Monthly Archives: December 2018

Dec 2018
How Cute IS a Button?

In language, be it English or another language, we use figures of speech far more often than we realize. Recently, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) released a campaign to change animal related idioms in the English language. Instead of “Kill two birds with one stone,” they advocate using “Feed two birds with one scone.” They replace “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” with “Don’t put all your berries in one bowl.” 

In my opinion, PETA doesn’t understand the idioms because their replacements don’t quite communicate the same, but the same could be true of English translation of Hebrew figures of speech. We will see a lot of these through the remainder of the Song of Songs, so it’s important for us to read this book (as we should all books) doing our best to understand what the author intended to communicate.

If I said to my wife, “Your hair looks like a flock of goats,” or “Your teeth look like freshly shorn sheep that just walked up out of the river,” needless to say, I probably wouldn’t receive “husband of the year” honors. However, if you look at each of the figures of speech that Solomon uses in chapter 4, you will notice that each one points to tenderness, (doves, sheep, goats, deer, thread of scarlet) while many of his wife’s idioms in the book refer to Solomon’s strength.

One thing in this passage that seems especially odd to us as English readers, is Solomon’s reference to his bride time and again as “my sister, my spouse.” The Hebrew word for sister was a common term of endearment. In English, we might say “honey,” “sweetheart,” or “pumpkin,” all of which might seem weird if you weren’t a native English speaker. Solomon is expressing his deep tender affection for his wife.

From a practical side, let’s look at Solomon’s words in 4:12-15. He refers to her as a closed in garden where there is delicious fruit and refreshing water. Think about a really tough day you’ve had: you are stressed out, there seems to be no end to the pressure, and it seems like everyone is against you. Wouldn’t it have been nice to just escape from all the pressure into a walled off garden where nothing could bother you? In this garden, there’s a nice cold natural spring pouring out water so that you can take a drink while you relax there. There’s also some delicious fresh fruit for you to enjoy. All of a sudden, that stressful day just melts away in that protected environment. Would your spouse compare you to a safe place of refreshment and enjoyment? When your husband or wife comes home from a stressful, pressure filled day at work, where it seems like everyone is against them, do they feel safe and refreshed in your presence or do they still feel the pressure of the day? 

This book may seem a bit strange at times to us as English readers, but its principles are just as applicable in our culture as they were in the Ancient Middle East. 

Dec 2018
Yesterday, When I Was Young

I wonder if I was the only child who thought life on earth was forever. As a young boy, I frolicked about my neighborhood seemingly without a care. Whilst growing up, I was taken to church every Sunday. Everything the priest said was for old folks, I thought. I will listen to that “religion” stuff when I get older was my mindset. Although my particular church did not interpret the Holy Bible correctly (leaving out the need for a personal relationship with Jesus), it taught me that there was a God in Heaven who attends to the affairs of this world and cares about its inhabitants.

Now that I have grown older, my perspective has changed. I realize I will not live on this earth too much longer. I have more years behind me than ahead of me. But, believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I will now reside forever in Heaven with Him. Solely based on the sacrifice that Jesus provided on the Cross. Nothing that I have done at all (Ep. 2:8,9). I repeat-nothing at all!! If we think we had anything to do with our salvation, we are saying we had to help Jesus with it; that His death was in vain. My friend, that is blasphemy on the high seas. If you feel that way, please do not do so in my presence. I do not want to be caught in the nuclear holocaust that will envelope you someday.

Last night we had a lovely time, with friends and family, watching a live rendition of the Nativity. I remember thinking there may be people in the audience who know nothing of the Saviour; who think it a mere tale. Then I looked at the little donkeys, and thought, no one had to tell them of a Saviour, for they believe. Think of the connotation there! As the shepherds did on the night of Christ’s birth, we too should praise God for all He has done (Lk. 2).

We have become so materialistic at this time of year. It is a dreadful time (if we look at it with human eyes). Praise for God is far from most of our minds, but looking for the biggest and best toy is. My father told me, when he was a little boy, that he was lucky to get a piece of fruit Christmas morning. Can you imagine? But there was more of a dependency on God in those days and we were better for it.

My nightly reading read, “LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!  Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away” (Ps. 144:3-4). Please do not wait until the eleventh hour to come to the Lord; He may come at 10:30! God has a gift for each one of us. Our only obligation is to open it!

Dec 2018
Milk Teeth

Teeth are falling out of our kids faces all the time. I congratulate them on their “new smile” every time they lose a tooth. However, everything was not a celebration. We were concerned because our children’s new teeth seemed yellow. We are always reminding them to care for their teeth and they get a nutritious diet, but why were their new teeth yellow? I asked the dentist when we went for our regular check up. He said that their teeth are healthy, but they only appear yellow because baby teeth are naturally whiter. He said, “That’s why some people call them milk teeth.” 
I had heard of the phrase milk teeth, but never learned the meaning behind the term. Sometimes we only notice something is different when we compare it with something else. 
Nehemiah seems to go on a rampage in Nehemiah 13. You read how Nehemiah “contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair” (Nehemiah 13:25). What is going on?
A few chapters earlier, Nehemiah led the people in a solemn prayer of confession and dedication. They pledged to “walk in God’s law…and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord” (Nehemiah 10:29). Nehemiah, as a good leader, signs his name to the promise first with all the spiritual leaders pledging their lives, too (Nehemiah 10:1). The primary commitments were to not intermarry with unbelievers, observe the sabbath day, and support the Temple through gifts, provisions, and worship. It appears these people finally understood what had been missing in their nation for centuries. Your heart is warmed with their child-like sincerity. 
Nehemiah returns to the king’s court to fulfill his obligations, but he is allowed to return to Jerusalem after some time to which he finds the people have not fulfilled their pledge. Some of the sworn enemies of the people and God’s work are now welcomed family! Tobiah has VIP access to the Temple courtyard even though he is an unbeliever. One of the high priest’s sons has married Sanballat’s daughter, defiling the priesthood! Beyond that, the next generation didn’t know the words of God because they could hardly speak the language at all. The Levites abandoned the Temple to work in the fields because the promised support didn’t materialize. In every way, their commitment from a few years earlier had failed. 
The people sadly didn’t notice what had happened. Things had changed, but they had changed little-by-little. Nehemiah’s return resurfaced the contrast of consistency against compromise and it was stark. Nehemiah was not fanatical. The people had compromised to such a point, they no longer resembled the pledge they had at one time made. 
As we are approach the New Year, take note of where you are and avoid comparing your life with others or with your perceived success. Look at the facts. Revisit some commitments you made to God and see if you have been consistent or compromising. Then radically depend on God to help you. The most honest response each of us can have is “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Dec 2018
The Blessings of Honoring God

During the 1924 summer Olympics, a runner by the name of Eric Liddell was faced with a choice that would test his devotion to God. When Liddell’s best event (the 100-meter) was scheduled for Sunday, Liddell withdrew from the race. Liddell chose to honor the Lord’s Day rather than compete in the race. Since he could not compete in the 100-meter race, Liddell chose to participate in the 400-meter race instead. When the day of the race came, and as Liddell was making his way to the starting blocks, a man walked up to him and handed him a small piece of paper that read, “In the old book it says: He who honors me, I will honor (1 Samuel 2:30).” Liddell ran the race with the paper in his hand and would go on to win the gold medal in the 400-meter race and break the existing world record. Liddell made a choice that honoring God was the most important thing he could do. God blessed Liddell and used him in a great way to be a testimony for Christ to the world. 

In Deuteronomy 28, the Israelites were given a preview of what would happen to them if they chose to honor or dishonor God. God made it clear that his promise of blessing was conditional upon their obedience to God’s covenant. God said, “If thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee…” (28:1-2). In verses 3-14, the Bible lists the various ways that the people of Israel would be blessed. In the same chapter, God promised that if they broke His covenant that they would be cursed by God and forfeit the blessings. 

Although these covenantal blessings apply specifically to the nation of Israel, the same principle– that obeying God brings blessing—is seen all throughout the Scripture. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ explained that it would be the “poor in spirit,” “they that mourn,” “the meek,” “they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness,” “the merciful,” “the pure in heart,” “the peacemakers,” and “they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” that would receive God’s blessing. This idea of blessing does not mean that the people of God will never suffer. Nor does it mean that one will prosper materially. Rather, it means, that although we will suffer, God is pouring out His blessing by working all things together for our good. If we desire the blessing of God, we must align our hearts with His perfect and holy will. He must receive our honor. For God declares that “them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Sam. 2:30).  Everyday we are faced with decisions and our response to them will reveal who we honor. 

Dec 2018
Valient for Truth

What is truth?  That is the pointed question that Pilate asked of Jesus after Jesus claimed He was on earth testifying of “the truth”.  Two thousand years later, many are essentially asking that same question.  In our post-modern era of relativism, many would even deny the idea that there could be such a thing as absolute truth.  After all, if there is no standard then how can one claim truth?  If I believe something to be true and you believe something else to be true, who’s to say who is right?  Or can we even say that one is more correct than the other?  What if the correct answer depends on the situation? Because the Bible has lost its place of being generally accepted to be the Word of God in our culture, we have therefore removed any form of a standard, leaving man and his thoughts to be the “end all be all”.  

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking has also creeped into the “Christian” church as well.  You may have heard last week about the CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) singer Lauren Daigle who made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show on TV.  For those who may not know, Ellen is an openly lesbian woman.  After Lauren gushed about how wonderful Ellen was, Lauren was asked the pointed question of whether or not she believed homosexuality was sin.  Her response was that, “I can’t say one way or the other.  I’m not God.”  I’m sure most of us right away could quickly point out the error of her thinking.  As Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis responded, “You’re right, you’re not God, Lauren Daigle.  But you have God’s Word.  And it’s clear from Scripture {that} adultery, fornication and homosexual behavior are sin!”
This idea of God’s absolute truth is reiterated in our reading today in 2 John.  Five different times in the first four verses John uses the word “truth”.  As we read on through the chapter, we see John’s warnings against false teachers and gives guidance on how to deal with them.  John by now is in the waning years of his life and we can see clearly how important the idea of absolute truth found in God’s Word was to him.  Jesus Himself claimed to be “the Truth” in John 14:6 and also stated “Thy Word is truth” in John 17:7 (Jesus speaking to the Father).  May we not shift our thinking away from the historical biblical truth of actual, absolute truth and error!