Molech

Worldwide in 2020, Covid-19 claimed the lives of approximately 1.8 million people. In that same time period, there were 11 million deaths from communicable diseases, 8,2 million deaths from cancer, 5.1 million deaths from smoking, 2.5 million deaths from alcohol, 1.8 million deaths from tuberculosis, 1.4 million deaths from road accidents, and 1.1 million deaths from suicide. Adding up all of these categories gives us a total of approximately 33 million deaths worldwide in 2020.

By comparison, the number of babies who were put to death by way of abortion in 2020 was 42.6 million. Yes, you read that right. The total number of deaths by abortion exceeded the total number of deaths from all those other categories combined. Approximately speaking, for every single Covid-19 death there were 41 abortion deaths. I guess the mainstream media didn’t have time to work that into their reporting, what with all the news about Covid-19, politics, the weather, sporting events, etc.

Do black lives matter? You bet they do, all of them. Well, I guess I should say that almost all of them matter. The lives of the approximately 800 black babies that get aborted in America every day don’t seem to matter much. By the way, half of those babies are females, too, if you want to talk about the rights of women. You see, the dirty little secret is that not all women have rights. Rights are exclusively reserved for women whose mothers didn’t opt for abortion.

God gave the people of Israel the land of Canaan to possess and settle. The problem with that was the fact that Canaan was already home to various races of people. Those races were idolaters who worshiped their false gods by way of bizarre rites and rituals. One such race was the Ammonites, who worshiped a god named Molech by literally offering their children to him in fiery sacrifices. This specific god and this specific type of worship are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. As a matter of fact, in that body of law that God imparted to Moses to give to the Israelites, He took the time to especially condemn this god and this type of sacrifice. Tragically, however, there were times over the course of Israel’s long history that the people of Israel broke God’s law by offering their children in sacrifice to Molech. Consider the following passages (all from the N.K.J.V.):

  • Leviticus 18:21: “And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.”
  • Leviticus 20:1-5: Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who gives any of his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given some of his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name. And if the people of the land should in any way hide their eyes from the man, when he gives some of his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, then I will set My face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech.”
  • 1 Kings 11:7: Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon.
  • 2 Kings 2-3: Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord his God, as his father David had done. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel; indeed he made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel.
  • 2 Kings 23:10: And he (King Josiah) defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or daughter pass through the fire to Molech.
  • 2 Chronicles 33:5-6: He (King Manasseh) also built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem shall My name be forever.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
  • Jeremiah 7:30-33: “For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight,” says the Lord. “They have set their abominations in the house which is called by My name to pollute it. And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart. Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when it will no more be called Tophet, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Tophet until there is no room. The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the heaven and for the beasts of the earth. And no one will frighten them away.”
  • Jeremiah 19:1-4: Thus says the Lord: “Go and get a potter’s earthen flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests. And go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the Potsherd Gate; and proclaim there the words that I will tell you, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will bring such a catastrophe on this place, that whoever hears of it, his ears will tingle. Because they have forsaken Me and made this an alien place, because they have burned incense in it to other gods whom neither they, their fathers, nor the kings of Judah have known, and have filled this place with the blood of the innocents.”
  • Jeremiah 32:34-35: ‘But they set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to defile it. And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.’
  • Ezekiel 16:20-21: “Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire?”
  • Ezekiel 20:30-32: “Therefore says to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Are you defiling yourselves in the manner of your fathers and committing harlotry according to their abominations? For when you offer your gifts and make your sons pass through the fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols, even to this day. So shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live,” says the Lord God, “I will not be inquired of by you. What you have in your mind shall never be, when you say, ‘We will be like the Gentiles, like the families in other countries, serving wood and stone.'”
  • Ezekiel 23:36-37: The Lord also said to me: “Son of man, will you judge Oholah and Oholibah? Then declare to them their abominations. For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. They have committed adultery with their idols, and even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them.”

You’ll note that in these passages frequent reference is made to a certain valley, The Valley of the Son of Hinnom (or simply the shortened version, The Valley of Hinnom). The Greek equivalent of “The Valley of Hinnom” is Gehenna. This valley is located near Jerusalem, and it was the site where the people of Israel offered up their children to the god Molech. In the later days of Israel’s history, the valley became the local garbage dump for Jerusalem. As such, the carcasses of animals, the unclaimed bodies of deceased criminals, and all kinds of trash from Jerusalem ended up there. Everything got burned to eliminate it, and the smoke from the fires seemed to be rising continually from the valley.

Jesus used the macabre scenery of the valley as an earthly illustration of the eternal lake of fire where Satan, all the other fallen angels, and all of history’s lost people will spend eternity. Just as worms were frequently seen feasting on the carcasses in the midst of the fires of Jerusalem’s Gehenna, Jesus described the eternal lake of fire (the eternal Gehenna) as being a place where the fire is never quenched and their (referring to lost people) worm does not die (Mark 9:42-48). That was His way of saying that the lost will not be obliterated or annihilated in the eternal Gehenna. Instead, they will be tormented in the fire of the eternal lake of fire endlessly with no hope of ever experiencing relief or pardon. (I realize that this is not a pleasant topic, but if you would like to read more about it, please read the post “Are Hades & Hell the Same Place? post #2.”)

But let me ask you something in closing: Do you think it’s a coincidence that the valley where the people of Israel once offered their children in fiery sacrifices to the god Molech ultimately became the New Testament’s earthly illustration of God’s site of eternal judgment? I don’t think it’s a coincidence in the least. No, I think that God absolutely despises the shedding of what He calls in Jeremiah 19:4 “the blood of the innocents,” and I think He has not forgotten the murders that occurred in that valley.

Of course, in our modern world, we don’t have a Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) that serves as the site where children are killed, do we? Instead, our “valleys” are called “Centers for Reproductive Alternatives,” “Women’s Health Centers,” “Women’s Medical Pavilions,” or “Family Planning Centers.” Likewise, we don’t offer our children to Molech, do we? Instead, we offer them to gods called “convenience,” “self-centeredness,” “irresponsibility,” and “worldliness.” Despite all of this new terminology, though, God still considers abortion the same old song, just sung to a different tune. The song is called “The Shedding of the Blood of the Innocents” and the world continues to sing it without shame. So, this coming Sunday, which has been designated as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, let’s remember all the innocents that abortion has claimed worldwide, and let’s consider what we are doing to help put an end to this worldwide atrocity.

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For Such a Time as This

“…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, N.K.J.V.)

The book of Esther opens up with Esther, Mordecai, and their fellow Jews living under the rule of the Persians. A century or so earlier the Jews had been conquered by the Babylonians, with the Jewish survivors being exiled to Babylon. Several decades later, however, the Persians (in an alliance with the Medes) had conquered the Babylonians. After the transfer of power, the Persians had allowed the Jews the opportunity to return home to Israel, and a remnant of the Jews had done that in order to build a new temple to replace the Solomonic one the Babylonians had destroyed. As for all the Jews who had chosen not to return to Israel, they had remained under Persia rule.

As it so happened, Esther was a real looker. How beautiful was she? She was beautiful enough to win what amounted to a national beauty contest to become the new queen for the Persian ruler Ahasuerus. That lofty position should have been enough to ensure that both Esther and Mordecai could live out their lives in safety, but it wasn’t because they were Jews and there was a man named Haman who absolutely hated all Jews. Haman, as it so happened, was Ahasuerus’ second-in-command.

Mordecai was a servant who served in close proximity to Ahasuerus — he “sat within the king’s gate” (Esther 2:19-21). But when Ahasuerus sent out word that his servants should bow and pay homage to Haman whenever Haman walked by, Mordecai refused to obey the command. While that might have had something to do with Mordecai reserving his bowing for God alone, it’s more likely that it had to do with Haman’s lineage. Haman, you see, was a descendant of Agag, an Amalekite king whom Israel’s prophet Samuel had put to death centuries earlier by hacking him to pieces (1 Samuel 15:1-9). Samuel had done that as part of God’s command that all the Amalekites were to be destroyed.

To Israel’s shame, the Jews had historically failed to carry out that command completely, and that was evidenced by the fact that Amalekites kept popping up periodically in the Old Testament storyline (1 Samuel 27:8; 1 Samuel 30:1-2; 2 Samuel 1:1-8; 1 Chronicles 4:43). Haman, as I mentioned, was yet another example, and he no doubt knew his family tree’s long history of being killed by Jews. Because of this, he would have despised Mordecai (who was well known for being Jewish) even if Mordecai had bowed to him and paid him homage. The point is that Mordecai refusing to give Haman the public show of respect everyone else did simply lit the fuse on what was already a powder-keg relationship. As for Mordecai, he too no doubt knew about the longstanding war between his people and Haman’s people.

In Haman’s rage against Mordecai, he convinced Ahasuerus that the Jews were a threat to the Persian empire because they kept their God’s laws rather than the laws of the Persians. That, of course, was a gross exaggeration, but it was enough to get Ahasuerus to agree to allow Haman to have each and every Jew, young and old alike, executed on a certain day. As part of the plan, Haman would even donate a large sum of money out of his own pocket to the royal treasury to pay the men who did the rounding up and executing. What neither Ahasuerus nor Haman knew was that Esther, Ahasuerus’ beautiful queen, was Mordecai’s cousin and a Jew herself. She and Mordecai had kept her lineage a secret for fear that it would have prevented Ahasuerus from selecting her to be his queen.

This, then, brings us to our text passage. Once word was sent out about Haman’s plan, Mordecai began to make a public spectacle of himself in the city square of Shushan where the palace of Ahasuerus was located. Mordecai tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes, and cried out loudly. Even though these were all traditional acts of mourning among the Jewish people, Mordecai’s behavior embarrassed Esther and she had new clothes sent to him. Mordecai, however, refused to change his attire. Then Esther sent her trusted servant Hathach to talk to Mordecai and find out why he was acting so strangely. She either hadn’t heard about Haman’s plan to execute all the Jews or she somehow didn’t understand that the plan would extend to Mordecai and could possibly extend to her as well if her nationality was discovered.

After Mordecai explained things to Hathac, he gave Hathac a copy of the execution decree and told him to tell Esther to go to Ahasuerus and plead for the Jewish people. Esther responded by sending Hathac back to Mordecai with the message that if she attempted to approach Ahasuerus without being invited to approach his throne, she might be put to death for that egregious breach of royal etiquette. To bolster her argument, she added in that Ahasuerus hadn’t asked to see her once in the past thirty days.

Esther probably thought her reasoning was sound, but Mordecai wasn’t buying it in the least. By way of Hathac, he sent word back to her that she shouldn’t think that her being the queen would keep her safe while all her fellow Jews died. He even told her that if she remained silent and refused to help her people, not only would God deliver the Jews through some other means but He would also see to it that she and all her father’s family would perish. Then came the famous words of our text: “…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Mordecai wanted Esther to understand that she hadn’t become queen by accident. He wanted her to acknowledge that her winning that beauty contest hadn’t been a fluke. He wanted her to realize that God was the one who had raised her up to that lofty position, and He had done it because His perfect foreknowledge had shown Him what Haman would ultimately try to pull. In Mordecai’s way of looking at the situation, it was now time for Esther to play the role that God had placed her in perfect position to play.

To her credit, once Esther received this answer from Mordecai, she sent him a return reply that instructed him to get all the Jews in Shushan to fast for her for three days while she and her servants did likewise. At the end of the three days, she would attempt to approach Ahasuerus. She closed her reply by saying, “And if I perish, I perish!”

So, how did things turn out? Well, it’s a fairly complicated story and this post has already gotten longer than I wanted it to get, so let me just give you the basics. They are: Ahasuerus received Esther gladly, the Jewish people were saved, Haman was executed by way of hanging, Ahasuerus gave Esther all of Haman’s wealth and property, and Mordecai was elevated to the second-in-command status that Haman had once held. You talk about a happy ending!

As I close, though, I want you to consider this story in relation to your own life. As we live in these strange days, these days in which we are witnessing events the likes of which we have never seen, have you considered how God wants to use you in His service in the midst of it all? The truth is that He has you stationed right there in your specific corner of the world to be the vessel through whom He works. But you, like Esther, must submit yourself to the role no matter what it might cost you. Basically, the question you have to ask yourself is, “Am I willing to accept God’s assignment and play my role for such a time as this?” If you are, then get alone with God and ask Him, “Lord, how do you want me to serve You here where You have me right now?” Then listen carefully for His answer and go out and do it.

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Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1, N.K.J.V.)

Some people just have to worry, even when there is nothing happening that is worrisome. They are like the patient in the mental hospital who was sitting with his ear placed right up against the wall. When the attendant came into the room to give him his dinnertime meal, the patient motioned the attendant over to him and said, “Put your ear up against this wall and tell me what you hear.” The attendant obliged and said to the patient, “I don’t hear anything.” The patient answered, “I know, it’s been like that all day. What do you think they are up to out there?”

Jesus said to His apostles, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” The teaching is: A troubled heart and belief in Jesus should be incompatible. On another occasion, He said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28, N.K.J.V.). The teaching there is: Jesus has the Christian safely and securely in His hand.

By combining the two teachings, we learn that since Jesus has the Christian safely and securely in His hand, the Christian’s heart should never be troubled. I should also mention that the Greek word translated as “know” in Jesus’ quote, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them…” is ginosko. It is the specific Greek word that describes the most complete and comprehensive knowledge possible.

This same Greek word is used in John 10:15 in reference to how Jesus and God the Father know each other, and it’s also used in Luke 16:15 in reference to how God knows the hearts of individuals. Just how deeply intimate is this word? It’s enough so to refer to sexual relations in Matthew 1:25 to describe the relationship Joseph didn’t have with Mary before she gave birth to Jesus (“…and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.”). That, Christian, is how well Jesus knows you and all the potentially worrisome problems and situations you are facing.

With this in mind, your response to His words, “Let not your heart be troubled” should be, “Okay, Jesus, thank You. Forgive me for worrying.” Don’t be like the guy who took an egg out of the carton and swallowed the egg whole to win a bet. Once he realized the stupidity of what he had done, he started to worry. He first worried that if he moved, the egg would break inside him and cause him stomach trouble. That resulted in him sitting motionless for hours. But then he started to worry that him sitting motionless like that would cause the egg to hatch!

Look, I get it that life comes complete with events and problems that will cause concern in any right-thinking individual. I mean, let’s face it, some bullies aren’t all bluff, some dogs do bite, and sometimes the diagnosis is cancer. Jesus Himself got betrayed, arrested, tried, and crucified, and (if historical tradition can be trusted) each of the apostles (except for Judas Iscariot) died as martyrs. Still, in spite of everything that life can and does throw at us, Jesus says, “I’ve got you, so don’t worry.”

Think of it this way, Christian, the worst this world can do to you is kill you, and that will just get you promoted to your heavenly home where you will never again experience pain, sorrow, regret, and heartache. Perhaps that’s why Jesus could be so adamant in telling His followers not to worry. Again, no one is saying that life is always easy. The key is to not let your appropriate concerns cross the line into sinful worrying. You must replace your fear with faith, your turmoil with trust, and your worry with worship. Remember, the sovereign God of all creation, the Savior who died on a Roman cross in order that all your sins could be forgiven, loves you with a perfect love, knows you intimately, and has you in the palm of His hand. You never walk alone. You are never out His sight. And your eternal future is always secure. Therefore, even when certain people really are up to something out there, your belief in Jesus should keep your heart from getting troubled.

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One Man’s Opinion

Four years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the election between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, I wrote a post entitled The Christian & Government. As part of that post, I listed ten Bible passages — five from the Old Testament and five from the New Testament — as proof texts that the Bible teaches that the Christian should submit to the authority of his/her government. I wrote:

This applies to Christians living in an America where Republican Donald Trump leads the government just as it would have applied to an America where Hilary Clinton led it. For that matter, it would have equally applied to an American government led by Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

While I won’t recite those ten passages here, if you want to read them for yourself, they are: Romans 13:1-7; Daniel 2:20-21; 1 Peter 2:11-14; Psalm 75:6-7; Luke 20:22-25; Daniel 4:25; John 19:10-11; Jeremiah 29:7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; and Job 12:18. Or, you can just go back and read the entire post. It’s not that long.

Well, here we are four years later, and this time around it’s the Republicans who are fighting mad about the results of the election. All that anger served as the fuel for an armed mob of radicals to storm our nation’s Capital building this past Wednesday, overpower or push past the guards, and temporarily lay siege to the building. The political leaders inside the building were forced to take cover, hide, and ultimately flee the premises. Five people ended up dead as a result of the uprising, and one of those was a Capital police officer named Brian D. Sicknick. Reports indicate that he died from injuries sustained from being struck with a fire extinguisher.

I have no idea how many members of that mob were professing Christians, but my guess is the number would be fairly high. Obviously, such people don’t cling to the scriptural truth that God, in His providential sovereignty, raises up political leaders, brings down political leaders, and gives kingdoms to whomever He will. Then again, maybe they do cling to it as long as God sees fit that a Republican wins the Presidency.

One of the mob members might argue, “But the election was stolen from Donald Trump by rigged voting machines and thousands of bogus mail-in ballots.” Okay, I understand the argument. However, even if those assertions could be proven to be true — and I think most of us realize that if such crimes were carried out, the tracks have been covered so well that we’ll never find the evidence — what we are left with is God’s perfect foreknowledge. If the fix was in for Biden, would God have known about it ahead of time? Yes, He would have. This means that even if President Trump really did get robbed, God saw it coming and chose not to stop it.

Therefore, based upon what the Bible teaches about God and His role in government, the real question is not, “Has God either caused or at least allowed Joe Biden to become the President of the United States of America?” Clearly, He has. The real question is, “Why would God allow such a man to hold that title?”

Joe Biden, after all, represents a political party whose platform supports, legalizes, and promotes two sins that are as unbiblical as unbiblical can be: abortion and homosexuality. Speaking bluntly, those two issues are why I have never voted for a Democratic candidate for anything and will never do so. It’s not that I can’t see the flaws and failures of the Republican party and all of its political leaders, including Donald Trump. Those flaws and failures aren’t hard to spot, and I’m not stupid. No, my problem with voting for Joe Biden, Hilary Clinton, Barak Obama, Bill Clinton, etc., etc., etc. is that I can’t vote for any candidate who aligns himself or herself with those who legislate in favor of killing babies in the womb and celebrating sexual behavior that God explicitly labels as abomination and perversion in both the Old Testament and the New Testament of His written word. Because of that, no matter who the Republicans run, I have to either vote for that candidate, throw my vote away on a third-party candidate, write in Spongebob Squarepants, or sit out the election completely.

You see, if the Republicans and Democrats somehow magically swapped their party platforms, I would immediately change my party affiliation to Democrat. I’m not a died-in-the-wool Republican any more than I could ever be a died-in-the-wool Democrat. I pastor a Baptist church, but I can’t even describe myself as a died-in-the-wool Baptist. As proof of that, I served as the pastor of a non-denominational church for eight years. What I am is a died-in-the-wool, Bible-believing Christian. I’m a simpleton in that way.

You say, “But Russell, what you are saying makes you a two-issue voter.” Yes, it does. But isn’t it about time we admitted that everybody is a one-issue voter or a two-issue voter? For some voters, racism is an issue that trumps (no pun intended) all the other issues. For others, it’s homosexual rights. For others, it’s the economy. For others, it’s national defense. For others, it’s student loans. For others, it’s the environment. For others, it’s aid to farmers. For others, it’s foreign relations. For others, it’s health care. For others, it’s public education. For others, it’s Social Security. For others, it’s immigration. For others, it’s whatever party their father or grandfather supported. Seriously, the hard, cold truth of the matter is that everybody votes according to what’s in their wheelhouse. None of us, and I do mean none of us, is as broadminded as we like to think we are.

Furthermore, it’s very possible that singular facts can prevent us from voting for a candidate. For example, let’s say that a Presidential candidate checks off every one of your boxes and you are excited about casting your vote for him. Then it is discovered that he, through a legal loop hole, took millions of dollars from his company’s retirement fund. Will you still vote for the guy or will that one character flaw change your whole opinion of him? Or, let’s say that a Senatorial candidate speaks to your heart in regards to all the issues that are important to you and you can’t wait to vote for her in the upcoming election. Then a background check uncovers that her first husband died under very suspicious circumstances and she is still a prime suspect in the case. Will that change your opinion of her even though her positions on all the policies remains the same? Do you see what I’m saying? Just one issue, regardless of all the other issues, can serve as the determining factor in how you vote.

Whether we admit it or not, we all have our “don’t step across that line” issues, and these issues decide how we vote. My two are abortion and homosexuality. There, I said it. Someone asks me, “What about racism?” My answer is, “I’m against it, but since neither political party legislatively endorses racism or has it as one of its party platforms, and since not all Republicans are racists and not all democrats are innocent of being racists, that issue doesn’t compel me to vote for either party.” Someone else asks me, “What about immigration?” Again, since neither political party is trying to make immigration illegal as one of its party platforms, and the difference between the two parties on the issue comes down to the nuts and bolts of how immigrants can become American citizens, immigration doesn’t compel me to vote for either party. Yet another person asks, “What about the economic divide between the rich and the poor?” To that, I answer, “Am I supposed to believe that a bunch of millionaire politicians, whether they be Republicans or Democrats, can even remotely relate to the plight of the middle class and the poor in America? Please, give me a break with that. The truth is they are all part of the elite and I definitely am not.”

Now let me get back to the rioting that took place a couple of days ago. My take is that what we saw is merely the latest evidence of a nation that has turned its back on God. In a zillion ways, we’ve become a bunch of rebels against Him, and the Bible teaches in case study after case study that rebellion against God will always end in chaos and judgment. That’s where we are, folks, and that’s where all indications point to us remaining. The Bible talks about sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7), and we as a nation have been sowing the wind for a long time now. Did we foolishly think the whirlwind would never reach us? Surely it’s upon us now, and according to Biblical prophecy, it’s just getting warmed up. The Bible also says that God is not mocked, which means that whatever seed gets sown gets reaped come harvest time (Galatians 6:7). With that universal law in full operation, even if we Americans wake up tomorrow morning and change the seed we are sowing, we’ll still have to endure the harvests of judgment that are already coming down the line from the seed we’ve been sowing for decades.

As for me personally, it strikes me that what I am is tired, bone tired. I’m tired of Donald Trump tweeting and playing golf every Sunday morning instead of attending church. I’m tired of Joe Biden grinning like a Cheshire cat and thinking he hit a triple simply because he woke up on third base after the Democratic National Party pressured Bernie Sanders and that vast field of other candidates to drop out and give him a clear path to become the party’s candidate for President. I’m tired of Mitch McConnell looking surly, mumbling, and not even attempting to play nice with anybody. I’m tired of Nancy Pelosi, her color-coordinated outfits and masks, and her attempts to retool the English language to eliminate gender-specific words. I’m tired of Supreme Court Justices making previous Court precedent the deciding factor in their decisions because they don’t want other Justices coming along in a few years and overturning their decisions. I’m tired of Lebron James telling me I was born privileged because I was born white, when I know that I was also born to be 5’7 and athletically limited while he was born to be 6’9 and athletically gifted enough to earn half a billion dollars playing a sport I played for free. I’m tired of news stations spinning the news rather than just reporting it and letting me decide the facts for myself. I’m tired of Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert arrogantly using the venues of their late-night talk shows to make fun of anyone who has a different opinion than theirs. I’m tired of…..well, you get the idea.

I’m so glad that my ultimate citizenship is in heaven rather than in the town of Spruce Pine, the county of Mitchell, the state of North Carolina, the country of America, or the world of Planet Earth. I’m just a sojourner who is only passing through this foreign land for a little while until I get promoted to my eternal home in glory. As a Christian, my future there is guaranteed because I will serve as a valued member of the royal staff for the King of Kings who will rule and reign for all eternity. Once I am at last in His presence, I won’t have to worry about who to vote for ever again, and I won’t have to write any more blog posts that deal with politics. That, in and of itself, will be enough to make heaven heaven!

Until then, though, I’m here in this mortal coil (that’s a little Shakespeare for you) right alongside everybody else. Maybe we won’t see any more scenes like we witnessed Wednesday, but as I’ve explained, all bets are off at this point. I would say the future is unknowable, but actually the Bible makes it pretty knowable. And, as better preachers than me have pointed out, America isn’t named as being one of the major players on the world stage for the prophetic events of the end times. You can make of that what you will, but what I make of it is that America’s future doesn’t look nearly so bright as its past. Admittedly, that’s just one man’s opinion, but like everybody else, I do get one.

Posted in Abortion, Coming Judgment, Current Events, God's Sovereignty, Government, Heaven, Homosexuality, Leadership, Personal, Politics, Prophecy, Racism | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Man Behind the Curtain

Those of us who grew up watching The Wizard of Oz on television once a year know all about “the man behind the curtain.” Unfortunately, since that movie came out in 1939, younger generations simply don’t get the reference because they’ve never seen the movie. It’s like old preachers saying, “God would have to send me a telegram to get me to pastor that church.” Nowadays, we have to say something more like, “God would have to personally message me on Facebook to get me to pastor that church.”

For those of you who don’t know what “the man behind the curtain” reference means, let me explain. Young Dorothy and her dog Toto are inside Dorothy’s farmhouse in Kansas when the house is picked up by a tornado and carried away to the strange land of Oz. Once there, it lands on the wicked Witch of the East, killing her in the process. Magically, the witch’s ruby slippers are removed from her feet and transported onto Dorothy’s feet. Dorothy is then instructed by Glinda, the good Witch of the North, to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City and ask to see the all-powerful Wizard of Oz because he is the one who can help Dorothy get back home to Kansas.

What follows is Dorothy’s journey to the Emerald City. Along the way, she is joined at periodic intervals by the Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion as each new member of the traveling party wants the Wizard of Oz to grant him something. The Scarecrow wants the Wizard to give him brains, the Tinman wants the Wizard to give him a heart, and the Lion wants the Wizard to give him courage. The only problem is that the wicked Witch of the West torments them along the way because she wants those magic slippers her sister, the wicked Witch of the East, once wore.

When Dorothy and her three companions finally reach the Emerald City and stand before The Wizard of Oz, he tells them that no wishes will be granted until they bring him the broomstick of the wicked Witch of the West. The foursome then travel to the witch’s land and end up in her castle. It’s there that Dorothy, after the witch has set fire to the Scarecrow, throws water onto the fire and in so doing accidently douses the witch. As luck would have it, water is the one thing that can kill the witch, and so she slowly melts away and becomes a puddle.

With the witch’s broomstick in hand, Dorothy and her three friends return to the Emerald City and come before The Wizard of Oz again. The Wizard, however, speaks to them roughly and refuses to grant their wishes. But as The Wizard’s voice booms out and his head is surrounded by various kinds of special effects, Dorothy’s dog Toto runs over to a curtain off to the side and pulls it back with his teeth. There, behind the curtain, is a little old man who is speaking into a microphone and operating what amounts to a 1939 version of a computer. The all-powerful Wizard of Oz, as it turns out, is just a simple man who had landed in Oz years earlier by way of a balloon and had used his technical abilities to create a large screen onto which he projected the head and voice of an intimidating Wizard. Thus, the phrase “the man behind the curtain” came to popularly refer to the true power behind the throne, the unseen person who pulls all the pulleys and levers and makes the Wizard what he is.

Here, now, is how all of this applies to us today. As we watch our nation and our world plunge further and further away from God and His written word, we need to realize that the true man behind the curtain who is orchestrating the downgrade is Satan. And as Bible proof of that, I’ll offer a lengthy list of passages as the close to this post. Please don’t click away or swipe away before you thoroughly read each passage and comprehend what it is saying. By doing this, you’ll gain a proper understanding of just how much control Satan has over this world and the people who occupy it. Here now are the passages (all from the N.K.J.V., boldfaced emphasis mine):

  • Job 1:7; 2:3: And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”
  • Luke 13:16: “So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound — think of it — for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”
  • John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
  • John 12:31: “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.”
  • John 14:30: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.”
  • 2 Corinthians 4:3-4: But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
  • 2 Corinthians 11:13-15: For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
  • Ephesians 2:1-2: And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.
  • Ephesians 6:11-12: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:18: Therefore we wanted to come to you — even I, Paul, time and time again — but Satan hindered us.
  • 1 Peter 5:8: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
  • 1 John 5:19: We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
  • Revelation 12:9: So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world: he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Posted in Angels, Current Events, Demons, Satan, Spiritual Warfare | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Amen, and a Woman”

Normally, I avoid writing about the sordid world of politics. If I write anything about a “political” issue, it is only to point out what the Bible teaches about that issue. Those who know me best know that I don’t have confidence in any political party. I do vote, but that’s about as far as I delve into politics. Putting it bluntly, the day this blog becomes a political site is the day I’ll stop writing it.

While that said, I would like to devote a post to something I read today, something that comes out of the political realm. It seems that United States Representative Emanuel Cleaver recently delivered the opening prayer for the 117th United States Congress and closed his prayer by saying, “…amen, and a woman.” I don’t know if Cleaver was trying to be cute or simply bizarrely politically correct, but whatever his motives were, his words were at best sophomoric and at worst blasphemous.

For the record, the word “amen” is a Bible word. When you read it in either the Old Testament or the New Testament, what you are reading is a Hebrew word that has been left untranslated. Translators call an untranslated word that gets jammed straight into another language a transliteration as opposed to a translation. The point is, the word “amen” is one Hebrew word that we all know.

As for what the word literally means, that depends upon who is using it in scripture. When a human being uses it, it means “so be it.” That definition comes from Numbers 5:22, where we find the Bible’s first mention of the word. There, God says, “…Then the woman shall say, ‘Amen, so be it.'”

On the other hand, when God Himself uses the word, it means something along the lines of “it is and shall be so.” For example, the familiar K.J.V. word “Verily” that begins so many of Jesus’ teachings — “Verily, I say unto thee…” — is none other than an English translation of amen. You see, in those instances the translators did actually take the time to translate amen rather than just let it stand untranslated. Of course, modern translations abandon the obscure translation “Verily” and instead go with “For assuredly, “For I assure you,” “For truly,” or “I tell you the truth.” In all of these translations, you can hear that amen, when used by God, indicates truthfulness, trustworthiness, sureness, and reliability. It’s no wonder that Jesus actually called Himself, “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness” (Revelation 3:14).

But now let’s get back to Emanuel Cleaver, the Democrat who represents Missouri’s 5th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. Why did he close his opening prayer in Congress by uttering the words, “amen, and a woman”? Doesn’t he know that “amen” has absolutely nothing to do with gender? Doesn’t he know what the word literally means?

Well, if he doesn’t, he should. I say that because Mr. Cleaver also just happens to be an ordained United Methodist pastor who received a Master of Divinity degree from St. Paul School of Theology and served as the pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, from 1972 until 2009. Considering this background, my guess is that, yes, he knows what amen means, and, yes, he knows the word has nothing to do with gender. If this is an accurate take on the man, he obviously chose to use the revered word in a very irreverent way by hijacking its spiritual aspect in an attempt to add weight to or draw attention to his secular beliefs.

Mind you that Representative Cleaver’s prayer came on the heels of a proposal by Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to eliminate the use of gender-specific terms such as “father,” “mother,” “son,” “daughter,” “brother,” “sister,” “uncle,” and “aunt” in reference to the family members of the Representatives. Instead, Pelosi proposes that the House use gender-neutral terms such as “parent,” “child, “sibling,” and “parent’s sibling.” This means that if I ever get elected to the House of Representatives, I’ll have to start calling my mother “my parent” and my brother “my sibling” if I want to keep up with all the political correctness run amuck. There went my chances for getting elected.

All of this recent news makes me want to join in with the apostle John in exclaiming, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20, N.K.J.V.). Just before John says that in that verse, Jesus says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” And how does John respond to that statement from Jesus? He says, of all things, “Amen.” How’s that for a poetic coincidence?

I guess that John still thought “amen” meant “so be it,” and it never dawned on him that it could be used to advance a political agenda. All I can say is that if Representative Cleaver’s recent prayer and House Speaker Pelosi’s recent proposal are any indication of where America is as a nation, we are doomed. As God promises in Psalm 9:17, any nation that forgets Him will be turned into “hell” (Sheol, the grave, the realm of the dead). That, ladies and gentlemen, is the destiny toward which America is hurtling at breakneck speed, and if we don’t change our course and return to God, all of the silly word games we are playing with prayer and gender language won’t help us one bit.

Posted in Christ's Return, Current Events, Personal, Politics | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Year-End Report (2020)

The year 2020 will historically be known as the year Covid-19 altered life on planet Earth. Schools have been forced to either go all online or at the very least offer a mix of in-class and online learning. Many businesses have been forced to close or at least operate at lowered capacity. Many churches have been forced to do the same. And what about those masks? Most of us now have a collection of them, some fashionable, some not so much.

During such a year we Americans should have been able to rely on our government to guide us through the confusing times and get help (medical, financial, or both) to whoever needed help. But our political leaders (men and women from both parties) have become so dysfunctional that they can’t effectively do the jobs they were elected to do. Needless to say, it’s been a wild ride of a year, and it’s not like 2021 is starting out particularly calm.

With God’s help, though, in the midst of all the chaos of 2020, The Disciples Road blog had a wonderful year across the board. The numbers were up substantially as 2019’s 45,082 views turned into 2020’s 68,970 views and the visitors to the site jumped from 27,283 to 42,927. For that I humbly thank each and every one of you that helped make that increase happen.

As evidence that the site is catching on with even more people, the year’s last four months registered the most views: 7,733, 7,258, 7,449, and 7,765. That translates to average views per day of: 258, 234, 248, and 250. By way of comparison, the average daily views for the first four months of the year were: 159, 140, 128, and and 143. I’m sure that Roan Mountain Baptist Church beginning our weekly radio broadcast in the cities of Omaha, Neb., Richmond, Va., York, Pa, and Greenville, S.C. was the primary cause for that late-year jump, but it’s still good to know that new people are finding the blog.

Now let’s get to the list of the most viewed posts. As was the case last year, The 10 Times Israel Tested God claimed the top spot for the year. The runner-up spot stayed the same as well, with What a Bird’s Nest Can Teach Us About God’s Will again coming in second. Beyond those two, there was quite a bit of movement in the charts. (I sound like Casey Kasem, don’t I? And if you know who he was, you are really old.) Anyway, here is the list of the top 10 views for the year, and I’ll throw in where each one was ranked last year:

  • #1: The 10 Times Israel Tested God (6,244 views) (#1 last year)
  • #2: What a Bird’s Nest Can Teach Us About God’s Will (3,585 views) (#2 last year)
  • #3: What Satan Did to Peter: Sifting (1,707 views) (not in the top 10 last year)
  • #4: How Would You Describe Your Walk With the Lord These Days? (1,601 views) (#5 last year)
  • #5: How Does a Worm Get Inside an Apple? (1,576 views) (#4 last year)
  • #6: Does God Want Everyone to Get Married? (1,524 views) (#3 last year)
  • #7: The Beasts at Ephesus (1,435 views) (not in the top 10 last year)
  • #8: Lessons From Habakkuk (1,286 views) (#7 last year)
  • #9: Divorced Pastors & Deacons (post #1 of 3) (1,265 views) (not in the top 10 last year)
  • #10: What Will Life Be Like in Christ’s Millennial Reign? (963 views) (not in the top 10 last year)

As for the list of the top 10 posts in terms of all-time views, it reads as follows:

  • #1: Does God Want Everyone to Get Married? (19,391 views) (#1 last year)
  • #2: The 10 Times Israel Tested God (11,132 views) (#3 last year)
  • #3: How Does a Worm Get Inside an Apple? (9.048 views) (#2 last year)
  • #4: What a Bird’s Nest Can Teach Us About God’s Will (8,086 views) (#4 last year)
  • #5: How Would You Describe Your Walk With the Lord These Days? (3,599 views) (#6 last year)
  • #6: Lessons From Habakkuk (2,273 views) (not in the top 10 last year)
  • #7: Oral Roberts & “Seed Faith” Giving (2,223 views) (#5 last year)
  • #8: What Satan Did to Peter: Sifting (2,077 views) (not in the top 10 last year)
  • #9: The Importance of Spanking a Child (1,989 views) (#8 last year)
  • #10: Should We Pray Silently to Keep Satan From Hearing? (1,942 views) (#9 last year)

As blown away as I am by the number of views the blog receives each year, I’m probably even more amazed by the number of countries that register views. For 2020, 183 countries around the world registered at least one view on the site. That was an increase from the previous two years, each of which had come in at 174. The list of countries registering the most views looks like this:

  • #1: The United States (47,720 views for 2020) (182,856 views all time, #1)
  • #2: The United Kingdom (2,289 views) (7,423 views all time, #2)
  • #3: Canada (2,134 views) (6,757 views all time, #3)
  • #4: India (2,105 views) (5,432 views all time, #4)
  • #5: Philippines (1,743 views) (4,693 views all time, #6)
  • #6: Nigeria (1,734 views) (4,063 views all time, #7)
  • #7: South Africa (1,673 views) (5,415 views all time, #5)
  • #8: Kenya (1,037 views) (2,178 views all time, #9)
  • #9: Australia (1,034 views) (3,997 views all time, #8)
  • #10: Singapore (690 views) (2,024 views all time, #10)

While the viewership rankings for these countries didn’t change much in terms of order, what changed was the total number of yearly views for the top 9 countries other than the United States. That number increased by over 4,000 by rising from 10,400 in 2019 to 14,439 in 2020. That means that more and more the blog is finding an audience in countries other than the United States. That’s pretty amazing for a site that is written and operated by a “no name” country preacher who pastors a rural church in the mountains of western North Carolina and writes his posts from a cluttered desk in the little town of Spruce Pine.

Of course, it’s you (the readers) who make all this happen. Each year at this time I do my best to convey “THANK YOU” to you’all, but my efforts always seem inadequate to express how truly appreciative I am for you. Even though I will gladly write a post if it helps just one person, it’s always encouraging to find that a whole bunch of folks are reading it as well.

In regards to 2021, I don’t have a crystal ball, God hasn’t sent me a text, and I have no idea what’s coming down the line. Will the pandemic continue to dominate the headlines? Will the vaccines stem the tide? Will we be able to throw away our masks? Will life get back to normal? I honestly don’t know. All I know is that I’ll try my best to keep writing the posts that God burdens me to write, and I’ll trust Him to use them any way He sees fit. That’s the way this blog thing has been rolling for the decade or so that I’ve been writing it, and the plan will remain the same until I get new marching orders from heaven. So, until then, let me offer yet another hearty, “THANK YOU” to each of you for reading and let me also wish each of you a very happy New Year!

Posted in Personal | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Should the Christian Pray Imprecatory Prayers?

The word “imprecatory” means “to invoke evil upon” or “to curse.” In accordance with this definition, many passages from the Bible’s book of Psalms can be accurately described as being imprecatory prayers. Here are seven such examples from a pretty long list (all from the N.K.J.V.):

  • (Psalm 5:10): Pronounce them guilty, O God! Let them fall by their own counsels; Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, For they have rebelled against you.
  • (Psalm 10:2, 15): The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised…Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man; Seek out his wickedness until You find none.
  • (Psalm 17:13): Arise, O Lord, Confront him, cast him down; Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword.
  • (Psalm 35:4-6): Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor Who seek after my life; Let those be turned back and brought to confusion Who plot my hurt. Let them be like chaff before the wind, And let the angel of the Lord chase them. Let their way be dark and slippery. And let the angel of the Lord pursue them.
  • (Psalm 69:22-25): Let their table become a snare before them, And their well-being a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, And make their loins shake continually. Pour out Your indignation upon them, And let Your wrathful anger take hold of them. Let their dwelling place be desolate; Let no one live in their tents.
  • (Psalm 109:8-13): Let his days be few, And let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, And his wife a widow. Let his children continuously be vagabonds, and beg; Let them seek their bread also from their desolate places. Let the creditor seize all that he has, And let strangers plunder his labor. Let there be none to extend mercy to him, Nor let there be any to favor his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off, And in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
  • (Psalm 137:8-9): O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, Happy the one who repays you as you have served us! Happy the one who takes and dashes Your little ones against the rock!

Those last two examples, in particular, use especially harsh language. Not only do they seek God’s vengeance upon the wicked, they seek it upon their children. Tell me, could you ever pray a prayer in which you asked God to make your enemy’s children homeless vagabonds who cannot find any favor and have to continually beg for food? Even worse, could you ever pray a prayer in which you sung the praises of the people who dashed those children’s heads against a rock? Even if you could envision yourself praying such prayers, could you truly pray them with a Christlike spirit rather than a vengeful one?

Many Christians would say that no Christian has any business praying any type of imprecatory prayer, and the proof text they would cite is Matthew 5:43-48. There, in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, He says:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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, 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (N.K.J.V.)

At first blush, these words from our Savior do seem to rule out praying imprecatory prayers. For that matter, they seem to rule out even having imprecatory feelings. But before we completely dismiss praying such prayers and having such feelings, we need to consult some other quotes from Jesus, quotes that find more in common with those Psalms passages than that Sermon on the Mount one. Here are four of the type of quotes I’m talking about (all from the N.K.J.V.):

  • (Matthew 23:13-15, 33): “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves…Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”
  • (Luke 10:13-15): “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades.”
  • (Revelation 2:18, 20-23): “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God…I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.'”
  • (Revelation 3:14-16): “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.'”

Jesus, by way of these quotes, didn’t seem to show much love to the scribes and Pharisees, the citizens of those three cities, that false prophetess in the church of Thyatira, and those members of the church of the Laodiceans, did He? You say, “But those quotes from Him aren’t really prayer requests and consequently can’t be called imprecatory prayers.” You’re right, they aren’t prayer requests. What you must realize, though, is that Jesus is God. Therefore, He doesn’t have to work through the process of taking His requests to God. He can just make the requests happen.

Continuing on with this theme of New Testament quotes that seem to have more in common with the imprecatory requests from the Psalms than Christ’s words from the Sermon on the Mount, consider these (all from the N.K.J.V.):

  • (1 Corinthians 16:22): If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!
  • (Galatians 1:8-9): But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
  • (Jude 1:11-15): Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds with water, carried about by the winds, late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, “Behold the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.

Coming at this topic another way, 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. That word “all” definitely includes each and every imprecatory-type passage from either the Old Testament or the New Testament. Along the same lines, Jesus Himself said in that same Sermon on the Mount, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17, N.K.J.V.). Even though the Psalms are technically not part of the writings of the Law or the Prophets, the term “the Law and the Prophets” can be taken to refer to the entirety of the Old Testament, including the Psalms and the other “wisdom” books. This means that Jesus put His divine stamp of approval upon every “jot” and “tittle” of the Old Testament (Matthew 5:18).

If nothing else, the imprecatory passages from the Old Testament and the New Testament prove that love (even God’s love) doesn’t cancel out other godly characteristics. Justice, for example, still has a place in God’s plans. Vengeance does as well. As a matter of fact, the imprecatory prayers found in the Psalms can accurately be taken as requests for God to honor His words from Deuteronomy 32:35, where He says, “Vengeance is Mine.” Furthermore, they are merely Old Testament calls for God to do what He promises to do in Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30, where He says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.”

You see, there is a difference between loving someone (even an enemy) on a personal level and asking God to mete out just punishment on that person on a judicial level. The same mother who loves her serial-killer son with a godlike love can stand in full agreement with the calls for that son’s capture and execution. That’s the difference between the personal side of her and the judicial side. Likewise, the same Christian who shows love to an enemy by trying to help that enemy get in line with God’s will can rightly ask God to take vengeance upon that enemy for the enemy’s rejection of God and His will. Actually, if you think about it, any call for imprecatory judgment upon a wicked person inherently carries with it a love for other people. I say that because when a wicked person is brought down by judgment, that prevents that person from inflicting future harm on others.

So, to sum all this up, there are times in our Christian lives when we are perfectly in the right to pray imprecatory prayers. What differentiates these prayers from mere fleshly requests for revenge is our motivation. First, if we are praying from a motivation of sincere love for others, we can rightly pray imprecatory prayers. Second, if we are genuinely seeking God’s justice, we can rightly pray imprecatory prayers. Third, if we are joining God in a righteous indignation against the rank evil of wicked people, we can rightly pray imprecatory prayers. Fourth, if we are simply asking God to keep His word about repaying vengeance, we can rightly pray imprecatory prayers.

Look, I’m not saying that imprecatory prayers should be our default setting in regards to our times of prayer. But I am saying that the Bible does sanction such prayers when the situation calls for them. Certainly those situations won’t crop up every day in our lives, but we mustn’t kid ourselves by thinking that they never will. If they cropped up in David’s life, Paul’s life, Jude’s life, and Jesus’ life, they will crop up in ours, and when they do we shouldn’t be afraid to humbly, reverently, and (don’t forget) lovingly ask God to judiciously deal with them. The truth is, to do any less is to fail to employ the totality of scripture.

Posted in Adversity, Anger, Discernment, Discipleship, Forgiveness, Persecution, Prayer, Prayer Requests | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The CSS Shenandoah

The full-rigged sailing ship known as Sea King was a British merchant ship that was re-purposed as a raiding ship by the Confederate States Navy during the Civil War. The ship was renamed CSS Shenandoah and was deployed to raid Union commercial ships in the Pacific Ocean. Captain James Waddell served as the ship’s captain and commander.

For a full year the ship terrorized Union commercial ships around the globe. All told, it either captured, sunk, or bonded (captured and held for ransom) a total of 38 Union ships. In particular, the ship reeked havoc among the whaling fleets that sailed the waters of the Bering Sea between Siberia and Alaska. Those waters had beforehand provided safety for Union ships, but the CSS Shenandoah’s arrival there changed that quickly as the Shenandoah captured 20 of the 58 Union ships that sailed those waters during the summer of 1865.

The tragic thing, however, about all the CSS Shenandoah’s success during that time was the fact that General Robert E. Lee had surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant months earlier, on April 14, 1865. That surrender, in effect, had ended the Civil War as over the next few weeks all the other Confederate forces had surrendered as well.

Interestingly, Captain Waddell first heard about Lee’s surrender by way of the captain of the Union ship Susan & Abigail. On June 27, 1865, after the CSS Shenandoah had captured that ship, the ship’s captain showed Waddell an article from a San Francisco newspaper. The article told how the Confederate government had been forced to flee from the city of Richmond, Virginia, two and a half months earlier. While Waddell was inclined to believe the report of the Confederacy’s defeat, he chose to fixate upon a quote the article featured from Confederate President Jefferson Davis. That quote from Davis proclaimed that the war should be carried on with renewed vigor. In keeping with that idea of renewed vigor, Waddell and his crew proceeded to capture ten more whaling ships over the course of the next seven hours. That’s what you call picking up speed after you’ve heard that you are going in the wrong direction!

Finally, on August 3, 1865, as Waddell and his crew were sailing for the city of San Francisco to attack it, they encountered the British vessel Barracouta and learned from that crew that the Civil War was indeed officially over. In addition to the rest of the Confederate armies having surrendered in the weeks following Lee’s surrender, Jefferson Davis had been captured on May 10, 1865. Only after hearing this news did Captain Waddell officially lower the Confederate flag from his ship. The crew then moved the ship’s guns below deck and painted the hull to give the ship the appearance of a merchant ship.

Fearing what might happen to them if they surrendered at a port in America, Waddell and his crew took three months to sail their ship to Liverpool, England, even as Union ships searched for them diligently. Upon the arrival of the CSS Shenandoah in Liverpool, Waddell had the ship’s Confederate flag raised again. He surrendered the ship to the captain of the Royal Navy’s ship HMS Donegal and lowered the Confederate flag for the last time. He then made his way to the Liverpool Town Hall and presented the city’s mayor with a letter that officially surrendered his ship to the British government. After a full investigation and trial, Waddell and his entire crew were unconditionally released to resume their lives as they saw fit.

Perhaps by now you are saying, “Okay, Russell, that’s an interesting story, but what does it have to do with my walk with the Lord?” Well, I’m glad you asked. What the story vividly illustrates is that, like Captain Waddell and the crew of the CSS Shenandoah, it is possible for you to fight battles that you shouldn’t be fighting. For that matter, you can even win them! In the end, though, what good does it do you to fight a battle that God doesn’t want you to fight? That’s why I advise you to pray long and hard before you go to war against someone. Speaking as a person who has fought some battles that God wanted me to fight, I can assure you that every battle takes a toll on you even if that battle is God sanctioned. You can imagine, then, the toll any battle takes when it is your idea rather than God’s.

Posted in Anger, Choices, Decisions, Discernment, God's Will, Priorities, Reconciliation, Revenge, War | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A Christmas Version of 1 Corinthians chapter 13

1 Corinthians chapter 13 is often called the great “love chapter.” With this is mind, someone has written a Christmas version of it. Somewhere down through the years I picked up a copy and stuck it in my file folder marked “Christmas,” but I honestly don’t even remember doing it. Likewise, I would gladly attribute full credit to the author, but the name isn’t provided. So, I’ll just offer the piece as it reads according to the printout I have. I hope you enjoy it. Better yet, I hope you put it into practice this Christmas season.

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows,

Strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls,

But do not show love to my family,

I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen baking dozens of cookies,

Preparing gourmet meals

And arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime,

But do not show love to my family,

I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home,

And give all that I have to charity,

But do not show love to my family,

It profits me nothing.

If my tree has gleaming angels and crocheted snowflakes,

And I attend a myriad of parties, and sing in the cantata,

But do not focus on Christ,

I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss a loved one.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china

and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful

they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return,

but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,

endures all things.

LOVE NEVER FAILS!

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, gold clubs will rust…

But giving the gift of love will endure.

Posted in Christmas, Christmas Traditions, Love | Tagged , , | 2 Comments