CHOOSE THIS DAY…..

hermannewticks

“Choose this day whom you will serve”

There’s an important saying in Biblical hermeneutics and it’s, “Context, context, context!”  I’m going to try and do this some justice because it’s based off a sermon I heard a few weeks back by my husband’s former pastor, Jim McClarty, who pastors a small church in Smyrna, TN, called Grace Christian Assembly (http://salvationbygrace.org).  I can’t for the life of me remember what sermon it was that I was listening to but when he used this verse as an example of how people take verses out of context, my ears perked up a little more.  Folks who oppose the teaching of predestination and election point to this verse and say, “SEE!!!  It says right here that WE choose whom we will serve!”  Not so fast, young grasshopper!

The problem with people using this is that they leave out what comes before it and after it.  This comes from a “speech”, if you will, made by Joshua to the Israelites just before his death.  We all know how fickle those Hebrew children were.  We all know how easily they turned away from God and turned to idols.  So, in Joshua 24 just before Joshua died, he summoned the people of Israel together one last time to encourage them, so to speak.  In verses 14-15, he says this to the Israelites:

(14) “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  (15) And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Notice in verse 15 it says, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Based on past experiences, Joshua already knew that the Israelites would not be faithful and serve God, so he was basically telling them, “You’ve already proven you can’t serve the Lord, so choose right now whom you’d rather serve, the gods beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.  But, me and my household will serve the Lord.”  Leaving out what came before and after that phrase is taking Scripture out of context.

We must be careful how we use Scripture.  To just say “Choose this day whom you will serve” definitely gives it a different meaning than what it was originally intended in the passage it’s being used in.  We have to be diligent to read Scripture passages as a whole and not pick out phrases here and there just to suit our purposes.

CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT!

SPIRITUAL ADULTERY

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In the book of Hosea, we read how God commanded the prophet, Hosea, to take the prostitute, Gomer, to be his wife.  I’m sure Hosea had some questions as to the validity of this request.  But, he did as God commanded and married Gomer.  She bore him 3 children and after a time, she left Hosea and began prostituting herself.  After a period of time, God told Hosea to go find Gomer, and buy her back and take her home.  Many use this story of Hosea and Gomer to talk about faithfulness in marriage, but God used this story to show how Israel (represented by Gomer) had been unfaithful to God (represented by Hosea) and how God was going to redeem Israel (through the death of Jesus Christ).  Ironically, the origin of the name Hosea comes from the same name that Joshua comes from and both of those mean, “Savior” or “Salvation”.

When we hear the term “adultery”, our minds automatically think of one spouse cheating on another.  But, just as the story of Hosea reveals, there is another kind of adultery and that is spiritual adultery.  Every single one of us has committed some form of spiritual adultery.  Remember how it used to be when you first came to know Christ?  You read your Bible, you prayed, you were at church every time the doors opened.  But, somewhere along the way, something caught your attention away from all that.  At one time, you couldn’t get enough of God’s Word.  Now, your Bible is gathering dust on your nightstand or you tossed it in the backseat of your car and hasn’t been touched in weeks or months.  You can’t even remember the last time you prayed.  And now attending church is just one more thing to check off your weekly list instead of something you feel privileged to do.  We have all done it.  Why is that?  Because we are like Gomer.  We are unfaithful.  It doesn’t matter what it is that draws us away from God, the root problem is self-centeredness.  Just as Gomer thought she could do better than Hosea and went out looking to satisfy her needs through other men, we, too, go out looking for something other than God to satisfy us.  It could be a job.  It could be a hobby.  Sometimes, it’s just ourselves that we’re worshipping.  We’d rather live our lives the way WE want to instead of how God wants us to.  We have made ourselves to be an idol and are living in spiritual adultery.

But, thankfully, because we belong to God, He will only let us hang out so long in that state and He will bring us back to Himself.  We may have to hit rock bottom before we realize that the idol of our own making was leaving us unfulfilled and wanting, and that God, who redeemed us through His Son Jesus, is all we need.  God is and will always be faithful, no matter how unfaithful we are to Him.

CARTOON CHRISTIANITY

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I’ll probably get hate mail for this but it’s just the way I feel.  I cannot stand seeing Christian quotes and Facebook memes using cartoon characters.  Years ago, I wouldn’t have had a problem with it, but as I’ve gotten older and a bit deeper in my knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, doctrine, and theology, I see them as juvenile, foolish, and very irreverent.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m no “stick in the mud”.  I don’t mind passing some time away watching the old Looney Tunes or Scooby-Doo cartoons.  Heck, it’s what I grew up on!  My favorite comic strips are Peanuts, B.C., Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, and the old Bloom County.  They’re entertaining.  But, when I see cartoon characters being used to spread the gospel, it just rubs me the wrong way.  God is no cartoon character (although atheists would disagree).  He’s the Almighty Creator of the universe.  He deserves our upmost reverence in how we live and how we worship Him.  To me, it belittles God when we reduce His message of mercy, love, grace, and forgiveness down to a cartoon character.

But, that’s just me.

HAVE WE FORGOTTEN ABOUT GRACE?

grace

GRACE–the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

PATIENCE–the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting upset or angry

Over the years since the gospel has become more man-centered, we have seen the slow, painful demise of showing grace to those around us.  It’s everywhere.  “It’s all about me!!”  Or, “How dare he be late.  Doesn’t he know how valuable my time is?”  Driving a car?  Oh boy, talk about your lack of patience and grace!!  Oh sure, we talk about the grace that God showed us when He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.  We’re ALL about that grace!  Why wouldn’t we be?  I mean, there we were, filthy, vile, wretched sinners, but God, because of His love for us, sent His only Begotten Son to take the punishment for our sins.  We did not deserve one ounce of that grace.  Not one.  But yet, we are so thankful that He did that instead of leaving us where we were.

Sadly, we aren’t so quick to show grace to our fellow believers.  I know how I used to be.  Very low on patience and just as low on grace.  I think those two go hand in hand.  If we’re low on patience, we certainly can’t be gracious.  And I still have those moments where I’m not practicing either one.  Believers should be the poster children of patience and grace, but sometimes, I think we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget to extend those to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Why?  Are our needs, wants, and desires that much more important that those around us should cater to them instead of remembering that we, too, aren’t any better than they are?  Is our time that much more valuable than theirs?  Do we think we are more deserving of God’s grace than they are?  We tend to make excuses and justify our lack of patience and grace.  We point out how that “stupid driver cut us off!”  We get frustrated when people don’t seem to do things our way.  “Yeah, but……”  Yeah, but, nothing.  Again…..NONE of us deserved the free grace God gave us but He gave it anyway.  We are to follow Christ’s example in how we treat our fellow believers even if we think they don’t deserve it.

If God saw fit in His love to extend to us and our other brothers and sisters in Christ free grace through Jesus Christ, why are we less willing to show grace to each other?  Do we think so much more highly of ourselves that they aren’t worthy of our grace?  We sure love and appreciate the grace God showed to us, but to have to show it to our fellow Christians??  Well, that’s just asking a little too much……according to some people.  If we take our focus off ourselves and onto Christ, we would find it easier to be gracious and kind and patient.

JESUS WIELDS A SWORD

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There is a verse in Matthew 10:34 in which Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  Some people may read that and think, “Well, wait a minute….doesn’t the Bible say in the Old Testament that the Messiah will be called the Prince of Peace?  Why is He referring to a weapon of war?”  The peace they are referring to is only for those who are in Christ.  But, the subject of this blog isn’t about peace.  It’s about the sword spoken of in this verse.

When people think about a sword, they have the image of a long, steel blade with a handle on one end.  But, the sword that is spoken of here is the sword that is mentioned in Ephesians 6:17, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.  In Hebrews 4:12, it describes the Word of God as being “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  Something else the Word does?  It divides families.  It divides friends.  It divides even one denomination from another.  Many religious leaders are sending out the rallying cry for “unity” among the different denominations.  But there is a reason why there are different denominations.  Contrary to popular belief, churches don’t split just over trivial matters such as the color of carpet or what color upholstery to put on the pews, or even what kind of songs to sing.  Martin Luther, the Catholic monk who took on the Pope and the RCC church, started the Protestant Reformation because he realized that the RCC was erroneous in their teachings.  They were teaching that salvation was obtained through works of man instead of the work of Christ.  Then from there, other splits took place within the Protestant movement because some believed in infant baptism, while others believed that baptism is only for those who make a profession of faith in Christ.  Then others disagreed on the proper eschatology.  And on and on and on.

God’s Word causes division.  Families have been divided, friendships have fallen apart, and churches have split because of disagreements over doctrine.  Matthew 10:34 says, “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”  Why would Christ want to do that?  Because correct doctrine MATTERS!  Churches have become lax in doctrinal discernment and now we see all kinds of questionable teachings creeping in.  And when folks start pointing out in God’s Word that something being taught in the church is unbiblical, or they call out popular “Bible” teachers for their doctrinal errors, people tend to get like a cat on the defensive…..they hunch their backs and start hissing.  Our focus should be on the Word of God, NOT on the one bringing the Word.  We tend to put the messenger on the pedestal instead of the Bible.  It is by the Word of God that the posers will be separated from the real.  The sheep will be separated from the goats.  Those who believe the whole counsel of God will be separated from those who pick and choose what they believe, or twist and distort and take Scripture out of context.

Revelation 1:16 describes Jesus as coming back with a “sharp two-edged sword” coming out of His mouth.  This is not a literal sword.  This is referring to Him speaking the Word of God.  It will be on that day that He will destroy His enemies with the words from His mouth.  It is a weapon of war because we are in a spiritual battle for truth.  And truth divides.

CHRISTIANITY LOSING ITS MEANING?

set apart

 

We all read or heard the news of the man who went on Facebook Live and shot an elderly man in cold blood just because he was upset over circumstances in his life.  The man he murdered wasn’t anyone he knew.  He picked him out at random and decided to end his life just because.  Then we heard the news a couple days later of how he turned the gun on himself when the cops finally caught up with him.  His mother was quoted as saying that her son was “a good Christian person……he just snapped….”.  Now, I’m not here to judge this man’s salvation.  The Bible plainly states that it’s not for us to say if someone is a Christian or not.  Only God knows a person’s heart.  But, when I read his mother’s comments, I just had to ask myself, “Really?  Was he TRULY a Christian?  Because it seems to me that his actions and the motivations for his actions don’t reveal someone who would profess to be a Christian.”

There was a time many, many, MANY years ago when you could tell the difference between those who were truly Christians and those who weren’t.  I know as Christians we still sin.  We still battle our sinful flesh on a daily basis.  We will still do things that go against what we claim to be.  But, it seems in recent decades that people have lowered the standard of what it means to be a Christian.  I live in what is known as the Bible Belt, but in all honesty, I don’t think many churches these days in this region truly know and understand what being a Christian is all about.  1 Peter 2:9 says that Christians are a “chosen generation”, a “royal priesthood”, a “holy nation”, and “a people for His own possession.”  The KJV uses the phrase “a peculiar people” for the last one.  When the Bible uses the word “holy”, it means that we are SET APART.  It’s important to note that if YOU say you’re a Christian, then YOUR actions and how YOU live your life will be drastically different from those who aren’t.

These days, people like to THINK they’re Christian because they (a) joined a church and got their names on a church roll, (b) went to church as a child with grandma and grandpa, and, by golly, if mawmaw and pawpaw are Christians, then they are, too, (c) attend the local church on Christmas and Easter, or (d) they think, “I’m a red blooded American patriot and because America is a Christian nation, then that makes me a Christian, too!!”  And come political season….oh my goodness…..everyone running for a Republican office is suddenly a “Christian”!!  And church people eat that stuff UP!!!  “Oh, he/she says they’re a Christian so let’s vote for them.”  I know of a politician who was told to never step foot in church again if the only time he’s going to show up is during election time.  As far as I know, he had NO use for the church until it was time to try to get re-elected to his office.  To me, he was only making a showing for the Christians, but never identified as one until he needed to be one.

People……America may have started out as a Christian nation, but being an American doesn’t make you a Christian!!  Christianity started centuries before America was even a nation!  Christianity isn’t about which political party you vote for.  It’s not about making sure your name appears on the membership roll of the church two blocks down from your house.  It’s not showing up for the Christmas and Easter services like it’s some sort of thing you check off your list.  Being a Christian means that God, through His Holy Spirit, has regenerated you.  Regeneration means to be “born again”.  It means that God has taken your stone cold, hard heart and replaced it with a heart that now desires the things of God.  It’s living and acting in such a way that sets you apart from the world.  And the ONLY way that can happen is when God saves you.

The bar has been set low as far as Christianity is concerned.  Now days, the church proclaims a person a Christian just because they walked an aisle, signed a card, and got dunked in the baptistery.  Sadly, many of those who did that never darken the door of the church again because the church has told them that was all they needed to do.  Now we have “Christians” running around our country who were never really converted because they’re basing their salvation on something THEY did, and not on whether God has regenerated them.  Trust me on this.  I used to be one of them until God truly regenerated me.  I based my salvation on the fact I walked the aisle and got baptized when in actuality God had not changed my heart.

America really doesn’t understand what being a Christian means.  It’s sad to say, but it’s gotten to the point where other countries know and understand what Christianity is and are sending missionaries to us because we have gone so far off the path.  We have truly lost the meaning of what Christianity really is.

DOING BATTLE OR GIVING UP?

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The Christian life is not easy.  Contrary to what some popular television preachers preach to their congregations and those who watch them on the idiot box each week, being a Christian doesn’t mean life will be all roses and rainbows.

While it’s true that we don’t have a long list of rules to abide by, there are things we must do to help us grow and mature as Christians.  Our adversary, the devil, knows this and he will do what ever it takes to keep us from doing those things, thus, keeping us from growing and maturing in our faith.

I struggle with Bible reading and praying.  I can sit at my desk with earphones in my ears listening to different sermons while I’m working with no problem, but to sit down and try to read the Bible?  I would be asleep in no time.  Praying is hard, too.  It’s not that I don’t pray at all.  If/when a need arises for me or someone else, I can say a quick prayer, but to be a person who has a set time to do some serious praying?  My mind would so easily drift off to something else and I’d lose concentration on the task at hand.  And, many times, there’s just things I put ahead of my Bible reading and praying.  I know there’s no excuse and I need to remedy this situation.

The devil loves to make us useless.  He loves it when people give up.  He can put some kind of trial or adversity in our path and cause us throw up our hands and say, “I can’t do it anymore.  I give up.”  That is what his goal for us is.  When he sees that we no longer struggle to stay in the fight, he wins.  The Bible says we are to put on the whole armor of God.  Putting armor on doesn’t mean we’ll be taking a leisurely stroll through a pretty garden.  Putting on the armor means we are preparing to do battle every day.  We battle against spiritual forces in the heavenly realms.  Forces that are working hard to keep us weak and useless so that we throw down our weapons and say, “I give up.”

What forces are you dealing with?  Are they the forces that seek to fill your head with lies that tell you that God can’t use you due to your past sins?  Are they forces that tell you that because you don’t read the Bible enough, or pray enough, or because you can’t understand what God’s Word says sometimes, then doing these things are useless?  Are they forces that tell you “You’re just too busy to have time for reading and praying”?

We must stay in the battle.  We must keep fighting.  If we lay our weapons down, we’re saying to the devil, “You win.”

 

PASSOVER

Passover

 

In the book of Exodus, the Bible tells us the story of how God delivered the Hebrew children out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt.  God, through his servant Moses, showed Pharaoh His power by sending many plagues–frogs, locusts, turning water into blood, darkness–just to name a few.  Each time, Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to release the Hebrews so that they could go out and serve God in the wilderness.  The tenth and last plague was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” so to speak.  God told Moses that He would send the Angel of Death and kill the first born of every living being, human and animal.  This was God pouring out His wrath upon Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.
God also told Moses what to do to prevent the Angel of Death from killing any of the Hebrews.  They were to take a male lamb that was a year old and without any imperfections, and bring it into their home.  The lamb was to live with the family for four days.  After four days, they were to kill the lamb, take it’s blood and cover the 2 door posts and the lintel of the house in which the Passover meal would be eaten.  Then they would cook the meat and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  This meal would be observed every year after that.
In the middle of the night, the Angel of Death swept through the land of Egypt killing the first born of every household that was not covered by the blood of the lamb.  When the Angel saw the blood covering the lintel and door posts, he passed over that house, thus giving this meal the name Passover.  Those who were covered by the blood were spared.
This event was a shadow of what Christ would do for those who are born again.  Jesus, the only Begotten Son, came to earth to be the Sacrificial Lamb because He was without imperfection (sinless).  He voluntarily went to the cross to die for our sins.  His shed blood covered over our sins so that we would not taste spiritual death.  Just as when the Angel saw the blood on the lintel and door posts and passed over, God looks upon us and sees the blood of Jesus and we are saved from His wrath.
The beauty of the Old Testament is that we can see the foreshadowing of Christ and what He did on the cross.  Because He was the ultimate sacrifice, He paid the debt for sin ONCE and FOR ALL which means we no longer needed to sacrifice every year.  His sacrifice saves us from God’s wrath.