Truth Matters

1 Samuel   5-6 & John 18

I was a teenager when the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark first hit the theatres.  It instantly became one of my all-time favorite movies.  I love the Indiana Jones character and this particular adventure, searching for the Ark of the Covenant, was especially cool to me because it drew from Biblical themes.  The Ark of the Covenant was a real thing containing real power.  What would happen if it was found and fell into the wrong hands, like the Nazi’s?  It was a great story.  It got pretty intense toward the end when they tried to open the Ark.  Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well for the Nazi’s.

The Nazi’s in the story should have spent less time plotting the genocide of the Jews and global domination and more time reading their Bibles, because the story of the Ark in 1 Samuel 5-6 should have discouraged them from having anything to do with the Ark. (I know, Raiders of the Lost Ark is fiction- but what happens to the Philistines in today’s reading is True).

One thing we know from reading the Bible is that God doesn’t like to share His glory with idols.  God is the one True God and He alone created everything, gives life, sends rain to produce crops and blesses people with fertility.  God takes it very personally when people build statues for other “so called” gods and give them credit for sending rain or helping babies to be born.

I find the story of the Philistines stealing the Ark of the Covenant and bringing it in the temple of their “god”  Dagon humorous.  Dagon was the main god of the Philistines and they offered sacrifices to Dagon so that they could have fertility- their cattle, and their wives.  They wanted lots of cattle to feed their bellies, and they wanted lots of sons to grow up and serve in the army to fight their enemies.  So they prayed and offered sacrifices to Dagon so that Dagon would make their cows and their wives fertile.

We might excuse the ignorance of the Philistines because maybe they didn’t know any better, maybe no one told them the Truth about the True God.  But God made it quite clear to His chosen people, Israel, that they were to worship and serve God alone.  But they were often tempted to worship other gods.  Several stories in the Old Testament show how God was superior and defeated other “so called” gods.  Elijah called down fire from heaven and defeated the prophets of Baal.  Samson’s last act after he had been captured and blinded was to push down the pillars of the temple to Dagon and kill a bunch of the Philistines.    And here, when the Ark of the Covenant is brought into another temple of Dagon,  The statue of Dagon falls down the first time, then falls down again breaking the idol  into pieces.  The Philistines of that town are afraid so they send the Ark to another town.  There, everybody gets tumors and they end up in a panic.  Everywhere the stolen Ark is taken trouble comes to the Philistines, so finally they bring the Ark back to Israel along with a guilt offering (golden tumors and rats, what a thoughtful gift).

The Philistines had trouble discerning fact from fiction- the true God, YHWH, the God of Israel, vs. Dagon, a statue that was quite brittle when it fell to the ground.

Truth matters.  In today’s reading in John 18, after Jesus is arrested and brought to trial, he appears before Pilate, who is the highest representative of the Roman Empire in the region who ultimately decides all capital cases, who lives and who dies.

Pilate is a politician caught between his boss, Caesar, who has tasked him to keep the Jewish people in line and the Jewish people who can turn on him and cause trouble.  He has to carefully consider the political implications of what he’s being asked to do.  Like many politicians and people in charge, he is more of a pragmatist than anything else.  What is going to work out to my best interests here?  He asks Jesus some questions and Jesus gives an answer that he finds quaint.  Jesus answered: “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 

Truth?  How naïve.  You might imagine the amusement (or scorn) in Pilate’s response when  he asks Jesus: “What is Truth?” 

If the idea of truth was a quaint notion to a first century Roman politician, it’s become reviled and scorned by 20th and 21st century intellectuals.  We live in a time of Postmodernism.  Absolute truth has been replaced by relativism.  Truth is whatever the people who have the power to control government, the news, the arts and higher education say it is.  Truth is what Facebook, or Twitter, or Google’s “fact checkers” say it is. 

Whether you and I like it or not we are in the midst of a culture war.  It’s the same one that’s been going on since the serpent tempted Eve to question God.  It’s the same one that was going on in the temple of Dagon when the stolen Ark  was brought in, it’s the same one that was going on when the Jewish leaders lied about Jesus and brought him to Rome to be condemned and executed, it’s the one that was going on when Pilate asked, “What is truth?”  It’s going on today in a society where the things we’ve always believed about God and virtue,  right and wrong, and pretty obvious things like basic human biology, are all being questioned and redefined.  Gender isn’t about biology it is a social construct.  If you start introducing facts or science or Truth, you will receive as much scorn as Jesus received from Pilate.  But it is a culture war and Jesus told Pilate  that there are two sides: one side is false and the other is true.  Jesus said that if you are on the side of Truth you listen to Jesus.  Pilate chose his side, and so he did what was politically correct and had Jesus crucified to appease the Jewish people.  The question you and I must ask ourselves is whose side am I on?  Am I on the side of Truth, that listens to the words of Jesus?  Pick a side.

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here 1 Samuel 5-6 and John 18

In His Presence

Leviticus 25-27 and Psalm 31-32

We have learned so much as we finish the book of Leviticus. Chapter 26 begins with a warning from the LORD. The Israelites are told not to make any object to became an object of worship. We can look at the Israelites throughout their history and become very critical. They succumb many times to the worship of idols. Every generation had to make the choice to follow the LORD God or to worship the false gods that the Israelites had allowed into their culture. Even future Kings would face this choice and unfortunately many choose to devote their lives to idols.  But I also have to wonder if we are not making that same choice today? Are there false gods in our lives? For example, we don’t create our own electronic devices and bow down to them, but perhaps we spend hours surfing, checking out what is on social media, texting, gaming, … When something is receiving our focus and taking our attention away from God, we should consider it a negative. We are allowing something to get in the way of our relationship with God. Anything or any person that negatively affects our connection with God is a modern-day idol.  In Colossians we are told that sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed are idolatry. (Col. 3:5) It states that we should put these actions to death. But it is not enough just to remove the idols, we need for God to change our hearts.  When our hearts are filled with love for God, our actions start to align with what God wants us to do.

As God explained to the Israelites, they needed to observe His Sabbaths, show reverence for His sanctuary, follow His decrees and obey His commands to receive amazing blessings. Then He would walk among them, He would be their God and they would be His people. How incredible is that?! We are presented with a choice to make today as well. We can enter into a loving relationship with God. We can ask Him to make our love for Him and others strong. We can invite God to be the center of our lives. We can place our focus on His Son Jesus Christ. We can live in His presence by the power of His spirit. God is still reaching out to us, His people. He offers us blessings and the greatest one is to be in His presence.

May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. 1 Thessalonians 3:13

-Rebecca Dauksas

Links to today’s Bible reading – Leviticus 25-27 and Psalm 31-32

The Plagues

exodus 6 7

After Moses goes back to Egypt and starts trying to get things going with the exodus it backfires on him and he is starting to have doubts (Exodus 5).  God replies

 

Exodus 6:6-8

6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”

 

God is ready to go.  He is done with people doubting him, and he is ready to show his power.  To do this he sends the ten plagues on Egypt. (Exodus 7-11) Each of the plagues was very symbolic and directly attacked the gods and culture of the Egyptians.  I’ll cover just a few of them here and their symbolism.

 

The plague of blood turned the water of the Nile river into blood, which killed the fish and other things in the river.  The Nile was the source of life in Egypt and was represented by the god Osiris. God shows that he is more powerful than Osiris and that refusing him brings death.

 

The plague of gnats/lice was a really fun time.  The dust became gnats that covered everything. This was an insult to the god Set who was the god over the desert.  This also was directed towards the priests and magicians who prided themselves on being pure and clean, but God was pointing out their sin and uncleanness to everybody.

 

The plague of livestock involved all of the Egyptian cattle dying. This attacks many of the Egyptian gods because many of them take the form of cattle.  This came right after Moses says that the Egyptians would stone the Israelites for sacrificing cattle and livestock to God. God is telling Pharaoh that he can either give up some of his cattle to God, or lose them all.

 

The plague of the firstborn involved an angel of God killing all of the firstborn in Egypt that were not covered by the passover blood of the lamb.  This obviously killed a lot of people but it also was a direct attack on Pharaoh who was supposed to be a god in Egypt but could not protect his own son from the wrath of God.

 

Each of these plagues tore down a god or aspect of Egyptian society that the Israelites had adopted and showed that it did not bring life or an escape from sin, but only brought death in the end and that only God is worthy of being worshiped and followed.

 

I hope that once we come to Christ it is obvious which aspects of our old lives were only bringing sin and pain.  Sometimes though we do not realize which things in our society are against God and many Christians continue to live in their old ways.  We need to pray and be wise in our life choices to make sure we are not putting any idols before God, because one day Christ will return and most parts of the book of Revelation make the plagues look like a walk in the park.

 

On that happy note, I’ll see you guys back here tomorrow 🙂

Chris Mattison

In His Word

psalm 119 18

GOD’s Story is the best story.  GOD’s words are the best words.  If I want to live my life to please Him, I must be grounded in His Word, for that is where I find Him, where I learn about Him, and where I begin to grow my relationship with Him.  The world is full of false gods and it becomes so easy to be led astray by what the glittery, selfish world offers instead of taking ahold of the solid promises and expectations God lays out in His Word.  I believe Satan is pretty happy to see people who enjoy calling themselves Christians who spend very little time in God’s Word.

Can you imagine a person who loves Marvel – wears Marvel, spouts Marvel trivia, plays Marvel games, etc …… but has never seen any Marvel movies – not even a trailer.   It seems ridiculous, doesn’t it!   So too, is the Christ follower who doesn’t look to the book that Christ followed – ridiculous – and even dangerous – for himself and for those who would follow that poor example.

If we know God’s Word is important… what gets in the way?  Time, of course, is the number one answer.  But, not a very valid one.  We all find time to do what we really want to do – including perhaps a few movies or TV shows every week to unwind, some “brain games” (ie-device time) to keep us mentally sharp, some physical activity to keep our shape (or lose our current shape), but how do we remember to do the daily upkeep for our most important spiritual life?

I think sometimes our problem is that is just seems so overwhelming to open the big book.  Where do I start?  What if I don’t understand it?  It is such a big book!  This week we are going to do an overview of the importance of God’s Word – as well as providing an outline for how the book is laid out.  Where do I find the stories of Jesus?  Of Moses and David?  What makes the book of James different from Esther?   Where in the world is the book of Habakkuk – and why is it there?

Today – read as much of Psalm 119 as you can (go ahead, I challenge you – read the whole chapter).  Be looking for what good comes from God’s Word (and his laws, statutes, promises, commandments, which are all found in the gift of God – the Bible).

 

God bless you as you seek Him in His Word!
Marcia Railton

Called and Committed

Jeremiah 1-3

je2

Sunday, February 26

Israel started off well with the LORD, but her early devotion puttered as she turned to other gods. In today’s passage the LORD lays a charge against Israel. Despite their hopeful beginnings Israel turned away from Him. The warning for us in this is not to let our early love for God grow cold.

Jeremiah has been called by the LORD at an early age in Chapter 1.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”.

What has God called you to do?

 

In chapter 2 he is given the message he must preach.

2 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, This is what the LORD says,

“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.

3 Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the LORD.” (Jer 2.1-3)

‘The devotion of your youth’, ‘Your love as a bride’. The history of the relationship between the LORD and Israel starts off with the pleasant honeymoon period. An early time of following the LORD in the wilderness, perhaps on the way to Sinai.

However with the shift in gender, Israel is addressed as a female to start then male at the end, comes a shift in how their marriage has turned south. A substantial part of the remainder of the passage describes how their relationship soured after a good start.

4 Hear the word of God, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. 5 This is what the LORD says:

“What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went so far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?

6 They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells?’

7 And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.

8 The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit. (Jer 2.4-8)

 

The message has turned into a series of charges and complaints the LORD has directed at Israel. Israel turned away from God after all the good He had done for them.

They went after the worthless and became worthless themselves. What do you pursue in life?

The LORD keeps stating they did not ask where he was. They did not seek him out even after all he had done for them in leading them through the wilderness, bringing them in to the promised land and providing for them.

All levels of their society had turned away from the LORD. None knew him including the priests, the shepherds and the prophets. They sought other religions.

9 “Therefore I still contend with you, declares the LORD, and with your children’s children I will contend.

10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see, or send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has been such a thing.

11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.

12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD,

13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jer 2.9-13)

The LORD promises he will contend with Israel and their children for several generations because of how they have rejected him.

‘Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods?’ The LORD charges Israel with apostasy. They have abandoned him for false gods. The Baals.

What do you glory in? What is your glory?

 

The glory of Israel is the LORD himself.But they have exchanged their glory for worthless images (Rom 1.23). Images and false gods that can do nothing for them. That serve no practical purpose.

14 “Is Israel a slave? Is he a homeborn servant? Why then has he become a prey?

15 The lions have roared against him; they have roared loudly. They have made his land a waste; his cities are in ruins, without inhabitant.

16 Moreover, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes have shaved the crown of your head.

17 Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the LORD your God, when he led you in the way?

18 And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?

19 Your evil will mock you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the LORD your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord GOD of hosts. (Jer 2.14-19)

Israel, once protected by the LORD, has now became the target of more powerful nations. They brought this upon themselves because they abandoned the LORD.

Sin becomes their own punishment. God hands them over into it.

20 “For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a harlot.

21 Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?

22 Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord GOD.

23 How can you say, ‘I am not unclean, I have not gone after the Baals’? Look at your way in the valley; know what you have done— a restless young camel running here and there,

24 a wild donkey used to the wilderness, in her heat sniffing the wind! Who can restrain her lust? None who seek her need weary themselves; in her month they will find her.

25 Keep your feet from going unshod and your throat from thirst. But you said, ‘It is hopeless, for I have loved foreigners, and after them I will go.’ (Jer 2.20-25)

The LORD delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt. Now they have turned to other gods and refuse to worship the one true God.

The LORD planted them a ‘choice vine’. But they have become ‘degenerate’ and ‘wild’. The people of Israel try to wash themselves, but their washing is not one of the heart. They are not truly repentant. Consequently the ‘stain of their guilt is still before the LORD’.

How does one become truly clean and free of guilt before the LORD?

 

Some in Israel have attempted to deny God’s charge of going after the Baals. The LORD has seen their lust for the other gods. Wandering around seeking gods other than the LORD.

26 “As a thief is shamed when caught, so the house of Israel shall be shamed: they, their kings, their officials, their priests, and their prophets,

27 who say to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ For they have turned their back to me, and not their face. But in the time of their trouble they say, ‘Arise and save us!’

28 But where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you, in your time of trouble; for as many as your cities are your gods, O Judah. (Jer 2.26-28)

Israel has been caught out in her apostasy. The LORD has given them birth, he is their true father and creator. But they have turned their backs on him.

The LORD mocks them – ‘But where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise, if they can save you, in your time of trouble.‘

The point is that the gods they have chosen over the LORD can do nothing. They cannot save. Only the LORD can save them and they have abandoned him.

29  “Why do you fight with me? You have all transgressed against me, declares the LORD.

30 In vain have I struck your children; they took no correction; your own sword devoured your prophets like a hungry lion.

31 And you, O generation, behold the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of thick darkness? Why then do my people say, ‘We are free, we will come no more to you’?

32 Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number. (Jer 2.29-32)

Despite all this the people ‘contend’ with the LORD and charge him with wrong because they are being besieged by stronger nations. They have no argument. The LORD is righteous and they are guilty.

Israel, the LORD’s bride, has forgotten the husband of her youth for a long time.

33 “How well you direct your course to seek love! So that even to wicked women you have taught your ways.

34 Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of the guiltless poor; you did not find them breaking in. Yet in spite of all these things

35 you say, ‘I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.’ Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’

36 How much you go about, changing your way! You shall be put to shame by Egypt as you were put to shame by Assyria.

37 From it too you will come away with your hands on your head, for the LORD has rejected those in whom you trust, and you will not prosper by them. (Jer 2.33-37)

The LORD lists a number of the other sins. They teach women to be adulteress’ and they spill the blood of the poor. Despite all this they do not acknowledge their guilt. They say they have not sinned.

If you have sin in your life, don’t deny it. Confess it before the LORD and ask for forgiveness.

The LORD predicts they will be put to shame by Egypt and Assyria: their allies they trusted to protect them. Even under their protection they will be conquered and led away with the hands on their heads.

What is God trying to tell you through Jeremiah?  Is their sin that has kept you away from God?  Are you chasing after the wrong things?

God has called you but are you committed?

-Andy Cisneros

Andy Cisneros pastors at Timberland Bible Church in northern Indiana.  A graduate of Atlanta Bible College, he is also very active with missions, The UP Project, FUEL and Family Camp and any way he can serve others.  He loves sharing home and ministry with his lovely wife and their two talented kids.

(Photo Credit: http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Jer%202.13

Clearing Out the Garbage (Numbers 31-33)

September 10

talon-sat

By Talon Paul

As the Israelites are preparing to finally enter the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, God commands them in 33:52 to “drive out all the inhabitants of the land” (not kill them all) and “destroy all their molten images and demolish their high places.” The very first thing that God commands them to do after driving out everybody is to completely destroy their false gods. God wants nothing but Himself as the divine authority of the Israelites’ lives, and He wants only Himself as the divine authority of our lives as well.

YHWH God says in v. 55 and 56 that if they do not do these things, then those people and their false gods will trouble them in the land. As we know from the rest of the story, the Israelites did not listen and they suffered the consequences for not obeying. They later on begin to follow these false gods and God punishes them for their actions.

But just like the Israelites who needed to clear out the ‘garbage’ of the Promised Land before inheriting it, we as Christians need to do the same. We need to take out the ‘false gods’ in our lives, whether that be a bad relationship, an obsession, an addiction, or anything that keeps us from giving complete devotion to our Heavenly Father. If we don’t, those things can come back and trouble us for the rest of our lives, just like they did to the Israelites. We need to be diligent and active in removing the ‘garbage’ from our life so we can give everything that we are to our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus.