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.
Growth as a Christian is a lot different than growing a potted plant on your doorstep. The potted plant just sits there, soaking up sun and rain, and it grows. But to be a growing Christian you need to be much more proactive. Its the "working out your salvation" that Paul talks about.
As we enter the summer months, let's think about 5 simple ways to kickstart your walk with Christ and develop greater reverence for God.
1. The "Five Page" Rule - Reading good Christian literature is paramount to a robust faith. What people don't often realize is that just five pages a day can supercharge your spiritual life. Not only will you get a good dose of biblical teaching, you can burn through a book like this one in just a month's time.
2. Double up by Downloading - Multitasking is a great way to beef up your soul. Tapping into that grand reservoir of Christian audio on the internet can make that morning commute or "treadmill time" more spiritually productive. Next time you do the dishes, tune your phone into a sermon by Tim Keller or download a podcast from Nacey Leigh Demoss.
3. Sabbath like a Jew - The Lord designed Sundays to be the "market day of the soul" for the Christian. It's a day to say "no" to the busy-ness of life and concentrate on more God. If we "keep the sabbath day holy" through corporate worship, private reflection/meditation, extended times of personal prayer, or Christian fellowship, we'll see immense changes in our spiritual demeanor.
4. Prayer Challenge - Stonewall Jackson was a great military general, but he was also a great man of prayer. He trained himself to say a prayer every time he took a sip of water or mailed a letter. While you might not pray for every gulp you take, you can add prayer to more of your daily tasks. When you pick up their toys, ask God to bless your kids. When you punch in at work, as God to clock in grace for the day too.
5. Improve Your Baptism - Your baptism wasn't just something that happened long ago and far away. It's a God given tool in your spiritual arsenal. Reflecting on it's meaning and reality can be of great benefit in fighting temptation, dissuading doubt, and confirming you in grace. Martin Luther encouraged his congregation to simply repeat, "I've been baptized! I've been baptized!" from time to time as a way of reminding them of the saving promises of the gospel.
I have published a little ebook devotional that I put together for the ladies at Hopewell Church. It is a simple examination of the central passage in all Scripture regarding Biblical womanhood.
This daily devotional is aimed at helping women in our modern age emulate the virtues of godliness crowned in the "noble woman" of Proverbs 31. In less than a month's time you will examine the worth, work, and worship of a lady who truly fears God and seeks to embody His design for her.
The file is a .pdf and is compatible with your computer and/or your mobile device.
When the world was first created, it wasn't enough to have an individual man romping around the garden by himself. Expressly put, it was "not good." So God created the woman and He knit them together in the bond of marriage.
It is of note that it wasn't just two people, a man and a woman, roaming around in the garden. They were not individualized personages. By God's mysterious fusion they had became one (Gen 2:24-25). They were now a a sort of human alloy--a united entity that we now call a family.
This new cluster was to be God's tool for the rest of the work of creation. They were to be His instruments in building His kingdom. God expressly told them to be fruitful & multiply, and to rule over the earth and subdue it. Through the family God would preserve and propagate His glory throughout the world. They would bear God's name, carry out God's work, and raise up new members of His kingdom.
The fall into sin would come and history would unravel in a much different direction. However, the original design is still very much in effect. God still uses the same old tools for promoting His causes. Families continue to be central to the preservation of the faith and rule of God.
For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. - 1 Corinthians 7:14
What does it mean when the text says that the unbeliever is sanctified (or made holy) by the believer? And how are children of this mixed relationship considered holy?
Some Baptists interprete the previous passage as saying the believing spouse has a sanctifying influence upon the unbeliever. That is to say, the unbeliever becomes outwardly more righteous bc of the presence and influence of the believer. So the unbeliever may quit smoking or stop cussing because of the godly influence of the believing spouse.
But this verse says that the children ARE holy. They do not progressively become holy, but rather, they enjoy the status of holiness. This verse must help to interpret the former. The spouse does not become progressively sanctified. He becomes holy in that he enters into the state of being holy.
This holiness, we must understand, is not an internal holiness. That can only be experienced by the believer. The holiness of the believer is patterned after the holiness of Christ himself, and is a work that is part of the regeneration of the believer's heart.
The holiness spoken of here is of another kind. It is outward; or may be called an "external holiness." It is the holiness associated with being brought into God's covenant and becoming a member of the visible church.
To be holy simply means to be "set apart." Unbelievers who are married to believer's become holy in that the are much like the utensils used in the tabernacle in the Old Testament. They are set apart from the rest of the world unto God.
In the Old Testament a Jew could take for themselves a wife from among the Gentiles. Perhaps as part of the spoil from a war. That woman would become a member of God's people. She would be "made holy" in that she had come into the covenant community and was now a member of Israel. She might not be saved, but she was definitely in a new status before God. Moreover, the children would have the right of circumcision, which meant that they would be marked as ones belonging to God.
So it is in the New Testament era. God looks upon the unbelieving spouse and the children of this mixed relationship as members of His covenant and participants in the visible church.
The visible church, of course, is made up of believer's and unbelievers, wheat and tares. It is distinct from the invisible church, which consists of all who possess true faith.
This is further verified by verse 16, which goes on to say, "How do you know whether you will save your unbelieving spouse?" Paul recognizes that the unbelieving spouse is not internally holy (i.e. saved). The unbeliever must still profess faith and experience the saving power of the Spirit which is demonstrated in the renewing the heart.
Despite the unbeliever's lack of faith, he still maybe said to be a member of the covenant community. He may be an Esau, but he is no less a part of the covenant body.
"If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the LORD of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart." Mal 2:2 ESV
Blasphemy is one of the worst possible sins in the Bible. Another passage in the Bible tells us that cursing God was a capital offense. It was punishable by death.
As we see from this verse, failure to honor God’s name results in a direct curse from God. It even says that the blessings God gives will be turned into a curse. We may think of the quail that the Lord gave to the Israelites in the wilderness. The Israelites were failing to give honor to God as the one who had just saved them out of Egypt and they did not recognize his power to sustain. So he gave them quail. But the quail, thought it was a blessing, it was also a curse—it turned into a plague.
So it behooves us to recognize how circumspect we should be when it comes to honoring God’s name and giving him the reverence he is due.
When we think of blasphemy, we typically think of taking God’s name in vain. This is the most direct form. Using God’s name as an expletive not only empties it of its infinite value, but it also uses that which is holy for profane purposes. This is also true of the diminished forms of God’s name, such as “omg” or “gosh” (God) or “geez” (Jesus).
But we must also recognize that God’s name stands for anything which is associated with God himself. So it is not just his names, but his word, worship, attributes, & works.
For instance, when a child draws a picture, you do not criticize the work and say it looks nothing like what he/she was trying to depict. Why? Because you know that you might make that child cry. The criticism of the art is an insult to the artist himself.
The same is true when it comes to God's name. When we disparage anything connected to God (like the weather or some providence He brings our way), it is a criticism of God himself.
So we must be careful to recognize the depths of the third commandment. Did you grumble at the weather this morning? The Lord produced the ice and it is one of his marvelous works. Are you not engaged in the songs you sing or giving attention to the word? That is God's worship & God's word and that flippancy is a form of blasphemy.
I remember one time in Seminary we had a break between classes. A few of us headed to the men’s room. Just as we opened the door, three guys were heading out. We were all chatting in our respective groups, and we almost collided when the door opened. I cried out, “Holy cow!” It just popped out of my mouth as a natural reaction to the close encounter. A terribly awkward silence immediately followed. It was then awkwardly broken by one student saying, “Yes, you have to watch out for those sacred bovine.”
My irreverent use of God’s most grand attribute was certainly brought home.
As we come to our time of confession this morning, let us take to heart the ways we have blasphemed God. Whether it be in the profanities we have uttered, disrespect we have shown, or irreverent attitudes we my have had towards God’s person and work, let us confess them and ask that God hold back the curses he has threatened for it.
You have pledged that you will not hold him guiltless who takes your name in vain. Lord, we confess that we have been a blasphemous people in that we have failed to honor you and uphold your majesty. We admit that have not treated the reading & preaching of your word with the highest esteem.
We acknowledge that we have not been as engaged as we should be. We have let our minds wander in prayer, we have been flippant when approaching the Communion Table, we have spent little time glorifying you and meditating on the wonder of your being.
Our Lord our God, we admit that we have not reverenced you as we ought and we beg your pardon.
Forgive us for having the heart of Esau, who would profane his birthright by selling it for a pot of porridge. Give us grace to overcome the sacrilege of the Israelites who treated the sacred Ark of the Covenant as a superstitious toy. Let us be freed from the attitude of Paul, who kicked against the goads and ignored the testimony of the saints.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.