Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Daily Bible Reading - September 12, 2018

Today's Reading:

John 15:1-16:4

2 Chronicles 23

Psalm 80

Listen to the Bible







Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

John 15:13 says, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." 

Yahshua Himself is the quintessential example of this passage. It was His great love for us that motivated Him to suffer and die for us. Of course, Yahshua even went beyond this, in that while we were still His spiritual enemies, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8).

There are many inspiring stories of Christ's followers who have loved Him enough to lay down their lives for Him. To live for Yah is the highest joy and to die for Him is considered a great honor.

Consider the inspiring story of Jatya, told in the magazine The Voice of the Martyrs, September 2017 issue:
A year after facing persecution for the eighth time, 90-year old Jatya is prepared to suffer yet again...
Jayta is eager to share the evidence of his faithful evangelism with visitors. The frail, yet energetic man lives in southern India, in a village heavily populated with paid informants for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RRS). The RRS, a national volunteer organization with more than 5 million members, intimidates and even forces Christians to return to their nation's "Hindu roots".
Jatya has a manila packet stuffed with photos and newspaper articles recounting the times he has been beaten for sharing the gospel in his village.
It all started in 1992, when Jatya refused to sign a document promising to stop evangelizing. Police officers responded to Jatya's "stubbornness" by breaking all of his fingers.
Three years later, Hindu radicals beat him and dragged him to the police station, where he spent a week in jail. And the scars on Jatya's left arm and hand are constant reminders of the theird time he was persecuted for his faith. A Hindu neighbor whipped him with a bicycle chain, causing severe lacerations.
After each brutal beating, however, Jatya returns home from the hospital, grabs his Bible and heads back into his viallge. After all, people still need Christ.

"Until my last breath," he said, "I want to serve and live my life for Jesus."
Truly Jatya, and others like him, are honestly friends of God. 
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
What about us? We who are not yet suffering these things... Are we pursuing a friendship with God that is so deep that we would take suffer 8 times at this magnitude, when we are 90 years old - no less? 

The shema (the heart of the Torah - and the Bible) says, 
"Love Yahweh your God with all your heart and soul and might..." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

I pray that I will be so faithful when put to such a test! And I am not satisfied to merely leave the test results to chance. Right now, I prepare for faithfulness - in extreme situations - by developing a daily love relationship with my King. And also, "He who is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much." 

Daily Bible Reading - September 11, 2018

Today's Reading:

John 14:15-31

2 Chronicles 21:1-22:12

Psalm 79

Listen to the Bible







Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

In John 14:15, we find a strong reminder that love in an action word. It isn't enough to simply claim to love Yahweh. We are to keep the things He has commanded - this is the demonstration of our love for Him.
John 14:15 - "If ye love Me, keep My Commandments."

Certainly, the things He has Commanded in Scripture are a blessing. But the idea that we don't have to keep what He has commanded anymore, now that Yahshua has died, fails the love test. True, we can't earn our Salvation by keeping the Law. But we cannot truly love God without demonstrating that love through our obedience.

But today, I'd like to take things even one step further - to get a full perspective on what it means to really love God. To do this, I will compare the Christian with a warrior.

Throughout history there have been countless battles, in which innumerable soldiers have fought. But for those who merely fought, doing only the minimum required or just what had to be done, their names are buried in the sands of time. They were present, serving their king, yet they aren’t remembered because they didn’t love their king enough to go beyond the ordinary. 

Yet, going beyond the ordinary is exactly what it takes to be a mighty of warrior of valor. And in all those countless battles, the Mighty Warriors of Valor ARE remembered, to this day – not for WHO they were - so much as for WHAT THEY DID to demonstrate their EXTREME love and commitment to their King.

Where soldiers just show up and do what is required, a Mighty Warrior of Valor goes above and beyond what is merely required, to honor his king.

What does it mean to be a mighty warrior of valor in the Cause of God? What does it take? In King David’s day, there were thousands of soldiers who drew the sword in defense of Israel. From out of all these warriors, thirty-seven of them earned a special place, being remembered in Yahweh’s Word as special, righteous warriors of special valor, whose heroic deeds are immortalized in Scripture. 

Of these 37 warriors of valor, three earned an even greater special distinction, for a specific act of selfless service to their king. God honored these three men, above all the rest, and we remember them as MIGHTY WARRIORS OF VALOR.

So what happened to cause them to be remembered in this way? In the time of King David’s reign, the Philistines had invaded Israel, pitching their encampment in the valley of Rephaim. A garrison of the Philistines had control of Bethlehem. 

King David was in a stronghold, the cave of Adullam. This photo was taken looking out through entrance of a cave in Adullum Grove National Park. In the book of 2 Samuel, David, battle-weary and beleaguered, is recorded as longing for a drink of water from a well by the gate of Bethlehem. This must have been a very special well, with very delicious water, so much so that David was longing for a draught of it.

But even in David’s wish for a drink of this water, there was the sense of how impossible it would be to receive this desire. For Bethlehem was the hold of the enemy (2 Samuel 23:14-15). 

King David didn’t order anyone to get him a drink of water! He was just thinking out loud. All of David’s men would still be wonderful and obedient soldiers, who had done their duty to David, without satisfying the king’s impossible wish. But for three of David’s men, just doing their duty wasn’t enough. They were so loyal to David and so committed to serving him, that carrying out his slightest wishes was something they determined to do. 

But before I finish this part of the story, let me tell you a bit about these three mighty warriors of valor.

Chief among the three was Adino the Eznite. He had already become renowned for lifting his spear against 800 enemy warriors. Adino slew them all single-handedly in one battle, thereby earning himself the roll of leader among the three Captains. The story is found in 2 Samuel 23:8
2 Samuel 23:8   "These be the names of the mighty men whom David had: The Tachmonite that sat in the seat, chief among the captains; the same was Adino the Eznite: he lift up his spear against eight hundred, whom he slew at one time."  
Next was Eleazar. In the Name of Yahweh, he had defied the Philistines to their face. And when he was all by himself, he attacked them! He fought with them for so long that his hand became cramped around his sword and he couldn’t turn it loose. The Bible says that Yahweh used him to bring a great victory to Israel that day. It says the other soldiers only returned in time to strip the armor off the fallen enemy and loot their bodies. We find this account in 2 Samuel 23:9-10 
2 Samuel 23:9-10  "And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David, when they defied the Philistines that were there gathered together to battle, and the men of Israel were gone away:  He arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and Yahweh wrought a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to spoil.  
And the third of these Mighty Warriors of Valor was Shammah. Once, while the rest of the army of Israel retreated from the advancing Philistine army, Shammah refused to give ground. He stood alone, in a field of lentils to defend Israel. And Yahweh used him to stop the Philistines in their tracks, without any human help. It’s in 2 Samuel 23:11-12.
2 Samuel 23:11-12  "And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles: and the people fled from the Philistines. But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and Yahweh wrought a great victory."  

These three Mighty Warriors of Valor overheard David’s musing. Maybe they kind of looked at each other across the cave. They knew what each other was thinking. They looked around. No one else seemed to be paying attention to what the king had said. Without a word, they each quietly got up. They retrieved their weapons from where they lay, close at hand. Slowly, they made their way through the crowd of other soldiers all gathered in the cave with David. At last, when they were out of the crowd, their paths joined. No one noticed their leaving, as they disappeared over the crest of the rise.

The Bible tells us that these three “broke through the host (or army) of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate.”  The Bible account is so short that it almost makes this feat seem easy, but, in actuality, it was probably more like this…

Together, Adino, Eleazar and Shammah approached the walled, fortified city of Bethlehem on foot. The Philistines would have seen them coming from a mile away. 

When they were in range, the archers on the walls would have let fly every arrow in their quivers. 
Undaunted by the arrows that rained down upon them, AdinoEleazar and Shammah brought it on. 
As they neared the wall, the enemy infantry would have swarmed from the gates and fallen upon them with sword and spear. But these three Mighty Men of Valor, under the power of God, met their foe and drove back the incomprehensibly overwhelming hoard! 

At last, they reached the well. Then what had been three swords united against an overwhelming number of enemy soldiers became only two swords, as one of the mighty men was forced to stop fighting long enough to lower a vessel into the cool depths of the well. When he brought up the water vessel and filled his flagon with the delicious well-water, the warrior again joined the intense fighting, careful to insure that he didn’t lose his precious cargo.

By this time, the whole city would have been alerted to the invasion. The three “Mighties would have had to fight their way out of the gates and away from the walls. How far did the Philistine soldiers pursue them? Did they hound them out into the desert, leaving a trail of dead and dying Philistines to mark the three warriors’ path? Or were the Philistines stunned by the carnage wreaked within their walls by so small a fighting force and just happy to see them all leave? We aren’t told. But the Bible does say that they made it back to cave of Adullum in victory. 

As quietly as they had left, they returned. The three warriors came before their beloved king without fanfare and extended the vessel for him to drink. But when David saw the blood that still oozed from crusted battle wounds, when he smelled the death and battle that clung to their clothing, his soul was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the love and devotion these men had demonstrated for Yahweh, Israel and their king. David’s heart was filled with gratitude and humility at such devotion.
2 Samuel 23:16-17  "And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate, and took it, and brought it to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto Yahweh. And he said, Be it far from me, O Yahweh, that I should do this: is not this the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives? Therefore he would not drink it. These things did these three mighty men." 
The highest honor any drink can be given is to be used as a drink offering, poured out in worship of the Almighty. This is the honor David gave to this Bethlehem water, brought to him at such risk and cost, brought by devoted men, under the power of the Almighty, who went WAY beyond the call of duty in their desire to please their king.

Similarly, in Yahweh’s Kingdom there are special Mighty Warriors of Valor, who go above and beyond the normal call of duty. They aren’t content to do only what is asked or expected of them. So great is their love of their King, that they delight in pleasing Him in even the smallest things, doing things which most would find unnecessary.

Maybe instead of fussing about how much we don't want to do what God has commanded, we need to seek a real love relationship - we need to pray for a love for God that is even greater than those three mighty warriors had for king David! That kind of love is not fussing about the king's commands. In fact, that kind of love is great enough that the King's slightest pleasure is considered. Serving Him is a great delight. Such love pursues the Heart of God. 

Maybe that's why David was called a "man after God's Own Heart." Could it be that he loved and served God the way his mighty men loved and served him?

Daily Bible Reading - September 10, 2018

Today's Reading:

John 14:1-14

2 Chronicles 20:1-20

Psalm 78:56-72

Listen to the Bible







Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

One of the greatest comforts and assurances in Scripture is found in John 14. It says:
John 14:1-3 - "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's House are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I Am, there ye may be also."
John 14 also contains some powerful statements about the Divinity of Christ. Yahshua tells Philip, "if you've seen Me, you've seen the Father." "I and the Father are One."

Yet, most Christians today believe in a Trinity. This belief makes Yahshua's statement impossible. We try to spiritualize it away, because He simply cannot mean what He said about seeing the Father...  It can't be really so - if we believe in a Trinity.

Marie Sinclair, Countess of Caithness, in her 1876 book Old Truths in a New Light, states: “It is generally, although erroneously, supposed that the doctrine of the Trinity is of Christian origin. Nearly every nation of antiquity possessed a similar doctrine. [The early Catholic theologian] St. Jerome testifies unequivocally, ‘All the ancient nations believed in the Trinity’ ” (p. 382).
Notice how the following quotes document belief in a divine trinity in many regions and religions of the ancient world.


“The universe was divided into three regions each of which became the domain of a god. Anu’s share was the sky. The earth was given to Enlil. Ea became the ruler of the waters. Together they constituted the triad of the Great Gods” ( The Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, 1994, pp. 54-55)


“The ancient Babylonians recognised the doctrine of a trinity, or three persons in one god— as appears from a composite god with three heads forming part of their mythology, and the use of the equilateral triangle, also, as an emblem of such trinity in unity” (Thomas Dennis Rock, The Mystical Woman and the Cities of the Nations, 1867, pp. 22-23).


“The Puranas, one of the Hindoo Bibles of more than 3,000 years ago, contain the following passage: ‘O ye three Lords! know that I recognize only one God. Inform me, therefore, which of you is the true divinity, that I may address to him alone my adorations.’ The three gods, Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva [or Shiva], becoming manifest to him, replied, ‘Learn, O devotee, that there is no real distinction between us. What to you appears such is only the semblance. The single being appears under three forms by the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction, but he is one.’
“Hence the triangle was adopted by all the ancient nations as a symbol of the Deity . . . Three was considered among all the pagan nations as the chief of the mystical numbers, because, as Aristotle remarks, it contains within itself a beginning, a middle, and an end. Hence we find it designating some of the attributes of almost all the pagan gods” (Sinclair, pp. 382-383).


“In the Fourth Century B.C. Aristotle wrote: ‘All things are three, and thrice is all: and let us use this number in the worship of the gods; for, as the Pythagoreans say, everything and all things are bounded by threes, for the end, the middle and the beginning have this number in everything, and these compose the number of the Trinity’ ” (Arthur Weigall,Paganism in Our Christianity, 1928, pp. 197-198).


“The Hymn to Amun decreed that ‘No god came into being before him (Amun)’ and that ‘All gods are three: Amun, Re and Ptah, and there is no second to them. Hidden is his name as Amon, he is Re in face, and his body is Ptah.’ . . . This is a statement of trinity, the three chief gods of Egypt subsumed into one of them, Amon. Clearly, the concept of organic unity within plurality got an extraordinary boost with this formulation. Theologically, in a crude form it came strikingly close to the later Christian form of plural Trinitarian monotheism” (Simson Najovits,Egypt, Trunk of the Tree, Vol. 2, 2004, pp. 83-84).

Other areas

Many other areas had their own divine trinities. 
  • In Greece they were Zeus, Poseidon and Adonis. 
  • The Phoenicians worshipped Ulomus, Ulosuros and Eliun. 
  • Rome worshipped Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto. 
  • In Germanic nations they were called Wodan, Thor and Fricco. 
  • Regarding the Celts, one source states, 
“The ancient heathen deities of the pagan Irish[,] Criosan, Biosena, and Seeva, or Sheeva, are doubtless the Creeshna [Krishna], Veeshnu [Vishnu], [or the all-inclusive] Brahma, and Seeva [Shiva], of the Hindoos” (Thomas Maurice, The History of Hindostan, Vol. 2, 1798, p. 171).
“The origin of the conception is entirely pagan”
Egyptologist Arthur Weigall, while himself a Trinitarian, summed up the influence of ancient beliefs on the adoption of the Trinity doctrine by the Catholic Church in the following excerpt from his previously cited book:
“It must not be forgotten that Jesus Christ never mentioned such a phenomenon [the Trinity], and nowhere in the New Testament does the word ‘Trinity’ appear. The idea was only adopted by the Church three hundred years after the death of our Lord; and the origin of the conception is entirely pagan . . .
“The ancient Egyptians, whose influence on early religious thought was profound, usually arranged their gods or goddesses in trinities: there was the trinity of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, the trinity of Amen, Mut, and Khonsu, the trinity of Khnum, Satis, and Anukis, and so forth …
“The early Christians, however, did not at first think of applying the idea to their own faith. They paid their devotions to God the Father and to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and they recognized the mysterious and undefined existence of the Holy Spirit; but there was no thought of these three being an actual Trinity, co-equal and united in One . . .
“The application of this old pagan conception of a Trinity to Christian theology was made possible by the recognition of the Holy Spirit as the required third ‘Person,’ co-equal with the other ‘Persons’ . . .
“The idea of the Spirit being co-equal with God was not generally recognised until the second half of the Fourth Century A.D. … In the year 381 the Council of Constantinople added to the earlier Nicene Creed a description of the Holy Spirit as ‘the Lord, and giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and Son together is worshipped and glorified.’ …
“Thus, the Athanasian creed, which is a later composition but reflects the general conceptions of Athanasius [the 4th-century Trinitarian whose view eventually became official doctrine] and his school, formulated the conception of a co-equal Trinity wherein the Holy Spirit was the third ‘Person’; and so it was made a dogma of the faith, and belief in the Three in One and One in Three became a paramount doctrine of Christianity, though not without terrible riots and bloodshed . . .
“Today a Christian thinker . . . has no wish to be precise about it, more especially since the definition is obviously pagan in origin and was not adopted by the Church until nearly three hundred years after Christ” (pp. 197-203).
James Bonwick summarized the story well on page 396 of his 1878 work Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought: “It is an undoubted fact that more or less all over the world the deities are in triads. This rule applies to eastern and western hemispheres, to north and south.
“Further, it is observed that, in some mystical way, the triad of three persons is one. The first is as the second or third, the second as first or third, the third as first or second; in fact, they are each other, one and the same individual being. The definition of Athanasius, who lived in Egypt, applies to the trinities of all heathen religions.”

 Our Bibles today mention the Trinity, making appear Biblical. But, actually the Catholic Church added words to the Scripture Canon, intentionally putting the Trinity into Scripture, which wasn't there before!

There is much more that could be said on this subject. But for now, let's suffice it to say that we shouldn't let our Trinitarian construct of God (which is not correct) cause us to misunderstand the Message of John 14.