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"Let's Party!"

1 Peter 4: 3: “For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.” Most everyone likes parties. God has nothing against parties. They’re fun. They can be for fellowship, celebration, selling Tupperware, lots of things. But a party held for the sole purpose of drinking (as St. Peter calls them here, ‘drinking parties’) are in the same context as lusts, idolatries, and drunkenness, which seems to be different from drinking parties. So no, it’s not a sin to drink, but drunkenness and parties for no other purpose other than drinking

“Friend, You’re Fired”   (With apologies to Donald Trump)

Matthew 20: 14: “Take what is yours and go your way …” Consider the landowner’s reaction to the laborer who dared question the competence of another employee, or the justice of the landowner’s generosity: “Take what is yours and go your way.” In other words, clean out your desk. Get your severance pay. Don’t come back. We question God’s judgment all the time, but we should remember, “Who are you to judge the servant of another?” (Romans 14: 4)

“The Big Payback”

Obadiah 15, 21: “As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head … The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the Kingdom will be the Lord’s.” Obadiah was the earliest of the prophets with their own books, ministering way back in the time of Elisha. The entirety of his brief writing is concerned with how the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, will pay the price for rejecting and opposing their brethren Israel. His last verse seems a prophetic indictment against the most famous of all Edomites, the king who tried to kill the Hebrew newborn King of kings – the man we know as Herod the Great. As Obadiah announces about 850 y

“In Praise of Sobriety”

1 Peter 1: 13a, 14: “Gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit ... do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” St. Peter here reminds us to gird our minds (rather than the usual ‘gird your loins’), then says to keep sober in spirit – except the words ‘in spirit’ were not in the original texts, they were added by the translators. But given the context (prepare your minds, then give up your former sins) wouldn’t normal, literal sobriety – in other words, not being drunk – be more logical? It certainly would harmonize with the rest of the Word of God, which places no premium on drunkenness. Why not just retain Peter’s original thought: “Keep your mind

“Is There Not a Cause?”

Matthew 19: 3-5: “”Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?’ And Jesus answered and said, ‘Have you not read that He Who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?’” When challenged with the Pharisees’ test question by the words, “any cause at all,” Jesus puts the term in its four thousand-year-old context: The cause is, God made them male and female, and the result is, the two are joined into one inseparable flesh. That’s the only cause that matters, the rest are just excuses, which lead to all sorts of ugly results

“Is It Advent Already?”

Isaiah 65: 25: “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” We are more familiar with these words as spoken in chapter eleven, much earlier in Isaiah’s ministry. Now, as he nears the end of more than sixty years of prophecy, Isaiah decides to repeat them, in the hope that Judah will remember God’s promise of a peaceable kingdom, and pay closer attention to his comforting words, words that were as valid in 730 BC as they were in 680 BC (and in 2017 AD, as well).

“He Gets Around”

Psalm 105: 7: “He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth.” Do you ever get the impression that God’s influence or sovereignty is based on and limited to His acceptance by His people here on earth? If you do, get rid of it; it’s not true. God’s judgments and authority are worldwide, in places where He is known, and in places where He is rejected. His judgments do not require our ratification to be valid!

“Pearly Gates”

Revelation 21: 21: “And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl.” What’s the significance of the gates being pearls? Of all the gemstones, only the pearl is made as a result of suffering. A grain works its way between an oyster and its shell. In an attempt to relieve the resultant irritation, the oyster secrets a fluid, which hardens into a pearl. It is a reminder of St. Paul’s words in Acts 14: 22, ”Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.” How many tribulations? Well, the pearls are as big as gates. Datsa lotta tribulations!

“Did He Really Mean ‘Without Cost’?”

Revelation 21: 6b: “I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.” Have you noticed the high cost of baptism lately? You are expected to get the child fancy new clothes, then you pay the Church for the venue, the priest, and numerous fees. And we haven’t even begun to talk about the baptismal meal afterward! The result? More and more poorer families are choosing to skip baptism for their children, which is not supposed to be an option. The Church must separate God’s commands from man’s tradition, the source of much of the extensive costs, and bring baptism back to the people.

“Sorry, I Can’t Stay Long …”

Matthew 17: 4: “And Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’” Put yourself in the place of Moses and Elijah. Would you say, “Wow, what a nice gesture, Peter, building us a tent to stay in here on earth when we already have a mansion in Heaven! We’re tired of it there!” Don’t think so. Sometimes we’re so focused on what’s good for us, we make very presumptuous demands on others.

“Lifesavers”

Matthew 16: 24: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’” So many people today espouse the approach of coming to Jesus on one’s own terms: “Lord, if you do this or that for me, I’ll follow You. If You bless me’ I’m Yours.” Not surprisingly, that approach is very popular and fruitful. However, one might question whether the fruit is actual Christianity, or one of the pseudo-fruits grown on the GMO farms which use as their main fertilizer the pseudo-teaching known as the prosperity gospel. True fruit requires the organic fertilizer known as self-denial.

“Heavenly Wardrobe”

Revelation 19: 14: “And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.” Heaven’s wardrobe is pretty nice, isn’t it? Even today, two thousand years later, fine white linen is considered a very classy fabric. But John has already told us what this fine linen represents – the righteous acts of the saints (Revelation 19: 8). Like those in the parable of the wedding banquet (Matthew 22: 11-12), those clean white linen garments are necessary if you are going to ride with this army, or be a part of this party. Without them you’re a gate crasher!

“Dangerous Leaven”

Matthew 16: 6: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’” What was the leaven of the Pharisees? While Jesus compared leaven with the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13: 33), St. Paul compares it with pride, which causes our attitudes about ourselves to be puffed up like a rising loaf of bread. That the Pharisees were guilty of this is without doubt; it was not an accident that Jesus later concluded another time of warning His disciples against them with the words, ‘Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.’ (Mathew 23: 12) It was the Pharisees’ self-centered teaching that was leading the nation astray

“Major Assumption”

Psalm 81: 15: “Those who hate the Lord would pretend obedience to Him; and their time of punishment would be forever.” Funny thing about this verse – the words ‘of punishment’ are not in the original texts, the translators just assumed that’s what Asaph was talking about, based upon a perspective of a God infatuated with punishment. But maybe it is the God-haters’ time of pretended obedience that would be forever. As Revelation 22: 11 says, “Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong.” A static life is itself considered punishment (Psalm 55: 19).

“Painful Admission”

Nehemiah 9: 33-34: “However, You are just in all that has come upon us; for You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly. For our kings, our leaders, our priests, and our fathers have not kept Your law or paid attention to the commandments and Your admonitions with which You have admonished them.” This was Nehemiah’s day; is it not also true in our own? But instead of confessing our stiffnecked ways we accuse God of being unfaithful, uncaring, or unable to make things right in our lives. God is only keeping His promise to respond to our lawlessness with reminders and calls to repentance. There is nothing wrong with our nation, or with our world, that turning to God wouldn’t fix

“Hungry”

Nehemiah 9: 3: “While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day, and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God.” Imagine, the people stood listening to the Word being read for three hours straight, then for another three straight hours they confessed and worshiped – all without power point presentations or snack breaks. Why? The nation had lost out with God once before, they were in danger of doing it again, and they were hungry to maintain their favored nation status. Or maybe they just loved God.

"I Am Ready"

Have you ever been in an experience for which you are not prepared? Have you been hit by a ball without noticing it? Have you ever experienced situations you don't expect? Of course, we've experienced those kinds of situations in our lives as humans. We literally ask ourselves after those kinds of situations, "What just happened?” Those are the times that we are not alert and prepared. Those are the times that we don't know what's going on. Sadly, those are the times that we lose an opportunity to excel because we are not ready and alert. For those people who love watching news there is a segment in the weather forecast entitled "I Am Ready." This part of the program informs us about the cur

“Dwelling for Life”

Psalm 27: 4: “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” For some people religious life is for the young, to be done before responsibilities like college and work life choke out both opportunity and zeal. For others, church is for the old, who have nothing else to do, and who are beginning to think more about their eternal estate. But David knew a deeper truth: relationship with for God is for every age, every demographic, everybody. As he says here, “all the days of my life,” from womb to tomb, and in Psalm 23, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23: 6). There are no age restrictions

“Cause and Effect”

Revelation 15: 4: “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your Name? For You alone are holy; For all the nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed.” Here, in a nutshell, is the mission of the Church: We reveal the righteous acts of God, and all nations come to worship Him. Then the way is paved for God to exercise His wrath upon unrighteousness. St. Paul put it just as plainly: “Ready to punish all disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” (2 Corinthians 10: 6)

“Fire and Brimstone, Angels and Jesus”

Revelation 14: 10: “… he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.” It was said in Tuesday’s Office Memo that we don’t understand the furnace of fire very well, and this verse illustrates the point. Here we see the wicked in a place of torment by fire and brimstone, and the angels and Jesus are there, too! That just doesn’t fit into a lot of people’s theology of hell! There is one thing even King David knew which we forget: If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” (Psalm 139: 8)

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