Do You Remember the Tragedy?

Tribute in Light

I HAVE A vivid recollection of that day.

My wife came in the room, turned on the TV set and then spoke in shaken tones.  She said, “They’ve flown a jet-liner into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York…” For the next several hours I sat transfixed before the television and watched in horror as the events of 911 unfolded.

wtc3

Eighteen years after that dreadful day, some Americans, like myself, look back on September 11 with intense emotion. We recall those gaping wounds in the sides of the towers. We remember those ill-fated flights and how they were intentionally slammed into the very icons of our nation. We remember those thick plumes of noxious smoke as they bellowed out of the top of those lofty skyscrapers and into our collective conscience. We remember our own anxiety and ponder what must have raced through the hearts of fellow-citizens as they contemplated the end of their earthly existence and the brevity of human life. We remember the internal shock of watching the first, and then the second tower plummet to the ground. We remember those feelings of helplessness and despair as lower Manhattan was engulfed in ash and debris. 

But may I suggest, dear reader, that there is a far more terrible tragedy that warrants our joint remembrance.

Every first day of the week (Acts 20:7), we need to call to memory (1 Cor. 11:23-26) those horrific events which transpired nearly 2,000 years ago:

  • We need to remember the murderous plot against the innocent Son (Mt. 26:3-4; Heb. 4:15; 7:26).
  • We need to remember the Lord’s internal struggle as He pondered His impending death (Mt. 26:37-39).
  • We need to remember His betrayal at the hands of one of His own disciples (Mt. 26:47-50).
  • We need to remember the ill-informed attempt to thwart His crucifixion (Mt. 26:51-54).
  • We need to remember the disciples’ cowardice and how they fled for their lives when He needed them the most (Mt. 26:56).
  • We need to remember the howls of the angry mob as they shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Mk. 15:13-14).
  • We need to remember the incredible injustice of both the Jewish and Roman courts (Mt. 26:57ff).
  • We need to remember Pilate’s timidity before that blood-thirsty crowd (Mt. 27:24-26; Lk. 23:13-25).
  • We need to remember the brutal flogging (i.e., “little death”) at the hands of the Roman lictors (Jn. 19:1).
  • We need to remember Peter’s lying about his association with Jesus (Mt. 26:69-75).
  • We need to remember the slanderous mockery of the soldiers, priests, and thieves (Mt. 27:27ff; 39-44).
  • We need to remember the Lord’s humiliation as He was stripped of His clothing and numbered with lawless, ungodly men (Isa. 53:12; Mt. 27:28; Heb. 12:2).
  • We need to remember that ruthless blow to His head (Mt. 27:30). We need to remember the heavy burden of the cross that was thrust upon His weary shoulders (Mt. 27:32).
  • We need to remember those cruel nails that pierced His hands and feet and how that He was suspended between holy God and sinful man (Jn. 3:14; 12:34).
  • We need to remember the bitter taste of sour wine mingled with gall (Mt. 27:34).
  • We need to remember His desperate cry to His own Father (Mt. 27:46).
  • We need to remember the frightful earthquake that shook the earth the moment the Savior died (Mt. 27:54).
  • Perhaps most importantly, we need to remember that our own sins made this barbaric occasion necessary (1 Pet. 2:24; Isa. 53). 

“Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget Thine agony, lest I forget Thy love for me, lead me to Calvary.”

“Do this in remembrance of Me…” (1 Cor. 11:24, 25).

WHEN DID GOD PAINT PICTURES?

Some biblical observations about the nature and grandeur of the Word of God

GOD IS  T H E  MASTER artist (Gen. 1:1, 27; Job 37:15-16; Psm. 8:3-6; 19:1; 33:6; 95:4-5; 104:1-4, 24-25; Isa. 42:5; Rom. 1:20; Heb. 1:2).  Throughout His Word He often painted very graphic and evocative word pictures by means of metaphors.1

“But what exactly are metaphors?” you ask.  Perhaps the easiest and best way to explain them is to describe what they do.  Metaphors 1) compare two things, and 2) establish a similarity and connectivity between them.  They 3) communicate ideas through vivid, three-dimensional verbal descriptions to show us how “A” is in some sense is like “B.”2

Pour carefully over the follow Bible metaphors and note what they tell us about the nature and grandeur of God’s Word“What is the Bible…?”

  • IT IS THE UNDISTORED MIRROR that lays bear and reflects the real spiritual status of man.  Jas. 1:23
  • IT IS THE FAITHFUL JUDGE that will finally weigh the words, actions, and life of man.  Psm. 51:4; Jn. 12:48
  • IT IS A MIGHTY HAMMER that shatters the stubborn will of man.  Jer. 23:29
  • IT IS A WHITE-HOT FIRE that melts the hardest heart of man.  Jer. 23:29; Mal. 3:2; Isa. 5:24
  • IT IS A SHARP, TWO-EDGED SWORD that pierces the conscience of man. Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17
  • IT IS A BRILLIANT LAMP AND LIGHT that illuminates the path of man.  Psm. 119:105, 130; Jn. 12:46; 1 Pet. 2:9
  • IT IS THE STRAIGHT PATH that directs the walk of man.  Psm. 119:32; Jer. 6:16; Psm. 23:2; Prov. 2:13, 15; 4:11, 18; 22:5; Isa. 2:3, 59:9; Mic. 4:2
  • IT IS LIVING SEED that germinates in the heart-soil of a spiritual man and then yields much fruit.  1 Pet. 1:23; Lk. 8:11
  • IT IS THE STAPLE BREAD OF LIFE that feeds, sustains, and matures the eternal spirit of man.  Mat. 4:4; Deut. 8:3; 32:2; Jn. 6:32-33, 63;
  • IT IS PURE, SWEET HONEY that satisfies the spiritual appetite of man. Psm. 119:103, 19:10
  • IT IS FRESH, HEALTHY MILK that promotes growth in the essence of man.  1 Pet. 2:2
  • IT IS HEARTY, DELICIOUS MEAT that feeds and nourishes the deepest appetite of man.  Heb. 5:14
  • IT IS AN ELABORATE TOPOGRAPHICAL MAP that illustrates and details the eternal soul of man.  Psm. 25:5, 143:8, 119:19, 119:33; Isa. 30:21
  • IT IS PRECIOUS, REFINED GOLD AND SILVER that holds and keeps inestimable value in the inner being of man.  Psm. 12:6, 19:10; 119:14, 72, 127
  • IT IS PRICELESS TREASURE that enriches the inner spirit of man.  Prov. 2:1; Job 28:18
  • IT IS AN IMPENITRABLE SHIELD that protects the true heart of man.  Psm. 91:4
  • IT IS COMFORTING BALM that heals and soothes the broken heart of man.  Jer. 8:22; Prov. 3:8
  • IT IS A FIRMLY EMBEDDED NAIL that cannot be easily removed from the thinking of man.  Eccl. 12:11b
  • IT IS GENTLE RAIN that blesses and nourishes the heart-soil of man.  Deut. 32:2
  • IT IS A PRODDING GOAD that pushes and nudges the moral behavior of man.  Eccl. 12:11a
  • IT IS HIGH-POWERED DYNAMITE that breaks down the independence of man.  Rom. 1:16
  • IT IS THE SOLID FOUNDATION that withstands the storms of man.  Lk. 6:47-48, 21:33; Psm. 119:152; Isa. 40:8;
  • IT IS THE ALL-WISE COUNSELOR that unravels the worries of man.  Psm. 16:7; 73:24; 119:24; Prov. 1:1-7; 8:14, 19:20; Psm. 2:6; Jas. 1:5
  • IT IS GREAT SPOIL AND PLUNDER that abundantly blesses the immaterial needs of man.  Psm. 119:162
  • IT IS UNCOMPROMISING LAW that defines and authorizes activity of man.  Deut. 32:45-47; Col. 3:17

1 The Greek words, meta, meaning “over,” and pherein, meaning “to carry” suggest a transfer of meaning.

2 Leyland Ryken, “Metaphors in the Psalms,” http://www.turningpointsofthebible.com/wp-content/uploads/Metaphor-in-the-Psalms.pdf

WAS THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS A HOAX?

THE RESURRECTION OF Jesus is the supreme F A C T of Christianity (Acts 2:24, 32).  Yes, I said, “fact.”  It is mentioned 300 times in the 260 chapters of the New Testament (i.e., on average at least once in every chapter). 

Skeptics want you to believe that the resurrection was a deception.1  They claim it was an elaborate ruse designed to fool the masses.2  But do the charges of unbelievers hold up to real scrutiny and investigation?  Read from the pen of the apostle Peter and then decide on your own:

Peter on Pentecost quoted David who wrote, “For You will not leave My soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:27; cf. Psm. 16:8-10).  Consider two questions pertaining to this verse: 

1.  WHOSE soul would not be left in the unseen spirit realm of HadesPeter, a humble, uneducated fisherman (Acts 4:13; Luke 5:4-5, 10), showed that David’s thousand-year-old prophecy obviously couldn’t have applied to the patriarch himself because, “He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (v. 29).  David’s burial place still held David’s decayed remains and everybody in Acts 2 accepted that as fact. 

2.  WHO was the “Holy One” to whom David referred?  After explaining that the remains of King David’s corpse were still in the tomb, Peter went on to identify the Holy One and why David was pointing to, and prophesying about, the Lord. Watch—“Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his (i.e., David’s—mb) body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he (David) foreseeing this, SPOKE CONCERNING THE RESURRECTION OF THE CHRIST…, nor did His flesh (Christ’s) see corruption.  THIS JESUS GOD HAS RAISED UP, OF WHICH WE ARE ALL WITNESSES” (VV. 30-32). 

Now ponder the implications of Peter’s arguments: 

  • “It was well known to the Jews, as it now is to all interpreters of the prophetic Psalms, that David habitually speaks in the first person WHEN PROPHECYING ABOUT THE CHRIST (emphasis mine—mb); and in any given case, if it is made clear that he does not speak of himself, the conclusion is that he speaks of the Christ.  This is the force of Peter’s argument, and it proved to his Jewish hearers that which he set out to prove, that the Christ, according to a predetermined and expressed purpose of God, was to suffer death, and to arise again speedily from the death.”3
  • If the miracle of Christ’s resurrection didn’t occur, why should we, in fact, HOW CAN WE, ACCEPT ANY OF THE OTHER MIRACLES recorded in Scripture—including those recorded on this very occasion (cf. v. 2-4, 6-8, 12-16)?  See b. below.
  • When Peter appealed to David’s words in Psalms 16, he still had to PROVE that Jesus was the Holy One whom David predicted and he did so by drawing attention to two overwhelming pieces of evidence:
  1. Eye witness testimony: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (v. 32b).  “The apostles are good witnesses in every way in which witnesses can and should be tested.  Two fundamental questions must be asked concerning those who claim to be witnesses.  (1) Were they in a position to know whether or not that which they testify took place?  One cannot be a witness of that which is outside the range of his experience.  The apostles, however, had been with Jesus both before and after His death and resurrection, so they were in a position to know whether or not what they had said was true.  They heard, saw, and touched him (cf. 1 John 1:1—mb).  (2) Are they honest enough to tell the truth about what they have seen?  In every way that one can test honesty they are found to be honest.  They gave up friends, their national standing, and even life itself.  They accepted persecution, ridicule, and the loss of property, prestige and life” (cf. Acts 3:26-4:3, 5-21; 5:17-18, 22-41; 11:2-3; 12:1-4—mb).4  See also 1 Pet. 5:1, cf. 1 Cor. 15:6.   
  • Extant miracles:  “The apostles not only bore testimony, but so did the miracles.  The miracles of Christ were an accreditation from God to show that He approved Christ (Acts 2:22).  The miracles which were being wrought on Pentecost were a confirmation by God of the message of the apostles (cf. Mk. 16:17-20—mb).  They showed that God was with them.  Therefore, their explanation of the meaning of these miracles was the correct explanation.  The people on Pentecost could not deny these miracles.  As Peter said: “which ye see and hear” (Acts 2:32).  They had heard the sound as of the rushing mighty wind, they had seen tongues like as of fire which parted asunder and sat upon each of the apostles, and they had heard these men speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:2, 3, 4, 8).  These miracles, therefore, helped establish the reliability of the testimony of the apostles that Christ had been raised from the dead.”5

Atheists, skeptics, and unbelievers insist that the resurrection of Jesus was a fraud and an imposture.  The Holy Spirit through Peter said otherwise.  Whom will we believe, good reader…?  “A faithful witness will not lie; but a false witness will utter lies” (Prov. 14:5).  “Let God be true but every man a liar…” (Rom. 3:4). 

1  Abdullah Kareem, “The Resurrection Hoax”: www.answeringchristianity.com/abdullah_smith/the_resurrection_hoax.htm

2  Ben Radfor, “Scholar Claims Jesus Was a Roman Hoax”: www.seeker.com/scholar-claims-jesus-was-a-roman-hoax-1767943845.html

3  J. W. McGarvey, “The Resurrection Christ Predicted by David,” vv. 25-31, New Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, Vol. 1, 33.

4  James D. Bales, “Death Could Not Hold Him,” The Hub of the Bible, 130.

5  Ibid, 131-132.

“HOW DID ONE PREACHER PREACH ABOUT MORALS?”

Some reflections on preaching about morals.

YOU HAVE TO hand it to old Noah.  He was in a very special and elite class of individuals (Heb. 11:4ff).  The aged patriarch possessed more than mental assent for deity (Jas. 2:19; cf. Jn. 12:42); he held a living faith that was active in spirit (Rom. 12:11; cf. Gen. 6:22; 7:5; Jas. 2:24).  He was one of those rare breads of bi-vocational ministers who not only held down a full-time construction job (Gen. 6), but he simultaneously served as a (the!) full-time evangelist for the antediluvian assembly of God.1

And yet what really distinguished Noah from his peers (then as well as now), wasn’t just his firm conviction for what was yet unseen (Heb. 11:1, 7), but it was his undaunted courage to declare God’s Word.  Note how the Bible describes him:

               “And (God—v. 2) did not spare the ancient world, but saved NOAH, one of eight people, A PREACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly” (2 Pet. 2:5).”

“Noah…a preacher…of righteousness…”  Think about the implications of those words for a few moments and then consider: 

  • Noah was THE ONLY GOSPEL PREACHER IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.
  • Noah’s long-term sermon series focused on a) RIGHTEOUSNESS (i.e., right actions motivated out of right attitudes—cf. Mat. 7:17-20; Mk. 7:18-23), and b) The Judgment to come (Gen. 6:13; cf. Acts 24:25). 
  • Peter described Noah’s audience as “the WORLD of the UNGODLY” (emphasis mine—mb).  The “ungodly” in Scripture refer to those who are “wicked” (Psm. 1:1), or “worthless” (Rom. 5:6), and so we learn that the people of Noah’s day were both irreverent and well as impious.  “Just how bad were they?” you ask.  The record says, “The wickedness of man was great on the earth, and…every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5b).  “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.2  So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (vv. 11-12).  Highlight those words in your Bible—wicked, evil, corrupt, and violent—and then think of modern cities like Minneapolis, Seattle, Chicago, and Portland on a global scale where serious crime has skyrocketed NOT simply because police-departments have been defunded, but because hearts are bent on unrighteousness.3
  • And yet, there was Brother Noah—holding his daily revival meetings, preaching on righteousness and morality and the Day of the Lord.
  • Noah preached for over a hundred years and only seven other people responded to the shadow gospel.

I can hear what somebody is thinking.  “Mike, how was Noah able to do that?”  “How was one man able to preach to an entire world caught up in a spiritual pandemic of sin and unrighteousness?”  Genesis tells us:

1.  Noah preached with his WORDS.  He was a (remember?) PREACHER (Rom. 10:14-18; 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 2:1-7; 4:1-5) of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5). He was one who heralded and verbally proclaimed the Word of God with conviction.4

2.   Noah preached with his WORK.  He “PREPARED an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world…” (Heb. 11:7b).  The acts and sounds associated with building such a monumental boat shouted to the world that Noah was listening to God, that Noah was living for God, that Noah and his loved ones would be eventually saved by God (Gen. 6:22; 7:1, 5; cf. Mat. 5:16; 1 Thes. 4:11-12), and that those outside the ark would be condemned by God (Heb. 11:7; cf. 1 Cor. 11:32). 

3.  Noah preached with his WALK.  As I said earlier, Noah’s faith wasn’t merely cognitive in nature, it was exertive.  He was “PERFECT in his generations.  [And he] walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).5  You could correctly say Noah was the only Bible that ancient unbelievers were ever able to read. 

1  The “saved” were only those in the ark (cf. Acts 2:47).

2  “That word, ‘violence,”’ is especially telling—God had intended for man and animals to fill the earth, i.e. to reproduce.  Instead, the created world has become filled with ‘violence.’  The Hebrew hamas means ‘cold-blooded and unscrupulous infringement of the personal rights of others, motivated by greed and hate and often making use of physical violence and brutality.’  We are dealing here with the darkest shades of human sinfulness—dark because violence is always a personal insult to God since each one of us bears His image.”  Michael Whitworth, The Epic of God, 66.

https://www.secureamericanow.org/cities_defunding_police

https://biblehub.com/greek/2784.htm

5  Perfect or “blameless” does not suggest that he was sinless.  The Hebrew term, thamim, does not mean living without sin or being morally perfect; it means being ‘complete’ or ‘wholehearted’ in regard one’s ‘commitment to the person and requirements of God.’  This idea of inner resolve to be wholly committed to God is reinforced by the statement that Noah was a man who ‘walked with God.’  Taken together, these descriptive phrases indicate that Noah was a man of high moral uprightness and integrity.  He was faithful to God and upright in his dealings with his fellowman.  He walked with God by reflecting the kind of attitude and lifestyle that would bring glory to his Creator, in contrast to the wickedness that had spread across the earth.”  William W. Grasham, Genesis 1-22, Truth for Today Commentary, 219