Posts Tagged ‘Romans’

Numbers 23:27-24:35

Balaam’s Third and Fourth Messages

On November 9, 2016, it will be a Wednesday. It will be a Wednesday like any other to you and me where we have to get up to go to school or to work or to our daily chores in our home. Things will be the same yet completely different. It will be the day after the General Elections of our country, the day after we have elected our new President. What kind of world will that be? What I do know is that the sun will still rise. We will still get up and go to work. We will still have the same bills that we had the day before. And, most of all, God will still be God.

 

Isaiah 14:27 tells us this, “For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” Job 42:2 tells us the same thing when it says, ““I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” It is clear to us from the Bible that God is not being caught off guard by this election in the United States. I cannot remember an election in my lifetime where the choice between candidates is like choosing which you want worse, rectal cancer or prostate cancer. We just thought Bush vs. Gore was the choice between the lesser of two evils. This is rectal cancer vs. prostate cancer. When I think of a vote for Trump, since I am a Republican, it actually makes me cringe in disgust as if I would be massaging his massive ego with my vote. I cringe at the thought of the freak show that will be his presidency. I cringe at the thought of Donald and Melania being the representatives of our country at a state dinner say for example with the Queen of England or someone like that. I cringe at the thought of what stupid crap we will find out about Trump during a Trump presidency. I just cannot fathom that he is the best that the Republican Party, my party, has to offer. I did not vote for him in the primaries, I was a Rubio man (who I still believe was the best candidate to run against the Democratic nominee). I know that Donald’s desire for the last big prize of his life is what is driving him more so than the desire to be a good President. He is foul-mouthed, arrogant, a bridge burner, who speaks first and thinks later, who does not seem able or willing to build consensus on anything, who is just now three weeks before the election revealing any semblance of his policy positions on anything. He has spent most of the past year and half telling everybody what was wrong with the other candidates and what is wrong with our country. I disgust at the thought of voting for this man. I truly do. Not because of what he said on a bus in 2005 but simply because the man lacks any semblance of moral fiberat all and would do an end around on you in a minute to get what he wants. Many of my Republican friends are trying to portray him as the all to end all for America. I just don’t see it.

 

Before my Republican friends get all up in arms about what I just said, let me say this. Then there’s Hillary. She is no better. Whitewater. Benghazi. Abortion. Expanded Federal government. Openly anti-Christian. Questionable financial dealings. She lied about the Irish peace process, her vote in favor of the Iraq war, her reason for illegally using a personal email server, that her family was dead broke when they left the White House, about landing under sniper fire in Bosnia, where Chelsea was on 9/11, who she was named after, Benghazi… and the list goes on.  Hillary Clinton was MIA when the 3am phone call came from Benghazi.  What difference does it make?  The life of four Americans – a huge difference.  The Russian Reset?  Russia invaded Ukraine on her watch.  Again.  And again.  And again.  Boko Haram?  Hillary Clinton’s State Department refused to call it a terrorist organization. Hillary Clinton accepted millions of Dollars from foreign governments.  While serving as Secretary of State, The Clinton Foundation (illegally) accepted boatloads of cash from countries that fund Hamas, harbor terrorists, suppress women, and regularly execute gays and lesbians while at the same time portraying herself as the champion of gay rights. She says she is a champion of women’s rights but yet repeatedly throughout her husband’s political career has crushed every woman who tried to come forward regarding her hubby’s sexual harassment, misogyny and overall perpetuation of “rape culture“. She referred to these victims as “trailer trash” and even went so far as to threaten one of the victims in person. She supports opening up our borders fully and completely to nations known to harbor terrorist groups intent our nation’s destruction without any significant vetting. She supports crushing religious liberty and guising it as equality for all. Her economic plans are straight out of a socialist agenda that will stifle anyone willing to take the risks of entrepreneurship and, God forbid, become rich while doing it. Under her watch, it is clear that our nation will drift the way of western Europe – toward stifling central government control and a socialistic state (how’s that working for you, Venezeula?). I cringe at the thought of her being President as much or more as I do a Trump presidency. Hillary is such an institutionalized liar that she as much as said in the last debate that it is OK to talk one way with one group and another way with another group to get what she wants. In essence, it’s OK to lie. Lord, I cringe at the thought of anyone voting for this candidate. I truly cringe at what our country will look like 4 years from now with her as president.

 

Trump or Hillary? Cringeworthy! For the last week I have flirted with the idea of voting for a lesser party candidate in protest. I have thought about voting for Darrell Castle, the Constitution Party candidate. This is the party of constitutional purism whose central beliefs are the Republican Party on steroids. Darrell is a US Marines veteran and seems to be a candidate that everyone could get behind if he were not running on an unknown party ticket. A vote for him would certainly validate my desire for our country to get back to the idea of the nation that our founding fathers crafted. However, he stands a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected or even coming close to getting 1% of the popular vote in this country. Too bad. Thus, the election is really down to the Trump vs. Hillary choice.

 

The conclusion that I have had to come to as a Christian first and Republican second is to vote for what my party stands for in its platform and accept that Trump is the figurehead for that party. I know that a Trump presidency is going to be a train-wreck in a lot of ways. I know that he most likely will be a one-termer. He probably does not have the intestinal fortitude or desire to serve more than one-term. We have to look at Trump as the vehicle to get the nation back to its moral center, as the one to be the beginning of reclaiming our nation. If Trump is a one-termer, that creates room for the guy I think who would be a great Republican candidate and someone Christ followers could truly get behind – Marco Rubio in 2020.

 

Thus, this election is ultimately about our party regaining control of the White House at a crucial time. A time when our Supreme Court justices are all aging and there is one seat already open. As many as four additional justices could potentially open up through retirement or death in the next 4 to 8 years. As Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, said in his article, For A Time Such as This,

 

“the Supreme Court is the most powerful body of decision makers in our nation, and they serve life terms. Their beliefs matter. Many of the things they rule on are important to God—including issues like abortion, the definition of marriage, and religious freedoms. The next president of the United States will immediately appoint one Supreme Court justice and may appoint up to a total of five while in office. The justices who are appointed will impact the direction of our country for the next hundred years. I urge everyone to research who the candidates say they will nominate for the highest court in the land.”

 

It is also about which party comes closest to my beliefs as a Christian. Franklin, in his article, provides us with the positions of each party on our nation’s critical issues at https://billygraham.org/story/2016-party-platforms/. Review that and decide which party should have control of the White House. No bullying here just the facts. Which one aligns with what you believe as a Christian?

 

 

Having said all that. The reason I said all that is on November 9th, God will still be God. Nothing Trump or Hillary can do to change that. God often uses the worst folks to achieve His overarching goals. That was the very thought that I had when I read through today’s passage:

 

23:27 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Come, let me take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God to let you curse them for me from there.” 28 And Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, overlooking the wasteland.

 

29 Balaam said, “Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.” 30 Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar.

 

24:1  Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not resort to divination as at other times, but turned his face toward the wilderness. 2 When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came on him 3 and he spoke his message:

 

“The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,

    the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,

4

the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,

    who sees a vision from the Almighty,[a]

    who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:

 

5

“How beautiful are your tents, Jacob,

    your dwelling places, Israel!

 

6

“Like valleys they spread out,

    like gardens beside a river,

like aloes planted by the Lord,

    like cedars beside the waters.

7

Water will flow from their buckets;

    their seed will have abundant water.

 

“Their king will be greater than Agag;

    their kingdom will be exalted.

 

8

“God brought them out of Egypt;

    they have the strength of a wild ox.

They devour hostile nations

    and break their bones in pieces;

    with their arrows they pierce them.

9

Like a lion they crouch and lie down,

    like a lioness—who dares to rouse them?

 

“May those who bless you be blessed

    and those who curse you be cursed!”

 

10 Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. 11 Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the Lord has kept you from being rewarded.”

 

12 Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell the messengers you sent me, 13 ‘Even if Balak gave me all the silver and gold in his palace, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the Lord—and I must say only what the Lord says’? 14 Now I am going back to my people, but come, let me warn you of what this people will do to your people in days to come.”

Balaam’s Fourth Message

 

15 Then he spoke his message:

 

“The prophecy of Balaam son of Beor,

    the prophecy of one whose eye sees clearly,

16

the prophecy of one who hears the words of God,

    who has knowledge from the Most High,

who sees a vision from the Almighty,

    who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:

 

17

“I see him, but not now;

    I behold him, but not near.

A star will come out of Jacob;

    a scepter will rise out of Israel.

He will crush the foreheads of Moab,

    the skulls[b] of[c] all the people of Sheth.[d]

18

Edom will be conquered;

    Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,

    but Israel will grow strong.

19

A ruler will come out of Jacob

    and destroy the survivors of the city.”

Balaam’s Fifth Message

 

20 Then Balaam saw Amalek and spoke his message:

 

“Amalek was first among the nations,

    but their end will be utter destruction.”

Balaam’s Sixth Message

 

21 Then he saw the Kenites and spoke his message:

 

“Your dwelling place is secure,

    your nest is set in a rock;

22

yet you Kenites will be destroyed

    when Ashur takes you captive.”

Balaam’s Seventh Message

 

23 Then he spoke his message:

 

“Alas! Who can live when God does this?[e]

24

    Ships will come from the shores of Cyprus;

they will subdue Ashur and Eber,

    but they too will come to ruin.”

 

25 Then Balaam got up and returned home, and Balak went his own way.

 

It seems strange that God would use a sorcerer like Balaam to achieve His ends here. This passage teaches us that God can use anyone or anything to accomplish His plans. By using a sorcerer, God did not make sorcery acceptable. The Bible condemns it. Rather, it shows God’s ultimate authority over good AND evil. He used the Pharaoh in Egypt to demonstrate His power and might. Through hardening the heart of Pharaoh was able to demonstrate His mighty power over that which was the mightiest kingdom on earth at the time of the Exodus. Nebuchadnezzar, wittingly or unwittingly, is the “servant” used by God to discipline the disobedient Judah. God used the fact that the Roman Empire with its road systems and common language as the perfect time to send the Messiah and then saw the message of Jesus spread like wildfire through the Roman Empire because of the very fact that Rome was all about the commerce and made its empire easy to travel. Even things that seem on the surface as evil can be commanded by God to achieve his goals. The Romans thought they were killing a political threat but really they were aiding God in accomplishing His cosmic plan for salvation for all mankind through Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.

 

On November 9th, the day after the election, God will still be in control. God will be working His plan. He will be working it whether Hillary is President or Donald is. God will still be God and there is nothing that either of them can do to change that. We are working our way inexoriably toward the day when Christ returns. It is all part of God’s plan. We accept that as Christ followers. However, just as Paul told the Thessalonians to get up off their butts and go on living instead of waiting for an imminent return of Christ, we must engage in the political process of our nation. We must be God’s agents in a world that has turned its back on Him. We must be active and engaged. The battle is hard at times but God never promised us that being a Christian was going to be easy – as a matter of fact Jesus said “when you suffer” not “if you suffer.” As we battle with evil forces in this world, we know that God is in control and He is our general and leads the way for us. We follow His banner.

 

Yes, we have crap for choices in this election. Yes, for discerning Republicans, Trump is distasteful. Yes, for discerning Christians, we know that Trump is a self-centered egotist who scorches the earth with every comment he makes. We know this. But for whatever God’s purpose is in this election, these are our choices. We must look at the platform of the party (it’s planned agenda for the next four years) that we frame how either Hillary or Donald act in office to see which one most closely aligns with God’s Word.

From that analysis, it is clear that the Republican platform is more closely aligned with biblical principles. It is clear then that we must vote in that direction. Trump is simply the ragamuffin embarrassing unbelieving brute that God has chosen to execute His plan. He is just a vehicle. He is not savior. He is not the all to end all. He is just a part of God’s plan at this moment in human history.

 

We must trust that God knows what He is doing and we can awake on November 9th with peace in our hearts and go about our business of living.

 

Amen and Amen.

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Romans 16:1-16 — After reading through the list of names in Paul’s greetings to the church at Rome, it strikes you that the early church was diverse and it was mobile.

The list of names includes Roman names, Greek names, Jews and Gentiles. It includes men and women. It includes prisoners and prominent citizens. It reveals that the church’s base was broad. It crossed cultural, social and economic lines. This is what the church should be. It should not matter where you live, what you look like, how much money you make, or the color of your skin. The thing that matters is that we all believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Too often in the church now, we segregate ourselves by economic lines, racial lines, etc. Our churches are mainly people just like us. Yes, there are many large churches that are culturally and racially diverse, but there are far too many mid-size to small churches that are not. We should be welcoming to all believers who walk through our doors and make them feel comfortable and accepted. The only qualification for acceptance in our pews should be that we are all seeking Jesus. Although LifeSong may not be as culturally and racially as diverse as we could be, our church is a collection of young in their walk believers and believers who have been away from church because of past hurts. As a result there is a general sense of acceptance to anyone who walks through our doors. The general sense we have at our church is that we are simply thankful to not be living our old lives and because of that we simply have no time for the old games. There are no stares or quiet whispers when someone new walks through our doors. This is church as it should be.

The list of names also make recognize that Paul apparently already knew a good many people from the church at Rome. How did this happen if he had desired to come to Rome but had not yet been there. The answer is that the church at Rome, much like all of the early churches, was mobile. Everyone was a missionary. Paul would meet these people in other places where the church was being planted. All of the early church was eager to get out and help the church along wherever the help was needed. These early Christians would go anywhere anytime to spread the gospel. They were willing to go to prison for it. They were willing to die for it. What if we had these sensibilities today. Many today use the excuse that they have jobs in the real world and thus what they can do is limited, very limited. Didn’t people have to work back in the first century? Well, of course they did. However, they made the advance of the church the single most important priority. They measured their employment options by how it would affect their ability to participate in the mission of the church. Last night, I was sitting in the upper deck of Clemson’s football stadium watching the Tigers play along with 80,031 of my friends. It struck me that we make priorities out the things we WANT to make priorities out of. What if we had the passion for the church’s mission that we Tiger fans have for our beloved Clemson Tigers. Clemson fans are some of the most passionate and most willing to travel fans in college football. Last week, Clemson was well represented at the Boston College game – the longest road trip that the Tigers have every other year. What if we were just as willing to travel far and wide to spread the gospel with that same passion and loyalty. What if we were willing to make the same sacrifices for the church’s worldwide mission that we are willing to make to follow our Tigers. May we be as passionate with our LifeSong Church t-shirt on as we are when we have our Clemson t-shirts on. May be be as passionate to post on Christian blog boards as we are to post our passionate feelings on our Clemson blog boards. The early church was mobile, passionate, and willing. This is the hope we have for our church in today’s world. May we be a church that is willing to do whatever it takes, go wherever we need to go, to help the spread of the gospel.

Father, help us to remember that the only thing that matters about membership in the fellowship of saints is that we are seeking Jesus Christ. No other qualifications matter. Help us to also remember that we should be passionate about this fact, seeking Jesus and making His name known. We should be willing to go anywhere and do anything to make His name famous. May we do it with all our passion. May there be no sacrifice that we consider too great to make this happen. Jesus thought that we worth no sacrifice too great. Let us repay Him with the same mindset. Amen.

“All too often, we view heaven as the default eternal state for humankind. We assume that our race simply deserves heaven, that God owes heaven to us unless we do something really bad to warrant otherwise. But as [the Apostle Paul tells us] in Romans, this theology is just not true. All people are guilty before God, and as such the default is not heaven but hell.” — p. 147, Radical, by David Platt.

To dissolve ourselves of the need to share the gospel, we have made it easier for the hard truth of the Bible to swallow by saying that all religions are the same and that they all lead to God. This absolves us of the urgency that the Bible calls us to. We are comfortable. Don’t give us something hard. As David Platt goes on to say, “Many professing Christians have come to the conclusion that if certain people around the world (and I add, here at home) don’t have the opportunity to heart about Jesus, then this automatically excuses them from God’s condemnation.” There is no biblical evidence to support this idea. We all stand condemned for rejecting God whether we have heard of Jesus or not. This is the hard truth of the Bible. But, God did give us Jesus as the one and only way out of the condemnation, the default state of hell, that we deserve.

In deluding ourselves that all roads lead to heaven it has made evangelism the job of some specially trained on-fire go-getters. It is not someone else’s job. It is ours. There is a whole world outside our door, outside our country that have never heard of Jesus. Why does this not break our hearts? Why does this not energize you? Why does this not energize me? We should be aching for the lost here and around the world. If we believe the Bible as perfect and true (and it is), people will not go to heaven unless they know Jesus as their Savior. No alternate gospel of it’s OK whatever you believe. No exceptions for those have not heard of Him. We all reject God. We stand condemned, all of us, in the absence of Jesus. This should be our desperate passion. It should make us hurt and ache.

Father, help me to not blow this off. Help me to want it. Help me to be so moved by this that I never forget. Help me to care about the destiny of souls who have not heard the gospel. Help me to care about it. Help me to be so stunned that someone might go to hell without having heard of Jesus that it moves me to action instead of sitting on the sidelines. Amen.