law at this crucial time. But the question is, “Is now the time to move forward with a nomination?” This is what Ginsburg said in 2016, “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the president stops being president in his last year,”… Several months later, Ginsburg said having only eight justices on the Supreme Court is not good.

One friend suggested on Facebook that Trump should go with the “nuclear option”. The Nuclear Option would involve a “Recess Appointment” of a Justice while the Senate is not in session during three consecutive days. This would prevent a Constitutional Crisis for deciding a contested election. But the Recess Appointment would be challenged and there would be a normal confirmation process. The appointment could be short-lived.

This could be political suicide for Trump and McConnell.

Is it worth the possible political fallout ahead of the election? On the other hand, it could incentivize more citizens — on both sides of the aisle — to vote in November.

But if Trump is able to get a confirmed nomination, a Constitutional-originalist-leaning SCOTUS (not “conservative”) would have ramifications that would last for generations. If Trump wins and appoints additional Justices, in the event they die or retire, that would result in even fewer narrow decisions for SCOTUS. The only way to overcome this, should Biden/Harris win would be to pack the SCOTUS with additional liberal Justices, as FDR threatened to do and add two or four more Justices. After all, the Constitution doesn’t prescribe how many Justices will serve.

The stakes are high.
This election just became less about two candidates
and more about abortion, religious freedom, and Constitutional fidelity.*

If they haven’t begun to already, Christians need to
humbly pray, seek God, and clean up our act and vote
.

2Chronicles 7:14

* I plan to write another post about Constitutional fidelity soon and will post a link here.

Photo of a child reading a Bible

In today’s Bible reading, Paul describes the symptoms of leaving God’s objective revelation of Himself. He also prescribes the remedy.

The Description: “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:2-5 CSB)

It can’t get much worse than that, can it?

Paul describes the ultimate fallout of a life without God’s Truth. In a word, it’s “anarchy” a word which literally means “no ruler”. If you leave an objective standard of Truth, then you have no basis to discern the answers to questions about everything from the existence of God to defining right and wrong, and defining something as simple as “male” or “female”.

The Prescription: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:-14-17 CSB)

When you live by an objective standard of Truth, you have the tools to answer the big questions and the small questions. Paul says that the Bible can prepare us for everything.

God didn’t give us an objective standard and revelation of Himself so we could sit back and admire the beauty of the standard. No, the Standard of Truth has a purpose beyond itself: to make us more like Jesus, and equip us to live a God-directed life. As we let God’s Word live in us, it spills over into every area of our lives and in concert with the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our lives are changed from the inside, out. (Colossians 3:16ff, Ephesians 5:18ff)

Application

As you read the first part of 2 Timothy 3, did you feel like you were reading a description of our current culture? Only Jesus Christ can satisfy the longings of a restless heart. And every heart is restless!

Ask God to use His Word to teach you, to correct you, to rebuke you, and to set you on a straight path of living for His glory.

This devotional was originally published on September 20, 2019.

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In today’s Bible reading, Paul talks about people supporting his mission work. He says that even in the midst of financial hardship, the Macedonian churches gave out of their poverty to support God’s work. He says, ” I can testify that, according to their ability and even beyond their ability, of their own accord, they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints, and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us by God’s will.” 2 Corinthians 8:3-5 (CSB) This reminds me of when Jesus and His Disciples watched people give their tithes and offerings in the Temple in Mark 12:41–44.

Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had—all she had to live on.”

The picture above is from a Facebook group for Small Church Pastors that I belong to. I have never seen anything like this. And I find it gravely offensive on many layers. This is definitely NOT what Paul was talking about in today’s reading. My point is not to get into the pattern of New Testament giving, but to talk about how Paul used the Macedonian churches as an example of how giving is supposed to function.

As I read Scripture, it seems that if God is calling someone to do a ministry, God will provide the funding to support the work. Missionary Hudson Taylor said,

“God’s work, done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”

If Taylor was correct — and I believe he was — what does that say about modern-day fund raising to support “God’s work”? I remember many conversations with my dad talking about people “begging for money” on Christian radio and TV. It shouldn’t be this way! Yes, ministries should be up front with their needs. And they may miss a lot of financial support if they don’t ask. And like Paul says, people get in on a blessing when they support God’s work.

But how much of “God’s work” isn’t? That may well explain why so many ministries have to “beg for money”. Maybe it isn’t God’s “big K” Kingdom they’re trying to build, but rather their own “little k” kingdoms.

Paul says that the Macedonian churches begged for the privilege to support God’s work. (2 Corinthians 8:4–5) When Moses collected the Hebrews’ gifts to build the wilderness Tabernacle, the people responded above and beyond the need. Moses responded, “Let no man or woman make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” So the people stopped. The materials were sufficient for them to do all the work. There was more than enough.” Exodus 36:6–7 (CSB)

Application

Let me ask you, when was the last time a church or ministry begged people to stop giving? I never have!

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. Galatians 6:7–10 (CSB)

So how much should you give? That’s a great question! I like what John Piper suggests.

Giving is a way of having what you need. Giving in a regular, disciplined, generous way … is simply good sense in view of the promises of God. [2 Corinthians 9:6] says, “He who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.” Then [2 Corinthians 9:8] says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you that always having all sufficiency . . . ” In other words the “bountiful reaping” promised in verse 6 is explained in verse 8 by God’s pledge to give a sufficiency for us and an abundance for good deeds.

He says elsewhere,

When you get your paycheck, do you look to the Spirit for how to turn this money to best advantage for God’s kingdom, or do you invest it in the field of the flesh for your own private use? Sowing to the Spirit means recognizing where the Spirit aims to produce some luscious fruit for the glory of God and dropping the seed of your resources in there.

One thing to point out: the Corinthians knew Paul and Titus, just as the Macedonians did. They weren’t just sending money to some preacher who may have been a charlatan, frivolously squandering their gifts. There was a sense of accountability by knowing the people they were supporting.

Note: God doesn’t need your money.
But you need to give!

This devotional was originally published on August 31, 2019.

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"Read Me" on a Dusty Bible

When the New Testament writers told their stories, they had the memorized and printed Word of Scripture to draw from. Their Bible (our Old Testament) was written in Hebrew and Aramaic. It had been recorded in the language of the common people at the time.

By the First Century, many people in what is now Israel still spoke Aramaic. But many others throughout Asia Minor and Southern Europe spoke Greek. Scholars observed differences between Attic Greek and the New Testament Greek and thought that it was some kind of “Holy Spirit” Greek, something that only appeared in the New Testament.

However, at the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, many documents were discovered, written in this new form of Greek. These documents were everyday types of documents, not Scriptures. Scholars discovered that this new Greek wasn’t special at all. It just happened to be the language spoken by common, everyday people throughout the area conquered by Alexander the Great. This new Greek was called Koine (pronounced COIN-ay) Greek, or common Greek.

Side Note: We in Western Christianity have the Bible in our common vernacular than at any other time in history. While many of our homes have the Bible in several English translations, many other parts of the world only have the Bible in one translation and it isn’t even in their Mother Tongue because translators haven’t yet learned their language. I plan to share some news about a new tremendous translation effort in the coming months.

You may have heard the expression, “You may be the only Bible many people ever read.“? I think the idea came from 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, in today’s daily Bible reading.

Now, if that expression is true, what do people conclude about the Bible they read?

Do they see condemnation and pain? Do they see encouragement and comfort? Do they see a religious holier-than-thou attitude? Do they see redeeming love?

Oftentimes the Bible people read when they look at us reflects the Bible we read when we were growing up. I know a lot of Believers who grew up under “hellfire and brimstone” preaching. They never heard of God’s love. One friend said she always felt that God was mad at her and if she messed up, He might squish her. Many Believers today have only heard of a loving God and have heard nothing of God’s righteous judgement.

Unfortunately, those who know only God’s judgment and those who know only God’s love have an incomplete view of God. Despite the common belief, the God of the Old Testament is the same God we see in the New Testament. He doesn’t change. (Hebrews 13:8)

Application

If we are the only Bible some people ever read, then when people read us, they need to see a complete view of God, or as complete a view as possible, given that we are fallible, errant, and not inspired. That can only happen as we read across the genres of the Bible, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Prophecy, the History, the Poetry and Wisdom Literature, the Teaching Literature, and the Apocolyptic Literature. As we read, study, and apply the written Word, our attitudes, our beliefs, and our behaviors will begin to reveal a more complete Bible for our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers to read.

Spend a few minutes today contemplating the statement, “You may be the only Bible some people ever read.” Ask God to show you how you can reveal a more complete view of God in your attitudes, your beliefs, and your behavior.

Realize that you may be the only Bible that people read. Help them read between the lines. Tell them how God has made a difference in your life. Give them the Gospel message in words, not just actions. Without hearing the Gospel message, they will never come to a saving faith.

So faith comes from what is heard,
and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.
Romans 10:17 (CSB)

This devotional was originally published August 24, 2019.

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1 2 3 22

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