Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Most Pressing Questions Of Life

Have you come to the place in your spiritual life that you can confidently say that you know for certain that you will eventually go to heaven? Suppose that you were to die tonight and find yourself standing before God, and He asked you why you think He should let you into Heaven?

You might say that you don’t believe in God and that it is simply man’s fantasy. However it is an arrogant and very unwise assumption to make. If there was no God the heavens and earth would cease to exist. "The fool says in his heart there is no God" (Psalm 14:1) 

You might answer saying that you have lived a good life, attended church or synagog faithfully, gave to the poor and supported righteous causes, was a good parent, faithfully supported your spouse and children, obeyed the laws and tried to be a model citizen. 
All of those things are commendable however the scriptures indicate that there is a problem. God loves us but hates our shortcomings (sin), and is sworn to punish it.

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10)

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.” (Proverbs 16:2)

“There are those who are pure in their own eyes but are not cleansed of their filth.” (Proverbs 30:12)

The scriptures point out that God is righteous and will punish sin which He will not tolerate. Sin is a word that simply refers to a shortfall from absolute perfection. 

(Habakkuk 1:13) Says of the Lord, “You who art of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on wrong.”

“Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

Here it becomes evident that no matter how good we try to be that there is nothing we can do to offset even the slightest of life’s failures and that all of our good works are counted as nothing in the face of our sinful nature. It may appear that God may have a confusing dilemma, on one hand He is a loving God and yet He is sworn to punish us for our sins. However God knew from the beginning how helpless His human creation really is and He spoke of His plan of redemption through the prophet Isaiah.

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows,and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.But he was wounded for our transgressions he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12) 

Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 
(Acts 13:38-39)

We are told to repent, this requires some personal introspection and recognition of the fact that we are not perfect and have faults, and to come to God with a contrite heart and a desire to have a right relationship with Him.

“But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.” 
(Acts 3:18-20)

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

God has shown us what His criteria is for salvation, it has nothing to do with how nice a person we might be, or the fact that we might be religious and attend church or synagog regularly, it is a matter only of God’s grace richly bestowed on those who believe and have faith in His Son the Messiah, that what He did on the cross is sufficient covering for our sins.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

What is the meaning of faith?
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old received divine approval. By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear. (Hebrews 11: 1-3)

An excellent example of faith was played out in July of 1859 when Charles Blondin famously walked a 1300 foot tightrope across Niagara Falls while 25,000 people looked on. He asked if they thought he could accomplish such a daring feat, and they cried out “We believe you can do it Blondin!” Following that amazing feat he cried out, “Do you think I can do it with a man on my back?” They said “Yes we believe you can do it too!” He then said, “Who will get on my back then?” Finally his manager Harry Colcord volunteered and with Harry clinging to his back Blondin gave his manager the following instructions: “Look up, Harry you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place be a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do we will both go to our death.” Faith then is more than just a mental acceptance, it is an absolute trust that requires a response followed by action.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Mystery Of Babylon

What is the shared significance of the ancient ziggurat known as the Tower of Babel and later the Babylonian Empire and most recently the World Trade Center?

The Tower of Babel

Modern scholars have associated the Tower of Babel with known structures, notably a ziggurat dedicated to the Mesopotamian god Marduk by Nabopolassar, the king of Babylonia circa 610 BCE, the Great Ziggurat of Babylon.

Now the whole earth had one language and few words. And as men migrated from the East, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.(Genesis 11: 1-9) 


The city of Babylon was situated on the banks of the Euphrates River, the remains of the oldest city are below groundwater level. From written sources, however, we know that the city became important after the fall of the empire of the Third dynasty of Ur, when the Amorites had invaded the area.The Greek word Babylon is a rendering of Babillu, a very old word in an unknown language. When Mesopotamia was infiltrated by Akkadians and Amorites who spoke a Semitic language, they recognized their own words Bâb ("gate") and ili ("gods") and concluded that this place was "the gate of the gods".
King Nebuchadnezzar the son of Nabopolassar ruled from 605 to 562 and is credited with rebuilding his capital as the most splendid city in the Mid-East. It was during his reign that he magnified himself before God and as a result was rendered temporarily insane for a period. 

All this came upon King Nebuchadnez′zar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnez′zar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; and you shall be made to eat grass like an ox; and seven times shall pass over you, until you have learned that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the word was fulfilled upon Nebuchadnez′zar. He was driven from among men, and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws. (Daniel 4: 28-33)

The partial answer to our original question is this: The Tower of Babel was the result of the pride of a united people that spoke one language and who were determined to build a tower for themselves that would allow them to reach great heights. What happened at Babylon was essentially no different. A great city composed of people from many nations speaking one tongue both represented but a shadow of things to come. The key word here is “Pride.” 

“In the pride of his countenance the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”(Psalm 10-4)

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. 
(Proverbs 16:18)

The World Trade Center

The twin towers of downtown Manhattan’s World Trade Center were a triumph of human imagination and will. Completed in 1973, the towers stood at 110 stories each, accommodating 50,000 workers and 200,000 daily visitors in 10 million square feet of space. They were the hub of the bustling Financial District, a top tourist attraction and a symbol of New York City’s–and America’s–steadfast devotion to progress and the future. Clearly there is much pride and hubris evident in the preceding comments! On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center became the target of a massive terrorist attack that took the lives of nearly 3,000 people. The disaster also radically altered the skyline of New York City, destroying the twin columns of glass and steel that over the years had come to embody the city itself. The impact of the two planes that hit the World Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001, was more devastating than any of the building’s designers and engineers had ever imagined. 
The World Trade Center represented all the nations of world working together and speaking in one unified tongue, controlling the world markets under the flag of a nation having great aspirations, that reach even above the stars. The destruction of the Wold Trade Center was only the beginning of a coming event spoken of in (Revelation Ch.17 & 18) the fall of Babylon the Great! We should read those chapters in light of what we understand so far with an open mind, asking God to reveal His will for each of us, asking Christ to be our Lord and Savior.
Consider that God’s foreshadowing of events is His way of piquing man’s curiosity in order to get him to search for God in all earnestness and find the true reason for that which He has in store for us. (Ecclesiastes 1:9 -10) What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new?” It has been already, in the ages before us. 
Babel and Babylon in Ur of Chaldea, were just a foreshadowing of a much greater future event, just as the sacrificial offerings of sheep and goats were a foreshadowing of the death and resurrection of Christ for the sins of mankind.

The second part of the answer to the original question is found in God’s condemnation of Lucifer for his pride and wanton disobedience. His is the same spirit that drives men to seemingly great endeavors that always results in pridefulness, hubris and arrogance in the face of God which He hates.

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.

(Isaiah 14:12 - 15)