Archive for March, 2006

Dressing For Church

Read this slowly and patiently. Stop and make your choice after each phase. Now, open your clothes closet and make your selection for each of these occasions.

You have just been invited to visit the President in the Oval Office. What will you select to wear? Think it though and select your attire. Got it? Next.You are going to an important social event hosted by an very influential member of the community. Choose your apparel.

There is a dance in a major hotel and you have been invited. Pick your clothes.You are going to a banquet with a friend who is the honoree. What looks good for the event?

It is Saturday afternoon and your favorite team is playing its biggest rival. You will be a guest on the 50 yard line. What looks good for the occasion? Look around and you will see a lot of folks styling and profiling. The “frats” look sharp.It is Sunday morning and your are going to church. How will you dress?

At which event did you dress most upscale? At which did you dress most downscale?In 1975 I authored a book in which I said I wanted a church where an affluent lady immaculately attired and a youth in a sweat shirt and jeans could sit side by side and be comfortable because neither was concerned about the attire of the other. The background of the appeal was to make those unable to dress up feel welcome and comfortable.

Some ministers today put so much emphasis on dressing down that it makes those who still believe in “Sunday clothes” feel uncomfortable. The reason for grunge on Sunday is said to be in order to make everybody feel at ease. Not everyone does. If it doesn’t matter what you wear why is it considered a badge of honor to dress down. In the long history of the church this is the first generation in which there is a segment that seems to think the kingdom will be brought in if enough people dress down.

A professor at Fuller Seminary in California says he can look at the calendar of activities of a church and tell within 5 years the age of the pastor. The premise being we tend to program for our own interests. Likewise, today you can look at the attire of the pastor and staff and know what clientele they are trying to attract. Why no the full spectrum?

Neither wardrobe option is necessarily better than the other. By stressing one over the other some persons are being excluded. Unfortunately, in many churches those who still believe Sunday worship deserves their best are the outcasts. There is a mutual meeting ground —- our best. We would wear it to any of the events listed above. Why not worship? What would be so good about dressing down for a visit with the President or any of the other noted social occasions?

If grunge is a person’s best so be it. Wear it comfortably. However, if a person can do better it is still considered a show of respect in many circles to wear your best in worship.

Last question, why not wear your best? For what are you saving it? To whose house would it be better to wear it than to God’s house?

Why Katrina And Other Natural Disasters

Why God, why Katrina? Having excluded God from the public arena some now want to summons Him to the court of pubic opinion and demand from Him an explanation of why such things as Katrina happen. A sparrow can’t fall to the ground without these persons blaming God.

Like Paul, “I count not myself to apprehended.” That is, I don’t have all the answers. That is the understatement of the day. If we want answers to spiritual questions we have to go to the source of such understanding, the Bible.It teaches a perfect God created a perfect world. In the sphere called planet Earth He placed the crowning glory of His handiwork, mankind.

The first being Adam and Eve. In His sovereign will He gave them a free will. In exercising that free will they disobeyed God. This disobedience is called “sin” and resulted in what is called “the fall of mankind.” The result of this fall impacted everything from mankind’s relationship with God to the ecosystem. Summarily, the perfect world experienced imperfection brought about by the actions of mankind.

In the New Testament book of Romans chapter 8 this result is called “imperfection.” The Greek word also means “to decay.” In that same chapter it is also called “the bondage of corruption.” The New English Bible translates what followed as “Up to the present, we know, the whole created universe groans in all its parts as if in the pangs of childbirth.”God created the cosmos, meaning order. Mankind’s actions have resulted in chaos, the opposite of cosmos.

In spite of our destructive impact on all of the universe God still has a recovery plan. In that same chapter in Romans it is said, “We know all things work together for good to those who love the Lord…”That does not hint that everything that happens is good. Obviously not all things that happen are good. What it means is that in everything, everything, that happens God is busily at work to bring the good out of it. Momentarily and taken alone some things are very, very bad. Katrina is such.

There are two deadly poisons called chloride and sodium. Taken alone either is deadly. Together they form sodium chloride, called table salt. They work together for good.As in the beginning God has a perfect will. When complied with it makes life productive and fulfilling. Likewise, as in the beginning God has a permissive will. Therein, things He does not prefer but permits happen.

If He had not and does not allow our actions within His permissive will we would be puppets dangling on His strings devoid of choices. Human beings would be discontent and critical of God had He not given us a free will.Credit any aberrant actions or imperfections in nature or society to what mankind has done within that free will.

Persons with a spiritual orientation would do well to commit themselves to thanking God for His recovery plan and not blaming Him for our imperfect world.

Shorter College

After nearly three years of court proceeding the Georgia Supreme Court returned Shorter College to its long standing relationship with Georgia Baptists. In the first meeting of the Board of Trustees I was elected Chairman of the Shorter Board.

Many falsehoods were cleverly shared during this time which frightened some persons at the thought of this action being taken. One by one these untruths are being proven to be baseless. One alarming untruth spread was if Trustees elected by the Georgia Baptist Convention were given the supervisory role they would have no regard for the academic standing of the school and would even turn it into a Bible college.

I have never heard any person say that other than those critical of Georgia Baptist. The opposite is true. I can assure any skeptic the ambition of the current Board is to expand and enhance the commendable academic standards for which the school has long been known. As an evidence of this a copy of my acceptance statement when elected chairman follows.

In light of this I invite students looking for a premier academic school with Christian emphasis to consider Shorter. Banners now greet visitors to the lovely campus heralding: “Shorter —- A Christian College.”

My acceptance speech follows:Thank you for the honor of serving our Lord, this esteemed school, and you my fellow trustees as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of this revered newly reconstituted Shorter College. Yet, even as we begin with this new Board of Trustees, we carry with us the history and heritage of this great institution – back to 1873 when Alfred Shorter and other dedicated individuals founded Cherokee Baptist Female College in Rome, Georgia.

As a board:
Let us aspire to maintain the academic integrity of the school in such a way as to make those associated proud of its scholarly standing. Let us perpetually maintain bold ambition to comply with requirements of SACS in order to maintain our accreditation which is so essential to our mission.

May we ever work to enable the school to provide an academic environment enhanced by Christian values where no student will have his or her faith devalued. In addition to leaving here with a prestigious degree may our students depart with their faith informed and strengthened.

Let us keep in mind that policy must always precede action. That is, every decision must be in keeping with a policy that supports it. Therefore good policies must be patiently forged in the foundry of wisdom after due deliberation.

Let us make a commitment to strive to achieve these and other worthy goals in such a way as to evidence to the academic family and the community in general, that we who comprise this body of trustees are exercising grace, integrity, wisdom, the best of business acumen, a heartfelt interest in the school’s academic standing, and Christian character. Let us so act that in time our actions will confirm these traits. Let us listen to the voices from various persuasions – and consider none to be evidence of undue outside influences, but as legitimate expressions of appreciated interest.

Neither should cause us to lose our insight or our focus – as the purpose of this body of trustees is to serve the best interests of this great institution to the best of our ability. Let us stand for academic freedom and plead for academic integrity and let our academicians voluntarily reflect academic integrity by supporting the tenants for which the institution stands. Let us establish and maintain fiscal integrity. Business acumen must be employed in order to keep our aspirations within our means and may both increase. In gratitude for those who have gone before us let us as legatees of all the giants on whose shoulders we stand avail ourselves of the opportunity this challenging hour affords.

May those who come after us find we have laid a foundation for the newly re-constituted Shorter College consisting of love for the truth, a commitment to academic excellence befitting the best the school has ever offered, and Christian concepts exercised in accord with Biblical ethics. What we do as a board of trustees will not be sub rosa and will be reflected in the public arena. May what we do here be birthed and blessed of our Lord and may it redound to the honor of His holy name.

Alcohol In America

Often something that needs to be said is better said by someone other than ourselves. The following statement by my friend, the former Nebraska Football Coach and now Congressman, Tom Osborne. He spoke the following on the floor of the House of Representatives on September 13, 2005.

“Alcohol abuse involving underage drinkers has certainly exploded, and there is a developmental aspect to underage drinking that many people in our culture are just beginning to discover. Many of our young people are starting to use alcohol at age 11, 12, 13, 14; and it is a whole different ball game when you start using it at that early age than if you start drinking when you are 21, 22, 23 because of the developmental aspect. This is something that many people in our culture do not realize. Many high school dropouts, many people who are doing very poorly in school, very poor academic performance are related in many ways to underage drinking and alcohol consumption at an early age.

“A National Academy of Science study shows that alcohol kills roughly 6 ½ times more children than all other drugs combined; 6 1/2 times more is due to alcohol abuse. Alcohol and underage drinking costs the United States $53 billion annually. In my home State of Nebraska, that figure is roughly $435 million a year, according to a Pacific Institute study that was done in 2001.

“We have roughly 3 million teenage alcoholics in our country today; and, obviously, this is by far our biggest drug problem. The alarming thing that has happened is we have seen a tremendous increase in alcoholism and drinking problems on the part of young women. At one time, most of the drinking problem was centered in young men; and now we find that young women are drinking as much and, in some cases, even more than young men.

“We also find that young people tend to binge drink. They drink to get drunk. They, on the average, will consume twice as much alcohol at a sitting as an adult will. Of course, this leads to all kinds of problems. Twenty percent of our eighth graders drink regularly, and children who drink before age 15, and the average young person who starts to drink does start drinking before age 15, is four times more likely to become an alcoholic than someone who starts using alcohol at age 21. Certainly, early alcohol usage leads directly to marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy and so on.

“The other thing that is of some concern, is the fact that we inundate our young people with alcohol advertising. Our young people see 96 ads promoting alcohol use, often times with young people in the advertising itself, 96 ads for every one that they see that might discourage underage drinking. The predominate attitude in this country is that underage drinking is something that is reasonably acceptable. We have not done a good job of advertising and trying to alleviate this problem.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent to fight drug production in Afghanistan, in Colombia, around the world; and a fraction of that money that would be spent on underage drinking would be much more cost-effective because we spend very, very little in that regard.”

Muslim Violence In Europe

By now many people have got it figured out. There are at least two major schools of Islamic thought. One is non-violent and one violent. Each finds justifiable reason for their conduct in the Koran.

There are American Muslims who are Americans who practice the Muslim faith. The vast majority of these are non-violent. There are Muslims living in virtually every country including America who are first and foremost Muslims committed to subjecting the world to Islamic law. There is no limit to their violence nor is anyone exempt.

These Muslims derive their philosophy form the Koran. They believe there are only three options when they encounter an infidel, that is, a Christian, Jew, or non-Muslim. They are to convert them. This is often done at the point of a sword. Second, they can conquer them. That is how the “faith” spread. Third, they can kill them. There is no fourth good option.

A few years ago a friend emailed me from the Near East saying he had lived in the Muslim milieu all his life and he hoped Europe would awake before it was too late. His concern is well founded.

A segment of the Muslim world is still simmering from the failure of their ancestors to conquer all of Europe and impose Islamic law. When Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran he urged Muslims to move to Europe to claim it for Islam. They have moved there by the millions with that intent.

What is happening in France now is being represented by most of the media as resulting from economic conditions. It is not. It is politically and religiously motivated. Among Muslims of this persuasion the two are inseparable.

France thought they could placate the seething cauldron of Islamic aggression by not siding with America in the Iraq War. Not so. The unrest is spreading to other European countries for the same reason. Within France there are Muslim communities demanding to be left alone and governed by Islamic law not French law. Thus, they want to be a country within a country. Some major French cities are over seventy percent Muslim. They vote.

On our thirty trips to the Near East we have heard Muslim youth say they were moving to America. Most always said they were moving to Michigan. I was in Detroit recently and they did move there. There are more Mosque than churches. Vast areas of the city are occupied exclusively by Muslims. If there is an American city vulnerable to what is happening in Europe it is Detroit.

Whether you like President Bush or not he is right about there being a global war of aggression. In June 2004, President Bush was greeted in Paris by posters reading: “George Bush # 1 Terrorist.” Some of the same people carrying those signs have been burning cars recently.

Initially Islam expanded by the sword. As their numbers grew so their aggression intensified. At the edge of the sword they moved across North Africa and up into Spain. The Balkans as far as Turkey fell before their sword. They conquered Istanbul, the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, with an army of soldiers consisting of children of Christians who had been captured and “converted” to Islam under threat of death. The King of Austria was the military source for stopping their onslaught. However, there was a greater influence in halting the advance. A large group of Muslim intellects realized how they were doing what they were doing was wrong and they brought influences to bear to stop the trend. That is the primary hope to stop the global aggression that has once move emerged. Till then our military is our guardian. Appeasement doesn’t work. Ask the French.

How We Got Our Bible

From where did our Bible come? How did the specific 66 books become known as “the Bible?” Were other books considered and excluded? If so, why?

In the early years after the resurrection of Christ there was no need for written records. Those who evangelized and taught were eye witnesses. They had seen and heard our Lord act and teach. There was no need for verification by written records.

As more and more eyewitnesses died it became apparent written records were needed. Confusion was sure to occur if some permanent written record was not secured. This necessitated the codifying of reputable and reliable written texts.

Almost all the books of the New Testament were written within thirty years of the resurrection. The books of James and Galatians, written around 45-50 A.D. were likely the first.

The books gathered were called the “canon.” Canon comes from the Greek KANON, which comes from the Hebrew QANEH. The Hebrew means a reed or measuring rod. It came to mean the “rule of faith.” As applied to Scripture, it means the standard by which a volume was considered worthy of inclusion in the Bible. All were measured for inclusion or exclusion by the same standard; canon.

Had not God been involved in the formation of the canon some valid books might have been omitted or some erroneous ones included. As God used human beings to originate the books, so He used human beings to organize them. The church was the child of the Word not the mother. The result has prompted one historian to say it was NOT AN AUTHORIZED COLLECTION OF BOOKS, BUT A COLLECTION OF AUTHORIZED BOOKS.

The word Bible comes from the Greek word for “papyrus plant” (biblos) because the leaves of the plant were used to make a paper product.

The Bible is divided into the Old and New Testaments. The word “testament” comes from the Latin word TESTAMENTUM, meaning covenant.

The Old Testament was formulated four hundred years before Christ. It was the Synod of Jamnia, in A.D. 90, that confirmed the 39 books of the Old Testament as the official canon.

All the books of the New Testament were revered by the early church even before the formation of the canon. Around 200 A.D. Tertullian, Bishop of Carthage, was among the first to use the term New Testament.

Political events motivated the church to formalize the canon. The Roman Emperor Diocletian bitterly persecuted the church between 302 and 305 A.D. One of his edicts called for the burning of all Scripture. Christians had to decide which books were worth dying for. Diocletian was so sure he had destroyed all texts and eradicated Christianity he erected a monument inscribed: “The name of Christian is extinguished.”

Many other efforts were made to discredit and destroy the books that came to be the New Testament canon. Celsus tried by his sagacity to stifle it. Porphyry by means of his deep philosophy endeavored to eradicate it. Lucien with his keen satire tried to destroy it.

The ancient prophet said it well: “The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of God shall stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

As a Roman Emperor had tried to destroy the Scriptures so an emperor, Constantine, was used of the Lord to give occasion for it to be codified. In 312 A.D. the Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity. The following year he ended persecution of the church by declaring Christianity legal in the empire. In 325 A.D. he convened the Council of Nicea out of which came the Nicene Creed, a statement of Christian beliefs based on Scripture.

As a sidebar to the primary thesis of this writing spurious claims regarding the Council of Nicea need to be addressed. In Dan Brown’s book The DiVinci Code he writes, “All descriptions of…documents…in this novel are accurate.” Then speaking of the Council of Nicea he asserts, “Until that moment in history Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet…a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless.”

Brown has his facts reversed. The earliest friends and devotees of Christ accepted Him as the man/God-God/man. Only later did leaders of false cults and renegade religious rebels make up stories discrediting this fact. Primary among these was a man named Arius.

The Apostle John was a disciple of Jesus for three years. He wrote from his first person perspective the concept of Christ from a contemporaries point of view: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

John wrote of His eternal nature. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—-this we proclaim regarding the Word of life” (I John 1:1).

In addition to His preexistent nature John wrote of Him as creator. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made…. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1: 1,3,14).

“Word” translates the Greek word “Logos.” A way to understand the meaning of a word is to observe how it was used at the time of use. Philo in his writing of the time used “Logos” meaning “all that is known or knowable about God.”

This Logos, Jesus Christ, was the logic, the genius, who used His divine power to design and create the universe.

John and other gospel writers declared the deity of Christ long before the Council of Nicea. Those attending the council used the Bible as the basis for formulating their creed.

In the first two centuries of the emerging church various books now in our New Testament were considered divinely inspired and widely read in the churches. They existed as individual books during this time, not as a canon. The people came to be perceive of and confirm the self-revealing qualities of these books as possessing canonical qualities.

Though the various books that now comprise the New Testament were recognized by different Christian communities it wasn’t until 367 A.D. that the 27 books of the New Testament were listed in an Easter letter written by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria.

Apart form Athanasius, Jerome, about 385 A.D., recognized the same 27 books in his translation of the Latin Vulgate. The councils of Hippo (393 A.D.) and Carthage (397 A.D.) independently acknowledge the New Testament as now known as Canonical. This was not done at the Council of Nicea as some popular writers indicate.

The convergence of these and other groupings served as convincing evidence the list was correct. Between 200 and 400 A.D. there were ten independent catalogues of Canonical books published. Six of these agree with our New Testament and three omit only one book. The point is, there was general acceptance of the books that were eventually formally accepted long before the canon was confirmed officially.

The compilation of the canon was not a conciliar decision. The church recognized the canon rather than defined it.

The criteria for inclusion was antiquity, inherent authority, apostolic authorship, and Christocentricity. When the era of apostolic authorship ended the canon was considered closed. Intrinsic authority was necessary for canonicity. This is one of the primary reason works known as the Gnostic Gospels were not included.

Apostolic authorship was a vital test for inclusion in the canon. Though some few authors were not actually apostles they were companions of the apostles. Mark was Peter’s protege. Luke was Paul’s associate, and James and Jude were members of the apostolic community in Jerusalem. Of such authors Jesus said, “you also shall bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27).

Antiquity was a significant factor in settling on the 27 books. Proximity to the event being written about is important. Consider these factors.

Writings regarding the Iliad by Homer consist of 643 early manuscripts. The earliest was written 500 years after the events.

Writings considered historical that relate to the Gallic Wars involving Julius Caesar number 10 and the earliest was written 1,000 years after the events. Aristotle wrote around 343 B.C. and only five manuscripts exist. The earliest is dated 1100 A.D., 1400 years later.

There are over 25,000 early manuscripts of New Testament books and the lapsed time of the earliest is 25 years after the events. Comparison of these texts verify the message as having historical accuracy that has not having changed. In 1611 the Authorized King James version of the Bible based manuscripts existing at the time was released. Around 1848, during the European revolution, more manuscripts older than those used in the King James translation were found.

Since 1611 more than 5,000 manuscripts older than those from which the King James was translated have been found. Approximately 98% of the King James was proven to be clear and accurate. The 2% that was difficult to understand was strengthened and made more understandable by these older texts. They did not change the meaning, they simply made it more clear.

Long before the church had a canon it had a Lord and a theology. That theology was based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the earliest preaching of His followers. The New Testament writings are a codification of apostolic tradition. The books became canonical long after they were considered authoritative. As with Sir Isaac Newton, he did not invent gravity, it was there all the time, he merely identified it. So with the consistent canonical books, they were there and simply identified by various councils as such.

As the Christian era progressed a variety of literature related to Christ appeared. Some was written to promote special interests by various heretical groups. Some of these documents were likely well intended but factually inaccurate. An apparently disingenuous unit of such writings was designed to discredit Christ and the emerging Christian faith. Luke implied that a large body of fragmentary literature was circulating in his day.

“Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which are most surely believed among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you and orderly account…that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:1-4). It had become apparent measures would have to be taken to separate the wheat from the chaff. This necessity resulted in the canon.

A grouping of spurious writings, the Gnostic Gospels, are based on works written nearly 200 years after the events. Only a few copies of each of these exist; some only one. Though some have been given names of Bible characters they were written after the deaths of the persons whose names they bear. Skeptics say these books were excluded because they did not agree with those book included. Precisely! They did not meet the criteria for inclusion nor was their content compatible with that of the broadly accepted works included.

Critics seek to discredit the four gospels on the basis some items are mentioned in only one of them and various ones give different details of the same events. The details do not conflict they merely give different aspects of the same event. By no means does this weaken the reliability on the Word. It indicates there was no collusion among the writers. Each presented his insight on the subjects.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels because they are somewhat parallel in their content. About 90% of the material in the gospel of John is not in the other three gospels. The four dovetail to give a four-way perspective of who Christ was, what He did and taught.

Parenthetically, the Bible’s chapter divisions were created in the early 1200s by Cardinal Hugo at the University of Paris. The current verse divisions were not fully developed until 1551 by Robert Stephanus. The awkward breaks in some verses might be explained in that he reputedly did much of his work riding on a donkey.

The Apostle Peter recorded insight regarding the reliability of Scripture (II Peter 1:15-21).

He professed he and others “did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known … the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses” (Vs. 16).

In a court of law an eyewitness is considered to be a creditable witness.

He said he heard the voice of God say of Christ, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Vs. 17).

In a court of law a witness who has heard a statement first hand is considered a reputable witness.

He then speaks of “the prophetic word made more sure” (Vs. 19).

Thus, he declares there is a witness more reliable than an eye and/or oral witness. The more sure witness is the Bible because he asserts “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (Vs. 20). This expression does not refer to the reading of Scripture but rather its authorship. This is true because “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (Vs. 21).

The use of the plural personal pronoun “we” makes it apparent this is applicable to the Old and New Testaments because they were written by holy men moved of the Holy Spirit who were eyewitnesses who had heard Christ teach. Only writings by such men were admitted to the New Testament canon.

The word “canon” means a measuring rod, a rule of faith. The Bible being such it is essential for believers to study it and live by it. It has been given to us by heaven and brought to us at great expense by those who penned and preserved it.

Read it to be inspired.
Believe it to be safe.
Practice it to be fulfilled.

We Are Losing The Cultural War

JESUS CHRIST said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5: 14 – 16).The word has never proposed a more ominous “basket” under which to extinguish “the light of the world.” We are losing the cultural war.

Once the chorus singing of moral and spiritual values was compromise of ministers, teachers, neighbors, and community leaders. Now it is composed of Madonna, Brittany, Bart Simpson, rap groups, and celebrities pushing sneakers.

The evangelists of today are secularist and they are preaching immorality, not traditional morality. They are winning converts.

What does it mean to say we are losing the cultural war? It means we are seeing the designed and disciplined destruction of our culture’s moral system. There is a dramatic erosion of public morality and a dissipation of long-standing classic cultural qualities.

Just one area of society proves this. A parallel between the seven top school problems of the 1940s and the 1990s shows how far we have declined.

IN THE 1940’S THE SEVEN PRIMARY PROBLEMS WERE:
1. Talking in class
2. Chewing gum
3. Making noise
4. Running in halls
5. Cutting in line
6. Dress code violations
7. Littering

IN THE 2000’S THE SEVEN PRIMARY PROBLEMS ARE:
1. Drug abuse
2. Alcohol abuse
3. Pregnancy
4. Suicide
5. Rape
6. Robbery
7. Assault

Not a one from the 1940s is even considered important enough to be listed. Not a one from the 2000s could have even been thought to someday be a school problem.

Another example relates to the expression, “America has a Judeo/Christian heritage.” The governor of Mississippi used that statement recently and the public protest by anti-Christian bigots was so strong he had to publicly apologize. Yet, our Supreme Court once included in a ruling, “America is a Christian nation.”

There is such a strong effort to erode all traces of true history related to our Christian heritage that the idea that America was once a Christian nation comes under attack.

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, a research associate at the Institute for American Values, interviewed numerous middle class parents and concluded: “A common complaint I heard from parents was their sense of being overwhelmed by the culture. They felt their voice was a lot weaker. Parents see themselves in a struggle for the hearts and minds of their own children.”

We are unequivocally losing the cultural war. Why isn’t something being done? What can we do? I am glad you asked.

The reason somebody isn’t doing something is found answered in an incident that allegedly occurred on a sinking ship. As people rushed around seeking safety while alarms sounded, one fellow sat in a deck chair reading a book. As someone rushed by they said, “Man, why are you just sitting there reading? Don’t you know this ship is sinking?”

With a shrug the man replied, “Well, it’s not MY SHIP!”

Hear these similar responses:
“I don’t have any children in school; why should I be concerned about what is taught?”
“Abortion doesn’t affect my family; why should I get involved?”
“My family has well established sexual preferences; why should I be concerned about gay rights activists and pending legislation?”

Another reason it seems no one is doing anything is our accommodating nature. Have you every noticed how your body adjusts to changes in temperature? Have you ever noticed the ability of your eyes to adjust to a change in light? Have you ever stopped to consider the ability of your nose to accommodate a new unpleasant odor? Even the most offensive odor that at first tends to insult your sense of smell soon isn’t noticed. This is true of going to a town where there is a paper mill. Soon it isn’t noticed.

The same is true morally. We tend to get used to moral decay. That which formerly offended your moral standards now is accepted. Our conscience, like our sense of smell, adjusts to that which at first is offensive. We must renew our sensitivity.

Why doesn’t the church do something? It is not the job of the church to change society. It has the responsibility to change individuals. It is then the responsibility of these changed individuals to change society. It is time that you become an activist.

If you do it with intellect and integrity expect to get bashed. Don’t be surprised when you are. Jesus said, “In this wheelwright you will have tribulation…”

He also said, “Blessed are you when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake…”

Expect to be bashed and wear it like a badge of honor. Don’t become intimidated.

Don’t expect to be complimented by the world and don’t grow weary in well doing. I have written editorials in several newspapers each week for over 36 years. During that time there has been one letter to the editor supporting a moral issue I espoused. There have been hundreds bashing me. You know what many Christians do about it? They say to me, “Did you read the letter to the editor attacking your position?”

The answer is always “NO.” The reason is, they are always negative. Why don’t Christians write letters supporting positive positions?
Now is the time to set up your office as a Christian activist. Here are some steps.

1. Purchase stationary and stamps to be used exclusively in your ministry as an activist correspondent.

2. Establish a filing system on issues of interest.

3. Study the nighttime radio talk show listings and listen. Call in and express yourself. Few sane and sensible Christians dare to do so because the host will be hostile. Know they are and expect it. Don’t let them intimidate or anger you.

4. Call and write the office of public officials as they deliberate issues. Do both, call and write. A letter is really more effective whereas a call is more immediate. Both are needed.

5. Establish your intended schedule of output. How many letters and/or calls do you propose to write or make a week? Keep a record and don’t quit.

6. When you call or write any paper, public official, radio or TV station practice the “C” Factor. Always be: Clear, Concise, Courteous, and Composed.

7. Attend legislative, school board, and commission hearings on important matters.

8. Inform and enlist others to do as you are doing. Multiply your effort.

9. Decide on which hills you are willing to die. That is, not all battles are yours. Some are worthy of your efforts and some worthy of the efforts of others. Don’t become critical of fellow activists who choose battles other than your own.

For example, I am pro-life and an activist in this arena. I helped establish a Women’s Pregnancy Center and a home for unwed mothers. So pro-life persons attack me because I don’t march with them. Let them march and I will pray for them. But let me do what they aren’t doing and sponsor homes and centers to alleviate the problem.

Paul said, “I have fought the good fight…” This means I have fought a fight worth fighting. Pick your fights. You can’t fight all of them but be sure you pick one worthy of you fighting it.

10. Be a model living example of your professed faith. Don’t put yourself in the position of one compromising Christian who was told by a nonbeliever, “You are no different from the rest of us. So what am I to be converted to?”

Thankful Living

I THESSALONIANS 5: 16 – 18

JESUS CHRIST had a word for unthankful people. He was very select in choosing the proper descriptive word for ingrate. In addressing the ungrateful farmer, whose bumper crop overfilled his barns, Jesus said to him, “Thou fool…” The Greek word employed by Dr. Luke (12:20) was APHRON, meaning “the lack of common sense perception,” or signifying “without reason.” It is simply reasonable to be thankful.Our predecessors knew this and set aside a special day, called Thanksgiving, for the purpose of acknowledging thanks to God.

President George Washington issued the following presidential proclamation in 1789:

“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly implore His protection and favor–and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint committee requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God…”

It sounds like our first president knew the difference between separation of church and state and the employment of Biblical principles by a Christian statesman.

President Lincoln established Thanksgiving in 1863 as a national holiday specifically to give thanks to God for the blessings we have received during the previous year.

Today a concerted effort is being made by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which is composed of thousands of preschool and elementary teachers. They have published an “Anti-bias Curriculum” that attacks the holiday. This organization urges teachers to focus on the plight of Native Americans. “Talk about what is fair and unfair, what helps us learn about Native Americans, what hurts their feelings.” This is a virtuous thing to do, but not at the expense of debasing one of our major holidays.

Other efforts to downplay the true meaning of the holiday urge teachers to emphasize the day as one in which the Pilgrims met with the Native Americans to thank them for their help.

In all of these efforts the true Christian faith of those who initiated and inaugurated the holiday is omitted.

Jesus said it is “mindless,” the practice of a “fool” not to give thanks. Therefore, to be wise, we should employ regularly the three principles stated in our text. The three we relate to are all internal aspects of inner life. We must have:

I. THE CAPACITY TO EXPRESS JOY (VS. 16 “REJOICE ALWAYS”)
First, notice at the end of verse 18, these are “the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” That is, God want’s you to do them. In each of these the modifier comes emphatically before the verb: Always rejoice, Continually pray, in everything give thanks.

Centuries earlier the prophet Nehemiah (8:10) said of Israel, in one of their greatest times of difficulty, “The joy of the Lord is thy strength.”

The angelic messenger shouted, “Joy to the world the Lord has come.” This isn’t a bonfire-pep-rally-kind-of-energy-of-the-flesh elation that soon fades. Neither is it a type of self-delusion brought about by not facing reality. Nor is it the synthetic kind mirrored by fake smiles and quoted slogans. It is a calm, consistent sense of well-being because all is well with the Father, even if ALL isn’t well in your world.

All was not well with the Christians who initially received this letter. They had “received the word in much affliction, with joy in the Holy Spirit” (I Thess. 1: 6). Notice they had “much affliction.” They are described in 2:14 as having “also suffered.”

The exhibition of joy amid suffering was one of the distinctive traits of the young church. It still characterizes a Spirit-filled believer.

This command is an imperative statement, an appeal to the will. It reminds us that we are in part responsible for maintaining an outlook filled with joy. It reminds us that Christian joy is not totally dependent upon externals but is a result of the internal presence of the Holy Spirit and His being given control of our attitude.

Don’t be disappointed with yourself if you have had difficult times and have failed to rejoice. However, never be content to let such a spirit characterize you. For a Christian to remain sad, negative, or in a complaining mood is to break a command. It shows a basic mistrust of God: either His love, wisdom, or power.

To be around some people, even on their good days, is as cheering as witnessing an autopsy, or diving into an icy lake. Don’t let the glow and glory of your today be polluted by the garbage of someone’s gloom. Don’t live in the valley of the humdrum. Move up to the mountains of joy.

Before His ascension our beloved Lord said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15: 11).

The elderly Apostle John wrote, “These things we write to you that your joy may be full” (I John 1:4).

Based on these statements it is self-apparent that joy is in part dependent upon having a Bible orientation, NOT a world view.

II. THE CONFIDENCE TO ENGAGE IN PRAYER (VS. 17 “PRAY…)
Prayer is the natural consequence of friendship with God.

Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Perhaps this is true. For those of whom it is true, it is a revelation they have not established the right friendship with God.

To “pray without ceasing” doesn’t mean continuously occurring, BUT constantly reoccurring. It means never to hang up the receiver, even if you are not talking. It means to always have your antenna up. Our practice of prayer may be intermittent but the spirit of prayer must be incessant.
Constant prayer causes our mind to conceive and the child brought forth is WISDOM.

In times of crisis, we are prone to resort to prayer. In the Cuban missile crisis, America faced pending disaster. Russian-made missiles in Cuba were found aimed at our cities. A naval blockade was set up. Confrontation seemed inevitable. People rushed to stores to stock up on medicine, food, and batteries. President Kennedy in an address to the nation appealed to all people to pray “in your homes, churches, and schools.” Even schools! Yes, crisis forgets about improper laws. If we will pray in crisis, why not in celebration.

If you are ever on a flight preparing for a crash and the pilot has time you will hear the following:
“We are beginning our final descent. At this moment, in accordance with International Aviation Codes established at Geneva, it is my obligation to inform you that if you believe in God you should commence prayer.”

Don’t wait for a nose dive to pray.

Self-confidence apart from the right relationship with the Lord is one of our greatest hindrances. Associated-confidence is a sure way to victorious living. By this is meant, aligning yourself with the will of the Father through prayer.

For example, the failure of Simon Peter, at the time of the betrayal of Christ, could not be attributed to insincerity or a lack of zeal. In good faith he loved Jesus. In good faith he would have died for Him. His failure grew out of a prayerless heart in the garden. As a result, he trusted his own strength to do what his own will dictated. If he had obeyed His Lord and prayed, this self-deception would have been avoided.

God is not likely to grant you the good things you yourself desire if you don’t even ask Him for them.

III. THE CAPACITY TO ACKNOWLEDGE PRAISE (VS. 18 “GIVE THANKS”)
The word “praise” is derived from the Latin word “preisier” which means to prize. Therefore, praise is the recognition of the worth and merit of our God. To praise is to prize.

Often the most beautiful praise comes from the bleakest circumstances. The decade of the 1669s in England was filled with disaster. The plague in 1665 resulted in the death of over 70,000 people in London. A year later in an attempt to destroy some plague infested areas by fire a city wide fire broke out that destroyed most of the city. The prophets of doom and gloom predicted the city and England would never recover.

During all of this a godly Christian man — Bishop Thomas Ken — kept encouraging the people that he could still see the light of God’s purpose and presence even through all this.

He felt compelled to write a song expressing his deep conviction that God was still sovereign and worthy of praise. He wrote and we still sing:

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow,

Praise Him all creatures here below,

Praise Him above ye heavenly host.

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”

Praise is not an option to those who want to please God. He said it is His “will,” that is, what He wants of us.

Praise spares us the pain of a bloated ego. When we learn to pass on to the Lord all the praise we receive, we are blessed.

Praise is rooted in the confidence that God can use all things for good. Those who realize that blessings often come wrapped in burdens can give thanks “in everything.”

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, as a Russian dissident was imprisoned in Siberia. He wrote of that horror:
“It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually, it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes, not through states, nor classes, nor political parties, but right through all human hearts. So, bless you, prison, for having been in my life.” What are the “prisons” in your life, presently, for which you need to praise the Lord?

That little preposition “in” (en) means to give thanks “in connection with everything.” Knowing this prevents us from facing the adversities of life with gritted teeth, and enables us to face them with grateful hearts.

The fact that “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” does not mean you have to do it, but that you can do it at all times. There are many things we can’t do, but this we can do. You can pull yourself out of the shadows of life into the sunlight of His love by prayer. Often a Psalm begins by the writer describing himself as being in a state of despondency. Read on! As he begins to praise the Lord in this state, it is as though his spirit takes wings and soars in joy. The dove of joy rises on the wings of prayer and praise.

If circumstances leave you with little obvious in them for which to praise the Lord, take an imaginary walk around Calvary. Look into the eyes of Jesus. Listen to His quivering, but acquitting voice saying, “Father, forgive them.” Remember the crown of thorns. Then tell yourself, “All this was done for me.” See if that gives you something for which to praise Him.

Life In The Parent – Child War Zone

PHILIPPIANS 1: 6

JESUS CHRIST “increased in wisdom and statue, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2: 52). That is the intended growth pattern for all of us.

We are to grow:
INTELLECTUALLY (in wisdom), PHYSICALLY (statue), SPIRITUALLY (with God), and SOCIALLY (with man).
When a person does there develops a well balanced life.

When a parent holds a new born child and gazes into its eyes they are looking at a candidate for a personality. Though the child is born with a basic temperament that is all its own, the parent does much to influence the developing personality. Because of knowing this many parents feel unable to cope, inadequate, full of self-doubt, unprepared to make the child feel loved and secure, and inevitably guilty.

Approximately 77 billion people have lived on this earth and still we feel inadequate to rear children. There was a day when grandparents were around to impart practical knowledge based on shared values. Today, in their absence, a plethora of books offer advice on how to rear children. Some of these are completely contrary to Scripture and yet sound plausible.

In the old West a cowboy came upon an Indian with his ear pressed to the ground and heard him mutter: “Wagon! Three people. Two men, one woman. Four horses. One black, three dapple. Wagon going west.”
The cowboy asked, “Can you tell all that by just listening to the sounds vibrating in the earth?”
“No,” said the Indian, “they run over me.”

Parents does that sound like you? Do you feel like you have been run over by your children? Have you resorted to anything that will work for the moment?

In his recent book, Parenting Isn’t for Cowards, Dr. James Dobson divided children into two groups as a result of an extensive survey involving over 35,000 households. The book resulted from his earlier book entitled, The Strong Willed Child.

Incidentally, one of Dr. Dobson’s staff members told me recently of some of the difficulty they have in people ordering items. One wrote requesting a copy of The Strong Wild Child.

Another wanted a copy of Parenting Isn’t for Cows.

One lady wrote, “I didn’t receive my copy of ‘Romance after Marriage.'” The reply, “We are sorry you didn’t receive ‘Romance After Marriage,’ we are sending a substitute.”

Intending to request a copy of “Men in Mid-life Crisis,” a listener asked instead for a copy of “Men in Mid-Night Crisis.”

A number of things affect a child’s development. John Curtis, cofounder of The Orlando Consulting Group, offers a mini profile as a way of helping identify traits of children.

Before listing these I want to fix the fact there are many exceptions to these basic rules. Knowing the tendencies can help compensate.

Firstborn: They are reared with duties, responsibilities, and expectations. As adults they tend to be leaders and occupy supervisory roles.
Middle Child: They tend to be good children that don’t often get into trouble. They are seldom first and rarely last at anything. As adults they don’t need much guidance or praise. They are good negotiators.
Baby: The youngest child tends to be creative, rebellious and spoiled. As adults they aren’t comfortable with much supervision because they didn’t get as much as their older siblings.
Only Child: Like the baby, they tend to be rebellious and creative. As adults they can tend to be difficult to manage because they are use to getting their way.

Meanwhile, back to the book. In his recent book Dobson groups children into two temperament categories with a great degree of difference in each group.

One is the COMPLIANT child. This child lives to please. If you have such a child thank the Lord.
Only 14% of them defy their parents even in an insignificant manner. Of those who did it was only for a short time. Of these compliant children 91% do not become difficult even during the terrible twos. Even during teen years only 17% become rebellious. The other is the STRONG WILLED child. Such a child is a challenge. 40% of them rebel as toddlers. The percentage rises during every stage of adolescence, reaching a peak of 74% in the teen years.

The survey divided children into five categories: VERY COMPLIANT, RATHER COMPLIANT, AVERAGE, RATHER STRONG-WILLED, VERY STRONG-WILLED. Of the 35,000 surveyed those over 30 months of age revealed 74% were very strong-willed and 24% were very compliant.

Both types of children need love and acceptance. Neither is likely to change type. Therefore, each must be dealt with differently. The strong willed child requires more discipline. This child is likely to see it if a sibling isn’t getting as much discipline. It should be calmly explained that it is the conduct that is being disciplined not just the person. If the sibling engages in the same conduct the same discipline will be given. This helps the child come to realize certain behavior results in given discipline.

WHAT IS A PARENT TO DO?
1. RECOGNIZE AND ACCEPT DIFFERENCES.
An amazing degree of diversity can exist between children of the same parents. Accept their differences and don’t make comparisons.

No two children are reared in the same home. Consider a given age of 5. Two siblings with an age difference of three years pass through the home at age five in different years and things have changed. The family might have even moved. The income level and/or schedule of the parents may have changed. For what ever reason no two children are reared in the same home.

2. ASSUME CONTROL EARLY IN LIFE.
Some doctor’s advocate not feeding infants when they cry. Instead establish feeding times and let the child learn to wait. Within a very few days the child learns. Learns what? Learns that it is not in control. The parent is. Otherwise the child starts off feeling that certain behavior gets desired response from parents. Thus, the child in is charge from the beginning.

Here is something parents might not want to know but need to know. A baby placed in substitute care, even very good care, for over 20 hours a week, is at risk psychologically. Children need the “emotional accessibility” of a parent with deep concern.

A recent study revealed that 8% of the child care for babies and infants is unsuitable and 40% is substandard. If child care must be used study the environment in which your child will be. The parent is responsible for conquering the will and bringing it to an obedient temperament. This necessitates informing the understanding of the child. Time is required and consistency is a must. By failing to give timely correction, stubbornness is cultivated and encouraged. Parents are instructed in God’s Word to “Train up a child in the way it should go.”

Psychologist say children aren’t born knowing how to love, but with a capacity to receive and experience love. In other words, they have to have it modeled for them by their parents. If a child doesn’t get it in infancy they grow up without knowing how to love.

Every willful act of disobedience must be dealt with proportionately. This is the only thing that will insure a child’s future happiness. This is not to suggest harshness, but it is to encourage consistent firmness.

Early childhood education should begin in the home. The three “R’s” should be taught at home and early in life. They are: RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, AND RESOURCEFULNESS.

3. IF YOU HAVE A VERY COMPLIANT CHILD DON’T PICK FIGHTS.
Some parents anticipate difficulty and transfer feelings stimulated by strong-willed children toward compliant ones. Don’t. Give your child, whether strong willed or compliant, standards as a challenge. This is especially good for the free time of summer.

Set standards in four categories:
PHYSICAL, such as, run a mile in a predetermined time.
SPIRITUAL, have the child memorize certain Scripture with predetermined rewards.
INTELLECTUAL, set a goal of reading a Christian biography and writing a report on it for a bonus.
PRACTICAL, if your child is old enough let him or her plan a family outing all by his or her self.

4. KEEP YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR.
I heard one mother tell of hearing her two children laughing and squealing uncontrollably in the kitchen. She burst in and they were slinging their Jell-O all over the place. She said her first instinct was to descent on them in a rage. However, instantly it struck her as funny. Instead she got a spoon and joined them in flipping Jell-O against the wall. After it was over they cleaned it up together and agreed it was fun, but shouldn’t be done again.

5. CULTIVATE AN ATMOSPHERE OF FAITH.
“Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).

Failure to do so is about to bankrupt our society spiritually. Well over 2,000,000 cases of child abuse are reported each year. Statistics show more twins are being born today. When that was shared with a third grade class one child responded, “I guess more twins are being born because little children are afraid to come into the world alone.”

Read Bible stories. Pray together. Make Christ real and personal by example. What they see is what they hear.

Learning How To Love

I JOHN 4: 7 – 11

JESUS CHRIST said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another: By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13: 34,35).

Jesus Christ and His teachings tower over the landscape of human life and history as Mount Everest would on a Florida beach.

Frogs now chirp in the tall grass that grows where the voices of powerful men once were heard on the sight of the ancient city once known as “Babylon the Great.”

The splendor of Rome where her senate once debated the fate of the world now lies in ruins.

The artistic beauty of the greatly admired Athens has atrophied. Her philosopher’s voices silenced.

Yet, the teachings of Christ still influence more people in our contemporary society than all their wisdom combined. Why?

A statement attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte gives us our answer: “The Caesar’s, Kahn’s, and Pharaoh’s kingdoms have failed. For we have built our kingdoms by the sword, but the kingdom of Christ was built on love.”

The magazine “Psychology Today” recently ran a feature article on “The Ideal Man.” The article was a report on an extensive written survey involving a vast cross segment of Americans. Among men and women the ideal man identified by their readers was Jesus Christ. His personal love for us and His teaching about love endears Him to millions.

There is a contemporary line, “Everybody loves a lover.”

Love has spawned a new industry. Immediately after December 25, stores start putting up Valentines decorations. Flowers, candy, and cards attest of professed love. Tradition says there was a saintly individual named Valentine who around 449 AD was imprisoned for not worshiping pagan gods. On the eve of his execution he sent a note to the jailor’s daughter who had befriended him expressing his appreciation. He signed it “Your Valentine.” Allegedly that was the first of many Valentine cards. With words varying from sentiment to humor, love is expressed. Words such as: “Roses are red, violets are blue. Your mother was beautiful, what happened to you?

Everybody loves to be loved. To be loved you have to love. Back comes the weary question, “How do you love?”.

First, in our confused society we would do well to define love. The New Testament word for it most often used is AGAPE. It is selfless love such as God has for us. It is unconquerable benevolence, invincible good will. The love of which I speak is not an emotion to be aroused. It is a principle we deliberately live by. It is a spontaneous self-giving without regard for merit.

AGAPE love was a word and embodying an attitude that packed a spiritual wallop. It transformed millions of people around the world into persons willing to die for their convictions. At the same time it aroused millions of bloodthirsty persecutors, eager to eradicate those who believe in the power of this word.

Now the question “How can I learn to love?”

Psychologists tell us that babies are not born knowing how to love. However, they do have the capacity to receive love, to experience it. In effect they have to learn to love by observation and experience how they are loved.

If a child does not experience it from parents, it dramatically influences the child. Dr. Rene Spitz of New York University has studied many children living in secular orphanages and concludes that unloved children are much slower in development. Love is not only a part of our development, it aids our total development.

It is said we learn how to love from the parent of the same sex, and we learn who to love from the parent of the opposite sex. Ideally we learn to love from our parents. With a breakdown in the traditional family and with so many poor role models for children to relate to, more and more people are finding it difficult to learn how to love.

How are children growing up on a battlefield going to learn to love? How can adults learn to love? One of my dear adult companions who had no home life as a child told me of how he never knew who his dad was and how he seldom saw his mother. He grew up not only without proper parental role models but without Christ. After he was saved he said, “I never knew what love meant. I had a wonderful wife, but I never really knew how to love her until I was saved. I learned the real meaning of love when I met Jesus.”

Enrollment is now open for a short course in how to learn to love. There is a way to learn to love even in an environment devoid of parental love. Knowing of the breakdown of role models, Jesus stepped in and demonstrated His special kind of love.

You may be the product of a parentless home or a home where two adults you called parents reared you without love, BUT you can learn to love. Regardless of your age you can learn to love the same way a child is supposed to learn, that is, by feeling and seeing how you are loved. In this case, how you are loved by Jesus Christ.

The Bible says, “God is love.” It doesn’t simply say, “God loves.” He does, of course; but the point is He is love. To learn to love go to the source and experience His love. By doing so you can learn to love.

Notice in our text of I John 4: 19 the process: “We love…because He first loved us.” That is an electrifying one-line summary of how to learn to love. Christ has shown us the true meaning of love by loving us. By experiencing His love we learn how to love. When we commit our life to Christ, we begin to experience His love; and it spontaneously shows in our relationships with others. Three prominent traits of His love for us are noted in our text. As a result of knowing and experiencing these characteristics of love, we spontaneously learn how to love.

“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (Vs. 8). Conversely, when you come to know God through Jesus Christ, you have enrolled in a life-long course in how to love.

I. CHRIST’S LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL
That is hard for most persons to realize. We tend to put conditions on our acceptance of people. Two obvious reasons why we find it hard to love come into focus in this regard.

* We set standards we want people to come up to so that we can love them. We don’t really love them; we love their good qualities. As miraculous as it is God loves you just as you are. If He loves us, we can learn to love others. READ and APPLY Ephesians 4: 30 – 32.

* A second reason it is hard to love is that we know ourselves so well. We know all the deep dark secrets about our self that are so unlovely that we can hardly believe anyone would love us. We develop defenses to keep people at a distance so they won’t really discover what we are truly like.

Some persons have such a deep need for love that they don’t want people to know their unlovable qualities. After all without the love of Christ as our standard we don’t love people if they aren’t lovable. Some people need love so badly they dare not reveal an imperfection in themselves. Thus, they become defensive and refuse to admit error. This results in a self-righteous attitude. It consequences in persons destroying the very people with which they most want a good relationship.

Some persons try to camouflage their true nature with flashy expensive clothes, fad food habits and dining places, titles, position, and appearance. God doesn’t love you because of what you have or do, but because He is love. Some persons go through life very insecure because they feel they must earn God’s love. They translated this into personal relationships and feel they must earn the love of people also. This makes it difficult for them to accept love because they don’t feel they deserve it.

Can you accept the fact you are accepted even though you are unacceptable?

Parents have you been putting conditions on your child which must be met before you will love him or her? Children is the reverse true? We are to love one another as Christ loved us. How is that? Unconditionally!

Once you begin to love in this way you are a model of love to which the object of your love can better relate.

“We love because Christ first loved us.” If you become a “first lover,” you will find those around you sooner or later will catch on.

II. CHRIST’S LOVE IS UNRESTRICTED
Our love for God and others is directly related, verse 20. By the quality of our love, we reveal God’s love to others. It is imperative that we who call ourselves Christians put God’s love for us into action and love others.

This doesn’t mean we will instantly start to feel warm and friendly toward everybody. Feelings aren’t the center or the circumference of Christian love. Love and affection, even romance, aren’t necessarily the same thing.

Our Christian love is demonstrated by doing for others what Christ has done for us. That means we learn to accept others with all their faults and failures. We accept them even when we can’t approve of what they are doing. God loves you though He might totally disapprove of some things you are doing.

The old cliche is true, “God loves the sinner, but He hates the sin.” You may disapprove of something someone is doing while still showing God’s love for them. That is unrestricted love.
“…if God loved us … we ought to love one another.”

III. CHRIST’S LOVE IS UNINHIBITED
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us…” The word “manifested” means it came out into the open and was made public. Calvary is a bold manifestation of His love.

The Greek word in verse 10 translated “propitiation” isn’t in the working vocabulary of most people. “Propitiation” means the satisfying of God’s holy law. It doesn’t mean we have done something to satisfy God and make ourselves acceptable to God. It means God has lovingly done something making us acceptable to Himself.

Verse 9 explains what: “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”

Do you want to learn to love. First, realize loving is giving and receiving. Are you willing to receive God’s love? Can you accept the fact you are accepted even though unacceptable?

God’s love is so unrestricted that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, for you. Now, are you ready to give God your love?

How To Live In His Will In A Wilderness

EXODUS 17:1 – 7
[To better comprehend the following read the text first.]Jesus Christ said, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

How do you relate to that? How does that relate to you? Many Christians act like: They have never heard that. They don’t believe it, God won’t do it the next time. The question often posed is: “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Vs. 7) Paraphrased, “Where are you when I need you, God?”

In our text there are two simultaneous truths. One is historical. It is the story of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. The other is a current spiritual analogy as applied to our post-salvation experiences.

Note, these people were where they were “according to the commandment of the Lord.” It was God’s will for them to be there in the middle of the desert without any water. We Christians often find ourselves in desert places, in adverse conditions. If you have a good memory, you may recall it has been in the desert that some of your greatest blessings have happened. The basic, initially emerging summary truth that is readily apparent, is you don’t have to be disturbed in the desert.

I Peter 1:6,7 explains what was happening to them and helps interpret much of what happens to us. A way of testing your faith is to get you into a position where human impossibility is apparent.

The story that follows is a true story that pictures many of your experiences. This is a perfect analogy of where you have been and/or will be.

The people needed water. This was no imaginary need, it was real. They were bivouacked over a 25 to 30 mile area. Everyone wanted and needed water. There was absolutely no way to get it. Imagine the panic! Observe their reaction. It is how not to act. They had seen God’s grace and guidance many times in their deliverance. Yet, they seem to act as though it has just run out.

With great anticipation, they have come through a vast expanse of desert to an oasis called Meribah, meaning “refreshment,” Their strong desire for water was frustrated–the oasis was dry.

Bewildering! It was absolutely unreal that God would do this to them. Their preoccupation with having no water caused them to overlook one thing. They were there “according to the commandment of the Lord” (Vs. 1). God was not trying to torture or mistreat them. He merely wanted to bless them. Bless them? Yes, bless them.

They were in a position as hopeless as we sometimes find ourselves. Let’s learn the lesson of this story academically that we might not have to learn it experientially. If it is, however, our experience, let’s learn the truths taught in it so we can have the right resources in our hour of need.

There was NO human solution. They were right where God wanted them.

How do you feel in extenuating or impossible circumstances? How do you feel when someone mistreats or crosses you? We want everyone to live, think, and act like us. Why? Because of our pride we want to be dictator. They don’t and won’t. Quit trying to make them. If you are in a position of leadership, you may have to guide them but within their own personality.

How do you feel about air travel? Are you a white-knuckle flyer? Do you remind yourself that the Lord said, “Low I am with you always…” Can’t you simply conclude whether or not a flight is one the Lord wants you to make. If it is, you can’t lose. If you are doing God’s will, you are invincible until His intended work for you is complete. If you are flying in a specific plane “according to the commandment of the Lord” and it crashes, you simply die in God’s will. You can’t lose.

Everybody comes to places where they have to rely on the Lord or exercise the only option—PANIC.

Faith is merely confidence in God’s character. Peace of mind is a result of a spiritual technique. It doesn’t mean to quit working, it just means to start trusting.

They had a real, not imagined, need. They had seen God work many times. By now you would think they should have developed confidence in Him. Based on Romans 8:32 we should have consistent faith in God: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not freely give us all things?”

There is grace at the cross. From there we move into an area of more grace — grace more abundantly. James 4:6 He gives more grace. Therefore, He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

If the Lord has saved you, He has already done the most difficult thing. Surely, He can do the lesser things. Trust Him.

By the thousands those people panicked and complained. A Christian is at his worst under pressure when he panics and can’t think straight. People who have lost their spiritual “cool” can’t be dealt with. Moses knew this. He didn’t try. He went before the Lord in prayer. Moses was practicing what he had preached in Exodus 14:13, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will accomplish for you today.”

Now Moses exercised the difficult authority of a leader. He stood up for what was right in the wave of accusation, adversity, and the majority. The people were ready to stone Moses, and he personally practiced Ex. 14:13 while appealing to the people to do the same.

God instructed Moses to stand before the people and strike the rock once. He confidently believed and obeyed the word of God. In the fact of adversity he went forth obediently. Water resulted. He called the name of this place “Meribah,” a place of testing.

This is a picture of salvation. In Isaiah 55:1 water is a picture of salvation. When this water gushed forth, the people didn’t stand around and refuse it with such excuses as: “I am not worthy.” Or, “I’ll drink later.” Or, “Somebody will see me and I am a shy, private person.” Neither should we stand around and refuse salvation with such weak excuses.

Now move rapidly to Numbers 20. This is approximately 40 years later. During these forty years in the wilderness, they have seen God work miracle after miracle. They have repetitiously seen divine faithfulness and all they have done is complain. These are history’s greatest failures. All but Moses, Joshua, and Caleb were unfaithful.

All the old generation had died off. Now there is a new generation to be tested. They, like their parents came to the desert of Sin. Their need is as acute as had been their parents. Again, there is no water. Forty years ago God provided water, but now there is none. How did they react?

“The people contended with Moses,” (Numbers 20:3). These children had learned by the example of their parents, not from the word of and faithfulness of God. They panicked and tried to do the job themselves. Remember, they too are where God wants them. They add a new twist, however, they call this an “evil place” (Nu. 20:5).

They called this place where God wanted them evil and talked about Egypt as wonderful (Vs. 5). Why? They had never been there. This generation was born in the wilderness. They got these ideas from their parents. Often parents discipline
children for things the child has learned from the parent. Parents must teach spiritual values to their children.

Israel had left Egypt, but Egypt had not left the heart of Israel. Sometimes a person is converted, but the world is still in the heart. Get it out.

Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle to pray. Unfortunately now Moses gets raveled. He now digresses from God’s expressed will.

Moses was instructed to strike the first rock with the rod. That rock was called “sewer,” a sharp rock. The rod was the rod of judgment used to part the Nile. That experience spoke of the cross.

Now at the second rock called “Salem,” a high pointed rock Moses is commanded to speak to it. This experience spoke of the resurrection. Moses had the rod of Aaron present, the rod that budded, picturing new resurrected life.

Moses was to speak to the rock. At this point he disobeyed and struck it. Observe how he reacted when out of God’s will: “Here now,, you rebels! He became critical and condemning. “Must WE bring water for you out of this rock?” (Vs. 10.)

In spite of his disobedience in striking the rock, God supplied the needs of the people.

God spoke to Moses and Aaron and said, “you did not believe Me…” Disobedience is always a result of disbelief. God calls disobedience disbelief.

Now turn to Hebrews 3:7ff
“If” introduces volition. That is, the decision is entirely up to the individual.
“His voice” relates to His promise. There are 7,000 promised of God that apply to you in the Scripture.
“Do not harden your hearts…” This is knowing a promise and not applying it.
“in the rebellion,” a reference to Meribah.
“Today,” right now don’t “harden your hearts.”

How To Be Victorious In Spiritual Warfare

EPHESIANS 6: 10 – 17

JESUS CHRIST, “the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3: 8).

The work Satan has been doing from the dawn of creation is described in this same verse: “…the devil sinned from the beginning.”

In the wilderness after His baptism, Jesus met Satan one on one and won. In that wilderness confrontation the devil attacked Christ at the three most vulnerable points we human beings have. In each instance Christ applied Scripture and gained the victory.

Throughout His life on earth, these two supernatural superpowers met time and again and in each instance Christ emerged the victor.

Their last confrontation was on Calvary’s cross. There it appeared Satan finally body-slammed Christ and won the ultimate victory as symbolized by the tomb in which the lifeless body of Christ lay. Christ was indeed down — but decidedly not out. In the resurrection He conquered sin, death, and the devil.

Summarily, Colossians 1: 13, 14 says: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sin.” Thus, we share Christ’s victory.

For a number of years we lived on the West Bank in New Orleans. Near our home was a massive earthen rampart. It was part of the defense line in the battle of New Orleans. Here the ragtag army of pirates and pioneers under the command of Andrew Jackson met the formidable British forces that had defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. A horrendous battle followed with Jackson’s forces victorious.

What wasn’t known in New Orleans that day was the war was over — the British had already surrendered. Communication in that day was so limited the word had not arrived in the Crescent City and the battle was enjoined.

Spiritually we find ourselves in that same posture today. Christ has won the spiritual war. We, however, remain to engage in the mopping-up action. As the forces of Jackson fought like the outcome of the war depended on them, so we must “fight the good fight.”

Every believer is perpetually engaged in spiritual warfare. As in time of war there are war zones and contested zones where the battle isn’t raging at the moment. I saw a graphic example of this in Lebanon where a bloody civil war raged for years. On our landing approach to the Beirut airport our flight pattern took us in over downtown Beirut where buildings could be seen smoldering and vehicles bombed out and burning in the streets. Our flight pattern continued over other sections of the city, one of which was a golf course on which persons were playing. The two areas were close enough so that when we landed we could see the golf course and hear the guns downtown.

Some were literally struggling for their lives at that moment being in the war zone while others seemed uninvolved. Even those that appeared detached would find the time they would be involved in the heat of battle.

That depicts the Christian experience. There are times various ones of us are in the spiritual war zone and other times there is a lull in the action. Does it ever seem to you your lulls are too few and far between?

This spiritual warfare isn’t World War I style where opposing armies wear easily identifiable uniforms and occupy well-marked battle lines in trenches. It is more the Vietnam guerilla warfare type where confusion as to who the enemy is prevails. For that reason God, in His wisdom, helps us identify our enemy in our text: Ephesians 3: 12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood…… That is, our real enemy isn’t human beings.

Our real enemy isn’t the people who adhere to counter Christian concepts. We have a tendency to center in on them and fail to realize that they have lost the battle against the real one we are contesting — the devil.

Our real enemy isn’t one another as believers, though sometimes we act as though we are. As a student of history there is an account that helps me keep this fact in focus.

On July 29, 1588, Philip II of Spain sent his Invincible Armada, consisting of over 100 warships, against the greatly out manned British fleet just off the coast of the French port of Gravelines.

The commanding British admiral walked on deck of his flagship just before the battle and found two of his junior officers engaged in a heated quarrel. He grabbed both of then by the nape of the neck and forcing their faces seaward toward the approaching Spanish Armada forcefully said: “Gentlemen, there is your enemy.”

By means of our text our Lord would direct our attention to our true enemy, our adversary, the devil.

There are certain roles most of us encounter as children growing up. Remember the bully? How about the tattletale? Well, was there one in your class who enjoyed starting arguments or fights and then stepped aside and watch the fight? That is the devil. In many instances he knows he isn’t going to be fought against because he diverts attention from himself and causes us to select the wrong enemy instead of him.

Our text says we are engaged in spiritual warfare. The forces of evil are organized for this conflict. Note – – –

I. THE DESIGN
A. “PRINCIPALITIES,” translates the Greek term “ARCHON.” The title emerged in the time of Pericles. It was a reference to the most powerful leader in the land. Satan of course is the Commanding Officer. He has organized his demonic horde for spiritual warfare. An archon is the equivalent of a field general in charge of a certain operation. Principalities are very powerful and authoritative demons.

B. “THE RULERS OF DARKNESS OF THIS AGE,” translates the Greek word “KOSMOKPATOR.” The word comes from a combination of two words. KOSMOS meaning world or universe, and KRATOR meaning ruler. Literally, “world rulers of darkness.” These are the devil’s special forces. They are assigned to work on world rulers and important people in society.

C. “SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS IN HIGH PLACES, ” actually means “the spirits of evil in the heavenlies.” This is that massive horde of demons that still work on all of us. This is the rank and file of demons that perpetually attack believers.

Confusing the issue is the fact Satan often masquerades as an angel of light. His demonic horde is also composed of masters of deceit. They even have the capacity of performing “signs and wonders.”

Christ encountered one of these deceivers in the Gadarenean demoniac who had the capacity to speak. Such a demon is called an EGGASTRIMUTHOS demon, which means a ventriloquist demon.

How then are we mere mortals to combat this awesome force?

II. THE DEFENSE
When Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit penned our text in Ephesians 6, he was in prison. Perhaps he was glancing up at a Roman guard and observing various parts of his uniform as he described our defenses. Roman praetorian guards personified the power of Rome.

A. STAND THEREFORE HAVING GIRDED YOUR WAIST WITH TRUTH (Vs. 14).
The waist is a vital and vulnerable midsection of the torso. The Roman soldiers wore a wide leather belt not unlike those worn by weight lifters. It was to support and strengthen abdominal muscles in time of battle.

This belt was also utilitarian. Attached were loops, hooks, and rings which held such items as a length of rope, a sword, a mace, a sack carrying food and other functional items. Being around the waist made these items immediately available.

The Greek word translated “truth” is ALETHEIA. It signifies that which lies at the base; the real essence of the matter. It is a reference to doctrine. A knowledge of doctrine is essential to survival in spiritual warfare.

If we are going to confront the devil, “the father of all lies,” we must do it with the truth.

B. THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (VS. 14B)
The breastplate of the Roman soldier covered only his shoulders and vital organs. It didn’t cover the arms as that later worn by British knights. The arms were free for protection and productivity.

The righteousness referred to here is the righteousness of Christ. Our righteousness is referred to as “filthy rags.” Rags make poor armor.

The Greek word DIKAIOSUNE, here translated “righteousness,” in old English was translated “right wiseness.” The spelling conveys the meaning. It meant to be right with God the Father by having the righteousness of Christ applied to your account.

C. HAVING SHOD YOUR FEET WITH PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE (VS. 15).
The type sandal worn by a Roman soldier was known as a “caligula.” It was very much like our modern sandals with the exception that it had iron cleats not unlike a track shoe. It enabled the soldier to be sure-footed. The soldier could be on the offensive by moving quickly without fear of falling.

Believers are to be on the offensive if we expect to win in our spiritual warfare. our offense is “the gospel of peace.”

D. THE SHIELD OF FAITH (VS. 16).
Faith is our shield against the fiery darts of the devil. This depicts believers as under attack. Faith is our shield.

The fiery darts are from “the wicked one.” This translates the Greek HO PONEROS meaning a specific adversary, the devil.

E. THE HELMET OF SALVATION (VS. 17).
Certain characteristics of salvation are depicted by the Roman helmet. I saw one of these exquisitely crafted helmets in a Roman museum. Some characteristics associated with salvation:

1. It was lined with leather. The first reference to animal
skins being used as clothing related to Adam and Eve immediately after their sin. The lamb was slain, pictorial of the ultimate slaying of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

2. The helmet was made of brass, a strong metal affording protection. Christ secures and protects our salvation.

3. On top of the helmet was a small crown emblematic of the authority of Rome. The Christian is crowned with the crown of righteousness provided by Christ.

4. The helmet had a chin strap to hold it secure. Christ is our security.

F. THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT (VS. 17).
When Rome set out on world conquests they used long awkward swords and lost most battles. They then changed to a short two-edged sword called a “machaira.” By engaging in close-up hand to hand combat they conquered vast regions.

“The sword of the spirit” is in the genitive case meaning “the sword from the Spirit.” “The Word of God” is the sword.

G. PRAYER (VS. 18)
No believer is ever successful in spiritual warfare who does not have a vibrant prayer life. It is our means of reporting to our Commander and receiving orders from Him.

Our Korean brothers and sisters in Christ are worthy examples in prayer. The begin each day at 4:30 a.m. in prayer. Every Friday night they pray from 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. For months one lady showed up with her husband’s shoes. He was not a Christian and she came to pray for his salvation. She brought his shoes each time saying, “Someday he will be here.” After more than a year he came to know Christ and now prays with her every Friday night.

In Papua, New Guinea they have a prayer uniformed patrol. They wear badges stating: “Prayer and Peace.” Whenever a community is having trouble, instead of sending in the police, they send in the “Prayer and Peace Patrol” to pray for the troubled area. It’s working.

Let’s not fail to utilize the resource of prayer.

How To Avoid A Double Standard

MATTHEW 6: 24

JESUS CHRIST used His peerless capacity to draw listeners attention with a simple story illustrating a sublime truth. He used eyesight to dramatize the importance of having undivided loyalty.

Immediately He moved to use one of the many contenders for our loyalty as an illustration of all. Following the story of what we are willing to see is the story of who we are willing to serve.

Don’t let Satan decoy you into thinking this is a message on giving money. It isn’t. That is peripheral. It is a message on who you are going to serve. More specifically, it is a message on who or what is your God.

Jesus Christ in simple clear terms said, “NO man can serve two masters…” Though often tried it simply cannot be done. The warfare between contending masters is waged daily on the battlefield of human hearts. The conflict is between MATERIALISM and NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY.

So completely has materialism saturated our outlook on life that we can proceed only a short way on the road to Christian maturity until this subtle cancer has to be diagnosed and removed. Materialism is malignant. The desire for the things money can buy and the earthly security money can create has always been a challenge to Christian faith. It has never been as systematically injected into the human soul as presently.

Christ knew of the human struggle with materialism.

In the gospels He told 38 parables. Out of the 38, 16 concerned how to handle our money.

Christ said more about money and possessions that He did about heaven and hell combined.

In the gospels 1 out of 10 verses deals with money or possessions. That is a total of 288 verses in the four gospels.

In the Bible there are more than 500 references to prayer and less than 500 references to faith. There are over 2,000 references to money and possessions.
CHRIST APPEALS TO US TO…

I. CONSIDER THE CANDOR “No man can serve two masters…”
SERVE = DOULEUEIN (dulos = SLAVE) = TO BE A SLAVE TO

A slave was a living tool. A master had life-and-death control over a slave. To be a “slave” meant for a master to be constantly, entirely, 100% devoted to obedience to that one master. It would be utterly impossible to have two masters. Slavery involved:

A. The slave had no rights of his own – there was single ownership.

B. The slave had no time of his own – full time service is a trait. Emancipation Proclamation.

MASTER = KURIOS = ABSOLUTE OWNERSHIP

When Jesus became my Master I read everything He said and studied about all that He did. I memorized His words and dreamed of His deeds. It was as though I was living with the Man = and you know = I was.

II. CONSIDER THE CHOICE “God or mammon”
“Mammon” is a Chaldean name for the money-god. In Hebrew mammon (Mamon) is a word for material possessions. In His use of the term Jesus is representing material goods as a rival god, a power that seeks to dominate us. Jesus knew “…the love of money is the root of all evil” (I Timothy 6: 10a). It is not money that is the root, but the love of it. One may have little or no money and love it to the point it is a god.

In making this statement initially Jesus was addressing thing-oriented, greedy, avaricious, covetous, manipulative religious leaders who were grasping for more things.

In telling the greedy young ruler to “Sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Luke 12: 33) He was telling him to get rid of his false god.

When Jesus dined with Zacchaeus and the “wee little man” got his life right with the Lord he volunteered to get rid of his false god and declared: “Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will repay back four times the amount” (Luke 19: 8).

It is not always used in an evil sense. Its ancient use means “to entrust.” It was a banking term. Gradually the word use changed from “that which is entrusted to another” TO “That in which one puts trust.” The change of word usage reveals a change in the hearts of people. A person’s god is the power in which he trusts. We become slaves to our causes.

It needs to be made perfectly clear that one can’t serve God and mammon, but you can serve God with mammon. Many do.

In His earthly ministry Jesus was supported financially by wealthy women who enabled Him to give to the poor. He dined with the wealthy Zacchaeus. He attended the lavish wedding in Cana.

Our society’s preoccupation with self inclines persons to be predisposed to choose mammon. Our cultures self-centeredness, our narcissism, is clearly forbidden in Scripture.

God’s purpose in creating us initially and redeeming us was for fellowship with us. He created us for worship. If we worship anything other than God, we engage in idolatry and fail to glorify Him.

Many husbands and some wives overly committed to their career ambitions are not only putting material matters ahead of God but also ahead of the family. The marriage suffers and children are the losers.

In choosing to serve the Lord we need to go back to the original meaning of the word which was “to entrust.”

Don’t tune me out until the following thought is completed. Christianity is the most materialistic religion in the world. It takes creation seriously. Christianity does not divorce itself from the material world, but realizes a responsibility to be a steward of it. New Testament stewardship means we belong completely to the Lord and as such we are managers of His possessions He puts in our care.

Our regular question should be: “What does the Master want me to do with this possession or opportunity?”

Christians are materialistic in the sense they realize everything, including themselves, belongs to the Lord. As a result we live to please our Lord in managing His material universe and all that is in it.

It is impossible to be without a master. Everyone has one. The master is trusted.

“Trust, faith, belief, and hope,” we still toss these words around like a child does “eeny, meeny, miney, mo” but the splendor has gone out of them. This is true because we really trust in assembly lines, have faith in insurance policies, believe in mass production and place our hope in big government. None of these or all of them combined don’t bring fulfillment.

At the end of World War II the death of many adults left a lot of orphans. At the end of the war the allies provided camps for these children in which they were fed and cared for. Though well cared for the children couldn’t sleep. Even eating three meals a day they would lie awake at night. Psychologists studied why they could not sleep.

They proposed a solution. Every night when the children went to bed someone went down the row of beds and put a piece of bread in the hand of each child. The last thing they felt at night was the bread in their little hands. Soon they were sleeping all night. Experience had taught them there was no hope for tomorrow. Though they ate well each day they were apprehensive about tomorrow. Now they could sleep because their anxiety had been overcome by the bread in their hand as they went to bed. They were not afraid of the future.

Do you know God has given us the equivalent of that piece of bread? His bread in our hand is this: “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

We don’t need to unduly stockpile for the future. God has the assets to provide for His children. Christ reminds us: “Don’t you know that your heavenly Father feeds the birds, and are you not much better than they?” (Matthew 6: 26).

If He feeds the birds He will surely feed His own children.

Mammon is a poor god for it makes for itself wings and flies away. It is a gilded toy that won’t work.

We CAN choose. Christ always defined the alternatives: sheep or goats; figs or thistles; right or wrong; the Father or the world; God or mammon.
We MUST choose. Nature requires it. One can’t be both selfish and generous. You can’t travel in two directions at once. Proverb: “A man can’t carry two melons in one hand at a time. You can’t sail under two flags.

III. CONSIDER THE CONCLUSION “Hate one and love the other.”
Those who love the world, hate Christ. Those who love Christ hate the world.

When traveling to a foreign country it is wise to exchange U.S. currency for the currency of the country to which you are traveling. That is no less true in the spiritual realm. In our present life our currency is dollars. In the Kingdom of Heaven it is souls. By a form of divine alchemy our dollars are converted into souls. The exchange must be made before leaving this country, however.

Let’s watch two couples about to embark on their heavenly journey. They are approaching the end of their pilgrimage called life.

The first couple pauses on the brink of a dark foreboding chasm which an angel tells them is the grave. Reassuringly the angel tells them they need not be afraid of that dark shadowy place. Confirmation is given they will pass through it safely. “Look beyond it,” the angel appeals, “look on the other side.”
In amazement they look to see shimmering through the mists in the distance the beautiful “City of God.”
“It’s so beautiful,” the woman joyously exclaims, “so very beautiful!”
Turning to her husband she says, “Let’s go at once.”
“Just a moment,” said the guide, “first you must put down on this side all those material things you are carrying in your hands. Just throw them on the trash pile of useless things. The litter is what others before you have left.”
The couple froze and said nothing.
Sternly the angel said, “Nothing but yourself can go beyond the grave. Put it down.”
“But, you don’t understand,” the man appealed. “These are our valuables. We have spent a life time saving for them. They represent a lifetime of hard work, thrift, and shrewd business investments.”
“They won’t be needed. Such possessions are absolutely of no value in the ‘City of God.’ The very streets are paved with gold.”
Slowly the man released his grip and dropped his all on the scrap heap.
Seeing this his wife clung more closely to her treasures. The angel pointed to a box she held tenaciously.
Pleadingly she said, “These are my special treasures that made me the envy of friends.”
“In the presence of the King of King such tawdry trinkets aren’t allowed. You have to be attired in white robes of righteousness.”
Hesitantly she tossed it down but clutched a velvet jewel case. Patiently the angel held out his hand. Slowly she opened the case displaying a gorgeous strand of pearls.
“These are priceless pearls. They are the real kind, the ones from the sea. Everyone is a perfect spherical and has a deep luster. The necklace has great sentimental value. I turned down a very generous offer from a jeweler for them. To me they are priceless.”
“A mere bauble!” the celestial host said. “Don’t you know the gates of the City of God are each one pearl. The rings on your fingers must go also.”
“These are my diamond and emerald rings. These flawless stones are priceless.”
“Infinitesimal! Such stones are used for building purposes in the New Jerusalem. Look, the mist is lifting. It’s time to go.”
Again they looked and saw the city “having the glory of God and her light was like a stone most precious…and the foundations of the wall were garnished with all manner of precious stones” — emeralds, sapphires, amethysts.

Empty handed the couple went down into the chasm and passed through the gates beyond. They were saved “as if by fire.” That which represented their treasures were left on the earthly scrap heap. Then it became clear what the writer of the Revelation (18:17) meant when he wrote, “For in one hour so great riches is come to naught.”

Back on earth another couple approached the end of their pilgrimage. They came with no reluctance and a much lighter load. With no sign of regret they placed their possessions on earth’s scrap heap. Expectantly their eyes were turned toward the City of God.

The gates of the Holy City swung open and joy-bells rang. Amazed and joyfully the couple stood amid a crowd waiting to greet them. “Welcome Home,” they shouted. Many of them the couple had never seen. One of these strangers said, “Next to our beloved Savior you are my best friends.”
“How can this be since we have never seen many of you before?”
One answered for many. “We were in far-distant heathen lands, but messengers came to bring us the good news of salvation and that is why we are here. Since we arrived God has looked over His account books and told us you were responsible for those messengers. Since it was announced this morning that you were coming this crowd that you made it possible to hear the good news has been gathering to welcome you and say thanks.”
Excitedly they had a momentary flashback to times down on earth when after praying it over they had given money they could have used on themselves to support missionaries and the cause of Christ in their local church.
Just then, Oh, then the dear Savior’s face shone upon them and He spoke, “Well done, good and faithful servants, you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you rulers over many things.”
Hear now the Savior speak to you: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6: 19, 20).

How Old Is The Earth?

GENESIS 1: 1

JESUS CHRIST Is spoken of as Creator: Colossians 1. When?

How old is the earth, really?

Estimated ages for the earth range from 6,000 years to 5 billion years. The two age estimates are so different they can’t be reconciled. One has to be wrong. The disparity is illustrated by the following.

If you were to stack Bibles with thin pages, allowing each page to represent a year, the stack representing 6,000 years would be about knee high.

Using the same ratio, the stack representing 5 billion years would reach 114 miles into the stratosphere.

Which stack do you choose as representative of the age of earth?

The science of dating the age of the earth is called GEOCHRONOLOGY. “Geo” means Earth and “chronology” refers to the sequence of time.

There are approximately 70 methods of dating the Earth. Each is based on the principle that natural processes have occurred steadily through time, producing cumulative results that can be measured. These studies reveal the upper age of the Earth. Only a few of them suggest the Earth is very old. These are the ones the secular press emphasizes to the uninformed public.

There is a principle that can account for the great variance. The dating processes that suggest an old Earth are based on GRADUALISM. This theory suggests that through a slow process everything has evolved. The time required is up to 5
billion years.
DYNAMIC large scale cataclysmic events suggest accelerated transformation.

Following are some methods of dating about which the public is generally uninformed. CHECK THE EARTH’S OIL PRESSURE
Have you ever seen one of the old movies that depicted the explorers striking oil? They were called gushers. Great pressure caused the well to spout oil high into the air when the oil deposit was tapped and the pressure released. All of this pressure had been trapped beneath sedimentary rock. Even the most dense sedimentary rock is porous to some degree. With time that pressure would lead out.

Discoveries have exposed high pressure wells at great depths. If those oil deposits had been there more than 5,000 years in some cases, based on the porous nature of the soil, the pressure would have left.

The pressure of these wells suggests a young earth.

STAR LIGHT STAR BRIGHT
Some things are so technical and complex they are hard to make simple. This is one worth struggling with.

Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, that being 6 trillion miles. There are galaxies that are alleged to be billions of
light years away. That means light that left these solar bodies 5 billion years ago would just now be reaching the Earth. This appears to be a point in favor of an old Universe. It isn’t.

Now scientists, using what is known as Riemannian Distances, know light might well be taking what they call a “shortcut” as it travels through space. Based on observations of 27 binary star systems, it appears that light in deep space travels in curved paths on Riemannian surfaces. Using a very complex scientific formula, light from infinite space would reach the earth in only 15.71 years.

Using this formula, if the distances in space are measured correctly and some solar bodies are billions of light years away, light from them would reach us in 15.71 years.

Another explanation that would discount the theory that light from deep outer space supports evolution deserves consideration. A number of observations over the last 300 years indicate that the speed of light is slowing. It extrapolates to having been 500 billion times faster 6000 years ago. If that is true, light from a 5 billion light year star would have reached Earth in only 3 days.

THE MAGNETIC FIELD HAS A LOT OF PULL FOR CREATION
The rate of the depletion of the strength of the earth’s main magnetic field is measurable. The electromagnetic dipole magnet in the conductive core of the earth is being consumed at an observable rate. Using this known rate of decay, it can be projected how weak the signal will be at a certain time.

By running this formula in reverse, it can be determined how strong the magnetic force would have been at a certain time in the past. If the earth were more than a few thousand years old the magnetic force would have been so great it would have exploded. There is no way this magnetic force could have been in existence for billions of years. It requires a young earth explanation.

MOON DUST
Earth is consistently gathering dust from the cosmos at a measurable rate. Because of wind and water erosion it does not build up appreciably. The rate is known, however. The Earth and its moon travel through the same region of space. Thus, the same rate of interplanetary dust falls on both. With an awareness of this rate, and assuming the Universe to be billions of years old, NASA space scientists were able to calculate how deep the dust would be on the moon. They, knowing this, designed the lunar lander with large pods for feet to prevent it from sinking into the dust. Estimates of the depth of the dust, based on the known rate of its falling, was conservatively 54 feet on the moon. This would surely prove an old Universe.

Touchdown, lunar lander. Surprise, the depth of the dust varied from 1/8 of an inch to three inches. Required time for such a collection of interplanetary dust? Fewer than 8,000 years.

JUVENILE WATER
The era of fish was suppose to have occurred about 340 million years ago. According to evolutionary theory, the oceans are at least 2,000 million years old.

When volcanoes erupt, the content of the erupting material consists of as much as 20% water. This extremely hot water, having been under the Earth under high pressure, is spewed into the atmosphere as steam and upon cooling, condenses in the form of rain. This is new water on the earth’s surface and is called “juvenile water.” Each time a volcano erupts, more water is added to the oceans.

Question: How long would it take for all the ocean water to have accumulated from volcanic eruptions?

About twelve eruptions occur a year, producing roughly one cubic mile of water. By calculating backwards, it can be determined how long it would have taken to produce the 340,000,000 cubic miles of water in the oceans. At the rate of one cubic mile per year, it would have taken 340,000,000 years. Problem!

That means that 340,000,000 years ago there was no ocean. How could fish have evolved if there was not water?

NIAGARA FALLS
The rim of Niagara Falls is wearing away at a predictable rate. To have eroded from its natural precipice would have taken only about 5,000 years.

STALACTITE GROWTH
Upon visiting a cave with limestone stalactites you will likely be told they were created in 100 thousand years. Under the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., stalactites have grown to a length of 5 feet in less than 50 years. No more than 10,000 years would have been required at this rate to produce large stalactites.

The World That Perished, John C. Whitcombe, Jr., Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1973, p. 114.

He Gave A Gift That Keeps On Giving

II CORINTHIANS 9: 15

JESUS CHRIST’S birth was God’s way of saying, “Merry Christmas, planet earth. I have a present for you.”

JESUS CHRIST was the reference when Paul wrote, “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift…” (II Cor. 9:15).

The gift is indescribable, inexpressible, marvelous, and wonderful. The gift is Jesus Christ Himself.

Our distinctive southern tongues have a way of making certain words sound alike. Two such words are presents and presence. “Presents” meaning gifts and “presence” meaning to be in close proximity. God’s present to the population of planet earth was the presence of His Son, Jesus Christ.

An appropriate gift does two things:

It reveals the love of the one giving it.

It suits the needs of the one receiving it.

Isn’t it rewarding when you give a gift for the recipient to say, “How like you to give such a thoughtful gift and it is just what I wanted and needed.”

The gift of Christ as Savior does both. Our response should be, “How like you dear God to give me just what I wanted and needed.”

A gift is an expression of the giver’s heart. The recipient gets it but not because it is earned, merited, or deserved. It is simply an expression of the loving heart of the giver.

Wouldn’t it be a magical Christmas if you placed neatly wrapped packages under the tree with names of family members on them and then set up a cash box to collect a fixed sum for each? The moment you received money for one it would not be a gift, but a purchase.

In Bud Blake’s “Tiger” comic strip two little boys were talking about Christmas. One said, “My folks got us an artificial tree this year.” The other little guy asked, “Does that bother you?”

“No,” was the response, “just as long as the gifts are real.”

The gift of God the Father is Jesus. His name evidences the scope of the gift. Jesus means, “Jehovah is Salvation.” Thus, in the end, the gift is salvation.

Suppose God had said, “You can purchase your salvation.” That would have left out millions who are too poor to buy their salvation.

Suppose He had said, “Be good enough and I will give it to you,” or “Do enough good deeds and you can merit your salvation.” Who could have done that much good or behaved that well?
Suppose God had said, “If you do sufficient penance, or suffer enough, you can deserve your salvation.” Some, having a clouded understanding of just how far their sins had separated them from God, might not have performed sufficiently.”

In Rome, Italy I have seen persons climbing stairs on their knees as an act of penance, thinking they were garnering the favor of God by their work.

In Brazil, I have seen persons walk gravel roads on their knees hoping to gain God’s favor by their penance.

There are millions who live under this misconception today.

Suppose God had said, “I am going to grade on the curve and if you score high enough you will pass and get your salvation.” When Jesus entered the earthly scene He messed up the curve.

Instead, God said, “I will give you salvation if you will receive the gift.” The gift is His presence.

I walked through the Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, and reflected on an account I had read in the book by Corrie Ten Boom entitled “Christmas Remembered.” It was her memory of her experience in such a Nazi hell hole.

It was Christmas Eve. Corrie and the other Christians in the camp had placed meager handmade decorations on a few trees in celebration of Christ’s birth. Beneath some of these trees were the lifeless bodies of fellow prisoners who had died and been thrown there.

Corrie was weary of trying to tell people of the love of Jesus and physically fatigued as she glanced out a crack to see the bodies by the light of the moon. Amid all the moaning and groaning she heard a child’s voice pleading, “Mommy, come to Ollie. Ollie is so alone.”

Corrie knew one of those bodies beneath those trees was that of Ollie’s mother. Corrie went to the bunk of the child and softly said, “Ollie, mommy can’t come, but I want to tell you of One who did come on that first Christmas and that He will come to be with you right now.” Corrie continued to tell how Jesus in love had come to earth and how He lovingly died on the cross of Calvary for our sins. She proceeded to tell little Ollie how the death and resurrection of Jesus enabled Him to provide a lovely house in heaven where there were no cruel people; only those who had love for Jesus and one another. In faith, little Ollie trusted Jesus that night and found great comfort in His presence.

A few days later Corrie saw Ollie with her sores and wounds bandaged only with toilet paper. She could tell the child was in pain but asked anyway: “Ollie, where is Jesus?” With a warm though weak smile the child said, “He is in heaven where He has provided a little house for me.”

“Is He just there in heaven?”

“No,” she said, “he is here with me and when I hurt, I let the pain remind me of His suffering and dying for me to provide that little house in heaven.”

The Nazis saw to it that the little house didn’t stay vacant long. Ollie died and went into the presence of the Lord, all because of a present from the Lord — Jesus Himself was that gift of salvation. Ollie went to heaven because of Christ’s presence.

Let’s consider some passages of Scripture as though they are correspondence delivered to us. First,I. SPECIAL DELIVERY FROM ZACHARIAS (LUKE 1: 5 – 25)
Zacharias and his wife lived in a little hillside town near Jerusalem where he served as a priest in the temple.

An angel appeared to him and told him his wife Elizabeth would have a child.

Verse 18, Zacharias’ understanding of nature prompted him to respond in a natural way and both doubt and question the angel’s message: “How can I know this is true? I am an old man myself, and my wife is getting on in years….” He was so alarmed the angel said, “Fear not…” Well, why not? Why should he not have been virtually terrorized?

The text answers, “Thy prayers have been answered.”

Because of his doubt, God sealed his lips until the birth of his son, John the Baptist. This should be a clear indication to us that God doesn’t like His children going around sowing discord and stirring up dissension.

When his son was born Zacharias began to praise the Lord.

To some, faith comes after hesitation. When it does come, then comes praise.

II. PERSON TO PERSON FOR MARY (LUKE 1: 26 – 55).
In Nazareth a young virgin received an angelic message regarding having a baby. Normal child birth is exciting but this is something special. Husbands often get more excited than wives. Such an excited husband spoke excitedly over the phone, “My wife is pregnant and having contractions every two minutes.”

The operator questioned, “Is this her first child?”

“No, you dummy, this is her husband.”

Parental arrangements for marriage were made for children when at a very young age. This was considered both an engagement and marriage. As they approached marriageable age, they entered into a one year period of betrothal. During this time they lived apart but were legally married. Unfaithfulness during this time was punishable by death.

This process of marriage is the reason secular writings referred to virgins who were widows.

Six months after visiting Zacharias, Gabriel was sent to Nazareth with a message for a teenage girl named Mary.

Mary was frightened and the angel again spoke that familiar line: “Fear not…”

Why not? Because, “You have found favor with God.”

A. Mary said of her son, He was her “savior” (Vs. 47).

Mary was special. She was “blessed” (Vs. 28). What Jesus thought of her and what she thought of Him can be learned from the Scripture.

Christ and Mary must each be acknowledged for what they are.

Some failing to understand the Scripture try to attribute to Mary the work of Christ. Only He saves; not His mother.

Mary never hinted she was savior.

Jesus never hinted Mary was savior.

Mary stated Jesus was Savior. In verse 47 she called Him “my savior.”

Jesus stated He was savior. He said of Himself, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

A Christian receptionist in a doctor’s office tried several times to explain to her friend this basic principle. Over and over she tried to communicate that Mary, His wonderful and blessed mother, could not do what only Christ could do.

One day the lady called and asked to speak to the doctor about a medical problem. The receptionist said, “He isn’t in, but his mother is. Will she do?” Further explanation of this parallel helped the caller understand this truth.

After calming the fears of Mary, that angel told her she was going to have a baby. She never questioned the fact.

She simply asked “How?” (Vs. 34).

The supernatural nature of what was to happen never puzzled her. The Holy Spirit would supernaturally invest an ovum with the germ of life, and the child to be born would be divine.

This clearly teaches Christ was conceived of a virgin. If you deny that, you have an inadequate concept of God. If God couldn’t do that, He couldn’t save anyone. If your view of God is of One who couldn’t do that, in the view of a book authored over thirty years ago by J. B. Phillips, Your God Is Too Small, he writes, ” My God, the God of the Bible, could handle that easily, and He did.”

The angel greeted her, “Hail.” The word was CHAIRE which means “rejoice.” She did so in a big way. She did so because she chose to.

The fact that as a single pregnant girl she might lose her beloved Joseph and even be stoned did not repel her. She disregarded the possible social stigma.

Mary then made one of the most courageous statements ever recorded: “Let it be to me according to your word” (Vs. 38).

Her response: “I belong to the Lord, body and soul. Let it happen as you say” (Vs. 38). Self had been brought under God’s control.

How you respond to the Lord determines the direction of your life. You are a sum total of your choices.

Later in life, under different circumstances, Mary said to Christ’s disciples, “Do whatever He says for you to do” (John 2:5). She was urging them to respond as she had responded.

When I left for college, my cousin who had played basketball in college with the man who was to be my coach said, “Whatever he tells you to do — do it. He did twice as much in college as he will ever ask you to do.”

In effect Mary was saying, “Do as I have done.” That is her message to us.

Remember we pray: “Thy will be done…” Not, “Thy will be changed…”

B. Of Mary’s soon-to-be born Son, it was said: (Vs. 32)

“He shall be great…”

“…called the Son of the Highest.”

C. Of Him she said:

“My soul does magnify the Lord” (Vs. 46).

“Magnify” comes from the word MEGALUNEI, which means to laud, to celebrate.

I am sometimes asked, “Don’t you ever get discouraged?” Yes, but I am never going to tell you when I get discouraged because that might discourage you and that would discourage me and I can hardly stand my present discouragement.”

“My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Vs. 47).

The coming of God to her as Savior was the cause of her rejoicing.

Some persons sigh, “I just love Jesus.” If you do, notify your face.

Joy is the banner that flies over the castle of the heart when the King is in residence.

III. RETURN RECEIPT REQUIRED FROM YOU
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2: 8, 9).

Christmas was the time of Christ’s birth. He was the gift, salvation embodied. For the gift to be yours, you must receive it.

Three responses are potential. They are:

BELIEVERS, NONBELIEVERS, MAKE BELIEVERS.

Which are you?

Do you rank among those who say there is “a” Savior or perhaps even Jesus is “the” Savior?

Can you truthfully say, “Jesus is MY Savior?”

“The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23a).

Happy Are Those Who Engage in Thanksgiving

I TIMOTHY 2: 1 – 4

JESUS CHRIST paused at the grave of His dear friend Lazarus and in essence prayed, “Father, I thank you for the death of My dear friend Lazarus…”

Talking to God the Father is therapeutic. With this in mind, one who walked closely with the Lord exhorted his young colleague and, through his inspired writing, us, to make it a practice to talk to the Lord. Four types of such engagement with the Lord are encouraged.

I. WHAT WE ARE TO DO
A. SUPPLICATIONS (I Timothy 2: 1a)
This means to recognize a need and ask God to meet it. It arises from a sense of inadequacy and inability to meet a need. It is a request made of God to meet the need.

B. PRAYERS (I Timothy 2: 1b)
This word means to draw near to God and pour our heart out to Him. It is a general term for worship of the God whose name is hallowed.

C. INTERCESSIONS (I Timothy 2: 1c)
The word was used to refer to the authority to enter into the King’s presence and submit a petition on someone’s behalf. It reveals we have personal access to God and personal confidence we will be received and heard.

D. THANKSGIVING (I Timothy 2: 1d)
This is an expression of gratitude not only for blessings bestowed and prayers answered, but for the very privilege of praying. It is the spirit in which all prayer should be offered and life lived.

1. PEOPLE OFTEN FAIL TO GIVE THANKS
Jesus told of ten men who were healed of the dread disease of leprosy. Only one turned back to say thanks. Would our present conduct indicate we would have been one of the nine or the one out of the nine?

We live in a society of ingrates. When was the last time you saw anyone bow and pray before a meal in a public place? Do you regularly thank God for all things?

A prominent criminal lawyer, Sam Leibowits, was responsible for sparing 78 men from the electric chair. Not one ever thanked Him. Daily our Lord spares us. Do we thank Him?

I read recently of a man who tried to stab his wife to death. Though he stabbed her several times he botched the job and then got sorry for her and took her to the hospital. Doctors waged a battle to save her life and were successful. After her release from the hospital she died from a blood clot in her lungs. The husband sued the hospital for $2.5 million.

Did you read of the two Texas Good Samaritans who came upon a wrecked car that was on fire? They managed to free one of the two occupants and drag her to safety. Bystanders estimated they had about 80 seconds to think and act. The car exploded before they could rescue the second person. She suffered serious burns and is suing the rescuers for not getting her out first.

Do some of our responses to the Lord indicate similar ingratitude?

Columnist Billy Rose wrote an unbelievable story of ingratitude during his brilliant career in the 40’s and 50’s. ”

It was a cold German night when a little German soldier walked out on the bridge. The wind sliced through his dirty uniform. He looked down into the river. The water was red, as red as the sun going down behind the Bavarian hills. “Why not?” he mumbled. “Germany is dying. Why not die with her? A car rumbled over the boards. He pressed against the guard rail as it went by. There were French soldiers in it. He started walking again. Then he stopped. Where was he going? To Munich? What was in Munich? More gray faces. More beaten people. The Oberleutnant had said, “Go home.” No papers. No train ticket. Just “Go home.” Thousands like him were on the roads. Feet wrapped in rags. Hungry. Sleeping anywhere. Stealing.

The little soldier turned and looked back. He was alone on the bridge. On the far bank the sun caught a bit of metal. Someone was fishing. Someone in a long coat. The man on the bridge closed his eyes. He rested his hands on the rail. It was cold. Then he jumped. As he hit the water, there was a great roaring in his head. A roar like a crowd shouting his name. He felt his boots carrying him down. And down. When he opened his eyes a strange face was looking down at him. “Easy.” He was in a kitchen. The strange face smiled. “Get this inside you,” it said, “You’ll feel better.”

The soldier took the cup in both hands. He saw an oven and by the oven his uniform drying on a chair. “Lucky I was on the bank when you went under,” chuckled the stranger. “You’re the only thing I caught today.” The soldier pulled the blanket up around him. “Got to be too much for you, eh?” the fisherman went on. “A lot of our men feel that way. But it’s no good. There’s too much work to be done. You look weak. Why don’t you stay here tonight?”

The soldier got up and started putting on his clothes. “If you’re going to Munich,” said the man in the kitchen, “maybe I can help you. I have a friend there. I’ll give you a letter to him. What’s your name?” The soldier handed him a damp identification card and went on dressing. Out on the road, he looked at the letter. Under the date, December 21, 1918, it read:

‘Dear Benjamin,
As a favor to me would you please give food and lodging to this young man until he can find work? His name is Corporal Adolf Hitler.
Your friend,
Israel Cohen'”

Hitler, instead of showing his thankfulness, became the dog to bite the Jewish hand that fed him. Our rejection of Jesus Christ and/or our disobedience of Him is even more reprehensible and unforgivable.

2. GOD OCCASIONALLY REFUSES TO ACCEPT THANKS
There are times our prayers go unheard. The Psalmist reminds us of this: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalms 66:18).

Amos lived in an evil but religious society. During the week they practiced their injustices and other unrighteous acts. On the Sabbath they came together and made demonstrative sacrifices and sang praises to the Lord. In response God said:

“I hate, I despise your feast days, And I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fatted peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5: 21 – 24).

Their day of their sacred assemblies was very popular with the people. They regularly gathered in large numbers and went though the motions with deep feelings. However, their worship was sterile.

God would not accept their “burnt offering.” This was an offering totally consumed by fire. It was intended to be a gift to the Lord to attract God’s presence. It was rejected.

God rejected their “peace offering.” This was a fellowship offering. It was to symbolize a harmonious relationship between the people and God.

Even the harmonious songs of praise were not acceptable.

Amos used images to show the error of their popular concept of the Day of the Lord (Vss. 18 – 20).

One was of a man who ran from a lion only to run into a bear. The other was of a man who ran into his home seeking security and was bitten by a snake.

As these people sought protection, so the Israelites gathered in their sacred assemblies. Like those who sought safety only to encounter another judgment, so these faithless people seeking refuge in their assemblies were finding the judgment of God on them. Before their worship, praise, and thanksgiving could be accepted, they needed to practice two things during the week.

God requires “justice” and “righteousness” in the lives of people before their thanksgiving is acceptable. This means thanks giving must be preceded by thanks living. II. FOR WHOM WE ARE TO DO IT
A. FOR ALL MEN (VS. 1)
If you believe the Bible when it says (1) God loves all people and (2) that Jesus died for all people THEN You should pray for ALL people == friends and opponents.

B. KINGS AND ALL WHO ARE IN AUTHORITY
As with all elections some rejoice and others have remorse. Regardless of who wins, someone loses. Pray for both but particularly for the one who assumes authority over you.

Governmental positions of authority have their origin with God: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For  there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1).

God uses leaders. He either uses them as a channel of blessings or as an instrument through which to judge and punish His people. God not only disciplines individuals, He does nations, also.

Take heart from Proverbs 21: 1: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.”

God doesn’t get voted out. He doesn’t even get voted on.

III. WHY WE ARE TO PRAY
A. FOR OUR SAKE
“That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (I Timothy 2:2).

In an orderly society persons must voluntarily submit themselves to authority or anarchy results.

Sometimes the people work against this. Sometimes despotic leaders work against it. That gives us all the greater reason to pray for them.

As Samuel said, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.”

B. FOR THEIR SALVATION (Vss. 4 – 6)
1. “There is one God” (Vs. 5a)

2. “One Mediator” (Vs. 5b)
A mediator is one who goes between two parties to restore their relationship. To do so he must be equal with both parties.

That is why there is “one” Mediator, Emmanuel, “God with us.”

3. “One ransom” (Vs. 6)
The Greek word translated “ransom” is ANTILUTRON.

“Anti” implies substitution, in place of, or instead of.

“Lutron” stresses the price to be paid for the one to be released.

The provision was universal, “for all.”

It is actually only for those who accept God’s conditions, who are described as – – – “The Son of Man came to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20: 28). The “many” is a reference to all who receive Christ.

The price is noted: “We have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of our sins” (Ephesians 1:7).

Fellowship Of Christian Athletes: 50th Anniversary Celebration

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
FEBRUARY 22, 2004

JESUS CHRIST said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13: 5.

Our beloved Lord has been and is creatively at work in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Our every attainment enabled by Him gives us cause to – – – –
I. CHERISH THE PAST (VERSE 6)
“The Lord is my helper.”
It is He who has blessed and honored this organization in the past.
Years ago a commitment was made by those who held in trust this organization.
The commitment was to affect the community not reflect it.
Knowing that divine operation often waits on human cooperation persons committed themselves to that end.

Across America dynamic persons aglow with zeal have faithfully served our Lord under the banner of FCA in arenas where the church is barred. Marching in cadence with the heartbeat of Calvary they have won many victories. The legion of loyalists who have ministered faithfully have given us an admirable legacy.

Jesus who spoke the Universe into existence and then walked across a bit of real estate in Asia Minor with a cross on His back has enabled our every victory. The praiseworthy past He has enabled is prologue to a promising future.

Our past should well be encapsulated in I Chronicles 29:11:
“Yours, O Lord is the greatness, the power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, You are exalted as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, And you reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.”

Our theme for summer camps this year is a dramatic statement made by Jesus Christ.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

If we believe that and proclaim it we will be among the most criticized non-PC people in America. We should not marvel that there is only one way. We should rejoice there is a way. In order to have the courage of our convictions we need to know who said that. Who was Jesus? John 1: 1 states: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Logos was the Greek term translated “Word” and is a reference to Jesus Christ. To know the meaning of a word it helps to know how it was used at the time employed. About the time of the writing of the gospels the philosopher Philo used it to mean “all that is known or knowable about God.” That is Jesus, He is all that is known or knowable about God because He was God.

In the Greek text “In the beginning” literally means, “Before time began to begin the Word was.” He is eternal. There never was a time He wasn’t and there will never be a time He isn’t.

Skeptics scoff at the idea of Him being God and being with God the Father. Positionally He was with the God the Father. In essence, that is, His nature was God. Muslims ridicule Christians as having three gods. They quote, “Hear O Israel your God is one God.” Indeed, the tri-unity is one. As H2O in a liquid state is water, in a gaseous form is vapor, and in a solid form ice. In all three-forms it still is H2O.

One God can be illustrated by there being one bunch of grapes consisting of three grapes. There is one bunch consisting of three. Place three matches together and strike them. There are three matches but one flame. So the Godhead, the tri-unity, is three in one.

The Trinity should never be spoken of as God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The name “Son of God” confuses some who question who was Mrs. God? The title is not used in the sense of progeny. In a good big unabridged dictionary you will find one definition of “son” to mean “one identified with a cause.” For example, there is an organization named “Sons of the American Revolution.” They are descendants of those associated with the revolution. Jesus was the “Son of God” in the sense He was associated with God the Father positionally and in essence, that is, His nature.

He who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me” was God. Again the structure of the Greek text is important. It means, “I, and I only, always am the only way….”

Scripture identifies Him as God. Of Him it is said, “Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God” (Romans 9:5). Colossians 2:9 reveals “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” I Timothy 3:16 magnifies this fact: “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified by the Spirit, seen of angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up in glory.”

Who was? God was. When and how was all this accomplished? In the person of Jesus Christ. Who according to this was Jesus Christ? God!

If you are to defend the statement: “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except through Me” you need to know by whom and with what authority it was said. Download these texts on the mainframe of your mind and never delete them.

That gives us cause to – – – – –
II. CELEBRATE THE PRESENT (VERSE 5)
Christ furthermore said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5.)

His abiding presence gives us cause to celebrate the present. He has proven Himself to be a faithful and true companion God. He has shown the ministry of FCA His divine good pleasure. All we celebrate has been made possible by His grace working through His faithful servants. That is what we celebrate.

He who has been with us said: “I will never leave you…”
That is a forever never with no exceptions ever. The statement in the Greek text consists of five compounding negatives. These are synergistic negatives. That means these negatives are not just added to one another but they are multiplied by each other. That is very strong. It means: “I will never, no not ever, no never.” Linked with the little Greek word “leave,” aniemi, means: “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, or send you back.”

He further stated: “Nor forsake you…” Forsake comes from the Greek word encatalipo meaning “never cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.”

Combined that means, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, send you back, nor cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.”

The statement begins with “I,” meaning Christ, and ends with “you.” This is an I/thou relationship. It is a promissory note that can be cashed innumerable times. Notice who said that: “He Himself said…” Jesus said it. Who is He? Romans 9:5 says, “He is over all, the eternally blessed God.”

Appropriately we call Him Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.”

Titus 2: 13 urges us to be “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

A rule of Greek grammar confirms “our great God” and “Savior Jesus Christ” is a reference to one person. Thus, our great God is our Savior Jesus Christ. Acts 20: 28 further confirms this by referring to “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

Whose church is it? God’s.
How did He get it? He purchased it.
With what did He purchase it? His own blood.
When did God shed blood? On the cross of Calvary in the person of Jesus Christ, God the Son.

An embryo does not get any blood from the mother or the father. It manufactures its own blood. The red blood that dripped on the gray stones of Calvary was the blood of God.
Christ said, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16: 18).

The gates of the city were where the elders of the city gathered to make plans. Thus, Jesus was saying, “Let the devil and all his demons plot and plan how to stop me but they can’t stop me from building my church.”

It is important that every Christian closely identify with a local church and serve the Lord therein. The FCA Mission Statement notes: “To present to athletes and coaches, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church.”

Jesus loved the church enough to give Himself for it. We should love it enough to give ourselves to it.

Do you ever feel so weak you can’t carry on? Do you ever feel all alone? Do you ever feel you don’t know what to do? The next time you feel so weak you can’t go on remember He who is omnipotent, all powerful said, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, send you back, nor cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.” The next time you feel all alone remember He who is omnipresent, all present said, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, send you back, nor cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.”

When you feel you don’t know what to do, remember He who is omniscient, all knowing said, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you behind, abandon you, give up on you, send you back, nor cause you not to survive, or leave you helpless.”
To those without knowledge of what to do: He Himself, the all knowing God said, “I will never, no not ever, no never….”
To those all alone He Himself, the all present God said, “I will never, no not ever, no never….”
To the weak He Himself, the all powerful God said, “I will never, no not ever, no never….”
That is a forever never with no exception ever. Never includes right now. Regardless of how you feel He is available right there with you.
Practice the presence behind the promise. Remember, He Himself who said it was Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. There never is a time He isn’t with us and there never will be.
That will enable you to celebrate even when weak, all alone, and don’t know what to do.

As a result you can confidently – – – –
III. COMMIT TO THE FUTURE (VERSE 8)
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

We must so commit ourselves as to meet the challenges offered by our increasingly secular society. Today’s evangelists are secularists who preach immorality. Our decadent society has turned back to the gods of decadence.

We face a culture defined by:
Low commitment level
Pluralism
Improperly defined tolerance
A low moral base line.

As we face this challenge we must stay focused on our Master and the mission on which He has sent us. Constantly practice the presence behind the promise. Every blessing we have enjoyed has come from Him. He who has blessed us is – – – –

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever.”
Yesterday, He was the Redeemer on earth.
Today, He is the intercessor in heaven.
Forever, He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the eternal blessed God who is over all.
It is He Himself, the all knowing, all powerful, all present God who said, “I will never, no not ever, no never leave you nor forsake you.”
We must perennially practice the presence behind the promise.
He had the authoritative right to say, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Not my favorite theologian, Fredrich Nietzche, in his work “Beyond Good and Evil” wrote: “The essential thing “in heaven and earth’ is…that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and always has resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth while.” That has and must define FCA, a long obedience in the same direction.

“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13: 20 – 21
Dr. Nelson L. Price
www.nelsonprice.com

Faith Overcomes The Fear Factor

HEBREWS 11: & 6

JESUS CHRIST has inspired faith and incited holy boldness in the lives of countless heroes of the faith. Today He invites you to join their ranks.

His invitation to “Take up your cross and follow Me” is an invitation to enter on the path of exciting service and walk it by faith and not by sight.

If you want exemption from boredom and immunity for a mundane life, then unreservedly accept His invitation. The Bible is replete with examples of individuals who took God at His word and obeyed. You see, whatever else faith is, it is obedience to the Word of God.

Hebrews 11 lists names of many who appropriately appear in the annals of faith. The personalities listed in Hebrews 11 are not fugitives from a wax museum. They are real life people like us who simply believed God and acted. They are our heroes of the faith. Those listed in this “Smithsonian of Faith” await contemporary heroes who will dare join them.

Perhaps the late Dean W. R. Inge put his finger of indictment on us when he wrote: “Christianity is a creed for heroes and we are harmless, good-natured little people who want everybody to have a good time.”

Only when we respond to this creed like our heroes before us with faith does Christianity become for us, and those who observe us, a mighty force which gives dynamic radiance to life.

Hebrews 11: 1 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Then this theme is continued in verse 6, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him…”

Doubt is an attack on God’s character.

Faith is mere confidence in God’s character. It is simply belief that God means what He says and will do what He promises.

Belief and trust are two words used frequently in Scripture to identify how we should respond to the Lord.

One Hebrew word for “believe” is AMEN. It means “to use God as a foundation; to lean on Him.”

The word for “trust” is BATAK. It was originally a wrestling term meaning to “body-slam” an opponent. Applied to our faith life, it means to pick up your problems and body-slam them before the Lord.

Who have you been pleasing? Yourself? A peer group? I invite you to come on a venture with me and resolve no longer to be a marginal, rootless person.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for…”

In the fall of 1940 during World War II, the German Air Force, in an average of 200 planes per raid, bombed London for 57 consecutive nights. Many nights after the raids Prime Minister Winston Churchill could be seen in his suit and derby picking his way through the crowds, encouraging his countrymen.

Following VE day in 1945, Sir Winston was asked what he had done during those interminable nights of the bombing. He responded that he had retired to his bomb shelter below Piccadilly Square and there before a map of Europe planned the invasion of Germany.

That is faith: Making plans for victory while the enemy is at once building weapons for a siege by land and reigning terror from above. Maybe that is where you are now. Perhaps you have been driven into your bomb shelter in face of fearful circumstances that inspire doubt. What a wonderful time to plan for your spiritual victory!

The Lord finds great pleasure in His children who in faith dare valiantly and move to the farthest boundaries of their potential for Him, and absolutely refuse to live in the twilight of mediocrity. Such faith pleases God. Remember, without faith it is impossible to please God.

Hebrews 11: 30 refers to one of our heroes of the faith, Joshua. It says, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down…”

Faith is intangible. That is, it can’t be understood by the five senses. Faith is invisible.

Walls are tangible. That is, they can be seen and experienced. By the intangible force of faith, tangible formidable walls of a great city fell. Those people who followed Joshua had such faith that they even hoped the walls would fall and they did.

Turn to the Book of Joshua, chapter 1. Herein God is commissioning Joshua to take up the conquest of the land where Moses left off. He is challenging Joshua and the people to act in faith.I. FAITH SEES POTENTIAL Verse 8B
Starting in verse 6 the Lord reassures Joshua with truth that is applicable to us today. READ VERSES 6 – 8.

Knowing us to be slow learners, the Lord repeats the essence of the message three times in verses 6, 7, and 9, each time expanding the sphere of encouragement. The last time he adds the exhortation not to fear or be dismayed.

Fear has been our nemesis ever since Adam hid himself.

“Dismayed” means to lose heart and quit. Walter Chrysler observed: “To comfort a dismayed spirit is as difficult as raising the dead.” Well, our Lord did even that.

God says in essence, “Obey my word by faith and I will make your way prosperous, and you will have good success.'” The prosperity and success of which our God spoke was potential and conditional. It was dependent upon keeping His word and doing His will. Find His will and look neither to the left nor the right. Just do it!

When you look to the left or the right, fear takes over. Cervantes wrote: “Fear hath many eyes.” The Bible appeals to us to have a focused vision. Look away from everything that is not Jesus.

Dr. Smiley Blanton wrote: “Anxiety is the great modern plague. Thousands upon thousands of people either destroy their lives or frustrate them because of their preoccupation with anxiety, worry, or fear.”

Faith wasn’t oblivious to the walls of Jericho. Joshua saw them, but He understood God’s will and acted in faith.

We have tried to turn faith into a no-risk policy and it isn’t. The people who followed Joshua had no tangible proof that when they started walking around those walls of Jericho they would fall. By faith they put on their sandals and started walking. They became doers and not hearers only.

Faith has confidence in God’s character even when His actions seem strange or even more so when He seems not to act. The Psalmist affords us a matchless example of consistent faith. Before we read this passage, an explanation is needed. Some tend to think passages such as we are about to read are theory only. Actually these verses were birthed out of extreme adversity. This adversity may not be so different from that experienced by you now. The Psalmist wrote in 119:71:

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.”

He follows this theme in 119:75: “I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.”

That is faith where it hurts — when it helps. Faith sees the potential good that can come at the most difficult time.

II. FAITH MAKES PROVISIONS Verse 11A
Through Joshua God said to His people, “Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.”

This is Joshua’s way of saying the battle is the Lord’s and He will not fail us, but WE by faith must use all reasonable foresight in carrying on His work.

In addition to physical provisions for which they were responsible, there were spiritual responsibilities. Joshua 3: 5

notes the appeal: “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”

III. FAITH TAKES POSSESSION Verse 11B “possess the land”
The chosen land was close at hand, but it had to be possessed.

An illustration of how active faith works is found in the way John used the Greek word for “believing” in his gospel and epistles. It occurs 98 times and with only one exception it is a verb. That means believing in Christ is an active trust and response.
God was “giving” them the land, but they had to “possess” it. They had to act. Doing so required faith. They had confidence in God’s character. That is, God meant what He said and had the capacity to provide what He promised.

Divine operation often waits on human cooperation. God honors us by allowing us to be in partnership with Him.

The initial and the ultimate acts of faith relate to our salvation. READ EPHESIANS 2: 8, 9.

Our salvation is predicated upon God granting us His favor without us meriting it. It begins with our simple knowledge of our need and Christ’s capacity.

The next step involves our willful intellectual acceptance of these facts.

It is consummated by our faith, resulting in a wholehearted commitment to Christ. It is glad consent for Christ to cleanse you of all sin by His shed blood of Calvary. When by faith you trust Him and repentantly receive Him as Savior, you are born again. Christ is in that instant present in your life. Thereafter He must daily be allowed to be president of your life, that is, allowed to govern your life.

Once you are saved you must never by force or neglect allow Him to be dormant in your life. Rather than dormant, He must be dominant. Any area of your life not occupied by Christ can become a bridgehead for Satan. Any area of your life not under His control is a danger point.

He saves us by grace through faith. If you have trusted Him for the biggest thing in your life — salvation, surely you can have faith enough to trust Him for all else.

Romans 8: 32 reminds us: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things.”

He will give you salvation, but you must possess it by faith.

Everything I Needed To Know About Jesus…

·”Jesus Christ Is The Same Yesterday, Today And Forever” Hebrews 13:8
·Jesus Christ Is The Foundation For Life. If There Is Not A Proper Understanding Of Who He Was And What He Did One’s Theology Is Wrong.
·If One’s Theology Is Wrong It Is Impossible To Have A Right Philosophy Because There Would Be A Wrong Outlook On Life.
·If One’s Theology Is Wrong It Is Impossible To Have A Right Sociology Because There Would Be An Improper Concept Of Man.
·If One’s Theology Is Wrong It Is Impossible To Have A Right Self-Worth Because There Is An Improper Self-Image.
·Who Jesus Is Means Everything To A Person.
·I Learned Everything I Need To Know About Jesus As A Child In A Christian Home And In My Little Home Town Church. What We Need To Know Is So Simple A Child Can Comprehend It And Yet So Profound A Theologian Can Spend A Lifetime And Never Fully Comprehend It. Things I Needed To Know Are:

Virgin Birth
·”Behold A Virgin Shall Conceive And Bear A Son, And You Shall Call His Name Emmanuel, For He Shall Save His People From Their Sins” (Matthew 1: 23).
·”God Was Manifest In The Flesh…” (Titus 3:16).
·”Our Great God And Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
·Granville Sharps Law

Virtuous Life
·”He Himself Has Suffered, Being Tempted, He Is Able To Aid Those Who Are Tempted” (Hebrews 2: 18).
·”Tempted In All Points, Even As We” (Hebrews 4:15).

Vicarious Death
·”The Church Of God, Which He Purchased With His Own Blood” (Acts 20:28).
·Whose Church? The Church Of God.
·Who Purchased It? God.
·With What Did He Purchase It? His Own Blood.
·When Did God Shed Blood? On Calvary.
·Who Died On The Cross Of Calvary? God.
·Neither A Father Or Mother Contributes Any Blood To A Fetus. The Fetus Develops Its Own Blood. The Blood Of Christ Was The Blood Of God Because He Was God.
·”He Made Him Who Knew No Sin To B Sin For Us, That We Might Become The Righteousness Of God In Him” (Ii Corinthians 5:21).
·Being Born Of A Virgin He Had No Old Adamic Nature Like Every Human Being. He Lived A Perfect Life And Had No Personal Sin. He Was The Only Perfect Sacrifice To Die For Our Old Sin Nature And Personal Sins. That Explains Why Infants Go To Heaven. He Died For The Old Sin Nature And They Have No Personal Sin So His Blood Atoned For Them.

Victorious Resurrection
·”But Christ Is Risen From The Dead, And Has Become The First Fruits Of Those Who Have Fallen Asleep” (I Corinthians 15:20).
·The First Fruit Of The Crop Was Harvested As Assurance There Was More To Come.

Vindicating Ascension
·”It Is Christ Who Died, And Furthermore Is Also Risen, Who Is Ever At The Right Hand Of God, Who Also Makes Intercession For Us” (Romans 8:34).
·”There Is One Mediator Between God And Men, The Man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).
·President Kennedy’s Chief Labor Mediator Said: “A Mediator Is One Who Is Equal To Or Superior To Both Parties.
·At The Right And Left Hands Of The High Priest Sat A Priest. When A Person Was Guilty The High Priest Would Instruct The Priest On His Left To Write A Bill Of Condemnation. When Innocent He Turned To The Priest On His Right And Instructed Him To Write A Bill Of Acquittal. Jesus Is At The Right Hand Of The Father.

Valedictory Return
·”I Will Come Again…” (John 14: 3).
·”For The Lord Himself Will Descent From Heaven With A Shout, With The Voice Of An Archangel, And With The Trumpet Of God, And The Dead In Christ Will Rise First. Then We Who Are Alive And Remain Shall Be Caught Up Together With Them In The Clouds To Meet The Lord In The Air. And Thus We Shall Always Be With The Lord” (I Thessalonians 5: 16, 17)

That Brings Us Back To Titus 2:13. We Should Live —-
“Looking For The Blessed Hope And Glorious Appearing Of Our Great God And Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13)

Encouragement

JOHN 14: 16

Jesus Christ was the most encouraging person to ever live. Should not those of us who follow Him be encouragers? Give it!

Christ is spoken of as our encourager in II Thessalonians 2: 16, 17: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation [encouragement] and good hope by grace, comfort [encourage] your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” If He does it for us we should do it for others.
Encouragement doesn’t have to be earned. Praise does.

Encouragement energizes us. Give it and keep on giving it.

There is a special bamboo in China that serves as an example. Once planted the bamboo does not grow for four years. All during those four years it has to be watered and cultivated, but it doesn’t grow. The fifth year it does. It often reaches a height of 90 feet. If neglected during the first 4 years it never grows.

Encouragement is needed at all times. If you have been giving it without any apparent results don’t stop cultivating.I. A DEFINITION OF ENCOURAGEMENT
The word is a compound of the prefix EN, meaning to put in or into; and the word courage, meaning confidence, strength. To “encourage,” then, literally means to put courage into someone.

The prefix DIS negates or reverses the word it is attached to. “Dissatisfied” means “not satisfied.” So, to discourage a person is to take courage away from him.

An encouraging person is pleasant to be around because he or she makes you feel built up, strengthened, IN-couraged by his or her presence and words. An encouraging person supports and strengthens, rather than weakening or tearing down.

The origin of our word courage comes from the Latin COUR which refers to the condition of the heart. King Richard was so bold that it earned him the name “Richard de Lion,” literally, “Richard the Lion Hearted.” That is, King Richard the man with the heart of a lion.

We, as babies, are born with courage. There is no one more courageous than an infant. He demands what he wants when he wants it. No adult is too busy to be summonsed to do what the infant wants when the infant wants it. Parents are on standby 24 hours a day. There is no guest so important as to cause the infant not to demand what is wanted when it is wanted.

Gradually circumstances of life begin to discourage the child. That little prefix “dis” is the work of the devil. God has a great big eraser. He not only comes along to erase the prefix “dis,” but to replace it with another prefix, “en.” God wants to encourage us. Should not we aspire to encourage one another?

The most common word for encouragement in the Bible is the word PARAKAELO, PARA, meaning “beside, near, with, alongside,” and KALEO, meaning “to call or summon.” A paraclete is one called to the side of another to encourage. It may be to bring comfort. The Septuagint often gives this rendering of the word. God is often pictured as the One coming to the side of the needy and encouraging them. “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). “When the cares of my soul are many, thy consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:18, 19). “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God, Speak tenderly to Jerusalem” (Isaiah 40:1, 2). “As one whom his mother other comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:13).

But the word has a broader meaning than just comfort. When John uses it of the Spirit, it is translated in a variety of ways because its scope is difficult to limit. John saw the Spirit bringing the very presence of the risen Christ to the church. This is what Jesus had promised: “I will not leave you comfortless (encourage-less); I will come to you” (John 14:18, KJV). He does come to us, through the Spirit.

PARAKLETOS has many renderings: “one who pleads our cause,” “comforter,” “advocate,” “helper,” “someone to stand by you,” “he who is to befriend you.” When we think of all Jesus is, we understand why translators have difficulty pinning down the meaning of the word.

The disciples discouraged the women who brought the alabaster jar of ointment; Jesus encouraged her. He gave her the kind of praise that immortalized her gift to Jesus.

When the frightened disciples mourned the death of Jesus and their forsaking of Him, Jesus came to them, not to condemn, but to strengthen them with the encouraging words, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).

He came to the side and the aid of the woman caught in adultery and forgave her. He came to the side of many who were sick, sometimes resisting the discouraging words of crowds – even His own disciples. He was beside His disciples as the hour of darkness drew near and the sorrow of Jesus spoke to them of impending doom. He said “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1).

William Barclay points out that in secular Greek, the most characteristic usage of PARAKLETOS is in connection with help given a legal trial. The one called in would speak in support of his character; he was a friend of the accused, and would try to influence the judge in his favor.

A paraclete – encourager – then, helps us when we are in trouble, when we are in a situation with which we cannot cope. Jesus, in I John 2:1, is called our paraclete – advocate, defense attorney, helper – with the Father. Romans 8 says that what Christ does at the right hand of the Father, the Spirit does within us, helping us in our weakness, interceding for us, freeing us from condemnation so we are encouraged to claim our inheritance as children of God.

But there is still another facet of this tremendous word. It also means “to urge on or exhort.” A person needing help may not require comfort as much as challenge. Barclay says that the word is often used in Classical Greek, regarding exhorting troops about to go to battle. It not only empathizes; it motivates. It not only gives comfort; it gives courage.

PARAKLETOS is the word used of speeches by leaders, and of soldiers who beckon each other on to victory in the midst of conflict. It sends hesitant soldiers into war, and fearful sailors into the storm. This use of the word is common in the Epistles.

Paul uses this word when telling the Thessalonians to “encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (I Thessalonians 5:11). He calls them to action three verses later: “And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak…” (I Thessalonians 5:14).
The writer to the Hebrews commands, “Exhort one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13). That means more than comfort. We are to challenge one another, and “stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

II. A DESIRABLE EXAMPLE FROM THE BIBLE
Nehemiah possessed the gift of exhortation. He is a classic Old Testament example of an exhorter. He saw the need of the people in Jerusalem; he surveyed the damage thoroughly before speaking to the people. When he finally called them together, he was able to encourage their weak hearts so that they said, “Let us arise and build.” With each potential setback, Nehemiah decisively dealt with the problem while exhorting the people to new courage.

David was a hero but became a fugitive because of Saul’s jealousy. He often had to fight discouragement. Jonathan’s friendship brought needed strength to his spirit.

Three times God spoke from heaven on behalf of Jesus. At Jesus’ baptism, He proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). The same words came at the transfiguration. Shortly before Christ’s death God responded to Jesus’ prayer by assuring that He had glorified His name and would continue to do so.

Our Father is called “The God of all encouragement.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…who comforts (PARAKLETOS – encourages, motivates) us…” (II Corinthians 1:4) so that we are able to do the same for others. Certainly, our best examples for encouraging others come from the Trinity. No one encourages His children like God our Father does. No one knows just the right word to bring hope and faith in the face of adversity like Jesus. He praises a centurion for remarkable faith, He comforts and challenges the sisters of Lazarus to greater faith. He encourages the little children by receiving them. His work of encouragement is now being continued in His body through the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s letters, especially in the first paragraphs, are often good examples to us of the way God wants us to build up one another. He liberally praised his fellow laborers. Paul was not a person who stood around waiting for people to compliment him. He was full of encouragement and exhortation.

III. A DUBIOUS EXAMPLE FROM THE BIBLE
While Caleb and Joshua attempted to encourage the people to take the promise land, ten spies brought back discouraging reports. How easily people respond to discouraging news! We don’t need anymore people with the gift of discouragement. A part of our character has been distorted by the fall, and we are prone to listen to a bad report before a good one. If we do not abide in Christ, we are conditioned pessimists. We complain about the weather, we expect bad luck, we hang onto bad news as if it were gospel.

Moses didn’t send the spies to discover WHETHER OR NOT, but HOW. He wanted a report, not an evaluation. Shame on us when we discourage God’s people by our negativism. Shame on us when we are careless with words that eventually keep others from the promised land of their inheritance. Shame on us when we relay negative news and multiply discouragement among the people of God.

God was angry with those spies – so angry that they died in the wilderness. That is where people who persist in discouraging others will always die. They will never expect to receive God’s best, and they never will.
God looks for people who are God-centered optimists and can share that attitude with others. God’s news is GOOD NEWS, not bad news, Jesus came proclaiming a message of liberty, joy, release, hope, and comfort. If your message does not match that, swallow it, don’t share it. Or you may find yourself eating dust instead of grapes.

King Rehoboam should have listened to the elders. They advised him to lower taxes so that the people of God would be encouraged. He instead listened to some of his contemporaries and made the citizens’ burden heavier. Rather than strengthening the kingdom, he did what discouragement always does – divides.

The real prodigal in the story of the prodigal son is the elder brother. What a discouragement he must have been to his father. The father encouraged him: “All that is mine is yours.” But he would not receive it, nor would he receive his brother. There will always be those who in, the midst of merriment, choose law over grace. For them, life is not a gift to be enjoyed by a duty to be performed. They find it hard to encourage anyone. They demand everything from themselves and others – and never get it.

IV. DEVELOPING ENCOURAGEMENT IN MY OWN LIFE
As times get tough we need more encouragement. There are so many reasons why we could be discouraged. We need to remind one another of the many more reasons to be encouraged. When the situation looms so large that our vision is clouded, we need to help one another look upward.

People are growing increasingly discontented, disillusioned, and discouraged. Satan is striving to wear down the saints. We need an immunity to discouragement. We must “exhort one another daily.” We must become skilled at “stirring one another up to love and good works.”

Our hearts easily grow cold and tired. We are busy. We are bombarded by propaganda, little of which is really good news. God’s people must accept the challenge to encourage. Some Christians are being lost by extreme discouragement. Some are casualties through the bad reports of others. We must not fail to be builders rather than destroyers.

Albert Sweitzer said “For every one negative input it takes eleven positive ones to overcome it.”
It is easier for one negative person to pull five positive people down than for five positive people to pick up one negative person.

Surround yourself with positive people as an encouragement.

V. SELF EVALUATION
A. Do my words of encouragement easily outweigh words of correction or criticism?
B. Do people become more cheerful around me?
C. Would my family consider me an encouraging person?
D. Is it easy for me to praise others?
E. Am I careful to ask forgiveness of others when I have given a negative report or discouraging word?
F. Have I been diligent to encourage those I associate with – children, students, employees, husband/wife, brothers, sisters, fellow church members?
G. Have I been diligent to encourage those God has placed over me – teachers, employers, elders, pastors, church leaders, civil servants, government leaders?
H. Do I pass along only good news and swallow gossip, or do I delight in sharing bad news?
I. Does my conversation with friends generally build people up?
J. Do I think more about giving praise than receiving it?
K. Do I desire to become “encourager?”
L. Am I able to encourage those who have hurt me? Can I “bless those who persecute” me as Jesus commands?
M. Have I recognized how encouraging God is to His whole creation? To me?
N. Do patient people bother me?
O. Do I avoid jobs that will test my patience?
P. Has my impatience caused me to be unpopular?
Q. Am I patient enough in my personal prayer time so that God has a chance to communicate with me?

The Easter Effect

MATTHEW 28: 1- 7A

JESUS CHRIST died a quivering corpse on a cruel cross.

Heaven was in danger of embarrassment.

Earth was in danger of enslavement.

Deity was in danger of being disgraced.

Devotion was in danger of being disillusioned.

Then an angelic messenger brought the best news since the angels in Bethlehem announced His birth. It was a message that brought joy to the world — HE IS RISEN.

JESUS CHRIST triumphant bodily resurrection has a daily effect on the lives of millions.

He Who overcame the ultimate enables individuals daily to achieve the optimum.

Those dying with faith in Christ do so confidently knowing their Lord also walked this path and turned around to come back and say, “It’s OK! What is ahead is worth the trip.”

See the broken hearted bereft by the death of a loved one. They grieve, but not as those who have no hope. Knowing their deceased beloved is more alive than they ambition regarding ultimate reunion inspires hope in them daily.

Observe the youth in a minority position beleaguered by moral bullies standing firm in the faith enabled by the support of their living Lord.

The stressed and distressed person in business is enabled to maintain moral equilibrium because of an awareness of the compelling presence of the resurrected Christ.

The wife/mother/domestic engineer puzzled by the perplexities of life is encouraged knowing she is the object of the love of the living Lord.

The elderly, alone, knowing in reality they are not alone because of their compassionate companion, the resurrected Lord.

Listen to the hope expressed by the person who has to surrender to the awfulness of what is happening to them when they are wrapped in suffering like the cloth around a mummy. Hear their hope springing from an awareness that He ever lives to comfort.

Easter has a daily effect on all of us.

Journey with me back to that first resurrection morning. The light of dawn is but slight as the Creator turns up His daily rheostat on the scene. If we had come uninformed, like the women who were the tomb’s first visitors, we would have been coming to visit a dead man.

A brilliant young jurist who had been a party to the crucifixion as a disbeliever was later converted to faith in Christ by the fact of the resurrection. His name was Saul. He was from Tarsus. After the rumor of the resurrection spread he was empowered with legal documents entitling him to search out, torture, and if necessary kill those professing belief in the resurrection. In the course of the events that followed he to became a believer in the Lord of the resurrection and wrote:

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen …(I Corinthians 15: 3 – 5a).I. HE DIED
To understand the resurrection we must accept His death.

Critics of the resurrection have consistently concocted lies to try to discredit it. Facts won’t allow it. He died according to the Scripture. That is, on the day of His death approximately 30 prophecies regarding Him were fulfilled. They occurred just like the prophets said they would.

Persons who profess He didn’t actually die don’t understand to what He was subjected in the last hours of life. One reason Pilate wanted to scourge Him was that it alone often resulted in death. This coupled with the hours of torment by His detractors depleted the best of men. Asphyxiation killed most who were crucified. Blood loss drained any remaining life. Then there was the coup de grace. The Roman soldier’s spear thrust opened a wound in His side, pierced the pericardium, and punctured the heart allowing blood and water to freely flow out.

His death had a purpose. According to the Scripture He died for our sins. This is a reduction of the gospel to its essence. Our salvation is based on a historical event. Our salvation is dependent upon the happenings in two moments in time. One is the moment of His resurrection and the other is the moment of our faith response to Him. He has done His part and awaits our response.

II. HE ROSE AGAIN
The women came to the grave to complete the internment process which was aborted by the sundown which brought the Sabbath day. They walked as they talked about who would remove the stone. Such stones weighed between one and three tons.

Engage your intellect to learn a beautiful principle. The Scripture says the stone was “rolled away.” The Greek word for “rolled” is KULIO.

Mark uses a prepositional prefix “ANA”. Thus, the word ANAKULIO. With the prefix added the word means to roll up an incline.

Luke uses a different prefix, “APO”, which when added renders APOKULIO which means to roll a great distance.

Combined we get a picture of how the angel moved this one to three ton stone. He moved it up hill a great distance away.

That is how our Lord works. He didn’t just tilt the stone He MOVED it.

Colleagues and critics alike agree the tomb was empty that Easter morning. The expected dead man wasn’t there. The angel messenger said it clearly, “He is not here, for He is risen…”

One of the most prominent critics of the resurrection recently stated that the appearances of Christ after burial can’t be attributed to hallucinations. That is obviously true because there has never been such a thing as group hallucination.

Note these observances: “and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen of James, then all the apostles, Then last of all He was seen by me…” (I Cor. 15: 5 – 9a).

Did you catch that? He was seen of Peter. Of all the people who didn’t expect to or want to see Jesus it was Peter who just a few days before had refused to even acknowledge knowing Him. He lived to write of what the resurrection meant to all of us in the opening verses of his first letter:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice…” (I Peter 1: 3 – 6a).

Now back to the modern critic who concedes the appearances can’t be attributed to hallucination or any of the other normal attempts to explain it away. He has a new theory. Are you ready?
Jesus had a twin brother.

Sure, He did! And all of His life no one knew? You have got to be kidding. Such would have been exploited long before.

After the resurrection and reports of His appearing great persecution broke out.

Imagine Mary seeing Jesus’ twin and the resulting confusion. Can’t you just her saying to him: “Buford, what do you mean showing up here now, Bubba, causing this confusion!”

When the pressure and persecution built on the disciples don’t you know they would have hunted up Buford and exposed him to stop the persecution. “Buford, if you keep up this charade you are going to get us all killed, Bubba.”

A contemporary of Christ was medical doctor Luke. He examined the evidence for the resurrection and concluded it consists of “many infallible proofs” (Acts 1: 3). Observe, there were “many…proofs” and they were “infallible.” The statement was made by a man of science based on first person observation at the time of the event. It didn’t come from a dreamer with a vivid imagination two thousand years after the event.

Every argument against the resurrection is philosophic.

Every argument for the crucifixion is historical.

Our philosophy should help us explain the events of life not explain them away.

As the appointee of the highest court of the day to investigate reports of a crucifixion, Paul heard more reports of the resurrection than anyone. In the court of Festus with King

Agrippa present Paul testified: “For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner.” (Acts 26:26)

Had not the fact of the resurrection been common knowledge someone in the court would have disputed the claim.

The resurrection redefines for us hope. It happened when there was no hope of it happening. The idea of Christ coming back from the grave was alien to anything His followers thought. Despair dominated during those initial days after His execution. Their hope was given birth. The best news the world ever heard came from a grave yard just outside Jerusalem: “He is risen.” With that announcement hope arose.

There are many nihilistic, fatalistic, and pessimistic philosophies alive in the world today. Summarily they generally fall under one of three headings.

Rene Descartes opened the door for a naturalist point of view with his statement: “I think; therefore, I am.”

This was the intellectual steppingstone to the conclusion that God made the universe and removed Himself from any other association with His creation. This philosophy assumes nature has its own set of laws and dynamics which govern the universe without any overriding reason or purpose.

A second philosophy, existentialism as defined by Jean-Paul Sartre, declares, “Every living thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance.” What a downer! Many people live with that attitude without knowing it as a formal philosophy.

Later the German philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche simplified it with the expression, “God is dead.”

The third philosophy of life is defined for us by the resurrected Christ. Christ fortifies His followers with tangible
hope as expressed from the other side of the grave in this His immortal inaugural:

“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore …” (Rev 1:18.)

Because of His resurrection Christ made life user-friendly. He gives hope, purpose, meaning, and direction to life. Our hope is not tied to success, security, wealth, or power, but to Christ. His future is our future.

This is illustrated by this dialogue:
“Are you a believer?” asked Caligular.
“Yes,” responded the man.
“Then I shall kill you too.”
Then the man started laughing.
“If you don’t renounce the faith I will kill you.”
The man laughed even more.
“What is your name demanded?” Caligular.

Finally controlling his laughter the man threatened with death said, “My name is Lazarus.”

The resurrection made death a laughing matter.

There are 20,000 new words being added annually to our language, and still there isn’t one adequate to express the meaning of our eternal hope in Christ Jesus.

One of Christ’s last appearances was on the Mount of Olives where a large crowd watched Him ascend into heaven. Then an angel appeared “who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.'” (Acts 1:11.)

III. HE IS COMING AGAIN
We should know it. He left us a vital clue in the grave. John 20: 7 notes it. The napkin used as part of the burial cloth is described by John as being left folded in a place by itself.

In the orient in that era napkins were used by noblemen in dining. Servants stood by to attend their master. If the master crumpled the napkin and left the table the servant knew he was finished and was not coming back.

If the master folded the napkin and left it on the table it signaled he was not through and was coming back.
That folded napkin and the angels message coincide, “He is coming again.”

You want proof of His coming. The many infallible proofs of His resurrection confirm it.

Legal minds today concur in the uncommon common belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

John Singleton Copley, one of the great legal minds in British history and three times High Chancellor of England wrote, “I know pretty well what evidence is, and I tell you, such evidence as that for the resurrection has never broken down yet.”

Two brilliant American jurists, James E. Bennett of New York, and Irwin H. Linton of Washington D.C. have come to the conclusion that it is absolutely impossible for any man with a legal mind, and accustomed to sifting evidence to sit down and thoroughly investigate the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ and come to any conclusion other than that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

Dr. Thomas Arnold, touted by his colleagues, as a man of intellectual integrity and legal excellence wrote: “I know no fact in the history of humankind which is proven by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the mind of fair inquirer, that the great sign which God has given us, that Christ died and rose again.”

Therefore we are “to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10).

We wait and live with HOPE. We wait and live OBEDIENTLY.

A Day For Renewal

Lamentation 5: 19 – 21
(The Book Was Written By Jeremiah)

In Verses 1 – 18 It Is Acknowledged That The Nation Is In Disarray: “The Crown Has Fallen From Our Head.” Moral As Well As Civil Law Had Broken Down. The Rule Of Man Among Them Has Been Overthrown.

Confession Of Sin Is Made: “Woe Is Us, For We Have Sinned” (Vs. 16).

Following This Confession Hope Begins To Rise. Freed From Thoughts Of Themselves Their Hearts Are Turned Toward The Lord.

“You O Lord, Remain Forever” (Vs. 19a).

“Your Throne From Generation To Generation” (Vs. 19b). This Speaks Of The Moral Governance Of God.

In The Lord There Is An Anchor For The Soul. Her One’s Heart Can Safely Rest. There Is An Absolute.

Since God Is Forever The Moral Governor Of The Universe, His People Can Have Hope. There Is A Basic For Stability.

In Applying The Statement, “The Crown Has Fallen From Our Head” To America We See A Nation In Which God’s Moral Absolutes Have Been Abandoned In Favor Of Relativism.

Ask An Advocate Of The Philosophy That There Are No Moral Absolutes If He Believes There Are No Moral Absolutes And He Will Say, “Absolutely.”

It Is Popular To Say, “There Are No Moral Absolutes.” Right And Wrong Are Determined By The Situation. This Is Called Tolerance.

Most Of Us Believe In Old Fashioned Tolerance. However, The Word Has Been Redefined As Positive And Negative Tolerance.

To Say, “I Love You And Respect Your Right To Believe As You Do, But Disagree With You,” Is Considered Negative Tolerance And Not Proper.

Positive Tolerance Means One Persons Idea Is As Good As Any Other. It Does Not Allow For Any One Idea To Be Considered Right And Another Wrong. If One Person’s Idea Is As Good As Another’s We Need To Dig Up Adolph Hitler And Apologize. We Need To Open Prison Doors And Let Theodore Kazinsky And All Other Prisoners Out.

College Professors Dealing With Students Trained To Believe In Positive Tolerance Are Running Into Moral Problems. They Are Finding Students Who Believe Slavery Was Right. After All, It Was The Accepted Idea Of Many People. Genocide Is Acceptable For After It Is A Popular Idea In Some Societies.

There Needs To Be A Return To The Moral Governance Of God.

Some Critics Say This Is An Appeal To Return To Old Testament Law. Most Fail To Realize There Were Three Bodies Of Law During The Old Testament Era.

* There Was The Civil Law, The Laws Of The State. These Were The Judicial Laws Established By God For Ancient Israel Only. They Have Been Changed By Various Societies And Were Not Intended To Be Applicable To Any Other Nation.

* There Was The Ceremonial Law, The Sacrificial System. This Was Fulfilled By Christ And Is No Longer Applicable. Because Of “The Lamb Of God Slain From The Foundation Of The Earth” There Is No Longer A Need For Animal Sacrifices.

* There Was The Moral Law Of God Which Has Not And Does Not Change: “You, O Lord, Remain Forever, Your Throne From Generation To Generation” (Vs. 19a).

Individually We Need To Pray With Jeremiah: “Turn Us Back To You, (Revive Us) O Lord, And We Will Be Restored” (Vs. 21).

Come Back To Jesus Christ, “The Same Yesterday, Today, And Forever.”

When We Do, Then We Will Be Renewed, Revived.

A Change Of Mind

PHILIPPIANS 2: 5 – 11

JESUS CHRIST is the perfect, peerless pattern for all who believe. He is not to be JUST our pattern. Indeed He is a pattern beyond compare, however, before being our model He must be our Master. Patterning our lives after Him is an impossibility until He becomes our Savior and then empowers us. Apart from this imparted power there is no possibility of following Him as our pattern.

Jesus is our worthy example after we have trusted Him as Savior. For this reason the text says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” That would require a mind transplant.

The impossibility of having a brain transplant has long intrigued scientists. Whose memory would it be if someone else’s brains were transplanted into your head: yours or the donor’s?

It is not possible to transplant a brain, but it is possible to transplant a mind; the mind of Christ. For that reason the text challenges us: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…”

Thomas A. Edison remarked, “The chief purpose of the body is to carry the brain around.” If that is true, why is so much emphasis put on the vehicle and so little on the cargo?

The brain is visible matter. The mind is invisible non-matter.

Your brain consists of between 40 and 50 ounces of gray matter, approximately 80% of which is water. That leaves 10 ounces of gray matter with which to think and reason.

If each of these gray cells were the size of a football, the entire surface of the globe would be covered 27 feet deep with pigskins.

Compared to a computer, the brain is far superior. The human mind can accommodate up to 100 million bits of information per inch. That means your brain has the capacity to store all known information. The human brain has the capacity to capture, store, recall, and program more than six hundred bits of information per second.

A British neurophysician has said that if we were to electronically approximate an average human brain, the result would cost close to three billion billion dollars (that’s a 3 followed by eighteen zeros).

The brain is the stage on which the mind plays out the human drama.

William James, noted American philosopher and psychologist, summarily said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that men can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind!”

THAT MEANS YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE BY CHANGING YOUR MIND.
Devotees of the New Age movement have pushed the concept of mind control beyond the realm of reason. In doing so they have caused many in the Christian community to shy away from this important subject or neglect it at best. The Bible speaks often about the importance of the mind and our thoughts. For example.

“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).

Some extremist have pushed this principle too far and say, “You are what you think about all day.”

That isn’t true. If it were all teenage boys would be girls. There might be a pretty even trade off because all some girls think about is boys.

Isaiah assures us of great peace of mind resulting from proper thought. “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3).

Paul gives an inventory of positives and concludes by saying “think on these things” (Philippians 4: 8).

Through the prophet Ezekiel God revealed: “Then the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and said to me,…for I know the things that come into your mind” (Ezekiel 11:5).

Real victory and joy come when we know God’s thoughts. When our delight is that of the Psalmist in 139:17 we are winners:

“How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17).

Controlling the mind is the job of the will — our real self.

It is important to control the mind because attitudes determine actions.

Not only can you change your mind on a single decision, you can change your entire lifestyle by changing your mind regarding Christ.

Attitudes determine actions. I want you to engage in an experiment to demonstrate this to yourself.

Everyone please stand. Assume this attitude toward those around you for a moment. Shortly I want you to greet those around you like they are unimportant to you and you are trying to get by them to speak to someone more important. For a moment, and just a moment, consider those people around you unimportant to you and greet them in that way. Pretend you want to get away from them quickly in order to get to someone more important. Please behave toward those around you in that exact manner right now. Thanks!

Now I want you to greet those same people around you like they are your best friends you haven’t seen in some time. Greet them as though you are excited to see them.

Thanks! Please be seated.

First you had a negative thought. The people were not important and you didn’t particularly care for them.

Then you greeted them with a positive attitude and it made a difference in your actions. Your attitude determined your action.

By letting the Lord work though you it is possible for you to change your attitude, disposition, and lifestyle.

Here is a thunderous thought. Your mind doesn’t know the difference between reality and what you tell it. Take some temperamental trait for example. Let’s consider one that might well relate to many different people. What are your early morning hours like? Are they a drag? Do you or someone you know go around with your head down repeating, if not out loud and least silently to yourself, “I don’t like this day. I wish it hadn’t begun yet.”

That is what you have been telling your mind and it believes it. Now try sending a different message like this.

“This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. I have never lived it before and will never live it again. I want to live it up in such a way that I won’t long to live it down. There will be no instant replay or rerun therefore I want to live every hour of it in such a way as to please my Lord.”

That will start the juices jangling and change your focus from negative to positive and positive attitudes change your actions to positive actions. Our Lord enables it to work.

Our physiology is a term used to refer to how we behave. When your psychology changes your physiology changes. That is when your focus changes from negative to positive your actions change also. When your mind changes from the carnal to the mind of Christ your behavior also changes.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:3-5).

Servants with a renewed mind bring “every thought into captivity.”

Consider the elusive goal of happiness which our constitution guarantees us the right to pursue and most people chase after with great energy. British author Samuel Johnson wisely wrote of happiness, “The fountain of content must spring up in the mind; and he who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste life in fruitless efforts, and multiply the griefs which he proposes to remove.”

This brings us to our text and insight into how to properly change our mind. Desiring for us the very best, the Lord God inspired the writer of Philippians to exhort us to “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus …” TODAY you can have a mind transplant. The mind of Christ can be yours. That is, Christ’s way of thinking can become your way of thinking. His outlook can become yours. His opinions can become yours.

Philippians 2: 5 – 11 is an appeal to you to change your mind. Why not? You changed it many times to get to the mind set you now have. This passage offers the optimum admirable attitude. If you are not a Christian it would have to begin with you changing your mind about Christ before you could change it to the mind of Christ. The mind set of Christ does not come about by imitation, but impartation.

Let’s take a look at this passage and bit by bit apply it.

The expression “mind of Christ” is a summary reference to His outlook on life. Outlook determines outcome.

This does not come about by imitation, but impartation.

This passage traces Christ’s descent from Sovereign to servant.

I. THE SOVEREIGN (Vs. 6)
Before Bethlehem, Jesus existed in eternity and deity. As a member of the Trinity He was coequal, co-eternal, and co-essential with God the Father.

In leaving heaven and assuming a human form for us, He revealed His mind as being UNSELFISH. If we manifest this mind set we will:

Prefer one another. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).

Bear each others burdens. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

Edify each other. “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another…” (I Thessalonians 5:11).

In Philippians 2: 6 and 8 two different Greek words are translated “form.” To understand them is to begin to comprehend the humility of Christ in coming to earth from heaven.

In verse 6 “form” translates MORPHE, meaning nature or essence. It is an outward expression of an inward nature.

In verse 8 “form” or “fashion” translates SCHEMA, which refers to outward appearance that changes.

For example, your SCHEMA changes all through life. We go through stages, such as, baby, infant, juvenile, adolescent, young adult, middle-aged adult, and older adult. However, at every stage we are a human being.

Take the substance “Playdough.” Shaped as a square it has the form of a square but is Playdough. Remold it as a sphere and it has the form of a sphere but is still Playdough.

In heaven Jesus existed as God. On earth in His human form He was a man, but His nature was still that of God.

The mind of Christ is one of servitude. He came to serve.

II. THE SERVANT (Verse 7)
He took upon Himself the actual “form” of a servant. He didn’t pretend to be a servant, He wasn’t play acting, He actually became a human being.

In fusing manhood and deity He didn’t cease being God. His MORPHE did not change, His SCHEMA did. Internally He was the eternal God. Externally He was a man.

“In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).

He “made Himself of no reputation” (Vs. 7). That is, He did not use His deity for Himself. His every use of His supernatural power was for others and never for Himself.

Unselfishness was the first attribute of the mind of Christ noted in this passage. Service is the second one.

Christ said, “He that is going to be greatest among you has got to be a servant” (Matthew 23:11).

Too many people live their lives on the cafeteria plan — self-service only.

A selfish person is like a ball of string, all wrapped up in himself.

Selfish people are like the fellow who prayed, “Lord use me, but mostly in an advisory capacity.”

Albert Schweitzer, a man with a servant’s temperament, said, “The only ones among us who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

Finding happiness apart from service is as impossible as finding a black palomino.

Traits of Christ as a servant which we must emulate are:
A. Service must be voluntary. He “became obedient” (Vs. 8).
B. Service evidences total dependence. He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30).
C. Service is evidenced by steadfast devotion. Resolutely, Christ said, “I must work the work of Him who sent Me” (John 9:4).

This requires a will cast not just in iron, but titanium, in order to maintain fresh devotion. To stay when others stray requires a will well-fixed. Consistency counts for more than capacity.

A spastic, herky-jerky, on-again, off-again fidelity dishonors the Lord, displeases the world, and defeats the doer.

III. THE SACRIFICE (Verse 8) “He humbled Himself”
At times our service must involve sacrifice. Thomas a Kempis wrote in the “Imitation of Christ,” “Remember that you are here to serve, not to rule; that you are called to suffer in the furnace. Here no one can abide, unless he is ready to humble himself with all his heart for the love of God.”

Many are willing to serve IF they don’t have to sacrifice.

Christ humbled Himself. He wasn’t humbled. Even in His ignominious death He gave His life, it was not taken. He said, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again” (John 10:18).

IV. THE SOVEREIGN AGAIN (Vss. 9 – 11)
As a result of His faithful mission as the Suffering Servant, God the Father highly exalted God the Son. He gave Him a new name, “Lord.”

Let me illustrate in part what it means for Him to be Lord.

Think of yourself as living in a rental complex. Your landlord is a person who seems bent on controlling all tenants and making life miserable for all. His rent is extravagant. If you can’t pay on time he charges you exorbitant interest to get you further in debt. He barges in at all sorts of inconvenient times and charges you maintenance costs for damage he causes. Your life is miserable.

Then there is a fearful knock on the door and you open it timorously. Someone else is standing there who says, “I’ve taken over this housing unit. I bought it. You can live here free as long as you would like. The rent is fully paid for life. I am going to live in the manager’s apartment and will be glad to be of help whenever you call on me.

What a relief. You have been saved from the old tyrant landlord.

Soon there is a knock on the door. You have hardly had time to rejoice in your new found freedom. You open the door and there stands your old landlord! He is as mean, demanding, and glowering as ever. He says he has come to collect.
What are you to do? Do you pay him? Do you do what he wants you to do? Do you walk right up to him and bop him on the nose? NO — he’s bigger than you!

You confidently tell him, “You will have to take this up with my new Landlord who lives right over there in the manager’s apartment.

Your old landlord tries to coax then coerce you to pay-up. He endeavors to entice and then extort money from you. Your response, “Take that up with my new Landlord.”

All along your old landlord knew this he was simply trying to get you to pay-up out of habit or from pressure.

That is a parable of a Christian. Once Christ has delivered a person from sin and the devil that person can depend on Him. The old landlord will continue to come back but you just refer him to your new Landlord.

How do you keep the devil from mastering your mind? You let the mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

Follow this closely. “Lord” translates the Greek word KURIOS. It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew ADONAI, the personal name for Jehovah God among the Jews. No Jew pronounced the name Jehovah even when reading Scripture. Instead they substituted ADONAI.

When the Old Testament Hebrew name for God, ADONAI, was translated into Greek it was translated KURIOS. Therefore, when in the New Testament Jesus is called “Lord” He is being called God. Is He your God?

To bow before Him now means salvation.

To bow before Him in eternity means condemnation.

You will bow before Him. You choose when.

The timing of your choice determines whether it is unto salvation or condemnation.

In the 19th Century, Italy was divided and ruled by the Austrians. There was a growing movement to free Italy and unite it as a free state under Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia. A slogan appeared all over Italy which symbolized this hope: “Victor Emmanuel, King of Italy.” In Italian it was: “Victor Emmanuel Re De Italia.” By using the first letter of each Italian word, patriots produced the slogan VERDI. It appeared everywhere as expectation grew. In 1861 Victor Emmanuel became king. The slogan still appeared, but with different meaning. It was no longer a cry of expectation. It became a about of triumphant realization.

Today we anticipate the coming of the triumphant Lord Jesus. Today it is an anticipation. The day of triumph will come and then it will be triumph of realization.

I don’t know your opinion of Jesus Christ. I do know His opinion of you. He loves you. If your opinion hasn’t been one of love for Him you can change your mind today and spiritually bow before Him, making this a day of triumphant realization.

What He did was “to the glory of God the Father” (2:11). Your positive response to Him will also be to the glory of God the Father. Then – – –

“All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostate fall:
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.”

Away To The Manger

LUKE 2: 1 – 20
PAGE 1498 COME ALIVE BIBLE

JESUS CHRIST had existed in eternity as God. Knowing of our needs, He lovingly bid farewell to Heaven and prepared to “empty Himself” for His redeeming visit to earth. Knowing who that baby was that was soon to be found in a manger stall in the obscure town of Bethlehem helps our understanding of the drama of Christmas.The very word “eternity” reveals the absence of time. So before time began to begin He was God the Son abiding in a perfect Heaven with God the Father. It is no imposition on our imagination to consider His departure from Heaven. The holy angels that were themselves part of His creation might have gathered in one last assembly to have been told of His forthcoming advent, that is His earth adventure. This was truly to be an extraterrestrial visit beyond imagination. Perhaps He presented Gabriel a special citation for the good job he did informing Joseph of what was about to happen. A commendation for the calming way he addressed young Mary at the well and told her of what was coming.

Can you conceive of Him pausing before two bright and shiny angels and saying, “I’ll see you at the tomb. I’ll wait there for you three days.”

The heralds of Heaven, about to become the earthbound messengers, took their place on the turrets of time to announce the Messiah’s birth.

Let’s go AWAY TO THE MANGER and see for ourselves this which has come to pass.

On Capitaline Hill in Rome, 60 year old Caesar Augustus had been ruling for twenty-five years. His empire stretches from Briton to the Black Sea. From Gibraltar to Jerusalem. He lifts his hand and issues a decree that every citizen in the empire should return to the city of the forefathers to register and pay this tax. When he does a couple arises 1,500 miles away in the village of Nazareth to begin their 80 mile journey down the Jordan Valley to Bethlehem. They were going away to the manger.

Outside Bethlehem shepherds were keeping watch over their sheep at night. Suddenly an angel appeared to them. He must have looked like a tower of fire to them. He announced the birth of the Savior, Jesus. Theirs must have been an incredible blend of emotions. Soon that herald angel was joined by many other angels. Little wonder that after that the shepherds “came with haste” to Bethlehem. They were away to the manger.

Soon thereafter wise men in a country east of Bethlehem saw a strange star above them. As it moved westward they followed it to Jerusalem and inquired where Messiah was to be born. Tradition says there were three such wise men and even names them Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior. Upon being told where He was to be born they followed the star to Bethlehem.

That star was a symbol of hope and gladness. There is a line from a popular poem with these lines: “Man cannot live till he sees his stars through the cyprus trees.” Cyprus trees are a symbol of grief and despair. Only when in our grief and despair we have hope are we prepared for life.

Upon seeing that star the wise men were away to the manger.

Now let’s go away to the manger.

There in Bethlehem He became Mary’s boy-child. He, who in eternity was as old as His Father, was eons older than His mother. He, who leaned on the breast of His Father without any mother, now in time nursed at the breast of His mother without any Father. The coming of baby Jesus was God’s way of saying, “I love you.” YOU!

Christ’s absence from some of the select angels was short-lived for a few of them were to attend Him at His birth.

I. THE FACT
The angels having been associated with Christ before His birth knew something of His glory, honor, power, and majesty. They spoke:
“Glory to God in the highest…” This declares all the glory of God as shining forth in the birth of Jesus. In effect the angel was saying, “You are about to see God at His best.” All of His supernatural attributes are now going on display.

You want a hint of His power. Consider a virgin conceiving. This is a biological impossibility. Not really. It is simply God’s way of saying S U R P R I S E .

You want a peek at His grace and mercy; look in the manger. His grace speaks of Him giving us everything we need without us deserving it. His mercy speaks of His sparing us all the bad things we do deserve. Jesus is about to make all that possible.

“Peace on earth…” That sounds like an empty promise. Sounds almost laughable.

In the last 1,000 years there have been fewer than 50 years in which there has not been some active conflict in the world.

Peace is an alien in the Twentieth Century. The century opened with World War I, followed by another world war of even greater proportions within a generation. All that happened before the first half of the century was over. The rest has been punctuated with over 60 wars. At this very moment over 20 are in progress. Where is the proposed “peace on earth?”

King Sobhuza II of Swaziland was at the time of his death in 1982 the longest reigning monarch in the world. The Guiness Book of World Records noted he ruled for 61 years. He was a humble man, a follower of Christ. His land was known as a place of peace. That is exceptional.

Longfellow wrote a poem which was later set to music. It expressed the despair of those who look for peace in the wrong place.

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet their words repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.
And in despair I bowed my head:
There is no peace on earth, I said,
For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”
Then it is as though enlightened by heaven he continued.
“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor does He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”

The secret of the angels announcement is that it was not a prophecy of peace but a prescription for peace. Personal peace is found in Jesus Christ.

The angel gave the precondition for peace. It comes when we give glory to God in the highest. It doesn’t come when we win the arms race. It doesn’t come when we feel warm and fuzzy about our circumstances. It comes when we give glory to God and only then.

Years later one of His followers, Peter, would go about “preaching peace through Jesus Christ — He is Lord of all…” (Acts 10:36.)

“Let the peace of God rule (umpire) in your heart…” Peace isn’t merely a principle it is a person.

This peace is possible because of God’s “good will toward men.” You can have peace because you are the object of God’s favor.

Having considered the FACT of God’s glory and man’s potential peace, take a look at the FORMULA.

II. THE FORMULA
A. A Savior
The term “savior” means the rescuer.

The angels making this announcement knew about the great truth they were blessed to announce. One of their leaders, Gabriel, had told Joseph, “You shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

He is a Heaven-sent love gift of the Father (John 3:16), given because He recognized our need to be:
NOTICED – That should give each of us dignity. God not only noticed us, He noticed our need for a Savior. He loved us so much He provided One.

Observe some of the bizarre behavior, unconventional grooming, and extremities in clothes and you are seeing a person crying out “Notice me!” Such is a sign of an insecure person with a sense of low self-worth.

NURTURED – We are not equipped to “go it alone.” He wants to help us.

In an interview with Tom Snyder in May of 1996, 31 year old actor Charlie Sheen told his reason for becoming a Christian. He said, “I was tired of walking alone.”

Being a Christian means you never have to walk alone. Even when you walk the path of adversity with Christ you soon learn it is the path to truth and love.

Robert Blake said, “God don’t give you no points for doing things you ain’t afraid to do.” He enables us to do them.

With Christ enabling grace you can smell the fragrance even when there is no rose.

NEEDED – God needs you. He has no other way to vocally acknowledge His loving presence. All of nature reveals Him but He is dependent upon you to declare Him.

B. CHRIST = MESSIAH = DELIVERER
In Steven Vincent Benet’s “A Child is Born” the innkeeper discovers they have turned away the Holy Family. His wife speaks:

“God pity us indeed, for we are human and do not always see the vision when it comes, the shining change,
or if we see it do not follow it because it is too hard,
too strange, too new, too unbelievably difficult,
warring too much with the common easy ways…
you who love money, you who love yourself,
you who love bitterness, and I who loved and lost thought I could not love again, and all the people of this little town rise up…the loves we had were not enough,
Something is loosed to change the shaken word and with it
we must change.”

That “something” is Someone and by Him we can be changed.

C. The Lord = KURIOS (Greek) = Jehovah = God = Hebrew = the God.

This is the term used by the Greek speaking Hebrews to refer to God, Himself.

Combined the titles mean: The Rescuer, the anointed One, God Himself.

There is no better time than Christmas to renew your commitment to Him. Let Him be your Savior and bring PEACE in your heart.

Over 100 years ago Queen Victoria of England also became the Empress of India. Punjab, then a province of India, became part of the British Empire. The little prince of Punjab who later was to rule his people gave the Queen a gift. It was the magnificent and priceless Kohinoor diamond. The Queen was grateful for and excited over the gift. She appropriately had it placed in the Tower of London along with her other crown jewels.

Years later, the young prince, now a man, visited Queen Victoria in England. He asked, “Your Majesty, may I see the Kohinoor diamond?”

With her common courtesy she dispatched her guards to bring the diamond safely to Buckingham Palace.

All present watched expectantly as the Queen handed it to him. With a deep bow he took it almost reverently and walked to the window. For a long time he gazed at it admiringly. He walked back to the Queen and knelt at her feet with the diamond clasped in his hands. Deeply moved he said:

“When I was a child I gave you this diamond. I was too young to know much about what I was doing. Now that I am a man, and knowing fully what I am doing, I want to give it you again in the fullness of my strength, and with all my heart and affection and gratitude.”

Perhaps you gave your heart to Christ some years ago. In so far as eternity is concerned that settles the issue. In so far as serviceability is concerned, perhaps you need to give Him your heart again NOW.

Abraham Lincoln: Was He A Christian?

MATTHEW 7:21 – 23
JESUS CHRIST said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven…” (Matt. 7:21).

What does it take then to enter the kingdom of heaven? In answering this vital question, let’s use the life of a great American to assess what doesn’t save and what does.

Consider the life of the 16th President of America, Abraham Lincoln. Was Mr. Lincoln a Christian?

After the war, Democrats attempting to undermine the reconstruction of the South painted Mr. Lincoln in scurrilous terms. By aristocrat Wendell Phillips, he was called “the white trash of the South spawned on Illinois,” ” a first-rate second-rate man…waiting to be used.”

Brahmin historian Francis Parker complained in 1862 that Mr. Lincoln was the “feeble and ungainly mouthpiece of the North.”

The “London Herald” wrote of him: “Mr. Lincoln is a vulgar, brutal boor, wholly ignorant of political science, or military affairs, or everything else which a statesman should know.”

New Yorker George Templeton Strong wrote in his diary that Mr. Lincoln was “despised and rejected by a third of the community, and only tolerated by the other two-thirds.”

Remember, it matters not what others think of us, but what we think of Christ that is important in the matter of salvation.

I. PEDIGREE
In 1806, Peter Cartright was the premier evangelist in rural Kentucky. Their rather primitive form of worship would seem strange by our standards. One night as Cartright was preaching in an outdoor meeting a young man jumped to his feet and began to dance in the joy of the Lord as King David had done before the ark of the Lord. His name was Tom Lincoln. A short time later a young woman, in praise of the Lord, jumped to her feet and joined in with the others dancing as unto the Lord. Her name was Nancy Hanks. Soon thereafter she married Tom Lincoln and three years later gave birth to a son. This Godly couple gave their son a Bible name Abraham.
Blessed is the child who has Christian parents. But that doesn’t save us.
Young Abraham was taught Scripture verses and Bible principles by his parents. As a young boy, the first of what seemed to be several untimely deaths occurred in his family. As his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, lay dying, her last words to her nine-year-old son were: “I am going away from you, Abraham, and I shall not return. I know that you will be a good boy; and that you will be kind to Sarah and your father. I want you to live as I have taught you, to love your Heavenly Father and keep His commandments.”

On several occasions when asked how he had declined a tempting bribe or resisted a strong suggestion to do wrong, Lincoln said he recalled the voice of his mother repeating, “I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

II. PRECEPTS
Mr. Lincoln believed the Bible. At a very early age he was taught the Bible. He memorized the Ten Commandments. Through his life there are many instances where his conduct was guided by one of the commandments. It was evident all through his life that he honored his father and mother which is the first commandment with promise.

A. The commandments motivated his honesty and integrity. He was so honest that as a young lawyer arguing a case he would even befriend his opponent. If the attorney arguing a case against him forgot a point, he would remind him of it. Thus, he became known as “the most honest lawyer east of China.” Part of this label lasted through his life, and he is still known as “Honest Abe.”

B. On an occasion he was heard to say, “When I am confronted with temptation, I can still vividly hear the tones on my mother’s voice saying, ‘I am the Lord thy God, which brought you out of Egypt. Thou shall not steal.”

C. He had a great regard for the Lord’s Day. At the approach of the battle of Falmouth General McDowell came to him on Saturday and said, “Sir, my troops are ready at a moment’s notice and can move out tomorrow.” The inquiry was made by General McDowell because he knew Mr. Lincoln’s regard for the Lord’s Day. The president replied, “No, give them the Lord’s Day of rest.”

He knew the Scripture well. In his great debates with Steven Douglas in 1858, he corrected his opponents incorrect use of Scripture several times.

He once told a friend who professed to be a skeptic, “Take all this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.”

When presented a ceremonial Bible inscribed as being from “the Loyal Colored People of Baltimore,” he responded with these oft-quoted words, “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.”

He had great regard for the commandments and sought to keep them. However, it is not by works of righteousness which we do that we are saved.

III. PROVIDENCE (DIVINE PURPOSE)
He believed that God works in the affairs of people. He believed God gave him a good body. His gaunt, pitted, sallow complexion made him unattractive to many. However, he responded physically with gratitude for a good body. Few know that he was the champion weightlifter in his parts as a young man. He was also the region’s champion wrestler and distance runner.

He believed it was God’s providence that enabled him to find a copy of Blackstone’s Law Book while rummaging through an old barrel. This book was the seed resulting in him becoming a lawyer.

He was a man of profound God-consciousness and morality in whose mind lived a vision linking the nation with the providence of God. He believed American ideals closely reflected the principles of divine morality.

His many defeats and ultimate victory he attributed to the providence of God. This alone, however, does not save.

After being elected President he left Springfield for Washington. A lady who loved the Lord and Mr. Lincoln prepared and hung out a large banner with his favorite Scripture verse: “Be strong and of good courage. Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed for I am with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Mr. Lincoln believed God was with him. Some years ago as guest of the President I had the liberty of staying in the Lincoln bedroom. Sitting there late one night I reflected that it was in this room on the morning of January 1, 1863, Mr. Lincoln called his Cabinet together. He had in his hand his characteristic tall, silk hat. He reached into his hat and pulling out a document placed it on the table and said, “Gentlemen, with this document I am prepared to free the slaves.” It was the Emancipation Proclamation. He continued, “I promised the Great God if He would give us victory at Antietam, I would so act.” He believed that at Antietam, one of the strategic battles of the War Between the States, the providence of God was at work in the affairs of the country. He acted to free the slaves out of gratitude.

In a letter to two Iowans who wrote him commending him for his bravery in freeing the slaves and assuring him of their prayers, he wrote he was “sustained by the good wishes and prayers of God’s people.”

In his first inaugural address, March 1861, Mr. Lincoln espoused the belief that “intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him, who has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust, in the best way, all our present difficulty.”

He had confidence that even the war which he despised so strongly had a purpose and stated that he believed that God “permits it for some wise purpose of His own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe, that He who made the world still governs it.”

Perhaps the statement that best reveals his reliance on the providence of God was contained in an address to a delegation of Baltimore Presbyterians in 1863. To them he said, “Amid the greatest difficulties of my Administration, when I could see no other resort, I would place my whole reliance in God, knowing that all would go well, and that He would decide for the right.”

To a close friend he confided: “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”

HE WAS GRATEFUL FOR HIS PEDIGREE, HE BELIEVED BIBLE PRECEPTS, AND HAD FAITH IN THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD, BUT WAS HE SAVED? How close did he come to Calvary?

Biographers record that he never joined a church. If he was saved that means church membership doesn’t save…and it doesn’t. What did Mr. Lincoln believe about the – – –

IV. PERSON (JESUS CHRIST)
For our beloved Lord to get to Calvary He had to go through Gethsemane. Mr. Lincoln had his Gethsemane. There was an occasion when a friend saw Mr. Lincoln sitting before a great fireplace with his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. The friend listened as he prayed, “Oh God, oh God, help me, I cannot lead these people without your help, without you.” When the friend returned the next morning, the fire was but embers; but Mr. Lincoln still sat as he was the night before. This time the friend heard him pray, “Oh God, oh God, if it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me.”

All of his life Mr. Lincoln was dogged by defeat, hounded by failure, and stalked by tragedy. Starting with the death of his mother at age nine, grief followed his footsteps like an unshakable shadow. Youthful love shared with Ann Ruthledge ended in heartache at her death. He experienced deep anguish at the death of his son, Eddie, at age four and later, as President, the death of his beloved son, Willie.

Henry Ward Beecher was one of the most prominent ministers of the day. Early one, cold, winter’s morning in the chill of night he was awakened by someone knocking at his door. Upon opening the door he found standing there Mr. Lincoln. The tall, lean, gaunt figure was so gripped with grief and agony that at first Dr. Beecher didn’t recognize Mr. Lincoln. As Mr. Lincoln poured out his soul to the minister, he said, “I think I shall never again be glad…”

A somber President soon thereafter made his way to the battlefield at Gettysburg where he was to deliver his most famous address. Many school children can quote those immortal lines. Historians remember well a letter he wrote soon thereafter which many persons do not know of. Soon after his Gettysburg address, he wrote a friend in Springfield. Therein he said, “When I came to Springfield, I was not a Christian. When I left Springfield to go to Washington and asked you to pray for me, I was not a Christian. When I came to Gettysburg, I was not a Christian; but there at Gettysburg, I consecrated my life to Christ.”

Remember the line from that address: “This nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom…”

November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg where Mr. Lincoln spoke of new birth he experienced it personally through faith in Christ.

There at Gettysburg where he spoke of “dedicating ourselves to unfinished work…” he consecrated his life to Christ. Abraham Lincoln had endured the purifying fires of tribulation to come forth as gold.

This led him to acknowledge before his death: “…I am responsible…to the American people, to the Christian world, and on my final account to God.”

Thereafter, he sought to live and lead a nation to live by these words he quoted there from Scripture: “With malice toward none and charity toward all.”

Mark this date, Tuesday, April 13, 1865. That day Mr. Lincoln wrote a letter to Pastor Gurley of the church in Washington he had attended with increased regularity. In that letter he told of his saving faith in Jesus Christ. Note these lines from that letter dated April 13, 1865,: “On the forthcoming Lord’s day, I would like to make public my commitment.”

The date of the forthcoming Lord’s day would be April 18. Mr. Lincoln’s letter was mailed April 13. The day after the letter was mailed Mrs. Lincoln insisted that they get away from the pressures by going to a play that evening at the Ford Theater.

They arrived late and were seated in the Presidential Booth. During the course of the play the president’s bodyguard left his post to go to a nearby bar for a drink. During the play it was apparent to Mrs. Lincoln the President was preoccupied. Biographers record that during a lull in the play Mr. Lincoln leaned over and whispered to Mrs. Lincoln. “Mary,” he said, “Do you know the one thing in all the world I would like to do? I would like to take you on a trip with me to the Near East and we could visit Bethlehem where He was born.” Just then John Wilks Booth approached the Presidential Box unnoticed. The President paused. Booth raised his gun and the President continued, “We could go to Nazareth, Bethany…” Booth took aim as Mr. Lincoln said, “Mary, we could even go up to Jerusalem.” Just then a shot rang out. Mr. Lincoln slumped forward mortally wounded.

7:22 A.M., April 15, just three days before Mr. Lincoln proposed to walk the aisle of his church to make known his faith in Jesus Christ, Mr. Lincoln walked the golden streets of the New Jerusalem. He was blessed to do so because two years before his death, on November 19, 1863, at Gettysburg, as he later wrote, “There I concentrated my life to Christ.”

That is the only way for a president or any person to be saved. Have you ever made such a commitment? If not do it now.

Why God Created Children

(And In The Process Grandchildren)

[The following came in an email and the source is unknown.]

To those of us who have children in our lives, whether they are our own, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or students…here is something to make you chuckle.

Whenever your children are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God’s omnipotence did not extend to His own children.

After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve And the first thing he said was “DON’T!”
“Don’t what?” Adam replied.
“Don’t eat the forbidden fruit.” God said.
“Forbidden fruit? We have forbidden fruit? Hey Eve…we have forbidden fruit!!!!!”
“No Way!”
“Yes way!”
“Do NOT eat the fruit!” said God
“Why”
“Because I am your Father and I said so!” God replied, wondering why He hadn’t stopped creation after making the elephants A few minutes later, God saw His children having an apple break and He was ticked!
“Didn’t I tell you not to eat the fruit?” God asked.
“Uh huh,” Adam replied.
“Then why did you?” said the Father.
“I don’t know,” said Eve.
“She started it!” Adam said
“Did not!”
“Did too!”
“DID NOT!”

Having had it with the two of them, God’s punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own. Thus the pattern was set and it has never changed.

BUT THERE IS REASSURANCE IN THE STORY!

If you have persistently and lovingly tried to give children wisdom and they haven’t taken it, don’t be hard on yourself. If God had trouble raising children, what makes you think it would ld be a piece of cake for you?

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT!

1. You spend the first two years of their life teaching them to walk and talk. Then you spend the next sixteen telling them to sit down and shut up.

2. Grandchildren are God’s reward for not killing your own children.

3. Mothers of teens now know why some animals eat their young.

4. Children seldom misquote you. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn’t have said.

5. The main purpose of holding children’s parties is to remind yourself that there are children more awful than your own.

6. We child proofed our homes, but they are still getting in.

ADVICE FOR THE DAY: Be nice to your kids. They will choose your nursing home one day.
AND FINALLY: IF YOU HAVE A LOT OF TENSION AND YOU GET A HEADACHE, DO WHAT IT SAYS ON THE ASPIRIN BOTTLE: “TAKE TWO ASPIRIN” AND “KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN”

Where Did God Come From?

Every parent has shuddered when asked by a child, “Where did God come from?”
Based on experience I am convinced most parents have a ready answer: “Let’s wait and ask the pastor.”

Children ask childish questions and deserve childish answers not long complicated ones. God has just always been. There never was a time when He wasn’t and there never will be a time He isn’t.

When thinking of time we think in a straight line. Physicists call it the arrow of time. (For more on this see the “Time Helps Us Understand Eternity” under Price Tags.)

To aid a child’s understanding holdup an object such as a pencil or piece of string. Explain to the child we tend to think of beginnings and ends. Point to the two ends. A day begins and a day ends. A new year begins and an old year ends. A child is born and an elderly person dies.

With God there is no beginning or ending.

Hold up a ring in such a way that the child can see through it. Then ask, “Where is the beginning and end of the ring?” Rings don’t have beginnings and endings. Neither does God. He just always has been.

Where Did Cain Get His Wife?

Adam was the “first man” (I Cor. 15:45). Eve was “the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). There was no pre-Adamic race. Cain was the first son of Adam and Eve (Genesis 4:1). After he killed his brother Able he was fearful “others” might kill him (Genesis 4:14). It is said had a wife (Genesis 4:17).

From where did these “others” come? Genesis 5:4 says of Adam “he begat sons and daughters.” Adam and Eve had many children.

Later as the race developed for genetic reasons interfamily marriages were forbidden. At this early stage the gene pool was such that to initiate the expansion of the human race brothers and sisters married. There is no other explanation.

Adam lived to be 930 (Genesis 5:4). It is likely some of the offsprings were of such diverse ages that they were not reared in the same family setting.

What Difference Would It Have Made If Christ Had Not Been Born?

Every Christmas we are reminded by the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life, how George Bailey discovered what life would be like if he had not been born. Now there is a thought to personalize!

Our world would be considerably different if a certain baby had not been born in a manger in Bethlehem. Christmas has been trivialized, commercialized, and almost crowded off the calendar by Kwanza, Hanukkah, and now Ramadan. While giving the last three their holidays Christmas and the one whose birth is celebrated deserves their hour. Those who celebrate it have reason to say, “Merry Christmas.” Had Jesus Christ not been born there would be little reason for any celebration of anything.

Infants have reason to celebrate because of Mary’s infant. At the time of His birth in Roman and Greek culture abortion was prevalent. Unwanted infants were left in the forest as animal food or for deviates to use for their pleasure. Followers of Christ started foundling homes, nurseries, and orphanages.

Women have reason to celebrate. At the time of His birth females were considered incompetent for independence. In the Orient, Rome, and Greece wives were considered property of the men. Female infanticide was common. In India and other societies widows were burned alive on their husband’s funeral pyres. British missionaries were instrumental in stopping the last vestige of this.

A Hindu woman said the Bible must have been written by a woman. When asked why she said, “Because it says so many kind things for women. Our pundits never refer to us but in reproach.”
Some women, with little knowledge of history, claim Christianity has oppressed women. Had it not elevated them most of these critics might never have been born or lived long.

Though some Christians betray their Master in matters of sexual purity it was Christ who ameliorated family values. Aristides, writing to the Emperor Hadrian in 125 A.D., recorded the result of the Christian ideal: “They do not commit adultery or immorality….Their wives, O King, are as pure as virgins, and their daughters as modest. Their men abstain from all unlawful sexual contact and from impurity…” That was a dramatic change.

Johannes Kepler, Blaise Pascal, Robert Oppenheimer, and Alfred Whitehead are but a few notable scientists who have been motivated by their faith in the baby of Bethlehem.

The source of education for the masses goes back to John Calvin during the Reformation. Following the example of Christ who encouraged learning they believed the Reformation could only succeed if the people could learn to read the Bible for themselves. Most of the first 123 colleges in America have Christian origins.

It was the emergence of the work ethic advocated by Christ that gave birth to the free enterprise system.

Had Christ not been born there would be no traffic jams around malls. Giving of gifts would not be practiced as did the wise men. Our economy would know no boost in December.

Those are some of the reasons Christians should be allowed every liberty to say, “Merry Christmas,” anywhere.

Values To Be Taught Children

And By Which You Should Live

Teach your children some basics. Such as:
* All of life isn’t fun. Fun isn’t the criteria by which you judge what you should do. Sometime it isn’t fun to do right. If having fun had been the basis of action there would have been no willingness on behalf of Columbus to suffer privation in order to sail the ocean blue. It wasn’t fun to defend America against the Nazi threat in World War II.
It isn’t fun to do homework, be responsible and show up on time for engagements, attend choir practice, or do your home chores.

* Don’t whine because life isn’t fair. It isn’t. It never was and never will be. Don’t expect it. “Fair” isn’t the issue “right” is.

* Some things are special, some places sacred, and some persons worthy of respect. It is proper to respect the flag and stand for the playing of the national anthem. Don’t lose a sense of awe and wonder regarding life.

* It is OK to respect those with whom we differ while lovingly defending our beliefs.

* You are a responsible person. Don’t look for excuses or someone to blame. Assume responsibility for your own actions.

* Life takes on meaning when you have a Biblical world view. Base you beliefs and conduct on God’s Word.

The Twelve Tribes

The tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, is sometimes not numbered according to the instruction given by the Lord to Moses (Numbers 1: 47-50). When they are omitted the two sons of Joseph are included. They were Manasseh and Ephraim (Numbers 1: 20-47).

When Levi is included along with Manasseh and Ephraim there are thirteen (Gen. 46: 8-24).

Numbering of the tribes is confusing. In the N.T. the number “twelve” is referred to in Matthew 19:28; James 1:1; Acts 26:7; Revelation 7:1.

Confusion results, in part, from various listings being for different purposes. Some are genealogical, some geological, some priestly, and some non-priestly.

In general the number “twelve” is used to refer to “all Israel.”

The tradition of twelve maintained in most lists: Genesis 35:22-26; Deut. 27:12,13; I Chron. 2:1-2, Ezekial 48:1f.

The most common grouping is:
Judah
Benjamin
Joseph
Ephraim
Mannasseh
Issachar
Naphtali
Zebulon
Asher
The Transjordan tribal territories
Gad
Ruben
The Half-tribe of Manasseh
The Remaining West Jordanian Tribes
Dan
Simeon

The Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most challenging and complex Christian doctrines. The Christian “godhead” is a moral and mental unity, fused together by mutual love and common purpose. It is the essence of Deity abiding in each that makes them one.

The small unit of matter, an atom, is diverse yet one unit. Each component exists to constitute one atom.

The Bible clearly teaches the doctrine of the tri-unity of God.
Jesus said, “The first [commandment] is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, is one…'” (Mark 12:29).

I Corinthians 8:4 states, “…there is no God but one…”

How does this square with the command of Jesus to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19)?

Note it to be done in the name not names. This speaks of oneness.

Texts mentioning the three members of the tri-unity are: I Peter 1:12,; Titus 3:4-6; John 3: 34 and Ephesians 3: 14-19.

Nature gives examples of three in one.
H2O exists as three. As a liquid it is water, as a solid it is ice, as a gas it is vapor, yet having one nature it exits in three-forms.

Saint Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate the Trinity. It has three petals yet is one shamrock.

Place three match heads beside each other and strike them. There is one flame in the three.

The next time you bite a banana look at the end. It is equally divided into three parts, yet it is one.

How can the Lord our God be one if the Trinity is true? Hold a stem of grapes with three grapes. There is one bunch consisting of three. Hence, three in one.

Gregory of Ninzus wrote in the fourth century: “When I contemplate the Three together, I see but one luminary, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light.”

The title ascribed to one member of the Trinity, “Son of God,” confuses some persons.

The dictionary recognizes the term “son” at times signifying not generation but association. James and John were called “the sons of thunder.” The name Barnabas means “the son of encouragement.” Jesus referred to “the son of peace” in Luke 10:6. These titles identified their nature; that to which they were related.

Jesus is referred to as the Son of God not to indicate generation but relationship. Jesus is not called “a Son of God,” but “the Son of God.” He occupies a unique position of equality with the Father and Holy Spirit.

In Scripture the Greek word HUIOS is used when speaking of Jesus as the Son of God. TEKNON is the Greek word used in reference to all others as sons of God. Teknon stresses the fact of birth. Huios emphasizes dignity and character of a relationship.

Some cults profess Jesus to be a son of God just as all believers are. The distinction made by the use of these words reveals Him to have a unique relationship with the Father. Remember the word unique means none other like it.

Tree of Life

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Rev 2:7).

The tree of life is first spoken of in Gen. 2:9. Following the fall of Adam and Eve it was guarded by a flaming sword lest they eat of it and acquire immortality.

“Paradise” (PARADEISOS) is a Persian word meaning “a garden.” It spoke of fellowship. Jesus is referred to as the restorer of the lost Paradise, fellowship.

The expression “tree of life” as used here conveys symbolically the concept of eternal life and the banishment of suffering and death (Rev. 22:1,2). The perennila fruit in the heavenly Jerusalem speaks of eternal life and fellowship. Jesus is the one who gives access to fellowship and eternal life.

As used here the expression refers to the restored perfect fellowship between man and God as known before the fall in Eden.

To the people of Ephesus in that day this expression had a very important meaning. Their coins contained engravings of a sacred tree used in nature worship. To them this expression in Rev. 2:7 was assurance that the source of life originates from a deeper reality than that which the cultic goddess images on their coins inferred.

Time Helps Us Understand Eternity

It’s about time!

That is, this column is about “time.” Have you ever taken time to think about time? It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “If you love life don’t waste time for that is the stuff life is made of.”

In the Greek text the Gospel of John begins, “Before time began to begin….” There was a “time” when there was no time.

Lovers often speak of being devoted “to the end of time.”

Academicians have been giving a lot of thought to “time.” It is a fertile field in which my mind gets bogged down. Physicists in particular have given it a lot thought. Consider their imaginary visit to our nearest star, Sirius. It is nine light years away. Traveling there at 99.99999% of the speed of light the following would happen. Persons here on earth would have to wait about 18 years for your return. Upon returning your watch and body clock would indicate you were gone 12 hours. You would be 12 hours older and your earth bound friends 18 years older. If you could accelerate to the speed of light time would stand still. It is already getting a little boggy.

What time is it? Where? When it is twelve noon in Georgia it is 6:00 PM in Europe and 6:00 AM in Hawaii. What time is it at that moment half way to the sun? Does time ever change in deep outer space?

Stephen Hawkins, who holds Newton’s chair Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge is widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein wrote:

“Up to the beginning of this century people believed in an absolute time. That is, each event could be labeled by a number called “time’ in a unique way, and all good clocks would agree on the time interval between two events….[with] the theory of relativity… one had to abandon the idea that there was a unique absolute time.” He concludes, “The theory of relativity gets rid of absolute time.”
He and others using nuclear clocks tested the theory of absolute time and reported the results were in exact agreement with the theory of relativity.

Hawkins is joined by Princeton physicist, John Wheeler, who coined the phrase “black hole” in concluding time stands still on what is called the surface of a black hole, a collapsing star.

I don’t understand that. Perhaps the apostle Peter understood more than we when he wrote of God’s perception of time: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (II Peter 3:8).

Are physicists opening a crack in the door to let us better see what is called immortality and eternity?

On a lighter note imagine this interview with God.
“God, what is a million dollars like to you?”
“Like a penny.”
“What is a thousand years like to you?”
“Like a minute.”
“God, will you give me a million dollars?”
“In a minute.”

The Submitted Wife —- The Committed Husband

EPHESIANS 5: 22 – 31
JESUS CHRIST loved His church and gave Himself for it. That means He loved you and gave Himself for you. In doing so He made possible your salvation. He loved us when we were His enemies. He came to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. His highest role is that of Savior. Until He is personally known in that relationship, He can’t be the Role Model in other areas He is intended to be.

The Scripture uses His relationship with the church as an illustration of what the husband and wife relationship should be. Of Him it is said, “Christ love the church and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5: 25).

Thus, the loving regard with which a husband should relate to his wife is defined.

Secondly, it is said the wife should respond to her husband as the church does to Christ. This concept is as foreign to the modern American concept of husband and wife relationships as ever.

Many husbands can quote Ephesians 5: 22, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” That is the favorite text of many brutish males. That concept alone always has been to males not having a well rounded Bible view of relationships.

In the era in which that statement was authored there were three primary cultures: Jewish, Greek, and Roman.

Every day pious Jewish males offered this arrogant prayer of thanksgiving: “God I thank you that you did not make me a Gentile, slave or woman.”

In the Greek culture things were no better. Demosthenes wrote: “We have courtesans for pleasure, concubines for daily cohabitation, and wives to raise our legitimate children and, manage household affairs.”

In the Roman world it was noted by Seneca that “Women are married to be divorced and divorced to be married.” They dated their years by the name of their husbands. Jerome wrote of one woman who had been divorced 23 times and she was the 21st wife of her present husband.

Then Christ came to elevate the role of the wife. Soon thereafter Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, began to write as did Peter truths that enhanced and expanded the important role of the Christian wife.

Irony of ironies is that most husbands can quote Ephesians 5:22 out of context and give it a twist to seem to confirm ancient Jewish, Roman, and Greek concepts regarding a subjugated wife. However, we need to back up one verse to get the full meaning. Ephesians 5: 21 states, “…submitting to one another in the fear of God,” or as beautifully expressed by another translation, “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

To “submit” means to give yourself to the other person. Right? Then notice in verse 22 the husband is commanded to love his wife and give himself for her just as Christ gave Himself for the church. It is that light that verse 21 is to be understood.

Husbands are given two standards for loving their wives:
a. Like Christ loved the church (Verse 25).
b. Like they love their own body (Verse 28).

Note these basics about the injunction regarding submission by the wife. She is to “submit” to her “own husband” — to him and to him only. This is not a command for women to submit to men in general.

The reason for this submission is organization. In every group or organization there must be order. In a marriage there are inevitably times when one person must make decisions that affect all others. That weighty task is assigned to the husband. God will hold him accountable. In making such decisions the husband should seek the insight of his wife. He opinion may not determine his decision; BUT she deserves the right of knowing it will be lovingly considered, and it will influence his decision.

One of the great weaknesses in American families today is the failure of the husband to take a loving leadership role. Most wives want it and children crave it. When it isn’t given, there is insecurity and anxiety. It is as bad not to give such leadership as it is to be overbearing and dictatorial.

The wife who robs her husband of that right robs herself and her children of blessings intended by God.

Husbands, should note Ephesians 5: 22, this is for some the “Male Manifesto.”

Don’t leave this thought until fully developing the thought. Unless this is done there can result a distorted interpretation.

It says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”

Most men know that verse. Some misinterpret it and grossly misapply it with dominant force. “Submit” is their battle cry.

Ladies note Ephesians 5: 25. Fellows, you can and should follow along also.

It says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.”

Translated to a single word that verse means men “COMMIT.” As the wife is SUBMIT so the husband is to COMMIT. When a husband is as committed to his wife as Christ to His church the wife has no problem submitting. A committed husband is one who edifies (builds up) his wife, respects, honors, gives dignity to, and supports his wife. He gives great attention to her desires and endeavors to accommodate her. He desires her contentment and happiness as much as his own and goes out of his way to insure it. Compliments, encouraging comments, plaudits, commendations, and adulation season the husband’s speech. Her fulfillment is his foremost desire.

This is not a male female issue. It speaks of order in the family. To submit means to give honor to. Ask yourself: “Am I honorable?” If you are as committed to your wife as Christ to His church your wife will have no difficulty fulfilling her role

WHAT IS THE PRIMARY THREAT TO THIS ORDERLY PROCESS?

The answer to that has application to all relationships. The greatest threat is not money, promiscuous sex, alcohol, or children. Those are symptoms. It is something we use sophisticated language to speak of. It is called self-fulfillment. It is the pursuit of the personal. It is a fad among us that has become a sickness at best and a sin at worst. Preoccupation with self is a giant step in the wrong direction on the journey of self-fulfillment.
The reason for breakdowns in marriage is that more people are demanding more and more and giving less and less. This results in giving up too easily.

The best way to be fulfilled is to live to fulfill others. That is so simple we have forgotten it.

Christ in life fulfilled His purpose, yet He died. He was not a loser in His death. Therein He fulfilled His mission. As a result of fulfilling His mission, He is loved. For a husband or wife to be loved, they must fulfill their mission.

The idea is not self-fulfillment, but the ideal is to become “one flesh.” This is why the text says ” husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5: 28). They are one. Persons who injure their mates injure themselves.

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother…” For what cause? For the precious possibility of the two of them working to be one unit as Christ and His people are one. It is the kind of unity that exists when two persons realize they exist to give themselves to one another.

Remember that beautiful line for St. Francis:
“It is in giving we receive.”

The husband/wife relationship is intended by God to be:

I. SACRIFICING (Verse 25)
It was His love that prompted such self-sacrificing. “Love” is AGAPAO. The word doesn’t simply speak of emotional affection or romance. It speaks of a deliberate attitude of mind that genuinely concerns itself with the well-being of the other. Self-devotion to another is its theme. This is love that sacrifices itself for the good of the other.

In courtship this type love enables a couple to exercise self-restraint and sacrifice self in order to exercise God’s standard for relations. This is totally different from the self-seeking romance force-fed by the media.

Remember, love is something we do, not something we feel. I Corinthians 13: 4 – 7 is known as the love passage. It is filled with action verbs, not feelings.

Keep in mind that when things happen that tend to send you into a high-tension orbit, Satan not the person involved is your enemy. These moments are matchless opportunities to ask yourself: “How can I be loving RIGHT NOW?” That is a witness.

II. SANCTIFYING (Verse 26)
To “sanctify” means to set apart for God, to treat as holy. Ideally each partner should set self apart for God’s use AND THEN set the marriage apart for God’s use. This should be done by the Christian partner even if the mate does not do it.

It is easy to love those who love us. Their love for us helps us feel good about yourself. We are loved and accepted. However, all of us have related at some time to persons who don’t love us. Often they spurn or reject us. Without a Bible perspective, that can be devastation. That which gives us stability is the fact God says He loves us and that makes us 100% acceptable at all times regardless of who rejects us.

Often a Christian married to a non-Christian asks how do you witness to your partner. Most people are looking for a quick acting, verbal formula that instantaneously changes their mate by superior logic. That is not the way it works. Most non-Christian mates know the Bible standard for husband/wife relationships. The first and best witness to a non-Christian mate is to live up to the standards set by Scripture for your office in marriage. The witness is thus by example. Practice takes precedence even over precepts in such a relationship.

III. SATISFYING
Knowing and doing God’s will is the most satisfying thing in life. Working at making a marriage work is fun and rewarding.

Spousal Relations

Dr. David Mace: “There are no unhappy marriages, only marriage partners who are immature. The problem isn’t with the institution of marriage — it is with people.”

Some practical ways of making a marriage better:
01) Put people before things.
02) When a problem arises, attack the problem and not one another.
03) Give the other person the benefit of the doubt.
04) Prepare to make changes. Engage in self-development.
05) Reserve time for each other.
06) Exercise sociability in the family. Show courtesy.
07) Be honest and truthful.
08) Resolve to be obedient to God’s Word in all things.
09) Spend time praying for each other.
10) Practice Colossians 3:23 in relating to each other.

Download these ten principles on the memory bank of your mind and draw interest on them the rest of your life. They make any type relationship better.

Sons of God – Daughters of Men

GENESIS 6: 1 – 4

Three primary views of this passage prevail:

1. The “sons of God” are angels.

2. The “‘sons of God” are royalty.

3. The “sons of God” are pious men from the “line of Seth.”

The first view appears to conflict with other Scripture, such as, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven (Matt. 22:30). Copulation by angels is not a Biblical teaching. They do not reproduce.

Cain’s corrupt line.

Reference to “giants on the earth in those days” (Vs. 4) has led some reputable persons to conclude position # 1 explains why.

Some persons conclude that these “Sons of God” are the fallen angels mentioned in II Peter 2:4. The destination of these angels is specified as not being earth but He “cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.”

Undeniably the expression “sons of God” is used in the Old Testament as a reference to angels. It is also used of godly people. In choosing which the expression refers to here it should be noted there is no reference to angels in the Book of Genesis up until this point and there is reference to sons of the true God in Genesis 4:25 – 5:32. That would lead to the conclusion the expressing in chapter 6 relates to those to whom reference has already been made.

Genesis 6: 1 – 4 is a summary of Genesis chapter 5 which speaks of the normal course of life just before the flood. They were marrying and giving in marriage. Life, though wicked just before the flood, was normal.

“There giants on the earth in those days…” (Genesis 6:4) reveals the giants were already on earth when the sons of God married the daughters of men, not as a result of.

If in Genesis 6:2 the reference is to angels why would it be men mentioned in verse 3 as the ones punished for the sin? Both verses refer to men.

When dealing with a passage that treats a subject that is not clear always refer to a passage on the same subject that is clear and interpret the unclear one in light of the clear one.

If Gen. 6:1-4 is understood to be a summary of chapter 5 it is seen as an account of the fact the sons and daughters of Adam had greatly increased in number and married and had children.

Those who interpret the passage to refer to fallen angels copulating with women see these verses as an introduction to the flood narrative which follows in chapter 6. In this light these relationships are seen as a reason contributing to the necessity of the flood to purge the human race. There was ample reason for the purge apart from any such possible acts.

In keeping with the Genesis account of the origin of men and women the terms “sons of God” and “daughters of men” are used. The first is used of males because Adam originated from God breathing life into him and the latter is used of females because God created Eve from man.

It should be noted they took them as “wives.” Legal marriages were involved not just indiscriminate sex. This is a strong argument for interpreting the passage as referring to the Godly descendants of Seth and the ungodly daughters of Cain.

“There were giants in the land” interprets the Hebrew term nephilim.” These are immediately identified in verse 4 as “mighty men of old, men of renown.”

The verb tense reveals these men were already in the land before the union described. They were “on the earth in those days, and also afterwards” (vs. 4). There is nothing said of a race of giants resulting ‘from” the union noted in the passage. They were already there.

The term “nephilim” can refer to men of great size as well as great men, “men of renown.” In chapter 5 there are ten such great men identified. They were “in the land” already when the acts of Gen. 6:1-4 occurred.

In verse 3 the Lord God pronounced judgment upon “man,” that is, mankind not angels for what happened.

Each view has supporters. However, it is view number three that seems most reasonable.

The Son Of God

In Scripture Jesus Christ is repetitiously called “the Son of God.” (John 3:16)

Jesus Himself declared, “…I said, “I am the Son of God’” (John 10:36).

He clarified this further by saying, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:36).

Gabriel told Mary her child world be called “the Son of God” (Luke 1: 32,33).

Satan identified Him as “the Son of God” at the time of temptation (Matthew 4: 3 & 6).

John the Baptist spoke of Him at the time of His baptism as “the Son of God” (John 1: 34).

The Centurion at the cross said surely He was “the Son of God” (Matthew 27: 54).

The term is not used in the sense of prodigy, offspring. It speaks of association not generation. The dictionary as well as Scripture recognizes the title as referring to association not generation.

James and John were called “sons of thunder.” The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement.”

We are often called sons or daughters of America.

Scripture does not call Jesus “a Son,” but “the Son” of God.

Human beings are also called “sons of God.” A different term is used in referring to Jesus as the son of God and a human being referred to as a son of God.

The Greek word TEKNON is used in reference to humans. It stress the fact of birth. We are born again as a TEKNON.

The Greek word HUIOS is used of Jesus. It emphasizes dignity and character of relationship. Thus, it identifies Jesus as deity.

In Christ the “fullness,” PLEROMA, permanently dwells. The fullness of the Godhead, THEOTETOS, Divinity, dwells in Christ. Theotetos means not just divine attributes but the very essence of God, the totality of who God is, His supreme Nature. Bottom line: Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, God incarnate. His eternal pre-creation God Nature was manifested “bodily.”

II Corinthians 4:4 records: “Christ, who is the image of God…” EIKON, “image of God” means He is the perfect visible likeness of the invisible God in both personality and distinctiveness. Bottom line: He is Immanuel, God with us.

With reference to His relationship with God the Father it is said, “…who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person…” (Hebrews 1:3).

He is said to have been “born of a woman,” (Galatians 4:4) meaning “born without human paternity,” born only of a woman, a virgin.

Sodom and Gomorra

As a sidebar there is a feasible explanation of how God timed and achieved the act of raining fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorra. Large deposits of sulfur encapsulated in gypsum are still found in the area. The region, given to earthquakes, is also known to have large deposits of natural gas. A slight earthquake could have released some of this gas which could have easily been ignited by a spark from the great quantity of flint in the area. This would have caused the “fireballs” of gypsum and sulfur to explode and rain down from the mountains.

A possible physical explanation of “how” it happened doesn’t detract from the fact, reason, and timing. God did it for a reason, at a time of His choosing, and in the way He planned.

Sanctity Of Life

Growing numbers of major cities now have designated lanes for commuter traffic in which no cars can drive with a single passenger. In two different states recently pregnant women were arrested while in a vehicle alone. Their defense has been that since they were pregnant there were two persons in the car. In both instances they won their appeal. Thus, indirectly the courts ruled the unborn infant was a human being. Hence, the court disputes those who refer to such a being as “fetal tissue.”

One must concede that within the womb of a pregnant woman is a “being” by virtue of something simply “being” there. That “being” was conceived by two human beings, thus, the “being” resulting is a human being. It is human life and that makes it special.

In 1857 the U.S. Supreme Court, as revered as it is, made a mistaken ruling. Under the “Dred-Scott” ruling black people of America had their “right to life” taken from them by law. The court determined they were subhuman and the right was given to masters allowing them to kill them. Fortunately, since then, sensibility has prevailed and that law countermanded.

In 1973 under Roe V. Wade unborn children in America had their right to life taken away. At the time two sitting members of the court wrote opposing opinions.

Justice William Rehnquist: “To reach its results, the court had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment.”

Judge Byron White: “I find nothing in the language of our history of the constitution to support the court’s judgment. The court simply fashioned and announced a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers.”

The opinions of these justices vivify the fact that in that decision a new moral direction was taken in America. Thereby life was devalued. The concept of the “sanctity of life” suffered a mortal wound. A logical question is where does this lead?

One can look back at Nazi Germany for a historical example of the result. Likewise, a current example is now being reported from China.

As abhorrent as the following is consideration must be given it to understand why sooner rather than later the trend of depreciating human life must be stopped. In China Dr. Zou Qin, who claims to have aborted several hundred unborn alleges to have eaten more than 100 fetuses, and said, “People normally prefer [fetus from] young women, and even better, the first baby and a male.” This form of Chinese pharmacopoeia is alleged to be increasing in popularity.

Here in America we don’t eat them but pharmaceutical companies use fetal tissue in experiments. This is an effort to put a moral sheen on brutally ending a human life. Will our “Culture of Death” be the next society to denigrate the sanctity of life by eating the unborn? There was a time in America when the casual abortion of a child was thought to be as abhorrent as the idea of eating pre-born infants now sounds. We have become

desensitized by wholesale destruction of life. In a degenerate society that which is vile today is often valid tomorrow.

Emerging on the moral horizon is the question of who is next? The step from saying life in the womb isn’t sacred to saying life outside the womb isn’t sacred is a short one. Bioethicists indicate that the location of life inside or outside the womb cannot make a crucial difference.

Having assumed the right to kill the pre-born will we soon sanction the right to kill adults if they don’t meet prescribed standards. Or, perhaps based on aborting the pre-born simply because they are a nuisance, will we conclude it is legitimate to kill adults simply because they are a nuisance? If so, who determines who is a nuisance? In Germany the Nazi Party established a committee to make the judgment. Their conclusions are well documented.

It is estimated that 98 percent of abortions are performed because of reasons such as social, nonmedical, emotional strain or inconvenience to the mother. Interpreted that means the pre-born is a nuisance.

When “quality of life” replaces the “sanctity of life” as a nation’s ethic the seeds of degeneracy have sprouted.

Will the elderly follow the blacks and the pre-born in being reclassified as nonpersons?

SECULAR SUPPORT OF THE SANCTITY OF LIFE
Efforts to reclassify pre-born infants, just as we did blacks, are appropriate. Self-defense, if no other reason, should motivate us. Sociological if not theological logic should catalyze us to make a moral U-turn as a nation. Barbarism in any cloak is self-defeating.

In 1984, 61 physicians (including two past presidents of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) issued a signed statement entitled “The Utmost Respect For Human Life,” which stated in part, “We urge all those engaged in the abortion debate to recognize that a central issue in the discourse must include acceptance of the fact that induced abortion causes the death of a living human.”

This statement is in keeping with the very definition of the word abortion. The Latin root word for abortion is “aborior,” which means “to perish by untimely birth.”

SCRIPTURAL SUPPORT FOR THE SANCTITY OF LIFE
The very word “sanctity” is defined as “sacred or hallowed character … a sacred thing.” Is human life a sacred thing?

The answer is affirmed in Genesis 1: 27 with confirmation that reverberates from heaven to earth: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

The Psalmist, referring to God the Creator, declared: “Your hand made me and fashioned me” (Psalm 119: 73).

Through the inspired penman God said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” (Jeremiah 1: 5).

There are two Greek words for “child.” One is “teknon.” It is used ninety-eight times in the Greek New Testament. It refers to a child as viewed in relation to a parent. The other word is “brephos” which is used only eight times such as follows.

“People were bringing infants (brephos) to Jesus…” (Luke 18: 15).

“And how from infancy (brephos) you have known the Holy Scripture…” (II Timothy 3: 15).

Now the application. When the virgin Mary told Elizabeth her good news it is said, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting the baby (brephos) leaped in her womb…” (Luke 1: 41).

Elizabeth further said to Mary, “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby (brephos) in my womb, leaped for joy” (Luke 1: 44).

God’s Word makes it perfectly clear He considered the pre-born as much a human being as the babies later brought to Christ and the infant that knew Scripture. To Him the life of the pre-born is sacred.

While we debate what is the right attitude toward abortion and euthanasia, God has been very specific in stating His feelings.

“These six things which the Lord hated … hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6: 16 – 19).

Each year the “innocent blood” of 1.8 million preborn American infants is shed. That is more blood than was shed in all human history before the 20th Century. By killing approximately one child in three by abortion our generation has become the most ravenous in history. Based on Scripture it can be safely concluded God doesn’t like that AT ALL.

An exegetical overview of Scripture reveals three things:

One, the unborn are viewed as developing children by God. Two, taking an innocent human life is hated and clearly condemned by God. Three, God especially detests taking of human life simply to ensure prosperity or cover sins.

From the beginning Christians have opposed abortion based on the sanctity of life. The “Didache,” an early second-century document, summarized Christian conviction: “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion\destruction.”

Tertullian, at about the same time wrote in his “Apology,” “To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to be one; you have the fruit already in the seed.”

Those early Christians won the sanctity of life debate not by superior logic alone but by converting the empire to faith. Soon after Constantine legalized Christianity it was made illegal for a father to kill his child. Today Christians must work to win the “empire” to Christ. An associated victory will be winning the battle for the sanctity of life.

Though the Christian community must perennially fight the battle for the sanctity of life it is not likely to be won in the courts. The battle lines might better be defined there, however.

Informed consent laws will help reduce the carnage. A number of states have now passed such laws.

Offering alternatives to abortion is element. Roswell Street Baptist Church is one of several churches that operate a women’s pregnancy center. Young women contemplating an abortion come to it seeking information regarding a potential abortion. They are shown a low key scientific based film that does not incorporate scare tactics. After seeing it and having a brief counseling session approximately 80% of those that enter anticipating an abortion elect to give live term birth. That has resulted in over 6,000 live births in that one clinic.

Avoidance of pregnancies that result in abortions will not be achieved by condom distribution, sex education, or scare stories regarding diseases. Teens know all that and are still promiscuous. What is it they are seeking so desperately they will risk death? It is not sex. It is love. Youth today are so desperate for love they are willing to flirt with death.

Therefore, a large part of the solution to the problem that exists is to show genuine love for the “sanctity of teen life” of vulnerable adolescents. Parents must return to caring demonstrative love for their children.

Salvation: How To Be Saved

Salvation comes only by faith in Jesus Christ.

“For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2: 8, 9).

“Grace” simply defined means God giving us what we need without us deserving it.

“Faith” involves believing the facts AND trusting the person, Jesus Christ.

“Gift” is something someone obtains for us and provides it for us without cost to us. That means there is nothing we do to earn, merit, or deserve God’s favor. His “grace” provides the “gift” of salvation; the forgiveness of our sins. Though it costs us nothing it cost Christ His life on Calvary. There He the just one died for us the unjust ones. He the holy one died for us the unholy ones. He the righteous one died for us the unrighteous ones. He assumed the guilt for our sins and took upon Himself our punishment.

Note especially this is by “faith” and “not of works.” The work was done and completed on Calvary by Jesus Christ. No person can “boast” of warranting salvation. It is through Christ’s merit not our own.

This wonderful gift becomes ours the moment we invest our faith in Him. Again, that involves accepting the facts AND trusting the person. The facts to be accepted are those just presented. The person to be trusted is Jesus Christ.

This illustrates the point. You might have appendicitis and be told by a fried of a great doctor. You might believe all the facts about him, such as, his age, address, degrees, success ratio, phone number, and name. Having believed these facts you are not healed. You must then trust the doctor’s diagnosis, grant his anesthetic and submit to his skillful hand. In doing so you have completely trusted the doctor about whom you believed the facts.

To trust Christ means to submit and commit to Him as the one who paid the price for the wonderful gift of salvation and willfully receive Him as Savior and Lord.

These verses from the Book of Romans afford a guideline to salvation.

“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Concede “all” means you. An aspect of trusting the Person is confessing you are a sinner and repenting of it. To repent means to agree with God about it and turn from it to Christ.

“For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6: 23a).

Here we are the actor. We do something. We “sin.” A “wage” is what we are paid for what we do. Our sin earns “death.” The death spoken of here is not merely physical death. It is a reference to spiritual death, separation from God. That is the wage of sin.

The picture brightens when we move to Romans 5: 8: “God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That is, Christ died on our behalf; in our stead. On Calvary where He died physically He experienced separation from God, spiritual death, as indicated by His cry, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” There He was separated from the Father that we might be united with Him. In His resurrection He was reunited with the Father.

Now back to the last part of Romans 6: 23b: “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Note above in the first half of this verse we act and earn something, spiritual death. Here Christ acts and provides a gift, eternal life. This gift was purchased by Him when He gave His sinless life for us; our sins.

“For whoever calls upon the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

To call upon the name of the Lord means to tell Him of your faith in Him as Savior and ask for the wonderful gift of salvation.

Once you have done so let it be known.

“With the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10: 10).

Become identified with Christ and His church by making known publicly you have trusted Him as your Savior.

The Role Of Women In The Church

In churches where the Word of God is the final authority for faith and practice, the answer to this issue needs to be sought in Scripture.

Today, as in the O.T. and N.T. era, the work of God on earth is highly dependent upon women. Miriam (Ex. 15;20, 21), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Hannah (I Sam. 1; 2:1-21), Huldah (II Kings 22:14-22), Anna (Luke 2:36-38), Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-41), Phoebe, Claudia (II Tim. 4:21), Dorcas (Acts 9:3-43), Lois (II Tim 1:5), Lydia (Acts 16:12-15), and the most honored woman of all, Mary, the mother of our Lord (Matt 1,2; Luke 1,2) are only a few of the many found in Scripture. The list is long in every church today.

The principle of ordination is based on the Greek word KATHISTEMI, which signifies formal introduction into office. It is used twice of church offices (acts 6:3; Titus 1:5). In ordaining the seven men in Acts 6, they laid hands on them. Of the process of laying on of hands, I Tim. 5:22 says, “Lay hands hastily on no man…” By this directive and Biblical example, the process involves the “man.”

The reason many churches do not ordain women is that the Scripture says the pastor is to be “the husband of one wife…” (I Tim 3;2). The word “husband” precludes a woman.” Of the deacons it says, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife…” (Vs. 12).

The Greek word rendered “deacon” is DIAKONOS. It can be rendered masculine or feminine. When applied to Phoebe and translated “deaconess,” it is used as an adjective, not a noun, and refers to a role of service, not an office.

In most progressive churches many important leadership roles are appropriately open and occupied by competent and committed women. Many outstanding women serve vital roles on church staffs today.

The issue isn’t equality. Galatians 3:28 says we are all one in Christ. This refers to salvation, not roles. The male who comes to Christ is still a male; the slave still a slave; and the racial Jew still a racial Jew. They are one, though diverse.

Rape And Incest And Abortion

98+% of abortions in America are performed for social reasons. 98+% are done for nonmedical reasons.

Sound studies from incest treatment programs suggest pregnancy is infrequent. Our pregnancy center has seen over 20,000 young women, 8,000 of those who were pregnant changed their minds and gave birth. Not one has regretted it. Of the thousands seen not one was pregnant as a result of rape or incest.

Nationally, studies show less than 1% of pregnancies result from rape or incest. The trauma of sexual assault is likely to prevent ovulation.

Such persons as Ethel Waters and Arthur Rubinstein were children or rape. How many other potentially contributing citizens have been aborted under the same circumstance. The child conceived in such a manner is not a sinner. Scripture notes, “There are six things which the Lord hates…hands that shed innocent blood…” (Proverbs 6: 16-19.) These children are innocent. A child conceived in such a way is in no way entitled to less compassion than any other child.

In an Old Testament passage dealing with Justice it is said, “…do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked” (Exodus 23:7).

It is a child involved in abortion not fetal material. Isn’t it interesting Scott Peterson is being tried for a double murder, his wife Lacey and her unborn child.

Studies show that carrying such a child is no less traumatic for the mother than an abortion. Emotional and emotional anguish from rape or incest is often compounded by taking the life of an innocent child. No innocent baby should be killed for the sin of the father. Abortion is not a treatment for incest. It does not solve the problem of abuse.

One does not become unraped by becoming unpregnant (via abortion). It does not solve the problem and often compounds it.

This is not just an academic topic for me. I have ministered to women who were raped and victims of incest. Some, very few, who became pregnant. Not one of them that carried the child to full term regretted it. Rather they had a sense of dignity and self-worth in doing so. Studies confirm my observation on this.

Women subject to rape or incest deserve the most compassionate and capable help in dealing with the situation. A number of very effective organizations are working in this area.

Consider this case. Would your friends suggest an abortion for reasons of health? The mother is pregnant with her fifth child. Her husband has syphilis and she tuberculosis. The first child was born blind. Their second child died. Their third child was born deaf. Their fourth child had tuberculosis. Should the fifth child be aborted? If the answer is “yes,” you just aborted Ludwig Van Beethoven.

You never know who is being aborted under any circumstance.

In the case of saving the life of the mother this is a difficult situation with options determined by the individual incident often at the last moment. It is a medical call to be made by those involved in light of what they know at the moment.

Predestination

In Ephesians 1:5 the Greek word translated “predestined” is PROORISAS. It means “designated,” “foreordained,” or literally “horizoned us off beforehand.”

It is in the Greek aorist tense and refers to an act in the past once and for all. It happened “before the foundation of the world.” What is referred to here happened in a pre-creation conference between the God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The verb form for “predestined” is formed from a word meaning to “to survey” as in marking off a boundary.

PREDESTINED is the same as FOREORDAINED.
Before creation, by decree of the Trinity, a boundary was set. It was predetermined that all who came within that boundary would be saved. The boundary is defined as being “in Christ.” Those in Christ shall be saved.

God in His sovereign will DECREED “in Christ.”

Man in his free will DECIDES whether or nor to be “in Christ.” It is an option open to the “whosoever” of John 3:16.

For “Christ gave Himself a ransom for all” (I Timothy 2:6).

Jesus said, “No man comes to me, except the Father… draws him” (John 6:44).

He further stated, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32).

“As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the child of God” (John 1:12).

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  (II Peter 3:9)

“And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22: 17).

Predestination is never used of unbelievers.

ELECTION (CHOSEN) EXELEXATO

From the Greek word often translated “chose” comes our word elect or election (Ephesians 1:4).

Election basically means God has taken the initiative in His purpose to save. It means He picked out for Himself all who are “in Christ.”

Election is not coercive, we many freely respond positively or negatively. However, if God had not chosen us we could not choose Him.

He did not chose us because of our good but in order that through us He might do good.

Apart from God’s initiative no one can be saved. However, it does not imply fatalism.

It does not imply God desires to save as few as possible but as many. It must be understood in light of John 3: 16 and Revelation 22: 17.

It always stems from a God who is loving and who relates to man who is morally responsible.

Jesus said, “No man can come to me except the Father draw him.” “Draw” is God’s initiative. “Come” is man’s response.

PREDESTINATION AND ELECTION

Predestination and election are basically the same thing.

Election expressed God’s will.

Predestination explains how He accomplishes it.

Election refers to people.

Predestination refers to purpose.

Election points backwards “before the foundation of the world.”

Predestination points forward, that we might be “acceptable.”

Prayer Restraints

Persons sometimes say, “It seems my prayers go no further that the ceiling.” That may be true. If it is the reason is on this end of the line. Make certain none of the following are hindering your prayer life.

1. FAILURE TO EXERCISE FAITH
“Whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” MATTHEW 21: 22

2. SELFISHNESS
“You ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasure” JAMES 4: 2,3

3. CARNALITY
“If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear” PSALM 66: 18

4. LACK OF COMPASSION
“Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard” PROVERBS 21: 13

5. LACK OF DOMESTIC TRANQUILITY
“Likewise you husbands, dwell with them with understanding, give honor to your wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” I PETER 3: 7C

6. PRIDE
“They cry out, but He does not answer, because of the pride of evil men” JOB 35: 12, 13
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” JAMES 4: 6

7. LACK OF OBEDIENCE
“Whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” I JOHN 3: 22

8. FAILURE TO BE IN FELLOWSHIP
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” EPHESIANS 6: 18

9. FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH GOD’S WILL
“If we ask anything according to His will He hears us” I JOHN 5: 14, 15

HOW TO BE CLEANSED IN ORDER TO HAVE AN EFFECTIVE PRAYER LIFE

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” I JOHN 1: 9

Pornography

Many people have a deep dark secret which if known publicly would be embarrassing. Only one other know of it but what a memory that source has!

The secret is a fascination with pornography. The one keeping a record of it is the computer. It is an epidemic destroying relations. Persons engaged in it are absorbed in a fantasy world while they ought to be building personal relations in the real world. “The Centerfold Syndrome” results in a person staring at bodies not developing a relationship. In reality it destroys relationships. Few wives or girl friends can compete with an airbrush image.

The sources of it as reported by “The New York Times” is surprising. They reported that General Motors “sells more graphic sex films every year than does Larry Flynt, owner of the “Hustler” empire. The same source reported that AT&T, NewsCorp, and AOL Time Warner make more profit peddling porn that “Playboy” does. Marriot, Hilton, and other famous named motels are in pornography in a large way.

Pornographic web sites are the third largest source of revenue on the Internet. Overall “U.S. News and World Report” indicates porn is an $8 billion a year industry.

Pornography is a trap. Traps are always baited with what appeals to the prey. It may not be addictive but it is habituating and progressive. The sooner a person gets out the more misery they spare themselves and potentially others. It begins with fantasizing and progresses to acting out the fantasy often on some unwilling victim.

Dr. Victor Cline, a researcher at the University of Utah, lists four progressive steps involved. The progression starts with simple exposure. Escalation is the next step. Harder and more shocking material is needed to get the same sexual buzz. Desensitization follows. What was once shocking becomes, in time, acceptable and normal. The fourth step is acting out. There is an increased tendency to act out what has been viewed on a victim.

I spoke on this recently and after the talk a person urged me to speak on it more often saying her cousin was one of those eaten by Jeffery Dormer whose perversion started with porn addiction. He did not start out to be the beast he became but devolved into it.

An interesting conclusion can be reached regarding porn based on a remark by the late British author G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton’s statement suggests that every person looking for pornography is actually engaged in a search for God. I can hear the responses, “That is ludicrous. The last thing a person viewing porn is looking for is God. They are looking for naked bodies; sex kicks.” Naturally it is not a conscious effort but it is based on a need to fill a hole in the soul.

A 12 year old absorbed in porn hinted at this principle when she said, “I was risking part of myself to entertain the other part of myself.”

Make a covenant with your eyes not to set any evil things before them.

For more information on this subject check these addresses:

SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
901 Commerce Street
Suite 550
Nashville, Tennessee 37203 or phone: 615-244-2495 or
www.erlc.com

“Fatal Addiction: Pornography and Sexual Addiction
Focus on the Family Ministries
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80995 or phone 719-531-5181 or
www.family.org

American Family Association
P.O. Box Drawer 2440
Tupelo, Mississippi 38803 or 601-844-5036 or www.afa.net

Pork: Is It Ok For Christians To Eat?

Certain Old Testament dietary restriction prohibit the eating of pork. It is understood by many modern persons to mean it is improper to eat pork today.

The Old Testament consists of three sets of laws. This fact needs to be considered in relating to a number of differences in the Old Testament era and today.

Civil law governed the nation. It was right for the time. We now have different civil laws and they are of the Lord and right for our time. Various acts in the Old Testament era were punishable by death. Parental disobedience being one. If that were practiced today it would greatly reduce the population. Homosexuality was punishable by stoning. Critics of advocates of a Christian culture are quick to focus on these civil laws.

Ceremonial law related to sacrifices, hygiene, and diet. It is in this grouping that restrictions on pork are included. In Peter’s vision at Joppa he refused to eat “all kinds of four-footed beast, creeping things, and birds” which came down in a sheet. “Beast” translated the Greek word TETRAPOUS, meaning creatures for slaughter.

The voice then spoke to Peter and said, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

Moral law included spiritual values and is still applicable. The first two types of law are no longer applicable.

Pigs that are marketed today do not live in filth and eat slop as they did in the Old Testament era. Then they ate basically carrion and were carriers of disease and parasites. It was eaten at the risk of one’s life. Today pigs are raised on concrete floors and few a balanced wholesome diet. Likewise, catfish are pond raised and fed. They are no longer scavengers.

This is the Biblical line of logic employed by those who do eat pork.

The Place And Meaning Of Christ’s Birth

Mary and Joseph were late arrivals in Bethlehem. The inn being full was a blessing. In that era an inn, known as a caravansary, consisted of a plot of ground cleared of rocks. The rocks were used to build a type of fence. It was a safe haven for travelers and their animals. Centuries earlier King David had rewarded one of his loyalists by giving him a caravansary in his home town of Bethlehem.

There is no mention of an innkeeper in Scripture but evidently there was one who allowed Mary and Joseph to use his stable. Caves were and still are used as stables in that land. Being allowed to use it gave them more privacy than they would have had in the open courtyard of the inn.

By order of Emperor Constantine a grove of trees on the edge of Bethlehem growing around the cave was cleared and an ornate church built over it. It is known as the Church of the Nativity. It is here Christian pilgrims come to worship.

Through the centuries pagans have built temples to their gods on the site. Vandals have profaned it. Muslim raiders rode horses in the church and sacked and pillaged it. To stop this locals used large stones to fill in the arched doorway and make it so small one has to virtually crawl in. Recently Palestinians seeking refuge held up in it for several days.

Entrance to the cave is to the right of the altar built over it. Descent into the small cave reveals oil lamps, incense burners, and tapestries given by royal visitors through the years. A bronze star embedded in marble is inscribed: “Jesus Christ was born here of the virgin Mary.”

I have been there when thousands from all over the world were waiting to crowd in. I have been privileged to have a few quiet moments there shared only with my wife. For a follower of Christ a visit is a most meaningful experience. It is overwhelming to think; “Here, right here, the Word became flesh and came and dwelt among us.”

“Dwelt” translates a word that can mean “to bivouac” among us. It literally denotes a residence. Thus, Christ took up residence among us.

Often a modern English version of a text gives it a contemporary understanding. “The Message” translation reads, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”

Christmas is the celebration of this advent. It is a time when communities are decoratively illumined to depict the change in the neighborhood. That birth is an economic boom for our business community. When some churches seem to have forgotten “Jesus saves” businesses have come to realize Jesus not only saves He sells. They have capitalized on the spirit of giving and commercialized it. That’s not all bad.

Churches provide numerous opportunities to celebrate the true meaning of the season. Enjoy this aspect of the season. Few can go to the place of the birth but the neighborhood into which the one born there moved can be yours.

The Passion of the Christ

“The Passion of the Christ” has aroused interest in the historical event on which it is based.

The act of crucifixion was common in the era. The Roman Varus crucified approximately 2,000 Jews during Jesus’ childhood. To carry it out an execution squad was always on duty in the Fortress Antonia, named for Mark Anthony. To relieve themselves of boredom they played a game called the Basilica. I have been in the preserved portion of the stone paved area known as Lithostrotos, or paved, where the game was played.

Exactly where the pre-crucifixion punishment, known as flagellum, occurred can’t be confirmed. However, a pavement stone, called an ashalar, has carved in it the game circle used in playing the game known as the Basilica, game of kings. The stone is about three feet by three feet and the circle takes up most of the surface. The game was the mocking of a pretentious king. A human being was preferred but if one wasn’t available a straw man was used.

A purple robe was put on the person, a rod for a scepter put in his hand, and a crown on his head. He was mocked and tormented in devious ways.

Dice were cast and depending where they landed in the partitioned circle and what symbol was shown on the dice determined what the person casting the dice could do the victim. The description of what was done to Christ indicates such a game was played using Him as the object of their derision and ridicule.

One of the most surprising things I have learned in my 28 trips to the Bible Land is that Calvary probably was not a hill. That concept came for an old Irish song entitled , “On A Green Hill Far Away.” Calvary may have been a hill but Scripture does not say it was. It was, however, an elevated place near by a main roadway so people passing by could see and mock the victim.

Who crucified Christ is still a question that arouses concern. Mel Gibson gave us his answer in the film itself in a most unique way. The close up scene of a man’s hands driving the spikes into Christ’s palms are of Gibson’s hands. He said it was his sins that nailed Him to the cross and he wanted to depict such as much for his own sake as for any reason. They could have been my hands. If the Bible narrative is to be believed, “There is none righteous, no not one.” None of us should hold anyone responsible other than ourselves. When we assume our own guilt we cease blaming anyone else. Hey, there it is. That is the meaning of what happened at Calvary. There was only one innocent one there and He died for the rest of us. That is the message of the movie based on Scripture.

The theme of the movie and the spiritual application of the historical event both solicit a response. That response relates to forgiveness. It involves us individually receiving His forgiveness and giving others our forgiveness. Out of gratitude for receiving forgiveness from Him we should give it to others.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean I will forget about it. It means I will never hold it against you again.

The Origin Of The Bible

From where did our Bible come? How did the specific 66 books become known as “the Bible?” Were other books considered and excluded? If so, why?

In the early years after the resurrection of Christ there was no need for written records. Those who evangelized and taught were eye witnesses. They had seen and heard our Lord act and teach. There was no need for verification by written records. As more and more eyewitnesses died it became apparent written records were needed. Confusion was sure to occur if some permanent written record was not secured. This necessitated the codifying of reputable and reliable written texts.

Almost all the books of the New Testament were written within thirty years of the resurrection. The books of James and Galatians, written around 45-50 A.D. were likely the first.

The books gathered were called the “canon.” It comes from the Greek KANON, which comes from the Hebrew QANEH. The Hebrew means a reed or measuring rod. It came to mean the “rule of faith.” As applied to Scripture, it means the standard by which a volume was considered worthy of inclusion in the Bible.

Had not God been involved in the formation of the cannon some valid books might have been omitted or some erroneous ones included. As God used human beings to originate the books, so He used human beings to organize them. The church was the child of the Word not the mother. The result has prompted one historian to say it was NOT AN AUTHORIZED COLLECTION OF BOOKS, BUT A COLLECTION OF AUTHORIZED BOOKS.

The word Bible comes from the Greek word for “papyrus plant” (biblos) because the leaves of the plant were used for a paper product.

The Bible is divided into the Old and New Testaments. The word “testament” comes from the Latin word TESTAMENTUM, meaning covenant.

The Old Testament was formulated four hundred years before Christ. It was the Synod of Jamnia, in A.D. 90, that confirmed the 39 books of the Old Testament as the official cannon.

All the books of the New Testament were revered by the early church even before the formation of the canon. Around 200 A.D. Tertullian, Bishop of Carthage, was among the first to use the term New Testament.

Political events motivated the church to formalize the canon. The Roman Emperor Diocletian bitterly persecuted the church between 302 and 305 A.D. One of his edicts called for the burning of all Scripture. Christians had to decide which books were worth dying for. Diocletian was so sure he had destroyed all texts and eradicated Christianity he erected a monument inscribed: “The name of Christian is extinguished.”

Many other efforts were made to discredit and destroy the books that came to be the New Testament canon. Celsus tried by his sagacity to stifle it. Porphyry by means of his deep philosophy endeavored to eradicate it. Lucien with his keen satire tried to destroy it.

The ancient prophet said it well: “The grass withers, the flower fades: but the word of God shall stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

As a Roman Emperor had tried to destroy the Scriptures so an emperor, Constantine, was used of the Lord to give occasion for it to be codified. In 312 A.D. the Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity. The following year he ended persecution of the church by declaring Christianity legal in the empire. In 325 A.D. he convened the Council of Nicea out of which came the Nicene Creed, a statement of Christian beliefs based on Scripture.

As a sidebar to the primary thesis of this writing spurious claims regarding the Council of Nicea need to be addressed. In Dan Brown’s book The DiVinci Code he writes, “All descriptions of…documents…in this novel are accurate.” Then speaking of the Council of Nicea he asserts, “Until that moment in history Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet…a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless.”

Brown has his facts reversed. The earliest friends and devotees of Christ accepted Him as the man/God-God/man. Only later did leaders of false cults and renegade religious rebels make up stories discrediting this fact. Primary among these was a man named Arius.

The Apostle John was a disciple of Jesus for three years. He wrote from his first person perspective the concept of Christ from a contemporaries point of view: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

John wrote of His eternal nature. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—-this we proclaim regarding the Word of life” (I John 1:1).

In addition to His preexistent nature John wrote of Him as creator. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made…. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1: 1,3,14).

“Word” translates the Greek word “Logos.” A way to understand the meaning of a word is to observe how it was used at the time of use. Philo in his writing of the time used “Logos” meaning “all that is known or knowable about God.”
This Logos, Jesus Christ, was the logic, the genius, who used His divine power to design and create the universe.

John and other gospel writers declared the deity of Christ long before the Council of Nicea. Those attending the council used the Bible as the basis for formulating their creed.

In the first two centuries of the emerging church various books now in our New Testament were considered divinely inspired and widely read in the churches. They existed as individual books during this time, not as a canon. The people came to be perceive of and confirm the self-revealing qualities of these books as possessing canonical qualities.

Though the various books that now comprise the New Testament were recognized by different Christian communities it wasn’t until 367 A.D. that the 27 books of the New Testament were listed in an Easter letter written by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria.

Apart form Athanasius, Jerome, about 385 A.D., recognized the same 27 books in his translation of the Latin Vulgate. The councils of Hippo (393 A.D.) and Carthage (397 A.D.) independently acknowledge the New Testament as now known as Canonical. This was not done at the Council of Nicea as some popular writers indicate.

The convergence of these and other groupings served as convincing evidence the list was correct. Between 200 and 400 A.D. there were ten independent catalogues of Canonical books published. Six of these agree with our New Testament and three omit only one book. The point is, there was general acceptance of the books that were eventually formally accepted long before the canon was confirmed officially.

The compilation of the canon was not a conciliar decision. The church recognized the canon rather than defined it.

The criteria for inclusion was antiquity, inherent authority, apostolic authorship, and Christocentricity. When the era of apostolic authorship ended the canon was considered closed. Intrinsic authority was necessary for canonicity. This is one of the primary reason works known as the Gnostic Gospels were not included.

Apostolic authorship was a vital test for inclusion in the canon. Though some few authors were not actually apostles they were companions of the apostles. Mark was Peter’s protege. Luke was Paul’s associate, and James and Jude were members of the apostolic community in Jerusalem. Of such authors Jesus said, “you also shall bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27).

Antiquity was a significant factor in settling on the 27 books. Proximity to the event being written about is important. Consider these factors.

Writings regarding the Iliad by Homer consist of 643 early manuscripts. The earliest was written 500 years after the events.

Writings considered historical that relate to the Gallic Wars involving Julius Caesar number 10 and the earliest was written 1,000 years after the events. Aristotle wrote around 343 B.C. and only five manuscripts exist. The earliest is dated 1100 A.D., 1400 years later.

There are over 25,000 early manuscripts of New Testament books and the lapsed time of the earliest is 25 years after the events. Comparison of these texts verify the message as having historical accuracy that has not having changed. In 1611 the Authorized King James version of the Bible based manuscripts existing at the time was released. Around 1848, during the European revolution, more manuscripts older than those used in the King James translation were found. Since 1611 more than 5,000 manuscripts older than those from which the King James was translated have been found. Approximately 98% of the King James was proven to be clear and accurate. The 2% that was difficult to understand was strengthened and made more understandable by these older texts. They did not change the meaning, they simply made it more clear.

Long before the church had a canon it had a Lord and a theology. That theology was based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and the earliest preaching of His followers. The New Testament writings are a codification of apostolic tradition. The books became canonical long after they were considered authoritative. As with Sir Isaac Newton, he did not invent gravity, it was there all the time, he merely identified it. So with the consistent canonical books, they were there and simply identified by various councils as such.

As the Christian era progressed a variety of literature related to Christ appeared. Some was written to promote special interests by various heretical groups. Some of these documents were likely well intended but factually inaccurate. An apparently disingenuous unit of such writings was designed to discredit Christ and the emerging Christian faith. Luke implied that a large body of fragmentary literature was circulating in his day.

“Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which are most surely believed among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you and orderly account…that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Luke 1:1-4). It had become apparent measures would have to be taken to separate the wheat from the chaff. This necessity resulted in the canon.

A grouping of spurious writings, the Gnostic Gospels, are based on works written nearly 200 years after the events. Only a few copies of each of these exist; some only one. Though some have been given names of Bible characters they were written after the deaths of the persons whose names they bear. Skeptics say these books were excluded because they did not agree with those book included. Precisely! They did not meet the criteria for inclusion nor was their content compatible with that of the broadly accepted works included.

Critics seek to discredit the four gospels on the basis some items are mentioned in only one of them and various ones give different details of the same events. The details do not conflict they merely give different aspects of the same event. By no means does this weaken the reliability on the Word. It indicates there was no collusion among the writers. Each presented his insight on the subjects.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels because they are somewhat parallel in their content. About 90% of the material in the gospel of John is not in the other three gospels. The four dovetail to give a four-way perspective of who Christ was, what He did and taught.

Parenthetically, the Bible’s chapter divisions were created in the early 1200s by Cardinal Hugo at the University of Paris. The current verse divisions were not fully developed until 1551 by Robert Stephanus. The awkward breaks in some verses might be explained in that he reputedly did much of his work riding on a donkey.

The Apostle Peter recorded insight regarding the reliability of Scripture (II Peter 1:15-21). He professed he and others “did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known … the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses” (Vs. 16).

In a court of law an eyewitness is considered to be a creditable witness.
He said he heard the voice of God say of Christ, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Vs. 17). In a court of law a witness who has heard a statement first hand is considered a reputable witness.

He then speaks of “the prophetic word made more sure” (Vs. 19).

Thus, he declares there is a witness more reliable than an eye and/or oral witness. The more sure witness is the Bible because he asserts “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (Vs. 20). This expression does not refer to the reading of Scripture but rather its authorship. This is true because “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (Vs. 21).

The use of the plural personal pronoun “we” makes it apparent this is applicable to the Old and New Testaments because they were written by holy men moved of the Holy Spirit who were eyewitnesses who had heard Christ teach. Only writings by such men were admitted to the New Testament canon.

The word “canon” means a measuring rod, a rule of faith. The Bible being such it is essential for believers to study it and live by it. It has been given to us by heaven and brought to us at great expense by those who penned and preserved it.

Read it to be inspired.
Believe it to be safe.
Practice it to be fulfilled.

Left Behind

The popular selling books in the “Left Behind” series have focused attention on the end times. Over 58,000,000 Americans, one out of seven, have read at least one of the books. That makes it the all time best seller, second only to the Bible.

The novels deal with the coming of Christ. Some of the themes are the Rapture, Tribulation, and Millennium.

The Rapture involves the coming of Christ in the air and the removal of all believers from earth. The Tribulation is a seven year period between the Rapture and the Millennium. The Millennium is a 1000 year period during which Christ is enthroned on earth.

Perhaps the most frequently asked question growing out of the books is will there be anyone saved during the Tribulation?

Let’s start with a direct answer and explain how it is derived at: yes, there will be people saved during the Tribulation, but who?

First, consider the Rapture of the church leaves Earth without one single Christian. If you think things are bad just wait.

However, with the dawning of the Tribulation there are 144,000 Jews saved who become evangelists (Revelation 7:1-8). That is a great host of evangelistic believers. Their evangelical efforts will result in “a great multitude which no one can number” being saved (Revelation 7:9).
It is during the Tribulation that the gospel will be preached to all people not prior to it as is commonly thought.

The issue is pressed further as to whether church members who have been left behind will be saved?

Presently there are a few persons familiar with the gospel who have deferred accepting Christ who say I will just wait and if He comes again trust Him them. Really? If persons under the present favorable conditions aren’t bold enough to trust Him are they likely to do so when being beheaded is the punishment for trusting Him.

Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” (John 6:44.)

II Thessalonians 2: 11 speaks of this period of time and notes: “And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.”

Persons who have heard the gospel and rejected Christ before He comes and the Tribulation begins will not be saved during the Tribulation. Having refused the calling of the Father prior to His coming the Father will no longer call them.

The Last Supper: Who is That Woman in the Painting?

Bottom line —— that is not Mary Magdalene.

That idea never occurred to DaVinci. I have been there, seen the painting, and heard the lecture by the historical guides three times and they laugh at the idea of it being a woman. It is John who leaned on Christ chest according to John 13: 23 & 25. In his gospel John never uses his own name but refers to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved.”

It is not a woman in the painting but if it were the image would be contrary to Scripture. Then it becomes a matter of who are you going to believe the artist who wasn’t there or the apostle who was there? Luke 22: 14 plainly says of Christ “…He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.”

Those who assert Mary Magdalene was the person in the painting base it on “The DaVinci Code” novel.

They also refer to a “V” near this person which they say was the symbol for femininity. They fail to note there are two such “V” images. The other is some distance removed and is included simply for artistic balance. See other articles on this web site on “The DaVinci Code” and “The Gnostic Gospels” from which some of the author’s material is derived.

Jesus On The Issue Of Swords

Jesus spoke on several occasions regarding swords. It seems strange He would encourage His disciples to sell their cloak and if they didn’t have a sword buy one.

“…he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one” (Luke 22: 36).

“Then they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.’ And He said to them, “It is enough’.” (Luke 22: 38).

Yet, Christ rebuked Peter when he drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers who came to arrest Him ((John 18:10).

To a casual reader this might sound contradictory. The explanation is found in the Greek word MACHAIRA translated “sword.” It did not refer to a large long Thracian weapon. It was a reference to a short curved bladed knife most men carried at all times like many do smaller pocket knives today. It was utilitarian. It was used to dress wild game, prepare it for cooking, and then served somewhat like a fork with which to eat. Persons traveling alone needed one. In the case of the disciples going together two were enough.

Christ wasn’t encouraging His disciples to prepare for combat but for open country survival.

On another occasion Christ said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10: 34).

Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and gives individuals peace not obtainable elsewhere. However, He knew the world would violently reject Him. He knew people would be divided over Him. This is a figurative statement revealing that in society and even in some families members professing faith in Him will often be disowned or disinherited.

As a sword separates what it cuts so faith in Christ will result on occasion in believers being separated from nonbelievers.

Ask a young person being ridiculed and left out by non-Christian friends what the sword means.

Ask the rising young Christian in business who refuses to go along with the secularist who designs a scheme to cheat clients what the sword means.

Ask the individual believer who will not compromise morally and go along with worldly actions what the sword means. It means separation.

Faith in Christ separates His followers from the world.

Another figurative use of the word sword appears in the account of the elderly Simeon saying to Mary, “…a sword will pierce through you own heart” (Matthew 10: 35). It is a summary expression for extreme mental and emotional anguish. In the crucifixion this was fulfilled.

Jesus: Did He Descent Into Hell?

One frequently asked questions is: “Where was Jesus those three days His body was in the tomb?” Before relating to that, let’s establish one basic fact. Some interpretations of the passage before us imply people have a second chance to be saved after death. This is a cruel false deception designed by the devil. It is not a Scriptural principle that any person has a second chance after death.

Let’s make clear the one and only one chance any person has for salvation. I Peter 3:18, says that Christ died “that He might bring us to God” = PROSAGO. From PROSAGO two nouns are derived. One means “the right of access.” Through Christ we have the “right of access” to God. The other noun means “introducer” or “the giver of access.” Hence, Christ is represented as the one who gives us access to God. Earlier He had said, “I am the way… (John 14:6.) He is the only way of access to God.

Now consider the question regarding Christ during the days between the death and resurrection.

Many opinions are held by Godly people as to the exact meaning of Christ going and preaching to the spirits in prison I Peter 3:19). The Greek language in which the text was written used no commas or periods, no punctuation at all. By taking this into account and observing the verb tense used in the text, a clearer understanding can be obtained. This meaning is found in this reading: “By the spirit…” (vs. 18), “…he went and preached to the spirits which are now in prison…” When? “…in the days of Noah” (vs. 19).

Thus, He preached, by the Spirit, through Noah, to the disobedient spirits now in prison in the day of their disobedience.

By the same eternal Spirit by which He was made alive He went and preached to disobedient people in the time of their disobedience, which was in the day of Noah.

It is apparent this was not a proclamation offering anyone a second chance of salvation after death. The word translated “preached” is not the word for evangelize, euangelizo, but kerysso, meaning “to announce.”

It should be noted that the Greek word for “hell” is not used, but rather Hades, the place of all departed dead. So all the departed dead from the time of Noah had this announcement made to them in their lifetime.

Where was He then during those three days between death and resurrection? He was where He said He would be when He said to the thief on the cross, “Today, shalt thou be with me in Paradise…”

This passage does not imply there was a second chance for those who were in hell at the time of the crucifixion to be saved. Neither is there such a second chance for any persons.

“It is appointed unto man once to die and after the judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27.)

“He that believeth not is condemned ALREADY…” When? Here and now because they have refused to accept Christ’s “right of access.” They have rejected Him as “the give of access.”

Now there emerges a second superficial difficulty in this text. A study of it makes clear the meaning.

A casual reading of I Peter 3:21 makes it appear that baptism saves. What it really teaches is that baptism is not intended to wash away out spiritual filth any more than it is designed to wash away physical body filth. It is instead a beautiful pledge to God.

Baptism does not save us. It is a pledge of a “good conscience.” The resurrection saves us. Our response to the resurrected Christ is to be confirmed at baptism.
The term “the answer of a good conscience” translates EPEROTEMA. In business transactions, there is a question and answer making a contract legal and binding. The question, “Do you accept the terms of the contract, and bind yourself to keep them?” The pledge, “I do” is “the answer.”

Baptism is a pledge of commitment. Basically the question is, “Do you accept the terms of my service? Do you accept the privileges and promises, and will you undertake the responsibilities and demands of it?” Baptism is a resounding, “Yes!”

In a wedding, the ring is a sign or token of a covenant. The question is posed, “Do you…” The pledge, “I do.” The rings are the symbol of the commitment.

“We are buried together with Him in baptism” (Romans 6: 3,4). It is the grace of the resurrected living Lord that saves us.

This truth is paralleled by a statement regarding Noah. Noah was saved “by the water.” From what? He was saved from the flood tide of sin by the rising waters. The flood was the occasion for God delivering Him from the sinful world. Likewise baptism does not save us. It is associates with the occasion of the resurrection Christ saving us. Baptism is associated with the occasion of Christ saving us. It was the ark that delivered Noah. So it is Christ only that delivers us.

The ark is a type of Christ.
1. It was the Divinely chosen means. It was God’s idea.
2. It was the exclusive means.
3. The ark took the beating for those inside.
4. Entrance was voluntary.
5. Entrance was free.
6. Once people were in, God was in charge of their safety.

The Islamic Faith Compared With The Christian Faith

JESUS CHRIST said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; NO man cometh to the Father but by me” (John 14: 6).

Today there is a great tide sweeping the world of a religious movement needing Christianity’s attention. It is the Islamic faith. Islam is the faith. Muslims are the people who practice the Islamic faith.

Westerners often call the religion of Islam “Mohammedanism” and those who practice the religion “Mohammedans.” Adherents object because they say it makes it sound like they worship Mohammed and they don’t. They worship Allah. They prefer to be called Muslims.

Islam claims over 800,000,000 adherents, making it the second largest religious group in the world. Islamic peoples in over 70 countries are now riding a crest of cultural and religious resurgence.

Their growth in Europe has resulted in Belgium and Austria adopting it as one of the religions taught in public schools.

ORIGIN OF ISLAM. Arabs believe God told Abraham to sacrifice Ishmael instead of Isaac. Islam, meaning “submission,” was born among Arabian tribes who claim to descend from Ishmael.

In the first century after Christ, His devotees carried the gospel all over the known world. Christianity was embraced by millions. It conquered even the pagan Roman world. Rival religions paled before it. Pagan religions collapsed before it.

Had the devotion evidenced by these early believers continued, there would have been no fertile soil in which the Islamic faith could have rooted.

Unfortunately, Christianity succumbed to a malignant temptation that turned the conquerors into the conquered.

Having overcome pagan superstitions of the past, Christianity began to absorb certain traditions which the apostles found detestable. In Rome, most of it began by the worship of images, penance, a human priesthood, free use of wine, and adaptation of pagan feast days, which diluted Christianity.

Satan had devised a ploy to destroy the Christian faith. The first step was to do it from within by corruption. Prophetically Paul had written, “After my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you,…speaking perverse things” (Acts 20:29,30).

A young illiterate named Mohammed, who lived in the 600s, was the founder of the Islamic faith. He grew up in Mecca, a city in southwest Saudi Arabia. His father died before his birth and his mother soon after. His grandfather and later an uncle became his guardians. They were desert dwellers.

At the age of 25 he entered the service of Khadija, a wealthy widow. Though she was 15 years older than he, they later married. They had two sons and four daughters. The sons died young. One of the daughters married Ali, son of Abu Talib. Many Muslims trace their ancestry through the Fatima Dynasty.

Mohammed was overwhelmed by the corruption he saw in the church of his day. Mohammed found a religious void and rushed to fill it with his authoritarian teachings. The emerging Islamic faith fed on the decadent representation of Christianity that prevailed around the Mediterranean at that time. Mohammed believed he was facing in Christianity the “Great Satan.” This is a term still used by Muslims to refer to Christians and the western world in general.

Mohammed spoke of Christians and Jews as “people of the Book.” It grieved him that Arab people did not have a book of their own.

Mohammed professed to receive from the angel Gabriel, the pure word of God, called the KORAN, Arabic for “recitation.” The Koran teaches high ethical and moral principles in an epic poetic style that is music to Arab ears. It to the Muslim is not what the Bible is to a Christian. It is to the Muslim what Christ is to the believer. To Christians Jesus is the Word made flesh. To the Muslim the Koran is the Word made text.

He began his writings in Mecca where many thought him to be mentally unstable and his work fraudulent. His first writings were poetic and inspirational. In 622 Mohammed moved to Yathrib, later known as Medina. At first his ideas were treated with “amused disdain” and “pretentious.”

The Battle of Badr (624) proved decisive in establishing Islam as an aggressive force.

The portion of the Koran (Qur’an) “sent down” during this period took a more aggressive political and legal tone in contrast to the previous poetic and mystical reflections. By reading from the readings emerging from these two periods confusion results as to whether Islam is peaceful of militant. In the more belligerent portion are found such comments regarding Christians and Jews as:

“God fight them, what liars they are” (Surah 9:30).

“O believers, take not Jews or Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Whoso of you makes them his friends is one of them. God guides not the people of the evildoers” (Surah 5:56).

The Koran maintains war is an evil, but insists the extinction of Islam is a greater evil (Surah 2:217). History reveals there have been many occasions when adherents to Islam have had difficulty differentiating between defense of Islam or offensive conquest on societies.

Once established he returned by force to Mecca (630) where he established his base for continued military action.

At the death of Mohammed in 632, points in the Koran needed clarification for long-term guidance. This gave rise to “Tradition” (hadith sharif); the collective thoughts, sayings, and deeds of Mohammed. For example, Al-Ghazali, an eleventh-century Muslim legal scholar wrote:

“Know that the key to happiness is … imitating God’s Apostle in all his goings out and comings in, in his movements and times of quiescence, even in his manner of eating, deportment, his sleep and his speech….So you must sit while putting on trousers and stand while putting on a turban: You must begin with the right foot when putting on your sandals, and eat with your right hand: When cutting your nails you must begin with the forefinger of the right hand and finish with the thumb: in the foot you must begin with the little toe of the right foot and finish with the little toe of the left.”

With lightning speed, Islam militantly conquered the Byzantine Roman and Persian empires. Allah’s horsemen routed proud rulers of the orient, north Africa, and lower Europe as far as Spain and Switzerland by A.D. 712. At the point of the sword, Christianity acquiesced. Once orthodox lands capitulated.

Their rigid discipline soon boasted a progressive society. They developed vast libraries, gave us our numeral system, invented the cifr (cipher). Six centuries before Copernicus they knew the earth revolved around the sun. Surgically they practiced anesthesia and by the 14th Century demonstrated the circulation of the blood.

THEIR BELIEFS

THE BIBLE They recognize the Old Testament prophets as God’s messengers. They accept the teachings of Christ in the gospels but not the rest of the New Testament.

GOD Many Christians think Allah can be equated with our God. Why would our God espouse that which conflicts with Himself? Many of the teachings of the Koran conflict with and contradict most of our New Testament. No one true God would oppose Himself.

WOMEN Women are regarded in Islam as temptresses whose irresistible attractiveness rivals even Allah’s power to secure and maintain the allegiance of men. One of their prominent works,

“Beyond the Veil,” by Fatima Mernissi, says, “The Muslim order faces two threats: the infidel without and the woman within” (p.12). It is a “whole system…based on the assumption that the woman is a powerful and dangerous being” (p. 14).

“The whole Muslim structure can be seen as an attack on, and a defense against, the disruptive power of female sexuality.”

Islamic law allows for a man to have four wives but he must treat all equally. He can divorce one by simply saying, “I divorce thee” three times before witnesses.

WAR The Arabic word JIHAD is sometimes translated from the Koran to mean “holy war.” It more clearly means “striving for the faith.” This striving can take the form of moral persuasion, preaching for conversion, or military conquest.

In the book, “Islamic Way of Life” the pillars of Islam are noted: “Last is jihad, that is, exerting oneself to the utmost to disseminate the Word of God and to make it supreme, and remove all the impediments in the way of Islam, be that through the tongue, or the pen, or the sword.”

Islam’s first wars were basically fought against polytheistic Arab tribesmen who resisted Mohammed’s crusade against idolatry.

Their militaristic temperament has been apparent from their beginnings in A.D. 622. The armies of Allah exploded across the basic Arab lands into Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and parts of India.

Around the turn of this century, Turkish Muslims turned on the Christian minority in their country and killed 5 million Armenians and 1 million Greeks. More recently, they overthrew the Christian government of Chad. Idi Amin killed a half million in his attempt to make Uganda a Muslim country. A prolonged bloody struggle continues in the Philippines as they try to turn it into an Islamic State.

Iran continues its repression of anything not Muslim. Saddam Hussein tried to enlist the Muslim world in a jihad against the coalition forces.

DIVISIONS There are two primary divisions within Islam.

Shiites comprise about 10% of the Muslim world and are primarily in Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait. The word Shiite means “partisans of Ali.”

Shiites believe Ali’s 12th successor who mysteriously vanished in A.D. 878 is still alive. They believe he is yet to emerge and establish Ali’s kingdom on earth.

Sunnites believe Mohammed’s successors should be chosen from the community. Their doctrine is more flexible. Sunnite means “tradition of the prophet.”

There are a number of smaller sects. The Bahai faith grew out of the Shiite group.

LIFE AND DEATH Their concept of salvation is a works religion. They believe the angels in heaven keep a record of man’s works. At death, the angel places the record book in the right hand of the good and they go to heaven. The book is placed in the left hand of the wicked and they go to hell.

As a part of their good deeds, they pray five times a day facing Mecca. These prayers consist of recitation of portions of praise from the Koran.

JESUS In accepting the teachings of Christ they believe He was referring to Mohammed when He spoke of the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit) who would teach men all truth.

The Koran acknowledges Jesus as the Jewish Messiah who was rejected by the Jews. In the Koran He is even called “the Word of God.” It affirms Jesus’ virgin birth and miracles. They deny Christ as being God incarnate and reject the Trinity. They deny His atoning death and resurrection. Adherents of Islam believe God saved Jesus from the cross by confusing the Romans, causing them to crucify someone else. The Koran states “they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them” (Surah 4:155).

The Koran says, “Glory be to Him and no “son’ to Him whose are all things in the heavens and the earth” (Surah 4: 171).

They teach Christ was taken to heaven and will return to earth to help establish Allah’s kingdom.

They believe Christ will die when He comes to earth again and be buried in Medina next to Mohammed where they already have an open grave prepared for Him.

Is There A God

One of my majors in a state university was biology. Yet, when I was asked two questions recently I had no proof to support my beliefs. One question was, “Can you prove there is a God?” The other, “Can you prove the theory of evolution?” My answer to both is “No.”

However!

You don’t know what you don’t know, you know.

Let that simmer for a few seconds.

Let’s start with the question regarding the existence of God. I asked the inquirer what percentage of all knowledge he considered himself to have: 10%, 25%, 50%, 75%, or maybe 98%. It just might be that 10% would be high for most folks. He said 50%. Then I asked if he thought that in the unknown 50% there just might be a God? You don’t know what you don’t know, you know.

One of the laws of logic is you can’t prove a negative. To do so you would have to know everything there is to know about everything and know that the things proposed doesn’t exist. In light of this you can’t prove the negative there is no God.
For scientific reasons, which will be shared shortly, there is no way to prove there is a God. However, certain lines of logic support the concept.

The law of design demands there to be a God. Simply stated, where there is design there must be a designer. Observe a watch. An elemental observation reveals it does specific things exactly. It was designed by a designer to do them. Expand the principle and observe the universe. There is obvious design to it. Where there is design there has to be a designer.

Also obvious is the fact that where there is a law there must be a law giver. When there is a highway sign posting the speed law it is evident somebody established the law. Biology is brimming with observable laws of science. Where there is a law there must be a law giver.

The debate regarding evolution will never be settled. What ever one believes it is a theory not a science. Before insisting evolution is a science consider two principles of science. For a concept to be considered a science there are three requirements. It must be demonstrable, observable, and repeatable. For those concepts to which one or all three of these do not apply there is a word: “theory.”

Has anyone demonstrated evolution? Some persons bring up change within species and some old wives tales that have long been debunked. However, no one has ever produced a human being from a virus or ameba showing every stage of development. Has anyone demonstrated the creation of a universe from nothing? Remember the issue is “creation,” not change in substance.

Has anyone observed something coming from nothing?

I read in the filed of astronomy and find it intriguing. There is a lot of change going on in the universe but it all started with something.

Has anyone repeated the concept of unbroken evolutionary development? Has anyone developed the full chain of different phases of life from a primordial swamp to Madison Avenue?

If a thing isn’t demonstrable, observable, or repeatable it is a theory.

You don’t know what you don’t know, you know!

Humanism And Creation

A theory is a conjecture regarding a possible explanation of some phenomena. It serves as a basis of contention to support a supposition.

Conversely, a fact is a truth known to be proven by actual experience and/or observation.

In science for something to be considered a fact it must be based on what has been observed and is repeatable. Follow that line of thought and consider if creation is a fact or theory?

From a scientific point of view it is a theory. No one was there to observe the emergence of the universe and the appearance of diverse life forms. No one has ever repeated the process.

Keep tracking on the difference in a theory and a fact. Is evolution a fact or theory? No one has ever observed the emergence of a universe from nothing. After all, creation means to produce something from nothing. No one has ever demonstrably created a universe from nothing and shown the process to other observers. For it to be a fact such would have to be true.

In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Humanism was among nontheistic religions that would pass muster as a valid religion.

In 1976 the House of Representatives passed an amendment against secular humanism as a formal religion that should not be “taught” in public education.

The “Humanist Manifesto I” first appeared in 1933 and II in 1973. Edwin H. Wilson joined 34 other Unitarian ministers and professors in drafting it. There are a lot of distinguished individuals who embrace humanism. Many of them would offer various definitions of the movement. A myriad are candid in stating it is a climate of opinion that omits God, the supernatural, and substitutes self, science, and the progress of mankind.

“Humanist Manifesto I” states: “Religious humanist regard the universe as self-existing and not created.” It further sates: “Humanism asserts that nature of the universe depicted by modern science makes unacceptable any supernatural or cosmic guarantees of human values.”

“The Humanist Manifesto II” states, “As non-theists, we begin with humans, not God, nature not deity….”

Evolution is the explanation of origins advocated by humanism. Based on their Manifestos the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it is a religion and the House of Representatives said it should not be taught in public schools. This coupled with the definition of a theory shows evolution is a religious theory not a scientific fact.

Pollster George Gallup found 44 percent of Americans poled, a fourth of them college grads, hold to the Genesis account of creation. Of the rest, 38 percent believe God directed the development of mankind. 9 percent believe in evolution, and 9 per cent said they didn’t know. Those figures vary from pole to pole.

Both evolution and creation are theories espoused by religious bodies. Which theory do you accept by faith? My minor in biology in college led me to accept creation.

How To Interpret Political Language

Do you ever marvel at people who are adept at never giving a direct answer to a question when being interviewed? Some public figures are masters of the craft.

Consider this model interview. Katie leans forward and holding up a red rose asks in sincere tones, “Is this a red rose?” There it is in living color, a red rose. A simple yes or no will answer the question with clarity and transparency.

The interviewee responds, “When I was a child my mother grew red roses. If I’m elected, I’ll see that every mother gets appropriate subsidies in growing red roses. Red roses are uplifting for mothers as well as children. They are good for the economy and I am a proponent of a good economy. Mothers can expect my support in their efforts to grow red roses.”

Dummy, is the rose in question red? Elusive answers more extreme that this are given daily. The practice of evasiveness is so obvious there must be a conspiracy. Well, there is.

In William Safire’s book, “Leadership,” he quotes Robert L. Woodrum who gives advice to people planning to hold a press conference.

His diverse clients include such persons as the new president of an organization, a candidate for office, the executive of a company involved in a legal matter, a pastor speaking out on a controversial issue, a lawyer defending a client, and others. Here is his advice:

“Prepare/rehearse. You set the agenda. Before meeting with the
press, you determine your objectives. Write down the two or three
main points you want to make and stick to them during the interview.
Anticipate the tough questions and practice your answers with your
staff.

“When asked a question by a reporter remember ‘Answer the
question you wish you had been asked.’ Make the points you
want to make and stick to your agenda.”

Now we know. The crafty art is actually taught news makers. They are tutored to be evasive, non-responsive, and diversionary. Listeners need to understand what those who have mastered the craft well are doing.

A second thing a listener needs to keep in mind is that skill should not be equated with intellect. Singers, athletes, actors and actresses, authors and their genre are often interviewed as “authorities.” The IQ of some is slightly below the January temperature in Nome, Alaska. They have no reason to be interviewed on many subjects other than their skill in a rather limited field. It is their persona not their proficiency related to the subject that gets them the interview.

These two factors involving news makers results in the public being overly informed though not well informed.

The sage wisdom lifted from the pages of the New Testament would change news. It simply states, “Let your “Yes be Yes,” and your “No,’ “No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”

This is not an admonition to use only these words in responding but to be clear, cursory, and correct. With that in mind: “That’s all folks.”

Homosexual Marriage

Many people form their beliefs on the basis of sociology rather than theology. Thus saith the majority,” rather than, “Thus saith the Lord.” As an increasingly secular society these two often conflict.

A second challenge is many of us Christians was a chapter and verse in the Bible in which the Lord says, “Thou shalt….,” or “Thou shalt not…” do a thing.

Often He gives us the guidelines and expect us to use or rational to draw the conclusion.
For example the Bible doesn’t say homosexuals should not marry. It does make it very clear it is between one man and one woman. “He shall cling to his wife….” Conclusion: two persons of the same sex should not “marry.”

The idea that government can’t legislate morals is absurd. Every law they pass has a moral implication. Think of the many passed and ruled on in recent years that are opposed to Biblical principles. They legislated morals regarding gambling. When they legalized abortion they legislated morality. If they legalize homosexual marriage they will be legislating morality.

The idea that government can legislate morals is absurd. Every law they pass has a moral implication. Think of the many passed and ruled on in recent years that are opposed to Biblical principles. They legislated morals regarding gambling. When they legalized abortion they legislated morality. If they legalize homosexual marriage they will be legislating morality.

The Holy Spirit

Jesus Christ said, “I will pray the Father, and He will give
you another Helper (Comforter), and He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16).

Also read John 16:13, 14.
When then do I get this wonderful gift?

When Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer, the Holy Spirit is imparted.

The Holy Spirit is not given because of our attainment but Christ’s atonement.

“Did you not receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2)

“If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Romans 8:9).

Before the ascension Christ did the baptizing and the Holy Spirit was the sphere (Matt. 3:11).

The Holy Spirit was His ascension gift (John 16:7).

After the ascension, the Holy Spirit does the baptizing and the spiritual body of Christ is the sphere (I Cor. 13:12).

”For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (I Cor. 12:13).

“Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18).

When filled, the life produces the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5: 22, 23).

A Christian is either “filled” or grieving (Eph 4:30) or quenching (I Thess. 5:19).

Heaping Coals of Fire

“If your enemy hungers, feed him, If he thirsts, give him drink; For in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head” (Romans 12:20).

In conversation with a wife who was embroiled in a domestic conflict I asked if she had ever tried heaping coals of fire on his head. She confessed she had not but that she tried throwing boiling water on him once.

What does it mean?

The two opening statements in this verse obviously teach we are to do more than is required to help those in need.

In the biblical ere fire was a valuable commodity. Often a person would go to a neighbor and ask for a coal with which to start his fire. This expression means don’t just give him the basic essential. Instead give him so many coals they are so heavy he has to carry them on his head as was the custom with heavy loads. Thus, we are taught a lesson in helpful generosity.

Health And Healing

Mark the following true (T) or false (F).

“If you were right with God you would not have high blood pressure (thyroid problems, arthritis, a cold, backache, etc.). T____ F____

“There must be sin in your life or you would not be sick” T____ F____

“God wants all of His children healthy.” T____ F____

“Christians aren’t supposed to be sick because “by His stripes we are healed.” T____ F____

After evaluating the following review your answers. You might even reverse your answers.

Jesus said of the sickness from which Lazarus died, “This sickness ….is for the glory of God” (John 11:4).

To the Philippians it was said, “Unto you it is given….to suffer” (Philippians 1:29).

Jesus encountered a man blind from birth (John 9) and critics asked Him, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” What a dumb question. If he was born blind how could the blindness be caused by his sin. Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents …” The blindness was not caused by sin “but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3). The man’s blindness was not caused by sin but simply gave occasion for the glory go God to be revealed through him. Often our sickness is not caused by sin but is simply an occasion for the works of God to be revealed through us.

Paul suffered from a “thorn in the flesh” and prayed three times for its removal. It was not removed. He continued to suffer.

In reality all healing comes from RAPHA, God, the God of healing. Sometimes He used human instrumentality, doctors and medicine, to achieve healing. Often He does it through natural process or by direct divine intervention.

If sickness in the life of Christians is a discipline from God then doctors are working against God. As such their profession should be shunned by believers. Theirs is an honorable profession to be respected. Many Godly physicians acknowledge they are willful agents of the Great Physician.

God in His sovereign will chooses to heal some while not healing others. Let those chosen to be made whole rejoice and not make others fell like second class Christians. Let those chosen to suffer for the glory of God not be offended. Both are loved by Him.

I believe in divine healing by the Lord God. I am one who has experience His supernatural healing. I was born with a hole in my heart and given six weeks to live. No medical treatment was offered but many prayed and miraculously the hole closes.

I am one who was not healed also. I prayed I would never be subject to cancer. I am. He has chosen not to heal me. God doesn’t love me now any less than He did when He healed me.

CONSIDER THESE MISCONCEPTIONS:
1. IT IS GOD’S WILL FOR ALL CHRISTIANS TO BE WELL AT ALL TIMES. SICKNESS REVEALS A PERSON TO BE OUT OF HIS WILL.
Paul had physical ailment (II Cor. 12: 7-10); Timothy had a stomach disorder (I Timothy) 5:23); his fellow workers, Trophimus and Epaphroditus became very ill (II Timothy 4:20, Philippians 2:26, 27).
There was no hint of sin in the life of any of these.

2. IF YOU HAD ENOUGH FAITH YOU WOULD BE HEALED.
The emphasis in Scripture is not in the strength of our faith but the object of it. Faith is not a means by which we manipulate God for healing. It is resting in His will and sufficiency.
Accusing Christians of not having enough faith to be healed causes much distress, often undermines God’s sovereign will, perverts the true meaning of faith, reduces compassion for the sick, and causes confusion and discouragement.
As long as we live in our fallen physical body we will be vulnerable to sickness and suffering (II Corinthians 4: 7-18).

3. BY CHRIST’S STRIPES WE ARE REDEEMED AND PHYSICALLY HEALED OF ALL SICKNESS.
Christ’s death did atone for our sin and guarantee a renewal of our body. Our salvation is instantaneous. The renewal of our bodies, their redemption will not fully be achieved until He returns (I Corinthians 15: 42-54; Romans 8:23).

4. ALL AFFLICTION COMES FROM SATAN AND SHOULD BE REBUKED AND OVERCOME.
The difficulty with a half-truth is the wrong half
gets emphasized. Some adversity is caused by the devil and some affliction comes from demons. To assume all comes from them is to misrepresent the truth. Adversity is part of life. Christ told us in this world we would have “tribulation.” It is part of life in our imperfect fallen world.

Read Romans 8: 18 – 15 to gain a good understanding of when the body of believers will be fully redeemed. Until it occurs we will travail.

Always put Scripture first and interpret experience by it.

There is an aspect to this needing consideration. Personal habits of some Christians do sometimes cause illness. Eating improperly, smoking, failing to exercise, exposing ones self to communicable diseases, such as STDs, and other abuses are contrary to the will of God. When done they are causes of self-inflicted illness. Persons need to confess and correct the conduct if they expect healing. Don’t expect God to do for you what He expects you to do for Him.

What About Halloween

QUESTION – IN DEALING WITH THE OCCULT WERE YOU ABLE TO DISCERN BETWEEN SATANISM AND WITCHCRAFT?

Answer – Yes. There is a difference within the various orders of Satanists there are white and black witches. These titles do not refer to race but rank. There are however witches who profess not to be associated with Satanism. They practice witchcraft and not Satanism. Thought the two religions are different, in reality the object of their veneration is most often the same.

QUESTION – ISN’T HALLOWEEN A HOLIDAY SHARED BY BOTH GROUPS?

Answer – Yes, it is considered by both groups to be a high “holy day.” It is one of the three days a year Satanist offer 33 living sacrifices; one of which has to be a human. One sacrifice is offered for each year of Christ’s earthly life. Witches have a special ritual for the occasional Only a small number of witch groups offer living sacrifices though they cast spells on the day.

QUESTION – WHAT WAS THE ORIGIN OF HALLOWEEN?

Answer – Within the occult world most celebrations are a perversion of a Christian event. Halloween predates the Christian holiday with which it came to be associated.

The word comes from “All Hallows Eve” referring to the evening before All Hallows. It is now the evening before the day Christians celebrate as All Saints Day. In parts of the country Christians mark this day by placing flowers on graves. Cemeteries bloom with such profusion on this day in parts of the country that florists say it is one of their three biggest days of the year.

QUESTION – WHEN DID IT ACTUALLY BEGIN AND BY WHOM?

Answer – Before the time of Christ, the ancient Druids in Briton, France, Germany and the Celtic countries had a celebration honoring some of their deities, Samhain, Lord of the Dead. Reputedly Samhain called together all souls of those who had died during the last twelve months and had been condemned to inhabit animal bodies. It was a celebration of the dead conducted on the first day of the Celtic new year, the last day of October.

Druids believed that on this night, the souls of the dead returned to their former homes to be entertained by the living. If acceptable food and drink was provided for these evil spirits, they would cast a spell causing havoc and terror; they would haunt the living. Thus the principle of “Trick or Treat” emerged.

QUESTION – HOW DID THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY GET INVOLVED IN THE CELEBRATION?

Answer – Around 100 AD the Roman Emperor Hadrian built the Roman Pantheon as a temple to the goddess Cybele and various other deities. It was the principle place where the pagan Romans prayed for the dead. When Rome was sacked by the pagans, the Pantheon fell into disrepair. Emperor Phocas recaptured Rome in 607 AD and gave the Pantheon to Pope Boniface IV. Boniface was trying to incorporate all of society into the church. He did not want to alienate the segment of society that revered the ancient practice of praying for the dead in the Pantheon. Therefore, to “Christianize” the place and custom, he reconsecrated it to the Virgin Mary. Roman Catholics were encouraged to gather there and pray for their dead. The mass said on this day was called “Allhallowsmas.” For two centuries the major celebration in the Pantheon occurred in May and was called All Saints Day.

In 834 AD it was moved to November to coincide with the ancient Druidic practice which had gone on for centuries. This was done to accommodate the recently conquered German Saxons and Scandinavian Norsemen. Thus, the merging of All Saints Day with Halloween was completed.

QUESTION – FROM WHERE DID THE JACK-O’-LANTERN COME?

Answer – Legend says a man named Jack tricked the devil into not bothering him during his life time. At death Jack was denied both heaven and hell. He groped his way back through the darkness by carrying a glowing coal in a carved out turnip. From this myth came the concept.

QUESTION – WHAT DO YOU THINK OF HALLOWEEN TODAY?

Answer – Fright has become big business in the secular world. Occult worship has intensified in our society. Danger has increased. Most adults with children grew up in a time when Halloween and trick-or-treat was innocent fun. There is a natural tendency to interpret an event in light of our experience with it. However, in light of the danger involved and a current understanding of the nature of the event Christian parents would do well to find an alternative. A “Fall Festival Party” or an “All Saints Party” would be an alternative allowing children to costume and play games. Children could costume like “good guys” not evil or demented characters.

Guilt

Have you ever known a person who was talented, worked hard, acted wisely, made prudent judgments, and exercised insightful acumen to suddenly reverse him or her self and start making obviously unwise decisions?

When it happens friends often comment, “Anybody would have known not to do a stupid thing like that.” The reversal of judgmental skill and conduct leads to a failure and often disgrace. Comments about behavior out of character and illogical actions are expressed by disbelieving observers. Why?

Why would two nationally known coaches engage in conduct they knew would end or at least severely damage their image and careers if known? Why would they do what they surely knew would not work and would implode their careers?

There is a principle that often is in play in such cases. Whether it relates would require someone close to the situations and persons to decide. Such conduct as theirs is often explained by this scenario.

Persons with an unresolved moral failure complex often feel guilty. The more successful they are the more guilt they feel. They, like all of us, grow up with a pattern. You do something wrong, you get caught, you get punished. The link between the wrong and the punishment is imprinted in the psyche. Having an unresolved moral failure complex, sometimes called a guilt complex, they know they have done something wrong and they expect to get punished. They keep making unwise decisions and engaging in destructive conduct until they get caught and punished. Subconsciously they have sought punishment.

All of us do things that are wrong. That is not an excuse, it is a confession all can make. They simply respond in the wrong way. Instead of admitting it, admitting it to self and others who should know, and seeking spiritual renewal they set out to insure they are punished. For this to happen they have to get caught. Some business persons make foolish decisions they know deep down are likely not going to work. By making them they destroy their business and their persona.

Psychologists say it is a form of suicide. They don’t want to destroy their lives physically so they destroy what they are. Thus, they get punished.

There is even a school of thought that says this principle is one of the reasons people gamble. They don’t gamble to win but to lose. By losing they bring punishment on themselves for their unresolved moral failure complex. That is the reason so few quit when they are ahead. They keep betting until they lose.

Again I say this concept may not relate to the two prominent coaches but their conduct illustrates it. Unresolved moral failure complexes need to be dealt with. Often special counsel is needed. Many find release and renewal by applying spiritual truths related to forgiveness and deliverance from guilt. Once the guilt is confronted and dealt with the complicated complex is resolved. Being relieved of guilt the person is then free to achieve and be all he or she has the capacity to become without inflicting self punishment. I have seen many enjoy the sweet victory.

Graceful People

How many graceful people do you know? How many people who know you know at least one graceful person?

Most often when the word is used it describes the physical movements of a person. That is an applicable use. However, there is another use. It can describe a person full of grace; a lifestyle typified by grace.

When grace is uses descriptively of God it means His unmerited favor. It is rather uncommon today to see one person show favor toward another. This is especially true when the recipient obviously doesn’t deserve it. When did you last see a graceful act in traffic, in a crowed market place, in a TV sitcom, or within the family?

We seem trapped in the tyranny of the contemporary. The mood of the moment is often “me first.” Common courtesy is uncommon.

People look for a way to be recognized, known. Some do it with a distinctive hairstyle, some by clothes that call attention to themselves, many strive to over achieve, while others develop a mannerism that is offbeat. There is a positive and pleasant way to be seen as special. It is by developing graceful characteristics. That really makes a person standout. The competition is limited.

It begins by resolving not to respond in kind, but rather by being kind. “A soft answer turns away wrath” is an axiom written on a small piece of paper by my Mom and kept in my wallet for years. Such speech is a graceful thing to do.

Graceful acts include affirming others, giving preference to others, manifesting manners, being courteous, and simply helping others without being asked. Don’t forget the “magic words” taught to several generations by Captain Kangaroo: “Please and thank you.”

Persons who are full of grace act gracefully. In the heat of competition, amid conflict, in extenuating circumstances keep that personality trait in mind and respond gracefully. Make sure that those who come in contact with you will encounter at least one graceful person.

Good Works And Rewards

Ephesians 2: 8,9 “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

These verses make it obvious salvation can’t be earned by good works. Any religious system that suggests salvation can be earned, merited, or deserved by any human effort is a bogus religion. No sacrament, ritual, or self-sacrificing good work can garner forgiveness of sin. None!

Revelation 20:11 makes it clear that at the Great White Throne Judgment it will be the very works people have depended upon, rather than the work of Christ, to save them that will condemn them. It is the work of Christ only not our good works that saves.

God’s unmerited favor, grace, is given the moment a person responds submissively to the Lord Jesus Christ. His sacrificial work on the cross is “the good work” enabling the forgiveness of sin. Faith is the human response to that good work that results in salvation.

The verse following Ephesians 2: 8, 9 needs to be understood in light of that. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10).

If salvation is depicted as a tree good works are the fruit not the root of the tree. This is in keeping with the model Christ revealed in John 15:5,8: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing … By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

Even the fruit of the tree is noted: “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, meekness, and self-control” (Galatians 5: 22, 23).

Our earthly purpose for being saved is to perform good works. God has work to be done on earth and for that reason He leaves us here after we are saved.

Those who experience the forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ, salvation, become His creative product. We are His “workmanship.” This translated the Greek word “poiema.” This word is the equivalent of the English word poem. It denotes that which is made, His workmanship. As a poem comes from the mind of the poet so we are the product of the creative mind of God. To quote an old axiom: “God don’t make no junk.” You are special.

In Christ we are created to perform good works. We are not made, that is saved, by good works we do but by the good work Christ did on the cross. As a result of gratitude for Christ’s good work on our behalf we are to serve Him. It is a natural.

We do not work to be saved but because we have been saved. It is the natural product of love and gratitude. We should “walk in them.” The expression “walk” as used in Scripture is often a summary expression meaning “lifestyle.” Serving our Lord should be our lifestyle.

Good works are non-meritorious, yet they are so important God provides them for us to do. We are His handiwork, that which He made. We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works.” That is our purpose for being. Failure to do that for which we are created results in frustration, futility, and anxiety. Serving Him consequence in a sense of fulfillment, peace, and joy.

Good works are non-meritorious, yet God rewards them. We should live “with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord…” (Ephesians 6: 8,9).

It is at the Judgment Seat of Christ (II Cor. 5:10) believers must appear and have their works examined and rewards given (I Cor. 3: 10 – 4:5).

Our temporal understanding of rewards does not give us a very good basis for understanding eternal rewards. Suffice it to say there will be (1) degrees of rewards in heaven, (2) they will be given appropriately by the Lord, (3) we can trust Him for what they will be, and (4) there will no jealousy among those receiving them. They are garnered for Christ’s glory. Therefore we should work for and aspire to the greatest possible rewards in order to please and honor Him.

It should be noted that in referring to rewards the Scripture often calls them “great” rewards. (Matthew 5:12; Luke 6: 35 & 23:41; II John 8 calls them “full.”

Our curiosity as to the nature of our rewards and how many “points” we have to have to get a certain one should pale in comparison to our reason for desiring them —- to glorify Christ.

The goal to which Jesus directs us is not self-aggrandizement, but self-forgetful service in God’s kingdom, which is ours, not by merit, but by the grace of God.

The ultimate reward should be realized to be “the free gift of God (which) is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Even then God has delightful surprises in store for His children. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

Gay Priest: What The Bible Teaches On The Subject

Homosexuality is a hot button topic. It isn’t PC to say anything critical related to it.

With a religious denomination recently appointing a homosexual priest as Bishop persons are asking what does the Bible teach on this subject. A different newspaper in the area recently ran parallel columns by two priests stating contrary views on the subject.

One priest defended the ordination by saying the sin of Sodom and Gomorra was not homosexuality but inhospitality. For those not familiar with the story Lot, who lived in Sodom, was visited by two angels in human male form (Genesis 19). The men of Sodom demanded that Lot bring the men out to them. Why?

The same thing can be said using different expressions to communicate it. Various translations of the Hebrew text interpret it using different words to express the same thing: “that we may be intimate with them,” “rape them,” “abuse them,” “know them carnally,” “have intercourse with them.”

Other Bible passages related to the same incident give further insight. The Book of Jude refers to the men of Sodom and Gomorra as “having given themselves over to sexual immorality, and gone after strange flesh” (Jude 7).

What happened in the two cities was disciplined by God “…turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorra into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly” (II Peter 2:6).

Neither of these passages sounds like they are related to inhospitality, but rather immorality.

That period had a different code of law. It was for that period not this and for those people not people today. Some persons say there are people today who want to return to that form of civil law. I’m not one. Theirs was for that era not ours. Their law stated, “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them” (Leviticus 20:13).

For today that is a pendulum swing too far in one direction. However, our nation seems to be poised to let the swing be too far in the opposite direction. Though the civil law response to the act has changed the moral law abides. Jude referred to it as “sexual immorality” and Peter as “ungodly.”

I have friends who are homosexual who contribute vitally to the community and live discretely without flaunting their sexuality. They accept me and I them. We know we differ greatly in our opinions but we also know we have to live together accepting of each other while espousing diverse moral standards.

Foot Washing

JOHN 13: 1 – 17

Why not engage in foot-washing?

It was the custom in the time of Christ for a host to have a servant who would wash the feet of all guests. Before going to a special event persons would bathe. Street sanitation in that period wasn’t what it is today. Persons also wore sandals. In walking to a destination, person’s feet would become dirty. Upon arrival, the servant would wash their feet.

That is the reason for the expression in John 13:10, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet…”

Christ made two connected statements:

“What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this?” (John 13:7).

They knew very clearly He was washing their feet so that obviously wasn’t His reference.

“Do you know what I have don to you?” (John 13:12).

Of course they knew He had washed their feet. There was no question about what He had done physically. Therefore, that wasn’t the reference of the question.

Then Christ commented: “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).

If he had wanted them to simply wash the feet of others He would have said, “Do what I have done.” By saying, “do as I have done” He was appealing for a show of humility.

His actions in washing feet were not to get us to go through such a ritual, but to be humble and show humility.

In summary of the moment Christ said, “A new commandment I give you…” (John 13:34). There was nothing new about foot-washing. Humility among this rank-seeking cadre as among many Christians today is indeed new.

Augustine said, “Should I be asked what is the firs thing in Christianity, I would say the first, second, and third thing in Christianity is humility. That is where our Christ started in the upper room trying to summarize His teachings to the disciples in the hours preceding His executive. This is the message He communicates to us today.”

Fear Of Death

Are scared to death of death? Philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “Since men could not do away with death, they decided not to think about it.” The fact is we do think about it.

It is said to be one of the three most thought about subjects in America and one of the least talked about. Fear of death has been classified as one of the basic fears.

An ancient inquiry echoes through the ages: “If a man die shall he live again? As certainly as that “if” means “when,” the “shall” means “he will.”

It being inevitable our attitude related to it needs to be proper. The resurrection of Christ put it in perspective. The day He arose from the dead He turned a death dirge into a day of delight, and transformed a funeral into a festival.

For His follower death is the end —-the front end of glory.

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described five basic stages through which one goes if confronted with advance knowledge of his or her approaching certain death. These stages are: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

If the meaning of death can be understood the fact can be better accepted. There are only three reasons a Christian dies.

One is the person has finished his or her earthly mission and God allows him or her to come home and get the awaiting reward. A full life cannot be determined by chronology, but by character.

A second reason is martyrdom that advances the cause of Christ.

The third reason is that the Christian has sinned the “sin unto death.” This is not a specific sin but anyone that so impairs the persons witness their death bring more glory to Christ than their continuing to live in a state of rebellion.

In either of the first two there is dignity and honor. A person faced with either of them as well as a family whose loved one has so died can avoid denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, and depression. Thus, death is more acceptable.

A lovely young woman who had just been informed of her impending death spoke cheerfully, “I have lived all my life preparing for this, therefore, I am ready to go home.” She did so in a few weeks rejoicing.

The apostle Paul wrote what is translated, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Were an American teenager translating that Greek text it would read, “The moment you die you are eyeball to eyeball with God.”

The glory that awaits cannot be comprehended. A hint of the superiority of that home would be as though all the fetus in all the wombs of all the women of the world could communicate. At the birth of one of them named Sam, others yet unborn could be heard to say —- “Poor ole Sam passed on.”

The imperative is that a person live prepared for the inevitable. Prepare a will, arrange your finances, be certain of relations with others, and above all be absolutely positive you have established the right relationship with Christ as Savior.

If you haven’t do so at once. There are only two answers to the question of “What will you do with Christ?” They are “yes” or “no.” Some want to say “later.” Because of the “X” factor, death, a “later” is a “no.” Settle it now.

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things which the Father has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

Fasting

MATTHEWS 6: 16-18

Jesus Christ was asked by the disciples of John, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”

He answered: “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away form them, and then they will fast.”

Immediately after His beautiful baptism He fasted 40 days in the wilderness. Fasting was not experientially unknown to Him.

Later He incorporated the principle in His matchless message on the mountain by saying, “When you fast…” In that same sermon He spoke of giving and praying and used the same word: “when.” He did not employ the word “if” but “when.” He did not command fasting but He did commend it.

In this age of fast food when our modern memorials are golden arches feasting is advocated but not fasting. Ours is a “feel good” generation. Self-indulgence is the mandate of the day. We seem to think that we owe it to ourselves to gratify our every appetite and strive to make ourselves feel good. Feasting is fashionable. Fasting is reserved primarily as a means of applying political pressure. It is a way of saying, “If you don’t do what I want I will starve myself.” Rarely is it spoken of in a spiritual connotation. An appropriate question is…

I. SHOULD WE FAST?
Jesus said, “When you fast…” Thus, is indicated the way in which it should be done. He endorsed the idea of doing it. “When” translates the Greek HOTAN, meaning “whenever.”

Many Bible personalities did it. Moses fasted before receiving the Commandments. David, the King fasted. Elijah the prophet. Daniel, the visionary. Paul, the missionary. Christ and His disciples did.

Great church reformers did, such as, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox. Evangelists D.L. Moody and Billy Graham also.

Question number two deserves an answer…

II. WHAT IS FASTING?
First, it is not a means of divine arm twisting. It is not a means of manipulating God. It is a means by which to demonstrate to God your humble obedience. It is a discipline by which go show to the Lord the submission of your body as an indication of the yielding of your spirit.

It is not intended to be a showy display of inordinate spiritual pride. Jesus instructed His followers to avoid the overt display that would call attention to itself. It is a personal spiritual venture. It is to call our attention to the Lord not the attention of others to our self.

While dining in a lovely ancient home in Bethlehem the sister of our host entered the dining room. The feast had just begun when she seated herself in the corner of the room. Our host told us she was engaged in a 30 day fast. Then he asked and answered his own question: “Do you know why she is fasting?” I expected some spiritually profound reason. He said, “It is pride. She is showing off, and besides she is cheating after we go to bed and eating.” That is the wrong motive and method.

Physically the most common form of fasting is abstaining from food for a period of time. A person in poor health should not try it without a doctor’s exam and consent. Most fasts are one day in length. When considering the 40 day fast of Moses and Christ remember these were rare and exceptional.

The Hebrew word for “fast” helps our understanding of the meaning. ANAH means “to afflict or humble one self.” Basically it is the denial of the body something for a specific spiritual purpose.

King Darius denied himself the pleasure of entertainment as he fasted for Daniel’s well-being when Daniel was in the lion’s den (Daniel 6:18).
Paul spoke of a fast that calls for abstinence from sexual relations for a brief period of time for purposes of prayer (I Cor. 7:5).

Fasts can be categorized in three ways:

FORMAL – the O.T. Levitical laws established such on the day of atonement. These have been done away with.

RITUAL – these were instituted to commemorate special events. They were practiced diligently by the Pharisees and became an exercise in egotism. Christ had little use for ritual fasts.

INFORMAL – this was the spontaneous response to a situation. David’s spontaneous fast for his dying son is an example. Helplessly and humbly he fasted. Such touches the heart of God.

III. HOW DOES THE SCRIPTURE CATEGORIZE FASTS?
Scripture presents at least three distinct reasons for fasting:

A – To express sorrow. Nehemiah fasted to express sorrow over the decay of the walls and decadence of the people of Jerusalem (Neh. 1:4).

B – To make a request of God. Ezra fasted in request for a safe journey to Jerusalem. Esther fasted to request protection before going before the king. Jesus fasted in a time of asking deliverance from satanic power.

C – To indicate repentance. In Joel 2;12 the Lord instructed the people to demonstrate their repentant hearts by fasting. Repentance is the reality. Fasting is the symbol.

Now question number four…

IV. WHY SHOULD WE FAST?
IN this day of microchips and microwaves let’s not make this a soul-kill ritualistic law. In considering it don’t ask yourself what you will get out of it but rather what does God want of you. Our principle purpose should be to give our self completely to God so He can freedom to do with us what He would. It is a call to self-denial so He may have our full attention. Then “why fast?”

A – It creates a sense of oneness with the Lord. Physical hunger that might result calls our attention to Him after whom we spiritually hunger.

B – It is an occasion for purging our spirit while physically purging our body. The Psalmist (69: 5, 10) said, “My foolishness and my sins are not hid from thee…I wept in my soul with fasting…”

C – It stimulates our search for God’s will. When Daniel was having difficulty understanding the words of the prophet Jeremiah he fasting (Daniel 9:3). It allows God to alter our will.

D – It aids in getting a spiritual freedom. If you try to fast you will find how much your body is a slave to food. This will call your attention to other areas of life that need to be yielded to Him.

E – It gives occasion to express your wholehearted dependence on and commitment to the Lord. Joel 2:12 exhorted, “Says the Lord, return to me and with all your heart and fasting…”

Falling From Grace

The words “Christ is become of no effect unto you,” must be understood in their context to refer, not to their justification but to their spiritual lives as Christians. The apostle is not here speaking of their standing but of their experience. The words “become of not effect,” are from KATERGEO which means “to make ineffectual,” and which used with the word APO (from) as it is here, means “to be without effect from, to be unaffected by, to be without effective relation to.” The word is applied to any destruction of growth or life, physical or spiritual. Joined with APO (from), it speaks of the loss of some essential element of life by the severance of previous intimate relations. The subject of the verb here is the Galatian Christians. One could translate “You have become unaffected by Christ.” or, “You have become without effective relation to Christ.” The idea is that the Galatian Christians, by putting themselves under law, have put themselves in a place where they have cased to be in that relation to Christ where they could derive the spiritual benefits from Him which would enable them to live a life pleasing to Him, namely, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Thus, Christ has no effect upon them in the living of their Christian lives.

In depriving themselves of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the living of a Christian life, they have fallen from grace. The words “fallen from” are from EKPIPTO which means “to fail of, to lose one’s hold of.” The Galatian Christians had lost their hold upon the grace for daily living which heretofore had been ministered to them by the Holy Spirit. God’s grace manifests itself in three ways, in justification, sanctification, and glorification. The context rules. All through Galatians Chapter five, Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the believer. Therefore, grace here must be interpreted as the daily grace for living of which the Galatian Christians were depriving themselves.

But because they had lost their hold upon sanctifying grace, does not mean that God’s grace had lost its hold upon them in the sphere of justification. Because they had refused to accept God’s grace in sanctification is no reason why God should withdraw His grace for justification. They had received the latter when they accepted the Lord Jesus. That transaction was closed and permanent at the moment they believed. Justification is a judicial act of God done once and for all. Sanctification is a process which goes on all through the Christian’s life. Just because the process of sanctification is temporarily retarded in a believer’s life, does not say that his justification is taken away. If that were the case, then the retention of salvation would depend upon the believer’s works, and then salvation would not depend upon grace anymore. And we find ourselves in the camp of the Judaizers, ancient and modern.

The Evolution Of Evolution

Suppose, just suppose human life as we know it were to end on planet earth today. While your imagination is working imagine creatures with superior intelligence to us do exist in deep outer space. On one of their space voyages they visit the late great planet earth in what would be our year 4001. Their landing sight is Manhattan.

Not only is there one space mission in 4001 to earth but two. The second lands in the deepest part of the Amazon jungle inhabited today by a primitive tribe willfully cut off from modern society.

Can you imagine their consternation when they return to their home base and report on how humans lived on planet earth in the 21st Century? With only those two samples they would have conflicting concepts. Press the issue further. Suppose the sample specimens were of Homo Sapiens and a bonobo chimpanzee. What conclusion might they reach as to which form of life was superior? What the norm?

Presently there are paleontologists at work experiencing similar conflicts. Since 1974 when a partial skeleton called “Lucy” was found by Richard Leakey in Ethiopia, it has been generally accepted as the oldest known human ancestor by evolutionists. Now Richard’s widow, Meave, has found Kenyanthropus platyops. Mrs. Leakey has concluded her find, not that of her late husband, is the true ancestor on mankind. However, she goes even further and says neither her find nor Lucy is necessarily “the one.” She asserts, “I and many others believe Lucy needs to be replaced, but I’m not sure Kenyanthropus is the one,” says Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History. He further concluded, “What is clear is that human evolution is much more complicated than we thought.”

Science often changes. If you don’t believe that read a science text book written in 1940, or for that matter 1990.

Now play “What If” and project into the future. Suppose within a few years it is verified that carbon dating is valid up to about 7000 years but no more, as many believe. Contributing to this conclusion are specimens within specimens that are carbon dated as younger than the outer ones. What if, at that time a new specimen is found that looks exactly like modern New Yorkers? Rewrite!

Whole theories have been concluded from an artists concept based on a fragment of a skeleton. That is not science. A number of these theories once taught as scientific fact have been disputed by more current paleontologists. Many of the new breed are still evolutionists but they have better more recent data and are honest enough to correct the errors of their predecessors.

The science is young and susceptible to error. Many in the field know that the science itself is evolving. The grief is that some second or third echelon of educators pick up on these inconclusive evidences and teach them as the ultimate fact. The jury is still out on the subject. Leakey and Potts are to be commended on consenting to this in their statements.

All concepts of origins are faith based. A rule of science is for a principle to be acceptable as a science it must be observable and reproducible. Neither creationists nor evolutionists can do either. Both are faith based. That is why many persons with advanced scientific degrees still hold to the concept of creation as viable.

What if in 4001 a space ship lands and its occupants read a 1922 science text. That sampling would be evidence too limited to reach a valid conclusion related to the advanced culture on earth in 2004. The same principle is applicable in the field of paleontology today. As they keep digging there will be many rewrites and perhaps ultimately conclude:

“In the beginning God…”

[Source of some of this data: USATODAY.com, March 22. 2001, Tim Friend]

Eternal Security Of Believers

Approximately 100 Scripture verses affirm the fact that once a person is saved they are saved for all eternity.

There are a few “gray area” passages that persons tend to relate to as proof this isn’t true.

A basic principle of Bible interpretation is when you come to a verse you do not know what it means go to a verse that speaks on the same topic you do understand and interpret the one of unknown meaning in light of what is known.

Pivotal to this topic is John 3:16 and the little word “hath,” meaning “once and for all.” The meaning is obvious. That being the standard all difficult passages should be interpreted in light of it.

Another verse with clear meaning is Romans 8: 35, “Who shall separate us from the love of God….” After listing possibilities the conclusion is “nothing.” Absolutely nothing.

John 5: 24: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death into life.”

Key words are “everlasting” and “is passed.” The latter is aorist tense which means “has once and for all passed.”

Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them … and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).

Operative expressions in this verse are “eternal life,” and “they shall never perish.”

“Never” translates the Greek word which means literally “not ever at any time.” In the Greek text it is a strong declarative negative used for emphasis meaning it just doesn’t happen; they just don’t perish —- ever.

John 1:7 notes, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

When He gives a gift He doesn’t take it back. Once we “become the children of God” when we do things unbecoming of God’s children, we don’t un-become His child.

That brings us to a couple of “gray passages:”

Romans 9:13 – 18 is such. Verse 13 says God loved Jacob and hated Esau. Verse 13, “love” and “hate” pose the two extremes. God’s “love” is an expression referring to His choice of Jacob. He chose Jacob because of his faith.

He “hated” Esau because of his rejection. His hate did not precede Esau’s rejection; it was caused by it. “Hate” does not mean to be emotionally angry with him but simply speaks of God rejecting the one who previously, freely chose to reject Him. Esau rejected God’s plan. Though God loved the man, He hated what he stood for–the rejection of God’s divine plan. If God had approved of Esau’s rejection, He would have been disapproving of His own plan. This He could not do, so He had to reject Esau. (Vss. 14 – 18)

Again a debater’s question is posed in verse 14 that deserves a strong negative answer, “God forbid!”

Moses and Pharaoh are used as examples. Had God shown only justice, Israel and everyone else would have been doomed.

Moses is sighted as an example of God’s mercy and compassionate forgiveness. Because of God’s grace, Moses responded in faith and was blessed. This is God’s mercy.

Other than Moses, there was no one of that era to whom God gave as full a revelation, as He did Pharaoh. Moses responded to the revelation in faith. Pharaoh responded by becoming God’s open adversary. Even in spite of this, God’s divine purpose was fulfilled through him.

Pharaoh was like a belligerent, obstinate child who when punished grows even more rebellious. The harder the punishment the stronger the rebellious resistance. In the case of Pharaoh the more of His will God revealed to Pharaoh, the more he resented and resisted it. Technically what God did in revealing His will was the occasion of the Egyptian leader’s heart being hardened. The cause of the hardening was Pharaoh’s own willful, sinful rejection.

God did not arbitrarily harden Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh’s sinful nature did this. God’s word to Pharaoh resulted in the hardness of his heart, which was already present, being shown. Moses and Pharaoh are used to tell of God’s mercy and justice.

Hebrews 6: 4-6 is another “gray passage.”

“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame ” (Hebrews 6: 4-6).

Note the obvious. “If” a person could be saved and lost no one can “renew them again to repentance.” That precludes being saved and lost, saved and lost, saved and lost, etc.

The little word “If” is the basis for understanding. In the Greek language there are four cases. The one used here gives the following meaning to the word “If.”

“If a person could be saved and lost, if he could, but he can’t, but if he could, he couldn’t be saved again.”

Now use your imagination and draw the following on the chalkboard of your mind or better still get paper and pencil and draw it out to keep.

In the upper right hand corner of the page write the reference John 1:12: “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” “To become” is the aorist tense which means “at a point in time, divorced from time, and perpetuated into eternity to once and for all become.” That point in time is when the individual trust Christ as Savior.

To visualize this draw a large circle.

In the middle of the circle put an “X.” Make it look good; it represents the believer, one who has been saved.

As the “X” is in the circle so the believer is in Christ.

On the outside top of the circle write the word “Relationship.” As the “X’ is in the circle so the believer is in relationship with Christ. The believer has become the child of God.

Believers do things unbecoming of children of God. What happens then? Is their salvation lost? NO!

Now, inside the circle draw a square so that the “X” is in the middle of it. On the top outside of the square write the word “Fellowship.” When a believer is doing God’s will, living according to the Scripture, being filled with the Spirit he or she is in “Fellowship” with God. There and only there is a person truly happy, fulfilled, and productive.

To envision what happens when a Christian sins place a large dot outside the square but still inside the circle. This represents the believer who has sinned. At this point the believer’s fellowship with God is broken but not the relationship. Communion with God is broken but not the union. They are still God’s child, though His disobedient child.

It is in this state believers are most unhappy and unproductive. They have placed themselves in a position to merit God’s discipline. Hebrews 12: 6, “Whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

The words “discipline” and “disciple”come from the same root meaning “to train.” Because God loves His children He trains them using chastening and scourging as two techniques. Chasten refers to light discipline and scourge to sever discipline.

The purpose is to direct persons back into “Fellowship.”

First, digress and put a check outside the circle. It represents an unsaved person. Such a person is not the world’s most unhappy individual. Satan will give such a person “kicks” lest they realize a need and turn to Christ. The world’s most unhappy person is represented by the dot in the circle but outside the square; the Christian out of fellowship.

God’s discipline is intended to train the believer to return to “Fellowship.”

I John 1:9 tells how. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

“If” means it is optional. “We” means it is personal. No one can do it for us. “Confess” means to agree with God about it, acknowledge it is sin, repent, and ask forgiveness. In that moment the believer is back in fellowship.

It is called spiritual rebound. It means to get back on the mark. There is where God wants believers because He knows it is the state in which they have the optimum joy of their salvation and are most fulfilled.

Where are you now? Which represents you? Is it the check mark, the dot or the “X?”
For your joy and the Lord’s glory be certain it is the “X.”

Eternity Illustrated

Do you ever think much about eternity? It is said death is one of the three most thought about topics in America. My source didn’t indicate what the other two are. However, if we think so often about death eternity must be some where up near the top of topics.

Modern physics, aided by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, gives a few hints of the reality of eternity. A weight, a clock, and a ruler can be used to illustrate this.

Here on earth a one pound object weighs one pound because of the gravitational pull on it. On the moon where there is a different gravitational pull it would weigh three ounces. Remember how our astronauts bounded around on the moon so effortlessly?

If that same object could be placed on the surface of the sun without being burned up it would weigh twenty-eight pounds. Considering that the sun burns four tons of its mass per second our weight wouldn’t last.

The same object has a relative different weight.

A ruler can be used to illustrate mass. Mass, that is the density or size of an object, also varies depending on speed. The size of a car varies depending on its speed. Driving at 50 miles an hour a car is three-ten-millionths of an inch shorter. If you don’t believe it try measuring it.

If it were possible to travel at 90% of the speed of light, that is 167,000 miles per second, a car would be half its length. Your body mass would likewise change.

Parenthetically, I just thought of it, but if you could travel 90% of the speed of light on the moon you would have a great weight and mass control program.

Time is the third factor. Take a voyage to the star Sirus which is nine light years away. If you traveled at 99.99999% of the speed of light the following would happen. Your friends here on earth would have to wait 18 years for you to make the round trip. Upon returning your watch and body clock would indicate you had been gone 12 hours. You would be twelve hours older and your friends eighteen years. Now, there is an anti-aging program.

If you could accelerate just a bit and reach the speed of light time would stand still. That time warp would be called eternity.

Not having observed any of these principles it is hard to comprehend them. Likewise, not yet having experienced eternity it is hard to conceive of it. If eternity is a reality and we are immortal that means there never will be a time we won’t be. We ought to give that a lot of thought. As a matter of fact it should be number one on our list of most frequent thoughts.

Must we light a candle to see the sun?

Compute the evidence of you being a non-organic being living in an organic body from which your spirit will someday exit and enter the realm of eternity. Envision that.

There is a government sponsored add related to travel overseas that warns: “Know before you go.”

Knowing they are going, millions have found insight into this realm in their Christian faith.

Early Secular Writings Regarding Christ

TACITUS: (55-117) A.D.)
Cornelius Tactitus is regarded as the greatest historian of ancient Rome. Writing on the reign of Nero, Tacitus alludes to the death of Christ and to the existence of Christians in Rome.
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of on of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the word find their center and become popular.”

PLINY THE YOUNGER: (112 A.D.)
Pliny was governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor who wrote a letter to Trajan regarding how to deal with Christians who worshiped Christ. These letters concern an episode which marks the first time the Roman government acknowledged Christianity as a religion separate from Judaism, and set a precedent for the massive persecution of Christians that takes place in the second and third centuries.
“They (the Christians) were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sand in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath not to any wicked deeds, not to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor to deny any trust when they should be call to deliver it up, after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food —but food of an ordinary but and innocent kind.”

BABYLONIAN TALMUD: (Completed in the 6th Century A.D.)
The Babylonian Talmud is a Rabbinic commentary of the Jewish scriptures (Tanach: Old Testament). They are a look into what is a hostile source was saying about Jesus. They could not deny the miracles but claimed that it was sorcery rather than admit to what was a known fact.
“ On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because He has practiced sorcery (an admission of his miracles) and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favor let him come forward and plead on his behalf. But since nothing was brought forward in his favor he was hanged on the even of the Passover.”
The Babylonian Talmud, vol. III, Sanhedrin 43a

LUCIAN: (120-180 A.D.)
a Greek satirist that spoke scornfully of Christ and Christians, affirming that they were real and historical people, never saying that they were fictional characters.
“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day — the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account….You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property.”
Lucian, The Death of Peregrine. 11-13.

LETTER OF MARA BARSARAPION: (73 A.D.)
Mara Bar-Serapion was a Syrian who lived in the first century A.D. He wrote a letter to his son Serapion that mentions the Jews who killed their King. The letter is now in the possession of the British Museum.
“What benefit did the Athenians obtain by putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as judgment for their crime. Or, the people of Samos for burning Pythagoras? In one moment their country was covered with sand. Or the Jews by murdering their wise king?…After that their kingdom was abolished. God rightly avenged these men…The wise king…Lived on in the teachings he enacted.”

THALLUS: (52 A.D.)
One of the first secular writers that mentioned Christ. Thallus wrote a history of the Eastern Mediterranean world from the Trojan War to his own time. Unfortunately, his writings are only found as citations by others. Julius Africanus, a Christian who wrote about AD 221 mentioned Thallus’ account of an eclipse of the sun (Luke 23:44-45).
“On the whole world there pressed a most fearful darkness; and the rocks were rent by an earthquake, and many places in Judea and other districts were thrown down. This darkness Thallus, in the third book of his History, calls, as appears to me without reason, an eclipse of the sun.”
Julius Africanus, Chronography, 18:1.

PHLEGON: (1st Century)
A secular historian wrote a history named, “Chronicles.” This original work has been lost, Julius Africanus preserved a small fragment in his writings. Phlegon mentions the eclipse (Matthew 27:45) during the crucifixion of Jesus.
“During the time of Tiberius Caesar an eclipse of the sun occurred during the full moon.”
Africanus, Chronography, 18:1.

SUETONIUS: (69-140 A.D.)
A Roman historian and annalist of the Imperial House under the Emperor Hadrian. He refers to Christ and Christians and the “disturbances” caused by them, namely not worshipping idols and loving all, including their tormentors.
“Because the Jews at Rome caused constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus [Christ], he [Claudius] expelled them from the city [Rome].” Acts 18:2, which took place in 49 A.D.
Life of Claudius, 25:4.

In another work Suetonius wrote about the fire which devastated Rome in 64 A.D. under the reign of Nero. Nero blamed the Christians and exacted a heavy punishment upon them, among them covering them with pitch and burning them alive in his gardens.
“Nero inflicted punishment on the Christians, a sect given to a new and mischievous religious belief.”
Lives of the Caesars, 26.2

TOLEDOTH YESHU: (6 Century)
This is a derogatory version of the life of Jesus, growing out of the response of the Jewish community to Christianity. The tradition presented here is most commonly dated to approximately the 6th century CE. The text it self is closer to the 14th century.
Mentions the empty tomb and that the Jewish leaders found it empty. That Jesus was crucified on the eve of the Passover and that He claimed to be God. That Jesus performed sorcery, he healed, and that he taught Rabbis. All of this from a hostile source, with the references above it is a historical fact that Jesus did miracles. His enemies could not refute it, rather they explained it away as sorcery!

CELSUS: (2nd Century)
Criticizes the Gospels, unknowingly reinforces the authors and the content, he alludes to 80 different quotes in the Bible. Admits that the miracles of Jesus were generally believed in the 2nd century.

JULIAN THE APOSTATE: (332-363 A.D.)
Emperor of Rome mentions the Gospels, miracles and other facts about Jesus. Julian had struggled to end the power of Christians in the Roman Empire. Since the day fifty years earlier that Constantine conquered in the sign of the cross, Christian influence had steadily grown. As Julian lay dying from a mortal wound he made the following remark:

“As he bled, the dying emperor groaned, “You have conquered, O Galilean,” referring to Jesus Christ.

CLEMENT OF ROME: (100 A.D.)
Clement affirms the Resurrection, Gospels and that Jesus was sent to earth by God to take away our sins.
“Clement was the fourth bishop of Rome, the first being Peter. Did he know Peter and Paul? It is completely possible that those two Spirit-filled men taught him. Clement even wrote a letter to the Corinthian church that echoed the teachings of the apostles.”

IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH: (50-107 A.D.)
Disciple of the apostles Peter, Paul, and John, who was martyred for his faith in Jesus. He was obviously convinced that Jesus really had lived and that Jesus was all that the apostles has said He was.
“…nearness to the sword is nearness to God; to be among the wild beasts is to be in the arms of God; only let it be in the name of Jesus Christ. I endure all things that I may suffer together with him, since he who became perfect man strengthens me…We have not only to be called Christians, but to be Christians.”
While the emperor Trajan was on a visit to Asia Minor, he arrested Ignatius. When the bishop confessed his faith in Christ, the Emperor sent him in chains to Rome to die. He was hustled to the arena at once and thrown to two fierce lions who immediately devoured him.

QUADRATUS: (125 A.D.)
Bishop of Athens and a disciple of the apostles. Church historian Eusebius has preserved the only work that we have from Quadratus.
“The deeds of our Savior were always before you, for they were true miracles; those that were healed, those that were raised from the dead, who were seen, not only when healed and when raised, but were always present. They remained living a long time, not only whilst our Lord was on earth, but likewise when he had left the earth. So that some of them have also lived in our times.”
Eusebius, IV, III

EPISTLE OF BARNABAS: (130-38 A.D.)
Mentions the Resurrection, miracles, content of the Gospels and the crucifixion of Jesus.

ARISTIDES: (138-161 A.D.)
Aristides was a second-century Christian believer and philosopher from Athens. This portion of his defense of Christianity was addressed to the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius, who reigned from 138-161 A.D.
“The Son of the most high God, revealed by the Holy Spirit, descended from heaven, born of a Hebrew Virgin. His flesh he received from the Virgin, and he revealed himself in the human nature as the Son of God. In his goodness which brought the glad tidings, he has won the whole world by his life-giving preaching…He selected twelve apostles and taught the whole world by his mediatorial, light-giving truth.
And he was crucified, being pierced with nails by the Jews; and he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. He sent the apostles into all the world and instructed all by divine miracles full of wisdom. Their preaching bears blossoms and fruits to this day, and calls the whole world to illumination.”
Carey, “Aristides,” 68.

JUSTIN MARTYR: (106-167 A.D.)
Justin Martyr is regarded as one of the greatest early Christian apologists. He was born around 100 A.D and was beheaded for his faith in Jesus in 167 A.D. He mentions as facts many things about Jesus and Christianity, such as: The Magi (wise men who brought gifts from Arabia), King Herod, His crucifixion, His garments parted among the Roman soldiers, the apostles leaving him on the night of his arrest, his fulfilled prophecies, His resurrection and His ascending into heaven among many others. These quotes can be found in his debate with Trypho the Jew.

HEGESIPPUS: (2 Century)
Eusebius draws the conclusion that Hegesippus was a Jew that wrote five books called, “Memoirs.” Only fragments remain of his original work in the writings of Eusebius. They show that Hegesippus traveled extensively trying to determine if the stories of Jesus and the apostles were true. He found that they were accurate, even in the troubled church in Corinth.
“The Corinthian church continued in the true doctrine until Primus became bishop. I mixed with them on my voyage to Rome and spent several days with the Corinthians, during which we were refreshed with the true doctrine. On arrival at Rome I pieced together the succession down to Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus, Anicetus being succeeded by Soter and he by Eleutherus. In every line of bishops and in every city things accord with the preaching of the Law, the Prophets, and the Lord.”
Eusebius, The History of the Church, 9.22.2.

TRAJAN: (53-117 A.D.)
Trajan is a Roman Emperor who wrote a letter [see letter] in response to the Governor of Asia Minor, Pliny the Younger. Pliny needed advice in dealing with “Christians” who renounced their belief in Jesus due to fear of torture and execution.

MACROBIUS: (4th-5th Century)
Pascal (Pensees) mentions a quote of Augustus Caesar as an evidence to the murder of the 7-20 male babies (this is based on the population of Bethlehem in 4-6 B.C., which was 700-1,000 people) by King Herod in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16).
King Herod heard that a king was to be born and his fear and mental instability caused him to kill these male children under two years of age. King Herod killed his Wife, mother in law, and three sons. This is in character with his life of murder and paranoia. King Herod’s reign was described by his enemies as, “He stole to the throne like a fox, ruled like a tiger, and died like a dog.”
Saturnalia, lib. 2, ch.4.

HADRIAN: (106-167 A.D.)
Justin Martyr quotes this Roman Emperor’s letter to Minucius Fundanus, proconsul of Asia Minor. This letter deals with accusations from pagans against the Christians.
“I have received the letter addressed to me by your predecessor Serenius Granianus, a most illustrious man; and this communication I am unwilling to pass over in silence, lest innocent persons be disturbed, and occasion be given to the informers for practicing villainy. Accordingly, if the inhabitants of your province will so far sustain this petition of theirs as to accuse the Christians in some court of law, I do not prohibit them from doing so.
But I will not suffer them to make use of mere entreaties and outcries. For it is far more just, if any one desires to make an accusation, that you give judgment upon it. If, therefore, any one makes the accusation, and furnishes proof that the said men do anything contrary to the laws, you shall adjudge punishments in proportion to the offences.
And this, by Hercules; you shall give special heed to, that if any man shall, through mere calumny, bring an accusation against any of these persons, you shall award to him more severe punishments in proportion to his wickedness.”
Justin Martyr, The First Apology, Chapters, 68-69.

JUVENAL: (55 AD-127 AD)
Juvenal makes a reference of the tortures of Christians by Nero in Rome.
“But just describe Tigellinus and you will blaze amid those faggots in which men, with their throats tightly gripped, stand and burn and smoke, and you trace a broad furrow through the middle of the arena.”
Satires, 1, lines 147-157.

SENECA: (3 B.C.-65 A.D.)
Seneca mentions the cruelties that Nero imposes upon Christians.
“The other kind of evil comes, so to speak, in the form of a huge parade. Surrounding it is a retinue of swords and fire and chains and a mob of beasts to be let loose upon the disemboweled entrails of men. Picture to yourself under his head the prison, the cross, the rack, the hook, and the stake which they drive straight through a man until it protrudes from his throat. Think of human limbs torn apart by chariots driven in opposite directions, of the terrible shirt smeared and interwoven with inflammable materials, and of all the other contrivances devised by cruelty, in addition to those which I have mentioned!”
Epistulae Morales, Epistle 14, “On the Reasons for Withdrawing from the World.”

HIEROCLES: (AD 284-305)
A quote by Eusebius preserves some of the text of this lost work of Hierocles, Philalethes or Lover of Truth. In this quote, Hierocles condemns Peter and Paul as sorcerers. Again, their miracles could not be denied, rather they claimed that they used sorcery.
“And this point is also worth noticing, that whereas the tales of Jesus have been vamped up by Peter and Paul and a few others of the kind,–men who were liars and devoid of education and wizards.”
Eusebius, The Treatise of Eusebius, ch. 2.

ANTONIUS PIUS: (86 AD to 161 AD)
A letter from the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius to the general assembly in Asia Minor. This letter says that the officials in Aisa Minor were getting upset at the Christians in their province, and that no changes are to be made in Antoninus’ method of dealing with them.
“The Emperor Caesar Titus AElius Adrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Supreme Pontiff, in the fifteenth year of his tribuneship, Consul for the third time, Father of the fatherland, to the Common Assembly of Asia, greeting: I should have thought that the gods themselves would see to it that such offenders should not escape.
For if they had the power, they themselves would much rather punish those who refuse to worship them; but it is you who bring trouble on these persons, and accuse as the opinion of atheists that which they hold, and lay to their charge certain other things which we are unable to prove.
But it would be advantageous to them that they should be thought to die for that of which they are accused, and they conquer you by being lavish of their lives rather than yield that obedience which you require of them. And regarding the earthquakes which have already happened and are now occurring, it is not seemly that you remind us of them, losing heart whenever they occur, and thus set your conduct in contrast with that of these men; for they have much greater confidence towards God than you yourselves have.
And you, indeed, seem at such times to ignore the gods, and you neglect the temples, and make no recognition of the worship of God. And hence you are jealous of those who do serve Him, and persecute them to the death.
Concerning such persons, some others also of the governors of provinces wrote to my most divine father; to whom he replied that they should not at all disturb such persons, unless they were found to be attempting anything against the Roman government. And to myself many have sent intimations regarding such persons, to whom I also replied in pursuance of my father’s judgment.
But if any one has a matter to bring against any person of this class, merely as such a person, let the accused be acquitted of the charge, even though he should be found to be such an one; but let the accuser he amenable to justice.”
Justin Martyr, The First Apology, ch. 70.

Divorce And Remarriage

There is no more challenging topic on which to write than divorce. Theology and sociology often clash on this. It is a sensitive emotional issue.

Very, very few people believe in divorce. Those who believe in it least of all are often persons having experienced it. They know the complexity and pain involved. They know the feeling of failure, loneliness, and often a sense of moral impropriety.

Joseph Epstein, social science researcher on divorce, says, “To go through a divorce is still, no matter how smooth the procedure, no matter how “civilized’ the conduct of the parties involved, no matter how much money is available to cushion the fall, a very special private hell.”

Author Paul Bohanan points out there is no such thing as A divorce. There is (1) the emotional divorce, (2) the legal divorce, (3) the economic divorce, (4) the co-parental divorce, (5) the community divorce, (6) the psychic [personal identity] divorce, and (7) the spiritual divorce.

Some persons are cavalier about divorce. If their spouse isn’t making them “happy” it is time to cop out. They see it as an escape hatch to happiness. It isn’t. One large study survey compares unhappy spouses who divorce or separate with unhappy spouses who stay in their marriages. In general unhappy spouses who divorced or separated were not happier five years later than those who stayed in their unhappy marriages. Two-thirds of unhappy spouses who stayed married ended up happily married five years later.

Some spouses are victims of spousal abuse which may include neglect, physical beatings, financial bondage, or sexual degradation. They may not believe in nor want a divorce. Neither do we believe in being run over by Mack trucks but it happens. In spite of efforts to avoid it there are some persons who strive to preserve the marriage who still suffer divorce.

In the secular world divorce is the accepted norm. In the realm of Bible principles it isn’t. However, in trying to aid in divorce recovery it often appears the practice is acceptable. Though it isn’t the support of those who have experienced it is most commendable.

There is little difference in the church and non-church community in the divorce rate. About 25% of people in North America have been though at least one divorce. Among churchgoers who claim to be born-again the figure is actually higher: 27%.

God said, “He hates divorce…” (Malachi 2: 16). Like God, we should love spiritually restored divorcees and yet not approve of divorce.

Divorcees need to be understanding at this point also. They should not be condemning of persons who do not approve of un-Biblical divorce. Some who love and support divorcees the most are persons who do not approve of un-Biblical divorce.

Two situations deserve special attention. There may be marriages when it is virtually impossible to live with an abusive spouse. It is safer to live apart. Such separation should be considered temporary and the person open to reconciliation.

I Corinthians 7: 10, 11 speaks to this type situation. “A wife must not be separated from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband.” This affords only two options: remain single or be reconciled.

When persons who have divorced and married another person become convinced divorce and remarriage are wrong they sometimes question what to do. Should they divorce again? No. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Seek the Lord forgiveness, confess sin, seek His mercy, and commit yourself and your marriage for Him to us. Remembering His grace is freely given but at great expense to Him. Don’t impose on it.

There are two cases in which the Bible allows divorce. Persons considering a divorce should not rationalize their case and try to pretend it is in one of those categories when it isn’t. They do not encourage divorce but do permit it in these instances. The first is when one spouse is guilty of sexual unfaithfulness (Matthew 5: 32; 19:9). The other is when a non-Christian spouse abandons a spouse who is a Christian (I Corinthians 7: 12-16). In both of these instances divorce is a result of sin, but such divorces are not sinful.

The Deity Of Jesus Christ

There are cults that profess to believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. If asked and they respond truthfully they will admit they do not believe He is God the Son. They believe He was a Son of God just as they believe all persons are. They do not however believe in His deity, that is, He is God.

There are over 330 Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in the life of Christ. Scripture says:

“So all things were done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophets, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,'” which is translated, “God with us.”
(Matthew 22:23)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1.)

“Word” translates the Greek word “Logos.” To understand the meaning of a word not the way it was used in the time it was uses. Philo used the word in the same period meaning “all that is known or knowable of God.” That is who Jesus was.

“…great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up into glory” (I Timothy 3:16). That is a distinct reference to Jesus.

“…in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians :9).

Acts 20:28 refers to “…the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

Whose church is it? God’s. How did it become His? He purchased it. With what did He purchase it? His own blood. When did God shed blood? On Calvary.

In natural procuration the fetus does not get any of its blood from the mother or father. It is developed within and by the fetus. When Jesus shed His blood it was the blood of God according to this text. He was deity in flesh and blood.

Thomas referred to the resurrected Christ as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Titus 1:3 refers to Him as “God our Savior.” Therein we are urged to always be “looking of the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

Greek grammar reveals the names “great God and Savior Jesus Christ” refer to the same person. Jesus is the manifestation of God, Immanuel, God with us.

The one for whom we are to be looking is “Christ [who] came, who is over all, the eternal blessed God” (Romans 9:5).

Death and Grief

Nothing impacts us like the death of a loved one. It is so final and strips our emotions raw. When our beloved is a Christian there are great consolations. To these we must cling and from them draw strength.

There is only one of three reasons Christians die.
1. They have finished the work on earth the Lord has for them and He welcomes them home to get their reward.
2. They die as Christian martyrs who by their death advance the cause of Christ.
3. They sin the sin unto death and their life is terminated by our standards prematurely. The sin unto death is noted in I John 5:16. It is any sin which destroys a person’s witness of which they adamantly refuse to repent. The death of such a person brings more glory to the Lord than for them to continue to live is an unrepentant state of disobedience. This person being a Christian, though disobedient, goes to heaven. Death is the discipline.

In the first two of these there is honor and dignity giving cause for celebration. The third is an object lesson for all.

When our loved ones die they go to be with the only one who loves them more than we. In that instant they are more alive than we. It is their induction to “The Society of the Just Perfected.”
The Lord gives
and the Lord takes away.
Blessed be
The Name of the Lord.

He gives far more than He will ever take away. He has given memory. As long as anyone who knew the beloved departed is alive, the gift remains.

Emerson wrote: “Let the measure of time be spiritual, not mechanical. Life is unnecessarily long. Moments of insight, of fine personal relation, a smile, a glance — what ample borrowers of eternity they are.”

The Lord takes away BUT it is not as though He is a ghoulish God greedily taking away from us. Rather, He is a generous God graciously taking to Himself.

God does not lose His beloved ones by giving them to us. We do not lose them by giving them to Him. We must reason out our brooding. Would we pluck the diadem of blessings from the brow of our beloved? Would we remove the palm of victory out of a hand that will never know pain?

Our loved ones go not to the grave but to glory. We can with confidence give them proudly to God. To resent their going is to resist the blessings they have coming. When our beloved are willingly given to God He heals the pain.

Job knew the extremity of loss, the extension of pain, and the exhaustion of grief. His classic conclusions give stability and strength. Make them yours.

First, he affirmed God knows me:
“He knows the way that I take: when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Second, he asserted I know God:
“For I know that my redeemer lives. And He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 1:25).

Third, he attested to their mutual commitment: “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).

God knows you. He takes no pleasure in your grief but He will take a part.

Deacon Ministry

The ministry role of the deacon has changed dramatically over the years. Churches would do well to study the role model found in the New Testament to best utilize its human resources. When this is done those serving are more fulfilled and the church is better served.

Godly deacons fulfilling their roles within the parameters of the Scripture are among the biggest blessings in a church. The Christlike spirit and faithful ministry of such persons benefits all believers. The body of Christ functions more productively and the fellowship operates more harmoniously because of dedicated deacons. There is no adequate tribute that can be paid to such persons. Their servant temperament inspires the total membership.

It is an open secret that in many churches the way deacons function contributes to discord in the body and results in ministry not performed. The subject is so sensitive that in a lot of instances members prefer to live with the status quo rather than challenge a deacon hierarchy. Once the Biblical model is abandoned power brokers often emerge who seek to micro manage the church.

Often voluntarily change results when such an existent “Board of Deacons” is challenged to study the ministry of New Testament deacons. This is frequently true because this non-Biblical role does not emerge in most instances because of a power grab. Recurrent pastor turnover or lack of pastoral leadership has in many instances necessitated someone leading. Generally that responsibility has gravitated to deacons. In churches where this has been the practice for a long time those presently serving know no other way to serve. Relinquishing that style is sometimes difficult. For them it is the way it has always been. In reality it isn’t. In such cases the evolution of the role has moved it away from the Bible model. Consider these changes in the role of deacon that have occurred over the years.

The English word “deacon” translates the Greek word DIAKONOS. It is used 30 times in the New Testament and in 25 of those instances it is translated “servant.” It came from dia (through) and konis (dust). It spoke of one so eager to serve he kicked up dust rushing to minister.

Jesus’ life serves as a model of such a person for He “came not to be served but to serve” [DIAKONEO] (Mark 10:45).

Jesus went so far as to make servanthood the very sign of greatness, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” [DIAKONOS] (Mark 10: 43).

In Ephesians 4: 12 it is noted the Lord gives the church some persons “for the work of ministry.” The word translated “ministry” is DIAKONIA.

The word translated deacon was first and principally used as an adjective to speak of one’s activity, not an office. Later it was used as a noun to speak of an office. Even then it was used to speak of one who fulfilled his role of service with such haste as to kick up dust rushing to serve.

Secular church history reveals that in the first centuries after Christ the role of deacons was to visit the martyrs in prison, prepare the dead for burial, provide for widows, minister to the sick.

In the plague of 258 AD deacons were described as those who “visited the sick fearlessly,” and “died with them most joyfully.”

In a later time they were forbidden to marry and required to wear clerical collars.

Perhaps the most dramatic change that still influence the office occurred in the late 1800s. The industrial revolution resulted in the emergence of large corporations. To manage these groups of persons were enlisted to give guidance. They met around tables made of boards. The room in which they met became known as the board room and the persons who met around the table known as “the board.”

Until this time deacons were never referred to as a board. Churches began to adopt the model. Thus, the world influenced the church. Deacons gravitated from a ministry role to one of a board of directors and business managers.

This concept was strengthened by misunderstanding one word in the Acts 6. This passage deals with the growth of the church and the emerging need to provide a ministry to meet that need and settle a growing dispute. A “murmuring” began in the church because the Hellenists (Greek speaking members) felt their widows were not being cared for by the Hebrews. To settle this seven men were selected to minister to them. It should be noted these seven are not referred to as “deacons.” It is, however, commonly assumed they were. The little word misused to bolster the business nature of deacon service that emerged in the 1800s was “this” (Acts 6:3). Some read the passage to mean these seven were responsible for “the” business of the church. In reality the task assigned the seven was to fulfill a servant role by ministering to the widows. That was the specific reference of the expression “this business.”

It should be further noted that “business” in Acts is not synonymous with the oversight, administrative, managerial, regulatory or financial life of the modern church. Such was not the role of the New Testament deacon. These areas of ministry are not the responsibility of deacons by divine right.

The New Testament word, CHREIA, translated “business” in Acts 6:3 literally means “need” or “necessity.” There was a need to provide for the widows and the seven were to meet it.

This is a wonderful way to avoid problems. First, identify a need, next propose a solution, and finally implement the solution. The result, the problem goes away. They found a need, established a team to meet the need, and the problem went away.

Deacons would aid the church significantly if they would abandon the board or directors and business manager form of deacons and adopt the “Ministry Team” example. Evaluate what needs exist and establish teams to meet them. Not all of these teams need to be permanent. Some might well relate to long range needs and others more immediate temporary ones.

Moving away from the biblical servant role to the more modern business model robbed and continues to rob churches of the servant deacon role. This has perpetuated further “murmuring” resulting from a lack of persons with servant temperaments. Recovery of the Scriptural servant ministry of deacons is imperative for the advancement of the modern church.

The fact we have changed means we can change. Reality reveals and Scripture mandates we must change. The change needed is to revert to the New Testament era servant role. Doing so not only provides a committed core of ministering servants but opens the door to broader participation in church life.

A ministry more nearly following the New Testament prototype is the “Deacon Family Ministry.” It involves dividing the membership into small groups with a deacon assigned to minister to each. The deacon visits each household in his group. By staying in closer contact with members fewer are lost. In times of need members know to contact their deacon who is responsible for ministering to them. This model multiplies the ministry of the church.

Many churches believe the Bible to teach the deacon is to be a male who has not been divorced. Within churches there are many deeply devoted gifted persons with a divorce in their background. Also there are many talented and gifted females. By disenfranchising these two reservoirs of capable members churches rob themselves great human resources. There is no prohibition in Scripture against them serving in other roles in the church.

Progressive churches that adopt the Deacon Family Ministry format usually change their concept of committees also. Committees are of the 1950s. They are slow to act and thus retard progress. Times were slower in the 50s and this worked. A book entitled, “It is Not the Big that Eat the Small, It’s the Fast that Eat the Slow” speaks of a need for more immediate action in our fast paced society.

A second characteristic of the modern era is that younger people are reluctant to make long term commitments. It is not that they are not committed but rather that they are committed to so many things. They will make short term commitments. Therefore, enterprising churches move from having a lot of standing committees to having facilitators and/or ministry teams. That is, when a job needs doing a group is enlisted to get it done. When the task is done their role is fulfilled and finished. People respond to this short term type of responsibility.

Long term church committees can thus be reduced basically to finance, personnel, and trustees. Spiritually mature and gifted males and females as well as divorced and not divorced persons can serve in these roles. This broadens the leadership base while allowing for greater ministry by servant deacons. The church benefits and “murmuring” is minimized.

Churches must never compromise with the world. However, they must adjust in order to minister to their culture. This New Testament model meets the needs of today.
The fast do eat the slow. Eastern Airlines was the second largest air carrier in America at the time it went out of business. Howard Johnson was one of the major food service companies before failing in 1961. In 1968 Holiday Inn was inventive and initiated the concept of advance reservations. Today they are only a minor player in the motel business. All three of these had one thing in common. They did not adjust to changing times. Churches that do no risk their effectiveness if not their lives.

Moving back to the New Testament model of deacons is one of the most progressive actions a church can take.

Substance and style are two aspects of church life. Substance refers to the Scripture. It is a fixed unchanging stabilizing source. Style speaks of how we do things. Style changes frequently. A coiled spring often has one end attached to a fixed object and the other to a moveable one. The spring pulls the moveable object back to the fixed one. When the Bible is the fixed factor to which our style of ministry is constantly drawn adjustments to its principles are made. The style of deacon ministry in many churches is being drawn back to the substance of Scripture.

ORDINATION/INSTALLATION COMMITMENT
At the time deacons are ordained or installed it is appropriate that they should make a public commitment to the role. This can be done by having husband and wife stand and the husband first respond to the following four questions one at the time and then the wife respond to her question.

DEACON:

WIFE:

Each party should answer “I will” in response to each question.

REQUIREMENTS FOR DEACONS
D – stands for “DEDICATION.” They must be men “full of the Holy Ghost” with convictions and without possibility of compromise. Dedication is the one big need for our churches today. For lack of it Christianity suffers.

E – would call for “ENTHUSIASM.” It means zeal in being about Christ’s mission. Enthusiasm takes the drudgery out of work. It takes the brakes off progress and shoots the project into orbit to function so long as enthusiasm lasts.

A – would introduce “AFFECTION” or, better still, the synonym of love which is a warmer word. Affection first to God, to be sure, and then an affection for people. It should be an affection which draws the people into love for God.

C – introduces “COURAGE.” Churches are filled with people who know right from wrong, but few are the number willing to take their stand regardless of price. Silence in an hour of trial condones evil and has no place for men of courage.

O – and “OBEDIENCE” comes into focus. It is obedience to God and all He commands. It is carrying out the wishes of the church as it projects its program. Obedience, in a distinct way, is ministering to others to the glory of God.

N – would stand for “NAME, or as the Bible puts it, “men of honest report.” All that has gone before combines to build a reputation or name. There can be no leadership without reputation.

D-E-A-C-0-N It is an acrostic of the New Testament teaching for “Men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom ye may appoint over this business.”

Crucify Him!: Who Said It?

Jesus was from Galilee. Each tribe had an area where they camped near Jerusalem for feasts. The Galileans always camped on the southern end of the Mount of Olives. The Bible does not say this but historical records attest to it. These were rural people who detested the Romans and had nothing to lose by opposing them.

When Jesus left Bethany/Bethphage (Luke 19: 29) to go to Jerusalem He would have had to travel across the southern end of the Mount of Olives and through these people who knew Him. His home town, Nazareth, was in Galilee. He spent much of His ministry among them.

As He moved through them they celebrated His presence with great delight (Luke 19:37). At this time Jesus was not in Jerusalem. He was still on the Mount of Olives.

These are the people referred to on another occasion as “the common people (who) heard Him gladly” (Mark 12:37).

Across the Kedron Valley (less that 1/4 mile) that separated the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem the folks in Jerusalem heard all the shouting and went out to see what was happening.

In the Gospel of John the expression “the Jews” was used to refer to the religious leaders. They were the wealthy people in Jerusalem. They lived in luxury like people in Rome. They had much to lose so they placated the Romans and sought to please them.

It was this group in Jerusalem who incited the crowd within the city to cry “Crucify Him.” Note in John 19: 6 “the chief priest and officers cried out, saying crucify Him.” In John 19: 14 Pilate said “to the Jews….”

This reference to the Jews is addressed to “the chief priest and officers” of verse 6. It was they in John 19: 15 who are represented as having “… cried out, ‘Crucify Him!'”

Crowns Awaiting Believers As Their Reward

THE INCORRUPTIBLE CROWN [I COR. 9: 25-27].
This is given as a reward for mastering the old sin nature.

THE CROWN OF REJOICING [I THESS. 2: 19, 20].
This is given to soul winners.

THE CROWN OF LIFE [JAMES 1:12]
This is given to those who successfully endure temptation.

THE CROWN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [II TIMOTHY 4:8].
This is given to those who love and anticipate the rapture.

THE CROWN OF GLORY [I PETER 5:2-4; I TIM. 4:1].
This is given to faithful teachers and preachers.

In this life athletes compete for a “corruptible crown” which soon withers away. Christians compete in life for an incorruptible crown that does not fade away; eternal life and fellowship with the Lord.

Throughout history in government the earthly significance of a crown has been to symbolize authority and power. In the military it was a token of distinguished service; of faithfulness and prowess. Socially it depicted nuptial joy and festal gladness. All of these concepts can be applied to the five mentioned.

The spiritual symbolical significance of is that they represent abilities to serve and glorify Christ. Thus, the greater the reward, the greater the ability.

Cremation

Cremation is a subject on which the Bible is not specific.

A study of the history of cremation reveals it was begun as a pagan practice. By destroying the body pagans thought they could avoid the ultimate final judgment of God.

When reference is made to burning bodies in the Bible it is in connection with the judgment of God.

Amos 6:10 is such an instance. God had pronounced judgment on the besieged city. Many persons died of starvation. Because of the siege they could not get outside the city to bury the dead. To avoid an epidemic the bodies were burned.

When Achan defied God at Ai his body was ordered burned (Joshua 7:15).
In the reforms of King Josiah he cleansed the area by burning the bodies of the pagan priests (II Chronicles 34:5).

There are no New Testament references to cremation of Christians or non-Christians.

I Corinthians 15 speaks of the body saying, “It is sown…it is raised.” This leads proponents of non-cremation to conclude conventional burial is indirectly advocated.

In the resurrection God will have no difficulty reassembling every element of our lifeless bodies regardless of their condition. His inventory system is such that regardless of how dispersed the elements of our bodies He can reassemble them if He desires.

The fact cremation is neither endorsed or forbidden leads scholars to conclude it is a matter of personal conscience.

Church Reconstruction

Like all movements there are various persuasions within this school of thought. Somewhat centrist among the movement, the concept could be said to be a reorganization of government to conform to the Old Testament code of law.

I do not agree with the movement. One reason is a failure by proponents to differentiate between the types of law in the Old Testament. There are three:

THE CEREMONIAL LAW which consists of temple ritual, holy days, personal daily rites, etc. It is the Christian belief that these were types symbolizing the coming Messiah and were fulfilled by Christ.

THE CIVIL LAW which was the code of community conduct. Today, as then, each nation has its own civil law. The civil law of that day differed dramatically for certain offenses. For example, it included stoning for certain offenses. Needless to say our civil law is dramatically different.

Though our civil law isn’t perfect, it is to be preferred for this era.

THE MORAL LAW is summed up in the Ten Commandments. This is a universal standard for moral conduct. It is applicable today.

I believe the practice of the Ten Commandments to be to the advantage of any society. I believe the ceremonial law was fulfilled by Christ Jesus. I believe our code of civil law to be preferable for today. Thought it may have inequities, nothing as dramatic as returning to the full civil law of the Old Testament is preferable.

Church Music

The variety in church music is unimaginable. Formerly there were denominations from which to choose. Now these segments of the Christian community are further divided by styles of worship. The styles are basically defined by the type music used. Diversity reigns.

For many there is a difference in church music and Christian music. All church music should be Christian but not all Christian music is church music. At least by the standard of many people. There has long been Christian music suitable for concerts, camps, entertainment, media play, and rallies. Now in many churches it is mainstream in worship.

Once again the church that is supposed to influence society has been influenced by society. The church all too often follows secular trends rather than setting trends.

Melody in music speaks to the mind. Harmony speaks to the spirit. Scripture recognizes this and refers to “making melody from your heart to the Lord.” Rhythm, tempo, or the beat, impacts the body. The further the tempo, or number of beats per minute, is accelerated above the average pulse rate of 72 per minute, the greater the physical response. At a certain point this “feel good” music plays into a “me” centered experience.

Even little children will start jiggling when there is music with a dominant beat. Younger persons prefer music with a faster beat because their pulse rate is higher than older people.

Hymns, so popular for generations, have been largely replaced by choruses in some churches. Both are good. Hymns are basically sung about God and choruses sung to God. Hymns tend to have a much more sound theological basis. A blend of the two can be a bless.

Some congregations suffer when they are accustomed to one style and are suddenly subjected to another. There is a reaction to what many call “Seven-Eleven Music.” That is, choruses consisting of seven words repeated eleven times.

Churches utilizing either a traditional, contemporary, or blended form of worship all appeal to a certain clientele and provide a setting conducive for worship for different people. Each has its advantage. The style to which a congregation is accustomed is one thing that drew them together initially. To radically and dramatically change that style is to risk dividing the body.

Through the decades church music has changed significantly several times. Those best making the transition have done it gracefully and gradually not simply to suit their taste but to meet the needs of the people. That same technique is often used today to the advantage of all.

There is a difference in church music and Christian music. Music in worship is not to be an end in itself but a means to an end. The intended end should be true worship.

When the form of worship detracts from the fact of worship the intended end is lost.

A Biblical Standard For Pastor And People

I PETER 5: 1 – 4

JESUS CHRIST pledged Himself to build His church. He always does things orderly. Therefore, He has organized His church. The text lists three primary group exhortations. This shows the church to have been well organized. Consider these traits of the pastor and the people in a church functioning as intended.

“The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (I Peter 5: 1 – 4).

THE PASTOR’S CHARGE
There are three words in the Greek text used here to refer to the office of pastor:
PRESBUTEROS – “Elder”
EPISKOPOS – “overseer” or “bishop”
POIMAINO – “Shepherd”
The last of these terms is the one used by the resurrected Christ when He said to Peter “Tend (poimaino) [Shepherd] My sheep” (John 21:16).

Parenthetically it is interesting to note Peter refers to himself as a “fellow elder.” If he had been the head of the church, the first Pope, this would not have been the title chosen. In verse one he makes even more emphatic his togetherness by using the word “partaker.”

The first two titles noted refer to the same person as the third. Two internal, Bible evidences indicate the first two to be the same as the third:

In Philippians 1:1 Paul greeted the Bishops and deacons. If the elders were a separate body, surely he would have greeted them also.

In Acts 20:28 Paul sent for the elders (PRESBUETROS) and told them God had made them overseers (EPISKOPOS).

In I Peter 5: 1 and 2 Peter greets the elders (PRESBUETROS) and tells them to “feed,” that is, “shepherd the flock.” The verb “to shepherd” is a translation of the same Greek root from which we get our English word “pastor.” This word was doubtless in Peter’s mind from the post-resurrection seaside charge Christ gave him after three times asking him if he loved Him.

The modern pastor is to be the same as the shepherd-elder of the early church.

Inherent in the meaning of the expression “to shepherd” are four requirements.

REQUIREMENTS
1. Love the flock as an undershepherd of Christ. A pastor is not allowed by God to love selectively. In the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd did not know which sheep was lost; but he loved all of them enough to go after one of them — any one. Only one who loves the flock can exercise wise authority over them. Such a one seeks the flocks highest good and is even willing to put aside his own welfare to secure the highest good of the flock.

2. Protect the flock as a prophet. Believers need to be protected from teachers of false doctrine, and charlatans who seek to steal or mislead the sheep.

3. Feed the flock as a preacher/teacher. Nothing is important enough to afford a preacher an excuse for being unprepared in the pulpit. Incorporated in the word “feed” are all the responsibilities of our word “tend,” implying various duties.

4. Lead the flock as a capable administrator (overseer).

According to Acts 20: 28 the pastor is made the overseer “by the Holy Spirit.” Thus, he is directly responsible to God for leading. He must not quench the Spirit in his life.

When a church puts the pastor under the oversight of a committee they have usurped God’s position. If the pastor is the undershepherd of Christ charged by Him to take the oversight of His church he, the pastor, is accountable to Him, Christ. No group within the church should assume the role reserved for the Chief Shepherd in relation to His undershepherd.

This is a sacred calling and a holy trust given by the Chief Shepherd of His flock.

It is “the flock of God” and should be overseen as He prescribes. The pastor should live mindful that it is “the church of God” not his flock. If the pastor ever views the flocks as “his” he is in serious trouble. The pastor is the steward of God’s flock.

There is no room in this for the pastor to be egotistical. He shall someday have to stand, rather kneel, before God and give an account of that stewardship. Others will have to account for granting him that oversight and supporting him in the role.

Of the undershepherd it is said, “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (I Corinthians 4:1).

The pastor should seek wise council and advice from the flock in making decisions. He should consult with various responsible bodies within the flock. He should network with the total flock and be attentive to their needs.

I Peter 5: 1 – 5 teaches the pastor must do this “willingly” and “not of constraint,” that is, he must not be made to do it. Any pastor who does not accept the charge to lead is not fulfilling his role. He must seek heavenly wisdom, obtain wise council, study diligently, and use his own creativity to envision and initiate as a leader.

RESTRICTIONS
1. Negative, “Neither as being lords…” (Vs. 3a). A pastor can’t be self-seeking. When one is, it usually manifests itself in one of two forms:
a. The term “lords” implies an ego flight. There is no place for this in ministry. He is to lead by “serving.” He should not have to be constrained to lead nor restrained from leading as the Lord guides. The pastor, like the Good Shepherd, must be a servant leader. He like Christ does not come “to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28).
Such pastors do not simply tell the flocks what to do they lead by “being examples to the flock” (I Peter 5: 3). The word “examples” means a “model,” “pattern,” or “prototype.”
b. The other term is “dishonest gain” or “filthy lucre.” These terms are used five times in the New Testament and in each case refer to ministers. “Gain,” “lucre,” that is, money is not bad. If it is “filthy,” or “dishonest,” that is obtained in a dishonest or dishonorable manner, it is.

2. Positive, “…being examples to the flock…” (Vs. 3b).
The pastor should be a specimen Christian, a worthy templet, Exhibit A. This term “examples” is used in I Thess. urging all believers to be “examples” of Christ.
Show yourself as a model. The pastor is not only to be a model in character but in administrative conduct. Leadership is not achieved by coercion or compulsion but by character and compassion. That does not mean that the pastor will not have to be assertive, proactive, and even aggressive at times.

REWARD
1. “The crown of glory,” a stephanos. “Glory” is one of the most common words in the epistle. Here it is a synonym for that final salvation associated with Christ’s second coming (vs. 1).

2. “…that does not fade away.” (Vs. 4). The expression also comes from a word used as the name of a flower from which floral crowns were made, the ARARANTINE. A characteristic of the flower was it did not permanently wilt. If it temporarily withered, it could be revived by being moistened. Thus, the illustration is of eternal life. This “crown of glory” is eternal life.

Bible Code: Exposed

“Newsweek,” “Time,” Oprah and numerous other media outlets were abuzz in 1997 over The Bible Code, authored by Michael Drosnin. The thesis is that using a formula of equidistant letter sequence in the Hebrew Bible coded messages could be found related to events transpiring currently.

Bible code enthusiasts said their findings statistically proved the existence of God beyond any doubt. A virtual cult grew up around the work.

To unlock the code 304,805 Hebrew letters from the Hebrew Bible were arrayed without punctuation or spacing. By going forward, backwards, or vertical at varying “step distances” names of current persons and places were decoded.

In defense of his work Drosnin said, “In experiment after experiment, the crossword puzzles were found only in the Bible. Not in War and Peace, not in any other book, and not in ten million computer-generated test cases”.

Oops! As it turns out the same principal was used by David E. Thomas on War and Peace, Moby Dick, the Supreme Courts 1987 ruling of Edwards v. Aguillard, and other works. Using the sequential step distance technique the analysis proved just about any thing one wants to find can be found by varying the sequences. For example, in Moby Dick references were found to the “predictions” of assassinations of Indira Gandhi, Rene Moa, Leon Trotsky, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy.

That should have converted Drosnin for he had said, “When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I’ll believe them”.

In just the opening pages of War and Peace there are over six puzzles linking “Hitler” and “Nazi.”

Drosnin claims to have found the date the Gulf War, January 18, 1991, the Waco disaster, April 19, 1993, and the Oklahoma City bombing, April 19, 1995, in the Hebrew Bible. It seems strange that the date for the Gulf War was found in the words “3rd Shevat,” not in the Gregorian calendar as the other dates were found using the Gregorian calendar.

Extensive research has proven codes can be engineered and made to happen. One simply needs to know how to sequence the numerous possibilities. Scientists have enjoyed employing the principle on other works since the publishing of Drosnin’s book.

Dr.Eliyahu Rips, one of the authors of the study that started the Bible Code craze, has made the following statement regarding the work of Drosnin: “All attempts to extract messages from Torah codes, or to make predictions based on them, are futile and are of no value. This is not only my opinion, but the opinion of every scientist who has ever been involved in serious Codes research.”
An Equidistant Letter Sequence study has been made of Genesis in which there were 60 links between “code” and “bogus”. Could it be that God has encoded a message to let it be known the idea is unreliable?

Our Lord has given us more truth than we are using without having to look for some hidden meaning. To try to add to the Bible is to take away from it. That’s dangerous business.

Being Baptized For The Dead

“What will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?” (I Corinthians 15: 29)
A misunderstanding of this verse has lead to unbiblical practices. Some individuals have themselves baptized on behalf of a deceased person as a proxy for the dead person. Those who do believe baptism to be an essential part of salvation. They obviously also believe a person can be redeemed and released from an intermediate state and enter heaven some time after their death. Neither of these concepts is supported by scripture.

The key to understanding the verse is the little word “for.” It is used in the English text to translate the Greek word huper which can be interpreted “concerning,” or “with reference to.” It does not refer to surrogate baptism meaning “for the benefit of the dead.” When it is so translated it means some individuals are saved as a consequence of the faith and testimony of persons now dead. However, because of the witness of the deceased in his or her lifetime the person still living trust Christ and is baptized. The faithful witness of the one now dead is the causative factor resulting in the living person being saved and baptized.

In context the resurrection is the topic. If there is no resurrection of what value is a profession of faith and baptism?

The resurrection having been shown to be a reality it makes obedience to Christ all the more expedient

Baptism and Filling of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit was Christ’s birthday gift to the Church. He is still the spiritual birthday gift to every believer at the moment of salvation.
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body … 11 (I Corinthians 12:13).

The “body” into which believers are baptized in the body of Christ.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is, as the text says, universal and therefore it must be initial. If it were not at the moment of salvation there would be a period of time between salvation and the baptism in which some would not be baptized and the Scripture would be untrue.

Confirmation of the gift of the Holy Spirit being initial is found in Romans 8:9: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

If you have salvation you have as a gift the Holy Spirit.

The expression “baptism OF the Holy Spirit” is used in certain circles. The expression does not occur in Scripture. As noted in the above text it is baptism “by” the Spirit and it is into the body of Christ.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is not subsequent to salvation but simultaneous with salvation.

“Now if any have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Romans 8:9).

Every believer is in one of three states at various times in life.

1. Grieving the Holy Spirit. “Grieve not the Holy Spirit…” (Ephesians 4:30).
The believer grieves the Holy Spirit when the Spirit is leading the person not to do a wrong thing and the person disobeys and does it.

2. Quenching the Holy Spirit. “Do not quench the Spirit” (I Thessalonians 5:19). The believer quenches the Holy Spirit when the Spirit is leading the person to do a certain thing and the person does not.

3. Filled with the Holy Spirit. Every believer is commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. “…be filled with the Spirit…”) (Ephesians 5: 18). The verb tense means “be constantly being filled with the Spirit.” Ideally it should be the lifestyle of every believer at every moment.

To be filled with the Holy Spirit is best understood when the Holy Spirit is realized to be the Spirit of Christ. As members of the Trinity they are One. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ within the believer.

Therefore, being filled with the Holy Spirit is the same as serving Christ as Lord. It is the same as doing the will of the Father.

A Spirit filled believer evidences it by bearing the fruit of the Spirit as noted in Galatians 5: 22, 23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Some persons say, “I was filled with the Spirit and I just lost control and started speaking in unknown tongues. I just couldn’t help it.”

That is a revelation that what happened wasn’t of the Holy Spirit because noted as fruit of the Spirit is “self-control.”

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to call attention to Christ not Himself. Christ said “He will testify of Me.”

If a person has “an experience with the Holy Spirit” that leaves them talking more about the experience than about Christ the experience is not of the Holy Spirit.

Those who advocate that being baptized with the Holy Spirit is an experience that happens after salvation contend that the evidence of being baptized or is speaking in unknown tongues. The disciples at Pentecost spoke in known languages they had not learned. They were not unknown tongues. The Greek New Testament word translated “tongues” is “glossa” and means languages.

The experience recorded in Acts 2: 8 uses a different Greek word, “dialektos,” meaning dialect. The language was so understood that not only was the language specific but even the dialect of the region from which the person came.

If you think you have the “gift of tongues” go to the nearest international airport and witness to the people from various countries coming in.

The gift of the ability to speak unknown languages was as a sign to unbelievers. In Acts 2 it was to Jews. In Acts 8 it was to half-Jews. In Acts 10 it was to Gentiles. In Acts 19 it was to full Jews who had only half the message.

References to speaking in tongues in I Corinthians is intended to correct the perversion of the practice for personal pleasure. The church at Corinth was so spiritually corrupt they took “pride in open incest.” Such a church surely wasn’t composed of mature Spirit filled believers. They had begun practicing ecstatic gibberish like the pagans in the temple of Diana in upper Corinth.

Some say when speaking in tongues they are doing what Paul meant when he referred to speaking in tongues of men and angels. They represent their speaking in tongues as angelic language. When angels spoke to people how did they do it? They did it in the language the people could understand. Angels talk human languages. So do Spirit filled believers.

Baptism As Essential To Salvation

There are entire denominations based on the fact that baptism is essential to salvation. Does the Bible teach that it is? Passages used to support the belief baptism is essential to salvation will be dealt with individually, but first consider some other aspects.
A pastor of a church which teaches baptismal regeneration was asked if baptism was really essential to salvation. After a momentary pause he said, “You might say it is man’s part.”

If that is true what Christ did on the cross of Calvary was incomplete. If a part is missing the result in incompleteness.

A second consideration is the concept that the act of baptism earns God’s favor. This is salvation by works not grace. Salvation is all by God’s grace not man’s work.

Ephesians 2: 8,9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Baptism isn’t mentioned in that passage and approximately 100 others related to salvation.

The idea of a salvation based on works makes God and man both look bad.

It makes God look like He can be bought off.

It makes man look as though everything he does is in order to get something rather than gratitude for what has been received.

Romans 10: 9, 10 in telling how to be saved doesn’t mention baptism: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.”

John 3:16 does not allude to baptism as being essential to salvation: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should have everlasting life.”

Consider one further thing before reviewing the following passages that are used to claim baptism is essential to salvation. In the study of Scripture if you come to a difficult passage you don’t readily understand read a passage on the same topic that is clear on the subject and interpret the challenging passage in light of it. That said, now interpret the following passages in light of the ones just read.

I Peter 3:21 “There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

What baptism is depicted here as saving us form is not sin but a guilty conscience. Faith in the resurrect Christ who has gone on to heaven (vss. 19-22) saves us. Baptism symbolizes this. Such a step of faith saves us from a guilty conscience.

Saving faith (“saving” —- because of its object Jesus Christ) is expressed in baptism.

Acts 2:38 “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins….”

The main Greek verb METANOESATE, is translated “repent.” It is a reference to the original repentance of a sinner resulting in salvation.

The verb translated “be baptized” is in the indirect passive imperative of the Greek BAPTIZO which means it does not have the same force as the direct command to “repent.”

The Greek preposition EIS translated “for” in the phrase “for the remission of sins” is key to interpreting the passage.

It can be and is appropriately translated “for.” EIS and our word “for” have several meanings, such as, “in return for,” “in consideration of,” “in honor of,” and “because of.”
As used in the text it does not mean in order to obtain forgiveness but because of forgiveness. We do it because something has been done for us. That something is our salvation.

Thus, it literally means “for the purpose of identifying you with the remission of sins.”

Acts 22:16 “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

Here baptism represents a fact that has already taken place. That fact is salvation though Christ. It is picturesque language meaning , “Let a demonstration be made of the washing away of your sins.” Baptism is that demonstration. It is a symbol of the cleansing received as a result of calling on the name of the Lord.

This statement in context was made to Paul by Ananias immediately after Paul’s experience with Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul had already been saved on the road when Ananias told him to be baptized. We know this because Ananias addressed him as “Brother Saul….”

Water baptism is a public announcement which says, “I have accepted what Jesus Christ has done for me.” Paul had done so.

Galatians 3: 27 “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
No one is saved by baptism. Baptism is an outward sign of a union with Christ that exists through faith. Paul mentioned baptism once and faith five times in this passage.
Having put on Christ, that is, having submitted to Him as Savior then one should be baptized is the teaching of this passage.

Colossians 2: 11 – 12 “In Him you were all circumcised with the circumcision made not without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”

A comparison of circumcision with baptism is not the emphasis of this passage. Baptism is not a magical right, it is an act of obedience by which persons symbolize the essence of the spiritual experience they have at the moment of trusting Christ as Savior.

The word “forgiven” used in verse 13 is built on the root for “grace,” means literally “to grant a favor.” It is a term used for the cancellation of a debt. As used in this passage it means divine grace is the root principle in forgiveness. That brings us back to the passage mentioned above: Ephesians 2:8,9.

While on their crosses at Calvary Christ told the repentant thief he would be with Him that very day in Paradise. That thief did not have occasion to do any good work to earn God’s favor. Baptism was out of the question. Salvation was being given him by grace, God’s unmerited favor.

Mark 16:16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

Belief and baptism should be closely associated. The inward reception (belief) should be followed immediately by the external witness of faith (baptism).

Baptism is a special act of obedience taught by Christ Himself. It is a divinely ordered consequence of salvation. However, it is faith in Christ that is the one essential to salvation. Baptism should not be considered a basis of salvation, but rather the natural result of it.

This passage stresses the theme of the entire section (vss. 9-20), that is, the refusal to believe results in judgment. It says one “who does not believe will be condemned.” It does not say one who is not baptized will not be saved. This text teaches condemnation rests on not believing not on not being baptized.

Inward belief in Christ should be evidenced immediate by being baptized. However, it does not add to what faith has already accomplished, rather it only demonstrates it. Belief should be translated into the action of baptism.

Baptism does not save us. A classic example supporting this reality is the Bible character Simon Magus (Acts 8:13) who was baptized but was not saved.

Upon being saved a person should seek to be baptized in water as soon as possible. It is a beautiful act of obedience indicating a desire to follow Christ in all things.

Never equate baptism as being essential to salvation for to do so is to water down the blood of Jesus Christ.

Youth: Beliefs vs. Core Values

Right is right though all men be against it and wrong is wrong though all be for it. William Penn congealed truth in that statement.

There are moral absolutes. Situational ethics based on relativism doesn’t work.

The new morality society of which our youth are a part doesn’t operate on that basis. With them that which determines right or wrong is “Does it work?” If it does to them it is right. If it doesn’t it is wrong.

What the older generation must do to reach and minister to the younger generation is to learn how to show that what is right works and what is wrong doesn’t work.

There is a reason right is right and wrong is wrong. Right works in the long run and wrong doesn’t. It is that simple. It is not simple to communicate the logic in each decision, however.

Impropriety, immorality, and unethical behavior have adverse consequences. They provide kicks with a kickback. Living it up can have results hard to live down. The act and the ultimate result must be connected logically for youth to understand.

This is further complicated in that if it feels good it is assumed to be working.

Adults often try to correct improper conduct by dealing with the symptom rather than the cause. The cause is improper core values and/or a wrong belief system. It takes time and intellectual honesty to correct either.

Acts come from core values. Core values are based on beliefs. They form a pyramid. Beliefs are the base, core values rest on them, and conduct consequences.

Many youth are taught the basic beliefs of our faith, but fail to develop a system of core values based on them. As a result they are well informed on what to believe but without core values in keeping with those beliefs engage in conduct in conflict with those beliefs.

The diet of MTV, carnal movies, and corruptive music is often the basis for the core values of many youth. Their conduct reveals it. Glitz and glamor make it appear the core values advocated are working. Hence, they are right.

The drug deaths, disease, suicide rates breakups and breakdowns in the entertainment community reveals it is a system of values that isn’t working. The reason is such conduct is wrong.

Sooner or later every person has to sit down to a banquet of consequences.

Somewhere between beliefs and conduct there is a misconnect. Many who have been reared and mentored with sound moral and spiritual beliefs engage in contrary conduct.

Brittany Spears, reared in my little home community was brought up going to and singing in church. She attended a very good private Christian school. The moral standards of the community were wholesome. Like millions of others she developed core values contrary to the belief system in which she grew up.

To help a young person live a circumspect life they must not only be taught right from wrong but taught to avoid negative brainwashing offered by certain segments of the media.

Here are some tip on talking with teams.

Speak in the present tense. “Today” is their frame of reference. It is difficult to help them understand how today will influence tomorrow. It will because sooner or later every person must sit down to a banquet of consequences. Don’t fail to note that but keep in mind they are concerned principally with “right now.”

Speak in the plural. They are group oriented. Talk about friends and their influence. Let them know you trust them but being in certain groups can overwhelm a person to engage in group activity which is often contrary to their personal values.

Speak in the active voice. They have energy and will expend it. Channel it. Help them avoid boredom by providing enjoyable activity.

Your Own Personal Bodyguard – FREE

Seldom has our society been faced with more uncertainty in public life. Public safety in general and bodyguards in specific are employed to protect people. The president, prominent athletes, rock stars, and celebrities of all types employ well trained bodyguards. The more important a person is the more protection is needed. Wouldn’t it be good in these uncertain times to have a personal bodyguard?

A twin interest in light of the present mood of uncertainty has been a heightened interest in spiritual values. Sales of Bibles and spiritual resource books have spiked. People are probing for principles affording personal peace.

There have been two times when it was thought I needed a bodyguard. Responsible persons arranged it. The first questions the professionals asked were, “What is your blood type and are you allergic to any medicine?” I knew then things were grave and they serious.

By combing our interest in spiritual values and a need for a personal body guard peace can be attained and maintained. An elemental insight into a few verses of Scripture reveals a personal bodyguard is available to every person.

“He will give His angels charge over you to keep you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11).

When you consider that in the Old Testament era one angel wiped out an army of 185,000 there is reason for confidence.

One of my favorite assurance passages is in a little book most folks don’t even know is in the Bible. Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”

The word translated “stronghold” is literally a citadel. I visited a little citadel in the Arabian Desert used by Sir Lawrence of Arabia. When superior forces pursued him he would retreat there. Then the strength of the six foot thick walls became his strength. Those whose resource is the Lord find His strength to be their strength.

He does not immune us from problems or exempt us from difficulties. He does guard our hearts and minds: “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

He doesn’t always guard us from death. He does guide us through it. He has not promised us perpetual life on this planet He has provided for us the potential of eternal life in His presence.

Here is a formula by which to console yourself with the truth you have a bodyguard. “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

Let me share the most profound truth that has ever coursed across my mind. In doing so I will use the personal pronoun “me” which you can apply to yourself. The most erudite concept to challenge my mind is this, “God never takes His mind off me.”

His eye is not only on the sparrow it is on us also.

Why Are We There? Is It Worth The Price?

Graphic insights and puzzling questions punctuate our news as the nation evidences more and more concern about a complex situation of which our predecessors could not have conceived.

Every day there are reports of more deaths. Every night on TV there are photos of death and destruction. Why are we still there?

We still occupy this land, which we have taken by force, but it causes us nothing but trouble. Why are we still there?

Many of our finest youth go there and never return. Why are we still there?

Their government is unstable, and they have loopy leadership. Why are we still there?

The place is subject to natural disasters, which we are supposed to bail them out of. Why are we still there?

There are more than 1000 religious sects, we don’t understand. Why are we there?

Their folkways, foods and fads are unfathomable to ordinary Americans. Why are we still there?

We can’t even secure the borders. Why are we there?

They are billion of dollars in debt and it will cost billions more to rebuild, which we can’t afford. Why are we there?

Isn’t it clear by now —-

we need to pull out —- of California.

Lest I be guilty of plagiarism I must confess the concept of the above is one of those things we all get on email and never know their origin and can’t give the source credit. Yet, as a spoof it reveals not all is perfect even here at home. Reading it you probably didn’t have California in mind.

If after all these years California can be confused with Iraq perhaps we should be a bit more patient with the process of nation building.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney testified before the 911 Commission. They were criticized by certain members of the media for not doing something to prevent the 9-11 tragedy. Asserting they should have done something to prevent it is like criticizing President William McKinley (1897-1901) for not doing something to prevent auto emissions pollution before the car was invented. Like 9-11 McKinley was in a position in which current pollution could not have been conceived of.

Critics also belittle the President and Vice President for appearing together. Evidently those detractors forgot former President Clinton and two of his top staff members appeared before the commission together.

President Bush is also criticized for testifying without being under oath. What was that he did on Inauguration Day on the steps of the capitol? His entire life and every word is under that oath.

As with the California scenario we sometimes forget we live in an imperfect world or at best expect someone to instantly make it perfect for us. Let’s not pull out of California or give up on our leaders.

Who Crucified Christ?

A new movie by Mel Gibson has opened some old wounds and stirred passions. The issue, who killed Jesus Christ?

Individuals, not a race of people, did it. The disciples who supported Jesus were Jews. The Scripture makes it clear the common people, the Jewish populace, responded warmly to Him. It was compassionate Jews who buried Him. Some Jews were in part responsible for His death, but it was not the Jews.

Romans, Gentiles (non-Jews), were in the persons of Pilate and his execution squad involved in the physical act. They carried out the execution. Gentiles pinioned Him to the cross.

Jesus was brought before the seventy-one member Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court, at night. Twenty-three was considered a quorum. Here charges were formulated against Him. The first charge was He had said He would restore the temple in three days if it were destroyed. His statement was figurative language referring to His death and resurrection. This was twisted to mean He Himself would destroy the temple. To this charge Jesus did not respond. The law did not compel Him to answer.

The timing not being right, Jesus had repeatedly warned His disciples not to tell anyone He was the Messiah. Evidently in his betrayal of Christ Judas told the authorities. The High Priest asked the ultimate question, “Are you the Messiah?” “No,” would have ended the trial. His, “yes,” sealed His death warrant.

When morning came the chief priest and elders took Jesus to the Roman governor, Pilate. They knew only the Roman governor could pronounce a sentence of death. They also knew Pilate could care less about their religious charges. They brought three new false charges: He was a revolutionary, incited the people not to pay taxes, and claiming to be a king. As procurator, Pilate was answerable to Caesar. Pilate, a Gentile, vacillated, tried to shift the blame, and eventually declared himself innocent of the blood of Jesus. Finally, he pronounced the death sentence. His death squad carried out the sentence of crucifixion.

The charges were brought by some religious leaders who were Jews. The actual act of execution was performed by some Romans who were Gentiles. There were some Jews as well as Romans who supported Him. The Roman centurion, the chief executor, at the cross said, “Surely, this was the Son of God.”

It was not the Jews or the Romans who killed Jesus. It was some Jews and some Romans who partnered in His execution.

Jewish law of the era stated “…in the trial of life, if thou sinnest, the blood of the accused and the blood of his seed unto the end of time shall be imputed unto thee.” Even this does not apply to an entire race but rather to the persons involved.

Now to confess who was responsible. I was. Those who believe the New Testament consider Him to have died for each of us. My spiritual condition caused His death.

If it was as Scripture teaches that He died for “all mankind” we each are as responsible as the persons who brought the charges and those who drove the spikes. The responsible race is the human race. For responsive members of that race He prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Tsunamis And End Times: Part 2

The tragic tsunami that hit Asia has been described as being of Biblical proportions. Persons have tried to read spiritual meaning into it. Some members of the Islamic press have said it was Ala’s way of punishing the Muslims of that part of the world for their cooperation with the infidel Christians. Christians have mused over the opposite.

Members of the secular American press have spoken of it as being apocalyptic, that is, having prophetic significance. If so what?

For me it helped make more understandable the Scripture passage in which Christ was speaking of end times and said, “And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved…” (Matthew 24: 22). He had been addressing the topic of the terrible tribulation what would occur near the end of the ages and concluded with this statement. An apocalyptic characteristic of that period is earthquakes.

Many scientists believe the Earth’s land mass once consisted of one large body they call Pangea. They postulate that geological forces caused it to break apart and the pieces called plates have been slowly drifting ever since. When two plates collide earthquakes occur and the earth is changed. Most often this change is almost undetectable. Modern technology can now measure such minute seismic change. The two plates that collided on the floor of the Indian Ocean were approximately 750 miles long. Their collision moved the Island of Sumatra about 60 feet to the north and caused the tsunami killing thousands.

Geologists believe that at the Earth’s center is a hot metal core approximately 2,160 miles thick, the center of it is solid and the outer layer molten. Around this is a hot rocky mantle 1,800 miles thick. The outer core on which we live consists of a thin cooler layer about 30 miles thick. The plates move when cooler plates slowly pass over hotter plates. Where the plates overlap is called the subduction zones and it is here the earthquakes occur.

America has two major candidates for such geological action. One is in California and the other in the Mississippi River area. Both have the capacity for major action.

Christ’s expression “unless those days were shortened” does not mean the number of days decreased. It means the length of the daylight in each day lessened. How could that be? The answer is hinted at by the tsunami.

Richard Goss, a geophysicist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California theorizes that a shift of Earth’s mass toward the center during the quake caused the planet to spin three millionths of a second faster and tilt about 2.5 centimeters on its axis. The conclusion is that it caused the earth to wobble on its axis and speed up its acceleration by a fraction of a second permanently shortening the length of our days. This indicates a more dramatic geological action could change the length of our days significantly.

Well, now wouldn’t you know it! The days can be shortened. All elements for the fulfillment of prophecy are in place.

Tsunamis And End Times: Part 1

There is a new fear fomenting in minds. The operative word is tsunami. Is America in danger? Yes, as is just about every country with a coast line. The timing of a cataclysmic tsunami isn’t possible but the potentials are in place.

Tsunamis are an explanation of a normally over looked prophecy. Much consideration is given to prophecies regarding earthquakes, pestilence, and famine. However, little attention is given to the statement regarding “the sea and waves roaring” (Luke 21:25). The recent tsunami in Asia explains it.

Historically there have been more than are generally realized. A classic example occurred around 1,650 BC when a volcano erupted in the Mediterranean Sea on the island of what is now Santorini. It had the power of 150 atomic bombs the size of the ones dropped on Japan. About 7 cubic miles of magma was erupted sending a philian column 23 miles into the sky. The tidal wave washed over the shores of the countries of the entire Mediterranean basin. The Minoan civilization on Crete was destroyed. There are no ancient records noting the total impact of the explosion.

Currently everyone thinks of the West Coast of America when a tsunami is considered. The long large Cascadia fault off the California and Oregon costs makes it a candidate for a devastating tsunami to sweep the entire coast.

However what most aren’t aware of is the pending danger off our East Coast resulting from conditions in the Canary Islands. There the large ancient volcano Cumbre Vieja poses an even greater threat. It last erupted in 1949 leaving one side of this massive mountain separated from most of the land by six feet. Were an earthquake to cause it to break off and fall into the Atlantic it is estimated it would send a 50 foot wave that would impact the entire East Coast with only six hours warning. That is scarcely enough time for major cities to be evacuated.

The power at the disposal of Mother Nature to cause global disasters of biblical proportions is enough to cause one to think our Heavenly Father has something in store.

I heard a secular parody on radio recently of a conversation between the host and God. The host asked, “What’s with all these earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and fires?”

God replied, “I hate to be self promoting but I have a whole section in my book on it called “The Revelation.’ You should pickup a copy some time and read it.”

I have. I started reading it as an inquisitive child. I first thought it would take a big forest fire to destroy the earth by fire. Over the years I never doubted but questioned how some of the events described could ever happen. The advent of the atomic bomb began to open my youthful eyes. Now I have no doubt how such apocalyptic events can happen in an instant.

Consider some of the precursors to the big event. Wars and rumors of wars are noted. In the 20th Century there were over 200. In that same era over one million died from earthquakes. Global pestilence such as AIDS is killing millions with new diseases developing that are even more deadly. Starvation of masses is hinted at in that nearly 100,000 have starved in Africa in the last 10 years. Globally an estimated 10,000 starve daily.

In spite of all this I am still an optimist because I have read all the Book. I know how the story ends. For those with saving faith in Christ —- WE WIN!

Thanksgiving In Our Heritage

Giving thanks is a long standing practice in America and Canada. It was preceded by the harvest-home celebration in England. Even that was preceded by the ancient Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

The first Thanksgiving in America was religious in nature and didn’t involve feasting. December 4, 1619, a group of 38 British settlers at Berkeley Plantation on the James River engaged in a day of giving thanks, prayer, and worship.

Nearly a year later the Plymouth colony settled on these shores. Their first winter in Massachusetts was devastating. Nearly half of their number suffered and died in the harsh weather. The summer of 1621 resulted in bumper crops.

That fall Governor Bradford declared a day of feasting and giving thanks to God for His blessings on the colony. The day lasted three days. About 90 Wampanoag Indians added five deer to the menu of corn, wheat, barley, peas, clams, eel and other fish, leeks and plums. This practice was followed the next several years.

The other New England colonies followed the practice. During the Revolutionary War eight special days of thanksgiving followed significant developments in the war. President George Washington, in 1789, declared November 26, a day of giving thanks to the All Mighty. In 1839, New York became the first northern state to have an official state Thanksgiving. Other Northern states followed immediately. In 1855, Virginia was the first Southern state to have such a day.

Encouraged by the persistent Sarah Josepha Hale, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November 1863, “a day of thanksgiving and praise to the beneficent Father.” For the next 75 years each president proclaimed the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving.

In 1941 Congress formerly established the fourth Thursday of November as the official national Thanksgiving Day.

Now what?
Thanks are expressed by someone, to someone, about something. Let’s each be one to express thanks. There is much for which to be thankful.

Some schools teach the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Native Americans for their help. Not so. It was to All Mighty God. When you pause to give thanks be more mindful of the One to whom you are speaking than of the thing about which we are giving thanks.

Do yourself a favor. Make a list of things for which you are thankful. Even those among us who have significant difficulties there are many things for which to express thanks.

Captain Kangaroo taught generations the two magic words of please and thank you. A lot of folks have forgotten them. Rarely are they heard. Not only are they rarely heard by people but by the God of all blessings. Make giving thanks a life style. As you do you will become increasingly aware of the many things for which you have cause to be thankful. This is a matchless way of training yourself to be a more positive person.

Don’t forget to give thanks to the God of every good and perfect gift. He inhabits the praise of His people. Make your life His habitat.

Taxing The Wealthy

Economics 101 includes a basic principle many never learned. It relates to one of the only two certain things in life: taxes. In every society those in authority want them and no one else does. In Ireland recently I learned why old castles had so few windows. There was a tax on daylight. It was based on how much light was allowed in a house. Wait until Washington hears of that one.

In America the subject of taxing, tax breaks, and deductions rages. One theory is tax cuts favor the rich. I should hope so. Why? Because that benefits everyone else. That is the purpose. It is to allow entrepreneurs to have more money so they can invest it in products and services. That provides jobs and jobs put money in the pockets of those less wealthy.

The investments by entrepreneurs is a way of putting money into the pockets of others. In doing so it alleviates the government having to put money in their pockets.
Elemental observation number two. Higher taxes do not keep the rich from being rich. They know how to protect their wealth. Some persons who are the strongest advocates for increased taxes are very wealthy. They have made and sheltered theirs.
Conversely higher taxes keep some people from getting wealth. Higher taxes discourage adventurous investors from creating jobs that generate taxes and salaries for employees. This results in unemployment.

Tax cuts allow money to circulate more freely among the people rather than through government. An example of this was the recent tax break related to the purchase a heavy equipment. 60% was allowed on new equipment and 30% on used equipment. This allowed one local contractor to purchase 40 pieces of heavy equipment. This meant jobs were provided for the people selling the equipment, making the equipment, and those wage earners personally purchased items they needed and paid taxes. Without that tax break none of that would have happened. Those people would have been unemployed. That local scenario was played out countless times across America.

Lamentably some wealthy persons have selfishly spoiled this cycle. Critics of tax breaks use them as the norm. Like all systems it is dependent upon honest people to make it work.

There are numerous horror stories of government agencies misusing tax funds. Waste in government is a well documented reality. That doesn’t mean taxes in general should be abolished.

Lowering tax rates encourages investments within the country. Higher tax rates sends investors looking for foreign markets with a more favorable tax rate. It robs America of jobs. Fewer jobs mean more unemployed people looking to the government for money they could have otherwise earned in a job the government taxed out of existence to get the money to give them.

It is true that wealthy entrepreneurs make money. They also take the risk of possibly losing it.

The principle involves an old Biblical axiom: “Give and it shall be given unto you.”

Super Granny – Defender Of Justice

true story reported on the news in the USA

An elderly Florida lady did her shopping, and upon returning to her car, she found four males in the act of leaving with her vehicle. She dropped her shopping bags and drew her handgun, proceeding to scream at the top of her voice “I have a gun, and I know how to use it! Get out of the car!”

The four men didn’t wait for a second invitation. They got out and ran like mad. The lady, somewhat shaken, then proceeded to load her shopping bags into the back of the car and get into the driver’s seat. She was so shaken that she could not get her key into the ignition. She tried and tried, and then it dawned on her why.

A few minutes later she found her own car parked four or five spaces farther down. She loaded her bags into the car and then drove to the police station. The sergeant to whom she told the story doubled over on the floor with laughter.

He pointed to the other end of the counter, where four pale men were reporting a car jacking by a mad, elderly woman described as white, less than five feet tall, glasses, curly white hair, and carrying a large handgun.

Stem Cell Research: The Ethical Dilemma

There is a perilous vast uncharted sea that might be crossed. Beyond the horizon it is believed there might be the land of Utopia. Several vessels are poised to try to make the voyage. It is unknown if any can cross but known if one can cross several identifiable ones can also.

Based on that scenario why insist that all the cargo be placed in one vessel? This question is compounded by the fact that one vessel was made for a higher known mission.

Now the elements. The sea is stem cell research. The vessel is the human embryo. Other vessels are alternative sources of pluripotent stem cells. That is, human cells that may develop many types of body parts. Utopia is a cure for human being suffering from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, juvenile diabetes, spinal cord injuries or many other ailments.
It is not known for sure human embryos will prove to be a source to reverse these heartbreaking human conditions. The possibility of reversing such grievous conditions is inviting. Even if they can there is a moral issue involved.

Morals? All of us are moralist to some degree. Samuel Johnson, 18th Century literary giant, said “we are perpetually moralist.” Certain moral determinations are unavoidable. This is one. Regardless of which side of this issue you might be on you are a moralist. The issue pushes the envelope of bioethics.

Other vessels for the potential crossing are available. Dr. Edmund Pellegrino, the John Carroll professor of medicine and medical ethics at The Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University Medical Center, notes studies published in leading journals including Science, Nature, and Hepatology found that stem cells can be obtained from such sources as fetal tissue over eight weeks old, human placenta, umbilical cords, and adult bone marrow. These cells would still have the all-important pluripotentiality of embryonic stem cells to produce any cells desired, including heart, lung, and brain cells. He questions, “Why make or destroy embryos to obtain stem cells when we don’t have to?” Paraphrased, “Why use this vessel at all?” If it can reach Utopia so can others.

President Bush in addressing the issue echoed this fact saying, “You should also know that stem cells can be derived from sources other than embryos …. Many patients suffering a range of diseases are already being helped with treatments developed from adult stem cells.”

The President further noted that as a result of private research 60 genetically diverse lines already exist with the ability to reproduce themselves indefinitely, creating ongoing opportunities for research. He has proposed using federal funds for research using these existing lines. That opens a vast world of potential.

If the ethical sea, made perilous by ethical and moral hazards, is to be crossed to Utopia it need not be crossed in this one vessel, embryonic stem cells, only. Actually, at all. If crossed, a moral crossing is possible.

SOURCES: http://aolsvc.health.webmd.aol.com/content/pages/9/1691_50914.htm
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/08/20010809-2.html

Stem Cell Experiments

STEM CELL EXPERIMENTS
A short time ago President Bush was faced with a difficult decision. The issue evolved around embryonic stem cell experiments. What ever his decision it was certain to be opposed by a large block who disapproved of it. The potential benefits of such experiments were said to be many. Lives could potentially be saved and the quality of life for others improved. Those assets are not to be minimized. It was thought his decision would influence our culture physically and morally for years to come. Many who conceded it to be morally wrong argued the benefits were so great it was worth the compromise. Those who said there should be no moral compromise were thought to be lacking compassion and insensitive to the benefits.

If it were wrong is it OK to do wrong in order to get the opportunity to do right? There is a moral question confronted by every individual in every age. A certain segment of our society doesn’t like to be told anything is simply wrong.

It is grievous when proponents of moral compromise in order to achieve a good physical advantage later find there was a morally right way. Patience often allows for a win-win condition to be discovered. That is, there is found a moral way to achieve the same physical good. In making his decision that seemed to be what President Bush was delaying in hopes would happen. Well, there seems to be good news.

On January 23, 2002 “NEW SCIENTIST” published an article entitled “Ultimate Stem Cell Discovered.” Catherine Verfaillie at the University of Minnesota — who is an advocate of embryonic stem cell experiments – is reported to have discovered stem cells in adults that can turn into muscle, cartilage, bone, liver, nerve, or brain cells. The cells called “multipotent adult progenitor cells,” or MAPCs, can do everything embryonic stem cells can do.

The research indicates that MAPCs can form every tissue type in the body and can be grown in culture indefinitely without signs of aging. In addition, MAPCs don’t form cancerous masses when injected into adults, a major problem with embryonic stem cells.

Bottom line: This being true there is no longer a need to clone human beings or harvest stem cells from human embryos for genetic research. Future cures for cancer, leukemia, or diabetes can be pursued without the moral controversy surrounding these practices. If these studies are correct as reported the debate is changed. We would be able to be morally right and physically advantaged.

There is sage wisdom is stated two ways.

“Do not evil that good may come.”

“Never do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.”

As with the decision by President Bush there are persons who come down on both sides of those statements. However, they sure keep a moral compass on true north.

Sin: Its Cause And Effect

SIN: ITS CAUSE AND EFFECT
Disconnect! That is a major problem in America today.

Aboriginal child birth is an example. In the primitive regions of Australia in which remote Aborigines live they don’t understand the connection between conception and child birth. The lapse of nine months between the events causes a disconnect. They think child birth results from the woman sleeping facing a certain mountain the night before. Now that there is a clear example of a disconnect you can fill in the blanks.

The lapse of time between a childhood in which parents fail to instill civic, social, moral, and spiritual values and the time when that same person as an adult becomes a blight in society causes a disconnect. We fail to associate cause and effect.

Sexual promiscuity among young adults is resulting in a rise in sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, child birth out of wedlock, and depression. Disconnect! We fail to associate that with the fact 88% of all sex depicted on TV is outside marriage. We fail to connect this with ten million minors having a venereal disease and one million girls between the ages of twelve and seventeen getting pregnant each year.

Independent sources report one-fourth of all children or teens are suffering from some serious emotional problems, most frequently depression.

Skinny models, emaciated actresses, and cadaverous musicians are depicted as prototype body shapes. In the male world it is the macho athlete, virile model, and all round hulk who is considered the fantasy form to replicate. There is a disconnect between the lionizing of these prototypes and the fact nearly 8% of girls between puberty and age 18 suffer from anorexia or bulimia while over 10% of high school boys take steroids.

Dummies who commit crimes seem never to connect the crime with the possibility of getting caught. It is as though they only consider the benefit of getting away with it and never even think what will happen if caught. Disconnect!

There is a disconnect for many between smoking and lung cancer, between social drinking and alcoholism, between ingesting carcinogens and various illnesses, between reckless driving and auto fatalities, between greed and theft, between hate and murder.

Even if the two are understood to connect there is a second significant factor called deferred payment. Our system of economics involves purchasing on credit. Buy now and pay later makes payment seem less important. The principle of delayed consequence hints that for some reason you might never have to pay for your conduct.

To avoid undesirable results don’t do anything contingent on “getting away with it.” Act responsibly. Plant the seed of what you want to harvest. There is an old adage: “If you sow to the wind you reap the whirlwind.”

Conversely, if you plant wisely you harvest joyously. Conduct yourself today in such a way as to give your tomorrow self pleasant memories.

Sex In School

Across America educators and parents are asking why youth have suddenly become openly promiscuous. As reported in the news sex in the school house isn’t an uncommon thing.

Years ago the winner of a contest sponsored by a major railroad offered the following safety slogan: “STOP, LOOK, LISTEN.”

The same three steps will lead to an understanding as to why promiscuity is increasingly rampant.

Look and listen. For example view “Sex in the City,” and “Friends” on TV. These are two popular cute shows watched by youth. Observe what moral standard they depict.

Change the dial to MTV: stop, look, listen.

Look! Look at what youth are reading and viewing and evaluate what moral teachings are inherent in it. Go to a news stand, youth do, and read such teen targeted magazines as “Twist” and “Boy Crazy.” They are explicit and encouraging of promiscuity, especially oral sex. Take time to look at copies and evaluate what moral standard they represent.

Listen! If you can’t understand the words of most rap or other youth directed music the words are often printed on the label. Most Top 50 radio stations are playing recordings that leave nothing to the imagination. They depict unbridled sex as the norm commonly practiced.

Did you listen to what former President Clinton said wasn’t and was sex? The youth of America did. They can quote him on it.

There is an old computer norm: GIGO. It means what goes in goes out. What is programmed in comes out. The same principle applies to the most marvelous of computers, the human mind. What goes in the portals of the eyes and ears is acted out in life.

Now comes the “STOP” part. How can runaway immorality be stopped? The common answer is appropriate more money for security guards and surveillance cameras. In effect, build a higher fence.

Build a nine foot fence and a way to build a ten foot ladder is the result. To compensate for the ten foot ladder build an eleven foot fence. The ladder business doesn’t work. Taller ladders are always on the drawing board. They are built faster than fences.

A kangaroo was introduced in his new habitat at the zoo with an eight foot fence. The next day he was found wandering around the zoo. They built a ten foot fence with the same result. They built a fifteen foot fence and the next day he was still enjoying his freedom. Not even a twenty foot fence kept him in.

The lion in his adjacent compound asked the kangaroo, “Do you think they will ever devise a way to keep you in?” He replied, “Not unless someone thinks to lock the gate.”

The gate is the individual human mind and will. Only when youth are disciplined by parents who will “STOP” and give the attention youth deserve in order to develop self-discipline will the situation improve.

Marcus Aurelius, one of the “five good emperors of Rome,” said, “The life, like a temple, must be arched and buttressed from within or it will waver and crumble to the ground.”

This is an appeal for full time parental involvement by modeling and mentoring morals.

September 11

On September 11, 2001, more than the Twin Towers collapsed. A false philosophy fell also. Just as a counterfeit concept was gaining acceptance the tower tragedy exposed it as fraudulent.

In that moment we were dramatically reminded morality matters. Our society was being fed a diet of relativism. The theory that there are no absolutes was being popularized. Situational ethics were being propounded as acceptable.

Proponents of relativism teach there are no absolutes. Right and wrong, good and evil, if there are such things, are relative. Under the banner of tolerance they have declared one idea is as good as another and all are to be accepted as equal. Among youth this is causing difficulty in that some students are saying slavery in America and Nazism in Germany were appropriate because well intended people thought them to be. Regardless of who thought them right they were evil.

Ask a proponent of there being no absolutes if they are sure there are no absolutes and they might well answer, “Absolutely.”

Just as the concept that there is no objective difference in good and evil was catching on the terrorist taught us in an instant there is. The word “evil” once more emerged in public dialogue.

Some savants of New Age spiritualism as well as devotees to Eastern mystical religions assert sin is not real and there are no wrong choices. Darwin spawned the idea “wickedness is no more a man’s fault than bodily disease.” Apply that to the events of September 11, and try to get an understanding of the day. How can anyone now say evil is no one’s fault? The idea to destroy the towers and kill thousands crawled out of the dark cave of some devious mind.

The bleakest period in the history of ancient Israel was described as a time “When all did that which was right in their own eyes.” That is postgraduate relativism.

How can anyone advocate good and evil are interchangeable? “Exhibit A” that refutes this deception was demonstrated in New York. Evil guided the planes into the towers. Good drove the rescue workers, firefighters, and police up the shafts in attempts to save lives. Absolute evil and absolute good faced one another and good stared down evil.

Relativism is judgmental, exclusive, and partisan.

Relativism says if you believe in absolutes you are wrong. That makes it judgmental.

Relativism in saying there are no absolute truths excludes your belief in absolute truths and that makes it exclusive.

Relativism excludes all persons who are non-relativists from their supposedly “right thinking party.” That makes it partisan.

This is a time for assessment. We each need to face the mirror reflecting our personal morality and ask if we have bought into rationalism and relativism. Parents need to use this as a teaching time. Obviously the parents of a young William Penn taught their son there are absolutes. In adulthood he framed the issue in these words: “Right is right though all men be against it and wrong is wrong though all be for it.”

Separation Of Church And State

The courageous founders of our country knew full well the likely result of their bold declaration of independence. Often persons say, “Let’s hang together” to encourage friends to stick together on an issue. This challenge to cohesiveness is said almost flippantly. When first uttered by one of the signers of our Declaration of Independence it referred to being executed for what they were signing and continued: “Let us hang together or we will hang separately.”

They were not lacking in resolve nor naive regarding the result. At great cost they gave us our liberty.

These immortal words by Thomas Jefferson are inscribed in the Jefferson Memorial in our Nation’s Capitol: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure if we have removed from the hearts of the people belief that those liberties are the gift of God?”

In our rush to purge our institutions of public reference to deity we have removed from the hearts of many any belief in God from the hearts of many people. A statement intended to insure God a place in our nation’s life has been used to remove Him. It is that infamous banality “separation of church and state.” Few know its origin. Many think it is an extraction from our Constitution.

Many of the colonists came to America from Europe where England had an official religion, the Church of England, Germany had an official state religion, Lutheran, Spain and Italy, Catholicism.

The Baptists in Banbury, Connecticut were fearful a particular denomination would be made the official religion of theirs and other states. At the time the policy was so entrenched that John Adams said, “You might as well expect a change in the solar system as to expect us to give up our established churches.” The Baptists wrote President Thomas Jefferson soliciting his aid in insuring that no one denomination would be made the state church.

Few dare read all of Jefferson’s letter in response dated January 1, 1802. Therein he assures the Baptist Christian and moral teachings as found in the Bible would never be separated from government. In asserting the state could do nothing to restrict religion he assured them there was a “Great wall of separation.” Meaning the principle of the First Amendment prohibited the state from “restricting the free exercise thereof.” The limitation was on the state not the church. Up until 1947 there were many Supreme Court rulings that interpreted the Amendment in that light.

Two days later President Jefferson went to church. The service was held in the House of Representatives with the Speaker’s desk serving as the pulpit. The music was by the Marine Corps Band. Church was also held in the Supreme Court Building and the Treasury Building. That is a clue as to what the First Amendment was intended to mean.

To have a freedom and not use it is little better than not having it. Let’s use our freedom of worship constructively.

Scouts And Homosexuality

Persons of all faiths empathize with Catholic friends over the incomprehensible, irresponsible, and reprehensible conduct of a few of their priests regarding their pedophiliac actions. Many lives have been permanently stained by the actions of a few who have betrayed the trust of their faith. The actions of this minority have cast a shadow of mistrust on the legion of loyalist who have live true to their commitments. There are many priests who have served faithfully in obscure roles that have changed lives for the good. Many have consistently served their constituents with compassion and uncompromising character. They deserve not to be stereotyped.

Some church leaders have understandably been criticized for not removing known perpetrators of pedophiliac conduct from roles involving children. Further criticism has been expressed for the guilty not being subjected to civil law before now.

The strong impulse of those so inclined was dramatized by a pedophile who is being considered for parole in an interview on national television. He said, “I can’t say what I will do if released. Along might come some child and I will say, “Hum, I wonder!’.”

Now consider another side of this crime against children. A little consistency doesn’t hurt. While at the same time demands are being made to remove guilty priests demands are being made for the Boy Scouts to involve persons of the same moral persuasion in leadership roles. Duh!

The United States Supreme Court has upheld the right of the Scouts not to allow such persons in leadership roles. Nevertheless, an anti-Scout campaign prospers across America. The Los Angeles City Council, the New York City School Board, in San Francisco anti-Scout movements flourish. Minneapolis, Dade County Florida, Santa Barbara, California, and Farmington, Massachusetts have banned all Scout recruitment and prohibited distribution of Scout materials in schools. Various charities have stopped their support and many public facilities now have prohibitions against use by Scouts.

Isn’t the much demanded tolerance applicable to Scouts?

In many public schools some versions of sex education, under the heading of “family health,” advocate conduct such as practiced by the guilty priests. Curricula materials have been written with the advice of a group called Gay Men’s Health Crisis. This effort to encourage tolerance for those whose lifestyle is different from that of many families of the children has resulted in a number of crimes against children. Little wonder in that part of the instruction is on the safe way to have oral sex.

This is written with awareness that it might not be PC in some circles. It is written as an appeal for consistency. If an act is wrong for a priest it is wrong for everyone. If a priest who engages in pedophiliac conduct should not be allowed to work around children should such a person be allowed to work with Boy Scouts?

Saint Patrick’s Day

They called Patrick a saint long before there was any such formal title applied. Legend is so tightly woven with history that at times it is challenging to discern what is which.

He was born an Anglo Saxon in southwestern Britain under Roman rule in 389 A.D. In 405 A.D., while working on his father’s farm he was captured by Irish raiders and sold as a slave. As a young swine herdsman in Ulster he experienced extreme hardship and loneliness. He witnessed and experienced the cruel pagan Irish way of life that characterized the era. The trauma of hearing the screams of a young prince being roasted alive impacted his life dramatically. His harsh years in Ireland brought him to a deep personal faith in Christ.

In 411 A.D., while praying, his understanding was illumined as to how to escape. At age 22 he escaped by ship to France and back to be reunited with his family in Britain. One year later he returned to France and studied with Germanus at Auxerre. Though by no means a scholar he was a devotee to His Lord. He was self-conscious of his lack of academic ability and did little writing until late in life.

In 432 A.D. he turned aside the appeal of his parent not to return to Ireland where he served as a Christian missionary until 462 A.D. It is said he “found Ireland all heathen and left it all Christian.” He established over 300 churches and baptized more than 120,000. His rustic simplicity and spiritual sincerity prevailed.

An elemental understanding of the culture in which he achieved this makes it all the more remarkable. The Ireland to which he returned practiced a religion of animistic polytheism which entailed worshiping the sun, moon, and numerous objects. They had a preoccupation with demons, fairies, and elves. The white robed druid priests practiced divination, counseled kings, formulated laws, and sacrificed first born children on open air altars.

He disregarded all obstacles, his fears, and hesitations to serve the people who had persecuted him as a slave in his youth. Upon hearing of his return his former slave master, Millucc, out of fear committed suicide. He is characterized by courage and persistent devotion. He prayed for and ministered to King Loegaire (pronounced Leery) who ultimately converted to Christianity and thus opened the national door to the gospel.

Though not a scholar he hit upon one of the simplest and most brilliant ways of illustrating the complex doctrine of the Trinity. He likened it to a shamrock. Having three petals it is yet one shamrock, three-in-one.

That application has helped persons understand the concept of three-in-one, the Tri-unity. Similarly, H2O in liquid form is water, in a solid form is ice, and in the form of a gas is a vapor. Yet it is one and the same.

In 1845, his birth day, March 17, began to be celebrated as a festive holiday known as Saint Patrick’s Day. It has since become known as “a great day for the Irish.”

Disregard the snake story. He dealt with and defeated a greater dragon.

“Saint Patrick’s Prayer” also known as “Saint Patrick’s Breastplate” stated in part:
“I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall with me be ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.”

Ronald Reagan: The Great Communicator

America just celebrated two great acts of liberation.

The 60th Anniversary of D-Day marked the beginning of the final military assault that eventuated in the liberation of western Europe. Over 300,000 military personnel on approximately 70,000 differing boats and ships assaulted the beaches of Normandy in acts of uncommon valor. That initial day over 10,000 allied forces died and world of millions in western Europe were dramatically changed. We all needed a reminder of that great sacrifice in interpreting the events of today.

The second celebration was actually occasioned by a death and funeral. In the death of the lionized President Ronald Reagan note needs to be made of him being the human instrument responsible for the liberation of as many people in eastern Europe.

His incomparable charge issued in Berlin, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear this wall down,” caused the iron curtain of Communism to waver and eventually fall all around the suppressed people of eastern Europe. His strong will is seen in his daring to use that phrase against the advice of his councilors who even in the limo on the way to give the speech urged him not to use it. That emancipation, however, freed almost as many people as the invasion of Europe under President Roosevelt.

Today western Europe responds to us in a manner indicating they have forgotten what price the citizens of America paid for them. In eastern Europe the situation being more current is different. Leaders of these emerging countries are emulating President Reagan in many regards. Also, their support of our current policies comes from an awareness of what it means to be liberated.

Like him or not, and I did, Mr. Reagan changed the world like no other figure in recent years. His amiable nature, winsome smile, wit, and the ability to encapsulate a world of meaning in simple phrases is missed. His integrity showed itself in that he had such respect for the office of president he refused to take off his coat at any time in the Oval Office. Contrasted with a man who obviously delighted to take off his pants at any time and his dignity is all the more admirable.

He was not flawless nor were all of his policies perfect but in summary he was a leader among leaders. Many of his detractors had such contempt for his policies they have spent years trying to destroy his legacy. Perhaps in death it will yet enjoy the embellishment deserved.

Just before his TV debate with President Carter, which he won, he asked for a few minutes alone with “the Man upstairs.” His near death experience enriched his personal spiritual life and doubtless helped equip him for his long goodby veiled in Alzheimer’s disease. Now he can spend eternity upstairs with the Lord for whom he had ever increasing love.

These two great feats of emancipation stand as evidences of this truth spoken by President Reagan, “The nature of freedom is that it is fragile. It must be protected, watched over, sometimes fought over.”

Thank you Mr. Reagan for reminding us this generation must fulfill its role as the one you lead and “the Greatest Generation” did theirs. Lest we forget let’s make good use of it.

Religious Freedom

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
James Madison, known as the “Father of our Constitution” met with a Baptist preacher named John Leland under a tree at the corner of what in now Madison and Leland Avenues in Richmond. They were to run for office against each other. However, Leland, a five to one favorite, didn’t want to run.

In that meeting Leland persuaded Madison an amendment to the Constitution was needed that would provide religious freedom and give every denomination equal footing. People had fled Europe because of various state churches. England had the Church of England, German the Lutheran Church, Spain and Italy the Catholic Church. These were funded by the state to the exclusion of other denominations.

There was strong growing sentiment in America for there to be no official denomination. Madison agreed to propose such an amendment and Leland withdrew. Thus, the First Amendment came to be to guarantee all denominations freedom. It is a prohibition on the government not the church.

Read it: “Congress shall make no laws….”

In Banberry, Connecticut a group of Baptist wrote Thomas Jefferson about their concerns related to there being no official denomination established by the government. Jefferson had no part in drafting our Constitution and wasn’t even at the convention. He was a respected public figure. In Jefferson’s response he assured the group there would be no official denomination because there was a great wall separating church and state. A reading of his full letter makes it apparent what he meant. He was assuring them there would be no official state church. That is, no one denomination would be the official denomination.

The “wall” isn’t mentioned in the Constitution. The First Amendment was intended to assure the people all denominations would be treated equal and was intended restrict government not the church.

That is the way law was interpreted until 1947 when Justice Black in effect made a new law on behalf of the court by applying the statement to virtually exclude the church from public life. For over 150 years the intent of the restriction being on government was understood. Only recently did courts reverse the intent. For years the issue was a one way street restricting government. Then courts reversed the traffic and made it a one way street going the other way and restricting the church.

This is one of the principle reasons some persons don’t want judges appointed who believe in the “laws of nature and natures God.” The expression referred to laws revealed through nature and the latter to the laws of God revealed through Scripture.

Constitutional law is based on the intent of those who established our Constitution. In modern times as evolution gained popularity the thought of evolving law emerged in the Harvard Law School. A move away from interpreting law based on the content and intent of the Constitution began to emerge based on what is known as a “living Constitution” or “dynamic Constitution.” Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes espousing this position said, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.”

Our forefathers wanted to let freedom ring —- religious freedom.

Prostitots: Little Britneys

On my way driving through my home town recently I had occasion to drive by a humble little brick house. It is on a gravel road with the railroad running through the back yard. There is a small metal building outback that was used as a home gym where the mother of the household taught dancing.

The nearest town, my home town, has a population of about 400 and the second nearest about 2,000. The nearest city is Baton Rouge about 75 miles away.

The house brought two questions to mind. It is reminiscent of a question asked of the ancient village of Nazareth, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

The second question was, “What difference can one person make?”

One of the most influential people in America was reared in that house. No fashion designer has ever had as much influence on youth attire as she. Brittany Spears has influenced not only wardrobes but the morals of young America dramatically. She has influenced youth fashion more than mothers and dads, school boards, and all other influences in society combined.

A group dressing and acting like her has resulted in the coining of a new word, “prostitots.” Middle school and high school youth are emulating her and she Madonna and she what only prostitutes wore a short time ago.

I keep hoping Britney will make enough money she can buy clothes that fit.

In Dublin, Ireland we saw many Britney “wannabes” on the streets. She was playing to a sold out crowd there that night.

Out in the open country about five miles from the house of her youth is her new dwelling. It is a mansion sitting on a ridge flanked by a large guest house on one side and the pool house on the other. The metal fence is made of twelve foot spears tipped in gold. The setting is dramatic amid the majestic oaks.

Psychologists say one way to change your mood and outlook is to “act as if.” If you are emotionally down start acting as though you are up and soon you will be. Apply that principle to our youth culture.

First, there are some youth with high morals that are naively copying Britney. Allow for that minority in evaluating this.

A person is not suggestive because they dress suggestively.

A person dresses suggestively because they are suggestive.

If that is true Britney has influenced more than clothes. She has influenced the morals of youthful Americans. They think suggestive thoughts and their wardrobes signal it.

Moms and dads did you hear that?

They dress like prostitots because they think like prostitots.

Parents, not MTV or Britney nor emotionally and socially immature youth should influence how youth dress. That can be a bitter battlefield on which parents and children fight it out. It can also be a forum in which parents and children bond by understanding each other.

President Bush And Judicial Appointments

Here come the judges.

There will be a litmus test for judges in America. The question is whose test?

When Nancy Palosi and Teddy Kennedy say there will be no litmus test for appointment of judges they are saying the president can’t have a defined standard for his appointments. One tactic often applied is to avoid persons noting what you are doing by accusing your opponent of doing what you are doing. In focusing attention on the president having a litmus test they are covering the fact they do have one themselves.

One to watch for is whether a candidate believes in “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” That phrase is in our Declaration of Independence. When the petitions of Americans for redress of their grievances went unanswered by the king the Continental Congress appealed to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

Thomas Jefferson who wrote that phrase was familiar with Blackstone’s writing on law. Blackstone defined it in this way: “This law of nature being co-eval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, and all countries, and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately from this original.”

Jefferson was a Deist who believed a deity set the universe in motion and gave their “nature” to everything. To insure this was not the limit intended by the phrase members of the congress concluded the document with a more orthodox Christian reference: “the protection of Divine Providence.”

Current proponents of the concept of “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” are generally inclined toward Constitutional law and interpret law in light of it rather than making contemporary laws that often conflict with the intent of the Constitution.

Watch for that as a catch phrase in and Supreme Court hearing.

The judges to be appointed, like those before them, will dramatically color the conscience of America. One reason Americans elected President Bush was the importance of the appointment of judges. It was known where he stood on the issue and in supporting him they were endorsing the appointment of such judges. They wanted the type judges President Bush would appoint not the type Senator Kerry would recommend. For a minority in Congress to keep appointments grid locked would be to frustrate the will of the people.

Stalwart detractors of the President say he should cooperate with them. Should not they cooperate with him? Who won? Who had a majority of the votes? Who ran saying he would fulfill the promises he made in order to get elected? He said he would appoint justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Don’t be surprised if he does. That is what he was elected to do.

President Bush’s Global Peace Initiative

President Bush delivered an Inaugural Address that will go down in history as a monumental one. What he proposes is an idyllic world. History has never known an era when such was a reality. It is a noble concept that bumps its nose against the plate glass reality of man’s inhumanity to man. We could all hope his philosophy will catch fire and afford freedom and peace as never before.

The Twentieth Century was a bloody one like those before it. It is this pattern of human conduct that would have to be reversed for his ideals to be an admirable reality. Consider these war casualties resulting from conflicts in the Twentieth Century. Different sources record differing totals. These come from “The Twentieth Century Atlas – Death Tolls.”

Russia lost 14,000 troops in Afghanistan and in the continuing Chechnya conflict 10,500+.

Following are a few countries involved in World War I, the number of casualties for each, and the percent of their combatants lost.
Russia, 6,650,000, 55%; Germany, 5,952,000, 54%; France, 5,651,000, 75%; Austria, 4,820,000, 74%; Bulgaria, 254,000, 64%; Canada, 241,000, 39%; U.S., 321,000, 8%.

Staggering death totals are recorded from these conflicts:
The Congo Free State (1886-1908) lost an estimated low of 8,000,000 and a high of 21,000,000. The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) involved 2,100,000 fatalities. In Armenia between 1915 and 1923, there were 1,500,000 killed. In the China Warlord era (1917-1928) 800,000 died and in their Nationalist era (1928-1937) 3,1000,000. 1948-1987, North Korea committed 1,293,000 domecides. In the conflict between North Korea/China and American allied 2,800,000. In Rwanda and Burundi between 1959-1995, there were 1,250,000 killed. The second Indochina War recorded 3,500,000 casualties. Kinshasa Congo in 1998, there were 3,300,000 killed. The war between Iran and Iraq (1980-1988) resulted in over 1,000,000 fatalities. In Nigeria between 1966-1970, 5,000,000 died in conflict.

Obviously there was no liberty and justice for all. Annually millions die in wars of which we never hear. These astronomical totals do not diminish the value of one American lost in combat. They do not justify war but they put it in a perspective of which most of us aren’t aware.

It would be nice if all the bad guys in the world would go away and leave us alone. We would be perfectly willing for that to happen. Unfortunately it isn’t going to happen. Eternal vigilance is an absolute necessity to maintain our freedom. An even greater price in lives and money than that already required may well be necessitated to preserve liberty within our own country.

Our president has indicated diplomacy is the primary means of trying to bring peace to nations. There is too much to be lost not to try.

Post War Iraq And Afghanistan

Post war Iraq and Afghanistan are seen by many as hopeless regions destined to have continued tribal conflicts. It may be. It does not have to be. There is in the Muslim world an example of a state once in a similar condition that overcame it. The transition was led by the man named by Time magazine as the greatest leader of the Twentieth Century. Most Americans don’t even know his name.

Kemal Ataturk led Turkey out of the Ottoman culture to become a cohesive republic. It was as socially, culturally, tribally, and racially diverse as Afghanistan. Not all of his dealings in doing so would be smiled upon by Westerners but were actually mild compared to what he was dealing with.

Being on two continents its largest cultural groups were Kurds, Arabs, Circassian, and Armenians. There were large colonies of Russians, Greeks, Mongols, and Jews also.

Language diversity and a primitive language more suited for a former era were a challenge. Ataturk did away with the Arabic alphabet and replaced it with a completely phonetic Roman alphabet very much like ours.

Turkish women had no rights and were in all things subservient to their fathers and/or husbands. They too wore veils in public and were uneducated. Today men and women have equal rights. A large proportion of women serve in its parliament.

Now public education is mandated. Compulsory education applies to all under age 15. I asked one teacher in Kusadasi if they had discipline problems in their schools. The answer was no. Teachers are highly respected and revered. Students look upon them as their hope for a better life. They idolize their teachers.

Though ninety-eight percent of the population is Muslim there is religious freedom. Most Muslims are Sunni, the orthodox branch of Islam. Emperor Justinian built the awe inspiring cathedral of Saint Sophia in the 500’s. During the Ottoman era it was converter into a mosque. Under Ataturk it was turned into a museum for use by all faiths.

When the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 they plastered over the Christian mosaics of Saint Sophia. After the building was made a museum in 1933 work was begun to restore the Christian mosaics.

In general the Turkish people are among the most warm and friendly of any country I have visited. They are much more open and conversant with people they don’t know than Americans. Children are courteous and adults polite. Like all nations they have a minority of radicals and extremist but the government works to control them.

Many repressed Iraq and Afghanistan people are Western educated and very capable of giving leadership to that torn society and even making it open to Christian aid workers like those recently imprisoned there. Then a new Phoenix will have arisen from ashes.

The Pledge Of Allegiance

John Leland in appealing to the Father of our Constitution, James Madison, for religious freedom wrote:

“There is no Bill of Rights. Whenever a number of men enter int a state of society, a number of individual rights must be given up to society, but there should be a memorial of those not surrendered, otherwise, every natural and domestic right becomes alienable, which raises tyranny at once, and this is as necessary in one form or government as in another.” Now, there is a thought! Note, “a number of rights must be given up to society.”

Acting in response to Leland’s appeal Madison acted when the First Congress convened in January 1789. Early in the session Madison presented the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution, called the Bill of Rights. In part the first of these stated: “Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Parenthetically, neither should the courts.

This Bill of Rights was intended to do two things. One, was to forbid the establishment of a state sponsored denomination as was common in Europe. Second, it restricts laws being made “prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This simply leveled the playing field for all denominations and removed road blocks to the practice of religion.

The proponents of the First Amendment wanted to insure freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion.

To pledge allegiance or not to pledge? Somebody’s right have to be given up. If we have freedom of speech, if we have freedom of religion, if we have a pledge approved by Congress in 1952, and practiced by millions ever since —- let’s pledge.

Why should the rights of the vast majority have to be given up to appease a religious minority?

Atheism is a form of religious belief about God.

Why do atheist want the Pledge of Allegiance removed from schools? Are they trying to convert Christians to their belief in no God?

A glimpse of what Congress intended is found in this Congressional Decree of 1782:
“It being the indispensable duty of all nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general…”

It continued and concluded:
“…they do further recommend to all ranks and testify their gratitude of God for his goodness, by cheerful obedience to his laws, and by protecting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.”

In these turbulent times of terrorism we need to consider well these words of Benjamin Franklin: “We need God to be our friend, not our adversary.”

Let’s pledge!

Pete Rose And Forgiveness

Pete Rose, the great ex-Cardinal baseball layer, has confessed to what he denied for 14 years. He bet on baseball weekly.

The title of his new book reveals what a person who is living a lie goes through. It is entitled “My Prison Without Bars.” He has been living a lie.

Now some sports writes are trying to put society on a guilt trip regarding whether Rose should be forgiven and allowed entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Forgiveness is a guilt trip on which many travel.

Occasionally a minister will commit a sin that stains his image and injures his entire congregation. When caught there is repentance. If it is genuine should he be forgiven? Absolutely.

Here is where complexity sets in. A fault line of controversy develops over should he be restored? The answer is a resounding “Yes.” Everyone who can should aid his restoration, but to what? To spiritually restore a person means to help restore their broken relationship with the Lord. A problem arise when some interpret restoration to mean to return the person to their former position. Not so!

Upon repentance the sin is forgiven but there is a natural consequence. Moses killed an Egyptian and repented. He was forgiven and his relationship restored with the Lord but there was a consequence. He was not allowed to enter the land of promise. David committed adultery, repented, was forgiven and his spiritual state restored. The consequence was he was not permitted to build the Temple. King Saul disobeyed God by not carrying out His battle plan against King Agag. Saul’s response when caught was basically, “OK, you got me, now let’s forget the whole thing and carry on.” A modern English street language response of God was, “Not so fast. You are fired as king.” There was a natural consequence.

The Baseball Hall of Fame has a standard which Rose does not meet. In 1927 a “permanent” ban against admission to the Hall of Fame was established to apply to persons having done what Rose did. He now admits it but the fact remains he disqualified himself by his own actions. The ban states it is “permanent.”

Simply admitting guilt does not absolve a person and mean all is right with the world. Contrition, confession, and spiritual cleansing means everything is right with the Lord. The repentant person then has the wonderful asset of God’s grace in dealing with the consequence.

Peace On Earth

PEACE ON EARTH
Are these words written by Henry Longfellow appropriate for today?

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet their words repeat of peace on earth good will to men.

“And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,’ I said, “for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.'”

September 11, made a mockery of those words. In addition to the events of that day being an attack on every American they were an affront to the one the ancient prophets said would be “The Prince of Peace.” Where is the peace spoke of by angels at the birth of Jesus Christ? Their words of “Peace on earth good will to men” reverberate with unfulfilled hope.

As with all movements disciples of the master often disgrace their master. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Pope looking the other way when Hitler and Mussolini were at work with his knowledge are examples.

The Prince of Peace promised a special blessing on the peacemaker. That is a worthy aspiration.

This season gives occasion for inspiring words of songs such as these to be heard:
“Sleep in heavenly peace…”

“Praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.”

“All glory be to God on high, and to the earth be peace.”

“Pray for peace people everywhere…”

That angelic presaging of peace on earth has been misunderstood to be a prophecy of peace. It is not a prophecy of peace but a prescription for peace found in a person, the “Prince of Peace.” It is sung of in the thrilling carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing:” “Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled.”

It was as though by divine revelation Longfellow continued to write his verse:

“Then peals the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor does He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

This peace is not contingent on an external status but an internal condition. It is a peace that passes understanding. It is based on an awareness that all things might not be OK but that you are alright. It belongs to those who have established a gratifying lifestyle and settled the issue of their eternal destiny by coming to terms with the Prince of Peace. They live in a win – win condition.

There is a dynamic spiritual thread running through all this. Many don’t think it is PC to be spiritual. Since September 11 people have become more aware of the frailty of life and finality of death. PC is brushed aside and raw reality faced. It is summed up in the expression, “I am mortal and need to consider my immortal state in time and for eternity.” Once settled then the peace that passes understanding is experienced. Peace!

Pacifism vs. War

“War is hell!” General Sherman said it well. War is abhorrent and should be avoided by all means. However, when the means run out war breaks out.

The most hellish part of war is innocent civilian casualties. When you hear them reported don’t forget to count the first 3,000 innocent civilians here in America who were given no opportunity to prepare in advance. Every one counts and no life should be considered cheap.

Various means were used to try to avoid the current conflict. Those in the know considered all means to have been exhausted. All that was left was war.

In Germany in the late 1930s Rhinehold Niebuhr was a German pastor, a pacifist. He did not like the political climate developing in his beloved Germany so he left and came to America as a devout pacifist. Soon he heard of the atrocities being committed by the Nazi’s against innocent people. He returned to Germany as a pastor. This was almost a certain death sentence. He wrote much about peace, war, and pacifism. He strongly favored pacifism. It is an admirable ideal. However, in light of what he saw and heard was happening he wrote also of evil. Truly, what was happening in Germany at the time was pure raw evil unbridled. He concluded that when evil becomes so malignant and aggressive war is the only alternative to stopping it. Reaching this conclusion led him to endorse war as a means of preventing even more death and destruction perpetuated by evil. That is exactly what America and the world is facing. Any philosophy or pseudo religion that takes 3,000 lives and costs many a livelihood is evil. A war against such evil is a preservative of life and a restorer of peace.

There are two essentials to win a war. One is a superior military strategy and weaponry. The second is the strong will of the populace to stay the course and finish the task. There is no doubt we have the former. It is up to us to consistently show we have the latter. Every time our will wavers we should envision those twin towers coming down burying nearly 7,000 innocent civilians. We should also project what the result will be if we falter and fail.

The only thing of larger caliber than our weapons must be our people.

We will win this war. In the process we likely will lose some battles. Some of those losses may be on our soil and of significant proportions. It is then the public must show its will to stay the course in order to avoid additional casualties. Keep in mind this war is being fought to save the lives of civilians like those in the towers, on the plane forced down in Pennsylvania, and in the Pentagon.

History is replete with accounts of the effectiveness of prayer in all of life. We dare not neglect it in this one phase of our national life. Pray for wisdom on behalf of the United States and its allies and for the Lord to blind the eyes of the evil ones.

News vs. Our Need To Know

Does the chief of police have to explain what he might have do to prevented it every time there is a murder?

Does a highway patrolman have to tell what action he or she might have taken to prevent a person from violating a speed limit?

When a military officer is confronted with a type of warfare never known does he have to explain what he might have done to avoid it?

When a president is faced with a terrorist plot never conceived of by healthy moral minds does he have to explain what he might have done to prevent it? Had he known he would have done anything within his power to prevent it.

What President Bush was confronted with on 9/11 had never been experienced or envisioned. How could he have done anything to prevent it when he nor any one else knew what it was in advance?

Is the President alone supposed to make ours a perfect world? Some persons are treating him as though he, not Osama, is responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Towers.

We are subjecting our president to unprecedented demands to know what he knew. There are times and things heads of state need to keep confidences. Consider the response to the following had the press of the time had the same attitude as today.

At a critical moment during World War II our allied forces broke the German secret code. This major breakthrough enabled our forces to decode and read all the enemies’ secretly coded messages regarding troop deployment, defense placement, and other information vital to our planned invasion of Europe. This gave us tremendous advantages.

One message received chilled British intelligence and was relayed to Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. It told of plans to bomb the beautiful British city of Coventry. This lovely old city was one of England’s crown jewels.

The Prime Minister knew that with the insight gained they could evacuate the city and prepare air defenses to give it greater protection. He also knew that if he did so the Germans would know their secret code had been broken. In order not to reveal knowledge of the secret code in hopes to interpret further messages and have greater advantages in preparing for the invasion, the Prime Minister left Coventry unwarned and unprotected.

On the night of November 24, 1940, nearly 500 German bombers bombed the historical English city of Coventry. Over 600 tons of explosives and thousands of incendiaries were dropped. Over 70,000 homes were ruined and 400 people killed. The centerpiece of the city, their magnificent 14th Century cathedral was destroyed.

What did the Prime Minister know and what might he have done to prevent it? Having to answer would have resulted in an even greater disaster on D-Day. Like Churchill our President is entitled to certain respect and confidences.

Nelson Price Treatment Center

It has been my good fortune to attend many graduation exercises. Never has one failed to inspire me. It marks a noteworthy achievement in the life of a person.

Recently I had the good fortune of attending a very distinctive one. Students were graduating from a drug rehabilitation program. Most had been in the program for a year. During that time they have been provided private education in the rehab center. Some finished high school and others got their GED. All of them are going on further in their education. The highly qualified teachers in the center have inspired them to achieve more academically than they ever had. The personal touch helped motivate them.

The Program Coordinator is Ricky Wallace who received his undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas, a Masters of Science in Community Psychology from Troy State University, and a Masters of Social Work from Clark Atlanta University. His competent staff shares his commitment to excellence.

Jill Lees, a 2000 Cum Laude graduate from Georgia State with a Master’s Degree in Counseling serves as the Educational Coordinator. She has advanced the school to where it is a candidate for SACS Accreditation by 2004 as a Special Purpose School. This will allow them to establish varsity basketball and softball teams.

The center provides for 28 in-house clients, male and female, of high school age. Four different nationalities were involved. It being a small class family members, fellow clients, teachers, and friends were given an opportunity to share briefly about individual clients. It was moving to hear insight regarding the condition of various ones as they reluctantly entered and how they are now. Bitterness, anger, hostile, and sullen were words used to describe them at point of entry.

The talent level of the grads was far above average. Each has the ability to be an achiever. Some have worked outside the center at times during the day. Employers spoke of their work ethic and sense of responsibility. All of this ability was shrouded by drugs. The chemical curtain had been drawn on them and their time on the stage of life played out in addiction.

One mother said, “I am glad to have my daughter back.” She spoke as though her child had been a distance away. She had, for distance speaks of more than miles.

The facility is only a year old so it still has that sparkling new look and smell. If their regular diet is anything like the meal they and guests enjoyed they eat well. It was nutritious and attractively presented. Clients and guests were free to eat in the cafeteria or the lovely outdoor pavilion by the basketball court.

I am proud of this facility and program in part because it is called: “The Nelson Price Treatment Center.” It is located at 729 Lawrence Street in Marietta. Small groups wanting to visit the center as well as families needing the service can call 770-514-8255. And can be reached online at: www.gbchfm.org/pages.asp?pageid=4980

It is a route back into the real world made better by their return.

Muslim Militance

Not all Baptists are alike. Now that I have stated the mother of all understatements let me spin off that principle.

Not all Muslims are alike. There are some genuinely peaceful ones. I have a number of acquaintances in the middle east who are. Some are passive or neutral about their faith. They practice their faith and are not concerned about persons of other faiths. They tolerate different faiths. A segment is militant about their faith believing it to be the only true faith. Among these are those who believe in their faith so strongly they want to annihilate persons of other faiths. These form the nucleus of the terrorist organizations. It is for them a matter of religion.

It is a struggle as old as Abraham’s sons Isaac and Ishmael.

The Bible says Abraham was promised a son who would extend his lineage through the ages as a great race.

Sarah, his wife, was 90 years of age when Abraham was given the promise. Because her age made the likelihood of childbearing improbable she gave her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham for her to bear the son. This was not an uncommon practice in the era. Hagar bore Ishmael.
The Bible teaches Ishmael was not the child of promise. Sarah was the one by whom the heir was to be born. At the age of 100 Sarah bore Isaac whom Scripture says was the rightful descendent through which the promise was to be kept.

The story as told in the Bible Book of Genesis (11:29 -25:10) was written around the second millennium B.C. In the Bible narrative Abraham recognized God as the Almighty Lord and Author of the covenant by which the Hebrews would become a mighty nation.

Fast forward. A young Arab named Muhammad was impressed that the Jews and Christians had a book and the Arab people didn’t. He called them “the people of the book.” Actually the Bible is intended for all people and contains wonderful promises to the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael (Genesis 16:10 & 21:20).

Muhammad wrote what is known as the Koran, the holy book of the Muslims. Semitic scholars agree there was no evidence of the Koran until 691 A.D., 59 years after the death of Muhammad. Much of what is known of Muhammad is based on texts that were written 300 years after his death.

The version of Abraham’s descendants varies greatly in the Koran and the Bible. In the Koran Ishmael becomes the child of promise and his descendants, the Arabic people, the chosen people.

Both accounts can’t be right. For the militant Muslims this is the point to be defended. If the Bible is right the Koran contains error. Thus, the militant defense. Again I want to note not all Muslims are incited to Jihad over this issue but to some it is so vital as to merit a holy war to defend the honor of the Koran and its teachings. Osama Bin Laden is exhibit “A” of the zealous Muslims who are motivated by their religious beliefs to defend the honor of the religion by militant means against unbelief. Those persons in Iraq now decrying the presence of the Coalition Forces in Iraq are of this school of thought. Their zeal prompts them to insist on a Muslim State governed by the Koran. In Iraq there are many Muslims who are appreciative of what has been done to free them from their suppressive ruler who was himself, at least in name, a Muslim.

The holy books are the nexus of the conflict for those Muslims who are militant.

Mormonism

With the Olympics garnering such public attention it is natural that Mormonism will be highlighted in a very favorable manner. Recently Dr. Joe McKeever of First Baptist Church in Kenner, Louisiana wrote the following on the subject. “The January 21, 2002, issue of “The New Yorker,” carries an article on Mormonism by Lawrence Wright. This religion will be much on display in Salt Lake City in a few days, as the Winter Olympics get underway. After giving a history and some impressive data on the church’s membership and influence, Wright tackles the shaky historical foundation for this religion. That’s where his story takes off. No one disputes that in 1835, Joseph Smith–the founding bishop of Mormonism–purchased some Egyptian mummies and papyri that were touring America. Since no one could read the hieroglyphs, Smith announced that the writing on the papyri was actually “reformed Egyptian,” and proceeded to give it his own translation. According to him, these were writings from the patriarch Abraham while in Egypt, revelations that established the preexistence of the soul, declared a plurality of gods, and excluded Blacks from the priesthood. “The Book of Abraham” became one of the foundation stones of the new church. Interestingly, Smith left behind notes on this ancient language in his own handwriting–which provided historians with the smoking gun, so to speak.

After Smith died in 1844, the papyri were sold and were thought to have burned in the Chicago fire of 1871. They turned up a few years ago in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and were restored to the LDS church. Innocently, the leaders called in four noted experts on Egypt to examine the documents. Far from being the writings of Abraham, the papyri contained nothing more than instructions for burying the dead. There was no “Book of Abraham.”
A few church members resigned in disgust. A book in my library defending the Smith translation (the authors are Mormon) says the present papyri is not the material used in the Book of Abraham, but are merely fragments and therefore untrustworthy. “New Yorker” reporter Wright says, however, the fact that Smith left behind “a grammar” of the “Egyptian language” in his handwriting knocks down this theory.

What about this? A Mormon defender dismisses it all. “Very few scholars even believe that Abraham ever lived,” Hugh Nibley says. Amazing. The issue, of course, is not Abraham but the foundation of the Mormon church. Or more precisely, whether it has a foundation. That religion stands on the shoulders of a prophet named Smith who may have pulled one of the great cons of any century. The question is whether anyone cares. Is anyone asking the hard questions?

Robert Millet, a former dean of religious education at BYU, is quoted in the article as explaining, “Being a Mormon is really a matter of faith.”

What about Joseph Smith’s deceit? Millet directs us to check out Bible heroes such as Jacob and Abraham, who both lied and deceived. This is true. We respond, however, that being a Christian is not about the integrity of the people in the Bible, but about Jesus and the trustworthiness of our Scriptures. Being a Mormon has everything to do with the integrity of Joseph Smith. Or the lack of it. We can only hope some people who read the “New Yorker” article will be moved to ask some hard questions. And to stick around for the answers. My limited experience with members of the Mormon religion has shown that most do not like these questions, and that anyone raising them becomes labeled as an enemy of their faith. Far from being their enemy, I should like to be known as a friend of the Truth.” Joe McKeever

Morals Matter

On September 11, 2001, more than the Twin Towers collapsed. A false philosophy fell also. Just as a counterfeit concept was gaining acceptance the tower tragedy exposed it as fraudulent.

In that moment we were dramatically reminded morality matters. Our society was being fed a diet of relativism. The theory that there are no absolutes was being popularized. Situational ethics were being propounded as acceptable.

Proponents of relativism teach there are no absolutes. Right and wrong, good and evil, if there are such things, are relative. Under the banner of tolerance they have declared one idea is as good as another and all are to be accepted as equal. Among youth this is causing difficulty in that some students are saying slavery in America and Nazism in Germany were appropriate because well intended people thought them to be. Regardless of who thought them right they were evil.

Ask a proponent of there being no absolutes if they are sure there are no absolutes and they might well answer, “Absolutely.”

Just as the concept that there is no objective difference in good and evil was catching on the terrorist taught us in an instant there is. The word “evil” once more emerged in public dialogue.

Some savants of New Age spiritualism as well as devotees to Eastern mystical religions assert sin is not real and there are no wrong choices. Darwin spawned the idea “wickedness is no more a man’s fault than bodily disease.” Apply that to the events of September 11, and try to get an understanding of the day. How can anyone now say evil is no one’s fault? The idea to destroy the towers and kill thousands crawled out of the dark cave of some devious mind.

The bleakest period in the history of ancient Israel was described as a time “When all did that which was right in their own eyes.” That is postgraduate relativism.

How can anyone advocate good and evil are interchangeable? “Exhibit A” that refutes this deception was demonstrated in New York. Evil guided the planes into the towers. Good drove the rescue workers, firefighters, and police up the shafts in attempts to save lives. Absolute evil and absolute good faced one another and good stared down evil.

Relativism is judgmental, exclusive, and partisan.

Relativism says if you believe in absolutes you are wrong. That makes it judgmental.

Relativism in saying there are no absolute truths excludes your belief in absolute truths and that makes it exclusive.

Relativism excludes all persons who are non-relativists from their supposedly “right thinking party.” That makes it partisan.

This is a time for assessment. We each need to face the mirror reflecting our personal morality and ask if we have bought into rationalism and relativism. Parents need to use this as a teaching time. Obviously the parents of a young William Penn taught their son there are absolutes. In adulthood he framed the issue in these words: “Right is right though all men be against it and wrong is wrong though all be for it.”

Mini Morals Matter

A noticeable change in the moral climate of our society has occurred. A variety of factors have contributed to it.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was a catalyst. When he postulated it he was concerned that some would not only relate to physical science but expressed apprehension some would apply it to social science. Today it has been expanded into a philosophy of relativism. This means there are no moral absolutes. Right and wrong are relative.

Philosopher Fredrick Nietzche declared God is dead. Others have since joined his chorus. He concluded that since God does not exist morality is a matter of personal choice. With God out of the game we become our own umpire, our own judges. That is why there is so very little moral consensus.

Our PC climate has removed the Bible from the public forum as a standard of morality. Without this long standing compass everyone decides for him or her self which direction is north; what is right and what is wrong. Right and wrong are a matter of personal opinion and the only opinion that matters is “mine.”

Yet another influence in the change in our moral climate is insistence on tolerance. The word “tolerance” has even been more sharply redefined. For years it meant I value you and your opinion to which you are entitled but I disagree with it. That is called negative tolerance and is considered narrow minded.

Positive tolerance is the concept that one opinion is as good as any other and should not be rejected.

If God is dead, moral relativism true, and positive tolerance allowed then there is no basis upon which any action by a person can be criticized or condemned. Really?

If true ethnic cleansing, slavery, polygamy, pedofilia, incest, cloning, euthanasia, terrorism, murder, adultery, and rape would garner no moral outrage. After all those are acceptable ideas to those advocating and/or practicing them. Apologies should be offered to Hitler, Timothy McVeigh, Theodore Kazinski, Osama bin Laden, and a host of other radicals. They considered their ideas as good as any, even better.

A brilliant British journalist, C.S. Lewis, acknowledged the root of his denial of the existence of God. He said he professed there was no God because he knew if he acknowledged God existed he would have to confess his guilt before Him. That, he said he did not want to do because he was enjoying his adultery too much. As long as he professed there was no God he did not have to admit to guilt.

It is not adultery in every case but denial is an evasive tactic practiced by many. To admit there is a God means there are moral norms. He is a God of absolutes and ultimates. His created laws of nature prevail for our comfort. Because of the law of gravity we know we are free to jump up because we will come down not float off in space. His moral laws are based on what is good for us and therefore afford comfort. When the rules of the game are known everyone has a standard. Moral laws are no more relative than the rules by which football is played. They are not relative but they are relevant.

Mascots

It is time to rally around your favorite school’s mascot and cheer the team on to “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y.”

I love creative mascots. Lions, Tigers, Gators, Devils, Wildcats, Bulldogs, Yellow Jackets, etc. are all good but lack creativity that sets them apart. Consider the challenge afforded cheerleaders for the following schools.

Rosemont College in Pennsylvania surely must have rose and white as their colors to go along with their nickname of the Rosemonsters. There is an oxymoron for you. I wonder if their cry is “Prick “um thorns.”

The Banana Slugs of the University of California, Santa Cruz pose a challenge for creative cheers. That reminds me of the snail who drove a supped-up sports car with a big “S” on each door and the hood. When asked why he said he was tired of hearing how slow he was as a snail and wanted to hear them say, “Look at that “S’ car go.”

Right here in Atlanta Oglethorpe University has a clever and aggressive mascot, the Storming Petrels. Looking up a definition of a petrel you will find it is an ocean bird known as Mother Carey’s chicken. It also means one whose coming portends trouble and strife. Translated, “We’re gonna whip you.” With all the bird mascots in Atlanta it is really a very good one.

The Dustdevils of Texas A & M International University in Laredo would meet a formidable opponent in the Golden Gusties of Gustavus Adolphus.

From Cairo, Georgia come the Syrup Makers with their syrup bottles filled with rattling coins.

A contest for the weakest image might feature the Alices from Vincennes High in Indiana against the Morsels of Morse College.

My alma mater had a lion as its mascot. A student contest was conducted to name our new lion. Our school colors were green and gold like Green Bay. Lions are sort of golden color so someone suggested painting a green dotted line down the back of the lion and naming him “Tarealong.” You know, “Tarealong the Dotted Lion.” Fortunately, Roomie won out as the final name. Roomie was a popular biology prof and SEC football official. His untimely death gave the name an advantage.

The Thunder Chickens of Berkeley California intimidates opponents by playing bagpipes. Surely not “Amazing Grace.” However, can bagpipes play anything else?

Delta State University conducted a student poll to select a PC mascot. They decided on “The Fighting Okra.” Wait until the Okra Growers Society hears about that. That is a slippery issue. You can get mugs, T-shirts, hats and other inspiring paraphernalia. Delta State is located in the Mississippi Delta which is popular cotton country. I can’t imagine how okra beat out cotton. How about the Blazing Boll Weevils? They would make a great bowl team.

The most shocking one is the Zizzers of West Plains High School in Missouri. They are represented by a lightening bolt.

To all, regardless of the name by which you are know: “GO TEAM!”

Martha Stewart On Lying

Martha Stewart sold 3,928 shares of ImClone stock December 27, 2001. June 4, 2003, she was indited on nine federal counts. It was alleged she lied to the Grand Jury. One count was later dropped. March 5, 2004, Martha Stewart was convicted on all counts. The verdict in essence said she lied. There has never been a more classic example of the poetic proclamation by Sir Walter Scott: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive.” Our nation has been on a slippery slope since our first president allegedly said, “I cannot tell a lie,” till we had a president who lied under two oaths.

As a child I was told by an old man, “One lie is the pappy of another.” He meant when a person tells a lie they have to tell others to cover it. The imperative is not to tell the first one and thus avoid the entangling web. Many people have become so accustomed to lying they are depicted as having the conscience seared, meaning insensitized. Of Saddam Hussein, Porter Goss, House Intelligence Chair, said, “He is good at denial and deception. I am not sure he even knows what truth is anymore. I think he has been surrounded by yes-me and sycophants.” Such persons can lie and convince themselves it is true and that they have convinced the hearer it is true. They can so lie to themselves they can pass a lie detector test.

Socrates spoke of “…taking good care that in my zeal I do not deceive both myself and you, and like a bee depart, leaving my sting behind.” A House subcommittee estimated that 1 out of every 3 working Americans is hired with educational or career credentials that have been altered. We are suffering from an epidemic of lying. John Gardner, founder of Common Cause notes, “Duplicity and deception, in public and private life, are very substantially greater than they have been in the past.” Lying is a virus that has infected our society.

Under two oaths our former president lied. It became a noticeable thread in the fabric of his life. Even worse several man-on-the-street interviews were filled with people saying in various ways, “It’s no big deal.” If we each had a Pinocchio tendency for our nose to grow every time we told a lie extreme make over would be needed frequently. Or, if we were stricken like the character in the movie “Liar, Liar” who could not lie our social order would be changed. Lying is a big deal. It destroys truth and consequently the ability to trust. The loss of trust results in suspicion, and insecurity, while it impairs relationships. Truth is an absolute.

Where there are no absolutes there is no basis for these imperative traits. “Spin” is a method of twisting a fact to make it appear as something it isn’t. It is the most clever way of lying. Spinology offers graduate degrees. Had George Washington been a graduate of this school of thought he likely would have said, “No, I didn’t chop down the cherry tree” while holding the mental reserve of “I cut it down.” Liars redefine words in their minds while allowing others to consider what is being said in light of accepted understanding of the words. Our society has bought into relativism so fully most persons high school age and above don’t believe there are absolutes. That is, no absolutes of right and wrong. To them truth is relative to time, place, and who is telling it. That is an ideal seed bed in which lies can proliferate.

However, ask a person who professes not to believe in absolutes if they are sure there are no absolutes and they will likely say, “Absolutely.” William Penn, founding father of the state of Pennsylvania, said, “Right is right though all me be against it and wrong is wrong though all be for it.” When truth breaks down in society trust and confidence are lost. Standards of right and wrong are forfeited. Culture becomes cheated of an essential virtue. Truth has such significance that without it as a basic level of societal morality breaks down.

No form of government or personal relationships can survive without it. The disintegration of society is inevitable without truth as a core value. Truth is the eye of reason. Without it we are blind. A lie is a form of theft. In robbing others of the truth we take from them the capacity to make right choices. A lie has to be shrouded unlike naked truth. There are few areas of life in which the Golden Rule is more needed: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” No one likes to be the victim of a lie. Therefore, we should not make others subject to lies. Many seemingly agree with the little boy who said, “A lie is a very present help in the time of trouble.”

In giving legal testimony the witness swears “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Persons have become adept at twisting truth, fabricating facts, and finagling figures to the point purgery is more often overlooked. This oath calls for integrity. The word “integrity” comes from the root integer which means “whole.” In math an integer is a whole number. A person of integrity is a whole person given to honesty and devoid of duplicity. When the court ruled Martha Stewart lied it was saying in that instance she was acting without integrity. She got caught in the entangling web of deception.

In response to Martha’s actions the public has strong opinion. Some want her to get the maximum jail time. Her status as a celebrity makes her more culpable in their thinking. Others want her let off without jail time. This may be explained by the principle of you approve my sin and I will applaud yours. It is an indication of having done what she did and not wanting it considered wrong. In teaching us it doesn’t pay to lie Martha is paying a price greater than her significant wealth. There is a canyon of consequences between a lie and the truth. Be certain to be on the right side.

We need to keep posted on the marque of our minds the ninth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness….” (Exodus 20:16). This is expanded in Leviticus 19: 11, “You shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie to one another.” Feed your conscience on the fact, “There are six things which the Lord hates,” and one of them is “a lying tongue” (Proverbs 6:16, 17). Resolve, “I will not be a fool, for I will speak the truth…” (II Corinthians 12: 6).

March Madness

Appropriately this month is called “March Madness.” It must be because there are so many basketball games on TV. The NCAA National Tournament starts with 64 teams and whittles it down over several weeks. I think the month gets its name because it drives many spouses mad.

The history and intent of the game is interested. In the winter of 1891-92, Dr. James Naismith was a young “physical education instructor” at Springfield College. To relieve his students of boredom he set about to devise a winter time indoor game that would be as interesting as football in the fall and baseball in the spring. That is the PC version of the origin of the game.

In old photos of Naismith there is in the background a sign over the entrance to a building: “School of Christina Workers.” It was there the game began. It was the “International YMCA Training School,” the forerunner of Springfield College.

Naismith was an ordained Presbyterian minister whose job was not to relieve boredom but to train leaders for the rapidly growing Sunday School movement and the YMCA. Both movements had as their common objective to teach Christian principles and build character.

The first basketball league consisted of YMCA teams playing each other. Y leaders first opened gyms to provide an alternative to saloons. In 1895, the dominant holistic concept of a balanced life was symbolized by the Y in the form of a red triangle representing three sides of human nature: physical, spiritual, and mental.

The diverse Sunday School movement continues to train persons in the Word of God. Unfortunately the meaning of the “C” in YMCA has virtually been forgotten.

God has raise up a young man who has revived the purpose for which basketball was begun. Caz McCaslin, a young man I pastored through out his youth, has developed an ever expanding program called “Upward Basketball.” He is the modern day Naismith.

Laughter Is Good For Your Health

Health is no laughing matter, but it does help if you laugh.
In proverbial wisdom even God is depicted as laughing, “He who sits in the heavens laughs.” If you doubt that look in the mirror. If He laughs so ought we who are created in His image.

The book of “American Averages” notes the average American laughs 15 times a day. Are you up to average?

Laughter is good medicine; it is therapeutic. Clinical studies confirms this. Laughter releases tension and enables persons to better face life.

Stress-sensitive persons as well as somber persons daily release a flush of biochemicals comparable to those released during a major threat. These chemicals suppress the immune system to infectious diseases, according to psychological research.

Laughter is nature’s doctor. A positive jovial spirit releases health inducing pain killers and “feel good” endorphins and enkephalins into the system. These morphine-like substances caused by the brain to be secreted act as a natural anesthesia and relaxant. Persons feel at their highest state of well-being when they are at work. They provide a natural high.

Four hundred years ago, in his “Anatomy of Melancholy,” Robert Burton cited authorities who said, “humor purges the blood, making the body lively and fit for any manner or employment.”

Dr. William Fry of Stanford University wrote, “Laughter causes the muscles in the abdomen, chest, and shoulders to contract, the heart rate and pulse to increase, and you have stationary jogging.”

Immanual Kant (1724-1804) was sensitive to this as evidenced by his comment of laughter, “It is a good way to jog internally without going outdoors.” Kant also concluded he had never known a person who “possessed the gift of hearty laughter to be burdened with constipation.”

Dr. Henri de Mondeville, a great medieval professor of surgery, was ahead of his time when he suggested in the 13th century that post-surgery recovery should include relatives and friends cheering the patient and having someone tell jokes.

Solomon the wise clued us in to this a long time ago when he wrote, “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” Are you taking your medicine? Are you helping others take theirs?

Work at creating a healthy humorous environment. Look for it. Remember the wisdom of Dr. Seuss: “from there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.”

As a test of your funny bone consider this. A couple that had a reputation for harmony and happiness were privately often at war with one another. Not wanting to ruin their public image the wife said, “Since we don’t believe in divorce let’s just pray one of us will die — and I will go live with my sister.”

In this and every way I want to be more like the God “who sits in the heavens and laughs.”

The Koran On Jesus

The topic is what does the Koran teach about Jesus and those who follow Him. It is not what do Muslims believe about the subjects. That is too subjective. This is an objective review of what the Muslim holy book teaches on the topics.
Muslims believe the angel Gabriel revealed the Koran, meaning a recitation, to Mohammed starting around 610 AD and ending with his death in 632 AD.

The Koran, or is often spelled Qur’an, is divided into segments known as Surahs. Surah 5 is the source for most of these insights: Surah 5: v. 5, vv. 44-86. Herein contrasts are made between the Bible and the Qur’an, Jews and Christians with Muslims, and Jesus with Muhammad. The Bible, Jews and Christians, and the Christian view of Jesus are debunked and the Qur’an, Muslims, and Muhammad are elevated.

Muslims profess the Qur’an contains the ultimate truth and is protected by God from error.

It forbids Muslims from being friends with Christians (v. 54) and states only those Christians who covert to Islam can be trusted (vv. 52-56). Those who reject Islam and the Qur’an are akin to those who experience the wrath of God (v. 60). Those who experience this wrath of God are turned into apes and pigs by God (v. 63).

THE DENIAL OF THE TRINITY – Surah 5: 72 – 77
The Qur’an is a bit confusing regarding the members of the Trinity but clearly implies the members are the Father, Mother (Mary), and Son. It is recorded those who believe in the Trinity will experience great torture if they do not reject such blasphemy (vv. 73b-74).

References in the Bible to the Holy Spirit are said to refer to Gabriel or to purity from sin; the spirit of the holy.

THE DEITY OF JESUS – Surah 5: 75 & 77
Mary is depicted as a righteous woman whose son was only an apostle in a series of apostles.

Jesus as the Incarnate God is said to be an impossible evil.

The Deity of Jesus is completely rejected (Surah 5: 116-120). Grace as revealed by the redemptive work of Christ is discredited.

In contradiction of this the Bible says of Christ “in Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9).

The position of “in Christ” in the sentence is emphatic meaning in Christ alone the fullness dwells. It is present tense denoting continuous action.

In Christ the “fullness,” PLEROMA, permanently dwells. The fullness of the Godhead, THEOTETOS, Divinity, dwells in Christ. Theotetos means not just divine attributes but the very essence of God, the totality of who God is, His supreme Nature. Bottom line: Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, God incarnate. His eternal pre-creation God Nature was manifested “bodily.”

II Corinthians 4:4 records: “Christ, who is the image of God…”
With reference to His relationship with God the Father it is said, “…who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person…” (Hebrews 1:3.)

ISLAM – Surah 5: 3
Islam is said to be the only true religion and the only one approved by God. Muhammad is said to be the last prophet and the revealer of the ultimate untainted truth.

Surah 3: 85 asserts, “if anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good).

THE BIBLE
It is said the true Bible which reveals the message of the Qur’an does not exist today and the present version has been corrupted by Jews and Christians. The corruptions are said to have been corrected by the Qur’an.

All prophets before Muhammad are said to have preached Islam and were Muslims: Abraham and Ishmael (22:78), the twelve tribes of Israel (2:133), the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac ( 2:128), the prophets between Moses and Jesus (5:44), Jesus Himself (3:52), and His disciples (5:108).

THE DESTINY OF NON-MUSLIMS – Surah 4: 150-152
“Those who deny Allah and His messengers, saying, “We believe in some but reject others’: and (those who) wish to take a course midway — they are in truth (equally) unbelievers; and We have prepared for unbelievers a humiliating punishment.”

To reach such beliefs Islam has to deny the reality of history and rewrite it to support their premises.

Islam is a religion of works that has no tolerance for the idea of grace. It revolves around works and human merit. People are accountable for constantly having to endeavor to please Allah in their own energy. Those who do not are to be severely punished in eternity. Even some who do strive to earn and merit the favor of Allah are rejected.

RELATED TOPICS:
Under “Price Tags” read “The Deity of Jesus Christ”

There are several additional articles on Islam, the Quar’an, and Jihad under “Price Tags.”

The Koran

Mohammed Ali has said there are 3,333 errors in the Bible. I have studied form criticism, textual criticism, and higher criticism and have not found those errors. I have found alleged errors but no actual errors. Some people like to take the more difficult parts which they do not understand and call them errors.

The point is the Bible has been subjected to every form of criticism and survived. It has been the best seller for over 300 years and has been translated into 2,123 dialects. Nine out of every ten Americans own a Bible.

Have you ever heard of a scholarly objective analysis of the Koran? If Christians are to have their Holy Book questioned surely no Muslim would oppose having the Koran investigated.

However, John Wansbrough of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London said that subjecting the Koran to “instruments and techniques of Biblical criticism are virtually unknown.”

The Angel Gabriel is said to have told Muhammad: “This book is not to be questioned.” Recently “The New York Times” raised questions about the veil of obscurity related to the Koran. Questioning it hasn’t been a popular thing to do. The Arab scholar, Suliman Bashear, argued that Islam developed over time as a religion rather than emerging suddenly. His students in the University of Nablus threw him out the window as a result. Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” resulted in a fatwa because it was thought to mock Muhammad. Naguib Mahfouz was stabbed because his works were said to be irreligious.

Writing under a pseudo-name, Christopher Luxenberg, a scholar of ancient Semitic languages argues the Koran has been mistranslated and misread. His work involving the analysis of the earliest copies of the Koran led him to the conclusion that parts of the Koran came from preexisting Aramaic texts. These he states were misinterpreted by later Islamic scholars who composed the Koran now circulated.

The classic example of this relates to the virgins supposedly awaiting loyal Muslim martyrs. Rather than maidens he observes the original text said they are “white raisins” of crystal clarity.

Semitic scholars agree there was no evidence of the Koran until 691 AD, 59 years after the death of Muhammad. Much of what is known of Muhammad is based on texts that were written 300 years after his death. Wansbrough asserts the text of the Koran now used appears to have been a composite of different texts complied over perhaps hundreds of years. It appears to academicians to have continued to evolve until the last of the seventh century.

There are numerous volumes addressing alleged discrepancies in the Holy Bible. Persons with questions regarding such would benefit from visiting a bookstore and invest in a good one.

Of the Bible George Washington said, “It is impossible to rightly govern without God and the Bible.”

Andrew Jackson observed, “That Book, sir, is the rock on which our republic rests.”

If it is so fundamental to our society we would do well to read it. 135 million Americans say they are occasional readers of the Bible.

The Joy Of Giving Without Receiving

The late great coach Bobby Dodd delighted to tell of his playing days at Tennessee. He said he tried for the longest to get his granddad to come to a game. Finally he did. Before the game even started a bunch of pretty young girls came out in short skirts and started jumping up and down yelling, “Volunteers.”

He said his granddad got up and went down to volunteer for what ever it was they wanted them for.

The spirit of volunteerism is a vital part of our culture. My wife has served as a volunteer at WelStar Hospital for well over 25 years. For her it is fulfilling and rewarding. I admire her discipline and devotion to the service.

Recently an amazed employee asked over and over, “You mean you do this and don’t get paid for it?” Working for pay is an essential and admirable. However, the idea of working without pay can’t be comprehended by some. To such persons what you get out of work is money. To a volunteer the reward is intrinsic. You can’t put a monetary value on it.
Persons have to work for pay in order to make a living. A good work ethic combined with a job well done for which a person is compensated is fulfilling.

However, doing something additionally and expecting nothing in return is very satisfying and gratifying. It’s an upper. I have a couple of such outlets and work as hard at them as for a salary.

I was fortunate in that I worked for 32 years without knowing what my compensation was. My employer related to my wife and the compensation went through her competent hands. I did that because I wanted to be able to do what I did for the joy of doing it and not for what I got for doing it. That is not for everyone but being able to do it made working all the more rewarding.

The last year for which statics were available it was reported that 93 million Americans rendered volunteer service to their community. They gave an average of 4.2 hours per week. That totaled 20.3 billion hours of formal and informal volunteer service. Based on the minimum wage that was $201 billion.

What can’t be measured is the good done in impacting lives.

Many organizations could not operate without volunteers. The human resource base enables services to be performed that otherwise could not be. Churches, hospitals, and many other institutions benefit form the spirit of wonderful volunteers. Not only on behalf of these organizations do I want to make this unsolicited appeal for volunteers but also for the welfare of those who might volunteer. It is more blessed to give than to receive. We all know what a blessing it is to receive. The statement doesn’t imply it isn’t good to receive. Knowing how good it is to receive and being aware it is more fulfilling to give should motivate us to want to try giving of ourselves.

Albert Sweitzer said, “The only ones among us who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

There is a line from a spiritual song that sums up this principle: “It is in giving that we receive.”

Find a need and volunteer to help meet it.

John Walker Is No Nathan Hale

Nathan Hale made a fateful decision. As a member of the army of General George Washington he responded to the request of the general and volunteered to infiltrate the British lines for recognizance purposes. Upon returning he was captured by the British and ordered to be hanged the next day.

As a youth he was tutored for college by Reverend Joseph Huntington, a student of the classics. In 1769 he entered Yale where he distinguished himself as an athlete and scholar. His executioner, Major Cunningham, denied his request for a Bible and destroyed a letter he wrote. He was allow a last statement. It must have impressed the British for it is emblazoned on the pages of legendary commitment.

Facing the gallows at a place not far from where the World Trade Center recently stood he said, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Nathan Hale was only 21 years old. Was his a responsible act? He, his family, fellow patriots, his comrades in arms, and history have vindicated his conduct as heroic. No one questions his judgment in enlisting in the colonial army. No one questioned his willful courage in capturing a supply loaded vessel under the guns of the British warships. For his bravery he won a place in the small fighting group known then and now as the Rangers.

This 21 year old acted responsibly and assumed accountability for his actions. Fast forward 225 years and note the conduct of a 20 year old American named John Walker. With pride his mother commented when he willfully left his native America to align himself with an alien ideology that it was “good for a child to find a passion.”

The brand of Islam he chose is even alien to Islam. He knowingly enlisted in Al Qaeda a foreign fighting force. His dad noted he was “proud of John for pursuing an alternative course.” Every course on which they had ever directed him was alternative. Their lifestyle in the 60s was itself alternative. They sent him to the elite alternative Tamiscal High School.

There students determined their own course of study and saw a teacher only once a week. He was considered old enough and his judgment mature enough to make such decisions. When at age 16 he decided to drop out of school they deemed it his choice and endorsed it. His move to a Third Word oligarchy on the other side of the world was financed by his parents who considered him responsible enough to make such a decision.

Only now that he is called upon to give an account for his actions do his parents consider him an unaccountable youth who should not be deemed culpable. Is there a defining line between age 20 and 21 that determines when one is accountable? Is it that we live in a different era and that is the deciding issue?

In our judicial system youth are considered adults at an even younger age. In demanding he be held accountable for his own actions we should weigh the consequences of our actions. Parents should aspire to develop youth with the character of Nathan Hale.

Jihad: What Is It?

Jihad is a word heard often in the news. Its meaning is complex, its application diverse, and its interpreters give it differing degrees of expression. As persons struggle to understand the complexities facing our nation in relating to the Islamic world a better understanding of the word is needed.

It literally means “struggle” or “exertion.” In its religious setting it always refers to fighting evil. It can mean jihad of the heart, of the mouth or pen, of the hand, and of the sword.

All Muslims are to engage in jihad of the heart which means to fight personal evil desires.

Jihad of the mouth refers to verbal disparagement on all that is in opposition to Islam. This can involve defense of their faith by advocating its virtues or saber-rattling. Saddam Hussein did the latter before the Gulf War in declaring “the mother of all battles” was about to begin.

Jihad of the pen involves either or both tactics as jihad of mouth in written form.

Jihad of the hand involved doing good deeds.

Jihad of the sword has four progressive stages advocated in the Qur’an. It is a summons to combat on behalf of Islam. Muhammad engaged in such and urged his followers to do so. As the followers of Muhammad increased in number his writings in the Qur’an on the topic grew more aggressive.

As his small movement began it was heavily persecuted. During this stage they were encouraged to engage in peaceful persuasion (Sura 16: 125-126). Many Muslims today still believe this to be the best approach.

In 622 when Muhammad fled to Medina he was still opposed and survived by raiding caravans. He now declared fighting was permissible to oppose aggression and recover property form infidels (Sura 22:39).

Soon rewards in the highest heights of heaven were promised those who sacrificed their lives in battle. Also those who were able to engage in battle and did not were to receive divine punishment (Sura 9: 38, 39). Armies expanded immediately. The next progressive move involved military offensive jihad. Muslims were told to take the initiative in war but to avoid doing so during four sacred months.

“When the forbidden months are past then fight and slay pagans wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent, perform the prayers and give alms, then leave their way free” (Sara 9:5).

The ultimate state of jihad removes all restraints against battle in any season and land not yielded to armies of Islam (Sura 9:29).

The law of abrogation in Qur’anic hermeneutics says the last revelation always takes precedence over previous ones (Sura 2: 106 13:39). It should be noted that though many Muslims do not advocate the latter posture on war there are those who do. It is expedient to try to discern between the groups and befriend those who do not advocate aggression while governments try to deal with those who do.

Islamic Violence

Our nation is confronted with a conflict that must be fought whether we want to or not. It is on a battlefield less than ideal yet more to be desired than the one preferred by the enemy. The war in Iraq is not one of our choosing. The combat was initiated by our President but the conflict was envisioned long before in palaces and desert tents.

Trying to link various factions is complex. Understanding their common goal is simple. The common objective is the destruction of the United States, the Great Satan. Our opponents had chosen the battlefield of our streets. Our President chose the sands of their desert.

To be casual about casualties is to be calloused. Every one changes the world of those related to the one killed. That brings sadness to the nation.

When considering casualties contemplate this. At the rate we are losing personnel in Iraq the conflict would have to last fifteen years for us to lose as many as died in the World Trade Center. What this is basically about is preventing other such events. That is plural, not just another, but many more. There are those who desire such devastation.

If we pull out of Iraq that will be perceived as weakness and they will come into the United States to continue to conflict.

It is my good fortune to have contact with civilian personnel working in Iraq who share interesting insights. Our media reports we have approximately 133,000 military personnel in Iraq. These civilians say our dedicated troops are actually 133,000 social miracle workers befriending the masses of citizens who are thrilled they are there.

Well, if that is true why all the shooting and bombing? This is where the plot thickens according to my friends inside Iraq.

When the Ottoman Turks were run out of the region around 1870 it became the Protectorate of France and England. England sought a strong tribe in the region to support which could help control all others. The cunning and forceful Saud family was chosen. Out of the Saud family, who were Sunni Muslims, developed two schools of thought. One was the Wahabi faction.

After Desert Storm in 1991 they became Muslim evangelists and spread their militant philosophy throughout the Muslim world into Indonesia, the Philippines, and other areas. Through the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) they funded their movement and built mosques in Arab cities where even the smallest Christian work existed.

Keep in mind this is only a faction of Islam, but a large and energetic segment. They promised suppressed impoverished people Islam would bring them blessings. This attracted many. When the plight of these persons didn’t improve they complained to their spiritual leaders who told them blessings were not in this life but in the after life. Many of these became candidates for suicidal attacks in an effort to receive higher blessings. It is this element that has infiltrated Iraq since the end of the major conflict.

There are over 5,000 Saudi princesses today. Many of them are more moderate than the Wahabi element. This however is how the Royal Family became involved in the current conflict.

Islamic Sects: Peaceful Or Not?

A distilled depiction of America would be a contemporary, progressive, diverse, independent, free enterprise, freedom loving culture.

Around the globe many suppressed and oppressed people being held hostage by totalitarian regimes admire and aspire to these traits. These people want the freedom we enjoy.

These same traits are the very attributes that ignite and unite others in bitter hatred of our culture. These people want to destroy the freedom we enjoy in favor of a totalitarian government.

Both schools of thought have deep roots in the religion of Islam. Our American mentality prompts us to wants to know which is true Islam. The answer is both.

If you think Christianity has a lot of denominations the diversity in Islam will amaze you. As the Sunni and Shi’a branches of Islam jockeyed for dominance various groups emerged.

The Murji’tes became advocates of tolerance and equality. They were proponents of peace and espoused equality.

The Mu’tazilites promoted the principal that reason could determine truth without the benefit of revelation. Evil and good could be discerned simply by reason without revelation.

A third group, the Kharijites, opposed any persons they considered to have strayed from the perfect practice of Islam. Such persons were considered worthy of death. Any leader not holding to the true tenants of Islam was considered illegitimate and should be overthrown and killed.

Is the picture getting clear? Currently modern radical Islamizes emulate this ancient sect.

The Mu’tazilites emerged as the dominant power in the early 800s. Classical learning blossomed. Science, math, architecture, and art flourished under their guidance. However, a resentful fourth party began to solidify during this time. These proponents of legalism supplanted the Mu’tazilites within a century. They were a coalescence of three parties.

One group, the qadis, were administrators in the government. A group of intellectual legal scholars paralleled them and developed a definitive school of law. A third group, the pietists, opposed them and advocating the empire adopting Koranic standards. These three merged to become the legalists. Legalism closed the door on Islamic creativity. They advanced what they consider immutable divinely authored law.

It is that system of law that today’s fanatics want to see replace our American contemporary, progressive, diverse, independent, free enterprise, freedom loving culture. They are a resurrection of the legalists that ended the era of progressive Muslim societies.

Their hope is that by creating global terror governments and people will capitulate and allow them to Interlink Islamic theocracies under their control. If you wonder what that would be like reflect on Afghanistan of two years ago.

In the past other more rational Islamic groups brought their totalitarian dominance to an end.

Islamic Schools Of Thought

A distilled depiction of America would be a contemporary, progressive, diverse, independent, free enterprise, freedom loving culture.

Around the globe many suppressed and oppressed people being held hostage by totalitarian regimes admire and aspire to these traits. These people want the freedom we enjoy.

These same traits are the very attributes that ignite and unite others in bitter hatred of our culture. These people want to destroy the freedom we enjoy in favor of a totalitarian government.

Both schools of thought have deep roots in the religion of Islam. Our American mentality prompts us to wants to know which is true Islam. The answer is both.

If you think Christianity has a lot of denominations the diversity in Islam will amaze you. As the Sunni and Shi’a branches of Islam jockeyed for dominance various groups emerged.

The Murji’tes became advocates of tolerance and equality. They were proponents of peace and espoused equality.

The Mu’tazilites promoted the principal that reason could determine truth without the benefit of revelation. Evil and good could be discerned simply by reason without revelation.

A third group, the Kharijites, opposed any persons they considered to have strayed from the perfect practice of Islam. Such persons were considered worthy of death. Any leader not holding to the true tenants of Islam was considered illegitimate and should be overthrown and killed.

Is the picture getting clear? Currently modern radical Islamists emulate this ancient sect.

The Mu’tazilites emerged as the dominant power in the early 800s. Classical learning blossomed. Science, math, architecture, and art flourished under their guidance. However, a resentful fourth party began to solidify during this time. These proponents of legalism supplanted the Mu’tazilites within a century. They were a coalescence of three parties.

One group, the qadis, were administrators in the government. A group of intellectual legal scholars paralleled them and developed a definitive school of law. A third group, the pietists, opposed them and advocating the empire adopting Koranic standards. These three merged to become the legalists. Legalism closed the door on Islamic creativity. They advanced what they consider immutable divinely authored law.

It is that system of law that today’s fanatics want to see replace our American contemporary, progressive, diverse, independent, free enterprise, freedom loving culture. They are a resurrection of the legalists that ended the era of progressive Muslim societies.

Their hope is that by creating global terror governments and people will capitulate and allow them to Interlink Islamic theocracies under their control. If you wonder what that would be like reflect on Afghanistan of two years ago.

In the past other more rational Islamic groups brought their totalitarian dominance to an end.

Islam The Peaceful Religion

Islam is a peaceful religion we are told. Most of us accept that. However, that being true, there are some confusing facts.

Why is it that in Cairo’s largest mosque Friday prayer time is used to call for people to take up arms against America?

Why is it that in Pakistan during the anti-American riots protesters hold up signs with pictures of Osama Bin Laden and the words: “Hero of Islam?” Irony of irony these signs are not written in the language of Pakistan but English.

Why is it Imams threaten America in worship assemblies? Why are anti-American films depicting violence and glorify killing shown in Islamic schools in their homelands while here in America tolerance is encouraged?

Our president stopped using the term “crusade” and Billy Graham discontinued calling his meetings “crusades” out of respect for persons of the Moslem faith. Yet the religious leaders in Islamic nations call for a Jihad, a holy war against America.

Perhaps those who engage in these confusing acts have read only part of the Qur’an. Qur’an is Arabic for “recitation.” The injunction Mohammed said Gabriel gave him meant “make vocal what is already written.”

After Mohammed’s military victory at Medina he continued to fashion his revelations. The portion of the Qur’an “sent down” during his early writings were poetic and mystical. After the Medina conquest his works took on a more aggressive political and legal tone.

Mohammed learned about “the people of the Book” (Jews and Christians) in his youth. The post-Medina portion of the “recitations” became more warlike. It is these segments some have evidently come to rely upon almost exclusively. Moslems of good faith need to help others understand how they should properly interpret these passages. Recitations such as the following are hard for some People of the Book to whom they relate to understand:

“God fight them, what liars they are” (Surah 9:30).

“O believers take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends to each other.
Whoso of you makes them his friends is one of them. God guides not the people of the evil doers” (Surah 5:56).

There are radicals and extremist in every movement. They give all who rally around their banner a bad name. We must avoid stereotyping all Moslems as fanatical anti-Americans as well as Jew and Christian haters. They simply are not. Many friendships exists between people in these differing groups and there are many pro-US Moslem American citizens.

Moslems in America could do much to aid their image if they would be more outspoken in condemnation of violence. Such statements by their Imams would be meaningful. It would improve public opinion if they would voluntarily turn in their colleagues thought to have terrorist leanings. If political and religious leaders in their homelands would be as discrete in their expressions as President Bush and Billy Graham it would make for a better understanding and cool hot heads among their own.

Is It Gambling Or Gaming?

Gambling is disappearing in America. Betting continues at a record pace but it is not called gambling. It is now called gaming. Is it just a game?

The popularity of poker games on TV has caught on in a big way. Youth are especially absorbed in it. In some cities there are floating youth poker games held at a different place each night with guards. Increasingly after parents go to bed at night their youth stay up and gamble on line.

A survey is soon to be released on gambling among college athletes. I am privy to the part of the study that is complete. It shows a dramatic rise in gambling among athletes. There is more gambling among Division III athletes than any other. The sports in which participants bet most often are, in order, golf, lacrosse, and wrestling. Athletes involved in these sports normally come from more affluent backgrounds and have more money to wager.

However, 82 Division I athletes reported being involved in gambling on the outcome of a football game. That may not represent 82 different games but it does involve 82 individuals.

Is it gaming not gambling?
Following is a true story told to me by the Division I coach involved. One of his athletes came to him very upset. He had been offered a ride to practice by a complimentary individual he thought to be a fan. The dorm and practice field were some distance apart. As they drove the driver complimented the athlete as being “a game breaker.” He recounted plays in earlier games in which a play involving the athlete had determined the outcome of the game.

The driver parked on the edge of the parking lot and told the athlete he wanted his team to lose and that he could determine the outcome. Then he told the athlete to open the glove compartment. Upon doing so he saw a couple of bundles of one hundred dollar bills with a gun on top of them. The driver said, “You are going to get one of those. The choice is yours.”

The school had a losing tradition but was now winning big. The bookies were late catching on to this and it was costing them big money.

The coach called the FBI and they took charge of the case. The athlete was clean and played out the winning season as a champion. Gaming?

On line gambling, lottery, and TV’s popular gambling shows all saturate our culture. On the Internet enter the keyword “gambling” and you will find 800,001 sites. By now probably more. It is the current in thing with youth. The habituating nature has spawned a number of organizations dedicated to helping problem gamblers. Many of these have web sites. There are also sites designed to teach a person the basis of betting. Excuse me, gaming.

This is another item for parents to put on their list of things about which to talk with their youth. Remember, there are no free lunches. When someone wins a lot of folks lose.

Iraqi War Casualities

Casualties of war are a grief for a nation. Each of us is diminished by the death of any one of us in war. The grief is compounded when the one killed is a loved one or friend. Daily casualty reports bring sorrow and empathy for the families related.

It does help to put things in perspective. Since what was thought to be the end of the war in Iraq approximately 230 Americans have been killed in the continuing conflict. That is 230 too many for most of us.

However, in the last year in America more police officers than that have been killed in the combat zone known as the United States. Within our own borders as many public servants have died in defense of individual rights.

The statistics related to the wars of our nation are astronomical. Consider these totals: Revolutionary War 25,324, Civil War 498,332, Spanish American War I 1,862, World War II 407,316, Korean War 54,546, Viet Nam War 58,098, and Desert Storm 146. There are other wars and “conflicts” in our history but that paints the general picture.

Look at just one of those wars in a bit more detail. The campaign in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany form D-Day through V-E Day cost the Western allied Armies 766,294 casualties. Included in that number were some 200,000 dead. Approximately sixty per cent were Americans. Of the 5,412,219 troops landed the casualty rate was 14.2 percent or roughly 1 in 7. There were also 50,000 allied civilians killed.

We in the West have been discrete in not referring to the present engagement as a war against Islam. Billy Graham even discontinued calling his revivals “crusades” in order not to offend Muslims as a result of the historical connotation of the term.

However, in 1999 Osama ben Ladin called for a jihad, a holy war. Saddam has repeatedly encouraged the same. Not all who are of the Islamic faith consider it to be a religious war, but those waging it certainly do. In trying to end it that must be taken into consideration. Those conducting the war are zealots fighting for and willing to gladly give their lives for their god. Their holy book distinctly teaches there is a great reward awaiting those who die for the faith.

Most wars are politically and diplomatically based and resolved. This conflict isn’t. It is a different kind of war never known in modern history. It combines gorilla tactics with religious fervor. Couple that with the fact Saddam released from prison 150,000 hardened criminals shortly before the outbreak of the war and there is a bigger challenge.

One element necessary for victory is a characteristic every previous generation of Americans has had to show in war and one for which this generation is not known. It is patience.

Another trait is one those who fought World War II showed in garnering the title “The Greatest Generation.” In an unsophisticated word, guts. Fortitude is basic.

Many American adhere to a religious faith other than that of the Islamic enthusiasts. We should wage peace through prayer.

International Intelligence Service

Syria is a country suspected of harboring terrorist training camps and secret bank accounts for Saddam worth billions. What is known of this we may never know. However, based on Israel’s dealing with Syria leading up to the battle for the Golan Heights it is likely they know a great deal. The Golan Heights fell in days as a result of years of preparation.

Years before the 1967 war members of the Israeli Secret Forces, the Musad, visited a young man named Eli Cohn working in a store in Nazareth. Living in an Arab city he was bilingual. They offered his an opportunity to work for them. He refused saying he liked his job. They left their card and told him if he ever changed his mind to contact them. The next day he was fired and soon called the Musad for an interview. He was set up as a Syrian citizen and sent to Argentina where he lived and worked for some time. Later he traveled to Syria with credentials as a highly successful Arab business man from Argentine.

In a short time he worked his way into the Syrian government and became the number two man in power. Eventually he asked for and was given a tour of the Syrian defenses of the Golan Heights. He complimented the fortifications but noted their gun placements were so well hidden that if communications were disrupted during a conflict there would be no way for friendly forces to know where they were. He suggested they plant eucalyptus trees by each bunker in order for their own welfare.

All the time he was communicating with the Musad in Israel. When the war broke out the Israeli army knew to strike the stands of eucalyptus and the Syrian defenses failed badly. Most of the defense force retreated to the summit of the Golan preparing to make a stand.

Syria knew they had to draw Russia into the dispute. Their U.N. Ambassador was on the floor of the U.N. making an appeal when handed a note. He read it aloud. It was a report that the defenses had failed and the Syrian army had retreated to Damascus. His hope was this would incite the Russians to intervene. The Syrian forces still on the Golan hearing this on their radios concluded that if they were the only ones not to have gotten orders to retreat they should withdraw. They did immediately.

The note given the ambassador was a bogus report sent by Israel’s man in Damascus. In reality there had been no withdrawal from the Golan until that moment. Thus, the battle for the Golan Heights was an easy victory for Israel.

The Syrians by this time realized they had a security leak. They walked in on Israel’s mole while he was transmitting to Israel. His arrest caused the U.S. to appeal to Syria for his release. That confirmed for the Syrians they had a big fish. Cohn was immediately condemned to death. Persons were bussed into the city square of Damascus to witness his public hanging. This ended a classic case of intriguing infiltration.

There is no way of knowing how many such agents are presently at work in Syria.

Integration Of Baseball

In 1946 Branch Rickey signed two outstanding young men to major league contracts. One of them, Carl Erskine, told me this story.

Carl was a 156 pound kid from Indiana with a lightening fastball. In his major league career he pitched three no hitters, one of which was an eleven inning game. He pitched in five World Series.

The other broke a unique record. He was Jackie Robinson the first Afro-American in the major leagues. Rickey was a founder of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes who practiced his personal Christian faith.

There were many outstanding players in the Negro League. A list of fifty was given Rickey from which to choose. He studied them carefully and noticed one who was reared by a single mother with a strong Christian faith. He was Rickey’s choice.

Both men were keenly aware of the potential difficulties that awaited the first Afro-American in the big leagues. Rickey knew a special character trait would have to be employed many times to make it work. When they met in his office Rickey pulled out his Bible and read Matthew 5: 39: “Whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

In summary it means to endure abuse. Jackie Robinson did it like the champion he was. His personal faith helped sustain him amid the hostility he faced. All our interpersonal conflicts could better be resolved if that same principle were employed.

There is ancient antithetical axiom from the Code of Hammurabi: “An eye for and eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” Meaning, extract exact retribution. It is license to give out the same or more harsh treatment as you get. This leads to escalation of hostility. The Koran commends this conduct in Sura 2:194, “If anyone transgresses…against you, transgress likewise against them.”

If Jackie had responded in kind just one time it would have been inflammatory. Today’s athletes would do well to model his example. We all would. It would dramatically lower the tension level in our society. Murders, fights, divorces, and other conflicts would be dramatically reduced.

Instead of the Code of Hammurabi the Golden Rule would make for a more civil society: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat others as you would like to be treated. Speak to others as you would enjoy being spoken to. Share with others as you would enjoy them giving to you. You never see that in a sitcom.

When Rickey signed Robinson the elitist world of baseball said it was for money. Rickey’s personal papers were not released until ten years after his death. In them it was very evident his actions were based on his moral convictions.

Rickey and Robinson both endured and overcame the firestorm they called down on themselves by breaking the color barrier. They did it by employing a simple principle found in Scripture about which more people joke than practice.

Consider trying it out. The next time a flash point comes along monitor your response and employ that positive precept.

The Inauguration Of “W”

I could not believe what “W” did at the Presidential Inauguration. He had some audacity to say he couldn’t begin without a prayer. He then got specific and spoke of “…that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations….”

How out of touch can one president be? How very un-PC.

Having attended and participated in a presidential inauguration I know something of the order and decorum. Every word is virtually scripted and goes in the history book. Such a statement will stand out in the history of our country.

The idea of prayer is one thing. However, the idea of an Almighty Being who rules and presides is something else. With all efforts to remove God from society and promote evolution this is beyond the veil.

Wasn’t “W” aware of the intent of our forefathers to squelch religion in the public arena. For the president of all the people to bring religion into such a solemn ceremony is unconscionable. Did he not think there might be some people offended by such provincial thinking?

You would think he would have known better. At the age of 15 he studied and hand wrote a copy of the “110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” Such principles should have had formative influence that would have lasted.

The idea of having the Bible open right there on the platform between the 49th and 50th chapters of Genesis was a bold act. However, to kiss the Bible and reverently say: “So – help – me – God” is a bit much.

What most folks have overlooked is this statement included in the “New York Daily Advertiser” announcing a prayer meeting to be held the morning of the inauguration: “As we believe in an overruling Providence and feel our constant dependence upon God for every blessing, so it is undoubtedly our duty to acknowledge Him in all our ways and commit our concerns to His protection and mercy.”

For a president to have personal faith in God is one thing but should he be so public about it?

The coup de gras involved his party going to St. Paul’s Church after the inauguration for another prayer meeting led by one of the chaplains of Congress..

It is well chronicled that “W” believes in prayer. It is also known he goes to bed early, often around 9:00 PM. Staff members have seen him before retiring on his knees with the Bible open praying. During the war he has been seen to have done so frequently. Most persons would concede that such private practice of devotion is acceptable. To some it may seen an act of weakness, however.

Well, “W” was bold about his faith. Oh, in case you were thinking of a different “W” the one referenced here is George “W,” as in Washington that is. The wars were the French and Indian and the Revolutionary wars. All references to events at the inauguration occurred April 30, 1789, in New York with the exception of the post-inaugural prayer meeting have been perpetuated by every president since.

Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, B.F. Morris, pp. 271, 273, 501
The Rewriting of America’s History, Catherin Millard, pp. 59-66

How To Deal With A “Whatever” Mentality

“Whatever!” is the mantra of the moment.

It is a synonym for relativism, a byword for “anything goes,” and a revelation that situational ethics have made great advances. It makes for an uncertain society.

The Barna Research Group ascertained the following facts as a revelation this is a “Whatever!” culture.

* Three-fourths of all adults believe “there is no such thing as absolute truth. Two people can define truth in conflicting ways and both be correct according to this concept. This is contrary to the long held belief that when there are two polar positions on the same issue one is wrong.

* More than 70% of American adults agree that there are no absolute standards which apply to everyone. This means when it comes to morals and ethics, what is right and wrong, there are no absolute standards that apply to everyone in all situations.

Applied this means there are times it is all right to lie, steal, or cheat. Pushed to its logical conclusion it would then mean there are times it is OK to defraud, embezzle, commit treason or cooperate crime. Whatever!

It is precisely that moral mentality that has led to symptoms of uncertainty in our society. Trust is eroded by it. Understanding breaks down when people don’t have the same system of values. In a whatever world every person is a system of law unto self.

“Mr. Chairman, we need to change these figures to make our financial statement look better to our stock holders.” Whatever!

“I copied a book report form a friend at another school.” Whatever!

“I’m going to use the company credit card to purchase some personal items.” Whatever!

“Randy worships Jesus, John worships Sheila, Larry worships the goddess Sybil, and Bubba worships the tree in his back yard.” Whatever!

“I’m going to use cheap products lacking in quality and unskilled labor on this project and bill these folks for top quality items and work.” Whatever!

The pervasive “Whatever” attitude strips truth of its value, creates a lack of confidence, and makes every individual a personal system of law. It creates a wonderful world of “ME.”

Walter T. Anderson tells a story that illustrates this principle. There are three baseball umpires.

Confidently one says, “There’s balls and there’s strikes, and I call “em the way they are.”

Another, a little less certain, says, “There’s balls and there’s strikes, and I call “em the way I see “em.”

The third, a postmodernist, says, “There’s balls and there’s strikes, and they ain’t nothing until I call “em.”

Standards, laws, gages, ideals, norms, established group ethics, and community morals make for a confident and cohesive culture. A “Whatever” mentality means vague is vogue.

The House Of Islam

The Muslim holy book, the Koran, explains the conflict going on in the world. Few non-Muslims know it divides the world into two divisions. Dar El Islam, “the House of Islam,” and “Dar El Harb, “The House of War.” The first consists of those nations under Muslim control or which have been. The other is a designation of all other nations that are to be brought under the dominance of Islam.

That teaching makes our world situation more clear. The lands of Israel and Spain, for example, were once under Muslim control. It is for that reason they are considered Dar El Islam and targeted as nations desired back under such control.

When we attacked Iraq we not only attacked one nation we attacked the House of Islam, every Islamic nation. That defines the conflict as being more than the war raging in Iraq.

The militants opposing us in the war on terror are not primarily politically motivated. Our response has been as though they are. Their motivation is religion. Their leaders are religious. They believe the world must be brought under an Islamic form of government in which the laws of Islam apply to everyone. These nations are defined in the Koran as Dar El Harb, “the house of war” which are to be brought under Islamic control. Any means to that end is justifiable in their thoughts.

Our political leaders relate to their political leaders. The real power brokers, their religious leaders, are not dealt with.

When Islam was last in a world conquest mode it was stopped by intellectual Muslims who realized a radical group needed to be curbed. Though Islam suffered significant military defeats it was efforts from within that ended the aggression. Hopefully such a class will emerge again.

The Gnostic Gospels

The novel The DaVinci Code and the film “The Last Temptation of Christ” which are based on extra biblical writing have enjoyed great popularity. Most of these modern works discredit the New Testament gospels and claim a love relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. They advocate a conspiracy theory regarding the early church hiding certain testaments and other documents to exclude teaching they didn’t want known.

In truth there is a conspiracy theory related to the Gnostic Gospels. It does not relate to early Christians trying to hide them, but to modern efforts to use them to discredit Jesus and the New Testament gospels. They are represented as creditable records disproving much of the New Testament. Virtually all media coverage of the thesis is anti-Christian. Little scholarly evaluation has been made public.

These writings come primarily from the Nag Hammadi Library discovered in 1945. The library is named for the town in upper Egypt in which they were found by a peasant searching for fertilizer. They are known as the Gnostic Gospels. Some titles are The Gospel of Philip, The Gospel of Mary, The Gospel of Truth, The Gospel of the Egyptians and the darling of all The Gospel of Thomas. There are other sources of Gnostic writings but these have by in large captured the imagine of moderns.

Unlike the New Testament Gospels these contain little or no social context or narrative from Jesus. Without the historical circumstances in which an event occurs or a statement is made it often loses its original intent. If it is just an anthology the meaning is difficult to interpret. In the New Testament the teachings of Jesus emerge spontaneously. In the Gnostic Gospels Jesus seems to be more of a lecturer on metaphysics than a Hebrew prophet. In the Letter of Peter to Philip the disciples are represented as saying to Jesus: “Lord, we would like to know the difference of the aeons and of the pleroma.”

Jesus is represented as going into a discourse regarding the precosmic time when “the mother” opposed “the father” and so resulted alien aeons.

The name Gnostic comes from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis. The movement’s roots seem to be embedded in ancient speculations of Babylonian and Zoroastrian priests. Some of its postulates come from Egyptian syncretism and Indian magic.

Gnosticism was not one school, but many, and displayed a very wide variety of thought. Because of this when an error is exposed some defenders assert it wasn’t a teaching of Gnosticism because they have a different point of reference. All the schools had much in common, but the variations of Gnosticism were multitudinous.

Gnosticism is more of a religion than a philosophy. Knowledge is believed to be the factor affording redemption. It distinguishes between the historical Jesus and the supernatural Christ. Their thesis is that the Christ’s nature joined Jesus at His baptism but departed before His death. Throughout Gnostic thought dualism prevails and often conflicts with itself. Some proponents advocate asceticism and other libertinism. A reader of the Books of Jeu find the opening strains of beautiful praise of Jesus in conflict with the sterile formulas in magic which comprise most of the book.

Based on their current popularity the Gnostic Gospels deserve a critical historical and literary review. These heresies from which the early church had to defend itself have been resurrected currently to challenge orthodox Christianity in our time. In evaluating the validity of any ancient document three aspects need to be considered.

AUTHENTICITY is a primary concern in evaluating the accurate preservation of a writing through the ages. A primary concern is whether the existing copies are reliable representations of the original texts. There are enough copies of the New Testament gospels to compare earlier and later copies and ascertain they are compatible and reliable historically. For example the Essenes who lived along the Dead Sea in the time of Christ hid ancient manuscripts before being annihilated.

In 1948 these scrolls were found. Many of them predated existing copies of Bible texts. The manuscript of the Book of Isaiah was approximately 1000 years older than any existing text of Isaiah. A comparison of the earlier ones with the more modern ones showed the Scripture had remained the same.

Scholars have concluded the Gnostic Gospels originated between 350 and 400 AD. The documents were buried around 400 AD. They have deteriorated badly over the years. This has left large portions missing and significant words lost that make interpreting certain passages challenging. In many instances there is only one version of a text. This prevents comparison and verification. There is no way to verify authenticity using comparison as with New Testament text where there are numerous copies over a period of years which show no corruption.

Supporters of Gnostic thought say there are no first century Gnostic writings because the church confiscated and destroyed them. There is no evidence of this. It would have been like gathering feathers scattered by the wind to have collected all such writings had they existed. We do not have any first century Gnostic writings because there were none.

AUTHORSHIP is a factor to be considered in evaluating historical documents. There is much insight that confirms the New Testament gospels were written by their name sakes. The dates of the lives of characters whose names Gnostic Gospels bear do not coincide with the time of the writing.

Reputable scholars consider most of these writings pseudepigraphical. Such are writings given the name of a person it is believed will give the writing credibility. Thus, the names of Bible era characters were given various Gnostic Gospels. Reputable scholars do not consider these works to have been written by the persons whose names are falsely ascribed to them. Not even the popular Gospel of Thomas is considered to have been written by the apostle whose name it bears.

TRUSTWORTHINESS of an author is vital in evaluating a creditable historical document. Did the author live at such a time and have contacts that would have afforded personal insights regarding his subject?

A case of inaccuracy is observable in a review by Michael Grosso of “The Last Temptation of Christ.” He says there were reports of the sex life of Jesus right “from the start of the Christian tradition.” He bases this on The Gospel of Philip which was written during the last half of the third century. Not exactly “from the start of the Christian tradition.”

Author Craig Blomberg has noted that most of the Nag Hammadi documents make no pretense of overlapping with the New Testament ones. It isn’t known who wrote them and their historical reliability regarding the time of Christ is highly questionable.

In summary they are not reliable sources regarding the life and teachings of Jesus.

Did the early church suppress Gnostic teachings found in these and other spurious gospels? Yes. They were close enough to its emergence to know it was heretical and therefore rejected it.

THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS is the darling of New Age philosophers who refer to it at “The Fifth Gospel.” Mohammed referenced it in the Koran. Allegedly it was written by Didymos Judas Thomas which means, Judas “the twin.” The Gnostics called Thomas the twin brother of Jesus.

This work more nearly resembles an anthology than a New Testament gospel. Many New Testament texts are added to, taken away from, modified, or rephrased. This often changes the meaning from its New Testament use. Some of the writing is orthodox enough to be compatible with the New Testament while other parts are completely contradictory.

For example, in the New Testament Jesus speaks kindly of women and especially Mary. In the Gospel of Thomas Jesus is represented as saying, “Let Mary go away from us, for women are not worthy of life.”

Most scholars agree it was written in the second century. There are indications it may have been written as late as the fourth century. The early church rejected the work as a perversion of New Testament era theology. Gnosticism was not an independent source on Christianity but a perversion of it. There was more than a century of Christianity before Gnostic doctrine emerged.

The Gnostic challenge to Christianity was having difficulty gaining devotees. To make it seem compatible writers began encouching Gnostic philosophy as though spoken by Christ. They ascribed their teachings to Christ in an effort to gain support. They put their words in His mouth.

Currently zealous efforts are being made to create a “poor little old Gnostics” atmosphere. They are cast as persons having the truth which the church discriminated against because it contradicted their contrived concepts. It is said the church suppressed their teachings and it did. Truth inevitably contradicts error. It was therefore natural for the church to treat it for what it was, a fallacious reaction to Christian truth.

In reality Gnostic thought was so foreign to the teachings of Christ and the consistency of Christian thought it was totally incompatible. The codified Christian concepts predated that of Gnosticism. Instead of Christianity discriminating against it, Gnosticism was a reaction to Christianity. Gnosticism was a heretical school of thought that sought to infuse itself into Christian thought.

Had the church not stood against the distortions of Gnosticism then Christianity would have failed to defend its truths. Instead of becoming global it would have perished like pagan religions of the day.

It must be remembered that the church in that era was not well established, communication was poor, and viable sources of authority were not numerous as today. To help insure uniformity of Bible truths the Christian community produces such documents as The Apostles’ Creed, the collection of Apostolic writings, and the offices of the church.

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lions, in the last half of the second century, in his five volume work entitled Against Heresies goes to great length to define various schools of Gnostic thought and expose their error. If the church were trying to suppress and keep hidden Gnostic thought he never would have been so public in defining it. His defenses of Christianity in opposition to Gnostic thought made it a popular work in that era. He was not hiding Gnostic thought but revealing it for what it was.

The Gnostics claimed to possess secret traditions passed down to them by the apostles. Irenaeus countered this with another type of apostolic succession. He asserted that the truths handed down by the apostles were publicly preserved by the teachers in the church of the time.

From the same school of thought that says Jesus married Mary Magdalene and by her had children also comes the concepts that promiscuity was God’s law, veneration of the serpent for bringing knowledge to Adam and Eve, humans were created as unisexual, and the creation of woman was the source of evil.

In the struggle for purity of consistent thought in the emerging church Gnostic thought lost out. One contemporary writer says that in such struggles “the winner writes history.” True, but that does not make them bad historians. One has countered, “If truth is not a matter of majority vote, neither is it a matter of minority dissent.”

Noted Bible scholar Raymond Brown concluded in his review of the Gnostic Gospels found at Nag Hammadi that “we learn not a single verifiable fact about the historical Jesus’ ministry…”

Helmut Koester in the James Robinson edition of the Nag Hammadi Library states: “Neither the Coptic translation or the Greek fragments seem to have preserved this gospel in its earliest form. Even the comparison of the Coptic and Greek texts demonstrate that the text was subject to change during the translation.” Such a text was not considered worthy to have been included along with the New Testament gospels.

Gnostic thought went into eclipse because it was not historically true and lacked integrity. F.F. Bruce wrote of it, “Gnosticism was too much bound up with a popular but passing phase of thought to have the survival power of apostolic Christianity.”

Robert Speer wrote of why Christianity prevailed, “Christianity lived because it was true to the truth. Through all the centuries it has never been able to live otherwise. It cannot live otherwise today.”

In understanding the efforts to discredit Christ and Christianity the corruption of this school of thought should be kept in mind as the source being used as accurate history. The DaVinci Code, the “Last Temptation of Christ” and other works that try to discredit Christ and the church come from these unreliable heretical sources. Consider the source.

SOURCES:
www.equip.org/free/DG040-2.htm
www.everystudent.com
The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious
Knowledge, Volumes IV & VI
Our Oriental Heritage, Volume I, Will Durant
Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of Christianity
History of the Christian Church, Volume I, Philip Schaff
A History of the Expansion of Christianity, Volume I,
Kenneth Scott Latourette
The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels

The Foundations of Islam

The western mind is in general unfamiliar with the Islamic faith. Current conditions have created a general curiosity about its origin and some basic precepts. An overview of the founding of the faith helps appreciate its basis.

Muhammad, the man who dictated the Koran and gave guidance to the movement was born in Mecca in the Saudi Arabian peninsula in AD 570. Until the age of 25 he worked with caravans and was exposed to both Christianity and Judaism. At age 25 he married a wealthy 40 year old widow. This allowed him financial independence. When he reached age 40 he related that a spirit called him to be an “‘apostle” and “‘prophet.” Neither of these terms are a part of any Arabian religion. He learned them from his days working with caravans.

After his death his writings were compiled as the Koran. The works are not arranged in any chronological or subject order.

At the time Muhammad received his initial visitation there were over 300 gods being worshiped in Mecca by pilgrims who came there each year to pray at the Kailaba. There was a small building there housing a black meteorite and effigies of the various gods. He chose one of these gods, Allah, the moon god as the object of his devotion. That is the reason the crescent is the symbol of Islam.

The Koran is divided into Suras, meaning chapters. Conscientious Muslims and non-Muslims are divided over the complex and occasionally conflicting passages. There are many peace loving Muslims. The religion is described as “the peaceful religion of Islam.” The multiple global acts of violence by Muslims advocating a holy war defy this description. These base their conduct on such passages as Sura 9:29 which commands Muslims to fight against Jews and Christians until their either submit to Allah or else agree to pay a special tax.

Sura 2: 65,66 and Sura 5:60 contain references to Jews as “apes and swine to be despised and rejected.”

In contrast to the “Golden Rule” which advocates doing unto others as you would have them do unto you Sura 2:194 sanctions revenge: “If anyone transgresses … against you, transgress likewise against them.”

Many not reared in the Islamic culture are confused by stories of suicide murderers being motivated by what awaits them in Paradise. The following is not an opinion it is merely a summary of Suras 52: 17-14, 55:54-56; and 78:32-34. Therein Paradise is depicted as a place of pleasure consisting of gluttonous feasts and endless sex orgies. One way to reach Paradise is to die fighting for Allah (Sura 3: 157).

Persons who would like to read for themselves some of these Suras will find a fully indexed copy of the Koran which can be searched by words and phrases at: http://www.hti.umich.edu/k/koran.

This has been written in response to persons who have asked for insight into what the Koran actually teaches. In our pluralistic culture tolerance is broadly advocated. I know our Muslim friends will be patient with those seeking to learn the teachings of the Koran.

The French Mentality

What’s with the French that they are so anti-America? One of their major problems is their selective memory.

The French head of state, Jenri Phillippe Petan arranged an armistice with Germany in 1940, and began accommodating the Nazis. On June 5, Germany attacked France. They overran the alleged impenetrable Maginot Line of the French and entered Paris on June 14. Germany easily conquered France.

American and allied forces landed on the beach at Normandy, June 6, 1944. Many Americans know of the battle at Normandy but have failed to realize it was in France. The Americans entered Paris August 25, and thus virtually achieved the liberation of the nation from German occupancy.

In less than ten years General Charles De Gaulle, French head of state, ordered all American troops out of France. A Georgian, Dean Rusk, was then our Secretary of State. He went to France and asked De Gaulle, “Does that order pertain only to American troops stationed in France or does it include those buried in French soil?”

The French have forgotten who befriended them and gave their nation new life.

A second reason for French reluctance is their current internal situation. Arab armies moved out of the Arabian Peninsula and engaged in conquests of a large part of Europe in the late 1500’s. In the late 1600’s they were turned back and driven out of Austria. Thus, the Moslem conquest of Eastern Europe ended. It resumed when in the 1980’s Muslim leaders urged their followers to move to Europe, principally France and Germany. The influx has been so dramatic that some French cities, such as Marseille, are now seventy-five percent Muslim. The Muslim milieu is now playing into the French and German conduct. They know that dissident Muslims within their countries inclined toward terrorism could cause them great internal difficulty.

Another root of the French mentality can be traced to the writing of Francois Marie Arouet (1694-1778), known as Voltaire. His social philosophy and atheistic assault on spiritual values dramatically transformed the French culture. If a people have a collective conscience that of modern France was changed by Voltaire.

These factors combined with the economic entanglement between France, Germany, Belgium, and Iraq give answer to what is going on in the UN.

Here is an aside. When the Austrian king turned back the Muslim Turks in defeat it was a momentous event. It ended the Muslim encroachment into Eastern Europe. In celebrant of the event the king’s chef created a special pastry to commemorate the victory. He shaped it like the symbol of Islam, the crescent, and called it the croissant. It was designed to be devoured to symbolize the “devouring” of their foes by the Austrian army.

The French didn’t even give us the croissant. Now to add insult to injury. They didn’t give us French fries either. They came from Belgium.

We can only hope there will be a change of heart among certain European leaders before it is too late for them. Not from our standpoint, but that of their enemy they are as reluctant to admit as was Petan.

Free Speech And The Chicks

The Dixie Chicks spoke out critically of President Bush on the event of Operation Free Iraq. They followed it with the yo-yo statement regarding opposing the war and supporting the troops. What? That is like saying you support the means but not the end.

Supporters of the Chicks parrot their right to freedom of speech. That is not a question much less the question. They absolutely have the right to freedom of speech. In part, for that reason our military personnel were in Iraq.

Meanwhile a Congressman made comments regarding certain sexual behavior of which he disapproved. There have been demands for his resignation from committee posts and even from congress. While not agreeing with his statement can one defend his freedom of speech without being consider personally un-PC?

Freedom of speech is a wonderful distinctive birthed by our forefathers. It is a right to be cherished. However, there is a closely associated factor. That is, responsible speech. Say what ever you want but don’t cry and complain when others exercise their freedom of speech to express disapproval. Those disapproving are under no obligation to vote for or buy the CDs of those with whom they disagree.

If a person is going to make a statement they should be willing to defend it or apologize for it. In either case they should accept the consequences.

It is said that many people spend 90% of their time looking for someone to blame. It is such a chronic trait that it has spawned a book entitled, “I’m Not My Fault.”
The Chicks offered as a feeble excuse that they were in a foreign country. That is all the more reason the statement was out of line. The foreign country was England where their Prime Minister was under heavy criticism for aligning with President Bush in the war effort. It was an indirect criticism of Tony Blair. They got two birds with one stone.

Linked with freedom and responsibility is the consequence. There is a price to be paid for free speech. Showing the courage of convictions can be exacting. Our founding fathers were free to speak out against oppression. Having done so they showed the courage to stand by their convictions. It cost most of them dearly. The congressman and the Chicks having exercised their free speech should expect response.

This once more illustrates there is a difference in talent and wisdom. The Chicks by today’s standards are considered musically talented. That does not make them all knowing or all wise. It does make then all the more accountable because of the scope of their influence. To spin off an old axiom: “If you can’t stand the feedback stay away from the microphone.”

Freedom of speech is having the right to speak. Wisdom is knowing the right thing about which to speak, where, and when.

There is also a line in our law which says, “You have the right to remain silent….” That too is a freedom. It is at times a responsibility.

Scripture says, “Speak the truth in love.” There are times love prompts silence. The Chicks didn’t show our President any love or respect. Neither did they show our troops any support.

Faith In The Face Of Terrorism

“The city was under siege. As when a house is on fire, the inhabitants wanted to flee. The populace seemed eager to save themselves, even if naked and ashamed. Others heard of the calamity and received the exiles. Tales of the horrors which had befallen the city were widespread; stories of tortured souls shook the city. Shaking of foundations was a well-known cause of alarm.

Now every heart quivered. All saw death daily before their eyes. Terror was constant. Many were shut up within the walls of their own houses. The enemy was encamped around. There were those who roamed the streets seeking the guilty as well as the innocent. Formerly free persons sat shackled, anxiously inquiring of those they felt safe to ask, “Who today has been seized, carried off, or punished? How did it happen? How did they fall?’ The people lived a life more dreadful than death.

This calamity is an enigma, isn’t it? In this scene there is flight without an enemy. Inhabitants are expelled without a battle. There is captivity without capture. No fires of barbarians are visible. No faces of the enemy are seen.”

Those are the opening paragraphs of my book entitled “Farewell to Fear.” The story is a parody. The city is “you” and the enemy attacking the city is “fear.” Fear attacks us as an army lays siege to a city. Now read those paragraphs again.

Here is another line from the book, “No emotion so completely robs the mind of all its powers of reason and action as fear.”

Tension and stress caused by the uncertainty of potential terrorist activity has everyone a bit edgy. Y2K was only a primer compared to this. The terrorists have already accomplished part of their goal, that is, the disrupting of daily life and raising the fear factor. How can we respond most properly?

A young pilot returning from flying an unarmed reconnaissance flight over Iraq wrote to tell me of his fear. He had just been reading my book and he wrote, “I remembered the line from your book, “The God who conquered Canna said, “Fear not’ and in that I found consolation.'”

My working title for the book was “Fear Nots Untie Fear Knots.” I still think that was a good title.

This conflict has religious roots. The counter point personal remedy is a spiritual one. Use your spiritual resources and if you don’t have any make establishing them a priority. One of the most useful spiritual weapons is prayer. Prayer is not just telling God what He already knows – it is meditating and giving Him time to tell you what you don’t know. Commit Scripture to memory. Here is a starter: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand” (Philippians 4:6,7 NLT).

If you have your spiritual priorities in order you live in a no lose position. It is time to reassess what really is of value. With our value system properly ordered life takes on new meaning. That helps relieve tension and stress.

Evolution: Fact Or Theory

Attending a state university and having a major in biology I learned what is required for a matter to be considered a scientific fact. It must pass three tests.

1. Is or was it observable?
2. Is it demonstrable?
3. Is it repeatable?

In light of that three fold test consider whether evolution Is a scientific fact. Religion is not in that equation.

If it is not a scientific fact what is it? It is a theory. It is undeniable that there has been change. There is no evidence however that the species line has been crossed.

Reference is often made to “the missing link.” Link? Links. There are numerous reputable scientists with prestigious degrees who acknowledge it.

Consider point number one. Was anyone there to observe the first amoeba crawl out of the primordial swamp and become another higher creature?

Point three: Is there anywhere an ape in the process of becoming a Homo Sapien? Careful how you answer that one.

It is said most people believe in evolution. Not so. Studies show the opposite. Still most people who believe in evolution believe in it because they believe most people believe in evolution.

Why are some people so passionate about the issue? Some conscientiously believe it is a science. They have been taught only principles supporting the idea. They have never challenged their belief by reading such works as “Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution” by Dr. Michael J. Behe or “The Design Inference” by Dr. William A. Dembski or “Evolution: The Challenge of the Fossil Record” by Dr. Duane T. Gish. These are scientists highly regarded by their peers. A reading of some challenging articles can be readily accessed on the web at “Behe, Michael J. – On-line Articles.”

A good way to confirm your beliefs is to challenge them. I established my beliefs in college by being required to read material supporting evolution. In a secular classroom I saw enough flaws in the theory to at least evaluate alternatives. Though not required to do so why not read scientific works that challenge the theory of evolution? You might come out believing in it even more. You might not.

Don’t be like the Paduanesian theologians who refused to look through Galileo’s telescope for fear they would see something they could not believe. By giving concepts other than evolution a quality study you might see something you didn’t know and come to believe it. Explore! After all, isn’t that what science is all about?

Bottom line: creation or evolution, which ever you believe you will have to do it on the basis of faith. For proof of this review the three points above.

You don’t know what you don’t know —- you know.

The Emergence Of Evil

Evil is a word that has almost been lost from our language. President Reagan called Russia the “Evil Empire” and was criticized.

The word has had a second coming lately. President Bush has referred to the terrorist actions as “evil deeds.” To use language of our youth: “Right on Mr. President.” There is no other word for these terrorists actions.

However, that is the same word used by zealots who oppose America. In every religions there are extremist who exploit their faith and dishonor their founder. There are many Moslems who disagree with actions of Moslem extremist. This is especially true of American Moslems. It would be encouraging to hear more of them being more vocal in opposition to the evil being done under the guise of Islam.

There are twenty military conflicts going on in the world right at this time. Eighteen of them involve Islamic societies. Not all is peaceful in that world. American’s have shed blood in defense of Islamic governments, such as, in Somalia and Bosnia. We get no credit in the Moslem world for these actions favoring them.

Members of the Islamic community must concede there is a significant extremists element exploiting their faith as a shield for their evil deeds.

Osama bin Laden said it is his religious duty to seek weapons of mass destruction.

Saddam Hussein said he has given his life to serve Allah. Over the past months he has donated more than 50 pints of blood. It is not for use of the needy in his country. It has been given to be mixed with an ink base and used to write the Koran. Under the umbrella of his faith he continues to develop weapons of mass destruction to ultimately be used in initiating further evil deeds.

Now comes the appeal for us to halt military action during Ramadan. Iran and Iraq fought through several periods of Ramadan. Mohammed even fought through it. He raided caravans around Medina to start his movement and stopped for nothing. It has not been uncommon for Moslems to fight during the holiday season.

Our president is right, this is not a fight with Islam or the Moslem people. Unfortunately those against which this war is waged are hiding behind that shield. Therefore, it is being sold to the Moslem world as America opposing Islam. Or as Mohammed called Christians and Jews, “People of the Book,” fighting Islam.

Evil is a word used in the Moslem world for America. Our movies, music, manner of dress, and entertainment are thought to be evil. Elements of each are. In general what we call progress is undesired by Islamic extremists. They have been taught to do everything as Mohammed did. That even includes what fingernail to cut first and how. Their traditions are very defined. Western civilization is thought to be alien to such a life style and therefore evil. These extremists (note I didn’t say all Moslems) hate Western society because they believe it is evil. That very hatred is the evil resulting in terrorist activities.

Drug Abuse

“Denial” isn’t a river in Egypt.

Up to 25% of this years senior classes across America can’t pass a urinalysis.

In addition to the human tragedy involved drug abuse is expensive. 80 to 85% of those in prison are there on drug related changes. Think of the costs of providing those prisons and supporting the inmates.

There are 126 countries that don’t have as many in prison as 126 of the Georgia counties.

The hospital cost for a normal weight baby in most hospitals is about $3,750. Costs for a drug addicted baby is near $100,000.

A Congressional finding revealed that drug abuse has more than doubled since 1996. The most dramatic increase occurred among 13 and 14 year olds.

Substance abuse is at the core of a number of other problems, such as, rising numbers of violent teens, growth of gang crime, increased health costs, HIV infections, teenage pregnancy, high school dropouts, and lower economic productivity.

Yet, many people are in denial regarding of how serious the problem really is.

To help one person to avoid the devastating result of drug abuse or to rescue one from its grip is a lifesaving experience.

To help avoid abuse talk with youth. It is estimated that if parents did it would result in a 30% decline in abuse. Build family ties.

Out of concern I have identified with two primary movements in this arena. As a preventive the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has a highly effective program called “One Way to Play, Drug Free.” I am Chairman of the International Board of this body headquartered in Kansas City. Check the web site: FCA.org and look under “One Way to Play…” Additionally, encourage youth to check “Hang Time” on this site for helpful encouragement.

A recent study by the Templeton Foundation found “One Way to Play…” to be one of the most highly successful programs offered in the area of prevention. Ever school should have it. Across America thousands do. It has done much to reverse the softening of peer norms against abuse.

You will see the logo on the back of Gainey Transport trucks. Harvey Gainey in on the FCA Board.

I have also partnered with the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home to provide the Nelson Price Drug Rehabilitation Center located at 729 Lawrence Street in Marietta. This 29 bed in and out patient treatment center will be dedicated May 14, at 1:30 PM. Come by and visit. A shuttle will run from Roswell Street Baptist Church. I would like for the community to know of this facility and use it to the advantage of persons needing help. I also want the community to know so no one will think it is where I went to get rehabilitated like Betty Ford. For the serious minded that part is not true, it’s a joke. OK!

There is no denying there is a major problem needing our collective efforts. Find a place along the battle line and get involved.

Don’t Be A Goose

While playing cowboy on a ranch in Montana I observed the behavior of two animals that illustrate human conduct. When I thought of writing on this topic I thought it mirrors teens and it does. However, it also typifies some adult behavior.

One was a goose named “Goose.” The ranch foreman, Lyle, rescued Goose the day he hatched. A predator killed his mom and siblings. Goose manifested a trait of geese. They imprint with whatever they are around during their earliest days. Goose happened to be around Lyle and his dog Pinkie. Therefore Goose thought he was a dog or human. He walked around following Pink Dog because Pink Dog followed Lyle. When Pinkie wasn’t around he followed Lyle. If Lyle wasn’t around he walked around following the nearest human. He walked rather than fly.

He ate dog food and slept in the dog house. When Pinkie would bark Goose would squawk. He delighted to pick at shoe laces and if a person crossed him he would attack with wings flapping.

Wild geese would fly up and down the Big Hole River honking but Goose paid them no attention.

Goose will never know the exhilaration of flying the North American flyway. He will never develop his full potential as a Canadian Goose. He practiced one dog trait too many. He chased Lyle’s car one time too many without Lyle knowing it. Goose was run over without ever knowing his true identity. He never lived up to his potential.

The other animal was actually several horses. There were seven in the corral and pasture when a new one was introduced. The seven bonded together to exclude the new guy, Tug. They would graze together and if the new horse came too close they would run him away snipping at his flank and trying to run along beside and kick at him. Day after day the seven smoozed together. The new boy on the block was forced to stay out of their grouping.

One of the quarter horses was a beautiful paint. He seemed to know he was good looking and was dominant in keeping the intruder from getting involved. Not only would the paint, Scout, drive the loner away he would even walk away and lead the others to follow leaving Tug alone. It was class discrimination at its best. It was a click horse style.

It is one thing for horses to be antisocial but for human beings to practice this behavior is ridiculous. Tug did nothing other than be new to the society of horses. That alone caused the petty group to ostracize him. I didn’t know horses could be so insecure. Humans do the same thing to one another and the primary reason is their insecurity. There was nothing wrong with Tug. There was something very wrong with the horsing around of the group.

The same scenario will be acted out on campuses early this fall. The basic conduct will be applied in adult social circles.

The moral of these stories! Be all you were created to be and help others be all they can become. Don’t rob the world of the original you by imprinting with an unbecoming person or philosophy. Open yourself and emotionally embrace those around you.

Do Christians And Muslims Worship The Same God?

You decide, do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

In answering this question the resources are the Qur’an (Koran), and the Hadith from a Sunni Islam perspective. The Qur’an is considered by Muslims to be the sacred writing given Muhammad. The Hadith is a compilation of sayings by Muhammad compiled by his loyalists in the eighth century A.D. From a Christian perspective the Holy Bible is the source of insight.

With reference to Jews and Christians Muhammad wrote in the Qur’an: “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which has come down to you; our God and your God is One; and it is to Him we bow.”

Among Arabs the name “Allah” stemmed from use of it before the birth of Muhammad in reference to the only true God.

The name “Allah” was introduced to Islam by Arabic-speaking Jews and Christians living in the Arab Peninsula as referring to the one and only true God.

Allah is viewed as the Almighty, the eternal Creator, who is omniscient and omnipotent.
Though Muslims and Christians use many of the same terms to refer to God they have widely divergent understandings of His nature and character. Each claims to have the true concept.

Muhammad was highly offended by the rejection of much of his writings by Jews and Christians. When he move from Mecca to Medina his writings regarding them changed radically. At this time he also changed the direction in which his followers were to pray from Jerusalem to Mecca. He also published his account of Abraham and his son Ishmael building the Ka’bah in Mecca (Surah 2:125-27). Islam later replaced the biblical account of Solomon building his temple on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem with the story of Abraham along with his son Ishmael building the Ka’bah.

Muhammad began with the concept of only one true God, Allah. He initially attributed to Him many of the attributes he learned from Christians and Jews. He gravitated to a non-biblical view of God’s nature. This impacted all of Islamic doctrine.

Muhammad’s move from Mecca to Medina coincided with many changes. His writing of the Qur’an up until this time was basically poetic and philosophical. It changed to being more political and militant. This is a primary reason for current confusion over whether Islam is a peaceful religion. It depends on which part of the Qur’an you read. It was at Medina he began to elevate the Arab people in prominence and himself as their leader.

In fairness it must be noted when Muslims refer to Allah and Christians refer to God they are referring to the same being. The word for God among Arab Christians is Allah. As “Dieu” is the French word for God so “Allah” is the Arabic word for God.

However, the Qur’an concept of the nature of God and the Christian perspective are diametrically opposed. The same God could not have authored the Qur’an and the Holy Bible in that they have contradictory perspectives of the nature of God as well as conflicting historical accounts. It is at the point of the nature of God the two faiths differ.

To say Allah is the God of the Bible and then attribute to Him unbiblical characteristics is worse than saying the two are different entities.

The nature of God among Muslims is He is monotheistic, one God. It is the concept of the Trinity they reject.

Christians also believe in One God but as a tri-unity. They are three persons that cannot be condensed into one with one will that cannot be divided into three. As St. Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate there is one clover with three petals. So with H2O. As a solid it is ice, as a gas it is fog, as a liquid it is water, yet in each form it is one, H2O.

Muslims conceive of Allah as a unit and Christians conceive of God as a union, three-in-one.

The concept of God as one entity poses a question unanswered in the Muslim faith. The Holy Bible says “God is love.” Conceding He is eternal and existed before the dawning of creation consider that. For there to be love there must be one loving and the object loved. Before creation there was nothing and no one to love. Without an object there is no love. Without an object to love there could be no love. Love being the very nature of God there had to be an object to love before creation.

Before the dawning of creation the preexistent Trinity existed and did so in love. Their loving nature made them in all things one.

To profess monadic monotheism as advocated in Islam is to deny the incarnation of Jesus Christ and all things associated.

In Surah 5:118 Jesus is said to have told God He is free to punish or to forgive His followers who said that He, Jesus, claimed deity. The Qur’an does not ascribe deity to Jesus Christ.

In the following Holy Bible passages deity is attributed to Jesus Christ: Colossians 2:9, Romans 9:5, Titus 2:13, I Timothy 3:16, Acts 20:28.

It is also said He is able to destroy Jesus, His mother, and every living creature (5:17). Jews and Christians are categorized as worshipers of evil for rejecting Islam and are considered only next to those who have incurred the curse and wrath of God, those whom He transformed into apes and swine (60).

In Islam there is no need for a savior for Allah forgives whom He pleases and condemns whom He pleases. “He forgives whom He pleaseth, and punishes whom He pleaseth.” (Surah 2:284)

“Whom Allah willeth, He leaveth to wander; whom He willeth, He placeth on the way that is straight.” (Surah 74:31)

One of the last Surah of the Qur’an presents the strongest attack on the nature and character of the God of the Bible. Among Muslims it is believed Allah’s will is not based on His nature but His fiat, that is, what He says not who He is. By his fiat it is determined what is defiled and what is not (5:1-6), severe punishment for disobedience (2,4,5b,87,95), in affirming no one escapes (7,8), and conditional rewards (9-1).

These truths place Islam and Christianity opposite each other in revealing that to Christians it is God’s nature that provides His love and in Islam it is His fiat and has nothing to do with His nature.

The Asharites, who represent orthodox Islam, say no trait or characteristic attributed to man can be applied to Allah as meaning the same thing for that would make Him like man. Though He is called “Most Merciful” does not mean He has the quality of mercy ascribed to a human being. Terms applied to Allah in the Qur’an do not mean the same they do when applied to a human being. That makes it very difficult to understand the nature of Allah because the same term can be interpreted to mean different things by different interpreters.

Each Surah begins with, “In the Name of God the merciful and compassionate.” This is not intended to describe what God is, but rather what He can do, if He wants to, but He can also be the opposite. God’s moral character is subject to His will under this understanding. For the Christian God is in His very nature merciful and compassionate. His actions are based on this. All discussions concerning the nature of God are considered blasphemy.

The Holy Bible reveals the very nature of God and it is very different from that of the Qur’an. The God of the Qur’an contradicts Himself depending on His will not His nature. This results in capricious actions at times. The true God of the Holy Bible is the God of truth whose nature is eternal faithfulness and reliability. His actions are consistent because they are in keeping with His nature. His actions and provisions are never contrary to His character. God loves not because He can, but because it is His nature. God is love.

Reflecting back to the concept of Monadic Monotheism it leaves one with an understanding of a God who in His essence is alone. Before and apart from creation Allah is depicted as existing in total solitude, alone. Such a God who existed in total nothingness and darkness is not one who was eternally loving. There was nobody and nothing to love. The tri-unity of the Christian Godhead reveals that in eternity God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit existed before creation in a loving relationship so intimate they are one. They indeed constitute a monotheistic God, three in one. Their love prompted creation. Thus, human beings were created by love and for love.

They are three in one as three matches placed together and struck comprise one fire. Their nature is the same from eternity and never changes. Thus, they can be known in a loving relationship.

[This article is based on material found in “Bibliotheca Sacra,” Volume 161, Numbers 641 & 642.]

The DaVinci Code – Part 4

The DaVinci Code was released by Dan Brown in March 2003. It quickly rose on the “New York Times” bestseller list. It is now in print in over 100 countries.

It is a conspiracy theory based on the premise that there is “scientific evidence that the New Testament is false testimony” (p.341).

On the title page Brown claims: “All description of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are true.”

He claims to have “secret knowledge” essential to knowing God.

He asserts, “The church has two thousand years of experience pressuring those who threaten to unveil its lies. Since the days of Constantine, the church has successfully hidden the truth about Mary Magdalene and Jesus” (P. 407).

Boldly Brown wrote: Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false” (P. 235).

HIS PRIMARY SOURCES
His sources consist principally of the Gnostic gospels written in the second and third centuries and discovered in 1945, in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. He regards these spurious books as the “lost books of the Bible.”

None of these works meet the consensus criteria used to determine if an ancient writing was sacred. These were:
Was it written by an apostle of Christ or by someone with direct contact with the apostles?
Did the questionable writings receive acceptance as consistent with the known teachings of Christ?
Did they evidence the fruits of spiritual power and truth?

None of the Gnostic gospels meet these standards. (See “The Gnostic Gospels” on this web site.)

Long ago Aristotle established a commendable criteria for demonstrating the credibility of an ancient document. Principles were:
Was the person an eye witness to the event recorded?
How many copies of the record do we have and how close are they to the event they describe?
Are there other sources outside the document that corroborate the document’s claim?

These are still accepted standards for verifying ancient documents. The DaVinci Code fails on each point.

THE TESTS OF A HISTORICAL NOVEL
Historical fiction is a literary style in which fictional characters live within the realm of historical facts. Professor Sarah K. Herz in her syllabus “Using Historical Fiction in The History Classroom” notes: “The author of historical fiction must blend historical facts with imagination and creative style to master his art…. the writer of historical fiction must not distort past reality; the writer must not manipulate historical facts to make the novel more interesting and exciting.” However, that is exactly what Brown does from beginning to end.

He represents the Priory of Sion as a secret society which has kept the truth about Jesus secret for years.

The Priory of Sion was a monastic order founded in Jerusalem in 1100 and later merged with the Jesuits in 1617. They didn’t come into existence until after the time in which Brown said they began to hide the truth about Jesus and Mary Magdalene.

A second use of the title was made by Pierre Plantard who in 1954, established a group to help persons needing low-cost housing. It was dissolved in 1957.

In the 1960s and 70s Plantard once more used the name, “Priory of Sion.” He created a number of forged documents to “prove” the reality of a bloodline from Jesus and Mary through the French Kings to himself. These bogus documents were broadly distributed in France including the National Library.
In 1993, under oath Plantard admitted to a French judge he had fabricated all the documents related to the Priory of Sion. Even being aware of the admitted hoax by Plantard, Brown used them as a primary “secret source” in his writing.

Brown defined the “Holy Grail” as being Mary Magdalene, not the chalice used by Christ at the Last Supper. In reality the term wasn’t used until 1170, in “Perceval,” a work related to the legend of King Arthur. There are no writings eluding to Mary as the “Holy Grail” prior to this.

Yet another misrepresentation of history relates to the Opus Dei. Brown states it as a fact “The Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion, and dangerous practices known as “corporal mortification.’” Quite the contrary, Opus Dei was a self-denying group devoted to sacrificial good works.

WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE TEACH ABOUT JESUS AND MARY MARRYING?
The Bible neither states Jesus stayed single or got married. However, every internal line of logic says He did not marry.

Paul wrote the church in Corinth: “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (I Cor. 9:5). If Jesus were married He would doubtless have been used as the highest example validating taking along wives.

Texts referring to the family of Jesus mention His mother, brothers, and sisters but never a wife.

Likewise when Mary is mentioned in Scripture she is never linked to a man as his wife.

When Paul was seeking to establish a minister’s right to marry he surely would have mentioned Christ’s marriage had such existed.

At the cross Jesus showed great compassion regarding His mother but makes no mention of Mary Magdalene. Were she His wife surely He would have shown her comparable compassion.

CONSTANTINE AND CHRIST
Brown wrote, “The Bible, as we know it today, was collated by the pagan Roman emperor Constantine.” (P. 231).

He further notes, “Because Constantine upgraded Jesus’ status almost four centuries after Jesus’ death…Constantine commissioned and financed a new Bible, which omitted those gospels that spoke of Christ’s human traits…The earlier [Gnostic] gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned.” (P. 234). False!

No Gnostic gospels were burned at the Council of Nicaea, the alleged site of the burning. What was burned were heretical writing by an errant priest Arian.

The collection of New Testament books was started long before Constantine. (See “How We Got our Bible” on this web site.) It wasn’t completed until 70 years after his death.

Following are some Scripture passages verifying the deity of Christ long before Constantine: Acts 20:28; Titus 2:13; Colossians 2:9; Romans 9:5; I Timothy 3:16) (See “The Deity of Christ” on this web site.)

Bottom line, The DaVinci Code is not a historical novel. It is fiction. If one is going to read it there should be an awareness it is a secular novel that dramatically distorts history.

The DaVinci Code – Part 3

Emperor Constantine called a council to convene in Nicea, Turkey in 325 AD. At that time he conspired to create a divine Christ and infallible Scripture. To do this he had “scholars” rewrite portions of the Bible to depict Christ, who had always been considered just a noble prophet, as divine. By a narrow vote the council agreed to say He was divine.

All of that is historically false, yet represented as fact in the intriguing novel “The DaVinci Code,” by Dan Brown. It is demonstrably false. Unfortunately many people don’t know the accurate history and have no basis for knowing it to be untrue.

Constantine did convene the Council of Nicea but that was not the agenda nor result. There are ancient manuscripts that predate the council by many years that are the same as those after the council. There was no rewrite. The council was called to address certain heresies that were emerging. They confirmed and codified defensive positions based on Scripture that had long been held.
The deity of Christ was not an issue for vote as alleged. A question was whether Christ was eternal or created. The vote was not even close as only two voted He was created.

Long before the Council of Nicea Christ had been worshiped as divine. In the translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek called the Septuagint the Greek word for God used to translate the Hebrew word Jahweh was Kyrios. It is the same word used in the oldest New Testament manuscripts for Christ.

A prominent theme in Brown’s work is that Mary Magadelene and Jesus were married. This is presented as a fact. Dr. Karen King of Harvard University is recognized as the foremost authority on ancient manuscripts related to Mary Magadelene. She says there is no indication in any such ancient document that they were married.

An old error is perpetuated by Brown. Mary Magadelene is represented as having been a prostitute. This is not stated in Scripture. The first recorded time she is referred to in this way was in 591 AD when Pope Gregory the Great referred to her as such. It is unfortunate Gregory made this grave error. To many it is now a common assumption.

The injurious thing about such a novel is many readers don’t know what is true and what is fiction. A half lie is the worst kind. Few know enough church and theological history to be able to give it an objective reading.

Brown has fabricated a conspiracy novel based on unreliable resources and done it so cleverly that one reviewer said his research is “impeccable.” It would be interesting to know what historical knowledge the reviewer had.

From a spiritual stand point the most damnable heresy in the book is that the way to God is by an intellectual formula known only by a few. In making such a claim it disregards the sacrificial death of Christ as a means of grace.

In the novel Teabing, the fictional historian commented, “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false.”

Reality is almost everything Teabing and the author of “The DaVinci Code” taught us about Christ and the Bible is false.

The DaVinci Code – Part 2

The DaVinci Code has been number one on the New York Times, Barnes & Noble, and Wal Mart best seller lists and is destined for Hollywood. Prevailing skepticism in our society has resulted in it being a popular work. The idea of a past conspiracy, covert actions, long kept secrets, and untold “truth” cultivate a market for such a work.

A lack of trust in the past has opened the door for the author to use pseudo-scholarship to present his bogus “truth.” He cozies up to the reader as though he only is the one who at last is going to tell the real story. The author cleverly writes in such a way as to give the impression the book is history. In essence the book is a bad amalgam of old paganism and old Gnosticism to comprise an intriguing and entertaining novel. Bottom line, it is fiction.

The thesis is Mary Magdalene was married to Jesus. She along with their children moved to south France and formed a royal line known as the Marovingians. This fact, known only to a select few, was allegedly recorded in documents buried with Mary. Supposedly the Catholic Church worked to suppress this information which revealed Christianity to be less than is currently accepted.

Historically there is no accepted record that hints of this. There are eleven references to Mary Magdalene in the Bible. It was the custom of the era in which the gospels were written to refer to a woman by the name of her husband. She is known only by her home town. Had she been married to Jesus reference to her would have been to “Mary, wife of Jesus.”

The book gets its title from the artist Leonardo DaVinci who reputedly was a member of a secret guild that knew the true story of the marriage of Mary and Jesus. He is represented as leaving clues to the marriage in some of his paintings, most notably The Last Super. One code involved placing a “V” near one of the figures in the painting with rather feminine features. This character is normally assumed to be John but the author says it was Mary Magdalene. The “V” symbol in that era was the feminine sign.

The author does not mention there is another “V” on the other side of the painting. The two simply had to do with artistic balance and not a great revelation.

Not only is the book fiction it is historically inaccurate in many details of its false thesis. An example of this is how the Gospels were chosen. The author says 80 gospels were laid out on a table at a council and a group of men chose those they liked. There are clear and reputable records that refute this. There were less that 12 works considered and that was done many years in advance of the council in which it is said to have happened.

The author represents the work as being the work of elite scholarship. It is instead a cleverly written mystery novel but not a scholarly work.

It is one of several emerging works intended to discredit Jesus Christ. In them He is at best represented as a great prophet but not as deity as revealed in such Scripture as: Colossians 2:9, Titus 2:13, Romans 9:5, I Timothy 3:16, and Acts 20:28.

Now consider some historical and theological errors in The DaVinci Code. Without a knowledge of true history the average reader has no way to detect and correct these distinct errors.

The book begins with an introductory page identified as “FACT” which avows “all descriptions of…documents…in this novel are accurate.” NOT! This gives the reader the false impression the work is based on history. It claims to be based on the Gnostic Gospels, however it is not history.

Most persons have never heard of the Gnostic Gospels. They were written by a sect known as the Gnostics. Some such sects professed to be Christian but had nothing in common with Christianity. Historically the movement has been seen not as a phenomenon that presses forward but rather backward and stationary against the rise of universal Christianity. The movement included elements of Greek Hellenism, Zoroastrianism, and Egyptology. Gnosticism posed the most challenging opposition to the emergence of Christianity. The movement sought to destroy the true historical foundation of Christianity. It failed because it was fraudulent.

A segment of their writings known as the Gnostic Gospels have little resemblance to the four gospels of the New Testament. They do not present biographical insight regarding the historical Christ. Gnosticism was an unsuccessful attempt to inject poison into the mainstream of early Christianity. Now these ancient writings have been revived in an effort to discredit modern Christianity. Consider these errors in The DaVinci Code based largely on these false gospels written primarily by the Nag Hammadi Gnostic sect.

ERROR #1. The assertion the New Testament Gospels are not the earliest Gospels, rather the Gnostic ones are.

Teabing and Langdon, two fictitious “scholars” in the novel assert such claims. Dan Brown, the author relies heavily on two Gnostic Gospels, The Gospel of Philip and The Gospel of Mary. In reality there is no evidence either of these existed before the late second century, long after the writing of the New Testament Gospels. The philosophy contained in these bogus gospels was not espoused until the late second century and was immediately refuted by Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Tertullian who wrote at that time. These books represent a world view with more in common with Hellenism than Christianity.

ERROR # 2. Jesus was not represented as anything other that a human being until declared divine at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.

This falsehood overlooks the fact Jesus is called THEOS, “God,” seven times in the New Testament and KURIOS, “Lord,” many times in reference to His divinity. The Council of Nicea in the fourth century and the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century simply confirmed this biblical revelation from the much earlier period.

ERROR # 3. Constantine suppressed the earlier Gnostic Gospels and forced the present New Testament Gospels and the concept of Christ’s divinity on the church.

Long before Constantine and the Gnostic Gospels came on the scene the four New Testament Gospels were circulated together as authoritative sources for the church. The early church did not recognize the Gnostic Gospels as authoritative. They did not suppress them, they merely revealed their unreliability.

ERROR # 4. Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene.
The New Testament gives no hint of this. The concept is drawn from the Gospel of Philip written in the late third century.

In his novel Brown has the character Teabing argue the word “companion” in the passage in question in Aramaic means “spouse” and it does. However, the Gnostic Gospels were written not in Aramaic but Coptic in which it does not mean wife. In reality the text does not clearly say Jesus was married, much less to Mary Magdalene.

ERROR # 5. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic texts found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt are the oldest Christian records.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are purely Jewish documents. They are in no way Christian. Likewise, there is no indication any of the Gnostic texts referenced were written before the late second century. The New Testament documents were much earlier.

ERROR # 6. The early church suppressed the Sacred Feminine, a female deity.

The Bible makes it clear God is neither male nor female. He is Spirit. Christianity did not replace ancient female deities with one or more male deities. Ancient Jews and Christians were a minority insisting God is a Spirit.

SUMMARY: The DaVinci Code has put a new face on an old fraud.

These errors have been distilled from The DaVinci Code by Ben Witherington III writing in “Biblical Archaeology Review,” Volume 30, number 3.

Persons wanting to read creditable historical works on related topics should consider:
The DaVinci Code Decoded, Darrell Bock [From which much of the material in the first of this article was derived.]
Pocket History of the Church, Jeffrey Bingham
Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine, John Hannah
A Survey of Bible Doctrine, Charles Ryrie

The DaVinci Code – Part 1

“The DaVinci Code” by Dan Brown: fact or fiction?

As a literary work it is fiction.

As a historical work it gross distortion of truth which looks the other way when facts contradict the thesis.

It greatly resembles another work, “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” by Michael Baigent, written in 1983. Time has allowed for that work to be totally discredited as representing facts.

Yet, ABC TV gave it a positive hour long review. Sony Pictures has bought the film rights to have it directed by Ron Howard. The book is a best seller.

The thesis of the book is that the religious world was dominated by women until Christianity distorted it and made it a male dominated fabrication.

The author writes in such a way as to represent his personal bias as historical fact. He cleverly does this by putting words in a character named Teabing who is depicted as being a reputable historian. The character is fictitious and so are his postulates.

If a person is truly interested in truth regarding the period in which the work is set and critical documents quoted a much better reading is “The Resurrection of the Son of God,” by N.T. Wright or “The Source of Christian Ethics,” by Servais Pinckaer. Neither of these works is easy reading because they are historical in nature.

Brown alleges Constantine hid certain truthful writings and manipulated the compiling of the Bible. He notes the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s that preserved many other gospels. Not! The Scrolls were found in 1947 and did not contain any gospels. They were from the Old Testament era. That shows poor research.

The bottom line is the work is fiction that incorporates many spurious accounts from pseudo-gospels old and new. Literary it is fiction. Historically it is a lie. Intellectually it is confusing.

A very good work on “The DaVinci Code” can be found on www.tektonics.org/davincicrude.htm under the title “A Review and Critique of the DaVinci Code” by J. P. Holding. Also Breaking The DaVinci Code www.christianitytoday.com/history/newsletter/2003/nov7.html is another good reference.

The Crusaders: Muslims vs. Christians

Osama bin Laden said of the American response to 911 it is a “new crusade and Jewish campaign led by the big crusader Bush under the flag of the cross.”

Christianity is often criticized for the Crusades involving the Muslim world. A review of some of what preceded and precipitated the Crusades might put them in a different light. A chronology of history reveals Islam struck first in the Middle Ages as Osama did in America.

Jerusalem has been the center for much of the conflict. Byzantine Emperor Heraclius captured it from the Persians in 630 AD. The first Muslim-Christian clash over the territory resulted in the Muslim conquest and banishment of the Byzantines (Christians). They began work immediately on a mosque on the temple mount.

Exultant in victory the Muslim armies soon conquered Armenia and Egypt in the 640s. By 711 they had control of north Africa and parts of Europe. By 712 they penetrated deep into Spain killing the king. They crossed the Pyrenees and invaded parts of France. They were stopped at the battle of Tours.

By 717 they besieged Constantinople for the first of seven times. It finally fell in 1453. Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica fell to the Muslims and provided launching ports for assaults against Italy. By 846 they were pillaging outlying areas of Rome. By the tenth century the tide began to turn. The Byzantines began to counterattack and regain some territory. By 1000 most of the Holy Land was Christian but a Muslim ruler named Hakim persecuted them and drove them out.

In 1055 the fierce Seljuks, pagan nomads, made deep incursions into the Muslim world. They converted to Islam and became even more militant in spreading their new faith. In 1071 the Byzantine Emperor was totally defeated by these new Turkish Muslims. This resulted in great loss of territory. The Seljuk Turks captured Jerusalem from the Egyptian Shi’ite Fatimid in 1071 and drove out the Christians in 1091.

The Fatimids recaptured Jerusalem in 1098. In 1099 the first Christian crusade was launched against Jerusalem. Christians controlled most of the Holy Land until the Muslims once again conquered it in 1291.

By the fourteenth century the formidable Ottoman Turks began to invade Europe. Such territories as Hungary, Albania, and Serbia fell to them. Bitterness still exists in those areas. In May of 1453 they conquered and pillaged Constantinople. Much of their army was composed of young adults who were captured as children, taken from their Christian parents and “converted” at the point of the sword.

In 1683 the Ottomans launched their last assault against Europe which was their second attack on Vienna where they were defeated. The Muslim world went into a long period of eclipse from which it is just now emerging.

The crusades represent a grim and regrettable part of history. Perhaps this historical background frames them in better understanding.

Creation By Chance

The Raelians have given cause for people to consider origins of life. The idea that aliens came to this planet and created human life is a stretch worthy of science fiction. Their theory is destructively flawed. From where did the aliens come and how did they get there? Who created them? The search for the ultimate source of all that is has challenged human thought through the ages.

The concept of origins is a swamp in which most minds bog down. It stretches the best of thinkers.

The simplest concept of the origin of the universe and subsequently life is the one requiring the least faith. It is the Genesis account that God as the prime cause spoke the universe into existence out of nothing. Although many modern cosmologists attempt to explain the creation of the universe without God their theories point to a prime cause.

One popular postulate is that the universe sprang into existence as a result of a single event called the “Big Bang.” This is but one prime cause suggested. All must be evaluated in light of two axioms. One ex nihilo nihil fit (“out of nothing, nothing comes”) and the second, the law of causality (“for every effect there must be a cause”) both require something or someone to create the universe. The universe could not have come from nothing because out of nothing, nothing comes.

Another prime cause often suggested is that the world came into existence by “chance.” “Chance” is the descriptive term for a mathematical relationship of factors, that is, the probability that something will occur. “Chance” is nothing and has no power therefore it cannot create. “Chance” is not a cause and hence could not produce an effect. The previous two axioms disallow chance as a cause.

An antithetical alternative to “chance” is that the universe simply has always existed. However, based on the second law of thermodynamics (which states disorder is increasing) the universe would have already rundown because an infinite amount of time would have preceded the present.

When the concepts of the eternal existence of matter and spontaneous generation are disallowed there standing on histories horizon larger than life is God. Who better?

Where there is a law there is a law giver. Such laws as the laws of thermodynamics, gravity, and inertia demand a law giver.

Where there is a design such as the earth rotating on its axis and revolving in its orbit there must be a designer.

If not God then who designed this orderly cosmos with its universal laws?

The wisest of the wise, Solomon, expressed it well: “From everlasting to everlasting thou art God.” Literally, “From eternity past to eternity future, from vanishing point past to vanishing point future God always has been and always will be.”

Thinking back and forward there comes a time when the greatest of minds reach a point where thought can’t go any further, it vanishes. There in both directions as imposing as ever resides God.

The Confusing Koran

The western mind is in general unfamiliar with the Islamic faith. Current conditions have created a general curiosity about its origin and some basic precepts. An overview of the founding of the faith helps appreciate its basis.

Muhammad, the man who dictated the Koran and gave guidance to the movement was born in Mecca in the Saudi Arabian peninsula in AD 570. Until the age of 25 he worked with caravans and was exposed to both Christianity and Judaism. At age 25 he married a wealthy 40 year old widow. This allowed him financial independence. When he reached age 40 he related that a spirit called him to be an “‘apostle” and “‘prophet.” Neither of these terms are a part of any Arabian religion. He learned them from his days working with caravans.

After his death his writings were compiled as the Koran. The works were not arranged in any chronological or subject order.

At the time Muhammad received his initial visitation there were over 300 gods being worshiped in Mecca by pilgrims who came there each year to pray at the Kailaba. There was a small building there housing a black meteorite and effigies of the various gods. One of these gods was Allah, the moon god. That is the reason the crescent is the symbol of Islam.

The Koran is divided into Suras, meaning chapters. Conscientious Muslims and non-Muslims are divided over the complex and occasionally conflicting passages. There are many peace loving Muslims. The religion is described as “the peaceful religion of Islam.” The multiple global acts of violence by Muslims advocating a holy war defy this description. These base their conduct on such passages as Sura 9:29 which commands Muslims to fight against Jews and Christians until their either submit to Allah or else agree to pay a special tax.

Sura 2: 65,66 and Sura 5:60 contain references to Jews as “, apes and swine to be despised and rejected.”

In contrast to the “Golden Rule” which advocates doing unto others as you would have them do unto you Sura 2:194 sanctions revenge: “If anyone transgresses … against you, transgress likewise against them.”

Many not reared in the Islamic culture are confused by stories of suicide murderers being motivated by what awaits them in Paradise. The following is not an opinion it is merely a summary of Suras 52: 17-14, 55:54-56; and 78:32-34. Therein Paradise is depicted as a place of pleasure consisting of gluttonous feasts and endless sex orgies. One way to reach Paradise is to die fighting for Allah (Sura 3: 157).

Persons who would like to read for themselves some of these Suras will find a fully indexed copy of the Koran which can be searched by words and phrases at: http://www.hti.umich.edu/k/koran.

In our pluralistic culture tolerance is broadly advocated. I know our Muslim friends will be patient with those seeking to learn the teachings of the Koran.

Christian Civil Disobedience

What would happen if all the lambs roared at once?

The absurd extent to which the false concept regarding separation of church and state can be taken is now being played out in New York.

First, it should be noted the intended meaning of that expression as used by our founding fathers is essential to good church and state.

However, in New York it is acceptable to display a Jewish minora and a Muslim crescent. Agree! However, it is not permitted to display a nativity scene. Did I miss something? Isn’t there a hint of discrimination in this?

Didn’t someone once say, “What’s fair for the goose is fair for the gander?” Isn’t the playing field supposed to be level?

This bigotry is dramatized by the fact Congress established a national holiday called “Christmas.” The event is a legal federal holiday. The name in the law given the holiday is “Christmas.” It is not “Winter Fest” or any other contemporary title employed in an attempt to replace even the word Christmas.

Discrimination against Christians is evidenced by numerous other settings in which anything even indirectly relating is disallowed. In one school any Christian symbols or nativity depictions were forbidden. Some of the teachers encouraged the children to paint a large mural of an early evening winter scene. Snow was on the ground, stars twinkled in the sky, animals rested serenely. Protest were so strong that it was taken down. Some parents said the trees would remind people of the cross and the star of Bethlehem. Be real!

In some places students and teachers have been forbidden to wear jewelry or T-shirts with anything related to Christmas.

Consider this scenario. It is called civil disobedience. It was a method used by Ghandi in India and Martin Luther King Jr., America.

What would happen if all Christians showed up one day wearing a statement or symbol of their faith? What if all the lambs roared at one time?

If the extreme bands were imposed and people sent home because of it schools would have to close, businesses would be very short of employees, and government offices would be dramatically understaffed.

If an American flag can be burned under the pretense of free speech why can’t a Christian symbol be displayed? Aggressively proselytizing in public places is wrong. However, personal statements of individual faith should not be stifled.

Persons of the Jewish and Muslim faiths have every right to display their symbols. All of us should defend their right to do so. If they have the right, and they do, why do Christians not have the same right?

Interesting question isn’t it? What would happen if all the lambs roared at one time? Of course lambs can’t roar. However, enough simultaneous bleats might sound like a roar.

Changing Morals

Quietly a noticeable change in the moral climate of our society has occurred. A variety of factors have contributed to it.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was a catalyst. When he postulated it he was concerned that some would not only relate to physical science but expressed apprehension some would apply it to social science. Today it has been expanded into a philosophy of relativism. This means there are no moral absolutes. Right and wrong are relative.

Philosopher Fredrick Nietzche declared God is dead. Others have since joined his chorus. He concluded that since God does not exist morality is a matter of personal choice. With God out of the game we become our own umpire, our own judges. That is why there is so very little moral consensus.

Our PC climate has removed the Bible from the public forum as a standard of morality. Without this long standing compass everyone decides for him or her self which direction is north; what is right and what is wrong. Right and wrong are a matter of personal opinion and the only opinion that matters is “mine.”

Yet another influence in the change in our moral climate is insistence on tolerance. The word “tolerance” has even been more sharply redefined. For years it meant I value you and your opinion to which you are entitled but I disagree with it. That is called negative tolerance and is considered narrow minded.

Positive tolerance is the concept that one opinion is as good as any other and should not be rejected.

If God is dead, moral relativism true, and positive tolerance allowed then there is no basis upon which any action by a person can be criticized or condemned. Really?

If true ethnic cleansing, slavery, polygamy, pedofilia, incest, cloning, euthanasia, terrorism, murder, adultery, and rape would garner no moral outrage. After all those are acceptable ideas to those advocating and/or practicing them. Apologies should be offered to Hitler, Timothy McVeigh, Theodor Kazinski, Osama Ben Laden, and a host of other radicals. They considered their ideas as good as any, even better.

A brilliant British journalist, C.S. Lewis, acknowledged the root of his denial of the existence of God. He said he professed there was no God because he knew if he acknowledged God existed he would have to confess his guilt before Him. That, he said he did not want to do because he was enjoying his adultery too much. As long as he professed there was no God he did not have to admit to guilt.

It is not adultery in every case but denial is an evasive tactic practiced by many. To admit there is a God means there are moral norms. He is a God of absolutes and ultimates. His created laws of nature prevail for our comfort. Because of the law of gravity we know we are free to jump up because we will come down not float off in space. His moral laws are based on what is good for us and therefore afford comfort. When the rules of the game are known everyone has a standard. Moral laws are no more relative than the rules by which football is played. They are not relative but they are relevant.