“Christian Verses” podcast: John 17:18

In a prayer to God the Father, Jesus said of His disciples, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). But what does it mean to be sent into the world? Christian, have you ever asked yourself that question? I can tell you that it involves finding the ways in which the Lord wants you to minister in your specific spot of the globe. Malcolm and I discuss all this in this week’s podcast. Here’s the link:

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Some Bible Basics About Gun Control

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that gun control has become a major topic in American culture. Well, as with any topic, it is the Christian’s job to look to the Bible to gain God’s perspective on the issue. So, that’s what we’ll do in this post. My goal here is not to write the absolute last word on this subject. It is, instead, to merely offer the basics of what the Bible has to say about it. Actually, if you listened to the recent two-part series on the “Christian Verses” podcast, you’ve already heard these basics as presented by Malcolm Woody and myself.

Since the Bible was completed centuries before the invention of the first gun, we aren’t going to find a verse that says either: “Thou shalt own a gun” or “Thou shalt not own a gun.” Still, there are some definite Bible facts that can be applied to the topic. I’ll list five of them.

Fact #1: The Bible speaks of the use of many different kinds of weapons. Even though guns aren’t found in the stories of the Bible, other weapons certainly are. The list includes bows, arrows, swords, daggers, spears, and javelins. These were the “guns” of the ancient world.

In addition to these typical weapons, the Bible also speaks of atypical ones. David killed Goliath with a sling and a rock (1 Samuel 17:49-50). Jael killed Sisera with a tent peg (Judges 4:21-22; 5:24-27). An unnamed woman mortally wounded Abimlech by dropping a millstone on his head (Judges 9:50-55). Shagmar killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad (Judges 3:31). Similarly, Samson killed 1,000 Philistines with a jawbone from the fresh corpse of a donkey (Judges 15:15-17). Based upon all this, I think it’s safe to say that if the Bible were being written today, guns would be on the list of the weapons mentioned.

Fact #2: In no place does the Bible blame a weapon for the effect the weapon causes. As an example, I’ll use Herod Agrippa I’s killing of the apostle James. In Acts 12:1-2, we read that Herod killed James with a sword. (He either personally killed him with the weapon or ordered him to be executed with it.) But in Acts 12:20-24 we read that an angel of the Lord struck Herod and caused him to die a gruesome death. The point is that God had the angel strike the man, not the sword. If you really want to get technical about it, the Bible even relates the word of God to a sword (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12).

There’s a saying, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” While this saying has become something of a cliche’, it still holds much truth. The fact is that even if there weren’t any guns, someone who is bent on killing will find a way to do it. After all, there weren’t any guns in the days of Cain and Abel, but that didn’t stop Cain from killing his brother. You see, the true heart of the problem is the sinful, Adamic nature with which we are all born. Take that nature out of each of us and all killing will stop. But there’s simply no way to take out that nature, and we’ll all — including Christians — struggle with it until we pass into the afterlife.

Fact #3: The Bible depicts conflict and warfare as inevitable byproducts of living in a fallen world. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, the Bible says there is a time for every purpose under heaven. Shockingly to some, that list includes a time of war. Likewise, in Psalm 144:1 David actually praises God for training his hands for war and his fingers for battle.

Even Jesus said that wars must come to pass (Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9). As a matter of fact, there are multiple instances in the Old Testament, particularly involving Israel’s conquering of the land of Canaan, when God commands Israel to go to war against other races of people. Furthermore, a sensible, intelligent argument can be made that guns, used rightly, help make the peace (Matthew 5:9).

Fact #4: Jesus Himself made some allowance that there are times when carrying a weapon is appropriate. On the night of His betrayal and arrest, just after His famous “last supper,” Jesus said to His disciples, “…he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one” (Luke 22:36, N.K.J.V.). When the disciples answered Him, “Lord, look, here are two swords,” He said, “It is enough” (Luke 22:38). However, later that same night, as Jesus was facing arrest following His praying in the garden of Gethsemane, He told Peter, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52, N.K.J.V.).

How can we explain Jesus’ seemingly contradictory attitude toward carrying a weapon? One possible answer is that even though He never intended to resist arrest or allow Peter and the other disciples to defend Him, He didn’t want to be arrested before He had a chance to do His final praying in the garden of Gethsemane. Another possible answer is that He wanted the disciples to understand that their circumstances were about to turn much darker and He wasn’t going to be around to protect them anymore (Luke 22:37).    

Fact #5: God commands that each person be subject to his or her governing authorities. The origins of government can be traced all the way back to God’s new commands for Noah after Noah and his family disembarked from the ark (Genesis 9:6). Since then God has been pro government, and the Bible consistently teaches that He raises up rulers, puts down rulers, and grants power to whom He chooses so that those rulers can suit His purposes, whatever those purposes might be. Some of the relevant passages are Psalm 75:6-7, Jeremiah 27:4-8, Daniel 2:20-21, and Matthew 22:15-22.

Once we understand this relationship between God and government, it doesn’t surprise us to learn that God commands us to be subject to our governing authorities. Passages such as Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1-2, and 1 Peter 2:13-17 will never be popular among the rabble rousers of any day, but these passages really aren’t all that hard to understand. And, no, gun control laws don’t cancel out the truth of them.

In conclusion, let me state for the record that I’m not a “gun guy” or a member of the National Rifle Association. I’ve only shot two guns in my life — not counting b.b. guns — and I didn’t particularly enjoy either experience. With that said, though, I’m honest enough as a Bible teacher to share with you what I’ve shared in this post. As for my take on gun control laws, I see them as fine as long as they are well balanced and within reason. I would even say that we’ve reached a point where they are fairly necessary for living in this world where evil seems to be bubbling to the top more and more. Like so many of life’s issues, I think “balance” is the key word here, and my counsel to anyone would be that God really does have a will in all this if we are just open to finding it.

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Before Genesis 1:1

“And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5, N.K.J.V.)

Take your Bible and turn to its very first verse, Genesis 1:1. You’ll see that the verse begins with the word “In” (“In the beginning God created…”). Focus your eyes for a moment on that word “In,” and let your mind try to imagine the time of the beginning of creation. Got it?

Okay, now let your eyes drift to the left of “In” and focus on the whiteness of the page you find there. Do you know what you call that white space? Eternity past. And that’s the time that Jesus is referencing in our text verse. It’s a time before the creation of the heavens and the earth. It’s a time before the creation of Adam and Eve. At least some part of it is even a time before the creation of the angels. Way back there at some point in eternity past, it was only God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

I don’t know if you’ve ever studied the Bible passages that relate to eternity past, but it is absolutely amazing what all God did back there. So, I thought it would be good if I used this post to list the relevant passages and identify that work. Keep in mind that God did all of this before Genesis 1:1. Here goes:

  1. By way of His perfect foreknowledge of all history (Isaiah 46:9-10), He foreknew each person who would voluntarily place saving belief/faith in Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29) (It is important to understand that having foreknowledge of a decision does not imply causation of that decision. For example, God the Father had a foreknowledge that Jesus would be delivered to the cross, but He didn’t make the Jews and Romans perform the deed: Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:20.)  
  2. He granted those foreknown believers grace, which refers to undeserved favor or unmerited blessing. (2 Timothy 1:8-9)
  3. He chose those foreknown believers to be “in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:4)
  4. He classified those foreknown believers as “the elect.” (1 Peter 1:1-2; Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; 2 John 1,13; 1 Peter 5:13; 2 Peter 1:10; Matthew 24:24,31; Mark 13:22,27; Luke 18:7 )
  5. He blessed those foreknown believers with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm in Christ, including the blessing of a heavenly inheritance reserved for each of them (Ephesians 1:3; 2:4-7; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
  6. He predestined those foreknown believers to be conformed to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29)
  7. He wrote the names of those foreknown believers in a book called The Lamb’s (Christ’s) Book of Life. (Revelation 17:8; 13:8; 20:15; 21:27; Luke 10:20)

You see, Christian, your salvation is not some dicey, day-by-day, moment-by-moment, “hope so” standing you have with God. It is, instead, something that has been settled in eternity since before Genesis 1:1. As Acts 15:18 says: “Known to God from eternity are all His works.” And since those works include your salvation, you should rest in the scriptural promises of what God has already done for you, and live each day in the blessing, hope, and deep-settled peace those promises are meant to provide.

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“Christian Verses” podcast: Ecclesiastes 3:1 (Gun Control, part 2)

This week Malcolm and I finish finish up our two-part series on gun control. Whereas last week we simply had a personal conversation about the issue, this week we dive into scripture by starting with Ecclesiastes 3:1 and launching off from there. So, if you’ve got 30 minutes, I know we can be a help to you as we reference both the Old Testament and the New Testament to convey what the Bible teaches concerning this controversial subject.

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Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

Will the Circle Be Unbroken? is a Christian hymn written in 1907/1908 by Ada R. Habershon and Charles H. Gabriel. The song asks the question of whether or not earthly families will be reunited in heaven. As popular as the song was, though, it was A.P. Carter’s 1935 reworking of it, entitled Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)?, that made the song a national treasure. Truth be told, the Carter version has become so popular  that it has rendered the original version virtually obscure.

Carter was a founding member of country music’s legendary Carter family, and his new lyrics for the song told the story of the death and funeral of the narrator’s mother. The Carter family sang their version as part of their shows for years. Then June Carter married Johnny Cash, and he took the song to an even wider audience. From there, the Carter version has been covered by some of the biggest names in music history, including Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Willie Nelson, the Neville Brothers, and the Allman Brothers band.

In answer to the song’s question, let me say that as important as your earthly family is, it pales in significance to your membership (or lack of it) in God’s eternal family. Despite what a million movies, television shows, books, and songs — to say nothing of the entire Mormon religion with its false doctrine of “celestial marriage” — tell us, earthly relationships do not extend into the afterlife. I will know Tonya in heaven, but she won’t be my wife. I will know Ryan and Royce as well, but they won’t be my sons. I will know my mom and dad, but they won’t be my parents. I will know my brother, but he won’t be my brother. These relationships won’t be inferior to what they are now; they’ll just be different. Not worse. Better. Everything is better in heaven.

What’s key, though, is that we will all be there. And why will we all be there? Will it be because everybody ends up in heaven? No. Will it be because we were such a tight-knit group on earth? No. Will it be because our love spans the test of time across the ages? No. We will all be there because each of us, as an individual, has placed saving belief in Jesus Christ and thereby become a Christian. That’s how one becomes a part of the eternal family of God. Consider the following passages (all from the N.K.J.V.):

  • And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mothers and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven (and in John 6:40 He explains that this will equates to receiving eternal life by believing in Him) is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50)
  • But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
  • Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)
  • For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26)
  • Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone… (Ephesians 2:19-20)

These passages all teach the same thing. They teach that placing life-changing, eternity-altering, soul-saving belief in Jesus Christ is how you become a part of the family of God. And what’s truly fascinating are the three ways by which the Bible analogizes the Christian becoming a part of that family. Let’s look at each of the three.

First, to place saving belief in Jesus is to become a “born again” “babe in Christ.” This means that the Christian is (in a very real sense) born into the family of God. As we read in John 3:3:

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (N.K.J.V.)

Other passages that speak of the Christian as becoming a “born again” “babe in Christ” are:  John 3:5-8; 1 Peter 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:22-25; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; Hebrews 5:12-14; and 1 Peter 2:1-3.

Second, to place saving belief in Jesus is to become an adoptee. This means that the Christian is (in a very real sense) adopted into the family of God. As we read in Galatians 4:4-7, Paul writing to the Christians of Galatia:

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (N.K.J.V.)

Other passages that speak of the Christian as being adopted are: Romans 8:14-17; Romans 8:22-24; and Ephesians 1:3-6.

Finally, third, to place saving belief in Jesus is to become a bride. This occurs because the new Christian automatically becomes a part of Christ’s bride, the church. This means that (in a very real sense) the Christian marries into the family of God. As we read in 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul writing to the Christians of Corinth:

For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (N.K.J.V.)

Other passages that speak of the Christian as becoming a part of the bride of Christ are: Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20 John 3:27-30;  Ephesians 5:22-33; and Revelation 19:5-9.

You see, the Christian just can’t be more a part of the eternal family of God. He/she is born into it, adopted into it, and married into it. Because of this, the Christian will enjoy a dual existence in eternity as not only a child of God but also a part of Christ’s bride. All earthly relationships will be rendered null and void as God the Father fills the role of the Christian’s father and God the Son fills the role of the Christian’s spouse. So, to answer the old song’s question, the family circle will be unbroken in heaven, but it will be a much different (and better) family circle than anything we experience on this earth.

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A Lack of Loyalty

A Baptist was marooned, alone, on an uncharted island. He lived there for several years before a passing ship happened to see his fire one night and changed course to investigate. When some of the crew made their way by boat to the island, they found the man and three huts that he had built. They asked him, “What are these three huts?” He answered, “One is where I live, and one is where I go to church.” When they asked him what the third hut was, he said, “Oh, that one, that’s where I used to go to church.”

I’d love to tell you that this story is completely absurd, but the fact is, it hits a little too close to home for comfort. Church splits are far too common in the Christian realm, and members who leave one church and join another one right down the road are even more common. Actually, a large percentage of “church growth” these days isn’t so much from evangelism as it is from “church swapping.”

Some of this has to do with the fact that loyalty has become a scarce commodity in our world. College basketball is now providing us with a prime example of this. Since the current rules for professional (NBA) basketball require a player to attend at least one year of college before he can be drafted by an NBA team, the college ranks have become dominated by “one and done” star players.

A “one and done” player is a kid who would rather jump straight to the pros right out of high school, but by rule he has to put in a year of college before an NBA team can draft him. So, he commits to some college team for a freshman season, does enough schoolwork to keep him eligible to play, and then immediately declares for the NBA draft as soon as the season concludes. Why bother to get a degree so that you can earn a good salary when an NBA team stands ready to give you millions of dollars just to play basketball?

What’s interesting, though, is what the “one and done” trend has done to college coaches. It’s made hypocrites of them. Remember, these are the same guys who love to give rousing, passionate speeches about showing loyalty to them, working hard to earn playing time, and letting them mold you into not only a quality player but also a quality person. Then these same coaches bench seniors and juniors (who’ve done everything the coaches have ever asked of them) and make starters of freshmen who won’t even be part of the team next season. In other words, the coaches demand loyalty and then show none.

But it’s not just church circles or athletic ranks that are vacant of loyalty these days. In regards to satellite companies, cable companies, internet companies, and cell phone companies, who do these companies offer their best deals on programming packages? Do they offer them to the customers who have been with them for years? Nope. It’s the new customers who just signed up who get the great introductory deals. Rewarding longtime customers who’ve faithfully paid their bills for years? What a strange concept.

I’m so glad that God still knows what loyalty means and that He remains faithful to His people even when we don’t remain faithful to Him. That’s why I’d like to close this post by citing 1 Corinthians 1:9. Christian, after you’ve read the verse, take a moment to thank God for being such a God. After all, if He was like a lot of church goers, coaches, or companies, He’d have left us by the side of the road a long time ago and embraced someone new.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9, N.K.J.V.)

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A Strange Prayer Request

A man and his wife joined a local church. The couple were out of work and had precious little food and clothing, and it wasn’t long before they asked the church for help. The church lovingly obliged by providing plenty of donations. The pastor also helped the husband find a good job.

During their time of need, the couple attended church faithfully. Once they were back on their feet, though, they stopped. This irked the pastor, but he let the situation slide because there wasn’t a lot he could do about it anyway. You can’t force people to come to church, even those who are members of your church.

Then came a night when the pastor was walking along a downtown street and just happened to run into the couple. The couple were well dressed and obviously very much into themselves. As a matter of fact, they would have passed right by the pastor without speaking if he hadn’t spoken first.

The pastor said, “My, you folks certainly do look good. Where are you headed?” The wife answered, “We’ve just had a wonderful meal at a nice restaurant, and we’re going home now. ” The pastor said, “Well, I guess you know that we’ve been missing you at church lately.” Now it was the husband’s turn to answer. He said, “Oh, you know how it is. We both work hard every day, and Sunday’s the only day we have to do the things we like to do.”

Both the husband and the wife hoped that excuse would suffice and the conversation would come to a polite end, but the pastor was having none of it. Perhaps his tone wasn’t the best in the world, and his social etiquette surely wasn’t, but he did feel led of the Lord to say what he said. He looked the husband squarely in the eyes and said, “Do you know what we ought to do? We ought to get down on our knees and ask God to take away your job so that you can have time to worship and serve Him because He has been so good to you.” Ouch. Point made.

This story really happened. I cut it out of a Christian publication years ago and stuck it in my files. Really, though, even if it wasn’t true, it could be. We are so prone to run to the Lord when times are bad and drift away from Him when times are good, aren’t we?

But the Bible teaches that the exact opposite should be the case. The text verse is Romans 2:4, and I’ll use it to close this post. As you read the verse, pay close attention to what it says about what God’s goodness toward you should produce in your life. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble spotting the lesson:

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (N.K.J.V.)

Posted in Backsliding, Church, Church Attendance, Conviction, Faithfulness, God's Love, God's Provision, Husbands, Prayer Requests, Priorities, Prosperity, Repentance, Stewardship, Thankfulness | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment