I have been reading Gary North's commentary on the book of Exodus, "Tools for Dominion." It has been an excellent study of the case laws that Moses handed down from God. North's exposition is truly a blessing for those who wish to understand how society ought to be best ordered.
This morning's reading was on Ex. 21:18-19 and what it says about private conflict (i.e. if two men strive together and one is injured, but does not die). North expresses that fighting and duels are strictly forbidden by God. He then makes the point that the "winner" of such contests should be the economic loser in that he must now pay restitution to the one who has been injured.
In his discussion North makes the following comment, which is noteworthy given the continual stream of rioting that seems to be occurring in our nation today.
Peace is therefore a sign of God's blessing and also a means of attaining other blessings, such as economic growth. Men who strive together in private battle testify to their own lack of self-discipline, and a godly legal order must provide sanctions against such disturbances of public order.
I also appreciated how North applied this passage to modern forms of dueling, such as boxing and (had it been prominent when he wrote) mixed marshal arts. The Bible expressly forbids brutality towards your neighbor and these "sports" are purposefully intended for such things. The sole object is to so pummel your opponent that he cannot muster the strength or mental wherewithal to rise to his feet.
I've always said that one cannot at the same time punch someone in the face and demonstrate the love of Jesus. The command to "do unto others as you would have done unto you" speaks directly against such "fun" and entertainments. The boxer or MMA fighter may say, "I get punched in the face; it's part of the game." But if you press him/her, they will have to admit that they much prefer to not receive a blow to the noggin.
Note what is mentioned in that last line though: him/her. It is truly a mark of where our society is that we have women now in the ring battling it out. Such used to be termed "cat fights" and considered a horribly un-lady-like act. But now we encourage our girls to clobber each other and will even pay to see it.
To be sure, grappling with one another in fun is not wrong. And training in violent measures is necessary for those who will engage in war--or perhaps defend themselves/their homes. But when our aim is to injure a person for fun, we have cross a serious biblical line.
Last night a candlelight vigil was held here in Ashland in response to the rioting in Charlottesville.
I continue to find our modern forms of worship intriguing. Candle lighting is a great sacrament of the postmodern/existential philosophy. It adds that romantic & sentimental feel to a gathering that adds to the gush of the momentary "religious experience."
Whatever may be the motive for using candles, I appreciate the fact that there were a number of people in Ashland interested in standing against violence. That there were people bold enough to join together to declare their belief in the value of human life and express that it is important to protect and defend the innocent is highly commendable.
For this reason I am have every hope that those who arranged the vigil and the participants will give their hearty support to the local pregnancy center and do everything they can to appear at their life rallies. If the violence committed in Charllottesville is thought to be so vile, surely they will be even more dutiful in their outcry against the manifold atrocities perpetrated against the unborn in our area/nation.
The most egregious sin in the Bible is not homosexuality, adultery, greed, or failure to serve on a church committee. It is idolatry.
We evangelicals like to think that are much more sanctified than the Israelites of old-- who seemed to thrown themselves down before every stone statue that came their way.
But the truth is: evangelicals are just as idol prone as our forefathers were. The following are a few prevalent forms of idolatry that may be found in the church today:
1. Evan-jelly-fish: A faith that has no spine is no faith at all. If you're not willing to stand up for biblical doctrine, acknowledge Christ's supremacy, or affirm the authority of His law, then you're bowing to the god of toleration and moderation. Such a faith has been so overrun by postmodernism that it is Christian in name only.
2. Christi-tainment: Neil Postman's classic book "Entertaining Ourselves to Death" continues to be prophetic in our day, especially in our churches. Worship that is driven by fun, amusements, and showmanship plagues the evangelical world. Choosing a church on the basis of its music or youth group events, rather than its focus on Christ & His word, is much like making an offering on an alter of entertainment.
3. Superstition: Symbols have their place. A cross necklace can be something that proclaims who you are. A sticker on your car can identify where you stand in your beliefs. But such things can also become objects of worship. When we impute divine power to them, depend more on a trinket than we do prayer, or trust it as "God's channel of help" we've essentially created a golden calf.
4. Cult of Personality: Protestantism has always eschewed popery --kissing rings, thinking he is the head of the church, etc. Unfortunately, it is still alive an well in Prot circles in the form of celebrity pastors. While honoring good teachers is good, infatuations can be overboard. Leader worship breeds discontent with "ordinary," everyday clergy and "groupies" can follow certain charismatic fellows more than they do Christ.
5. Biblical Mutts: Christians must biblical thoroughbreds. If you mix breeds by mingling beliefs from other faiths or philosophies, you're rejecting the God of Scripture and forming a new religion. It is idolatrous to claim to be a Christian and believe in abortion, homosexuality, Marxism, Buddhist meditation, alternative means of salvation, etc.
The Israelites' idolatry was rarely ever a complete rejection of the Lord. They typically provoked the Lord by blending their faith with the pagan customs of the surrounding nations.
Ashland County will be asking its residents to continue supporting convicted criminals this August. The county jail is hoping to renew a levy it passed in 1996.
The original levy was intended to generate funds for building a new jail. It is funny that the tax is not now being reduced, some 20 years later. Supposedly, the jail would be paid off (thus reducing the need for funding). But those in charge are saying a renewal is needed for continuing maintenance costs.
If that isn't fishy enough, the thought of making innocent people pay to house and feed criminals ought to put you over the top. Why should I have money taken to support someone who has evidently committed a crime?
Jails and prisons are rarely, if ever, the answer to civil crime. As a friend of mine said, "When I was younger, we got spanked. We rarely got a time out. Jail time seems like an extended time out for adults."
My friend is exactly right. What positive effect does sitting in a cage do for someone who has convicted, (or for the victim or rest of society for that matter).
If wrong has done, the Biblical method of justice requires restitution. The criminals should be the one's paying up, not the innocent.
This past weekend I attended the gay pride events in Mansfield with around 15 other Christian friends to share the gospel. One thing that was profoundly evident during our time out was that the "feastivities" was a complete flop.
If it was a testimony to anything, it was that Mansfield does not truly support the deviant practice of homosexuality. The crowd was embarrassingly small. One may not even want to call it a crowd. The handful of us who went to pass out tracts and witness were able to canvass pretty much the entire group in less than an hour. To be sure, people came and went, but the number of people did not swell much at all--testifying to the fact that few stayed long or had much interest in showing their support. A friend of mine drove by in the evening and said that things were shutting down quite early and venders were tearing down by 8 pm.
All in all, it seemed that most of Mansfield stayed away from the square.
Even the media involvement was pretty pitiful. The Richland Source, which was perhaps the friendliest of the news sources, seemed to focus more on covering our little group that was out to call to repentance. The Mansfield News Journal's article was so short that it was almost laughable. It looked like someone just tweaked a poorly written press release. To be sure, it was clear that they didn't send a reporter or photographer down to cover it. WMFD ran a good sized clip, but makes you chuckle because there is virtually no one in the background. It looked pretty much deserted. Those who were in the camera gave the impression that it was more of a freak show than a feastival.
It certainly wasn't because of the weather either. The rain may have put a squash on the parade, but the rest of the day was quite nice. The truth is simply that the majority of Mansfield showed they did not support a lifestyle that goes against God's design.
The afternoon was not a complete loss though. Those of us who came out to share the gospel had splendid opportunities to engage with the unbelieving. I personally spent almost a full two hours talking with various homosexuals and homosexual supporters about the things of the Lord.
Each conversation was cordial. We were able to laugh together as we thought through the issues of eternity. Many of those who I spoke to admitted that they did not have an absolute standard for morality. Almost all admitted that the will be judged if they were to stand before Christ on the last day. They understood the gospel when I explained it, but openly refused it. The only exception was one man who said he didn't believe in hell. But when I pressed him, he admitted he didn't know what his god thought about justice at all and he wasn't interested in trying to find out.
When we pray, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done," we ask that justice be maintained, righteous laws be enacted, evil doers be prosecuted, God be openly acknowledged and duly honored, and the nations be pointed to the One who is the King of kings and only source of freedom;
that the gospel be preached, ministers be sent, and all other officers and ordinances be active and pure;
that the Spirit expressly revive, renew, and purge the hearts of men throughout the globe;
and that Christ would hasten the day of His coming.
The Ashland City Counsel gave their initial approval to rob Americans this past week. The Ashland Source reported that the town is receiving $150,000 from the DEPARTMENT OF Housing and Urban Development, a federal program which gains its funds through unbiblical taxation. The stolen goods will be mainly used to pay for blacktop.
Recieving stolen goods is, we should remember, essentially the same as stealing the goods ourselves. It shows that we approve of the theft and are glad to have someone else's money without having worked for it or received the victims consent. The act of receiving it may be a worse crime, biblically speaking, because we use it for our own benefit and use a mediator to do the oppressing for us.
We Maust recognize that God outlines a specific role for civil magistrates. They are to "bear the sword" and be the avenger of God upon the evildoer (Rom.13:1-4). In sum, this role is one of justice, specifically the power to execute criminals who commit capital crimes.
The role of the sword does not permit governing officials to take money from its citizenry and redistribute it for pet projects. Thus, to use such funds for paving roads or renovating our neighborhoods is akin to robbing our next door neighbor to put in new flooring in our house. Worse yet, it is having Vinnie the Greek go rob our neighbor on our behalf.
Interestingly, the DHUD says the money is collected for "preventing blight." But the Bible says that blight is caused by unrighteousness and injustice. In Deuteronomy 28 we read of God's curses,
""But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you...The LORD will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish." Deuteronomy 28:15, 22
If Ashland officials wish to improve the living conditions in our area, they should do as God says and reject the stolen money. God promises blessings to those who fear Him and obey. He says that obedience will produce the following,
"And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow." - Deuteronomy 28:11-12
Edification is the native tongue of heaven. Every angel and soul in that place speaks only that which will reinforce positive spiritual life in others. Every Christian this side of heaven ought to have a similar accent in his speech.
While our native tongue is earthly--being filled with words that tear down, we ought to be striving to speak the holy language of Christ's country. How can we develop this kind of speech? Consider these five pointers...
1. Fortify your vocabulary w/ good study - You can only take out of a cash register what has been put in. It is the same way with our lips. It is only out of the overflow of our heart that our mouth speaks. So if we want to reduce harsh, cutting words, we need to bulk up on sound spiritual doctrine. Remember that grace begets grace.
2. Keep a sense of our present misery - Nurses speak with extra tenderness when at the bedside of the sick. They are sensitive to the pains that person is experiencing and seek to offer nurturing tones. This is they way we should operate. We should remember that everyone around us is sick with sin and laden with miseries of every kind. If you remember that life is a string of miseries, you can be more readied to be light in the darkness.
3. Speak well with God - We are called to "rejoice in God," "extol His name" and "be thankful in every circumstance." If we are busy lifting up praise and celebrating God's goodness, its likely we'll reflect that on the streets. However, if our prayers are full of complaints, sighs, and bellyaching, we shouldn't be surprised if we speak to our fellow man in derogatory ways.
4. Glory in the smallest blossom of goodness & beauty - Encouragement is the art of commending that which is good, reinforcing the beautiful, and highlighting the virtuous--no matter how hidden or small it may be. Discouragement is usually easy because there is a lot of woeful things in the world to harp on. When a diamond sparkles in the rough, we should make every effort to embrace it and revel in it.
5. Keep the trap shut - Your mother said, "If you don't have anything good to say, don't say it." She was wise. Before a dog can learn to roll over or jump through a hoop, it needs to learn how to sit and stay. Our speech is not much different. Before we can do spiritual tricks with our tongues, we likely need to learn the discipline of silence.
Heroin and drug use are the number one problems facing our area today. Reports of their destruction come out daily and drug related deaths are skyrocketing.
But users and their families should know that deliverance is possible. There is a way to escape the cult of addiction and religion of substance abuse. It is by turning to Jesus Christ, and beginning to worship the true and living God.
We’ve been conditioned to think that the answer to addiction is found in a twelve step program, a stint at a recovery facility, or better law enforcement tactics. But the ultimate solution is not in behavioral modification, educational programs, or conditioning. The only real and lasting remedy is wholesale religious conversion.
While we can be thankful for the existence of such programs we must recognize that something deeper is at stake. Addiction, at its most fundamental level, is a cult. It is primarily a religious issue having to do with servitude and worship.
The Bible says that we are either slaves to God or to something else. A slave of God will serve the Lord and have Him as the supreme object of his delight. An idolater will serve some other object (such as drugs, drink, sex, etc.) and will find his primary delight in it.
This is the nature of addiction. The drink or drug becomes your master. It once served you; it relieved your pain or gave you a little pleasure. But now it rules you. You have come to feel that you cannot live without it. You crave it, throw your money at it, and give it an absurd amount of attention.
It has become your religion.
It is deeper than mere appetite. It is a matter of faith. For the drug has become the object of trust: It is relied upon for happiness. It promises to save, fulfill, and relieve your pains. You believe in it and rely upon it as the only hope of satisfaction.
The worship is further seen in that the addict can’t bring himself to stop. Addicts will try to stop, but they can’t. The drug has become an idol to whom they are religiously devoted. It is the dominant force in their life.
If an addict is to be helped, he must acknowledge that he does not have a drug problem per se. He must admit that he has a faith problem. It is not so much about what is injected, smoked, or swallowed as much as it is about what is worshiped, adored, and served.
Thus, the road to recovery (i.e. redemption) lies in religious conversion. It is by repentance and turning to the one who is the one and only living God. The one who offers true life and eternal salvation.
All in all, the cleansing of the veins and clearing of the mind begins with a cleansing of the heart and clarity on the issue of idolatry.
In future articles we will explore more of the religious nature of addiction and how the Christian faith provides a means of escape. In the meantime, addicts (and affected loved ones) can explore the recovery helps that Hopewell offers at hopewellashland.com.
Matt Timmons, Pastor
[The above article was submitted to the newspapers in Ashland as a means of combating the rising heroin problem in our area. For help with addiction recovery please contact Matt or visit hopewellashland.com]
The sin of coveting is said to be "of all sins the most opposed to God" and "the most dangerous of all sins." If more people sought to rid themselves of it "most of our economic problems would be solved." If we'd take covetousness away "there would be no reason for men to fly at one another's throats."*
Since this sin is one of the most odious, it should be targeted as a prime enemy to be eliminated. We can begin a concentrated effort to slay this inordinate desire for another's goods with the following practices.
1. Praise God from whom all blessings flow - The opposite of covetousness is contentment. Replacing the one with the other must begin with a bountiful exuberance in God (and not just His gifts). It is difficult to be cross with someone else's favors when you are enraptured with the Giver of All.
2. Pray for, rejoice in, and be thankful for the good of others
Paul said that we must "rejoice with those who rejoice." These words are a defense against the evil of jealousy. If we see another's good as an opportunity to praise God and be happy, we will be less likely to want to be robbed of their blessings. This also makes for a much more positive attitude, which usually benefits us in the long run.
3. Repent of & mourn the grotesqueness of the evil.
If you sense the sickening stream of envy, confess it to God and lament its vileness before Him. Be open about what you really feel--that you regret this person should have more than you, that you want them to suffer misfortune, and that you'd rather see them dead than prosper. Then ask God to replace this murderous sin with charity, cheerfulness, and contentment.
4. Meditate on the radical peace that flow from a contented society.
James says that wars and fighting come as a result of envy. Think of the peace that would ensue if our hearts did not burn with this vice. Nations would no more pick up arms to battle one another, church's would have untold harmony, neighbors would probably not need fences.
5. Relish the blessings that could be had if we did not covet
The core of coveting is the "I want it all now" mentality. It thus leads to thieving, increased taxation, higher insurance premiums, etc. If the sin of coveting was less prevalent economies would burst with financial growth. Over time we'd see more wealth in our pockets and the inheritance of future generations would expand almost exponentially.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.