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The “Cause” of the First Causeby Ravi Zacharias

Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the Earth! — Psalm 8:1
Devotionals Daily
The “Cause” of the First Cause
by Ravi Zacharias, from Has Christianity Failed You?

Meet Ravi Zacharias
Our Lord is magestic
I am a Christian because I believe that Jesus is who He says He is, and I have accepted His sacrifice as payment for my sin. Beyond that, the first and foremost assertion of Christianity is implied by the question, What is man? The answer the psalmist gives to his own question demonstrates a starting point for Christianity that is different from any other belief system, secular or religious, except for Judaism:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. — Psalm 8:3-5

These magnificent words were penned nearly three thousand years ago by a man marveling at the beauty and diversity of what he saw around him in nature — and yet recognizing the distinctiveness of a human being in contrast to nature.

A story circulated some years ago about Sherlock Holmes and his loyal friend and student Watson, who were together on a camping trip. After a good meal, they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend awake.

“Watson,” he said, “look up at the sky and tell me what you see.” “I see millions and millions of stars,” Watson replied.

Watson pondered the question and then said, “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?”

Holmes was silent for a minute before speaking. “Watson, you idiot!” he said with a measure of restraint. “Someone has stolen our tent!”

As funny as this story is, if we apply it to our present discussion, we see that an enormous robbery has taken place in which someone has stolen from you that which provides shelter or the covering for your life. It is not accidental that those who stick to a scientific single vision of ultimate reality start by denying a Creator, and from there, all of the disciplines are herded together to create a mentality that asserts that any worldview seeking a transcendent explanation for our universe is unwelcome in intelligent discussion. When science categorically and unconditionally insists to all who hunger for religious truth that there is no such thing, it has ceased to be science and is only revealing its hostility.

This, I’m afraid, is what is revealed by the stridency and belligerence of the “new atheists.” They are not open or willing to go where the evidence leads, unless that evidence sustains their own naturalistic assumptions. They have covertly reduced all philosophical thought and deduction to — ironically — faith. Perhaps inadvertently, in denying a Creator they also deny the essential worth of creation and of the act of creating, which means, then, that all great art, music, architecture, and writing must be consigned to the ash heap, because the inspiration behind these great expressions and reflections of the transcendent is denied as non-real or faith (it cannot be scientifically or empirically studied or observed). The same must apply to all the great themes of love, beauty, truth, morality, justice, and the like, as they too cannot be empirically or scientifically studied and observed.

The starting points, then, of Christianity and naturalistic science diverge, and unfortunately the resulting conflict often brings more heat than light. For when the starting point of one belief system is an intelligent mind with a purpose and that of the opposing belief system is matter and randomness, the ending points are determined right from the beginning.

On a side note, I would like to say that certain people who held these beliefs of naturalism could have saved me a lot of reading. In my days of graduate studies the noted philosopher Antony Flew was the atheist with whom we had to contend. I spent hours coming to terms with Flew’s arguments and all that he demanded of theism in terms of logic and proof. Because he was the most noted atheist of that time, it was imperative that we understood and were able to respond to his challenges.

Now times have changed, and Antony Flew finds himself in the position of writing against the vociferous atheists of our day because he contends that atheism is no longer a logically tenable position for him. He is willing, he says, to go where the evidence leads. In his book There Is a God, Flew reflects on an argument regarding the probability of human origin that he had to deal with in his younger days.

The argument runs like this: How long would it take for an infinite number of monkeys pounding on an infinite number of typewriters to compose a sonnet by Shakespeare? (Believe it or not, this argument was based on an experiment conducted by the British National Council of the Arts.) A computer was placed in a cage with six monkeys, and after one month of hammering away at the keys and using the computer as a bathroom, the monkeys produced fifty typed pages — but not one single word.

This is amazing, considering that the shortest word in English could be a one-letter word such as the letter a or I. But a one-letter word is only a word if there is space on either side of it. Flew points out that if one considers that there are thirty keys on a keyboard, the possibility of getting a one-letter word is one in 30 x 30 x 30, which is one in 27,000. If these attempts could not even result in one one-letter word, what is the possibility of getting just the first line of one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, let alone a whole sonnet? Flew quotes scientist and author Gerry Schroeder on the sheer improbability of the random existence of the universe:

If you took the entire universe and converted it to computer chips — forget the monkeys — each one weighing a millionth of a gram, and had each computer chip able to spin out 488 trials at, say, a million times a second; if you turn the entire universe into these microcomputer chips and these chips were spinning a million times a second [producing] random letters, the number of trials you would get since the beginning of time would be 10 to the 90th trials. It would be off again by a factor of 10 to the 600th. You will never get a sonnet by chance — let alone the complete works of Shakespeare. The Universe would have to be 10 to the 600th times larger. Yet the world just thinks the monkeys can do it every time.

For Flew, the sheer improbability that such an intricate design as we have in this universe is the product of mindless evolution is insurmountable; the universe must have purpose and design behind it.

As powerful an argument as statistical improbability is, a simple point I want to make here is that although the specifics may be different, this is not a new argument for the improbability of chance. Antony Flew knows this to be so. But I must add that no dyed-in-the-wool naturalist is likely to suggest that our universe could not have beaten such odds. They will say that just because it is improbable, it doesn’t mean that the universe didn’t happen this way — a view that vehemently resists both human limitation and the humility required to follow reason where it leads. Instead, they will wax eloquent, like Watson, on endless categories of convoluted descriptions of what “might” or “could” have happened, all the while ignoring the most obvious deduction or conclusion before them as to the origin of the universe — that it was a deliberate act of creation by an intelligent being. Stubbornly and deliberately ignoring that “the tent has disappeared,” there is no way for naturalists to account for human relational hungers, so they refuse to recognize that these hungers are validated by the real fact that people relate to other people through a relationship.

To even think we could get a Shakespearean sonnet by accident assumes, first, that we have other sonnets to which we can compare the “accidental” one in order to know that it is indeed a Shakespearean sonnet and, second, that whenever we see intelligibility we assume intelligence. Even if the monkeys could have produced a sonnet by accident, we would still wonder at the intelligence behind the technology of the keys and the development of the alphabet, the aesthetics of this sonnet in comparison with other sonnets, and, to boot, whether the monkeys knew what they were doing.

The numerical impossibility actually defies even the “chance” analogy. And in the origin of the universe, as naturalism tells the story, there are no monkeys to begin with. The monkeys evolved from chemistry and energy after the universe already existed. There are no alphabets to be explained. There is no idea of a sonnet except as nonexistent monkeys pounding on nonexistent keys. All these assumptions are circular.

Let me illustrate this point a little differently through the fascinating story of George Frideric Handel’s composition of Messiah. His career as a composer was on the verge of collapse, and he was naturally discouraged, feeling that he was a failure. The words for Messiah were given to him as a possible oratorio, and he decided to try one last time to compose a great piece of music. When he reached the text for the “Hallelujah Chorus” and began to reflect on the words, he said later that he saw the heavens opened and the great God himself. And as the great chorus reached its climax at the first public presentation of Messiah before the king of England, the king rose to his feet in recognition of the awesome power of the words and music combining to give honor to the One to whom honor is due. The convergence of intelligence, aesthetics, and the inspirational power of a transcending reality in the person of God has the power to bring even kings either to their feet or to their knees.

All of this is dismissed as mere nonsense by the skeptic. Not only does he take that which appears statistically impossible and try to make it actual; he takes the emotion and spiritual expression that is common to the human experience, and is therefore actual, and tries to make it farcical. Is it really possible to deny such a reality as that described by Handel’s experience in writing the music for Messiah without even a twinge of doubt that perhaps there is more to life than science alone?
 

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This intertwining of the disciplines with relationship that is both “intrapersonal” and “interpersonal,” within and without, reveals a distinctiveness that we must recognize as sacred and inviolable. But this is denied repeatedly in naturalism, which insists that we just happen to be here, that we’re all just “dancing to our DNA,” as Richard Dawkins puts it. For the Christian, the awesome nature of the world we are part of does not point to brute science in isolation but to the Creator, a personal God who can and does relate to human beings.

Excerpted with permission from Has Christianity Failed You? by Ravi Zacharias, copyright Ravi Zacharias. Published by Zondervan
 

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Your Turn

Has Christianity failed you? Do you remember why you are a Christian? Are you relating on a personal level with our God who is so deeply personal?Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily

It’s a New Day: The Choice is Yours

It’s a New Day: The Choice is Yours
by Max Lucado, from Let the Journey Begin

Hi, I'm Max Lucado
Seek His grace
It’s quiet. It’s early. My coffee is hot. The sky is still black. The world is still asleep. The day is coming.

In a few moments the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun. The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day. The calm of solitude will be replaced by the pounding pace of the human race. The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions to be made and deadlines to be met. For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day’s demands. It is now that I must make a choice.

Because of Calvary, I’m free to choose. And so I choose.

I choose love. No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.

I choose joy. I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical… the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.

I choose peace. I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.

I choose patience. I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite Him to do so. Rather than complain that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

I choose kindness. I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.

I choose goodness. I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.

I choose faithfulness. Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.

I choose gentleness. Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.

I choose self-control. I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self-control. I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithful-ness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.

This devotion is excerpted with permission fromLet the Journey Begin by Max Lucado, copyright Thomas Nelson.
 

It’s Your Turn

Are you setting out on a new journey? Or has life sent you on a detour? What choices are you making to commit to God’s best for you each day?Join the conversation on our blog about where God is taking you!

What Does the Blood and Water That Came out of Jesus’ Pierced Side Mean?

One man’s opinion, what’s yours?

What Does the Blood and Water That Came out of Jesus’ Pierced Side Mean?

June 11 2017

john_19_34_small.gif

John 19:32-34 includes details about Jesus’ crucifixion not recorded in the other three Gospels:

“The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man and of the other man who had been crucified with Him. But coming to Jesus, when they saw that He had already died, they did not break His legs; but one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water.”

Hours after the Lord Jesus was crucified, the soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals who were crucified with Him. The Romans routinely broke the legs of crucified prisoners to hasten their deaths, but since Jesus had already died, they left His legs unbroken. One of them, though, pierced His side with a spear, and out came blood and water.

What is the meaning of these details found uniquely in John? Why did he include them? Some think it was simply to prove Jesus had died. But John already established the fact that Jesus had died by writing that the soldiers saw He had died and therefore didn’t break His legs. So why did John include this word about blood and water? What does it mean?

The emphasis of the Gospel of John

To answer this question, we first need to see the emphasis of John’s Gospel. The four Gospels form a complete biography of our Lord Jesus. In Matthew we see Jesus as the King with His kingdom; in Mark we see Jesus as the slave of God who came to serve God and man faithfully; in Luke we see Jesus as the unique man who expressed God through His fine humanity; and in John we see Jesus as the Son of God, that is, God Himself, coming to bring divine life to mankind. The emphasis of the Gospel of John is life.

Pictures in John

The things of divine life are deep and mysterious, so John uses pictures throughout His Gospel to reveal them. For instance, John 1:29 records John the Baptist saying of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” We know the Lord Jesus isn’t a literal lamb with four legs and fluffy coat, but the picture of Jesus as the Lamb of God shows us something beyond words alone. In it we immediately recognize the meekness, gentleness, and guiltlessness of the Lord who sacrificed Himself for us, even without any explanation.

Some other pictures in John include the heavenly ladder, the serpent on a pole, the living bread, the living water, and the vine with the branches. These pictures help communicate deep spiritual realities more adequately than a thousand words alone could. What spiritual reality, then, does the blood and water from the Lord’s pierced side convey?

The picture of blood and water

The note on blood and water in the New Testament Recovery Version is tremendously helpful in understanding this picture. (We’ll focus on just some of it in this post, but you can read the note in its entirely here.)

“Two substances came out of the Lord’s pierced side: blood and water. Blood is for redemption, to deal with sins (1:29Heb. 9:22) for the purchasing of the church (Acts 20:28). Water is for imparting life, to deal with death (12:24;3:14-15) for the producing of the church (Eph. 5:29-30). The Lord’s death, on the negative side, takes away our sins, and on the positive side, imparts life into us. Hence, it has two aspects: the redemptive aspect and the life-imparting aspect. The redemptive aspect is for the life-imparting aspect.”

This note helps us see that the blood and water signify two important matters: redemption (blood) and the imparting of life (water). In another post, we discussed the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God who shed His own blood on the cross for us. Christ’s redeeming death accomplished a marvelous redemption for us, giving us the forgiveness and washing away of our sins. We can never praise and thank Him enough for His redemption! This is the significance of the blood.

But God doesn’t simply want us to be clean. He wants us to be living. Sin brought in death, making us dead in our offenses and sins. So while an unsaved person needs forgiveness for his sins, forgiveness only solves part of his problem. A sinner needs forgiveness, but a dead person needs life. We need life. Christ’s death absolutely takes away our sins, but it also imparts life into us to make us living. This is the significance of the water.

Jesus’ death released the divine life

Jesus’ death made it possible for us to have divine life imparted into us. Let’s read another section of the note mentioned above:

“…the flowing water and the unbroken bone mentioned by John in vv. 34 and 36 are signs that relate to the life-imparting aspect of the Lord’s death (see note 261). This death that imparts life released the Lord’s divine life from within Him for the producing of the church, which is composed of all His believers, into whom His divine life has been imparted.”

In John 12, Jesus referred to Himself as the grain of wheat that would fall into the ground and die. A grain of wheat is a seed. Within the shell of a seed is a life force, a life element; but as long as the seed remains whole, the life within stays confined to that one seed. For the life to be released, the seed must fall into the ground and “die.” That falling into the ground may seem wholly negative, but actually this is the only way the life confined within the seed can come forth and bear much fruit.

In the same way, the Lord Jesus is the Son of God who became a man in time and space. Within this wonderful God-man was the divine life, confined within a human shell. From the beginning, God’s desire was that we would receive His divine life as our life. But to get into us, the divine life in Christ had to first be released from within the shell of His humanity. So Jesus’ fell into the ground and died, and through His death, life was released!

The water that issued out of the Lord’s pierced side is a picture of the released divine life that can now be imparted into us. Praise God, life was released in Jesus’ death!

Two fountains

Today, as the Lord’s beloved church purchased with His blood and produced with His life, we have the blood and the water to enjoy forever. Let’s read the last paragraph of the note:

“The Lord’s pierced side was prefigured by Adam’s opened side, out from which Eve was produced (Gen. 2:21-23). The blood was typified by the blood of the Passover lamb (Exo. 12:722Rev. 12:11), and the water was typified by the water that flowed out of the smitten rock (Exo. 17:61 Cor. 10:4). The blood formed a fountain for the washing away of sin (Zech. 13:1), and the water became the fountain of life(Psa. 36:9Rev. 21:6).”

Praise the Lord for His redeeming and life-imparting death, for the blood and the water. His death opened two fountains to meet all our needs:

Zechariah 13:1: “In that day there will be an opened fountain for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.”

Psalm 36:9: “For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light.”

At the fountain for sin we can continue to be washed from our sins by Jesus’ precious blood by confessing anything that comes between us and God. As we’re cleansed by His blood, we can receive more of the divine life by drinking of Him, the fountain of life. Thank the Lord for His wonderful death for us!

Revelation 21:6: “I will give to him who thirsts from the spring of the water of life freely

Someone’s Watching You!

In the place where I live everyone coming or going is seen on sirvailance cameras. So this struck a funny bone…

Alternative Baptism

As a young preacher, my small church had limited facilities, so we held baptisms in a creek.  With alligators in the area, however, that was less than ideal.

Then a minister friend suggested I bring my next group of baptismal candidates to his church for a joint baptismal service.  Naturally, I accepted.

The baptismal pool had a clear front so the congregation could see everything.  When the baptisms were finished, curtains were drawn, and I was left alone in the pool for a moment.  The building had no air conditioning, and it was quite hot.  I thought how nice it would feel to take a little dip.  I glided to one end, turned, and backstroked to the other end.

Hearing a riotous uproar in the church, I looked toward the congregation. 

The curtain was down only to the top of the glass!  An astonished and amused congregation had been watching my every move.

Be careful, someone’s watching you! 

Full Battle Strategy

Spiritual Warfare Is Serious 
by Anne Graham Lotz, from The Daniel Prayer

Meet Anne Graham Lotz

God Loves To Be Held To His Word


When the messenger addressed Daniel, he instructed him to “consider carefully the words I am about to speak to you, and stand up” (10:11).

In other words, Daniel needed to “listen-up.” And so do you and I. We need to pay attention, not only to God’s Word, but to this very serious aspect of prayer. We need to know who our adversary is, what his strategy is, and how we are to protect ourselves defensively while going on the offense against him.

Our Adversary Is Serious

The Bible gives us a very descriptive picture of our adversary. Peter reveals that our real enemy is the devil himself who is like a roaring lion.1

Lions roar when they are hungry, which indicates the devil is highly motivated to hunt you and me down. He is not complacent. Peter says he “prowls,” which tells us he is activated and energized as he tries to defeat us. He is not lazy. And he is “looking” because he is totally dedicated to defeating us and destroying our relationships, our witness, our ministries, our families, as well as everything about us. He is not a gentleman. He’s more like a no-holds-barred cage fighter. He doesn’t lose his focus or get distracted. His goal is to “devour” us, rendering us completely useless to God in our Christian lives and ineffective in our prayers. He’s focused. Now that’s a serious enemy!

When we pray the Daniel Prayer, the devil will work feverishly to make sure Heaven remains unmoved and nations remain under his grip. But while he is more powerful than we will ever be, we have the authority over him in Jesus’ name. Which is one reason, when I pray, I always pray in Jesus’ name. He is the One who gives me access into the presence of God and authority over my invisible enemies.2

The apostle Paul was well acquainted with spiritual warfare. His entire Christian life was comprised of one battle after another, and one victory after another. So, when he gives us clear instructions on how to fight the devil, he is speaking from firsthand experience. As Paul himself was chained between two Roman soldiers, he used the very way they were dressed for battle to describe the invisible armor we are to put on for our spiritual battle, as well as the offensive weapons we are to take up.3

Our Armor Is Serious

As we stand firm, unmovable and unshakeable in our position as children of God,

We are to put on…

The belt of truth — The first piece of equipment that a Roman soldier put on was his belt, because every other piece connected to it. Without his belt, he couldn’t get dressed. Our invisible armor consists first and foremost of the belt of truth which is God’s Word. Our entire lives, including our thoughts, actions, belief system, and worldview, are to be reoriented according to God’s Word. We are to be saturated in it because it will give us God’s perspective in every aspect of our lives. Strap your belt on. First.

The breastplate of righteousness — This was the piece of armor that covered the soldier’s heart and his vital organs. The breastplate of our invisible armor is righteousness. Right living. A clean conscience. Which means we need to make sure we are right with God and right with others. We cannot be strong in the fight if we have a deep down nagging sense of guilt. Get right now with God, and as much as possible, with that other person. Your own spiritual health and well-being depends on it.

Your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace — The soldiers’ sandals had cleats on them, so that when in battle they could get a firm footing and were less likely to slip or fall.

You and I are to stand firm on the Good News that God so loves the entire world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. And His Son, Jesus, is the way, the truth, the life, and no one will come to the Father except through Him.4

But any and all who will come, may come. That’s where real peace is found. We are to be ready at a moment’s notice, not only to meet God face-to-face because we have made peace with Him, but to take the Gospel to others so that they, too, are at peace with Him. Stand firm on the Gospel!

And we are to take up…

The shield of faith — This was a piece of equipment that was as large as the soldier. And it was only effective if the soldier stayed close behind it. It was almost like a portable wall. Our invisible shield of faith is our total dependence upon God. Our trust in Him. It’s key to blunting the enemy’s attacks. Again and again, the Bible describes God as our shield, so that if we stay close to Him, we can be confident that any attack that the enemy makes on us will either be prevented from harming us, or will be blunted or softened because it has to come through our Shield first.5 Just stay close to it.

The helmet of salvation — This piece of armor covered the soldier’s head. His thoughts. Reasoning. For us, we are to be assured, with- out any doubt, that God has forgiven us and that we have received eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. We will never be victorious warriors if we go around doubting our salvation, unsure that God truly accepts us. Or if we are afraid to die because while we “hope” we are going to Heaven, we are not 100% certain of where we will spend eternity. Put your helmet on!

The sword of the Spirit — While the above pieces of armor are all defensive in nature, the sword is one of two offensive weapons named. While it’s obvious that a sword was the soldier’s weapon for war, Paul tells us clearly what the sword is when he says it “is the word of God.”6 We are to read, study, apply, and live by God’s Word, confident that His Word holds the answers to life’s questions and gives us principles to live by that work. It is the written Word of God that supernaturally reveals the Living Word of God, drawing people to the Light, to the Truth… to Jesus. We are to take every opportunity to share it with others. Pick it up! Dust it off! Read it every day. Refer to it often. Rely on it. Give it out to others. Wield your sword with the power of God’s Spirit, but always wrap it in love.

Then begin to really pray. For a soldier, this would involve his direct communication with his commander. Making sure he knew the battle plan and how he was to proceed. The same is true for you and me. We are not left to guess our way through the battle. We are given direct access to our Commander. To the Captain of the Armies of Heaven. We communicate with Him through prayer. Paul instructs us to “pray on all occasions with all kinds of prayer and requests.”7 Which means you can mix things up as you pray. Your prayers don’t have to be according to some prescribed formula. They don’t have to be offered in their entirety in one sitting or kneeling position. You can take your music into your place of prayer and begin with your favorite worship songs. Go outside for a walk and thank God for all the blessings you can name. Memorize an alphabetized list of His names and go over each one as you go to sleep. Keep a prayer journal and a prayer list. Use pictures of people, such as missionaries or world leaders, to help you stay focused as you pray for them. Be creative. “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying…”8

Heads up! Are you praying fully armed? Alert to your adversary? Pay serious attention!

1.  1 Peter 5:8.
2.  John 14:13, 14; 15:16; 16:23; Hebrews 10:19–22.
3.  Ephesians 6:10–18.
4.  John 3:16, 14:6.
5.  Some of my favorite verses from the Psalms describing God as our shield are: Psalm 3:3; 18:2, 30; 33:20; 84:11; 91:4; 115:11.
6.  Ephesians 6:17.
7.  Ephesians 6:18.
8.  Ephesians 6:18.


Excerpted with permission from The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz, copyright Anne Graham Lotz.

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Your Turn

Spiritual warfare is serious. We don’t have to be afraid! But, we do need to be prepared! Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you about putting on spiritual armor!



The mighty sceptre

The mighty sceptre

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Prepare

How comfortable are you reading about God crushing his enemies, piling up their dead, judging them for their sin? Why do you react like you do?



Bible passage Psalm 110

Psalm 110

A David Prayer

 1-3 The word of God to my Lord: “Sit alongside me here on my throne 
      until I make your enemies a stool for your feet.” 
   You were forged a strong scepter by God of Zion; 
      now rule, though surrounded by enemies! 
   Your people will freely join you, resplendent in holy armor 
      on the great day of your conquest, 
   Join you at the fresh break of day, 
      join you with all the vigor of youth. 
 4-7 God gave his word and he won’t take it back: 
      you’re the permanent priest, the Melchizedek priest. 
   The Lord stands true at your side, 
      crushing kings in his terrible wrath, 
   Bringing judgment on the nations, 
      handing out convictions wholesale, 
      crushing opposition across the wide earth. 
   The King-Maker put his King on the throne; 
      the True King rules with head held high! 

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Explore the Bible

Victorious God
As a child I was impressed with the power of God. I loved to read about the creation, Jesus walking on water and calming the storm, Elijah calling down fire from heaven, the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In Psalm 110, David prophesies about the Messiah, as Jesus makes clear (Matthew 22:44). He looks forward to the day when God will defeat his enemies once and for all. David was a warrior king; perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the image he uses for this victory is a human battlefield: troops ready to die for their commander (v 3), the bodies of the dead piled up high (v 6).

Enemies defeated
Often people shy away from the ‘spirit of hatred which strikes us … like the heat from a furnace’* in some of the psalms. Yet which of us can truthfully say we don’t feel these emotions too – even those of us who have never faced the fierce heat of battle?

Ultimately, such psalms remind us that God’s ‘mighty sceptre’ will one day rule supreme, that in Jesus all God’s enemies – including death itself – lie crushed and defeated. That power, which raised Jesus from the dead, is given to all who believe (Ephesians 1:19,20).

*CS Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (London: Fount Paperbacks, 1998), p17

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Respond

What enemies are you facing right now? Are you able to stand firm against them, in God’s strength?

Ben Green

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Deeper Bible study

‘Christ is alive and comes to bring good news to this and every age, till earth and sky and ocean ring with joy, with justice, love, and praise.’1

The New Testament quotes Psalm 110 more than any other passage from the Old Testament. The psalm speaks of the exaltation of the Israelite king who reigned at YHWH’s behest. However, in new circumstances old Scriptures take on new meanings. After the events of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Christians read the psalm in a brand new way. They took the words about the king to refer to Jesus Christ in his ascended glory. They took the words about the suppression of enemies to refer, not so much to human beings, but to evil as a personified foe.

Paul makes use of Psalm 110 in a stirring address about the resurrection of the dead. He writes, ‘Then the end will come, when he [Jesus] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.’ (1 Corinthians 15:24–26). Ephesians also draws on Psalm 110, when it asserts that God’s power is at work in the church. It is the same power God ‘exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.’ (Ephesians 1:20–22)

At the crucifixion of Jesus, the powers of evil seemed to win the day. In the resurrection and ascension, God vindicated Jesus and the way of suffering love, turning the tables on the powers of darkness. The world does not yet know it, but evil will not have the last word. In the end, the love of God will triumph.

Robert Parkinson

 

1 Brian Wren, ‘Christ is alive! Let Christians sing’, Hymn 244, Baptist Praise and Worship

Nothing New…

Are Christians “Intolerant Haters”? The Charges are Not New

In the midst of the high-octane cultural wars of the last five years—particularly the debate over homosexual marriage—evangelical Christians have been slapped with all sorts of pejorative labels. Words such as “bigoted,” “arrogant,” “exclusive,” “dogmatic,” and “homophobic” are just a few.

But there are probably two labels that stand out the most. First, Christians are regularly regarded as intolerant. Christians are not only regarded as intolerant religiously—because they affirm the words of Jesus that “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)—but they are regarded as intolerant ethically because they refuse to approve any and all behaviors as morally good.

Second, Christians are regularly (and ironically) regarded as haters. Apparently, our modern world regards the act of telling someone they’re wrong as a form of hatred—it is a slight against mankind (of course, it is never explained how the charge does not apply equally in the other direction, since those who make this charge are telling Christians they are wrong; but we shall leave that issue unaddressed for the time being).

Needless to say, such a situation can be very discouraging to Christians in the modern day. We might be tempted to despair and think that the church is entering into dark days. But a little historical perspective might be useful here. Truth be told, this is not the first time Christians have received such labels. Indeed, they were given to Christians from the very beginning.

Pliny the Younger: Christians are Intolerant

It is well known that in the Greco-Roman world there was a pantheon of gods. Every group had their own deities, and they were easily and naturally placed alongside other deities. For the most part, no one objected to the existence of other gods. It was a polytheistic world.

Of course, the earliest Christians were as monotheistic as their Jewish predecessors and quite unwilling to play along with the standard religious practices of Greco-Roman culture. For Roman rulers trying to keep the peace, the Christian intolerance of other gods was a perennial frustration.

Pliny the Younger, Roman governor of Bythinia (writing c. 111–113), expressed his own frustration over the fact that Christians would not “invoke the gods.” In a letter to emperor Trajan, he lamented their “stubborness and unyielding obstinancy.” In other words, he was angry over their intolerance.

Why was Pliny so bothered by this? Because the influence of the Christians had caused the pagan temples to be “deserted,” and, thus, “very few purchasers could be found” for the sacrificial animals.

In other words, they were losing money.

To fix the problem, Pliny decided to force Christians to worship the pagan gods and curse Christ, and if they refused they were put to death. He says, “As I am informed that people who are really Christians cannot possibly be made to do any of those things.

It is interesting to note that Pliny, while torturing these Christians, acknowledges their high moral standards: “[Christians] bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so.”

Apparently, intolerance of the Roman gods is a enough of a reason to kill Christians, despite their holy lives.

Nero: Christians are Haters

In the late first-century, the Roman emperor Nero made himself famous for his persecution of Christians. The Roman historian Tacitus tells us that under Nero,

Mockery of every sort was added to their [Christians’] death. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, as exhibiting a show in the circus.

So, what awful crimes did Christians commit to warrant such unthinkable torture? Tacitus acknowledges that Christians weren’t really guilty of the trumped up charges of setting fire to the city. Instead, he admits they were killed for “hatred against mankind.”

What had Christians done to warrant the charge of “haters”? Again, they refused to condone the pantheon of gods and religious practices that went along with them.

In sum, the stories of Pliny and Nero are both encouraging and frightening at the same time. They are frightening because they sound eerily similar to the kind of language and accusations being used today against Christians. But instead of Christians being asked to pay homage to the Roman gods to prove their acceptability, they are now being asked to pay homage to the gods of tolerance or homosexual marriage or what have you.

At the same time, these stories are encouraging. They remind us that this sort of persecution isn’t new. Indeed, this persecution was not the end of Christianity, but was the beginning. In the midst of it, the church grew, and thrived, and expanded.

As Christ said, “I will build my church. And the gates of hell shall not stand against it” (Matt 16:18).


For more, visit Dr. Kruger’s website: Canon Fodder.