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Tag: Bible Study

Power, Real & Imagined

The despots of the world cling to the notion that they possess power, and this legitimizes the enacting of their every whim. The ancient Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar harbored such illusions regarding his personal significance and authority. He was the poster child for Lord Acton’s well-known dictum: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” The eighteenth century British statesman William Pitt the elder uttered a similar sentiment, saying: “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”i This knowledge of humanity’s proneness to abuse power led the founders of the United States to develop a government where authority is divided among its separate branches.ii Unfortunately, these liberal sentiments were written more than 2,200 years after this Mesopotamian monarch held sway over the near east. Accordingly, Nebuchadnezzar was the unquestioned head of Babylon with no checks and balances to curtail his exercise of power; or so he thought…
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Power, Real & Imagined

The despots of the world cling to the notion that they possess power, and this legitimizes the enacting of their every whim. The ancient Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar harbored such illusions regarding his personal significance and authority. He was the poster child for Lord Acton’s well-known dictum: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” The eighteenth century British statesman William Pitt the elder uttered a similar sentiment, saying: “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”i This knowledge of humanity’s proneness to abuse power led the founders of the United States to develop a government where authority is divided among its separate branches.ii Unfortunately, these liberal sentiments were written more than 2,200 years after this Mesopotamian monarch held sway over the near east. Accordingly, Nebuchadnezzar was the unquestioned head of Babylon with no checks and balances to curtail his exercise of power; or so he thought…
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The Truth A La Carte

Buffet restaurants have their merits. There is something to be said for being able to choose from a wide variety of dishes according to personal preference. Choice in other mercantile matters is also attractive. While I personally miss browsing bookshelves in second-hand bookshops, it is satisfying to shop for precisely what one is looking for on-line. Choosing what one likes, and leaving the rest – it’s the way of modern society; such thinking sometimes intrudes on Christian thinking. People often say things like “The Gospel is the most important thing” or “Church government is the most important thing.” Conversely, it is sometimes said that eschatology, church truth, or matters of Christian living are secondary doctrines. When it comes to biblical truth, however, the Lord does not allow for this piecemeal approach to His teaching. Christians are to unite around the person of Christ and not every difference in understanding and practice is necessarily biblical grounds for cutting one off (e.g. the seven churches of Rev. 2-3.) We are to love our fellow saints for His Name’s sake even if they have an incorrect understanding of prophecy, usage of spiritual gifts, and matters relating to God’s sovereignty and human responsibility (Phil. 3:14-16.) Nonetheless, the truth is a unified body of teachings that suffers when the whole counsel of God is neglected. As believers, we are to strive to believe, obey, and practice the truth in its entirety for the glory of God.

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Mirror, Mirror

“But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit.” 2 Cor. 3:18, ASV

Shakespeare famously described the theater in these words: “whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ’twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure” (emphasis mine.) The recently deceased Brazilian stage director, Augusto Boal once commented on this metaphor, saying: “I think that’s very nice. But I would like to have a mirror with some magic properties in which we could, if we don’t like the image that we have in front of us, would allow us to penetrate into the mirror and transform our image and then come back with our image transformed.” One can sympathize with his sentiments, for honest introspection reveals many flaws and destructive attitudes within one’s own heart. Man’s rebellion against his Creator has warped his personality and rendered him a slave to unbridled passions and perverseness. Sin scars people, and – if left unchecked – leaves an eternally calloused, distorted soul (Rev. 22:11.) To put the matter in scriptural phraseology, sin brings about death (James 1:15.)

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Leper Catering

Hard times came to ninth-century Israel. 2 Kings 6 and 7 recount the tale of the conflict with their northern neighbors the Syrians – also known as the Arameans – and the ensuing siege of Samaria. A severe famine upon the inhabitants of the Israelite capital followed, leaving the people in desperate straits. Things became so difficult that certain women resorted to cannibalizing their own children in an effort to assuage their incessant hunger (2 Kings 6:26-29.) Formerly worthless, but edible commodities like a donkey’s head suddenly became costly delicacies. This high price for a ceremonially unclean animal indicated the extreme suffering playing out within the city walls. Such misery engendered a collage of colliding emotions in the Israelite king – including frustration, perplexity, rage, and helplessness. His ire soon turned against the Lord’s faithful spokesman, Elisha, but the latter was not to blame for the calamity (v. 31.) Instead, he pronounced a message of unparalleled deliverance to the astonished monarch and his advisers.

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The Rise of Joshua

“We never hear of great men until the time when all other men are small,” wrote the late nineteenth century British author Gilbert Keith Chesterton. Momentous times produce leaders of renown. Joshua came on the scene when Israel desperately needed spiritual, courageous leadership. Moses, Aaron, & the rest of the old guard (except the venerable Caleb) had passed on, and the nation was on the verge of a major military campaign to occupy the promised land. The Son of Nun had been the heir-apparent to Moses’ leadership position for sometime; now God brought him to the forefront of national affairs. Numbers 27:18-21 indicates this change in power: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.”

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The Origin Of Despotism

The international scene is littered with conflicts, stemming from the desires of competing power blocs who struggle for hegemony on the world stage. Great despots like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Attila the Hun, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Adolf Hitler – to name a few – have all shared a desire to obtain power and enjoy the conquest of large swathes of territory. The Lord Jesus noted this propensity of the Gentiles for power mongering, telling His disciples that the Kingdom of God operates on entirely different principles (Mat. 20:25-26.) Man’s struggle for tyrannical power goes back to ancient times. God commissioned Adam and his descendants to have dominion over the earth. Nevertheless, since the Fall the God-given impulse to rule over the planet has been corrupted by sin. Man now wants to oppress his fellow man. By investigating the ancient records of the birth of empires, one may glean instruction for both the current and future situation.
Genesis 10:8-11 introduces us to the first emperor, a fearsome ruler ominously named Nimrod (“Rebellion/Valiant” Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon.) His chief credential as a leader was his martial skill, described as “a valiant warrior” and “a mighty hunter before the Lord” (v.8, NET.) The margin of The New English Translation notes that the phrase “before the Lord” can be used “…as a means of expressing the superlative degree.” In other words, it is a Semitic way of saying that he was the greatest hunter – one who had no equal in combat. Interestingly, words from the same Hebrew root are used in the Old Testament to describe hunting for men (e.g. Jer. 16:16.) Nimrod was indeed a hunter, but his quarry was not deer or lions – it was his fellow man!

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The Indispensable Widows

If one were asked to make up a list of the most important people in our world today, the names would probably be culled from the ranks of the famous statesmen and policy makers in the various regimes of the globe. Doubtless, numerous brilliant scientists and scholars would be listed among the ranks of the great; other people would include immensely talented artists, writers, and musicians. Still others would discuss great business leaders, who help shape the economies of the world. On such a list of the ‘Who’s who’, would we find people who are commonly called widows? Striking a bit closer to home, would we choose to build a new assembly around a core group of widows? Most church planters would probably prefer to begin a new local testimony with young individuals or couples, and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with such a desire. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that the assembly has a desperately needed role for the widows to play. They are especially useful to God, and need to exercise their ministry among His people.

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The Hatred of God

In modern colloquial English the word “hate” is commonly used to mean something far weaker than its dictionary definition. People often say “I hate traffic jams”, or “I hate the Dallas Cowboys.” What they usually mean by such statements is that they dislike such phenomena or people. When God uses the word, however, it carries a far weightier meaning. The Scriptural use of the term in connection with the Almighty indicates absolute loathing and detestation. In light of this, what then does God hate? Proverbs 6:16-19 list seven things that the Lord abhors.

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