Category: Bible Study


Is there such a thing as “righteous anger” in men?

Psalms 37:3-4, 8

v3)Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
v4) Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
v8) Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret —it leads only to evil.

James 1:19-21

v19) My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
v20) because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
v21) Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

It’s not my place to get angry at people who do evil. It cannot result in anything good, but by nature, my anger is self-serving and will not result in righteousness for me or them. Instead, I should do good, enjoy life, and take delight in the Lord. In addition, I must get rid of moral filth from my life, knowing that my sin could likely cause others to be angry (I’m no better than the person I’m getting angry at).

Like all throughout Scripture, we are instructed to keep our focus on the Lord, and in that spirit, examine ourselves. Rarely are we told to look at the shortcomings of others, and then it is only within the church for the purpose of purifying one another.

Give Us a King!

The United States of America, not perfect, not above corruption, but for 2 centuries, a beacon of light, a symbol of liberty, justice, goodness, and hope. It was a nation founded when faith in God was a necessity for survival, not just a vague feeling for favorable circumstances. Humility was an admired character trait, and a prerequisite for leaders. America was not “great” because of economic strength or military dominance. It was great because it was founded as a land for the free, self-governed, answerable only to a benevolent Creator.

Some will rightly question, “How can a nation that allowed slavery to persist or native Americans to be killed be considered great?” These are dark evils that most Americans wish could be undone, but they did not occur in a social vacuum. They were hugely complex issues that predate the nation. To simply sum it up with “Anyone who owned a slave was the devil!” is ignoring each individual case, like saying that St. Clare and Legree of Uncle Tom’s Cabin were the same person. Thomas Sowell does a much better job at addressing this question in Black Rednecks and White Liberals, so I will not attempt it here. One problem today however, is that we cannot even have this conversation, because, among other things, the topic is so dividing and inflamed, that would-be debaters just start shouting arguments and accusations. We have devolved into a fourth grade mentality and have no capacity to make a case and genuinely listen to the counter.

The founders main goal was to create a nation where men could be free from the tyranny of government. The contract was agreed upon with the utmost fragility, upon the edge of a knife. They understood that they could not possibly solve all the evils of man, or create a perfect Utopia. Anyone claiming that is possible at best does not understand the nature of man, at worst has a more sinister agenda. Regardless, the founders created a nation that would rather err in favor of the tyranny of the people.

Unfortunately, as we see with Israel in the Bible, man’s nature is only in check as long as he submits to his Creator. And collectively, as a society drifts away from God and His precepts, that society will drift toward evil, chaos, and ultimately tyranny.

And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.

Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”

~ 1 Samuel 8: 7-9

The people of the United States have been on a steady drift away from their Creator in the many choices we have made over the years. The chief of these, I believe, is in exchanging the education of our children for economic status or convenience. Both as individuals and collectively, we have given moral ground to a relentless enemy. And we are now seeing the fruits of those losses. Israel did not wake up one day and demand a king, thus rejecting God. It started from the day He delivered them out of Egypt. It is easy to scoff at their lack of judgement in the wilderness: how can they worship a golden calf after witnessing the incredible and numerous times God delivered them? But that would be to judge them in a vacuum and with the benefit of seeing the big picture and hindsight.

The United States is in a similar place as Israel was in 1 Samuel 8. We have drifted and are bumping up against depravity and chaos. We have exchanged liberties for perceived securities, handing over freedoms bit by bit for temporary individual gains or comforts. We have not only allowed our government to become more tyrannous, we have come with pitch forks and torches demanding that they do it. Like Israel, we are demanding a king to “fight our battles” and deliver us from perceived, individual injustices.

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us.

20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

~ 1 Samuel 8: 19-20

So, a king we will be given, and just like all the other nations we will be. And it will not take too many generations before we will be lamenting about the tyranny of our king. But it will be too late, and we will not have the moral capacity to comprehend how we arrived at such a place.

May God have mercy on this nation.

14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

 

Don’t be a Mule

God expects more from us than being a victim of our animal instincts.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
    which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
    or they will not come to you.
10 Many are the woes of the wicked,
    but the Lord’s unfailing love
    surrounds the one who trusts in him.

– Psalm 32:8-10

People may be tempted to read verse 8 and think it is referring to how God leads us in making decisions about our lives (which he does do according to His purposes). However, this verse is addressing how we handle temptation and sin.

God equips us with the ability to choose to resist our most basic desires, but it is a choice we must make ourselves…daily. We should not expect God to force our hand toward obedience. We are not a dog on a leash, or from the passage, a horse controlled by bit and bridle. And therein lies the difficulty. These things are not in our nature: discipline, restraint, godliness, integrity, forgiveness, etc. These things become more of a part of us as we become more like Christ and less like ourselves.

The choice is made when we are standing before temptation, and we choose to indulge. It is this inner struggle where we must wage a war against what we think we want in the moment. It’s been said many times, but preparation is half the battle. We cannot expect to resist temptation without having spent time drawing near to God…putting on our armor, so to speak.

If we want to be more than a horse or a mule in God’s eyes, then we must be more than a horse or a mule in how we start each day. We need to prepare for the battles we will face, and then stand strong based on how he has instructed us. We resist temptation because his “loving eye” is on us.

 

 

What constitutes a devout Christian? What makes a person righteous in the eyes of a Holy God? Is it regular church attendance, tithing faithfully, helping with the kids program, passing out tracts to strangers, even teaching a Bible study or Sunday School class? Obviously, those are not bad things, but when they make up the extent of our “religion” it’s not enough.

God does not get all that excited about our attempts at righteousness. We see this in David’s confession in Psalm 51:

16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Many other places in Scripture reveal that same idea. It really is clear that God is not after our attempts at piety or religious formality. He wants our hearts, our passions, and our energy to be totally dependent on his grace. He wants us humbled and broken.

6 Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened;
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.

– Psalm 40:6

10 Then it happened that as [e]Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and [f]sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn [g]what this means: ‘I DESIRE [h]COMPASSION, [i]AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

– Matthew 9:10-13 (NASB)

If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’[a] you would not have condemned the innocent.

– Matthew 12:7 (NIV)

James 1:27 tells us true religion is “to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”. Jesus is constantly beating the drum of having compassion and mercy on the lowly. In fact, we see this run all the way through the Bible.  And yet, at least in most churches in the U. S., we are all too busy and too self-focused to see this gaping hole in our Christian walk. Most churches focus on individual spiritual growth, corporate worship, attendance, giving, and evangelism…which are not bad things. But do we hear very often about personally helping the poor in our community, or do we just give money to the church and let the “professionals” handle that?

I personally do not do enough of this. It is so much easier to sit in the comfort of my home and examine this issue academically, be moved, get motivated, and write a blog than it is to spend a Saturday helping a single mother or finding ways to reach out to the poor in my city. However, that must change if I’m going to hear “well done good and faithful servant,” rather than “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

Grazing Like an Ox

Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

-Daniel 4: 33-34

I bet many of us can relate to the great king Nebuchadnezzar. Full of our own pride and sense of entitlement, we pursued our own desires. God will often choose not to fight his children when they continually rebel or stray, but instead will give them over to these desires. The lessons learned by the resulting natural consequences are painful, but not quickly forgotten.

There was a time, in years past, that I drifted like this wayward king. Having previously known God’s great wisdom, healing, and grace, I plowed ahead toward my own desires. My pursuit of my new agenda was driven by a mixture of selfishness, greed, lust, anger, and frustration, and I was bolstered by certain well-meaning friends. These passions and desires are actually very similar in nature to eating grass like the ox, being drenched with the dew of heaven, and having hair and nails growing wildly. Our sin nature reduces us to our very basic animal characteristics of self-centeredness. We think nothing of God or eternal consequences, but only how we can quench our current thirst, hunger, or longing. Touted by the world as living free, it is really just bringing us down to our lowest level. There is nothing noble or praiseworthy in being selfish.

Like Nebuchadnezzar, by God’s grace I “raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored.” Over a period of a few weeks, my depravity screamed out indictments for the road of destruction I had laid down. I began to make attempts at turning back to God. He was quick to receive and forgive, but there was much to be undone. In the end, it is God who is to be praised for his infinite mercies. It is he who orchestrated my deliverance.

If you should find yourself grazing like an ox and living wildly, apart from God, be quick to heed His Spirit calling you to look to the heavens. Living your life to merely satisfy your every desire will ironically only bring dissatisfaction, destruction, and death. We should constantly check ourselves against Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

– Hebrews 12:11

I bet most of us can relate to seeing someone else try and negotiate with their unruly child. It’s painful no matter the outcome. There’s the screaming, crying, pleading, whining, faking, manipulating, relentless pursuit to win the argument, and I’m not even talking about the kid. Finally, concessions are made, ground is given, a deal is struck, and the stand-off ends…for now.

It’s fairly easy to fall into this habit, because discipline is painful. It requires an unyielding commitment to stick it out and follow through more often than not. It’s much easier to just appease the child, thinking that some how they will be reasonable and see why being obedient is the logical and right thing to do. Think about it…does that ever work? Does it ever correct the behavior long term or do you always have to fight the same battles? Most likely, they are getting worse at the same time. The level of frustration rises for both parent and child, until finally, all out war is declared in the teen years.

Another contributing factor is the type and severity of the discipline if it is actually carried out. Much like many of the other solutions offered by today’s supposed experts in relationships, the politically correct versions of discipline are flawed. By nature, discipline must be painful for the child, and typically it’s more effective if it’s carried out quickly and not drug out over days or weeks.  I firmly believe that biblical principles will always stand the test of time. For 50+ years, Americans have applied soft or no discipline to their children. The results are obvious and sad.

In contrast, the results of biblical discipline are “a harvest of righteousness and peace.” Isn’t that what we want as parents: righteousness from our children and peace in our home? Too many Christian parents have fallen prey to the theories of the world, and their families have suffered the consequences.

“There you will remember your ways and all your deeds with which you have defiled yourselves; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for all the evil things that you have done.”

– Ezekiel 20:43

“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”

– Zechariah 12:10

“BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.”

– Revelation 1:7

I don’t understand the Jew-hating Christian. Even Jesus told us that the Jew was to be honored and cared for by those grafted in to the vine: “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matt 25:40). In a day where America finds itself wondering if it should support Israel in the face of a growing Muslim threat, the Christian’s perspective should definitely be YES.

Furthermore, looking at the quoted verses above from Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Revelation, Israel will be restored even to the point where they mourn their own “piercing” of Jesus Christ (John 19:37). They will mourn him as the loss of an only son, because indeed he was one of them, a son of David. They had their Messiah, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and they missed him.

The Christian should take a personal interest in the well-being of Israel. He should rejoice with them and mourn with them. We should look forward with excitement to the day when Israel’s eyes will be opened and they will see him clearly. It will all come into focus and the remnant will be truly restored to its place. And all of it will be only because of the grace of God, who has foretold it and who will bring it about. Praise Him!!

 17 “You also took your beautiful jewels made of My gold and of My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images that you might play the harlot with them.

 18 “Then you took your embroidered cloth and covered them, and offered My oil and My incense before them.

 19 “Also My bread which I gave you, fine flour, oil and honey with which I fed you, you would offer before them for a soothing aroma; so it happened,” declares the Lord GOD.

 20 “Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter?

 21 “You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire.

– Ezekiel 16: 17-21

This indictment against the nation of Judah by God (via Ezekiel) struck me as profound. Intellectually, we know that everything we have comes from God. We know that sin is ugly and terrible. However, I have never considered this kind of imagery of us taking God’s gifts and using them to fuel our own sin and lusts. This idea of Israel being an adulterous wife is common in the Bible. It applies to us as well though.

Imagine, if you are married, taking the ring off your finger, melting it down to fashion some new ring that you then give to your secret lover. Not stopping there, you continue to withdraw money from your joint account with your spouse to buy lavish gifts for your lover. The parallel could continue into even uglier comparisons that unfortunately, truly do happen in reality. Most of us cannot relate to such literal treachery, yet our own sin is no less treacherous.

No matter the sin with which we struggle, we most likely don’t stop to think about how we are taking the gifts of God and perverting them in this same way. Our bodies and the short time we have on earth are not our own creation. They are the gifts of a loving Creator. Even something as seemingly harmless as watching a bad TV show…we are using his resources and the limited time he has allotted to us to put trash into our minds and dull us to his voice. We really need to try and see every situation as one in which we are stewards of valuable commodities, rather than spoiled little rich kids who have no boundaries.

Fortunately, God is gracious. I’m a living testimony to his mercies. He is quick to forgive and quick to bless if we can get our hearts in a place of brokenness and submission.

The descendants of Jonadab son of Recab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.’

– Jeremiah 35:16

The Recabite family were amazingly obedient to the command of their forefathers in a day when most others around them were doing anything but. Yet they failed to hear the voice of God through the prophet of Jeremiah. He had repeatedly told Judah to surrender to the army of Nebuchadnezzar, yet nobody was listening or obeying him.

Christians today, to varying degrees, have become like the Recabites. We follow the traditions and “rules” of being a Christian, at least as defined by the “church”, yet we have not sought or heeded the voice of God in years. When we pray, it is more self-focused than God-focused. We give greater weight to the things that go on at “church”, than we do in our daily following hard after God.

I’m not suggesting that traditions are bad. While some may be distracting to the true purpose of the church, most are good and justifiable.  However, we do need to be cautious that we do not fall into the trap of just becoming habitual in our religion. Church is not a place we go or thing we do. Being a member of the body of Christ is an all-consuming daily pursuit. In fact, James defines true religion in part as caring for widows and orphans. In other words, loving, caring for, and serving those in need trumps regular attendance, corporate worship, and hanging out with the right crowd.

How do we hear God’s voice in a day where we don’t have a Jeremiah screaming at us from the gates of the city? God speaks to us through His Word, which means we need to be reading our Bible. We should be struggling and praying about things in our lives. How can we teach our children to be in the world and not of it? Am I doing all that I can do to serve my spouse just as Jesus served the disciples? Am I truly fulfilling my responsibilities in the body of Christ? We should be praying with a spirit of humility.

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

– Luke 18: 13-14

Any time we begin to feel like things are going well and we have it pretty well figure out, we should probably think about this tax collector and ask God for mercy. It’s probably a sign that we are too comfortable in our daily habits and traditions.

When God Can’t Be Found

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”

– Isaiah 55:6-7

“‘…They will be filled with the dead bodies of the men I will slay in my anger and wrath. I will hide my face from this city because of all its wickedness.”

– Jeremiah 33:5

Reading the passage from Isaiah, it’s easy to take it as theoretical, or to gloss over the “while he is near” part. Israel found out that continuing in wickedness forces God to have no other choice but to display his wrath. He hid His face from them and refused to hear their cries, after years of mercy and pleading for them to return to Him. 

People today don’t want to think about God as a God of wrath, requiring righteousness. What kind of loving God would pile up bodies of people that he loves?  Yet, the Bible is full of examples where God was forced to deal with sin. America today is very similar to Israel and Judah during this time. We are drunk with what we perceive as our own greatness. We live in abundance, safe and secure due to centuries of blessing from God. We have turned to serve the creation rather than the Creator, even to the point of denying He even exists. In times of tragedy, we turn briefly to the Lord as a temporary crutch. When we are facing a change, we may call to Him like a lucky rabbit’s foot. But once the occasion has passed, we quickly go about our lives until the next time He is needed. We continue this way, but steadily spiral downward into darkness and sin, moving the standard of righteousness in our own eyes.

The good news is that once God’s wrath is satisfied, He is quick to bring “health and healing” and to “restore”, as in the following verses.  However, the time for this nation to return to the Lord is now. Why wait until we find ourselves in bondage and destruction? We cannot continue to push Him away without consequence. We need to “seek the Lord while he may be found.”