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Thursday, January 29, 2015

God Talking

Photo by: Arvind Balaraman

Many of us read our Bibles daily or very often. We know the Bible is the living Word of God. We appreciate that fact, and we rejoice when we read something we can carry with us all through the day.

My husband and I recently visited some dear friends. We had devotions with them before retiring for the night. Our host said something like this: “We know that the Bible is God’s Word. We know it was written straight from God’s mouth. Imagine that it is not only God’s Word, but that it is God talking in the present. God is speaking to us, now.”* Then he read Daily Light on the Daily Path’s reading for the evening. We read through the same Bible passages twice, followed by a period of prayer. It was precious!

And, you know what? Two of the Scriptures from that reading stuck in my head. I thought about them over and over.

God wants us to repeatedly think about His Word. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night (Psalm 1:2). The word used for meditate is “ruminate,” what cows do with their food—chewing it over and over again. We can help ourselves to repeatedly consider what we’ve read when we consciously think about the Bible as God actively talking to us.

God is talking. Now.

Let’s read a couple of Scriptures that teach this:
  • For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
  • All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

In the Psalms, we read a very intimate relationship between the psalmists and the Lord. The phrase “teach me” is addressed directly to the Lord fourteen times. Here’s one example: Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me thy judgments (Psalm 119:108).

We speak to God in prayer and He speaks to us through His Word. His Word is ministering to us, actually speaking to us when we read it. The Bible is never old, never past-tense. It is always present.

It’s God actively speaking to you!

The next time you open your Bible, listen to God speaking directly to you. Think about what He’s saying.

It will aid your meditation and retention, and it will minister to your soul.

God is talking.

* Thank you, Bob, for reminding us of this truth!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beginning a New Life in the Basque Country

Photo: anar

My friend Barbara commented on my “blogaversary” post that she’d like to hear more about what our lives are like. As the Sound of Music song goes, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” We'll go back to the summer of ’84.

Our family left New York City and flew across the Atlantic Ocean, landing the next morning in Madrid, Spain. As we arrived, we were awed at the lighted highways stretching out in every direction. Madrid was gorgeous in the early morning! On entering the old airport, we followed the crowd and got our bags, our baby in my arms. The adventure had begun!

Soon, we saw our co-workers and piled into their little Siata van. (A Siata was just about literally a tin can on four wheels.) We were packed into the van with four other people. Our luggage tagged along in a trailer behind us.

Bumping down the poorly maintained highway—before Spain was part of the European Union—and trying to pass truck after truck after truck, we made our way north. I never imagined Spain would look like what we were viewing! (We’d only seen our co-workers’ pictures, beautiful slides of green hills and blue skies, similar to where we grew up. We had done some reading and seen faded World Book photos, but this . . . .) We never thought it would look like a desert, be so hot—no air-conditioning in the van—and seemingly non-peopled. We drove by villages consisting of a church, a handful of houses, and a donkey tied out front in a little plot of grass. We drove by quite a few villages like that! I don’t know if my husband was thinking the same thing as I was, but I was feeling pretty awful. Did we work so hard for two years, leave our families and country, and fly all night to end up in a place like this?

Finally, we entered the Basque Country. In Vitoria, our co-worker turned to us and said, “See, it’s green up here.” I guess the city park we passed was green, but it was far from the postcard slides we’d seen in their missionary presentation. All around that park rose tall apartment buildings and concrete.

A couple of hours later, we drove through the town we had prayed and planned for. Old buildings were caked in black soot. A woman was sweeping the sidewalk. The woman’s broom only moved the puff of soot from the sidewalk to the street. I was shocked! Except for a couple of port cities in the States, I’d never seen any place as filthy.

Call it culture shock or two nights’ lack of sleep or even a bad attitude, but my emotions sank lower than low. Did I bring my baby here to live in black dirt? I started praying. It was a sincere prayer, like a statement, “Lord, You will need to make me happy in this place.”

He did!

I look back more than thirty years later. The Basque Country is our home. Our kids think so, too.

There were adjustments, to be sure.

The biggie was the language. We knew not one word of Spanish. Not one! Those were a humbling first two years. It’s like being a baby again—only you’re an adult. The phone rings, and you pray like crazy no one's going to speak Spanish to you! Your baby sitter doesn’t speak English—and neither do any of the people at church. You can’t read labels at the supermarket. You can’t tell people at the stores what you want.

The second big adjustment (for me, personally) was the smells. My nose was assaulted with everything from outdoor bathroom smells (don’t ask for explanations) and body odor to dried sausages, hams, fish, and strong cheeses.

One of the wonderful things about living in Spain is the people. They are always ready to help, guide, advise and do everything they can to communicate. What a blessing! Of course, it was especially nice in the church, since people genuinely wanted to talk to us. But, it was also great that people in shops and on the street would gladly find what we needed—from drawings, at first—and take us a block or two away in order to point out the address we sought.

Oh yes, we finally found the green hills and blue skies. Our first year was the rainiest and snowiest of all the years, but the sun does come out from time to time. When it does, this is one of the most gorgeous places on earth!

People ask us all the time whether we like Spain or America more. It’s hard to answer. We have now spent more years here than in our birth country. There are positives and negatives anywhere on earth. The good things about Spain are:
  • Friendly people
  • Delicious food
  • A beautiful country with different views around every curve
  • A variety of cultures and languages
  • Its history (There are over 2,000 castles still standing. Spain even has Roman ruins, arches, and cities. Every village and city center is old and beautiful. Many of its ancient buildings are well preserved.)
  • Its art, music, architecture, age-old customs
  • Almost no street crime
  • Late hours (The big meal of the day is from 2:00 p.m., and many restaurants open for “supper” between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m.)
  • Relaxed pace of life (People take daily walks, have coffee with friends, and stop in the middle of supermarket aisles to talk.)
  • You can buy one drink or snack and occupy a table for hours. No one will hurry you up or shoo you away. (One night, we were eating supper with friends. After midnight, the owner of the restaurant stopped at our table and said, “I’m going to bed, but feel free to stay as long as you want.”)
  • Great coffee and chocolate (Oh yeah, I guess they’re classified as food, too.)

We’re at home. Yet, we’re pilgrims. (Hebrews 11:13)

(Watch for future posts on living and working in the Basque Country—and why it’s called the Basque Country.)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Adam: The Man Who Never Grew Up

Photo by: wiangya

J. M. Barrie wrote the book, Peter Pan. His title character Peter Pan said, “If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up! Not me!” And so, the forever-child Peter Pan goes flying around with human children on many adventures.

J. M. Barrie was correct when he wrote, “All children, except one, grew up.”

That one was Adam. He was the only human in history to be “born” a man, fully mature.

When Adam was created, from that first day of life, he was already:
  • Mature
  • Working
  • Married, and
  • Responsible.

He was a mature adult, fully functioning in the Garden of Eden.

Soon, he became the father of Cain and Abel. When he was 130 years old, he fathered a third son, Seth. He lived 800 years more. When Adam died, he was 930 years old.

The oldest man in history was Methuselah. He lived to the ripe old age of 969! (Would Adam have equaled Methuselah in years, had he needed to grow up? It’s possible!)

Eve, likewise, was created fully mature, and she became the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20).

On the first day of their lives, Adam and Eve were married. They were a couple, the model pair for every marriage after them. They were married for life. Can you imagine 930 years with the same man? Oh yes, pre-flood, everyone lived a very long time, so it wouldn’t have been so strange. But, to us today, the thought of living almost a thousand years boggles the mind!

I admit I like the idea of never having to grow up. I would love to be like Peter Pan and be forever young. It would be great to be ageless.

I’m also challenged by Adam and Eve’s long lives and how they carried out their responsibilities. God gave them two huge tasks:
  1. Populate the world. (Genesis 1:28)
  2. Oversee the world. (Genesis 1:28)

As far as we know, they did both very well, even though they disobeyed God’s one prohibition. (See my post about the first sin here.)

I wonder how responsible God finds us in the tasks He has for us to do? Can He depend on us?

Curiously enough, Jesus also gave us a two-point mandate:
  1. Love God. And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment (Mark 12:29-30).
  2. Love people. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:31).
I wonder how we're doing.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Where's the Outcry?

Photo by: luigi diamanti

Seventeen souls were killed in Paris, gunned down in their places of work and shopping. They were unarmed and unaware that such a thing was about to happen.

The world was outraged, and rightly so. In any place, people should be free to work and shop.

Between 1.5 and 3.7 million people marched in Paris. World leaders linked arms. Families and co-workers wept. It was an appropriate reaction to those horrible crimes committed in their city.

That same week, 2,500 people were slaughtered, their villages completely destroyed, and hundreds of women and girls kidnapped in Baga and Dorom Baga (two villages) in Nigeria.*

It was barely mentioned in the news. There was no public outpouring of sympathy. There were no hashtags. There was little public reaction at all to the killing of almost as many people as died in the Twin Towers attack on September 11, 2001.

That same week in Iraq, 434 people lost their lives. The more than one hundred separate attacks didn’t even make the news.**

A few days later, nine died in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan.

We care.

We really do.

We care about life.

We care about the freedom to live without fear.

My question, though, is this: why is it that lives in Paris get more attention than lives in Africa or in war-torn countries like Iraq and Afghanistan? Aren’t their lives just as valuable?

Of course, they are!

Did you know that the number one killer of people in the United States is abortion?*** It is much higher than cancer, AIDS, and heart disease. It’s higher than accidents. The number one killer of human beings in the U.S.A. is abortion.

Thankfully, there is an outcry for the innocents. A lot of people offer help to those young women who find themselves pregnant and with few means to take care of a baby. And, many people adopt babies. That’s wonderful!

But, how about the more than 200—almost 300--young girls that were kidnapped out of their school in Nigeria and forced to become slaves and wives? How about the hundreds of women and girls that were kidnapped a week ago?

Do we really care?

Are our hearts broken? Do we mourn?

I don’t understand why lives in the West seemingly matter—at least to the media—more than those in other parts of the world. I don’t understand the outpouring of solidarity in Paris and almost no reaction at all when over two thousand people in Nigeria lose their lives and homes.

I also don’t comprehend the massacre of the unborn all over the world (125 million each year!) and that adults don't understand that little people are people, too.

Where’s the outcry?

I want it to start with me! I am a little voice, but I am a voice.

The Bible has a few things to say about human life:
  • Before birth, a person is a person. Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations (Jeremiah 1:5). And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength (Isaiah 49:5). For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them (Psalm 139:13-16).
  • God made each person in His image. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them (Genesis 1:27).
  • God values us above animals, and He even counts the hairs on our heads. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows (Luke 12:6-7).
  • God is against murder. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man (Genesis 9:6). Thou shalt not kill (Exodus 20:13).
  • God loves the world. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16-17).

Let’s value every human’s life! Each person is precious to God.

***National Pro Life Alliance

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Happy Blogaversary!

Illustration by: Stuart Miles

Today marks three years of “In the Way.”

You will have noticed the wonderful new format, thanks to my friend Tori. It’s cleaner and more user-friendly. I love it! Thank you, Tori!

My third “blogaversary” is a great time to share with you why I chose the title, “In the Way.” As I read the Bible, I often find expressions of how Christians should walk in God’s way or in His paths. “In the Way” speaks of my desire to be doing what pleases the Lord. Here are a few of the many verses that inspired me:
  • Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him (Deuteronomy 8:6).
  • I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye (Psalm 32:8).
  • Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps (Psalm 85:13).
  • Blessed is every one that feareth the LORD; that walketh in his ways (Psalm 128:1).
  • And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:24).
  • Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding (Proverbs 9:6).
  • Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
  • Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way (Proverbs 23:19).
  • And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way (Mark 10:52).

“In the Way” also speaks of a journey. Each person travels on his own path. The best way to walk, of course, is to let God lead.
  • Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go (Nehemiah 9:19).
  • Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).
  • Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

My own life journey has taken me places I never expected. Who would ever have guessed that a simple girl from the backside of nowhere would end up spending over thirty years of her life in the “Basque Country” of northern Spain? It wasn’t on my radar, yet, when the time came, this life choice was accompanied by Divine peace. All along the way, the Lord confirmed to my husband and me that it was His will for us to continue in the ministry here.

As in any life, there were many unexpected twists and turns. I’ve had very deep hurts and wonderful triumphs. I have seen opportunities for a gospel witness that seemingly opened up out of nowhere. There were griefs, fears, harassment, disappointments, and sickness. Along with the bad stuff, God is my constant and my joy. His blessings are new every morning, because He is faithful (Lamentations 3:22-23). The Lord has supplied my every need. My Bible speaks Truth to my soul. God is always there to comfort, to give wisdom, and to help me through the valleys. Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice (Philippians 4:4).

“In the Way” is a vehicle for me to share my life with you. It’s not the kind of blog that shares what I had for dinner and pictures of my grandkids in their pajamas—at least, not usually. Its purpose is to share insights from biblical truths, my own reading, and my personal impressions and reactions to the world around us. I want to encourage you in your daily Christian life.

Thank you, Reader, for walking “In the Way” with me.

I would love to hear from you.
  1. What kinds of posts do you like best?
  2. What would you like to see more of?
  3. Do you like the new format? Please feel free to comment.

God bless!

Friday, January 16, 2015

The One Prohibition

Photo by: anar

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis 2:16-17).

In the beginning of time, there were two perfect people, in a perfect marriage, in gorgeous sinless surroundings, with peaceful animal pets and plentiful food.

God told them to obey ONE thing. They didn’t have ten commandments—only one.

The serpent beguiled (fooled) Eve through his subtilty (2 Corinthians 11:3). He tricked her with half-truths (lies!). She believed she was missing something. First, she believed the serpent instead of God, when he said, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:4b-5). God had said they would die if they ate of the fruit (Genesis 2:17), and the devil said they wouldn’t.

Are we like Eve? You better believe it! We listen to the wrong people. We believe lies and half-truths before we believe God’s warnings. We choose the wrong sources of information. Sometimes, we might listen to evil, just as Eve did.

The Bible says that we are enticed by our own lusts (sinful thoughts). (James 1:14) We’re also told how that happens: For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16). Can you see those things in Eve’s thought process? And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat (Genesis 3:6a).

  • Lust of the flesh—good for food
  • Lust of the eyes—pleasant to the eyes
  • Pride of life—desired to make one wise
  • Sinful action—She took of the fruit and ate it.

Sin doesn’t only affect one person. Never! Sin always affects others. Eve sinned because she was tricked. Then, she gave the fruit to Adam, who ate knowing he was sinning. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression (1 Timothy 2:14).

What God said would happen, happened. Their eyes were opened. (Genesis 3:7)

Their first realization was nakedness. Shame. They had to hide! So they tried to do what they could to cover up. They sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons (Genesis 3:7).

Do you remember when you were little, and you did something your parents had told you not to do? Did you hide? How did you cover up for your sin? The last people on earth you wanted to see were Mama and Daddy.

This was the first part of Adam and Eve’s reaction to their shame: fig leaves sewn together.

Then, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? (Genesis 3:8b-11).

After that, they tried to cover up by blaming others. Does this sound familiar? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

From the very first man and woman, people have been shifting blame! The man says it’s his wife’s fault. (Chicken! Shoulder your own responsibility!) Then, he blames God (whom thou gavest to be with me)! Such nerve! Like, it was God’s fault He gave Adam a helpmeet.

God questions Eve, and she says, “The devil made me do it.” Interestingly enough, God punishes the devil first, making him eat dust: And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life (Genesis 3:14).

The awful consequences of sin changed the world forever. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Romans 5:12).

The Good News: there’s hope in Jesus.

Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:20b-21).

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).

The provision of salvation in Jesus was announced immediately after that first sin in the Garden of Eden. God is speaking to the serpent, And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15).

We know that God planned salvation for mankind even before Creation. He knew that man would choose to sin. Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God (1 Peter 1:18-21).

Have you looked to Jesus for salvation? Have you placed your faith and hope in Him?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Gospel-centered Living

Photo by: stockimages

Much has been written about living out the gospel. I’m not about to change anything, but maybe we can clarify what we mean by gospel-centered living.

The gospel (meaning “good news”) is defined in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

If we examine this definition of what Paul preached and by which we can be saved, the gospel includes three elements, all borne out in prophetic Scriptures:
  1. Christ died for our sins.
  2. He was buried.
  3. He rose from the dead on the third day.

This is the gospel! It’s all about Jesus substitutionary death on the cross—because of our sins—and His burial and resurrection. He paid the price for sin (the death penalty), and then rose from the dead. Jesus lives! 

The Bible puts it this way: For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened (made alive) by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

So, how do we live out the gospel?

The Bible tells us!
  • Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).
  • Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:2-14).

Biblically, we live out the gospel by:
  • Turning our backs on sin and evil desires (lusts)
  • Striving to do God’s will
  • Living for God, being yielded to Him
  • Doing right

How do we make this practical and personal?

Forsaking sin means that, when we recognize sin in our lives, we confess it and get rid of it. (1 John 1:9)

Doing God’s will implies that we know what it is. There are several biblical passages that tell us clearly what God’s will entails:
  • For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
  • In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  • For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men (1 Peter 2:15).

We also know that Jesus wants people to obey the Ten Commandments, God’s moral law. He mentioned the law of Moses in all four gospels: Matthew 19; Mark 10; Luke 18; John 7-8.

We become familiar with God’s law and the Bible, so that we can please the Lord.

Being yielded to God means being willing to be lead by Him, putting ourselves under His leadership.

Doing right is reflecting God’s righteousness in our own actions.

Gospel-centered living is clean, pure, obedient living. Its motivation is Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

May we live out the gospel every day!

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Illustration by: Stuart Miles

The recent events in Paris turn a spotlight on freedom of expression, tolerance, and inclusiveness. The motto of France has a renewed importance for its people: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood).

The attack on the magazine headquarters was horrible. This magazine was targeted because it lampooned religion. In fact, Charlie Hebdo poked fun of all religions. Its satire knew no borders. It criticized everyone and everything.

Ever since those tragic shootings, I’ve been thinking about the concept of personal freedom, the freedom to choose, and the freedom to believe as one wants.

The Bible speaks of personal choices:
  • And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:15).
  • For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD (Proverbs 1:29).
  • Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good (Isaiah 7:15).
  • For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it (Matthew 16:25).
  • And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).

Jesus—God in the flesh—didn’t slam those who refused to accept Him. In fact, when He wept over Jerusalem, one can perceive His sorrow. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matthew 23:37)

There’s a difference between warning of impending judgment (the prophets, John the Baptist, Christ Himself, the apostles) and in slamming others for not agreeing.

Should people have the freedom to believe as they wish? Absolutely.

Should people have the freedom to express themselves? Yes.

Should there be freedom of religion, press, and speech? Of course.

As Christians, should we poke fun of others, cruelly? No. And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32). We treat others as we would like to be treated. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise (Luke 6:31).

Should we rejoice in the demise of evil people? No. It’s extremely sad. Every person is important to God. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Love rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6).

Let us be thankful for our freedoms, wherever we live. Let us be kind to all people, even those who don’t agree with us. And, let’s rejoice in the Truth.

If the Son therefore shall make you free,
ye shall be free indeed.
(John 8:36)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

What About Adultery in the Heart?

Photo by; Ambro

Jesus said, Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28).

This is about lust, and it applies to both men and women. It’s sin. It’s adultery in the heart.

Let’s look at another passage about sin in the heart: Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment (Matthew 5:21-22).

Is anger the same as actual murder? I don’t believe so.

Today, more than ever, there’s temptation for lustful thoughts. Men and women view music videos, pornography, and suggestive (or explicit) movies. Men might fantasize about a woman who provocatively walks by, and women might think the same kinds of thoughts about a man in a novel or movie. It’s wrong to lust. Period. Jesus says it’s adultery in the heart. (For the record, I believe we should refrain from watching or reading anything that provokes sinful, lustful thinking.)

A little later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery (Matthew 5:31-32a). The “exception clause,” saving for the cause of fornication, is repeated in Matthew 19:9.

So, if a man or woman has lusted in his mind and his or her spouse finds out, does this mean they have grounds for divorce?

Absolutely not!

The plan for marriage is permanence. The Bible says that God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16) Jesus said that Moses only permitted divorce because of the hardness of their hearts. Let’s read the passage to understand the context: The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery (Matthew 19:3-9).

From the beginning, God’s plan is for marriage to be a permanent bond between a husband and wife. It’s plain that Jesus advocates keeping the marriage together. Again, the only exception, the only permissible reason for divorce is fornication. This doesn’t mean that if a partner cheats on his spouse the other spouse needs to divorce the unfaithful partner. No! It means that the only reason God gives for divorce is the sexual infidelity of the spouse. It would be better to forgive and begin again to build trust and love.

This brings us back to the first question: is it fornication if it’s only lusting in the mind?

Of course not!

I’m sure Christian people would hate to admit they had ever once sinned by committing adultery in their minds. But, they have! I would venture to say that the great majority of human beings have had wrong, lustful thoughts at one time or another—and that includes good, Christian people. They’ve entertained thoughts about someone other than their spouse in their minds. Are you shocked? Somehow I doubt it.

So, let’s assume for illustration’s sake that 90% of Christians have committed this sin one time in their hearts. Does that give 90% of Christians the “right” to divorce their spouses, claiming “adultery in the heart”? I think you know the answer; it's absurd!

The exception clause in Matthew 5 and 19 is about actual physical unfaithfulness. And even then, God would love for the wronged spouse to be able to forgive and the marriage to be saved.

Here's some practical help: 

  1. Keep a clean mind. Saturate your mind with the Scripture and don’t set seductive images or written descriptions before your eyes. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Psalm 119:11). I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me (Psalm 101:3).
  2. Be dedicated to maintaining a good marriage relationship. Don’t go to bed angry. Be willing to forgive and to ask forgiveness. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath (Ephesians 4:26). Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye (Colossians 3:13).
  3. Be positive, and think about the good in your mate. Encourage. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).

What therefore God hath joined together,
let not man put asunder.