The Bible indicates a battle between Satan and his rebellious followers in several key passages. The reason for this spiritual spat is not given to us in great detail but we are told that it began after they abandoned their rightful habitation (Jude 1:6). While many have speculated as to what and how this happened, we simply aren’t told. Some have also made the argument that this event took place after the Creation of the world, but this is also not certain. Genesis 2:1 says, “the heavens and the earth were completed and all their hosts.” While that may seem to clearly indicate that angels must have been created alongside everything else, Job 38:7 states that angels gave “shouts of joy” after the creation of stars.
The spiritual conflict ended with Satan and his apostate followers cast from the heavenly realm (2 Peter 2:4, Rev. 12:14, Jude) just before, it seems, the creation of earth with the Archangel Michael taking a significant role in his defeat and expulsion.
Satan seems to have been at one time a high ranking Angel who thought he somehow stood a chance against his very Creator. That is a ridiculous thought! The application of this historical (pre-historical?) event is evident. Nobody, whether Angel or man, can win against God’s will. It’s mind boggling to imagine taking on God Almighty in some kind of battle, yet Paul tells us in Romans five that we were enemies of God at one point while living in sin, and are currently waging a war with God if we are living in sin. We should let that long ago battle in the heavenly realm be a reminder to us that God always wins the war. He’s already won! Now is the time to make sure that you’re on the side of the truth and triumph and not the devil and the defeated.
The Winter 2020 edition of Biblical Archaeology Review has a fascinating article about a recently completed project involving date palm seeds from the Judean Wilderness. The Judean Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera) was widely grown and sold for at least 1600 years, from at least the fifth-century B.C. until the 11th-century A.D. Archaeological excavations at Masada, Qumran, and Wadi Makukh netted several ancient seeds which researchers then went to work to try and germinate. Of the 32 planted, six germinated. It takes 4-10 years for female palm trees to produce fruit, and in the fall of 2019 this extinct fruit tree was brought back (“New Fruit From Old Seeds,” BAR, Vol. 46, No. 5, Megan Sauter, p. 18-19).
To me, it’s particularly fitting that such a discovery and experiment transpired in the very area where the church was established. The fact that ancient seed was planted and successfully produced results today serves as an illustration of a Bible truth. Peter wrote, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:22-23). Peter draws on an imagery he heard his Lord use in His parables (Luke 8:11). Other New Testament writers draw the same analogy (1 Cor. 3:6-9). They planted the Word and it produced disciples of Jesus. How do we produce true followers of Him today? We plant the same, ancient seed. The researchers involved in the Judean date palm project had to soak and fertilize those seeds to coax their growth, but their perseverance paid off in reestablishing the original, fruit-bearing tree.
How often in history have people taken the ancient seed, planted it in hearts, watered it, tended it, and produced the exact same thing despite the passing of centuries? Restoring New Testament Christianity is possible. In fact, if we believe the Bible, it’s necessary. If we plant what they planted, the living and enduring word, we will have what they had–purified souls who obey the truth and are born again. We cannot give up on that principle. It’s essential, but also doable! Let’s be looking for new soil to plant that ancient seed in, then watch God work!
A politically conservative thought leader died on Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Not even an hour had elapsed from when the news was broken on his ground-breaking radio show by his widow that some of the most hateful comments began appearing on social media. As one who listened to his show periodically, I can attest that I never heard him utter any of the types of hateful speech of which Wikipedia readers and contributors accused him. Most of those hating him did so because of his powerful influence against their political ideology.
The political Left viewed him as a Svengali that would brainwash millions if allowed to remain on the radio. Thus, rather than defeat him in the arena of ideas, they chose to slander him. The fascist propagandist Goebbels once said, “Repeat a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth.” Those who never listened to him genuinely believe he was an ugly, divisive person. Thus, the deceased will have a mixed legacy depending upon whether someone took the time to listen to what he said. He will either be one to whom people said, “ditto,” or, as the Huffington Post put it, the “Bigoted King Of Talk Radio.”
Now, the purpose of this post has nothing to do with politics or even the deceased. It has to do with the visceral reaction created by the news of the radio talker’s passing. As one who tends to soak up the room’s emotional atmosphere, I found myself negatively impacted by the unadulterated hatred. I was disappointed yet again by my fellowman. However, it was also a moment of introspection. Do I understand that God created this person in His image, just like me? (Genesis 1.26-27) If so, even if I vehemently disagreed with him, should I find even a modicum of the rationale necessary to express glee?
Paul wrote that we must all appear before Christ’s judgment seat. And after stating this truth, Paul immediately added, “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men…” (2 Corinthians 5.10-11a). Of what do we persuade men? We convince them to accept the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. We recall Jesus’ final marching orders to us to take the Gospel to every nation and creature (Matthew 28.19-20; Mark 16.15-16). We know our time on earth is short (Psalm 90.10 & 12; James 4.14). Time is being allowed to continue to give men everywhere an opportunity to repent (2 Peter 3.8-10). Once God’s longsuffering has ended, nothing remains for the disobedient other than flaming fire and vengeance (2 Thessalonians 1.6-12).
We would all do well to recall the words of Solomon in Proverbs 24.17-18: “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them” (NIV). Yes, God is aware of the feelings of our hearts. We must give an accounting of ourselves to Him. How terrible it would be if He found in our heart love only for those with whom we felt comfortable associating. John reminds us that our love must extend to our brother if we love God. Otherwise, we are a liar (1 John 4.20). Let us allow love to replace hatred, the Gospel’s utterance to replace vitriolic expressions, and a prayer for our enemy’s salvation supersede our schadenfreude at his downfall.
As Christians we are called to love like God (John 13:34). If we are to love each other in the same way that God loved us we need to ask how God shows His love? People claim that there are generally five love languages that every person relates to:
Words of Affirmation
Acts of Service
Each one of us feels love in different ways. Your love language may be different than mine, and your spouse’s love language may not be the same as yours. God has shown His creation that He loves us by speaking and interacting with us using all five languages.
Words of affirmation. When we use words of affirmation we think of phrases like: “You’re the only one for me baby” or “You mean so much to me” or even “Let’s go get Krispy Kreme.”We use words of affirmation to show our love to our significant others. God has done the same for us. In showing His love God said to us, “For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you” (Isa. 54:10). God uses words of affirmation and has told us that His love will never depart from us. Even when we deserted Him and chose to live a life of sin, God still kept His word. He loved us even when we were corrupted by sin (Rom. 5:8). Words of affirmation are a way to tell someone how you feel. God opened up to us through His word, and He revealed that He loves us more than we will ever be able to understand.
Quality time. God desires nothing more than to spend quality time with His creation. In the beginning God spent quality time in the presence of Adam and Eve. He longs for this to be the case again in heaven. Sin ruined any chance of spending quality time with Him. But God showed that He loved us. And He looks forward to the day when He can dwell with His children for an eternity. 1 John 4:16 says, “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” I can’t think of a better way to spend quality time with God than by having Him abide in me. He loves us and He desires to spend quality time with you and me.
Gift giving.God has clearly expressed His love to us through gift giving by giving us someone that is invaluable. “God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Want to see God’s love? Look at what He has sacrificed for you. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God expressed His love by giving a gift that has the power to eternally change our spiritual outcome. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). There is no denying that God has expressed His love to us through gifts.
Acts of service. A person that feels loved through acts of service enjoys acts such as: cleaning out the garage, washing the car, doing the dishes, or folding the laundry. They feel loved because they recognize that their spouse cares enough about them to make their life easier. It’s love that is felt when a spouse sacrifices their time and energy to do something for you. God has shown His love to us through several different acts of service. Christ took on the sin of the world so that we wouldn’t be condemned by it. Christ illustrated this in the flesh when He washed the disciples’ feet (John 13). What does this say about God? It says that He loves you more than you love yourself. It says that the God of the universe is willing to place Himself below His own creation. It says that God’s love is so perfect and strong that He will grab a rag and wash the feet of imperfect men. There’s no denying that someone loves you when they are willing to humble themselves and serve you. This is exactly what God has done for us.
Physical touch. A person that feels loved through physical touch is looking for connection. They feel love when they are close to their spouse, they experience love through the physical side of their relationship. While God doesn’t physically touch us today to show His love, He has done it in the past. Mark 1:40ff, “And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.” Leprosy was a disease that immediately made you an outcast. If you had this disease you were considered unclean and you were forced to live in isolation from everyone else (Lev. 13:45-46). The leper was forced to live alone because this disease was spread through physical touch. This is what makes what Jesus did even more incredible. Jesus didn’t have to touch the leper, but He went above and beyond by physically touching him. God expressed His love through the physical touch of a compassionate Savior.
We serve a God that has displayed His love to us perfectly. He has shown it to each one of us, and we will never deserve the love that He gives. Thank God for His love!
Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56-120) wrote two secular historical works describing the reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, Nero, and Gabba, Otho, Vespasian, and Vitellius (Annals and Histories).
He was the son-in-law of Agricola, the Roman General responsible for Roman expansion throughout Europe, especially northern Britain. He was not a Christian by any means, but a patriotic Roman with a family heritage tied to its conquests.
In the following excerpt, Tacitus mentions Jesus (referred to as Christus) and details the persecution of early Christians. I have abbreviated some of the excerpt (ellipsis), given contextual explanation (brackets), and added emphasis (bolded text). The information in his writings is fascinating, but I found the following to be shareable.
“…The next thing was to seek means of propitiating the gods [because of the burning of Rome], and recourse was had to the Sibylline books… But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order.
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition [of resurrection], thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome…
Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. 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, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”
Grocery store–Place where we buy food to sustain our physical bodies
Restaurant–Place where we pay someone else to provide food for our physical bodies
School–Place where our children receive an education to prepare them to live on earth as adults
Hospitals and Doctor’s office–Place where we go to address issues with our physical health
Workplace–Place where we go to earn money to take care of our physical needs
There are other places that have remained open or reopened whether to provide what we’d deem essential or places that are more diversionary but which various experts call essential to economic or social survival (malls, bookstores, ballfields and arenas, etc.). In fact, “essential” can be put into a lot of categories–academic, economic, social, emotional, medical, physical, and spiritual.
Pandemic restrictions have impacted and altered public behavior for almost a year. It’s more than mask mandates, hand sanitizer, social distancing, and the severe reduction of handshakes and hugs. It has been the reduction of personal interaction at the assemblies. Many congregations have devised virtual means of meeting for Bible class and worship. Just like virtual doctor visits, online instruction, and telecommuting lack the desired qualities of the in-person alternative, so it is with the virtual gathering.
The first-century church labored under restrictions, too. The threat was not a virus, but often a virulent government hostile to their faith. Christians in various places faced severe persecution and even the death penalty if this identity was known (Mat. 24:9; Rev. 2:10; 1 Pet. 4:12-16). The assemblies were an easy way for Rome to know a Christian’s identity. Despite the potential cost of discipleship, what do we find the early Christians doing and being commanded to do? As a good preacher friend, Terrence Brownlow-Dindy, recently said, Acts 20:7 not only told the saints when to take the Lord’s Supper (the first day of the week) but also how (come together). Despite governmental interference and opposition to them, Christians were still commanded to assemble (Heb. 10:25). It was essential to be present to stimulate each other to love and good deeds (10:24). It was essential to be present to encourage one another (10:25). It was essential to be present to prepare for Christ’s second coming (10:25).
What’s the difference between the risks incurred in Cracker Barrel, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Hobby Lobby walking aisles, touching items, and standing in line with strangers and coming together and running any risks we might incur by assembling together for worship and Bible class? The commodities and services provided at places like those at the beginning of this article serve us only in this life. The wisdom of God, who designed the church including the importance of coming together, commands assembling to address our most essential need. It is absolutely true that Christianity is not confined to the church building, a great lesson we discovered or remembered at the start of this crisis. Perhaps, though, we inferred from this that actually coming together was less essential than shopping, going to school, and going to work.
I have seen brothers and sisters in Christ at stores, restaurants, weddings, and funerals who have not come into the church building to give and receive the fellowship and encouragement God made essential both for our own spiritual health and that of our spiritual family. Scripture repeatedly tells us the earth and all its works will be burned up some day (2 Pet. 3:10). Our souls will never die. As we prioritize the essentials, what is more essential than that? The dictionary defines essential as “absolutely necessary; extremely important.” If anything qualifies, our assemblies do.
There were Viking swords 800 years ahead of their time, made of crucible steel. These blades bear a Frankish name, “Ulfbehrt.” It is unknown if this was the sword maker’s name or used in connection with crosses by the Vikings to invoke magic or like a coveted logo, such as Gucci or Apple is today. So prized were these swords that someone went to the trouble of making counterfeits. The difference? Well, the steel quality, primarily, but also the brand. Genuine Ulfbehrt swords are marked as follows: “+Ulfbehr+t.” The fake version has this mark, instead: “+Ulfbehrt+.” Modern metallurgists are puzzled by the existence of these weapons. A medieval swordsmith should not have been able to make such swords before the Industrial Revolution.
To put that notion to the test, a blacksmith in Wisconsin set out to recreate the blade using medieval technology. It took a lot of work, but he replicated the Ulfbehrt sword. Even so, he wondered where the ancient swordsmith could get the steel he used to make these superior blades. The leading hypothesis was that the steel originated in the Middle East and traveled into Europe via the Volga trade route. Viking traders could trade Nordic goods for steel. Whatever the origin, Ulfbehrt swords remain a remarkable testimony of workmanship, whether medieval or modern.
I should not be surprised that people esteem our ancestors as inferior to modern man. The prevailing thought is that ancient peoples were comparatively ignorant. Plus, they lacked our “superior technology.” Hence, as an example of ludicrously held beliefs, some say the ancient Egyptians must have needed extraterrestrials to help build the pyramids. No, the truth is the Egyptians were intelligent and figured it out on their own. If you go back to our recorded beginning, you will note men working with brass and iron just a few generations after Adam and Eve (Genesis 4.22). Some religious people, still unable to accept our brilliant ancestors, likewise make excuses that other heavenly visitors, the fallen angels, gave man such technologies as metallurgy. So, rather than Tubal-Cain, the apocryphal book of Enoch says that Azazel taught men how to make swords.
Yet, God created a being intelligent enough that at a few minutes old, not only could he ascertain his situation, that he lacked a helpmeet suitable to him, but could also provide names to all the animals (Genesis 2.18-20). Let us not forget, as the adage states, “With age comes wisdom.” Our primordial ancestors lived hundreds of years. That is hundreds of years of trial and error teachable to subsequent generations. And given that these early men and women were close to being “very good,” the status assigned to the initial creation by God (Genesis 1.31), why wouldn’t their IQ be likewise? If anything, if entropy applies to intelligence, as some suggest, perhaps WE are the ones running out of it?
So, the next time you are watching a documentary in which someone expresses surprise at the skill or intelligence demonstrated by the ancients, remember Tubal-Cain. Long before what archaeologists dubbed the “iron age,” he worked with iron. Why? Because God created us with the requisite intelligence.
When it comes to sports, there are certain ways of playing. There are rules to follow, specific plays to make, and mistakes to avoid if a team wants to succeed. This same idea applies to our Christianity. In Joshua 1:5-9, we read of certain aspects needed in order to live life God’s way. By following these things we will reap the benefits that are found inside of Christ.
Joshua says that God’s way is conditional. In Joshua 1:7, we read, “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.” God gave Israel conditions to His being their God: be strong and courageous, do all according to the law of Moses, and do not turn from the right or to the left.
Thinking about our personal relationship with God we can still apply these same commands to our spiritual lives today. For example, the blessings we are promised are received by being strong and courageous in the work place, doing all according to the law we are under (the new covenant), and not wavering in our faith. If we want to live our lives according to God’s will we must understand that our relationship to Him is conditional. Our relationship is based on our willingness to listen to His word.
We must also understand that God’s way is a command, not a suggestion (1:7-8). He is the creator. He has the authority to create the way, He has the authority to make what He says a command. If we want the blessings of following His way, we must practice the commands He has given each one of us.
Just as the Israelites were given certain commands, we also are commanded to follow certain laws. Love the Lord our God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are commanded to love God with every aspect of our lives (Matt. 22:36-40). When we think about our lives, every decision should be based on the will of God. We must recognize that God’s way of living is a command.
If we want to live our lives God’s way we must recognize that the blessings we are promised are conditional, and the things we read in scripture are a command. But we should find joy in knowing that God’s way is comforting. Joshua 1:9 reads, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
There is absolutely no reason for us to tremble when the Creator is on our side. There is never a reason to be dismayed when the defeater of sin is with us. We have a loving God with us wherever we go in life. God’s way of living is best, and if we will let Him control our everyday lives we can find comfort, hope, and joy in Him.