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Today’s Religious Leaders

In yesterday’s post, I called out Islam, Catholicism, and modern Christianity for exactly the same sin: a stubborn defiance in the face of Deuteronomy 4:2.

“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

I qualified that by noting that I was not condemning the followers of these religions, but issuing a warning. Today, I want to talk about that a little.

Jesus Christ was constantly on to the religious leaders of His day. They had made it their business to study the Law, yet they were guilty of both adding to it and taking away from it. “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men…” Mark 7:7-8

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were in big trouble: Read Matthew 23.

Just as they were in trouble, so are the leaders of today – for the same reasons!

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” I Timothy 4:1-3 (“Meat” in the KJV means “food” – I just want to clarify that the unclean animals do not qualify as food. If they did, God’s Law would be changeable, which is precisely what Jesus preached against.)

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus knew ahead of time that religious leaders would claim the abolishment of His Law. By making such a claim, today’s religious leaders have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. II Timothy 3:1-7 says,

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

This is what I refer to as fluffy Christianity – the suggestion, implicitly or explicitly, that there is no right or wrong, or at the very least that there is no enduring standard by which to judge right and wrong. However, we do have an enduring standard, and that is the Torah. (Read Psalm 119.)

God has a major problem with religious leaders who make this claim and with people who desire to be lied to: “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LordWhich say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us. Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon: Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant.” (“Iniquity” is “lawlessness.”)

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” Matthew 23:27-28 (Again, iniquity means lawlessness.)

However, Jesus never condemned the common people, the sheep, the fooled followers. He quickly forgave the adulteress, the unethical tax-collector, the thief – those who even in today’s society would be judged guilty of sin.

“Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.” Luke 7:39

“The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners…” Matthew 11:19

If you are a follower of Islam, Catholicism, the Talmud, or modern Christianity, I urge you to wake up: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” Isaiah 58:1

I urge you to come out of Babylon: “And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” Revelation 18:2-4

Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed [menstrual] woman. Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it: And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of his land. But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, thus saith the Lord God; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the Lord, saith the Lord God, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.” Ezekiel 36:16-31 (How good is your memory? Do you remember what iniquity means?)

Isaiah chapter 49 is amazing as well. Please read your Bible. Every time I write a blog post, I just wanna quote the whole thing, and that’s obviously not possible.

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Cursive Writing Worksheets – Your Requests

For the past couple months, there has been a drastic increase in the number of folks hitting my blog looking for cursive writing worksheets. My question to you is – what is it exactly that you are looking for? Is my blog meeting your need in this area, or would you like me to create specific types of worksheets for you to download? For instance, my older posts have things like days of the week, months of the year, and proper names beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Is this the sort of thing you’re looking for? I have been thinking about maybe doing presidents, periodic table, memory verses, etc. I could also do sight words or anything else you all need. Just let me know!

Psalm 19 1-3

 

 

 

Do You Really Believe in the Old Testament?

8624465192_1d123f2711_nFor the past few days, I have been posting articles concerning Jewish beliefs or interpretations of the scriptures. If only the Jewish nation knew everything that Christians knew about Christ, and if Christendom knew everything the Jews knew about their language, customs, and scriptures. There would be a mountain of evidence between us, all pointing to the true Messiah. If we could come together, I feel that we would be able to show any seeker the truth – atheist, Muslim, you name it.

Point #5.

What’s the point in studying the Old Testament? How does it advance the kingdom of God?

Finding out as much as possible about the OT is a great way to win souls. You can flat out “prove” the inerrancy of the Scriptures, mostly due to the prophecies and the harmony between testaments. Much of what you find in the New Testament is a reference, commentary, or explanation of the Old Testament revealed in the light of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ (like the references to the cities of refuge). The more you know, the more you can prove. Luke thought it appropriate to prove that Jesus is who He said He is. (Read Luke and Acts to discover Luke’s methods. I also talk a bit about them in my post Proof of God.)

In addition to building a body of evidence, there is another reason to read the Old Testament. It is quite silly to say you believe in something that you have never studied or even read. I was speaking with a devout Jewish woman last year about one of my favorite quotes from Zephaniah: “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.” Zephaniah 3:9. (I have so much to say about this verse, but that is for another post. ) She responded that she had never read Zephaniah in all her life, and that she only studied the Torah because there was enough in it to keep her busy.

While I would agree that there are mountains of knowledge in the Torah, and that you could probably never exhaust the supply of information and meaning hidden within it, I found it strange that she would not read everything at her disposal. Wouldn’t she be curious about the other revelations? If Zephaniah and the other prophets and writings are inspired of God, why would you neglect to read them? How can you even claim to believe something you have not studied? You can say that you believe the Bible is true. That is belief in a statement. Someone told you the Bible is true, and you believe it. But can you honestly say that you believe facts, histories, prophecies, and foreshadowings if you have never even read them?

As we read through the Bible, the Word works in us to reveal that it is true: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged 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. But you have to read it if you want to benefit from these effects! If you don’t read it, then you are accepting someone else’s interpretation of it, and not the Holy Spirit’s.

Today I feel compelled to impress upon you the importance of reading the entire Word of God. Also, I want you to realize that the two testaments were inspired by the same God, whose plan for mankind has not altered in the least over the course of history. Christ was “slain from the foundation of the world.” Revelation 13:8 “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” Galatians 3:8

Here’s one more reason to study the Old Testament, if these others have failed to convince you: We are told to do it. If you don’t believe me, check out these verses about studying.

I want to help you learn to read and study the scriptures, so here are a couple of ideas to get you started:

Because we forget so easily, because spaced repetition is the key to long-term memory, and because our understanding  of the Word is ever growing, I think it’s important to read the Bible through once a year. While that may seem like a mountain of homework to some, it is not as difficult as you think. If you read at a pretty standard speed, you can do it in fifteen minutes a day. To make it even easier, there are Daily Bible reading apps, The One Year Bible in print (you can get it on Amazon), Bible reading charts that you can download, etc. My favorite Kindle Bible is the Daily Bible in One Year. Here is its description from Amazon: “The readings are categorized into Epistles, the Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy, and Gospels which repeat every seven days. They are designed to provide variety in your reading while allowing sufficient time each day to reflect on each reading.” If you just want to stick with the Bible on your shelf, here is my favorite reading plan. It follows the same format as the Kindle Bible I just mentioned. Also, and this might be the easiest thing to do, you could just divide the number of pages in your Bible by 365, round up to the nearest whole page, and read that much every day. It will probably be much less than what you might have imagined.

If reading is difficult for you, might I suggest listening online? Here is an audio Bible from biblestudytools.com to get you started, but you might also check Librivox and YouTube.

Tomorrow I intend to wrap this series up, with what may very well be my favorite reason for studying the Old Testament.

The Accuser

Read Job 2

The word “LORD” here (and throughout most of the Bible) is a substitution for God’s name, Yahweh. It literally translates into “I AM.” It was given to Moses in Exodus 3:15 (although it was known and apparently forgotten before that – Genesis 4:26) We know that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not know him by this name: Exodus 6:3. Jesus himself makes an unmistakable reference to His name in John 8:58.  (Assuming He was speaking Hebrew here, and there’s no reason to believe He wasn’t, He changed His grammar to say “Yahweh” (I AM). If you notice, the Jews did not like Him equating Himself with God, and they began stoning Him. The days are coming when all mankind will call upon His true name: Zephaniah 3:9

I thought all of this was worth mention, although today’s thoughts are more about the name of Satan. However, I did not want to give too much attention to that name without first acknowledging Yahweh’s beautiful name (since He plays an important role in this chapter as well). We have overlooked His holy name far too long, and I did not want to do that here. In case you think I am dreaming all of this up, or making a big deal out of nothing, it is common knowledge among those who have studied it. Research it and see if I am correct. You can start here: Hebrew Names of God.

In Hebrew Satan means “accuser” or “adversary.” I have only known the definition of his name for one week, however, in that time, it has helped me a lot. Anytime lately that I find myself angry at someone else for the way they are behaving, I remember that Satan is the accuser of our souls. I do NOT want to be anything like him. Our job is not to accuse others for what they are doing wrong. Our job is not to try to make God or others angry with someone when they are not living up to our standards. Just think about it: how often do we fail to meet our own standards? Sometimes when I get angry, I will remember some of the sins of my past and be thankful that someone isn’t following me around telling all of my current friends and associates about my past failures. I am glad that someone doesn’t just show up on my Facebook page and tell all of my secrets from my youth. Thinking about this always throws a blanket of ice over my disgust with someone else. How often do we all fail to live up to God’s demands? Last week, we talked about how our righteousness was as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). No one is sinless. We have no right to point out blame in another of God’s children.

Let’s dig into the story a little bit:

Job 2:10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Job was able to go through these trials without speaking anything foolish. We know he must have had a few thoughts during these events that were not wholly acceptable to God. We know this because God reprimands him at the end of the book. Job 38:3-4, etc. However, he controlled his tongue. This kind of discipline enabled him to also control his body – the works of his flesh. See how he was perfect, or complete:

Job 2:3 And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect [complete] and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.

James 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (Another example of perfect meaning complete.)

Perfect. What does that mean exactly? Here is a link to the etymology for this word. This makes me think that he was finished. He would never be wholly without sin, especially considering that we all have sins in our past, and even if you could be perfect for a day, a month, a year (I have absolutely no idea if this is possible – what is the limit that a human can go without sin?), those former sins would keep us from ever coming into Yahweh’s presence – were it not for the redemptive work of the blood of Christ. But Job was perhaps as perfect as he was ever going to be. As a human being, he was complete.

James 3:2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. 

It takes an enormous amount of discipline to not sin with your mouth. If you have that much discipline, controlling your body will not be any more difficult for you.

Read the whole chapter of James 3 and think about the implications. How does our tongue get us in trouble? Many times we begin to control ourselves, and then suddenly give up completely, telling everything we know or think.

James 1:26-27 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

I just included that last verse for free. It is an often quoted verse, but we tend to leave off the very last phrase and all of its implications. Just something extra for you to think about this week and come to your own conclusions.face-1381321_640

That Sweet, Sweet Spirit

I first shared these thoughts in 2011. Today, I needed that gentle reminder from the Holy Spirit. He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. How do we come to Him? With a humble and contrite spirit. With praise and worship for everything He Is, and for everything He has done for us. I thought these words might encourage someone today, so I am re-sharing it (slightly altered from the original).

 

Lacking:

I have often wondered what I am missing in my personal Bible study and prayer time. Why do I seldom feel that sweet Spirit at home that I often feel in church while surrounded by people, as I struggle to resist the overwhelming desire to weep aloud and praise God with my whole being? The answer came to me quite unexpectedly yesterday morning as I researched and meditated over the life of Matthew Henry.

I was reading that Mr. Henry used to invite his friends over after God answered a special prayer. They would then proceed to worship God together as a group, thanking Him for His recent blessings. Now, I’ve heard of prayer meetings where people get together and petition God for something, but never just to thank Him. The verse was quoted:

O magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. Psalm 34:3

After reading about this, my mind wandered to several places that I’m having trouble tracking, but a few minutes later, I found myself trying to remember several praise and worship songs that I learned as a teenager.

When I look into your loveliness, when I gaze into your righteousness, when all things that surround become shadows in the Light of You.

I worship you, Lord; I worship you, Lord. The reason I live is to worship you.

You are awesome in this place, mighty God. You are awesome in this place, Abba Father. You are worthy of our praise; to you our hearts we raise.

I worship you, Almighty God; there is none like you. I worship you, Almighty God; that is what I long to do. I give you praise, for you are my righteousness.

I couldn’t remember all of the words to the songs, but you should be thankful, because I would probably sit here typing them out and singing them in my head all day long if I could.

As I sang bits and pieces of songs from my youth, I was impacted by the presence of God in my life. By His incredible love for me, His mercy toward me. I reached a point where I could sing no longer, but merely sit and weep, and try to take it all in.

The missing element:

Singing! When I sing, I glorify only – I’m not busy asking for things or being otherwise selfish. I am bearing my soul to testify of His worth. For the purpose of this post, I am changing the meaning of this old expression by slightly altering the spelling of the first word.

Baring. My. Soul.

When I think of baring something, I think of revealing it, making it naked, exposing it for what it truly is. When I come to Him in humility, worshipping Him for His wonderfulness, nothing stands between me and God. He sees me and understands me fully at all times, but when I sing, I am aware of Him looking back at me. And I don’t quite know how to deal with that.

Something about singing reveals our human qualities; the imperfections of the voice mirror the imperfections of the soul. Singing takes away the façade, stripping us down from how we want to be seen to the nakedness of who and what we really are. To the transparency of our utter dependence on Him.

It is difficult to pretend to be something that you’re not when you are singing, unless one has been highly trained to do so. Even then, if the trained singer once breaks focus and contemplates the message he is yielding forth, he is in danger of losing his composition, becoming that shattered and hopeful spirit once again as he struggles to physically cope with the majesty that is God’s love and grace.

Christ-Centered School Subjects

Last week, someone asked me what I liked the most about homeschooling. It took a little bit of thought on my part, but I would have to say that I like being able to prioritize whatever I want. I also enjoy being able to teach the different subjects around a particular theme. Some folks call them unit studies, but I have never tried those in the traditional sense. Nope. What I am talking about is taking a Christ-centered approach to homeschooling. I have gotten a lot more serious about this over the summer, since Ian revealed to me his desire to be a missionary. All of a sudden, I’m in panic mode. I only have seven years left to train him!! I feel like I’m very far behind.

In an effort to help him learn as much about the Bible as he can, without sacrificing his other studies, we have been trying to come up with some creative ways to incorporate the skills he will need as a missionary into his daily homework. Here’s what Ian and I have come up with so far:

For writing and spelling practice, I use a dictation method. If you’re interested, you can read about it here. However, this year, instead of reading to him from literature books, he has asked me to read from the Bible. He can practice his handwriting and his spelling this way. I thought it was a pretty cool idea, so I agreed.

In an effort to get him to write even more, I have begun to show him what sermon notes would look like. I wrote down a few notes from the Bible chapter we had read together earlier that day, and I let him practice giving the tiny sermon (more like a Sunday School lesson at this point) to me and Jesse. I’m going to get him to the point where he can write his own outline as he reads through a chapter, and then expand it to draw from other passages to support his main idea. He’ll be using cross references (thanks for the idea, Pastor Mike!) and a topical index (I still have to purchase one though), and he’ll also be learning how to deliver a speech.

Science always makes us think about God, no matter what we’re studying. I’ve always told Ian that science is the study of the way God thinks. I read a great quote in a chemistry book a couple of years ago. It said: “Human beings, especially scientists, but also philosophers and theologians, are always suspicious. They have a deep down feeling that things are not just put together randomly, a strange intuition that, underneath it all, there is a conspiracy going on, a great conspiracy of order. That is why chemists started to wonder, and wonder (as Aristotle said long ago) is the beginning of all science.”

For Bible right now, we are reading Begin, a book for new believers that has key passages from Genesis, Exodus, John, Romans, and Revelation. We read a chapter each day and discuss. We are also reading a biography written by a man who (along with his family) was a missionary to the Philippines. This man also happens to be our pastor! (Thanks for the great stories, Pastor Doug!)

So those are the Christ-centered ideas that I have so far.

Here are a couple of extra things I am thinking about to prepare him for his future: Eventually, when I can afford a Rosetta Stone program, he wants to learn Urdu. It’s nice being homeschoolers because his options are so much better. I don’t think Spanish or French or German would serve him well in the mission field he has chosen.

The last idea I have had is to get him tabla lessons. Indian raga have always been fascinating to me, so I was thrilled when I discovered that Pakistan uses the same ones as Northern India.

Do you all have any more ideas? Either for creating Christ-centered studies or for preparing for missions?