Category Archives: Volume – 56

Who Will I Be?

When the patriarch Jacob thought his young son Joseph was dead, he believed that in death they would be reunited, “he refused to be comforted and said, ‘No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.’” (Gen 37:35b ESV). “Sheol” is the Hebrew word for the abode of the souls of the dead, equivalent to Hades in the Greek language. Likewise, when King David’s infant son was gravely ill, David prayed and wept and fasted, but when the child died, David got up and had a meal. He too reasoned that he would, in death, be together with his son. “But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam 12:23 ESV). Both Jacob and David believed that in death they would experience a reunion with those who had gone before. When Isaiah the prophet foretold the downfall of the mighty king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:4ff), he predicted that other kings who had faded from the earth would mockingly greet the king of Babylon as he descended into the common realm of the disembodied dead (Isa 14:9-19).

Jacob and David and Isaiah believed that in death the personality and character is intact, the individual is recognized and remembered, and is conscious and remembers. Particularly striking in Isaiah’s depiction of the descent of the king of Babylon into Sheol is that the souls of other lesser kings still had their resentment and jealousy and grudges from their life experiences in this world as they ridiculed the fallen king when he fell into death, the great equalizer.

The same idea of personality and experiences being carried into the grave when the body dies is brought out in Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. In that story both the poor man Lazarus and the rich man, who always ignored the poor man’s suffering, died. Lazarus, with the aid of the angels, was escorted to be with his honored ancestor Abraham, while the rich man found himself in a place of torment in Hades (the Greek name for the abode of disembodied souls). It is clear in the story that Abraham is himself, and completely recognizable, though dead for almost 2000 years. Similarly, the rich man is still himself, with all the same memories and attitudes he had acquired as a man in the flesh. Likewise, when Jesus was momentarily glorified on the “Mount of Transfiguration” (Matthew 17:1-5), two men from the distant past appeared with him, Moses and Elijah, and it is clear again that they still had their identities, and that they were recognizable even to the disciples who had never seen them in the flesh. Later, in the book of Revelation, John’s visions included a glimpse of souls under the altar in heaven, believers who had died for faith in the Lord, and clearly again those souls are depicted as aware and remembering their life experiences and were pleading with God for justice (Revelation 6:9-11).

Job, the man renowned for his patience, was an exemplary follower of God who lived in the same time frame as the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was made painfully aware of his own frailty and mortality by suffering severe losses of family, wealth, and health. He was horribly, miserably sick through most of the text of the book of Job, and as he wrestled with trying to understand why he was suffering so much he expressed his confidence that, even if his skin, his body, was destroyed, yet he would still at some time stand bodily before the Lord and see God with his own eyes, “my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27). That assertion of faith in the resurrection of his whole self to stand before God, complete in mind and body, is prefaced with the statement, “I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25 ESV). Job knew his flesh would be destroyed, but he would continue, and he would again be clothed in a body some day, and he himself would see God after his Redeemer did his work. Himself, “and not another.”

Jesus, the grand example of our future resurrection and glory, clearly remembers in heaven all that he knew and experienced in this world (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15-16, 13:8), and with full comprehension of the kindness and justice of God has prepared a place where his people, whole and healed, can rest in complete understanding with real peace in the light of his presence (Consider also 1 John 3:2, 1 Corinthians 13:12).

~ Charles Fry

The Sin of Agreeability (Denial)

Erica and Hayley, sisters, are complete opposites. While Erica is quite shy, Hayley is outgoing. Their mother, Anna, works very hard to make a living for them. But Hayley’s desire to “fit in” causes problems at times.

Hayley hates the idea of buying clothes from off-brand department stores. In fact, it’s pretty common for Hayley to demand to go to brand name stores. Trying to be fair to both daughters, Anna tells Hayley to put back some clothes for cheaper ones, so that Erica can also have some nice things. But Hayley presents her well-rehearsed reply: “But Mom! How do I get a decent education if I’m constantly harassed by other kids about my clothes,” Hayley says. “They help me avoid being bullied so I can do better at school!” When Anna continues to protest, Hayley makes her teary-eyed plea to her sister, “Please, Sis, you know how girls get?” Erica nods. You see, she has a skin condition, a pesky case of psoriasis. Erica knows what it’s like to not be like the rest. “Mom, we can get my stuff next week,” Erica says to her mother, who seems glad the issue is resolved.

As Anna and Erica move to another rack, Hayley is greeted by two girls from school, Sara and Amy. The clothes the two girls wear are like the ones Hayley has picked out. Hayley notices the girls staring over her shoulder, a disgusted look on their faces. Amy asks Haley, “Is that your mother and sister?” Hayley glances over her shoulder, seeing her mother’s disheveled hair and her sister’s ruddy skin. Hayley turns back to the girls, a weak smile on her face. “Of course not,” she says, her smile becoming a nervous grin.

We know the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus and even Jesus’ prediction of the event (Mark 14:27-31). How did Peter make this terrible mistake of rejecting the Son of God?   What keeps us from standing up for Christ? It is the pursuit of worldly acceptance and the fear of persecution. The price for truth, as the prophets can attest, is great (see Hebrews 11:36-38). All of us know what persecution is. And we know the temptation that Hayley succumbed to—the same that Christ’s disciple Peter, was overcome by—the same that many in this world fall prey to: the sin of agreeability—the sin of denial.

“I agree with you, friend, boy/girlfriend, boss, teacher, mother, father, neighbor! You say faith is complacent! You say that Jesus is not the son of God, and you say it often, with so much fervor, passion, and many voices against all who disagree with you—that I am filled with fear of your revenge. I agree with silence, because I fear the social isolation, backlash and financial ruin, more than I cherish the mercies of God. I agree to deny the Lord to save the life I have today.”

We cannot continue to let the threats of the world derail us from doing God’s will and representing His Son. The penalty is too great to become an antichrist and be cut off from God (1 John 2:22, 23).

We know that fear is not given to us by God. He gives us power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). Fear is the “faith” of Satan, teaching us that we can be overcome by the evil of this world rather than be equipped to endure and survive the world. It is “fear” as in timidity.

“I am scared to tell my neighbor the truth—the truth of Jesus—because I fear suffering for it!” Was it not Jesus who suffered for us, to the point that salvation is possible through him (Isaiah 53)?

Do not fall to the sin of agreeability, but remain strong in the Lord, putting him above all worldly acceptance (Matthew 10:37-39). The saints must stand for Christ, no matter who stands against us—even family, friend, coworker, etc. When we choose to stay silent as the world lies about God, we fail as Peter did when he denied the Son not once, but three times. When we refuse to acknowledge or identify with our Lord in exchange for acceptance/avoidance of suffering, we, just as Hayley did, bite the hand that feeds us! The liar speaks against the Son, and is called an “Anti-Christ”. Are we willing to regard the favor of the world by denying the Savior? It is our light that should shine before others. Through righteous deeds God is shown to them and glorified (Matthew 5:15-17). If we are to agree with someone, let us agree with Jesus. Let us be so agreeable that people know we are saints.

~ Daniel Mobley

The First Love

The letters to the seven churches of Asia provide a full picture of the church. Though each of these congregations face unique circumstances and challenges in comparison with one another, they are not unique in comparison to other churches down through the centuries. There have been churches like Pergamos or Smyrna or Laodicea since the Lord dictated these letters and, I am certain, there continue to be churches like them today. I have found this to be particularly true in the letter sent to the church at Ephesus. The Lord says to Ephesus:

I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (Revelation 2:2-6).

The Lord’s commendations portray Ephesus as an active and vibrant congregation. Like the Thessalonians whose works of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope were fondly remembered by Paul, the Lord recognizes the works, labor, and patience of Ephesus. The Ephesians were committed to both truth and morality. They would not suffer evil people or accept false teaching. Those masquerading as apostles were detected and rejected. Jesus reiterates their patience and adds that they had persevered. Both qualities imply a tried and true faith. The phrase “for My name’s sake” occurs nine times in the New Testament. In the other eight passages, Jesus connects it with sacrifice for the kingdom and enduring persecution. The faith of Ephesus was a living, genuine faith purified by fiery trials.

“Nevertheless,” the Lord says in verse four, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Brethren and expositors have long debated what exactly the Lord means. Many conclude that Ephesus abandoned her love for Jesus since we are to love the Lord above all others. However, the praise of Jesus weighs against this conclusion. Is disobedience to the Lord’s commands a problem at Ephesus? Had the congregation fallen victim to apostasy? Did she recant when her faith was put to the test?   On the contrary, Ephesus appears to love the truth and have a genuine faith in Jesus. If this analysis is true, what love had Ephesus abandoned?

The same apostle to whom Jesus dictated the letter to Ephesus writes in his second epistle:

I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it (2 John 1:4-6).

John reminds us of the Lord’s teachings in John 12:34-35. Jesus says the world would know His disciples by their love for one another. The Lord calls this a new command because our love for one another is measured against the sacrificial love He showed toward us. John acknowledges that he has found brethren in this congregation walking according to truth, but he feels compelled to remind them of the command that “we have had from the beginning.” Our love for our brethren is our first love. John found some members of this congregation walking in truth, but John pleads with them to walk in love toward one another. Is it possible to walk in truth and fail to love our brethren? Yes. When we fail to love our brethren, we have left our first love.

Before Paul describes Christian love in 1 Corinthians 13, he warns us that admirable gifts and achievements and ideals are meaningless in the absence of love: “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (verse 2). Did you notice the final item in Paul’s list? A faith that can move mountains. Can one possess such a faith without love? Yes. What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have love?   Paul says his or her faith is meaningless.

The problem at Ephesus was a lack of love for one another. She believed the truth, loved the truth, defended the truth, and confessed the truth before men. But in the midst of her trials, the love of the congregation had grown cold.

The trouble at Ephesus was much like the trouble with the first century Pharisees. However, what made Ephesus Pharisaical was not her care for doing what is right. Jesus taught, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). According to Jesus, greatness in the kingdom is attained by one who carefully follows the will of God and encourages others to do the same.   The failure of the Pharisees was that they followed the law closely but neglected the weightier matters. “These [weightier matters] you ought to have done, without leaving the others (tithing mint, anise, and cumin) undone,” says the Lord in Matthew 23:23. The righteousness that surpasses the scribes and Pharisees incorporates a close observation of God’s will with justice, mercy, etc. As we will see, the solution for Ephesus demanded that they return to a weightier matter.

Though the situation in Ephesus was dire, it was not without hope. Jesus tells them to remember the love they had for one another at first. Think back to when you were first born into the family of God and rekindle your commitment toward your brethren. Once they remembered, Jesus commands them to repent and do the first works. Like faith in God, love for one another is expressed in deeds and not in words only. Jesus calls the Ephesians back to a living love, a love of sacrifice and ministry to their fellow believers, a love where selfish interests are secondary to the well-being of the brethren and the edification of the church. If they failed to correct their ways, the consequences were severe: they would no longer be a faithful congregation in His eyes. Christ would no longer commune with the Ephesian church.

My dear brethren, I ask you: how many congregations have failed to learn from Ephesus? How many meetinghouses where the truth was taught and where people of faith gathered are now abandoned because the first love was abandoned? My brethren, we can believe the truth, closely follow the truth, teach the truth, defend the truth, or die for the truth and still lose our souls because we do not love our brethren. Let us not neglect the weightier matters by remembering the command we have heard from the beginning. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

~ Wade Stanley

The First Love

The letters to the seven churches of Asia provide a full picture of the church. Though each of these congregations face unique circumstances and challenges in comparison with one another, they are not unique in comparison to other churches down through the centuries. There have been churches like Pergamos or Smyrna or Laodicea since the Lord dictated these letters and, I am certain, there continue to be churches like them today. I have found this to be particularly true in the letter sent to the church at Ephesus. The Lord says to Ephesus:

I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent. But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (Revelation 2:2-6).

The Lord’s commendations portray Ephesus as an active and vibrant congregation. Like the Thessalonians whose works of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope were fondly remembered by Paul, the Lord recognizes the works, labor, and patience of Ephesus. The Ephesians were committed to both truth and morality. They would not suffer evil people or accept false teaching. Those masquerading as apostles were detected and rejected. Jesus reiterates their patience and adds that they had persevered. Both qualities imply a tried and true faith. The phrase “for My name’s sake” occurs nine times in the New Testament. In the other eight passages, Jesus connects it with sacrifice for the kingdom and enduring persecution. The faith of Ephesus was a living, genuine faith purified by fiery trials.

“Nevertheless,” the Lord says in verse four, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Brethren and expositors have long debated what exactly the Lord means. Many conclude that Ephesus abandoned her love for Jesus since we are to love the Lord above all others. However, the praise of Jesus weighs against this conclusion. Is disobedience to the Lord’s commands a problem at Ephesus? Had the congregation fallen victim to apostasy? Did she recant when her faith was put to the test?   On the contrary, Ephesus appears to love the truth and have a genuine faith in Jesus. If this analysis is true, what love had Ephesus abandoned?

The same apostle to whom Jesus dictated the letter to Ephesus writes in his second epistle:

I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father. And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another. This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it (2 John 1:4-6).

John reminds us of the Lord’s teachings in John 12:34-35. Jesus says the world would know His disciples by their love for one another. The Lord calls this a new command because our love for one another is measured against the sacrificial love He showed toward us. John acknowledges that he has found brethren in this congregation walking according to truth, but he feels compelled to remind them of the command that “we have had from the beginning.” Our love for our brethren is our first love. John found some members of this congregation walking in truth, but John pleads with them to walk in love toward one another. Is it possible to walk in truth and fail to love our brethren? Yes. When we fail to love our brethren, we have left our first love.

Before Paul describes Christian love in 1 Corinthians 13, he warns us that admirable gifts and achievements and ideals are meaningless in the absence of love: “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (verse 2). Did you notice the final item in Paul’s list? A faith that can move mountains. Can one possess such a faith without love? Yes. What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have love?   Paul says his or her faith is meaningless.

The problem at Ephesus was a lack of love for one another. She believed the truth, loved the truth, defended the truth, and confessed the truth before men. But in the midst of her trials, the love of the congregation had grown cold.

The trouble at Ephesus was much like the trouble with the first century Pharisees. However, what made Ephesus Pharisaical was not her care for doing what is right. Jesus taught, “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). According to Jesus, greatness in the kingdom is attained by one who carefully follows the will of God and encourages others to do the same.   The failure of the Pharisees was that they followed the law closely but neglected the weightier matters. “These [weightier matters] you ought to have done, without leaving the others (tithing mint, anise, and cumin) undone,” says the Lord in Matthew 23:23. The righteousness that surpasses the scribes and Pharisees incorporates a close observation of God’s will with justice, mercy, etc. As we will see, the solution for Ephesus demanded that they return to a weightier matter.

Though the situation in Ephesus was dire, it was not without hope. Jesus tells them to remember the love they had for one another at first. Think back to when you were first born into the family of God and rekindle your commitment toward your brethren. Once they remembered, Jesus commands them to repent and do the first works. Like faith in God, love for one another is expressed in deeds and not in words only. Jesus calls the Ephesians back to a living love, a love of sacrifice and ministry to their fellow believers, a love where selfish interests are secondary to the well-being of the brethren and the edification of the church. If they failed to correct their ways, the consequences were severe: they would no longer be a faithful congregation in His eyes. Christ would no longer commune with the Ephesian church.

My dear brethren, I ask you: how many congregations have failed to learn from Ephesus? How many meetinghouses where the truth was taught and where people of faith gathered are now abandoned because the first love was abandoned? My brethren, we can believe the truth, closely follow the truth, teach the truth, defend the truth, or die for the truth and still lose our souls because we do not love our brethren. Let us not neglect the weightier matters by remembering the command we have heard from the beginning. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

~ Wade Stanley

Why Did God Create Time?

God is not bound by time. Moses said in Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” God has no beginning and no end. Moses at the burning bush, anticipating a question from the children of Israel, asked the Lord:

“Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hathsent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” The Lord responded by saying, “I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 3:13-14)

By naming himself “I AM” the Lord teaches us that he is without beginning or end. The Lord names Himself an eternal being, outside of time. He is “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 106:48), and “inhabiteth eternity.” (Isaiah 57:15) Our God does not even view time in the same manner as us. 2 Peter 3:8 tells us; “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Why did God, who is outside of time, place his creation within the grip of time? I believe God created time for two reasons. So that we might seek him, and so that we might have the opportunity to change, repent and grow.

God created time so that we might seek him. In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon writes:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;   A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;   A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

In this word all things come to an end. In truth our lives are filled with endings. The hour that now is will come to an end and when it does we will never get it back. When this day comes to an end it will be gone and we will never get it back. We can, with micrometric precision, document endings. Millisecond by millisecond, second by second, minute by minute our lives are filled with endings. I believe we, as adults, grow calloused to these endings. The illusion of past experience tells us that this ending is nothing special we will meet again. Our children, however, often react to the parting of friends as if it is the last they will see of each other. James, like Solomon, reminds us that we cannot assume anything concerning the future.

Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:13-14).

All things come to an end. These endings may occur in such a sequence so that we may never see each other again. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven,” and when that time is over there is an ending. Solomon concludes some of his thoughts on endings with verse 11 saying: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” I think God has put eternity in our hearts by filling it with endings. We see in this world that all things come to an end and that should make us yearn for something more. Paul echoes these points in his sermon on Mars hill. Acts 17:26-27,“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:”

I believe Paul is indicating that God has placed us in time and space so that we might seek him.

Another reason God created time is so that we can experience repentance, change and growth. John said, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Repentance encompasses recognition of error, choosing to change in accordance with the will of God, and demonstrating change. This compound action can only occur over time. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:8-9 that God does not view time as we do but is longsuffering. God wants to give everyone a chance to come to repentance.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.   The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance(2 Peter 3:8-9). God, in his mercy, has given us time to repent. Jesus tells us a parable with a similar message in Luke 13:6-9, revealing that God wants to give everyone time to change. God created time so that we might be able to change, repent and grow in Him.

It is through time that we see the impermanence of this world and this should lead us to seek the Lord. Likewise it is only through time that we can experience change and repentance. God created us to serve him and has given us time so that we can choose to do so.

~ Richard Garbi

The King’s Justice

The story of King David’s adultery with Bathsheba, his attempts to cover it up, and the murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite, is told in 2 Samuel 11. The last statement in the chapter is “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.” Afterward, the prophet Nathan, who had always been a staunch supporter, friend, and ally of King David, came to him and told a story of a poor man whose one pet lamb was stolen by a rich man, who had plenty of sheep and cattle of his own, then slaughtered to feed a guest. David was stirred with great indignation against the rich man who had so abused his power and taken advantage of one who could not retaliate. David angrily said that the rich man deserved death (2 Samuel 12:5). However, the law did not provide a death penalty for theft, and so David pronounced his judgment, based on legal precedent (Exodus 22:1), that the rich man must pay for that lamb “four times over because he had done such a thing and had no pity.” That’s when Nathan made the famous statement to David, “You are the man.” Nathan proceeded to deliver a severe godly rebuke for David’s lack of gratitude and his unfaithfulness toward God, his great benefactor. Nathan told him that the cost of what he had done would be high, that “the sword will never depart from your house”, that his family, his wives, would be visited with the same infidelity he had shown regarding Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:7­12).

David immediately admitted his wrong (2 Samuel 12:13, and in Psalm 51), but Nathan answered that while God had taken his sin away, and David would not die, the consequences remained. David had strengthened the hand of the enemies of God by his “secret” sin, and so the first very public display of the sword striking David’s house would be the death of the infant son conceived in his adultery with Uriah’s wife (2 Samuel 12:14ff). David pleaded with God for the child’s life, but the boy died soon after.

The story of David’s life and reign after that seems to flow from crisis to crisis, events that affected the whole nation but arose within his own family. The next story in 2 Samuel 13 tells of David’s son Amnon becoming infatuated with David’s daughter Tamar, and then carrying out a plan to force himself on her.  After raping his half sister Amnon’s infatuation turned to hatred and he humiliated her even further by having her thrown out of his house. The Bible says that “When King David heard all this, he was furious,” (2 Samuel 13:21) but he apparently did nothing about it, perhaps in part because with his own sin he felt morally compromised in dealing with his son’s sin. However, David’s son Absalom, half brother to Amnon and brother to Tamar, quietly waited two years and then murdered Amnon for what he had done to Tamar. Afterward, Absalom fled to his grandparents’ kingdom in Gerar for three years, until David was manipulated into bringing this son that he loved very much back to Jerusalem.

Once Absalom was back in Jerusalem he put a plan into motion to secure the kingdom of Israel as his own, sooner rather than later. He patiently plotted and maneuvered for several years before openly moving to declare himself king and raise an army against his father David (2 Samuel 14­-15). David initially avoided conflict with Absalom and the Israelites who followed him, abandoning Jerusalem to Absalom (and thus fulfilling a portion of Nathan’s prophecy years earlier about the public defilement of some of David’s wives). Conflict was inevitable though, and when it came to open war between the forces of Absalom and those loyal to David, David’s one desire was to save his son’s life. Despite his wishes, Absalom was killed, breaking David’s heart but saving the kingdom (2 Samuel 18:1­19:7). By this time, David had seen three of his sons die.

After the kingdom was again settled firmly in David’s control, as he aged and grew infirmed, he made it plain that his son Solomon, one of his younger sons, born of Bathsheba, was to be his heir (1 Chronicles 22:5ff). However, David’s older son Adonijah wanted to be king and began to make preparations to crown himself with the support of several leading men who had previously served David (1 Kings 1). When David was made aware of the plot and the dangers involved he ordered the immediate coronation of Solomon, and then instructed Solomon to deal firmly with the divisive elements in his kingdom. One consequence was the condemnation and death of David’s ambitious son Adonijah, Solomon’s older brother, a short while later (1 Kings 2:13­25).

Years before, Nathan the prophet had told David that the sword would never leave his house. As a result of his sins against God and Uriah the Hittite, David’s house was violently divided. King David himself had set the judgment. The rich man who selfishly took the other man’s lamb must pay fourfold because he had no pity. Nathan answered, “You are the man.” Pay fourfold he did, in the death’s of his own sons, the infant son of Uriah’s wife, Amnon the rapist, Absalom the usurper, and the ambitious Adonijah. It was the King’s own justice, the penalty he himself declared.

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2)

~ Charles Fry

Love Does Not…

“Above all keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

(1 Peter 4:8)

Godly love and sin are incompatible. Christians are to be patient when personally wronged and righteous when God is wronged! While men may feign that their love, “just loves no matter what, and that is all there is to say about it,” God’s love makes no such pretense, for God’s love and truth are inseparable. In this article we shall consider what Peter’s text reveals about agape love and, in the related context, seek to understand how love “covers a multitude of sins.”

The type of love mentioned in 1 Peter 4:8, earnest love or fervent love, means “to be stretched, to be strained.” It is used of a runner who is moving at maximum output with taut muscles straining and stretching to the limit.

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

Love indicated here by Peter is the love of choice, the kind of love that responds to a command. The text says “fervently/earnestly,” which again means to be stretched to the limits (compare Luke 22:44, Acts 12:5, James 5:16c). Only those who have been “purified,” that is, those who have been washed in the blood of the lamb, regenerated, baptized into the LORD Jesus and now indwelt by the Holy Spirit, have the capacity to love like this. Such love exhibits itself by meeting others at the point of their need. This kind of love requires that the Christian put the spiritual welfare of another ahead of his own desires, even if that means being treated unkindly, ungraciously, or with hostility. Agape is what fuels Christian fortitude that enables a Christian to overlook sins against him, if possible, and always be ready to forgive insults and unkindness (c.f. Hebrews 12:3-6; Philippians 2:1-4). This is the context of Peter’s statement as he goes on to say in 1 Peter 4:8, “love covers a multitude of sins.”

To help us understand the meaning of Peter’s statement, let us enlist the writings of Paul. Consider the “all things” of love (1 Corinthians 13:7), beginning with “love rejoices with the truth.” Not simply factual truth, but God’s truth, God’s revealed word. Righteousness is predicated on God’s truth and cannot exist apart from it. Love always rejoices in God’s truth and never in falsehood or false teaching. Love cannot tolerate wrong doctrine. If we properly understand God’s love, we cannot say this for example: “It doesn’t really matter if we don’t agree doctrinally what matters is if we love each other,” because what they believe affects their souls and THAT, should matter a great deal to us!

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-6, Paul makes it very clear that agape love rejects jealousy, bragging, arrogance, unseemliness, selfishness, anger, resentment and unrighteousness. So then how do we reconcile these verses with verse 7? And how does agape love bear, believe, hope, and endure ALL things? Does love endure lies, false teaching, immorality, or anything else that is not of God? LOVE DOES NOT! So what does Paul mean by “all things?” Paul refers to all things that are acceptable in God’s righteousness, all things acceptable in God’s will. Love does not justify sin. Love does not compromise with lies. Love warns. Love corrects. Love exhorts. Love rebukes. And love disciplines.

Then Paul says “love believes all things.” Does this mean love is blind or gullible? No, but neither is love suspicious or cynical! Love believes in the best outcome for the one upon whom it is bestowed. What is the best outcome? Simply this: sin confessed and sin forgiven, a loved one restored to righteousness. What if the sin was not exactly confessed? Then there could not exactly be forgiveness! Love is a harbor of trust. When that trust is broken, love’s first reaction is to heal and restore. When loves throws its mantle over wrong, as it does so, it also believes in the best outcome for the one who has done wrong. Love “bears” by covering, by supporting, by protecting others from ridicule.

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

“Love hopes all things.” Even when belief in a loved one’s goodness or repentance is shattered, love still hopes. As long as God’s grace is operative, human failure is never final! Jesus would not take Peter’s failure as final. Paul would not take the Corinthians’ failure as final. There are more than enough promises in the Bible to make love hopeful for parents of children who have strayed, the spouse of an unbelieving partner, the congregation that has disciplined members who, to date, have not repented. Love remains constant in the hope that the child, the spouse, the erring brother or sister will be restored. Love refuses to take failure as final. The rope of love’s hope has no end. As long as there is life, love does not lose hope. When our hope becomes weak, we know that our love has already done so!

“Love endures all things.” Do you know, oh Christian, you’re a doormat? Yes, sometimes that is the sacrifice of love! But do we define love based upon the frequency that someone takes advantage of us? NO! Love refuses to stop bearing, stop believing, or, stop hoping, because love will not stop loving! Love bears what is otherwise unbearable. Love believes what is otherwise unbelievable. Love hopes in what is otherwise hopeless. Love endures when anything else would just give up. After love bears, it believes. After love believes, it hopes. After love hopes, it endures. THERE IS NO “AFTER” FOR ENDURANCE! And who more than Christ, had to endure?

“And Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do’” (Luke 23:34).

~ Steven Wright

Hallelujah, Christ Rose From The Grave

Perhaps the seven greatest events of this world are the creation, the flood, the birth of Christ, the crucifixion of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the ascension of Christ, and finally the end of this world when Christ comes again. The first six of these events have already transpired. The seventh is in the future. These seven acts of God are of primary impact concerning our being and the eternal destiny of our souls. The remaining factor in our salvation is our submission to God, through faith and obedience. We dare not minimize any of the other events listed, but in this lesson let us focus on the resurrection of Christ.

Roman soldiers were known for their hardness, but the morning of the Lord’s resurrection they were perhaps as scared as any mortal man can be. The record does not tell us who these soldiers were or how many there were. Could it be that the soldiers who were placed at the tomb were the same men that were at the crucifixion, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54)? We do not know.

Nor do we know how large an area was affected by the earthquake when Christ died (Matthew 27:51, 54) or by the one when He rose from the dead (Matthew 28:2), but these certainly were evidence of who He was.

Neither does the record tell us how much the guards actually saw. We know that they had been assigned to guard the tomb because the chief priests and Pharisees remembered that Jesus had said He would rise after three days. Whether they feared it would happen, or actually feared (as they said) that His disciples might come and steal the body and then claim He had risen, they requested of Pilate that the tomb be guarded, and their request was granted. It must have been the providence of God that they went to such lengths to make the tomb secure. All of their efforts came to naught, and made the resurrection even more sensational.

There was a “large stone” rolled against the door of the tomb and the stone was sealed. We cannot now say exactly the details of that seal. It may have included clay or some other substance smeared around the outer edges of the stone sealing it to the wall behind it. It may have been a cord stretched across the stone with a mass of clay or wax at each end adhering to the wall, or maybe one glob of clay or wax at one edge of the stone with a certain Roman mark on it designating that it was against the Roman law to break that seal. Pilate had told the Jews, “Make it as secure as you know how” (Matthew 27:65). But no efforts of mortal men could prevent the resurrection of the Son of God.

We are not told the thinking of the soldiers as they were assigned to guard the tomb or during the long night hours. Did they think this was all a bunch of nonsense? Were they bored during the night? Regardless of what had been on their minds, their attention was suddenly on the earthquake and the appearance of the angel. Yes, they were assigned to guard the tomb, but the bright light of this heavenly being kept them at their distance and they shook with fear and were helpless to intervene. Men have questioned whether the guards actually saw the Lord come forth from the tomb. The record does tell us that“some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened” (Matthew 28:11). So they must have been fully aware of His resurrection. We are not told why only some of the guards came. Where were the others?

The point I make is that there are many details regarding the resurrection of our Lord that we do not know, but we know He rose just as He said He would, and that He fulfilled all the prophecies regarding His resurrection. There are so many of these prophetic statements, but let us consider a few of the more obvious ones.

Psalm 16:10, quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:27), gave assurance that Christ would not be left in Hades, nor would His body see corruption. In Matthew 12:40 and 16:4 Jesus used the sign of Jonah being in the belly of the great fish as being the likeness of His being in the heart of the earth.

Many times He told His disciples of His death and resurrection, but they did not comprehend those things that would actually transpire. “And while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up’” (Matthew 17:22-23).

“Behold we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock Him and scourge Him and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20:18-19).

Even the night before the crucifixion He told them, “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee” (Matthew 26:32). (Other references are in Mark, Luke and John, but some are repetitious with these in Matthew). It is obvious that Jesus knew exactly what He must endure, but that He would rise victoriously over death.

Under the Old Law two or three witnesses were required to substantiate a claim. Consider the number of witnesses we have regarding the resurrection of our Lord. From the writings of the apostle Paul:

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles, then last of all He was seen by me, as one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:3-8).

And Paul does not mention that He was seen first by Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9), or by the women as they were returning from the empty tomb (Matthew 28:9-10), or by the two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31). Paul does not mention Thomas’ doubt until he saw the nail prints in the hands of the Lord (John 20:24-28). Nor does he mention the sea side breakfast of Jesus with the seven disciples (John 21:1-12).

Acts 1:3 says “He presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” And then after that forty day period, “while they watched He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9) Jesus ascended on high and is now set down at the Father’s right hand. He had fulfilled His Father’s will and the mission for which He came to earth.

Each Lord’s Day, believers assemble together and partake of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of the Christ. We eat of the bread which symbolizes His body broken for us (1 Corinthians 11:24), and drink of the fruit of the vine symbolic of His blood shed for the remission of our sins (Matthew 26:28), and in so doing we proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26). Let us never let other things overshadow the fact that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3), but it was His resurrection that was the absolutely conclusive proof for all time that He really is who He said He was, and therefore we know that His Word is true and that we who have believed and obeyed Him will also rise from the dead (John 5:28-29) and be caught up in the clouds to meet Him in the air when He comes again. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17) in the heavenly home that He has gone to prepare for us (John 14:3). Had He not risen from the dead, after the many times that He said He would, there would have forever been question as to whether He was truly the promised Messiah and Son of God, but Hallelujah, Christ rose, and we know the record given us in the Scriptures is true.

~ Thomas D. Dennis

More Time

In 2 Kings 20:1-6, God tells us about a king by the name of Hezekiah. He had become so sick that he knew his death was approaching. God sends the prophet Isaiah to tell him to put his house in order and make preparations for the country to go on without him. Hezekiah begins to fervently pray to God. He lists all the good he has done and how he led the people to God. Without saying the words, it is obvious that he is asking God for more time. As he is praying and Isaiah is leaving the palace, God tells Isaiah to return to the king and tell him he has been given 15 extra years to live.

What a gift! How many people over the years have found themselves on the brink of death and wished they had more time. Many have probably asked God for this gift. Perhaps they have listed all the good they have accomplished and the added things they could do. Maybe, because of the way they chose to live their life, they did not have a list of good things, but made promises to do better. Hezekiah is given a gift that many have desired.

However, he does not repay the Lord with kindness. 2 Chronicles 32:24-25 tell us that he was filled with pride. Isaiah records the actions this proud man takes following his recovery. In Isaiah 39, we learn that the king of Babylon sent letters and a gift to Hezekiah to congratulate him on his recovery. Hezekiah brings the messengers into his house and shows them the riches he possesses. He shows them his armory of weapons. He brags about all that he owns and controls.

God is not happy and sends Isaiah back. Isaiah tells him that everything Hezekiah has accumulated will be captured and taken to Babylon. His sons will become servants to the king of Babylon. God will honor his promise of 15 more years, but Hezekiah’s kingdom will come to an end with his death. Most would take this as bad news. There is nothing good, positive or happy about what Isaiah is saying God will do. However we see Hezekiah’s attitude in his response: “The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!” (verse 8). All Hezekiah heard or cares about is that there will be peace while he is alive. He cares nothing for what will happen after his death. His is an attitude of selfishness and greed.

Compare that with the words of Asaph from Psalm 78:1-8. He speaks of communicating the laws and wonders of God to the next generation: “telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord” (verse 4). His wish is that the next generation will know God’s commands and tell them to their children. He wants them to set their hope in the Lord. He is not concerned just with his lifetime or even just the next generation. He is encouraging his readers to think multiple generations down the line. To prepare, not just for their future or their children’s future, but for their grandchildren’s future.

Hezekiah was only concerned with how things were going for him. We, too, can become equally caught up with our current lives. We, too, can become so focused on what is happening right now to us that we lose sight of how it impacts future generations. We should not only be preparing ourselves to meet God, but also preparing our children to meet him. And don’t forget, we should also be preparing them to prepare their children.

Asaph put this an interesting way. He said that children “may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God” (verse 8). Hezekiah wanted to build himself up to be something great. He told of all the great things he had done for the Lord and His people. We must be careful that we do not follow that same path. We can begin to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3). Ultimately, we should desire that our children are more faithful to God than we are. We should train them so they know the commands of the Lord better than we do. We should help their hearts and spirits be more aligned to God than we are. This requires us to recognize our own failures and sins.

Preparing future generations is not the only good thing we can do with our time. There are souls that need saving. There are people that need help. We still have the poor, the sick, the hungry, the naked and the imprisoned with us. Peter talked about changing our focus in 1 Peter 4:1-3. He said, “We have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles” and encouraged us to “no longer live the rest of our time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” So many times and in so many ways God tells us, warns us and encourages us to put our old deeds and ways to death and live in newness of life. In 2 Peter 1:5-11, he gives us the process for making this change. Little by little we add God’s virtues to our lives and our old ways and attitudes leave us.

Even though many make that request to God for more time, not many get an answer like Hezekiah. Some do receive more time from the Lord, but they don’t know how much. We can never know how long we have. Because of that, we should keep in mind that every moment we have is a gift from God. Every day is a blessing he has granted us. We should make sure we are using it properly. If we use our remaining time to boast in our accomplishments and bask in the glory of men, we are being selfish and greedy. We are not thinking of the generation to come, the generation after that or succeeding generations. We are only thinking of ourselves. It is time that we lived for the future, not the past or present. What are we going to do with more time?

~ Doug Twaddell

Our Family Guests

A family has come to visit our home. We welcomed them with open arms and made them a part of our lives. Before they came our family did the things families do. We enjoyed games together, shared stories of the day, shared stories of our past, and filled the evenings with laughter and memories.

With this family in our home, things have changed. They are filled with knowledge of history, sports, celebrities, and any other topic our hearts desire. We sit enraptured by their stories as they tell us of strange places around the world. They tell us stories of strangers far and wide but also know our own acquaintances, dear friends and family. They share stories of these dear ones too, and even pass on deep personal messages from those we love. Sometimes we sit collectively as a family enjoying these stories and other times members of our family pair up with one of our guests so we can spend our own time with them and learn from a seemingly boundless array of knowledge.

While my parents have strict rules in the home of dress and language, my father doesn’t apply these rules to this family of guests. They often use language which we are never allowed to use and tell stories which would draw a sharp rebuke from my father if told by anyone other than these visitors. While we are bound by a strict sense of morality, this family has no such constraints. They speak of all religions freely. They openly boast of immorality of others and, when asked, willingly teach us of the most lewd kind of behavior. My parents don’t always approve of their stories. Sometimes my parents remind me of the ways of righteousness; yet, the family remains within our home.

One of our guests stays in my room. The guest often keeps me up late at night sharing news of the world, gossip about celebrities, and information about my favorite team. Despite my parents wishes to the contrary, my guest lets my friends come into my room and we stay up long into the night. Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we just talk. Any of my friends are welcome into my room at night when the guest is with me.

The guest also brings in other people into my room. Although my father had strict rules forbidding strangers in my room for my protection, the rules have been dropped when this family came to stay. Many of these visitors to my room are strangers who I barely know. Some are my age but many are older. Sometimes we talk about silly, harmless topics. Other times we talk about things my parents would not approve of. I can have whoever I want in my room at night and sometimes, the guest in my room brings in people who I don’t know and who I know my father would not normally allow in my room.

My father doesn’t stop this family from bringing people into my room at night because the family does the same for him – especially when my mom is not around.

A family came to visit our house and I don’t think they will ever go away. Their name is Internet and the family consists of computer, iPod, smart phone, and video game system.

~ Jeremiah Morris