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Discussion in 'Discussions about Religion.' started by beensetfree, Nov 4, 2012.

  1. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    Jesus’ Victory Doesn’t End on Easter. It Lasts Forever.

    Jesus’ victory doesn’t end on Easter. It lasts forever. Just ask the author of Hebrews who encouraged his congregation enduring suffering not to give up but persevere. Their reward awaits them and will last forever in view of Jesus’ lasting work on their behalf.

    Hebrews 7-10 get at various aspects of how resilient and everlasting God’s saving work on their behalf really is. First, Jesus’ priesthood is eternal. It does not belong to the Aaronic order, but to the order of Melchizedek: “It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of him, ‘You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Hebrews 7:15-17; NRSV).

    Second, the New Covenant which Jesus inaugurates is eternal. It is not like the covenant established by Moses, which according to the author of Hebrews is “obsolete”: “‘For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.’ In speaking of ‘a new covenant,’ he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear” (Hebrews 8:12-13; NRSV).

    Third, the heavenly temple in which Jesus serves presently is the eternal ideal. The earthly temple which was a copy of the eternal sanctuary has since been destroyed, but which was likely still standing at the time this epistle was written (See Hebrews 9:8-10). Regarding the copy and original temples or sanctuaries, the author of Hebrews writes, “For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Hebrews 9:24; NRSV).

    Fourth, Jesus’ sacrifice is priceless and never loses its value, whereas the bulls of blood and goats which can never cleanse us from sin had to be repeated indefinitely on behalf of the people. Now those sacrifices are no more, as the temple is no more. In contrast, Jesus’ sacrifice is finished, though its cleansing, saving and perfecting benefits are once and for all and last forever, just like his priesthood: “And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, ‘he sat down at the right hand of God’” (Hebrews 10:11-12; NRSV). Jesus achieves his lasting victory through the eternal Spirit through whom he offered himself unblemished to God (Hebrews 9:14).

    All these points are summed up beautifully in the following passage in Hebrews 9:

    But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God! For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, because a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant (Hebrews 9:11-15; NRSV).

    The Aaronic priesthood, Mosaic Law and Covenant, earthly temple and sacrifices of old all have important roles in God’s story of salvation, but they do not stand alone. Rather, they foreshadow and serve as copies and types of God’s perfect redemption made available to us in Jesus. And so, we must not go back to them or fall back never to return. Like the Hebrew Christians to whom the author of the epistle writes, we must press on to receive all that Jesus’ Easter victory anticipates.


    In Hebrews 10:19-39, we find the author giving his congregation a stern warning, not out of spite, but out of sincere concern for his community of faith’s spiritual and eternal well-being. Members of his congregation are tempted to return to the copies and types and turn away from Jesus in the face of persecution. The warning regarding what awaits those who turn away from the one who alone can save them is real. However, in true pastoral form, the author of this epistle has confidence that his readers’ faith is real, and that they will remain true to Jesus, their faithful high priest: “But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved” (Hebrews 10:39; NRSV).

    There are times when you and I may feel defeated, ready to give up and throw in the towel. During such times, it is easy to think that Easter is but one day of the year, and Jesus’ victory on Easter Sunday does not carry over to Monday morning. It’s almost as if Jesus went back to bed, or worse, the grave! When such feelings and thoughts arise, we need to step back and reconsider our spiritual surroundings, putting everything back in the broader context. We need to take note that such struggles, temptations and discouragements will not last forever. What will last forever is Jesus and his kingdom that conquered the grave, sin and guilt, and the ghastly devil on Easter morn. And so, we have every reason to get back up and run the race well to the end! I like how Thomas G. Long puts the matter in his discussion of Hebrews:

    The Preacher knows that his congregation is tired, discouraged, and playing with injuries. The danger is that they will lose perspective and forget who they are, where they are, and the nature of the event, and simply quit. Losing sight of the goal, they will fear that they are merely running ragged rather than running in the great marathon of all time (see 12:1). So the Preacher tells them what they cannot see you are running in the supreme contest of humanity; the end of the race is near, and the victor’s prize of the ‘promised eternal inheritance’ awaits (10:36; see 9:15).[1]

    I have had the privilege of sharing life with missionaries and ministry leaders from across the world this spring at the Overseas Ministries Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut. I have been struck by their perspective on numerous occasions. No doubt, God has used life circumstances and challenges to refine them, helping them to discern what really counts in light of what really lasts: Jesus and his Easter victory. These Christian leaders from Myanmar, South Korea, Malaysia, Nigeria and other countries understand that Jesus’ victory does not end on Easter but lasts forever. They are banking on Jesus in the midst of their disappointments and trials. They know he will come through and that they will receive their eternal reward. Their global and eternal perspective helps me see more clearly and focuses my eye on our eternal prize.

    Long after we pick up the wrappings from chocolate Easter eggs and bunnies and clean up after Easter dinner, Jesus’ victory on Easter Sunday will continue—longer than an eternity of Mondays. Unlike the prize a child gets for winning the Easter egg hunt, which like everything else on earth perishes in due course, Jesus’ reward of life with God will last forever for us. Run the race well until the end.
     
  2. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    If you love the Lord

    And try hard to keep His ways,

    You’ll live with more contentment

    Throughout your earthbound days.

    His way of life will guide you

    Through years filled with His peace;

    And every day of life in Him

    Your faith will be increased;

    And when your life is over,

    You’ll see His light of love

    And quietly be guided

    To your glorious home above.
     
  3. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    The auction

    The upstate NY man was rich in almost every way. His estate was worth millions. He owned houses, land, antiques and cattle. But though on the outside he had it all, he was very unhappy on the inside. His wife was growing old, and the couple was childless. He had always wanted a little boy to carry on the family legacy.

    Miraculously, his wife became pregnant in her later years, and she gave birth to a little boy. The boy was severely handicapped, but the man loved him with his whole heart. When the boy was five, his mom died. The dad drew closer to his special son. At age 13, the boys’s birth defects cost him his life and the father died soon after from a broken heart.

    The estate was auctioned before hundreds of bidders. The first item offered was a painting of the the boy. No one bid. They waited like vultures for the riches. Finally, the poor housemaid, who helped raise the boy, offered $5 for the picture and easily took the bid. To every-one’s shock, the auctioneer ripped a hand written will from the back of the picture. This is what it said: “To the person who thinks enough of my son to buy this painting, to this person I give my entire estate.”

    The auction was over. The greedy crowd walked away in shock and dismay.

    How many of us have sought after what we thought were true riches only to find out later that our Father was prepared to give us His entire estate if we had only sought after His Son alone?
     
  4. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

    Isaiah 53:6

    Here a confession of sin common to all the elect people of God. They have all fallen, and therefore, in common chorus, they all say, from the first who entered heaven to the last who shall enter there, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” The confession, while thus unanimous, is also special and particular: “We have turned every one to his own way.” There is a peculiar sinfulness about every one of the individuals; all are sinful, but each one with some special aggravation not found in his fellow. It is the mark of genuine repentance that while it naturally associates itself with other penitents, it also takes up a position of loneliness.

    “We have turned every one to his own way,” is a confession that each man had sinned against light peculiar to himself, or sinned with an aggravation which he could not perceive in others. This confession is unreserved; there is not a word to detract from its force, nor a syllable by way of excuse. The confession is a giving up of all pleas of self-righteousness. It is the declaration of men who are consciously guilty—guilty with aggravations, guilty without excuse: they stand with their weapons of rebellion broken in pieces, and cry, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.”

    Yet we hear no dolorous wailings attending this confession of sin; for the next sentence makes it almost a song. “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” It is the most grievous sentence of the three, but it overflows with comfort. Strange is it that where misery was concentrated mercy reigned; where sorrow reached her climax weary souls find rest. The Saviour bruised is the healing of bruised hearts. See how the lowliest penitence gives place to assured confidence through simply gazing at Christ on the cross!
     
  5. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    Everyone has to go through troubles, but you don’t have to go through them alone. Read how the storms of life help bring us safely into the harbor of heaven.

    Piles of Trials
    An old Moody Blues song once proclaimed that we can face piles of trials with smiles, but it’s hard to smile when it seems you’re being buried by piles of trials, so smiling is fine, but smiles don’t banish piles of trials, believe me…but faith can! There’s nothing wrong with smiling, but Jesus once said to His disciples who thought they were going to perish in a storm at sea, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”

    Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him”
    (Matt 8:26-27)? I doubt very much the disciples felt like smiling, so smiling, or trying to endure in your own strength just won’t work, but what Jesus said was something very similar to what was recorded by the psalmist who wrote: “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 127:29), so I believe that was like a prophecy which Jesus Christ would fulfill when He calmed the great storm.

    Today, your storm may not be an actual storm, but maybe a financial one, a health crisis, or a wrecked relationship…or it could be all of the above, but this makes Psalm 57:1 more relevant, as the psalmist wrote, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” That’s why we can say, along with the Prophet Nahum, “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him” (Nahum 1:7).



    Shadows of Death
    One of the greatest Psalms in the Bible about walking in shadowy valleys of life is Psalm 23, and one in which the author (David) knew much about. He writes, “Even 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” (23:1). He understood that “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say the LORD, My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” (Psalm 91:1-2).

    David had been running from King Saul, some say for over 10 years, so he knew what it was like to be walking in the shadows of death, but David also understood that a shadow and reality is not the same thing. Even though it looked like a “valley of the shadow of death,” he feared no evil because God was with him. If I were in a valley, I’d rather be hit by the shadow of a great boulder than by the boulder itself. In other words, shadows can’t hurt you. Next, God’s rod and staff, or God’s sovereignty over all, gave David comfort.

    He knew that he’d been anointed king and would surely serve someday as king of Israel, so even though there were dangerous situations, he knew God would be with him and bring him through it all. David knew he would not die, but harrow escapes from death still made him cling to His God for a refuge, and much of what he wrote reflected that trust in God. David could state what Isaiah the Prophet wrote: “There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain” (Isaiah 4:6), because “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107:29). The One Who created the storm, steers the storm, and even though he may not take us around, over, or under the storm, surely He will go with us through the storm…the same as Jesus did with His disciples, who by the way, all arrived safe and sound on the other shore (Matt 8:28). That’s our destination too…the other shore that is. It is coming…undoubtedly.


    Cries for Help
    Not long ago a friend told me that he felt like God was distant, so I asked, “Do you think God’s farther away than He used to be?” to which he replied, “Yes,” Then I asked him, “Who moved?” All he did was smile because he got the point. God declares that He never forsakes us or leaves us (Heb 13:5), so when He feels far away, He may in fact be closest of all. God’s Word says He has “been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall” (Isaiah 25:4), and so “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

    Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken”
    (Psalm 34:17-20). God is near the crushed in spirit, but He delivers every one out of their afflictions. We may not know the “when” of that deliverance, but it is coming. God is also near to the humble, but is opposed to the proud (James 4:6), so when you just can’t stand it anymore, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:27-30).

    Conclusion
    We all fall under one of these categories; we’ve either just passed through a storm, we are currently in a storm, or have one on the horizon, but you’re not alone because God goes with you in the storms. Jesus actually sent the disciples into the storm, but they forgot…Jesus was with them in the boat, so He will be with us in our storms of adversity, whatever they may be. It might be a financial catastrophe caused by a health issue.

    It could be a relationship that’s just been destroyed and now its wreaking havoc on the family, or it could even be the impending death or recent death of a loved one or a close friend. There’s one thing about being human…it’s 100% fatal. Ten out of every 10 die, but that’s not the end. For those who have believed, it is only the beginning. Its goodbye to pain, sorrow, suffering, and death (Rev 21:3), but its hello to eternal life and being in the presence of God in the New Jerusalem (Rev 22). Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)? Only you can answer that, but the answer determines your eternity. Death levels the playing field for the rich and poor and the great and small, but for those who trust in Christ, it is the beginning of it all!
     
  6. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    “It is time to seek the Lord.”

    Hosea 10:12

    This month of April is said to derive its name from the Latin verb aperio, which signifies to open, because all the buds and blossoms are now opening, and we have arrived at the gates of the flowery year. Reader, if you are yet unsaved, may your heart, in accord with the universal awakening of nature, be opened to receive the Lord. Every blossoming flower warns you that it is time to seek the Lord; be not out of tune with nature, but let your heart bud and bloom with holy desires.

    Do you tell me that the warm blood of youth leaps in your veins? then, I entreat you, give your vigour to the Lord. It was my unspeakable happiness to be called in early youth, and I could fain praise the Lord every day for it. Salvation is priceless, let it come when it may, but oh! an early salvation has a double value in it. Young men and maidens, since you may perish ere you reach your prime, “It is time to seek the Lord.”

    Ye who feel the first signs of decay, quicken your pace: that hollow cough, that hectic flush, are warnings which you must not trifle with; with youit is indeed time to seek the Lord. Did I observe a little grey mingled with your once luxurious tresses? Years are stealing on apace, and death is drawing nearer by hasty marches, let each return of spring arouse you to set your house in order. Dear reader, if you are now advanced in life, let me entreat and implore you to delay no longer. There is a day of grace for you now—be thankful for that, but it is a limited season and grows shorter every time that clock ticks.

    Here in this silent chamber, on this first night of another month, I speak to you as best I can by paper and ink, and from my inmost soul, as God's servant, I lay before you this warning, “It is time to seek the Lord.” Slight not that work, it may be your last call from destruction, the final syllable from the lip of grace.
     
  7. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    The Beautiful, Terrible Cross


    When The Lord of the Rings came out, I refused to watch it. I had never read the books, but I was familiar with the story enough to know that much of it was dark and full of evil – enough for me to stiff arm the entire trilogy. I’ve always been very impressionable, which has resulted in also being unable to stomach a lot of dramatic literature and movies that have been put out, whether old or new.

    Well, eventually, about six years after the LOTR movies came out, Shaun talked me into watching them. They’re three hours long of course, so it took a total of three evenings (spread out over a few weeks) to watch all three. At the end of the first movie, I was livid. For years I told Shaun I wouldn’t watch because I knew I’d have nightmares and be psychologically damaged to the point of no return. But he assured me that though evil was presented as a very real thing, it didn’t win. Still, the first movie did end in a way that lead me to believe evil would conquer, and by the closing scene, I was sure I had married nothing but a war hungry white male who thrived on blood and guts and evil and horror, and no matter what he promised, all three movies would end in catastrophe!

    You told me evil would be defeated, I said with teeth clenched.

    In spite of my horrible gut feelings, I watched the other two. Mostly because I said I would, and because I figured if the movies didn’t deliver, divorce was always an option.

    I kid!

    As you know, the story, though filled with much evil, ends well. Evil is indeed conquered, and most importantly, nobody gets swallowed up by ringwraiths or gigantic famished spiders, except me in my nightmares.

    All’s well that ends well.

    After watching LOTR, you’d think I’d be able to stomach The Passion of the Christ. But alas, I’ve never seen it. I just can’t. Besides my convictions about not making graven images is the fact that the Cross is horrible. It’s bloody, terrible, gruesome, and unjust. I can’t find words to describe the cruelest creation of man. Why would I want to watch an acting out of the wicked ordeal? By God’s grace, I am not a hard-hearted person toward what happened to Jesus on the Cross. It hurts me deeply, and it hurts me even more deeply to know I am one of the sinners who put Him there.

    True, He is Risen! Perhaps I should be able to stomach the crucifixion because I know that evil loses. Love wins. Jesus wins. And because Jesus wins, I win. Death loses and is forever conquered for those who put their trust in the One who died for our sins. In short, the true story has a beautiful end that is in such contrast to the horrors of the Cross that it’s mind boggling. There is nothing more beautiful than someone laying down their life for another. Not begrudgingly. But willingly.

    He could have called ten thousand angels. With one spoken word or even thought, Jesus could have summoned the powers of Heaven to rescue Him from the predicament of an unjust crucifixion. But He willingly stayed put, praying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

    I find it difficult to pray for someone who has merely offended me with their words. How difficult it must have been to pray for an entire crowd who mocked, spit upon, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, whipped, and eventually killed by asphyxiation. All while knowing that in return, God would turn His back and place the sins of the world on Him.
    How crushing. How astonishing. How simultaneously ugly and beautiful. It remains a mystery how anyone could or would bear such a weight, and all out of the goodness of His heart and love for others who have hurt, wronged, and sinned against Him.


    I don’t know about you, but I just don’t love people to that level. Perhaps my children. I’d like to think I’d lay down my life for them if an occasion called for it. But that’s just not the same as being utterly innocent and yet willing to endure the worst form of death known to mankind and dying in the place of those who deserve it. Never has there been an act equally selfless to Jesus’ death on the Cross.

    So no. I don’t want to watch The Passion of the Christ. I have the gift of empathy. I do well with the sight of blood if the blood is not coming from someone I love. But one glance at blood coming from a loved one and I become as pale as Wonder bread, possessed of the same amount of goodness, which is basically none. I’m useless. I can’t do it. But what I can do is read the account of the crucifixion. I don’t particularly enjoy the word pictures. They conjure up guilty feelings, gruesome images, empathy that hurts my heart. The trick is to keep reading, because while the terrible cross is a true story, so is the Resurrection.

    Jesus suffered and died. But Jesus also lives, and because He lives, death has been conquered.

    As I hurry and type this up so I can get back to my Mom who is suffering greatly with Parkinson’s and other complications this week, that means a lot. Death – especially slow death – is horrible. It’s grueling to watch. It’s painful to endure. It’s unnatural. We hang on to life even though we suffer pain and sickness and heartache, because our very being cries out for life everlasting. We must endure a physical death as a result of the Fall, and admittedly, that is terrible. But we have also been presented with a Way to enjoy life everlasting. Jesus is that Way. Through Him, we can live forever. Through Him, we are no longer called an enemy, but a friend of God. Through Him and the power of the Resurrection, this world doesn’t have to be our only hope, and admittedly, that is beautiful.

    The Cross, though terrible, is also beautiful. It ends well for Christ, because He gets all the glory due Him. It ends well for those who repent and put their trust in Him because evil doesn’t win and death gets conquered.

    Indeed … all’s well that ends well.

    Now off to check on Mom, who I know wants nothing more than to begin life everlasting with Jesus. “I’m so tired. I’ve been in constant pain for almost six years. I can’t do this anymore.” Those are the words she says to me through tears, while I sit by feeling mostly helpless and useless. But both of us know that though she walks through the valley of the shadow of death, she need not fear evil, for He is with her. Please pray that goodness and mercy will follow her the rest of the days of her life, and that she will rest in two facts:

    She will dwell in the house of the Lord forever … and all’s well that ends well.
     
  8. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    God's whisper

    Not long ago I heard a story about a young man and an old preacher. The young man had lost his job and didn’t know which way to turn. So he went to see the old preacher.

    Pacing about the preacher’s study, the young man ranted about his problem. Finally he clenched his fist and shouted, “I’ve begged God to say something to help me. Tell me, Preacher, why doesn’t God answer?”

    The old preacher, who sat across the room, spoke something in reply–something so hushed it was indistinguishable. The young man stepped across the room. “What did you say?” he asked.

    The preacher repeated himself, but again in a tone as soft as a whisper. So the young man moved closer until he was leaning on the preacher’s chair. “Sorry,” he said. “I still didn’t hear you.” With their heads bent together, the old preacher spoke once more. “God sometimes whispers,” he said, “so we will move closer to hear Him.”

    This time the young man heard and he understood. We all want God’s voice to thunder through the air with the answer to our problem. But God’s is the still, small voice. . .the gentle whisper.

    Perhaps there’s a reason. Nothing draws human focus quite like a whisper. God’s whisper means I must stop my ranting and move close to Him, until my head is bent together with His. And then, as I listen, I will find my answer. Better still, I find myself closer to God.
     
  9. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    3 Biblical Lessons For Expectant Parents


    It’s such an exciting time waiting for the birth of a baby, so here are some encouraging lessons from the Bible for parents to consider.

    Wonderfully Made!
    As a parent and now grandparent, I can tell you that there are times when it seems the baby will never come. I can’t speak for my wife, but the waiting might be the hardest part of all. When we knew it was about time, it was suddenly as if there wasn’t enough time to get us and everything else to the hospital, but we made it.

    With the technology we have today, we can see the child growing and forming in a way that’s never been possible, and after seeing some of the images of children growing in the womb, I agree with the psalmist who wrote, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14).

    He understood that God is the Author of Life (Acts 3:15), and knew that God “formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). Life is still a miracle, and I can say it was God “who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God” (Psalm 22:9-10), but how wonderful the birth of a child is!


    Freed from Anxiety
    Babies know nothing about due dates…they come when they’re ready to come. All we know for sure is that it will be “in due time,” like when “Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, I have asked for him from the Lord” (1 Sam 1:20). The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

    And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
    Of course, that’s easier said than done when you’re entering into labor…a time when new mothers, and yes, new fathers, can become anxious about things, but the way God wants us to deal with anxiety is to pray about it, and mix those prayers with thanksgiving. The kind of peace that comes from God is the only thing that can guard our hearts and minds.

    Any mother can tell you that, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21). Any godly mother understands that “children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3), something that was understood even in ancient times as “when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant” (Gen 33:5). Parents…are you feeling anxious? Remember, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). Parents are not the only ones to comfort their children because God Himself said; He is as a “mother [Who] comforts, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).

    Planned by God
    There are no “accidents” as far as God is concerned. Every person has been placed in time and history for God’s purpose, so we know that children are intentional, just as Jeremiah wrote, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:5).

    Hannah must have also learned this as she asked the Lord for a child and received one (1 Sam 1:20, 27), and his name would be Samuel. Looking at various Scriptures, we can see that, from God’s perspective, life begins at conception. To support that face, the psalmist wrote, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16), and “Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you” (Psalm 71:6).

    Not only did the psalmist know that God is sovereign over his life, he writes that everyone’s “days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass” (Job 14:5). There is “a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted” (Eccl 3:2), and it’s not we who decides when someone is born or when someone dies. It is God alone who makes that determination.

    Because of this, it is my hope that all who have rejected Christ will repent and believe, because “just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27), you must believe in Christ before the judgment (your death or Christ’s appearance), because after that…you will face the judgment of God (Rev 20:12-15). That’s why today’s the best day of all to believe (2 Cor 6:2), since there’s no guarantee that tomorrow will ever come.

    Conclusion
    If you or someone you know is pregnant, please share this with them. It may give them comfort and reassurance they need in a time when there is little comfort to be had, and give them some peace of mind, knowing God is the Author of Life, and that children are a heritage from the Lord. When parents bring up their children in the Lord, they are more likely not to depart from it, and even though its’ no guarantee they’ll trust in the Lord, train them up anyway, in the way that they should go, but be sure to go there yourself (Charles Spurgeon). I’ve learned that more is caught than taught, and they will not listen to what I say if my actions drown out my words. Love is about feelings, yes, but more so, love is a verb; just look at the cross (John 3:16).
     
  10. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    The sleeping bride

    WAKE UP BELOVED!! Your Groom is about to come for you!!

    “Come Dear One… it’s time to get ready for the Wedding! Everyone is here and they can’t wait to see how beautiful you are! Especially my Father! I’ve been telling Him all about you for many years & though sometimes He has wondered about you being a suitable Bride for His One and Only Son, I have continually pleaded with Him & been your biggest Advocate. I’m so grateful to Him because He always trusts my judgement and is also very eager for me to present you to Him as my perfect Bride.

    I know in your heart, you really want to marry me and I know that sometimes you’ve even been discouraged because the wedding has
    seemed so far off – but believe me, I have suffered with along with you. I feel your pain and I understand your sorrows – but patience works within us a beautiful trait, it deepens our love for one another and makes that approaching Day of our blessed union that much more exciting! Believe me, no other wedding or celebration that has ever been or ever will be can compare with what I’ve been planning for us!!

    So, please WAKE UP! It will be so worth it the moment you see my face and I’ve done in your honor. Everyone is so excited for you to see how beautiful everything is! You just wont believe your eyes! I just know your going to be overjoyed!! Come on my Precious One…please get up and GET READY!!

    Guess what else? Remember the Mansion I told you I was going to build for you? Well, after we get married, I’m going to take you to it and if you thought the wedding and reception was over the top… fasten your safety belt!! Sure, I had to pour out my own sweat and blood to create a life for us, but it was worth it because I love you so much!! It is the most beautiful home… with everything your heart has ever dreamed of or desired. I’ve collected treasures like you can’t even imagine. I’ve even paved your streets with gold and diamonds, sapphires and rubies. Precious gems adorn the walls of your palace and gardens more beautiful than Eden are filled with fragrant flowers that actually sing praises to our Father constantly. It’s something else!

    So what do you think my dear Bride? I sure don’t want to spoil the surprise by telling you every little detail, but I do want to give you a little taste of just how much I love and adore you! I hope this glimpse will give you all the inspiration you require to jump to your feet and get ready for our Big Day!!

    You know, you are the apple of my eye and I would do anything for you! I would travel across the universe for you… I would go to the ends of the earth for you… I would pay any price to have you with me for all of eternity. I would even lay down my life to save yours…in fact, I already have. Please my dear, please… won’t you wake up and get ready for me now?

    Forever yours…Jesus
     
  11. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”

    Psalm 23:4

    Behold, how independent of outward circumstances the Holy Ghost can make the Christian! What a bright light may shine within us when it is all dark without! How firm, how happy, how calm, how peaceful we may be, when the world shakes to and fro, and the pillars of the earth are removed! Even death itself, with all its terrible influences, has no power to suspend the music of a Christian's heart, but rather makes that music become more sweet, more clear, more heavenly, till the last kind act which death can do is to let the earthly strain melt into the heavenly chorus, the temporal joy into the eternal bliss! Let us have confidence, then, in the blessed Spirit's power to comfort us.

    Dear reader, are you looking forward to poverty? Fear not; the divine Spirit can give you, in your want, a greater plenty than the rich have in their abundance. You know not what joys may be stored up for you in the cottage around which grace will plant the roses of content. Are you conscious of a growing failure of your bodily powers? Do you expect to suffer long nights of languishing and days of pain? O be not sad! That bed may become a throne to you. You little know how every pang that shoots through your body may be a refining fire to consume your dross — a beam of glory to light up the secret parts of your soul.

    Are the eyes growing dim? Jesus will be your light. Do the ears fail you? Jesus’ name will be your soul's best music, and his person your dear delight. Socrates used to say, “Philosophers can be happy without music;” and Christians can be happier than philosophers when all outward causes of rejoicing are withdrawn. In thee, my God, my heart shall triumph, come what may of ills without! By thy power, O blessed Spirit, my heart shall be exceeding glad, though all things should fail me here below.
     
  12. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    Follow Me

    The Lord has said, “Come follow me.”
    Man replies, “Just let me be.”

    The Lord says the meaning of riches is naught;
    Man says, “I need all these things I bought.”

    Always there’s conflict between the divine
    And man declaring, “This thing is MINE!”

    But some day when all is stripped away,
    All the riches and glory of this present day,

    Then, with soul trembling, you’ll hear the Lord say,
    “What good did you do along your earthly way?”

    And then only God’s amazing grace
    Will allow you to enter His Holy place.
     
  13. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    “In the name of the Lord I will destroy them.”

    Psalm 118:12

    Our Lord Jesus, by his death, did not purchase a right to a part of us only, but to the entire man. He contemplated in his passion the sanctification of us wholly, spirit, soul, and body; that in this triple kingdom he himself might reign supreme without a rival. It is the business of the newborn nature which God has given to the regenerate to assert the rights of the Lord Jesus Christ. My soul, so far as thou art a child of God, thou must conquer all the rest of thyself which yet remains unblest; thou must subdue all thy powers and passions to the silver sceptre of Jesus’ gracious reign, and thou must never be satisfied till he who is King by purchase becomes also King by gracious coronation, and reigns in thee supreme.

    Seeing, then, that sin has no right to any part of us, we go about a good and lawful warfare when we seek, in the name of God, to drive it out. O my body, thou art a member of Christ: shall I tolerate thy subjection to the prince of darkness? O my soul, Christ has suffered for thy sins, and redeemed thee with his most precious blood: shall I suffer thy memory to become a storehouse of evil, or thy passions to be firebrands of iniquity? Shall I surrender my judgment to be perverted by error, or my will to be led in fetters of iniquity? No, my soul, thou art Christ's, and sin hath no right to thee.

    Be courageous concerning this, O Christian! be not dispirited, as though your spiritual enemies could never be destroyed. You are able to overcome them—not in your own strength—the weakest of them would be too much for you in that; but you can and shall overcome them through the blood of the Lamb. Do not ask, “How shall I dispossess them, for they are greater and mightier than I?” but go to the strong for strength, wait humbly upon God, and the mighty God of Jacob will surely come to the rescue, and you shall sing of victory through his grace.
     
  14. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    Is it true that there are more school shootings today than ever before? What does history show?

    Early School Shootings
    The earliest known United States shooting to happen on school property was the Pontiac’s Rebellion school massacre on July 26, 1764, where four Lenape American Indians entered the schoolhouse near present-day Greencastle, Pennsylvania. There, they shot and killed schoolmaster Enoch Brown, and nine or ten children (reports vary). In 1927, Andrew Kehoe, a farmer who was outraged about the property taxes he was paying to fund a rural Michigan school, used a bomb to blow up the school in 1927, killing 45 people; 38 of them children, so history shows that mass killings at schools are not a recent phenomenon, just as they’re not new to other nations.

    Deadliest Shootings
    Virginia Tech: Student Seung Hui Cho killed 32 people on the Blacksburg, Virginia university campus in 2007.

    Sandy Hook: Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 elementary school children, six school employees, his mother and himself in his rampage at the Newtown, Connecticut school in 2012.

    Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School: In 2018, in Parkland Florida, 17 died while 14 were injured. The perpetrator was 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz.

    University of Texas at Austin: In 1966, 17 died and 31 were injured when a former student and former Marine (Charles Whitman, 25) climbed atop an observation tower at the University of Texas at Austin, and fired on students during a 96-minute rampage.

    Columbine: In 1999, teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people at their high school, and then they killed themselves.

    Oikos: In 2012, at a small Christian college in Oakland, California, a former student, One Goh, killed seven people and injured three more.

    Red Lake: In 2005, Minnesota high school student Jeff Weise killed his grandfather and another person at his home, then went to his school and killed a security guard, a teacher, five students and himself.



    Heart Problems
    People may think that school shootings are worse today than ever before, but history shows that this has been happening for a very long time, and not just in our nation, because there are similar reports from all around the world, so what’s wrong? What’s at the heart of the violence? It is the heart itself. An un-regenerated heart will almost always choose what is best for self rather than what is best for others.

    Of course, many people who are not saved do many good things, but as Christ-followers know, doing good is not good enough to enter the kingdom. It takes the righteousness of God. God demands righteousness to enter the kingdom, but God provides what He demands through His Son, Jesus Christ. The problem is that many reject Jesus Christ as God, as Savior, and as the King of kings and Lord of lords, so what will it take for them to believe?

    The same thing it will take for God’s chosen people, Israel. Ezekiel writes, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezk 11:19), and it is only then “that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezk 11:20).

    This is much the same thing that Jeremiah wrote about God’s people (Jer 24:7), and elsewhere he writes, “I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them” (Jer 32:29). Without a new heart, there will be no desire for God or for living in obedience. It’s going to take a heart transplant.


    The Old Testament says a lot about the human heart, most of it unflattering. In speaking about Judah, Jeremiah wrote, “This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing” (Jer 13:10). Today, we are asking the same things that Jeremiah anticipated: “Why have these things come upon me?” but then he writes that “it is for the greatness of your iniquity that your skirts are lifted up and you suffer violence” (Jer 13:22).

    Seeking solutions to violence is good, but without the Spirit of God, there is little that can be done with the human heart. Again, Jeremiah writes, “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord” (Jer 17:5). By trusting in our own heart or our own selves, apart from God, we are destined to resort to our old nature, and what are the natural tendencies of an un-regenerated heart? Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jer 17:9)? This is why God says, “Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds” (Jer 18:11), however, in most cases, the response is, “That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart” (Jer 18:12). We can read about the consequences of rejecting Christ in the daily news.

    Conclusion
    Is it true that school shootings are a greater problem today than ever…or do we just have better press coverage today? The historical evidence is that there have always been mass killings at schools. Nothing much has changed. It is only the weapons that have become more sophisticated. It’s easier today to kill large numbers of people than it used to be because of the technology, but it’s not the technology that’s the problem.

    Technology itself doesn’t pull triggers or push the buttons. It is the un-regenerate heart that’s the problem, and for those who reject Jesus Christ, God will be against them, and if that’s you, it’s “because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom 2:5). Why reject your only hope? God promises that He “will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.

    And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh”
    (Ezk 36:26), and it will be a heart that will choose life…eternal life, by repentance and faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Only then will the violence stop, at least in that person who has a new heart…a person with a heart of flesh and not of stone. They’ll become a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17), and new creations in Christ don’t kill, but do as Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27). Loving our neighbors is a choice, but we can only love our neighbor if we have a new heart…a heart that chooses life.
     
  15. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    “Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.”

    Psalm 25:18

    It is well for us when prayers about our sorrows are linked with pleas concerning our sins—when, being under God's hand, we are not wholly taken up with our pain, but remember our offences against God. It is well, also, to take both sorrow and sin to the same place. It was to God that David carried his sorrow: it was to God that David confessed his sin. Observe, then, we must take our sorrows to God.

    Even your little sorrows you may roll upon God, for he counteth the hairs of your head; and your great sorrows you may commit to him, for he holdeth the ocean in the hollow of his hand. Go to him, whatever your present trouble may be, and you shall find him able and willing to relieve you. But we must take our sins to God too. We must carry them to the cross, that the blood may fall upon them, to purge away their guilt, and to destroy their defiling power.

    The special lesson of the text is this:—that we are to go to the Lord with sorrows and with sins in the right spirit. Note that all David asks concerning his sorrow is, “Look upon mine affliction and my pain;” but the next petition is vastly more express, definite, decided, plain — “Forgive all my sins.” Many sufferers would have put it, “Remove my affliction and my pain, and look at my sins.”

    But David does not say so; he cries, “Lord, as for my affliction and my pain, I will not dictate to thy wisdom. Lord, look at them, I will leave them to thee, I should be glad to have my pain removed, but do as thou wilt; but as for my sins, Lord, I know what I want with them; I must have them forgiven; I cannot endure to lie under their curse for a moment.” A Christian counts sorrow lighter in the scale than sin; he can bear that his troubles should continue, but he cannot support the burden of his transgressions.
     
  16. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    3 kinds of Christians


    Feeling a little desperate, I was wondering why God let me endure so much when this thought crossed my mind: “Am I a fair weather Christian?” If I’m a fair weather Christian, perhaps I seem to believe and even honestly think I believe when all is well and then blame God and turn against Him when stormy or bad weather comes into my life. I don’t think that’s true of me in spite of my desperate moment.

    There are, of course, Christians of the opposite kind—those that cling to a buoy in stormy weather but float carefree along in calm waters, caring not about their savior when all is well. You have probably heard about Christians like this. They say there are no atheists in foxholes. Sadly, for many years I was this type of Christian; but I think I have grown in Christianity over the years.

    The third type of Christian is the kind I want to be and hope to be most of the time. This type is thankful for blessings and turns to God with thanks for all the good things in life. When things sour, they turn to God for direction and when God says, “No” they try to understand; and through all times and all disturbances, no matter what happens, they have the peace of the presence of the Lord in their lives.

    Which kind of Christian are you?
     
  17. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    The Lost Attribute of Boldness

    Christians have lost our boldness. Perhaps we were never bold to begin with. Look around at the number of Christians being intimated and silenced by society. Instead of being bold for Christ, we allow ourselves to be bullied by culture. By all means, there are some that are vocal. Some that we should look up to as role models of the faith in face of trials and tribulation. But often the loudest voices are those who want the spotlight pointed at themselves rather than Jesus.

    What’s really sad is that sometimes those who are doing the silencing claim to be Christians themselves. Even when we agree on the controversial issues of the day, there are those that give in to cultural mandates…and try and force others to give in too. We may think our motives are pure of heart – we want to be loving, kind, tolerant. We want to extend grace. But then we cheapen that grace and wind up neglecting our first love, like the church at Ephesus (see Revelation 2).

    We stop turning to see what the Holy Scriptures say. We stop listening to the Holy Spirit. We don’t want to hurt feelings, risk relationships, or lose our status. We want to be popular – never outgrowing out juvenile desire for everyone to like us. So, instead of being true to the Word of God, we listen to what others tell us we should believe. We buy into those lies and begin to perpetrate them ourselves, convinced that so many people can’t be wrong. After all, if Hollywood (especially Disney) says something is okay, then it is, right?!? Besides, we’re more enlightened and have a better understanding of Scripture than people in the past. (How’s that for pride)?

    Listen – there have and continue to be sins committed in the name of God. People often twist the Bible into saying what they want it to say. Or they forget all about the parts that would convict them of their sin. At the same time, Christians are guilty of not speaking up for the truth. We talk a lot about truth in love, but more and more people are forgoing the truth part all together.


    Ask yourself, “Am I one of those people?” You’ll know the answer is yes if you fear man more than God.

    Not everyone is called to write and speak publicly. We’re not even all called to be vocal on social media. But we are all commanded to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind. If we are too afraid to share our faith with others, if we are more concerned about what other humans think of us than what God thinks of us, or if we are not willing to speak up for the truth of the Bible, then we are not loving God. In fact, we’re replacing Him with an idol – ourselves. And it takes no boldness at all to place ourselves on a pedestal.
     
  18. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    You can't please everyone

    An old fable that has been passed down for generations tells about an elderly man who was traveling with a boy and a donkey. As they walked through a village, the man was leading the donkey and the boy was walking behind. The townspeople said the old man was a fool for not riding, so to please them he climbed up on the animal’s back. When they came to the next village, the people said the old man was cruel to let the child walk while he enjoyed the ride. So, to please them, he got off and set the boy on the animal’s back and continued on his way. In the third village, people accused the child of being lazy for making the old man walk, and the suggestion was made that they both ride. So the man climbed on and they set off again. In the fourth village, the townspeople were indignant at the cruelty to the donkey because he was made to carry two people. The frustrated man was last seen carrying the donkey down the road.

    We smile, but this story makes a good point: We can’t please everybody, and if we try we end up carrying a heavy burden. Well-meaning Christians may offer us advice, and much of it is valuable. But when we try to do everything other believers want us to do, we can easily become frustrated and confused. That’s why we need to remember that the One we must please above all others is Christ. And we do that by obeying God’s Word. Carried any donkeys lately? You don’t have to if you’re trying to please Jesus.
     
  19. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    “The king's garden.”

    Nehemiah 3:15

    Mention of the king's garden by Nehemiah brings to mind the paradise which the King of kings prepared for Adam. Sin has utterly ruined that fair abode of all delights, and driven forth the children of men to till the ground, which yields thorns and briers unto them. My soul, remember the fall, for it was thy fall. Weep much because the Lord of love was so shamefully ill-treated by the head of the human race, of which thou art a member, as undeserving as any. Behold how dragons and demons dwell on this fair earth, which once was a garden of delights.

    See yonder another King's garden, which the King waters with his bloody sweat—Gethsemane, whose bitter herbs are sweeter far to renewed souls than even Eden's luscious fruits. There the mischief of the serpent in the first garden was undone: there the curse was lifted from earth, and borne by the woman's promised seed. My soul, bethink thee much of the agony and the passion; resort to the garden of the olive-press, and view thy great Redeemer rescuing thee from thy lost estate. This is the garden of gardens indeed, wherein the soul may see the guilt of sin and the power of love, two sights which surpass all others.

    Is there no other King's garden? Yes, my heart, thou art, or shouldst be such. How do the flowers flourish? Do any choice fruits appear? Does the King walk within, and rest in the bowers of my spirit? Let me see that the plants are trimmed and watered, and the mischievous foxes hunted out. Come, Lord, and let the heavenly wind blow at thy coming, that the spices of thy garden may flow abroad. Nor must I forget the King's garden of the church. O Lord, send prosperity unto it. Rebuild her walls, nourish her plants, ripen her fruits, and from the huge wilderness, reclaim the barren waste, and make thereof “a King's garden.”
     
  20. beensetfree

    beensetfree Alfrescian (InfP) Old Timer

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    Biblical Illiteracy Isn’t Funny, It’s Scary

    Last week biblical illiteracy in the news media was put on display like never before. First, the Wall Street Journal misquoted Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying that “Moses brought water from Iraq.” What the prime minister actually said was that Moses “brought water from a rock,” a reference to either Exodus 17 or Numbers 20. This mistake was frankly hilarious, especially if you were raised (as I was) in a part of the country where the standard pronunciation for Iraq (“Iye-RAK”) would leave little room for such confusion.

    The next goof—this time from NPR—was less entertaining than dumbfounding. A piece on Pope Francis at NPR’s “Two Way” blog described Easter as “the day celebrating the idea that Jesus did not die and go to hell or purgatory or anywhere at all, but rather arose into heaven…”


    It takes effort to get the central fact of the New Testament this bizarrely wrong. “Purgatory”? What are they even talking about? If you don’t know that Easter “is the day Christians celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection,” as NPR’s corrected text reads—if you can’t get this most basic belief of the world’s largest religion right—then readers and listeners could justly ask what business you have reporting on religion, at all.

    But the parade of biblical illiteracy didn’t end there. The same day, NBC’s Chuck Todd tweeted out this gem:

    “I’m a bit hokey when it comes to ‘Good Friday.’ I don’t mean disrespect to the religious aspect of the day, but I love the idea of reminding folks that any day can become ‘good,’ all it takes is a little selflessness on our own part. Works EVERY time.”

    Can you imagine a reporter at one of the nation’s leading cable networks juking Muslims at Ramadan with this kind of fortune cookie moralism? Can you picture a newscaster tweeting out at Hanukah, “I don’t mean disrespect to the religious aspect of this day, but any day can be filled with light, if we just hold hands and sing Kumbaya”? He would probably lose his job. One imagines Todd snatching the microphone and saying, “Imma let you finish, Jesus, but any Friday can be good if we’re just selfless.”

    All of this coincided with the suggestion by a Massachusetts New Testament Studies chair that Jesus was a “drag queen,” worryingly described by—of all outlets—Fox News as an idea “most Christians” would find heretical. Most??? And let’s not forget Joy Behar’s recent suggestion on “The View” that Mike Pence may be mentally ill for listening to the voice of God.

    At this point, it’s not clear whether denizens of the great American newsroom have even a passing familiarity with the Bible, or the religion whose history and beliefs it chronicles. Networks and papers strain muscles to represent race and sex fairly on staff and in print, yet when it comes to religion, our media powerhouses seem about as diverse as the kale chips aisle at Whole Foods.

    This is a problem for a lot of reasons besides the fact that journalists and commentators so often take it upon themselves to lecture Christians about the content of our religion. There is something more troubling going on here. I see a crack in our culture that’s deepening and threatening to fracture the foundation. I’m talking about a rent in the common ground that makes Western democracies different from, say, India.

    Writing in the Washington Post, Christine Emba admits that many Americans—particularly those in the news media—are more likely to recognize a “Harry Potter” reference than a biblical one. This is a problem because “as a reference point, the Bible is a skeleton key that unlocks hundreds of years of culture, from Shakespeare to Kehinde Wiley.”
    The problem of biblical illiteracy is much more serious than deafness to Old Testament references in “The Merchant of Venice,” though. Emba hints at this when she points out that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is virtually unintelligible without a working knowledge of The Acts of the Apostles.


    The hinges upon which our civilization has turned—whether we’re talking about the end of infant exposure, natural rights, political equality, or the abolition of slavery—have almost exclusively been biblical hinges. Several movements we may consider evil or misguided (say, the Crusades) were also perpetrated in the name of biblical faith. Even the few chapters in Western history not dedicated by their authors to Jesus were conscious negations of Christianity (Nietzsche says, “God is dead.” What God? The biblical God).

    Between the fourth and twentieth centuries, basically no movement, reform, revival, conflict, work or art, symphony, or solitary piece of literature in the West came about independent of this grand dialogue with biblical faith. To appropriate a phrase from Flannery O’Connor, Western civilization is “Christ-haunted,” for good or ill. If you don’t understand the Bible, you can’t understand the West.

    Writing at The Federalist, David Marcus uses media gaffes as a call to return the Bible to public schools, not as religious indoctrination, but as literature. You don’t have to believe in the Bible’s history, message, or even its God to understand that it midwifed our civilization. He’s right, but his call is likely to go unheeded, to our ruin.

    The current obsession among educated progressives with being “on the right side of history” may be due precisely to their pristine ignorance of their own history, and how it was written. After all, if our present actions are not measured against a divine moral standard, then future generations are the only judge left to take up the gavel. As I have written here and here, and Ross Douthat has written here, modern liberalism is a Christian heresy—a religion “stuck halfway between Heaven and earth.” It continues to apply Christian categories like equality, human rights, mercy, and justice, but in ways alien to these values’ Christian foundation. In this sense, biblical illiterates at the helm of our culture are the vanguards of what Os Guinness calls our “cut flower civilization.” We still look pretty and talk like Christians. For now.

    But the cost of not knowing the Bible goes deeper still—past Shakespeare and Chaucer and the Magna Carta and the Civil Rights movement. Ignorance of Christianity undermines the deepest aspirations of the Western mind, and our ability to know why we have these aspirations. Our longing for freedom, for exodus, for a promised land, for equality between sexes, and races, classes—for dignity, compassion, and decency to our fellow man, no matter his home country—our very convictions on the universality of our Constitution’s claims about freedom and “inalienable rights”—these are the parts of us conformed to the contours of Christianity. The thing in us that cries out when we see a stranger’s toddler washed ashore on a Turkish beach or causes us to cheer when a firefighter rushes back into a burning high-rise to save one more soul—that is the bit of us shaped by the Bible.

    The only ignorance worse than not knowing the book that made us who we are as a civilization is believing we can go on being civilized without that book. The marks of the Bible upon the West and its people are deep. Very deep. Like the color of the cut flower, they linger long after they’re severed from their source of nourishment. But they are not indelible. We were barbarians before the God of the Bible found us. And we can become barbarians, again.
     

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