Daily Archives: September 21, 2018

September 21: Throwing Caution to the Flood

Zephaniah 1:1–3:20; Acts 19:1–41; Job 27:1–23

Words are powerful. They can restore and heal; they can also be used as deadly weapons. When we interact with one another, we know to choose our words carefully to avoid being misinterpreted or inadvertently causing harm. But Yahweh speaks words of daunting ambiguity—proclamations that can easily be misunderstood or that are frightening beyond measure.

Consider Zephaniah 1:2–3: “ ‘I will surely destroy everything from the face of the earth’—a declaration of Yahweh. ‘I will destroy humanity and beast; I will destroy the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, and the stumbling blocks with the wicked. And I will cut off humankind from the face of the earth’—a declaration of Yahweh.” Does Yahweh actually intend to destroy everything on the earth? Why is He speaking so boldly?

The phrase “face of the earth” appears twice in this passage; it encloses a miniature narrative that references the story of the flood in Gen 6:7 and 7:4. This story is used as a metaphor for why Yahweh will destroy Judah: “And I will cut off from this place the remnant of Baal, and the name of idolatrous priests with the priests, and those who bow down on the rooftops to the host of heaven, and those who bow down, swearing to Yahweh but also swearing by Milkom” (Zeph 1:4–5). Yahweh plans to destroy Judah because they have sought other gods. In other words, Judah has acted just like the evil people who caused the flood.

The startling images of destruction and death that Yahweh’s proclamations evoke seem shockingly blunt. Yet these bold statements remind us that using audacious language is sometimes necessary, and evoking stories of the past can make the point more powerful. We must still take caution when choosing our words, but when we must speak an uncomfortable truth, we can turn to the example that Yahweh sets here: Live boldly for Him and speak the truth.

How can you be more bold in your words about Yahweh?

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.

September 21 Conquering Doubt

“Take the helmet of salvation” (Eph. 6:17).


The key to conquering doubt is to focus on the preserving power of God.

Doubt comes to Christians in many ways. After you’ve sinned, your conscience might hiss at you, saying, “Surely you’re not a Christian. Why would God save you anyway? You don’t deserve His mercy. You’re not good enough. How presumptuous to think God could ever use you!” Such doubts are common among Christians who focus on their performance rather than on God’s power.

All too often we’re quick to acknowledge God’s power to save us but slow to understand His power to keep us. To complicate matters, many Christians believe they can lose their salvation; so they live in constant fear of falling away from the faith. Still others have never learned what Scripture teaches about their security in Christ. They’re so intent on pleasing God through their own efforts that they lose sight of grace and drift into a subtle works-righteousness mentality.

Your performance doesn’t determine your standing in Christ; your standing in Christ determines your performance. Good works are the necessary result of salvation (Eph. 2:10), but they don’t save you or keep you saved. That’s God’s work.

Jude said, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy … ” (v. 24). “Able” in that verse translates a Greek word that speaks of power. “Keep” literally means “to secure in the midst of an attack.” “Stumbling” refers to falling into sin. Together they say that God is powerful enough to prevent you from stumbling into sin and falling away from Him, no matter how intense Satan’s attacks might be. He will continue to protect and cleanse you until the day you enter His glorious Heaven perfected.

Sin is a serious issue, and you should never take it lightly. But when you do sin, remember that as a believer you’re immediately cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7). Always confess your sins and turn from them, but never doubt God’s power or willingness to keep you saved. Trust in His grace, not in your ability to perform.


Suggestions for Prayer:  Praise the Lord for continually cleansing your sin.

For Further Study: Memorize Jude 24–25, and recite those verses often as a reminder of God’s power and majesty.[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 277). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

What the Russia-Turkey Idlib Agreement Reveals about the Syrian Conflict | Frantzman at Jerusalem Post

by Seth Frantzman
Jerusalem Post
September 20, 2018


Russia and Turkey signed an agreement to prevent a Syrian regime offensive in Idlib this week.

The agreement will create a large demilitarized zone and is supposed to lead to “radical terrorist groups” being removed from parts of Idlib by October 15. The full text of the agreement was published on Wednesday by The National. Iran was not a party to the agreement, signaling to Washington, Israel, and others that Iran’s role in Syria may have been sidelined. However, the agreement does not spell out how “terrorist” groups will be removed from parts of Idlib or which groups must be removed, leaving open the possibility of future conflict.

Map of Idlib, Syria

Signed on September 17 in Sochi between Russian and Turkish delegations, a copy of the agreement was made in English and Russian and sent to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on September 18. A copy was also sent to UN Secretary-General Antonia Guterres by Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian Federation’s representative to the UN. The name of the document is the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-Escalation Area.

Russia and Turkey made the agreement and are guarantors of the “observance of the ceasefire.” This is important because other players in Syria are not listed. Iran, which is an ally of the Syrian regime, is not a guarantor. Neither is the United States or the Coalition which plays a role in eastern Syria. Neither is the Syrian government of Bashar Assad or the various Syrian rebel and extremist groups in Idlib. This represents the degree to which the Syrian conflict has been outsourced to Turkey and Russia, and they have become the guarantors of both sides. Russia is the Syrian regime’s main ally and Turkey is the main ally of the Syrian rebels. Turkey controls several areas in northern Syria, including in Idlib, Afrin and near Jarabulus.

The document says it follows similar “de-escalation” agreements that have been in place in Idlib since 2017. They have helped reduce the fighting in northern Syria and allowed the Syrian regime to concentrate on defeating rebels in Damascus and the south. After the regime successfully took back areas near Jordan and the Golan, it has wanted to re-conquer Idlib from the rebels and extremist groups. However the US has warned Assad against using chemical weapons, and the UN has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe that could affect millions.

According to the 10 points of the agreement, “the Idlib de-escalation area will be preserved and Turkish observation points will be fortified and continue to function.” In addition, Russia says it will take all necessary steps to avoid military operations and attacks on Idlib.

A demilitarized zone (DMZ) 15-20 km deep will be established and the exact lines of the zone will be determined in the future. “Radical terrorist groups” will be removed from the DMZ by October 15. According to point six of the document, “all tanks, MLRS [Multiple Rocket Launch Systems], artillery and mortars belonging to conflicting parties will be withdrawn from the demilitarized zone by October 10.” There will be coordinated patrols and drones will be used to monitor the DMZ. Of particular importance to the Syrian regime transit on route M4 from Aleppo to Latakia and M5 from Aleppo to Hama will be restored by the end of the year.

The document has two key points that appear difficult to carry out in the time provided. By October 10 it envisions heavy weapons being withdrawn and by October 15 “terrorist groups” will be removed. The document doesn’t specify which groups but Russia and the Syrian regime view Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) as the main terrorist group in Idlib. HTS is linked to what used to be Al-Qaeda in Syria. The US also views HTS as a terrorist group and Turkey labeled it a terrorist group in late August. However Turkish observation points in Idlib are in areas where HTS is present. By not mentioning HTS directly the document allows for some flexibility, but it is not clear how Turkey will remove HTS or other extremist groups.

The depth of the DMZ takes up a large part of Idlib province, almost twenty percent of the area currently under the control of the rebels and extremists. It is also unclear how the M4 from Aleppo to Latakia will be opened to traffic, but if the agreement is adhered to, it means that “free movement of local residents and goods” will begin between the government and rebel-controlled areas. This will reduce the humanitarian catastrophe that many warned about in the lead-up to any sort of regime offensive in Idlib.

The agreement represents a major step in northern Syria and shows how Turkey and Russia have grown closer. It also shows how Iran has been excluded from the table. Iran was part of the Astana discussions and has played a key role in other agreements, but it was not present in Sochi. This may be merely symbolic, but it also shows how Moscow and Ankara now view themselves as the main deciders of Syria’s future. For the US and Israel, this is preferable development since both Washington and Jerusalem have opposed Iran’s role in Syria.

The Idlib agreement leaves unresolved what will happen to Afrin, the mostly Kurdish area north of Idlib. In January Turkey launched an offensive into Afrin with the support of the Syrian rebels. Ankara said it was trying to clear Afrin of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which Ankara views as a terrorist organization linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Afrin, Syria, north of Idlib

But Kurds have been dismayed by changes in Afrin and complain of abuses. When the Syrian regime was planning the Idlib offensive, some Kurds were hopeful the regime would retake Afrin and they could return to some kind of autonomy. Now with that off the table, the Kurds in eastern Syria who are working closely with the US will see that the regime cannot fulfill its promises of retaking Afrin.

Previous agreements like this have come and gone over the course of the Syrian conflict. For instance, there was supposed to be a de-escalation zone in southern Syria, including a ceasefire signed by the US and Russia and Jordan in July 2017. The regime, with its Russian ally, tossed away the agreement when Damascus decided to launch its offensive in the summer of 2018.

Time will tell if the Idlib agreement lasts as long as the southern Syria ceasefire.

Seth Frantzman is The Jerusalem Post’s op-ed editor, a Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a founder of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. 

Weekend Apologetics Hit & Misc: Is Faith Emotional or Logical?

Is Faith Emotional or Logical?

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Source: Weekend Apologetics Hit & Misc: Is Faith Emotional or Logical?

Put Away Empty Thinking

We live in a mindless age marked by entertainment that appeals to the emotions of a numb audience. Unfortunately, this deficiency has invaded the evangelical church and captured the minds of many Christian leaders. As a result, ministries are content to spread superficial thoughts drawn from the base thinking of the world.

This hour calls for men to step forward and give themselves to the disciplined study of Scripture in the manner of Anselm. Now is the time for a new generation of Anselms to seize the moment, men who, in an age of spiritual darkness, will serve as beacons to light the true path. As in any age, God has guaranteed the success of His church and ensured that the light of His gospel will never be extinguished. Therefore, the time is now for us to put away empty thinking that reduces authentic Christianity to a cheap imitation of worldly trivialities. Now is the time to bring forth the great truths of the Word. Whatever is to be the impact of Christianity in this day, it can be no greater than its search for, discovery of, and commitment to the grand doctrines of Scripture. At the top of that ascent are the doctrines of grace.

Will you apply your mind to the quest for this truth? Will you rivet your gaze on the pages of Scripture? Will you wrestle with the biblical text until it yields its one, true, God-intended meaning? Will you set your mind to pull these doctrines together into one system of truth until they all speak with one voice? Where are the truly profound thinkers of this day? Where, I say, are they?

—Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 310–311.

Source: Put Away Empty Thinking

Pocket Spy: Israeli surveillance software ‘Pegasus’ tracked in 45 countries (Video)

An Israeli surveillance software tool capable of accessing microphones, cameras and other data has been tracked to 45 countries around the globe. Researchers think the tool, designed to track criminals, is being misused by governments to snoop on innocent civilians.


The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.

2 Corinthians 4:4

Our Lord Jesus Christ drew a sharp line between the kingdom of God and this present world. He has instructed us that no one can be at the same time a lover of both!

The apostles stood together in the New Testament teachings that it is necessary for a person to turn the back upon the world and have no fellowship with it.

What, then, is this world against which we are warned?

It is the familiar world of human society. No Christian need fail to recognize it, providing he wants to know what it is. Here are a few of its marks of identification:

  1. Unbelief. To have fellowship with those who live in unbelief is the love of the world. Religion without the Son of God is worldly religion.
  2. Impenitence. The worldling shrugs off his sin and continues in it. The Christian mourns over his sin and is comforted.
  3. Godless philosophies. Men and women of this world accept the sufficiency of this world and make no provision for any other, esteeming earth above heaven.
  4. Externalism. The man of the earth lives only for the world around him—he has no kingdom within him!

Lord, I pray specifically that You will undo what the god of this world has done—that is, blinded the minds of unbelievers. Then, once they are unblinded, I pray that Your Spirit will do its work of convicting the consciences of sinners everywhere. Foil the Evil One![1]

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

09/21/2018 — Wretched


•Your questions answered
•Can Christians celebrate Jewish festivals?
•Can women be ushers in Church?
•Revising the Judge analogy for evangelism
•The brazenness of Nigerian charlatans
•Baptism and the transliteration of “Immersion”
•What do I do when the kids leave the nest?
•I’m taking over my dad’s business, but my partner is a pagan
•How do I deal with deep-seated doubt?

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via 09/21/2018 — Wretched

This ‘n’ That — Do Not Be Surprised… for 9/21/2018

  • How do you reconcile depression and the Christian faith?
  • Wow, we just keep spiraling downward. I don’t understand people who think this world is getting better.
  • Here is your weekly dose of adorable.
  • An interesting article: “The Bible teaches that our desires—all of them, voluntary or involuntary—are morally implicated.”
  • This looks like a good read.

When we believe that we ought to be satisfied, rather than God glorified, we set God below ourselves, imagine that He should submit His own honor to our advantage; we make ourselves more glorious than God, as though we were not made for Him, but He made for us; this is to have a very low esteem of the majesty of God. —Stephen Charnock

via This ‘n’ That — Do Not Be Surprised…

The 5 Church Ladies You Don’t Want to Be

Michelle Lesley

It’s just as easy to fall into a ditch on the right side of the road as it is to fall into a ditch on the left side of the road.

The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I see how true this is in the Christian life. We can be legalistic or antinomian. Crushed by guilt over our sin, or hard-hearted about our sin. Extending too much grace to unrepentant sinners, or not extending enough grace to repentant sinners.

Abandoning the church altogether, or taking ownership of the church and using it for our own purposes.

The purpose of the local church is to glorify God through worship and discipling the saints. Proper, biblical church membership is not optional for Christians. It is not to be treated as unnecessary by “Lone Ranger” Christians, nor is it to be used as a means toward our own ends…

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