Molech Reigns

“Help, Yahweh, for the godly man ceases to be, for the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.” (Psalm 12:1)

What words these are in our time. This week the state of New York legalized abortion up to the moment of birth, including murdering a child that survived an abortion. Abortion has been completely removed from criminal statutes, meaning that it is no longer a crime – under any circumstances – to bring about the death of an unborn child. If a mugger attacks a pregnant woman and her baby dies, he faces no consequences for the death of that child.

Perhaps worst of all, at the passing of this terrible law, many in the New York legislature burst into cheers and applause.

There are times when Christians can despair of our culture and society. Wide scale murder, on a level only dreamed about by Lenin, Hitler, and others, is now celebrated and exalted. Molech reigns.

Here’s the issue, though. Molech has always reigned. Death has always been the mark of human culture, ever since Adam rebelled against God.

What was the first sin recorded after the fall? The bloody murder of Abel by his own brother, Cain (Genesis 4:8, 10).

Cain’s great-great-grandson, Lamech, boasted that he had killed a man who attacked him, and claimed that God was on his side (Genesis 4:23-24).

Yahweh determined to destroy all life because the earth was saturated with violence (Genesis 6:11).

When Noah and his family emerged from the flood, they were almost immediately warned about the consequences of violence and murder (Genesis 9:6).

So no Christian should be surprised that our world is as dark and ugly as it is. Sin brings death, and always has.

The answer is not legislation or laws or rolling back Roe V. Wade. If we could manage to return the United States of America to its pre-Roe state, we would not have changed a single thing about human hearts and souls. Women did seek abortions before Roe. The legalization of abortion did not change human hearts for the worse. Just as man who hires someone to kill another is guilty of murder, even if he was not the killer, a woman who undergoes an abortion is equally guilty of murder (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28). (If abortion is murder – and it is – both the woman who undergoes an abortion, and the abortionist himself or herself, is a murderer).

The world is filled with God-denying, idolatrous, profane, faithless, hateful, murderous, adulterous, thieving, lying, coveters. (Exodus 20:1-17). Laws, at best, punish the most obvious forms of these sins. At worst, laws seek to regulate them, normalize them, make them ok under certain circumstances.

No wonder Isaiah writes, “Their feet run to evil, and they hasten to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, devastation and destruction are in their highways. They do not know the way of peace, and there is no justice in their tracks; they have made their paths crooked, whoever treads on them does not know peace.” (Isaiah 59:7–8)  

Why would anyone think that laws could change, or even restrain, such evil? It’s a fool’s errand to think that if we make people behave differently, they will BE different.

No, the only answer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by which a wicked, rebellious, hateful sinner is miraculously transformed.

When a man or woman is touched by the Gospel, their eyes are open to the wickedness that filled them, and fills the world.

Their pride is broken.

They become aware of their own guilt and sin, and filled with horror and loathing at their own shame. (If it were not for the mercy of God, no one could survive this sudden awareness of their own evil.)

They long to be clean and forgiven.

They desperately turn away from their sin, and leap for the Savior, trusting (hoping) that He will keep His promise.

And they find Him not only waiting, but drawing them to Himself, opening their eyes to their sin and guilt, forcing them to see the truth about themselves. They find that Jesus Christ born the wrath of God against sinners. They find that Jesus grants those who believe His own righteousness. They find that Jesus is a gentle, loving, kind Savior.

They receive grace, the blessings of God they do not deserve. They receive mercy, the rescue from the judgment they do deserve. They find God to be utterly faithful, never breaking His promise, and keeping every single promise. They find peace, love, safety, and hope for all eternity.

We can certainly pray that the Lord will have mercy on our land, and preserve the United States from destruction. We can even pray that better laws are passed.

But apart from the Gospel of God every human being will continue this life dead in sin, filled with wickedness, and suffer eternal torment in hell.

The good news – and the Gospel IS good news – is that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners. Each Christian ought say, with the apostle Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15). And rather than cursing this world for not being different, we ought to consider ourselves recipients of mercy, and ambassadors for God, carrying the best possible news a condemned sinner could hear:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16–17)  

An Assembled Life

One day I will stand before God my Creator, and He will show me, for the first time, my fully assembled life's work – my own life. I will see how my life fails to meet His standard: Jesus Christ. But then the Father will show me the sinless, righteous, perfect life of Jesus Christ, and because Jesus took the punishment for my life, I will receive the credit for His life. 

The Mechanistic Church

Nicolas T. Batzig posted a great article last week on Feeding The Church. I'm including a couple of quotes here, but I highly recommend that you follow the link and read the entire piece. 

"Many wrongly view the local church as a social society that exists to meet their needs or desires. On the contrary, the church exists to bring glory to God, to spread and defend the Gospel, to build up and equip the saints unto mutual edification in love and to carry out the good works for which Christ has redeemed a people (Eph. 2:10; 4:11-16). To this end, the Christian life and Christian ministry requires personal commitment, sacrifice and diligence."

"I am certainly not against church programs. However, when members of a local church grow discontent because the local church to which they belong is not large enough to have a size-specific or context-specific programs, it often reveals a defect in their own hearts more than it reveals a defect in that particular local church or its leadership. When members of a local church begin to complain because they want some provision or program that God has not commanded in His word, they are manifesting spiritual unhealthiness in their own hearts."

"Leadership can also fall prey to this pernicious phenomenon in the realm of ministry. Instead of relying on the Holy Spirit and God’s ordained means of grace to convert and sanctify the people of God, the ordained and staff leadership of a local church can begin to look to music, programs, facility accommodations, etc. to do the work of ministry. Here the old adage holds true: “What you win them with you win them to.” If you win people to the crucified and risen Christ, who reveals Himself through the means of grace (i.e. the word, sacraments and prayer), you win them to the Lord Jesus. If you win them with music, programs, advertisement or buildings, you will always have to do better music, have better programs and develop better buildings."

"If you are a member of a congregation that is faithful to the sound preaching of the Gospel, the right administration of the sacraments, prayer, the singing of God’s truth and the faithful practice of church discipline, you have every reason to be thankful and to give yourself diligently to developing your Christian life."

Not One Jot Or Tittle Shall Pass Away

Among the rest of the wretched news of recents days is a report that Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, wants to alter a specific line in the Lord's prayer. 

For the sake of context, the Lord's prayer is:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13)

The specific phrase Francis wants to change is "lead us not into temptation." His reasoning?" Lead us not into temptation" is "not a good translation." 

Francis also said, "It is not He that pushes me into temptation and then sees how I fall. A father does not do this. A father quickly helps those who are provoked into Satan's temptation." (source: NPR). 

As is well known, the Roman Catholic Church makes Scripture equal to unwritten tradition. Since it is the RCC itself that determines what Scripture and tradition are in the first place, and then what they mean, ultimately the highest authority for the Church is the Church itself. We certainly see this philosophy in Francis' decision. The Scripture does not mean what it says; it means what the Church – ultimately, Francis himself – says it means. 

Is Francis correct? Is "lead us not" a poor translation?

No, it is not. 

The Greek word translated "lead" is eispherō. It means to bring, to lead, to cause to do something. In addition to the Lord's prayer passages in Matthew and Luke, it is used several other times in the New Testament.

In Luke 5:18–19 we are told, "And behold, some men were BRINGING on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to BRING him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus."

Later on in Luke 12:11 we read, "And when they BRING you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say…"

As Paul was preaching in Athens, he was approached by some philosophers. Acts 17:19–20 tells us, "And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, 'May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you BRING some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.' "

The apostle Paul wrote Timothy, "But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we BROUGHT nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world." (First Timothy 6:6). 

The writer of Hebrews says, "For the bodies of those animals whose blood is BROUGHT into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp." (Hebrews 6:11). 

There is simply no way to interpret eisphero in as passive a way as Francis wants. To do so makes nonsense of the text. 

Therefore, Francis is incorrect that "lead us not" is a poor translation. He doesn't like the implications of "lead us not," but that doesn't give him any authority to simply ignore the biblical text.

What's more, Francis' initial interpretation is unbiblical: "It is not He that pushes me into temptation and then sees how I fall." This is a straw-man argument; the Bible never claims that God "pushes" us into temptation just to see how badly we do. 

But God does use temptation for godly purposes. After all, Matthew 4:1 says, "Then Jesus was LED UP by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Mark's Gospel puts it even more bluntly: "The Spirit immediately DROVE Him into the wilderness." (Mark 1:12). 

God is a good Father, of course, and as a good Father He brings discipline into our lives. If you read Hebrews 12:3-11 you'll see that "In your struggle against sin" (v. 4) parallels "it is for discipline that you have to endure" (v. 7). We are disciplined that we may share in the holiness of God (v. 10). Part of that discipline is the careful, God-ordained administration of temptation.

God tests our faith, as James writes in James 1:2-3. Does God Himself tempt us to sin? Absolutely not, as James 1:13-15 makes clear. But God does sovereignly and providentially place us in positions where our faith (and obedience and sanctification) may be tested. 

Paul wrote the Corinthian church, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted BEYOND your ability, but WITH THE TEMPTATION HE WILL ALSO PROVIDE the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (First Corinthians 10:13). God does control our temptations, and, for Christians, prevents them from being more than we can resist. He provides the temptation and also the way of escape. 

God's faithfulness means that we are not tempted beyond our ability, and He always provides the way of escape. It does not mean that He protects us against every last possible temptation. 

So, does the Lord tempt us to trick us into sinning? God forbid! Does the Lord allow temptation to come upon us so that we may learn discipline and to turn away from its lies? Absolutely. Those who are in Christ, who have repented of their sins and trusted in the Savior, have His assurance that they are safe and secure in His hands. Where sin abounds, grace abounds far more (Romans 5:20-21). 

But for unbelievers it is a far different story. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." (Romans 1:18). 

While there is an eternal judgment coming, there are also temporal judgments upon the wicked, and those judgments include an increase in sinful activity. "God GAVE THEM UP in the lusts of their hearts to impurity … God GAVE THEM UP to dishonorable passions … God GAVE THEM UP to a debased mind to do what not ought to be done." (Romans 1:24, 26, 28). 

Being given up to more and more sin is a terrible judgment, it really is. God is Love, and God is Righteousness. His justice is perfect. Paul warned the Galatian church, "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that he will also reap." (Galatians 6:7). 

Putting it differently, be very, very careful. Don't think you can play games with the holiness of God, and then fool Him by presuming on His love. God is holy. Those who are not holy (that is, every single human being ever, with the exception of Jesus Christ) will either bear the full of God's righteous wrath for all eternity, or be forgiven because God placed their sin on Jesus Christ at Calvary, and poured His wrath out upon His own Son. 

I'll make it personal. The wrath of holy God must be satisfied. You fully deserve the full, terrible weight of the wrath of God. 

If you put your faith in Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, then you have the promise of God that Jesus bore the complete and full wrath of God in your place, and that in exchange, you have received full credit for Jesus' own perfect righteousness. 

But if you refuse the gift of Jesus Christ, whether you deny that any of this is real, or whether you believe that you aren't that bad, then your blood is on your own hands, and you will bear the wrath of God throughout all eternity. 

On behalf of Jesus Christ, if you have trusted Him, then endure what this life brings, and remain faithful to the Lord Jesus. Wait patiently and faithfully for His return. 

But if you have not trusted Him, then I beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God! Repent of your sins, and cast yourself upon the Lord Jesus. All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved – ALL. A lifetime of good works can't make up for even one sin. But His one sacrifice on the cross will washes away your entire lifetime of wickedness, and bring you into a loving, hope-filled relationship with your Creator. Trust Him today!

Missing Gospels? Lost Gospels? False Gospels!

We live in a time when false gospels abound, from the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church to the prosperity movement, from Bethel Church to the Mormons, from the so-called apostles and prophets to Islam.

But it's not the first time that false gospels have been taught. In fact, within a few decades the Galatians were being tempted to abandon the true Gospel for a false one (Galatians 1:6-7, 5:2-4). 

Twice each year, around Easter and Christmas, the media resurrects claims that some gospels were left out of the Bible. We know that this is not true; Dr. Michael J. Kruger has written at length about the canon of Scripture, and shows that what the church has possessed since the first century is complete and authoritative.

Canon or corrupt?

The apocrypha fail any test of canon.

  • They have no apostolic authorship.
  • They were written well after the the apostolic period.
  • They were never accepted as Scripture by the church as large (in fact, according to Michael Kruger, most apocryphal books were found in Egypt, not distributed through the Christian world of the 2nd-3rd centuries). 
  • They lack the internal consistency that we see in Scripture.
  • They were not ignored by the church, but rejected by the church. For instance, Irenaeus (140-198 A.D.) wrote in reference to The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, "Besides the above [misrepresentations], they adduce an unspeakable number of apocryphal and spurious writings, which they themselves have forged, to bewilder the minds of foolish men, and of such as are ignorant of the Scriptures of truth." (Irenaeus Against Heresies, from The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, vol. 1, page 344). 

Since few who have heard or speak of these "missing" or "lost" documents have ever read them, I thought it would be beneficial to share some of their contents. I've also taken the liberty of highlighting clearly unbiblical, mythological, or "magical" statements. Anyone who reads the four canonical Gospels and the Infancy Gospels will quickly see that the gnostic books are poor substitutes indeed for the God-breathed Scriptures. 

(Note: These quotes are taken from three different apocryphal texts, The Gospel of James, The Gospel of the Infancy, and The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, printed in the book The Infancy Gospels of Jesus: Apocryphal Tales from the Childhoods of Mary and Jesus – Annotated and Explained, by Stevan Davies.)

From The Gospel of James, the section entitled "Mary: Raised In Blessing And Purity":

Note: Three-year-old Mary is brought to live in the temple, probably a reference to Samuel:

Mary sat down on the altar’s third step and God gave her grace; she danced on her feet in the Temple and everyone in Israel loved her. Her parents went home thanking and praising God, because their daughter was content and did not try to follow them. From that time on, an angel brought Mary’s food to her and Mary lived in God’s Temple, as carefully cared for as if she were a dove. (pages 15-17). 

From The Gospel of James, the section entitled "Herod: The Murder of Zechariah":

Meanwhile, Elizabeth, hearing that murderous men were coming to kill her son John, took him out and fled into the Judean hills looking for a place to hide him, but she couldn’t find a secure secret place.

She felt terrified and said, “Please, mountain of God, hide this mother and her child,” but Elizabeth could not climb up any further. Finally the mountain was broken in two and took them in and light blazed within it as an angel of God arrived to protect them. (page 57)

From The Gospel of James, the section entitled "Herod: The Murder of Zechariah":

Note: Zechariah, John the Baptist, was murdered between the altar and the temple.

The Temple itself howled and the priests ripped their own clothes apart from top to bottom. Zechariah’s body had completely disappeared except for some dried blood that was hard as stone. (page 59)

From The Gospel of the Infancy, the section entitled "The Magi and Herod: Varying Views of Jesus":

Note: The Magi come to visit Jesus:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in Herod’s time, magi came to Jerusalem from the east according to Zartosht’s prophecy. They brought offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which they gave to the baby Jesus, for they revered him. Mary took one of his baby blankets and gave it to the magi as a gift instead of giving them only a blessing, and they accepted it as a fine gift indeed.

Soon the same angel that had appeared before them as a star guiding them to baby Jesus returned and led them as a supernatural light all the way back to their own land.

When they arrived, the princes and the kings of their country came to them asking what they’d done and where they’d gone and how their journey forth and back had been. They showed off the blanket that Mary had given them and in its honor they all gave a great feast. Then, because it was their national custom, they built a fire and worshipped the fire.

Finally, at the climax of their ceremony they threw Jesus’s blanket into their sacred fire, where it disappeared completely. Later, when the fire was extinguished, they recovered Jesus’s blanket and it was not the least bit scorched. The fire hadn’t touched it. They took it out and kissed it, laying it over their eyes and on their heads, saying, “It’s amazing that the fire didn’t burn this blanket in the least.” Eventually they put the blanket into the vault where they kept their greatest treasures, doing so with the utmost respect. (page 75)

From The Gospel of the Infancy, the section entitled "The Bridegroom Mule: A Brother Restored":

Joseph and Mary encounter three women returning from a graveyard, crying bitterly. They are invited to the women's home, and go with them. The servant girl learns that the women's brother had been turned into a donkey by a witch. The servant girl urges them to ask Mary for help. 

Having heard the girl, the women quickly went to find Mary and, introducing themselves to her, sat before her and began to cry, saying, “Lady Mary, take pity on us. We have no man to be the head of our family, no father, no brother to assist us. This mule was our brother! But a woman worked witchcraft on him and made him what you see. Please help us.”

Mary, having compassion for the women, placed her baby on the mule’s back. She said to Jesus, “Use your power to restore this mule so that he is the same man in physical form and in intelligence that he originally was.” As soon as she spoke, the mule transformed into a human being, and he was a fully intelligent person again. Then he, together with his sisters and his mother, revered Mary and held baby Jesus up above their heads and kissed him, saying, “Jesus, savior of the world, your mother is blessed and blessed are our eyes that have had the chance to see you.” (pages 87-91)

In The Infancy Gospel of Thomas Jesus is not merely presented as a mythological figure; He is actually presented as an evil character who must be corrected by His parents. 

In the section entitled "Clay Sparrows: A Dark Miracle":

Note: The child Jesus has ordered the water of a creek to form pools.

The scribe Annas's son took a willow branch and broke down the little pools of water Jesus had made. All the water flowed back into the creek and Jesus, furious, said, “You ungodly fool, what harm were my pools of water doing to you? You, dry up like a dead tree that can’t grow leaves or fruit or roots.” And the boy completely withered up.

In the section entitled "The Vengeful Boy: Christ in Conflict":

Another time Jesus was walking through the village of Nazareth and a child, running along, banged into Jesus’s shoulder. Jesus said angrily, “You’ll go no further,” and immediately the child dropped dead.

The people who had seen this said, “Why was this child Jesus ever born? When he says something, right away it happens.”

The boy’s parents held Joseph responsible and they ran to him saying, “You can’t go on living here with a child like that! You have to teach him to bless people and to stop cursing them. He’s killing our children!

Joseph took little Jesus aside and scolded him, saying, “Why are you doing things that make your neighbors suffer so? Now they’re furious at us.” Jesus answered, “These aren’t your own words and so I’m not going to be angry with you. But the people who told on me will be punished.” Instantly, all of those who had accused Jesus were struck blind.

The Infancy Gospel of Thomas also includes a number of mythological stories about Jesus as a child.

From the section entitled "Divine Carpenter: Jesus Adjusts His Elder's Mistakes":

Once, when Jesus was six years old, his mother gave him a water pot and sent him to the well to bring home water. As he went through the crowd that gathered by the well his pot struck against someone else’s pot and his shattered. Jesus took off his shirt, filled it up with water, and brought it home to his mother.

Joseph the carpenter usually made wooden ploughs and yokes, but once a wealthy man put in an order for a bed. Joseph made a bed, but discovered at the end that one of the two sidepieces was too short. He couldn’t think of any solution to the problem. Then Jesus said to his father, “Put the two boards side by side and hold one end of the shorter board,” and, after Joseph complied, Jesus took the other end of the shorter board, pulled on it, and it stretched to be the same length of the other piece.

From the section entitled "The Pupil Teaches His Teacher":

Note: Jesus is being taught the alphabet, and challenges his teacher's knowledge (this is the myth denounced by Irenaeus in the quote above):

The teacher, offended, was furious and slapped Jesus on the head painfully and Jesus, responding, cursed him so that he passed out and fell face-first to the ground. The child went back home and Joseph, who was now very angry, ordered Mary to make sure that he stayed indoors, and said to her, “Don’t let him go outside because if anyone makes him angry they might die.”

Sometime later one of Joseph’s friends, a teacher, came to Joseph and said, “If you bring your child to my school, I think I can talk him into learning to read.” Joseph replied, “If you’ve got the courage for it, go ahead and take him along with you.”

Some Christians – perhaps many – might shy away from reading the gnostic gospels, fearing being trapped by some subtle deception. As the above examples show, there is nothing subtle about the content of the gnostic works! I encourage you to read them and be prepared to obey First Peter 3:15-16, 

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (First Peter 3:15-16). 

The Nashville Statement on Biblical Sexuality

We live in very sad and confused times, and nowhere is that confusion as strong as in sexuality. Since the fall of man, men and women have engaged in sins of all sort. In recent years homosexuality and transgenderism have come to dominate the cultural landscape. Some who immerse themselves and celebrate these sins even claim to be Christians.

All sin is an offense toward God. But sexual sins are of a unique nature. Not only are they open rebellion against God's creative design, they also bring unique harm to the individual.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)

Christians who hold to the teachings of Scripture are under fire, and the church must respond. In light of that need, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has issued the Nashville Statement, setting forth fourteen articles addressing biblical sexuality, homosexuality, and transgenderism.

It has become common for those who promote the current sexual rebellion to attempt to shame or belittle Christians into some sort of compromise, accusing us of homophobia, transphobia, hate speech, and so on. We really can't expect anything else; they are given over to their sin and the belief that their evil is good, and the good is evil. (Isaiah 5:20). 

Our opposition to homosexuality, transgenderism, and all other perversions is not because of personal distaste, but because God has appointed a day of judgment, and those whose lives are given to any sin, including sexual sins, face eternal hell. Jesus Christ died to save sinners (First Timothy 1:15), and the church has a specific call to beg sinners to be reconciled to God through Christ (Second Corinthians 5:20). 

I urge you to read the Nashville Statement very carefully, and be all the better prepared to reach out to those who are trapped in sexual confusion and sin.

Different, Not Contradictory

One of the challenges made by non-Christians to the authority of the Bible is that it is filled with contradictions. We hear this from atheists, secularists, Muslims, Mormons, and just about anyone who wants to diminish the divine nature of the Scriptures. In fact, there are many who call themselves Christians who point out supposed contradictions in an attempt to minimize the claims of Scripture. 

One of the biblical stories that is supposedly contradictory is found in Matthew 20:20-23 and Mark 10:35-40. Matthew says that the mother of James and John came to Jesus asking that her boys be granted a high rank in His kingdom, while Mark says that it was James and John who asked. 

Obviously, the challengers say, Matthew and Mark contradict each other. One is right, and one is wrong, and therefore the Bible can't be completely trusted. 

So, let's take a brief look at the two passages and see if a true contradiction exists.

Matthew 20:20 Mark 10:35
Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

Mark says it was James and John who came to Jesus; Matthew says that it was their mother who came. Which is correct.

Both are. Notice that Matthew doesn't say that their mother came secretly, or alone, but that she came with her sons. 

Compare these sentences:

Yesterday Linda and I had a great time kayaking on the Missouri River.

Yesterday Linda and I had a great time kayaking on the Missouri River, and our son Kevin rode along on the pontoon boat.

Yesterday Linda and I had a great time kayaking on the Missouri River, and our son Kevin rode along on the pontoon boat with my mom, and our friends, Norm and Carolyn. }

Are these different? Of course. Are they contradictory? No. 

Neither are Matthew and Mark contradictory; they are just different. 

Let's continue.

Matthew 20:21 Mark 10:36-37
And he said to her, “What do you want?”

She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine

are to sit,

one at your right hand

and one at your left,

in your kingdom.”

And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?”

And they said to him, “Grant us

to sit,

one at your right hand

and one at your left,

in your glory.”

Who actually made the request? Matthew says that mom did; Mark says that they did. But it's not a contradiction to say that both took place. They clearly came to him with their mother. She clearly asked Jesus for this favor, and they also asked. 

Once we take the different speakers into account, the request is virtually identical, involving these two sons of mine from their mother, and us from James and John. They want to sit beside Jesus on His throne; kingdom and glory are synonymous here.

Matthew 20:22 Mark 10:38-39a
Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking.

Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?”


They said to him, “We are able.”

Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.

Are you able to drink the cup that I drink,

or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

And they said to him, “We are able.”

Again, the text is almost identical. Mark does reveal that Jesus gave a longer response, but it doesn't change the meaning in the slightest. It's interesting that in Matthew's account, the mother of the two makes the request of Jesus, but He answers THEM, not HER. I've marked the plurals in red:

Matthew 20:22 Mark 10:38-39a
Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.”

As you can see, even when it was the Zebedee's MOTHER asking, Jesus answered THEM, and not only her.

So, do Matthew and Mark contradict one another? Not at all. Each presents a slightly different picture of the very same event, involving the very same issue, to which Jesus gave the very same response. 

Yes, Matthew CAN Count to 14

In Matthew 1:1-17 we see one of two genealogies of the Lord Jesus Christ (the other is found in Luke 3:23-38). Matthew lists three groups of fourteen names. The second group is entirely kings of Judah:

  1. David
  2. Solomon
  3. Rehoboam
  4. Abijah
  5. Asaph
  6. Jehoshaphat
  7. Joram
  8. Uzziah
  9. Jotham
  10. Ahaz
  11. Hezekiah
  12. Manasseh
  13. Amos
  14. Josiah

What's interesting is that this is NOT the generation by generation genealogy that we find working through First and Second Kings. There we find this genealogy:

  1. David
  2. Solomon (First Kings 2:10-12) 
  3. Rehoboam (First Kings 11:43)
  4. Abijam/Abijah (First Kings 14:31)
  5. Asa/Asaph (First Kings 15:8)
  6. Jehoshaphat (First Kings 14:24)
  7. Jehoram/Joram (First Kings 22:50)
  8. AHAZIAH (Second Kings 8:24) 
  9. JOASH/JEHOASH (Second Kings 11:1, 12:1) 
  10. AMAZIAH (Second Kings 12:19-21) 
  11. Azariah/Uzziah (Second Kings 14:17-21)
  12. Jotham (Second Kings 15:7) 
  13. Ahaz (Second Kings 15:38)
  14. Hezekiah (Second Kings 16:20)
  15. Manasseh (Second Kings 20:21)
  16. Amon (Second Kings 21:18)
  17. Josiah (Second Kings 21:26) 
  18. JEHOAHAZ (Second Kings 23:30) 
  19. JEHOIAKIM (Second Kings 23:34)
  21. ZEDEKIAH (Second Kings 24:17) 
  22. Jechoniah (First Chronicles 3:16) 

Seven men are not mentioned by Matthew: Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah. Why doesn't Matthew list them? 

First, because the Holy Spirit chosen to eliminate their names. It's not that they were particular wicked men; in fact, the records of Joash and Amaziah is positive, not negative. Besides, it's hard to find a king in Judah more evil than Ahaz, whom Matthew lists. 

We see that lines of descent were not always expected to be generation-by-generation in biblical times. If this was common practice, it certainly creates the possibility that the generations between Adam and Noah, and Noah and Abraham, also feature such gaps. At the same time, it must be said that for Matthew's purposes, there ARE no "gaps." A "gap" implies a mistake or error; this is a properly formatted and fully acceptable genealogy. 

What about Matthew's statement in Matthew 1:17, "So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations"?

Matthew knew his own history; the books of the Kings and the Chronicles of the kingdoms were clear. So we see that Matthew tells us that he has RECORDED 14 generations between the key figures of Abraham, David, Jeconiah, and Christ, who is the Son of David. The Hebrew language did not have numbers separate symbols; letters were given numerical value. The name "David" is equal to 14 in Hebrew numbering. The genealogy of the Christ, the Son of David, is given in three sets of 14 names, emphasizing His connection to the much beloved king. 

David Turner writes in his commentary on Matthew, 

It can be argued that Matthew made errors only if it can be demonstrated that Matthew intended to construct a comprehensive and exhaustive genealogy. Matthew’s “errors” are theologically motivated omissions, not mistakes in simple arithmetic. Matthew could evidently count to fourteen as well as his interpreters can.

Turner also writes,

"Some scholars think that Matthew chose fourteen because it is twice seven, the number of fullness or perfection. In this view, there are six sets of seven generations, and the Messiah inaugurates the seventh seven."

So, Matthew was not creating a record for, but writing the prologue for the arrival of the Christ, whose connection to king David was clearly established. The Christ was the fulfillment of the promises of God, the beginning of a new generation of the people of God, who through Christ become spiritual children of Abraham, who is "the father of all who believe without being circumcised" (Romans 4:9-12).

Read the Bible with me in 2017

The Word of God is not just a book of human ideas about God and life. It is God's very Word to mankind. It is not only true; it is truth. It has a wonderfully unique history. For those with inquiring minds, if you will take the time to investigate it, you'll find that the Bible has incredibly powerful manuscript evidence. 

Reading the Bible is not just a religious pastime, but our means of hearing from God. In it He speaks to every situation we face, and to every need we experience. 

For the past six months I've been tweeting Bible passages on a daily basis, reading through the entire Bible every three months. That's a heavy load, so I'm changing the plan for 2017 to a six month plan. Each day of the week will cover a different part of Scripture:

Sunday: New Testament epistles

Monday: Books of Moses

Tuesday: Old Testament history

Wednesday: Old Testament poetry

Thursday: Old Testament Wisdom books

Friday: Old Testament prophets

Saturday: Gospels

If you've been following the 90 day plan, you know that there are still nine days to go. Don't worry, they'll be published each day, and I'll be finishing up with you. 

If you thought reading the Bible in 90 days was too difficult to get through, then let me encourage you to follow me on Twitter (@gplawhorn) for this new six month reading plan. You'll still get through the Bible twice in 2017.

May the Lord bless you with understanding and faith as you immerse yourself in His holy Word!


The Lord has Comforted His People

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”

Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. (Isaiah 49:13–16)

We are told that depression peaks during the holiday season, for a variety of reasons. For some, the constant chatter about Christmas presents is a reminder of being in financial trouble. Others find themselves faced with the family they avoid the rest of the year. There are newly widowed and single wives and husbands facing Christmas alone. Some have loved ones in prison, or are themselves in prison. Parents grieve for children who walked away from the faith. Children grieve over estrangement from parents. 

The heavens and the earth are commanded to rejoice because God has comforted His people, and is compassionate toward His afflicted. But those afflicted often think that the Lord has abandoned them, or forgotten their existence. It's so easy for us to fixate on the troubles at our feet, and lose sight of the salvation that we have received. 

So the Lord gently reminds His people of His love. It's unthinkable that a nursing mother could forget her child, and yet it happens. But the Savior will never, ever forget His people. He has engraved us on the palms of His hands. If you have been born again in Jesus Christ, then YOUR name is written there on His hands, carved by the nails that held Him to the cross.

He will never forget that you exist. He will never forget your troubles. He never needs to be reminded of your suffering and struggles.

To the contrary, you and I must be reminded of HIS faithfulness, of HIS love, of HIS care. And, we must be reminded that salvation in Christ doesn't mean a happy solution for every earthly circumstance. Our inheritance is a heavenly inheritance (First Peter 1:3-5), to be fully received only when the Lord returns. In the meantime, the Holy Spirit's presence guarantees us that blessing is coming (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Lord Jesus urges us to store up treasures in heaven, where those treasures are safe from theft and decay (Matthew 6:19-21). Remember, the treasures we send to heaven are mere trinkets compared to the treasure the Lord has stored up for us.


Whose Identity Matters?

One of the most comforting things a Christian can learn is his or her identity in Jesus Christ. This matters because our identity in Christ is so completely different from our identity as sinners. There is literally NOTHING that we bring from the old life into the new. 

But while understanding OUR identity can be helpful, what matters most is Jesus' identity – what He is for those who believe in Him. 

This is a partial list only, put together in an hour while skimming the New Testament. Nevertheless, it's astounding in its breadth and scope.

Jesus Christ Is

Our Savior • God with us • Our hope of heaven • Our source of truth • Our security • Our healer • Our friend • Our comforter • Our treasure • Our pearl of great price • Our defender • Our Lord • Our righteousness • Our justification • Our access to God • Our redeemer • Our resurrection • Our master • Our eternal life • Our deliverance from condemnation • Our freedom from the Law • Our final identity • Our perfect love from God • Our unity • Our fellowship with God • Our wisdom and sanctification • Our foundation • Our cleansing • Our existence • Our sacrifice for sin • Our food and drink • Our victory • Our comfort • Our proclamation • Our "Yes" from God • Our light • Our home • Our riches • Our advantage • Our every blessing • Our understanding of the will of God • Our inheritance • Our life • Our kindness from God • Our example of love • Our cleanser • Our strength • Our completion • Our encouragement • Our reason for joy • Our peace • Our reconciliation • Our hope of glory • Our fullness in God • Our protection against the evil one • Our mediator • Our ransom • Our founder of salvation • Our defender against Satan • Our merciful and faithful high priest • Our apostle and high priest of our confession • Our sinless high priest • Our intercessor • Our once-for-all sacrifice for sin • Our perfect forgiveness • Our entrance into the holy places • Our founder and perfector of faith • Our unchanging Savior • Our great shepherd • Our greatest love • Our example of faithful suffering • Our eternal glory • Our King • Our advocate with the Father • Our reason for purity • Our object of faith • Our source of understanding

Meditating on the Word

J. I. Packer writes in "Knowing God,"

Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God … It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace.

Packer, J. I. (2011-09-26). Knowing God (p. 22). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition. 

Christian meditation is not the passive meditation the world seems to enjoy. It is not "let go and let God." Neither is it emptying your mind and letting the Holy Spirit reveal truth to you. 

Meditation is work. It takes effort. And it results in spiritual growth and depth, as nothing else will.