God Hides Himself

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The prophet Isaiah calls on Israel: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (55:6-7).

To the same people, a contemporary of Isaiah, Hosea, says, “With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord, but they will not find him; he has withdrawn from them” (5:6).

We often empathize with Adam and Eve who, once they sinned, realized they were naked, became ashamed, and hid themselves from the presence of the holy God (Genesis 3:7-8). Sometimes we empathize with Jonah, wanting to flee from the presence of God (Jonah 1).

Do we ever empathize with King Saul? “When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets” (1 Samuel 28:6). King Saul epitomizes the rebellious sin of the whole nation of Israel, illustrated in the words of Isaiah and Hosea above.

That was not the first time God had hidden himself from King Saul. Before the incident with King Agag and the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15, the previous chapter (14:37) reads: “Saul inquired of God, ‘Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into the hand of Israel?’ But He did not answer him on that day.”

Proverbs 15:29 encourages us to be careful of our behavior if we do not want God to hide Himself from us: “The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Do we ever empathize with King David when he prayed: “Do not cast me away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11)?

Do we take the goodness and grace of God for granted to the extent that we continue to live a self-centered life and believe God will continue blessing us? Do we think that God will not ever turn away from us? David recognized the possibility as he wrote that great penitential psalm following his sin with Bathsheba.

Frequently, when talking to people about being in worship, they will respond, “Well, I pray every day.” Praying, I point out to them, to God without reading His word is the same as telling God you want Him to listen to you but you are not listening to Him. Why would He answer the prayer of such a person?

If we do not want God to hide His presence from us, let us humbly submit to His teachings in the New Testament and always keep a teachable attitude. Humility is a fundamental response to the word of God.

–Paul Holland

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Free wedding ceremony

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Wedding Ceremony

Who gives this woman to this man in marriage?

Dear friends, we are gathered here today with joy in our hearts, because ______ and ______ have chosen to enter a lifelong marriage covenant with each other. God knew that it was not good for man to be alone, so He Himself made her a helper suitable for him. Marriage was God’s plan for the male and female, whom He made in His image and for whom He made the whole world. He Himself established the first marriage to bless Adam and Eve with a mate for life. Each would enjoy the love and blessing of the other.

In marriage God unites two people so that they become one. Marriage for this reason is sacred and holy. It is the making of a new family. Like no other relationship, husband and wife become one flesh.

Marriage before God is the making of a covenant with vows, wherein a man and a woman agree to love, honor and cherish each other. Their relationship is unique and the most intimate of any on earth. A man is to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife. The breaking of this covenant is a very serious matter. “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

The blessing of marriage is the reassurance that throughout life each of you has the committed yourself to the other. This commitment will give you strength to endure the many hard challenges ahead of you. These vows you make are not to be taken lightly. They are solemn and should only be entered with great forethought and willingness. In marriage, love demonstrates itself in its highest and purest form.

Reading: 1 Cor. 13:4-8.

I say to both of you, commit yourselves to each other for the rest of your lives. Like the beautiful Ruth, ______, be in subjection to your husband _________. Tell him: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1:16,17)

To you, ________, Paul admonishes you to love your wife even as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. He who loves his wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church. Love her, listen to her, make her the queen of your life always.

Put the Lord first in your home, make each other second, and keep yourselves last. Never let anyone or anything pull you apart or build a wall between you. Every day demonstrate your love for each other. Never let the sun go down on your anger, but quickly reconcile and quickly forgive. Your home will be what you make it. If you do these things, you will have home full of love and happiness–all that you have dreamed about. That is what God wishes and what we all wish for you.

Today, God is making your new home, joining your hands and hearts. May He give you enough tears to keep you tender, enough hurts to keep you compassionate, enough failure to keep your hands clenched tightly in His, and enough success to make you sure you walk with Him. God wants you to be together as long as you live. “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

Will you join hands and take these vows before God and these witnesses:
I, _______take you _______ to be my lawful wedded (husband/wife), to live together after the teaching of God, to love, honor, cherish, and (protect/respect) in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, and to give myself to you and you alone until death do us part?
May I have the ring? (bride’s then groom’s)
This ring is an unending circle that reminds us of the eternal love you are to show to each other.
As often as you see this token of love, as often as you feel it upon your finger, let it remind you of the vows you are taking here today.
With this ring I thee wed
and pledge my faith and love
until death do us part.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, we are grateful today for the privilege of witnessing these vows of love _____ and _____ have made to each other. We pray that their new home will be filled with joy and love. May you, Father, always be the center of their home. Help them through the changes and challenges ahead of them. Give them the wisdom and patience they will need as they adjust to a new life. Help them to keep the warmth of their love alive all the days of their lives.

As the years go by, Father, may their lives prosper. And if children be added to this home someday, may they be healthy and happy. Father, we are grateful that this is a Christian home, and we pray that you will always keep it secure in the hollow of your hand. Now,

The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine upon you;
And be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you
And give you peace. (Num. 6:24-26) In Jesus’ name, Amen.

By the authority vested in me as a minister of the Gospel of Christ and by this state, since you have made these vows and fulfilled the lawful requirements, I now pronounce you husband and wife.

–Phil Sanders

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Eloquence can Rob the Cross

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“Fluent or persuasive speaking or writing” is the definition of eloquence. We like eloquent speakers. Some speakers can be annoying to hear because they say too many “uh’s” or other verbal interruption. Two come to mind who do that (in the interest of by-partisanship!): Robert Gibbs, President Obama’s first press secretary and Condoleeza Rice, Bush’s Secretary of State. We say “uh” or “um” much more when we are speaking extemporaneously (off the cuff) rather than from prepared remarks. But when people read prepared remarks, the eloquence is also missing.

Eloquence can express emotions in a powerful way and an eloquent speaker can snatch us up into his or her wings and carry us beyond ourselves. If one stutters or stammers, it is hard to be persuasive because conviction is not portrayed as strongly. But an eloquent speaker conveys his thoughts, his plans, his goals, his ambitions so that we can see them as well, be caught up in them, and make them our own plans, goals, and ambitions.

That’s the power and the danger of eloquence. For when a man comes along who is eloquent but will not allow God to speak through his eloquence, he can easily lead people astray.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:17, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” Eloquence can rob the cross of its power, Paul warns. If a man sees that the message of the cross is not drawing the masses as he thinks it ought, he makes subtle changes here and there. People sit in rapt attention to his eloquent message but if they don’t respond, rather than thinking the fault is in their heart, he feels the fault is in the message.

Paul, himself, writes that he was not an eloquent speaker: “when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1). In verse 4, he continues: “my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” Again, in verse 13: “we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.”

Paul’s detractors in Corinth had this to say about his eloquence: “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account” (2 Cor. 10:10). One chapter later, Paul confesses: “Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things” (11:6).

Preachers, if you are not eloquent, be more concerned about communicating the Gospel in biblical terms. Be more concerned about the “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). Preachers, if you are eloquent, do not let that gift corrupt your heart and your motivation. Use that eloquence to point people to the Christ and stay humble. You can not improve, even with your eloquence, the simplicity of book, chapter, and verse preaching.
–Paul Holland

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We should not practice our religion to be seen by men

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We are But Dust – Matthew 6:1-6

Jesus taught some lessons before we get to Matthew 5-7, but as far as Matthew’s recorded account is concerned, this is His first sermon.

Let’s feed on the word of God…

THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE – 6:1:
The first point Jesus makes in this context is that we should not practice our religion to be seen by men. Jesus has already said back in 5:13-16 that we must be the salt of the earth. His point is that we must influence the world for good. He also said that we are the light of the world. The point here is that people must see our light – no one puts a basket under a lamp stand.

The motivation is the difference.

THE PRINCIPLE APPLIED TO GIVING – 6:2-4:
What was the problem with that? Aside from the ostentatious display of such behavior (!), their reasoning is: “so that they may be honored by men.” That was their motivation. Just like politicians who love to work at soup kitchens during the holidays because they can deceive the voter easily by appearing to care for the poor. Then they return to their mansion and six-figure salaries, and go back to rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous.

THE PRINCIPLE APPLIED TO PRAYING – 6:5-6:
When we pray – especially men, when we pray in public – we don’t need to pray to show our audience how spiritual we are; how much we know the Bible; or how big our vocabulary is. I am not trying to judge motives but we need to be careful in our own heart that we are not praying to impress those who are listening to us. That is praying to be seen by men.

Prayer is communication to our Father about our thanks, our needs, and our hurts. Prayer is communication to the Father on behalf of our audience. We are praying for them and for us to God. We are not praying to our audience.

THE PRINCIPLE APPLIED TO FASTING – 6:16-18:
The Jews obviously fasted; it was a significant part of their religious practices. Jesus says that if you are going to do that, you have to remember for whom you are fasting. Fasting was intended to be a means of self-humiliation, to purify your body as you purify your mind. Many Jews would also put on “sackcloth,” course material that was quite uncomfortable, and sit in ashes along with their fasting as a means of showing repentance.

In the Christian age, we do not sing for the praise and glory of men. We sing to teach and encourage each other (Eph. 5:19); but we do not sing to be heard and honored by men. We do not preach or teach to be seen by men. I, as a preacher, ought to be careful that I do not add theatrics to my sermons so that I’ll get praise and glory from men. Preaching is done for the glory of God, not the glory of the preacher. If that is our motivation, that is the extent, also, of our reward.

One day, we’ll stand before the Father in heaven. Fundamentally, the question will be: “Did we trust Him?” Did we recognize that we are but dust and we must depend on Him for everything that we have? Did we show that trust throughout our lives, even in those acts of religion which we practiced? Was God at the center of our lives?

Practice your religion to honor God and to lead others to Him, not for self-promotion.

–Paul Holland

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The word “run”

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1) A word in the New Testament which is translated “run” or “ran” is the basis for today’s lesson.
2) This word is used 20 times, and it is used in a variety of ways.
i) The first place we read about running is Mt. 27.
ii) After “Eli, Eli lama sbachtnani” someone “straightaway” (immediately) sprung into action.
3) An unnamed person literally “ran” and got a sponge. He filled w/ vinegar and offered it to the Lord.
4) The reason for this unnamed person running to Jesus with a wet sponge seems to be explained by Jn. 19:28.
5) In Mt. 27:48 because we see a man who was “running” for the sake of Jesus.
i) In our time many will “run” for something, but they do not “run” for the sake of Christ.
ii) We find some who run, but they run away.
iii) We also encounter those who refuse to run; they just sit where they are as a pew warmer.
6) What is our reaction to Jesus Christ of Nazareth? Are we a runner, walker, sitter, or a fleerer?
7) Mt. 28:8 – READ
i) After hearing that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, some ladies “ran” to tell others about the resurrection.
ii) Jesus is so important the Bible people literally “ran” when it came to sharing news about Him.
b) The third place we find our word for “running” is in the book of Mark, Mk. 5:6.
i) According to Mk. 5:3 there was a man “dwelling among the tombs” (this guy lived in a cemetery).
ii) People had tried to bind this man with chains, but chains could not hold him.
8) Verse 6– READ
9) We are not given a specific distance, but this man had to run a ways to get to Christ.
10) We need to be willing to “run for the Lord” and we need to be willing to do it even if it seems He is “afar off.”
11) Have we ever heard someone say it is “too far to come to worship and honor the Lord”?
12) The word “run” tells us to start moving (coming) to Jesus Christ as fast as we can.
13) If we start moving towards the Lord, He will start moving towards us.
14) Jas. 4:8 says, “Draw nigh unto God and He will draw nigh unto you.”
15) We also see this fact in Lk. 15:20, another place where our word for “run” is used.
i) A wayward son decided to stop feeding pigs and go back to his home.
ii) This son made a decision to go home and he surely went back as quickly as he could.
iii) I wonder if he “ran” part of the way? The boy may not have run but someone else did.
iv) Lk. 15:20 – While this son was “a great way off” His father saw him.
v) This boy’s father had “compassion” on him and “ran” to him.
16) God tells the world “Run – RUN to me” and “I will come and meet you.”

WE MUST MAKE SURE WE ARE RUNNIGN THE RIGHT WAY.

1) Imagine a football team where a player has the ball and runs to the wrong end of the field.
2) 1 Cor. 9:24, 26 – READ
3) We need to run according to God’s rules to receive the “prize” referred to by Paul.
4) Paul said it is possible to “run well” (Gal. 5:7).
5) God tells us it is possible to “run” in a way where it is not in “vain” (Phil. 2:16).
6) Heb. 12:1-2

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According to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior

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In Titus 3:3, Paul wrote that at one time, Christians were foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our lives in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.

But, we have been saved by the grace, love, and kindness of God. Verses 4-7 are all one sentence and discuss salvation through Jesus Christ.

Titus 3:4-7: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (ESV).

Compare this with the “grace” that appeared in 2:11. Again, it is a metonymy; Christ is the one who appeared and brought the fullness of God’s revelation of His “kindness,” “love,” and “grace.” Verse 5 has the principle verb in the sentence: “He saved us.”

Verse 4 gives us the time frame of this salvation – “when”
Verse 5 gives us the negative basis of that salvation – “not on the basis”
Verse 5 gives us also the positive basis of that salvation – “but according to”
Verse 6 gives us the agent of that salvation – “through Jesus Christ”
Verse 7 gives us the purpose of that salvation – “so that”

If a “work” is commanded by God and tied to salvation (as is “faith:” John 6:27ff and “immersion:” Acts 2:38), then that respective work is not included in these “works of righteousness” by which we are not saved.

But it is “according to His mercy,” that He saved us: Through the washing of the new birth & renewal of the Holy Spirit.

Please observe that there is only one prepositional phrase that governs both these phrases, showing that they are two sides of the same coin. That is, they occur at the same time. When we are washed in the new birth, the Holy Spirit renews us.

So, the “washing” is the agency and the “renewal” is the goal or purpose of that washing. Clearly, “washing” is a reference to immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins. Earle (415) writes that this verb (louo) means “to bathe the whole body.” The only other time “washing” is used is in Ephesians 5:26. Compare the thoughts in Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11 and Revelation 7:14.

Certainly, the “new birth” (“regeneration) is a reference to John 3:3, 5. The word itself is only used one other time, in Matthew 19:28 where it refers to the new birth of God’s relationship with man, inaugurated through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

It is this “renewal” by the Holy Spirit that makes us “new creatures” (2 Cor. 5:17). The “outpouring” of the Holy Spirit occurred on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) in fulfillment of the prophet Joel (2:28-30). He has thus been made available to renew us richly through Jesus Christ.

So, we are justified by His grace. Verse 7 begins with a participle, “being justified by His grace,” while the main verb is “we might become.” What is the purpose of our salvation and justification? So that we may become “heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Guthrie suggests (228) that the phrase “according to the hope of eternal life” “conveys the idea of solid assurance.”

No one deserves salvation nor any other gift from the hands of God. All the good things we enjoy come from His grace, His kindness, His love. The revelation of His works and our faithful response to it gives us a “solid assurance” of appearing with Him in glory.

–Paul Holland

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The sexual relationship is certainly a major part of our nature as human beings

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Sexual Identity

We are bombarded from all sides with an aggressive pro-homosexuality agenda. It is in Hollywood, the media, education, and Washington, D. C. Practicing homosexuals make up a very, very small (minuscule) proportion of our society but their voice is far stronger than their numbers should support.

The sexual relationship is certainly a major part of our nature as human beings. It unites us with our spouse in a way that other aspects of our relationship do not. It is for procreation and for recreation. While the Bible says a lot about illicit sexual relationships, the Song of Solomon helps us understand the beauty of a godly sexual relationship.

From the homosexual society, we hear that they are born that way and they can’t help it. I can categorically affirm that homosexuality is not a genetic trait. There is no scientific studies that have shown there to exist a “homosexual gene.” But it also seems to be equally true that many people have a propensity to being attracted to the same gender, even from very early stages.

Before we go further, we should point out and emphasize that the Bible says the one practicing homosexuality cannot be saved in that situation. There is no doubt about that. The practicing homosexual was condemned to death under the Law of Moses (Lev. 20:13). He/she was put into the same death-penalty category as the one who engages in sexual relationships with animals (20:15). The New Testament affirms the same thing (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Timothy 1:10).

So what do we tell our homosexual friends who feel their attraction to the same sex but know God does not approve of that behavior? If you had a friend who frequently and regularly hit people with whom he had a disagreement, what would you tell him? He was a pugnacious child, turned into a brawler as a teen, and may even have become an abusive husband.

Was he born that way? Can he control his behavior? Certainly there is no gene that makes one violent but, for some inexplicable reason, he has a propensity to lose his temper and hit people. What should he do if he wants to honor Christ? He has to control himself. The same thing is true with the homosexual who has those urges.

World magazine has an interview with a Jew who left the homosexual lifestyle (Feb. 21, 2015; pg. 30-31) – David Benkof. In particular, I quote a statement Benkof made: “Some straight Jews want to be sympathetic, kind, and understanding, but there’s some condescension in this idea that the gays can’t control themselves. And it’s inconsistent: We expect our young people to be celibate before they get married. We expect a 21-year-old not to have any expression of sexuality, but we drop that expectation when someone is 44 because he’s gay? ‘Oh, yeah, go ahead!’ Other categories of people have similar challenges within Judaism and we feel sympathetic, but we don’t say, ‘Go ahead and violate the law, I’d hate to be you.’ It’s condescending, patronizing, and false.”

Mr. Benkof is right. We each have spiritual challenges we face due to sin that Satan brought into the world. To the homosexual, God would say, “Stop practicing homosexuality.” Should they become heterosexual? No, not necessarily. God does not require one to be married to go to heaven and one does not necessarily have to be married to be happy.

Love the one who struggles with homosexual desires just as you would anyone else. Bring them to Jesus and let Him fulfill their needs.

–Paul Holland

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Alex Rodriguez & Credibility

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Alexander Rodriguez (sometimes called “A-Rod”) is a third baseman and shortstop for the Yankees. He’s been named an All-Star 14 times and has won numerous awards. He has/had a record $275 million contract. But Rodriguez has been in the news a lot lately because of his use of performance enhancing drugs (“PED”s).

As far back as at least 2007, he was denying (in an interview with Katie Couric) that he used PEDs. But the evidence mounted and in February 2009, Rodriguez admitted to using steroids. He was also caught up in a scandal in 2013 dealing with PEDs. He was suspended by the Major League from 211 games that year but was allowed to play, pending an appeal. Eventually, the suspension was reduced to only 162 games, sidelining him for the entire 2014 season.

His use of PEDs had drastically hurt his relationship with his teammates. Some even dubbed him “A-Fraud.”

Recently, Rodriguez wrote a two-page letter with his own hand, apologizing to all the relevant people. One statement he made in the letter was this: “I accept the fact that many of you will not believe my apology or anything that I say at this point. I understand why and that’s on me” (usatoday.com).

At the end of the letter, “Alex” wrote: “When I go to spring training, I will do everything I can to be the best player and teammate possible, earn a spot on the Yankees and help us win.”

When you destroy your credibility, what do you do to rebuild it?

Bringing the question home, if you hurt your credibility with your spouse, children, close friends, the church, or co-workers, how do you rebuild it?

Put simply, you have to go out of your way to show that you are serious about being honest from now on. If you are trying to put drug use or alcohol use behind you, you have to keep your cabinets open to your family. You have to tell them all your hiding places and keep them open and accessible. If you have the urge to drink, immediately tell your spouse/friend and get distracted doing something else.

If you are trying to put pornography use behind you, you need to put computer filters on your computer without knowing the password. You have to keep your computer open and accessible to others. Your spouse/friend needs to know about your weakness and you need to communicate when you are being tempted.

If you are trying to put an adulterous affair behind you, you have to strengthen your relationship with your spouse and go out of your way to keep your free-time open and accessible to him/her. Change where you go. Change your friends. Do what it takes.

If you are trying to put lying behind you, you have to go out of your way to continue strengthening your word. With all of these sins, you have to be patient with those you’ve offended who may find it hard to trust you as easily as you think they should. It may take months, even years, for the offended person to trust you again. You’ve got to be patient with that fact and accept it – after all, you’re the one who destroyed the foundation of trust.

Relationships cannot be sustained if trust is not there. Work on it.

–Paul Holland

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The “Vindictiveness” of God

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Growing up in the south, it was normal for the church’s evangelism to focus on denominational error. We were taught (appropriately) the flaws in Calvin’s TULIP, answers to premillennialism and the scriptures on baptism – it is immersion, of those old enough to believe and understand, and it was/is for forgiveness of sins.

But American society has shifted, not just outside the south but even in the south. So many people have serious, fundamental doubts about the core beliefs of Christianity. Christianity is established on three main facts: the existence of God, the inspiration of the Bible, and the deity of Jesus Christ. What happens when your friend or a family member does not believe the Bible is from God? What happens when you are dealing with someone who does not believe the “God of the Bible” exists? Where do you start?

People have so many false ideas about Christianity and the Scriptures. For example, as Donald Johnson discusses in his book, How to Talk to a Skeptic, they believe that Adam and Eve were punished simply for breaking one rule. Is that all it is? There is a fundamental misunderstanding about the holiness of God.

Why did God command Israel to exterminate whole races of people? Was that capricious? Isn’t that cruel? In the words of Richard Dawkins, is God “blood-thirsty” and “vindictive?” First, the skeptic ignores the fact that God gave the Canaanites centuries to repent of their sin (Gen. 15:16). Rehab and her family are examples of some Canaanites who did respond to the God of heaven (Joshua 2:8-13). If Rahab could have responded that way, all the Canaanites could have responded that way.

Second, the purpose of that extermination was to give the Israelites a place to live in order for God to bring Jesus into the world. His coming and dying for all mankind is far more important and significant than any life. In the process of that, the Israelites did not need to be surrounded by all that paganism which would have taken (and did, to a large extent) their eyes off God.

Third, if God commanded the taking of the life of innocent people (including children), He has the right since He is the moral governor of the universe. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away (Job 1:21). If they were innocent in the eyes of God, then they will be in heaven and were saved from the danger of growing up in a pagan environment. The judge of all the earth will always do right (Genesis 18:25).

Fourth, who, on this earth, is in a moral position to judge God of immorality? By what standard, if there is no God, can you define “morality”? The only way to judge the extermination of the Canaanites as moral or immoral is to judge that command in light of God’s nature and His will and commands as they were revealed in the Bible. As we have suggested, if there were higher moral or spiritual issues involved than simply human life, then God cannot be charged with being bloodthirsty or vindictive.

The issue of the extermination of the Canaanites is a challenge, not for Christians, but for the skeptic. On what grounds could such a person declare ISIS and Boko Haram as immoral?

–Paul Holland

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Brian Williams and Credibility

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Brian Williams has been suspended, without pay, from NBC Nightly News for six months. The scandal began at least back in January when Williams took a retired Command Sergeant Major, Tim Terpak, to a New York Rangers hockey game where he honored Terpak.

As Williams honored Terpak, Williams “recalled” visiting Iraq and his helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade. Except, that wasn’t quite accurate.

About two weeks ago, Williams admitted, “I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” (according to nbcnews.com). How can you falsely remember getting hit by an RPG? To put it clearly, Williams lied. He lied. He did not “misremember.” He lied.

Other issues, like his report while visiting New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, are being investigated. Once you lie about one thing, it is hard to believe you when you report about something else.

It is a credibility issue and credibility issues are character issues, not just for Brian Williams but for NBC News. What else are they withholding from the general public?

Of course, Williams is not the only one who lies about events to pad his resume. Hillary Clinton did the same thing, remember? Clinton claimed that in 1996, she had to keep her head down after landing in Bosnia because of “sniper fire.” She made the claim in a speech at Georgetown University in 2008. But, according to others who were there, there was no enemy fire. Clinton, too, claimed she “made a mistake” in remembering the story. She was “sleep deprived.” Sleep deprivation makes you tell a bold lie?

It’s all about credibility. And credibility is a character issue. My physical science teacher in north Georgia frequently said (in his southern twang): “If you’ll lie, you’ll cheat. If you’ll cheat, you’ll steal. If you’ll steal, you’ll kill.” That may not be true but it is true that if you’ll lie about one thing (especially when there’s no “moral” issue at stake), you’ll lie about something else.

The word “truth” is used 100+ times in the New Testament. Most frequently (the vast majority of cases), “truth” refers to the Gospel message. But, in Ephesians 4:25, Paul tells Christians, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”

In Colossians 3:9, Paul writes: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.”

Finally, in Revelation 21:8, John says, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Notice John writes, “all liars.” There are no exceptions.

Do not be tempted into “misremembering.” Speak the truth. At all times. To everybody.

–Paul Holland

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