Lessons in God’s word that go with the Sunday sermon. Scripture portions for the week.

Framed by the Word of God

The Lord created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. Where is my evidence for such a statement? Where is the incontrovertible proof?

I don’t have any to give to you, only that I believe it to be true. That is at the heart of the matter for the believer in Jesus Christ, belief.

The account of creation in Genesis is not so much a scientific narrative, although one could draw some theories from it, as it is a revelation of character and nature of the Creator.

It is thought-provoking that God does not begin scripture with the commandments but with an origin story, an account of His actions at the beginning of time. While it is impossible for finite human beings to grasp the concept of an infinite Creator, the Lord gives a glimpse of Himself nonetheless.

 

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” -Hebrews 11:1

 

First and foremost the bible is a book of faith. In order to have a relationship with God, we must have faith. We can reject the revelation the Lord makes of creation as being too fantastic to believe, or we can accept it by faith.

The faith described by the writer of Hebrews is paradoxical to say the least.

How can a person have hope for something he is convinced already exists? That is how the person of faith is described. I believe that the Lord is as real as my wife and children; I believe without a doubt that He has transmitted His word accurately to us without error because my hope is in the Lord.

I have the convection that there are things that exist that I have not seen such as the heavenly realm, angels or even God Himself. Just as Balaam could not see the angel in his path ready to strike him down, I believe there are many things we have not seen that have created all that we do see.

 

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” -Hebrews 11:3

 

The godless believe that nothing created everything. In Latin the term is ex nihilo or “out of nothing”, the bible does not teach that creation came from nothing but rather that the visible world was created from what is invisible.

The origins of life and everything cannot be proven for this reason. While I appreciate the creationists and the work of intelligent design proponents, they, like the naturalist, can never truly use the scientific method to prove their theories.

Genesis is the revelation of God and His nature and as such is meant for the man or woman who seeks the Lord from a place of faith.

Tents and a Place Prepared for Us

We are in the midst of the biblical season of Sukkot. Such biblical appointed times are meant to be a dress rehearsal of events and principles the Lord will fulfill on that date some point in the future.

Sukkot translated as Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of the Ingathering, is the time of dwelling in booths as commanded by God in Scripture;

You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths,  that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’” Leviticus 23:42-43

Notice that this is a command for native Israelites, it is optional for the rest of us I would surmise but all scripture is profitable for us so what can we learn from this holy day of the Lord?

The stated purpose of this time is to remember when the Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and that they dwelt in booths. Okay, why is that? Just as the Lord uses the Passover Seder to teach us about sin and the Lord’s salvation while pointing back to this same point in history, Sukkot informs us of the temporary nature of life and of when we shall live with the Lord.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Corinthians 5:1

Life is temporary and fleeting, to say the least. The Bible compares this life to a vapor or just a wisp of smoke. That is probably why Ecclesiastes is read during this season as this book of the bible is all about the futility of gathering wealth and erecting monuments in this life.

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.  Ecclesiastes 1:2

It is also why Jesus cautions us not to lay up treasures on earth but in heaven.

Life matters, it is essential, but it is only temporary on this side of eternity. We currently live in tents, but we are told by our Lord that He has gone to prepare a place for us, a place that is eternal.

It is vanity to focus on ourselves and to think that living for ourselves will bring more than momentary satisfaction and pleasure. Even then there is no genuine satisfaction.

Solomon stated as much and keep in mind that he had all the wealth, toys and companionship life could provide. He built a great temple, the ultimate palace and everything one could conceive of building, and he had over a thousand women between his wives and concubines, he had chariots and horses, servants and all the stuff one man could gather to himself and still his life was empty.

The lesson in all of this is that there is more to life than what we see on this side of eternity. We have known nothing else but this tent of life, yet there is a more excellent dwelling place beyond the veil.

Setting Boundaries

Human beings need boundaries and there is an old saying that states that “fences make good neighbors”. Scripture speaks of territorial borders and the need to keep them as they had been set using boundary stones.

You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary mark, which the ancestors have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the LORD your God gives you to possess. -Deuteronomy 19:14

To move one of these stones was worse than stealing because it would affect generations of people and this is why it brought a curse from the Lord. According to the prophet Hosea, God pours out His wrath like water on those who move boundary stones (Hosea 5:10).

“Cursed is he who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark” -Deuteronomy 27:17

While this gets into integrity and honesty regarding land there is more to understand here than territorial borders. The Lord sets boundaries for more than land and for even more than the orbits of the planets and solar systems. He does indeed set the boundaries of the ocean and the sky but He also sets the boundaries of what is good.

Consider marriage. It is much maligned these days and we have tried to move the boundary stones of how we define this institution established by the Lord. In the area of wealth we see people using government to take what does not belong to them to make it “fair” even though this wealth is destroyed instead of redistributed like they would prefer.

Boundaries are good for us and we should be teaching limits to our children with the understanding of why they are good. Discipline is part of the fruit of the Spirit and it is discipline that gives us strength of the mind and heart allowing us to endure the troubles of this life.

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Recommended Reading for this week:

Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9

Isaiah 51:12-52:12

Matthew 26:47-27:10

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The Biblical Calendar

From time to time I like to note where we are on the biblical calendar. We have left behind us the month of Av when we recall that the temple was destroyed twice on the same day hundreds of years apart. It reminds me of the fact that we are the temple of God (1 Cor 6:19-20) and that we should be careful of the destructive power of sin.

Now we move into the month of Elul, a time of repentance when we look forward to meeting the King. We often believe repentance to be a time of dread that we must hang our heads low in sorrow and guilt to meet God but it should also be a time of rejoicing because we know that if we are truly sorry for our sin, the Lord will come running to be reunited with us.

Jesus loves us and wants the best for us. The best for us is to deal with our sin and walk with the Lord in fellowship.

 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” -Ezekiel 18:30-32

Happy Father’s Day, Korach and Charleston

Greetings brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ!
I hope this email finds you living in the grace of our Lord and walking in His ways and that you are looking forward to a blessed Father’s Day.Father’s Day is time to honor our dads if they are still among us, but how do we define what it means to be a dad?
I put up the Bible Factor podcast a little early and give my opinion of what a biblical view might look like.
The scripture reading this week is called Korach (קורח | Korah) because that is the first Hebrew word of the reading found in Numbers 16:1-18:32. Other reading to get us though the bible this year include, 1 Samuel 11:14-12:22 and Luke 18:35-19:28.
The story of Korach’s rebellion is a story of rebellion against the Lord not Moses. Korach desired the office of the high priest because he desired the prestige and the respect that came with it.The Lord had commanded that only the sons of Aaron, Moses’ brother, could hold the office. Other sons of Levi, such as Korach, were to assist the priests but they were not to become priests themselves.
We often desire to be something different than what the Lord created us to be, and we certainly see the world encouraging people to become what they are not in direct rebellion to God.Consider several stories we have seen in recent days.
There is growing support for the so-called transgender movement, from Bruce Jenner to a young 18 year old have surgery to change from male to female (at least as far as the parts go). There was even an uproar over a woman in Washington state who ran the local NAACP chapter, claiming to be black but really white. She claimed to be “transracial”.
People are created equal before God and the law but we are not the same. The Lord gave us differences in gender, ethnic background, status and so on. These differences are neither good nor bad but of what make us who we are.Yet, there is often a desire to tell the Creator that He was mistaken in how we were created.
You see this in small ways like a shorter person wearing shoes to make them appear taller, a dark haired person dying their hair lighter and so on.Korach took this too far when he told Moses that he took too much power for himself by giving commandments and restrictions. Restrictions on who could be a priest was the great contention he had with Moses.
The Lord saw it differently. He saw Korach’s rebellion as questioning the Lord Himself and His authority over the children of Israel. The same is true of us. When we decide that we are something different than what God made us or that we don’t like the differences in others, we rebel against God.
We saw the worst example of this in Charleston, South Carolina. A young man twisted by his hatred of so-called races other than his own, took it upon himself to execute 9 Christians having a bible study simply because of their ethnicity.
He blames races other than whites for the problems of the world but we should understand that this man’s thinking is far from right. The problems of this world find their source in the embracing of sin and the rejection of the ways of God.
We may see pockets of sin, crime and immorality in a particular community but it not a problem of ethnicity, it is a family problem. With the breakdown of the family and fathers abandoning their roles to their children, generations are being taught that they are not responsible for their actions but to blame others.
Which brings us back to Korach.
Korach led his family into rebellion. He drew other Levites and several other tribes within Israel to reject the commands of God and demand his own way.
Dads this Father’s Day should consider the impact they have on their children for good or evil. From fathers involved in their kids lives to those who are absent, dads influence the type of people their children will become.
That is the challenge laid at our feet. What kind of influence are we having on the next generation? Is it for good or evil?

When Love Thy Neighbor Becomes Illegal

A 90 year old man has garnered international attention for feeding the homeless, even though it is against the law.

arnold_abbott_feeding homelessAcross the nation more than fifty cities are passing laws against feeding the homeless for one reason or another. In New York city, they outlawed food donations to homeless shelters because the city can’t assess their salt, fat and fiber content. Other cities such as Ft Lauderdale, Florida are outlawing food distributions because they want to discourage the homeless from settling in places that tourists might see them.

Arnold Abbott has been feeding the homeless of Ft. Lauderdale since 1991. He has now been cited twice by police for violating a new city ordinance that makes it illegal for him to feed the hungry in the way he has done for more than 20 years. The World War II vet awarded with two purple hearts has been honoring the memory of his wife with his service, a memory of serving those in need.

The ordinance, passed Oct. 22, “regulates the activity in order to ensure it is carried out in an appropriate, organized, clean and healthy manner” and “permits indoor food distribution to take place at houses of worship throughout the city.”

Regulations are passed in the name of making things safer and more orderly. However, the real intention is usually to limit activity that is undesirable.

The ordinance limits where outdoor feeding sites can be located, requires permits, and says the groups must provide portable toilets, hand-washing stations and maintain the food at precisely prescribed temperatures.

In 2002, Arnold Abbott successfully sued the city to block an earlier effort to shut down the food distribution his nonprofit group Love Thy Neighbor conducted at a beachfront city park.

Arnold being aressted
He was first cited for violating Ordinance C-14-42 on Nov. 2 at Stranahan Park. As he and other volunteers began dishing out plates of hot food, Abbott said, “A policeman pulled my arm and said, ‘Drop that plate right now.’ Like it was a gun.”

He was cited again Wednesday in South Beach Park, this time after police stood by and watched him for 45 minutes as he served up chicken stew and cheesy potatoes to about 100 homeless men and women.

This week’s scripture reading (Genesis 18:1-Genesis 22:24) includes the stories of Abraham being visited by three angels whom he fed and gave rest and the account of the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Lasha.

Believers will focus on the sexual sins of these communities and neglect the larger lessons of the spirit of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In Genesis 18, the Lord said that the outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah was indeed great. The outcry was for more than sexual sins. The bible gives many mentions of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah and many legends surround them as well.

These cities were blessed with great wealth as found earlier in Genesis, however, they were said to have refused to give charity to the poor and needy and to neglect justice and kindness to strangers.

There are many amusing anecdotes that should be taken with a grain of salt but still shed some light on the overall atmosphere of these cities.

It is said that petty theft was commonplace. Say a person what to build a house and bought some bricks, everyone in town would help themselves to a brick saying, “it is only one brick”. If someone put out some garlic or onion to dry, everyone would take some saying, “I have only taken one.”

The people of Sodom were certainly guilty of sexual immorality of various types. It is said they blasphemed God routinely. There also seemed to be unjust and ungodly rulings in the courts which allowed for violence, adultery and murder.

But one story reminds me of what is happening in cities such as Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The people of Sodom and Gomorrah made it giving charity to the poor illegal. Once a maiden secretly gave some bread to a poor man, as the story goes, the matter became known. They tortured her to death with a cruel punishment. her cries rose to heaven and thus it is written, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great.”

How important is being hospitable and the showing of kindness to strangers? If any household did not receive the disciples of our Lord when He sent them out, He said, “Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgement than for that city.” Matthew 10:15

There is great danger in regulating the feeding of the poor. America should beware that we are creating a cold nation through laws and regulations that discourage the free exorcise of religion. That is why the founders put it in the constitution.

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Hebrews 13:2

Is America becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah? As sin and selfishness become greater so too is our risk of imitating those cities and receiving their due.