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Bread and WineMatthew 14 tells of two vastly diferent feasts.

The first was given by Herod on his birthday. Salome danced for the lusty king and pleased him so much he promised her up to half of his kingdom. She asked for the head of John the Baptiser on a platter, and he gave it to her.

The second was in a remote place where Jesus had gone for solitude. There, he found a crowd awaiting Him. He had com­passion on them and healed them, as well as teaching them many things.

At evening, His disciples wanted Him to send the crowd away so they could go to the nearby villages to buy food. Jesus said, They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat (v.16). The flabbergasted disciples objected, We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.

Jesus took the meager supply of food, gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.

The entire crowd of 5,000 men, besides women and children, ate all they wanted. Afterwards, the disciples picked up twelve basketsful of broken pieces.

One of these dinners was a revelry; the other was fellowship with the Lord. In one, lust was king; in the other, people wanted to exalt Jesus to be king. (They had the wrong motive for wanting to make Him king, but at least they had the right person to put on the throne!) One provided healing for the masses; the other led to the death of a prophet.

Which feast do I seek? Do I want the feast of the world where indulgence is the order of the day and selfishness reigns? Do I glory in the lusts of the flesh and appetite?

Or do I seek the feast where I have fellowship with Jesus and His people? When I am at His Table, do I yearn to be else­where? Or do I find joy here with Him?

Where is my heart? With Jesus or with the lusty crowd?

– Clean or Unclean?

– Antidote to Worry


This World Is Not My Home

This World Is Not My Home

When we speak of “the world” in this post, we do not mean the physical cosmos or universe. Rather, we speak of the moral-social-political-cultural world in which human beings live and interact with one another – and with God. This is the arena where the combat between good and evil, between God and the devil occurs. Scripture uses “this world” to contrast with “the heavenly realms” (cf. Ephesians 1:3).

In the World But Not of the World

As creatures of flesh and blood who are also living as disciples of Jesus, we occupy a unique place. We are in the world but not of the world (John 17:14). Jesus occupied this same position, but with a difference. He came down from heaven to be in this world to redeem it; we, the redeemed, are going from this world into the heavenly realms. His origin was there; our origin is here; but both of us belong there.

Yet, we have a mission in this world, just as Jesus had a mission in this world. While we are here, we are to give glory to God in this world. We cannot turn our backs on the world to live in a monastery. If we do, we refuse to walk in the steps of Jesus. Nor can we adopt the thought patterns and the life style of the world. That would also refuse the heavenly walk.

As disciples, we are to demonstrate heavenly patterns of thought and life in this world. That is what Jesus did, and that is what his disciples today do as well. To decline this challenge is to decline the life of a disciple.

That is why the first concern of the disciple is not the essentials of life in this world. Disciples are told, seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness all the physical necessities of life will be given to us (Matthew 6:33). This promise challenges faith – but it is a solemn promise from our Master himself.

Do Not Love the World

The problem is that the world presents a constant, powerful appeal to physical, human senses. It is so much with us we are tempted to fall in love with its charms. Do not love the world or anything in the world. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you (1 John 2:15). The things in the world in this context are moral: the cravings of sinful man, the cravings of his eyes, and his vain pride in his accomplishments. When we love our lusts and are proud of our petty accomplishments, we have fallen out of love with God and into love with the world.

It is life’s worries, riches and pleasures that originate in these lusts and pride that choke the word of God so it is unfruitful (Luke 8:14). Entanglement in these affairs keep a soldier of Christ from pleasing his commanding officer (2 Timothy 2:4).

Many times, these pursuits are harmless except that they distract us from the important things of life for empty pleasures. Though not sinful, they become sin because they steal our hearts from the one whom we are to adore and love beyond all others. Thus, they become weapons in the Devil’s arsenal to separate us from our God.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

When the Devil can turn our hearts from God, he has taken us captive (as spiritual POW’s). Yet, the disciple’s heart is fixed firmly on the heavenly city. That is his homeland even though he has never been there in person. People who are third or fourth generation New Zealanders used to talk about going “home” to England. They had never been there; their parents had never been there. But that is still what they thought of as home. This changed when England entered the European Common Market and cut its former colony off from the British market. When it was evident the “homeland” had little “love” for its erstwhile children, the children began to think of “home” in different ways.

We will be justified in turning our love away from heaven when heaven shows it has turned its love away from us. But nothing will separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:35-39) – so we never have an excuse for turning our hearts away from him. And if our heart is with him, our homeland will be in heaven.

We live in this world as strangers and pilgrims. We are here. We have work to do here. But we know one day we will go home. So, we do not “put down roots” in this world. Our “roots” are in heaven.

Christian Non-Conformity

As people whose hearts and homes are in heaven, we live in this world without adopting its way of life. The apostle charged us, do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2). This transformation comes through the influence of our Master. The effect of this non-conformity is seen in 1 Peter 4:1-4. There, the one who has suffered with Christ (that is, who is crucified with Christ) is one who no longer lives as the pagans do: living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and idolatry. If these words did not come from a book nearly 2,000 years old, you would think they were written about the very world we live in today. The disciple of Jesus consciously rejects the life-style of the world because, in the words of the song, “I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

This rejection is to be complete – and will be obvious. Peter went on to observe that the pagans think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation – and they heap abuse on you. From the time of Cain and Able, evil men have abused those who choose to serve and love God.

It is no different today. Why do we think the American democratic society has somehow neutralized the powers of darkness and robbed them of the power to persecute those who choose not to conform to the patterns of this world, but to conform instead to the image of God’s Son?

The Church: A New Society in This World

Disciples of Jesus, each of them a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), form a new society in this world, a city of light that is set on a hill (Matthew 5:15). After talking about not being conformed to the world of darkness, Paul continued in Romans 12 to talk about the new society God is forming in this world with his church.

This is a society where love is sincere, where people are devoted to one another in brotherly love. In this society, people honor each other over themselves and share with those who are in need. They bless instead of curse. They are not arrogant, but associate even with those of low position. It is a society that is harmonious, not vengeful.

In reading this description of the heavenly society, I am reminded of the story of the boy whose father told him what a Christian is: one who loves everyone, is patient, kind, forgiving, and pure. The boy then asked his father, “Have I ever seen one?” Can we honestly say we have seen a society like this? Yet, this is what Jesus, by the Holy Spirit within us, is training his disciples to be. Are we willing to be trained?

– (13) Discipline As Disciples

– (11) Examples of Disciples Praying

What Makes Satan’s Lies Believable?

Recently our preacher asked the above question. It set me thinking. We know Satan is a liar and that the Truth is not in him. Why, then, are we so gullible we fall for his lies? And, we do it time after time. We believe one lie, find our way out of it – only to fall for his next lie as well. We have a hard time learning to recognize his lies for what they are.

Here are some possible answers. The seed thought for most of these came from the preacher’s sermon; I am responsible for developing his ideas.

His Lies Are Plausible.

Any “good” lie has to be plausible to gain wide acceptance. I mean, it takes someone who is really “living on another planet” to still believe the earth is flat. Or that men have never walked on the moon. Or that most politicians are honest!

Of course, some people are extremely gullible and will believe anything they are told with an air of authority or knowledge. These are those whom Solomon, in Proverbs, calls simple.

One thing that helps in the “plausibility” of Satan’s lies is the prevailing intellectual climate of the culture. In other words, it is easy for us to believe what everyone around us believes. Most of us accept what is “generally known” to be true. Yet people are often mistaken – especially if a lie is repeated often enough and loudly enough.

The Fall of Mankind occurred when Satan lied about God, about the fruit, and about the result of eating the fruit. He still tells the same lies today, and people still believe them. One reason people accept these lies is that most folks around them accept them. It never occurs to them to question the lie, and so they accept it unquestioningly because it seems plausible to them.

Like Eve, We Want to Be Like God.

Of course, there is self interest in believing the lie. The lie elevates us to the position of God, and that is something we all tend to desire very much. Eve’s encounter with the Deceiver is recorded in Genesis 3:1-6:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Satan told her she would “be like God, knowing good and evil.” God had called this tree, “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” I do not believe that this “knowledge” was simply learning that there are two moral ways, one that is good and the other that is evil. Rather, this “knowledge” was the wisdom to determine for one’s self what is good and what is evil without reference to God.

This, of course, is what we humans desire at all times. “I know what is right and what is wrong – and what I am doing is not wrong!” We have a strong self-interest in having this power for ourselves instead of yielding it to God. Thus we are susceptible to the Devil’s lie that we can have this power if we but exert ourselves.

He Puts An Untrue “Spin” on the Facts.

His first words to Eve put a spin on God’s words that put God in a bad light. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” What did God really say? In Genesis 2:16-17 He had said to Adam:

You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”

God’s first words were of Man’s freedom. “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden.” There was a maximum amount of freedom with a minimum amount of restriction in God’s command.

Yet, the Devil made it sound as if  God’s restrictions out-weigh any freedom we may have as we follow His Word. That was his tactic then, and it is still his tactic now.

Unfortunately, many Christians play along with the Devil. Even Eve had added to the restriction God gave. God simply said, do not eat the fruit of the tree. Eve added, “and you must not touch it.” Now, if you were not going to eat the forbidden fruit, why would you want to touch it? Staying away from it would be a good idea. Nevertheless, she made the restriction God gave even stricter than God had made it.

It is not at all uncommon for people today to do the same, while in other areas moving as close to the limit as possible. For example, many extend the prohibition of drunkenness to prohibition of any alcohol at all. On the other extreme, we can all remember the declaration by then President Clinton, “I did not have sex with that woman!”

Does Eve’s “addition” to what God said reveal a, perhaps unspoken but very real, belief that somehow God was not being fair? If so, the Devil certainly knew how to exploit that feeling, as we can see as the temptation continued.

He Creates Doubt of God in Our Minds.

“You will not surely die. How did he say this? Did he emphasize the not or the surely? We have no way of knowing, but I strongly suspect it was the later.

If he said, “You will not surely die!” he would be directly contradicting God. Now the Devil is certainly capable of doing that – but this is something he usually holds off on until he has laid a lot of preparatory groundwork. He normally creates doubt of God first.

“Is it really as important as God is making it? You will not surely die, will you?”

Thus, he appears to sympathize with the person he is tempting.

Now, he is certainly a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), but that is not how he presents himself to us. Instead, as the master deceiver…

He Presents Himself As an Angel of Light.

He seems to be the voice of sweet reason and temperance. He even makes God appear to be the “heavy.”

God is the one who is putting all of these restrictions on you – and He is even doing it because He is afraid you will become as wise and as important as He is! Therefore, He is unjustly restricting your growth and development into your full human potential!

It must have been something similar to this, which “that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess” was teaching in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29), as she misled the Lord’s servants into fornication and idolatry. Whatever she taught them, she claimed to be teaching them what the Lord called “Satan’s so-called deep secrets.” In other words, she said there were deeper truths than God is letting us know, and we will learn these if we will only listen to the voice of the Tempter.

Another aspect of presenting himself as an angel of light is that he actually has led many to commit atrocities in the name of God as well – or at least into attempting to claim the name of God to justify themselves. He is not above claiming the name of God to justify some of the most inhumane and unhuman acts imaginable!

People have often in the past, and still do in the present, do and say the most ungodly things “in the name of God” – things that God has spoken against in no uncertain terms – as they seek to “purge” the church of any impurity. In this, they take on the task of the angels themselves as they try to rid the kingdom of God of all of the “tares” that are sown by the Devil in the first place! (See Matthew 13:24-30, 36-42.) In Jesus’ parable, removing the tares was a task assigned to the angels. Yet, this is something the Devil encourages us to do ourselves, and in a way that we can congratulate ourselves on doing the true work of God. When we do this, we become like Saul of Tarsus who became a destroying angel of vengence, but not an angel of God, until the Lord Himself brought Saul up short on the road to Damascus!

Of course he does the same thing today. To listen to Satan is sophisticated and suave – and may even be the true work of God. To follow God is hokey and “old-fashioned” – and is even made to appear to be compromising with evil.

He Appeals to the Worldly Culture.

In doing this, of course, he appeals to the culture of the world around us to reenforce his suggestions. It is to take the “everybody is doing it” argument and marry it to “those who are doing it are sophisticated and attractive.”

Really? When in all of human history has “everybody” been “sophisticated”? Of course, there is an exception. Everybody is doing it and is sophisticated except those old-fashioned ignoramouses who actually believe there is a God whom they should serve.

There is no real argument in that; there is only an assumed superiority and a slanderous charge against the finest people this world has ever known! It was in the name of God that countless people struggled long and hard to eradicate slavery and human trafficking. It was in the name of God that the civil rights movement in this country had its finest successes and finest hour.

He Preys on the Weak and Ignorant (ie, the gullible).

He knows when we are weak and vulnerable. It was when Jesus was hungry after fasting forty days that the Devil came to Him and tempted Him to make bread from the stones in the wilderness.

The devil is skillful in playing our weaknesses like a maestro violinist! He will tempt us to steal because our children are hungry – or to become immoral because we have had a disagreement with our spouse – or to deny Him, like Peter, because of the dangerous, jeering crowd around us. Then, when we yield, he is right there to accuse us to ourselves and before God!

“Look at you! Mr. Goody-two-shoes! You’re not as good as you thought you were are you? You’re just a common thief – or adulterer – or weak, yellow-livered coward. How can you call yourself a Christian?”

Of course, it is all a lie. But we fall for it, and give up. At least, we give up until we realize that the Lord has not given up on us. He still loves us. Jesus’ blood still cleanses us from all sin and the Holy Spirit is still with us to help us, if we will but allow Him to do so. That is, He is there to help us unless we have resisted, grieved, and quenched Him so that we no longer have the Spirit.

But by that time, we do not care. We no longer even feel guilt because the Devil has already got us back into his clutches and our hearts are hardened. But the Christian grieving over his sin and weakness is still safe in the arms of Jesus.

Let’s learn to recognize the Devil’s lies and send him packing when he comes our way!

Question: Does the Bible Require A Married Couple to Wear a Ring?

Question: Does the Bible require married couples to wear a ring on their fingers? Is it Unscriptural for a married man or woman or both to NOT wear a wedding ring?

The Bible says nothing about a wedding ring. The only passage that could remotely be thought of as speaking of a wedding ring is Genesis 24 where Abraham’s servant went back to Haran to find a wife for Isaac. When he arrived, he stayed by the city well, and asked God to show him which young woman was the right one. He said that when a young woman came to draw water, he would ask her for a drink. If she gave him water and offered to draw water for his camels as well, he would know this was the one he was seeking.

He had barely finished his prayer when Rebekah, the granddaughter of Abraham’s brother, came to the well. He asked her for water, and she offered to draw water for his camels as well. He explained who he was, found out who she was, and gave her a gold nose-ring and bracelets.

So, the exchange of rings is a custom, a cultural thing. It is fine for us to participate in this custom, but it is not essential as a command from God.

There are, however, some cultural norms we should observe. For example, the Bible says nothing about a wedding ceremony. How we are “married” is a matter of custom and law, not of God’s command. I do not believe, however, that Christians should just dispense with getting married to live together. I sincerely believe that would be immoral.

So, I would ask the married person who chose NOT to wear a wedding ring why they made that choice. If it is a safety issue, such as in some factory jobs, then it would be no big deal. If, on the other hand, they chose not to wear a ring because they wanted to appear “available” to others, that would be a big deal – not because they would be violating a command of God, but because they wanted to convey a false impression to those around them

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