11/10/14

From Jim McGuiggan... SHARING GOD'S VISION AND QUEST


SHARING GOD'S VISION AND QUEST

Romans 6:23 says we earn death by sinning but that "eternal life" is a free gift from God.
Eternal life isn’t simply "endless" life! It is a quality of life that is part of the "new creation" that has come about in Jesus Christ. It isn’t just endless existence; it's life that takes its nature from the kind of life epitomized by Jesus Christ. Those that come to share eternal life—for which they now look forward and will one day fully experience individually—will enjoy it in the redeemed creation (see Titus 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Romans 8:18-25). But it will be "life" and not some vapory excuse for "life"! The Christian hope is not summed up in some ghostly existence but embodied and immortal life, lived out in holiness and joy.
It's a great blunder to reduce eternal "life" to "forgiveness of sins". A rich relationship between two humans will involve mutual forgiveness but to boil the relationship down to that alone robs it of much that is vibrant, challenging and precious. I don’t suggest that Christians consciously reduce life with God to "sins forgiven" but so much literature and speech comes to focus on talk about sin that, simply by default, it sometimes appears that that’s what it’s all about; that and nothing else.
There is of course much talk about "let’s all be honest and pure and kind and tolerant" and such like. But more often than not—so I presently judge—this is "the right response" to God for his having forgiven us. It is "gratitude," don’t you see. And how can we not agree with that? Well...it’s not that simple; it’s richer than that.
To enter into "life with God" is to throw our weight into his purposes; it is to fulfil our destiny as beings God created to reflect him as his image. To enter life with God is (sort of) to ask him, "Now, how does this work, this friendship of yours and ours; what does it mean to 'image' you?" God has a dream and vision and he is working toward that and to enter into a living relationship with him is to share his dream, pursue his goals, act with him to bring to completion his overarching purpose. It isn't groveling and endlessly talking about our sins and how nice it was of him to forgive us! It’s gratitude! How could we not be grateful to him for giving us life (and all that that means)? But it’s got to be more than gratitude, it’s astonished commitment, it’s looking in fathomless wonder at what we’ve been called to share and plunging into it, way out of our depth!
There’s something wild about the universe, William James said (saying more than he knew or believed), and we are needed to bring it into line. Eternal life is not about a post-mortem happiness, it’s about sharing God’s heart and purposes for his creation, it’s about living in his image.
I’m a great sinner and God knows I need forgiveness but I’m bound to say that there’s too much of this morbid self-examination. This constant taking of our spiritual temperatures and checking our religious pulses wastes too much time and energy and more importantly it takes our eyes off God, his purpose and his creation. Life with him isn’t just about us and how spiritually fine-tuned we are!
Some years ago when existentialism was enjoying one of its popular phases a USA senator felt compelled to say that he was weary of people that were always experiencing angst over just about everything. He complained that he didn’t have the luxury of having an inner debate about every blessed decision. He said they were agonizing over whether to go to the toilet while he was forced to make decisions quickly that affected hosts of people. He was complaining about people who took themselves much too seriously and can’t take their eyes off themselves. That’s the kind of thing I’m trying to get at here.
Constantly having ourselves on our minds is too great a burden. We're not up to carrying it. No wonder we often get weary and sometimes sour. Anyway, it's the wrong burden (compare Matthew 11:28-30).
We mustn’t think that God lives with us as if we were a mass of isolated humans. He doesn’t! We mustn’t think the center of his thinking is about sin. It isn’t! It’s about life! And it’s about more than you and me!
And I know in my bones, in the light of the biblical witness, that God wants to gather around him as companions in his grand enterprise, people who have peace and joy in and with him, people who are half-astonished that they have been privileged to be part of the grand adventure that has life at the end of it. He isn't obsessed with death, he isn't obsessed with sin; he's all about life and life and life! He's all about life for everyone rather than just about life for us.
So don't wonder about the unanswered questions. It's all right for God to know some things that you and I don't know. Rejoice in your life with him, freely accept his eagerly offered forgiveness which comes as part of your being united with the Lord Jesus [Romans 6:3-8]. Trust him that you're safe in the Lord Jesus [Romans 8:1]. Believe that! And finding yourself accepted in the Beloved One, see yourself as one of God's companions, riding on a white horse and following the Rider on the white horse to bring the word of rescue and hope and life. See yourself with your companions as making war against all the forces of cynicism, gloom and corrupted power and for the sake of the entire human family.
Once more, don't worry about how it all ends. Trust God and in the name of the blessed Lord Jesus throw onto the scale the stubborn ounces of your weight and believe that this entire divine and human drama will end gloriously. And know this, however fierce the battle, however much pain, in whatever form it comes, whatever scars you bear when the war is over you'll be glad you were in it. And those who refused the call and worked to take care of number one and only number one—they will hold their humanity cheap when they see the glory of God's companions on that day of honorable triumph that sees millions finally, permanently and gloriously free.
COME WHAT MAY, WE WILL NOT GO DOWN WITHOUT GETTING BACK UP; WE ARE GOD'S COMPANIONS!

Must Christians Today “Abstain from Blood”? by Kyle Butt, M.A.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=2276

Must Christians Today “Abstain from Blood”?

by  Kyle Butt, M.A.

The first-century followers of Christ faced several difficult challenges. Among the most problematic were the cultural differences separating the Jewish Christians from the Gentile Christians. Due to their deep respect for the Law of Moses, many of the early Jewish Christians felt that a faithful follower of God must believe in and obey Christ, but also keep certain aspects of the Mosaic Law, like circumcision. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, adamantly opposed this idea, maintaining that the Law was nailed to the cross and was no longer in force. The other Bible writers concurred. But many Christians in the early church were confused on the issue. Due to this confusion, Paul and Barnabas, along with the elders of the Jerusalem church and the apostles, convened to discuss the issue (Acts 15). During the discussion, the apostle Peter recounted the conversion of the Gentile Cornelius (Acts 15:6-11). Paul and Barnabas then testified to the miracles that God had worked among the Gentiles through their ministry (15:12). And James, the Lord’s brother, explained that the Old Testament prophesied that the Gentiles would be allowed into the church. From reading the text, it is clear that purpose of the meeting in Jerusalem was not to vote on a policy, but to discover the Holy Spirit’s position on the issue.
The council concluded that God had opened the door of faith in Christ to the Gentiles, apart from any adherence to the Law of Moses. The council then wrote a brief letter to be circulated among the Gentile churches in which the council stated: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well” (Acts 15:29).
The inspired statement from the Jerusalem council presents an interesting text for Christians in the 21st century. Do these rules still apply today? Were they for the Gentiles then, and adjusted afterward by later revelation to the inspired Bible writers? If they still apply, how would a 21st century Christian practically obey the command to avoid “things strangled,” since the details of the slaughter and preparation of store-bought items such as chicken, beef, ham, and turkey are rarely mentioned or known by the general public? These and other questions require an intense, honest look into the inspired council’s letter and its ramifications for today.

SEXUAL IMMORALITY

It is generally understood among commentators and biblical historians that the Jerusalem council had pagan, idolatrous feasts in mind when issuing the statement in Acts 15. Often, pagan worship included the sacrificing and eating of animals, sometimes with the drained blood being offered as a “course” in the meal. These festivities also generally included sexual participation by the guest in any number of immoral ways. Coffman noted: “Idol feasts were shameful debaucheries, marked by the most vulgar and immoral behavior.... In fact, it is possible that all four of these restrictions relate to idol worship” (1977, p. 299). Dennis Gaertner, in his commentary on Acts, noted that the pagan worship practices were most likely in view in the prohibition against sexual immorality and food sacrificed to idols, and were possibly in view in the command to abstain from blood, since “in some pagan practices blood was drunk apart from the meat” (1993, p. 240-241). Therefore, in order to understand the context of the four prohibitions of the council, one must understand their connection to pagan idolatrous practices.
In regard to the instruction for the Gentiles to abstain from sexual immorality, the New Testament is abundantly clear in other places that such was inherently sinful (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 21:8). There was never a time when sexual immorality was permitted for a faithful follower of God. Even though pagan cultures considered such immorality to be “part of life,” it was not to be permitted or tolerated in the life of a Christian, regardless of his or her cultural background.

THINGS OFFERED TO IDOLS

The letter to be circulated among the Gentile converts also included the instruction for them to “abstain from things offered to idols.” This is a clear reference to the meat that pagans would sacrifice to an idol and then eat as a part of their feasts. The interesting aspect of this prohibition is that it is not the case that eating meat offered to idols was inherently sinful. In fact, the apostle Paul qualifies and elaborates on the instruction to abstain from meat offered to idols in other places. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul explained that there is nothing inherently sinful about eating meat offered to an idol. He stated: “Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.... But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse” (vss. 4,8). Paul then explained to the Corinthian Christians that if an unbeliever invited them to his house, they should have no problems eating the meat that the unbeliever served them, asking no questions about whether the meat was offered to an idol (1 Corinthians 10:27). Thus, it is clear that to eat meat that was offered to an idol was not inherently sinful. Paul then added, however, that if the Corinthians were informed that the meat was offered to an idol, they should avoid eating it, if doing so would “offend” those who might have a problem with it (1 Corinthians 10:28; 8:10-13; Romans 14:21). The mindset, attitude, and intent of the one eating meat offered to idols were the pertinent factors involved in the actions, not any inherently sinful qualities of meat offered to idols. From this discussion, then, we understand that the prohibition to abstain from things offered to idols was not a blanket condemnation of an inherently sinful practice, but was instead conditioned on circumstances, attitude, and intent. Taking Paul’s discussion of things offered to idols into account, one is forced to conclude that it could be permissible, under certain circumstances, for Christians today to eat meat offered to idols.

BLOOD AND THINGS STRANGLED

We have seen that the council’s letter to the Gentiles contained a prohibition against the inherently sinful practice of sexual immorality. We have also seen that the instruction to abstain from things offered to idols was not a condemnation of an inherently sinful practice. The question to be answered, then, is to which category do the prohibitions to abstain from things strangled and from blood belong? Is it the case that eating blood or meat from animals that were strangled is an inherently sinful practice that Christians today must avoid? Or is it the case that such was a circumstantial prohibition that was and is conditioned upon the circumstances?
First, we need to understand the connection between “things strangled” and “blood.” Lenski noted: “‘From a thing strangled and from blood’ may be considered together since both alike involve blood. An animal that was not butchered but snared and killed by strangling still had blood in it” (1961, p. 616). Coffman also combines the terms in his discussion (1977, p. 300). The Gentiles would have understood this prohibition to include drinking the blood of a slain animal or eating the meat of an animal whose blood was not drained out. [NOTE: Some have suggested that eating a steak cooked “rare” or “medium rare” without cooking it completely would be “eating blood.” This would not have been the understanding of the Gentile Christians. Nor, in a practical sense, would it be possible to avoid “blood” in any meat, since it would be impossible to remove all traces of blood. If this prohibition meant that any trace of blood must be avoided, then no meat could have been eaten by the Gentiles.]
Is the act of eating or drinking animals’ blood sinful for Christians today? Lenski argues that it is not. He suggests that the prohibition from the council was made so that the Gentiles would not offend their Jewish Christian brethren. He states that the Jewish Christians were horrified at the thought of eating or drinking blood and that the “Gentile Christians were asked to respect this feeling and thus from motives of brotherly love, and from these alone, to refrain from eating blood and meat that still had its blood” (1961, p. 616). Lenski seems to base his conclusion on the idea that the prohibition against eating blood originated with the Mosaic instructions against the practice. But such is not the case. The prohibition against eating or drinking blood predated the Law of Moses by several hundred years. Following Noah’s exit from the ark, God explained to him that he and his descendants could eat animals. God said to him: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:3). God did, however, provide a single regulation regarding the consumption of animal flesh. God said: “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (9:4). Thus the command to avoid the consumption of blood was given several hundred years before the Mosaic Law was instituted.
The Law of Moses instructed the Israelites to avoid eating or drinking blood. Leviticus 17:14 states: “Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.” Also, Moses wrote that the Israelites could eat animals like deer or gazelle, but concerning their consumption, he wrote: “Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it on the earth like water” (Deuteronomy 12:16).
If the prohibition against eating blood in Acts 15 is binding, it would show that in every age—the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian—the eating of blood has been for forbidden and is inherently sinful. Coffman maintains this view. Concerning Genesis 9:4, he stated: “This makes it clear that the denial of blood as food to man antedates the Mosaic law. Thus, they are wrong who see these restrictions as a symbolical binding of the Law on Christians. The authority they have for Christians of all ages derives neither from Moses’ law nor from the commandment of Noah, but from the authority of the Holy Spirit...” (1977, p. 300). The late Guy N. Woods noted God’s instructions concerning blood to Noah and to the Israelites under Moses, and said: “We have seen that the ‘apostles and elders’ at Jerusalem, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, extended this prohibition into the Christian age; thus, in every age God has forbidden his people to eat blood and things strangled” (1976, p. 240).
If it is the case that the eating of blood is inherently sinful, how can it be differentiated from eating meats offered to idols, which was not inherently sinful, since they appear in the same list? One response to such a question would be that we only know that eating meat offered to idols was not inherently sinful because New Testament passages such as 1 Corinthians 8, 10 and Romans 14 shed further light on the practice. If these passages were not included in the New Testament, then we would be forced to conclude that eating meat sacrificed to idols was inherently sinful and still prohibited for Christians. Since there are no passages that add information to the prohibition against eating blood or things strangled, and it is included in every age (Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian) it seems the most logical course is to conclude that the prohibition is still binding on Christians today.

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS

Blood Transfusions?

If the prohibition against blood and things strangled is binding, what are the practical implications? First, the idea in Acts 15:29 of “abstaining” from blood implies that the eating or drinking of blood is to be avoided, but it says nothing about other types of contact with blood. God’s injunction to Noah explicitly stated that blood was not to be eaten, as did the Mosaic instructions. The immediate context of Acts 15:29 informed the Christians to “abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled.” To “abstain” from things offered to idols simply meant not to eat them. This same meaning applied to blood and meat that was strangled without being drained.
Certain religious groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, have contended that taking blood into the body in any way violates Acts 15:29. They argue that receiving a blood transfusion violates the injunction to abstain from blood. Their official Web site states: “What of transfusing blood?.... [T]hinking people in past centuries realized that the biblical law applied to taking blood into the veins just as it did to taking it into the mouth” (“Blood...,” 2006).
However, the conclusion maintained by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to extend the prohibition of Acts 15:29 to blood transfusions is simply not justified by the evidence for two primary reasons. First, the text and all related texts in the Old Testament deal specifically with consumption by mouth of large quantities of blood from an animal. The Gentile Christians in Acts 15 would have certainly understood the prohibition to be dealing with the consumption of blood by mouth. Second, the physical processes of the body in receiving human blood into the veins and consuming large quantities of animal blood that would go to the stomach are vastly different. A blood transfusion in which matched human blood is injected into the veins of another human to aid in healing is hardly comparable to drinking a pint of goat’s blood. To demand that Acts 15:29 means never taking any kind of blood into the body for any reason in any way is going far beyond what is written (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Eating Habits

Because the prohibition against blood referred specifically to eating blood or things strangled, we must try to understand how it relates to our eating habits today. Since we know that the Israelites and Gentiles ate animal meat before and after the prohibitions of Acts 15:29, and we know that it is physically impossible to remove all traces of blood from meat, then we must conclude that the consumption of blood in small quantities (such as in a rare or medium rare steak) is not what is banned. The prohibition is against eating or drinking large quantities of animal blood. Dishes such as blood pudding or blood sausage would seem to fall into this category, as well as any dishes cooked in large quantities of blood, or containing such.
As for determining which animals have been strangled and not drained of their blood, we must understand that the focus was on the quantity of blood remaining in the meat of the animal. It was not the fact that the animal was strangled that kept it from being eaten, but the fact that it was never drained of its blood. Apparently, there was a visible, recognizable difference in the minds of the first-century Gentiles between the meat that was from an animal that was drained and the meat from an animal that was not drained. If Acts 15:29 is binding, and Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 10:25 to “[e]at whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake,” then he must not have included meat from animals that had not been drained of their blood in 1 Corinthians 10:25. We must conclude, then, that avoiding meat from things strangled means avoiding meat that has a definite, visible amount of excessive blood readily distinguishable from drained meat. [NOTE: A cursory study of standard meat processing procedures in the United States and other nations shows that the vast majority (if not all) of the animals butchered and sold in major meat markets such as grocery stores are drained of their blood (“Rosenthal...,” 2006; “Best Practices...,” n.d.).] Thus, the practical implications of Acts 15:29 indicate that consuming blood or meat from things strangled takes place when a large quantity of blood is drunk or consumed in dishes where blood is a key, recognizable ingredient.

CONCLUSION

The inspired Word of God contains everything that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It is so comprehensive that it has the ability to completely equip humans for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Because of its import, all commandments and instructions in it need to be seriously analyzed and critically considered in light of their potential present-day application. Biblical regulations that apply today must be obeyed in order for a person to be assured of an eternal home in heaven (Matthew 7:21-23). Four prohibitions are made in Acts 15:29 that were specifically aimed at first-century Gentile converts. These prohibitions included avoiding eating blood and meat not drained of its blood. Taking both Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures into account, it seems that since the time of Noah, eating or drinking animal blood has been something God forbade. The prohibition to avoid the consumption of blood, as found in Acts 15:29, is not altered, adjusted, or explained in other books of the New Testament. Thus, it seems most reasonable to conclude that the prohibition remains binding today.

REFERENCES

“Best Practices For Beef Slaughter” (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.bifsco.org/uDocs/bestpracslaught12_05.pdf.
“Blood—Vital For Life” (2006), [On-line], URL: http://watchtower.org/e/hb/article_01.htm.
Coffman, James Burton (1977), Commentary on Acts (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Gaertner, Dennis (1993), Acts (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
“Rosenthal HACCP Plans” (2000), [On-line], URL: http://meat.tamu.edu/HACCP/porkslaughter.pdf.
Woods, Guy N. (1976), Questions and Answers: Open Forum, Volume 1 (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman University), Vol. 1.

From Gary... Bible Reading November 10



Bible Reading   

November 10

The World English Bible


Nov. 10
Isaiah 57-60

Isa 57:1 The righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart; and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come.
Isa 57:2 He enters into peace; they rest in their beds, each one who walks in his uprightness.
Isa 57:3 "But draw near here, you sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the prostitute.
Isa 57:4 Against whom do you sport yourselves? against whom make you a wide mouth, and put out the tongue? Aren't you children of disobedience, a seed of falsehood,
Isa 57:5 you who inflame yourselves among the oaks, under every green tree; who kill the children in the valleys, under the clefts of the rocks?
Isa 57:6 Among the smooth stones of the valley is your portion; they, they are your lot; even to them have you poured a drink offering, you have offered an offering. Shall I be appeased for these things?
Isa 57:7 On a high and lofty mountain have you set your bed; there also you went up to offer sacrifice.
Isa 57:8 Behind the doors and the posts have you set up your memorial: for you have uncovered yourself to another than me, and have gone up; you have enlarged your bed, and made you a covenant with them: you loved their bed where you saw it.
Isa 57:9 You went to the king with oil, and did increase your perfumes, and did send your ambassadors far off, and did debase yourself even to Sheol.
Isa 57:10 You were wearied with the length of your way; yet you didn't say, It is in vain: you found a reviving of your strength; therefore you weren't faint.
Isa 57:11 "Of whom have you been afraid and in fear, that you lie, and have not remembered me, nor laid it to your heart? Haven't I held my peace even of long time, and you don't fear me?
Isa 57:12 I will declare your righteousness; and as for your works, they shall not profit you.
Isa 57:13 When you cry, let those who you have gathered deliver you; but the wind shall take them, a breath shall carry them all away: but he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain."
Isa 57:14 He will say, "Cast up, cast up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people."
Isa 57:15 For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Isa 57:16 For I will not contend forever, neither will I be always angry; for the spirit would faint before me, and the souls who I have made.
Isa 57:17 For the iniquity of his covetousness was I angry, and struck him; I hid my face and was angry; and he went on backsliding in the way of his heart.
Isa 57:18 I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts to him and to his mourners.
Isa 57:19 I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace, to him who is far off and to him who is near," says Yahweh; "and I will heal them."
Isa 57:20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea; for it can't rest, and its waters cast up mire and dirt.
Isa 57:21 "There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked."

Isa 58:1 "Cry aloud, don't spare, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and declare to my people their disobedience, and to the house of Jacob their sins.
Isa 58:2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways: as a nation that did righteousness, and didn't forsake the ordinance of their God, they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.
Isa 58:3 'Why have we fasted,' say they, 'and you don't see? why have we afflicted our soul, and you take no knowledge?' "Behold, in the day of your fast you find your own pleasure, and exact all your labors.
Isa 58:4 Behold, you fast for strife and contention, and to strike with the fist of wickedness: you don't fast this day so as to make your voice to be heard on high.
Isa 58:5 Is such the fast that I have chosen? the day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to Yahweh?
Isa 58:6 "Isn't this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?
Isa 58:7 Isn't it to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor who are cast out to your house? when you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Isa 58:8 Then your light shall break forth as the morning, and your healing shall spring forth speedily; and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of Yahweh shall be your rear guard.
Isa 58:9 Then you shall call, and Yahweh will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.' "If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking wickedly;
Isa 58:10 and if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul: then your light shall rise in darkness, and your obscurity be as the noonday;
Isa 58:11 and Yahweh will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in dry places, and make strong your bones; and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters don't fail.
Isa 58:12 Those who shall be of you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
Isa 58:13 "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, and the holy of Yahweh honorable; and shall honor it, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words:
Isa 58:14 then you shall delight yourself in Yahweh; and I will make you to ride on the high places of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father:" for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken it.
Isa 59:1 Behold, Yahweh's hand is not shortened, that it can't save; neither his ear heavy, that it can't hear:
Isa 59:2 but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
Isa 59:3 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness.
Isa 59:4 None sues in righteousness, and none pleads in truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.
Isa 59:5 They hatch adders' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he who eats of their eggs dies; and that which is crushed breaks out into a viper.
Isa 59:6 Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.
Isa 59:7 Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their paths.
Isa 59:8 The way of peace they don't know; and there is no justice in their goings: they have made them crooked paths; whoever goes therein does not know peace.
Isa 59:9 Therefore is justice far from us, neither does righteousness overtake us: we look for light, but, behold, darkness; for brightness, but we walk in obscurity.
Isa 59:10 We grope for the wall like the blind; yes, we grope as those who have no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the twilight; among those who are lusty we are as dead men.
Isa 59:11 We roar all like bears, and moan sore like doves: we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us.
Isa 59:12 For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and as for our iniquities, we know them:
Isa 59:13 transgressing and denying Yahweh, and turning away from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.
Isa 59:14 Justice is turned away backward, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and uprightness can't enter.
Isa 59:15 Yes, truth is lacking; and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Yahweh saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice.
Isa 59:16 He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his own arm brought salvation to him; and his righteousness, it upheld him.
Isa 59:17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; and he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a mantle.
Isa 59:18 According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, wrath to his adversaries, recompense to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompense.
Isa 59:19 So shall they fear the name of Yahweh from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come as a rushing stream, which the breath of Yahweh drives.
Isa 59:20 "A Redeemer will come to Zion, and to those who turn from disobedience in Jacob," says Yahweh.
Isa 59:21 "As for me, this is my covenant with them," says Yahweh: "my Spirit who is on you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, nor out of the mouth of your seed, nor out of the mouth of your seed's seed," says Yahweh, "from henceforth and forever."
Isa 60:1 "Arise, shine; for your light is come, and the glory of Yahweh is risen on you.
Isa 60:2 For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples; but Yahweh will arise on you, and his glory shall be seen on you.
Isa 60:3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Isa 60:4 "Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gather themselves together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms.
Isa 60:5 Then you shall see and be radiant, and your heart shall thrill and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
Isa 60:6 The multitude of camels shall cover you, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praises of Yahweh.
Isa 60:7 All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together to you, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; they shall come up with acceptance on my altar; and I will glorify the house of my glory.
Isa 60:8 "Who are these who fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?
Isa 60:9 Surely the islands shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring your sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, for the name of Yahweh your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has glorified you.
Isa 60:10 "Foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you: for in my wrath I struck you, but in my favor have I had mercy on you.
Isa 60:11 Your gates also shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, and their kings led captive.
Isa 60:12 For that nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; yes, those nations shall be utterly wasted.
Isa 60:13 "The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the fir tree, the pine, and the box tree together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.
Isa 60:14 The sons of those who afflicted you shall come bending to you; and all those who despised you shall bow themselves down at the soles of your feet; and they shall call you The city of Yahweh, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
Isa 60:15 "Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no man passed through you, I will make you an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.
Isa 60:16 You shall also suck the milk of the nations, and shall suck the breast of kings; and you shall know that I, Yahweh, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
Isa 60:17 For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron. I will also make your officers peace, and righteousness your ruler.
Isa 60:18 Violence shall no more be heard in your land, desolation nor destruction within your borders; but you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.
Isa 60:19 The sun shall be no more your light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light to you: but Yahweh will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory.
Isa 60:20 Your sun shall no more go down, neither shall your moon withdraw itself; for Yahweh will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.
Isa 60:21 Your people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.
Isa 60:22 The little one shall become a thousand, and the small one a strong nation; I, Yahweh, will hasten it in its time." 

 
Nov. 10
2 Timothy 4

2Ti 4:1 I command you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at his appearing and his Kingdom:
2Ti 4:2 preach the word; be urgent in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching.
2Ti 4:3 For the time will come when they will not listen to the sound doctrine, but, having itching ears, will heap up for themselves teachers after their own lusts;
2Ti 4:4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside to fables.
2Ti 4:5 But you be sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and fulfill your ministry.
2Ti 4:6 For I am already being offered, and the time of my departure has come.
2Ti 4:7 I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith.
2Ti 4:8 From now on, there is stored up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that day; and not to me only, but also to all those who have loved his appearing.
2Ti 4:9 Be diligent to come to me soon,
2Ti 4:10 for Demas left me, having loved this present world, and went to Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.
2Ti 4:11 Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.
2Ti 4:12 But I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.
2Ti 4:13 Bring the cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus when you come, and the books, especially the parchments.
2Ti 4:14 Alexander, the coppersmith, did much evil to me. The Lord will repay him according to his works,
2Ti 4:15 of whom you also must beware; for he greatly opposed our words.
2Ti 4:16 At my first defense, no one came to help me, but all left me. May it not be held against them.
2Ti 4:17 But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me, that through me the message might be fully proclaimed, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
2Ti 4:18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me for his heavenly Kingdom; to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
2Ti 4:19 Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the house of Onesiphorus.
2Ti 4:20 Erastus remained at Corinth, but I left Trophimus at Miletus sick.
2Ti 4:21 Be diligent to come before winter. Eubulus salutes you, as do Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brothers.
2Ti 4:22 The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.
 

From Mark Copeland... Beware Of Leaven (Matthew 16:5-12)

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                       Beware Of Leaven (16:5-12)

INTRODUCTION

1. In the course of His public ministry, Jesus was often challenged by
   the Pharisees, along with the Sadducees...
   a. They questioned why He ate with sinners - Mt 9:11
   b. They accused His disciples of breaking the Sabbath - Mt 12:1-2
   c. They accused His disciples of violating the traditions of the
      elders - Mt 15:1-2
   d. They sought to test Him by asking for a sign - Mt 16:1

2. Jesus therefore warned His disciples concerning these religious
   leaders...
   a. They were "blind leaders of the blind" - Mt 15:12-14
   b. The disciples were to beware of their doctrine - Mt 16:5-12

3. Jesus described their doctrine as "leaven" (yeast)...
   a. Used in the making of bread, leaven gradually spreads through
      the dough, making it rise
   b. Jesus used the figure of leaven to describe the spread of His
      kingdom - Mt 13:33
   c. But in Mt 16:6, He uses it to depict the pernicious doctrines of
      the Pharisees and Sadducees - Mt 16:11-12

[What were the doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus
warned about?  Are there modern Pharisees and Sadducees that we should
beware of today?  To answer these questions, let's begin by taking a
look at...]

I. THE LEAVEN OF THE PHARISEES

   A. THE PHARISEES IN JESUS' DAY...
      1. A religious and political group noted for its conservatism
         a. They were strict observers of the Law of Moses
         b. They also adopted "the traditions of the elders", 
            interpretations of the Law that had been handed down 
            - cf. Mk 7:1-5
      2. Jesus described them as "blind leaders of the blind" - Mt 15:
         12-14
         a. They made the commandments of God of no effect by their
            traditions - Mt 15:3-6
         b. They were hypocrites, teaching one thing and practicing
            another - Mt 15:7-8; 16:3; 23:1-4, 27-28; cf. Lk 12:1
         c. They did their works to be seen of men - Mt 23:5
         d. They loved the attention and special treatment by others 
            - Mt 23:6-7
         d. They wore religious titles - Mt 23:8-10
         e. They prevented others from finding the way to the kingdom
            of heaven - Mt 23:13
         f. They used their religion to make money and impress others
            - Mt 23:14
         g. They didn't make people better, they made them worse! - Mt 23:15
         h. They made distinctions where God did not - Mt 23:16-22
         i. Though sticklers for some commandments, they ignored others
            - Mt 23:23-24
         j. They honored men of God who went before them, but were more
            like those who persecuted the people of God - Mt 23:29-31

   B. PHARISEES IN OUR DAY...
      1. Many people accuse those who stress the keeping of God's 
         commands as legalists, and therefore "Pharisees" today - but 
         consider:
         a. The words legalism, legalist, are not found in the 
            Scriptures - they are labels often used to defame those who
            seek to encourage the keeping of God's commands
         b. Jesus never faulted the Pharisees for strict adherence to
            the Law itself
            1) Only for making the commands of God of no effect by 
               their traditions!
            2) Only for leaving some commands of God undone while doing
               others!
         c. If calling for strict observance of God's commandments 
            makes one a legalist, then Jesus was a legalist!
            1) While the Law was in force, He expected it to be taught
               and observed down to its smallest detail - Mt 5:17-19
            2) He expected His disciples to surpass the Pharisees in
               their righteousness - Mt 5:20
            3) He called for His disciples to express their love for
               Him by keeping His commandments - Jn 14:15,21,23
            4) He promised His love and friendship to those who would
               keep His commandments - Jn 15:10,14
            5) He expected disciples from all nations to observe 
               whatever He commanded His apostles - Mt 28:19-20
         d. If calling for strict observance of God's commandments
            makes one a legalist, then the apostles were legalists!
            1) Paul stressed the keeping of commandments - 1Co 7:19;
               1Th 4:1-2
            2) John stressed the keeping of commandments - 1Jn 2:3-5;
               3:22-24; 5:2-3
      2. The true Pharisees today are those who:
         a. Teach and practice traditions of men, instead of the 
            commands of God
         b. Teach one thing, while practicing another
         c. Do things to be seen of men, wearing special garments and
            asking to be called by religious titles
         d. Do not truly show people the way to the kingdom of heaven
         e. Use religion to make money and impress others
         f. Make distinctions where God has made none
         g. Stress some commands, but neglect others as unnecessary

[Such are the Pharisees of today, who often condemn others as
"legalists" (as a way to deflect the charge that their lives and 
teachings are contrary to the commandments of our Lord).

Now let's take a look at...]

II. THE LEAVEN OF THE SADDUCEES

   A. THE SADDUCEES IN JESUS' DAY...
      1. A religious and political group noted for its liberalism
         a. Included many powerful members of the priesthood - Ac 5:17
         b. They insisted only the laws found in the Pentateuch (first
            five books of the OT) were binding
         c. They rejected "the traditions of the elders", 
            interpretations of the Law that had been handed down
         d. They did not believe in the resurrection, spirits, angels 
            - Ac 23:8; Mt 22:23
         e. They did not believe in rewards or punishment after death,
            nor in heaven or hell
      2. Jesus charged them with two faults - Mt 22:23-29
         a. They did not know the Scriptures
            1) Even those scriptures they held to be true!
            2) For Jesus used a statement in the Pentateuch to show
               their error - Mt 22:31-32; Exo 3:6
         b. They did not know the power of God
            1) Like many liberals, they were influenced by rationalism
            2) They assumed that if they could not conceive or 
               comprehend something, it could not be
            3) They failed to believe what Gabriel and Jesus both knew:
               that with God, nothing is impossible! - Lk 1:37; 
               Mt 19:26

   B. SADDUCEES IN OUR DAY...
      1. Those who take some portions of God's word, but reject the 
         rest; such as:
         a. Those who heed only the "red-letter" words of Jesus
         b. Those who will accept the words of Jesus, but not His 
            apostles
         c. Those who accept the words of His apostles, but hold that
            all of Jesus' teachings in the gospels are Old Covenant 
            teaching
         -- The apostles' words are just as authoritative (Jn 13:10;
            Ac 2:42; 1Co 14:37), and so were the words of Jesus 
            spoken during His earthly ministry (Mt 28:20; Ac 20:35;
            1Ti 5:18b; Lk 10:7)
      2. Those who accept human reason over divine revelation
         a. Many will not accept a Biblical doctrine unless it "makes 
            sense" to them
         b. A dangerous position to hold, since God has chosen to 
            confound the wise and arrogant with the foolishness of the
            gospel message - cf. 1Co 1:18-31
         c. Some doctrines revealed may contain elements beyond man's
            ability to fully comprehend (such as the mystery of 
            godliness:  God manifested in the flesh - 1Ti 3:16; or the
            nature of the Godhead itself)
         -- A child-like trust is more becoming of a Christian - cf. 
            Mt 18:3; Ps 131:1-3
      3. Those who rule out the power of God
         a. Who reject any doctrine, any promise, of the Scriptures if
            conceived as not being physically possible
         b. Such as the creation of the world, the virgin birth, the
            miracles of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead
         -- Once we accept the premise that with God all things are
            possible, we cannot reject Biblical testimony or doctrine
            just because it does not fit our preconceived ideas of what
            is possible

CONCLUSION

1. Is there a need to "Beware Of Leaven" today?
   a. Are there modern-day Pharisees and Sadducees?
   b. Are there doctrines that can permeate and spread through the 
      Lord's church like leaven?

2. The answer to such questions is a resounding "Yes!"
   a. Such doctrines abound in the denominational world around us
   b. Much error that makes its way into the church usually falls into
      one of two categories:
      1) Traditions of men proclaimed as doctrines (like the Pharisees)
      2) Doctrines of the Bible rejected as impossible (like the
         Sadducees)

And so the warning by Jesus is just as great today:

 "...beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." (Mt 16:11)

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

From Mark Copeland.... Blind Leaders Of The Blind (Matthew 15:12-14)

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                 Blind Leaders Of The Blind (15:12-14)

INTRODUCTION

1. Who can you trust regarding religious matters today?
   a. Many people trust their preacher, priest, or pastor
   b. They assume that "a man of God" must be trustworthy

2. Yet the Bible does not always speak highly of religious leaders...
   a. Paul warned about "savage wolves" not sparing the flock of God
      - Ac 20:29-30
   b. Peter wrote of "false teachers" bringing in destructive heresies
      - 2Pe 2:1-2
   -- Such men would knowingly destroy the people of God

3. Not all those who mislead do so knowingly...
   a. Jesus told His disciples about "blind leaders of the blind"
      - Mt 15:12-14
   b. Being "blind" themselves, they may not be aware of how they
      mislead others

4. The end result is still the same, however...
   a. Those misled still "fall into the ditch" and are destroyed - Mt 15:14; Isa 9:16
   b. Whether led by a "false teacher", or by a "blind leader"

5. That we ourselves might not blindly follow a blind leader...
   a. What are some of the characteristics of a blind leader?
   b. How can we be sure not to be misled by a blind leader?
   -- These are the questions we hope to answer in this study

[While Peter had much to say about false teachers (cf. 2Pe 2), Jesus
had much to say about blind leaders...]

I. CHARACTERISTICS OF A BLIND LEADER

   A. HOLDING TO THE TRADITIONS OF MEN...
      1. This was the case of the Pharisees in Mt 15
      2. They were willing to put their traditions above God's word 
         - Mt 15:3,6,9
      3. Blind leaders today will do the same
         a. Teaching as doctrine their traditions
         b. Not knowing that what they teach comes from man, not God

   B. MAKING DISTINCTIONS WHERE GOD HAS MADE NONE...
      1. This was the case of the Pharisees in Mt 23, where they are
         called "blind" five times
      2. They made fine distinctions between the types of oaths one
         could swear - Mt 23:16-22
      3. Blind leaders will often do the same today
         a. Making fine distinctions so that one need not keep God's
            word
         b. Saying some commands of God are essential to salvation, and
            others not

   C. LEAVING COMMANDS OF GOD UNDONE...
      1. Again, the Pharisees were guilty of this, for which they were
         called "blind guides"
      2. They left undone the "weightier" matters of God's law - Mt 23:
         23-24
         a. They stressed tithing, but neglected justice, mercy, faith
         b. Thus they would strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel
      3. Blind leaders today often do the same, but in reverse...
         a. They are quick to stress the "weightier" matters, and leave
            what they consider the "lighter" things undone
         b. But Jesus said we should do both, leaving neither undone!

   D. FOCUSING ONLY ON THE OUTER MAN...
      1. The "blind Pharisee" worked only on the outside - Mt 23:25-28
         a. Concerned with keeping the traditions of ritual cleansing
         b. Willing to put up with extortion, self-indulgence,
            hypocrisy and lawlessness
      2. Today, blind leaders are happy with the appearance of 
         success...
         a. Big buildings, large crowds
         b. Accepting people into the church without challenging them
            to true repentance

   E. OTHER CHARACTERISTICS...
      1. From this passage (Mt 23) in which Jesus assails the 
         Pharisees, we glean some other characteristics of those who
         were blind leaders
      2. Summarizing these quickly...
         a. They say and do not, binding heavy burdens on others - Mt 23:1-4
         b. They do their works to be seen of men - Mt 23:5
         c. They love the attention and special treatment by others 
            - Mt 23:6-7
         d. They wear religious titles, though Jesus condemned it - Mt 23:8-10
         e. They fail to truly show the way to the kingdom of heaven 
            - Mt 23:13
         f. They use their religion to make money and impress others 
            - Mt 23:14
         g. They don't make people better, they make them worse! - Mt 23:15
         h. They honor the men of God who went before them, but are
            more like those who persecuted the people of God - Mt 23:
            29-31

[Sadly, this sounds like many religious leaders today, especially some
on TV!  If we are not careful, we can easily be led astray by them.  
This leads to our next point...]

II. HOW NOT TO BE MISLED BY BLIND LEADERS

   A. LISTEN TO THEM CAREFULLY...
      1. We need to have the same attitude as the Bereans - Ac 17:11
         a. When Paul came to town, they "received the word with all
            readiness"
         b. This describes how they listened to Paul - paying close
            attention to the things he was teaching
      2. We must first give all teachers a fair and careful hearing
         a. Seek to understand exactly what they are saying
         b. It requires that we be good listeners
      -- Many are misled because they have never learned to listen
         carefully to what is being taught them! (How well do you
         listen?)

   B. SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES DAILY...
      1. This was another noble quality of the Bereans - Ac 17:11
         a. Having listened carefully, they then went home and compared
            what Paul said to the Scriptures
         b. They did not simply accept whatever Paul said
      2. Unfortunately, many today are Biblically illiterate...
         a. They do not follow along in their Bibles when someone is
            teaching or preaching
         b. They do not read their Bibles daily
      -- Failure to do these things leaves one in a blind condition,
         unable to discern what is the word of God, or some teaching
         and tradition of man!

CONCLUSION

1. What will be the end of blind leaders, and those who follow them?
   a. Like plants, they will be "uprooted" by the Heavenly Father - Mt 15:13
   b. Together they will both "fall into a ditch" - Mt 15:14
   c. Though very religious, thinking that they serve the Lord, Jesus
      will tell them:  "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who
      practice lawlessness!" - cf. Mt 7:21-23

2. Who are to blame, if people are misled by blind leaders?
   a. The blind leader will be held accountable, but not totally
   a. If people are blind, it is only because they have closed their
      own eyes - Mt 13:15

May the example of the Bereans remind us of what is necessary not to be
misled by blind leaders, and may we so see and hear that what Jesus
said will be true of us:

   "But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they
   hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous
   men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear
   what you hear, and did not hear it."  (Mt 13:16-17)

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011