Be Careful Little Eyes and Ears

Perhaps you’re familiar with the children’s rhyme, “O be careful little eyes what you see.” The second verse says, “O be careful little ears what you hear.” We might consider these nice words for a children’s song, but these are profound wisdom for adults. As Christians, we live in a culture immersed in godlessness. Music, movies, and literature glorify immorality, vice, violence, and sacrilege. Politicians use lying and deception for their advantages in power and wealth, and because of smoke and mirrors—and some blackmail—many get away with all sorts of crimes and sordid behaviors behind the scenes. Educational institutions vigorously promote secular humanism, where everything is permissible and/or rationalized—except for Jesus Christ and the truth.

For the person who truly desires to draw near to God and grow in his relationship to Christ, “be careful little eyes [and ears]” takes on deeper significance. What we choose to allow our eyes to see, ears to hear, and minds to entertain will affect our hearts and behaviors in one way or another. The Scriptures have much to say about these.

Jesus knows how visual men are and how prone we are to entertain lustful glances and thoughts. So serious is this matter, He says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:28-29). Although He speaks hyperbolically, He is stressing to men, “Be careful little eyes what you see. Do what you must to protect yourself from what enters.”

The apostle Paul says we are to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). This responsibility is made more difficult if one takes into his eyes, ears, and mind those things which are sinful and anti-Christ in nature. 

Elsewhere Paul writes, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8). In another letter he warns, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy [i.e., ideologies and shifting human reasoning] and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits [or principles]of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).

Consider what you are allowing your  little eyes to see and little ears to hear. What affect are they having on your thoughts, and what’s funneling down to your heart? Are the things you’re allowing your eyes to see and ears to hear drawing you closer to Christ or pulling you away? Are you allowing pictures and videos to arouse insatiable desires within you? What about the music you listen to? Is it feeding sensual desires or emotions of anger or despair? What about the teachings you’re listening to and the literature you’re reading. Are they amplifying the Spirit’s promptings or muffling His convictions? 

“O be careful little eyes what you see.” Are these just words for children? No, but these are words inviting us to partake of the wellsprings of life. But do we have the ears to hear and the eyes to see?

8 Lessons (of Many More) We Can Learn from the Seven Churches of Revelation 2-3

There are those who believe the seven churches of Revelation represent seven “church ages.” While I’ve considered this possibility,  I’m not convinced. I believe these seven literal churches represent the struggles and pitfalls churches continually face throughout the entire church age (singular) until the return of Christ. I think each of us would be wise to prayerfully and honestly read Revelation 2-3 and let the Holy Spirit reveal to us the unpleasant realities of our own hearts and the awful conditions of many of our churches. We’d be wiser still if we repent of all sin He reveals.

The words to the churches are instructions, warnings, and encouragement for us as much as they were to them. Of the seven churches, only two received complete commendation. Two received only rebuke, while the rest received both. Most of our churches fall into the latter groups. May we take Jesus’ words to heart.

  1. Jesus walks in our midst. This truth, if churches really believed and understood this, would challenge attitudes, thoughts, words, and behaviors. Jesus notices every detail going on in churches, whether it’s during services, meetings, or behind closed doors—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Behind the talk, the actions, and the motives, everything is perceived by His scrutinizing eye.
  2. Love is as important as sound doctrine (and vice versa). Which is more important, love or sound doctrine? The question is like asking which is more important, air or water? Neither is more important but both are vital. The church of Ephesus was commended by Christ for holding firmly to sound doctrine but sternly rebuked for losing love for Him. The church in Pergamum was commended for holding fast to His name but sternly rebuked for permitting false teachers and their teachings. For churches to be healthy and truly Christ-honoring, sound doctrine and fervent love for Christ. To surrender one is like giving up air or water—too long without either is fatal.
  3. Suffering does not equal God’s displeasure. The church in Smyrna was highly commended by Christ with no rebuke, although it had to endure tribulation, poverty, and intense suffering. This truth goes directly against the heresies of the modern “prosperity” gospel and teachings that God’s favor is evidenced by the comforts of this world.
  4. Jesus will judge idolatry and sexual immorality if not repented of. Jesus doesn’t turn a blind eye to idolatry, immorality, perversions, or the seduction of His people into such practices. The churches in Pergamum and Thyatira were severely rebuked by Christ for permitting idolatrous practices and sexual immorality. Jesus commands repentance and threatens severe consequences for those who refuse to repent. This should sound an alarm to churches today who permit idolatrous teachings (e.g., yoga, goddess worship, pluralism, etc.) and sexual immorality of various kinds or who turn a blind eye to sexual abuse. Jesus’ command of repentance is just as valid today as back then.
  5. Jesus searches the mind and heart, not just actions. To the church in Thyatira, “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire” (2:18), declares, “All the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works” (2:23). Jesus not only sees the works and actions, but He also sees the motives, lusts, and ambitions behind all the pretensions. He threatens tribulation and commands repentance. For all who refuse to repent, the consequences only become more severe. Jesus is not speaking to the world here, but to His church. 
  6. Having a reputation of being alive does not mean God is pleased. Many churches appear to be thriving today. They have large numbers of people and programs. From all accounts they appear alive and hopping. The church in Sardis had a reputation of being alive, but Jesus says it was dead and lethargic. Seeing is not always believing, and perception doesn’t necessarily capture reality.
  7. Jesus honors love and faithfulness to Him. Of the seven churches, only two received only commendation. All the others received rebukes of some kind. So Jesus had some grievance against over 70% of the churches. Very few churches possess the caliber of faith and loving devotion as Smyrna and Philadelphia. Although such churches usually face trials of different kinds, Jesus promises His faithfulness and reward for these churches.
  8. Our perception can differ greatly from God’s. Just as suffering doesn’t necessarily mean God’s distance or displeasure, affluence doesn’t necessarily mean God is pleased. The church in Laodicea was rich and prosperous, but Jesus rebuked it, saying, “You are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (3:17). Churches can be presumptuous, thinking God is pleased because attendance has grown and the cashflow is coming in. Ironically, these can be evidence that things are severely wrong.

May we, today, have an ear, and hear what the Spirit says to the churches today.

When Temptation Comes Our Way

Let’s face it, each of us experiences temptation, and each of us has succumbed to it from time to time. This comes with being sinful humans in a fallen world. However, in Christ we can experience victories over temptation, and we don’t have to be defined by our sins and failures. The following list contains several things to consider when temptation comes our way.

  1. Temptation is not sin. Sometimes persons will beat themselves up for feeling tempted to do something wrong and immoral, but temptation is not sin. Temptation is merely an attempt to seduce and get us to sin. The writer of Hebrews says of Jesus, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). There is a great distinction between being tempted to sin and yielding to sin.
  2. Temptation promises more than it can deliver. Temptation always offers big promises to bring fulfillment, but it never follows through. This is not to say there is never an immediate pleasure, but it’s only temporary. When it comes to sin, one will always pay more than what the pleasure is worth. Ultimately, when it comes time to pay, the pain and regret will always surpass the amount of pleasure. Moses understood this. We read of him, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:24-25)
  3. The breeding ground for sin is the entertaining of temptation. As mentioned, temptation is not sin. However, to dwell on and entertain the temptation can certainly lead to sin. One needs to squelch temptation early on. If not, the temptation will increase in strength and eventually lead a person into sin. James writes, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (1:14-15). In other words, the temptation caters to a person’s desire. As the person continues to entertain the desire it only becomes stronger until he no longer resists. The result is lethal in various ways.
  4. The inner battle is real. The inner struggle with temptation and sin is real. Even the great apostle Paul writes, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15). We are bombarded with various kinds of temptations to disregard God and His Word in order to do our own thing and to fulfill our desires in illegitimate ways. Elsewhere, Paul writes, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other” (Gal. 5:17). The purpose of temptation, as seen in Genesis 3:1-5, is to get us to doubt God’s Word and His goodness, and to seek to find fulfillment apart from Him.
  5. Resist, flee, and submit to God. The Bible refers to Satan as the tempter. Satan plants seeds of temptation in our minds, but he also uses ungodly people to tempt. I’m either case, we are to resist temptation, in some cases we are to flee from it. In all of this, these are to be done in yielding ourselves to God. James writes, Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you’” (4:7-8). Paul tells the Corinthians, “Flee from sexual immorality,” and “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 6:18; 10:14). To Timothy, the apostle writes, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).
  6. Take sin and temptation seriously. Sin is applauded, condoned, and trivialized by the world and in some churches. However, sin’s devastating effects are far reaching, and its impaling goes deep. Jesus teaches our dealing with our temptations and sins must be severe. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt. 5:29-30). Jesus also gives strong warning to those who lead others to sin: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matt. 18:6-7). In Genesis, God warned Cain, “If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (4:7).
  7. If you sin—confess and repent. The apostle John is honest about the reality of sin in our lives. He writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10). He goes on to urge us to not sin, but notes that the true follower of Christ has hope through Him. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins” (2:1-2). Jesus bore the wrath of the Holy Father against our sin on the cross, satisfying His holy and just righteousness. This does not give license to sin, but should help us understand the severity of sin.
  8. Sin has consequences. “I’ll sin now and just confess later.” “There is security for the believer.” How many Christians have said things like these to talk themselves into sinning? These statements are true, but even for the forgiven saint sin has unpleasant and painful consequences. King David, a “man after God’s own heart” is a prime example. By all rights, and by Old Testament law, David should have been killed for his adultery and murder. Yet, he was honest and repentant of his sins, and the Lord forgave him. Still, the Lord allowed David’s reputation to be tarnished and his once peaceful kingdom to be filled with unrest and revolt—even by his own son. David was forgiven, but there was a limp and deep pain in his heart he bore for the rest of his life. It isn’t for no reason Paul warns us, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Jesus gives dire warnings to those who refuse to turn from sin and come to Him for salvation. “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-3). Revelation tells the fate of all those who choose to love unrighteousness and ungodliness, and who refuse to repent of sin and turn to Jesus in faith. “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (21:8). Jesus describes the second death as a place of darkness, fire, and of weeping and gnashing of teeth (see Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:41). To reject Christ is to reject the very Source of life, light, joy, peace, holiness, justice, equity, and love. Eternal separation from Him is the tragic consequence of rejecting and renouncing Christ.

Hopefully the church in America will recapture the understanding of the seriousness of sin, and that each of us will see more clearly all that is at stake when temptation comes our way. An ounce of pleasure isn’t worth the price of a hundred pounds of pain and regret—or worse.

8 Truths About Biblical Faith

Faith is a vital element in Christian life. In fact, without faith there is no salvation or pleasing God. The following are eight crucial elements  of biblical faith.

  1. Faith is the conviction of the unseen reality. Biblical Christian faith (belief) is neither abstract nor simply intellectual consent. The writer of Hebrews notes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). He then goes on to explain by using an example, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (11:3). Faith is like a mortar, binding and holding together what God reveals He has done, who He is, what He is like, what He is doing, and what He is going to do. Although our physical eyes cannot see the reality, faith has “eyes” that see what God reveals, and this becomes a conviction which leads action.
  2. Faith is not passive. God is not interested in people’s rumps sitting in pews, mindlessly and heartlessly singing songs and rushing about in religious activities. Genuine faith is vital, and it consists of pursuing and trusting God. The writer of Hebrews notes, “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” (11:6). Apart from genuine faith, it is impossible to please God, despite and religious or good works. Genuine faith is a response to God and His Word, and actively pursues Christ in trust and obedience.
  3. Faith trusts God and what He says. We are told that Abraham believed God and He “counted it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). God had told Abraham that he and his wife would have a biological son in their elderly age, and this son would be Abraham’s heir. The real test of his faith came later, after Isaac his son was born. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. Some people get stuck on God’s command, but He wasn’t going to allow Abraham to kill his son. However, Hebrews reveals the depth of Abraham’s faith: By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Heb. 11:17-19). Genuine faith believes God, whatever He says. What He reveals in the Scriptures is who He is, what He is like, what He has done, and what He’s going to do—even when one does not fully comprehend (which shouldn’t surprise anyone, since we are finite and God is infinite. As God says to us, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:9).
  4. Faith responds approximately to God’s instructions and warnings. Genuine faith responds appropriately to God’s character and ways, to His love and holiness, His promises of blessings and warnings of judgment, to His words of comfort and His words of rebuke. The writer of Hebrews writes of Noah, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (11:7). Isaiah, when he got a glimpse of the glory of God, cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5). And Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (John 14:23-24). 
  5. Faith is anchored on Jesus Christ. Faith is centered around, and anchored on, the person and work of Jesus Christ. One’s salvation and acceptance is because of Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom. 5:9). The Christian’s identity is rooted in Him (Eph. 1 and 2). One’s good, acceptable works are wrought through Him (John 15:4-5). And His teachings are what give a person a solid foundation (Matt. 7:24-27). If one separates faith from Christ, he doesn’t have Christian faith. Jesus Christ is the very focal point of the Scriptures. Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). “No one who denies the Son has the Father” (1 John 2:23).
  6. Faith is accompanied by good works. A person is saved entirely by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8), and not a single work or effort contributes to this. However, genuine faith will grow in love and kindness, which will result in good works that are both acceptable to, and wrought by, God. An unloving Christian is a contradiction in terms. When a person is truly by the grace of God, this grace will manifest itself in his life in various ways, albeit not perfectly. James writes explicitly, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:14-17). Paul writes, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). And Jesus our Lord says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Good works, then, do not contribute to one’s salvation; however, the evidence of true salvation includes good works and acts of mercy.
  7. Faith looks and sees beyond the temporal. The writer of Hebrews observed that God called out men like Abraham, making wonderful promises. They did not witness all the promises come to fruition while on earth, for the promises were not for this temporal world only.  “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (11:8-10). Genuine faith holds loosely to this world and fixes its gaze on the kingdom of Heaven.
  8. Faith endures hardships. One of the great perversions in American Christendom is the popular teaching of faith being a means of attaining wealth, having a “good” life, and being free of problems. Such teachings are a gross departure from authentic Christianity. The prophets, apostles, and Jesus were persecuted. Many of them were not affluent. The writer of Hebrews notes that while many persons of faith witnessed mighty workings of God, some “were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earthAnd all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised” (11:35-38). Paul tells us, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:12-13). And Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt.10).

Faith is far more than a religious word. It is an anchored and active lifestyle fixed and founded entirely on Jesus Christ. To get this wrong is to have the whole structure collapse  (1 Cor. 15).

8 Truths About the Fear of the Lord

Rarely does one hear about the fear of the Lord nowadays. Even in most churches one will not hear of it much, let alone hear it taught about. Many view “fear” simply in a negative context; however, the fear of the Lord is actually a positive thing, if understood properly. I hope this article may shed some light on this neglected teaching, and that you will come to appreciate the fear of the Lord in a deeper way.

  1. It is more than mere reverence. It is a shame so many preachers and Bible commentators explain the fear of the Lord as simply as reverence for God. This might soften the word fear, but does it truly do the meaning of the phrase, as a whole, justice? If the fear of the Lord simply means reverence, then why wouldn’t the biblical writers plainly state, the reverence of the Lord? Jesus doesn’t mince words when He tells His disciples to not fear men but to fear God. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). God is not one to simply tip one’s hat to and call it good.  The writer of Hebrews warns, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31). This dreadfulness is a reality, and the writers of Scripture don’t pussyfoot around it the way we do today. Certainly, reverence does play a part in the fear of the Lord, but so does, well, a healthy fear of a good, righteous, and sovereign King who will one day punish evil. 
  2. It is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. Our world has many intelligent people, but the truly wiseare hard to find. There are scientists who are smart enough to design weapons of mass destruction, but not wise enough to create peace. There are crafty politicians who know how to sway and manipulate, but they are not wise in how to bring about authentic hope. And we have educators holding doctorate degrees and writing papers with all kinds of big words, but they’re void of the wisdom as to how to promote genuine love and equity. Wisdom has a starting place and a specific foundation: the fear of the Lord. Mockers will mock, scoffers will scoff, and fools will hate correction, so folly will continue to be the norm. But it doesn’t have to be this way. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Pro. 1:7). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Pro. 9:10).
  3. It is to depart from evil. This is one of the major aspects of the fear of the Lord—to depart from evil and to draw near to God. It is to depart from deception, violence, and all the dangers which would pull persons away from the safety of God’s presence. People could be spared of a lot of heartache and regret if they understood this. “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil” (Pro. 16:6).
  4. It gives confidence. There are so many who lack confidence in who they are and of the future. In the fear of the Lord persons can begin to understand who they are—and Whose they are—and the security of the sovereignty of God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth. “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge” (Pro. 14:26).
  5. It is a fountain of life. Our world is filled with poisoned waters, seemingly satisfying to the taste but destructive to the spirit. Immorality, unjust gain, debauchery, and the like are sweet to the taste, but sucks the life of those who partake of them. “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Pro. 14:27).
  6. It is better than great treasure. Ours is a world that has an unhealthy love for money, wealth, and treasures. People steal, kill, and destroy for these, not understanding that eventually this very love for money is a cord that will one day strangle them. Jesus warns, what profit is it to gain the world while forfeiting one’s soul in the process (see Matt. 16:26). The value of the fear of the Lord far surpasses that of all the treasures of the world. “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it” (Pro. 15:16).
  7. It comes with reward. The fear of the Lord is not simply a duty, of which you comply or else. To the ungodly, it seems as such; however, God promises reward for those who will walk in it. “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them” (Pro. 22:4-5). The satisfaction of wealth and fame is an illusion. The fear of the Lord, although not easy, will prove to be satisfying to those who accept it.
  8. It is to gain the knowledge of the Holy. The greatest reward of the fear of the Lord is the knowledge of God. Not simply head knowledge, but true experiential knowledge of Him. The fear of the Lord begins to open the spiritual eyes of persons to begin seeing His activities in the world and an understanding of His ways. God ceases to be questioned as a religious abstract, but understood as a concrete reality of those who are redeemed. The Bible ceases to be an archaic book of words, but is understood to be alive and life-transforming, because of the God who breathed them out (see Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:16). Ultimately, in God, through Christ, one finds true life. “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Pro. 2:5).

For the one who is willing to receive it, the fear of the Lord is truly a wonderful blessing intended to richly bless those who will accept it and walk in it. Indeed, it does have the aspect of showing reverence to the Lord, but it is far more than this. Hopefully the Scripture passages on the subject has helped you understand the fear of the Lord better, and that you can see it in its positive light.

6 Important Actions to Take When You Blow It

Let’s face it, we all blow it at times. We hardheadedly do our own thing instead of following instructions, we speak unkind words in anger, we make a foolish, costly decision, we break a trust, etc. As the saying goes, “to err is human.” Breaking and destroying things is easy; however, fixing and rebuilding them, well, that’s a whole other matter. The following are helpful steps to remember—and to put into practice—if you find yourself in a situation where you have blown it.

  1. Own Up to Your Mistakes. This sounds easy, but it is far more difficult than one realizes. Our first instinct is to blame others and make excuses. Too often people blame their parents, schools, environment, the system, the incompetence of others, etc. Blame shifting is easier than swallowing one’s pride and owning up to one’s own folly, poor decisions, and incompetence. Pointing fingers is what children do. Unfortunately, too often this childish tendency is carried into adulthood. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Pro. 28:13).
  2. Confess Any Sin(s) and Where Others Are Affected By Your Poor Decisions. This part requires honest, albeit sometimes painful, reflection. There are so many different ways one can blow it at school, at work, and in the home. There are so many ways one can add to a mess, making a bad situation worse. The inconvenience and added work are bad enough. But the wounds we inflict upon others by our words and actions can go very deep. Whether one wants to admit it, regardless of being unintentional, such folly, selfishness, and inflictions are sin. One must be honest before God and acknowledge the mess that has been made, the burdens placed upon others, and for all the wounds one has caused and inflicted. Such things are not trivial. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).
  3. Be Willing to Say, “I’m Sorry”—and Mean It. Two small words, yet for many, saying them is the equivalent of trying to push a freight train. For others, the words are easily enough spoken but any significance evaporates like a vapor. Yet, if spoken appropriately and honestly, apart from being diluted by any excuses or blame shifting, these words can be powerful. These words can begin the process of healing and repairing, as well as opening the doors for needed communication. Mind you, there is nothing magical about these words. Sometimes the damage is so great and the words are so deep that these words will roll off like marbles on a beach ball. Even so, the ones affected and wounded by ones folly and poor choices deserve to hear the words spoken with sincerity. Furthermore, one is in no position to expect or demand forgiveness. This is to be the choice of those who’ve been affected. Regardless if they choose to forgive or not, they still deserve to be told, “I’m sorry,” spoken with sincerity.
  4. Repair Where You Can. We live in a time when self-centeredness is at an all time high. Many can break people’s hearts like glass, rob of possessions, destroy reputations, grind dignity into hamburger, and impale with words, then expect forgiveness to come easily and smoothly. Even in churches the principles of restitution and reconciliation are often times pooh-poohed. However, if one has offended and wounded others, he is to be active in cleaning up the mess and making restitution where he can. Exodus 22:1 reads, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” Some will argue, “That’s Old Testament! We’re under grace.” What? Does Jesus enable us to shrug our responsibilities? No, He tells us,  “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). There are times the messes cannot be cleaned up, the total cost cannot be paid, or another’s forgiveness will be received. However, one is to make any repairs he is able.
  5. Learn from the Experience. This sounds obvious but it is often neglected—to the point of being sickening. This is precisely where blame shifting hinders people from growing and maturing. Whenever a person blows it, they should step back and observe what they did wrong and learn from it. Instead, we have kids partying and goofing off, then telling their parents the teachers are out to fail them. Teens and adults continually committing crimes, then saying the cops are simply out to get them unjustly. Persons verbally tear down and nag, flirt with others, refuse to talk, withhold sex, then blame their spouse for all the problems in a marriage. A friend betrays a friend, then blames him for the broken friendship. As for you, don’t let these describe you. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t flunk out of the School of Hard Knocks. “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (Pro. 17:10).
  6. Move On. This final step must not be separated from the former steps; however, sometimes the blow ups are beyond repair. For example, King David and his adulterous affair and having Uriah killed. David sinned greatly and owned up to his guilt. Still, there was no taking back the affair, and there was no bringing Uriah back from the grave. This is the reality for some of one’s foolishness. However, in Christ he can be forgiven and doesn’t have to be defined or kept down by his folly. He can learn from his mistakes and still have a fruitful life—if he yields himself unto Christ. The apostle Paul writes, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phi. 3:13-14).

Friend, if you have blown in, then learn and grow from the experience. Don’t make excuses or blame others. More often than not, people will forgive you, and even gain a measure of respect for you, when you man up and own up to your mistakes. Furthermore, you can move on and still live an amazing life founded upon humility and grace.

A Pastoral Note

My blogs are not always well received by some. There are those who think I’m harsh, judgmental, and who accuse me of thinking I’m better than others. But I write with a purpose. See, I have not always been a Christian. When I was younger, I was far from God. Entrenched in death metal music, addicted to my immoral lusts, filled with anger and cynicism, while void of compassion. Life, for me, was completely meaningless and joyless. Then one night, after some amazing divinely arranged events, God drew me to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ, letting me know He loved me—despite myself. He delivered me from the realm of darkness I dwelled in. I love Him for all this. No, I’m not perfect, and I’m not better than anyone. And I live with a lot of heartache and regrets.

Yes, I’m still tempted by sin, and I still struggle with my sinful nature, but I don’t want to go back to where I was—or who I was. I desire to know Christ, even if it means for Him to hurt my feelings by a rebuke or conviction.

Over the years a lot of water has passed under the bridge. So much of what is going on in churches and denominations are not truly to the glory of God and His Son Jesus Christ. So many are dismissing what the Bible says, pursuing their own agendas, and holding to ideologies and living lifestyles that our contrary to the very character of God.

Although the New Testament clearly teaches the life-transforming and moral aspects of the Gospel (see Jude 4; Titus 2:11-12), so many don’t want to hear it. The New Testament repeatedly warns of false teachers who will lead people astray—and this will grow worse as Jesus’ return draws closer, no one wants to hear this. It’s considered “judgmental.” 

Paul warns the time will come when people will no longer put up with sound doctrine:

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. ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Friends, the Bible is either true or it isn’t. Truth does not “evolve” nor is it “relative.” To dismiss the Scriptures is to jettison Christianity altogether, and to simply construct a religion of one’s own making.

Persons can accuse me of being harsh, judgmental, even hypocritical, but none of this makes the warnings of the Scriptures less valid or less true. I might remain unpopular, even unliked by many, but the Bible’s warnings are still sounding out. What people’s opinions of me is irrelevant. However, what each person does with the warnings is extremely relevant.

The Foolishness of God

Dear friends, I hope this finds you well. 

Not long ago I posted an article entitled, “Unbelief Will Always Make A Reason.” I don’t mind an honest discussion and dialogue, but I don’t enjoy debating for the sake of debate (Note: if you post a comment simply to be nasty, belligerent, and combative, I will ignore it). Unfortunately, I took the bait and replied to an individual’s posted comment(s) in which blasted me as completely ignorant, a liar who deliberately seeks to spread lies, and in a later comment accused me of being a “bigot.” The last one I actually found kind of funny, because aside from the fact the label is thrown around so often in our society the accusation is filled with irony. According to a dictionary, a bigot is “a person who is obstinately or unreasonably attached to a belief, opinion, or faction, especially one who is prejudiced against or antagonistic toward a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group.” This person somehow came across my blog, which is not all that well known, attacked my Christian beliefs both vehemently and specifically, and spoke very condescendingly and antagonistically. Do you see the irony? One who displayed the very essence of bigotry, in the guise of “science” (which not everything she said was accurate, although she adamantly thinks she is completely accurate), was accusing me of being a bigot. But again, labeling is all too common in today’s society.

Anyway, I do not share this as a means of putting this individual down. I have come across other individuals through the years who sought debate, caring nothing about what I had to say, even in regard to answering questions. Admittedly, some questions I cannot answer, but this goes both ways. When all is said and done, while I am to give reason as to why I believe, it is not my job to convince others. That is a work only the Holy Spirit can do. When a person adamantly declares there is no evidence of the existence of God or of Jesus Christ whatsoever, no argument on earth is going to change his or her mind. 

This individual is correct about me not being a debater or scientist. Although I did very well in undergraduate and postgraduate studies, there will always be people far smarter than me. This is alright, as I am reminded of the brilliance of the foolishness of God.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:18, 25

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. ~ Matthew 11:25-26

It is credited to Jerome for writing, “The Scriptures are shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for theologians to swim in without ever touching the bottom.” 

The Gospel has such depths that leaves scholars scratching their heads, yet such simplicity that even children can comprehend. I do not exaggerate when I say one of the godliest persons I’ve ever known, who had an incredibly deep prayer life and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit was a man who had Down’s syndrome. People can boast in their prestige, intelligence, and might; however, these are the very things that often hinder and blind persons to the knowledge of God.

In retrospect, I am ignorant about a lot of things. If knowing God depended on me being greatly intelligent, wise, shrewd, comely, and influential, I would never come to have known Him. Still, were it not for the great mercy and grace of God who had pity, not only on my blindness and stupidity, but also on my very deadness, I wouldn’t have come to know Him at all.

Let the godless say what they will and revel in their own contradictions and perils, but their words do not nullify the Creator in the least, nor the evidence as displayed throughout creation or the historicity of the Cross. Let the “wise of this world” boast in their wisdom, but it remains that only those who are willing to bow their hearts and knees will begin to see and understand the knowledge of God, and only through the Cross of Jesus Christ is there redemption. Men can continue to believe in the mythological man-made “Utopian” dream, but he will always prove himself to be the sinner he is, with a “Midas” touch to tarnish everything he touches. Still, for those who are willing to receive it, the foolishness of God remains wiser than the wisdom of men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Unbelief Will Always Make a Reason to Not Believe

Hello my friends, I hope you have had a great week.

Have you ever studied Christian apologetics (the defense for the Christian faith)? Perhaps you have read C. S. Lewis’, Mere Christianity, Lee Strobel’s, The Case for Christ, or Josh McDowell’s, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Each of these books are quite beneficial, and I would encourage anyone who is having honest questions to read them. However, over the years I have found that most people do not wrestle so much with honest doubts as they do with stubborn unbelief. Generally the problem is not an intellectual one as much as it is a moral one.

Doubts and “timid faith” alike are accompanied with questions. One can observe these in Nicodemus’ dialogue with Jesus in John 3, or in John the Baptist’s questions for Jesus, as he sat in a cell awaiting execution (see Matt. 11:2-6), or the father who requested his son’s healing (see Mark 9:16-27). Stubborn unbelief is an altogether different beast. Unbelief rejects Christ, no matter the evidence, logic, or consequence. Unbelief holds tightly to its pride, position, power, or whatever else, so long as it does not bow itself to the authority of God. Unbelief will always make an excuse to reject Christ and the need for Him. Jesus rebukes the unbelief of the people of the day:

But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds. ~ Matthew 11:16-19

There are those who view Christians as being absurd for believing in an Almighty Creator, yet have no problem believing the universe mysteriously came into existence by chance. There are those who say they “will follow science where so ever it will lead,” yet ostracize scientists who, observing the amazing structure and order from the cosmos to the molecular, dare mention Intelligent Design (understand, ID is not the same thing as theism or Christianity); yet, those who reject even the notion of ID hold up evolution as fact, even though there isn’t any scientific evidence whatsoever to support it. Perhaps no one admits the reason for their unbelief any better than Aldous Huxley:

“I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. … For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.” [1]

Is this not the real reason for the majority of people’s rejection of God? Oh sure, most people, on the one hand, have asked honest questions about evil and such. The irony is most people also justify their own acts of evil. This is one of the great evils and hypocrisy of Communist regimes, they accuse religion as being the source of wars, all the while Communism is guilty of all kinds of unjust afflictions and killings of millions of people through starvation, sheer brutality, demented experiments, and social engineering. 

Many of Hollywood’s elites like to accuse Christian’s as being “stupid” and “dangerous.” Now, there are religious nut jobs out there, and there are hypocrites in churches. However, for those who have parents, grandparents, or siblings who truly love the Lord Jesus Christ, are these persons really stupid or dangerous? Do they get F’s in everything and are never successful? Are they the ones in the neighborhood everyone is afraid of, for fear of their lives? No, Hollywood‘s resentment towards God and Christianity has nothing to do with an intellectual issue. No, Hollywood’s is completely a moral one. And the same goes for godless politics. 

Unbelief desires autonomy, and will fight tooth and nail to keep it. Honest doubts and timid faith will listen to answers to their questions and consider them, and are willing to change. Unbelief declares along with Woody Allen, “The heart wants what the heart wants,” despite how despicable the affections.

God does not hide from people as much as people close their eyes to Him. We are given this promise:

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. ~ Jeremiah 29:13

Elsewhere we are told,

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. ~ Hebrews 1:1-3

God is not silent, but people just don’t want to hear. To many, the temporary pleasures of sin are not worth the life to be found in Christ. Jesus could stand before them, as He did the people of old, but unbelief will always make a reason to reject Him. There is nothing new under the sun.

__________
[1] Huxley, A., Ends and Means, 1937, pp. 270 ff. Retrieved from:

https://creation.com/aldous-huxley-admits-motive-for-anti-theistic-bias (accessed May 27, 2021).

When All Speak Well of You

Hello, my friends. It’s a beautiful, sunny day here. I hope you have been having a good week.

There is a peculiar thing that has transpired in our world when it comes to communication. Whether it concerns church, education, or politics people will note if a speaker is funny, offensive, tactful, mean, positive, negative, encouraging, depressing, entertaining, or boring. Often the speaker will be judged on these—but not on whether or not what he says is true

A well-known speaker (some call him a preacher, but he’s actually more of a motivational speaker) always gives light, warm fuzzy messages with humor and charm. Admittedly, he has a likable personality. After all, by his own admission, he doesn’t want to be negative. So, for a half hour or so he gives emotional head pats and belly rubs, but he will not give words the Holy Spirit can use to convict people of their sins so they can get right with God. In fact, he does not give clear instructions by which persons can be made right with God. To do so would be offensive to some, and this is negative.

Another falsely so-called “pastor” is a woman who is not quite as well known. With a foul mouth, she has acknowledged that her ambition is to destroy traditional teachings of purity, claiming its “oppressive” to people’s sexuality (she totally dismisses everything in the New Testament calling people toward purity and temperance). So committed to her cause, she encouraged persons to send her their purity rings (in return, they each received a “Certificate of Impurity”), and these rings were melted and then formed into a vagina sculpture to be presented to the pro-abortion feminist Gloria Steinem. Of course this received applause. She teaches you can have salvation and your sins simultaneously. However, the Bible does not teach this whatsoever. 

Someone recently commented on my last post, saying it was “too negative.” History supports what I wrote, but so many do not care about this. They just want words that make them feel good. But I want to caution men and women who profess to be followers of Christ. The Gospel message has nothing to do with giving people what they want but what they need. Just like going to see the doctor, as much as we want to hear that everything is fine, it would be malpractice to say everything is fine (just to be “positive”) if the truth is our bodies are being destroyed by cancer.

Jesus warns us sternly,

Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. ~ Luke 6:26

The majority of the prophets of God were not viewed as heroes of the day. Many of them were despised, persecuted, and sometimes even killed. For just like people today, the people then didn’t like men of God condemning their idolatry, immorality, greed, or injustices. The people didn’t like being taught about God’s holiness or judgment any more than people today. 

We are also warned,

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

My friends, where do you stand as a speaker or listener. The masses will adore those who can get them to laugh and enjoy their sins and tell them they do not stand guilty before God. What about your listening? Do you dismiss anything that makes you feel uncomfortable? 

Friend, what a tragic thing if all you have in the end is some fleeting laughs and emotional massages, but you reject the Gospel of Christ, the only means of salvation, because you thought it to be too negative. Also tragic is if you gain the approval and applause of people but not of God.