Heathen Churches #5

Saturday, August 6, 2022

For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess (Acts 19:37 KJV).

Do even the “heathen” attend church? Yes, according to today’s Scripture, they do!

The Holy Bible says “heathen,” among other traits, have “churches,” repetitious prayers (chants), and various “aids to worship” (idols, images, and shrines). In fact, the ancient Jews corrupted the LORD’S Jerusalem Temple with this false religion. “Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the LORD which he had hallowed in Jerusalem(2 Chronicles 36:14). That evil religion had so infiltrated Israel during Christ’s earthly ministry that He addressed and condemned it (see Matthew 6:7,8; Matthew 23:1-39)! It had caused the deaths of countless Jewish saints, and even Jesus was ultimately murdered because this heathen mindset infected and confused His people.

In one sense, it was actually easier to become a Christian and learn Christian truth 2,000 years ago than it is today. Back then, there were not tens of thousands of “Christian” denominations riddled with heathenism all claiming to be “the church Jesus founded” as now. It was far simpler to identify Christian teaching, seeing how it was separate and distinct from heathenism. Over these last 20 centuries, however, the definite lines between truth and error have become blurred. The advanced revelations the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ gave the world through the Apostle Paul, have been increasingly set aside in favor of the pagan darkness they were meant to overcome.

“But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles [heathen!], unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me (Acts 26:16-18). If we are to guard against heathen churches, we had better look especially to Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon.

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Frozen in Death #5

Saturday, June 18, 2022

“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13 KJV).

What priceless lesson can we learn from today’s Scripture?

Read Matthew 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-14,20-26. On the Monday before His Thursday crucifixion, Christ Jesus was near Jerusalem when He encountered a fig tree “and found nothing thereon, but leaves only” (Matthew 21:19; Mark 11:13). Here was Israel’s religious system symbolized—advertising its superficial “greeneries” (alleged “life”) but, upon closer examination, utterly fruitless inside (spiritually dead and therefore useless to God)! In fact, this narrative of the fig tree is presented in conjunction with the Lord purging the polluted Jerusalem Temple of Satan’s emissaries (see Matthew 21:12-17 and Mark 11:15-19). You can also compare it to The Parable of the Barren Fig Tree in Luke 13:6-9, Christ seeking fruit (faith and good works) in national Israel but finding none during His three-year earthly ministry.

Let us ponder another illustration. Imagine a dead tree with bare branches, with neither leaves nor fruit. We can glue green leaves to it, and hang ripe fruit from it—but that nice external appearance does not detract from the fact that tree is lifeless. Religion is dead, so it cannot produce the life of God. Think of yet another analogy. We can take a dirty, dead battery and clean it with soap and water—but it is still powerless. Religion has no power, so it cannot produce the works of God.

Victorious Christian living occurs when we are strengthened with might by [God’s] Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts by faith…” (Ephesians 3:16,17). If we are alive in Jesus Christ, it is His life, and He will produce fruit: “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:11). “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart(Ephesians 6:6). We learn and believe the principles of grace outlined in Romans through Philemon, thereby eschewing spiritual hypocrisy, duplicity, and immobility!

A Prayer According to God’s Will

Thursday, May 5, 2022

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;(1 Timothy 2:1-3 KJV).

On this United States’ National Day of Prayer, we pray you pray according to the Lord Jesus Christ’s will for today!

Today, religious people—the general public, clergy, and government officials—will assemble nationwide, like they do every year, and pray for spiritual and moral revival of the “Christian” (?) United States of America. We commend their noble efforts, but God’s Word says there will be no godly revival of any of the world’s Gentile nations until Jesus Christ returns to earth at His Second Coming (Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 59:20–60:3; Zechariah 8:20-23; Revelation 11:15; et cetera).

The LORD’s words to King Solomon are often quoted on this day: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Friends, this is certainly God’s Word, but has nothing to do with Gentiles in the United States in the Dispensation of Grace. This verse has a context often overlooked—the nation Israel under the Mosaic Law, praying in relation to God’s Temple in Jerusalem (verses 15,16). Actually, that Temple was destroyed over 19 centuries ago! Unlike Israel, the United States was never a divinely-founded nation. The American people as a whole are not God’s people like Israel was.

Rather than praying 2 Chronicles 7:14, remember today’s Scripture (God’s Word to us Gentiles). The verse following today’s Scripture says, “[God] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Pray for those in authority, that they would trust Jesus Christ alone as their personal Saviour, and then grow in His Word to them so they can make wise decisions on behalf of the people they govern.

Categorized! #2

Sunday, April 24, 2022

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night (Revelation 12:10 KJV).

Behold, the evil categorizer!

When our English Bible names Satan as “accuser” in today’s Scripture, it supplies us with the translation of the underlying Greek word “kategoros.” Obviously, here is the origin of the English term “category.” As we categorize something, we are really judging it based on its size, shape, color, texture, and so on. That is, we have accused it of possessing or lacking certain qualities. Satan is functioning in this capacity with respect to believing Israel in today’s Scripture. Yet, before we look into the future any further, let us go back into history.

After a Jewish remnant returned to the land of Judah following the 70 years of Babylonian captivity, the Prophet Zechariah conducted his ministry. The restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem and its Temple (Zerubbabel’s replacing Solomon’s) looks forward to Israel’s future kingdom restoration when the Lord Jesus Christ comes back to permanently deliver them from all five courses of punishment and bless them (see Leviticus 26:1-46, especially verses 40-46). In fact, the Book of Zechariah, written circa 500 B.C., has Messiah’s two comings in view (though only one coming is apparent to them at that time because God was withholding details of two advents).

One of Zechariah’s prophetic visions is recorded in chapter 3: “[1] And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. [2] And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? [3] Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.” Satan is opposing Joshua the High Priest (not to be confused with Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ successor, who lived a millennium prior!). Joshua has been categorized as dirty, unfit for his noble office….

Without Blemish and Without Spot #3

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

“But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:…” (1 Peter 1:19 KJV).

How was Israel to see Jesus Christ was “without blemish and without spot?”

Passover/Calvary is two days away (Matthew 26:1,2). Israel’s chief priests, scribes, and elders connive to deceitfully arrest and murder Jesus. At Simon the leper’s house in nearby Bethany, Mary pours ointment on Jesus’ head (unknowingly preparing Him for burial). Judas Iscariot schemes with the chief priests to betray Christ for 30 silver pieces (verses 14-16). Jesus eats an early Passover with His 12 Apostles (verses 17ff.). On the Mount of Olives, He prays, before being betrayed and apprehended. His unjust, nighttime trial concludes late the next morning. Sentenced to death (!), He is crucified at 9 A.M.; He lets Himself die by 3 P.M. (Mark 15:25-38).

Israel could have verified Jesus as Messiah-Redeemer during those four days between Palm Sunday and Calvary. Rather than wrongdoing, He cleansed the defiled Temple, demonstrated God’s power, preached the truth, upheld the pure Mosaic Law, defended and expounded the Hebrew Bible, and exposed Israel’s perverted religious leaders. Scripture testifies of Christ Jesus during His last days: “the innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4), “just [righteous]” (Matthew 27:19), “I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4), “I… have found no fault in this man… No, nor yet Herod…” (Luke 23:14,15), “I have found no cause of death in him” (Luke 23:22), “this man hath done nothing amiss [no wrong]” (Luke 23:41), “I find in him no fault at all” (John 18:38), “I find no fault in him” (John 19:4). (Cf. Matthew 27:23; Mark 15:14; Luke 23:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22; cf. today’s Scripture)

Matthew 27:24,25: “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the [Jewish] people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.Israel knew Pilate was correct; however, they could not care less that Jesus was innocent. Like all other sinful (deceived) children of Adam, they refused God’s sinless Son as their King: they demanded He be crucified as an imposter (John 19:15)!

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Why did Peter merely cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant?

Without Blemish and Without Spot #2

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

“But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:…” (1 Peter 1:19 KJV).

How was Israel to see Jesus Christ was “without blemish and without spot?”

Christ rides the donkey into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-11). (Passover, His death, is about four days away [cf. John 12:1,12-16].) Entering the Temple, He cleanses it of the thieves who had been utilizing “God’s religion” to deceive and rob His people; there, He heals the blind and lame (Matthew 21:12-14). Israel’s religious leaders grow envious when children praise Him (verses 15,16).

Sleeping in nearby Bethany for the night, Jesus returns to Jerusalem in the morning to curse the barren fig tree (verses 17-22). God will never reinstitute the Mosaic Law, for it has produced no spiritual fruit in Israel. In the Temple, Israel’s religious leaders demand of Christ where He received His authority, and slyly dodge His subsequent question about John the Baptist (verses 23-27). He then issues three stinging parables: they do not follow God as they claim (verses 28-32), they willfully reject and scheme to murder His Christ—yes, He knows!! (verses 33-46), and they further refuse to believe on Him (22:1-14).

The Pharisees collaborate to get Jesus to say something incriminating before the Temple crowds (verse 15): they send delegates to ask Him about paying taxes (verses 16-22). The Sadducees then attempt to trick Him with a resurrection riddle (verses 23-33). A lawyer of the Pharisees finally asks Him about the great Law commandment (verses 34-40). Christ answers all three issues wisely! He asks them a question now, which they cannot answer; they are silenced (verses 41-46). Matthew chapter 23 follows—His severest censure of these false religious leaders (cf. John chapter 8)! He finally curses unbelieving Jerusalem, declaring that God’s house has become her house. Exiting the Temple, He walks to the Mount of Olives; in Matthew chapters 24 and 25, He delivers His magnificent end-time “Olivet Discourse.” Calvary is soon!

Indeed, when Israel was appraising the Passover lamb for slaughtering, sinless Jesus entered Jerusalem. He was the true Passover lamb, “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (today’s Scripture), to be sacrificed for us sinners (1 Corinthians 5:7). Would Israel sacrifice Him in faith? Or, in unbelief? Let us see….

Diminish Not a Word! #3

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD’S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word: (Jeremiah 26:2 KJV).

No matter how offensive they are, we never water down God’s words for anyone!

Return to the context of today’s Scripture: “[8] Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die. [9] Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the LORD. [10] When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king’s house unto the house of the LORD, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the LORD’S house. [11] Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.

“[12] Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard. [13] Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. [14] As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you. [15] But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.”

Read the rest of the chapter. Whereas Judah’s apostate religious leaders despised Jeremiah and God’s undiluted words, the common Jews appreciated them….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “How are we God’s ‘workmanship?’

Diminish Not a Word! #2

Friday, May 28, 2021

Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD’S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word: (Jeremiah 26:2 KJV).

No matter how offensive they are, we never water down God’s words for anyone!

Knowing man’s sinfulness, God advised Jeremiah: “diminish not a word.” Jeremiah was just as human as we are, so he was tempted to make God’s words more attractive to pagan idolaters. When Jeremiah entered his ministry, the LORD had warned him his people would “fight against” him (1:19). Behold the conflict!

Read chapter 20: “[1] Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. [2] Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD. [3] And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur [“liberation”], but Magormissabib [“terror on every side”].” Jeremiah delivered God’s words in chapter 19, and subsequently suffered physical abuse. He was beaten and then placed in the “stocks” (hands and feet held between hinged wooden boards, for everyone to see and ridicule).

Verses 7-9: “O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” Discouraged, tired of the ridicule, Jeremiah refused to preach. Yet, God’s words seethed in his inner man and he started talking again!

Now we get to today’s Scripture, where Jeremiah’s people oppose God’s words once more….

Diminish Not a Word! #1

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD’S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word: (Jeremiah 26:2 KJV).

No matter how offensive they are, we never water down God’s words for anyone!

It is human nature for anyone to “tone down” the Scriptures, to re-translate and/or re-interpret them so they are more pleasing to sinful eyes and ears. We would expect unsaved people to treat God’s Word with such utter disregard and disrespect. However, we Christians can be guilty of this practice too. Bible translators, preachers, and teachers especially need to exercise great caution not to fall into this trap. Fearing negative reactions, we tend to avoid or obscure “inconvenient” Bible truths. In doing so, we appeal to our lost and/or denominational relatives, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances.

Circa 600 B.C., the LORD God commissioned the Prophet Jeremiah to preach chapter 26 during the start of King Jehoiakim’s reign. Jehoiakim, one of Judah’s final monarchs, was a pagan idolater and poor spiritual example for his wicked nation in Jerusalem. God’s intention in giving Jeremiah’s message was, “If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings” (verse 3). This message will be anything but “feel-good!”

“[4] And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, [5] To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened; [6] Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth. [7] So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.”

Jeremiah faithfully preached every word God gave him. Let us see how Jerusalem’s religious leaders respond to his sermon….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Can you explain Daniel 7:12?

Lessons from the Ark of the Covenant #7

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

“…[T]he ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;” (Hebrews 9:4 KJV).

What can we learn from the Ark of the Covenant?

About 500 years after Moses, the Jerusalem Temple replaced the Tabernacle. Second Chronicles chapter 5: “[6] Also king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel that were assembled unto him before the ark, sacrificed sheep and oxen, which could not be told nor numbered for multitude. [7] And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD unto his place, to the oracle of the house, into the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims: [8] For the cherubims spread forth their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above. [9] And they drew out the staves of the ark, that the ends of the staves were seen from the ark before the oracle; but they were not seen without. And there it is unto this day. [10] There was nothing in the ark save the two tables which Moses put therein at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt.

What happened to the golden pot of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded? Scripture is silent. Regardless, by Solomon’s time, only the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments remained. When the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem and destroyed its Temple 380 years later, the Ark of the Covenant was not among the treasures pillaged. It disappeared, but that does not matter. God Himself will institute a new covenant, replacing that old religious system, erasing Israel’s sins through Calvary, and dwelling with them forever in the Person of Jesus Christ (Millennial Kingdom onward).

“And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more” (Jeremiah 3:16). Israel has finally learned the lessons from the Ark of the Covenant! (Have we?)