Wednesday, January 31, 2018

MOON "Shines"

If you were awake early this morning as I was, you had the opportunity to see a rare stellar event not witnessed since the mid-19th century (1866, I believe).  Our sky displayed a super blue blood moon. Indeed, it was quite an interesting sight to behold.

While I am not an astronomer, I have always enjoyed reading about space. My knowledge on the subject, therefore, is limited and I am open to any corrections concerning my analysis.

From what I remember, the adjective “super” refers to the fact that the moon was at its closest proximity to the earth this morning.  As a result, it appeared to be larger and brighter than usual. Super moons occur every couple of years or so.

A “blue” moon implies the second full moon in a month. Since childhood, I have used the phrase “once in a blue moon” to refer to something that is unlikely or rare. However, blue moons occur almost every year. I read somewhere we will have another one in March of this year.

A “blood” moon describes the reddish color of the moon during a lunar eclipse.  The earth moves between the sun and the moon, the satellite changes color, and, in a total lunar eclipse, briefly disappears. Lunar eclipses also occur on a somewhat regular basis.

What was unique this morning was the occurrence of all three types of moons at the same moment. It is a unique experience. I’m glad I witnessed it.

While watching this rare display, my thoughts turned to the God of the super blue blood moon, it’s Creator. I don’t remember any Scripture mentioning a super moon, a blue moon, or even a lunar eclipse. Nevertheless, I was reminded of a passage of Scripture as I stared into the heavens.

The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come.

The Apostle Peter spoke those words in his Pentecost sermon following the resurrection and ascension of our Lord. As those Biblical students who read this know, he is quoting from the Old Testament prophet, Joel. But, there it is: a blood moon!

Does Joel and Peter mean there will be a lunar eclipse at the time of Christ’s return? Personally, I believe God will perform a more miraculous sign to turn the moon into the color of blood. Yet, if He chooses to use a natural occurrence such as an eclipse, may He be praised! He is the King and Sovereign and may do as He pleases.

However, as I gazed at the super blue blood moon this morning and reflected on this verse, the word that leaped to my mind was the word “before”. The great and notable day of the Lord IS coming! He has promised to return. He WILL return. And, before He does, the moon will be turned into blood.

Praise God and come, Lord Jesus, come!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Chance: A Misnomer?

I love mathematics! I realize those three words classify me as a geek, strange, weird, whatever.  Nevertheless, I love math.

This does not mean I am a great mathematician; far from it. I am well-aware of my limitations when it comes to this field. My undergraduate degree is in Mathematics, but earning that degree required many, many hours of struggle. One of my graduate degrees is in Computer Science which also demanded additional math courses. Math is fun; math is hard.

For me, math became even more fun when I was called by Christ into a personal relationship with my Creator. In fact, every aspect of our education, every subject we investigate, must be examined from God’s perspective if we are to able fully appreciate it. Math is no exception. When one realizes that math has its origin in God, not in man, the subject takes on a different, far more appealing, flavor.

I have the privilege of teaching some math courses at local universities. Usually, these classes focus on Algebra. But, I have also taught a course in Probability and Statistics more than once.  For me, probability is one of the most fascinating categories of math one can study.

Probability deals in the matter of “chance”. Webster defines chance as follows:


1a: something that happens unpredictably without discernible human intention or observable cause.

1b: the assumed impersonal purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings: LUCK.

1c: the fortuitous or incalculable element in existence: CONTINGENCY.

2: a situation favoring some purpose: OPPORTUNITY.

3: a fielding opportunity in baseball.

4: the possibility of a particular outcome in an uncertain situation.

5a: RISK

5b: a raffle ticket.


in the haphazard course of events.

Teaching probability demands the use of many illustrations or experiments.  Most of them revolve around flipping a coin, rolling a die, or drawing a card.  Obviously, these actions are associated with games of “chance”.

When I introduce the subject to my students, I do so with the following bullets:

·      Probability is “the chance of an event occurring.”

·      “Chance” or randomness is our perspective of certain events.

·      There are no “chance”, “random”, or “unexpected” events from God’s perspective.

   “(God) works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11b)

   “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

The end of Ephesians 1:11 has always fascinated me, not only as it relates to probability. You see, the verse relates to every area of life! The full verse reads as follows:

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (English Standard Version)

This is one verse in, what may arguably be, one of the greatest introductions to any letter. The end of the verse, starting with the “of him” in English, may be translated as follows:

Of the all things working one according to the counsel/purpose/plan of the will/desire of him.

While my translation is choppy in English, I believe Paul’s placement of the words rendered “all things” is designed to draw attention or emphasis to them.  The “working one” or “him who works” is a reference to God. Make no mistake; not only is God working (even now), He is working ALL THINGS for He is the “all things working one”.

What does Paul mean when He claims God works all things? What are all things? “All” does not necessarily mean “each and every”. This is true even in English. We sing the hymn, “When We All Get to Heaven.” Are we universalists? Of course not. The context of the hymn dictates a limitation on the word “all”. “When all Christians get to Heaven” is what the composer means. Sometimes, the use of “all” in Scripture is limited as well.  We must look at the context to make such a determination.

What about the context of Ephesians 1? Does “all things” mean “each and every” thing, or must we limit the phrase to some subset of things?

As I read the entire chapter, I see no reason to limit the working of God. Nothing in the passage demands such a restriction. Furthermore, the tone of Scripture overall (see the Proverbs 16 passage as an example) supports this understanding. God is working each and every thing in His creation.

Yet, Paul goes further with his Ephesian comment. God is not only working all things (even the small things), He is working them with a purpose: “according to the purpose of His will.”

God is not a haphazard being as we are. We act, evaluate the outcome of that action, revise our plan, then take further action. I can think of an example from my family’s past.

1. We plan a trip to Myrtle Beach for a week in the sun.

2. We arrive at our hotel according to plan.

3. Hurricane Bertha is forecast to make landfill near our beach.

4. We revise our plan and divert to Florida for a week.

Our plan was rudely interrupted by an unplanned hurricane. Quickly, we had to modify it and pursue an alternative destination. But, for the God who works all things, such interruptions are never unplanned. Nor, are they without purpose.

God is working all things and He is doing so according to a plan that never changes, for He never changes. His plan is never altered for it is based on His desire; His unchanging, immutable will.

I believe Paul is clearly teaching the Sovereignty of God in this text. God does all things according to His perfect eternal plan. Everything He does has a purpose. Everything occurs at the time He has decreed. He is working out all things. Yes, these things include the events of our life which we see as “unplanned”, “chance” happenings. There is no “chance” with God.

While God does everything according to His immutable, eternal plan, that does not mean we will understand what it is He is doing or why? Those are different questions for another time. However, such questions do not negate the teaching of Paul, specifically, and the Scripture in general. God is providentially involved in every aspect of the universe from the rotation of the planets to the feeding of the ravens.

So, let’s study mathematics and the field of “chance”. Let’s pull that card from the deck and determine the probability it is an Ace (1 out of 13 or 7.7%). But, let us remember, this concept is relative. “Chance” is “chance” only for us, not for God. The card we pull from the deck is the card He intended for us to pull from the deck, whatever His purpose for it may be.

Praise our Providential, Sovereign God!



Monday, January 29, 2018

Observations on James 1:16-18

Observations on James 1:16-18
January 28, 2018 – Highland View Baptist Church

Our pastor preached on these verses during our Sunday morning worship service.  They are beautiful words, and he gave an excellent exposition of them.  Having studied, preached, and taught James, I decided to review my work to date on this passage and highlight some observations I see from the text.

ESV: 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.  

1.  Verse 16 may be understood as wrapping up the previous paragraph or beginning this new paragraph. 

(1)  With vv. 13-15, James exhorts followers of Christ not to be deceived concerning the source of our temptations.  God is not tempting us.  Don’t attempt to excuse yourself from responsibility for your sin.  Neither God nor the Devil made you do it.

As Dr. Doriani writes, “We can view (a test) as a trial and turn to God for aid, so we persevere.  Or we can read it as a tragedy, or as a senseless accident, or as a failure—on God’s part—to love and protect us.  Worse yet, some who meets trials blame and attack God for them, accusing him of malice.”

(2)  With vv. 17-18, James exhorts Christians not to be deceived concerning the character of God.  Do not cast suspicion upon His character.  God is good and gives good gifts.  He is not out to punish His followers.  The punishment our sins deserve were meted out on Christ at the cross.

I believe the verse may go either way and maybe that is what James (God) intended.

2. Verse 16 is a command, not an option.  “Do not be deceived.”  The implication is, of course, that Christians may be deceived.  Satan cleverly tricks us into believing God is our enemy, out to get us, and the bad things which take place in our life originate with Him.  “Don’t be deceived.”

3. Also, Verse 16 uses language structure implying such deception was already at work. James knows what his readers are dealing with every day.  He tells those first-century Christians, “Stop being deceived!”  Some were believing the lies of the enemy.

Of course, James is also telling us the same thing.  He understands the depraved heart within us (“the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”) and knows each of us have those moments when we believe the lie that God is against us.  If you truly have faith in Christ but, at this moment, think God is fighting you, punishing you, “stop being deceived.”  God is for His children; He is in our corner.


ESV: v. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

1. James gets into the heart of his message for this paragraph.  Remember, God is the source of all good things. What are a few of those good gifts?

(1) Salvation, meaning regeneration, justification, sanctification, & glorification.  Ephesians 2:8-10

(2) The Holy Spirit in us and with us.  Luke 11:13

(3) The Kingdom of God.  Luke 12:32

(4) Eternal Life. 1 John 5:11

2. The gifts God gives us do not all arrive at one moment.  We may be regenerated and justified at the same instant, but James tells us here these gifts “are coming down”, a continuous flow of gifts from an all gracious giver!  God is not stingy.  He gives and gives and gives some more.  If we do not see the many gifts He has given us, it is because sin or the deceiver has blinded us.

3. James refers to God as the “Father of Lights”.  Who, but God, could create the lights in the sky?  He is their parent and, as Scripture tells us, calls each of His stars by name (Ps. 147:4; Is. 40:26)! What an amazing thought! My wife and I had difficulty in naming nine children.  Yet, our marvelous Creator has a name for each and every star in the heavens, billions and billions of them!

4.  Further, he describes the character of God as one who does not change.  A. T. Robertson said, “There is no such periodic variation in God like that we see in the heavenly bodies.” There is no variableness or shadow in our Creator.  He is not evil one moment, then good the next (which describes each of us from time to time).  There is nothing in Him to improve either through addition, deletion, or modification.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He is, as the theologians say, “immutable” (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8). 

ESV v. 18 “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” 

1. Make no mistake about verse 18. James agrees with Paul and the other New Testament writers, clearly presenting the Reformed understanding of salvation (see also 1 Peter 1:3).  It is by the will of God, not our will (decision), that we have been born again.  “Brought forth” means to be born.  As the King James translates it, God “begat us”. We are new creatures in Christ because God decided we would be.  He chose us; we did not choose Him.

2. When we talk of this new birth God has given to those of us in Christ, let us reflect on precisely what we mean.

(1) We were justified by Christ, declared not guilty of sin.  But, from where did this justification come?

(2) We were justified by Christ because of our faith. But, from where did this faith come?

(3) We were made spiritually alive, given the repentance and faith necessary to turn from our sins and trust the Lord.  But, from where did this spiritual birth come?

(4) It came from God’s work of regeneration. Yes, regeneration precedes repentance.  It precedes faith. It precedes justification. Apart from such regeneration, we would never turn from our sins and trust Christ (see Ephesians 2:1-10). He, not we, made us new creatures. “Of his own will he brought us forth”.

Let us forever dismiss the idea that we were the initiators of our salvation. Nothing we said, did, or could have done would ever produce our spiritual birth leading to eternal life (John 10:28).

3.  God’s will for our new birth is accomplished through His Word (“the Word of truth”).  His Word is always true for He is the God of truth.  He does not lie and does not deceive.  Therefore, His Word, likewise, does not lie or deceive.

God, in His own mysterious ways, brings about our new birth through the Scripture.  Paul notes our faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).  Again, he writes in Ephesians 1:13, it was by means of His Word.  We heard the Word.  Perhaps we heard it in a sermon or read it in a book or listened to a friend quote it.  Perhaps we heard the Word in multiple ways.  But, by the Will of God, He used His Word to give us a new birth.

4. And why did He give us this new birth?  Was it simply as a form of “fire insurance”, to keep us from Hell?  No! James writes “that”, indicating purpose.  One purpose for our new birth is so we may be a “kind of first fruits”, a model of the creative hand of the Almighty. Do you want to see the power and glory of God?  Look at a born-again soul.  Believer, look at your own life and marvel at the wondrous changes God has made in you.

We are not to merely sit around and await His return.  We are to be a testimony, a witness of His love, power, creativity, wisdom, holiness, and forgiveness.

Our pastor noted them Sunday and Manton’s words are worth repeating: “The world are his goods, but you his treasures.”

If you claim to know Christ but you see nothing of God at work in you, you are being deceived.  “Stop being deceived!” Repent of your sins and trust Christ to save your soul.