Monthly Archives: September 2016

Give No Offense

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33).

Give no offense. More than good advice for Christians, this is the Lord’s command! Christians should be thoughtfully careful about what we say, what we promote, what we share, what we support, what we demonstrate in word and deed and affectations. Christians should be more than willing to discard human symbols that are questionable or divisive, and avoid language and terminology that is connected (or appears to be connected) with hatred or bigotry or oppression. Such symbols and words and the personal pride that accompanies them cannot advance the Lord’s kingdom, “that they may be saved!”

If God’s people need an image to uphold, let it be the image of Christ, becoming more and more like him in word and deed.

Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

If the redeemed want a banner to wave and rally behind, let it be the banner of His love, giving and sharing as He did.

Song of Solomon 2:4, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.”

If believers claim a name to uphold against the doubters and the critics, let it be the name Christian, a name worth suffering for without shame or compromise.

1 Peter 4:16, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”

As Christians, we must beware of entanglement in nationalism, conservatism, liberalism, partyism, cronyism, racism, regionalism, tribalism, sexism, and whatever other “isms” there are. Such human creeds and loyalties easily distract from the holy life God requires and should not claim the loyalty of Christians to the detriment of the body of Christ and the message of salvation.

It was certainly challenging in Paul’s day to “give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,” but that was the demand of following Christ, to put aside personal inclinations and even family or national heritage for the sake of harmony in the church and effective testimony in the world. The demand, the command, still stands for all who will follow Christ. The kingdom of God comes first, all else is of secondary importance, or no importance at all (Matthew 6:33 and context).

~ Charles Fry

The Spirit of Fear

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

One of Satan’s more destructive weapons of temptation against the people of God is to cause us to be afraid.  We are tempted to view the continuing spiral into darkness of our modern society with fear and anxiety.  If Satan can cause us to fear, he knows we will not act in a manner in accordance to what our God requires.

Now to be clear, there is a fear that is right and proper.  We are to fear God because our righteous fear of the Lord will lead us to submission to Him in all things.  That is certain.  Obviously, Satan does not wish us to fear our God, but he does want us to fear other things.  Jesus spoke of these two contrasting fears in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

We are tempted to fear so many things in this life.  We see many things going wrong here in these United States.  We see basic morality crumbling.  We see the family structure under attack from so many directions.  We see lawlessness and corruption.  We see this ongoing war with militant Islam.  We see many things that are having a negative impact on our lives, and we are tempted to be frightened.  Often this kind of fear causes many to lash out in anger and resentment.  It can lead many to react in ways that are not godly, because, often times, anger is a mask for fear.

There are many examples in the Scriptures when the Lord’s people were afraid of things other than God, and it led to their faltering faith.  In Numbers 13 & 14, Israel had an opportunity to take what the Lord had promised them.  However, their fear led to their rebellion and eventual death.  In Matthew 14, after Peter had taken a leap of faith and actually walked on the water as His Lord was doing, he took his eyes off the Lord and saw the boisterous wind, and he grew afraid and started to sink.  An interesting point in this story is the wind was present at the beginning of his walk of faith, and as long as his eyes were on the Lord he was not afraid!  What a great lesson for us.  If we keep our spiritual eyes upon the Lord, we WILL NOT be afraid!  In Mark 4:35-41, the disciples feared for their lives and cried out to the Master.  After Jesus calmed the storm, He rebuked His disciples.  Apparently, they had it within them to at least not be afraid.  Imagine if Peter would have said, “Do not trouble the Master.” And what if he would have commanded the storm to be still in Jesus’ name?  I strongly suspect the storm would have ceased!  But their fear kept them from doing what was right.

Now what is really interesting is that if you consider these examples in light of the passage I opened this article with, you will note what God has for us.  Rather than fear He wishes us to have power, love and self-control.  In each of these previous instances, His people did not have any of these!  And that caused them to sin.

There are many passages of scripture that teaches us we should not be afraid and why:

“For God is with us” (Psalm 23:4)

Man can do nothing serious to us (Matthew 10:28)

“We did not receive the spirit of bondage to fear” (Romans 8:12-15)

“Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)

To be clear, God does not wish us to be ignorant of our surroundings to the point that we do not care.  We are truly to have a godly concern of right and wrong, but we dare not let the cares of the world take control of our lives.  This is where power, love and self-control come in.  If we let the cares of the world control us, this will lead to thoughts and actions that are not godly, and eventually, it can lead to the damnation of our souls.  Why?  Because we have lost sight of what our God wants of us.  Brothers and sisters, let us not be of those who draw back from the Lord as warned in Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”  Indeed, fear causes bitterness and other works of the flesh.

In practical terms, what might we do to help prevent this type of fear?  If the news troubles you, maybe you do not need to watch or listen to as much of it.  Do some opinions seem to rile you up?  Tune them out.  Find things to help your spirit whether it means reading more of God’s Word, praying for strength, spending time with the brethren, or listening to things that edify rather than what tears you down.

Finally, consider an opposite to fear:  peace.  Peace will indeed be a help to our spirits.  If we are at peace with the Lord, we will be at peace with others.  Consider the godly example of Stephen in Acts 7.  Even while he was being ridiculed and stoned, he was at peace with his murderers because he was not afraid.  This gave him the power, love and self-control to say “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”  May we be as faithful while living in the midst of this “evil and adulterous generation” (Philippians 2:15)

~ Jay H. Graham

Profanity or Praise

We live in a time when the LORD’s name is taken more in profanity than in praise. Most reading this article will think that we seldom, if ever, use the Lord’s name in profanity or swearing.  But what about using it with little thought for its deep meaning (taking it in vain via casual or empty thought)?

Countless times in scripture we are told to “Praise the LORD.” In fact, Psalms ends in a great crescendo as the last five Psalms all begin and end with that admonition, “Praise the LORD.”  But Psalm 148:5 and 13 specifically tell us to “praise the name of the LORD.”  Why His name? Because God’s name (or I should say names) are unique and provide great revelatory insight into who He is, His nature, and His character.

God’s uniqueness is shown in many ways not the least of which are His names. And unlike us, God chooses His own names. For us, names are often just labels, something to identify us from others.  But in the Hebrew culture they carried significant meaning. The names God chose for Himself are neither random nor arbitrary but carefully considered by Him to reveal to us more of His nature and character, so that we may know Him better and draw closer to Him.

By sharing with us these names, God also expresses a desire for us to know Him. So when we see His names we should ask: what is God trying to show us with each name He has revealed? When in Psalm 23:3 it says “for His name’s sake,” God does not need to save His reputation, but it is telling us that God is acting in conformity to His own nature. Each name shows us more of that majestic nature.

In the Old Testament, three primary names for God are given: ELOHIM, YHWH and ADONAI. Other compound extensions from these three names are given, but let us focus on these primary three.

ELOHIM is the name we are first given in Genesis 1. God’s first revelation to us is that He is our Creator. In fact, it is the only name used for God throughout Genesis 1. It is not until Genesis 2:4 that we are given another name for God. ELOHIM is the Creator God. And it is the one found with the creation. It is used approximately 2,600 times in the Old Testament and is translated “God.” When we read “God” in the Old Testament, it is almost exclusively from ELOHIM.

ELOHIM is also in the plural form which is consistent, if not proof, of the triune nature of God, commonly called the trinity. In Genesis 1, we see all three personages of God: the Spirit hovering over the deep and the Father and Son saying “let us make man in our image.”

When we come to Genesis 2:4, God gives a second name for Himself: “YHWH.” YHWH is now often seen as YAHWEH with the addition of vowels. The KJV renders YHWH as Jehovah in a few places.  This is the most used name for God in scripture, appearing nearly 7,000 times. It was also the most sacred name to the Jews. So sacred, they feared writing or speaking it lest they would profane the name of God (Exodus 20:7 and Leviticus 19:12). YHWH (often called the “Tetragrammaton” meaning “four letter word”) is seen as LORD (all capital letters) in reliable English translations. It carries the meaning of the “self-existent one, to be.” It is the root of God’s claim “I am that I am” in Exodus 3, signifying that God has always existed and is self-existent.

Yes, God is the creator (ELOHIM) but He is more than that; He is the eternal one (YHWH). YHWH also carries the essence of a God revealing Himself to us so that we could have a relationship with Him. It expresses His desire to have a relationship with us. So when we look at Genesis 2:4 and see YHWH ELOHIM (LORD God) we are being told that God is not only our creator but an eternal God who wants to have a relationship with man. Genesis 2 is not simply a further explanation of the 6th day of creation, but we see God and man developing a relationship. God forms (creates) man but then gives him a place to live (the Garden), work to do (tend the Garden), name the animals, the beginning of rules to live by and finally the establishment of the family.

The third dominant name for God in the Old Testament is “ADONAI,” and it carries the idea of Owner and Master. It is used about 438 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. While not used as often as ELOHIM or YHWH, its impact is great. We first encounter it in Genesis 15:2. From Genesis 12 to 22 Abraham’s faith is growing to the climax seen in Genesis 22. Part of Abraham’s growth is in his acknowledgment that God is his Owner/Master. Another example of man’s growth is seen in Exodus 4:10 where we see Moses acknowledging this name of God for the first time in recorded scripture. Moses is struggling with God’s assignment for him to return to Egypt to lead the Exodus.  As part of Moses coming to grips with this, he acknowledges that God is his owner/master. What a lesson for us. Before God can truly use us, we have to acknowledge He is also our master, our ADONAI, and submit to Him.

There are many additional names God uses, often compound derivations from these basic three names. From ELOHIM we get El Shaddai, El Elyon, El Olam, etc. From YHWH we get Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi, Yahweh Rohi, Yahweh Shalom, etc. What can we learn from these names? The brevity of this article will not allow us to examine each of them here, but I encourage you to revel in the study of them.

When we recognize these names as presented in the original text, we learn much more about the nature and character of our God. How blessed we are to have a God who created us in His image (ELOHIM), who reveals Himself so we can have a relationship with Him (YHWH), and who cares enough for us to be our overseeing and protecting master. (ADONAI).

“Oh LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth” (Psalm 8:1). Understanding the names of God allows us to praise and worship Him more effectively and intimately. His name is like a fort that provides protection for the believer: “The name of the LORD is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10).

And then we come to Jesus (JESUS= Jehovah/YHWH saves). We also find great insight in the names Emmanuel, Savior, Christ, the Word, Alpha and Omega, Son of God, etc. Of course, the New Testament words are Greek rather than Hebrew.  But the glory of His name continues.

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

In a society which uses His name with such disrespect, let us remember He is our Elohim, our YHWH and our Adonai. Let the profanity end and let the praise begin!

~ John Lee