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Showing posts with label devotion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label devotion. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

How Can You Love God Fully If You Can't Show Jesus' Divinity?



Before the advent of instant communication, separated sweethearts would communicate via handwritten letters. Receiving a note from one's beloved from across the ocean was a source of great joy and comfort and the recipient would pour over the letters, treasuring them and reading them multiple times. Many times the couple actually became more familiar with each other as their thoughts and feelings were transferred to the written word. One could see how his or her beloved thought and which matters they deemed important by their continual exchange.

The New Testament offers the Christian a similar experience as we await the return of our bridegroom, Jesus. Even though we are temporarily separated from him, we are not left without a way to draw closer to him and to know him more intimately.

In their book, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, Rob Bowman and Ed Komoszewski have given us a wonderful resource for not simply arguing for Jesus's deity with non-Trinitarians, but a way to more deeply experience who Jesus is:
It's easy to be tempted to focus our efforts on making Jesus "relevant" to today's cosmopolitan, postmodern tastes. Non-Christians are becoming increasingly guarded—if not hostile—toward traditional Christian beliefs. By emphasizing Jesus' humanity, some Christians are, indeed, bending over backward to make Christianity-and Christ himself-more "approachable" They may not deny the deity of Jesus, but in practical terms his humanity overwhelms his deity. In the end, though, a lack of appreciation of Jesus' identity as God makes him less approachable. As New Testament scholar Grant Osborne warns, some of us have lost the holy reverence and awe that we should have toward Jesus:
Christians are guilty of the syndrome "Your Jesus is too small." We have made Jesus our "big brother" and "friend" to such an extent that we have lost the sense that he is also our sovereign Lord. We must recapture capture the realization that he too is our God and worthy of worship at the deepest level."
If we are to experience a healthy relationship with God, we need to be intimately acquainted with the biblical teaching about the divine identity of Jesus. This involves more than merely knowing about, and agreeing with, the doctrine of the deity of Christ, though that is certainly essential. It must become come more to us than a line we say in a creed. We need to know what it means to say that Jesus is God and why it matters. We need to see Jesus as God. We need to think about Jesus and relate to him in the full light of the truth of his identity. We need to appreciate the significance of his divine identity for our relationships with God and others. 1
I've written before on Putting Jesus in His Place and the HANDS argument therein. This is an important book that you should pick up if you don't yet own it.

References

1. Robert Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski. Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Kindle Locations 135-149). Kindle Edition.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

What Does the Bible Promise "I Can Do All Things" Really Mean?



Bible promises are very popular, with calendars, posters and inspirational quotes proliferating Christian stores. However, do those promises really mean what we think?

In this short video, Lenny demonstrates how taking a verse out of its context can distort the message the Scriptures actually convey.


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Making the Most of your Daily Devotions (Free Bible Download)



I am in the book of Revelation in my devotions this morning, reading the message of Jesus to the church in Ephesus. Jesus praises the Ephesians for their passionate and diligent pursuit of truth. However, he also warns them they were in danger of losing their place because "You have forsaken the love you had at first." (Rev. 2:4, ESV). This first love seems to be tied to the good deeds they did at the beginning of the church's ministry. Because of this, commentators see the first love to refer both to the love of Jesus and their love for one another.[1]

All Christians need to cultivate and nurture their love of Christ and for others. The first and best discipline to do this is during your daily devotions. As an apologist, my devotion time is critical, as it would be easy to slip into a habit of faith-defending without love. However, a few years ago, I noticed that even my devotions started to become a rote exercise. My prayer time would be dominated by my requests and my reading was all about quickly finishing the chapter so I could move onto something else.

In order to break out of this habit, I decided to be more deliberate in approaching my prayer time. I liked the ACTS outline of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication) but needed a grid in which to place it. So, I came up with the following outline that I keep in my Bible and update monthly. I've created a downloadable template for you to save and use for your own devotion times. You can grab either the PDF or the editable Word version. Fill it in, print it out and keep a folded paper copy in your Bible to use each morning. Then, update it each month.

Here's my approach:

1. Contemplating the Nature of God through the Names of God

In God's word, God reveals different aspects of who he is through the various names he uses for himself. So I took eleven different names of God and laid them out in a two-week grid — one for each weekday and a dual-meaning name for Saturday and Sunday. I then contemplate in my prayers the different ways God fulfills the attributes of the "name of the day."

For example, if I am thinking about "Jehovah Sabbaoth - The Lord of Hosts," I contemplate how my holy God s the God over the armies. He can command legions of angels. He is the one who nothing or no one can overwhelm. I let me mind work on that aspect o God's character and I see if I can find new ways of understanding God as the Lord of hosts. Because this is a two-week cycle, it keeps my thoughts about God fresh and my desire to more keenly understand him.

2. Contemplate the Cross and the Sacrifice of Salvation

Coming to the Cross is hugely important. I think about Jesus and what it meant for him to give his back to the torturers. I think about his taking my sin upon himself. I think as a father with children about the sacrifice the Father made as he gave his beloved son to die so that I may live.

3. Ask for forgiveness of sins.

This is the place where I review and confesses my sins. It may be something big or small, but even a sin of hubris or not trusting should be honestly offered here. Make sure you use the Christian's bar of soap (1 John 1:9)!

4. Give thanks for blessings.

We all have more to be thankful for than what we can imagine. I normally open my eyes during this part of my devotional time, so I can be reminded of the many blessings I do have. When I do devotions outside, this drives me to be thankful for God's creation and the oxygen in my lungs.

5. Pray for self.

Here's where I begin the Supplication area. First, I pray I would reflect Jesus in what I say and what I do and what I think. I want to see others the way Jesus would see them. I then pray of my responsibility as a father, as a Christian witness, and any immediate needs I have.

6. Pray for family members

Next, I list out each immediate family member and pray for then. Usually, I pick four or five areas that I pray for. I always try to make sure I think about how can God change/use myself to be more effective in helping them as opposed to "change this thing I don't like" kinds of prayers. Also, because I update this list monthly, it is god practice to come up to your spouse and your children and ask them "What can pray for for you this month?" This ai a great way to stay in touch with your kids and hear what's critical in their, lives.

7. Pray for ministry/job/household finances, etc.

After I've prayed for people, I thin pray for my job or ministry, any financial issues, any difficulties our family may be facing, and other issues affecting us.

8. Weekly rotating prayer for community

Lastly, I use a one week rotation of specific, focused prayer for the larger community. The breakdown is below and also on the template:
  • Mon - Church
  • Tues - Martyrs & those suffering
  • Wed - Government and elected officials
  • Thurs - Apologetics ministries
  • Fri - Educational institutions
  • Sat/Sun — special requests
This list has helped me in my daily devotional time to really pray better, to draw closer to God and to focus my prayers more specifically. I hope it helps you in your devotional time as well. Let me know of any additions or suggestions you have. I can always learn more.

References

1. See note for Revelation 2:5 in The ESV Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008. Print. 2465.









Thursday, November 26, 2015

Make Your Thanksgiving Meaningful: A Collection of Writings



Thanksgiving is a unique holiday in the United States. It recognizes and promotes religious observance in the form of thanking God for His provision not only for our personal lives but for our nation as a whole. In reality, the United States is still a nation of people who hold the spiritual in high regard. You can see that by reviewing some of the past proclamations by our elected representatives as well as how Thanksgiving came to be a recognized holiday in America.

While I'm sure some atheist factions have complained about the supposed conflict between church and state on this one, none have been able to effectively challenge the holiday in a meaningful manner. However, what the atheists have not been able to accomplish, the merchants very well may.

Below, I've collected many of the Thanksgiving observations, quotes, and reflections to help you find the true meaning of the holiday. I personally make sure I reflect and thank God for all he has done for me and blessed me with in the past years and in the years to come.

Reflecting on the Meaning of Thanksgiving

Past Thanksgiving Proclamations

How We're Losing the Thanksgiving Tradition

From all of us at Come Reason, have a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving.

Friday, September 12, 2014

True Freedom Requires Work

I've been a musician for over thirty years. I can't tell you how many times I've spoken to people who have appreciated my playing and mentioned with some envy that they wished they could step up to an instrument and play whatever they wanted. In the course of such conversations I was surprised to find it isn't uncommon that they had taken music lessons as a child but the drudgery of practice soon overcame them. Sometimes they would tell me that they felt tied down or burdened to practice while their friends were outside playing. They wanted to be free from practicing.



This concept of freedom is a childish one. To assume that freedom means one may spend his or her minutes on whatever does not feel like work is confused. The man who spent years practicing at the piano is more free than those who chose to avoid the hours of practice. He has more choices now available to him. He can choose to play a song if he desires while they cannot. By seeking to free themselves from the responsibility the instrument requires, they actually made themselves less free.

The Childishness of Modern Demands for Freedom

That childish concept of freedom seems to dominate our modern culture. Last year, The Guardian ran an article citing three separate studies demonstrating that "the days are over when children wanted to grow up to be astronauts or policemen or firemen. Now they want to be actors, singers or YouTube personalities."1 That reverses previous findings where being accepted as part of a group or community were prized as top goals while fame was listed near the bottom.

Certainly, the always-on perspective of social media plays a part here, but I don't think it's the entire story. Modern technology has given us many benefits and as a result we assume that we can make bad choices and still get everything we want. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, author Sarah Richards brags about how she spent nearly $50,000 to freeze her eggs so that she can some day in the future have the children she so desires.2 I've written previously about how more and more people view children as an accessory to their lives instead of a sacred trust of continuing community and culture. The concept of having it all without consequence is bringing forth some real consequences indeed, not the least of which is for the children of these insta-parents.

Christians Shouldn't be Afraid of Study

Christians are not immune to this kind of thinking. Evangelicals value life and place a high value on family and passing on their beliefs. However, most Christians in the pew are more like the fleeing music pupil than the practicing mater when it comes to matters of theology and apologetics. Sure, they attend Sunday morning and perhaps even mid-week services. Some even have a daily devotion time where they will read their Bibles and seek God's leading. All of this is great, but how many Christians are putting in the time to study the details of their faith? How many can defend their beliefs against the challenges offered by the secular world? How many can even demonstrate a fundamental belief like the Trinity using only their Bibles as support?

I understand that the idea of doing "school work" in one's devotion time may seem like drudgery. In fact, my experience has been the opposite. In working through a systematic theology book or an intellectually rigorous question, I have found that my studies draw out character traits of God I would have never otherwise uncovered. I learn new things about him, his greatness, and just how boundless his love for us is. I am actually more free in my worship of God as I discover new things about him. So, don't be afraid to go deep, dear Christian. You may find the work of study much more freeing than you believe.

References

1.Smith, Michael. "Studies Show That Children Just Want to Be Famous." Guardian Liberty Voice. Guardian Liberty Voice, 3 Aug. 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <http://guardianlv.com/2013/08/studies-show-that-children-just-want-to-be-famous/>.

2. Richards, Sarah E. "Why I Froze My Eggs (And You Should, Too)." The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 13 May 2013. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323628004578458882165244260> .

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Why Holy Saturday is so important


Dr. N.T. Wright on the importance of Holy Saturday in the Resurrection Week:
After Good Friday comes Holy Saturday, the day of waiting, waiting without hope, without knowing what will come next. Go down deep into Holy Saturday, because once again you are called away from the public arena – extroverts in particular find this hard – and into the stillness where you don’t understand, you don’t have an agenda to work on, you don’t know what it is you want or expect God to do. Without the still, dark privacy of Holy Saturday, the new kind of public message which is the resurrection of Jesus could turn simply into a shallow or angry response to the taunts and violence of Good Friday, answering the world in its own terms. The church is sometimes tempted to do that, to huff and puff and charge off to 'defend' God and the gospel. Holy Saturday commands us to lay down our swords and wait: wait without thought, says Eliot, for you are not yet ready for thought.
Wright, N.T. "God in Private and Public" NTWrightPage.com
http://ntwrightpage.com/sermons/MaundyThurs08.htm 20 March 2008 Accessed: 4/19/2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Crucial Lesson Taught on Holy Wednesday


Today is Wednesday of Holy Week, the week of Jesus' Last Supper and crucifixion. Many scholars have worked through the Gospel narratives to provide a chronology of the events they record during this week. Most know that on Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem as the crowds exclaimed "Hosanna to the Son of David!" proclaiming His messiahship. On Monday, He curses the fig tree and He then cleansed the Temple of the moneychangers, both actions showing how those called by God must be faithful and pure in their responsibility.


Tuesday was very busy, and the Gospels record several different exchanges of Jesus. First, he faced off against those responsible for the spiritual welfare of the Jewish people, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Jesus then takes some of His disciples up to the Mount of Olives and gives them a two-chapter overview of what they can expect at His second coming and cautions them to be ready. Of course, Thursday is the Last Supper and it kicks off a chain of events leading to Jesus' capture, Friday crucifixion, and His glorious Resurrection on Sunday morning.

What's interesting in all this is that today—Wednesday—The Gospels are pretty much silent on the actions of Jesus. The only thing we know about Jesus' day is that Mary anointed His feet at Bethany (Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-8). There's nothing recorded about Jesus coming again to Jerusalem or even giving a sermon on this day. It seems a bit strange that, with all the action building toward the climax of Friday, none of the Gospel writes would tell us all that Jesus did this day, as they've done so far.

If you put yourself in the place of the disciples, you might have found yourself a bit confused by Jesus' lack of action on Wednesday. Here, they've achieved a lot of momentum in their ministry. I mean, Jesus has finally allowed Himself to be recognized as Messiah and the crowds were with Him. He faced off against the prevailing power structure and had beat them at their own game. Passover had caused Jerusalem's population to swell, but after tomorrow the Sabbath would take a lot of opportunity to reach even more people away.

Certainly, Jesus shouldn't waste this day and do nothing important, right? Ministry moments are fleeting! But Jesus knew what was ahead for Him. He had greater things planned than the conquering of Jerusalem. His plan was to conquer sin itself. The quiet He cultivated before His final events provides us with two good lessons.

First, quiet times are important in ministry. For most people, ministry isn't one's primary vocation, but a labor of love done in addition to the job that provides the paycheck. Even here, when there's so much to do, it's important to pause and refocus your attention and devotion o what Jesus would have us do. Mary's anointing was a pure act of devotion. It also showed her sensitivity to the things of God. Mark tells us that more than one disciple felt indignant about the costly perfume being "wasted", but Jesus corrected them. Mary had insight that they lacked. We, too, must cultivate our own worship and devotion to God first, lest our business miss the point of ministry.

Secondly, sometimes when God seems silent, bigger things than you realize may be coming! Don't imagine that God's silence means nothing is happening. Many times in apologetic ministry, we think all we are doing is posting things no one is reading or arguing with others who never change their minds. However, you can never know this side of heaven how God is using the faithfulness you show in those areas to His greater glory. Jesus said of Mary, "She has done what she could… And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."

So, minister, remember to pause and reflect on this week. Think about what Jesus has done for us and remember to take time out for Him. Don't lose faith because He seems still or your ministry seems to not be moving forward. God can do great things with the quiet times.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

My Concern with One-Year Bible Plans

The New Year has descended upon us and many people have resolved to improve themselves in different ways. People are starting exercise regimens, cleaning out their desks, and hiding their credit cards (because cutting them up would be, well, a little too permanent!) Nicotine patches and diet books are flying off the shelves. I applaud the desire of people who want to better themselves. I know of many Christians who also desire to become more intimate with the scriptures and so they set themselves to read through the entire Bible. Some of them adopt various read-through-the Bible-in-a-year plans.



I think a more intimate knowledge of God's word is a very laudable goal. However, I have some concerns in the way the one-year bible reading programs are laid out. In fact, I think that many of the programs may actually hinder the goal of knowing the scriptures better. Here are my top three concerns:

1. One-Year Reading Plans Impose Artificial Breaks on the Text

There are several different ways the Bible is laid out by one-year plans. The oldest is to provide a section of the Old Testament, a section of the New Testament, a portion of Psalms and a portion of Proverbs. But this is a terrible way to read the Bible! The books of the Bible are written as just that, books that have a central purpose carried throughout. For example, January 7ths New Testament reading presents Matthew 6, but stops ten verses short. Those ten verses are the completion of the thought of Matthew 6. Jesus says in Matt. 6:25, "That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life" easily showing that verse 25 and following are connected to verse 24. By dividing the text up this way it become harder, not easier, to see what the author's intent and overall message really is.

Other plans, such as beginning-to-end plans or chronological versions are better, as you are at least not reading only a portion of a psalm. But because most of these plans are designed to fit within a specific time period, such as 15 minutes a day, they will still be forced to break the narrative. The books in the Bible were written to be taken as a whole. The New Testament epistles were initially letters to specific audiences. Would you ever read bits of a letter every day for a week and then writing a reply to your correspondent? You would want to read the entire letter so you would have the proper context to form a proper understanding.

2. One-Year Reading Plans Creates the Illusion of Verse Independence

One of the classic ways the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses twist scripture is to take certain verses that by themselves seem to support their teaching and use them as proof, ignoring the larger context of the entire text. For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses will use Romans 10:9 to show that Jesus is not God. However, in the verses immediately following, Paul tells us that Jesus is "Lord of all" people, Jewish and Gentile, and he quotes Joel 2:32 to say "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13). Interestingly, that Joel passage uses the divine name of God, YHWH, where Paul writes Lord. This clearly equates Jesus as YHWH.

While Christians will rightly decry the JW twisting of scriptures such as these, the church has become complicit in such abuses by elevating Bible verses over Bible books. We take simple, quotable lines out of their context and use them in ways the writer never intended.

Unfortunately, by presenting the biblical texts as bits, the idea of the verse above the book is elevated. For example, we read about the feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew and we think it is only about what little thing can we bring to Jesus that He could multiply. However, if we were to read the full context of Matthew, we can see how he portrays Jesus as fulfilling Israel's mission: Jesus was "called out of Egypt" (Mat. 2:14), He wandered in the wilderness (Mat. 4:1-10), He delivers the law of God on the mountain (Mat. 5-7), and He relies on God to provide for Him and His flock as the feeding of the 5,000 demonstrates. This picture is hard to see with daily readings but reading Matthew as a whole will show it more easily.

3. One-Year Reading Plans Create Misplaced Goals

A last concern I have over one-year plans is I think it subtly shifts the goal of bible reading itself. As I mentioned at the top of this article, I believe that many people begin such a regimen in order to become more intimate with all of scripture. However, I know when I had previously attempted such a plan things began to get difficult after mid-February. Until then, the Old Testament stories are fairly familiar. One can suffer through a genealogy or two, but Abraham offering Isaac or the plagues of Egypt bring us right back to Cecil B. DeMille familiarity. When the reader hits Leviticus, though, it becomes tough sledding! All of a sudden my intent shifts from understanding the context of the passage to simply getting through it. My goals changed. I was only looking for checking off the box that I did my reading today, not necessarily on what part the passage plays in telling God's story, it essentially defeated the purpose for which I started reading-to become more intimate with the scriptures!
Please note that I'm not saying there is no benefit to one-year plans. Neither am I saying that everyone who engages in the Bible this way will fall into these traps. I'm only expressing my concern that structuring one's reading in this way makes doing so easier and may hinder the primary goal of true knowledge of the Bible.

Instead, I want to pass along a recommendation that was given by Dr. Walt Russell in his book Playing With Fire: How the Bible Ignites Change in Your Soul. Dr. Russell is a bible scholar and he recommends creating a reading plan where you focus on one book each month. Start off with a gospel account, or even a short epistle such as Galatians. Once you've chosen your book, you should read it every day. At first, don't stop for the parts you don't have a full grasp of; simply read it as a complete work. After the second week or so, you will begin to notice refrains in the text—ideas that are repeated or reinforced. You can begin to see the work as a single message and then you can go deeper with a commentary or bible helps.

The goal is to master one book per month. On the next month, select another. One you get used to this approach you will find that it really doesn't take an incredible amount of time to read through a book (Galatians can be read in 20 minutes or so.) But you will be going deeper and truly understanding the scripture as God intended.

I'm indebted to Dr. Russell and his teaching in enlightening me with this approach. I think it will provide a very different experience for you. Read Playing with Fire and see how you can ignite change in your soul!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The First Christmas Eve - A Devotion

The day before the first Christmas was a normal day; it was just like any other. People awoke and began their chores. There were fish to catch, meals to prepare, fields to tend, shops to open. Oh, sure the cities were a bit busier than usual, what with the census causing many people to travel, but that just meant the opportunity for more business in the merchants' eyes. Everyone else was inconvenienced by the crowded roadways and the disruption of schedules. Traffic makes it difficult for locals to finish their responsibilities. But such was part of life in this part of the world.


So, people went about their day not thinking twice about what kind of a day it was. The herdsmen took their flocks to the pastures outside of town to find them food. An old prophet and prophetess sat at the temple in Jerusalem, each praying as part of their daily routine, one that they duplicated for so long they had lost count. They pray that they might catch a glimpse of the power of God to rescue their people. But they don't mark this day as anything more. It's simply one more opportunity to petition the Almighty.

There were the common complaints about politics. Some complained that the government taxed too much, others that we should submit to the status quo. Those that sought to overthrow the power structures were seen as zealots, but even they saw today as another day in their quest for autonomy, claiming God was on their side.

Herod was sitting fat on his throne, probably feeling fairly content. His partnership with Rome had brought him considerable power and success. He felt he had the power to vanquish any threat to his rule and his building and construction projects had made him famous. This day he felt no particular worry about losing his title as King of the Jews.

Everyone across the world didn't note this day as anything more than another day. They did not have the luxury of history that we have today. They didn't know that tomorrow would bring the birth of one child and the beginning of end of their world. They didn't realize that one infant arriving in a small backwoods town would be an event so enormous that all of mankind would reckon time by it. Those shepherds didn't know that tomorrow heaven would be so filled with joy that they would see it burst at the seams and hear glorious praise spill onto the earth. Herod didn't know that he would soon be dead and in less than a century his glorious Temple project would be wiped clean from the mount as well as the Jewish worship rituals it supported. Simeon and Anna didn't know that they would have their prayers answered in just a few days, cradling in their arms the Messiah of the Lord. Even Caesar Augustus didn't know that this child would turn Rome inside out.

That first Christmas Eve was remarkable because it was utterly unremarkable. Today we remember His coming and tomorrow we celebrate with friends and family. But come January 30 or March 22 or September 16 we will be back to experiencing ordinary days. I pray that as we think about the birth of the Savior of the world, we would reflect on God's promise and His deliverance not only on December 24, but on those ordinary days, too. Be like that old prophet or prophetess. Make worship and expectation that God is working part of your daily routine. Because you never know, God may make tomorrow earth-shattering.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vacation Apologetics - Throwing Away Silver While Searching for Gold

When I was a kid, my family visited Virginia City, Nevada and I never forgot it. So, it’s no surprise that I wanted to take my family there as we continued our tour of the Southwest. (If you’ve missed any of the previous blogs about this trip, you can read them all here.) For those of you who may not know, Virginia City is the site of the biggest and richest mining strike in the history of the United States. What became known as the Comstock Lode produced over 300 million dollars worth of precious metals in its 50 year history.



What always stuck with me was the story of how Silver City got its name. After gold was discovered in the Nevada hills, prospectors and miners came looking for riches. As the surface gold ran out and they began mining the hillsides, they would run afoul of a heavy black mineral that would clog their rockers and continue to make it difficult to extract the gold. Cursing the stuff, they wanted nothing more than to rid themselves of it, so when some of the townspeople asked to use the cast-offs from mining to pave their streets the miners quickly obliged. Only after someone took a sample of the stuff to an assey office in California did they find out the stuff they were discarding was almost pure silver! As our tour guide said, "You can bet that those streets were ripped up a whole lot faster than they were laid down!"

I think of that story a lot and the lessons it teaches. How many times in our Bible reading do we look for those familiar stories with easy to recognize morals, and just trudge through the rest of the chapters trying to get to the end? Do we "discard" books like Hosea or Philemon because they’re perhaps a little difficult to comprehend or apply at first? What riches we’re throwing away! If a book is a bit difficult, buy a good commentary or two and set it in your mind that you are going to mine these scriptures for all their worth. Without a little effort on the part of an inquisitive individual who stopped and asked "what exactly are we throwing away?" the Comstock Lode would have never been the valuable success story it was. Dig into these pages – you know, the ones where the gold leaf is still sticking together – and you will find new treasures and a better understanding of God and His ways.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Don't Let Your Eyes Deceive You!


In my devotion this morning I found myself in Ezekiel 12 - a prophecy about Israel and Judah going into captivity. In this prophecy, the Lord tells Ezekiel:
"The prince who is among them will load his baggage on his shoulder in the dark and go out. They will dig a hole through the wall to bring it out. He will cover his face so that he cannot see the land with his eyes. I will also spread My net over him, and he will be caught in My snare And I will bring him to Babylon in the land of the Chaldeans; yet he will not see it, though he will die there." (vv. 12-13)
This prophecy was fulfilled during King Zedekiah’s reign. After trying to form a revolt against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had previously put him in power, the Babylonians came into Judah, besieged Jerusalem and leveled the city. Capturing Zedekiah, they slaughtered his sons before his eyes and then put his eyes out – making that the last thing he would ever see. Once blinded, they carried him in chains to Babylon.

This story got me thinking about how the Bible treats the eye symbolically.
  • In Genesis 3, Eve saw the fruit of the tree was good for food, so she took it and gave some to her husband to eat.
  • Sampson had eye trouble - he saw a daughter of the Philistines and wanted to marry her (Judges 14:1) and he saw a harlot in Gaza (Judges 16:1) which led to his fate with Delilah. The Philistines put out Samson’s eyes. Only after this did God use him again.
  • Jesus once taught "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." (Matt 5:39).
One of Israel and Judah's problems prior to the exile is they trusted too much in what they saw – their temple, their walls, their chariots and their alliances – instead of their relationship with the Lord. Symbolically, God is showing the entire rebellious nation that their eyes are deceiving them and leading them away from Him. So he allows them to be "put out" the king's eyes are put out, the temple is destroyed and the nation is put out of the land so they can no longer trust in their surroundings.

The interesting thing in all this is how we can be reconciled through Jesus. In John 9, Jesus healed a man born blind by making clay or mud from the ground and putting it on his eyes. I've always read that with a nod to Genesis 2 - since God created us out of the dust of the ground, could it be that this man's condition was he was born without his entire eye? Perhaps Jesus is creating that part of him that the man lacked in the same way that God made Adam.

Whatever the case, Jesus has the ability to heal us of our deepest sin issues. The eye is the source for all kinds of sin. If we voluntarily admit our sins and give them to Him, He can restore us to a proper state. If we continue in rebellion, God just may have to deal with us more strongly in order to keep us from sinning so we can again make the main thing the main thing.
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An invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics

Mary Jo Sharp:

"Lenny Esposito's work at Come Reason Ministries is an invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics. He is as knowledgeable as he is gracious. I highly recommend booking Lenny as a speaker for your next conference or workshop!"
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