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King Manasseh reigned fifty-five years in Judah, and during his reign he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.  He reversed the religious reforms of his father King Hezekiah, having a lust for idolatry that rivaled King Ahab (2 Kings 21:3).  He led the people to defile the land in the same way that the nations that had occupied the land before Israel had done.  God had commanded the nation of Israel to not partake in the sins for which these nations were punished, for if they chose to walk in disobedience they would suffer the same fate.

Leviticus 18:21-28 (ESV)

21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them[a] to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.

24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you 27 (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean),28 lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.

God’s warnings against idolatry are very clear (Deut. 12:29-31), yet Manasseh led the nation of Judah “…to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed” (2 Chron. 33:9).  He erected altars to Baal, made Asherahs and even placed the carved image of an idol in the house of God.  And as deplorable as all of these acts were, Manasseh’s most heinous sin was the sacrifice of his own sons to Molech in the Valley of Hinnom.

 

2 Chronicles 33:6 (ESV)

And he burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and used fortune-telling and omens and sorcery, and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.

Much innocent blood was shed during his reign (2 Kings 21:16), causing Judah to walk down the same path of judgment as Israel (2 Kings 17:17-18).  The word of the Lord by his prophets was disregarded by Manasseh, and finally damning judgment was pronounced on the nation.

2 Kings 21:11-15 (ESV)

11 “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols, 12 therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster[a] that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. 13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 And I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, 15 because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.”

2 Chronicles 33:10-11 (ESV)

10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. 11 Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon.

This would seem like a fitting ending to the reign of King Manasseh.  He was a wicked king who received the judgment he deserved.  However, even the most vile and profane of sinners God will forgive when they truly humble themselves and repent.

2 Chronicles 33:12-13 (ESV)

12 And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

 

Manasseh killed his sons and shed the blood of many innocents during his reign.  Jewish and Christian tradition both state that during his reign the prophet Isaiah was sawn in half.  Before his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-9), Paul had persecuted Christians and was complicit of the stoning of Stephen.  He even referred to himself as the “foremost of sinners.”  You could also insert your name here and recite the worst sin that you have ever committed.  The truth is that even the vilest and most wicked of sins can be overcome by God’s steadfast love.

So come to Him as you are, for you are the reason why Christ came.

1 Timothy 1:15 (ESV)

15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners …

The Narrow Door

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Luke 13:22-30

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.  Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.  Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

“But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.  People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.  Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

This passage of scripture should make a lot of people uncomfortable.  Many have been deceived into believing that they are entering through the narrow door when in fact they are on a broad path that leads to a wide doorway.  This road offers them everything and requires them to sacrifice nothing.  These people are being told by their pastors that;

‘Every blessing imaginable is waiting for you to take hold of. All you have to do is ask.  If you don’t feel as though you have all that you want, keep asking until get it!’ 

For these people, Christianity has become a self-serving mechanism to get what their fleshly hearts desire.  Personal holiness has been replaced with personal fulfillment.  Self-denial is no longer desirable and the appetite for worldly possessions is encouraged (1 Pet. 1:14).  What is being preached today is not a ‘Narrow Door’ gospel but one that is easy to believe and easily attracts those who desire the things of this world (1 Tim. 6:9; 2 Tim. 4:3).

What is so shocking about this ‘gospel’ that promotes health, wealth and prosperity is that it contradicts what Christ taught.

 

  1. Christ taught humility

 

Matthew 23:12

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

 

  1. Christ taught self-denial

 

Luke 9:23

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

 

  1. Christ taught against greed.

 

Matthew 6:24

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

 

Mark 7:20-23

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them.  For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.   All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

 

Luke 12:15

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

 

Even so, professing Christians have been unable or unwilling to discern the truth from this lie and have essentially ‘bought-in’ wholesale to this false-doctrine (Deut 32:28-29).  It is by no accident that tens of thousands of people show up at churches that stroke their egos instead of encouraging them to walk in humility (Phil. 2:3).  This ‘gospel’ feeds the flesh and starves the spirit, and many have been given a false sense of security when it comes to their salvation.  The pastors and leaders of these churches will be rightfully judged for encouraging the sin nature to thrive within the hearts of their people (2 Pet. 2:1).

 

It is obvious that money and possessions are what motivates false teachers and their followers.  The question is ‘what motivates you?’  Is God no more than someone who grants you your every wish or is He truly the Lord and Savior of your life?  Does your prayer life say, ‘God, give me more stuff,’ or does it say, ‘God, I lay down my life for you and I give you my all’?

 

Are you truly striving to enter into the narrow door?

Gracious Words

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Everyone loves a compliment.  Whether it’s a comment about our appearance that boosts our self-confidence or a comment about how talented we are, everyone loves to hear kind and gracious words.  It’s easy for us to relish in the good that is spoken about us and at the same time ignore our flaws.  Words of affirmation are powerful and we are easily drawn to those who affirm us.

This is the case for many congregants who are drawn to pastors who are speaking positive words meant to boost the self-esteem instead of preaching a gospel that pierces a man’s soul and calls for him to give an account for the deeds he has done (Heb. 4:12-13).  The true gospel of Jesus Christ is by nature confrontational (see Luke 11:39-52; 12:51-53) causing more than just discomfort to people who want to hear the truth without experiencing its life-changing effects.

A perfect example of the gospel being divisive can be found in the fourth chapter of Luke when Jesus returns to teach at a local synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth.

Luke 4:16-30

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.  He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.

Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”

 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.  I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.  Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.  And there were many in Israel with leprosyin the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.  They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

The people marveled and were amazed at the gracious words with which Christ spoke until those words rubbed them the wrong way.  Christ saw their hearts and He knew that they wanted to see Him perform a miracle or a sign (Luke 4:23) more than they wanted to hear Him speak the truth.  Many people today see Christ in the same light.

[As] St. Augustine said, “They love truth when it enlightens them, but hate truth when it accuses them.”  That applies well to many congregations today, people who want “gracious words” (Luke 4:22) but who don’t want to face the truth (see John 1:17).  [From The Warren Wiersbe Bible Commentary]

To them He is no more than a miracle-worker who simply performs for them or gives them whatever they want.  They are ‘naming-and-claiming’ everything that their lustful hearts desire (Rom. 8:5) while disregarding His life-changing message.  When they are challenged by the truth like the people of Nazareth were, they try to force Him out.  On the outside they appear religious but inside they are full of greed and wickedness (Luke 11:39).

Our own self-righteousness amounts to nothing (Is. 64:6).  If you believe that your own goodness is good enough, then you are deceived.  The time for self-examination is now (2 Cor. 13:5).  Either you will choose to submit (2 Chron. 30:8; James 4:7) to the gracious words that He speaks, or you will reject them and suffer the consequences.

Luke 20:17-18

Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

The Exchange

 

ImageTo say that the Bible is an amazing book is an understatement; it is the most captivating piece of literature of all time.  And for this reason alone, many men and women who are not even professing Christians have spent their entire lives studying it and its history.  These professors, archaeologists and historians have spent years digging deep to prove the points of their theories and dissertations on the mysteries and complexities held within this great book, while ignoring the truth inherent within its pages.  But for its entire mystique, the Bible states many things (truths) in a rather simple and straight-forward way.

 

One may wonder how men and women can pour their lives into studying the Bible and not be impacted by the truth contained in it.  How can they not understand that it is much more than a book of history or literature?  How is it possible for people to simply ignore the truth?  Why is it so hard for man to grasp that he is a sinner in need of a Savior?  The answer to these questions lies within a choice that man made long ago which is explained in Romans 1:18-23.

 

Romans 1:18-23

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

 

A man’s choice to not honor God has released God’s wrath upon him, which has manifested itself in man’s confounded understanding of who He is.  As stated by Warren Wiersbe in The Wiersbe Bible Commentary,

 

“Man knew God; this is clear.  But man did not want to know God or honor Him as God.  Instead of being thankful for all that God had given him, man refused to thank God or give Him the glory He deserves…The result was an empty mind and a darkened heart.”

 

And this thanklessness and refusal to honor God has caused man to experience a regression in his perception of Him.  Now man within himself cannot know God, nor is he capable of understanding His truth.  He lives with a darkened heart, trapped in the futility of his own thinking.  His wisdom has revealed his foolishness, and his sins have caused him to be abandoned by God.

 

This downward spiral began with man’s willingness to suppress the truth.  But why has man decided to walk this path?  The driving force for man to voluntarily disassociate himself from God is that he does not want to be confronted about nor confess his sin.  Man does not wish to bear the guilt of his sin (Rom. 3:19), so he simply ‘invents’ a god who fits his outlook or perception of the world around him.  Wiersbe goes on to state,

 

“Having held down God’s truth and refusing to acknowledge God’s glory, man was left without a god, and man is constituted that he must worship something.  If he will not worship the true God, he will worship a false god, even if he has to manufacture it himself!”

 

And so, contrary to popular belief, man has not evolved in his perception of who God is but has rather devolved.  Man may not be bowing himself in worship to a golden calf (Ex. 32) or wooden image (Is. 44:14-19), `but his ‘propensity to idolatry’ is still the same.  Man to this day is still exchanging the glory of God for idols such as worldly possessions, money, power and sex.  He continues to be deceived by the desires of his heart (Jer. 17:9), and he continues to exchange the truth for a lie (Rom. 1:25).

 

Will you choose to give God the glory and honor He is due (Ps. 115:1), or are you willing to make the exchange?

Divine Compassion + Healing Truth

DC+HT

Matthew 9:35-38 

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Quoting The Daily Study Bible Commentary by William Barclay on the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 9:36), he speaks about the compassion of Jesus:

“He was moved to compassion by the world’s bewilderment.

 

That is what moved Jesus…The common people were desperately longing for God; and the scribes and the Pharisees, the priests and the Sadducees, the pillars of orthodox religion of his day, had nothing to offer them.  The orthodox teachers had neither guidance nor comfort, nor strength to give.”

Barclay goes on to quote Milton in Lycidas, who describes religious leaders who have nothing to offer.

“Blind mouths!  that scarce themselves know how to hold 

A sheep hook, or have learnt aught else the least

That to the faithful herdsman’s art belongs!

…Their lean and flashy songs

Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw,

The hungry sheep look up and are not fed.”       

Those who know their history would agree that this nation was founded on Christian beliefs and biblical principles.  Most surveys taken today would conclude that the majority of people in this country identify themselves with the Christian religion.  But for many who would claim identity or affiliation with the Christian faith, there seems to be a disconnect.  Many don’t know what they believe in, and for those that do know, many of them are struggling (some of whom may not even know it) with church as usual and a Christian faith that is not transforming their lives.

For some the gap in knowledge is due to a lack of willingness (unrepentant, lack of devotion to spiritual things, etc.).  But for others the knowledge gap is due to a lack of leadership.  I hope to provide some insight to both groups of people but for now I will focus on the latter.

As Christ had compassion then, He still looks upon us with compassion today.  Christ came not only to save the sinner but to lead the now saved down the path of sanctification (Titus 2:14; Heb. 10:10).  And this starts with the church (Eph. 5:26-27).  It starts with sound biblical preaching and teaching.  And for some, this is where the struggle begins.

Many people are frustrated today with their faith and they don’t know why.  Many Christians are literally starving to death spiritually on their church pews.  There are pastors who are unwilling to feed their sheep.  For some pastors it does not fit into their man-made agenda, be that their own self-promotion or the promotion of a gospel that’s not biblical (hello, prosperity!) (1 Tim. 4:1-2; Jude 4).  For others it is due to a lack of courage.  Some pastors don’t want to speak the unabashed truth lest they offend someone and they lose members.  They are more willing to coddle their people instead of challenging them to do whatever it takes to live a righteous and holy life (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  I pray that God will open the eyes of the people in this predicament so that they can see that they are not being told the whole truth and that they are not being fed.

We are truly living in a day where people are perishing due to a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).  But there is still hope.  It begins with the serious study of the scriptures and prayer as this is the beginning of revelation and the revitalization of your relationship with Him.  Then and only then will you be able to see if you are being led down the right path.  For some the struggle will continue due to their unwillingness to discipline themselves and take the next step and dig deeper.  But for others this is the time where the ‘blinders’ will come off.  They will begin to follow the example set by the Bereans who tested what was presented to them and searched the scriptures to see if it was true (Acts 17:11).  They will begin to have the discernment to tell the authentic from the counterfeit, which is where God wants us all to be.

So I encourage you to search the scriptures and test what is presented before you.  As promised in His word, you will definitely grow in the wisdom and knowledge of Him (Eph. 1:16-19; Ps. 1:1-3).  And some of you will see that what you’ve been taught doesn’t line up with what He taught.