When Blood Runs in the Streets

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Murder is satanic.

God warned Cain not to do it, but Cain went ahead and killed his own brother (Gen. 4).

Although Cain was the first human to commit murder, he was not the first murderer. Jesus said of Satan, “He was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).

“For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother” (1 John 3:11-12).

Murder is against everything God stands for.

Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven things God hates, including “hands that shed innocent blood.”

Murder, Paul says, violates the great second commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13:8-10).

God told Noah that murder is a capital offense because “in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:6). Human life is sacred to God and should therefore be sacred to us. Why? Of all God’s creatures, only people are created in His image. Murder is sacrilege.

“Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).

Unrepentant murderers “will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8; 22:14-15).

Murder in perspective

Abraham explained to the Philistine king why he had said that his beutiful wife Sarah was his sister: “Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife” (Genesis 21:11).

As it turned out, there was some fear of God in that place, but though Abraham was wrong to lie, it is still true that a place where people don’t fear God is a dangerous place indeed!

How much fear of God is there in our nation?

Whether a mass shooting or a single homicide, Satan rejoices, but God grieves.

And God, by the way, knows what it feels like to lose a Son to murder.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Overlooked Evidences of the Love of God

“God is love” (1 John 4:8), and the greatest evidence of that love is the gift of His Son for our salvation (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

Another way we know He loves is seen in the abundant blessings He showers on us every day (Matthew 5:43-45; Acts 14:17).

God’s love, however, has less obvious facets. The following evidences of His love may actually seem the very opposite—until we understand how His love works.

God’s discipline

“‘For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives’ . . . . He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness” (Hebrews 12:6, 10).

We can accept His discipline so much better when we realize what it does for our ultimate welfare, just as our children need to realize that we discipline them because we love them (Hebrews 12:7-10).

God’s jealousy

In connection with the command, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” God says, “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God . . .” (Exodus 20:3, 5).

The book of Hosea develops the theme of God as a rejected lover who yearns for a restored relationship with His unfaithful bride Israel.

As J. I. Packer has written, “. . . Scripture consistently views God’s jealousy . . . as an aspect of His covenant love for His own people” (Knowing God, p. 154).

God’s NOs

Sometimes God says No when we pray. When this happens, do we feel that God doesn’t care, or do we trust that He knows best? God said No to David’s prayer that his infant’s life be spared (2 Samuel 12:15-23). God said No to Paul’s prayer that his thorn in the flesh be removed (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). God said No even to His own Son’s plea to be spared the cross (Matthew 26:36-46).

If God said No to them, should we be surprised when He denies our requests?

God loves us so much . . . .

That “He disciplines us for our good . . . .”

That it hurts Him deeply when He is not first in our affections.

That He must sometimes say No when we pray.

God is love? Far more than we can know.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Sources of Strength

In the hard times

Two incidents in David’s life illustrate how we can draw strength when things are not going well.

During the time when Saul was seeking to kill David, Saul’s son Jonathan “arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God” (1 Samuel 23:16).

We’re not told how Jonathan encouraged David. Surely just being there must have meant a lot. Also Jonathan probably had some well-chosen words and may have also prayed with David. Whatever he did, it worked! David was encouraged.

But what if no one is around to give us support in a crisis? What then?

There was the time when David and his men returned to headquarters and made the shocking discovery that the Amalekites had burned the city and captured their wives and children.

“. . . David was greatly distressed because the people spoke of stoning him, for all the people were embittered, each one because of his sons and his daughters.”

The story has a happy ending with the safe return of the captives, but before David knew how it would turn out, “he strengthened himself in the LORD his God (1 Samuel 30:6).

The same Hebrew word for “strengthened” is used here that was translated “encouraged” in the previous passage.

How did David strengthen himself in God? Surely he must have prayed fervently, and perhaps familiar scriptures came to mind. Maybe he thought about all the times God had previously delivered him. Whatever David did to strengthen himself, it worked.

Our ultimate Helper

Note that Jonathan “encouraged him in God,” and David “strengthened himself in the LORD his God.”

Later David could write, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer . . . . I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; and I am saved from my enemies” (2 Samuel 22:2, 4).

The stronger our relationship with God before a crisis comes, the better off we are when the storm hits. If we’re in fellowship with God, He is there for us, even if no one else is.

And that’s encouraging!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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God’s Prerogatives

Many things only God can do.

Unlike God, we cannot create from nothing, nor manage the universe. We cannot be everywhere at once, nor can we know the future, beyond what God has revealed. We are so limited.

Some things God does we can and should do.

We can do good to our enemies, as He does (Matthew 5:43-48). “Be merciful,” Jesus says, “just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). We are to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

While we can only dimly reflect His goodness, we are to be “imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1).

Some things we could do, which God forbids.

Revenge is God’s business, not ours (Romans 12:19-20).

We have no authority to alter God’s word or substitute human tradition for Scripture  (2 Peter 3:15-16; Matthew 15:1-14).

Therefore:

Where it is impossible for us to do what God does, let’s humbly acknowledge our human limitations (Job 38:1-42:6).

Where God wants us to do as He does, let’s follow His lead.

Where God alone has the right to act, let’s never trespass on His domain.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Like Father . . .

My finite mind soon comes to the end of its tether when I try to comprehend God, the eternal, invisible, all-powerful, all-knowing Maker of all things.

Knowing God

By observing the wonders of His handiwork in nature, we get glimpses into His wisdom and power (Romans 1:18-20),

When we turn to the Old Testament, we learn much more of His holiness, power, and character.

But when we come to the first four books of the New Testament, we are equipped with a new “lens” through which to see God much more clearly.

The night before Jesus died, Philip asked Him, “Lord, show us the Father . . . .” Jesus replied, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father . . .” (John 14:8-9).

Earlier He had said, “He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me” (John 12:45).

Paul calls Jesus “the image of the invisible God . . .” (Colossians 1:15).

Jesus is “the exact representation of His [God’s] nature . . .” (Hebrews 1:3).

“No one has seen God at any time,” John writes, “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18).

So the more we study Jesus, the better we can understand the One He so beautifully and perfectly reflects.

Jesus shares His Father’s values, love, and compassion.

Connecting with God

Jesus is not only the lens through which we can see God, but is also our bridge to God (John 14:6). “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Jesus came not just to help us know more about God, but also to bring us into a dynamic fellowship with the Father (Hebrews 9:24; 1 John 2:1).

He stands in the gap.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Good Cling/Bad Cling

Wise counsel

Nearing the end of his life, Joshua urges Israel to be faithful to the God who had done so much for them. He tells them, “But you are to cling to the LORD your God . . . . For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations . . .”─and then Joshua warns them of the consequences of such a choice (Joshua 23:8, 12).

These two “clings” are mutually exclusive. The pagan nations were involved in idolatry and immorality. To cling to them would be to become infected with their sins. The only safe recourse—and the only logical one—is to “cling to the Lord your God.”

Lessons for us

First, we will cling to someone or something.

Second, we have a choice what we cling to.

Third, clinging to God is greatly to our advantage.

Fourth, clinging to the world, however attractive it may be, is fatal.

Fifth, we cannot cling to both at the same time.

Our choice

Jesus said we can’t serve both God and Mammon (wealth) (Matthew 6:24). James warns that friendship with the world makes us God’s enemy (James 4:4). John says that if we love the world, the love of the Father is not in us (1 John 2:15-17). God or money? God or the world?

We who are Christians have already made our choice! May it not be said of us what God said of Israel, “‘For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen” (Jeremiah 13:11).

So how do we?

God intends for us to learn from their tragic experience so we won’t repeat the same error. So how do we cling to God? By clinging to His word, by clinging to Him in prayer, by clinging to His church.

Are we on clinging terms with God?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Three Questions

“Am I in the place of God . . . ?”

“. . . am I in God’s place?”

“Am I God . . .?”

These three questions asked by biblical characters sound much alike, but the circumstances provoking them are quite different.

A recognition of limitations

Desperate for a child, Rachel blurted out to her husband Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!” Knowing how powerless he was to fulfill her demand, Jacob became angry with Rachel and replied, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” (Genesis 30:1-2).

Now that their father Jacob was dead, Joseph’s brothers feared that Joseph would revenge the harm they had done to him some 39 years before. Grieved that they would even think this, Joseph replied, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?” (Genesis 50:19).

The king of Syria sent word to the king of Israel, “. . . I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” The king of Israel “tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?’” Elisha then sent this message: “Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:6-8). By following God’s instructions through Elisha to dip seven times in the Jordan, Naaman was healed by the power of God.

A lesson in humility

Both Jacob and the king of Israel realized they could not do what was asked of them. Joseph, however, could have misused his great power to have his brothers’ heads, but he rightly deferred to the One who said, “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Occasionally we all need a refresher course in humility: to admit that God has His place and we have ours—and they are not the same!

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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