Tag Archives: Society

Pandemic – Poem by Titilope Sonuga

It is this deep, dark, empty thing
caught between chest and throat
begging lips for relief in words.
The noise of 2 million heavy sighs

Our mother is dying
the one who bore us all
she lays in squalor and
we all pretend we never heard her fall

It is the regret of unsaid farewells
It is tongues caught mid-sentence
Quick whispered goodbyes
Tears frozen in eyes, too young still
quiet prayer, cast up in desperation

This steady rumble
commands our attention,
calls us from our apathy
Sudan, Uganda, Kenya,
Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia,
Nigeria

Our mother is dying
the one who held us in her green and red and gold

It is motherless children
Cries un-soothed
Bottomless grief
It is stolen childhood
interrupted hop-scotch, freeze tag, hide and seek
cold and bleak

It is broken promises
Naïve trust
Gross mis-education

It is dreams unfulfilled
Stories left unfinished
Hope snatched from weary hands
Eyes deep with despair

This is not, sit and wait
Maybe later
This is not, so far away
Maybe some other day
It is today, it is today

Titilope Sonuga

Hand Washing to limit the spread of COVID-19

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

My fellow beings. I come before you with a heavy heart. Our world is currently embroiled in a deadly battle against an enemy that takes no prisoners. An enemy that has no emotions, no sympathy for human life, serves the social function of designating a particular entity as a threat, thereby invoking an intense emotional response to that entity. An enemy that may also be conceptual; used to describe impersonal phenomena such as a disease, as the object of social anger or repulsion.

The enemy in this case is the Coronavirus. The new virus causes a disease called COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, the year it was discovered. The coronavirus is a respiratory virus first reported in China in December 2019. The illness has since spread around the globe, and the World Health Organization has characterized it as a pandemic. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a range of symptoms including a runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever and hard to breathe. Some are mild, such as the common cold, while others are more likely to lead to pneumonia. They’re usually spread through direct contact with an infected person.

Coronavirus

The coronavirus gets its name from the crown-like spikes on its surface, according to the CDC. (Corona is Latin for crown.) Including the newly identified form of the virus, there are a total of seven coronaviruses that can infect humans, the CDC says. Other well-known coronaviruses include SARS and MERS.

Various outbreaks of pandemic diseases, such as Ebola or the coronavirus, have prompted many to ask why God allows—or even causes—pandemic diseases and whether such illnesses are a sign of the end times. The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, describes numerous occasions when God brought plagues and diseases on His people and on His enemies, 14 for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you My power, so that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth. (Exodus 9:1416). He used plagues on Egypt to force Pharaoh to free the Israelites from bondage, while sparing His people from being affected by them (Exodus 12:1315:26), thus indicating His sovereign control over diseases and other afflictions.

Exodus 12:13 The New King James Version (NKJV)

13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

Exodus 15:26 The New King James Version (NKJV)

26 and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

God also warned His people of the consequences of disobedience, including plagues, 21 ‘Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins.” “25 And I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of the covenant; when you are gathered together within your cities I will send pestilence among you; and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. (Leviticus 26:2125). On two occasions, God destroyed 14,700 people and 24,000 people for various acts of disobedience, 49 Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand. (Numbers 16:49 and 25:9). After giving the Mosaic Law, God commanded the people to obey it or suffer many evils, including something that sounds like Ebola: 22 The Lord will strike you with consumption, with fever, with inflammation, with severe burning fever, with the sword, with scorching, 7 and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish. (Deuteronomy 28:22). These are just a few examples of many plagues and diseases God caused.

It’s sometimes hard to imagine our loving and merciful God displaying such wrath and anger toward His people. But God’s punishments always have the goal of repentance and restoration. In 2 Chronicles 7:13–14, God said to Solomon, 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Here we see God using disaster to draw His people to Himself, to bring about repentance and the desire to come to Him as children to their heavenly Father.

Coronavirus (4)In the New Testament, Jesus healed “every disease and every sickness, as well as plagues in the areas He visited, 35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” “10 And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. (Matthew 9:3510:1Mark 3:10) 10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. Just as God chose to use plagues and disease to show His power to the Israelites, Jesus healed as an exhibition of the same power to verify that He was truly the Son of God. He gave the same healing power to the disciples to verify their ministry, 9 Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.(Luke 9:1).

Matthew 10:1-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Twelve Apostles

10 And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and [a]Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the [b]Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.

Sending Out the Twelve

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven [c]is at hand.’ Heal the sick, [d]cleanse the lepers, [e]raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, 10 nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.

11 “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. 12 And when you go into a household, greet it. 13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.

Footnotes:

a. Matthew 10:3 NU omits Lebbaeus, whose surname was

b. Matthew 10:4 NU Cananaean

c. Matthew 10:7 has drawn near

d. Matthew 10:8 NU raise the dead, cleanse the lepers

e. Matthew 10:8 M omits raise the dead

Matthew 14:1-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

John the Baptist Beheaded

14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Because John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.

So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”

And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. 10 So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus.

Feeding the Five Thousand

13 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

Mark 6:7-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

Sending Out the Twelve

And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.

10 Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. 11 And [a]whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. [b]Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!”

12 So they went out and preached that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.

John the Baptist Beheaded

14 Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.”

15 Others said, “It is Elijah.”

And others said, “It is [c]the Prophet, or like one of the prophets.”

16 But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!”

Footnotes:

a. Mark 6:11 NU whatever place

b. Mark 6:11 NU omits the rest of v. 11.

c. Mark 6:15 NU, M a prophet, like one

Mark 6:30-34 New King James Version (NKJV)

Feeding the Five Thousand

30 Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. 32 So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.

33 But [a]the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. 34 And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.

Footnotes:

a. Mark 6:33 NU, M they

God still allows sickness for His own purposes, but sometimes disease, even worldwide pandemics, are simply the result of living in a fallen world. There is no way to determine whether or not a pandemic has a specific spiritual cause, but we do know that God has sovereign control over all things, 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36) and will work all things together for the good of those who know and love Him 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).

Coronavirus (3)

The spread of sicknesses such as Ebola and the coronavirus is a foretaste of pandemics that will be part of the end times. Jesus referred to future plagues associated with the last days, 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. (Luke 21:11). The two witnesses of Revelation 11 will have power “to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want” (Revelation 11:6). Seven angels will wield seven plagues in a series of final, severe judgments described in Revelation 16.

Revelation 11 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Two Witnesses

11 Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. [a]And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”

These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands standing before the [b]God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

The Witnesses Killed

When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also [c]our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations [d]will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. 10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

The Witnesses Resurrected

11 Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 And [e]they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. 13 In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14 The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.

Seventh Trumpet: The Kingdom Proclaimed

15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The [f]kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying:

“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was [g]and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
18 The nations were angry, and Your [h]wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”

19 Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of [i]His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

Footnotes:

a. Revelation 11:1 NU, M omit And the angel stood

b. Revelation 11:4 NU, M Lord

c. Revelation 11:8 NU, M their

d. Revelation 11:9 NU, M see . . . and will not allow

e. Revelation 11:12 I

f. Revelation 11:15 NU, M kingdom . . . has become the kingdom

g. Revelation 11:17 NU, M omit and who is to come

h. Revelation 11:18 anger

i. Revelation 11:19 the covenant of the Lord

Revelation 16 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Seven Bowls

16 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the [a]bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”

First Bowl: Loathsome Sores

So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a [b]foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.

Second Bowl: The Sea Turns to Blood

Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.

Third Bowl: The Waters Turn to Blood

Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying:

“You are righteous, [c]O Lord,
The One who is and who [d]was and who is to be,
Because You have judged these things.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
And You have given them blood to drink.
[e]For it is their just due.”

And I heard [f]another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”

Fourth Bowl: Men Are Scorched

Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.

Fifth Bowl: Darkness and Pain

10 Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. 11 They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.

Sixth Bowl: Euphrates Dried Up

12 Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings [g]of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”

16 And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, [h]Armageddon.

Seventh Bowl: The Earth Utterly Shaken

17 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. 19 Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nation’s fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. 20 Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21 And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.

Footnotes:

a. Revelation 16:1 NU, M seven bowls

b. Revelation 16:2 severe and malignant, bad and evil

c. Revelation 16:5 NU, M omit O Lord

d. Revelation 16:5 NU, M was, the Holy One

e. Revelation 16:6 NU, M omit For

f. Revelation 16:7 NU, M omit another from

g. Revelation 16:14 NU, M omit of the earth and

h. Revelation 16:16 Mount Megiddo; M Megiddo

The appearance of pandemic diseases may or may not be tied to God’s specific judgment of sin. It could also simply be the result of living in a fallen world. Since no one knows the time of Jesus’ return, we must be careful about saying global pandemics are proof that we are living in the end times. For those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, disease should be a reminder that life on this earth is tenuous and can be lost at any moment. As bad as pandemics are, hell will be worse. The Christian, however, has the assurance of salvation and the hope of eternity because of the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us (Isaiah 53:52 Corinthians 5:21Hebrews 9:28).

          Isaiah 53:5 New King James Version (NKJV)

But He was wounded[a] for our transgressions,
He was [b]bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes[c] we are healed.

Footnotes:

a. Isaiah 53:5 Or pierced through

b. Isaiah 53:5 crushed

c. Isaiah 53:5 Blows that cut in

2 Corinthians 5:21 New King James Version (NKJV)

21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Hebrews 9:28 New King James Version (NKJV)

28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

How should Christians respond to pandemic diseases? First, do not panic. God is in control. The Bible says the equivalent of “do not fear” over 300 times. Second, be wise. Take reasonable steps to avoid exposure to the disease and to protect and provide for your family. Third, look for opportunities for ministry. Often when people are fearful for their lives, they are more willing to have conversations about eternity. Be bold and compassionate in your sharing of the Gospel, always speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Ephesians 4:11-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the [a]edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Footnotes:

a. Ephesians 4:12 building up

____________________________________________________________________________

The Bible’s commands to “fear not” are plentiful and occur in a variety of contexts. As God’s people, we are not to be fearful. We have no reason to live in fear.

The Bible often says things like, “Do not fear, “Do not be afraid, and “Fear not. Of course, these commands do not contradict the command to “fear God” (1 Peter 2:17); 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. The fear of God keeps us from sin; the fear of man leads to sin, and that is what we are to avoid: 25 The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. (Proverbs 29:25, NKJV). Also, the biblical command do not fear does not negate the need for prudence and caution in this world. We are not to be cavalier but prayerful in the face of danger.

The fear that the Bible tells us to avoid is concern mixed with anxiety or dread; it is the feeling of alarm we have when we expect trouble or danger. Followers of Christ are not to live in a state of anxiety. We have higher expectations than simply anticipating trouble. In fact, we have the means to rise above fear: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7).

God’s command to “fear not” is applied in several ways in the Bible. For example, the fear of what other people think should never prevent us from obeying the Lord (see 1 Samuel 15:24John 9:22). We should not fear lacking provision in this world (Luke 12:6–7). We are not to fear the plans of the wicked, even when they rise to power (Psalm 37:1–29–1735–38).

          1 Samuel 15:24 New King James Version (NKJV)

24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.

John 9:22 New King James Version (NKJV)

22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue.

Luke 12:6-7 New King James Version (NKJV)

“Are not five sparrows sold for two [a]copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Footnotes:

a. Luke 12:6 Gr. assarion, a coin worth about 1⁄16 of a denarius

Psalm 37:1-2 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Heritage of the Righteous and the Calamity of the Wicked

A Psalm of David.

37      Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
2            For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.

Psalm 37:9-17 New King James Version (NKJV)

For evildoers shall be [a]cut off;
But those who wait on the Lord,
They shall inherit the earth.
10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more.
11 But the meek shall inherit the earth,
And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

12 The wicked plots against the just,
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
13 The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees that his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn the sword
And have bent their bow,
To cast down the poor and needy,
To slay those who are of upright conduct.
15 Their sword shall enter their own heart,
And their bows shall be broken.

16 A little that a righteous man has
Is better than the riches of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
But the Lord upholds the righteous.

Footnotes:

a. Psalm 37:9 destroyed

Psalm 37:35-38 New King James Version (NKJV)

35 I have seen the wicked in great power,
And spreading himself like a native green tree.
36 Yet [a]he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright;
For the future of that man is peace.
38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together;
The future of the wicked shall be cut off.

Footnotes:

a. Psalm 37:36 So with MT, LXX, Tg.; Syr., Vg. I passed by

When the Bible tells us, “Do not fear, it means we are not to allow anxiety or fretfulness to rule our lives or take root in our hearts. We are not to be people of panic. We are to be people of faith.

Having been justified by God, we need not fear divine condemnation, There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1). Having been chosen by God, we need not fear His rejection (Ephesians 1:4–6Luke 12:32Jude 1:24).

Ephesians 1:4-6 New King James Version (NKJV)

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He [a]made us accepted in the Beloved.

Footnotes:

a. Ephesians 1:6 bestowed grace (favor) upon us

Luke 12:32 New King James Version (NKJV)

32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Jude 24 New King James Version (NKJV)

Glory to God

24 Now to Him who is able to keep [a]you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,

Footnotes:

a. Jude 1:24 them

With Christ as our Shepherd, we need not fear the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). With the Maker of heaven and earth watching over us, we need not fear anything (Psalm 121).

          Psalm 23:4 New King James Version (NKJV)

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 121 New King James Version (NKJV)

God the Help of Those Who Seek Him

A Song of Ascents.

121 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to [a]be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your [b]keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall [c]preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve[d] your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

Footnotes:

a. Psalm 121:3 slip

b. Psalm 121:5 protector

c. Psalm 121:7 keep

d. Psalm 121:8 keep

Psalm 91 speaks of the one who 91 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” (verses 1–2). Those who trust in God can live fearlessly: You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.” (verses 5–7). There is a direct correlation between faith and the confidence to face the dangers of life: Because you have made the Lordwho is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;” (verses 9–10). We rest in God’s promise: 14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.” (verses 14–15).

Christianity and the American Constitution

Until well into my life-time, the overwhelming majority of Americans believed that the United States was a Christian nation. In believing that, they did not desire the persecution of other religions, nor did they want to see people forced to become Christians, nor did they believe that one Christian denomination should be favored at the expense of others. They rejected the concept of one Christian denomination functioning as an established national Church, as the Churches of England and Scotland still do today in Great Britain.

But Americans overwhelmingly believed that Christian ideas and principles should receive favorable treatment and that its understanding of Moral Law should undergird the laws of the United States and the individual states. When other people’s religious practices came into conflict with Moral Law, Moral Law, not the practices of other religions, was always supreme. People were free to believe as they saw fit, but they could not practice their beliefs when those practices ran contrary to morality; they had to live by the Christian based laws of the United States. This can readily be seen through the decisions of the United States Supreme Court. As one example of how this has been worked out, one may note Davis v. Beason cited below, where Mormons were forbidden to practice polygamy, an early tenet of their faith, because it was contrary to Moral Law as understood by historic Christianity.

Two parts of the Constitution are often cited as evidence against this historic understanding of the role of Christianity in American public life:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The Constitution of the United States of America, Article 6

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Constitution of the United States of America, The Bill of Rights, Amendment I

Yet this same Constitution reflects a Christian understanding of morality:

“If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.”

The Constitution of the United States of America, Article 1, Section 7

The Historical Understanding of Christianity and the Constitution

“Probably at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the First Amendment to it . . . the general if not the universal sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state so far as was not incompatible with the private religious rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation . . . .The real object of the amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance, Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”

[Justice Joseph Story (who served on the Supreme Court from 1811-1845) Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 2 Vol. 2:593-95, 2nd Ed. Boston: Little Brown (1905)]

Justice Story’s understanding reflects the thinking of the framers of the Constitution, who expressed unbridled faith in God in the Declaration of Independence:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles them . . .

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . .

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” (emphases mine.)

Such an understanding of the foundation of the American law was still reflected in the decisions of the United States Supreme Court just over one hundred years ago. Justice Josiah Brewer wrote on February 29, 1892, “Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian.” [Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457-458, 465-471, 36 L ed 226. (1892).]

A distinctively Christian view of the law is also reflected in Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333 (1890):

“Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries. They are crimes by the laws of the United States, and they are crimes by the laws of Idaho . . . It was never intended or supposed that the (First) amendment could be invoked as a protection against legislation for the punishment of acts inimical to the peace, good order, and morals of society. With man’s relations to his Maker and the obligations he may think they impose, and the manner in which an expression shall be made by him of his belief on those subjects, no interference can be permitted, provided always the laws of society, designed to secure its peace and prosperity, and the morals of its people, are not interfered with. However free the exercise of religion may [133 U.S. 333, 343] be, it must be subordinate to the criminal laws of the country, passed with reference to actions regarded by general consent as properly the subjects of punitive legislation. There have been sects which denied as a part of their religious tenets that there should be any marriage tie, and advocated promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, as prompted by the passions of its members. And history discloses the fact that the necessity of human sacrifices, on special occasions, has been a tenet of many sects. Should a sect of either of these kinds ever find its way into this country, swift punishment would follow the carrying into effect of its doctrines, and no heed would be given to the pretense that, as religious beliefs, their supporters could be protected in their exercise by the constitution of the United States. Probably never before in the history of this country has it been seriously contended that the whole punitive power of the government for acts, recognized by the general consent of the Christian world in modern times as proper matters for prohibitory legislation, must be suspended in order that the tenets of a religious sect encouraging crime may be carried out without hindrance.” (emphasis mine.)

The Constitution and Blue Laws

What does the reference to Sunday in Article I, Section 7 above [“If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) . . .”] constitute? It reflects the thinking that underlies what are commonly called “Blue Laws” and demonstrates that the framers of the Constitution did not have a non-theistic, abstract concept of law. The federal courts, in striking down state laws about Sunday, have done so recognizing that these laws reflect a commitment to a Christian understanding of the Ten Commandments:

“The parentage of these laws is the Fourth Commandment; and they serve and satisfy the religious predispositions of our Christian communities.” (The Supreme Court’s 1961 ruling on four separate cases, challenging Sunday closing laws: McGowan v. Maryland; Two Guys from Harrison-Allentown v. McGinley; Braunfeld v. Brown; and Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Supermarket) Article I, Section 7 demonstrates that the Moral Law of God, as understood by the followers of the Christian faith, is the foundation of our Civil Laws.

Religious Tests

While the framers of the Constitution were absolutely opposed to a national, established Church, they understood that in order for people’s words to be believed in court, they had to believe in God and future rewards and punishments in the world to come. At the time of the ratification of the federal constitution, most states had constitutionally defined, basic sets of beliefs that were necessary to be held by those who took oaths or held office. These were not seen to be in violation of the national constitution. As but one example, a person may note Article I of the Constitution of Pennsylvania, written in its original form by Benjamin Franklin and others:

“Religious Freedom

“Section 3. All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship.

“Religion

“Section 4. No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.” (emphasis mine.)

In early America the very understanding of the word “oath” meant that the person taking it believed in God.

Oath: “A solemn affirmation or declaration, made with an appeal to God for the truth of what is affirmed. The appeal to God in an oath, implies that the person imprecates his vengeance and renounces his favor if the declaration is false, or if the declaration is a promise, the person invokes the vengeance of God if he should fail to fulfill it. A false oath is called perjury.”

Webster’s Dictionary (1828)

This understanding is reflected in how “Article 6” was explained in the ratifying conventions. For example, one may consider the words of James Iredell at North Carolina’s ratifying convention:

e North Carolina State Ratifying Convention                                                                             Wednesday, July 30, 1788

‘According to the modern definition of an oath, it is considered a “solemn appeal to the Supreme Being, for the truth of what is said, by a person who believes in the existence of a Supreme Being and in a future state of rewards and punishments, according to that form which will bind his conscience most.” It was long held that no oath could be administered but upon the New Testament, except to a Jew, who was allowed to swear upon the Old. According to this notion, none but Jews and Christians could take an oath; and heathens were altogether excluded. At length, by the operation of principles of toleration, these narrow notions were done away. Men at length considered that there were many virtuous men in the world who had not had an opportunity of being instructed either in the Old or New Testament, who yet very sincerely believed in a Supreme Being, and in a future state of rewards and punishments . . . (Mr. Iredell describes a British court case involving a man from India who was neither a Christian nor a Jew and then concluded.) It appeared that, according to the tenets of this religion, its members believed in a Supreme Being, and in a future state of rewards and punishments. It was accordingly held by the judges, upon great consideration, that the oath ought to be received; they considering that it was probable those of that religion were equally bound in conscience by an oath according to their form of swearing, as they themselves were by one of theirs; and that it would be a reproach to the justice of the country, if a man, merely because he was of a different religion from their own, should be denied redress of an injury he had sustained. Ever since this great case, it has been universally considered that, in administering an oath, it is only necessary to inquire if the person who is to take it, believes in a Supreme Being, and in a future state of rewards and punishments. If he does, the oath is to be administered according to that form which it is supposed will bind his conscience most. It is, however, necessary that such a belief should be entertained, because otherwise there would be nothing to bind his conscience that could be relied on; since there are many cases where the terror of punishment in this world for perjury could not be dreaded.’ (emphases mine.)

[Elliot, Jonathan, ed. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. . . . 5 vols. 2d ed. 1888. Reprint. New York: Burt Franklin, n.d., Volume 5, Amendment I (Religion), Document 52.]

 The Establishment Clause

Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to a group of Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut states that the purpose of the First Amendment was to build “a wall of separation between church and state.” Yet what President Jefferson meant by this wall is patently obvious from the weight of historical evidence cited above: namely, that this did not mean that there could be no point of contact between church and state. Civil governments have all kinds of laws that churches must obey: building codes, fire safety codes and zoning ordinances. None of these violate the liberty of churches to worship God according to their own liberty of conscience. Furthermore, there are times when the members of ecclesiastical bodies are simply unable to decide issues without submitting to the judgment of civil courts. A prime example of this would be contentions over the ownership of the church’s property.

____________________________________________________________________________

Jefferson’s Wall of Separation Letter

Thomas Jefferson was a man of deep religious conviction — his conviction was that religion was a very personal matter, one which the government had no business getting involved in. He was vilified by his political opponents for his role in the passage of the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and for his criticism of such biblical events as the Great Flood and the theological age of the Earth. As president, he discontinued the practice started by his predecessors George Washington and John Adams of proclaiming days of fasting and thanksgiving. He was a staunch believer in the separation of church and state.

Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 to answer a letter from them written in October 1801. A copy of the Danbury letter is available here. The Danbury Baptists were a religious minority in Connecticut, and they complained that in their state, the religious liberties they enjoyed were not seen as immutable rights, but as privileges granted by the legislature — as “favors granted.” Jefferson’s reply did not address their concerns about problems with state establishment of religion — only of establishment on the national level. The letter contains the phrase “wall of separation between church and state,” which led to the short-hand for the Establishment Clause that we use today: “Separation of church and state.”

The letter was the subject of intense scrutiny by Jefferson, and he consulted a couple of New England politicians to assure that his words would not offend while still conveying his message: it was not the place of the Congress or the Executive to do anything that might be misconstrued as the establishment of religion.

Note: The bracketed section in the second paragraph had been blocked off for deletion in the final draft of the letter sent to the Danbury Baptists, though it was not actually deleted in Jefferson’s draft of the letter. It is included here for completeness. Reflecting upon his knowledge that the letter was far from a mere personal correspondence, Jefferson deleted the block, he noted in the margin, to avoid offending members of his party in the eastern states.

This is a transcript of the final letter as stored online at the Library of Congress:

Mr. President

To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

Gentlemen

The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from prescribing even those occasional performances of devotion, practiced indeed by the Executive of another nation as the legal head of its church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation on behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association assurances of my high respect & esteem.

(signed)Thomas Jefferson
Jan.1.1802.

Thomas Jefferson’s phrase in 1802 must be understood in light of what he said in his “Second Inaugural Address,” in 1805:

“In matters of religion I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the General Government. I have therefore undertaken on no occasion to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it, but have left them, as the Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of the church or state authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies.”

Snippets of Thomas Jefferson’s “First Inaugural Address,” in 1801

“ . . . the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected.”

“And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.”

____________________________________________________________________________

Christian people are free to influence legislation that is in keeping with the moral principles of Christianity, and Christian parents are duty bound to see to it that their children are educated in light of Christian principles and morality. A godless educational system is a dreadful curse to American society, the very idea of which would have been abjured by the founders of our nation.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 New King James Version (NKJV)

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

 

Bob Vincent

Simply Sharing Jesus

Before He ascended to Heaven, Jesus gave His followers a basic command for what to do next. These words have served as “marching orders” for generations of Christians: 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19–20 NKJV).

Many of us have taken these simple instructions, known as the Great Commission, and overcomplicated them. We’ve made sharing our faith an intimidating and daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be.

Whether you regularly share your faith with others or have always found reasons not to, this course is designed to get back to basics and ultimately help you simply share Jesus.

LAYING the GROUNDWORK

Maybe you’re afraid to share your faith because you don’t know what to say. Or maybe you’re sharing the Gospel, but you aren’t seeing any results; people aren’t committing their lives to Christ. Are you wondering if you’re doing something wrong?

Know your role

Remember this: You can’t open someone’s heart to the Gospel—only God can, by His Spirit. Our job isn’t to save people. It’s simply to point them to the Truth and let God do the rest.

The Apostle Paul wasn’t eloquent, but God used him because he depended on the Holy Spirit for guidance (see 1 Corinthians 2:1–5). God guided many others in the Bible who felt unqualified, like Moses and Jonah. Often, God does not call the equipped; He equips the called. As Christians, we are all called to share what Christ has done for us. The Great Commission makes that clear. The good news is that we don’t go into it alone. We have this encouragement from Jesus: 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11–12 English Standard Version (ESV)).

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 New King James Version (NKJV)

Christ Crucified

2 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the [a]testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of [b]human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Footnotes:

    1. 1 Corinthians 2:1 NU mystery
    2. 1 Corinthians 2:4 NU omits human

Know your opportunity

So who should you share this message of hope with? God has placed you in a unique position—your very own mission field! Have you ever heard the expression “Bloom where you’re planted”? That’s what God wants us to do with the Gospel—make the most of our circumstances and reflect His love to everyone around us. You don’t have to be a pastor or missionary to tell people about Jesus, either; just think of all the people around you in need of hope.

Keep your eyes open for people you can talk to and listen for ways you can connect the conversation to Christ. Catch up with a family member by phone or text. Use social media to encourage a friend. Let a co-worker know you are praying for him or her. Take dinner to a neighbor in need. Ask a cashier how his or her day is going and really listen. Be intentional about forming relationships with people around you.

Know your audience

As you share with people, remember who you’re talking to and use language they will understand. The words and phrases you often hear in church might seem like a foreign language to a non-Christian. Avoid clichés and stick with phrases you can explain using Bible verses. Try to keep it simple.

Your friends or loved ones may not tell you they don’t understand, so look for visual clues that say they’re confused. Feel free to ask if they understand what you’re saying.

WHAT do I DO?

Live a godly life.

The Bible teaches that we should “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” (1 Peter 3:15 NKJV). People seldom come to faith in Christ through arguments and debates. Instead, they are often won by discovering who Jesus Christ really is and the difference He can make in their lives.

One of the best ways to share your faith and point others to Jesus is to live a godly life. Show those close to you that you care—spend time with them, help meet their needs, and offer to listen when they have problems. You might not be able to answer all of their questions, but they can’t deny the reality of what Christ has done in your life. If you find this is hard to do, perhaps God is speaking to you about your own need to walk more closely with Him every day.

Also, make a habit of reading the Bible, praying, and going to church. These things should be done not for attention or for the sake of doing them, but to help you grow in your own faith. Your passion for Christ will help others see that there’s something different about you, and they’ll want to know what it is. You can also reflect Christ through kind words, patience, a gentle temperament, love, and respect. You can be evidence of God’s love to those around you.

Pray for open hearts and open doors.

The most important part of sharing your faith is to pray for those you interact with. If you can’t think of anyone who isn’t a Christian, pray for God to place someone in your life who needs Him. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. As Billy Graham once said, “Prayer is crucial in evangelism: … No matter how logical our arguments or how fervent our appeals, our words will accomplish nothing unless God’s Spirit prepares the way.” Pray for the opportunity to share, the words to speak, and open hearts for those who hear.

Speak.

Living a godly life is essential for sharing our faith. But people need to hear the Gospel—to hear that God loves them, Christ died for them, and they can have eternal life.

Romans 10:13-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Israel Rejects the Gospel

14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

When you share the Gospel, be ready to also share true stories of God’s power in your own life. No matter how ordinary your life may seem, you have a story to tell, and you never know what it can mean to someone until you share it. Jesus often talked in parables so people could better grasp God’s plans, instructions, and power. In the same way, you can use personal experiences and stories to relate to others and tell them about Christ.

Keep in mind that you may only have a few minutes. Try writing down your story—and focus on a few key points. Then practice telling it so it comes naturally. These questions may help you narrow telling it so it comes naturally. These questions may help you narrow your story down to three minutes or so:

• What was life like before you accepted Christ?

• How did you receive Christ?

What did you hear? How did you respond? Why did you choose to put your trust in Christ? Try to mention a Bible verse or two but be careful not to overwhelm your listener.

• How has life changed since you accepted Christ?

It’s OK if you stumbled or struggled in the past; in fact, your walk with Christ won’t be free from setbacks until you see Him face-to-face in heaven. The important thing is to be honest and relatable. Scripture is filled with stories of God’s people who stumbled along the way, and He still used them in powerful ways.

The GOSPEL in 4 SIMPLE STEPS

The Gospel itself isn’t complicated. When you are explaining the facts, it may help to draw it on paper for your friend. On the top of your page, draw a graphic of God on one side of a chasm and us on the other. As you draw, share Bible verses that explain how the separation took place. Show how the cross bridges the chasm between God and us and how we can cross the bridge through faith in Christ. Talk to your friend about these four simple truths:

1. God’s plan—peace and life.

God loves you and wants you to experience the peace and life He offers. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV). He has a plan for you.

2. Our problem—separation from God.                        

By nature, we are all separated from God. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NKJV). He is holy, but we are human and don’t measure up to His perfect standard. We are sinful, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, NKJV).

3. God’s remedy—the cross.

God’s love bridges the separation between you and Him. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave, He paid the penalty for your sins. The Bible says, “‘He himself bore our sins’ in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by His wounds you have been healed’” (1 Peter 2:24, NIV).

4. Our response—receive Christ.

You cross the bridge into God’s family when you accept Christ’s free gift of salvation. The Bible says, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 English Standard Version (ESV)).

To receive Christ, a person needs to do four things:

  • Admit that you are a sinner and you need the Savior.
  • Be willing to turn from your sins, and ask God to forgive you.
  • Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross and rose from the grave.
  • Invite Jesus Christ to come in and control your life through the Holy Spirit. Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (New International Version (NIV))

Here’s a prayer you can pray to receive Christ:

Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I want to turn from my sins, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe He died for my sins and that You raised Him to life. I want Him to come into my heart and to take control of my life. I want to trust Jesus as my Savior and follow Him as my Lord from this day forward. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

FOLLOW-UP

If your friend sincerely prays, he or she now has a new life in Jesus Christ! You will want to share some Bible verses (such as 1 John 5:12–13) to give your friend assurance of his or her new standing before God.

1 John 5:12-13 New King James Version (NKJV)

12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Finally, when you help a person in coming to faith in Christ, remember that this individual is a spiritual baby (1 Peter 2:2). In order to grow, an infant needs nurture and care. The same is true spiritually; encourage your friend to begin to read the Bible and pray regularly. Help him or her find a Bible-teaching church in order to have fellowship with other believers in Christ and continue to grow.

1 Peter 2:1-3 New King James Version (NKJV)

Our Inheritance Through Christ’s Blood

2 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow [a]thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Footnotes:

    1. 1 Peter 2:2 NU adds up to salvation

The Salvation Poem

Jesus, You died upon a cross
And rose again to save the lost
Forgive me now of all my sin
Come be my Savior, Lord, and Friend
Change my life and make it new
And help me, Lord, to live for You

Christianity and Judaism: What’s the Difference?

Do you know the differences between these two similar faiths?

What defines a Christian as opposed to a Jewish person? What are the differences between them? Do they have anything in common? What are their beliefs? Where did they originate from? Do they believe in Jesus, the Son of God?

I can go on forever with questions as to the differences and commonalities between to two religions. But instead, I’ll let you decide. Read on and at the end, you tell me what you think about Judaism vs. Christianity. Christianity & Judaism (8)

Of all the world’s unique religions, Christianity and Judaism bear, perhaps, the most similarity. This is because they come from the same beginnings, with both religions having similar conceptions of the nature of God, recognizing some of the same sacred texts, and having many of the same basic beliefs concerning the creation of the world, as well as ideas about heaven, hell, and the necessity of atonement for sin.

Without Judaism, in fact, we would not have Christianity—they share the same root. The Jewish people were one of the first to engage in the worship of a single God who was not only all-powerful and all-knowing, but also perfectly just, loving, and good. This set God apart from pagan deities, who had many of the same flaws as human beings. The God of Judaism and the God of Christianity are the certainly the same being, and both Christianity and Judaism began with the covenantal relationship between God and Abraham, and the subsequent spread of these beliefs through the next generations.

The differences, though, in the stories of these two world religions begin to appear in the Bible that each uses. Each of these faiths has a different version of scripture, with Judaism only recognizing the Old Testament—the Hebrew Scriptures—as the inspired word of God. They know these books as the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. This part of the Bible documents the history, culture, and theology of the Jewish people, but goes no further.

It is here the split from Judaism to Christianity occurs. The Jews believed that God would, one day, send a powerful messenger—the Messiah—to deliver Israel from oppressors and bring in a new era of peace, and even today, believe that this is an event that has yet to occur. For Christians, that promised Messiah came in the form of Jesus Christ—the central difference Christianity and Judaism.

Judaism does not accept Christ as the Son of God, or as the chosen Messiah foretold in the Old Testament. Jews regard Jesus as an excellent teacher, and at most, a prophet. This is, at times, a great source of contention between these two similar faiths as Jews accuse Christians of corrupting the image of the one, true God, and Christians accuse Jews of dismissing the very Son of God.

Christianity began with the teachings of Christ. After the death of Jesus on the cross, His disciples went out into the world, establishing churches. It wasn’t long before this splintered sect of Judaism began to take on its own character, becoming an entirely separate religion, with Christianity teaching that the only path to God—and thus, to heaven—lies in accepting Jesus Christ as one’s personal savior. This is reiterated throughout the New Testament and is of central importance for every Christian denomination.

As a result of this disbelief in Christ as an aspect of God, Judaism differs from Christianity in that it considers God to be perfectly “one,” rather than existing in the Trinity—the idea that the one God also exists as God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jews often see the Christian Trinity as being inherently polytheistic, in fact.

Aside from these main differences, there are also traditions, ceremonies, and norms which are unique to each faith. While examining the enormous scope of Jewish customs is beyond the scope of this article, Judaism has its own unique holidays such a Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, and Passover, and has its own unique clothing, symbols, and festivals. Worship practices, too, are different, with Jews attending synagogues or temples, which are often the centers of Jewish communities, social activity, and charity work. Religious leaders, in Judaism, are called Rabbis, while Christian religious leaders are often called priests or ministers.

In general, the Christian traditions can seem less complex because, in the Christian tradition, Christ abolished the need for things like dietary laws, feast days, and many other religious norms that are still practiced in Judaism. But despite this, there is no equal in Judaism for Christianity’s multitude of denominations and variance of beliefs. Both religions, in their own ways, are startlingly complex.
These two faiths also differ in the ultimate goal of life: Judaism focuses on living a good life through right conduct as prescribed in the Mosaic Covenant, while Christians focus more on being good through correct beliefs, as illustrated by Christ.

Christians are much more focused on spreading those beliefs and readily accept new converts. Jesus commands Christians to “make disciples of all nations,” going out into the world and spreading the Word of God, and so, for many Christians, this is an incredibly important part of religious life.

Judaism, on the other hand, is not a proselytizing religion, and accept converts only after they expend a great amount of effort studying Jewish laws and customs for several years. This is a very involved process, with those wishing to become a Jew undertaking a rigorous period of supervised work. Since Jews believe that an individual does not need to be a Jew in order to come to God, they see little need to convert non-Jews.

Interestingly, there is an offshoot of Judaism that combines both faiths—this is Messianic Judaism. This is a movement that combines ideas from both faiths, merging Jewish tradition with the idea that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, and that both the Old and New Testaments are authoritative and inspired by God. Salvation, for Messianic Jews, is attained through the acceptance of Christ. Messianic Jews retain their Jewish lifestyle, culture, and identities, and continue to celebrate their own festivals and feast days, but do so in a way that honors Christ.

Despite the differences, however, these two religions are more alike than not, and share a rich history of interactions with God, as well as a long list of challenges, failures, and triumphs. Both faiths, when followed closely, help inform their adherents’ morality and provide a framework in which people can be moral and good.

Together, these two religions change lives just as much as they have changed history.

Race, The Cross, & Christianity

This afternoon, my wife and I watched the moving The Help staring Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, and Emma Stone as Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan.

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Emma_Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends’ lives — and a Mississippi town — upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. When she arrives home, she finds that her nanny and family’s maid Constantine Jefferson (played by Cicely Tyson) is gone. Skeeter sees the chance of writing a book about the relationship of the black maids with the Southern society for an editor from New York. First, she convinces Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) to open her heart to her; then Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is unfairly fired by the arrogant Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is a leader in the racist high society, and Minny decides to tell her stories after finding a job with the outcast Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain). Soon eleven other maids accept to be interviewed by Skeeter that also tells the truth about Constantine. When the book “The Help” is released, Jackson’s high society will never be the same.

Barak Obama, in his new preface to his older book Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, quotes William Faulkner to show that history is never dead. He describes the difference between the time the book was written and the time he was writing the new preface.

The book was published in 1995, “against a backdrop of Silicon Valley and a booming stock market; the collapse of the Berlin Wall; Mandela – in slow, sturdy steps – emerging from prison to lead a country, the signing of peace accords in Oslo.” He observed that there was a rising global optimism as writers announced the end of our fractured history, “the ascendance of free markets, and liberal democracy, the replacement of old hatreds and wars between nations with virtual communities and battles for market shares.”

“And then,” he says, “on September 11, 2001, the world fractures.”

“History returned that day with a vengeance; … in fact, as Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried – it isn’t even past. This collective history, this past, directly touches our own.”

The United States has been treating evidence of racism, prejudice, and discrimination, and not the causes, since the Civil War. Slavery; “separate but equal”; segregated pools, buses, trains and water fountains; workplace and housing discrimination; and other forms of bias and animosity have served as painful barometers of the nation’s racial health. They have been, however, treated like the pain that accompanies a broken leg. The effort was to treat or reduce the agonizing symptoms of the break rather than fix it.

In our faltering efforts to deal with race in this country, a great deal of time is devoted to responding to symptoms rather than root causes. That may help explain why racism, prejudice, and discrimination keeps being repeated.

The Bible has much to say on racial intolerance in both testaments. The good Samaritan story of Luke 10:25-27 was an attempt by Jesus to expose the wrongful attitude of racial intolerance that existed between the Jews & Samaritans during the time of Jesus. In Matt 28:19 Jesus told his followers to go out and make disciples of all nations and this would include all people groups. Jesus never said to only make disciples of some people groups, he said Òall nations. Also, Paul in Galatians 3:28 condemned racial intolerance in the church. Racial discrimination should not be a part of the true regenerated Christian.

The first thing to understand is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups. God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

Ephesians 2:14-16 (NKJV)

Christ Our Peace

 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to stop and repent. “13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Unfortunately, humanity has twisted the Bible to try to justify human fears and prejudices. Some consider the “curse of Ham” to be an excuse to hate those of African descent. Others insist that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death and deserve our ridicule. Both views are patently false. The Bible tells us that God’s judgment is not based on appearances but what is on the inside (1 Samuel 16:7), and those who do judge according to appearances do so with evil intent (James 2:4). Instead, we are to treat one another with love (James 2:8), regardless of ethnicity (Acts 10:34-35) and social standing (James 2:1-5). Christian love negates all prejudice, and the Bible condemns racism.

A new year will be upon us soon. What will it take to put our racism, prejudices, and discrimination aside and unite as ONE in Christ Jesus?

What is an Invisible Disability?

In general, the term disability is often used to describe an ongoing physical challenge. This could be a bump in life that can be well managed or a mountain that creates serious changes and loss. Either way, this term should not be used to describe a person as weaker or lesser than anyone else! Every person has a purpose, special uniqueness and value, no matter what hurdles they may face.

In addition, just because a person has a disability, does not mean they are disabled. Many living with these challenges are still fully active in their work, families, sports or hobbies. Some with disabilities are able to work full or part time, but struggle to get through their day, with little or no energy for other things. Others are unable to maintain gainful or substantial employment due to their disability, have trouble with daily living activities and/or need assistance with their care.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) an individual with a disability is a person who: Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment (Disability Discrimination).

Furthermore, “A person is considered to have a disability if he or she has difficulty performing certain functions (seeing, hearing, talking, walking, climbing stairs and lifting and carrying), or has difficulty performing activities of daily living, or has difficulty with certain social roles (doing school work for children, working at a job and around the house for adults)” (Disabilities Affect One-Fifth of All Americans).

Often people think the term, disability, only refers to people using a wheelchair or walker. On the contrary, the 1994-1995 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) found that 26 million Americans (almost 1 in 10) were considered to have a severe disability, while only 1.8 million used a wheelchair and 5.2 million used a cane, crutches or walker (Americans with Disabilities 94-95). In other words, 74% of Americans who live with a severe disability do not use such devices. Therefore, a disability cannot be determined solely on whether or not a person uses assistive equipment.

The term invisible disabilities refer to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injurieslearning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments.  These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, ranging from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person.

Also, someone who has a visible impairment or uses an assistive device such as a wheelchair, walker or cane can also have invisible disabilities. For example, whether or not a person utilizes an assistive device, if they are debilitated by such symptoms as described above, they live with invisible disabilities.

Unfortunately, people often judge others by what they see and often conclude a person can or cannot do something by the way they look. This can be equally frustrating for those who may appear unable, but are perfectly capable, as well as those who appear able, but are not.

International Disability expert, Joni Eareckson Tada, explained it well when she told someone living with debilitating fatigue, “People have such high expectations of folks like you [with invisible disabilities], like, ‘come on, get your act together.’ but they have such low expectations of folks like me in wheelchairs, as though it’s expected that we can’t do much” (Joni).

The bottom line is that everyone with a disability is different, with varying challenges and needs, as well as abilities and attributes.  Thus, we all should learn to listen with our ears, instead of judging with our eyes.

‘An eye for an eye’?”

The concept of “an eye for eye,” sometimes called jus talionis or lex talionis, is part of the Mosaic Law used in the Israelites’ justice system. The principle is that the punishment must fit the crime and there should be a just penalty for evil actions: “If there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exodus 21:23–25). Justice should be equitable; excessive harshness and excessive leniency should be avoided.

Exodus 21:23-25 (NKJV)
23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

We have no indication that the law of “an eye for an eye” was followed literally; there is never a biblical account of an Israelite being maimed as a result of this law. Also, before this particular law was given, God had already established a judicial system to hear cases and determine penalties (Exodus 18:13–26)—a system that would be unnecessary if God had intended a literal “eye for an eye” penalty. Although capital crimes were repaid with execution in ancient Israel, on the basis of multiple witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6), most other crimes were repaid with payment in goods—if you injured a man’s hand so that he could not work, you compensated that man for his lost wages.

Exodus 18 (NKJV)

Jethro’s Advice

18 And Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses’ father-in-law, heard of all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people—that the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt. 2 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took Zipporah, Moses’ wife, after he had sent her back, 3 with her two sons, of whom the name of one was Gershom (for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land”)[a] 4 and the name of the other was Eliezer[b] (for he said, “The God of my father was my help, and delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh”); 5 and Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, came with his sons and his wife to Moses in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God. 6 Now he had said to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons with her.”

7 So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and kissed him. And they asked each other about their well-being, and they went into the tent. 8 And Moses told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardship that had come upon them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. 9 Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel, whom He had delivered out of the hand of the Egyptians. 10 And Jethro said, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh, and who has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 Now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them.” 12 Then Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took[c] a burnt offering and other sacrifices to offer to God. And Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.

13 And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening. 14 So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?”

15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God.
16 When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another;
and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.”

17 So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good. 18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself. 19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. 20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”

24 So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people: rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. 26 So they judged the people at all times; the hard cases they brought to Moses, but they judged every small case themselves.

27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went his way to his own land.

Footnotes:
a. Exodus 18:3 Compare Exodus 2:22
b. Exodus 18:4 Literally My God Is Help
c. Exodus 18:12 Following Masoretic Text and Septuagint; Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate read offered.

Exodus 2:22 (NKJV)
22 And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom,[a] for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”

Footnotes:
a. Exodus 2:22 Literally Stranger There

Deuteronomy 17:6 (NKJV)
6 Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.

Besides Exodus 21, the law of “an eye for an eye” is mentioned twice in the Old Testament (Leviticus 24:20;Deuteronomy 19:21). Each time, the phrase is used in the context of a case being judged before a civil authority such as a judge. “An eye for an eye” was thus intended to be a guiding principle for lawgivers and judges; it was never to be used to justify vigilantism or settling grievances personally.

Exodus 21 (NKJV)

The Law Concerning Servants

21 “Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: 2 If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. 3 If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself.5 But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.

7 “And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. 9 And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. 10 If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. 11 And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.

The Law Concerning Violence

12 “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. 13 However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee.

14 “But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.

15 “And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

16 “He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.

17 “And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

18 “If men contend with each other, and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist, and he does not die but is confined to his bed, 19 if he rises again and walks about outside with his staff, then he who struck him shall be acquitted. He shall only pay for the loss of his time, and shall provide for him to be thoroughly healed.

20 “And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. 21 Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.

22 “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

26 “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female servant, and destroys it, he shall let him go free for the sake of his eye. 27 And if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female servant, he shall let him go free for the sake of his tooth.
Animal Control Laws

28 “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted. 29 But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him. 31 Whether it has gored a son or gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him. 32 If the ox gores a male or female servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

33 “And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to their owner, but the dead animal shall be his.

35 “If one man’s ox hurts another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide the money from it; and the dead ox they shall also divide. 36 Or if it was known that the ox tended to thrust in time past, and its owner has not kept it confined, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal shall be his own.

Leviticus 24:10-23 (NKJV)

The Penalty for Blasphemy

10 Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. 11 And the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) 12 Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the Lord might be shown to them.

13 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.

15 “Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death.

17 ‘Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death. 18 Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal.

19 ‘If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him—20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him. 21 And whoever kills an animal shall restore it; but whoever kills a man shall be put to death. 22 You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God.’”

23 Then Moses spoke to the children of Israel; and they took outside the camp him
who had cursed, and stoned him with stones. So the children of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses.

Deuteronomy 19 (NKJV)

Three Cities of Refuge

19 “When the Lord your God has cut off the nations whose land the Lord your God is giving you, and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses, 2 you shall separate three cities for yourself in the midst of your land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess. 3 You shall prepare roads for yourself, and divide into three parts the territory of your land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, that any manslayer may flee there.

4 “And this is the case of the manslayer who flees there, that he may live: Whoever kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him in time past— 5 as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he shall flee to one of these cities and live; 6 lest the avenger of blood, while his anger is hot, pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and kill him, though he was not deserving of death, since he had not hated the victim in time past. 7 Therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall separate three cities for yourself.’

8 “Now if the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as He swore to your fathers, and gives you the land which He promised to give to your fathers, 9 and if you keep all these commandments and do them, which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and to walk always in His ways, then you shall add three more cities for yourself besides these three, 10 lest innocent blood be shed in the midst of your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and thus guilt of bloodshed be upon you.

11 “But if anyone hates his neighbor, lies in wait for him, rises against him and strikes him mortally, so that he dies, and he flees to one of these cities, 12 then the elders of his city shall send and bring him from there, and deliver him over to the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die. 13 Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with you.

Property Boundaries

14 “You shall not remove your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in your inheritance which you will inherit in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.

The Law Concerning Witnesses

15 “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. 16 If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, 17 then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. 18 And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, 19 then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. 20 And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit
such evil among you.21 Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth
for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

In the New Testament, it seems the Pharisees and scribes had taken the “eye for an eye” principle and applied it to everyday personal relationships. They taught that seeking personal revenge was acceptable. If someone punched you, you could punch him back; if someone insulted you, he was fair game for your insults. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day ignored the judicial basis of the giving of that law.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus counters the common teaching of personal retaliation: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you . . .”
(Matthew 5:38–39).

Matthew 5:38-39 (NKJV)

Go the Second Mile

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

Footnotes:
a. Matthew 5:38 Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21

Exodus 21:24 (NKJV)
24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

Leviticus 24:20 (NKJV)
20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him.

Deuteronomy 19:21 (NKJV)
21 Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Jesus then proceeds to reveal God’s heart concerning interpersonal relationships: “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:39–42).

Matthew 5:38-42 (NKJV)

Go the Second Mile

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Footnotes:

a. Matthew 5:38 Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21

In giving this “new” command, Jesus is not nullifying the Old Testament law (Matthew 5:17).

Matthew 5:17 (NKJV)

Christ Fulfills the Law

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

Rather, He is separating the responsibility of the government (to punish evildoers justly) from the responsibility we all have on a personal level before God to love our enemies. We should not seek retribution for personal slights. We are to ignore personal insults (the meaning of “turn the other cheek”). Christians are to be willing to give more of their material goods, time, and labor than required, even if the demands upon us are unjust. We should loan to those who want to borrow, love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (verses 43–48). Enforcing “an eye for an eye” is the magistrate’s job; forgiving our enemies is ours. We see this played out today every time a victim stands up in court to publicly forgive a convicted criminal—the forgiveness is personal and real, but the judge still justly demands that the sentence be carried out.

Jesus’ limiting of the “eye for an eye” principle in no way prohibits self-defense or the forceful protection of the innocent from harm. The actions of duly appointed agents of the government, such as police officers and the military, to protect citizens and preserve the peace are not in question. Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek applies to personal relationships, not judicial policy. The principle of “an eye for an eye” is meant as a judicial policy, not as a rule for interpersonal relationships. The believer in Christ is guided by Jesus’ words to forgive. The Christian is radically different from those who follow the natural inclination to respond in kind.

Take for example Jesus’ instructions to us to “turn the other cheek?”

The entire section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in which this verse is found can be understood as one where Jesus actually serves to elevate the importance of following Israel’s moral law beyond the letter to the spirit of the law. Much of the material therein complements the nature of His coming characterized by mercy, sacrificial love, and longsuffering toward sinners while at the same time affirming the “last is first” principle upon which the kingdom of God is based. For instance, we are told to go the extra mile for someone who abuses us and to pray for enemies instead of resisting them. All of this can be generally summarized by saying we need to be pure inside and out and should be as accommodating as possible for the sake of a lost world.

To “turn the other cheek,” does not imply pacifism, nor does it mean we place ourselves or others in mortal danger. Like the principle of the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth in Matthew 5:38, turning the other cheek refers to personal retaliation, not criminal offenses or acts of military aggression. Clearly, Jesus did not mean to negate all God’s laws and injunctions protecting us against violent crime or invading armies. Rather, Jesus is speaking here of the principle of non-retaliation to affronts against our own dignity, as well as lawsuits to gain one’s personal assets (v. 40), infringements on one’s liberty (v. 41), and violations of property rights (v. 42). He was calling for a full surrender of all personal rights.

Matthew 5:40-42 (NKJV)
40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Turning the other cheek means not to return insult for insult in retaliation, which is what most people expect and how worldly people act. Responding to hatred with love just might grab someone’s attention and afford us a chance to share the gospel. When we respond in a manner that is unnatural, it displays the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus was the perfect example because He was silent before His accusers and did not call down revenge from heaven on those who crucified Him.

Matthew 5:38-42 (NKJV)

Go the Second Mile

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Footnotes:
a. Matthew 5:38 Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21

Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV)

Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[b] 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren [c] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[d] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Footnotes:
a. Matthew 5:43 Compare Leviticus 19:18
b. Matthew 5:44 NU-Text omits three clauses from this verse, leaving, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
c. Matthew 5:47 M-Text reads friends.
d. Matthew 5:47 NU-Text reads Gentiles.

Free Will and Wisdom

Police Shootings, ISIS Terrorism, Addictions, And Domestic Violence: Psychologists Explain Why It All Happens

Police shootings, ISIS terrorism, addictions, and domestic violence are increasing in our society. Many have described these incidents as senseless, but is it really?

Theories

 Police shootings, ISIS terrorism, addictions, and domestic violence are increasing in our society. Many have described these incidents as senseless, but is it really? Psychologists Sean Seepersad, Ph.D., Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., and Amanda Taub, who holds the unusual title of Senior Sadness Correspondent, and human rights expert, approach various aspects of society in a quest to make sense of the senseless.

 Police shootings, ISIS terrorism, addictions, and domestic violence are all symptoms and not the disease, according to these experts. Their separate conclusions weave a cohesive picture of a society breaking down because the building blocks of that society, namely people and relationships, are eroding.

 Fear, isolation, and a need for control seem to be the unholy trinity of all modern ills, based on the work of these experts.

 Reality

 Free will. According to Oxford Dictionaries, free will is defined as “The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.”

According to Theopedia: Probably the most common definition of free will is the “ability to make choices without any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition, and specifically that these “free will” choices are not ultimately predestined by God.

 So the question we as Christians need to ask ourselves is: “Do human beings truly have a free will?”

 Were the incidents described above due to “a society breaking down because the building blocks of that society, namely people and relationships, are eroding.” Or were they because we as a human race exercised our free will to decide without wise counsel. We reacted instead of being proactive and making wise decisions as to how to handle the outcomes.

 So, the answer to the above question as to whether or not human beings truly have a free will is YES! If “free will” means that God gives humans the opportunity to make choices that genuinely affect their destiny, then yes, human beings do have a free will.

 The world’s current sinful state is directly linked to choices made by Adam and Eve. Both Adam and Eve had a choice to make: to take a bite out of the apple or not take a bite. We already know the answer to their dilemma, but even though we say that man is born to sin (Romans 5:18-19), free will does not mean that mankind can do anything he pleases.

Our choices are limited to what is in keeping with our nature. For example, a man may choose to walk across a bridge or not to walk across it; what he may not choose is to fly over the bridge—his nature prevents him from flying. In a similar way, a man cannot choose to make himself righteous—his (sin) nature prevents him from canceling his guilt (Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”). So, free will is limited by nature.

This limitation does not alleviate our accountability. The Bible is clear that we not only have the ability to choose, we also have the responsibility to choose wisely (Proverbs 12:26, Psalms 1:1-6). In the Old Testament, God chose a nation (Israel), but individuals within that nation still bore an obligation to choose obedience to God. And individuals outside of Israel were able to choose to believe and follow God as well (e.g., Ruth and Rahab).

 In the New Testament, sinners are commanded over and over to “repent” and “believe” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Acts 3:19; 1 John 3:23). Every call to repent is a call to choose. The command to believe assumes that the hearer can choose to obey the command.

 Jesus identified the problem of some unbelievers when He told them, “You refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:40). Clearly, they could have come if they wanted to; their problem was they chose not to. “A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7), and those who are outside of salvation are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20-21).

But how can man, limited by a sin nature, ever choose what is good? It is only through the grace and power of God that free will truly become “free” in the sense of being able to choose salvation (John 15:16). It is the Holy Spirit who works in and through a person’s will to regenerate that person (John 1:12-13) and give him/her a new nature “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). Salvation is God’s work. At the same time, our motives, desires, and actions are voluntary, and we are rightly held responsible for them. But is all the pain and suffering in the world from the gift of free will worth it? Is free will the cause of evil? Some people think so and want to take away our freedoms. But, free will is not the issue. It never has been the issue. Jesus had free will and went about doing good (Acts 10:38). Jesus chose wisely, always thinking, saying, and doing the will of the Father (John 6:38).

 As stated above, the Bible is clear that we not only have the ability to choose, we also have the responsibility to choose wisely. Why would God allow men to have free will when their hearts and minds do evil unceasingly (Genesis 6:5)? Is free will really that important to God? Yes, it is. The entire Gospel is all about free will and wisdom, letting men discover the truth and then choose wisely or unwisely. As an unknown author wrote, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it does not come back, it was never meant to be.” “The Prodigal Son” is a parable that nicely personifies this quote (Luke 15:11-24).

From the beginning, God knew all the risks and vowed to never let go of His eternal purpose for men, which is to let them choose, whether wisely or unwisely. God knew the risks and declared “free will” would be every person’s right no matter what. (Deuteronomy 30:19).

God set all men free with the hope they would choose to return (1 Timothy 2:3-4). God knew the risks but drank the bitter cup of rejection knowing many would never return. He allowed men to have free will. He allowed them to go. But in doing so, He also gave them the Gospel, a path back to the Father should they chose to return, like the Prodigal Son (John 14:6).

 Did God make the right decision by giving men the gift of free will? Yes, absolutely! Again, “Salvation is God’s work. At the same time, our motives, desires, and actions are voluntary, and we are rightly held responsible for them.”

If you were to ask your children if we (as parents) made the right decision to bring them into a fallen world they would answer, “Yes, absolutely!” They would answer in the affirmative not because life has been easy or fun or grand. It hasn’t always been, not for any of them. They would answer “yes” because they know free will is a gift and wisdom a means to manage the troubles and struggles on the narrow pathway of life (Ephesians 5:15-16).