Martin Collins, continuing the exposition of the Book of Joel, reiterates that the locust plague serves as a vivid precursor to the impending Day of the Lord. Joel assures the victims of the devastating plague that, if they would repent of their sins, returning to the covenant, the land would become refreshed, prosperity would return, the political threat would be averted, and the years lost to the devastation would be restored. What God promised to physical Israel He promises to the Israel of God—the Church. On Pentecost, 31 AD, God typically fulfilled Joel's prophecy of His Spirit being poured out on all flesh; in the Millennium, He will finally fulfil it. Throughout the Old Testament, God's Spirit was poured out on selected servants who had specific commissions to lead and warn God's people. In the future, a healing of the land, national security, and the restoration of lost years will accrue to the remnants of Israel and ultimately to all mankind. As members of God's royal priesthood, we need to humbly look out for the wellbeing of others, not like Diotrephes, who desired to have pre-eminence, but rather like Jesus Christ, who willingly sacrificed Himself for others. When God's Holy Spirit dwells in us, the most convincing manifestation is our repentance and yielding to God's direction, as manifested in the servant who always carried out his master's will faithfully.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the fallout from the devastating Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm, has observed that some have attempted shamelessly to politicize this disaster, foolishly proclaiming that this disaster was caused by climate change, global warming, or 'environmental racism.' Regardless of the subject being discussed today, mass media and internet social media have been deliberately poking political hot buttons, purposely dividing the people of this nation to take adversary positions. Politicizing issues serves those who seek to expand the legitimate role of government and to institutionalize current power structures. Politicizing is a grave evil because it (1) creates an "us versus them" adversarial approach to issue reslotuon, leading to internecine conflicts, feuds, or civil wars, (2) creates false dichotomies , such as migration or no immigration, disregarding the fact that every issue is far too complex to be oversimplified into terms of black or white and (3) trivializes moral or ethical issues, as exampled in the subtle intimations that one party promotes racism and the other does not, or that lawbreaking will stop simply by passing legislation. God's system does not(and should not) make use of politics, which is motivated by pure prideful ego and a grasping for power. When politics enters the church, disaster and division inevitably follows. The Church is commissioned to do God's will, not its own. Politicians work to get their own will advanced, but our job, as God's called-out ones, is to do God's will.
Martin Collins, reviewing the episode of Habakkuk's frustration that God would use an evil people to punish Israel, points us to the prophet's resolve to cease being a fretful worrier and to become a responsible watcher, determined to understand the purpose of God's dealing with His people. Only a faithful believer will ever stand acquitted before God's fearful judgment. While the taunt-song, dealing with the five woes, certainly applies to Babylon, it applies doubly to God's people Israel, who should have known better, but chose to become ignorant. The first two woes in Habakkuk 2:6-8 concerns the woe against greed, avarice, covetousness (a virulent form of idolatry), and selfish ambition, leading to the crime of usury, charging excessive interest on loans, making the debtor a virtual slave, totally against God's instructions in Deuteronomy 24:10-13. The earth metaphorically cries out against the oppressor who garners wealth by stealing from others and amassing fortunes by exploiting the poor. The third woe focuses on a nation's tyrannical oppression of captive peoples, building a city with bloodshed and establishing a town by violence, denuding forests, wantonly slaughtering animals in order to subjugate other defenseless peoples. The fourth woe results from a people corrupting others with drunkenness and lust, having both literal and metaphorical implications; today the intoxicating Babylonian system embraced by Jacob's descendants has caused our nation to resemble, both figuratively and literally, a drunk vomiting over itself, exposing its sins and folly to the entire world, after adamantly refusing to be governed by God's laws. The fifth woe leveled against the Chaldeans, and by extension to the modern descendants of Jacob, results from idolatry, the sin of worshiping the creation rather than the Creator, applying to literal idols of stone and wood as well as to pagan new age religious practices and including anything we might exalt over God Almighty, including our physical possessions, talents, abilities,
Martin Collins, focusing on Habakkuk's stance of assuming the position of a watchman, being willing to accept God's ultimate judgment on his people even when the circumstances seem to contradict revelation, emphasizes that all of God's called-out ones are also watchmen, needing to live continually by faith, discerning, listening to, and responding to God's instructions, not only hearing them, but taking them to heart. Without having faith like Abel, Abraham, Noah. and Enoch, judging by faith rather than outward appearances, we cannot please God. Abel, Enoch, and Noah all believed God and were willing to endure temporal loss for a greater reward. Faith constitutes unshakable belief and confidence in God that He will do everything He has promised. Like the apostle Peter, we must learn that human faith, at its best, is not sufficient; Godly faith cannot be worked up, but is a gift from God which we must constantly put to use. This kind of faith comes by hearing God's Word. God holds His called-out ones to a much higher level of accountability, but He has also provided the necessary tools for overcoming and as well as for producing spiritual fruit. In spite of doubts arising from negative appearances, we need to cling to God's promises, even in the worst of times, realizing that all iniquity will be punished eventually. Like the heroes of faith, all of which had to do something to demonstrate their faith, we must be productive in our faith, understanding that faith without works is stone dead. Faith is not a preference, but rather a commitment. Even faith as little as a mustard seed is an open door to God.
America's presidential primary season has brought voting in political elections to the fore once again. Because it is not directly mentioned in Scripture, people often ask if voting is biblically condoned. Martin Collins, beginning a short series of Bible Studies, re-asks the question in its most basic form for a true Christian: Would Jesus Vote?
John Ritenbaugh, observing that the philosophers who have made a lasting negative impact on western culture (Darwin, Marx, Emerson) were born within one decade after the 19th Century began, warns that Satan has been exponentially stepping up his diabolical attack on all of mankind, using the poisonous pens of these philosophers to caustically erode religion, economics, science, and theology. All of these philosophers had been born into religious families; some of which had fathers which were pastors. Another radical philosopher who fits into this mold was Friedrich Nietzsche, who was the both the son of and nephew of Lutheran pastors, but was influenced by Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity, to totally cut his ties with any form of religion. Nietzsche's ideas were extremely toxic, having powerful influence inside Germany, branding him, in some circles, as the most dangerous philosopher of the Millennium, having unmitigated arrogance and a demonic hatred toward Christ. In 1888, Nietzsche identified himself as the anti-Christ, about a month before he became clinically insane, never to recover his lucidity. Despite his abject insanity, his ideas became instrumental in modern psychology, especially the emerging tributary of existentialism, a philosophical stance regarding experience as unexplainable, ruling out the possibility of any Creator God who is working out any purpose on earth. Nietzsche's "will to power" translates into the authoritarian "might makes right" stance practiced by many individuals, including Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung, as well as many of those wielding and seeking power today. Nietzsche desired that the strong would overpower and liquidate the weak, claiming that the noblest class were the barbarians—a survival -of -the-fittest scheme that fit into and shaped Darwin's teachings. Nietzsche's ideas also shaped the human potential movement as well as the literary works of George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O'Neill, Ernest Hemmingway, Mark Twain, and F. Scott Fit
John Ritenbaugh, continuing his exposition of the French philosopher Rousseau, pointed out that he fathered five children, but because of his narcissistic devotion to himself and his precious creature comforts, he abandoned every one of them to orphanages, believing that it was the State's obligation to care for children, not the family's. In his pompous self-centeredness, Rousseau charged that Christians make poor citizens. Those who knew Rousseau intimately claimed that he was a pathetic figure, an arrogant mad man, claiming to be a lover of mankind, but through his practices proving he was a failure as a responsible human being. Even though American educator John Dewey may have referred to Rousseau as the 'greatest genius,'his narcissistic, self-absorbed endorsement of collective welfare practices from cradle to grave, ultimately forcing citizens to be serfs of a welfare state administered by overweening bureaucrats, have hopelessly damaged modern society. Many current politicians and educators, following in Rousseau's drive toward mindless communitarianism, are on a mission to destroy the family, replacing it with a government ("It takes a village") welfare state. The family structure of one ethnic group is largely destroyed, with 70% of the 'families' having no father. Rousseau's disciples, gaining ascendancy in today's political climate, have plans to dismantle the family, replacing it with the State.
Affliction seems to be an integral part of Christianity. Our Savior Jesus Christ and His apostles suffered a great deal during their ministries, and though modern Christians' burdens cannot compare to theirs, they are still significant enough to cause great pain. Pat Higgins demonstrates the relative nature of Christian affliction, urging believers to take the Bible's long view of their suffering.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the answers given by average people asked by Jay Leno on the Best of Jaywalking, concludes that Satan has done a good job of sabotaging the educational system of this nation. This dumbing-down has been a deliberate effort by individuals and groups motivated by an overriding desire for wealth and power, characterized by the satanic attribute of pride and elitist arrogance. The proponents of the New World Order consist of largely Israelite families throughout North America and Europe.
John Ritenbaugh observes that, even though Western (Israelitish) governments are comparatively less tyrannical than their Gentile counterparts, they too have their ways of establishing influence over the populace. Gentile governments have historically exterminated more human beings than have disease or natural causes combined. Sadly, the American government is moving toward a Gentile-type tyranny at the helm of a President who does not share Western values. Aside from the mystery and confusion of his birth origin, President Obama spent a large portion of his formative life outside of the United States, absorbing Muslim and collectivist values and loyalties. He has never been a product of the ghetto (even though he has appealed to that segment of American society); he has been a product of an upper middle class family with loyalties to Marxist socialism, intending to 'transform' this country into a collectivist state with decidedly Gentile ways of dealing with its clientele, including destroying the opposition by vilification, criminalization, and ultimate extermination. The current far left Democrat Party plan of 'exporting' millions of children from South America into the United States is to create a population of dependents beholden to the 'benevolent' ruling party. The leaders of this same party, having adopted the political correctness poison from the secular progressives, establishing homosexual unions, radical feminism, and a tolerance for mass murder of infants (abortion), now are playing the Republican Party like a violin. For the past half century, the progressives have had almost complete control of public education, softening the culture for the acceptance of socialism and collectivism though political correct Orwellian doublespeak. The handwriting is on the wall, forecasting dangerous times ahead for Christians.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the curse of a corrupt judicial system described in Ecclesiastes 5:8-9, warns us that corruption in the courts is a fact of life, but it will intensify before Christ returns. We should not be surprised by this curse, realizing that God, who is sovereign over everything, is aware of it and is purposely allowing it for a purpose. Our needs will be provided for. This world is driven by the selfish desire of power, creating a climate of perpetual corruption, going right to the top of human governments, ascending through a bloated self-serving bureaucracy. Nothing has really changed from Solomon's day. In the United States, it seems the bad guys win all the court cases. With all of its faults, corrupt government is preferable to lawless anarchy. Our culture seems to be suffering from affluenza, our yearning disease, trying to keep up with the Joneses. The antidote to this affliction (greed motivated by Satan) is to be content with what God has provided us, an attitude that has to be learned. God is always faithful; He will supply all our needs. The secrets of the Lord reside with those who fear Him. Wealth, silver, gold, or money does not satisfy the inner drive for contentment or permanent security because covetousness is not satisfied with 'just a little more.' Sadly, in the words of Oliver Goldsmith, "the future of a nation is bleak when wealth increases; when wealth increases, men degenerate." Government cannot (nor should be) relied upon; God can. We are to be content with the labor God has provided, satisfied continually with what our labor has produced, accepting both the job and what has provided as a gift from God. It is God's desire to keep us busy to enjoy blessings, storing up happy memories with no regrets.
The Bible warns us that a great False Prophet will soon arise to sway mankind into idolatry. In addition, numerous passages speak of other false prophets and false teachers in the church and in the world. David Grabbe, in exposing the differences between false prophets and true ones, explains what we need to look out for as the end nears.
Martin G. Collins: While suffering under the tyrannical, secular regime of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi people were more personally free from the murderous, religious radicals of the various Islamic sects. ...
People who jump from one fellowship to another often do so for superficial reasons such as a personal slight or perhaps defending a pet doctrine. Ministers should be judged by the fruit that they produce in terms of their teaching or the examples that they set. Because fruit takes time to mature, we members ought to exercise patience, refraining from grumbling, or premature judging. In the checklist distinguishing the true shepherds from the hirelings, true shepherds are seen in their genuine concern for the flock, as opposed to hirelings who only devour or take advantage of the flock.
In this follow-up sermon on the antidote to presumptuousness, Richard Ritenbaugh asserts that a person who is truly content is never presumptuous. Korah and Abiram were not contented with where God had placed them in the body, but, in a spirit of pride-filled competition, wanted to arrogate to themselves the office of Moses, as Heylel wanted to arrogate to himself God's office. God is very quick to punish presumptuous sins. Self-exaltation leads to debasement. Following the cue of our Elder Brother, we ought to humble ourselves, content to be nothing, allowing God to do the exalting. We need to be content in whatever position God has called us (Philippians 4:11-13).
Richard Ritenbaugh contends that the book of Jude, a scathing indictment against false teachers, is perhaps the most neglected book in the New Testament. It was designed for the end time, a time of apostasy, when most of these problems would occur. Jude admonishes ministers to protect the flock, warning that brute beasts (false teachers), having wormed themselves into leadership positions in the church, governed by lusts and desire for gain, will attempt to devour the flock with their cunning antinomian, ungodly teaching, twisting the doctrine of grace into licentiousness, encouraging unbelief, rebellion, and immorality. Jude, seeing the coming apostasy, admonishes people to put forth agonizing effort to be grounded in the truth, taking on God's mind.
A biblical survey of coveting: what it is, what it produces and what a Christian should be doing.
John Ritenbaugh addresses the controversial topics of conspiracy theories, Sovereign Citizenship and the New World Order. These, for too many, burn up countless hours of precious time in vain speculation and useless anxiety. The drive toward one world government is a transparent reality having several biblical prototypes (Genesis 10:8-13; Daniel 2:36-44), all inspired by demonic opposition to God's rule (Ephesians 6:12; II Corinthians 4:4: Jude 6; etc.) There is nothing new in this game-plan; conspiracy seems to be a part of our human nature. Satan, manipulating self-interest and pride in various groups and individuals, will only be able to hold his inharmonious confederation together for a short while. If our fear is not in God, this conspiracy will distract, immobilize, and paradoxically tempt us to compromise with it. Our fear ought to be in God who has sovereignty and the final say over all things (Isaiah 8:11-13).
Indeed, many heresies crept into the church over the past several years. John Ritenbaugh explains the difference between heresy and apostasy, how Satan works to introduce heresy into the church, and most importantly, what we can do about it!
John Ritenbaugh suggests that people who opt for a fifteenth Passover do not do so from a pure motive for seeking the truth, but instead reflects an irresponsible grab for power. Unfortunately, major reinterpretations and alterations have significantly distorted the meaning of Passover and Unleavened Bread, blurring the distinction between the two events. Even major Protestant theologians realize the drastic changes which placed humanly devised practices on the same status as the commands of God. Beside rendering themselves blind to the true significance of Christ's sacrifice, proponents of the fifteenth Passover (old and new) unwittingly follow Jeroboam's precedent of leading his people into rank paganism.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon Jesus' calculation upon the time of arrival at the Feast of Tabernacles, indicates that Jesus carefully took into account many variables to maximize His effectiveness at this event. The myriad opinions of the crowd concerning Jesus were all conditioned from their perspectives and traditions, but hardly ever from God's perspective. Jesus demonstrated that the only way to learn the doctrine of God is by doing it. He also taught us to look for God not only in the extraordinary, but also in the ordinary. Jesus warns the crowd [and us by extension] that the time to seek God is now, while we still have a sense of spiritual need (or hunger) lest we permanently miss out on the opportunity. Cuing in on a water ceremony performed daily at the Feast, Jesus drew a spiritual lesson, dramatizing the need for God's Holy Spirit without measure. Amazingly, throughout these dramatic encounters with the public, Jesus had deliberately chosen a course that would lead to His death rather than to immediate power and adulation.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that Jesus was placed on trial not for what He did, but for what He claimed about Himself. John has provided at least eight separate forms of witness, establishing the veracity of Jesus Christ's identity as God in the flesh. Fulfilled prophecy from the Old Testament (over 300 separate prophecies) concerning Christ's identity and the events of His life is overwhelming, compelling, and mathematically irrefutable (The chance of fulfilling only eight of those prophecies would be 1 in 10 to the 17th power or 100 quadrillion). John makes a compelling proposal for belief and faith. The last part of the first chapter of John focuses upon the work of John the Baptist, a physical cousin of Jesus, the forerunner of Christ, who witnessed the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ at His baptism, again establishing Christ's identity as the Lamb of God.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon the episode in Matthew 20, in which Jesus was deep in thought, reflecting on the prophecies leading up to His crucifixion. At this point, His disciples were not converted, but displayed considerable carnality. The mother of two of the disciples asked for places of honor for her sons; none of the disciples had even an inkling of servant leadership. True greatness does not come from dominance but from serving and sacrificing with the attitude of a slave. Love is sacrificial. Willingness to sacrifice self is the secret to success in God's plan for us. If we would sacrifice instead of attempting to dominate one another, our marriages would be successes. Drinking ones cup is emblematic of enduring whatever we must go through, different for every human being. Our cup is to follow Christ in any situation, supreme sacrifice or lifelong commitment, acting how He would act. No one can really count the cost in advance. When the opportunity comes to learn spiritual truths, we must seize the opportunity as aggressively and boldly as the two blind men sought healing, rejecting any inkling of timidity. In our prayers, we must come before the throne of God boldly and then show gratitude for His response. God is not against doing something dramatic once in awhile in order to make an impact. When He made His entry into Jerusalem, it possibly attracted the attention of 2 ½ million people, most of them visitors. Evidently this event had been planned rather than done on the spur of the moment. His arrival prompted the overwhelming response "Hosanna" or "save now." The crowd was selecting the Lamb to be sacrificed. [NB: This series of Bible Studies from 1981-82 is incomplete.]
The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment
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