Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Sins of the Father

 Have you ever wondered why some families seem to keep repeating the same cycle of sins and failure in life?  It is like there is a generational curse on their family.  You see the same habits, additions, and life-styles from the grandparents, children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren.  Could it be because there is a generational curse placed on their family by the LORD? 
(Over the years I have watched as scientific research  has over and over again been validated by the Bible.  The reason I say this is the Bible has been around longer than some of the scientific research we have today.)
The LORD spoke to Moses and gave a warning that many fail to believe to be true.
Exodus 20:5 “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.”
Exodus 34:6-7 “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
Is God saying that the children and the grandchildren of the father would have to pay for the sins of their father?  What does God mean by this?  Especially since Deuteronomy 24:16 says “Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin” and that “The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself” (Ez 18:20).
We do know that “as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22).  The same “all” that die in Adam and from the original sin nature that we have all inherited, the same “all” can “be made alive” by repentance and faith.
There are those who disregard the warnings given in the Bible as superstition and myth concerning the choice and actions of our life and the impact they have on future generations.  We could say as the father goes, so goes the family.  What God is saying is that if a father makes wrong personal choices his family will pay the consequences for generations to come. It is true that each will have to pay for their own sins, but the father could have prevented many of the sins that his children and grandchildren would fall into had he led his family in obedience to the Law of God.  The effects of this fatherly mismanagement would be felt by multiple generations because what has been sown will be reaped because God cannot be mocked (Gal 6:7).  God is not punishing the children for their father’s sins, but they are feeling the consequences and having to pay for them.  That is what God means in Exodus 20 and 34.  These verses deal with the descendants of those children who would follow their father’s example of disobedience but each one of us are ultimately responsible for our own sins and this is what Ezekiel 18 and Deuteronomy 24 is saying.  The father’s disobedience to God’s commandments have a ripple effect that keep on going until some other father in his lineage breaks that cycle.
I do not want you to think of I am using science to prove the Bible, rather I am using the Bible to prove science.  There is a study in genetics called "epigenetics" this is the study of potentially heritable changes in gene expression (active versus inactive genes) that does not involve changes to the underlying DNA sequence — a change in phenotype without a change in genotype — which in turn affects how cells read the genes.  This term was coined by C.H. Waddington in 1942.  Although, it was set in motion in by the LORD when He gave Moses the principle in Exodus 34:6-7.
Have you ever wondered why some patterns in your family history seem to be recurring in your own life? Strongholds such as anxiety, poverty, illnesses and addictions to name a few. The Bible refers to these as generational curses, which the church has long believed was purely spiritual. But according to new brain research, this biblical principle is far more scientific than we realize.

The concept of generational curses is presented in Exodus 20:5. In the King James Version it says that God will “visit” the sins of the fathers down to the third and fourth generation. The term “visit” makes more sense considering this new study which shows that generational curses can, indeed, be scientifically traced back from one generation to another.

Pioneering studies in epigenetics reveals that our life experiences and choices do change us, including our brains, down to the DNA level. And these changes can be passed onto our children and further down the hereditary line. Epigenetics gives insight to how our diets, work environment – even one time traumatic events – can change the genetic legacy we pass onto our children and grandchildren.

For nearly a century after the term “epigenetics” first surfaced, researchers, physicians, and others poked around in the dark crevices of the gene, trying to untangle the clues that suggested gene function could be altered by more than just changes in sequence.  In recent years there has been several groundbreaking studies which have focused fresh attention on epigenetics. Interest has been enhanced as it has become clear that understanding epigenetics and epigenomics—the genome wide distribution of epigenetic changes—will be essential in work related to many other topics requiring a thorough understanding of all aspects of genetics, such as stem cells, cloning, aging, synthetic biology, species conservation and agriculture.
  The word “epigenetic” literally means “in addition to changes in genetic sequence.” The term has evolved to include any process that alters gene activity without changing the DNA sequence and leads to modifications that can be transmitted to daughter cells (although experiments show that some epigenetic changes can be reversed). 
One effect of such processes is imprinting. In genetics, imprinting describes the condition where one of the two alleles of a typical gene pair are silenced by an epigenetic process such as methylation or acetylation. This becomes a problem if the expressed allele is damaged or contains a variant that increases the organism’s vulnerability to microbes, toxic agents, or other harmful substances. Imprinting was first identified in 1910 in corn, and first confirmed in mammals in 1991.
Researchers have identified about 80 human genes that can be imprinted, although that number is subject to debate since the strength of the evidence varies.
Among all the epigenetics research conducted so far, the most extensively studied disease is cancer, and the evidence linking epigenetic processes with cancer is becoming “extremely compelling,” says Peter Jones, director of the University of Southern California’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center. Halfway around the world, Toshikazu Ushijima is of the same mind. The chief of the Carcinogenesis Division of Japan’s National Cancer Center Research Institute says epigenetic mechanisms are one of the five most important considerations in the cancer field, and they account for one-third to one-half of known genetic alterations.
Most epigenetic modification, by whatever mechanism, is believed to be erased with each new generation, during gameto-genesis and after fertilization. However, one of the more startling reports published in 2005 challenges this belief and suggests that epigenetic changes may endure in at least four subsequent generations of organisms.
Along with behavior, mental health may be affected by epigenetic changes, says Arturas Petronis, head of the Krembil Family Epigenetics Laboratory at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. His lab is among the first in the world, and still one of only a few, to study links between epigenetics and psychiatry. He and his colleagues are conducting large-scale studies investigating links between schizophrenia and aberrant methylation, and he says understanding epigenetic mechanisms is one of the highest priorities in human disease biology research. “We really need some radical revision of key principles of the traditional genetic research program,” he says. “Epigenetics brings a new perspective on the old problem and new analytical tools that will help to test the epigenetic theory.” He suggests that more emphasis is needed on studying non-Mendelian processes in diseases such as schizophrenia, asthma, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.
This quiet scientific revolution could be a paradigm shift for evolutionary biology, as it pretty much refutes Darwin’s central premise. Neuropsychologist, Dr. Tim Jennings said, “Which is more scientifically accurate – the Bible or Charles Darwin? Well guess what? It’s the Bible. Darwin hypothesized that it was mutation over millions of years that caused finches to have different beaks. Science has actually now proved, it’s epigenetic modification.

Epigenetics reveals that not only do we pass along the DNA sequence to our children, but we also pass along the epigenetic instructions to them. In other words, information can be inherited and transmitted through generations. In an experiment on ‘transgenerational epigenetic inheritance’, researchers at Emory University, trained mice to fear a fruity odor by pairing it with a mild electric shock to the foot. Ten days later, the mice could mate. Incredibly, their pups feared the odor even without having encountered the smell before. But even more fascinating is that the offspring of those pups – the grandchildren – were born with the same specific memory. We see the mice study apply to humans. One example were the attacks of 9/11. Among the thousands of people directly exposed to the attack were 1,700 pregnant women. Some of these women developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Their children reacted with high levels of fear and stress around loud noises, unfamiliar people, or new foods. It seems the infants inherited the nightmare that their mothers experienced on that day.

It’s liberating when you can literally put the concept of generational curses under the microscope. Suddenly your habits and experiences have far greater social implications, because you no longer live life just for yourself but for your descendants too. As Jennings points out, “The choices we make – the foods that we eat, the things that we watch – can affect how the DNA is expressed. When we have kids, we pass on the sequence to them. So, if we become addicted to stuff, we can pass along to our children gene instructions that make them more vulnerable to addictions.”

The good news is that even if epigenetic modifications are passed onto your offspring, they are reversible. In other words, it is possible to break the curse. You can go either way. we can pass along both positive things in our life and or negative, depending on the choices we make in life.

In another experiment with mice, the notion of breaking generational curses is clearly demonstrated. Scientists bred mice to have a memory impairment. In short, they were bred to be stupid. Then they took the mice and for two weeks, during their adolescence, the mice were placed in an enriched environment with lots of toys. Not surprisingly, the mice developed better memory despite their bad genes. The enriched environment caused an epigenetic modification, switching off the bad gene. But here’s where it gets interesting: the pups of the mice from the enriched environment were also born with the gene defect but had the epigenetic modification such that the bad gene was shut off. Instead, they were born with good memory despite their bad genes.

But here’s the question: If a Christian is set free from his past after being born-again, why are there so many “Christians” who still see the effects of generational curses in their lives? Could it be because so many have not truly been born again?  Salvation is by grace and once we are gripped by grace, we can truly have the mind of Christ which transforms our behavior. Suddenly, we are empowered to break the curses, knowing that the blood of Christ covers us. This transformation is physically revealed in the genetic changes in our bodies, but also on the legacy we will be leaving behind.   Paul in writing to the church at Corinth says, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)  This is not just a spiritual battle you are fighting it is also a physical battle. 

You are fighting the very lineage of your family. If you wish to break the "sin that so easily besets" then you must surrender you life to Jesus Christ and become the new creation that He will make in transforming your life.  This is the only hope for your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Christ Through the Bible-Daniel

Text:  Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. Dan.2:45
The prophet Daniel is one of four Major Prophets in Hebrew Scripture, along with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. The Book of the Twelve follows the Book of Daniel. Daniel in the Lions' Den is a favorite Bible story for children.  Also, the captivating prophecy, imagery, and symbolism make the Book of Daniel one of the most read of the Old Testament of the Bible.
The Book takes its name from the hero, Daniel a young Jewish prophet who lived in Babylon following the Babylonian Captivity, which began in 597 BC. The prophet Ezekiel, who wrote his prophecy in Babylon about the same time, mentioned three Biblical figures in a row as men of righteousness, Noah, Daniel, and Job (Ezekiel 14:14 and 14:20). Jesus referred to Daniel the Prophet (Matthew 24:15).
Daniel is one of the most important books of the Bible to understand.  Daniel connects the Old and New Testaments. Through Daniel, God revealed the exact date month and year of Messiah death (Christ) and events leading to His return.
Messiah would come 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Dan 9:25, John 12:12-23).  Messiah would be killed (Dan 9:26, Matt 27:35)
Daniel demonstrates God's complete control and comprehension over time and nations, by giving detailed prophecies about the succession of kingdoms and rulers.  Daniel foretells the eventual establishment of Messiah's kingdom, which will overthrow the kingdoms of this world.
Messiah would be 'a son of man' given an everlasting kingdom (Dan 7:13-14, Luke 1:31-34)
Revealed as the 'stone' (and His kingdom) that smashes the kingdoms of the world (Dan 2:34,44)
For this reason, Daniel is often the most attacked book in the Bible.
Daniel is also essential for anybody who wants to understand Bible prophecy.  Without understanding Daniel, a thorough understanding of Revelation is impossible. Daniel is the foundation for the book of Revelation.  The text of Revelation is the completion of the plan first revealed to Daniel in the Babylonian and Persian kingdoms over 2500 years ago. 
There are six significant stories in Daniel:
 The Kings Food- God Protect the Faithful
 The Kings Dream- God Reveals the Future
 The King's Fiery Furnace- God Protects His People
 The King's Banquet- God Judges the Wicked
 The King's Lion's Den- God Protects His People
 Daniel's Dream About Beast- God Reveals the Future
In the story of the King's Fiery Furnace, the lives of three Hebrews are on the line.  Those who hated them have brought them before the king, and they are faced with denying their faith or serving the LORD. They know if they served God they would be blessed if they disobeyed they would forfeit the protection of the LORD.
Moses gave Israel a roadmap to blessings in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy.  If they obeyed the LORD, they would be blessed.  When they turned away from serving the LORD, they would be cursed. In every case of persecution of the Jews, it started with disobedience.  When the Jews were obedient to the commands of the LORD, He blessed them.  When Jews disobeyed, they were cursed.  The Babylonian Captivity came about because of disobedience.
What is interesting is that the Jews when disobedient suffered persecution, while the Christian suffered abuse when obedient.
Here is the resolve of these three men, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.  17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
That takes courage.  Today, there would be those who would have us compromise our faith. "It is alright to bow down, in your heart, you can worship the LORD.  After all, God looks on the heart and not on the outside."  This is why we lack power with God today.  The faithfulness of these three young men was a powerful witness to the power of God in the life of a faithful follower.
We see Christ in the book of Daniel typified in the 4th man in the fiery furnace.  Look at the astonishment of the king when he asked how many were cast into the furnace:
 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. (Dan 3:25)
When Nebuchadnezzar looked into the flames in Daniel 3:24-27, he expected to see the young men roasting to death. Instead, he saw them walking around, unharmed and unbound, and a fourth man walking with them. He calls him "the Son of God," which is a strange insight for a pagan king.
Who was the fourth man? I believe it was the Lord Jesus Christ himself. This is an Old Testament appearance of the Son of God coming down from heaven in bodily form. He stepped into the blazing furnace, and the Flames lost their power to consume.  Just like when he calmed the sea by saying "Peace be still." 
I am struck by the fact that the Lord Jesus appears at only one place in this chapter. Where is Jesus in Daniel 3? He is not seen with them when they confront the king.  He is not seen with them when they are bound and thrown in the furnace.  He is seen in the furnace waiting for the young men. You can do the math yourself. Outside there were three, inside there were four, and outside there were three again. Jesus never manifests himself except inside the furnace of trial and testing, at the very moment when He was needed the most.  The LORD does give His people protection. 
What a lesson this is for all of us. So often we go through life for days and weeks without any consciousness of the Lord's presence with us. But when trouble comes, when the flames lick at our feet, when life tumbles in around us, then we discover that Jesus has been by our side the entire time. It is in the fires of life that we experience the presence of Christ most powerfully. He is always there, but he makes himself known in the fiery furnace.
In the most famous of the stories in the book of Daniel is the King's Lion's Den.  This is a story that every Sunday school student has heard.  The king is tricked into signing a law that would take the life of Daniel.  The law could not be changed.  Daniel knew the consequence of remaining faithful to the LORD would result in his death, but he continued to serve the LORD daily as he always had done.  The result- he was cast into a den of hungry lions. 
In the morning the king rushed to see if the God Daniel served was able to deliver him?  The result of Daniel's faithfulness to the LORD, an angel was sent to give Daniel the protection he needed.
The question that could be asked is, does the LORD always deliver us from persecution and tribulation?  The answer is No.  What He has promised us is He would never leave us nor forsake us.  Sometimes the oppression and affliction are the trying of our faith, testing us, refining us, purifying us, that we may come forth as pure gold.
Our resolve should be the same as the three Hebrews, If it be that our God whom we serve can deliver us from this persecution, tribulation, or testing of our faith, one way or another he will provide us but if not, be it known will not deny the LORD.
In the book of Jude, the authors understand the protection that the LORD gives to His people- "Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."-- Jude 1:24-25
The confirmation of Christ's ability to "keep [us] from stumbling" is an echo of verse 1, which assures us that we are being "kept for Jesus Christ." There is a complicated connection between God's glory and our salvation.  It is He who keeps us from stumbling; it is He who qualifies us as blameless.
Instead of dangerously hidden reefs (Jude 12), we see the visible rock of refuge, the rock higher than ourselves, the stone carved from the mountain that smashes kingdoms (Daniel 2), the strong tower and safe refuge, the rock upon which, if we are shipwrecked, it is for our good and security. Instead of self-centered shepherds, we see the Good Shepherd who cares for the sheep always, which feeds the sheep with his own flesh (John 10:11).
We see the glory of God not in some thin, misty fog but the pillar of cloud leading the sons of God through the wilderness. We see the commander of the winds, the sender and the stopper of them. Instead of fruitless trees, we see the true vine in whom there is life abundant—the vine who was once dead but who is now up-risen in glory and vindication (John 15:1). Instead of being swept along by the wild waves of the sea, we see the One who walks upon the waves and calms the storms (Mark 6:45–52). Instead of "wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever" (Jude 13), we see the bright morning star, the blazing sun of righteousness for whom the brightness of brightest glory has been reserved forever (Rev. 22:16).
My admonition is don't deny the protection of the LORD for the pleasures of sin.  The LORD will bring judgment on you for your wicked ways.  No purpose defends a sinful action. The ends do not justify the means.  Just as the LORD judged Belshazzar, He will judge you.  That judgment may not come as swiftly as it did for Belshazzar, but it will happen.  The message of the prophets is a message of repentance and restoration.
If you desire the protection of the LORD in your life, then you must remain faithful in your devotion to the LORD.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Faith Tried and Tested in The Fire-Follow-up

About a week ago when I posted Faith Tried and Tested, I was not expecting the LORD to answer my question so quickly.  An event took place on the same day that opened my eyes to how quickly things can turn into a dangerous situation.
First, I do not consider what took place as persecution or tribulation because of Christian faith.  It was more of the LORD answering my question by a trial and testing, using everyday life experiences.  Even though I was not the person who committed the "rights" violation, I became the focus of the anger and rage of those who felt I was responsible.  I apologized for the actions of those who made a poor choice in carrying out their duties, which was not accepted by a majority of the injured parties.
What I observed from this was how quickly people will turn on you when they feel their “rights” have been violated.  They will lash out in anger at those who they feel are responsible without investigating the facts or admitting that their “rights” were violated because of their disregard of the rules and regulations.  The issue revolved around rules and regulations of a private business that have been posted for many years.  For several years these rules have not been enforced due to the lack of personnel to make the rules stick.  It is like a speed limit that has been posted, but for several years has not been enforced, until one day the police start writing tickets.  People then complain about getting a ticket because the speed limit had not been imposed for so long that it should not matter if you break the law.  The same principle can be applied to this situation.  People were angry because the rules were being enforced and they wanted someone to focus that anger on.
Another observation was people feel they are above the rules and regulations of reasonable conduct.  If you are involved in pointing out their violations they don't care about rules, they are only interested in how they have been offended by those who enforced the rules.  This is the same mentality of those who deny the truth.  People are offended by truth when it exposes them as who they truly are.  People do not like to be told their actions are wrong.
Another observation was people must find someone to blame to misdirect attention from their violations of the rules and regulations.  To try and deal with an issue with logic and facts, which I found failed to resolve the issue was useless.  There were those who thought I was speaking down to people.  The result was emotions and mockery by those who refused to accept reason.  What I found was most of the arguments made by those who scoffed at the rules as they used no logic and could not make a rational case for their breaking the rules and regulations, other than, “I don’t care about your rules.”
People seem to believe that calling individuals names and making violent threats will change their disregard for their violations of the rules and regulations and excuse their behavior.  The same is true with the truth.  Most people do not like to be told the truth when they are in the wrong.  They will resort to name calling, lying, using deceitful tactics, threatening, and getting others to join their cause who have no vested interest in what is happening and turn against anyone who sides with those who have exposed them as wrong.
Another observation from this incident is that there are individuals who are willing to destroy a functional structure of an organization and replace it with an ill-defined hodgepodge of ideas that they think will shift power their way.  Getting the community to jump in a do a task has never been successful among those who are constant complainers.  They do not have the ability to follow-through with their ideas, nor are they willing to make the sacrifice needed to accomplish the task.  That is the reason for a functional structure of any organization.   That is why organizations operate under rules and regulations, that is why companies establish bylaws, so they can function within the successful guidelines of a working structure.  That is why the LORD has given us commandments to follow.  They are for our safety and protection.
My final observation is that there are those who willingly or unknowingly bring about polarization to a community.   This polarization divides the public and threatens the success of businesses and organizations within the community.  This polarization is not based on truth but on a false feeling of their "rights" being violated.
Here is what I have learned.  Just as Paul wrote to Timothy when he said, some terrible times are coming. We are living in those times today.  He said, people will love only themselves and money. They will abuse others with insults. They will have no love for others and will refuse to forgive anyone. They will talk about others to hurt them and will have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. People will turn against their friends. They will do foolish things without thinking and will be so proud of themselves. Paul told Timothy to stay away from these people!
The life of a Christian within a community opens the door for mean and hateful action towards them.  Jesus warned us that because the world hates Him, they will hate us.  People will do to us what people did to Jesus.  They lied about Him, they called Him names, they plotted to kill Him, they tried to destroy His reputation, and, in the end, they turned against Him and nailed Him to a cross.  Jesus told us to remember the lesson, if people treated me poorly, they would mistreat you.
Even though several individuals felt the need to attack me personally over something I did not do, many showed their support.  One lady said she felt the LORD was showing people even ministers go through problems that others face in their daily life and need the assistance of other Christians.
The LORD answered my question.  During this week of malicious name calling, protest, and threats, I felt no anger toward those who made their attacks.  I was disappointed in those who felt the need to display their hatred towards me, but the emotions of anger and hate were not the feelings I had.  I do understand when others are going through a similar situation why they might feel like James and John and want to call fire down from heaven on those opposing them.  I am going to take the advice of Paul to Timothy and stay away from these people.
There may be times in our life when we must stand alone and face the devil, but for the most part, the LORD will bring to our aid those who support us and encourage us in the time of trial and testing.  It is my prayer that I not forget the spiritual struggle Christians are going through in countries where the ultimate test of their faith is being tried.  I ask the LORD for His protection, comfort, and strength for our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith.  May they remain faithful and stand fast in the knowledge that the LORD will give them the grace to face the trials of their faith and provide them with a crown of life for that faithfulness.  May the Holy Spirit brings conviction on those who persecute our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith and bring them to repentance. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Christ Through the Bible- Ezekiel

TEXT: And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.  And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it. Ezk.34:23-24
Ezekiel opens with his calling to be a prophet.  He has a vision that was symbolic of the greatness and majesty of the LORD and proclaims the LORD sovereign over all the nations of the earth.  Ezekiel is so moved by what he saw, he falls on his face in reverence. 
A voice calls to him, saying "Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me.  And whether they listen or fail to listen — for they are a rebellious house — they will know that a prophet has been among them."
The LORD had given them a warning which was Israel’s duty to obey.  Ezekiel is then handed a scroll, on which is written "words of lament and mourning and woe." Told to eat the scroll, when he does so he finds that it tastes as sweet as honey. Evidently, Ezekiel knows that the message he is to proclaim foretells impending disaster, yet he is faithful to the task given to him.
The people who were left in Jerusalem after the first captivity reassured themselves with the idea that they were better off than their brethren who were taken to Babylon. They believed that the LORD would protect them from any foreign power and that neither the city of Jerusalem nor the Judean kingdom would ever be overthrown. Ezekiel's task was to stop the delusion concerning this hope, to make clear to them that the city would be destroyed and also the reasons why it would be overthrown.
According to the prophet, the reason for the captivities that had already occurred, as well as for the one in store for the people left in Jerusalem, is the people's defiance of the LORD's laws. Because Ezekiel believes that the LORD rules supreme over all the nations of the earth, any violation of the LORD's commands without appropriate punishment constitutes an infringement upon the deity's honor. Such violations are serious matters to Ezekiel, evidenced by the fact that his references to punishments are usually followed by the words "Then you will know that I am the Lord."
Jerusalem must be destroyed because of its sins. In his account of these sins, Ezekiel includes both moral and ceremonial transgressions, but he noticeably places the greater emphasis on matters about the ceremonial. He condemns the worship of idols that represent foreign deities, and he severely censures people who eat forbidden meat or violate any of the other rules having to do with the conduct of worship. Coming into direct contact with that which is unclean contaminates the LORD's sanctuary and profanes his holy name, which the LORD will not tolerate.
Ezekiel, no less than Jeremiah, sees the significance of the individual in his relationship to the LORD. Rejecting the ideas that fathers may be punished for the sins of their sons and the sons punished for the sins of their fathers, he boldly states that the soul that sins shall die. Furthermore, he carries this idea to the extreme position of maintaining that a person's entire life will be judged regarding that individual's last act. Concerning the man who has lived wickedly all of his life but turns from his wickedness and does that which is lawful and right immediately before he dies, all of his evil will not be remembered: He will be judged as a righteous man. The reverse is true of the man who has lived all of his life righteously but turns to wickedness just before he dies: All of his righteousness will not be remembered.
We can see this principle in Jesus forgiving the theft on the cross just before he died.  The LORD is merciful, and longsuffering and willing to forgive whosoever comes to Him, even at the time of one's death.  This makes it very important not to judge the eternal abode of people as we do not know what took place in the final moments of their life.
The fall of the city of Jerusalem presented something of a problem, especially to those who believed that LORD's presence in the holiest place in the Temple was a sure guarantee that the place would never be overthrown. They remembered Isaiah's words uttered more than a century before when he declared that Jerusalem was Zion's city and must stand forever. For Jeremiah, these words meant very little: The LORD's dwelling place is in human hearts rather than in a specific location in the Temple. While this idea is not entirely absent in the Book of Ezekiel, the prophet nevertheless believes that the LORD's presence is in the Temple more than in any other place. How then could the Temple be destroyed so long as the LORD's presence was in it? According to Ezekiel, Yahweh's presence went up out of the Temple and rested on a hill outside; then the Temple fell.
In the New Testament, the LORD's Spirit dwells within the heart of man.  Our bodies are the dwelling place of the LORD.  The Temple of natural material has been destroyed, but the spiritual Temple is within our own heart and soul.
Ezekiel has often been called the father of Judaism. His influence on the future development of Israel's religion was, at least for several centuries, more significant than that of any of the other prophets. His conception of holiness, which stands in sharp contrast to Isaiah's, became dominant in the period that followed his people's return from Babylonian exile. For Ezekiel, holiness was a quality present in both things and people. Holy objects would be profaned whenever anything common or unclean was brought into direct contact with them, a belief that led to a sharp distinction between the secular and the holy and gave new meanings to such items as the observance of dietary laws, payment of tithes, and observance of the Sabbath. Violation of any of these rules would constitute a profanation of that which was holy or sacred. This interpretation of rules and regulations pertaining only to the Israelite religion served to strengthen the spirit of nationalism and so to increase the antagonism that already existed between Jews and non-Jews.
The same is true today with those who serve the LORD.  Christians are to live a life of holiness that is in sharp contrast to the secular world.  Any violation of the commands of the LORD constitute sin and separates one from the LORD.  The holy and righteous life of those who faithfully follow the commandments of the LORD (rules) creates an antagonism with those who are not Christian.
In Ezekiel, we see Jesus Christ as the Shepherd of His people.  In the Gospel of John chapter ten Jesus tries to explain to the people, He is the Shepherd.
The message in John is the message of salvation. Jesus said, “It is certainly true that when a man enters the sheep pen, he should use the gate. If he climbs in some other way, he is a robber. He is trying to steal the sheep.  But the man who takes care of the sheep enters through the gate. He is the shepherd. The man who guards the gate opens the gate for the shepherd. And the sheep listen to the voice of the shepherd. He calls his own sheep, using their names, and he leads them out. He brings all of his sheep out. Then he goes ahead of them and leads them. The sheep follow him because they know his voice. But sheep will never follow someone they don't know. They will run away from him because they don't know his voice."
If you have ever tried to explain something to someone and they fail to comprehend what you are saying and feel you are talking down to them or scolding them when all you are trying to do is clarify the message.
Well, Jesus told the people this story, but they did not understand what it meant. So, Jesus said again, “I assure you, I am the gate for the sheep. All those who came before me were thieves and robbers. The sheep did not listen to them.  I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will be able to come in and go out. They will find everything they need.  A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I came to give life— a life that is full and good.
Here is what makes Christianity separate from all other religions- there is only one way to heaven, and that is through Jesus Christ.  Jesus explains why this is true.  “I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. The worker who is paid to keep the sheep is different from the shepherd. The paid worker does not own the sheep. So, when he sees a wolf coming, he runs away and leaves the sheep alone. Then the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. The man runs away because he is only a paid worker. He does not really care for the sheep.
He goes on to say, "I am the shepherd who cares for the sheep. I know my sheep just as the Father knows me. And my sheep know me just as I know the Father. I give my life for these sheep.  I have other sheep too. They are not in this flock here. I must lead them also. They will listen to my voice. In the future, there will be one flock and one shepherd.  The Father loves me because I give my life. I give my life so that I can get it back again.  No one takes my life away from me. I give my own life freely. I have the right to give my life, and I have the right to get it back again. This is what the Father told me.”
Salvation was not just for the Jews.  The door of salvation was opened to “whosoever will.”  But Jesus had the same problem with getting people to understand the truth. The Jews were divided over what Jesus was saying. Many of them said, “A demon has come into him and made him crazy. Why listen to him?”
These people had forgotten the prophecy of their beloved prophet Ezekiel, And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.  And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it.
The message of Ezekiel is that the promises of the LORD are based on stipulations.  All the requirements can be summed up with this, Obey the commandments.  If we love the LORD, His commandments are not grievous.  When we keep the commandments, we are entitled to the promises.  When Judah thought the LORD would not allow the Temple to be destroyed because that is where He dwelled, they failed to realize that He had left the Temple, so it was no longer His dwelling place.
If you have forsaken the LORD and no longer keep His commandment, he no longer dwells within you.  He asks that you repent and return to the fold.  It is your responsibility to make that decision.
In the book of Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells three different stories one is about the lost sheep. He said, "Suppose one of you has 100 sheep, but one of them gets lost. What will you do? You will leave the other 99 sheep there in the field and go out and look for the lost sheep. You will continue to search for it until you find it.  And when you see it, you will be pleased. You will carry it home, go to your friends and neighbors and say to them, ‘Be happy with me because I found my lost sheep!
The next story He told, “Suppose a woman has ten silver coins, but she loses one of them. She will take a light and clean the house. She will look carefully for the coin until she finds it.  And when she finds it, she will call her friends and neighbors and say to them, ‘Be happy with me because I have found the coin that I lost!’
What I find interesting is Jesus talks about things that have monetary value, the sheep, and the coin.  The last story there is no monetary value placed on the loss of a person.
The last story is different because no one goes looking for the lost son. It was the son who had to realize his condition. The son realized that he had been very foolish. He thought, ‘All my father’s hired workers have plenty of food. But here I am, almost dead because I have nothing to eat.  I will leave and go to my father. I will say to him: Father, I have sinned against God and have done wrong to you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But let me be like one of your hired workers.  The father was waiting for him, the father was watching for him, but he did not go searching for him, but when he returned home the father welcomes him with great joy.
God the Father is waiting for you to come to your right mind and realize that He is watching for your return and will welcome you with open arms of forgiveness, but you must return to the father’s house.
If you know you are not in the care and comfort of the Father's house, you can just confess your sin and go to the Father.
The last eight chapters of Ezekiel contain a description of the restored state as envisioned by the prophet.  Just as the LORD is willing to rebuild a city or temple, He is ready to restore individuals.  Repent and come to the LORD.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Faith Tried and Tested In The Fire

Several years ago, I read Foxes Book of Martyrs and was amazed at the suffering the faithful believers went through as a testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ.  Today I read from the Open Door and Voice of the Martyrs of the persecution of faithful believers today and I can only wonder why I have been so blessed by the LORD.  I have not been persecuted for being a Christian.  I have not lost family and friends my home or church have not been burned down and I live a fairly quite life. I may have some who disagree with me and even call me names but persecuted—No.
Do I want to be persecuted?  No. However, those who have given their life for the cause of Jesus Christ no doubt did not seek persecution or death, it came upon them because the devil hates the followers of Jesus Christ.  It matters not how persecution comes it is from the devil.  As Christians we have been warned the there would be tribulation in this life.  We will be tried and tested.  Our faith will be refined, and if we are faithful it will be as pure gold.  The question to myself is, will I stand fast when I am faced with what my brothers and sister in the Middle-East are faced with every day?  I believe the LORD gives the needed grace in time of need.  Again, my question will I stand fast when the time comes to give that ultimate testimony to the greatness of the LORD.  Do I believe it is coming to America?  Yes.  America has been blessed by the LORD, no doubt more so than any nation.  The LORD has been longsuffering and merciful to America and we have trampled His mercy and grace.  We have as a nation rejected His call to repent even though He has given us space to repent.  Those days are swiftly coming to an end when the mercy of the LORD will continue to be extended.
There is this common idea in America that the LORD is going to Rapture the Christians out of the trouble that is coming.  The question is why would He do this for the least spiritual people in the Christian faith?  We have been told that we will be tried and tested.  I would ask this question when has the American Christian been tried and tested?  When you read of the Christians written by John Foxe of the martyrs in the early days of Christianity or the Christians who have lost everything for the testimony of Jesus Christ today, how can we say we have been tried or tested and our faith has been proven?
Peter tells us of the great mercy God has shown toward us. It is through Jesus Christ that we receive the blessings from God for His children.  The blessings Peter is talking about are in heaven where they cannot be destroyed.  Peter writes about the power of God to protect us by our faith and that it will keep us safe until our salvation comes.  However, that salvation that is coming is at the end of time.  This is our hope in this life, but we must suffer through various kinds of trouble.  These   troubles are to test our faith and prove that our faith is pure.  Just as gold is proved to be pure by fire our faith will be proven to be pure and the results will be praise and honor when the LORD returns at His Second Coming.
The question asked by Jesus was when He returns will He find faith among those who call themselves Christians.  So, again the question, will I be able to stand fast amid persecution?  I don’t know about you, but I am concerned that the faith I have has not been tested like those of our brothers and sisters in countries where the message of Jesus Christ is against the law.  I am not look for persecution but when it comes will I remain faithful.  In my heart and mind I am saying YES, but at what cost.
It is important that we pray for those suffering persecutions around the world.  Someday, it will be the American Christian that needs prayer.  How is your faith?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Christ Through the Bible- Lamentations

Text: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC was, without doubt, the most significant event to transpire in the political and religious history of Israel since the Exodus from Egypt. Scarcely any room for doubt exists that it was this momentous event which, on the human side, precipitated the writing of the Book of Lamentations.  In retaliation against the rebellion of his vassal king Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar had laid siege of Jerusalem for eighteen long months. Lamentations describes in the most vivid manner the terrible suffering to which the Jews were subjected during the assault. When the city finally was captured the Chaldean king ordered it completely demolished. To see their sacred beloved city go up in flames was a shocking—even unconceivable—experience. In spite of the incessant preaching of the prophets who warned of this very thing, the Jews were totally unprepared for it. For over a hundred years since the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem in the days of King Hezekiah, the popular notion had been that Jerusalem was unbreakable and secure. Events had demonstrated the basic premise of their theology to be false. Added to the tremendous burden of their grief over what had occurred, their nation was feeling they had been utterly rejected by God. 

Lamentations is a sad book. The primary theme of the book is a lament over the terrible woes which have befallen sinful Judah and the destruction of the Holy and the Temple of God. The book consists of four laments (chs. 1-4) and one prayer (ch. 5) which were written in those distressing days following the capture and destruction of Jerusalem. As one reads the book, he can sense the depths of hopelessness into which the people had fallen. Jeremiah has attempted to capture the mood of the people. This was not difficult for him to do since he seems to have been personally involved in their suffering. For the most part, the poems contain descriptions of the plight of the people, their land, and their sacred city. Here and there are confessions of sin, declarations of repentance, and appeals for divine aid.  

1.  A Widowed City 1:1-22 

2.  A Broken People 2:1-22 

3.  A Suffering Prophet 3:1-66 

4.  A Ruined Kingdom 4:1-22

 5.  A Penitent Nation 5:1-22  

Lamentations is written entirely in poetic form. Hebrew poetry, as a rule, does not involve rhyme but instead is a poetry of thought. The second and third lines of each verse will repeat the thought of the first line in different words or develop further the thought of the first line or negate the thought of the first line. The four laments in the Book of Lamentations are in the form of alphabetic acrostics in which the author begins each verse with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapters 1, 2 and 4 have twenty-two verses one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Chapter 3 contains sixty-six verses since three verses are assigned to each Hebrew letter.

Lamentations is read in Jewish synagogues on the ninth of the month of Ab (which falls at the end of July or early August), a fast day which commemorates the destruction of the Temple.

We can see a picture of the Lord Jesus in the suffering of Jeremiah, and the people who rejected and persecuted the prophet portray the religious leaders of Israel who rejected their Messiah. Think forward some 600 years from Jeremiah's day into the future. If the feelings of Jeremiah, as expressed in chapter 3, are feelings common to every man, then what must have been the feelings of the Son of God! Read again Christ's words of lament for Jerusalem.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed, is He that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Mat 23:37-39)

The Lord Jesus expressed the intensity of His suffering in the words spoken in Gethsemane [Mat 26:36-45]. They serve to reinforce the fact that His holy nature must have recoiled at the thought of bearing the sins of the world, and of dying at the hands of God's chosen race.

The name ''LORD'' used in Lamentations, is the name ''Jehovah.'' This name designates the covenant-keeping God, the God of redemption, and reflects the Lord Jesus Christ.

Although the lamentations of Jeremiah are directed toward the people of Jerusalem, the fundamental principles of the Bible, expressing both God's hatred for sin and His desire to see the sinner repent are also in view.

The word ''sin'' literally means, ''missing the mark.'' How vividly this is seen in the history of Israel, for no other nation has been so favored as that people! God delivered them by blood and by power from Egypt, brought them across the Red Sea on dry land, fed them for 40 years in the wilderness, and miraculously kept their clothes from wearing out and their sandals from becoming thin. With Joshua in command, they defeated the nations of Canaan. Their capital city, Jerusalem, was blessed by God. Their temple, and particularly the Holy of holies, became the dwelling place of God.

The glory of God filled the place.  Yet, Lamentations begins: ''How doth the city sit lonely, that was full of people; how is she become a widow! She that was great among the nations, a princess among the provinces; how is she become a vassal!'' (Lam 1:1). Why was this? The people had ''missed the mark.'' God had asked them to follow Him and to keep His statutes so that other nations might have the knowledge of the one true God. But Israel had failed and now was suffering the fruit of her sin.

Sin and its results cannot be disassociated; labor that is rendered must receive proper payment. If something is earned, it is unjust to hold back the wages. The condemned sinner can never accuse God of injustice. In Lamentations 1:18 the principle is stated: ''The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against His commandment.''  Paul writes in Roman, “the wages of sin is death.”

This law is absolute; it will never be changed. Chapter 2 of Lamentations makes no mention of Nebuchadnezzar nor the armies of Babylon [that destroyed Jerusalem and carried its people away as captives]. Why? Because Israel realized that the law of God was at work. The New Testament states it this way: ''Whatever a man soweth, that shall he also reap'' (Galatians 6:7).

You will find it an interesting to count the number of times the words ''He hath'' are used in chapter 2. God was executing His righteousness by paying the people of Israel the wages they had earned because of their sin.

Lamentations 3 presents another consequence of sin, the suffering of the innocent. Though the prophet delivered God's truth, he was hated, hunted and hounded. He suffered the most. The greater the innocence, the greater the suffering.

Chapter 5 of Lamentations is a prayer. It is a prayer of confession (v.1,7,16), and it is a prayer of hope (v.19). Note what that hope is founded upon: the eternal, never-changing God, the Redeemer. Then too, it is a prayer for future blessing (v.21).

We are reminded of that dark day pictured in John 6. Our Lord had begun to speak of His death and had indicated that the only approach to God the Father was through Him. At the mention of His impending death, the crowds that had followed Him for the loaves and the fish ''went back and walked no more with Him'' (John 6:66). To the handful of disciples that remained, the Lord Jesus posed this searching question: ''Will ye also go away?'' (John 6:67). The response of Simon Peter was filled with the language of faith as he replied, ''Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God'' (John 6:68,69).

In Jeremiah's day, the prospects were bleak for Jerusalem and the nation of Israel, and the prophet mourned the predicted judgment upon their sin. Even so, he knew that restoration, return, and blessing could be found only in the LORD, the Redeemer. Likewise, the sinner, no matter how gravely he may have transgressed, how vile his past, how extensive his iniquity, can find cleansing, new life, and future hope in one person-- Jesus Christ. The Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Lord Jesus of the New. The tears of sorrow and suffering are wiped away by the One who cleanses and forgives all who come in faith to Him. [ Isaiah 53:4,5]

There are some lessons that should be learned for this book.

Lamentations should serve as a wakeup call for America Christians. The message of the LORD’s judgment on His chosen people should warn us of the impending doom facing America if we fail to repent. God’s longsuffering patience for a nation is limited.  God patiently gave Judah a space to repent and that patience finally giving way to His attribute of justice, and Judah received due recompense. 

It is not the evil of the non-believer that brings about judgment on a nation.  It is the sins of those who call themselves Christian, followers of the LORD, that will bring judgment. What believers sow in terms of obedience to God in a secular nation largely determines what that nation will reap. Again, this is the guiding light of 2Chronicles 7:14. It informs us that God holds believers responsible. In the NT, this same idea is underscored in a non-theocratic context, 1Peter 4:17 states,

 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?

 Jeremiah 22:21 informs us that Judah was a materially prosperous nation like America – but the prosperity served to buffer God’s intended impact of His messenger and His message.

Such is the case today in a vast number of American churches: Most everyone is just playing church, going through the motions. Why? Because in our materialistic prosperity there are very few in desperate need of God as their only solution!  Few cries out to Him from physical and/or spiritual poverty! Few are America’s believers who have any needs today (that is revealed by the majority of prayer requests which are dominated by medically related needs). In the Book of Revelation, the Church of Laodicea serves as a replica of today’s American church.  Rev. 3:14-17  

The Church of Laodicea and the Church of America are parallels to ancient Judah, such similarities in attitude and condition in our country exist for God to rock our nation.  The blood of the innocent cries out for justice.  Our nation has carried out the exploitation of the most indefensible of all individuals – the unborn!  Such terrible, continued practices of exploiting the innocent child – coupled with the callousness of “Christian” political leaders and judges who do little about it will evoke the fury of The Almighty! How can the LORD not bring judgment on a nation who continues the practice of shedding innocent blood?  Jeremiah 22:3 and 22:17 speaks respectively in this regard-

Thus saith the Lord; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.

But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it.

The Book of Lamentations can be applied to America and should be understood as a warning and motivation for those who are His chosen in our nation. 1Peter 4:17 underscore the principle of God’s chosen ones being the guiding force by which God determines to bless or else curse an entire nation! Again, take careful note as believers go, so goes the nation.

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God.

The American Christian needs to wake-up if God is not afraid to judge His own people in the Old Testament, then He is not afraid of judging His people in the New Testament – and the nation(s) wherein they reside. Deuteronomy 32:21-22 states regarding God’s “sinning Christians.

They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. 22 For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

American Christians have been blinded by the teaching that the judgment of God will be in the future and that the Christians will be removed from what happens to this nation.  Here is a thought that should give this teaching of escaping judgment some consideration.

God’s uses surrogates to enact His judgment. It is interesting how this theme is illustrated in the Book of Jeremiah, versus the Book of Lamentations. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon brought about the destructive calamity that was a result from the sin of God’s people.  The Book of Jeremiah mentions Babylon at least 150 times.  In Lamentations, however, Babylon is never mentioned – only the Lord is specified as the one who will deal with Judah’s sin. The conclusion is that Babylon is the surrogate instrument of the LORD to achieve His ultimate purposes. Note this by comparing Jeremiah 50:23 to Lamentations 2:1

How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!

 How hath the Lord covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud in his anger, and cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and remembered not his footstool in the day of his anger!

This insight more than suggests that God uses other individuals and other nations (whom He dislikes too!) in order to invoke His wrath. It is well within the scope of the LORD judgment to use America’s most detested enemies to manifest His judgment on our nation.  Could the jihadist be the instrument of the LORD’s judgment on America and the other nations that have forsaken the LORD? 

That is the application of this surrogate principle; it is often His way of accomplishing shame, total humility, and repentance. Likened to Babylon ransacking Jerusalem, such godly actions bring the greatest disgrace – embarrassment that is both warranted and intended from and by the LORD for our good.

Jeremiah is giving us a warning that we should heed.  Christ is standing at the door of the American Church today knocking, asking to come in.  Will we heed the advice of Jeremiah and open the door and repent?