There are many false prophets and teachers today, claiming to be Christians, yet casting doubt on the Scriptures—the very Scriptures of which Jesus declares to be absolutely trustworthy and enduring. These false teachers say the Bible is God’s Word mingled with human error. The apostle Peter tells us that the writers of Scripture were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). Brother, Sister, the God who spoke the universe into existence and sustains it by His power is more than capable of preserving His Word. Don’t buy into the deception of the liars of the day.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~ Matthew 24:35

“Judge not lest ye be judged,” the bumper sticker reads (quoting Matthew 7:1 from the KJV Bible). It is ironic that people use a quote from the Bible to try to justify behaviors and practices that the same Bible condemns. “Do not judge,” they say, while judging those who study and try to live by the book they are quoting. “Do not judge,” they say, but judgment must be made when making a distinction between right from wrong, the righteousness from the unrighteous, and the Holy from the profane. The very Jesus who tells us to not judge tells us just a few verses later to not give to dogs what is holy or cast our pearls before pigs.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. ~ Matthew 7:1-2

Our Desperate Need for Wisdom

We, as a people, are in desperate need for wisdom. Our nation is so divided and wounded, yet we continue to behave like a bunch of monkeys flinging poo at one another, then wonder why we are in such a filthy, stinking mess.

Wisdom does not just happen. That is, persons are not simply born “wise.” Furthermore, wisdom is more than simply being smart or correct. There is an abundance of intellectual, sophisticated fools. Washington, Hollywood, and universities give ample evidence of this. Authentic wisdom is substantial and produces certain results.

Consider, and take the following words of James to heart, and think through the applications and consider what is going on in the world around us.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. ~ James 3:13-18

At first read it would appear as if James is talking about two kinds of wisdom, but he is not. He is describing what true wisdom is versus what is falsely so called. Notice, authentic wisdom is substantial in character. The truly wise are good in conduct and meek in spirit. Whereas the false wisdom of the age is bitter, jealous, and filled with selfish ambition.

Now, consider the effects, or results, of these. False wisdom is also false to the truth, and is earthly, unspiritual—even demonic. No wonder it produces disorder and every vile practice. Authentic wisdom, on the other hand, is pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, merciful, impartial (just), and sincere. True wisdom produces righteousness and peace.

What are we witnessing today? Do we see civility and reasonable discourse? Certainly not! We see constant mudslinging and strife by persons and groups hellbent on getting their own way, disregarding what is beneficial to the whole. Truth is trampled on and mocked, although we talk about love, peace, and unity. Yet, even genuine love is:

Is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Did you catch that? Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Our society constantly applauds lying politicians and news outlets that withhold or distort the truth—so long as they promote our ideas and agendas. No matter whose reputations or lives are ripped asunder. And we wonder why our nation is in the wretched state she is in?

Going back to wisdom, before James talked about wisdom and the falsely so called, earlier he writes,

Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. ~ James 1:19-20

Then, later James writes,

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! ~ James 1:1-4

Does this not sound like a description of our country and our world? We are in desperate need of wisdom. But how can we begin to attain it? Before discrediting what I am about to share, consider this: are our methods helping matters? Do our methods not injure a lot of people—even the innocent—and further promote more injustices? Many of us are “wise in our own eyes,” but we are not wise, my friends. This is clearly made evident by the results of our actions. So then, how are we to attain wisdom?

Let the wise hear and increase in learning. ~ Proverbs 1:5

First, we must step back and be willing to listen and to learn.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. ~ Proverbs 1:7

It is astonishing to me how our society mocks the Christian faith relentlessly, then wonders how our government, schools, and communities are in the conditions they are in. If one mocks or denies love, faithfulness, truth, peacefulness, life, and the like, then he opens himself to hatred, betrayal, deception, strife, death, and the like. This is not rocket science, but it is amazing how such simplicity is overlooked.

My friends, I am showing the way of hope. The principles I am sharing not only work, but are secured on the solid foundation of truth. God offers us His wisdom and Himself; yet, if we continue to resist and reject Him, then we must also suffer the consequences of the law of cause and effect.

“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. ~ Proverbs 1:22-23

Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” ~ Proverbs 1:29-33

Our scoffing at God and hating the knowledge of Him has not benefited us at all. So why do we hold so tightly to these?

Why Study the Word? (Part 3)

For the follower of Jesus Christ, it is important to understand Jesus’ emphasis on the importance of studying the Scriptures. To truly be His disciple, it only stands to reason one will accept His perception of the Scriptures. First, however, a few considerations are in order.

  • The Scriptures read in the synagogues in His day were copies of copies. Jesus trusted   not only the written words of the Scriptures but also the divine preservation of them. 
  • Jesus considered the Old Testament accounts as literal, factual history. That is, He did not interpret the Scriptures allegorically.
  • Jesus teaches that the Scriptures are authoritative, completely trustworthy, and eternal, absolute truth. 
  • Jesus, who is the Word (see John 1:1-3), equates His words to being on par with the authority of the Scriptures.

The following are Jesus’ teachings about the Scriptures.

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. ~ Luke 24:44-45 (ESV)

For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ~ Matthew 5:18

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~ Matthew 24:35

It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void. ~ Luke 16:17

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. ~ Luke 24:27

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 22:36-40

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. ~ John 18:17

We also observe Jesus’ application of the Scriptures in the midst of temptation and spiritual warfare. When He was being tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus repeatedly referred to the Scriptures. Then, when Satan also quoted Scripture, twisting them, Jesus was able to see through the deception because He had studied the Word (see Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

This brings us to the third reason to study the Word: the Scriptures, if we build our lives upon them, will give us a secure foundation. Jesus tells us,

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. ~ Matthew 7:24-27

Notice, both the wise and foolish face major storms in their lives; however, it is the wise who have prepared and built on a solid foundation. Friend, is your life being built securely on the foundation of God’s Word?

Why Study the Word? (Part 2)

Is it not strange that two persons can view the same thing, yet their perception can be polar opposite? Consider the Bible, some see it simply as a book of rules: “Do this! Don’t do that!” Such persons perceive the Bible as being restrictive and fun-demolishing.

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” ~ Psalm 2:2-3 (ESV)

Jesus, on the other hand, declares God’s Word to be the truth, what bears witness about Him, and what sets persons free (see John 17:17; 5:39; 8:31-32).

The prophet Isaiah asserts,

Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples…. And when [the people] say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. ~ Isaiah 8:16, 19-20

Interestingly, while so many do not view the Bible as being of much value (admittedly, even many who profess to be Christians do not devote much time to it), the writer of Psalm 119 devotes the whole writing (176 verses) to celebrating God’s Word, Law, ways, commands, and statutes. In these he finds delight (see vs. 14, 47, 92, 143). According to the psalmist, God’ Word is of immense value (see vs. 37, 72, 127).

Here are sevreal benefits he mentions in his own experience:

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. ~ vs. 50

I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. ~ vs. 75-76

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life. ~ vs. 92-93

Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. ~ vs. 98

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. ~ vs. 105

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. ~ vs. 130

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. ~ vs. 165

So much of the regrets and miseries people suffer is because of abandoning the truth and protection of God’s Word (I speak out of my own personal experience). People would be spared a lot of pain and shame if they would stop viewing the Scriptures as a killjoy, and rather perceive them to be the loving instructions of a caring Father and Creator.

Why Study the Word? (Part 1)

Spiritual disciplines (e.g., prayer, Bible study, etc.) are not about having fun and enjoyment but are about transformation, gaining wisdom and discernment, and knowing God. This is a difficult, and sometimes painful, process. For the past fifty years or so the church has tried to compete with the world in entertainment, but take it from one whose obsession was once to be a drummer of a metal band and tour the world, the world will always develop better entertainment and throw bigger parties. However, the world will never excel in love, joy, wisdom, or authentic purpose.

We are told in the Scriptures,

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. ~ 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV)

We are told to “be diligent” for the purpose of “rightly dividing the word of truth.” If one can rightly handle the Scriptures, he can also wrongly handle them. We are later warned “that in the last days perilous times will come” (2 Tim. 3:1, NKJV). What will this look like?

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. ~ 2 Timothy 3:2, 4-5 (ESV)

The apostle Paul tells us plainly that those who truly desire to be godly in Christ will experience persecution of various kinds, while evil men and false teachers will increase (see 2 Tim. 3:12-13). Paul goes on to tell us the benefit and the Source of the Scriptures:

You have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:15-17

Did you catch these? The Scriptures are able to make you wise, and all Scripture is breathed out by God. The apostle Peter tells us in his second epistle,

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ~ 2 Peter 1:20-21

If our faith and devotion to Jesus Christ is genuine, then we must be serious students of His Word. Paul further warns us:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4

I believe we have entered this time of which the apostle speaks, as many who profess to be Christians are downplaying, even bringing into question, the Word of God and following after the whims of their feelings and emotions. Many treat the Scriptures like a great buffet, picking the parts they like and refusing the rest. Or else treating them as if truth changes like styles and trends.

There is nothing inherently wrong with entertainment, fun, or feelings; however, it is too easy for us to waste hours amusing ourselves, yet barely give time to God and His Word. Likewise, it is too easy to be swayed by our own feelings while rejecting God’s objective and absolute truth. No, being diligent in studying His Word is not always fun, and it does go against our sinful biases. Nevertheless, as the days become increasingly evil as the Word of God foretells, we must become more diligent if we would become wise and discerning in these perilous times.

Encourage Your Pastor

One of the sad (but true) jokes in churches is that many families will have roasted pastor for dinner after Sunday’s service. However, the pastor who is genuinely called by God and is trying to lead a congregation in the ways of God has a tremendous responsibility. Furthermore, he does so many things behind the scenes ministering to others most are unaware of. Contrary to popular belief, pastors do far more than “just prepare for sermons and preach.” They serve as counselors and comforters, and many are on-call 24/7.

Pastors are not perfect (although they are to be godly). They have feelings and passions. They experience fear, sadness, discouragement, and anger. Many are husbands and fathers trying to be good In these roles (these are difficult for them too), and often people expect their families to be picture perfect. Dysfunction brings their calling, character, and credibility into question.

Pastors must deal with conviction and accountability to God for how they behave and handle the Word of God. They must deal with their own consciences making them aware of their failures and inadequacies. And pastors have “a target on their backs,”  more so than the average Christian, because if Satan can influence them to fall into gross sin and scandalous activities, then congregations can be divided, confounded, and even faith being shipwrecked of some.

I have read of the following statistics:

  • 97% of pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused, or hurt by their trusted friends.
  • 70% of pastors struggle with depression.
  • 1500 pastors quit each month.
  • 10% will retire as pastors.
  • 80% of pastors feel discouraged.
  • 94% of pastor’s families feel the pressure of ministry.
  • 78% of pastors have no close friends.
  • 90% of pastors report to working 55-75 hours per week.

The primary tasks of a pastor is studying/teaching God’s Word and devoting himself to earnest prayer. Christians can say they “love God’s Word,” but pastors make a lot of people mad when they do truly preach God’s Word!

If you have a godly (albeit imperfect) pastor who strives to be faithful to Jesus Christ, His Word, and the Great Commission; and if he seeks to minister to the congregation and is burdened for the souls of people, then you are truly blessed. The Bible says this of such individuals:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. ~ 1 Timothy 5:17 (ESV)

And,

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. ~ Hebrews 13:17

Do you give honor—even double honor—to your pastor? Or do you nit pick his flaws, give him grief because he did not call you on your birthday, and roast him because he preached against your beloved pet sin(s)? If the latter, how is this of any benefit to you? What gain is there in wounding and making the work difficult of one who loves you? Sadly, often pastors pour themselves out (sometimes at the expense of their families) only to meet with continual resistance, roasting, and betrayal from congregants. 

Do you pray for your pastor’s well being? Have you encouraged your pastor (and his family) lately? A gift, a note of appreciation, and the like could be of great encouragement to him. It might even be that needed spark to help him keep from giving up. Encourage your pastor. He experiences the stresses of life and loss, just as you, all the while putting these aside ad he tried to minister to others. The weight and burdens he carries with him you will never understand. He needs your prayers and encouragement more than you can ever know.

Faith Requires Enduring Patience

Sometimes faith is treated like a sprint—fast, exciting, then over. However, biblical faith is more like a marathon. There are times the miles are long and the perseverance is quite strenuous. There are times when life’s terrains test persons to their limits, and when God’s promises seem like mirages. One sees the promises in the distance, but they seem to disappear when one draws closer.

It is both all to easy and all too common for persons to give up. “It’s too hard,” some say. “It’s not fun,” others complain, who never really understood the meaning of redemption to begin with. There are times when faith is hard. There are times when it is not fun. Preachers do a great disservice to persons when they portray the Christian life as a never-ending party, because in reality it is often (spiritual) warfare. And we are expected to hold true to the faith even in the trenches. One of the prophets writes:

And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay…. the righteous shall live by his faith. ~ Habakkuk 2:2-4

The prophet, too, wrestled with faith, life, and the workings of God (or apparent lack thereof). He begins his brief book as follows:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? ~ Habakkuk 1:2-3

Who among us have never pondered such questions? Nevertheless, God tells His prophet—and us—that His promises are faithful and will come to pass. Do not give up, my brothers and sisters, because you have come too far. Remember His faithfulness in the past. God will remain faithful in years to come.

The Literalness of Jonah and the Big Fish

In this article I have no interest whatsoever in attempting to try to convince unbelievers of the truthfulness of the account of the prophet Jonah. Rather, I wish to challenge those who profess to be followers of Christ, yet try to pass Jonah’s being swallowed by a big fish as being allegorical or just a tale.

We read of the account in the Old Testament:

And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. ~ Jonah 1:17 (ESV)

Then later, after Jonah prays while in the fish, we are told:

And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land. ~ Jonah 2:10

Now, shifting gears for a moment, the genuine follower of Christ understands that Jesus is truly God who took on human flesh and walked among men. This being the case, what is His take on the account of Jonah? Did Jesus simply view Jonah as an old Jewish mythological tale? 

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. ~ Matthew 12:38-41 

Jesus’ words reveal that He views Jonah as a real prophet who existed, who was really swallowed by a large fish and dwelt within it for three days, and the people of Nineveh were real people who repented at Jonah’s preaching. Similarly, Jesus was stating that Jonah’s account was a foretelling of the Messiah‘s literal death, burial, and resurrection.

What absurdity when persons who profess to be followers of Christ, who claim to believe in His deity, then doubt the validity of the Scriptures of which Jesus testified as being completely trustworthy and true. If one does not believe that it is possible for a man to be swallowed by a fish and to remain alive by the sovereignty of God, then how in the world can such a person truly believe that Jesus literally died for the sins of men, was buried, then literally arose from the dead (this is the very heart of Christianity, see 1 Cor. 15)?

This is not a trivial matter, but hinges on what it means to believe. To not believe the accounts of which Jesus states as being true, is to reveal distrust in His perception. Furthermore, if one finds a lesser issue of being unbelievable (a man surviving in a fish for three days), how can he possibly believe in the more incredible—that One died a gruesome death, was buried for three days, then conquered death? The latter is certainly far more unbelievable—yet, it happened!

If you view the account of Jonah as merely a fanciful tale, then I assure you, so is your supposed “faith” in Christ and His death and resurrection. If you deny the lesser miracle, then how can you support the greater?

Spiritual Humility or Veiled Unbelief?

There is a movement within Christendom which often prides itself in its humble confession of not knowing things with certainty. Its leaders essentially agree with pagan philosophers who pondered as to whether we can really know anything at  all, and team up with unbelievers who argue that Christians are arrogant when they feel certain about biblical teachings. Yet, the Bible states repeatedly there are things we can know with certainty.

  • Be still, and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 46:10 (ESV)
  • To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight. ~ Proverbs 1:2
  • So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~ John 8:31-32
  • And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. ~ 1 John 2:3

Make no mistake, a person can be wrong about something although he is convinced he is correct; however, is God pleased with church leaders who feign humility when they claim to not be certain about essential Christian doctrines? Is He impressed by persons impersonating shepherds of His flock, all the while causing the sheep to turn up their noses to the very Words that would nourish their souls? The Bible tells us,

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. ~ Hebrews 11:6

Biblical faith is not a hopeful shot in the dark. Rather, it is trusting the very words of God—even when we do not fully comprehend. For example, Abraham was declared “righteous” when he believed God’s words that he and Sarah would have a son in their old age. This did not make complete sense to Abraham; in fact, he laughed at the thought. However, he was certain this child would be born because God said so (see Gen. 15:1-6; 17:15-17).

This is the real issue of these leaders within this movement—unbelief in the trustworthiness of the Bible. Many things these men publish either oppose clear biblical teachings or call the Bible into question. They profess to believe in Jesus, yet question, reject, and deny the very words Jesus testified as being the very truth (see Luke 24:44-45; John 17:17). These men promote various practices—in some cases, even New Age occultism—claiming the Bible is “outdated” and needs to “get with the times.”

They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. ~ Titus 1:16

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~ Jude 4

Friend, let me ask you: when it comes to the Word of God, if you declare not really knowing and understanding it, is this genuine humility or merely a disguise to unbelief? Do you believe the Bible is truth or not? Do you believe the God who created the universe and overcame death is capable of preserving His Word for us? Beware of false shepherds who actually scatter the sheep, thus, sending them into grave danger.