Daily Archives: March 18, 2018

March 18: Is This “Bad” from God?

Numbers 20–21; 1 Corinthians 3:1–4:21; Psalm 18:31–50

God has granted us incredible grace in the salvation that Jesus’ death and resurrection offers, but that very grace is often used as a theological excuse. It’s dangerous to say that bad things come from God, but there are times when they actually do. What makes them good is how He uses them to help us grow. The great grace God offers doesn’t mean our sins go unpunished.

We see God directly issue what seems “bad” in Num 21:5–7. First we’re told: “The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us from Egypt to die in the desert? There is no food and no water, and our hearts detest this miserable food’ ” (Num 21:5). Then, Yahweh sends poisonous snakes that bite the people, causing them to die (Num 21:6). Why would a good God do such a horrific thing?

In Numbers 21:1–4, the people had experienced a miraculous victory against the Canaanites living in Arad—a people they were losing to, and should have lost to, until Yahweh intervened. Yahweh showed Himself to be loyal and true; yet, the people still rebelled.

When Yahweh punishes the people with the snakes, it’s not because He wants to; it’s because He needs to. And the result is worth it. The people say to Moses, “We have sinned because we have spoken against Yahweh and against you. Pray to Yahweh and let him remove the snakes from among us” (Num 21:7). In their response, they show faith in Yahweh and His ability to change the situation. They also show faith in the leader He appointed to them: Moses.

God sent this “bad” thing because He knew it would be a good thing (compare 1 Cor 11:30–32). This knowledge should make us boldly proclaim, as the psalmist does, “For who is God apart from Yahweh and who is a rock except our God?” (Psa 18:31).

What currently seems “bad” that is really a result of God responding to your disobedience?

John D. Barry[1]


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

March 18 Praying for Christ’s Rule

“Thy kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10).

✧✧✧

When you pray, “Thy kingdom come,” you are praying for Christ to reign on earth as He already does in Heaven.

When we hear the word kingdom, we tend to think of medieval castles, kings, knights, and the like. But “kingdom” in Matthew 6:10 translates a Greek word that means “rule” or “reign.” We could translate the phrase, “Thy reign come.” That gives a clearer sense of what Christ meant. He prayed that God’s rule would be as apparent on earth as it is in Heaven.

God’s Kingdom was the central issue in Christ’s ministry. He proclaimed “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23) and instructed His followers to make the Kingdom a priority in their own lives (Matt. 6:33). He told parables about its character and value (Matt. 13) and indicted the scribes and Pharisees for hindering those who sought to enter it (Matt. 23:13). After His death and resurrection, He appeared for forty days and gave the disciples further instruction about the Kingdom (Acts 1:2–3).

When we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we are praying for Christ’s sovereign rule to be as established on earth as it is in Heaven. In one sense the Kingdom is already here—in the hearts of believers. That Kingdom consists of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). But in another sense the Kingdom is yet future. In Luke 17:21 Jesus says, “Behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (cf. John 18:36). Their King was present, but they rejected Him. Someday He will return again to establish His Kingdom on earth and personally reign over it. That’s the aspect of the Kingdom we pray for in Matthew 6:10.

Sin and rebellion are now rampant, but when Christ’s Kingdom comes, they will be done away with (Rev. 20:7–9). In the meantime, the work of the Kingdom continues, and you have the privilege of promoting it through your prayers and faithful ministry. Take every opportunity to do so today, and rejoice in the assurance that Christ will someday reign in victory and will be glorified for all eternity.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Praise God for the glorious future that awaits you and all believers. ✧ Pray with anticipation for the coming of Christ’s eternal Kingdom.

For Further Study: Read Matthew 13:1–52. What parables did Jesus use to instruct His disciples about the Kingdom of Heaven?[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 90). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

MARCH 18 THE CROWD TURNS BACK

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

John 6:66

Our Lord Jesus Christ called men to follow Him, but He plainly taught that “no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65).

It is not surprising that many of His early followers, upon hearing these words, went back and walked no more with Him. Such teaching cannot but be deeply disturbing to the natural mind. It takes from sinful men much of the power of self-determination. It cuts the ground out from under their self-help and throws them back upon the sovereign good pleasure of God—and that is precisely where they do not want to be!

These statements by our Lord run contrary to the current assumptions of popular Christianity. Men are willing to be saved by grace, but to preserve their self-esteem, they must hold that the desire to be saved originated with them.

Most Christians today seem afraid to talk about these plain words of Jesus concerning the sovereign operation of God—so they use the simple trick of ignoring them!

Dear Lord, I do not want to be counted among those who turn their backs on You. I want to follow You, Lord. Guide me today.[1]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

March 18, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 5:24–34). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


In the Commotion, Jesus Was Interruptible (5:25–34)

As he escorted Jesus back toward his house, Jairus’s heart must have leaped with joy at the thought that his daughter would soon be healed. The concerned father undoubtedly did everything he could to speed the journey along. Yet, the congestion of the crowds (v. 24) made it impossible to walk quickly. At least they were heading in the right direction, making slow but steady progress.

Suddenly, to Jairus’s certain dismay, their journey came to an abrupt halt. There, in the crowd, was a woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse. In some ways, this woman was the antithesis of Jairus. He was a highly respected leader of the synagogue. She was a social outcast who, due to her condition, had been ostracized from Jewish religious life. While Jairus had known twelve years of joy and happiness with his daughter, this woman had experienced twelve years of heartache and rejection due to her ailment. Yet, she and Jairus shared this in common: they both knew Jesus was their only hope.

The cause of the woman’s hemorrhage of blood is not stated. Her repeated attempts to find an effective cure had clearly failed. No matter how many doctors she consulted, having spent all that she had trying to find a solution, her condition only worsened. The Jewish Talmud listed eleven possible remedies for such an infirmity. These included superstitious prescriptions like placing the ashes of an ostrich egg in a cloth sack, or carrying around a barleycorn kernel procured from female donkey dung. Undoubtedly, this desperate woman had tried every potential cure. Financially drained and emotionally exhausted, she suffered both the physical discomfort and the social humiliation caused by many years of continual bleeding.

There were even greater ramifications for someone in her condition. According to Leviticus 15:25–27, any such discharge rendered a woman ceremonially unclean. Women had to wait seven days after any bleeding stopped before they were permitted to offer the prescribed sacrifices (vv. 28–29). For more than a decade, this woman had experienced no reprieve, meaning she was not able to participate in either temple or synagogue worship during those years. She had been ostracized due to the perpetual state of her uncleanness. Her experience was almost like that of a leper; even her associations with family and friends had to be maintained from a distance.

After hearing about Jesus, she determined to find Him, believing He could deliver her from an otherwise incurable predicament (cf. Luke 8:43). She desperately pressed her way through the crowd—clearly violating the acceptable boundaries for those who were ceremonially unclean. Finding Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.” Like Jairus, she was compelled to approach Jesus by both the urgency of her need and the strength of her faith. Yet, hoping to avoid notice, she came just close enough to touch “the fringe of His cloak” (Luke 8:44). In Numbers 15:37–41, the Israelites were instructed to sew tassels on the bottom of their cloaks as a visible symbol that they belonged to God (cf. Deut. 22:12). These tassels served a dual purpose. They reminded the Jews of their commitment to serve the Lord, while simultaneously testifying to the world that they were part of God’s chosen people. Religious hypocrites, like the Pharisees, tried to exalt themselves by lengthening their tassels (Matt. 23:5). Jesus, by contrast, would have worn a robe with traditional tassels attached to the bottom.

Believing she would be healed, the woman reached out to grasp the tassels of the Lord’s robe. Her faith was not in His clothing, as if His robe had magical power, but in Him. She knew about His miracles and therefore had no doubt that He could heal her infirmity. Her unwavering faith was instantly rewarded. As Mark records, immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. The very moment she touched His garment, her body was restored. What twelve years of medical appointments could not cure, the power of God healed in an instant.

Jesus had a purpose for this woman’s life that went beyond her physical healing. She had come incognito, hoping to shrink back unnoticed into the crowd. But Jesus intended to bring her out in order to draw her to Himself. Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” That Jesus perceived the power proceeding from Him reveals an important truth about the nature of God. Divine power is not an impersonal cosmic force somehow detached from its sovereign source. Rather, God is personally engaged in every act of power—from creation to redemption to the providential sustaining of the universe (cf. Heb. 1:3). He feels it all. For this woman, the personal expression of the Lord’s power immediately healed her physical infirmity. Jesus knew her spiritual condition still needed to be addressed.

With that in mind, Jesus turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” His question was not motivated by ignorance (since He knew whom He had healed) but in order to pull the woman out of the crowd. True to form, His disciples did not understand what He was doing. Looking around, they said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ” The verb translated pressing (sunthlibō) means to compress or jam. It indicates Jesus was crammed in by the crowd, being touched and enclosed by the people on all sides. From a human point of view, the disciples (through their spokesman Peter—cf. Luke 8:45) asked an obvious question. There were so many people in close proximity to Jesus that it seemed impossible to single out just one. From the divine perspective, the Lord knew precisely to whom He was referring. And He looked around to see the woman who had done this. She had wanted to hide, but she knew Jesus was speaking directly to hear. And so, the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.

For the past twelve years, she had faced the fear of embarrassment and rejection. The fearing and trembling she felt in that moment was of a different kind altogether. Her heart was gripped with a holy fear as the reality of what had just happened to her began to sink in. Realizing she was in the presence of deity, she came and fell down before Him and publicly related the whole truth about both her malady and her healing (cf. Luke 8:47). The Lord responded to her public confession by affirming the authenticity of her faith. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” The word affliction (masti) literally means “whip” or “scourge,” illustrating the traumatic nature of the trial this woman had endured. But Jesus’ words transcended her physical condition, indicating that this physical daughter of Abraham had become a spiritual daughter of God (cf. John 1:12). The common Greek word for physical healing was iaomai. That is the term Mark used when he wrote that the woman was healed of her affliction. Luke used a synonymous term, therapeuō (from which the English word “therapeutic” is derived), when he noted that this woman “could not be healed by anyone” (Luke 8:43). But the word used for being made well in verse 34 (cf. Matt. 9:21–22; Luke 8:48) is sōzō, a term usually used in the New Testament for being saved from sin.

The Gospels often use sōzō to demonstrate a connection between a person’s faith and their salvation. For example, when a penitent prostitute washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, He told her the same thing He told this woman, “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50; cf. Mark 10:52; Luke 17:19). The Greek in both places is identical, though most English translations do not render them in the same way. While Jesus healed many people who did not exhibit genuine faith (and thus were made well only in a physical sense), there were also those who expressed saving faith in Him. In such cases, their bodies were not only delivered but also their souls. Jesus’ response to this woman, connecting the word sōzō with her faith, suggests she was healed of more than just a physical affliction. Because she had been saved, she could now truly go in peace. Her bodily healing enabled her to be reunited with her family and restored to the synagogue. More importantly, her salvation meant she was now reconciled to God.

Though Jesus was on His way to Jairus’s house, He was willing to be interrupted in order to help this woman. From a human perspective, He had more pressing needs to meet. Jairus’s daughter was on death’s doorstep, and this woman’s medical condition was not life-threatening. The commotion of the crowd and the urgency of the moment made it difficult to stop. Yet, from the divine perspective, Jesus knew she was one of His elect (cf. John 6:37). Consequently, He welcomed the interruption, taking the necessary time to minister to her, not only by healing her body but also by saving her soul.[1]


34 Jesus addressed the woman as “daughter”—the only occurrence in the Gospels of Jesus’ addressing a woman by that word. It was intended to ease her fear and provide assurance that her action was not wrong. Jesus may also be identifying her as a member of his true family in accordance with his comments in 3:31–35 about those who are his true mother and brothers and sisters. He made clear to her that it was her faith (in Jesus, or God) that had healed her (cf. 2:5; 5:36; 9:23–24; 10:52). The Greek word translated “healed” is sōzō (GK 5392, “saved”). Here both physical healing and spiritual salvation are in mind. In Mark’s gospel the two go together closely (cf. 2:1–12).

The phrase “Go in peace” is a traditional Jewish formula of leave taking (“shalom”; cf. Jdg 18:6; 1 Sa 1:17). The word “peace” here “means not just freedom from inward anxiety, but the wholeness or completeness of life that comes from being brought into a right relationship with God” (Anderson, 154, emphasis his; cf. TDNT 2:911).

By Jesus’ last statement to the woman—“be freed from your suffering”—he actively participated in her healing and confirmed God’s will to make her well. This may also be Jesus’ encouragement to go out and live her life in accord with the freedom and peace she has now been given.[2]


5:34. The first thing we note in this verse is that Jesus called her daughter, a word used only in this passage in the New Testament. He claimed the same special relationship with her that Jairus had with his little daughter—infinitely precious, unbearably sorrowful at the thought of loss. She had come to him as an outcast, fearful of rebuke because of her status. Instead, she had found not only physical healing but spiritual healing as well.

Your faith has healed you. Not magic or superstition, but faith in the person of Jesus had healed her. The word for “healed” is the same as the word for “saved,” indicating the physical and spiritual aspects of her healing. Go in peace. Only now could she go in peace—a bodily peace from which all traces of disease had been removed and a spiritual peace in which all hostilities with God had been removed through the work of Christ.

We learn something, as well, from what is not said in this section. Jesus did not rebuke the woman for touching him. As with the Sabbath laws, Jesus was giving the Jews a message about his kingdom. As Stock notes, “The story subtly shatters the legal purity system and its restrictive social conditioning” (Stock, Mark, p. 172). If Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, then he is Lord of the purity laws as well.[3]


34. He said to her, Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your illness. Lovingly Jesus calls her “Daughter,” even though she may not have been any younger than he was. But he speaks as a father to his child. Moreover, he praises her for her faith, even though that faith, as has been indicated, was by no means perfect; and even though, as verse 27 indicates, it was he himself who, through his earlier marvelous words and deeds, had brought about that faith. Her faith, though not the basic cause of her cure, had been the channel through which the cure had been accomplished. It had been the instrument used by Christ’s power and love, to effect her recovery. Cf. Eph. 2:8. Is it not marvelous that Jesus, in speaking to this woman, says nothing about his own power and love, the root-cause of her present state of well-being, but makes special mention of that which apart from him she would neither have possessed nor have been able to exercise? Moreover, by saying, “Your faith has made you well,” was he not also stressing the fact that it was his personal response to her personal faith in him that cured her, thereby removing from her mind any remnant, however small, of superstition, as if his clothes had contributed in any way to the cure?

By means of these cheering words Jesus also opened the way for the woman’s complete reinstatement in the social and religious life and fellowship of her people. Now she can go and continue to travel the rest of her life “in peace,” that is, with the smile of God upon her and the joyful inner knowledge of this smile. Cf. Isa. 26:3; 43:1, 2; Rom. 5:1.

Probably even more is included in this encouraging command, “Go in peace.” In view of the immediately following words, namely, “Be—meaning Be and remain—healed of your illness (literally: your scourge),” and in view of the fact that in all probability Jesus spoke these words in the then current language of the Jews (Aramaic), have we not a right to conclude that nothing less than the full measure of the Hebrew Shalom, well-being for both soul and body, is here implied?

Although none of the evangelists report the woman’s reaction to these gracious words of the Savior, is it unrealistic to affirm that her soul was flooded not only with relief but also with boundless gratitude, the kind of emotion experienced by the inspired composer of Ps. 116 (see especially verses 12–19)? Jesus had healed her. He had imparted to her a double blessing: restoring her body and causing her soul to testify, so that faith concealed had become faith revealed. Now she was able to be, and undoubtedly had become, a blessing to others, to the glory of God.

A few days after a certain minister preached on this section of Scripture (Mark 5:25–34 and parallels), he received the following poem from a lady who had composed it after hearing the sermon:

“Who touched me?”

’Twas the voice of the Master,

And the woman’s heart beat faster and faster.

Trembling she came and bowed her head.

“I touched thee, Lord,” was what she said.

But the Master answered, “Go thy way,

Thy faith has made thee whole this day.”

“Have you touched me?”

I heard it. ‘Twas the voice of the Master,

And O my heart beat faster and faster.

“You came with the throng to God’s house today,

But I felt not your touch as you went your way.”

I was ashamed and bowed my head.

“Reach out a bit farther next time,” he said.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2015). Mark 1–8 (pp. 257–262). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Wessel, W. W., & Strauss, M. L. (2010). Mark. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 774–775). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Cooper, R. L. (2000). Mark (Vol. 2, p. 88). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[4] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark (Vol. 10, pp. 209–211). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Islamism Is Spreading In America’s Prisons On The Taxpayers’ Dime | Kalam at The Daily Caller

by Ahnaf Kalam
Daily Caller
March 16, 2018

http://www.islamist-watch.org/28820/islamism-is-spreading-in-america-prisons-on

In recent years, a number of Western countries have had to grapple with the question of radical Islamism spreading behind prison walls. As authorities are beginning to realize, many of their maximum-security prison facilities, which contain the most dangerous, violent criminals in their societies, have inadvertently served as hotbeds of radicalization.

In Britain it was recently revealed that Khalid Masood, who in March 2017 murdered five people and injured dozens more on Westminster bridge in an ISIS-inspired jihadi attack, had likely been radicalized during his time in British prisons by ‘self-styled emirs.’ In Australia, similar reports of ‘Jailhouse Jihad’came out of the SuperMax Detention Center in New South Wales, where inmates are often violently coerced by their fellow Muslim inmates towards extreme and violent interpretations of Islam.

Here in the United States, certain programs attempt to combat extremism behind prison walls, including the adoption of federally-appointed religious chaplains responsible for curating and distributing religious material to prisoners. But among the Muslim chaplains appointed by the Federal Bureau of Incarceration is one Mutahhir Sabree, who has served as an imam at prisons in Estill, Williamsburg, Bennettsville, and Edgefield, South Carolna; Jesup, Georgia; and Tallahassee and Mariana, Florida. In fact, since 2007, Sabree has held 29 contract positions throughout the US Department of Justice.

Sabree is also, however, the U.S. Director of Operations for Islamic Online University (IOU), an organization founded by the notorious Salafi imam Bilal Philips. Philips has in the past been banned from several countries including Great Britain, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Kenya, and Bangladesh for his ‘extremist views’. He was also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings. No less unsettlingly, the British Prison Services have banned Philips’s book, “The Fundamentals of Tauheed,” from its detention facilities—putting it alongside other banned texts by prominent Islamist leaders Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, and Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

One of IOU’s programs is its Prison Initiative, directed by Sabree, which seeks to distribute IOU coursework to Muslim and non-Muslim inmates in prisons across America. According to its website, the professed goal is to assist Muslims in preparing for life after their release by offering them the “true, peaceful and authentic teachings of Islam” in the face of an increase in terrorist groups who “falsely attribute themselves to Islam.” Prison Initiative’s website boasts of over 1100 registered inmates, with 500 currently enrolled and taking classes in 22 U.S. states.

Despite a disclaimer on its website claiming that IOU has a strict zero-tolerance policy for extremism and terrorist-related activities, a quick look through the contents of its coursework paints a very different picture. One module deals solely with “contemporary issues” and contains exactly the type of hateful and illiberal rhetoric one might expect from a Salafi whose extreme views have had him banned from six countries.

A section discussing homosexuality begins by pointing out that ‘homosexuality’ was once defined as a mental illness by the Association of Psychiatrists, before adding that certain glands in the brains of homosexuals shrink because of their “deviant” lifestyles. Diseases such as AIDS, students are told, are a punishment for homosexuals’ behavior.

Another section denounces those who leave Islam, describing apostasy as a crime akin to treason against the state, and therefore, deserving of a death sentence in order to maintain social order.

Sabree, in addition to his own work with IOU, also has close ties with the American Salafi preacher Sheikh Yusuf Estes, who also worked as a chaplainunder the Federal Bureau of Prisons through the 1990s. In December 2017, Estes was denied entry into Singapore after the authorities determined his views were “unacceptable” and “contrary” to Singapore’s secular and multi-religious values.

Government-appointed chaplains and religious organizations were placed in prisons to provide inmates with spiritual guidance and to prepare them for a functional life after their release. But organizations like IOU take advantage of this open door and, in fact, use prisons to their advantage in order to radicalize the most susceptible members of society. If the United States wishes to avoid the same problems plaguing prisons across the Western world, then it should perhaps begin by ensuring that Islamists like Mutahhir Sabree are not radicalizing a generation of American inmates — all on the taxpayers’ dime.

 

Ahnaf Kalam is a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

 

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