Price Tags

The Harbinger

“The first one to plead his case seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.” Proverbs 18:17

Until a case is subjected to cross examination its truth can’t be assured. Without examination through the len of other scripture The “Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn stands as its own witness.

The author states his book is fiction and it is. It is difficult to mix fiction and prophecy. It is misleading when fiction becomes accepted as prophecy. Regardless of the intent of the author his work is heralded by many readers as prophetic.

The intent of the author appears to be to call America to repentance and that is admirable. Philosophies and practices in present day America do in many respects resemble conditions in 8th century Israel. Observing their consequence in ancient Israel should be a harbinger to America. However, the glove is stretched beyond reason to make fiction and prophecy fit like a hand-in- glove.

The book is punctuated with theological, exegetical, and hermeneutical flaws.

Hermeneutics is the study of understanding a statement in its original context. There is nothing in Isaiah 9:10 that suggests it is related to any time and place other than the Northen Kingdom of Israel in the 8th century B. C.

Isaiah 9 is a prophetic passage regarding that period. The first seven verses are essential to understand the rest of the chapter in context, yet they are completely overlooked. Therein the destruction of Israel is foretold, but her restoration is assured. The fact the author completely omits modern Israel from the novel implies God’s judgment on her was terminal. Current affairs dispute this.

April 4, 2012 Cahn, the author, stated he does not believe Isaiah 9:10 is about, to, or for America. He says the similarity between Isaiah 9:10 only demonstrates the pattern of God’s judgment. Yet, in many instances he does connect the two. On a number of occasions in the book readers are given the impression there is more than a parallel, there is a connection. The book makes this statement: “Hidden in ancient biblical prophecy from Isaiah the mysteries revealed in The Harbinger are so precise that they foretold recent American events down to the exact days… It sounds like the plot of a Hollywood thriller with one exception …. IT’S REAL.”

These claims are contradictory. How could Isaiah 9:10 not be “about, to or for America” and having precisely “foretold recent American events?”

A significant assumption in the book is that God has a covenant with America. God was obviously at work in the founding of America, but a covenant no. He had a covenant with one country of His choice, Israel. There is no biblical evidence God would have another covenant with any country. His present day covenant is with individual believers made possible by the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus.

If Isaiah 9 is the biblical pattern for judgment why isn’t the pattern found at other times in other scripture in God’s judgment of Israel? There is a simple pattern for judgment found throughout the Bible. It is: God warns, God waits, and if there is no repentant response God expressed His wrath. That pattern is a constant and applies to America as it has to other cultures in the past.

The Harbinger is a novel —- an intriguing novel. It has a message that should be a wake-up call for America, but it is not prophetic. Not all books that contain scripture are scriptural. This one isn’t.

Four Blood Moons

Pastor John Hagge in his book entitled Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change has garnered a significant following of his “end time” thesis based on the moon.

A “Blood Moon” occurs when there is a total lunar eclipse. It bears the name “blood” because the rays of the sun passing through the earth’s atmosphere give the moon a reddish color. A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth is directly between the sun and the moon. When there are four such moons separated by six months it is called a Tetrad.

The next four lunar eclipses will occur on two significant Jewish festivals: Passover April 15, 2014 and April 4, 2015 and Feast of the Tabernacles (Skkot) October 8, 2014 and September 28, 2015. Though rare there have been eight that occurred on these feast days since 162 AD. The most recent Blood Moon Tetrad occurred in 2003 – 2004. Seven more are scheduled before 2100.

Some of NASA’s records and the calculations by Hagge do not seem to correspond.

The frequency of Tetrads vary over time. Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli has observed that there was a 300 year period when Tetrads were numerous followed by another 300 year period when there were none.

Hagge’s thesis is made all the more intriguing in that some dramatic historical events have occurred in Israel around the time of blood moons. He stated, “Every time this has happened in the last 500 years, it has coincided with tragedy for the Jewish people followed by triumph.” He continued, “Once again, for Israel the timing of this Tetrad is remarkable.”

Hagge asserts the 1493 Tetrad ushered in the Spanish Inquisition involving the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. Wrong, these blood moon occurred a year after the Inquisition.

The second in 1948 saw the return of the Jews to the Bible Land and the establishment of the nation of Israel. This was a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. However, these moons happened a year after statehood. Again Hagge is wrong.

The third in 1967 coincided with the Six-Day Arab-Israeli War.

As a firm believer in Bible prophecy there is one statement in scripture that stands out to me. Related to the Second Coming of Christ and the end of time scripture says no man know “the day nor the hour.” Hagge says he is not setting dates, but that God and NASA set these dates.

I have lived long enough to have know there are reasons to doubt date setters. A couple of examples are the booklet published in 1987 entitled Eighty-eight Reasons Jesus will come in 1988. When He didn’t the author issued a corrected edition entitled, Eighty-nine Reasons Jesus Will Come in 1989.

Will any person who was alive in 1999 ever forget the approach of midnight January 1, 2000 and the Y2K end of the ages?

The Mayans missed with the Mayan Calendar focusing on 2012 as the end of time.

The marvel is millions of people bought into each of these theories.

To be fair with Hagge he does not say these Four Blood Moons will be the end of time, but in speaking of them he reads scripture over and over related to the Second Coming.

Scripture gives sound advice regarding end times: “…be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.” Be ready and enjoy life.

What Does The Mormon Church (Church Of Latter Day Saints) Church Teach?

This column is in response to requests for insights into the difference between Mormonism and traditional Christianity.

I have dear friends who are Mormons. They, like most Mormons, are gracious socially, exceptional family people, and in general good citizens. As such they personally are objects of my regard.

The Church of Latter Day Saints is better known as Mormonism. I would not deliberately misrepresent any person’s faith so I hope Mormons find the following to be a fair representation of their faith based on the teachings of their church. Each of these points comes from a document accepted by the Church of Latter Day Saints (hereafter noted as “the Church”) and is documented accordingly.

Space limits the ability to reveal the numerous ways the teachings of the Church differ from the Bible. Therefore, only a few will be considered. Members of the Church say they believe Jesus Christ is the Firstborn of God the Father. By that what do they mean?

They believe “We are sons and daughters of God, and we lived in a premortal existence as His spirit children” (Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, [hereafter noted as “D&C”], p. 106).

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!!! . . . We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil, so that you may see,” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345).

God used to be a man on another planet, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 321; Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 613-614; Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 345; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 333).

God the Father had a Father, (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 476; Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p. 19; Milton Hunter, First Council of the Seventy, Gospel through the Ages, p. 104-105).

There is a mother god, (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 443). God is married to his goddess wife and has spirit children, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 516).

The first spirit to be born in heaven was Jesus, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 129). Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and we were all born as siblings in heaven to them both, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163; Gospel Through the Ages, p. 15). “Therefore we know that both the Father and the Son are in form and stature perfect men; each of them possesses a tangible body . . . of flesh and bones,” (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 38).

The Devil was born as a spirit after Jesus “in the morning of pre-existence,” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 192). Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and we were all born as siblings in heaven to them both, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163).

A plan of salvation was needed for the people of earth so Jesus offered a plan to the Father and Satan offered a plan to the Father. Jesus’ plan was accepted. In effect the Devil wanted to be the Savior of all Mankind and to “deny men their agency in order to dethrone God,” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 193; Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 8).

“The fact that there is no reference to a mother in heaven either in the Bible, Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants, is not sufficient proof that no such thing as a mother did not exist there” (Answers to Gospel Questions, Joseph Smith, Jr., p. 143).

Jesus was the “Firstborn” of the Sovereign’s offsprings. Lucifer, his brother, was the second born in the morning of pre-existence, and the rest of human beings followed in this premortal existence. “We are all the spiritual children of heavenly parents.” (Eternal Marriage Student Manual, p. 259).

“The child to be born to Mary was begotten by Elohim (God).”

This is called “celestial Sireship.” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, p. 23)

The Church teaches there is an after life when righteous spirits carry the message of salvation to wicked spirits in hell and co-mingle. At this point those wicked spirits can repent and be freed. (Preparation for Exaltation, p. 36).

The Church teaches the Father in heaven was once a man as we are now, capable of physical death. He progressed through stages to reach the stage of “exaltation of godhood.” Humans have the power to reach godhood. When we become gods we will have jurisdiction over worlds that will be peopled by our offsprings. (Achieving a Celestial Marriage, p. 132).

The Church holds that “Jesus Christ was married at Cana of Galilee, that Mary, Martha, and others were his wives, and that he begat children” (Orson Hyde (apostle) The Judgments of God on the United States, (March 15, 1855) in Journal of Discourses, p. 210).

The following are two of the primary reasons some consider The Church of Latter Day Saints, Mormonism, a cult.

Joseph Smith, Jr. taught The Book of Mormon is more reliable than the Bible, (History of the Church, p. 4:461). It advocates that if it had not been for Joseph Smith and the restoration, there would be no salvation. There is no salvation outside the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Mormon Doctrine, p.670).

By way of contrast the Bible teaches Jesus is called “God’s only begotten Son.” The word “begotten” is a compound of two Greek words used in Scripture. One word is mono, meaning “one.” The other is genes, meaning “kind, type, or species.” Combined they are used to speak of God’s only one of a kind son. The Greek word “monogenees” is used to mean the only one of the same nature as. In Scripture Jesus is not spoken of as a Son of God, but the Son of God.

Two different Greek words are translated “son” in Scripture.

Teknon stresses the fact of human birth. It is used of homo sapiens.

Huios emphasizes dignity and character relationship. It is used of Jesus.

The word “son” does not mean prodigy. A good dictionary defines “son” as one associated with or identified with. James and John were the sons of thunder. Barnabas was the son of encouragement.

John 3: 16 refers to Jesus as “the only begotten Son of God.” The Greek text literally means He was “God’s only one of a kind Son.” Jesus, as a member of the Trinity, was God the Son along with God the Holy Spirit and God the Father.

“Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” I Timothy 3:16

Question: When was God manifested in the flesh and fulfilled all these traits?” In the person of Jesus.

“In Him dwells all the fullness of the godhead bodily.” Colossians 2: 9

In Acts 20: 28 reference is made to “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” When did God shed blood? On the cross. Who was that on the cross? It was Jesus Christ — God.

Philippians 2: 5 – 7: “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking on the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men….”

The first use of “form” translates the Greek word MORPHE meaning nature of character. His nature, His very essence, was God.

The second use of “form” translates the Greek word SCHEMA, meaning outward form or appearance. His outward appearance was that of a man. Thus, He was “God with us.” The angel said, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated God with us.” Matthew 1: 23

Our Mormon friends can try to explain away every one of these truths, BUT they remain truth. Jesus is God the Son, Immanuel, God with us. He is not “a” God He is “the” God.

At some point the complex issue of the Trinity comes into play. Are there three Gods? NO! “The Lord thy God is one God.” They are three in one. H2O as a liquid is water, as a gas it is a vapor, as a solid it is ice; three in one.

A three leafed clover has three leaves, but is one clover. The Trinity is one God.

Mormonism teaches persons can be baptized for the dead. This is required for the persons ultimate salvation. If it is man’s part in salvation that means that what Jesus did on the cross is incomplete and has to be completed by man, and is completed by baptism. Again I say that indicates what Jesus did on the cross was incomplete. The Bible teaches contrary to that. Salvation is by the blood of Jesus not the water of man.

Bottom line: they believe Jesus is the son of God, but they do not believe Jesus is God the Son. They believe Jesus was “a” son of God just as they conceive all human beings to be.

Christians revere Jesus as the nexus of God. The angel messenger in speaking to Joseph called Jesus Immanuel, meaning God with us. Incarnation is a word describing the process. The root “incarnate” means embodied in flesh.

As such Christians believe Jesus was God manifest as a corporeal, touchable, human being: the man/God-God/man, Immanuel, God with us.

Calvinism And Arminians: How About Baptist Doctrine

The following by Ron F. Hale was first posted March 13, 2012 on “SBC Today.”

While living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I loved looking down at the cityscape from the perch of Mt. Washington. You could ride the incline car up the steep hillside and see the confluence of the Ohio River as the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers came to an end at “The Point” in downtown Pittsburgh; Three Rivers Stadium is nearby. Depending on the weather in southwestern Pennsylvania, some days you could see muddy waters from one river flowing into the headstream of the Ohio River, while the other river brought much clearer water. These two rivers (one cloudy and one clear) seemed to flow side-by-side while slowly mixing and mingling together in the formation of the mighty Ohio.

Two rivers of theological thought have historically flowed through the mainstream of the Southern Baptist Convention. The waters have been muddied a bit by the Great Awakenings in America, the Sandy Creek revivalist tradition of Separate Baptists in the South, the Charleston tradition influenced more by Particular confessions of faith and their pastors trained in Presbyterian seminaries like Princeton, and the adoption of new Baptist confessions and statements of faith forged in the New World.

Dr. Steve W. Lemke’s précis of the two streams of soteriology (doctrine of salvation) meandering through our Southern Baptist history is enlightening:

To oversimplify a bit, Southern Baptists have two theological tributaries flowing into our mainstream – the Arminian-leaning General Baptists and the Calvinist-leaning Particular Baptists. Unto themselves, these tributaries were essentially free-standing streams, independent of each other. The General Baptists were first chronologically, with leaders such as John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, and Thomas Grantham. The name General Baptist came from their belief in a general atonement – that is, that Christ died for all the people who would respond in faith to Him. These Baptists may not have had access to most or all of Arminius’ works, but they were in agreement with many points of his theology. This theological stream was expressed in doctrinal confessions such as Smyth’s Short Confession of 1610, Helwys’s Declaration of Faith in 1611, the Faith and Practices of 30 Congregations of 1651, and the Standard Confession of 1660. The Free Will Baptists and General Baptists are the purest contemporary denominational expressions of this stream of thought.

In contrast, the name of the Particular Baptists was derived from the fact that they believed in a particular (or limited) atonement – that is, Christ died only for particular people, i.e., the elect. Their best known doctrinal confessions were the 1644 London Baptist Confession (expanded in 1646), the Second London Confession of 1689, and the Philadelphia Confession (of the Philadelphia Association) in 1742. The Second London Confession follows the language of the Reformed Westminster Confession verbatim (except at points that even Calvinistic Baptists differ from Presbyterians), and the Philadelphia Confession likewise copies the Second London Confession almost entirely word for word.[1]

From the Headwaters of the Arminian Stream James Arminius (1560-1609) refused to accept the teachings of Theodore Beza (1519-1605) on election and reprobation. Beza followed John Calvin at the academy of Geneva and was the architect of the view of predestination known as supralapsarianism. This view argued that before God ordained the fall of Adam, He chose certain persons to eternal life and predestined others to eternal damnation.[2]

After studying under Beza in Geneva, Arminius rejected the teachings of his professor and taught another view. After his death, the followers of Arminius became known as the Remonstrants and they published a theological document that contended for the following five things:

1. God conditionally elects individuals according to their foreseen faith.
2. Christ died for the sins of the whole world.
3. No one has the power within himself to turn to God without the assistance of God’s grace.
4. God’s grace can be resisted.
5. It is possible for a Christian to lose his salvation.[3]

From the Headwaters of the Calvinist Stream

The followers of Arminius (the Arminians) and the followers of John Calvin (Calvinists) were embroiled in a theological debate until the Synod of Dort (1618-1619), at which time all five Arminian assertions were rejected.

The five points of Calvinism sought to respond to the five assertions of the Remonstrants (Arminians):

1. Total Depravity – as a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all humanity is dead in trespasses and sin. Man is unable to save himself.
2. Unconditional Election – Because man is dead in sin, he is unable to initiate response to God; therefore, in eternity past, God elected certain people to salvation. Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not based on man’s response.
3. Limited Atonement – Because God determined that certain ones should be saved as a result of God’s unconditional election, He determined that Christ should die for the elect. All who God has elected and Christ died for will be saved.
4. Irresistible Grace – Those whom God elected and Christ died for, God draws to Himself through irresistible grace. God makes man willing to come to Him. When God calls, man responds.
5. Perseverance of the Saints — The precise ones God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure.[4]

By the time I was pulled from the pagan pool in 1975, Southern Baptists had moved away from Calvinism for almost a century, and there was very little debate between the proponents of Arminianism and Calvinism. The two streams of theological thought had mixed and mingled and the waters had settled down. However, after surrendering my life to God’s call to preach the gospel in 1977, I found the calm waters of Baptist life taking me down some rapids through the years of the Conservative Resurgence. I came out of the rapids holding firmly to the Word of God and convinced that Southern Baptists were making a difference in North America and the world. I found great joy in helping plant new congregations and evangelize in states like Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.

Later I discovered the currents and rapids getting faster again with the Reformed Resurgence or the rise of Calvinism in SBC life. It seems that some rode the rapids of the Conservative Resurgence with the hopes of returning Southern Baptists to what they saw as our “historic roots” in Calvinism. Since I was happy over on Sandy Creek, this seemed new, different, and challenging. I was unfamiliar with many of the names and nuances of the doctrines of Sovereign Grace and the system of Reformed theology.

Recently I was intrigued by the writings of pastor and theologian Dr. Eric Hankins. In a journal article entitled “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: Toward A Baptist Soteriology,” he says, After four hundred years, Calvinism and Arminianism remain at an impasse. The strengths and weaknesses of both systems are well-documented, and their proponents vociferously aver each system’s mutual exclusivity. This paper is based on the observation that these two theological programs have had sufficient time to demonstrate their superiority over the other and have failed to do so. The time has come, therefore, to look beyond them for a paradigm that gives a better account of the biblical and theological data. Indeed, the stalemate itself is related not so much to the unique features of each system but to a set of erroneous presuppositions upon which both are constructed. As the fault lines in these foundational concepts are exposed, it will become clear that the Baptist vision for soteriology, which has always resisted absolute fidelity to either system, has been the correct instinct all along. Baptist theology must be willing to articulate this vision in a compelling and comprehensive manner.[5]

Dr. Hankins is correct that we must move beyond the things that have always divided us. The balkanization of the Southern Baptist Convention will escalate with the quibbles and quarrels growing more intense if we do not move beyond the hair-splitting and nit-picking that has plagued this unending doctrinal debate for almost half a millennium.

Three key understandings help me stay afloat in the white water rapids of change:

1. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). My faith goes back 2000 years to Jerusalem, not four hundred years to Geneva! Jesus is to be first and foremost in my life.
2. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). Books of theology can never satisfy my soul, but the precious Word of God first pointed me to the Savior and feeds my soul until this very day!
3. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). The gospel (not the finer points of theology) is the power of God unto salvation! It was the preaching of the death, burial, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave with the power to forgive me all my sins that caused my heart to trust Jesus many years ago. And, for over thirty-five years, I’ve seen the gospel break the hearts of sinners as they called on Jesus to save them.

I close with a sentence from the Baptist Faith and Message (Section 1: The Scriptures), “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” The two rivers of Baptist theology have been mixing and mingling, and serving effectively in the SBC for the past century and a half. Without the living, vital relationship with Jesus Christ (anchored in Scriptures), our two historic rivers of theology turn into the marshy waters of a moat surrounding defensive walls. It doesn’t have to be this way. We have set up a defense when we are supposed to be on the offense. New Testament charges the Church to march forward filled with the Spirit and preach the Word of God, which is sharper than any two-edged sword!

[1] Steve W. Lemke, “Editorial Introduction: Calvinist, Arminian, and Baptist Perspectives on Soteriology,” Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry, 8.1 (Spring, 11), 1.
[2] Kenneth Keathley, “The Work of God: Salvation,” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B & H Academic, 2007), 702.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody, 2008), 508.
[5] Eric Hankins, “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: Toward A Baptist Soteriology,” Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry, 8.1 (Spring, 11), 87.

Muslim Riots

So there was a short Internet depiction of Mohammad in a way Muslims consider offensive and that gave the right to riot, sack, pillage, burn, and kill. There is a disconnect there some place.

First, a couple of disclaimers. Yes, there are some Muslims who oppose such reaction. They are a minority and I think even they will admit they are not as outspoken as are radical members of their faith.

Second, there is almost no reason to believe all the rioting started in the middle East on 9/11 was as a result of a film released a month ago.

The riots are a result of a large radical Muslim element who believe everyone who does not espouse their belief is an infidel to be killed in the name of their god. For many in this school of thought that includes other Muslims who do not believe as they. Those peace loving Muslims are in a vice between the suspicion of the west and the fear of the east.

Now back to the concept that the video caused the riots. If the video was offensive, did that give the right for such violent response toward innocent people and a government that has in many instances supported them?

Our response to the riots has been to give our troops more sensitivity training. Don’t show the soul of your foot in the presence of a Muslim, don’t accept anything with your left hand, don’t blow your nose in the presence of a Muslim, and don’t handle the Koran without sanitary gloves has been stressed among our military since the riots began.

Now consider the response of other faiths to affronts shown them.

Consider the “art” of Andres Serrano who depicted a crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine. It was displayed in a museum and called “Piss Christ.” The exhibit was sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts, an agency of the American government.

Couple that with the “art” work by Chris Ofili showing the virgin Mary smeared with elephant dung amid a collage of pornographic messages. Still no riots.

Did Christians and Jews revolt when the Bible was taken from schools? Did those highly offensive acts give license to become marauders?

After World War II, during which Germans killed over 6,000,000 Jews, did mobs of Jews burn German government buildings? When the Ten Commandments given Moses were taken from public places did they riot?

With appropriate homage for the peace loving Muslims, America must wake up and admit there is a peace loving community among Muslims, but there is a vast aggressive element that not only desires to wipe Israel off the map, but to destroy the country which they call “the great Satan.”

Militant Islam

There is a similarity between the old Soviet Union and the modern militant Islamists movement. There is also a dissimilarity.

Did the leadership of the Soviet Union aspire to have world dominance? Yes.
Did every Soviet citizen share their ambition? No.
Do the leaders in the militant Islamic movement desire world dominance? Yes.
Does every member of the Islamic community desire world dominance? No.
Did virtually every American and citizen of Europe realize the Soviet objective? Yes.
Do citizens of those two societies today realize militant Islamist’s desire world dominance? No.

Back to the members of the Islamic community who are not committed to militant Islamic world dominance. They are in a difficult position. Many easterners are suspicious they are covert militants. Conversely militant Islamists distrust them because they are not overt militants. I see this in Israel a lot when visiting there.

Some few folks in America are harshly critical of Christianity saying Christians want to make America a theocracy ruled by Old Testament laws. I have known a lot of Christian leaders across America and I have known only two who expressed such interest. Neither has any national influence and little local creditability. It simply is not an issue.

Persons concerned about efforts to make America a theocracy need to become activists, but they need to realize the theocracy militant Islamists have in mind is ruled by Sharia Law.

I had a very stimulating conversation with an intellectual leader from Atlanta recently who said the current unrest in the middle-east has no religious basis. This he has concluded in spite of Islamic religious leaders, Mullahs, calling for a global jihad, that is, a Holy war to eradicate all Jews, Christians and other infidels. The politically aggressive Muslim Brotherhood is a religiously based organization. They are the ones who killed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat when he made peace with Israel and tried to create a more inclusive Egyptian society.

The person arguing there is no religious influence in militant Islam explained than “jihad” simply means to do a favor for god. If given that point the favor they are calling for needs to be considered. It is stated by militant Islamists as the annihilation of all Jews, Christians, and other infidels. Persons identified by either of those titles need to pay attention to what is going on in the world.

What is happening in Egypt is an attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious based movement, to make Egypt an Islamic state, a theocracy. Taking power gives Muslim clerics oversight over all legislation and imposes restrictions on freedom of speech, women’s rights, and basic liberties.

Arab countries are predisposed toward an Islam form of government and though we know a republic is a better form of government, we will never be successful forcing it on them and we should not try. Likewise, we need to be vigilant about encroachments by their form of government.

Let’s hope the present generation is as vigilant and dedicated as the one that stopped the Soviet red tide.

The Importance of Church Greeters

Greeters are the personification, the representative, the exemplar, that is, the church embodied. Their very presence is the first living impression of the church body.

Greeters need to realize they are more than themselves. They are the style and spirit of the church in human form.

Greeters are the Ambassadors of the Door. They are the gatekeepers in the House of the Lord; the envoy of the Lord of the House.

Greeters should be ever mindful their role is strategic, deserving of their best at all times. This demands consistency. They should put on their happy face before going to their post and not take it off. Don’t just be punctual, be early.

Appearance is important. Whatever the dress standard of the church the greeter should be at the top of the scale. They should groom themselves to look their best.

In business the customer is always right. In ministering every person should be accommodated positively. Regardless of how difficult a person might be to deal with always do so with a positive Christlike spirit. A “How may I help you,” attitude should prevail.

All should evaluate their vocabulary and develop it to include such expressions as: blessing, blessed, joy, love delighted, honored, glad, pleased, thankful, and thank you. Do not use trite comments such as, “no big deal,” or, “no problem.” “My pleasure,” is preferable.

Avoid stale cliches such as, “it’s good to be seen,” “fine as a frog hair split four ways,” and “so far so good.” If greeted by “How are you?” remember it is merely a friendly greeting not a request for a health report. Simply respond, “Blessed thank you.” Even if not feeling great we are all blessed.

Greeters should monitor their voice. It should neither be too loud or too soft. A loud boisterous voice is not necessary to give a positive attitude.

Use of a breath mint and faint cologne or perfume.

In shaking hands a firm, but not overpowering grip should be used. Do not squeeze a persons hand. Some hands are sensitive to pain.

It is reasonable that some greeters and persons greeted are friends. The greeter should not engage in excessive joking and kidding around with friends while serving while others are waiting to be greeted. Others might be overpowered by the thought of getting the same treatment.

Don’t tease children. Do make them feel special by giving them the same attention as an adult. Avoid touching them other than with a hand shake or fist bump. Parents will appreciate any appropriate attention given their children.

Give every person the same warm treatment. Be equally cordial and personable to the least, the last, and the lonely.

If help is requested see to it that attention is given the request immediately. If persons ask directions to a location have someone walk them to the desired place. Avoid trying to give complicated verbal instructions as to how to get there.

In advance greeters should study the forthcoming schedule of events in order to answer questions related.

It is estimated that one out of every seven people come to church with a heavy burden. Don’t add to it. Be a faith lifter.

Remember you are doing this on behalf of Jesus Christ. Therefore, be as Christlike as possible in all you say and do.

Jesus Wife: A Current Claim

It has happened again. They have “found” an “ancient” Coptic writing that “proves” Jesus had a wife. Since this revelation contradicts the Bible image of Jesus it is getting broad distribution in certain critical secular circles. This in spite of the scholars who presented the discovery at the International Association of Coptic Studies in Rome downplaying any possible link between the Coptic fragment and the Jesus of the canonical gospels.

The papyrus fragment on which the conclusion is reached is the size of a business card and contains only eight lines. Scholars are divided on whether the fragment is an authentic ancient text or a modern forgery. Therefore, the reliability of the text is greatly disputed if not totally discredited.

Dr. James Leonard who studies the Coptic language at Cambridge University said even if it is authentic it has no historical value in understanding Jesus because it was written four hundred years after Jesus lived.

Dr. Karen King, the Harvard scholar who has studied the manuscript, agrees with Leonard’s conclusion. She said it does not provide historical reliable data concerning Jesus. Little is known about the fragment’s origin and its owner has not been identified.

King is of the opinion the text has been culled from fragments of other discredited documents and compiled by a person of a more modern era.

Doctors Francis Watson of Durham University and Simon Gathercole of Cambridge having studied the text identified what they believe are evidences of forgery. One factor is the text gives evidence of having been written by a modern author rather than an ancient native Coptic linguist.

Having seen a photocopy of the document it seems strange that the fragment is centered around the word “wife.” It is as though the surrounding text were constructed to frame the word. It is a subtle way to highlight it. It isn’t clear how “wife” was allegedly being used. Was it a statement alleged to have been made by Jesus acknowledging He had a wife or was it a quote He was using regarding another person’s wife?

Bottom line, it is yet another attempt to discredit Jesus and dispute the Bible record of His life. Jesus is as one the world’s most loved and hated, even feared, character. Detractors make every effort to impugn his nature and character.

If, as many believe, He was Immanuel, God with us, He has every reason to feel like a billboard which depicts Him as saying: “Don’t Make Me Have To Come Down There.”

If the work is by a modern forger I hope he might have an experience like that of a lawyer, a Union General who fought along with General William T. Sherman at Shiloh. He set out to research the resurrection in order to disprove it. His findings turned on him and he become a believer. He spent seven years writing a novel centered around the result of his research. His name: Lew Wallace. His novel: “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.”

The Greatest Football Team of All Time

The college football season is finally over with may fans having looked in more bowls than a plumber. Exciting teams and new records set will provide lingering heroics. If we think the Alabama Crimson Tide football team was good, consider this team. It ranks right up there with Notre Dame’s “Four Horsemen of the 1920s,” Fordham’s “Seven Rocks of Granite of the 1930s,” the LSU “Chinese Bandits of the late 1950s, Georgia’s “Junkyard Dogs of the 1960s and 70s, and the Nebraska Blackshirts of the 1990s. It is the team that justifiably became known as the “Iron Men” of Sewanee University, also known as the University of the South.

I visited the lovely campus recently and strolled over to their playing field. It was a quiet time on campus and noting a flagpole and monument, I went to view it. It is a tribute to the legendary Sewanee “Tigers” of 1899. That was the year they went 12- 0 and outscored their opponents 322 to 10. Keep in mind all 10 points were scored by one team. That means they were 11-1 in shutouts. That is remarkable, but there is an even more remarkable feature of the season.

In a row they defeated Texas A & M, Texas, LSU, Tulane, and Ole Miss. Even more remarkable they played all five teams in six days. Between November 9, and November 14, they shutout all five.

The three teams they defeated before going on the road were Tennessee, Georgia, and Georgia Tech.
Compounding their play was the arduous nature of traveling 2,500 miles by train, which itself had to be fatiguing.

Still used as a recruiting tool is the sage expression: “Five wins in six days, and then they rested.”

Not really. Their first home game was six days after returning from this whirlwind road trip.. They closed their season with wins against Auburn and North Carolina. The Auburn team they defeated was coached by John Heisman, after whom the Heisman Trophy is named. Auburn was the only team to score on them all season.

Soon thereafter Sewanee became a co-founder of the Southeastern Conference.

Tony Barnhart, “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” sports writer lists them “Number One” on his all-time Southern football team. Compared with their contemporary competitors they were the University of Alabama upscaled.

The nature of the school makes this accomplishment even more distinct. It was and is an Episcopal school. One of the founders was Bishop Leonidas Polk, later a Confederate General killed in Cobb County. Members of the team were aspiring ministers. Now as then the school was known for its academic excellence. In the ensuing years the school has had twenty-five Rhodes Scholars.

They remain one of the most accomplished sports teams ever. They stand as a peerless example of athletics and academics coalescing. It is an idea whose hour of resurrection as come.

It is the synergy being created at Shorter University in Rome with the plus of spiritual enhancement.

Shorter University: A Faith Based School

There was a “Vent” in “The Atlanta Journal” recently that surely must have stirred controversy. It simply said, “Atheists do have churches. They are called colleges.”

First, a disclaimer. I don’t want to paint with a brush too broad. There are some very capable academicians who have strong personal faith and adhere to biblical ethics and morality. They are often lights shining in the darkness.

It would be difficult to develop a thesis that proves most colleges are in general not bastions of political, social, and spiritual liberalism.

Often a faculty member, shielded by tenure, goes extremely rogue. There are those professors who delight in trying to destroy the values with which students have been reared.

In general society has grown to expect and accept humanistic philosophy as the collegiate norm. If temporal schools, called “churches” in the “Vent,” are permitted to propagate their gospel why can’t faith based universities share their faith without castigation.

An action not intended to be an experiment proves a point. Shorter University in Rome issued a statement of faith and a code of conduct recently. Some honorable faculty members disapproved and would not subscribe to the policies. They exercised their liberty and left. I know most of them and personally hold them in high regard. Their integrity in standing for their convictions is to be admired. Likewise, the administration, trustees and constituents are to be respected and admired for standing for their convictions.

Shorter desired to provide a synergy of faith and learning.

SACS, the ultimate authority in college conduct, noted the school being an independent faith based school was within its rights in establishing the statement and code.

The departure of a significant number of faculty left a lot of vacancies. The question was would it be possible to find creditable scholars with prestigious degrees who subscribe to the standards of the school to replace them.

Surprise! For every vacancy there was an average of five applicants with terminal degrees from reputable academic institutions. Most of them had been teaching in Division I schools making much more money than a private school can pay. With regard to that, to the person, they said they were willing to teach for less money in a place where they can apply their faith in their academic field.

As illustration of the type faculty members being attracted two are noted. One is a PhD in bio-chemistry who has been working with the CDC for several years.

In conversation with another I mentioned I would love for a course on the Constitution to be taught. She replied, “I am a PhD from the University of Virginia and was a James Madison Fellow. I would love to teach it.”
The fact these came from secular universities indicates there are persons of faith who hold traditional values in such schools though they are not the norm.

Persons desiring a reputable degree offered in a school where faith and scholarship coalesce should consider Shorter University in Rome, Georgia.

Church Growth

Within the sphere of the readers of this paper are some splendid churches that have found a spiritual need niche and are admirably filling it. They are reaching people and ministering to them. These churches come in varying sizes and use different styles of worship. But, then…. Well, first this.

Reputedly an old Quaker was awakened by a would be burglar in his house. He got his shotgun, went down stairs, flipped on the light and stood facing the intruder to whom he said, “I would not hurt thee for the world, but thou art standing where I am about to shoot.” The pastors and people to whom the following applies with have one of several responses. Some will be in denial and declare it doesn’t apply to them. Some might very well get angry. Others with exonerate themselves explaining why they can’t change. Another group will conclude the insights were shared in good faith and respond in a productive way. First, you can’t be a New Testament church in a growing urban community such as our and not grow. In summary the church is mandated to reach, teach, win, and develop people. Where that is done there is growth. Conversely where there is no growth that church is failing to live up to their commission.

Excellence is shown by the attention given to little things. Start at the front door. Explain to your greeters how important their role is. Train them in detail as to what to do and say. We visit many churches and have heard offensive comments. “What are you doing here?” is common. One church where I have preached several times has a big greeter if someone perfunctorily says, “How are you?” actually says, “I am happier that a fat pig in the sunshine.” Another brags his response is, “I tell ‘um if they can’t tell by looking there is no reason for me to tell them.”

Leaders for God’s sake, that is not blasphemy, I mean literally for the sake of God program for the needs of the people not your personal desire. Most churches that are growing are relatively new starts. One reason why older ones aren’t growing is their membership has grown old. When it comes to making changes to meet needs that have changed that is a two sided coin. These older people must not be disenfranchised. They deserve to be ministered to. At all cost minister to them. Let them know they are wanted and needed, not overlooked. On the other hand they need to be led to see what the needs of the emerging generation are and what it takes to reach them.

Little things impress people in a big way. Start and stop on time. Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord, that is, as nearly perfect as possible. Pastors purge your default statements from your vocabulary. Don’t say “Amen” every time you are trying to cover a verbal glitch. Expunge “Uh” from your mental dictionary. Even if you have to have a family member or friend count how many times you use it to develop avoiding it. Be the best speaker possible. Be prepared. Don’t preach because you have to say something. Preach because you have something to say that the people NEED to hear. Know and love your people so you will be aware of what spiritual, cultural, emotional, social, and personal needs you need to address. Church leaders need to meet and ask themselves some hard questions and deal with some difficult issues in order to fulfill their function. I share this encouragement. You can do it.

How Greed Hurts individuals and America

What is one thing greatly eviscerating our society. Here is a hint. It is a spiritual problem succinctly identified long ago. Here is another hint. It is sometimes called a green eyed monster. It is greed. The laconic historical depiction is, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

Individually and as a society we are victims of the “more is better, but more is never good enough” syndrome. Untethered greed is the cause of corporate scandals, crooked politicians, classroom cheating, sexual indiscretion, impropriety in the faith community, and personal conflicts. With it so well defined not even the faith community is immuned. Not only are individuals guilty of it, but so are institutions and governments. Councils, conference rooms, and courtrooms are crowded by persons wanting more.

Often conflicts could be avoided if disputing parties were to lay aside greed and negotiate in good faith.
The following solution has been proposed. “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”

That is not a reference to Rome, Georgia. It was written of ancient Rome by Cicero in 55 B.C. Some things are constant.

There are a few words that describe how we got in our current quandary. Some are: greed racheted up to rapacity and avarice, a lack of integrity and eroded honesty, covetousness, gluttony, voracity, and a colloquialism, “the gimmies.”

One study shows greed is not primarily a desire for money, but for the things money can get, such as, acceptance, power, influence, popularity, prestige, and clout.

Greed is a merciless master, a tyrannical taskmaster.

Patience, temperance, and self-discipline are essential to finding the desired state of being more elusive than a butterfly.

That state is contentment. Many in our society, and the society of many cultures, have been led to believe “things” afford contentment. NO! Write it across the horizon of your mind from heaven to earth — no, they don’t. Our attitude regarding them does.

Consider these words of a sage who had position, prominence, power, and possessions, but not contentment until . . . .

“We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Then, he nailed it, “Now, godliness with contentment is great gain.”

It was the Apostle Paul who recorded that profound insight in I Timothy 6: 6-10.

This is not an anti-wealth article, for it is “God who gives us the ability to get wealth.” This is an encouragement to find the contentment that comes from the right attitude and use of money.

Our National Debt

Remember the often repeated theme in the Road Runner Cartoons. Wile E. Coyote is always chasing the Road Runner. At the last minute the Road Runner makes a diversionary move, the Coyote doesn’t. The Coyote runs off the edge of the cliff and for a moment is suspended in air treading space with his legs before —- ZIP he plunges to the bottom of the canyon. Often soon there after a large falling bolder hits him on the head.

That is a graphic of the American economy. We are not going off the cliff. We are off the cliff regardless of what is said.

Our national debt is variously reported to be approximately $16 trillion. Wrong! Not included is what the government owes the Social Security Fund. That is another $18 trillion bringing our national debt of nearly $33 trillion.

Based only on the $16 trillion debt every citizen owes $52.052.60. While solutions are sought the debt goes up $3.87 billion per day.

The soon to be imposed 3.8 percent tax increase on capital gains alone won’t fix the problem. It will hurt investors and hence an economic recovery.

New tax proposals for 2013 are designed to raise $317 billion over the next 10 years. Over 13,000 pages of new regulations have been prepared for this new Obama tax plan. There are more to come. These greatly expand government control and increase costs.

One noted economist has said that unless spending is controlled every citizen could be taxed at the rate of 100% and that would not solve the debt crisis. Spending must be controlled.

Borrowing more from China and other foreign countries isn’t the solution. Foreign governments are not as interested as they once were. They do not see America as a good borrower.

The question is posed as to how we got in this mess. There is a one word answer: GREED.

Greed is compounded by a fog of topor that seems to hang over our nation. This has resulted in a broad base commitment to working the system to get something for nothing. It is a form of greed that has gone viral identified as cupidity, an eager or excessive desire to possess. Avarice, meaning insatiable greed is yet another word for our societal appetite.

Entitlements have to be disciplined. There is no way to sustain them. Congress is going to be slow to make essential cuts because recipients of unmerited entitlements tend to be diligent voters. To take away an entitlement is to lose a vote.

A simple solution is not to tax the rich. There is no way that will solve the problem. If the President’s proposed full tax on the rich were applied to the 2012 budget it would decrease from $1.10 trillion to $1.2 trillion.

Every American is going to have to be involved in accomplishing a recovery. Special interests can’t be shielded, every citizen must be involved. Tough choices have to be made that will impact everyone.

As this financial scenario plays out greed plays the part of the Road Runner and we individually and culturally the pursuing Wile E. Coyote. The result is always the same. You know, the cliff and ZIP. Those who pursue greed never win. There are no cliff hangers. There is always a bottom to the canyon.

If we cannot govern ourselves individually there is no government that can govern us.

May the need for government restraints encourage us to better control not only our personal finances, but every area of our lives. Self-discipline is the most challenging form of discipline and the most essential.

 

What is the Federal Reserve?

Men who came to be known as “The Jekyll Island Club” represented one-sixth of the world’s wealth. Meeting at one of the most prestigious sites in America at the time they plotted the establishment of a central bank which they would control. The strategy of the elitist financiers involved the future of money and credit in America. Efforts to prevent the concept of a central national bank were begun by Thomas Jefferson and later championed by Andrew Jackson.

Those gathered on Jekyll were officially known as the National Monetary Commission (NMC).

Banks at the time were looked upon with suspicion. The NMC purposed to avoid the stigma of a bank by using the title “Federal Reserve System.” Their recommendation removed from Congress control given Congress by Article 1, Sec. 8 Par. 5 of the Constitution which states, “the power to coin money and regulate the value thereof.” The action of the NMC would eventually mean their seven member board which would control the nation’s money and credit were to be appointed by the President and approved by Congress.

President Woodrow Wilson and the Congress elected in 1912, got the central bank legislation passed. This action ultimate resulted in the Federal Reserve being established.

Since that time one of the sidebar effects is the Federal Reserve acts to make the President look good. That is not a new thing.

Recently the Federal Reserve, which is an independent bank, announced they will purchase $40,000,000 of U.S. Treasury Bonds a month to stimulate the economy. Where do they get the money? They exercise the authority given them as an eventual outgrowth of the action of “Jekyll Island Club.” They print it. They have the power to issue money and regulate the value thereof. This is power formerly granted only to Congress.

Boosting the economy sounds good, but what actually does it do?

It devalues the dollar by creating more dollars. That sounds abstract, but what it means is it devalues your savings account, your IRA, the value of your home, any other assets, and the purchasing power of the dollar.

Four years after the signing of our Constitution, a federal law was passed making it a capital crime to do anything to devalue the dollar. That law is no longer in force, but the fact it existed indicates how serious the Congress of that day thought it was to devalue the dollar.

Thomas Jefferson in 1791 warned: “If the American people ever allow the banks to control issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their father occupied.”

The term “banks” is used in this sense not of your local bank, but the central bank now known as “The Federal Reserve Bank.”

The Federal Reserve is more complicated than space will allow for explaining. However, it is considered an independent bank because its decisions do not have to be ratified by the executive or legislative bodies of government.

Members are appointed by the President and traditionally their actions tend to make the President look good. Isn’t it interesting that just before this election they proposed to take action to stimulate the economy. It hasn’t.

This is not Your Father’s America

This is not your father’s America! The voter response November 6, 2012, was the announcement that a new era is now here.

Demographically and politically that was made obvious. However, there are less obvious evidences this is an emerging new culture. Rejoice that there are personal oasis where the values and virtues that have long identified our culture are not being blanched from the fabric that has long been America. Yet ….
Among the citizens of the new America many traits are waning. Personally and corporately some identifiable admirable qualities are no longer the norm.

Fading, but fortunately not gone are noteworthy attributes, such as:
Civility has been escorted off stage and replaced by rudeness or apathetic coolness.
Courtesy is passe. “Me first” is now head of the line.

Social grace is engulfed in a vortex of rudeness. Where is Captain Kangaroo when we need him to remind us of the magic words “please” and “thank you.”

In many quarters deception mocks integrity. Lacking integrity our culture suffers from a poor quality of workmanship, honesty in business transactions, and keeping commitments.

Many do not consider it a virtue to have a good work ethic. Do as little as you must to get as much as you can is the active axiom. Indifference is a prevailing demeanor. The conductor on the “Little Train That Could” is now the apathetic “Mr. Whatever.”

For too many decisions are made on the basis of passion not principles.

One out of every three citizens under age thirty is classified as a “none” because they have no religion. Couple that with the fact seventy percent of all churches in America are either plateaued or declining and it marginalized the religious community, making it a non-player in society.

The theme of eight-eight percent of citcoms is based on unapologetic sexual immorality. We nictitate at adultery and scoff at family values.

A sense of entitlement has rudely brushed aside the concept of personal responsibility and accountability.
Remember the old adages “How may I serve you?” and “The customer is always right.” Persons whose mantra is “no problem” and “no big deal” need to go to Chick-fil-A and learn a better response: “My pleasure.”

Patriotism is virtually mocked by dispassionate freemen/freewomen. Singing the National Anthem and Pledging Allegiance are passing along with “The Greatest Generation.” Remember them? Well, maybe not in that the emerging generations are likely unaware that generation simultaneously fought and won two world wars on opposite sides of the planet. In doing so they preserved the freedoms we now abuse.
I never thought that I, a life long optimistic zealot, enthusiastic about America would write such a summary.

What is a person to do? A resounding course reverberates “Suck it up and get use to it.”
That I refuse to do. I accept it, but do not approve of it. Therefore, I will encourage the significant segment interested in morals and manners to recommit ourselves to impact our little spheres of influence for renewal.

Greed: Is It Good?

Are you among the deprived having to live without what advertisers tell us are the bare necessities of life: a car that is more than two years old without high tech sensors plus a camera, heated seats and Sirius radio, a 4G smart phone, a 3D Plasma TV, a Super Micro Computer, and an assortment of techno-gadgets?

These staples of life are depicted as basic to life for the average citizen. They can’t live today without certain items even if it is necessary to indenture tomorrow beyond reason.

Remember a formerly popular mantra: “Greed is good.” It was once called avarice, but now greed. It is an inordinate desire to gain and hoard wealth or material things. It is even broader than that narrow definition. It includes a desire to possess, control, and dominate.

There was a cartoon depicting a little man standing at the base of a ladder looking up repeating, “I want. I want.” He is a clone of many today. Food, clothing, and shelter are basics. Even with them moderation is expedient.

A generation has been reared to live beyond ones means in order to try to find meaning and fulfilment for life.

One study shows greed is not primarily a desire for money, but for the things money can get, such as, acceptance, power, influence, popularity, prestige, and clout.

We are material creatures and live in a material world. Therefore, it is apparent things aren’t bad, they are neutral. They were placed here to be our servant. It is our attitude toward them that makes many people their servants.

The inability to feed greed has increased as our economy has decreased. The disparity between our desires and resources has increased discontent among many.

It has been said we are rich in relation to the number of things we can do without. Conversely, we are poor according to the number of things we consider essential to function. The operative word is “contentment.”

Reputedly a Baptist moved in next door to a Quaker and the Quaker visited the Baptist and said, “If thou needest anything ask me, and I will tell thee how to do without it.”

Greed is a merciless master, a tyrannical taskmaster.

Patience, temperance, and self-discipline are essential to finding the desired state of being more elusive than a butterfly. That state is contentment. Many in our society, and the society of many cultures, have been led to believe “things” afford contentment. NO! Write it across the horizon of your mind from heaven to earth — no they don’t. Our attitude regarding them does.

Consider these words of a sage who had position, prominence, power, and possessions, but not contentment until . . . .

“We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and have pierced themselves through with may sorrows.”

Then, he nailed it, “Now, godliness with contentment is great gain.”

It was the Apostle Paul who recorded that profound insight in I Timothy 6: 6-10.

This is not an anti-wealth article for it is “God who gives us the ability to get wealth.” This is an encouragement to find the contentment that comes from the right attitude and use of money.

God’s Judgement On America

Delightful themes run through the Bible.

God’s love is a prominent and popular one. “God is love” is descriptive. The Scripture does not just say He loves, but that He is love.

His compassion is reassuring and comforting.

Fortunately He is depicted as longsuffering.

His mercy is interwoven with His longsuffering. Mercy speaks of Him protecting us from the bad we deserve.

The counterpoint to His mercy is His grace. Grace is Him providing the good things that we don’t deserve.

Patience and longsuffering go hand in glove.

Gentleness and kindness are indicative of Him.

These are but a few of His many admirable traits. Sometimes various traits commingled. At times only one of these attributes in involved in a situation.

There is an attribute people want to ignore or at best think because He is loving, patient, and forgiving this trait does not apply. In Scripture it stands out like Mt. Everest would on a Florida beach.

Axiom: God is just and exercises judgment.

The word “judgment” appears 496 times in the Bible and “justice” 45 times. In a judicial sense “just” appears many times.

In reaching your conclusion regarding divine retribution consider these secular testimonies.

In the Jefferson Memorial in DC are inscribed these words of the statesman, “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

During the Constitutional Convention someone raised the question: “When does a nation answer to God?”

In his notes taken during the deliberation George Madison records George Mason replied, “Nations can’t be judged in the hereafter as people, so Providence punishes national sins by national calamities.”

Ever aware of this Ben Franklin concluded, “We need God to be our friend, not our adversary.”

One of several Bible evidences of God’s judgment on a rebellious nation is provided by the rhapsodic prophet Jeremiah who presided over the death of the nation summarily said, “Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins.”

In considering supernatural discipline the explanation given by the prophet is worth noting. “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces the heart!” (Jeremiah 4:18).

In an effort to ignore the possibility of divine retribution most folks just look the other way. Others angrily retort with criticism of anyone who would suggest He does. Some just deny the very existence of God. Others are inclined to comply with the spiritual antidote noted in II Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins (now observe this) and heal their land.”

Now consider your role in this equation.

The Value Of The Christian Culture To Atheists

Non-Christians have cause to value Christian values. Not all so called Christians live the values espoused by the one whose name the movement bares. Some are an occasional embarrassment and some are an absolute abiding disgrace. Add to that the cults who mascarade under the guise of Biblical faith but are totally fraudulent giving a bad name to the authentic.

Still there are core values by which millions contentiously seek to live. These life changing values sustain devotees and color their conduct.

There is a global shift in the world Christian population. The Christian share of sub-Saharan Africa has soared over the past century from 9 percent to 63 percent. Meanwhile the Christian population of Europe has dropped from 95 percent to 76 percent and the American decline is from 96 percent to 86 percent.

In Nigeria thousands have died in Islamist bomb attacks targeting Christians gathered for prayer. In Iran and Pakistan Christians are on death row for “apostasy,” that is defecting from Islam.

Many churches in Indonesia, the world’s most populace Muslim county, have been attacked or shut. In Egypt Muslim zealots threaten long entrenched Christian groups.

Globally Jews are suffering a similar fate.

Here in America there is little blood shed; however, there is increased encroachment on freedom of Christian speech by PC extremists which limits participation in the market place.

There are those who say America was not and is not a Christian nation and I agree. Nations, schools, and organizations aren’t Christians. Only people are. However, there will have to be a lot of books burned to deny America having been formed and governed by Christian values for years. Not nearly all Founding Fathers were Christian, but with very rare exceptions they knew Scripture and were tutored in Christian values which they incorporated in establishing the country.

It is these values and virtues that give liberty to opponents of Christianity. Atheists particularly should be thankful for that freedom. You don’t hear of any atheists in Muslim ruled countries. Guess why? You don’t hear of atheists from America going to one of those countries trying to tell them there is no Allah. Imagine the response if Mohammad were debased as Jesus often is.

Christians will defend the rights of atheists. In those countries not only are atheists not granted the liberty to disparage a person’s faith, they are denied the right to life itself.

Having a right and neglecting it is little better than not having it. This is an appeal to clergymen of all faiths, study the history of our nation and the Old and New Testament values of our nation and teach/preach on those values using Scripture to validate the truth. If ministers do not these truths will be eroded from our history and the knowledge of the roots of our origin as a nation lost. Christians and Jews alike have a lot at stake.

Though atheists and radical Muslims are poles apart on most issues they have a common desire to see our history obscured.

Son Of God – What Does It Mean?

Various disciplines have their own vocabulary. They use language peculiar to their discipline that is well understood within the circle of users. Athletes talk “sports speak,” musicians “music speak,” Geeks “computer speak.” It is only reasonable that various faith groups have their own distinct terms.

“Christian speak” as spoken by a few is perplexing. Some speak like they have a steeple in their throat or are speaking through a stained glass window.

One of the descriptive words used of Jesus is understood within the Christian community, but not outside. It is the title “Son of God.”

Children sometimes ask, “Who was Mrs. God?”

The dictionary recognized “son” to signify not only generation but association.

The apostles James and John were called “sons of thunder.” Barnabas was known as “the son of encouragement.”

Following is how the word “Son” as used in the Bible for Jesus is understood within the Christian community.

In Scripture Jesus is called “God’s only begotten Son.” The word “begotten” is a compound of two Greek words used in Scripture. One word is mono, meaning “one.” The other is genes, meaning “kind, type, or species.” Combined they are used to speak of God’s only one of a kind son. The Greek monogenees is used to mean the only one of the same nature as. In Scripture Jesus is not spoken of as a Son of God, but the Son of God.

Two different Greek words are translated “son” in Scripture.

Teknon stresses the fact of human birth. It is used of homo sapiens.

Huios emphasizes dignity and character relationship. It is used of Jesus.

This is the line of logic that leads Christians to revere Jesus as the nexus of God. The angel messenger in speaking to Joseph called Jesus Immanuel, meaning God with us. Incarnation is a word describing the process. The root “incarnate” means embodied in flesh.

As such Christians believe Jesus was God manifest as a corporeal, touchable, human being: the man/God-God/man.

Ideologically this belief separates Christians from persons who are not Christians, but it does not have to separate us in our interpersonal relationships. In all of life when our understanding of an issue differ we are given an opportunity to prove we can disagree without being disagreeable.

A summary of why Christians celebrate the birth and life of Jesus is noted in I John 4: 9, “In this the love of God is manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.”

That enables persons to give the right answers to these questions raised by the brilliant Henry Van Dyke.

“Are you willing to…stoop down and consider the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old, to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough … to bear in mind what others have to bear in their hearts…? Are you willing to believe love is the strongest thing in the world — stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death — And that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem two thousand years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?

Life In Outer Space

You don’t know what you don’t know, you know.

Scientists are constantly making new discoveries and disposing of long held theories. Discovery is an endless process. There are two recent ones with enough support to cause scientists to rethink two major concepts regarding the origin of our planet. Both of these concepts are awaiting confirmation.

New research by NASA suggests Jupiter’s moon Europa has a body of water the size of the Great Lakes just two miles below its surface. Scientists have long believed there exists below Europa’s surface a huge ocean more voluminous than all the earth’s oceans combined.

One theory regarding how our world could have been flooded in the days of Noah involves a great underground water depository
here on earth. The Scripture related to the universal flood speaks of the “fountains of the deep” being broken up.

Couple this with the envelop theory regarding the earth at one time being surrounded by water vapor similar to the water causing rings around Saturn. Add an upheaval causing the rising and collapsing surface of the earth to the surfacing of the fountains of the deep and you have a scenario for a possible global flood.

A second recent discovery comes from a group of preeminent scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research postulates they have witnessed neutrinos traveling at 60 nanoseconds faster than light. That is 0.0025 percent faster than light. So!

The speed of light which has long been considered a constant is integral to measuring time and space. If the speed is off dating is off. If the measurement of the speed is off could it be off even more than 0.0025 percent?

Imagine this. Is it possible there was an occasion when light and time stood so still they didn’t even exist and suddenly there was light, space, and matter in an event called creation? It may not have happened that way, but there will be persons who will hop all over the concept in an attempt to disallow anything hinting of creation. For them to do it will require three scientific principles that are essential for a thing to be considered scientifically creditable.

It must be observable.
It must be demonstrable.
It must be repeatable.
Otherwise a thing is a theory.

Maybe it wasn’t that way, just maybe. However, did anyone see the origin of the universe? Has anyone demonstrated it or repeated it?

The respected response of the NASA scientists is admirable. These learned scientists had been trained in a certain way of thinking. They had long accepted Einstein’s theory regarding the speed of light. Light is the constant in dating the universe. Suddenly they were confronted with evidence disputing what they had always believed. Though their study is yet to be confirmed they didn’t disregard the new findings they admitted they would have to rethink the evidence.

These and other emerging discoveries evidence true scientists are open to new evidence. They are not intransigent refusing any evidence contrary to what they have always believed. They realize you don’t know what you don’t know, you know.

Sports In America Today

Landry, Bodwen, Osborne, Teaff, Dodd, Dooley, Dickey, Gaither, Curry, and a myriad more I knew them all, some very well. They defined college coaching greatness. Add to them a legion of unheralded other men and women who did and do more than coach X and Os.

The ranks of high school coaches I have know have among them some of society’s most influential citizens. They don’t just coach boys and girls they build men and women.

Coach Tom Landry told me that every day on high school campuses across America there is one man hundreds of students look at as something slightly less than God and they call him “coach.” That identifies how important a coach is in the lives of youth.

For six years I served as Chairman of the National Board of Directors of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I spoke to numerous pro, college, and high school teams in a variety of sports.

Speaking at national conferences and retreats and athletes at the Hula Bowl for several years has allowed me to get to know some of the most outstanding big name athletes who are men and women of character. Many of them give generously of their time and resources to help young people.

Over the years I have also known some coaches and athletes who brought discredit to their role. Again some of them I have known well and know they regret their actions. Some engaged in action completely out of character for them and lament it greatly.

The good guys are big men and women in a big business: sports. While top level coaches garner enormous salaries some find their gratification not in remuneration but redemption of lives. I don’t want to disparage high salaried coaches and imply they aren’t concerned with the welfare of their athletes.

The notoriety is not as great, but the number of athletes is the same in Division One all the way to the NAIA. It is expanded in high school and organized teams outside schools.

The real value of sports is not only in the income derived from it, but the lives changed. If you want to make it merely a matter of economics, consider the number of athletes who if not involved with influential coaches would end up in prison. Some do, but more would if not for the influence of a good coach. That saves millions of dollars in court and prison costs.

The transformation of a person from a street person to a responsible citizen is of inestimable worth. This remodeling occurs in sports more than any other activity. One reason is it is one of the few areas of life where discipline is mandatory.

So many youth today come from dysfunctional homes. The only father or mother figure of character they know is the coach.

I ask one coach if most of his athletes were reared by a single parent and he said yes, the grandmother. Often the team is the only “family” the young athlete has known.

I have worked close enough with sports program recently to see the baggage many youth bring to school and the patient and often prayerful effort coaches of all disciplines make to redeem them. Any way you interpret the word “redeem” it is applicable in their case.

The arena of sports isn’t perfect, but overall it is vital to society. Judge it not at its weakest point.

An Athletes Responsibility

Whatever region of the country a person lives in they are often unaware of some of the very good things happening in other regions. In the South we can talk southern football, but often have little understanding of what is going on elsewhere and know little of the character of athletes out of our region.

Kirk Cousins, outstanding quarterback for the Michigan State Spartina spoke at the 2011 Big Ten Football Luncheon. Having heard a bit of the character of Kirk I viewed on Facebook his speech.
His brief speech had three parts. He said playing football was many things and one special thing is it is a privilege. Athletes are privileged. Humbly he spoke of the favor shown athletes, the honor of being asked for an autograph by a child, delight of using the platform afforded by being an athlete to try to influence young people, and the opportunity of being interviewed and sharing personal values.

His second point focused on an area overlooked by many athletes as well as persons in various walks of life. Often privileged persons develop a sense of entitlement. They grow to expect favors and acclaim. Being privileged to be an exceptional person they want exceptions made for them. They grow to feel moral and civil laws don’t apply to them. This feeds their ego.

This is where he made his most valid point. He said being privileged should not result in a sense of entitlement, but rather a sense of responsibility. Privileged persons are responsible for not letting down those who have made it possible for them being privileged. They are responsible to live up to the highest standards and be accountable. Privileged people have a responsibility to embrace responsibility that goes with the privilege. To set a standard of true manhood for youth. To use ones God given potential to the fullest. To redefine what it means to be cool. To set a new standard of how to treat others. That excellence in the classroom is a worthy pursuit. That it is more important to do what is right that what feels good. Athletes have a responsibility not to do anything to dishonor the name of the front of the jersey and those who make it possible for them to play football. A responsibility to the name on the back of the jersey so family and friends will not be ashamed to say he is one of ours.

With just the right amount of spiritual insight he acknowledged the ability to play football is by the grace of God. Then quoting from the Book of Luke he recounted that “to whom much is given much is expected.”

He concluded by saying, “May we have the wisdom to handle the privilege and the courage to fulfill the responsibility that goes with our role.” That is good council for all of us.

Some athletes have such a bloated egos they can strut sitting down. Arrogance and impudence characterize many. An inflated sense of self-worth permeates sports. It is good to hear an athlete who combines confidence, humility, and wisdom. Candidly, there are many with such high morals, admirable ethics, and commendable spiritual values. Their standards don’t insure them against losses, but they surely mean they aren’t losers.

Does God Love Tebow More Than Other Quarterbacks?

Does God love Tim Tebow more than He loves opposing quarterbacks?

No!

I am not even sure God loves football. I do know, however, He loves football players because they are included in the “whosoever” of John 3: 16.

Through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes I have had the good fortune of working with athletes in several sports of all ages and stages. I have observed that spiritually mature Christian athletes rarely pray to win. They all pray for God to bless them that they might play their best.

They apply a principle found in the theme text of my life recorded in the Bible in the book of Colossians 3:23. “Whatsoever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men.”

The game is played to an audience of one. Life is lived for the approval of one, the Lord. It is called emotional equilibrium.

If persons do what they do to the best of their ability and God approves, but people criticize and complain, they don’t get depressed. They didn’t do it for them, they did it for Him.

If persons do what they do to the best of their ability and God approves, while people compliment them , brag on them, pat them on the back, and cheer, them they don’t become egotistical. They didn’t do it for them, they did it for Him.

Before we became PC elitists and the courts of our land decided all of their predecessors including the founders had been violating the Constitution, I often had the pleasure of being a chaplain for several local high school teams. One year the two top teams in the county were to play and the winner would be the region champion. After the team meeting four athletes asked to meet with me privately. They then requested we pray around the circle. That was one of the most meaningful prayer session I have been in. One athlete prayed, “Lord help us to play our best and bless the other team that they might play their best.” That was much more spiritually mature than I was at that age.

I don’t think God has a warm fuzzy feeling regarding the actions of persons who mock those who love Him because of their faith. Rarely has there been an athlete subjected to such ridicule as Tebow. To date his responses have been commendable.

One can’t help but wonder what response there would be to a display of devotion by a Muslim. Their faith is accommodated even in prison. They are given a clock and compass. This is so they can know the direction in order to bow toward Mecca and at what times to pray.

“Chariots of Fire” is a true story based on the life of Eric

Liddel, a devout Scottish Christian, and the 1924 Olympics. In the film Liddel is represented as saying, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also make me fast, and when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

That is what spiritually mature Christian athletes desire, God’s pleasure. That is the proper aspiration of all persons of faith. It provides emotional equilibrium in an unbalanced world.

My wife is a graduate of LSU. We are now pondering whether God loves Alabama more than LSU. In reality we know He just let them play it out.

An Atheist Considers God

The recent death of Christopher Hitchens garnered press for his field of expertise, atheism. The belief there is no God was represented well by his sharp mind. It is a subject that minds small and great have grappled with for ages.

Vernher von Braun, a man with the mind of a rocket scientist, addressed the subject on several occasions. For those who don’t know him, he was the German rocket scientist brought to America near the end of World War II who become known as the father of our space program. His research led him to conclude, “One cannot be exposed to the law and order of the universe without concluding that there must be design and purpose behind it all.”

After commenting on the many scientific evidences of God, he postulated, “They challenge science to prove the existence of God. But must we really light a candle to see the sun.” The line of logic is the sun is so obvious a candle isn’t necessary to see it and the evidences of God are so obvious no scientific experiment is needed to conclude He exists.

Atheists often demand proof there is a God. Turn that. One basic law of logic is you can’t prove a negative. The negative, there is no God, can’t be proven. To prove it one would have to know all there is to know about everything and know that in that body of knowledge there is no God. Does anyone know even ten percent of all there is to know about everything? Atheists can’t prove that in the unknown ninety percent there is no God.

The eternal existence beyond death was also an object of his interest. He averred, “Nature does not know extinction; all it knows is transformation. Everything science has taught me — and continues to teach me — strengthens my belief in the continuity of our spiritual existence after death. Nothing disappears without a trace.”

Blaise Pascal, a 17th Century philosopher and renowned mathematician, proposed what is known as Pascal’s Wager. This genius made contributions in many scientific fields and is known for developing the schools of hydrodynamics and hydrostatics.

He described the payoff of the gamble of his proposed wager this way: “If God does not exist, then you neither gain nor lose anything from belief or disbelief. In either case, you just die and that’s the end. However, if you choose to believe in God, and you are right, then the reward is infinite: Eternal bliss in heaven. On the other hand, if you chose not to believe in God, and you’re wrong, your payoff is negative infinity: Eternal suffering in hell.”

As a sidebar, isn’t it interesting that advocates of two distinct schools of thought, evolution and atheism, both make the same fallacious claim that no scientists believe in God or creation. Countless scholars with terminal degrees from reputable academic institutions believe there is a God who created.

Reasons vary as to why people are atheists. C. S. Lewis, well known author, was an atheist. He said that he knew that if he ever admitted there was a God he would have to admit his guilt before

Him and he was enjoying his sexual sins too much to do that. Fortunately for him the day came he did make such an admission. It was also fortunate for the world of literature.

To say there is a god is little better than to say there is no god. It only really matters when you can say, “You, Oh God, are my God.”

A Transformed Life

Heredity, environment, and genes are often escape valves explaining certain characters as though the individual isn’t responsible. Some assume that triumphant dictates character and conduct. They are undeniably influences, but they are not irrefutable influences.

One of the most slovenly persons I know of was the embodiment of an unmotivated, feckless, selfish, base, crude, mendacious, vulgar, and profane person. He didn’t provide for his family and put his young children out to earn money for the family. He was a bottom feeder.

Consider his anthesis. He is industrious, creative, has a marvelous work ethic, loving, giving, an ideal family man, a warm gracious Christian with high morals, and a highly successful business man.

The first of these was the father of the second. That apple fell far from the tree. Unlike father is the son.

Reflect on these two.

One is highly motivated, energetic, enthusiastic, optimistic, warm and personable, cheery, a loving mother and devoted wife, given to helping others, a sweet spirited Christian who is a high achiever.

The other is a biological dad who abandoned his family when his child was five years old. For twenty-five years his daughter sought to find him. When she did she made three appointments to see him. He failed to show up two times and came drunk the third time. He moved a lot in order to avoid paying child support. He was the picture or moral and cultural low life.

The first of these is the daughter of the second.

Every person has a temperament. It consists of their inborn traits that subconsciously affects behavior. Some factors are our nationality, race, sex, and other heredity factors passed on through genes.

Our character is a sum total of our childhood training, education, beliefs, and motivations.

All have a personality. It is our outward expression of ourselves.

In summary our temperament is the combination of traits with which we are born.

Our character is our “civilized” temperament.

Our personality is the “face” we show others.

Character is influenced by our temperament, but is not a slave to it. In this arena our will, intellect, and emotions can trump those negatives that may be embedded in our temperament. Our name isn’t Oedipus Rex. We are free moral agents.

The two persons in the success stories noted resolved to learn from their negative experiences. They typify a sort of moral alchemy. Character prevailed over their temperament.

We do a person a disservice if we imply people can’t overcome inherited challenges.

The Bible speaks of being “transformed.”

Moving cars produce a lot of noise but it isn’t heard in the passengers area. I have an acquaintance in Chicago who developed and sold to car manufacturers a miraculous product that when applied to the firewall between the motor and passenger cabin and to the floorboard it converts sound into heat. The product transforms, that is changes, noise into heat.

The Greek word for “transformed” when anglicized is “metamorphosis,” meaning changed. The process is explained as being achieved by renewing of the mind. It is predicated on there being a loving God who enables change. That change can be as radical as being born again. Where did I hear that?

Renew your mind daily by what you read, view, listen to, and meditate on. I commend the reading of the Bible for a higher reason, but if for no reason than it is great literature. Read it daily.

Bernard of Clairvaux on Love (Module 207)

Writing in the Sixteenth Century Bernard of Clairvaux noted four stages of love. Judge yourself and move toward the third and fourth types.

I. FIRST, LOVING SELF FOR SELF’S SAKE — SELFISH LOVE

II. SECOND, LOVING GOD FOR SELF’S SAKE

Because love is natural, it is only right to love the Author of nature first of all. Hence the first and greatest commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God.” [Deut. 6:5; Matt 22:37-39] But nature is so frail and weak that it has to love itself first. This kind of love means loving oneself selfishly. As it is written, “The spiritual does not come first. The natural comes first and is followed by the spiritual.” [1 Corinthians 15.46] This is not what we are commanded, but what nature directs: “No one ever hated his own body.” [Eph. 5.29] But if, as is likely, this self-love becomes excessive and sensuous, then a command holds it back: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Leviticus 19:18; Matt 22:37-39] And this is right: for he who shares our nature should share our love, which is the fruit of nature. So, if you find it a burden serving to your brother’s pleasures, you should mortify those same pleasures in yourself to avoid sin. Cherish y ourself as tenderly as you want, so long as you remember to show the same indulgence to your neighbor

III. THIRD, LOVING GOD FOR GOD’S SAKE

So, we start by loving God, not for His own sake but ours. It is good for us to know how little we can do by ourselves, and how much we can do with God’s help, and therefore to live rightly before God, our trusty support. But when recurring troubles force us to turn to God for help, even a heart as hard as iron, as cold as marble, would be softened by the goodness of such a Savior, so that we love God not altogether selfishly, but also simply because he is God. If frequent troubles drive us to frequent prayer, surely we will taste and see how gracious the Lord is. [Ps. 34.8] Then, realizing how good he is, we find ourselves drawn to love him unselfishly, even more powerfully than we are drawn by our own needs to love him selfishly.

“Now we love God, not because of our own need, but because we have tasted and seen how gracious the Lord is.”

IV. FOURTH, LOVING SELF FOR GOD’S SAKE.

When will this flesh and blood, this clay pot which is my soul’s tabernacle, reach that place? When will my soul, raptured with divine love and utterly self-forgetting, like a broken vessel, long only for God, and, joined to him, be one spirit with him?

Our whole heart should be centered on him, so that we only ever seek to do his will, not to please ourselves. And real happiness will come, not in gratifying our desires or in transient pleasures, but in accomplishing God’s will for us.

As a bar of iron, heated red-hot, becomes like fire itself, forgetting its own nature; or as the air, radiant with sun-beams, seems not so much to be lit as to be light itself; so for those who love God for God’s sake all human affections melt away by some incredible mutation into the will of God. In this life, we can never fully and perfectly obey the command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind.” [Luke. 10.27]

But it should be our primary objective in life

How To Identify A Socialists

In the famed novel, The Iliad, Peleus or Thetis, seeking to save Achilles from his fated death, hid him on the Island of Scyros at the court of King Lycomedes dressed as a girl named Pyrrha. Odesseus, also known in Latin as Ulysses, sought him out.

Upon visiting the island Odysseus displayed lavish jewelry for the girls. Among the jewels he placed a dagger. Achilles came dressed as a girl along with all the girls. As the girls fondled the jewelry Achilles showed his true identity by selecting the dagger. In doing so he showed his true nature.

Let the jewels be the counterpart of our republic. First, it should be noted our form of government is a republic, not a democracy, which our Founders feared, not a socialistic state. If the jewels represent our republic the dagger is socialism. Any of the girls, national leaders, who pick up the dagger are revealing themselves to be socialists. Calling them one doesn’t make them one — their conduct and policies reveal their nature.

Who have you seen pick up the dagger recently?

If you check Wikipedia for a definition of socialism you will find eight different types noted. Dictonary.com defines it as a “social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc. in the community as a whole.”

Bottom line, it is a form of government where an autocratic government rules. Government determines the production and distribution of wealth.

Increased government regulations controlling businesses, even taking over businesses, is a symptom of encroaching socialism. Productive businesses, the givers in society, don’t like socialism for that reason.

However, standing on the sideline is a large cadre of “takers” waiting to be given what someone else has earned. They vote. Presently over 50 percent of the American population pays no taxes. Many of these are recipients of entitlements.

An entitlement is what a person feels they are entitled to and the government owes them. It is their right. They really believe that.

A legitimate side-bar to the thesis of this column is an acknowledgment that there are some people who would work if they could work, but can’t. They deserve help. Our current jobless rating in America means there are many unemployed who desire most earnestly to get back in the work force, but can’t find jobs.

However, there is a large segment of our society that has learned to work the system. There are many ways to buy votes. Redistribution of wealth is one. When the takers outnumber the givers some politicians buy takers’ votes with “gifts” paid for by givers. That is socialism.

That defines the dagger, socialism. Have you noticed anyone in public who has picked up the dagger lately? If so, that one is espousing socialism.

Socialism is antithetical to a republic. America is a republic. Hence, socialism is un-American.

With every person espousing socialism elected America moves closer to socialism and the disestablishment of our republic.

I won’t bias anyone’s answer by suggesting an answer to this question but it deserves asking. What is that in the hand of our President?

Leadership Failure

Hear the parable of the bramble. It is a little known and apparently its lesson less well known.

When the Old Testament character Gideon died, Abimelech, persuaded the people to select him as their leader. He then killed all of the sons of Gideon except the youngest, Jotham.

Jotham went to the summit of Mount Gerizim, the mount of judgement, and told this parable regarding leadership. Incidentally, it is considered to be the oldest known fictional writing. In it trees are given personalities and can talk.

The trees needed a leader. They appealed to the olive tree, the fig, and the grapevine for help. All declined.

The trees then turned to the bramble to be their leader. The bramble (Lycium Europaeum) is a shrub with sharp spines and long runners that form a tangled mass. It has lovely white flowers.

When trees, capable and competent leaders, neglect their civic responsibility or are not put in leadership brambles assert themselves.

When there is good responsible government it is because such citizens have gotten involved. After all, ours is postured as a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

A characteristic of a bramble is it is aggressive and asserts itself. Those are traits of leaders depicted by brambles in Jotham’s parable. They entwine themselves among good trees. In the parable they are represented as devouring even the strongest tree of the region, the cedars of Lebanon. Brambles smother even the tallest trees much like kudzu.

I will not personalize the current counterparts of the brambles but the philosophical equivalents must be identified and uprooted. We are blessed to live in a land where the uprooting can be done with minimal negative impact. It is our electoral process.

With a year before a major election, citizens should study issues and evaluate candidates in order to be able to identify the best trees. Our heritage is replete with them.

A grove of Sequoia tree-like men prevailed in leading America to its independence. They crowded out the brambles with faith in what they entitled “Divine Providence,” and forged the Declaration of Independence.

One of them, the exhausted young John Adams, wrote to his beloved wife Abigail on the eve of the signing expressing his hope the event would be commemorated as “the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of Devotion to Almighty God.”

Adams, a redwood of a man, died July 4, 1826, the fifteenth anniversary of his signing of the Declaration. On his tombstone in the First Parish Church of Quincy, Massachusetts, are these words:

“On the Fourth of July, 1776, he pledged his Life, Fortune, and Sacred Honor to the Independence of his country…

“On the Fourth of July, 1826, he was summoned to the Independence of Immortality and to the Judgment of God.”

He was an accountable towering tree. Are we going to prove to be reluctant olives, figs, or grapes? If not, we will sit in the shade of brambles.

Parables are not designed to be pushed for exactness in every detail, but to illustrate points. Jotham changes metaphors and depicts the bramble as destroying those in its shade with fire. Is there a lesson here? If so, will we learn it and avoid the fire?

Childhood Development

Childhood development is a fascinating study. Unfortunately many of today’s parents have never taken time to engage in even the most elemental inquiry about it.

A child’s brain consisting of approximately 100 billion cells weighs less than three pounds. Each cell is connected to thousands of other electrochemical structures called synaps. A new born baby has about 50 trillion.

If synaps and brain cells aren’t used they wither.

Within the brain there are different areas with various responsibilities.

The “Occipital Lobe” is assigned the job of identifying what we see.

The “Temporal Lobe” processes sounds including language.

There is also an area where the capacity for social interchange is determined.

A baby starts with 500 trillion synaps and by the age of eight months that number has grown to 1,000 trillion. By the age of twenty the number has decreased to about 500 trillion.

Certain areas of a child’s brain are not developed at birth. They have to develop.

If a child can’t hear at birth that part of the brain does not develop. If the child born deaf is not enabled to hear speech by age 10 it will never be able to hear because the Temporal Lobe of the brain will not have developed properly.

If a child is born blind the neural connections between the eye and brain do not develop. If the child is not enabled to see by age two the Occipital Lobe of the child’s brain does not develop properly and it is highly likely the child will ever see properly.

A young child’s experiences can cause the brain synaps to increase or decrease by up to 25 percent.

Here is where the scenario gets scarey.

The “Parietal Lobe” processes touch. CAT scans show that in children deprived of love as expressed by holding, being read to, and stroked that part of the brain does not develop properly. Children not shown such love are candidates for anti-social conduct.

Most of these children grow into adulthood unfeeling, uncaring, and unresponsive. They feel no sorrow or grief for others. The more advanced of these have absolutely no regard for others; no respect for the property of others. They can engage in mayhem, marauding, and murder and have no remorse. They are impervious to the feelings of others.

Recently Britain displayed for the world a significant segment of their society reared without love. They pillaged stores, destroyed property, took wedding bands off couples, torched buildings, and demanded persons to undress in public and give them their clothes. Newscasts showed their glee in such pandemonium.

Prime Minister David Cameron described the youth as “the so-called feral youth seem oblivious to decency and morality…Let’s bear in mind that many of the youth in our inner cities have never been trained in decent values. All they have ever known is barbarism.” He called theirs a “culture of greed and impunity.”

Is anyone listening? Is anyone trying to understand why terrorists are so unfeeling? They have never known love.

Conditions in Britain were the occasion for the riots, but not the cause. The occasion was political. The cause was (OVER) parental. The cause was rooted in the home. Parents take warning.

Government And Benevolence

Our constitutional form of government was well defined by our founders as a republic. James Madison, considered the father of our Constitution wrote the Federalists Papers to assist subsequent generations better understand this vital document. In Federalists Paper Number 45 he explained the intended limits of the Constitution as: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined….(to) be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.”

Our federal government in recent years has drifted far beyond these bounds and is engaging in conduct not authorized by the Constitution. There is no Constitutional basis for most of our entitlement programs. Yet, approximately two-thirds of our federal budget is spent on “objects of benevolence.”

Charity and benevolence are expedient and highly commendable. Worthy persons and causes are deserving of help.

Madison further stressed the intent of the Constitution when in 1794 it was proposed that Congress appropriate funds for French refugees from what is now Haiti, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which grants a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” He who in large part wrote the Constitution said there is no authority therein granted to benevolence. Again, I want to say benevolence is admirable but the government is not empowered to practice it.

At about the same time Representative William Giles of Virginia opposed a bill that would have provided relief for fire victims saying Congress had no right to “attend to what generosity and humanity require, but to what the Constitution and their duty require.”

Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Pennsylvania Representative Albert Gallatin, stated, “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but only those specifically enumerated.”

Congressman Davy Crockett (yes that Davy) opposed a bill that would have provided support for the widow of a naval officer asserting, “I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of public money.

“I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week’s pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more that the bill asks.”

At about the time the 13 states adopted their new Constitution, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish professor at the University of Edinborough, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic: “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of gover nment. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time the voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.”

Violation of this Constitutional restraint helps explain our current federal financial dilemma.

Persistance – Walter Payton

Take a break from all the news and engage in a bit of introspection.

Some years ago a major computer company had as their promotion one single word “THINK.” With all that is swirling in our busy worlds the concept of taking time out to think is challenged. This is an encouragement to call a personal time out and evaluate your life and where it is headed. Face reality if it is pleasant or painful. Be realistic as you engage in self-analysis.

“Grow not weary in well doing” is an exhortation which if followed will result in a productive life.

Here is a question for you to get alone and answer: “For what do you want to be remembered?”

Once you have your answer dedicate yourself to becoming the person who embodies that ideal.

You can be assured there will be obstacles to becoming that person. Overcoming those obstacles will help you become that person.

Walter Payton was an outstanding running back for the Chicago Bears. Trudy and I had breakfast with Walter. Sitting there two thoughts came to mind almost simultaneously: “Here is a man who gained nearly nine miles as a running back in the NFL —- and he did it with someone knocking him down every 4.6 yards.”

On any one of those tackles he could have quit. Getting up and continuing is what made Payton great.

Don’t get hung up on where you are, but on where you want to go. Introspection is the starting point, not the terminal. Envision the potential you and realistically what you can do to become that person.

I love Cajun humor because Cajuns are among the few people who enjoy telling good stories on themselves and can actually laugh at themselves. That is a lost art. Against that background I share that Brossette (isn’t it good to hear a Cajun name other that Boudreaux) and Saucier were sitting at the bus stop when a truck load of rolled up sod went by. Brossette said to Saucier, “Das what I gonna do when I win de loddry.” “What ju gonna do when you win the loddry?, ” ask Saucier. Replied Brossette, “Send the lawn out to have it mowed.”

The moral of that story is don’t dream the unrealistic. In challenging yourself be ambitious but practical. Consider the ultimate you as represented by an epitaph on your tombstone. Then set some incremental goals to reach in order to become that person. Aspire to live up to your optimum. Write it down. Bringing a bit of realty into personal planning is Parker J. Palmer, co-founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal, who wrote, “Each of us is a master at something, a part of becoming fully alive is to discover and develop our birthright competence.”

As you consider your competence there are secular essentials to be considered and materialistic reality to be faced. We live in a real world. However, preoccupation with such issues can cause a person to overlook the fact there is a spiritual component to life. When infused into life it can enhance and enable all other aspects.

Oh, back to not growing weary in well doing. That Bible fact concludes, “in due time you shall reap.” Get ready for the harvest “in due time.”

The Government And Prayer

Texas Governor Rick Perry called for August 6, 2011 to be a Day of Prayer and Fasting for our Nation to seek God’s guidance and wisdom in addressing the issues facing our communities, states, and nation. It raised a protest. In part his proclamation said:

“Given the trials that beset our nation and world, from the global economic downturn to natural disasters, the lingering danger of terrorism and continued debasement of our culture, I believe it is time to convene the leaders from each of our United States in a day of prayer and fasting.” He continued, “I urge all Americans of faith to pray on that day for the healing of our country, the rebuilding of our communities, and the restoration of enduring values as our guiding force.”

In an effort to insure no good deed goes unpunished, the Freedom from Religion Foundation filed a federal lawsuit challenging the governor’s proclamation.
Consider these proclamations by his predecessors.

“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 to 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…..’”

George Washington, First President of the United States in a National Declaration November 3, 1789.

“I have therefore thought it fit to recommend, that Wednesday, the 9th day of May next be observed throughout the United States, as a day of Solemn Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer; That the citizens…offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies….”

John Adams, Second President of the United States in a National Declaration on March 23, 1789.

“Whereas the Congress of the United States, by a joint resolution of the two Houses, have signified a request, that a day may be recommended, to be observed by the People of the Unit ed Sates in a National Day of Humiliation, and Prayer….”

James Madison, Fourth President of the United States in a National Declaration on July 9, 1812.

“It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart the THIRTEENTH day of DECEMBER next, to be religiously observed as a day of THANKSGIVING and PRAYER; that all the people may assemble on that day with grateful hearts to celebrate the praises of our glorious Benefactor, to confess our manifold sins….” Thomas McKean, President of Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, November 26, 1781.

The Founding Fathers were so emphatic in their belief that prayer was to be an integral part of daily public life and public service that by 1815 they had called the people to prayer 1,400 times! It is interesting to note originally Congress considered it was such a lawful and efficacious use of time they began every session with two continuous hours of prayer.

Could it be that is what is missing in W ashington today?

At a time when our government is allowing Muslims to set aside daily time for prayer in our institutions let’s not try to keep Christians and Jews from praying publicly.

The Economy

Fiscally and otherwise our beloved nation is in a mess. If we ever become resolute enough to try to get out of it there will be a bigger mess.

Financially the only way out is to cut federal spending. In doing so sooner or later entitlements must be cut. That sounds good until it is realized every government program has a constituency. Everyone wants cuts, but not to their area of interest. When all those constituents are combined there is a wall of opposition to cutting. In countries and areas of our country where cuts have been made people have flooded the streets in protest.

Puerto Rico is an example of the fact government can be brought under control. The current administration has made cuts and is bringing government spending under restraint. For example there was one department with 250 employees responsible for processing liquor licenses. The program was changed and now one persons handles all applications mostly by the Internet. That is good. However, t here are 249 unemployed who don’t think it was such a good idea.

As example think of discontinuing our Department of Education. That would mean a savings of millions, perhaps billions of dollars. Millions of citizens would celebrate. The employees put out of work would not be among the celebrants.

Cut enough programs that are not constitutionally authorized and the number of offended constituencies would form a vast army capable of a colossal protest.
Nationally we have a bigger challenge coming than we have known in decades.

A way of minimizing the reaction would be to do it like the little boy who cut off his dog’s tail an inch at the time so it wouldn’t hurt as bad.Programs would have to be cut over a period of time to avoid so many constituent groups merging in massive protests.

If we don’t bring our spending binge under control even greater dangers loom. There simply won’t be enough money to fund the unconstitutional entitlement programs and the beneficiaries would potentially demand “their money.” Again massive protests would result. Therefore, just going on like we are going until our economy implodes won’t work.

The situation is so grave even Congressman Charlie Rangel asked: “What would Jesus do?” (WWJD).

Jesus would doubtless subscribe to the basic stated in Deuteronomy 15:6: “…you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow….” That is a starting point. Jesus spoke generally about individual values and not government policies.

Summarily He taught us to live within our means. That would be a good government policy also.

In a difficult time a friend said, “Please pray about th is.” The reply was, “Is it that serious?” Unashamedly I ask you to please pray about this. It is that serious. Eight out of every ten Americans say they sometimes pray. If you are one of the eight please pray for America.

As with individuals so with governments:
WHEN YOUR OUTGO EXCEEDS YOUR INCOME,
YOUR UPKEEP BECOMES YOUR DOWNFALL.

Today’s Athletes

The American Football Association Foundation recently conducted a survey of NCAA football coaches as to what social issues they need help with as coaches. Ohio State, LSU, Miami, and North Carolina are but a few schools indicating help is needed. Four primary areas were identified. In order they are:

How to discipline today’s athletes. Often athletics is the only area of discipline in the life of some athletes. Even that breaks down off the field. Many of today’s athletes lack a father figure in their past. The coach becomes somewhat of a surrogate father.

Athletes need to be taught respect for authority, manners, and inter-personal skill. In general discipline is needed regarding respect in all areas of life not just sports. Often property rights are unknown.

Self-discipline is lacking. This explains why so many athletes playing for coaches who are really trying to teach them more than a sport appear to fail. It is the athlete who fails him or herself and mak es the coach look bad in spite of all of his or her efforts.

An expectation of entitlement is a second factor. Athletes feel entitled to perks, pluses, and praise. Most athletes developed in youth if not juvenile programs where they were rewarded regardless. Kid’s ask, “If I come to practice will I get ice cream,?” or “Do we get a trophy for being on the team?”

In college they feel entitled to special favors, recognition, and rewards. They rather expect boosters to covertly reward them. Just being able to participate isn’t gratification enough. This caries over in all of life for them. It is also a trait of non-athletes.

Our government and society in general trains youth to expect entitlements. A loving parent often gives a child an allowance. Ask the child why he or she gets an allowance. You will get an informed answer such as because I am a member of the family, or other kids get one. Instead of an allowance make a list of things needing to be done and the m onetary reward for each. Let them grow with a sense of earning what they get.

The third area in which help is felt to be needed is how to help athletes deal with drugs. Ten years ago this was the number one need. It is still a major need. The lack of self-discipline complicates this issue. The positive results are thought to be worth the risk. “Positive” results are they develop muscle mass or they make you feel good. They fail to realize the negative consequences of drug use which are many.

The fourth factor is abuse. Parents’ or guardians’ physical and/or verbal abuse is extensive. I worked with a group of college students this summer at a time they felt freedom to be transparent. It was a catharsis for many. The percentage of them having suffered abuse was astounding. Sexual abuse was prevalent. Relatives were often involved. All the victims spoke of feeling dirty, unworthy, devalued, and inferior. We were able to work through some of the issues for some and hel p restore self-esteem.

Coaches deal daily with these issues. If parents dealt with them more constructively coaches would not have to be surrogate parents.

Etymology: Understanding What You Are Saying

Etymology, the study of the origin of words, often reveals interesting roots. Consider these words and their genesis.

The Greeks introduced to the world their god Pan. When in a good mood Pan’s flute music was soothing. When he got disturbed and outraged it was frantic and erratic. Such idiosyncratic outbursts came to be known as having a panic attack.

Meander is a proverbial word derived from the name of a river in southwest Turkey that flows from Dinar to Miletus on the Iconian. Sitting on a hillside overlooking a plain through which the river wound its rambling abstract course, I could see the connection.

Berserk is derived from the trance like state of a raging band of fierce out of control savage Norse warriors, the Berserkers. They would psyche themselves to ignore pain and disregard safety. They went wild in a battle frenzy. Their name came from the fact they wore bear skins. When in a rage a person is often said to have gone berserk.

Blackmail had a most intriguing origin. Rob Roy was a freebooting clan chieftain in the Scottish Highlands who initially joined the Jacobites. In between major conflicts he would raid herdsmen’s cattle and hide them in the Highlands. Cows were almost as good as cash. He would demand a ransom in order to get them back.

Rob was Scottish for Red, a title given him because of his red hair and beard. The word “male” had the meaning of an agreement. “Black” was used for evil. Blackmail was an evil agreement used by Rob Roy in order to return cows.

The golfers mulligan, meaning an extra shot after a poor one, comes from 1920 in Canada. Out of gratitude for driving his foursome to St. Lamberts Golf Course near Montreal, they gave him an extra shot. It became more broadly used starting in 1949.

An absorbing captivating person is often said to mesmerize people. Franz Anton Mesmer, born in Switzerland in 1734, a psychic practitioner, is inaccurately credited with developing hypnotism. He was in many ways spellbinding. His name gave rise to the word mesmerize which identifies a fascinating personality.

Sarcophagus, used in ancient burials, means “flesh eater” It is the root for sarcastic.

The name Christian was given followers of Christ in Antioch in the first century. The suffix “ian” was borrowed from Latin and meant “adhering to or belonging to.” It meant a partisan of Christ and was initially used as a tern of derision. This came as a result of Christ being crucified. As a means of execution it was so loathsome law forbade any Roman citizen from being crucified.

The word “Christian” now being used as a noun and an adjective causes some confusion. As an adjective is describes a person who endeavors to live according to the teachings of Christ because of devotion to Him. Some persons calling themselves a Christian are using it as a noun and in reality are not Christlike in their conduct. A gross application of the appellation is Hitler who is said to have been a Christian. Noun! Associating Hitler with Christ is a travesty.  He was not a Christian in the sense of being a follower Christ, a devotee.

Disgracefully some who use it as a noun don’t live it as an adjective.

What Muslims Believe About Jesus

At any time general traits and beliefs of a group are noted there are persons who know exceptions. Following are fundamental beliefs held by most Muslims with few exceptions.

Muslims respect Jesus as a great prophet. Have you ever noticed you never hear a Muslim speak a disparaging word about Him. They teach that after Mohammed returned from his visit to heaven he called an assembly of all Old Testament prophets and included Jesus. Mohammed converted all of them, including Jesus, to Islam. Thus, Jesus is revered as a great Muslim prophet.

In the magnificent Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem there is written on the wall near the ceiling a statement declaring Jesus was born of the virgin Mary.

Muslims love Jesus, but they believe His followers misunderstood His message and have failed to apply it. Their dislike for Christians and Jews dates back to the youth of Mohammed. Christians and Jews along the caravan route near his home in Mecca were unkind and rude to him as a boy. He concluded the Jews had a book, the Old Testament, and Christians had a book, the Bible, but his people had no book. Thus he undertook to write what became the Koran.

During the Crusades there was much hatred and inhumanity on both sides. Muslims still point to this period as a time when persons professed to follow Christ did not enact His teachings. Muslims themselves were less than civil.

What does the book called by President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and members of the administration call the Holy Koran say about Christians and Jews? Let the Koran speak for itself. The parentheses are added for clarity.

The Koran teaches the superiority of Islam. “It is He who has sent His messenger (Mohammed) with guidance and the religion of truth, to make it superior to all religions even though the mushrikim (polytheist, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it).  Surah 9:13

Of Muslims it declares, “You are the best of people ever raised up from mankind.” Surah 3:110

It expresses an opinion of all others. “Verily, those who disbelieve (in the religion of Islam, the Koran, and the Prophet Mohammed) from among the peoples of the Scriptures (Christians and Jews) and all mushrikim will abide in the fires of hell. They are the worst of people.” Surah 98:6

Muslims have a point about Christians missing the message of Jesus. I concur some have, but many get it. An example of missing it is related to the Model Prayer taught by Jesus.

Some Christians use God’s name as slang or profanity. Jesus taught persons to pray “…hallowed be thy name.”

When a Muslim uses the name of Allah it is usually immediately accompanied by a phrase like “blessed be the name.”

Jesus taught His followers “ought always to pray.” Few Christians have a vibrant prayer life. Muslims pray five specified times a day on their knees.

It is estimated that by 2030, Muslims will increase in America from our present 2.6 million to 6.2 million. They will be a numerous as Jews or Episcopalians. America will have more Muslims than any European country other than Russia and France.

Jesus also taught His followers to “love one another.” We have to live with persons not like us, persons unlike us, and who don’t like us. That milieu will change our nation. This is the conflict dividing two cultures.

Israel And The 1967 Borders

Our President has advised Israel and the Palestinians to go back to the 1967 borders between the territories where Jews and Arabs dwelt. Don’t plan on it!

What is in those territories now is not what was there before 1967. An example of this is the Golan Heights in Northeast Israel. Before 1967 it was a vast undeveloped area other than as a military buffer. When I went to Israel first in 1969 at night the lights of one small settlement could be seen at night from Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Now the entire range is aglow with villages.

The vast expanse of the Heights was basically a mine field left over from Syrian occupation. Sitting in those fields were rusty burned out Syrian vehicles all facing toward Damascus to which they were retreating when destroyed. Today they are lush orchards, vineyards, and highly productive agricultural land. Recently developed Israeli villages dot the area.

Before 1967 Jerusalem was a divided city. An idea of how developed the two sections were is illustrated by traffic lights. The Arab section was so lacking in modernization they had no traffic lights. When the border went down young Arab boys would stand on the street corner in the Jewish section and applaud the traffic lights when they would change.

Last week while there I marveled that a rapid commuter rail line was being tested along much of the route of the former border.

Modern Israel is very modern; highly progressive. The bordering Palestinian territory is not. Cities like Jericho and Bethany are filthy with little development since 1967. Bethlehem is more advanced. Tourism has made it more viable.

The vacant hillsides that existed between Jerusalem and Bethlehem before 1967 and the present are now one vast city uniting the two towns. The occupants are Jews.

To expect Israel to vacate these newly developed areas is unrealistic.

These two nationalities have contested each other from the time of Abraham. Regrettably they are likely to continue to forever. There is enough wrong on both sides to go around.

Driving through part of the Gaza area one side of the road is Israeli occupied. The other Palestinian. The same type soil is on both sides of the road. The Jewish side is green and highly productive. The Arab side is dry and barren. The Israeli government says the water rights between the two is equally divided 50-50, and it is. The challenge arises from the fact there are more than ten times as many Arabs living on their side that there are Jews on their side. The Arabs have to use so much of their water for human consumption there isn’t enough for irrigation.

A cartoon in the Jerusalem Post illustrates the challenge. It depicts an old Native American chief talking with the Prime Minister of Israel saying, “Let me tell you about swapping land for peace.”

The Psalmist said it well: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

God, Quantum Physics, And The Bible

In our pragmatic state of mind we tend not to believe in what we cannot comprehend with our basis senses. Therefore, the idea of world conditions being different from those we know seems far fetched.

Quantum physics is a science presently challenging the scientific community much less the limited scientific knowledge of non-scientists. Trying to look up a comparatively simple definition of the subject is a challenge. Under “quantum physics” is a note it is based on “quantum theory.” There you find “quantum theory” is based on “quantum mechanics.” There the definition is: “theory of the mechanics of atoms, molecules, and other physical systems that are subject to the uncertainty principle.”

An overly simplistic description is it means coloring outside the scientific box as most of us know it.

Try this for example. Quantum physics suggests that quantum particles that make up atoms can leap distances without going through space. What? They can even change their fundamental qualities to evade detection. The amazing thing is there are scientists who understand this.

This science offers evidence that light particles can ignore time. Studious people with knowledge in the field are convinced of it.

Some persons of faith in the scientific community are saying this is opening the door to further comprehension of creation.

Theologian Paul Tillich commented, “The truth of faith cannot be confirmed by the latest physical or biological or psychological discoveries — as it cannot be denied by them.”

True, if it were confirmed it would not be faith. Also true the legitimacy of faith cannot be denied by science because not all is known about science as quantum physics is showing.

Quantum physics shows that there is a lot not known, a lot.

One basic law of logic is you can’t prove a negative. For example the negative “there is no God” can’t be proven. To prove there is no God a person would have to know all there is to know and in the total body of knowledge know there is not God.

If you know some person who professes to know so much they can assert with confidence there is no God run these questions by them.

Do you know how many hairs are on the back of a musk ox in Nome, Alaska?

Do you know how many gallons of water there are in the Pacific Ocean?

Do you know the sum total of all heavenly bodies?

Do you know what lies just outside the distance viewable by the most powerful telescope?

Do you know what things are invisible?

Do you know for certain light particles can’t ignore space?

What percent of all knowledge do you suppose you know?

Do you think that in that percentage of the unknown God could exist without your knowledge?

Blaise Pascal a man noted for his contribution to literature, mathematics, and science believed things people of his era thought ludicrous. Today those things are the norm. He wrote: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, through Jesus Christ.” That explains so many empty people.

What Goes Around Comes Around

There is a TV commercial that shows a young boy who has has slipped away from his parents at a concert. When the curtain opens the child is sitting at the piano playing “Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star.” The parents are shocked when the concert artist walks up behind the child and reaching around to the keyboard begins to improvise with the child all the time whispering, “Don’t stop. Don’t quit, keep playing.” Together they charm the audience. That artist was the internationally renown Ignance Paderewski of Poland.
The following is also a true story I have known for a long time but finally found this version of it on the web. It is based on an incident that happened in 1892 at Stanford University . Its moral is still relevant.
A young, 18-year-old student was struggling to pay his fees. He was an orphan, and not knowing where to turn for money, he came up with a bright idea. A friend and he decided to host a musical concert on campus to raise money for their education.
They reached out to the great pianist, Ignacy J. Paderewski. His manager demanded a guaranteed fee of $2000 for the piano recital. A deal was struck. And the boys began to work to make the concert a success.
The big day arrived. Paderewski performed at Stanford. But unfortunately, they had not managed to sell enough tickets. The total collection was only $1600.
Disappointed, they went to Paderewski and explained their plight. They gave him the entire $1600, plus a check for the balance $400. They promised to honor the check as soon as possible.
“No,” said Paderewski. “This is not acceptable.” He tore up the check, returned the $1600 and told the two boys “Here’s the $1600. Please deduct whatever expenses you have incurred. Keep the money you need for your fees and just give me whatever is left” The boys were surprised, and thanked him profusely.
It was a small act of kindness. But it clearly marked out Paderewski as a great human being. Why should he help two people he did not even know? We all come across situations like these in our lives.
Paderewski later went on to become the Prime Minister of Poland. He was a great leader, but unfortunately when the World War I began, Poland was ravaged. There were over 1.5 million people starving in his country, and no money to feed them. Paderewski did not know where to turn for help. He reached out to the US Food and Relief Administration for help.
The head there was a man called Herbert Hoover who later went on to become the US President. Hoover agreed to help and quickly shipped tons of food grains to feed the starving Polish people. A calamity was averted.
Paderewski was relieved. He decided to come to America to meet Hoover and personally thank him. When Paderewski began to thank Hoover for his noble gesture, Hoover quickly interjected and said, “You shouldn’t be thanking me Mr. Prime Minister. You may not remember this, but several years ago, you helped two young students go through college in the US. I was one of them.”

What goes around comes around. It still does. Long ago instruction was given to DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU.

Praying For Healing

Some persons teach all sickness and misfortune is the result of sin. Persons of this persuasion have the capacity of putting a guilt trip on a sick person. That is most unfortunate.
In John 16: 33 Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation….” The Greek text literally means, “I guarantee you in this world you will have tribulation….” It is a part of the world system. Jesus continued, “…be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
God never promised us immunity from difficulty or exemption from problems. He has promised to bless us regardless of conditions. He takes no pleasure in our problems, but He will take part in them. We are stewards even of our illnesses.
The children about to be put in the fiery furnace said, “Our God is able to deliver us.” They did not say He was going to deliver them. They knew He could but trusted His judgment as to whether to save them.
Regarding our illnesses it is proper to ask for healing and —– then trust the Lord.
James 5:14 is a misunderstood passage. It instructs us to anoint with oil and pray for the sick. This does not mean to put oil on the brow and pray. There are two Greek words for anoint. One means to put oil on the forehead as was done for prophets, priest, and kings. The other word meant to kneed or message into the body. This is the one used in James. Secular writing of the period tell of the medicinal qualities of olive oil. An example is found in the story of the Good Samaritan What the James passage teaches is we are to use the best medicine available, in their case olive oil, and pray. Then we will have done all God expects us to do. After doing so we are to trust God’s judgment.
For example I know chances are some day I will pray for God to heal me of something and He will not in a physical sense. Instead He will give me the ultimate healing —- a new body in heaven. That is when I will really be a winner.
Mark 11: 24 is a complex passage. It truly differentiates between self-intoxicating ideas that are beyond our capacity and often casts God in an improper light and genuine faith.
The “mountain” in Mark is not a reference to a physical mountain, but it is symbolical of any seemingly unresolvable problem. It was a common Jewish phrase referring to dealing with difficulties. It was used to describe good teachers who were capable of solving difficult situations. They were called mountain-removers.
Prayer in the Mark passage is represented as the power that can enable us to deal with any difficult situation.
Verse 24, must be understood in light of the general Bible principles of prayer expressed throughout Scripture. It must be viewed in light of:
Taking our problems to the Lord. We must act.
Submission to God’s will (Mark 14:36b; Matthew 5:43-45; 26-29). We must be willing to accept God’s will. It is unprofitable to ask for God’s will to be done unless we are first committed to doing whatever it is.
It must be “in Christ’s name,” that is, in harmony with the will of Christ. If it is in accord with His will it is natural He will answer affirmatively because He desires for His will to be done.
In faith we bow our head before our merciful God trusting His wisdom and love.
To be obedient we must pray and leave the response to God.
FOLLOWING IS A RESPONSE FROM THE BILLY GRAHAM ORGANIZATION TO A PERSON ENQUIRING REGARDING FAITH AND HEALING.
First John 5:14 offers the promise that God “will listen to us whenever we ask him for anything in line with his will” (NLT). But how do we ask “in line with his will”? The KNOWING JESUS PERSONALLY New Testament offers this explanation:
“Prayer is not getting your will in heaven. It is getting God’s will on earth. Prayer is not an argument with God in which you try to persuade him to move your way. Prayer is an exercise in which His Spirit enables you to move yourself his way. Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of his willingness.
“You have to first ‘stay in Christ’ by maintaining a healthy, ongoing relationship with him. When that happens, you will see your will coming in line with his, and your requests will begin to mirror what Christ wants to do in your life and the lives of those around you. At that point, you can be assured that God is listening to you and will answer your prayers.”
It is also important to remember that not everyone was healed by Jesus in the New Testament. A good example of this is the man healed at the pool of Bethesda (John, chapter 5). The Scripture is clear that there was “a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water” (verse 3). Yet, according to Scripture, only one person was healed.
It is good to know that we are in the hands of our wonderful Lord, who cares very deeply for us. At times God may not choose to heal. If this happens, we may be assured that He will provide adequate grace to endure the affliction (2 Corinthians 12:9). When God does not heal, He has a greater purpose in mind. We need to trust completely in His loving care, with the confidence that His ways are always best. Isaiah 55:9 states: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Eventually we will understand more clearly why God allows various situations in our lives. Until we see Him face to face, we need to trust fully in His plan for us.
We have remembered you in prayer, trusting the Lord to work mightily in your life. Remember that nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17). All things are possible with Him (Mark 10:27), and He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, NIV).

Sincerely,
Jamie M. Adams (lw)
Christian Guidance Department
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
www.billygraham.org

The War Verses In The Koran

Very much in the news lately has been the issue of a couple of churches letting their facilities be used by Muslims as a temporary mosque. In trying to establish an opinion consider the following.
First, there are Muslims who know little more about the 6000 verses of the Koran than some Christians do the Bible. In countries where Islam is not dominant they are perfectly willing to live in harmony with persons of other faiths. They are not militant. In Muslim dominated countries many are open to coexistence with people of other faiths.
There is a challenge in differentiating who is what however.
In his Cairo speech President Obama said there are seven million Muslims in America. Eight percent of the Muslims participating in a recent survey said they believe suicide bombing is acceptable in defending Islam. Of those between the ages of 18-29, fifteen percent who participated agreed and sixty percent said they were Muslims first and Americans second.
The first part of the Koran has some beautiful passages and positive peaceful verses. The last part advocates acts of violence.
Sura 9, verse 5 states, “Fight and slay the unbelievers wherever you find them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war. But if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them….”
Sura 9, verse 29, “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day … until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”
Now here is a part that is confusing as to why groups would like to use churches. Sura 5, 51, “Oh ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for our friends and protectors; they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them in friendship is of them. Verily Allah guideth not the unjust.”
Here is a heavy verse, Sura 3, verse 28, relates to the subject of “taquiyya.” It is a doctrine that states that Muslims should not be friends with the infidel except as deception, always for the purpose of converting, subduing, or destroying them.
All of these verses are in the last part of the Koran and conflict with some in the first half. That conflict is explained by Muslims by the theory of abrogation which teaches that when there is a conflict the last statement on the subject should take precedent over the first statement.
Regarding the possibility of Christians and/or Jews using a Mosque an internationally known Muslim figure said they are welcome to come and experience the enlightenment. That is the same as saying to them you are welcome to our places of worship to be evangelized.
The above figures indicate there are 56,000 Muslims living in America who approve of suicide bombers.
Hopefully those Muslims who do not favor jihad will reason with those who do. In the meantime those Muslims who sense a stand-off spirit toward them by non-Muslims need to know the above verses cause that attitude and not mere religious bigotry.

Why Don’t Christians Speak Out?

John Locke, a seventeenth century philosopher, said there are three forms of law —- divine, civil, and opinion. He, considered the father of modern liberalism, claimed the law of opinion is the only one by which people really abide. It is the law governing what a person feels they can express without being in danger of isolation. This produces what Dr. Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann, professor of communication research at the University of Mainz in Germany, calls a spiral of silence.
When put in an environment where person feel they might be laughed at or turned away in derision if they say what they really think the spiral begins. People want to avoid the social stigma that comes from having a different opinion on social issues. To avoid it they switch to a go-along-to-get-along mode even if they are considered to be a conformist. That is considered to be better than rejection. Most people want peace and contentment so badly they don’t speak out.
The electronic and print media give us most of our knowledge of the world around us. Most of the national media does not give a balanced insight into what people are thinking proportionate to the various opinions. The selective perception given primarily by TV makes it appear everyone thinks as they represent issues. The media’s sanctioned view tends to bias the nation’s judgement. This can make the minority appear to be the majority.
This is where the spiral starts. Those who hold the opinion fostered by the media are emboldened thereby and speak out all the more. Those who hold a view contrary to the media are silent in order to avoid ostracism.
Pick any one of several controversial social issues. A position on it in the media appears to be the accepted norm. Many people are unwilling to take an opposing view in a group for fear of rejection. Take as examples freedom of religious speech,  don’t-ask-don’t-tell or abortion. Does the media project what appears to be an accepted view on these subjects? Is it popular to speak out in opposition to the reported popular attitude? If one does speak out in a group that concurs with the image fostered by the media what is likely to be the reaction of the group? Does the person holding an opposing view risk getting a cold-shoulder? Who wants a cold-shoulder? Often the only way to avoid it is silence. The spiral is then complete.
Alexis de Tocqueville, in the nineteenth century gave this analysis of the decline of religion just before the French Revolution.
“People still clinging to the old faith were afraid of being the only ones who did so, and as they were more frightened of isolation than of committing an error, they joined the masses even though they did not agree with them. In this way, the opinion of only part of the population seemed to be the opinion of everybody.”
Could that be happening in the religious community in America today?
Nonconformist Henry David Thoreau wrote of his civil disobedience: “It is always easy to break the law, but even the Bedouins in the desert find it impossible to resist public opinion.” He seems to agree with Locke that people obey only the law of public opinion.
Fortunately there are those who have deep seated convictions who are willing to risk all to defend the divine law. They seek to obey and propagate it. Society can only be changed by those who are willing to risk isolation to defend their faith.

Faith Of Our Fathers” Our National Heritage

In the compendium of quotes by our Founding Fathers regarding our Christian heritage there are a few bogus quotes which tend to discredit legitimate ones. There are also persons who extract comments out of context and distort their meaning in an attempt to discredit the legitimate record of our heritage. However, the legacy of Christian influence on our emerging nation is valid.
For example few know that at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison, known as the Father of our Constitution, proposed the plan to divide our central government into three branches after reading Isaiah 33:22: “For the Lord is our judge, (Judiciary) the Lord is our lawgiver, (Legislative) the Lord is our King; (Executive) He will save us.” The parentheses are mine added for clarity.
Hear some of the founders as they yet speak for themselves from the grave.
Ben Franklin’s faith was evident in the 1749 plan he proposed for education saying the schools should teach “the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient and modern.”
Alexander Hamilton was a founder of the Christian Constitutional Society the purpose of which was to help spread over the world the two things he said made America great; (1) Christianity and (2) a Constitution formed under Christianity.
In 1828, Noah Webster wrote in the preface of his “American Dictionary of the English Language,” “No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”
It is true some of our founders were more Deistic than Christian. They still believed in the Bible’s moral and ethical tenants. It is said George Washington was a Deist who never referred to God or Jesus Christ, but instead used the language of Deism in referring to a supernatural power.
Not so, he frequently made entries such as these in his prayer journal.
“I have sinned and done very wickedly, be merciful to me, O God, and pardon me for Jesus Christ sake.”
“Bless my family, kindred, friends, and country, be our God and guide this day and for ever for His sake, who lay down in the grave and arose again for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
If he were a Deist why did he summons his friend, the military chaplain and former pastor of First Baptist Church of New York, Reverend John Gano, and command him to baptize him in a river. This is attested to by an article in “Time” magazine in 1932, saying the baptism was witnessed by 42 individuals. Accounts from the era support the act as historical. Still today some try to deny it.
Proponents of the true meaning of separation of church and state have reason to be confident in the pre-revisionists’ record of the influence of the Bible and the Christian faith in our heritage. Some modern atheistic evangelists seek to deny it and refute it by distortions and misrepresentations of facts. A favorite tactic they use is to take a quote from a founder out of context and exploit it while denying the counter comments of the spokesman. Mendacity knows no bounds.
This column is merely a recounting of history not to advocate making our government a state/church or church/state as some have been known to try to make my writings. I believe in separation of church and state but not the ridiculous extent to which it has been taken.

Jefferson On Seperation Of Church And State

Thomas Jefferson in 1802 wrote a letter to the Banbury Baptist Association in response to their overture. They were concerned Congress might do as some states had already done and name a specific denomination as the official national denomination. The Baptists in Connecticut were chaffing over having to pay to support the Congregationalist church which was the official state church in their state.

Jefferson was a masterful politician. His opponents, the Federalists, accused him of being an atheist. He was at best a deist, perhaps an agnostic, and suspicioned of being an atheist. To counter the claims of him being an atheist he used pious tones assuring them of his prayers: “I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.”

The Baptists were his supporters and primarily voted Democratic-Republican. He wrote to appease and console them. Some states had state supported church like Connecticut. Some wanted an official national denomination.

The issue really was not Christianity, it was denominationalism. Jefferson’s position did not entail hostility toward religion in government. He even invited people to join him in prayer at his second inauguration.

He negotiated a treaty with the Kaskaskia Indians designating federal money to build a church and provide ministers. Weigh that against today’s interpretation of the establishment clause.

Foreign to Jefferson’s concept today’s application of the principle of separation undercuts the idea of freedom of religion. If all freedoms noted in the First Amendment were interpreted to be restricted like the part related to religion, we would lose our freedom of speech, the press, the right of assembly and the right to petition Government for a redress of grievances. They are all grouped together in the First Amendment. Take for example the freedom of the press. Our free press is protected by the amendment from government interference. Banning the free press is a frightening thought. How would the public respond today if the right to petition the Government were prohibited?

Why Jefferson ever got involved in this debate is puzzling. He never used the phrase related to a wall of separation again. He was out of the country when the Constitution was adopted and the First Amendment debated. He never sat on the Supreme Court. Yet, one misunderstood statement in his letter to the Banbury Baptists is the dominant issue in the debate of separation of church and state. His metaphor, “a wall of separation” is the basis of today’s law on the subject.

Justice Hugo Black, a member of the Ku Klux Klan and arch anti-Christian issued the ruling in 1947 in the Everson v. Board of Education. In an amicus brief filed by Everson  he warned against turning the wall into an iron curtain.

It is worth hearing the great detective Sherlock Holmes again. He got it right when he said, “We are suffering from a plethora of surmise, conjecture, and hypothesis. The difficulty is to detach the framework of facts — of absolute fact — from the embellishment of theorists.”

God’s Judgement Of Nations

Not everybody has the same world view. That is, not everyone sees alike. Some have a secular world view with a spectrum ranging from a humanistic philosophy, to asceticism, to deism, and various points in between. Others hold a biblical world view. That is they tend to interpret life in light of the teachings of the Bible. This too is a broad field of belief.
Within this latter school of thought is the idea expressed by Benjamin Franklin at the time of the drafting of the Constitution: “…God governs in the affairs of nations….” That is, God is involved in the human arena. He is active in lives and events. He has been so excluded in the market place seldom do people try to understand things going on around them in light of this.
The biblical record reveals God judges nations in time. To say that is to call in a firestorm of criticism. Not to say it is to look the other way when confronted by reality.
He often judges in kind. Let me illustrate. As a child I disobeyed my mother and slipped to eat pickles she had forbidden me to eat. As always she caught me. I was delighted when she  invited me to eat another. Then yet another and another. Based on my experience I can confirm pickles taste a lot better going down than they do coming up. I had been judged in kind.
The Bible speaks of a time when the condition of a society is such God gives them up and to what He gives them up. It is so much of what they want they get sick of it.
Many believe God is judging America in kind. We evidenced greed was good and excess was acceptable. Individually millions of people and government entities exercised greed and our society including individuals and institutions are suffering the consequence.
Having thrown off normal moral restraints culturally we have said we want sexual freedom and an entertainment community that espoused promiscuity. If God is punishing us in kind the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases, broken homes, undesired pregnancies, and emotional problems are the in kind discipline. He is giving us what we wanted and the unwanted consequences.
We have tried to blame everyone and everything for the senseless shooting in Arizona. Different political parties, social classes, gun advocates, our national mental health program, and likely even Amos and Andy have been blamed.
The Arizona case in point involved a person who appears to have mental and/or emotional problems. Blame that. Our national self-flagellation does little good. Aside from head cases few people are willing to say there is a heart problem in our nation. If however the travesty were to motivate us to see this as a time of moral reform then benefits can result.
The rash of evil being suffered by our nation has its origin in individual hearts. It is a moral problem. “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies… (Matthew 15:19). Check the media, even our advertisements, and see if these things are glamorized and popularized. It is this root that must be addressed to avoid the fruit.
Benjamin Franklin also said, “…all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter.” Here? Is our nation suffering in kind here, that is, now?
To think of changing America one person at a time may be a great act of faith. To think of doing it any other way is an act of lunacy.
Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

The Young Earth: The Sun As Evidence

THE YOUNG EARTH: THE SUN AS EVIDENCE
You don’t know what you don’t know, you know.
I don’t know how evolution is possible. There are persons who don’t know how creation is possible. If both, I said both, adherents of both schools of thought were candid they would admit their belief is an act of faith.
I have difficulty in having faith in evolution because of facts. Consider one.
Dr. John Eddy of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Aram Boomazian, a mathematician with S. Ross and Company, have found evidence that the sun contracts at about 0.1% per century. That is about five feet per hour. Don’t get alarmed the diameter of the sun is about one million miles. The rate of shrinkage is small but continual.
That means the sun was larger in the past than now by 0.1% per century. If that rate has remained constant 100 thousand years ago the sun would have been twice its present size then.
Evolutionary science says between 500 million and 2,000 million years would have been required for there to have been organic evolution. About 20 million years ago one major part of evolution is alleged to have taken place. That was the evolution of man from primates began.
Going back to the sun and setting its shrinkage in reverse gives an interesting time table. The radius changes about 2.5 feet per hour. The distance from the earth to the sun is approximately 93 million miles. There are 5,280 feet per mile. Running that model in reverse the sun would have been so large around 20 million B.C. its surface would have touched the surface of earth. Around 100 thousand B.C. the sun would have been twice its present size.
Since 500 million to 2,000 million years are required for evolution time runs out on the theory.
This is so damaging to the theory of evolution that its proponents, without proof, say the sun has undergone temporary shrinkages and expansions as small fluctuating oscillations in its over all regular evolutionary development. This is highly improbable in that the sun burns 4.2 tons of itself every second. There is no evidence this can be re-supplied.
It must be conceded, the concept of creation takes a lot of faith. A lot. However, it takes even more to have enough faith to believe evolution.
Evolution tenets exclude God not just from origins but all of life. If there is no God there is no good and/or evil. For there to be good and evil objective truth is required. That is, there is an object, in this instance God, who determines what is good and what is evil; right or wrong. If there is no objective truth there remains only subjective truth. We are each the subject determining what is good and what is evil. We become laws unto ourselves.
Thus, if subject “A” believes it is OK to lie and deceive and subject “B” believes only truth is right there is conflict. If “A” believes what is thine is mine and “B” believes in personal property rights there is conflict. That is how subject truth works.
If there is no divine Arbiter, that is God, there is no order to the universe or in the universe. Creation shouts there is a God. Reality reveals He loves us.
It is that love that is celebrated throughout the Christian community at Easter.

What Worry Does For You

Do you ever worry? Have you ever thought about what worry is? It is a thought, a negative thought, nothing more. To win over worry before leaving thinking about the troubling item, project a positive thought on the same subject.

Worry is simply pulling tomorrow’s clouds over today’s sunshine.

Change is a catalyst to worry and there is a lot of change going on. Out of the old west comes an illustration to the paralyzing influence of fear and its co-joined twin worry.

His name, “Black Bart”, struck terror in hearts. During his reign of terror which lasted from 1875 to 1883, he was credited with stealing the bags and breath from twenty-nine different stagecoach crews. He did it all without firing a shot. His weapon was his reputation. His ammunition was intimidation. A black hood hid his face. No victim ever saw him. No artist ever sketched his features. No sheriff could ever track his trail. He never fired a shot or took a hostage. He didn’t have to. His presence was enough to paralyze.

As it turned out, he wasn’t anything to be afraid of, either. When the hood came off, there was nothing to fear. When the authorities finally tracked down the thief, they didn’t find a blood thirsty bandit from Death Valley; they found a mild-mannered druggist from Decatur, Illinois. The man the papers pictured storming through mountains on horseback was, in reality, so afraid of horses he rode to and from robberies in a buggy. He was Charles E. Boles (AKA Bowles, Bolton) — the bandit who never fired a shot, because he never once loaded his gun.

If most of us would “unhood” those things causing most of the worry in our lives we would find them to be less formidable than we imagine them to be.

Worry is the only sin we brag about. “I worried so much I couldn’t sleep.” “You think that is bad. I worried so much I couldn’t eat.”

There are two things about which we should never worry.

Never worry about things you can change. If you can change them worrying about it will only delay the accomplishment and give stress.

Second, never worry about things you can’t change. Worrying about them won’t change them. If they are beyond your control worrying about them won’t change them.

There are two things about which never to worry: things you can change and things you can’t change. Eliminate those two and you will have no worries.

The expression “fear not” is found throughout the Bible. Most often the verb tense means “stop being afraid.” Like you, I face a lot of uncertainty and many perplexing challenges. I have found a formula for dealing with worry: “What time I am afraid I will trust in the Lord” (Psalm 56:3).

Thus alacrity replaces angst. The next time your counterpart to “Black Bart” shows up try it.

The High Price Of Change

Change is vogue. No generation has seen more change faster than ours. It is said human knowledge doubles every 17 days. In that environment don’t plan on maintaining the status quo. Especially when the status is nothing to “quo” about.

Soviet cosmonaut Sergei Krikalyev was launched into space in April 1991. His was to be a four month orbit. When he left the Soviet Union it was a super power. He was given the dramatic salary of 500 rubles a month. President Gorbachev seemed entrenched for life.

Soon after he went into orbit the Soviet Union came apart. Gorbachev was overthrown, the union was dissolved, and those in command of his mission put in an uncertain position. As a result, the four month mission became a ten month mission. Finally somebody with enough authority brought him down to earth. His 500 ruble salary was devalued by inflation to the point it was virtual starvation wages. His nation no longer existed. While he was away the world changed.

Surgei is a portrait of all of us. Our world is changing at a dizzying pace.

Change was proposed for America and America voted for it without knowing what the prosed change was. We have seen dramatic changes in the last months but they are not to be compared with what is potential.

On his way to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for President Barack Obama proposed the establishment of a Civilian National Defense Force as large as our army and as well funded.

In January of this year President Obama issued an executive order establishing a Council of Governors, an advisory board appointed by him. They can seize control of state National Guard forces in case of a “national emergency.” The President would determine what constitutes a “national emergency.” Part of their responsibilities will relate to “civil support activities” whatever they may be considered to be.

Why is such a force envisioned?

In countries such as China, Iran, and Venezuela similar forces have been used to squelch protests under the guise of protecting the peace. There would have been no Tea Party protest in such countries.

Bubbling to the surface occasional is talk of imposing the Fairness Doctrine on radio with talk shows being most impacted by it. It would greatly inhibit the freedom of speech such as most radio talk show hosts now enjoy.

The FCC is proposing declaring the Internet a public utility under their “control.” That too has been done in the above countries.

Establishment of a National Defense Force, controlling the Internet and enactment of the Fairness Doctrine could dramatically influence freedom of speech in America. That could lead to greater change than has ever been imagined.

Can it happen? Yes. Is it the intent of our government? No one can say for sure. Hopefully not. If it did a new dark age would dawn in the world. Not only would freedom in America be adversely restricted but in the world. America is the primary voice of freedom in the world and if that voice is muted freedom globally will go into eclipse.

Hopefully such a scenario is only a conspiracy theory and will never be our nations misfortune. It would be a change.

Wealth Redistribution

Who do you think knows the most about the intent of the Constitution and Federalists Papers, Samuel Adams or Barack Obama?

In these two statements they face off.

Adams: “The utopian schemes of leveling (wealth redistribution) and a community of goods, are as visionary and impractical as those which vest all property in the crown. These ideas are arbitrary, despotic, and, in our government unconstitutional” Bottom line, he opposed wealth redistribution.

Obama: “My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody… I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.” Bottom line: he is for wealth redistribution.

Notice Adams shares a principle based on the Constitution and Obama a personal opinion.
An indication of how convoluted our concept of government is
can be found in this observation by Grover Cleveland, “Though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.” Our nanny state philosophy belies this principle.

A case in point is aid to dependent children. When the law providing it was being considered it was said some people will see it as a means of getting support for having children out of wedlock in order to get government funds. It was said it would increase out of wed lock births and weaken the family. Today half of the children born in America are born out of wedlock. That is putting a strain on the government but nothing like it will when these children start procreating following their parents’ example.

The always quotable Thomas Jefferson cautioned, “If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretense of taking care of them, they must be happy.”
In this statement Abraham Lincoln gave optimistic thought regarding the value of wealth. “Property is the fruit of labor. Property is desirable, is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise.”

This means every wealthy individual is a living exhortation to others saying, “The fact I made it means you can to.” That is the blessing of the free enterprise system.

Today wealth and prosperity are represented as evil and all wealth as ill gotten gain. That is in part true because a lot of it is. The fact the principle has been misused and abused doesn’t mean it is bad. It has simply been used improperly. In reality most wealthy people got that way by working hard and smart. According to Lincoln the fact they have achieved success
means others can by the same means, a good work ethic.

Apathy, indolence, lethargy, torpidity, otiosity, and sloth are characteristics that hinder productivity.

When FDR got the “death tax” passed he said it was the beginning of the redistribution of the wealth of the nation. It set in motion other efforts to achieve the same end.

The above statement by President Obama indicates he is committed to taking it to a new level.

The opposite side of this deserves an appeal to those with wealth to voluntarily give as much as possible to the causes of their choice rather than have the government take it and give it to what they chose.

Concepts of Taxation

Figure this.
Fifty percent of the American population pays no income taxes.
Forty percent of the American population receives money from the government.
Fifty percent of the American population pays income taxes in order for the government to give the forty percent money. Some of these pay fifty percent of their income in taxes.
Ten percent of the population pays seventy-five percent of the income taxes.
Here is a statistical twist. Sixty-six percent of the population feels they are over taxed. That means a significant number of persons paying no income tax feels over taxed.
Imagine there are two primary schools of thought in the Congress that taxes and gives.
Concept A: This school of thought proposes to give more. In order to do so they have to tax the fifty percent who pay taxes even more.
Concept B: This school of thought advocates smaller government, less taxes, and reduced entitlements as a result.
For which group is the forty percent who pays no taxes and receives government money likely to vote?
For which group is the fifty percent who pays no taxes likely to vote?
For which group is the fifty percent who are taxed to provide for the others likely to vote?
A vital question is whether the fifty percent who pay taxes to provide for others will continue to be industrious hard working money earning people in order to provide money for the forty percent? How long before they begin to ask why earn more only to have it taxed at a higher rate?
A second question is whether this system in designed so that the forty percent will grow?
Inevitably there will be a tipping point.
Benjamin Franklin foresaw such a time and warned, “When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will be the end of the republic.”
We are increasing our national deficit at such a rate that in order to reduce it persons making over $250,000 a year will have to pay seventy-seven to ninety-one percent of their income in taxes. Many of these are persons owning small businesses but their income is considered personal even though in reality it isn’t. They will have to reduce employees just to pay taxes.
The forty percent is being told they can get more money by voting for advocates who espouse Concept A. The census promotion encourages people to register in order to get your fair share.
Who is trying to educate and motivate the forty percent? Concept A advocates are. This is their reelection base. By giving them subsidies and entitlements they are buying their votes. That is motivation.
The dumbing down of America is beginning to show. Basic economics and history need to be taught. Is anybody in education listening?
Regarding a work ethic I commend my theme text for life: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23).

Gamaliel Was Paul’s Teacher Was He Among The First Converts?

Israel is a fascinating place. Layers of history overlay one another. Multi cultures coexist. Social, ethnic, and language differences make for complexity. Each of our 40 visits has been different and delightful. Go if you can.
There are always unfathomable facts just beyond one’s understanding. Those serendipitous moments tailor every trip.
One of the times my wife and I went without a group afforded us fortuitous insight. Over the years we have developed many friends in Israel. One day a couple invited us to drive to the Valley of Elah where David fought Goliath. Having been there we were ambitious to return. While there one of our friends said lets drive up to Beit Gamaliel, a religious moshav in central Israel. We had not been there. As a matter of fact we had never heard of it. On the way I reasoned “beit” means house and Gamaliel is a reference to Gamaliel who succeeded to the presidency of the Sanhedrin after Shammai in the time of Jesus.
Meet the pedagogy and his star pupil. Gamaliel was one of the most revered teacher of his time. He taught some of the best young scholars of his era. He knew Jewish law and prophecy both of which were enhanced by his wisdom. His teaching was so broad he insisted that his pupils study the Greek poets. That was most unusual for that period.
Saul of Tarsus was one of his students. Gamaliel is the reason that years later when Paul, using his Latin name, went to Athens he could quote the line from one of Greece’s most renowned Third Century BC poets, Aratus of Soli: “In him we live and move and have our being.” Paul applied to line as referring to Jesus.
When it came time for the Sanhedrin to appoint a chief investigator to review reports of a resurrection Saul, the apple of the court’s eye, was chosen. He was given credentials authorizing him to do what was necessary to resolve the controversy.
While walking around enjoying the beauty of Beit Gamaliel my wife noticed a plaque and called for our friend, a guide in Israel for over forty years, and me to come see it. It read: “Buried here: Stephen and Nicodemus.” Our well schooled guide did not know of it and was astounded to see it.
Nicodemus was a fellow member of the Sanhedrin with Gamaliel. Stephen was the first Christian martyr. Why would such a prestigious scholar as Gamaliel have these two men of all people buried on his estate?
Following is merely conjecture but sometimes theory proves to be correct. Inductive reasoning led me to the following conclusion.
Could it have been the scholarly student who was appointed by the court came back and shared with his venerable mentor his findings and Gamaliel also became a believer? As such he had his two fellow believers interred on his estate.
At least two other members of the court had become believes, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. A third believer was the chief investigator, Paul, who voted for Stephen’s death.
More complex conundrums than this have belatedly been proven to be correct.
Israel and the Jewish people have a proud heritage. Go. Even your first visit is like going back home again and when you leave you will depart with the feeling I am coming here again. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” is an old and ever needful appeal.

To Survive We Must Learn From Our Past

A person can look like a prophet by applying abiding historical principles to a current situation and making a prediction.  The year was 1786 and the 13 original states were busy approving their new constitution. Scottish history professor, Alexander Taylor, at the University of Edinborough wrote the following about “The Fall of the Athenian Republic.”
“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasure, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policies, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.”
His study of Athenian history enables him to draw from a 2,000 year old example. Each day his forecast is looking frighteningly more like the writing of a divine prophet. Onebiblical test of a true prophet is that he is always right. I hope the wise Dr. Taylor proves not to be a true prophet.
The sage Benjamin Franklin seemed aware of this principle when he concluded, “When people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
It is like lacing a boot. The more a politician gives the more votes he gets. The more votes he gets the more likely he is to get reelected. The more he is reelected the more money he gives away. For many the issue is reelection not what is good for the country. I literally thank God for the admirable exceptions to this.
There is an old cliche based on a bit of British history. St. Paul’s and St. Peter’s churches are both supported by the state. At a time when St. Paul’s was in disrepair the Parliament debated transferring funds from St. Peter’s to St. Paul’s. Out of that came the expression “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Assuming there are basically two classes of people, the haves, the St. Peters, and the have nots, the St. Pauls, there is an interesting analogy. The government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.
To pay Paul the government becomes dependent upon a working class. It is not the traditional working class as thought of. It is the class comprised of energetic, creative, resourceful, enterprising, industrious, adventurous, risk taking, hard working productive people; the Peters. What happens when they get fed up working for the government to give to Pauls who can but don’t work?
There is a distinction between those who can and those who can’t work. It is good to provide for the justifiable needy. Providing for lethargic, apathetic, lazy persons is not right. However, they, the Pauls, vote and they are in larger numbers.
This is the scenario of which Taylor and Franklin wrote.
The process ultimate can be averted. However, there comes a tipping point at which it can’t. Hopefully we are not there.
This extract from the inaugural address of President Eisenhower offers us hope.
“IF my people will humble themselves and pray ….” WOW!

Dying: Think About It

Do you ever think about dying?
If you are the average American, studies show it is one of your three most thought about subjects. Yet, seldom do people talk about it.
Jonathan Edwards, considered America’s most important philosophical, theological thinkers, and intellects, had 120 personal resolutions. One was to think often and intently of his own death.
Hearing that I thought how morbid it sounded. Then I realized death being inevitable it is practical to think about and prepare for it.
You don’t see any greeting cards reading “Merry death — Happy Dying.”
Candidly like every healthy person I have a fear of death. It is a good thing. It is a preservative of life. It motivates caution and develops our survival instincts.
Physically I prepared for my death a long time ago. I planned my funeral and have done everything possible to delay it as long as possible. It is a good but not easy thing to do. Selecting the casket was a downer.
The funeral director showed me one assuring me it was down stuffed and had a satin covering. He concluded, “It is very comfortable.” What!
I was assured another one had a lifetime guarantee. What am I missing.
From a spiritual perspective the fear of death which I noted is overcome at the time of death. Jesus said of His followers they would never see death. Sounds out of bounds when it is considered they all die. It is reasonable when it is realized there are several Greek words that can be translated “see.” One means to be preoccupied with or transfixed by. What Jesus’ statement means is that when death comes for believers they pass right on by it without noticing it because they are absorbed with what lies ahead. Joy replaces fear.
When study revealed that to me I thought I should have known that because the Psalmist wrote, “Yea, thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.”
Perhaps not all religious systems have that belief but I am thankful to know one that does.
In light of the fear of death being removed when dying I rejoice and relax on rough flights when I get scared. I rejoice over it not being my time to die.
There is a spiritual dimension to life and death. It is wise to live prepared physically for death. It is even better to be prepared spiritually.
There is a government sponsored TV ad regarding visiting foreign lands and being aware of their laws regarding drug use. It concludes, “Know before you go.” That is good advice in thinking of death.
One philosopher of yesteryear observed it seems strange that people see people dying all around them and never consider it will happen to them.
In light of the ratio of deaths being 1-to-1 I commend physical and spiritual preparation. Know before you go.

Is There A God?

Everybody has a sense of God consciousness. Oh, yes they do. Some believe in Him and sense a personal relationship with Him.

Others spend their time trying to deny His very existence. They can’t according to a basic law of logic which states you can’t prove a negative. To prove God doesn’t exist you would have to know all there is to know about everything — everything and know that in that body of knowledge there is no God.

If you didn’t know everything but did know fifty percent of everything there is to know wouldn’t it be possible that in that unknown fifty per cent God does exist? Who knows fifty percent of all there is to know about everything?

Suppose you knew ninety percent of all there is to know. Would it not be possible that in the unknown ten percent He exists? Even if you knew ninety-nine percent there is still the possibility of His existence in the unknown.

No one knows one hundred percent of all there is to know. Some persons indicate they are all knowing and profess God does not exist. I know some such people and respect their opinion. They are gracious in response. A minority of such people attack the intellect and assault the very character of those who disagree with them. These are the evangelicals of no faith.

I had a friend who owned a large trucking company. He told me he required every potential driver to take a lie detector test before being employed. One question always asked was do you believe in God. He said there never was a person who said no that the test didn’t indicate they were lying. That is his story believe it or not.

God cannot be proven to exist. He is too big for that. However, He has given us lines of logic leading to conclusions only answerable by His existence. Some are:

Where there is a law there is a law giver. Highway speed laws indicate someone made the law. Inertia, gravity, thermodynamics are laws in nature indicating there is a Lawgiver.

Boi mean life. Genesis means life. There is an irrefutable law of biogenetics that says life only comes from life. The existence of life indicates there is a Lifegiver. Where there is design there must be a designer. The design of the human body is incogitable. The design of the universe suchas precise revolution of planets in orbit and the earth’s rotation on its axis reveals design which demands a Designer.

The law of cause and effect speaks of God. For every effect there must be an equal or greater cause. The universe is the effect. It shouts of a greater cause —- God.

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century French mathematician/philosopher renowned for his work in calculus and author of the famed Pascal Wager. He held that the prudent person torn between atheism and belief should “bet” on the existence of God. The reason: If God exists, at death the prudent person will get a heavenly reward. If God does not exist, well, no harm done. If one bets against God’s existence and He does exist, well ….

What Is The Basis For Islam’s Global Ambition

As always this subject deserves a caveat disclaimer. Not all Muslims are radical militant extremists. We are fighting a theo-political belief system, not a religion. It is not a perversion. These radical Muslims are doing what their ancestors started doing in 622 A.D. They have a 1380 year track record of consistency.

Charles Martel fought them at the battle of Tours in 732 A.D. which stopped the Umayyad advance during the Muslim Expansion Era. Historian Gibbon believed that had Martel lost the battle Islam would have advanced across all of Europe including England and destroyed western culture. Historian William Watson believed the battle was a macrohistorical world-changing event.

In 1453 they conquered Constantinople using children of Christians they had captured there in previous attacks. Theyconverted children of the Christians to their belief system at the point of the sword and used them to kill their ancestors. The city is now called Istanbul because they overran it.

The Venusian fleet fought them in 1571 at the battle of Lepanto off the shores of Greece and prevented their further intrusion into Europe.
The German and Austrian knights turned them back at the gates of Geneva in 1683 or all of Europe would be Muslim today.

Incidentally, to celebrate the victory over the Muslims whose symbol was the crescent the Austrian baker concocted a new pastry for the victors to devour in celebration called the croissant.

In 1776, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson met with Arab diplomats from Tunis. These were radical extremist Islamists given the name of Barbary Pirates indicating they were from the Barbary Coast of North Africa. They had been raiding American and ships of other countries. A major battle with them is referenced in the line from the Marine Corps Hymn, “…to the shores of Tipoli….” Launched in 1799, the “USS Constitution” (Old Ironside) and the “USS Constellation” were designed to battle these pirates. Our marines eventually destroyed the pirate headquarters at Derna putting the pirates out of business.

Westerners have a tendency to engage in self-flagellation regarding the flawed crusades. They like all wars had excesses on both sides. Many actions by Christians (noun) were not Christian (adjective). We forget or never knew they were a reaction to Islamic incursion into eastern Europe, Spain, and France.

Islamists overran the Bible Land and upon conquering it named it the Holy Land. Crusaders tried off and on to reclaim it, ultimately losing control July 4, 1187 in the battle at the Horns of Hattin near the Sea of Galilee.

History verifies all these facts. The philosophy behind these wars is open for all to read in the Muslim sacred books, the Koran and Hadis.

There are portions of the Koran which contain teaching attributed to Mohamad when he was starting out in Mecca. These portions are philosophical and poetic. Many peaceful Muslims live by these concepts. Part of the Koran contains teaching of Mohamad after he moved to Medina. These sections are political and militant. It is on these portions the aggressive theo-political system now waging Jihad on the west are based.

The Jewish Celebration Of

Jews and Christians have a distinct point of divergence in faith. Even this significant difference for most in both communities isn’t personally alienating. Friendships are built around the many things they have in common.

An admirable aspect of the Jewish faith is the way they perpetuate their heritage. Use of ancient symbols and customs are used to pass the faith from one generation to the next admirably.
One of Judaism’s best teachable moments is Hanukkah also known as the Festival of Lights. It isn’t a Biblical celebration but it is a celebration of Jehovah’s intervention on behalf of their ancestors. It was instituted in 165 B.C. to celebrate the success of the Maccabean Revolt which resulted in the reconsecration of the Temple in Jerusalem and the dedication of the new altar.
Also associated is the miraculous extended burning of the cruse of oil for eight days. It is from this the tradition of the lighting of the multi branched candle-stand known as the
Menorah comes.

The Syrian, Seleucid, leader Antiochus Epiphanes banned traditional Jewish worship. The elderly patriarch of the Maccabean family, Mattathias, defied the order to sacrifice a pig on a portable pagan altar. He killed the man who did and the king’s representative. With the battle cry of “Whoever is for God, follow me.” He and his five courageous sons lead the revolt.

When they, now known as the Hasmoneans (Maccabees), re-occupied the Temple they found it desecrated. All the oils were defiled except one jar with the High Priest seal still unbroken. It was enough oil for one day yet it lasted eight days. It was considered a miraculous symbol of God’s pleasure.

One purpose of modern day lighting of the candles is the “illumination of the house without.” Lights are placed so passers by can see the lights in Jewish homes and be reminded of the celebration.

On a couple of our 40 visits to Israel my wife and I have gone alone. Once with a native guide we searched all day for the graves of the Maccabees. We finally found them virtually unmarked in a wooded area. Today they are more visibly marked in that remote spot.

The heroism involved in the Maccabean brothers leading the revolt against the Seleucids and the establishment of the Hasmonean dynasty is fascinating. Another book about a different Jewish revolt is entitled “Cast A Giant Shadow” — absorbing. It relates to the 1948 war. Don’t read the end till the end.

A War No One Can Stop And No One Wins

Across America the new day brings amazement. Persons flip light switches but the lights don’t come on. There is no TV or radio news — neither will work. Coffee makers and microwaves are unresponsive. Computers remain dark. Elevators aren’t operated. Flight control centers are dark and all flights canceled. Commerce stops. Gas stations can’t pump gas. The nation is without electric power as is the rest of the world. Power won’t be completely restored for a minimum of three years.

Sounds ridiculous? Think it is science fiction? Think again.

This paper carried a column by Clifford May on January 29, of this year entitled “An EMP Attack.” EMP means Electromagnetic Power Attack. The article noted an inevitable scenario that is being shown little consideration. My limited research confirms the possibility, no inevitability of an EMP attack.

Ronald Reagan was the first president made aware of the possibility. His science advisor, Bill Graham, warned him of such a possibility.

The cause of this potential catastrophe could be either the explosion of a nuclear device about twenty-five miles above earth or a monstrous solar storm. The latter is not only possible scientists say it is inevitable. Such solar storms happen about every 100 years. It has been 150 years since the last one. The last solar super-storm with force enough to disrupt world wide electric power happened in 1859. There were no power grids then.

There are forces of nature mankind can’t control. A major solar storm could induce geomagnetic currents that would destroy many large transformers on the power grid. A study by Metatech indicates the time required to replace any of the estimated 370 largest transformers in America would be three years.

Add to the equation actions by a rogue nuclear nation setting off an explosion above the earth and the scene gets more complicated. Formerly secret Iranian documents have been exposed which show their study of such action.

Recently our president compassionately appropriated enough funds to Haiti relief to fund a system that would shield our power grid. No one should disparage Haiti aid, but not providing such a shield can cause the loss of many more lives than were lost in Haiti and implode the economic and agricultural systems of the nation.

It is estimated hundreds of millions of people will die when the electric power grid collapses simultaneously in many countries.

While being preoccupied with global warming and the green movement this need goes unaddressed. Those two combined don’t have the potential for a holocaust like this. A new dark age looms in part because of misplaced emphasis.

How such a disaster will happen is well known and preventative methods are available. The cost of preventative measures is within reason. Putting them in place will take considerable time.
This is not science fiction. It is a fact of science about which I was uninformed until this paper called it to our attention. Hopefully someone will call it to the attention of those who can do something to protect our nation’s power grid.

Suffering Saints

The earthquakes in Haiti and Chile caused great suffering. The work being done in Haiti is rather to be observed not in destroyed buildings and human suffering. It is distinct in the many acts of mercy and kindness being shown by faith based groups, secular organizations, and our government.

The mercy of God is demonstrated in compassion shown by the many faith based organizations offering solace and providing for needs. The Red Cross is an admirable manifestation of mercy. God’s love is to be seen in the Israeli army field hospital set up on the island as a medical oasis. Franklin Graham’s “Samaritan’s Purse” with a base of operation already in Haiti has expanded its humanitarian efforts. The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Agency is actively engaged in acts of mercy.

Why is there such suffering in the world? Why do the innocent suffer? Since the days of Job people have searched for an answer to those issues.

We paint with a brush too broad in speaking of “the reason why.”. There is not a single reason people suffer. There are some reasons but by no means do they provide an exhaustive answer to the question. At best there are gray areas and unknowns.

God gets a bum rap at times. Involving Him entitles a spiritual answer. Job clued us: “Far be it from God to do wickedness.” God created a perfect world and it remained that way until man sinned. The result was an imperfect world: “The whole creation groans….” The flawed world became susceptible to natural disasters, germs, viruses, bacteria, etc.

Certain laws of nature intended for our good when violated cause suffering. An elemental example is gravity. Defying it can be dangerous and often deadly.

Some suffering is because of sin. I know of a situation in which a guy mixed alcohol and drugs in a night of debauchery. Speeding on the way home he crashed into a tree. His companion was killed and he broke almost every bone in his body. When his pastor visited him he asked, “Why did God do this?” What?

Some suffering involves the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. The Apostle Paul was encouraged to think he was considered worthy of sharing the suffering of Jesus. In such an occasion it gives the one suffering an opportunity to show God is all sufficient. Observers seeing the grace of God at work in such lives are often drawn to God to meet their needs. I have two delightful young friends now in the vicious vice of cancer who by their response have caused others to embrace their faith.
Simon Peter summed it up well. “That the trial of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes, even though tried by fire, may be proven genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (I Peter 1:7).

Dispute it if you want but we all suffer. I am not bragging or throwing a pity party but I am a member of that society also. I find it best not to ask why but how. How can it develop in me qualities pleasing to God? How can it be used to help me become all God has given me the capacity to be?

Perhaps our best response might be not to engage in endless debate regarding the theology of suffering but to engage in efforts to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, council the wayward, heal the sick, and comfort the dying. Thus, we become the hands of God among the suffering.

Overcoming Bitterness

Many people suffer from bitterness without considering its significant affect on life.

I don’t have time for bitterness. When we drove away from our retirement celebration my wife said, “Isn’t it great to have no bitterness toward anybody or about anything.” She repeated that recently.

Our English word for bitterness comes from the Greek word PIKRIA which refers to a person who becomes cynical, caustic, sarcastic, hostile, or resentful. Such a person becomes negative, unhappy, and critical. That definitely isn’t me.

Two brief concepts have long helped me deal with any vestige that might tend to build up.
One is based on the Bible verse Hebrews 12: 15, “…lest a root of bitterness springing up trouble you….” Observe who it troubles — “you.”

This couplet summarizes that concept: “Bitterness does more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to the one on which it is poured.”

Bitterness and other emotional stresses cause an increase in thyroid gland secretion. When this excess of thyroxin pours into the blood stream some of it goes to the brain which is contained in a rigid skull causing headaches. It can change muscle tension, influence blood flow to the organs, and the secretion of glands.

A second aid to dealing with bitterness is also based on Scripture. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with malice” (Ephesians 4:31).
Some people are bitter with a person. That person may be a world away or even dead but they are ever present with the bitter person. The object of bitterness becomes the task master of the bitter person.

Others may be adults still bitter with their parents for failing or emotionally injuring them. Don’t be a marionette controlled by past injustice.

Some people are even bitter with God. Old Testament character Naomi was one such person. She said, “Call me Mara, because the almighty has made my life bitter” (Ruth 1:20). It is impossible to get your hands on God and exercise vengeance on Him. Some feeling He failed them respond by denying His existence. Still others take out their bitterness toward God
on the church.

Bitter persons tend to blame their bitterness on someone else. Actually it is a fault in their reaction.

We are all subject to injustices and injuries. Vitriol and vengeance are visited on all persons. Therefore, when I say I have been the object of what I consider mistreatment I am not saying “poor little ole me.” I am saying I am in the boat with you. We each choose how we react. Our response is our choice. I choose not to be bitter. It is not in my constitution.

Oh, Naomi! Once she got her eyes off herself and realized what a blessing God had given her in the person of Ruth, she became a blessing to Ruth and was herself blessed. It works.

Thomas Jefferson Plus God

Thomas Jefferson, the “Sage of Monticello,” was a complex and sagacious man; wise and farsighted. He was a Deist very familiar with the Bible. He believed in the morals and ethics of Christianity but not in Christ as divine. Much of what he and others of his ilk espoused has been written out of textbooks. As a reminder to some and as news to others following are extracts from the latitudinarian Jefferson that are pertinent for today.
“Indeed, I tremble for my county when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
“It is incumbent upon every generation to pay its own debt as it goes. A principle which acted on would save one-half of the wars of the world.”
“I predict happiness for Americans if they can prevent government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
“A wise and frugal Government … shall leave them [citizens] otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement andnot take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned — this is a sum of good government.”
“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for propagation of opinions he disbelieves or abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
“Educate and inform the masses of people. They are the only reliance for the preservation of liberty.”
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
“No free man shall ever be debarred the use or arms.”
On the principle of separation of church and state his reference to a “wall of separation” can be better understood by other comments he made on the subject.
In what is known as the “Kentucky Resolution of 1798,” Jefferson wrote: “No power over the freedom of religion…[is] delegated to the United States by the Constitution.”
In his Second Inaugural Address, 1805, he said, “In matters of religion I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the General [federal] Government.”
In a letter to Samuel Miller, 1808, he wrote of the “free exercise of religion,” as stated in the First Amendment.
As President in 1787, Jefferson recommended special lands “for the sole use of Christian Indians” and reserved lands for the Moravian Brethren “for civilizing the Indians and promoting Christianity.”Congress extended the act three times and Jefferson signed it each time. They were not prohibiting religious activity they were actually evangelizing.
Our liberties are eroding more rapidly than we realize. It is actually being accomplished not only speedily but easily. Could it be because we have failed to do what Jefferson enjoined us to do: “Educate and inform the masses of people. They are the only reliance for the preservation of liberty.”
People of good conscience dare not remain silent.

George Washington Plus God

Each year in America we celebrate our independence which but for a change in the wind and an eerie fog we might still be a colony.
In the summer of 1776, the Continental Congress commissioned General George Washington to serve as commander-in-chief of the greatly out manned and out gunned American forces. Washington’s 9,000 men were poised on Brooklyn Heights. Their purpose was to try to stop British General William Howe from moving up the Hudson River Valley and dividing the colonies enabling a total British victory.
They watched as the British fleet which was described as looking like London afloat had delivered over 32,000 well equipped British and German soldiers. In a previous encounter between the two armies Washington had suffered over 1,000 casualties. Howe was now poised to deliver the final defeating blow but for some reason paused intending the next day to annihilate the American forces.
Washington’s position was an impossible one. The superior British force of 20,000 regulars was at his front and the nearly mile wide Hudson River at his rear. Howe paused to allow the vast British fleet to sail up the river and be in position the next morning to attack from Washington’s rear as he assaulted the front. No army had ever been in a more defenseless position.
In the late evening a strong breeze began to blow prohibiting the fleet to sail up the river. This fortuitous change in the wind foreshadowed a change in battle strategy.
Washington proposed a retreat by crossing the wind swept river at night. The officer in charge of the maneuver, General Alexander McDougall, informed Washington that crossing the wind stirred river was impossible. One chronicler wrote, “about eleven o’clock when, as if by design, the northeast wind died down. Then the wind shifted to the southwest….” This shift in the wind enabled John Glover’s Massachusetts sailors and fishermen to begin crossing the river in an attempt to evacuate as many of Washington’s men as possible. These oarsmen knew how to stealthy maneuver their crafts with a minimum of noise.Employing anything that would float the evacuation began and moved slowly. Most of the boats were so overloaded water came within inches of the gunwales. It became apparent the night would not be long enough to facilitate the strategic withdrawal. Again the weather intervened. A pea-soup fog so thick persons could not see six feet moved in just before dawn. This cover allowed the last of Washington’ forces to ship out by 7:00 A.M. Just beyond the range of British guns they looked back and saw the British forces already on the shore they had just evacuated.
This allowed the American forces opportunity to regroup and eventually win the war for independence.
Call it what you will: luck, happenstance, or blind fate, but those there wrote of if as “a peculiar providential occurrence,” “manifestly providential,” and “very favorably to the design.”
In our current culture God is often denied. However, today as in that day a remnant of spiritually inclined believers still pray thanking Him for His grace and asking for His blessings. As America faces an uncertain future that cadre has cause to do so again as we celebrate our independence made possible by Him.

Our Constitution Today

Thinking of the future of America we tend to conceive of it in light of the past. Today that is impossible to do in that fundamentals are missing. In our past our nation was guided and governed according to our Constitution. Today that vital document is being ignored or circumvented. Our Federal government is engaging in activities never authorized by our Constitution. Some are even in conflict with our Constitution.
President John Quincy Adams delivered an address entitled “The Jubilee of the Constitution: A Discourse.” The occasion was the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington, April 30, 1839. Therein Adams spoke of the condition of the country which in ways mirrors our’s today and the intended purpose of the Constitution:
“The nation fell into an atrophy. The Union languished to the point of death. A torpid numbness seized upon all its faculties. A chilling cold indifference crept from its extremities to the center. The system was about to dissolve in its own imbecility – impotence in negotiation abroad – domestic insurrection at home, were on the point of bearing to a dishonorable grave the proclamation of a government founded on the rights of man, when a convention of delegates from eleven of the thirteen states, with George Washington at their head, sent forth to the people, an act to be made their own, speaking in their name and in the first person, thus: ‘We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty, to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’”
Regarding the emergence of the Union Adams spoke of the people appealing to “the omnipotence of the God of battles.”
That is another variable making foreseeing what is ahead for America more difficult. Adams like presidents before him and the populace in general had a God orientation. They were not all Christians by any means but with rare exception they had a biblical world view. Today even the phrase “the God of Nature and (of) Nature’s God” is railed against.
John Adams, Washington’s successor wrote, “Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the governing of any other.”
There is another variable. By no means can the moral climate of America be described as “a moral and religious people.”
John Adams was a man of faith who strongly considered becoming a minister. He devoted time four days a week to the study of Scripture. He was more than a tinkling symbol when he wrote Thomas Jefferson on October 7, 1818, a warning that needs to be heeded today: “Have you ever found in history, one single example of a Nation thoroughly corrupted that was afterwards restored to virtue?And without virtue, there can be no political liberty.”
Virtue has been vanquished and political expediency enthroned. Not by all but obviously by the majority.
The variables noted here are: a change of regard for Constitutional government, change in regard to a God orientation,
our general classification can no longer be considered as a moral and religious people, and a diminution of virtue.
These changes in our culture make it impossible to predict our future based on our past.
Or as a frightful afterthought perhaps they can.

Moral Law: Part II

Something systemically is wrong in our society. We have become a lawless society. That is not simply a reference to civil and criminal law. However, considering our prison population and court documents they provide evidence of lawlessness. Rampant immorality is destroying home life in America.
The problem is a vast majority of the population doesn’t even know of the law being contravened.
Our ignorance of the Moral Law being violated is as extreme as this ignorance.
David E. Cole, Chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, tells of being visited by young inexperienced government representatives with no automotive background. Cole, an engineer, has worked in the industry for 40 years. Cole said they evidently had read a bit on the internet about electric liquid natural gas cars. Their demand was for a car that would go well over 500 miles without refueling.
He explained how laws of physics made such a car an impossibility. He noted such a car would have to have a trunk full of batteries and a tank as big as the car. The laws of physics simply would not allow what they were demanding.
Incensed at his response they demanded to know “These laws of physics. Whose rules are those? We have the congress and administration. We can repeal that law, amend it, or use an executive order to get rid of that problem. That’s why we are here to fix these sorts of issues.”
Our society has used laws of physics, math, chemistry, and biology in many commendable ways. However, working within the laws of chemistry and biology we threaten to perform what Winston Churchill referred to as “the lights of perverted science.”
We have violated virtually every law of economics and expect to get positive results. Greed does not produce long term good. The best way out of debt is not to spend more. That is a pretzel concept, if folds back on itself.
We have become adapt at using biased scientific “evidence” regarding ecology in order to promote a biased agenda. We reach a conclusion and then look for only those conditions that support the preconceived idea and neglect contradictory evidence.
Why?
It is because we have drifted into and become comfortableviolating the mother of all laws — Moral Law.
An agenda driven curriculum has virtually taken over our academic institutions. Those in Washington and around the country pushing for ideals that never have worked don’t know they won’t work. They have been indoctrinated in socialistic dogma in an academic atmosphere creating a spiritual stupor.
The Author of Moral Law has been excluded from the public forum by a perverted concept of separation of church and state. Without a core of morality we are nearing the state of ancient Israel of which it was every man did that which was right in his own sight. It was one of the darkest eras in the history of that great culture.
That leads to civil disobedience and ultimately anarchy.
That does not need to happen in America. It is a grievous thought that it will if we continue on our present course. The Moral Law Giver awaits our willingness to accept His aid.

The Moral Law: Part I

Michael Moore asked Sean Hannity if he loved his enemies like Jesus said His followers are to do the same. When Hannity said yes Moore said, “Well then you love Al-Qaeda!”
This “gotcha” question is supposed to put a person in a no win position regardless of the answer.
The proper answer is yes according to the way the Bible uses the word. It means to desire what is best for our enemy. The objectives our national enemy, Al-Qaeda has in mind aren’t what is best for them and definitely not for us. What would be best for such enemies would be the renunciation of their evil intent and the embracing of the universal Moral Law.
The Moral Law is basically what is referred to in our Declaration of Independence as the “laws of nature and (of) nature’s God.” This expression was a term used in historical legal parlance by such as Hugo Grotius, Burlamaqui, Blackstone, and others. These are laws that transcend time and cultures.
In 1931, writing from the jail in Birmingham Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.”
Cicero noting this law is universal and applies to all people wrote, “This true law diffused among all men, is immutable and eternal. To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege.”
Thomas Jefferson’s God was the source of moral values. In a letter to his nephew Peter Carr, he wrote, “He who made us would have been a pitiful bungler, if He had made the rules of our moral conduct a matter of science. Rather, God made man with a sense of right or wrong.”
Jesus gave these illustrations of moral law in response to a young man’s question, “Do not kill (murder), do not commit adultery, do not lie, do not steal. Honor your father and mother.”
Here is another aspect of loving our enemies. We can lovepeople and not like what they do. It is reasonable for an American to detest what Al-Qaeda stands for and does. Such conduct is reprehensible, egregious, insufferable, and besides it is wrong.
Many people unable to differentiate between loving a person and not liking what they do end up with a guilt complex. This is true of children especially. They instinctively want to love their parents and are told to do so. Yet, they see and hear their parents do things they intuitively know are wrong. Unable to discern between loving the person and not liking what the person does causes emotional conflict.
There is a reason some people don’t like the concept of a Moral Law. It is based on the fact that where there is a law there is a law giver. State and local laws exist because at some point lawmakers made the laws. To say where there is a moral law there is a moral law give is logical. At this point God steps on stage. Some people are offended at His presence.
Grotius, a Dutchman, was among the first westerners to write about God and government. He believed the only relation between the two was for government to acknowledge there is a God. Many in modern America assert that just the acknowledgment there is a God is a violation of church and state. Most of our founding fathers were deists not Christians but they readily acknowledged God.
An element in our nation today does not want government to acknowledge there is a God. For their sake they better be right.
Jefferson wrote, “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

Creation: Part IV

Honesty on the lips of an evangelical Christian, agnostic, atheist, deist, or theist is to be all alike admired. A diamond is a diamond even if found in a rock pile. So truth is truth regardless of the source. Often if a person speaks a truth on one subject a critic will try to find some counter statement by that person to negate the comment. One quote from an individual does not infer an endorsement of all of that person’s philosophy.
The concept of origins is controversial. Renowned persons and/or great scientists of various persuasions have offered their opinions on origins. Pursuing a minor is biology in a state university I reached a conclusion regarding origins. I then compared that conclusion with the Bible and found them very compatible.
Years later I found a far greater mind who felt the same. Robert Jastrow, an objective agnostic and founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, wrote, “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same…”
Wernher von Braun, one of the fathers of our space program, commented, “I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science. And there is certainly no scientific reason why God cannot retain the same relevance in our modern world that He held before we began probing His creation with telescope, cyclotron, and space vehicles.”
In “The Consolation of Philosophy,” Anicus Manlius Sevrinus Boethius, postulated: “This universe would never have been suitably put together into one form from such various and opposite parts, unless there were some One who joined such different parts together, and when joined, the very variety of their natures, so discordant among themselves, would break their harmony and tear them asunder unless the One held together what is woven together into one whole. Such a fixed order of nature could not continue its course, could not develop motions taking such various directions in place, time operation, space, and attributes, unless there were One who, being immutable, had the disposal of these various changes. And this cause of their remaining fixed and their moving, I call God, according to the name familiar to all.”
Reliable scientific facts have led these and millions of others to such conclusions.
Robert Jastrow, in his book “God and the Astronomers,” observed: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
Persons wanting to broaden their horizon on the subject will enjoy such works as “Darwin’s Nemesis” and “Darwin on Trial” by Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson. Scientific minds will enjoy the challenge of reading “The Design Inference” by William A. Dembski and published by Cambridge University Press.

Creation: Part III

Do you believe in evolution? When asked that question a reasonable response is to ask what is meant by evolution.
Microevolution is change within a species.
Macroevolution is change of one species to another.
Micro is observable. Macro is not.
Naturalists try to use micro to prove macro.
Bacteria and viruses have been observed to change. The swine flue virus is an example. There is fear the virus will evolve and develop a resistant strain. When bacteria and viruses evolve they are observable and in every case it is another bacteria or virus. This is microevolution. They do not change to another type of organism. That would be macroevolution. It has not been observed.
Microevolution might be able to explain the survival of a species but it cannot explain the arrival of a species.
Berkley law professor Philip Johnson made this observation in his book Darwin on Trial: “None of the ‘proofs’ [for natural selection] proves any persuasive reason for believing that natural selection can produce any new species, new organs, or other major changes that are permanent.”
For some time naturalistic biologists claimed life generated spontaneously from nonliving chemical without intelligent design. Since the 1950s technological advances have enabled scientists to see deeper into the components of life and realize life did not come to you from goo via the zoo. The problem Darwinists have is not in explaining how all forms of life are related, as challenging as that is, but in explaining the origin of the first life.
In 1952 James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the chemical that encodes instructions for building and reproducing all living things know as DNA. DNA has been defined as “specified complexity.” It is so complex that Darwinist Richard Dawkins, professor of zoology at Oxford University, acknowledges the message found in just the cell nucleus of a tiny amoeba is more than thirty volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica combined. The entire amoeba has as much information in its DNA as 1,000 complete sets of Encyclopedia Britannica. That is specified complexity. That is complex design, yet simple compared to this.
Within each human cell there are about 3,000 million pairs of the four letters used to specify the DNA code: A,C,T,G. The body has trillions of cells and makes millions of new cells every second. Each cell is irreducible complex.
Michael Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in his work, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution notes the numerous functions of the body such as blood clotting, cilia, and vision require irreducibly complex systems that could not have developed in the gradual Darwinian fashion because intermediates would be nonfunctional.
Behe writes, “There is currently no experimental evidence to show that natural selection can get around irreducible complexity…. The result of these cumulative efforts to investigate the cell — to investigate life at the molecular level — is loud, clear, piercing cry of ‘design,.”
Where there is design there is a designer and He is not blind.

Creation: Part II

Albert Einstein was not only brilliant but honest. In 1961, he devised what is known as the theory of General Relativity. It proved what he did not believe but as a result of his calculations accepted. It revealed time, matter, and space all had a beginning. The universe had not simply always been.
That fact is right there in the Bible in John 1:1 which in the Greek text reads, “before time began to begin.”
If it had a beginning the Law of Causality must apply. Everything that had a beginning had a cause is the fundamental principle of science. Science is a search for causes. Francis Bacon said, “True knowledge is knowledge by causes.”
The prominent skeptic David Hume wrote, “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that something could arise without a cause.”
In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson observed on their antenna at Bell Labs what is described as the afterglow of the beginning of the universe. Technically it is known as cosmic background radiation. It is the actual waves of light and heat of the beginning of the universe.
Astronomer and project leader, George Smoot, announced the result of the COBE satellite findings supporting this phenomena. He said, “If you are religious, it’s like looking at God.” He further stated that observing these waves is like seeing “the fingerprints of the maker.” COBE actually took infrared pictures of the ripples of the cosmic radiation.
University of Chicago astrophysicist Michael Turner was equally enthusiastic stating, “They have found the Holy Grail of Cosmology.”
Robert Jastrow, founder of the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, an agnostic, nevertheless has some theistic insights. “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”
He further states, “That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”
In response to the question of whether the Big Bang theory evidence is indicative of a Creator Jastrow responded, “Certainly there was something that set it all off. Certainly, if you are religious, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match Genesis.”
Since the universe had a beginning it had to have a Beginner who was outside the space-time universe.
If everything has a beginning who made God? The Law of Causality does not say everything needs a cause. It says everything that comes to be needs a cause. God did not have a beginning so He didn’t need a cause. It is right there in the Book: “In the beginning God ….” “…before time began to begin God created….”
Isaac Newton observed: “This beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”

Creation: Part I

Having a minor in biology I have maintained an interest in earth sciences. Following are insights from keen scientific minds on the subject.
There are several scientific societies made up of members with advanced degrees from prestigious institutions. “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” by Norman Geisler and Frank Turek quotes some of these scholars. In this worthy read many scientist speak on the topic of origins. They range from creationist, to theist, and atheists. Note these insights by them on the topic of the Teleological Argument. “Telos” is Greek for design.
Isaac Newton wrote, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”
Cosmologist Ed Harrison said, “The fine-tuning of the universe proves prima facie evidence of deistic design.”
Microbiologist Chandra Wickramasinghe admits Darwinists are acting on blind faith when it comes to spontaneous generation of life and observed, “The emergence of life from a primordial soup on the Earth is merely an article of faith that scientists are finding hard to shed. Indeed all attempts to create life from non-life, starting with Pasteur, have been unsuccessful.”
Einstein said, “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.”
Phillip Gold, referring to the orderly design of the universe concluded, “God plays Scrabble.”
Though not a scientist, former astronaut John Glenn looked out of the Space Shuttle Discovery and remarked, “To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible.”
Michael Denton, a respected atheist adds, “The complexity of the simplest known type of cell is so great that it is impossible to accept that such an object could have been thrown together suddenly by some kind of freakish, vastly improbable event. Such an occurrence would be indistinguishable from a miracle.”
Design indicates a designer. Consider the design of a single one-cell amoeba. Darwinist Richard Dawkins, professor of zoology at Oxford University, acknowledges the message found in just the cell nucleus of a tiny amoeba is more that the 30 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica combined. The entire amoeba has as much information in its DNA as 1,000 complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. That is detail intricate design yet naturalistic
evolutionists claim it came about by spontaneous generation.
Design is seen in one protein molecule which has about 100 amino acids. Michael Behe has calculated that the probability of life arising by chance from nonliving chemicals would be like a blindfolded man finding one marked grain of sand in the Sahara Desert three times in a row. One protein molecule is not life. To get life, would require about 200 protein molecules together.
Physicist and information scientist Hubert Yockey is honest in admitting, “The belief that life on earth arose spontaneously from nonliving matter, is simply a matter of faith in strict reductionism and is based entirely on ideology.” He concludes Darwinist are as religious as the “religious” and live by faith.
The creation evolution debate is not about religion verses science or Bible versus science —- it is about good science verses bad science and creation is increasingly proving to be good science. Many honest evolutionist admit flaws in their philosophy but like Darwinist Richard Lewontin of Harvard insist that because of having “a prior commitment to materialism …we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.”

Nahum Speaks On The Believer’s Assurance

For a culture to change and a new culture emerge an old one has to die. Most often it is killed.
For generations Israel was basically a stable culture. Then a leader emerged who changed it dramatically. Historian Josephus gave this description of the change.
“Herod went still farther departing from the native customs, and through foreign practices he gradually corrupted the ancient way of life, which had hitherto been inviolable. As a result of this we suffered considerable harm at a later time as well, because those things were neglected which had formerly induced piety in the masses.”
Herod used “foreign practices” that “corrupted” formerly “inviolable” practices and the people “suffered” at a “later time.”
He used the tactic of providing for his base by taxing the wealthy. What he provided was entertainment. He started the athletic contests in Caesarea to rival the Olympic and Corinthian games. To accomplish this he built large stadiums in Jerusalem and the new city he developed and named for Caesar called Caesarea Maritima (by the sea).
To attract world class athletes and induce them to favor his games over the Greeks he offered large prizes at the expense of the populace. He added a new feature. In the Greek games each contest had a winner, only one. He started offering first, second, and third prizes and giving rewards of gold, silver, and bronze. It worked. The Greeks eventually adopted his system and three places are still used.
It took a while for the people to realize as Josephus wrote, “… it seemed a further impiety to change their established ways for foreign practices.”
Oops! Too late. Capitulation to Herod’s Roman mentality compromised the customs as well as the conscience of the country.
Neglect and abandonment of virtuous foundational practices on which the culture was built resulted in deferred suffering.
Deferred payment is on what modern America has been built. A pay later mentality only postpones the result. That is the principle that caused our current national financial collapse. It is the principle now being employed to garner support of a part of society at the expense of the future.
Replacing the free enterprise with socialism, a good work ethic with an entitlement mentality, abandoning known standards for a belief there are no absolutes, and giving preference to a foreign religion while restricting the foundational faith of the country will inevitably result in deferred suffering.
Let the games begin!
Current leaders prefer not to use the word “war” as related to our present conflict. It is a word that needs to be used regarding our current “cultural war.” To lose this war would mean losing our birthright of freedom and with it our blessed way of life paid for by the blood of our predecessors and current courageous countrymen and women.
We must not like ancient Israel neglect those things “which had formerly induced piety in the masses.” For God’s sake get involved. That is not slang. Get involved for the sake of God and country — and your own welfare.

Obama And Herod On Change

For a culture to change and a new culture emerge an old one has to die. Most often it is killed.
For generations Israel was basically a stable culture. Then a leader emerged who changed it dramatically. Historian Josephus gave this description of the change.
“Herod went still farther departing from the native customs, and through foreign practices he gradually corrupted the ancient way of life, which had hitherto been inviolable. As a result of this we suffered considerable harm at a later time as well, because those things were neglected which had formerly induced piety in the masses.”
Herod used “foreign practices” that “corrupted” formerly “inviolable” practices and the people “suffered” at a “later time.”
He used the tactic of providing for his base by taxing the wealthy. What he provided was entertainment. He started the athletic contests in Caesarea to rival the Olympic and Corinthian games. To accomplish this he built large stadiums in Jerusalem and the new city he developed and named for Caesar called Caesarea Maritima (by the sea).
To attract world class athletes and induce them to favor his games over the Greeks he offered large prizes at the expense of the populace. He added a new feature. In the Greek games each contest had a winner, only one. He started offering first, second, and third prizes and giving rewards of gold, silver, and bronze. It worked. The Greeks eventually adopted his system and three places are still used.
It took a while for the people to realize as Josephus wrote, “… it seemed a further impiety to change their established ways for foreign practices.”
Oops! Too late. Capitulation to Herod’s Roman mentality compromised the customs as well as the conscience of the country.
Neglect and abandonment of virtuous foundational practices on which the culture was built resulted in deferred suffering.
Deferred payment is on what modern America has been built. A pay later mentality only postpones the result. That is the principle that caused our current national financial collapse. It is the principle now being employed to garner support of a part of society at the expense of the future.
Replacing the free enterprise with socialism, a good work ethic with an entitlement mentality, abandoning known standards for a belief there are no absolutes, and giving preference to a foreign religion while restricting the foundational faith of the country will inevitably result in deferred suffering.
Let the games begin!
Current leaders prefer not to use the word “war” as related to our present conflict. It is a word that needs to be used regarding our current “cultural war.” To lose this war would mean losing our birthright of freedom and with it our blessed way of life paid for by the blood of our predecessors and current courageous countrymen and women.
We must not like ancient Israel neglect those things “which had formerly induced piety in the masses.” For God’s sake get involved. That is not slang. Get involved for the sake of God and
country — and your own welfare.

Red Letter Religion And The Emerging Church

The church in America is constantly under attack often without and frequently within.
New ideologies and some so old the present generation thinks they are new constantly emerge causing rifts in churches.
One current issue relates to the inspiration of Scripture. Some persons believe the Bible is inspired in spots and they are inspired to pick the spots. Though a hot topic for some time it has a new twist which is an old ploy. It is knows as Red Letter Christians. Within the movement there is a broad spectrum of beliefs. Therefore, when what they believe is noted there are always those who do not believe some of the tenants who can say that is misrepresentation.
Some within the movement believe only the parts of the Bible printed in red are inspired or they are more inspired than other portions. This raises the question of divine inspiration.
A related issue is found in the Bible within the church at Corinth some said, “I am of Paul,” some “I am of Apollos,” and others, “I am of Christ.” The question posed “is Christ divided?”
The movement has some commendable characteristics. They believe Christians have drifted too far to the right politically and socially. However, if they believe the church has drifted too far right they need to exercise caution they don’t drift too far left. They espouse involvement in such social issues as global warming, homosexual rights, they oppose the build up of our military and pro-gun rights, and are critical of America for not contributing more to third world countries.
The name for the group came about when a secular Jewish Country/Western DJ in Nashville used it in an interview by responding to a guest saying, “So you’re one of those Red-Letter Christians – you know – who’s really into those verses in the New Testament that are in red letters!”
A separate but similar movement espousing some of the same positions is referred to as the Emerging Church. It is sometimes called the “Ancient-Future” church. This growing movement is a greater variant from traditional Christianity. It also has exceptions to any generalized summary of their beliefs. In general they believe in social activism rather than evangelism, a new form of monasticism, multiple interpretations of every Scripture, a new/old form of mysticism, and the disillusion of the organized church. This latter has led to the use of the Internet as a means of decentralized communication.
They espouse religious pluralism and renounce belief in eternal judgment and dispute fundamental doctrines such a the atonement, salvation by faith, hell, and God’s sovereignty.
They advocate commendable activities such as feeding the poor, visiting the sick and those in prison, and abolition of modern slavery.
The reason these two schools of thought are divisive within churches is that pastors who agree with either concept often do not openly admit their involvement and seek to slowly redirect the church. An even bigger challenge is the average church member is uninformed and/or ungrounded in what and why he or she believes and how to respond to the movements.
A third factor is most church members have confidence in the pastor and want to trust him. Therefore they are inclined to follow his beliefs.
Pastors should have the courage of their convictions and not be covert in their belief.

Islam In Iran

  When I write about Islam I have some misgivings. I know there are some peace loving ones who are not given to conflict. Then there are the legions who are true Jihadist like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran. 
  President Barack Obama proposes to meet with President Ahmadinejad to talk about peace in the Middle East. It is unlikely they will meet and even talk but any such effort won’t work to achieve real peace. Why!
  The symptom of the problem is Ahmadinejad proposes the annihilation of Israel and the destruction of the great Satan, America. Ahmadinejad believes he has been chosen by God to facilitate an inevitable event.
   Members of his faith, Twelver Shi’as Muslims, believe the final of the Twelve Imams, Muhammad al-Mahdi, the Mahdi, is to be the ultimate savior of humankind.
  At the age of five it is said Mahdi led the prayer at his father’s funeral. Immediately Mahdi went into ghayb or occultation and was hidden by God not to have been seen since.
  As a devout Twelver Shi’a Ahmadinejad believes when world conditions are right Mahdi will reemerge and lead Muslims in world peace. The essential condition needed to set the stage for his return is for the world to fall into chaos and civil war. A blood bath such as no battle has ever produced is essential for the return of Mahdi. To that end he is committed even if it involves the death of many of his own people.
   Ahmadinejad believes he is the human instrument appointed by God to set the table for Mahdi’s return. That is, his life’s mission is to precipitate havoc, pandemonium, tumult, and bedlam.  Carnage and death to millions is his objective.
  For our president to sit down and talk with him about world peace would be to ask him to denounce his faith and renounce his life’s calling. It would mean asking him not to listen to what he believes to be the voice of his God and listen to the voice of our president. To him the voice of our president talking would   be like listening to the voice of Satan speaking. That is not going to happen.
  Iran recently launched a rocket carrying a satellite. In English the name of the rocker was “messenger” and the name of the satellite was “hope.” When he concluded his talk at the UN few knew what he meant by saying may Allah help me to fulfill my mission. His hope is the return of Mahdi. His mission is to welcome him back by global war. War is his hope. What we believe to be devilish, damnable, and diabolic he believes to be his divine calling.
  Israel and many Arab nations know and understand this. That is why they have such concern. Our former president took action in the Middle East with a noble intent only to find that those with whom he was dealing did not hold his values and standards. If President Obama insists on talking peace with Ahmadinejad it will show he doesn’t understand Ahmadinejad’s mission.
  The power brokers in the Gaza Strip are supportive of the jihad efforts of Ahmadinejad. That makes it equally difficult for Israel to talk peace with them. They believe a holy war with   Israel is a noble thing. Jihadist around the globe share the same goal, the annihilation of Israel and the destruction of the great Satan, America. They believe that is the means to the end of the return of Muhammad al-Mahdi.

Our Emerging Muslim World

Starting with the Muslim — Arab Wars in 634 AD and continuing into the late 1800s Muslim armies engaged in an unimaginable conquest. They swept across north Africa, crossed the Straits of Gibraltar into Spain. Their armies advanced into eastern Europe as far as Austria. Islam exploded from the Arabian Peninsular as far east as northwest India and west across northern Africa to the Pyrenees in Spain and engulfed much of eastern Europe. They controlled a land mass larger than any current nation other than Russia. Their Barbary pirates controlled the seas. They were intent on world dominance in order to convert the world to Islam.
Not all modern day Muslims share their desire but many do. Past ambitions were curtailed but, perhaps only delayed.
The following insights give an indication of how the demographic shift is changing our world. It is a profile of the world our children and grandchildren will inherit.
Statistical studies show a fertility rate of 2.11 per family is essential for a culture to sustain itself. Historically it is shown that if the rate drops below 1.9 that nation will fail. If it drops below 1.3 it is impossible to recover. Consider these current rates in Europe. France the rate is 1.8, England 1.6, Greece 1.3, Italy 1.2, and Spain 1.1. The rate in the 31 nations constituting the European Union is 1.38.
However, the population rate is not declining in Europe. It is growing because of Islamic immigration. In France where the rate is 1.8 among the French it is 8.1 among Muslims in that country. By 2027, one in five people in France will be Muslim. At the current rate in 39 years France will be a Muslim country.
In the Netherlands 25 percent of the population is Muslim. 50 percent of newborns are Muslim.
In Russia there are 23,000,000 Muslims. Shortly 40 percent of the Russian Army will be Muslim.
The German government was the first to speak publicly of this dramatic change. They estimate by 2025, Germany will be a Muslim state.
The 52,000,000 Muslims in Europe are expected to double in 24 years. Since 1990, approximately 90 percent of the growth has been Muslim. By 2050, Europe will be a Muslim state.
In Canada the fertility rate is 1.6. Between 2001 and 2006, the population of Canada increased by 1.6 million. Of these immigrants 1.2 were Muslim. The Muslim faith is the fastest growing religion in Canada.
In America the fertility rate is 1.6. If the Latin population is included the rate is 2.2. In 1970, there were 100,000 Muslims in America. Today there are 9,000,000.
At a recent meeting in Chicago of 24 Muslim nations they stated that at the present rate it is estimated there will be 50,000,000 Muslims in America in 30 years.
These figures show a demographic change but do not indicate what cultural change this will mean. Laws, institutions, and governments in general change when there is such a population and polity change. The ideological deviation will be a seismic shift in society.
Could it be that those of us in churches and synagogues are good timing ourselves to death and singing praise courses while not trying to change our culture or at least preserve it? Are our schools so involved quibbling over the form of reporting they fail to teach what is worth reporting? If this well goes dry we will dramatically miss the water.

Economics And Taxes

Any person who as a child had a little red wagon knows the thrill of riding in it compared to the burden of pulling it fully loaded. Things get complicated when there are more people riding in the wagon than there are pulling it.
The same is true in economics. When there are more people dependent on government than are providing for it a burden is imposed on the providers.
In America we are about there. Under new tax proposals 9% of the population will pay 74% of the taxes while 50% of the population pays no income tax. History reveals this has happened before with dire circumstances.
Pithy comments often communicate great truths. Consider:
“A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.” George Bernard Shaw
“I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself by the handle.” Winston Churchill
“Government is the great fiction, through which everybody seeks to live at the expense of everybody else.” Frederic Bastiat French Economist (1801-1850)
“If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it is free!”  P. J. O’Rourke
Further proof that the principle of taking from the rich and giving to the poor is not new. It comes from Voltaire in 1764: “In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.”
Bronze this quote from Thomas Jefferson and put it on the mantel of your mind: “The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
This by Benjamin Franklin deserves to be enshrined in our memory hall of fame: “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.”
Against that backdrop interpret this by James Bovard, Civil Libertarian: “Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.”
A collection of quotes without one by Ronald Reagan would be incomplete. “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
Economist Milton Friedman confirms this in his quote: “We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidized nonwork.”
Comfort and caution are found in these words by Abraham Lincoln: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
One thing greatly needed in order to preserve our republic form of government and economic free enterprise system is a better informed electorate.
We have in place in America a system that can afford such education. It is the public school system. Educators are objects of my esteem. I appeal to them don’t quibble over what type reporting system to use while failing to educate youth in the virtues that made America not perfect but the greatest nation on earth. Don’t dwell on our imperfections but the principles on which our country was founded and has been enabled to survive.

History Lesson On Economics

One of my most stimulating times in school was when I took four history courses the same term. It is not to be commended. Fitting the right characters with their contemporaries in the right era can get confusing. The study of history is to be commended.
Noah Webster, known as the “Father of American Scholarship and Education,”(1788) said, “Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country.”
One reason our nation is in the vortex of a destructive milieu is we are being lead by members who for all practical purposes opted out of the study of history.
Harry Truman said the only new thing in the world is the history you don’t know.
Lord Bolingbroke, an 18th century political philosopher, noted that history is philosophy taught by examples. Every historical event was the outgrowth of a philosophy. By studying the events of an era the philosophy that fostered can be known. The outcome of the period reveals whether a good or and unproductive philosophy gave rise to it.
America is now embracing a basic philosophy that has been tried by a number of societies. History records the result of our current political philosophy. We are now taking baby steps tracking the former Soviet Union called Communism. We are not there but we are flirting with a precursor called socialism.
Many older members of our society lived through World War II, the Cold War and other major wars. In keeping with the statement by Bolingbroke we saw the result of the philosophies that gave rise to those totalitarian states. Their failure shouts loud and clear that the philosophy creating such governments doesn’t work.
It is amazing to listen to some leaders of congress in interviews evidence they have no sense of history as they espouse flawed philosophy that has inevitably led to failure. They evidently don’t know the lessons made graphic by history. Or, if they know them they opt to try to defy them.
We have a president enjoying a 65% popularity rating who gives evidence of little or no history of the virtues that created the greatest nation on earth. Are there errors in the fabric of our history? Lamentably there are tragic ones. Let’s acknowledge this and get over self-flagellation in order to distill from our own history the philosophy of government that gave us the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
One brief history lesson form John Marshall (1819), “An unlimited power to tax involves, a power to destroy;   because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation.” History reveals it has been tried and found wanting.
Daniel Boorstin, a historian and Librarian of Congress, postulated that trying to plan for the future without a sense of the past is like trying to plant cut flowers.

The Result Of Socialism

The following came to me from Iryna a native of Russia who now lives in Anchorage, Alaska. She says the following illustrates how conditions were in Russia under socialism.
An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before but he once failed an entire class.
That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
The professor, then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism. All grades would be averaged and everyone world receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B.
The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.
As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the one who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
The second test average was a D. No one was happy.
When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.
All failed, to their great surprise. Then the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. Iryna asked, could it be any simpler?
There are indications President Obama is moving us toward socialism. When I write anything about him that is not complimentary it has nothing, for celerity I repeat nothing, to
do with race and everything to do with ideology. I grew up in Mississippi in a family with no racial prejudice when racism was the norm. As a child I was with my dad on many occasions when he took the unpopular position of being an advocate for all races. I have never been a racist, but I do love the American capitalistic free enterprise system that rewards excellence.
The illustration of what happened in the economics class is played out in countries where socialism prevails. Socialism would do the same thing to our work force and economy it has done elsewhere. Russia is exhibit “A” of the failure of socialism. Many older Americans observed the demise of the ideology and related economic system it embraced in Russia. It has never worked in any society. That leaves many musing over why any American would be inclined to advocate any form of it.
Capitalism is far from perfect but when allowed to freely operate it is far ahead of any governmental system that comes in second. The free market has its liabilities but it has more assets than any alternative.
Those in the above illustration represented as making F’s are ultimately the losers under socialism because eventually the producers, like the A students who quit studying because it profited nothing, quit working hard and the economic system fails.  Then everyone suffers.

What Is Socialism?

Increasingly it is being said our nation is becoming more socialistic. There is a vast mass of adults who have little or no idea what that means.
Karl Marx gave us a good working definition: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
The government determines your ability and sets your production goals. In doing so they determine your needs as a producer and they take the rest.
Under our free enterprise capitalistic system the owner/producer is free to operate the business, make a profit as desired, pay salaries and taxes, and give to the causes of his or her choice.
Under the communist form of government the government takes your business, runs it, and keeps the profits to distribute as they wish.
Under a socialistic system you continue to own and operate your business, the government determines what your needs are and allows you to keep enough to meet your needs. They take all the profit to distribute as they please.
This takes away the freedom of the free enterprise system and inevitably results in a decrease in initiative. Socialism is an economic system with government having considerable control over the wealth of the nation and property to dole out the profits as they see fit.
This is done under the guise of social justice. The problem is the bureaucratic elite, the government in power, defines what social justice is. They determine what is fair not the people.
Consider this scenario. You own a plant that manufactures widgets. For those of us who have lived our lives under a republic form of government and have worked in a free market it is hard for us to realize socialists consider you owning the factory as being exploitation. Regardless of the pay scale and your benevolence toward the workers and charities it is still considered exploitation and this is what they sell the masses on.
In a socialist state if you decide to build what you consider a new and improved widget you have to get the permission of your unmotivated work force. You must incorporate in the design the innovations government dictates. The government also decides how the profit is to be used for the good of society.
Pause a moment before we go further. Who now would be in control of your business? There are people in government now running our bureaucracy. Are you pleased with the job they have been doing? These are the kinds that will indirectly run your business.
Socialism necessitates a larger government to make the decisions for the businesses and decide on the social good. The power no longer remains in your hands but in the hands of an unelected elite group of unknowns.
As formerly productive people become more and more burdened by the power of the many over the few they become less and less motivated. Businesses become less productive. The pattern through the years has set the stage for government to move from socialism to communism and take your business. Its  a short step.
Now a more formal definition of socialism. “Various theories or systems of social organization in which the means of producing and distributing goods is owned and/or controlled collectively by a central government that plans and controls the economy.”
Abraham Lincoln said, “If the voters get their hind side too close to the fire they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
In the last few months America has gotten closer to the fire. Some blisters are beginning to show.

An Entitlement Culture

Organizational planning usually involves reviewing past growth, performance, and policies. The future is planned for in light of the past. Evaluating those elements is expedient. However plotting the future only in light of what has been isn’t planning it is projecting.
Planning takes into consideration changes in clientele, new media for communicating, market need, and the emerging ethos, that is, the spirit of the culture.
As America moves forward it must learn from the lessons of the past. However, to try to make the garb of ghosts past fit the emerging society is a flawed pattern. The difference is America has never had to deal with a generation reared in an entitlement world. There is now in place in our society a large constituency that has been reared thinking it is the duty of the government to give them that to which they have grown to feel they are entitled.
Many of these who otherwise could be productive have moved from the work force to the dependent class. A less productive more dependent citizenry awaits their entitlement. They actually truly believe that is the role of government.
In our schools, in government, civic, and social studies classes we have not taught them differently.
Now back to planning. Present day economists are studying past performance of the stock market, reviewing previous domestic production charts, and other past economic tends. Using this date they are projecting our future. There is a new element in that equation. It is the generation that has grown up in an entitlement world.
Our future will involve a diminished work force, a loss of confidence in public figures, eroded ethics, a deemphasis on   spiritual values, and a more socialistic government. We are a new America.
To recover from this milieu the principles that made America great and the failures that flawed her must be gleaned, decoded, and taught. Past inequities need acknowledging so that we don’t repeat them and the values derived from the virtues need to be extolled. A new and enhanced America needs to be minted to replace the now “new America.”
To help achieve this the fulfillment of work, the joy of productivity, the thrill of accomplishment, the satisfaction of a job well done, the blessing of a free enterprise system, the reward of a good work ethic, the bliss of a guilt free conscious, and the peace of mind resulting from spiritual vitality needs to be taught and demonstrated.
Noah Webster said in 1788, “Every child in America should be acquainted with his own country. He should read books that furnish him with ideas that will be useful to him in life and practice. As soon as he opens his lips, he should rehearse the history of his own country.” We have failed to teach them.
The fact so many middle aged and younger people are complaining that thinks are worse than ever indicates they have no familiarity with the 1930s. Things were much worse then.
What America is experiencing now is not a projection of the past but a well planned change. If this current change proves not to work and becomes unwanted correction must be planned based on these noted signal values. Only then can a reliable self-responsible America replace our entitlement culture.

Will Our Stimulus Plan Work?

There has never been a more truthful candidate for President than our current President. He promised change and the winds of change are blowing — gale force. We are getting what he promised and by our collective vote it was indicated what was wanted — by most but not all.
1980 the Carter administration was going out and the Reagan administration was coming in. Our nation faced significant challenges. Many who are now saying our nation has never seen times as difficult as these need to consider our history.
In the early 1980s unemployment was in double digits. Today it is approaching 7 percent.
Inflation ran rampant in the early 1980s with interest on loans between 13 and 17 percent. Today it is 4 to 5 percent.
During the Reagan years our nation enjoyed a recovery and a resurgence. There was no panic and claims of a catastrophe such as the current administration has declared. By the way what ever happened to getting away from the politics of fear?
Everything the Reagan administration did to achieve the revitalization the current administration is doing the opposite. This has prompted Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to comment, “What we are doing is worse than nothing.”
The approach we are taking is not new. Eight times since World War II Japan has tried similar efforts without success.
Hidden in this stimulus plan is the rationing of health care for the elderly. It will require seniors to be more accepting of conditions that come with age instead of treating them. As an example, for a female 75 years of age with heart disease it could be calculated her life expectancy is 81 years of age. Consequently she has an estimated 6 years to benefit from the prescribed treatment to correct the problem. The Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research, not consisting of doctors would have a complete electronic medical report on every citizen and could use it to deny the treatment. Hence, if you are considered too old and sick to be given care in a “cost-effective” way you need to just go ahead and die. Can you spell euthanasia?
Another change involves the Census Bureau which has for years reported to the Commerce Department. Now it is to report to the office of the President. The census determines congressional districts and certain fund allocations. This change can enable the President to strengthen his party’s numbers.
Little comfort can be derived from the type of cabinet the president has assembled. Virtually every one has had to have a major flaw overlooked that would have disqualified a candidate in previous administrations. Some that finally made it through were the second person recommended for the post. Here is a chill. The people that selected those individuals might well be the people who select two Supreme Court Jurists.
It is said we are passing on to the next generation an enormous debt. That is not all together true. The debt tsunami is coming faster than that. It is going to be incumbent on younger adults of the present generation to face the deficit all this will create. Can you say “inflation?”
However, there is a bigger debt to be incurred. It is a moral debt resulting from avarice, rapaciousness,(in summary greed) and gullibility (in summary hearing a word like “change” and assuming it is all going to be good for everybody). These are symptoms of our moral condition. Until our moral and spiritual condition is changed we will never get out of this crisis. Oops, pardon that fear word.

The Cause of Our Welfare Overload

I am proud to be an American! I am delighted to pay taxes and receive such benefits as protection by our military and local law enforcement personnel, fire protection, the best roadway system in the world, schools, and many other advantages. America isn’t perfect but it doesn’t come in second to any other nation.
However, there is a limit to my ebullience over paying taxes. Some taxes goes for things I would not choose for it to go to. In reality governments take from me and spend on causes of their choice money I had rather keep and happily give to cause of my choice. Like all of us many of our preferred causes are under funded while those of the government’s choosing often get what they don’t deserve.
A case in point is Sharon Jasper who was displaced by hurricane Katrina. She has new government provided housing now. As a matter of fact Sharon has lived in government housing for 57 of her 58 years. Her children like her parents before her are now doing so.
Sharon reflected on her one year out of Section 8 housing recently: “I tried it for a year — you know, working and all. It’s not anything I would want to go through again, or wish on anyone in my family …” Your tax dollars at work.
She is back in Section 8 housing in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. She made the above statement sitting on her sofa on her new hardwood floor by her 60 inch HD TV of which she said, “It may look nice but it is not plasma… Now they want me to pay a deposit and utilities on this dump….”
At a New Orleans City Council meeting Sharon could restrain herself no longer asserting: “Our families have been displaced all over the United States. They are being forced to commit crimes in cities they are unfamiliar with. It is a very uncomfortable situation for them. Bring them back, then let’s talk about redevelopment.” She concluded her diatribe, “I may be poor, but I don’t have to live poor.”
That mentality is more pervasive than we might like to think. Some folks need and deserve government assistance and I delight to pay taxes to help meet some of these legitimate needs, but….
John Marshall, longest serving member of our Supreme Court observed: “An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, a power to destroy, because there is a limit beyond which no institution and no property can bear taxation.” Are we there yet?
With gratitude I have served our state on the Board of Human Resources, the Child Protection Task Force, and other roles. I have seen compassion at its best and torpidness at its worst.
Those who abuse the system are professionals. Not professionals in the sense of being in the NFL or NBA but professionals at manipulating the system. They make a living, no they sustain their life, existing off tax dollars without paying taxes themselves. They are products of our society. They have been trained to expect something for nothing.
Meanwhile some very admirable causes go under funded and legitimate needs not met. Some hard working couples both have to work in order to pay taxes to support the Sharons in our society.
Times are tough and likely to get tougher. There will be more people with legitimate needs. I am thankful to be able to pay taxes to help a bit. Any person deserving help should not be reluctant to accepting it. However, to the Sharons of this world — get a life. It really is enjoyable. Work is rewarding.

Causes Of Economic Depression

Our current cultural and economic condition is the fog clouding our vision rising from an era with no well defined ideology. It is perhaps best classified as a period of materialism.
Spiritual, moral, and ethical values have been devalued and the vacuum filled by materialism.
An example is our proclivity for brand name shopping. There was a day when regardless of a person’s socio-economic status they could find fulfillment in spiritual values. They were somebody not because of who they were or what they had but by whose they were. People were gratified because of their spiritual value and values.
Today this same sense of fulfillment and gratification is found in not just shopping but shopping for name brands. A sense of worth is only found for some in the brand name they wear.
We have been described as spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like.
The economic quagmire we are eye ball deep in has existed in America before. Even a global economic depression has existed. There is a period in our history known as the “great depression.” Interestingly there was economic depression in Europe at the same time but it was called “the depression.” There is a reason ours is called “great” and theirs not.
We were rocking along very much like Europe suffering a 10 percent unemployment rate. Then the government was led by President Roosevelt to get involved. Many today think Roosevelt got us out of the depression. Actually he deepened it. He doled out money and instituted government work projects. Unemployment responded to government intervention by rising to 20 percent.
I would hope the same thing that got the nation out of that depression won’t be today’s cure. World War II ended that depression.
In a more recent time America was gripped by another depression. Actually since World War I there have been several.
In a recent time the economy faltered and the stock market went into eclipse. America’s president at the time knew the government needed to act to insure a recovery. The action was to do nothing other than let the free market work its way out. To do that rather than the government getting more involved they got less involved by reduced taxes. That economic recovery is often referred to by the name of the president who advocated such an approach to economic recovery, “Reagan Economics.”
With taxes reduced more businesses could buy new equipment and that revitalized a large segment of the economy. The increased purchase of equipment resulted in more people being hired to build it. This principle rippled through the economy.
Many economists know these two scenarios and which works. More are speaking out against our current government following the Roosevelt model.
We can’t control what our government does. We can do what many have been reminded by our current dilemma to do. That is, reestablish the basis of our personal fulfillment by returning to our former ethical, moral, and spiritual values. To once more return to loving people and using things rather than loving things and using people.

Our Economic Crisis

Heroic stories abound of our predecessors’ thrift, industriousness, austerity, assiduousness, and self-sacrificing in order to live prudently and provide for the future generation. This was the norm for many generations. It is difficult to state an arbitrary date as to when this life-style changed but the older a living generation is the more pronounced it was among them. Whereas they were concerned about providing for future generations an almost imperceptive new philosophy emerged.
Simply stated it involves mortgaging the future for today. Little wonder the name given some is the “now generation.” Driven by self-indulgence giving birth by greed it slowly became the norm for many. Debt by individuals and governments gave us today what tomorrow promised. This concept permeated all of our society. It even became global in emerging societies.
Entitlement became a mantra for those looking to government with outstretched hands. Many individuals seemed to feel personal debt gave them the right to exceed their means.
This has led to the future being mortgaged beyond its capacity. Suddenly for many the future became the present and pay-up time came without them having the ability to pay-up. Institutions, industries and individuals bumped their noses against the plate glass reality of insolvency. Many who were less guilty than others were sucked into this vortex of over indebtedness. Numbers who had acted reasonably could have made it if the economy had stayed solvent were swept along by this tide.
It has been a tough class of economics 101. Lessons have been learned that will benefit legions in the future. Some slow learners will slip right back into this quagmire.
It has become ever increasingly apparent it is unwise to over extend. What our society has been guilty of we are now desiring our government to do. That is, to mortgage tomorrow for today. Haven’t we learned tomorrow inevitably comes. The money  wanted to be doled out today will come from the pockets of future generations. There is no way the future generation can handle the debt we are deferring to them any more than we can handle it today. Tomorrow will come fast enough to impact a significant segment of people who are alive today.
Our area and the state in general has a good core of competent public officials. We are fortunate. However, in the mix their voices are often in the minority of unheard.
This conundrum is too complex for the average citizen. However, individually we can work to get our personal financial houses in order.
Step one is to curb our personal cupidity, that is, our desire to obtain. That will necessitate budgeting our resources and living within our means.
Financial consultant Dave Ramsey urges people to “live off beans and rice — rice and beans” until they get out of debt.
Purchase of an item that does not depreciate is in reality an investment not a debt. An affordable mortgage on a home that appreciates is an investment.
A Baptist moved next door to a frugal Quaker. The Quaker visited him and said, “If thou neediest anything let me know and I will tell thee how to live without it.”
Score one for the Quaker.

Time A Prelude To Eternity

Time flies. Or does it?
At dinner with an astronaut recently who is scheduled for her third ride into space she described launch as a “sensory overload.” That surely is a succinct description.
A second talking point I raised related to time. I commented when it is noon here it is 6:00 PM in Israel and 6:00 AM in Hawaii. What time is it deep in outer space?
The conversation was generated by my interest in time and eternity. She said they relate to earth using Greenwich Mean Time but they operate by launch time. Their personal watches show the time in which their friends live so they won’t call home at the wrong time. Everything on board is related to the time of launch. Thus time is relative depending on your perspective.
Grasping the meaning of time is propaedeutic  to an understanding of time and God.
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 the traveler’s watch and body clock would indicate he or she was gone 12 hours. The traveler would be 12 hours older and earth bound friends 18 years older. If a traveler could accelerate to the speed of light time would stand still.
Scientists say on the cusp on black holes in distance space there is no time.
By now the concept of eternity was coming a bit clearer from a human perspective.
The Gospel of John opens with a statement when translated from Greek to English to read: “Before time began to begin…”
Most often when we think of creation space and matter are considered. There is a third component to creation —- time. Before creation there was no time. At a certain point the celestial clock began clicking.
The Bible also speaks of a point when time shall no longer be. That means time is a parentheses in eternity. We are temporarily in a time lock, a warp, called time.
Solomon, spoken of as the wisest of wise men, made a stunning statement when speaking of God. That is a subject most folks are willing to admit is bigger than they. A modern translation of Solomon’s statement reads: “from vanishing point to vanishing point you are God.” He was wise enough to realize some subjects go beyond the human mind to comprehend. He was saying think back in history and out in space as far as you can and there comes a point beyond which you can not think. Reasoning just runs out, vanishes. The same is true of thinking into the future and distant space. The mind reaches a vanishing point beyond which it can’t conceive, a vanishing point.
Thus, Solomon postures God as always having existed in eternity. From His perspective in eternity He sees things differently than we and is able to counsel us —-  in time.
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.”
Athletes like to be challenged by contesting superior opponents. Musicians like to try to master great compositions.
Cooks are delighted to try especially difficult dishes. In that same vein I like on occasion to challenge my limited mental resources by tackling a difficult subject. Time and eternity provides such a task. By gaining a better understanding of time we can gain a better comprehension of eternity, though never fully understand it.
Keep in mind clocks didn’t come into existence until the thirteenth century. There are still vast people groups who do not use time pieces. Measuring time in minutes and seconds is a relative new art.
Subdividing time into different schools of thought is a starting point. There is subjective time and objective time.
Subjective time is from an internal human perspective, where time seems on occasion to fly by and at other times drag along, even though these perceptions may not be confirmed by external measuring devises.
Objective time is metered by external metering devises. Einstein physics theory showed that no measure of time is absolute, all is relative.
German scientists have defined time as a tri-polar structure of endogenous, exogenous, and transcendent time.
Endogenous time is derived from internal experiences, our biological or circadian rhythms. These are influenced by many things. A classic example is how we feel when traveling across several time zones.
Exogenous time is the form that arises from our interaction with the environment and social time. It helps us structure our schedules and lives. It is relative. For example where does an hour go when we cross a time zone or have to reset our clocks. We tend to envision time as a number of points along a time line. Duration flows without measurement. This is used to show time is arbitrary, relative.
Transcendent time is a sense of timelessness arising from mystical experiences.
This is the school of thought in which a concept of time known as “stasis” or “tenseless” theory.
We tend to date things based on the “now.” A thing is either past, because it came before the present, that is “now,” or future because it is to come after the present “now.”
In the transcendent time theory everything is in the now. It is a divine timelessness. God does not see things as present, past, and future but all as now. He experience all things in the “eternal now.” That is how He can speak prophetically of things that are to happen in what we call the future. Persons who believe in human free will believe that because He knows what is to happen it does not mean He makes it happen.
If you don’t understand all of this welcome to my world. I am so glad there are things to great for our human minds to comprehend. However, for time, space, and matter to exist there had to be some understanding of it too give it order. Oops, there is where God steps on stage and I really can’t understand Him. There are a lot of things I believe in I can’t understand and God is foremost on that list. Millions not only believe He exists but that He exists and loves us.
That can give you a brain cramp. I owe thanks to a much better brain than mine, Dr. Steve W. Lemke, of the New Orleans Seminary for many insights herein.

Laughter Is A Good Medicine

As Chairman of the National Board of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for six years I met many of the nations best athletes. Many are superb wits and kidders while others just aren’t articulate and it shows. Comments by some of both kinds follow.
Oh, these are shared because, “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” Enjoy this dose.
Chicago Cubs outfielder Andre Dawson on being a role model: “I wan’ all dem kids to do what I do, to look up to me. I wan’ all the kids to copulate me.”
Former New Orleans Saints running back George Rogers when asked about the upcoming season: “I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards, whichever comes first.”
Upon hearing Joe Jacobi of the ‘Skins say: “I’d run over my own mother to win the Super Bowl,” Matt Millen said, “I’d run over Joe’s mother, too, to win the Super Bowl.”
Torrin Polk, University of Houston receiver said of his coach, “He treats us like men. He lets us wear earrings.”
Former player and football commentator Joe Theismann said, “Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.”
A senior basketball player at the University of Pittsburgh: “I’m going to graduate on time, no matter how long it takes.”
Stu Grimson, Chicago Blackhawks left wing, explaining why he keeps a color photo of himself over his locker: “That’s so when I forget how to spell my name, I can still find my clothes.”
Lou Duva, veteran boxing trainer, on the Spartan training regime of heavyweight Andrew Golota: “He’s a guy who gets up at six o’clock in the morning, regardless of what time it is.”
Boxing promoter Dan Duva on Mike Tyson going to prison: “Why should anyone expect him to come out smarter? He went to prison for three years not Princeton.”
One local high school coach commenting on how his team had played: “On one hand the offense played well. On the same hand the defense didn’t.”
Chuck Nevitt, Marietta native and former North Carolina State basketball player, explaining to his college coach Jim Valvano why he appeared nervous at practice: “My sister’s expecting a baby, and I don’t know if I’m going to be an uncle or and aunt?” Having known Chuck when he was in high school I know he was spoofing the coach. Chuck is known for a great sense of humor.
Yogi Berra is known for his one liners. Less known for that reason was the wise and witty late football coach of Florida State Bill Peterson. By design he often caught people off guard with his brain teasers such as when he told his team: “Line up alphabetically by height.” Also: “You guys pair up in groups of three, and then line up in a circle.”
One definition of humor is instant intellect and Coach Peterson often proved he was indeed an intellect. He confirmed it by being a very good coach and a wonderful man.
Laughter is nature’s doctor; the doctor who resides in you. Chemicals released by worry and stress promote ulcers, asthma, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and strokes.
A positive jovial spirit releases health inducing painkillers and “feel good” endorphins and enkephlins into the system. They cause a sense of well-being when at work. I hope you feel better than when you started reading this column.

The Philistine People Of Gaza

About the same time (1180-1150 B. C.) Moses led the Jews to the eastern border of “the promised land” from where Joshua led them into it another group was entering from the coast on the west. Their journey began from their homeland in Crete and the Aegean islands. These lands in the Bible are called Caphtor. Known as People of the Sea they repeatedly attacked Egypt and were eventually repulsed by Ramesses III. His actions led to these roving pirates settling on the fertile plane south of Joppa on the Mediterranean coast in what is now known as the Gaza Strip. They developed the cities of Gaza, Gath, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Ekron.
Primary Bible characters associated with the region are Saul, Samuel, Samson, and David. For years the principle god of these people who came to be known as Philistines was the Semitic god Dagon. Currently most who live there are Muslims.
Persians, Hasmoneans, Selucids, Egyptians, Romans, and Israelis have tried to rule them unsuccessfully. In recent years after conquering the territory the Israelis gave up on trying to govern them and gladly relinquished the territory. Egypt didn’t want them back. The ultimate group that has tried on several occasions to rule them unsuccessfully is their self-governance. No one has ever successfully ruled them.
Philistinism is a derogatory coined word that describes people who disregard art, beauty, intellectualism, spiritual values and are materialistic. Historically there are brief periods of their existence that dispute this depiction.
Goeth (1749-1832) wrote of them, “The Philistine not only ignores all conditions of life which are not his own but also demands that the rest of mankind should fashion its mode of existence after his own.” The term is in general one of social scorn.
That gives an idea of the long held mentality of the people and their ancestors who live in the Gaza Strip. Perhaps it explains why it is difficult to negotiate with them. Many are insisting the Israelis negotiate with them. No one has ever been able to do so. No one.
The people who govern there now were elected by the people. America pushed for them to have open elections several years ago against the warning that Hamas would be put in control. Unfortunately instead of dedicating themselves to providing a better way of life for their people Hamas dedicated themselves to the destruction of Israel.
Were it not for belligerence and obstinacy the conflict could easily be resolved. All that would be required would be for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel. Israel does not want the Gaza Strip and the responsibility of trying to govern a people no one has ever been able to govern.
A few months ago we visited the Costal Plain and the valley in which the Hebrew David fought the Philistine Goliath. It is a lovely fertile area. Vineyards and other forms of agriculture proliferate. This is now part of the area being hit by rockets. Seeing such a placid area you wonder why such destruction is desired.

The High Price Of Greed

The economy is of great interest. The uncertainty of the times makes it all the more of a concern.
Our dismal national financial posture has been the topic of Internet communication recently. The Stock Market has been described this way.
“It’s been a rocky week for the Stock Market. Helium was up, feathers were down. Paper was stationary. Ticonderoga Pencils lost a few points. Though elevators rose escalators continued their slow decline. Weights were up in heavy trading. Light switches were off. Mining equipment hit rock bottom. The market in raisins dried up. Pampers remained unchanged. Caterpillar stock inched up a bit. Sun peaked at midday. Birds Eye Peas split. Stanley Tools filed for Chapter 11 and Scott Tissues touched new bottoms.”
The following solution has been proposed.
“The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of
officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”
That is not Rome, Georgia referenced. It was written of ancient Rome by Cicero in 55 B.C. Some things are constant.
There are a few words that describe how we got in our current quandary. Some are: greed ratcheted up to rapacity and avarice, a lack of integrity and eroded honesty, covetousness,  gluttony, voracity, and a colloquialism, “the gimmies.”
Greed, the desire for more, is the birth mother of most of these appetites. We were told this a long time ago when it was said “the love of money is the root of all evil.” There we have the source defined. Individually and as a nation we have to deal with it.
Reputedly a Baptist moved in next door to a Quaker. Like a good neighbor the Quaker went over to visit his new neighbor and said, “If thou needest anything let me know and I will tell thee how to live without it.” At issue is whether we can learn to curb our appetites for more and live without some things.
We are victims of a “More is better but more is never good enough” philosophy.
Complicating the issue is that we have reared a large segment of the population that has become dependent on government to fulfill not just basic needs but their greed. We have confused  needs with wants. Government “pork” is a popular menu item.
There are some very good financial advisors in the market place today. Locally Clark Howard heads the list of several very good down-to-earth authorities. David Ramsey is a national figure of good repute. He has syndicated radio and TV programs and excellent video and book materials. His “Financial Peace University” video seminars are hosted by many local churches. Even if a person isn’t a church goer it would be helpful to check local places hosting a seminar.
We should not expect our nation to control its greed until we do so individually. Discerning abstinence is a self-discipline that really pays off. Pays off!

We Are Endowed By God

Our nation looks to new leadership in Washington with outstretched open hands. Give me is the mandate of the hour.
“Endow” is an interesting word. It is defined as to “provide or supply or equip.” Basically it means to be give something. To be given something there must be a someone by whom it is given.
Our Declaration of Independence notes “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Unalienable means they can’t be repudiated or taken away. The rights noted as being given to us and not to be taken away are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those are our birthright given us. For there to be a gift there must be a giver.
The Declaration defines the giver as “the Creator” by Whom “all men are created.” That is rather definitive. This document declared this Creator is the one who gives these rights.
Efforts to exclude Him from the world He created has resulted in the assumption our rights come from government. The consequence of this is a large segment of our population now looks to government for an endowment of their rights.
Jefferson and his ilk believed there were certain immutable rights inherent in life. He believed these rights transcend government and were endowed, given, by the Creator not the government. The responsibility of the government is to secure, protect and defend these rights.
In Jefferson’s first message as President he remarked, “I shall need the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old….” He continued, “I ask you to join with me in supplications that He will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their counsels, and prosper their measures, that whatever they do shall result in our good and shall secure to you the friendship and approbation of all nations.”
Jefferson also piquantly asked, “Can the liberties of a nation, be thought secure, when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gifts of God? — that they cannot be violated except with his wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that his justice cannot sleep forever.”
Jefferson’s religious beliefs will be debated forever but from these historical statements it can be deduced that he believed in God, that God hears and answers prayer, that He is a benevolent God who gives unalienable rights, that government officials are His “servants,” and that His justice is inevitably enacted.
With our nation concerned with a new governing body in Washington there is expectation mixed with uncertainty. Jefferson’s appeal needs to be responded to by this generation. It is incumbent on the governed to pray for those governing. Pray for the very things Jefferson noted. In doing so we are ultimately looking to the Creator who endows us.
Like all leaders this cadre needs “the favor of that Being in whose hands we are….”

God Is Missing

Billy and Tommy were two little mischievous brothers who lived in a small town who were blamed for virtually every misdeed in town. For much of it they were rightly accused.
Their concerned mom made an appointment for the pastor to talk with them. She took them to the church office for the visit. The pastor using a psychological ploy decided to talk with them one at a time.
Tommy was first. Tommy was seated in front of the pastor’s desk and the pastor behind it. The pastor asked Tommy an easy question with a given answer to start the conversation.
“Tommy, where is God?” No answer.
Tactfully the pastor made a few comments and posed the question again. “Tommy, tell me where is God?” Still no answer.
After a few other moments of unresponsiveness the pastor pounded his desk and in a loud voice said, “Tommy, I know you know, tell me where is God?”
Tommy bolted from his chair, ran out of the office with Billy in hot pursuit. Tommy ran in the house upstairs to his room and into the closet holding the door tight.
Billy stood outside pounding on the door saying, “Tommy, Tommy what is the matter?”
Tommy answered, “Billy, run hide, God is missing and they are trying to blame it on us.”
Take even a casual look at our society and obviously God is missing. A legitimate question is who is to blame?
With my regard for and my shared guilt with the individual and institutions I believe the faith community is to blame. A broad spectrum of diverse leaders of the spiritual community of America banded together some years ago to influence elections and laws in our land. I was a part of that effort and believe it did a lot of good. However we focused our efforts on externals to try to change our culture. To a significant degree it worked for a time. One might well ask then why blame the faith community.
Though those efforts were admirable and to a degree effective they were relied on to the neglect of the one thing that can change our society. It is an inside job.
It may be a great act of faith to think it has to be changed one person at a time it is a greater act of lunacy to think it can  be changed any other way. The hearts of the people must be changed. Belief patterns must be shaped. Persons must become convinced there are absolute morals and stand for them.
For the last decade many of the spiritual voices have resorted to a message of health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine. A feel good faith has replaced a belief system given to moral absolutes regarding sex, abortion, greed, bigotry, integrity, and a sense of personal responsibility.
Dr. Karl Menninger, founder of the renown Menninger Clinic wrote a book on psychological problems with a title that poses a significant question: “Whatever Became of Sin?” Immoral acts still abound but they are called every thing but sin.
The faith community need not worry about being popular just right. Some things are right and some wrong. Our moral compass has been lost and voices too often muted that should be declaring the values that made us a more moral and righteous people.
God is missing. Perhaps a place to reintroduce Him and advocate His virtues for His people would be in our houses of worship. Some do a good job of it and are attracting people.

Wine In The Bible And The Consumption Of Alcohol Today

Did Jesus and His disciples consume intoxicating wine in observing the Passover?
Does the Bible admonition to “take a little wine for the stomach’s sake” legitimize consumption of intoxicants?
Was it possible to preserve wine in a non-fermented state in the time of Christ?
These and related questions deserve an answer based on historical facts.
Consider the last of these questions first.
Ancients had several ways of preserving unfermented wine. One way was to reduce the grape juice to the constituency of a thick syrup or even jelly known in Hebrew as debhash and in Arabic dbs. This preserved form could be used over a long period of time. By adding water the concentrate turned the water to unfermented wine.
Sometimes a cake was made of dried grapes which later had  water added to produce unfermented wine.
In 1869 physician and dentist Thomas Bramwell Welch and his son Charles were responsible for preparing the table at their church for the Lord’s Supper. They became concerned about using fermented wine. Utilizing only techniques from the time of the Bible they produced unfermented grape juice for use at the Lord Supper. Their product today is known as Welch’s Grape Juice.
Welch’s concern grew out of the fact bread with leavening was forbidden to be used at the Passover. Leavening involved using yeast. As the yeast cells die the decay produces gases. This fermentation results in the rising of bread. Purity was desired so unleavened bread was required.
Welch reasoned why would fermentation not be allowed in bread while being allowed in wine?
The Bible instructs people “Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper.” (Proverbs 23: 31,32). Movement in wine is caused by bubbles resulting from fermentation.
The Greeks seeing movement in the wine thought it indicated there was life in the wine. When wine was consumed it influenced speech, hearing, and one’s walk. Because of this outside control of the body they thought it to be a god and gave the god the name Baccah.
When the Bible appeals for persons not to be filled with wine, but be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) it is teaching persons to chose the true God, the Holy Spirit, not Baccah. It means let the Holy Spirit control your body.
Wine was in common use in the Bible time. It is helpful to understand how it was used in deciding how to apply Bible verses related to it.

Wine was normally stored in large pointed jugs called amphorae. When it was to be used the desired portion was poured from the amphorae into a large bowl known as a kraters. From the kraters the cups, known as kylix, were filled.
In the large bowl, the kraters, water was added before the mixture was used to fill the cups, kylix.
The ratio of water to wine varied. Different ancient writers note different formulas ranging from one part wine to twenty parts of water. Others indicate a ration of 1-5, 1-4, 2-5.
At the wedding of Cana Jesus had the water pots filled with water and when the guests drank they referred to it as “wine,” the normal word for the mixture of water and wine.
Writers normally referred to wine mixed with water as “wine.” To indicate wine not mixed with water it was called “unmixed (akratesteron)wine.”
Drinking wine without it being mixed with water was looked upon as “Scythian” or barbarian. Mnesitheus wrote: “Mix it half and half, and you get madness; unmixed, bodily collapse.”
Plutarch wrote, “We call a mixture ‘wine,’ although the larger of the component parts is water.”
The Jewish Encyclopedia states that during the rabbinic period “‘yayin’(wine) was to be distinguished from ‘shekar’ (strong drink): the former is diluted with water (mazug’); the latter is undiluted (‘yayin hai’).”
The Jewish Talmud, which contains the oral traditions from 200 B.C. to 200 A.D. has several tractates in which the mixture of water and wine is discussed. The normal mixture is said to be 1 part wine to 3 parts water.
In the portion of that work known as Pesahim 108b it is stated that the four cups every Jew was to drink from during the Passover ritual the mix was a ratio of three parts water to one part wine.
From this can be concluded that what Jesus and the disciples used at the Last Supper was not an intoxicant.
From around 60 B.C. the Book of Maccabees 15:39 states, “It is harmful to drink wine alone, or again, to drink water alone, while wine mixed with water is sweet and delicious…”
Justin Martyr around 150 A.D. described the Lord’s supper in this way: “Bread was brought, and wine and water, and the president sends up prayers and thanksgiving” (Apology I, 67, 5).
Clement of Alexandria stated: “It is best for the wine to be mixed with as much water as possible… For both are works of God, and the mixing of the two, both the water and wine produces health….”
The mixture of water and wine was also used for medicinal purposes. Because of amoeba in water wine was added as a purifying agent. Hence, the Scripture says, “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for the stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” (I Timothy 5:23). Wine was a disinfectant.
A constructive warning is expressed in Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”

Sex In America

John Edwards, former candidate for President, has acknowledged having an illicit sexual relation. His marriage has been betrayed. The public has verbally pummeled him. His mendacious actions are reprehensible. When his concupiscence was exposed his deception was finally admitted. His actions were repudiated by most American as unacceptable. They didn’t meet our broadly accepted moral standards.
However, even a casual observer of TV sitcoms knows what was once considered promiscuous sex is now the cool thing. It is represented as the norm, the thing to do, talk about and laugh over. It is the basis of most intended humor in our entertainment. Our heroes and heroines in the media are more promiscuous than Hugh Hefner or a neighborhood cat. They have an insouciant attitude about sex.
Illicit sex is so open and blatant that it must leave parents of small children with a lot to explain. In the mean time children are growing up seeing it as almost normal. Gone are the days when in our media two persons of the opposite sex could have a good personal relationship without sex entering the picture.  That is the norm that is downplayed in our entertainment.
Check the news racks that line the check-out lines in stores and try to find one feature related to a well balanced marriage or a celibate star or starlet. Stories about super-models who want to have babies but don’t want to marry sell-not celibacy. Baby bumps by unwed prospective moms are big news. Five million opposite-sex couples in the U.S. live together without the benefit of marriage. Thirty-eight percent of all children in America are born out of wedlock costing taxpayers $112 billion a year.
A “Sex in the City” or “Desperate Housewives” culture never hints of virtue, chastity, moral integrity, or fidelity.
Why then beat up on John Edwards?
Because there is still a significant core in America that believes in fidelity and values the sanctity of marriage.
To paraphrase statesman William Penn “Immorality is still wrong, though all be for it and virtue is still right though all be against it.”
C. S. Lewis in his work “The Abolition of Man” refers to moral maxims as “Tao.” These maximums constitute our human moral inheritance. They are starting points for moral reasoning, deliberation, and conduct. The moral and spiritual earthquake in our culture is shaking these foundations. Any society that has tried to stand on morally neutral or empty ground has found it impossible to have any moral reasoning. Tao is as essential to civil life as axioms are to mathematics.
Aberrant appetites and desires cause people to want to ignore what moral reasoning requires. Without proper moral education our cherished freedom to make moral decisions will give license to be inhuman in any personally desirable manner.
History teaches us that when the freedom members of a society seek most is the freedom to do what ever they want freedom is lost.
Many in the media in America are seeking to reeducate our society on a new morality using entertainment as the means.
Are you involved in any organization that teaches the long held moral standards we inherited?

God’s Judgement on America

Have you ever noticed that when an individual says a certain thing is a judgement of God there is an immediately dog pile-and the dog being piled on is the person making the statement. If the judgement is spoken of as being by God against America the implied response is that America has done nothing deserving of harsh judgment and after all God doesn’t pronounce judgement on nations.
God is depicted in the Bible as a God of love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness. He is patient, kind, and long suffering. Those are but a few of the admirable attributes ascribed to Him by Scripture. However, He is also depicted as just and a God of judgement. All books considered holy by various faiths depict God as judging and disciplining or rewarding as fitting.
Every person has a basis for his or her belief on the subject. Some simply dismiss the very existence of a god and scoff at the concept of an after life. To them the subject is of no significance or relevance.
Others take a self-defensive position declaring God is too loving to discipline. To them God is a benevolent grandfather who indulges his children.
I am always reluctant to point to a specific act and declare it to be a judgement of God on a nation or person. However, the concept of divine judgement is one to which I subscribe.
Through the prophet Jeremiah God is represented as saying: “…the instant I speak concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good which I said I would benefit it.” (Jeremiah 18: 9, 10)
Again the prophet wrote as inspired, “The instant I speak concerning a nation and a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.” (Jeremiah 18: 7, 8)
That is judgement of the highest magnitude.
James Madison kept fastidious personal records. On Thursday, June 28, 1787 he recorded a rebuke offered by the 81 year old Ben Franklin. Addressing the President of the Convention, George Washington, Franklin said, “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?” Regarding this statement he continued to say, “I firmly believe this….”
Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey, a delegate to the convention described the moment: “The words of the venerable Franklin fell upon our ears with a weight and authority, even greater than we may suppose an oracle to have had in a Roman senate!”
“…God governs in the affairs of men….”
That should put the fear of God in each of us. The fear of God? Dare it be mentioned? That is a whole other subject but here is in part what is meant by it.
I feared my dad. He was no tyrant. He was a good, kind, and gentle man who had my welfare in mind at all time and aspired for me to be and do my best. My fear of him involved fearing I would let him down by not living up to the admirable standard he had for me based on his knowledge and love for me. That is how we should fear God and avoid His judgement.

What is Norming?

Two words to add to your lexicon of societal philosophies are “norming” and “synthetism.”
They go beyond tolerance.
Norming is a word Europeans often use in reference to what America needs to do. It is the concept that our national decisions should be based on international consensus rather than our long standing commitment to constitutional democracy. This process has emerged in our Supreme Court in a decision which one jurist stated he based his opinion on a European law. This was done to the exclusion of our own Constitution.
Norming is a word for lets all get together for an international group hug. It is a ploy to do away with national sovereignty. The hot bed for this is the United Nations. While advocating many norming regulations contrary to American standards they can’t even agree on a definition of terrorism.
It has been suggested that in the insect world norming would involve putting lipstick on a caterpillar and calling it a butterfly.
Synthetism in the legal community is the process of compromise requiring the blending of long held Constitutional legal norms with trends of the times and international law. An example is one jurist who voted for the ban on prayer in public schools saying if his decision was based on a religion it was the religion of paganism.
Syncretism in the faith community involves the blended the traditional norms of faith with what has been known as heresy, scepticism, apostasy, heterodoxy, even cultic or occult. It is an amalgam forming an eclectic faith. It is a “go along in order to get along” view. The consequence is a theology that is a mile wide and an inch deep.
Traditional tolerance, now known as negative tolerance, has long held that every person is entitled to his or her own beliefs. This allows for person to disagree without being disagreeable. Though a person’s beliefs may be unacceptable the person is acceptable.
Positive tolerance states one belief is as good as another and no one should disagree with another’s. In this school of thought it is improper to contest an opposite belief as wrong. If this is true Hitler is due an apology and a commendation should be give Timothy McVeigh.
College professors are now finding some student given to positive tolerance are showing up who are advocates of Nazism and others as proponents of slavery. Why not, if one idea is as good as another.
Introspection is often painful. Socrates said, “The unexplored life is not worth living.” Therefore, engage in self-examination. What is your world view? What sources are helping influence it? Do you have a norm, a standard other than your own likes and dislikes, by which to determine wright and wrong? Is there right and wrong?
In a textbook used at Florida State entitled “The Roots of American Order” author Russell Kirk makes a case for Bible based concepts being the norm used by the founders of our nation. To this day many find the Bible a reliable standard for faith and practice. In matters of law our Constitution is still unexcelled.

How To Edify Others

Do you ever get discouraged, depressed, defeated or depleted? Most folks do. What then?
In the movie “Lord of the Rings” trilogy Frodo reached the slopes of Mount Doom only to collapse. His journey was so nearly complete, his goal was in sight, but he just could not go on. In his seeming victory of good over evil now it appeared evil would win.
Sam, Frodo’s faithful companion, pleaded with him to get up and complete his task. Fellow hobbits exhorted and appealed Frodo to get up but he just could not. He was too depleted to continue
Sam too was exhausted but he said, “Mr. Frodo, I can’t do it for you, but I can pick you up and take you there.” Exhausted as he was, Sam lifted Frodo and carried him to the heart of Mount Doom, where victory was finally won.
Sooner or later we all are a Frodo in need of a Sam. That appears to be the norm.
Here is the good news. Often you have the opportunity to be a Sam. Don’t miss a single chance. The Sams of the world are the most fulfilled of all people. Look for opportunities to be a Sam.
They abound. You will find them right at home some days.
Our English word “edify” comes from the same root as edifice. An edifice is a building. An edifice has been built up. When you edify a person you build them up. All of us need edifying at some time. Here is the good news. There is a market for edifyers. Be one.
There was a Bible character named Barnabas. His name meant “son of encouragement.” To join his ranks as sons or daughters of encouragement is to align yourself with a cadre of positive people.
Edifying someone is the most edifying thing you can do.
Encouraging someone is one of the most encouraging things you can do.
Being a Sam is one of the most gratifying things you can do.
It is then you know the meaning of the expression “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” For it is in giving that we receive. It is therapeutic.
When we get our self off our mind and our mind off our self then we can see the opportunities all about us.
Charlie Brown asked Lucy. “Why are we here?”
Philosophically Lucy replied, “To serve other people.”
After musing over the answer Charlie replied in a manner that might typify many of us. He said, “Well, why are other people here?”
We seem more interested in the last query of Charlie without giving enough attention to the reply of Lucy.
There is a remarkable edifier in Bermuda. Johnny Barnes gets up at 3:40 AM every day and goes to the Crow Lane roundabout. Till 10:00 AM he is there waving to every passerby shouting “God bless you,” or “I love you.” He has been doing it every day for twenty years. Island dwellers appreciate and enjoy him so much they have erected a life-size bronze statue to carry on the tradition after he is gone.
There may be no bronze statue in honor of us but we can all manifest the spirit of Johnny Barnes and be a Sam, a Barnabas, a Johnny, an edifier.

The Curse For Cain

The “Curse,” and the “Mark” Given “to” Cain.
the King James Reads: “the Lord Set a Mark on Cain”
(Gen. 4:15B). the Hebrew, “Wayyasem Lqayin Ot,” Literally Means “the Lord Prescribed a Mark for Cain.” “the Mark” Was Given to Cain As a Sign to Protect Him (Vs. 15).
if the “Mark” Had Been “on” Cain the Hebrew Word “Be” Would Have Been Used. It Was Not but the Hebrew “Le,” Meaning “for,” Is Used. the “Mark” Was “for” His Protection.
in the Text Immediately Cain Went out to the Land of Nod (Vs. 16) and Developed “the City of Refuge.” It Was to Protect Him.
Numbers 35:12, Speaks of Such a City: “There Will Be a Place of Refuge from the Avenger So That No Person Accused of Murder May Die Before He Stands Trial Before the Assembly.”
in Light of All This the “Mark” Given to Protect Cain Might Well Have Been the City of Refuge. It Was the First Such City.
It Is Impossible to Say With Certainty What the Mark Was. Whatever It Was It Was Given to Cain to Protect Him.
Most of the Rest of Genesis 4 Relates to the Culture of the
“City of Refuge” Stressing Its Importance.
the “Curse” (Vs. 11) Was Not the Same As the “Mark” (Vs. 15). the Curse Related to His Future Agricultural Efforts Failing
(Vs. 12.). the “Mark” Was to Protect Him (Vs. 15).
There Is No Hint That This Resulted in the First Black Man.

An Eye For An Eye

Matthew 5: 38, “You have heard that it was said, “An eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth.’”
This is found in the oldest known law, the law of Hammurabi, which originated between 2285 and 2242 B.C. This was a law of vengeance. It allowed for paying back an injustice with an equal one, not an excessive one. It allowed only for equal payback. This was originally designed to prevent payback by harsher means than the offense.
Jesus stated it in order to cancel it and introduce a higher law which rejects vengeance and payback. He instructs us to respond to our injustices with a higher form of response —- love. Jesus then gives illustrations in the passage which indicate how we should respond in love.
One, “But I tell you not to resist an evil person…” (Vs. 39). This doesn’t mean not to defend yourself. The meaning of the Greek text is “don’t payback evil with evil means.” It means don’t be aggressive in retaliating by evil means. Don’t escalate the situation by trying to get even.
Jesus continues, “But whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Vs. 39).
There is of course a limit to this but it means, “be very patient and don’t respond aggressively or rudely”. It means to respond in a positive courteous way to show an attitude and speak in such a way as to show the spirit of Jesus. The Bible say we are to be slow to anger. Jesus forgave even those who crucified Him.
Proverbs 16: 32 says, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty….”
Jesus is teaching that we should not meet evil with equal or greater force. We are to meet it with a greater positive force, kindness.
This does not mean don’t assert your right if struck. Jesus and Paul were both struck on the cheek. They didn’t strike back but they did appeal to their rights. By saying turn the other cheek He is saying it is best to receive a second affront than to stoop to the same level as the one striking the blow.
The second significant insight from Jesus is: “Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Vs. 41).
Roman soldiers had the right to compel a person to carry their pack a mile. Jesus instruction means go beyond what is required of you, go a second mile, and let him see the love of Jesus. In all things do more than is expected showing a Jesus’ like spirit.
Peter and Paul had a disagreement and confronted each other regarding it. They did it in a constructive way showing love for each other. They dealt with the principles and didn’t attack each other’s character. Their purpose was to resolve the issue in a Christlike way. In these Jesus is not establishing a new form of legalism. He is giving guidelines.
Jesus gives a third example: “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.” (Vs. 40).  This does not mean do not allow yourself your legal rights. It mean be as gracious and generous as possible before resorting to legal self-defense. The teaching allows for self-protection but does not allow for vengeance.
A final illustration follows: “Give to him who ask you….” (Vs. 42). Jesus is not encouraging us to give endless amounts to money to every con-artists. It is an encouragement to be generous.
If this is interpreted in a mechanical and literal manner it becomes ridiculous. Jesus isn’t encouraging us to not be wise and give to every leach that comes along. The Scripture speaks of a lazy person who won’t work: “If any would not work, neither should he eat” (II Thess. 3:10).
Jesus is appealing to us to not be self-centered and selfish, but to help meet legitimate needs as best we can.
Every right is given to ask questions to determine if a need is legitimate.
The verse doesn’t say, “give to everyone everything they ask of you.” It says, “Give to him who asks you.” What you might very well give may be of more value than money. It might be good sound advice. Discernment might result in not giving money to a person or loaning them money. However, we have no right to insult the one asking. We are still to be kind to them.
When a Bible passage isn’t clear on a subject always go to a passage that is clear on the subject and interpret the unclear one in light of it. In regard to this saying an understanding is gained from reading Proverbs 11:15; 17:18; 22:26.
Basically these passages are an encouragement to respond to offensives like Jesus would respond. Don’t try to please the other person or yourself —- please Jesus.
The Bible says of Him “He came not to be served but to serve.” It also says, “It is proper for the servant to be like his master.” As our Master He is to be our model in all things.

Relativism

“There are no absolutes!” The concept that there are no absolute rights or wrongs, everything is relative, is broadly advocated. This opens the door to relativism. The thesis of relativism is that whether a thing or thought is right or wrong is relative to who, what, when, where, and why a thing is done.
Ask persons who believe  there are no absolutes if they are absolutely certain there aren’t and they might well respond, “Absolutely.”
Oops, there is one.
Those who insist there are absolutes of right and wrong are called judgmental, exclusive, and partisan by relativists. I am persuaded these terms are applicable to relativists.
Relativism says if you believe in absolute truth you are wrong. This makes relativism judgmental.
Relativism in saying there are no absolute truths excludes your belief in absolute truth and is exclusive.
Relativism excludes all persons who are non-relativists from their supposedly “right thinking” party. That makes them partisans.
If the statement “There are no absolute truths” is true that is an absolute and the statement is false.
In the 1950s and 60s relativism was marketed as “Situation Ethics.” The situation determined the ethic. Advocates believed in an evolving ethic. An illustration of the incorrectness of this concept has been suggested to be slavery. 200 years ago it was socially acceptable. Today it isn’t. Suppose 200 years from now it is once again socially acceptable. Isn’t slavery an absolute wrong?
Some relativists argue that you cannot know that anything is right. If you cannot know that anything is right you cannot know that statement is right and that statement is self-contradicting meaning you can know a thing is right.
The Ancient Greek Protagrores was an early writer who issued this summary statement: “Man is the measure of all things.” Not.
That philosophy was played out in ancient
Israel in a time described as when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” That was relativism at its best. It was one of the most confusing and defeatist times in the history of the nation.
British scholar C.S. Lewis in his book, “The Abolition of Man” refers to maximums of truth as “Tau.” These “primeval moral platitudes” constitute our human moral inheritance. Some of them are justice, truthfulness, mercy, and magnanimity. If we try to operate outside the bounds of Tau under the pretension of neutrality we will learn it is impossible to develop any moral reasoning at all.
Absolutes are a bond for a society. There must be a set of standards for a culture to function harmoniously. Without absolutes there could be no moral code or judicial system.
William Penn made a statement that inflames relativists. He said, “Right is right though all men be against it and wrong is wrong though all men be for it.”
Acceptance of relativism is distorting our national vision.

Was Jesus Married?

Following is an oversimplified brief history of the emerging church in Rome. A Catholic historian could do a much better job and doubtless would prefer a fuller accounting. Having studied the early church it is not my primary purpose to recount it but to share enough evidence to prove another point entirely which is actually in defense of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church can give a name for every Bishop of Rome dating back to Peter. Some of these are questionable and little is known of them. Parenthetically there are other denominations that make the same claim. During those early years the Bishop of Rome had little or no authority over bishops from other areas.
The first council held at the behest of an Emperor was held by Bishop Melitiades in 313 AD. This established the first link between the papacy and temporal powers.
The first church buildings were erected in Rome between 312 and 337 AD.
The renowned first Council of Nicea was held in 325 AD.
Leo the Great, also known as Leo I, who served from 440-461 AD defined Catholic orthodoxy in his work “Tome.”
That means that between the time the Christian gospel arrived and became established in Rome that for nearly 300 years there was no authoritative all powerful Roman Catholic Church.  The church was a colony of believers meeting in homes until the early 300s.
Now the purpose of this background.
There are profiteers making a good living claiming Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and had children. They further claim the church fathers knew this and have kept it a secret all these years. Only they, these courageous authors and film makers, now have been so clever as to uncover this devious secret and brave enough to reveal it.
The point is there was no all powerful body that could have suppressed such a dramatic event during those early years. There was no powerful Vatican to keep this from being broadly known. Such news would have had such a revolutionary influence in those first 300 years the church would have been stillborn. The movement would have gone absolutely nowhere.
The detractors of Jesus say his disciples kept the secret initially. Why? One of the laws regarding Jewish men had to do with them marrying. If Jesus had been married there would have been no cause to keep it a secret. Marriage was the norm. The fact he was married would have been celebrated. He participated in many social functions why would his marriage not have been noted as a celebration?
Married women were known by the name of their husband and single women by their home town. Mary Magdalene meant Mary the single woman from Magdela. This indicates she was never married.
Mary Magdalene was at the cross with Mary the mother of Jesus when Jesus commended the care of his mother to his disciple John. Would a person so caring for his mother not have provided at the same moment for his wife?
I have written a historical novel that will be out later this year in which characters of the time of Jesus deal in detail with this and many other modern myths. I hope it is found to be intriguing and informative.

Liberation Theology

Liberation Theology is a new term for many. Reverend Jeremiah Wright, an advocate of this school of thought, has reintroduced it and acquainted many with it for the first time.
To concisely write on a subject as broad as this is to leave room for criticism for not fully representing the subject. To introduce it concession must be made that this is only in part a characterization of the topic.
In 1969 James Cone wrote the primary work introducing the school of thought entitled “Black Theology and Black Power.” In a later book Cone defines this school of theology in this way:
“If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community… Black theology will accept only the love of a God who participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love.”1
Some current advocates say Christianity was forced on early Africans introduced to America and has failed them. Because of this failure many blacks in America are being attracted to Islam.
Islam is represented as the original faith of African-Americans. It is depicted as the faith willfully embraced by African ancestors. This completely ignores the historical reality that emerging Islam gained most converts at the point of a sword. Its evangelical style consisted of convert or die.
Reverend Jeremiah Wright is correct in saying we must love one another and consider each as an equal. He is right in saying there is an incongruence between faith and practice by many who profess faith in Christianity. Lamentably that is true of all races. Members of no other faith can plead innocent to that charge.
He made reference to 11:00 AM on Sunday as the most segregated hour of the week. Unfortunately there was a time not so distant past this was true, but not now. Churches of all ethnic and racial groups are open to “whosoever.”
The reason most churches have a core that is alike is style, not segregation. Within the white, black, brown, and yellow congregations there are preferred styles of worship and people go where there is a style they prefer. Music has a lot to do with a person’s preferred place of worship. In general in America any person can worship anywhere they want. That would not be true if people didn’t love those unlike them and consider them equals.
Christians aren’t perfect and many disgrace the name. Yet, Christians operate the largest disaster relief agencies in the world, they provide more hospitals than any independent group, rescue missions and homeless shelters proliferate, most homes for unwed mothers are supported by them, numerous sports ministries are Christian based, the largest non-government agencies designed to feed the hungry are operated by Christians, and churches provide free counseling. They would not do that if they didn’t love others and consider them equals.
1. “A Black Theology of Liberation,” by James H. Cone 1990, page 27.

Train Up A Child

Street gangs are proliferating at such a rate that some social scientists are suggesting the streets of America will be controlled by them within ten years. Two legitimate questions are “from where are they coming?” and “what are the contributing factors?”.
There are ethnic gangs such as Hispanic and Asian but native born Americans are comprising more gangs than ever. To find the cause take a close look at the American family. Serving on the Governor’s Council I became privy to amazing insight.
At birth a child has approximately 100 billion brain cells. Each cell is interconnected by thousands of others by electrochemical structures called synapse. A newborn baby has approximately 50 trillion synapses.
If the cells or synapse aren’t used they wither.
Within the brain there are areas with varying functions.
The occipital lobe is assigned the job of identifying what we see. The temporal lobe processes spoken language and hearing.
Another area is where the capacity for social interaction is determined.
By 8 months the number of synaps has grown to 1,000 trillion. By age of 20 years the number has decreased from 1,000 trillion to 500 trillion.
Certain areas of the brain are not developed at birth. They have to be developed. If a child can’t hear at birth that part of the brain does not develop. In general if a child born deaf and doesn’t hear speech by age 10 they are not likely to ever understand language. That part of the brain was undeveloped because it didn’t function during the formative years.
If a child is born blind the neural connections between the eye and brain don’t develop. If sight isn’t gained by age 2 the child will never see properly. That part of the brain did not develop during the formative years.
If certain parts of the brain are not connected by synapse in the early years they don’t develop. A young child’s experiences can cause brain synapse to increase or decrease by up to 25%.
Parts of the brain, the parietal lobe, processes touch.  Cat scans show that in children in third world countries reared in government institutions where they are not lovingly held and touched this part of the brain doesn’t develop. They are candidates for anti-social behavior. They can destroy or kill and have no remorse, no feeling.
Studies show that dads with children ages 2 to 12 spend less that 12 minutes a day with their children. Add to that the absentee father and the situation is compounded.
The lack of loving parental touch is dramatically helping gang development in America. For children to be healthy emotionally they must have the opportunity to form a comfortable and secure relationship with a loving and care-giving parent.
Not everyone reading this has the good fortune of having a young child in the home but doubtless most know friends who do. Share this insight with them as an encouragement to cultivate well balanced children who function constructively in society.

Mirror Neurons

Have you polished your “mirror neurons” lately?
Don’t be discouraged if you didn’t know you had mirror neurons. Neurologists have just discovered our brains contain them. They serve to activate our responses to emotions we sense around us. It is a subtle but definite response that occurs without us realizing what is happening.
Not only does this happen in our interpersonal relationships but they also pick up emotions from movie and TV actors.
The way these neurons work is they pick up on the emotions of other persons and cause us to tend to respond in kind. If around a negative and critical person we tend to respond in kind. Conversely if around a positive and optimistic person we mirror their emotions.
These neurons are so strong that it is possible for a person to have a great day yet as a result of being around negative people who constantly complain end the day feeling down. Here is good news. The reverse is also true. A bad day around upbeat people can create a sense of fulfillment and peace.
It is no surprise that the mirror neurons of females work better than those of males. That has long been acknowledged by people noting the female is more intuitive. She has a greater depth of feeling; more sensitive. Her mirrors are more polished.
Do you have any toxic people in your life? You know the kind of people singing that old favorite from “Hee-Haw”, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me. If it weren’t for bad luck I wouldn’t have any luck at all”?  If at all possible disassociate yourself from them. If you can’t, immunize yourself against them. To do this learn to better control your emotions. Realize the impact of such a person and act rather than react to them.
When the “Law of Emotional Equilibrium” is considered it becomes apparent how important to the functioning of our mirror neurons is. Simply stated, one negative person can pull down five positive people easier than five positive people can pick up on negative person.
There is another principle that states it takes eleven positive inputs to compensate for one negative input.
Those are the norms. However, if persons are aware of these factors and sensitive to the influences to which they are exposed they can compensate for them. An anti-toxin mental inoculate is achieved by feeding your mind with great truths and associating with positive people.
Our emotional compass or to be more current our emotional GPS needs a point of reference; a gyroscopically balanced attitude.
Sir Edmund Hillary in speaking of climbing high mountains observed, “When climbing at great altitudes in the rarified oxygen deprived atmosphere, the mind has a tendency to wander. Therefore before leaving the base camp in the morning one has to fix his mind.” He then spoke of how the mind has to be fixed on the objective and not allowed to wander.
Polish your mirror neurons so you can be sensitive to the emotional needs of others but not controlled by them. People with a certain spiritual orientation find a stable fixed point of reference in the fact “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You.” Mirror that to those around you.

Global Warming

“Waste not want not.”
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Our predecessors beat us to those practical insights. They are indeed words of wisdom.  I believe in conservation. The first paying job I had was with the conservation department in our state. I believe in thrift. I am not as thrifty as the woman who puts her used paper towel on the kitchen sink faucet to dry overnight for reuse, or the man who rinses and saves his dental floss for reuse. However, I am provident and at best frugal. One of the most popular movements of our time advocates a worthy means to an impossible end. The means involves but is not limited to reducing atmospheric pollution, conserving energy, when possible using biodegradable products, conserving water and reducing greenhouse gases. I’m a believer who does those things. The intended end is to stop global warming. To help determine if this is possible, consider the history of our planet. To do so take into consideration the various climate changes in the past and in light of them consider if there were human activities that caused them or if they were simply endemic and cyclical. When visiting the Sahara
Desert, I was shown evidence that it once was a vast forest, verdure. Herbage abounded. Today it is the largest arid land mass on earth. Fossils of animals that were foragers and grazers reveal it was once a vegetative area. Fossil remains of trees are found in vast areas of the desert. What could have been the conditions created by human beings to cause this dramatic change? There were no fossil fuels or greenhouse gases produced by humans in such quantities as to have caused it. In Switzerland we visited the Jungfrau where a contrasting climate to the Sahara exists. On this mountain summit you are above 95% of the atmospheric pollution of the earth.  The snow and glaciers cover the mountains all year. The Ice Palace has been carved in the glacier. Long corridors and spacious rooms are made the more interesting by stunning ice sculptures.
Snow flakes that fall on the Jungfrau flow through the lower Grindelwald Glacier in the form of ice crystals for 200 to 250 years before melting and becoming part of the streams in the valleys.  This is a marvelous place to study global warming. A 10,000 year record shows a rapid change every 2,000 years from colder to warmer or warmer to colder. That is earth’s history.
None of our current cultural “culprits” to which global warming is attributed, existed 10,000, 8,000 or even 2,000 years ago to cause the change. The conditions that caused these periods of global warming exist today and existed throughout history. The conditions that caused change yesteryear exist today and they are beyond human kind’s capacity to stop it. Our ancestors had to adjust and so must we.
Let’s join in conservation and preservation and not make things worse, but don’t expect to reverse historical cycles inherent in creation.

Pride In America

Do you find it hard to be proud of America?  Like all other nations it isn’t a perfect country.  As a stimulus to your pride, consider the Iwo Jima statue.  A friend shared some of these insights.

How could any American stand before the memorial in Washington depicting the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima and not have pride?  Those six boys, and they were boys, that raised that flag typify all American youth who have kept us free. As a result of our national TV ministry, I corresponded with one of those heroic boys in his latter years.

John Bradley, from Antigo, Wisconsin, typified those six after the war.  He would never give an interview.  Bradley was a medic who held over 200 boys as they writhed in pain and screamed as they died without medication to midigate their pain.

Harlon Block, high school all-state football player, was the first to put the pole in the ground.  At the age of 21, Harlon died holding his intestines in his hand.

Rene Gagon was an 18 year old from New Hampshire who kept a picture of his girlfriend in his helmet.

Sgt. Mike Shank was known by his colleagues as “the old man”.  He was 24.  He was known for saying, “Let’s die for our country.”

Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona, was one of the few who walked off Iwo.  President Truman called him a hero.  Ira said, “How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?”

Franklin Sousley was a fun-loving country boy from Hilltop, KY.  Franklin died at the age of 19.

Consider this in light of our Iraq casualties.  Over 7,000 boys died on Iwo Jima.  Those who walked off never tolerated themselves being called heroes.  They considered those who didn’t walk off the real heroes.

Three of the six depicted as raising the flag were among those who didn’t walk off Iwo.

It might offend Michelle if she took a close look at that statue of the flag raising by those 6 boys.  A close look reveals there were thirteen hands on the flag staff, not twelve.  when asked about it, the person responsible for the statue said the thirteenth hand was the hand of God.  Deal with that you history revisionists!

I was the interim pastor of Lee Greenwood for a year.  He has one song that is his signature achievement, “God Bless the USA”.  In that song are lines that we should all sing with gratitude for these 6 boys and the thousands like them.

“I am proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.

And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave they right to me”

There is a bumper sticker that reads: “America, she ain’t perfect, but God ain’t through with her yet.”

Pride should produce gratitude that should solicit a commitment to helping make America a more perfect union.

A New America

When President Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote his memoirs of the crucial years following the Second World War, he entitled them, “Present at the Creation.” Little did he know how true that was. So much of our political world of today was brought into being during the days of the Roosevelt administration. A new national mentality was created by the two Roosevelts who were president. What Teddy set in motion Franklin accentuated. That generation of Americans was present at the creation of a new interpretation of the role of government.
When President Franklin Roosevelt signed what we now call the death tax bill he said, “This is the beginning of the redistribution of the wealth of America.” It ushered in a new creative way of interpreting the role of government. All of today’s entitlement programs are an outgrowth of that philosophy.
Economic stimulus checks, government support of businesses facing potential bankruptcy, federally funded programs that were once part of the business community were not the intent of the founders of our nation. The government cannot give the public anything costing money that they don’t take the money from the people to give. The government has no money. Their money comes from the tax paying public and the government determines how much the tax will be.
As a Congressman Davey Crockett, the lion of Washington in his day, said, “We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity, but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money.”
It was part of his speech when Congress proposed to give a subsidy to the widow of a navy man. He felt it unconstitutional for the government to give support so instead he offered to personally give a week’s wage to the widow and urged his colleagues each to do the same.
Later in explaining his reasoning he offered this sockdolager, “Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity, and justice to obtain it.”
A new America was created in the 1930s and 40s. Now another new America is being advocated by some proponents of an even more benevolent government who are poised for election. The new America will be more dramatically different from our present one than ours is from the one of which Crockett spoke.
It will involve government getting more involved in public life and giving away more than ever. To do so they will have to take more than ever from the people. For example there is a proposal that not only will income off savings be taxed but the savings themselves.
One of our founding fathers warned against the day when an unproductive element of society would discover they could vote themselves benefits by electing those disposed to provide them. Thus we were warned of a potential implosion resulting from the more productive element of society being over taxed.
Like Acheson, are we present at the creation?

Democracy In America

Alexis de Tocqueville was an eminent French representative of the liberal tradition of the mid-1800s. As such he was very active in French politics. He came to America to study the penal system but stayed for some time to study the nation from the perspective of a detached social scientist. His book released in 1835 entitled, “Democracy in America” is considered a classic early work in sociology. It reveals his perspective on the developing nation. These insights into our heritage are worth considering.
His observations led him to conclude America had not embraced socialism or feudalism as in Europe. It was the different attitudes regarding money. In Europe the common people had no hope and therefore no aspiration to gain it. The privileged felt it was their right to have wealth. Their inherited entitlement resulted in lethargy regarding trying to gain it. The ethos in America was different. In America money was an object to be sought. Here the people all felt they could gain wealth through industrious hard work. This resulted in a productive people.
He also wrote of the character of our society.
“Upon my arrival in the United States the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there, the more I perceived the great political consequences resulting from this new state of things.”
“I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion …. But I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions.”
“I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors…; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in the democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution.
“Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.”
“America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
Today there is a correlation between the diminution of morality in our present society and the flickering flame in many pulpits. The popular health, wealth, and prosperity version of the gospel has replaced calls for a faith commitment resulting in morality, virtue, and integrity. Personal gain has replaced an appeal for a culture of responsible ethics that benefit all of society. A moral world is rarely addressed.
de Tocqueville wrote of the interrelation between two phases of American life. “In France I had almost always seen the spirit of religion and the spirit of freedom marching in opposite directions. But in America I found they were intimately united and that they reigned in common over the same country.”
His belief that the two were mutually dependent resulted in this conclusion:
“The safeguard of morality is religion, and morality is the best security of law as well as the surest pledge of freedom.”

Whatever Became of Sin?

“Whatever Became of Sin?” is an intriguing title of a book worth noting. The author is not a right wing evangelical. Rather it is Karl Menninger, M.D., founder of the prestigious Menninger Clinic (psychiatric) and the Menninger Foundation.
 Menninger is a prophet and a good one. He warns us of a social sickness in our midst and diagnoses it well. There is  a long standing problem however. People since the Old Testament era tend not to believe even the best of prophets. At best they are ignored.
 Menninger quotes Dr. Daniel J. Boorstin, director of the National Museum of Science and Technology at the Smithsonian Institution regarding our current malaise: “…we have lost our sense of history….lost our traditional respect for the wisdom of ancestors and the culture of kindred nations….we haunt ourselves with the illusory ideal of some “whole nation’ which had a deep and outspoken “faith’ in its “values.’”
 In attempting to answer how this deterioration has occurred he says one word is missing from our analysis and that is “sin.”
 It is still very present and influential but unidentified. In answer to the title of his book he says sin is still prominently responsible for our situation but we have renamed and often dignified it. We no longer call it sin.
 A classic example is the circumstances involving the girl in the case of Governor Spitzer of New York. Such a person was formerly called a whore. They are sometimes called hookers. The name was derived from the group of women who followed General Hooker’s forces in the Civil War. Now they are referred to as call girls or preferably escorts.
 Menninger makes a connection between sin, guilt, and not only social ills but psychological sickness. The name of the act has changed but the consequence is still the same.
 A foreign observer of our society describes our values as being like a display window of a store in which someone has secretly gotten into at night and changed all the price tags. The valuable items have been made to appear cheap and he cheap ones given value. Our values have been inverted. The “faith” and “values” spoken of by Boorstin have been denigrated.
 Who is to blame? Menninger says the responsible person is identified by the central letter in the word “sin.” No one sins today. We appear to have officially stopped sinning about twenty-five years ago.
 The clinical mind of Dr. Menninger connects sin and guilt. He postulates that regardless of what sin is called on a personal basis it still erodes one’s emotional and psychological being. On a national scale it corrupts culture and leads to moral decay.
 Imagine a prominent political figure doing as President Lincoln did and calling on the nation “to confess our sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon.”
 An Old Testament prophet said if people will do that God will “forgive their sins and heal their land.” What a novel concept! God? What ever happened to Him? Oh, yes, He has been replaced by karma, luck, good fortune, fate, and Mother Nature.

Capital Punishment

Biblical basis for believing in capital punishment is based on the following.
It is first spoken of in Scripture in Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, (murder) by man shall his blood be shed (the state exercising capital punishment.) [Parentheses added as an interpretation.].
Thereafter in the Mosaic Code of 613 laws found in the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, it is expanded on.
The commandment rendered “Thou shall not kill” in the Hebrew text is literally, “Thou shall not murder.”
In John 19:10 Pilate said to Jesus, “Do you not know that I have power to crucify you (capital punishment) and power to release you. [Parentheses added.]
Jesus said to him “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above ,” (that is by God.) John 19:11 [Parentheses added.]
Thus Jesus was saying capital punishment is authorized by God.
Upon facing the death penalty enforced by Roman Law Paul said, “If I have committed any thing worthy of death, (capital punishment) I refuse not to die….” Acts 25: 11. He was aware that capital punishment was legitimate. [Parentheses added.]

Peter affirmed government as an instrument of God given authority “for the punishment of evildoers” (I Peter 2:14ff; Titus 3:1).
The civil government is shown to be ordained by God to maintain law and order in Romans 13:1. “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God….”
Revelation 13:10 “he who kills by the sword (an individual who commits murder) must be killed with the sword (action by government in punishing murder). [Parentheses added.]

Shorter College: A Synergy of Scholarship and Faith

Crowning one of the seven hills of Rome (Georgia) is a small college committed to excellence in education. Confirming this is being listed in the “Princeton Review” among “America’s Best Value Colleges,” in “U.S. News” among “America’s Best Colleges,” and is listed in the “2007 Colleges of Distinction Guidebook.”
It’s academic excellence is further attested to by the fact that out of all the college and university professors in Georgia one member of the faculty, Dr. Carmen Acevedo Butcher, was chosen “Georgia Professor of the Year” by the Carnegie Foundation.
The new band director is a five-time Fulbright Scholar and founder of the Bucharest Pops Orchestra and the Romanian National Jazz Ensemble.
The percent of pre-med students admitted to various medical schools is among the highest in the nation.
Renovated dorms and a newly constructed dorm await students. A student friendly, redesigned and expanded plaza in the center of the campus adds charm.
New Athletic Director, Bill Peterson, son of famed former Florida State football coach, has raised the standard for academic/athletic excellence.
The divers sports program excels in several fields. The city of Rome is excited in that the school’s bid to host the National NAIA Football Championship makes Rome one of the three finalists. The football team is expected to contend for the Mid-South Conference football championship this year.
A former University of Georgia basketball player has just come as the new basketball coach. His experience at Hampton Sidney and The College of William and Mary has heightened hopes for the hoops program.
In addition to the Rome campus, even more students are enrolled in the off campus programs in Atlanta. The school of business and the newly expanded education majors are increasingly popular.
A bright future for the school is suggested by a record enrollment and financial stability. An air of optimism exists among faculty and staff. These disciplines share a commitment in aiding each student to achieve his or her optimum potential. The faculty-student ratio enables there to be a healthy exchange between the two disciplines.
All of this is enhanced by an environment summarized in a statement on banners on all lamppost along the scenic winding entrance drive: “A Christian College Committed to Excellence in Education.”
It has been my good fortune to serve as Chairman of the Shorter Board of Trustees. This board and the Board of Advisors are jointly committed to perpetuating the school’s outstanding academic record and providing an atmosphere conducive to the development of students academically, physically, socially, and spiritually. Even the students adhering to no religious faith are inspired by such an environment.
Students still undecided about where to go to college would do well to check it out on the web (www.shorter.edu) and consider visiting the campus.

World War II Heroes

     A generation of giants is dwindling. Most of them are in their late 70s to early 90s. They are the living legends of World War II. Look around, there may be one near you. If so, get to know that person, observe his or her lifestyle, become aware of their values, get to know their character.
     An illustration of them is found in the lives of the three following public figures. You may have thought you knew them, BUT….
     Actor Lee Marvin was well known for his war heroics. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his valor at Iwo Jima. He said he served with the bravest man he had ever known. He earned the Navy Cross for conduct in the same battle as Marvin. Lee said this little guy stood on Red Beach on Iwo with bullets flying and bombs bursting and directed his men forward. More than once he exposed himself as the main target of gunfire to preserve the safety of his men. That brave warrior was Bob Keeshan, better known as Captain Kangaroo.
     A U.S. Navy Seal has to be tough. This one was well trained in hand-to-hand combat and small arms like all Seals. He was combat proven in a number of battles. Later in life as a TV character he wore a sweater and long sleeves to cover the tattoos on his forearms and biceps. Perhaps you knew him best as the gentle Mr. Rogers. After the war he became a minister who dedicated his life to helping children make right choices.
     Remember James Arness? Perhaps you knew his better as Marshall Dillon on Gunsmoke. If you thought the sheriff was tough, you should have known him as a combat-proven soldier. His bravery in many battles nearly ended his life in one. His wounds were so severe he spent eighteen months in hospitals at the end of the war. His citations for bravery were many.
     If you know one of their kind you are fortunate. I had the good fortune on running into one of them at The Varsity on the Fourth of July. If I were to use his name it would embarrass him and most people who have lived around here would know him well. He is a real life hero and ultra modest about it. I felt fortunate to see him on that day and say thanks again for making every Fourth of July cause to celebrate people like him.
     Through my television ministry I corresponded with many such heroes. One helped raise the flag in that legendary photo of the raising of the American flag on Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima. One was the officer in charge of the noted German POW, Wernher von Braun. He built such rapport with the General that one day the German genius asked, “Would you like to see my plans?” Von Braun unscrewed the end off a piece of pipe and pulled out the blueprints for his rocket that gave birth to our missile program.
     My little home town was listed in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” as having the highest percent of commissioned officers per population of any city in America during World War II. Out of a population of only about 450 there were three generals plus many high ranking officers.
      Growing up they were my heroes. In an era bereft of heroes, find one. In doing so you will have found a modest person of character worth getting to know, one worthy of your thanks.
     Every war has produced heroes like these. They deserve comparable gratitude and respect. We are in their debt.

The Foundation of Our Constitution

     Democracy alone is not enough. Democracy is not the soil out of which morality grows. Morality is the essential soil in which democracy thrives. A certain ethos, a characteristic spirit of a culture or community, is required.
     That is an elementary principle precipitating the complexity of trying to establish democracy in Middle Eastern tribal cultures. The ethos that supports their social structure is not conducive for a thriving democracy. It is a different morality.
     Our founding fathers knew morality was the basis of democracy. President John Adams stated, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
     The growing climate of lawlessness and immorality in America is resulting in a generation that can by no means be described as “moral and religious.” If the statement by Adams is true the future of our nation functioning well under its Constitution looks bleak.
     President James Madison, recognized by many as the architect of the Constitution, framed this great truth: “We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”  Madison indicated a social environment based on the Ten Commandments is essential for the survival of democracy.
     A case in point indicating our country is rapidly moving away for such a foundation is a court case in Kentucky where a judge ordered a copy of the Ten commandments removed from a school “lest the students looking upon them daily should come to believe in them.” Horrors! Imagine such a dastardly thing.
     In countries where the ancient Code of Hammurabi fashioned in 1760 B.C. it is still basic to the social structure that democracy doesn’t do well. That Code in simple summary is “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” It doesn’t provide for democratic law to prevail.
     The point is democracy requires a certain culture. For democracy to work in the Middle East or any place a certain culture is essential. This is not to suggest all Middle East countries must become Christian, but it does indicate a culture of a different morality is essential. Changing the shared culture of multiple nations with a legal system and code of ethics based on Sharai Law is highly unlikely. It will never be done by invading them and insisting on a democratic government.
     For democracy as we know it to survive in America, a reversal of our growing immoral trends is essential. Presently the national media has and is changing our total culture. As evidence of this compare the day in which Clark Gable shocked the nation with the “D” word in “Gone With the Wind” with the subject matter and language in current sitcoms.
     Contrast the lyrics of the Doo Wop music of 50 years ago with those of rap music today and a moral decline is evident.
     Another indication of our changing cultural climate is this column. There was a day the concept expressed herein was the norm. Today it will be attacked as fostering religion.
     Like most, I don’t want to impose religion on any person, but there is a point where religious and non-religious people must have a common ground on which to advocate morality.

One Nation?

     That E PLURIBUS UNUM on our coins, what does it mean?  It has gotten to where it means practically nothing. Some say it mean “one of many,” indicating this is just one coin out of many.
     In reality, it means “out of many one.” Initially it spoke of two things. First, it referred to many differing people from different countries coming together to form one union, America. In a secondary sense it spoke of the several states being one nation.
     They brought with them different languages, customs, and beliefs which they blended to form one ethos. I don’t want to insult the intellect of anyone but since “ethos” is not a word used often I share a definition of it. It means the characteristic spirit of a culture or community.
     By no mean were all the people British or Christians, but those two factors combined to dramatically influence the ethos as expressed by our Constitution.
     ethos is referred to as “One nation under God.” How many nations? One!
     The factor of one has been a defining characteristic of America. That elementary principle has never been so contested as today. To a great extent America was developed by immigrants. However, those coming in have never made a more concerted effort to remain separate and change the nation to conform to them than now.
     I lived in New Orleans for years. There is the well know French Quarter, the Irish Channel, and other quarters, but those living there did not demand the others conform to their standards. While preserving much of their heritage, they accepted a new common denominator called America and its ethos.
     Today, some want us to have two official languages. Some are demanding their emerging immigrant population be governed by laws other than those of America. Others want voter ballots made available in many different languages.
     There are existing cultures where division within exists and confusion abounds. Czechoslovakia is divided into two republics. Belgium has a schism because of two official languages and Canada is struggling to prevent the predominantly French section from separating.
     Germans are historically and currently an example of people who have come in to blend and become part of the one. There are more people of German extraction living in America than any nationality.
     By no means are all Americans Christians, but the laws of our nation were dramatically influenced in their inception by the Christian ethic and basic Biblical morality. The people making those laws had a British heritage. Now there are those who deny that and want to have any evidence of it removed. Some of the Founding Fathers were not Christians, and some who were weren’t very good ones, but they knew such ethics and morality would contribute to the new ethos.
     In an era when pluralism and multi-culturalism is the battle cry it remains to be seen if we will be “out of many one,” or “one of many” divided.  Americans must always welcome legal aliens who qualify to come to this country to become part of the “one nation” not divide us.

Creation and Science

     You don’t know what you don’t know, you know!
     I marvel at the genius of mankind. Chemistry, physics, technology, and a variety of sciences have pushed back the frontiers of knowledge and opened the doors of creativity in mind stretching ways. I applaud those who mentally go where I can’t even conceive of adventuring intellectually.
     I marvel over accumulated knowledge. Inquisitively I muse over speculation and hypotheses based on assumption. Just when scholars think they have it figured out who we are, where we came from, and how long it took, along comes the Creator and says, “Surprise!”
     Astronomers have just found-did you get that-just found, a vast cosmic hole in deep outer space void of stray stars, galaxies, black holes, and not even unidentified black matter. It is 1 billion light years across. That is 6 billion trillion miles of nothing. Such space exists but this is 1000 times larger than any scientist ever imagined.
     I know this is an equation out of which some desire to omit God. That is a bigger void than the one just discovered. Many revere Him as Creator. Through the Old Testament character Job (38:4,5)the Creator asked: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements?”
     As we shuffle for answers, the Creator is depicted by the Psalmist (2:4) this way: “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh….”
     Remember those creative cartoon-like drawing depicting human evolution?  They start with a stooped knuckle dragger and step by step show man evolving into homo sapiens. Along the way there are other hominids. They reputedly represent the various stages of our alleged development. Just recently palaeontologists have encountered a startling conflict. Two of these models, one of which supposedly preceded the other, were found to have lived at the same time. Though this refutes the progression scientists have given assurance there is an explanation not yet known.
     Right! You don’t know what you don’t know, you know?
     There are some basic misconceptions regarding evolution. One is that all reputable scientists believe in evolution-NOT!. There are multiple scientific societies composed of persons with advanced degrees from highly reputable universities that believe in creation.
     A second misconception is that all scientists agree on the evolutionary progression-NOT! Go on the Internet and check on recent scientific articles on the subject. You will find conflicting articles by evolutionists who hold diametric positions on the same issues. Each postulate how the other could not be possible.
     Tonight go outside and search the sky for what looks like a small cloudy area. It is called Andromeda. It is so far away no individual member of the cluster is identifiable by the unaided eye. It consists of 100 million galaxies containing 100 billion suns larger than ours.
     There is so much order and design to all this millions call it creation. You know, like “endowed by their Creator….”

Ministers Salaries

      Randy and Paula White, Benny Hinn, David and Joyce Meyer, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Bishop Eddie Long, Creflo and Taffi Dollar vs. Billy Graham.
     What a contrast! The first lineup is under investigation by Congress. The suspicion is financial mismanagement. Billy Graham, a man of integrity, lived a modest life in his mountain home with a board of directors that oversaw his finances.
     Regarding the first group, they have been dealt with in a most unusual way. It would have been appropriate for the IRS to be called on to investigate them if they were to be investigated. Such is usually done quietly and if indiscretion is found then it is made public. These persons may have done nothing wrong, but aspersion have been cast on them.
     I admire the norm for ministers. There are exceptions but most live within the lines of propriety. I respect the many who live at below the average income and never complain. I feel for those who when they retire they have little or no savings simply because their income has provided living expenses but not enough for retirement. There are many of these.
     Those who flaunt their affluence cast reflections on all who live prudently.
     There are various classifications of ministers who live lavishly. One group is simply self-indulging. A few even violate not only propriety, but the law. Even though they are very few some represent them as the norm. By no means are they.
     A second group consists of ministers who are willfully sumptuously provided for by their constituents. You might not like this and I don’t like it, but there are those members of congregations who know they will never be wealthy and they want their minister to live evidencing affluence. Why? Again, you may not like this and I don’t like it, but they want it so they can live vicariously through them. One such minister said, “I only have what my people want me to have.” He told the truth. No matter what the motive, excess always is wrong.
     I know one minister who had an international TV ministry  and a congregation of over 10,000 members. He was on salary and didn’t even know what it was. Years ago he called for a meeting with the Personnel Committee and his wife and instructed them to deal only with his wife in matters of his compensation. He asked her not to hint to him what it was. His trust in her was such he always signed the audited IRS report without looking at any figures. His reasoning, he said he wanted to do what he did for the joy of doing it and not for what he got by doing it.
     I am persuaded that is the motivation of most ministers.
     Back to Billy Graham. One of his first crusades was in Atlanta. As he was boarding a prop private plane to leave the city the treasurer of the crusade handed him a sack containing the offerings from the crusade. A photographer snapped a shot of him holding the moneybag just before the plane door closed. The press exploited the photo. He made it a point never in any way to be associated with crusade receipts. His many ministries and philanthropies have benefitted through the years.
     Long live integrity.

Time to Understand Time

The number one most successful word in sales is “new.” Products that are new attract.
Likewise, a new year excites interest. The dawning of a new year makes us conscious of time. If you love life, don’t waste time. Time is what constitutes life.
Here comes a new year offering us 8,760 new unspent hours. On average people will spend 2,000 hours working, 3,000 hours sleeping, 550 hours eating, and 1,500 hours watching TV.
A question often asked is where does all the time go. Priority Management, Inc. has the answer. In an average lifetime, the typical American will spend:
- Six months sitting at stop lights.
- Eight months opening junk
- One year looking for misplaced objects.
- Two years unsuccessfully returning phone calls.
- Five years waiting in line.
- Six years eating.
- Seven years in the bathroom.
- Twenty-one years sleeping.
Don’t rush away from the fast fading old year without pausing to reflect on it. Savor your achievements, enjoy your successes, rejoice over your wise decisions, and marvel over your blessings. Before you file these and other good memories in your memory bank, evaluate what lessons can be learned from them.
Who deserves an expression of thanks for helping you make it through the old year? Take time to thank them. Expressing thanks is beneficial to the one receiving thanks and the one giving thanks.
To what cause are you willing to commit yourself in the new year. What purpose should color your days? What spirit will you manifest? What is going to be your overall attitude toward life?
Not only can the coming days bring you a new year, but in reality, a new you! The father of modern day psychology said the greatest discovery of the 20th Century was that we can change our lives by changing our minds.
We don’t have to be held captive by old habits, stay in bondage to a pessimistic spirit, be enslaved by an unprofitable and improper overall attitude, or remain mired in failure.
The motivational speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones says we become the sum total of the people we meet and the books we read.
Let me suggest the reading of the one book that improves ones overall life more than any other.
The average reader can read the entire Bible in seventy hours. The Old Testament requires fifty-two hours and the New eighteen. Regardless of whether you are a person of Christian faith or of a different faith, there is much to be gained by reading the Book of Psalms, it will take about four and a half hours. Reading it will give a person an attitude adjustment.
I don’t want the new year to slip by without saying, HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Peace on Earth

“Peace on earth and good will toward men” are worthy objectives to be sought in the new year. Yet, the angels’ message is mocked by skeptics who say such a prophecy has not been fulfilled. In the last three centuries there have been more than 275 wars in Europe alone.
The classic poet Henry Wordsworth Longfellow wrestled with the proclamation.
In December 1862 Generals Robert E. Lee and Ambrose E. Burnside commanded their formidable armies at the battle of Fredricksburg on the Rappahannock River. The battle raged for several days leaving approximately 50,000 men dead or wounded. 48,000 were Union forces. The battle was so stunning it went unreported until Christmas Day. Among those listed in the paper as “seriously wounded; not expected to recover” was the son of Longfellow.
To commemorate he event the church bells in Washington rang every five seconds all day long. Wordsworth wrote in his diary, ““Merry Christmas’ say the children but that is no more for me.”
His grief was compounded by him and his wife being seriously burned. His face was so scared he could not shave thereafter and hence his beard. His wife Fanny died.
On Christmas day 1864 he wrote his timeless poem, “Christmas Bells” which was later set to music by John Baptise Calken in 1872. In a depressed state he wrote:
“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
There is no peace on earth, I said;
For hate is strong;
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
It is from that perspective many interpret the angles’ message. However, Longfellow with his attitude adjusted and his spirit revived continued to write:
“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!”
Longfellow evidently had a conversion of his thoughts by realizing what many have yet to comprehend. The angelic proclamation was not a prophecy of peace but a prescription for peace.
The one at whose birth the prescription was offered later in life assured His followers, “I guarantee all of you that in this world you will have tribulation on a regular basis.”
Then after a teaching time He said, “These things I have spoken to you that you might have peace.”
Indeed, experience has proven certain principles applied do lead to personal peace. Many Christians, as well as those who are not Christians, study these teachings and personally find they do bring peace and result in good-will.

The Bones Of Jesus

In over fifty years of ministry as a pastor I have seen too many evidences there is a spiritual world not to believe in the supernatural. In reading the most reliable documents of the era-the New Testament, I am confident they are historically accurate. I have studied form criticism, textual criticism and higher criticism and remain convinced.

Now for the fifteenth consecutive year with the approach of the Easter celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a group has unleashed an effort to discredit the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus with another sophism.
Film maker James Cameron and his team claim to have found the bodily remains of Jesus Christ.

Around the time of Jesus the bones of deceased persons were placed in stone boxes called ossuary. I have seen one in the Hebrew Museum in Jerusalem that is inscribed with the name of Caiaphas, the high priest. It was initially offered as proof Caiaphas had been converted to Christianity after the resurrection. There is one on display in Florida allegedly to have been the burial box for James the brother of Jesus. A large cache can be seen in a small building on the Mount of Olives.

Now comes another opprobrious effort to discredit Jesus on the basis of statistics in that there are boxes found along with this most recent revelation with the names of other Bible characters. These names in the period were among the most common.

Finding them together and representing them as statistical proof they contain Jesus’ bones is not statistical proof but a sadistical effort.

The curator of the Israel Museum says of the claims in finding the lost tomb of Jesus, they are more than remote. He concludes “They are closer to fancy.” The boxes were first found in 1980 and beginning with the first expert to examine the boxes, most objective authorities say there is no connection with Jesus Christ.

The tomb in suburban Jerusalem in which the ossuaries were found is known as “the Jesus tomb,” the tomb of Jesus’ family. Tombs were very expensive. Where would a simple carpenter an itinerant preacher get enough money to afford such a tomb? Had He owned a tomb, it would have been the only earthly thing He is known to have had.  Had He owned a family tomb, according to Jewish tradition, it would have been in Nazareth not Jerusalem.

Tombs had to be registered with the Jewish authorities of the day. If a personality as public and popular as Jesus had a family tomb, its registration would have been a thing of note. There was no such tomb registered.

Mary the mother of Jesus is also said to have been buried in the same tomb. From the cross Jesus gave John the responsibility of caring for his mother. Creditable records say that in caring for her he eventually buried her in Ephesus-now a part of Turkey. I have visited her tomb there as have millions of tourists.

Yet, the Discovery Channel documentary was based on statistics and a few critics who aspire to discredit Jesus.

Logic disputes their statistics.

Friends and enemies alike at the time agree on a few things. Both knew Jesus was dead when removed from the cross. The equivalent of a Roman death certificate was issued. They agreed he was buried in a certain tomb. They agreed that three days later the body was missing.

Jesus’ followers declared He had arisen from the dead. If He had not, someone stole his body.

If his enemies had stolen the body, all they had to do was present the body and discredit claims of a resurrection. They very much wanted it discredited.
Because of claims of the resurrection followers of Jesus were tortured and killed in order to get them to renounce their claims. Had they stolen the body they could have simply presented the body and spared themselves. Would they have died for a known lie?

A few days after Jesus’ death Peter preached and condemned those who were responsible for Jesus’ death. He proclaimed the resurrection and charged the people to repent. Of those present at the time of the death of Jesus 3000 repented and were baptized. They were convinced of the resurrection. They had heard and seen enough in the interval between the resurrection event and the sermon to know He arose.

After Jesus’ resurrection, He was seen by 1, 2, 5, 10, 11, and at once by 500 people over a period of forty days to be alive. He was seen indoors and outdoors, on shadowed roadways and sunny beaches. They walked with Him, talked with Him, dined with Him twice, and touched Him more than once. Those of the era believed Jesus to be both dead and later alive. It changed culture and still does.

To settle the issue, the Sanhedrin (the Supreme Court of the era) appointed a special investigator from their number. He was the apple of their intellectual eye named Paul. As a critic he examined the case more than anyone of the era intent upon disproving it. This distinguished jurist concluded “He is risen” and became a follower of Jesus Christ like the legion after him.

This scholar, Paul, was so convinced of the resurrection he endured five beatings of thirty-nine stripes each, three times he was beaten with rods, once stoned, frequently imprisoned, suffered shipwreck, endured hunger, thirst, sleeplessness, cold, nakedness and frequently endured perilous conditions (II Corinthians 12: 25-27) and steadfastly held to his belief in the resurrection based on his investigative research. Such is the proof that the chief investigator who gathered more evidence than anyone was convinced by the evidence of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

We are left to believe either his accumulative evidence along with the witnesses to the event, or persons who 2000 years later are denouncing the resurrection based on their presuppositions and presumptions.

Article Update

Mariamene is rare, and in some early Christian texts it is believed to refer to Mary Magdalene.

But having analyzed the inscription, Steven Pfann, Bible scholar at the U. Of Holy Land in Jerusalem,  published a detailed article on his university’s Web site asserting that it doesn’t read “Mariamene” at all.

The inscription, Pfann said, is made up of two names inscribed by two different hands: the first, “Mariame,” was inscribed in a formal Greek script, and later, when the bones of another woman were added to the box, another scribe using a different cursive script added the words “kai Mara,” meaning “and Mara.” Mara is a different form of the name Martha.

According to Pfann’s reading, the ossuary did not house the bones of “Mary the teacher,” but rather of two women, “Mary and Martha.”

“In view of the above, there is no longer any reason to be tempted to link this ossuary … to Mary Magdalene or any other person in biblical, non-biblical or church tradition,” Pfann wrote.

Pfann also notes ancient Semitic is difficult to read. The name is likely “Hanun,” not Jesus.

When asked if he thought there was a 5% chance these could be the bones of Jesus answered, “No, no, no, no. I deny it completely.”

Professor Amos Kloner, one of Israel’s most prominent archaeologists, the name Jesus was so popular in the period that three other ossary have been found inscribed with that name. He points out that “countless others with Mary and Joseph” have been found.

Simcha Jacobovic, who helped produce the film, has faced criticism much tougher than Pfann’s academic critique. The film has been termed “archaeo-porn,” and Jacobovici has been accused of “pimping the Bible.”

The Carter/Clinton Denomination

Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are undertaking the establishment of a new religious denomination.
I am a member of the imperfect denomination they are leaving in order to establish a more perfect world order. They say their “all inclusive” denomination will fight poverty, work on health care, environmental issues, and eliminate religious and racial conflict.
Both of these men have been critical of Southern Baptists-and we deserve some criticism like most religious bodies. I say most because I met the pastor of and have his calling card with the name of his church in Atlanta: “The Perfect Church.” I always wanted to meet his wife to see what she had to say about that.
In addition to criticizing Southern Baptists, they should take time to observe some of the good the denomination is already doing in the areas they propose to address. They have been so preoccupied with criticism they have failed to take note of attributes and assets with which they could ally and achieve far more than by starting another denomination.
In noting areas in which Southern Baptists are making progress I want to readily admit much progress is yet to be made.
In 1995 Southern Baptists issued a resolution of repentance. The lengthy document stated in part, “…we apologize to all African Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systematic racism….” Implementation of the commitments to work for racial reconciliation are on going.
Peter Wagner of Fuller Theological Seminary, not a Southern Baptist wrote, “At the top of the list in ethnic ministries in the United States are Southern Baptists…. Southern Baptists are the most ethically diverse denomination, worshiping in 87 languages in more than 4,600 language-culture congregations every Sunday.”
It should be noted the denomination works with many diverse racial groups, especially Native Americans.
The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, of which Southern Baptists are a part, has done work in the area of the environment which “would improve the lot of the poor more surely and effectively” than that proposed by many environmentalists groups. Their proposals are believed to be potentially more effective in reducing high rates of disease and premature deaths and have a more positive impact on the poor.
Another area the presidents propose to address is world hunger. Southern Baptists are at the forefront of denominations seeking to provide relief. Much help is needed in that 16,000 children worldwide die daily from hunger related causes. That is one child every five seconds.
Messrs. Presidents, more can be done more immediately by working in programs already in place than reinventing the wheel. By doing so, time, money, and lives can be saved.
Oh, by the way Messrs. Presidents, you have said nothing about such spiritual ministries as Christ commissioned His church to fulfill: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you…”

Amazing Grace

It is impossible to imagine 10 million Africans being crowded aboard slave ships on a journey into injustice, cruelty, and unimaginable human suffering. An estimated 20% of them died at sea.
 In England, William Wilberforce, a quiet 21 year old, was elected to the British Parliament. He admitted he was lazy and rarely spoke.
 Slavery was so accepted that it was unacceptable to speak in public of abolishing it. Before Parliament could be changed to act against the travesty, the hearts of millions in Briton had to be changed.
 About the same time, John Newton, the son of a slave trader, was involved trading in slaves for the East India Company. In 1748, his ship almost sank in a violent storm. He fell on his knees and asked God for mercy. He renounced his trade and became a minister in the Church of England. He wrote a sermon titled “Faith’s Review and Expectation.” It was the basis of what was at first a chant not a song. It became a song that now has 972 arrangements and is found in 1,100 music albums. That song, “Amazing Grace,” compared God’s grace and his own wretchedness.
 As a child, Wilberforce met Newton. Now as an adult he began attending Newton’s church. That, coupled with his own reading of the New Testament changed his life. Compassion flooded his life and his great oratory skills were birthed.  He committed his life to working against a number of injustices such as prison reform, fair care of prisoners of war, improvements in hospitals, the prevention of cruelty to animals, and society reforms throughout the British Empire. None received more effort than slavery.
He knew the improbability amid the existing social climate of abolishing slavery. The slave trade however was the life’s blood of the economy. Tactfully and eloquently he began to speak before Parliament of the impropriety and immorality of buying and selling human beings. His endgame was the abolishment of slavery. Almost imperceptibility the hearts of the British people and then Parliament were changed to see the evil of such conduct.
 Though chronically ill he pursued his efforts which were repeatedly repulsed. His courage and compassion led to him being called “the conscience of Parliament.” He crafted several anti-slavery bills which were defeated. Persistently Wilberforce collected evidence of the injustice of slavery and garnered 390,000 signatures opposing it.
 His tenacity resulted in Parliament approving his abolishment bill in 1807, and ended the travesty that caused millions to suffer. Wilberforce, a man small in statue, stood tall and wept over the victory.
 On this the 200th anniversary of that action, a movie related to the events has been released entitled “Amazing Grace.” It is a must see.
 Globally today there are more than 27 million people living is slavery. The struggle goes on. May those who have experienced amazing grace ever struggle against slavery.

A Spirit Controlled Temperament

Temperament Is a Combination of Inborn Traits That Subconsciously Affects Our Behavior. These Traits Are Arranged Genetically on the Basis of Race, Sex, Nationality, and Other Heredity Factors. They Are Passed on in Our Genes. It Is Believed We Inherit More from Our Grandparents Than Our Parents.

Character Is the Real You. in Scripture It Is Called “the Hidden Man of the Heart.” It Is a Result of Our Natural Temperament Modified by Childhood Training, Education, and Basic Attitudes, Beliefs, Principles, and Motivation. It Is Sometimes Called “the Soul” of a Person Made up of Mind, Emotions, and Will.

Personality Is the Outward Expression of Yourself Which May or May Not Be the Same As Our Character, Depending on How Genuine We Are. Sometimes Personality Is a Pleasing Facade for an Unpleasant or Weak Character.
“Man Looks on the Outward Appearance but God Looks on the Heart.”
“out of the Heart (Character) Proceed the Issues of Life.”

“You Can Use Your Background As an Excuse for Present Behavior Only Until You Receive Jesus Christ As Your Personal Lord and Savior. After That You Have a New Power Within You That Is Able to Change Your Conduct.”  Dr. Henry Brandt

Not All Believers Are Experiencing This Transformation and the Reason Is Revealed by Their Conduct. They Are Not Living the Spirit Filled Life and Bearing the Fruit of the Spirit. the Filling of the Spirit Enables on to Bring Into Subjection Their Temperament and Character So It Shows in the Personality.

Galatians 5: 22, 23 “the Fruit of the Spirit Is Love, Joy, Long-Suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Self-Control….”
the Holy Spirit Filled Temperament Does Not Have Weakness.
All These Traits Are Traits of a Spirit Controlled Temperament, Character, and Personality.
Persons Can Fast, Pray, and Even Give Their Bodies to Burned at the Stake but if They Don’t Evidence the Fruit of the Spirit Theirs Is Not a Spirit Controlled Temperament, Character, and Personality.

This Article Is a Review of:
Spirit-Controlled Temperament  by Tim Lahaye  Pp. 45-56

John Calvin

JOHN CALVIN = JEAN CHAVIN
1509 – 1564
John Calvin was born in Noyon, 1509. He was trained as a lawyer in the humanistic school of Scripture interpretation.
The house of Savoy had ruled over Geneva for years. When the local populace overthrew that government locals invited John Calvin, a lawyer, in to help reform the local church and government.
The citizens soon found themselves under an even more tyrannical leader than the Pope had been. They rebelled and drove Calvin out of town.
In 1540 a new group of city rulers invited him back and soon he was the dominate force in the area.
In Strasbourg in 1538 Calvin wrote his “Institutes of the Christian Church.”  Calvin’s writings were declared to be an exposition of Scripture. Instead they became a defense of his personal theology. They were used as a defense of his theology, social and political philosophy.
The system of theology he devised came to be known as Calvinism or Reform Theology.
In the mid-1550s Protestants from France, England, Germany and the Netherlands fled persecution in their countries and came to Geneva. They joined Calvin’s efforts to establish the more radical Calvinistic doctrines. They believed all policies should be based on a literal reading of the Scripture. Not only should this be the standard in the church but in civil government and society in general.
Calvin instituted four primary categories of offices in the church.
Pastors: They exercised authority over all religious affairs in Geneva.
Teachers: They were to teach theology to the populace.
Elders: They were older individuals elected by the city council. Their job was to oversee everything everyone did. This formed a bond between church and state.
Deacons: They were appointed to look after the elderly, sick, poor, and needy.
Servantus of Spain was one who strongly opposed Calvin. Of the possibility of Servantus coming to Geneva Calvin said:
“…if he comes here, if my authority is worth anything, I will never permit him to depart alive.”
He did come, was arrested, and his property confiscated.
The theocratic government Calvin had helped establish desired to have him burned alive. Calvin belatedly appealed for him to be decapitated. He was burned alive with Calvin’s consent.
Calvin wrote, “Whoever shall maintain that wrong is done to heretics and blasphemers in punishing them makes himself an accomplice in crime and is as guilty as they are.”
Followers of Servantus, known as Libertines, were targeted by Calvin. In 1555 the Libertines attempted to displace Calvin. When their efforts failed Calvin had their leaders rounded up and executed.
Calvin used the Consistory, a court presided over by an ecclesiastical hierocracy, to aid his political aims and to maintain control over civil and religious life in Geneva.
Jaques Gruet was an opponent who sided with some old Genevans in opposing Calvin. Gruet was tortured into confessing he had issued writings opposing Calvin and was beheaded for doing so.
Pierre Ameaux complained about Calvin bringing in inordinate numbers of French priests to support him in Geneva. Calvin said this constituted an attack on his divinely ordered authority by Ameaux. Calvin persuaded the city council to require Ameaux to wear a hair shirt and march through the city streets to the city square where he was to beg mercy.
Calvin’s theocratic government believed every sin was a crime and practiced excommunication. Such applied even to persons who wore what was considered inappropriate clothes or engaged in work or pleasure on Sunday. Persons guilty of “wild dancing” or “bawdy singing” were severely punished. The latter ones had their tongues pierced.
Such actions resulted in excommunication and many persons being banished from the city.
Calvin’s reprehensible approval of torture is an issue most modern day Calvinists do not deny but do disavow.
Calvin professed to believe in separation of church and government. However members of the consistory and church formed judicial boards that imposed theocratic law. They closed taverns and replaced them with “evangelical refreshment places” where alcohol could be consumed but only with Bible reading. This practice was short lived.
The five points of doctrine identified by the acrostic TULIP that bear his name did not originate with Calvin. They were a product of the Synod of Dort, sessions of which were held in 1618 and 1619. They were issued in response to five special objections that arose after Calvin’s time (1509-1564). They were based on his teachings.
The Synod so strongly reacted to those opposing their positions as to have beheaded four days after the Synod one of the most respected statesmen of the time Johan van Oldenbarnevelt. Additionally the outstanding jurist of the era, Hugo Grotius, was imprisoned for life.
The most controversial teaching of Calvin regarded predestination. The early church and moderate Protestant churches had taught God had not predestined salvation for certain ones while predestining others to hell. It was commonly held that salvation was a gift of God based on man’s free will in responding positively to God’s love initiative. Calvin taught salvation was not a choice but based on God’s pre-determined decision from the beginning of time.
This meant certain people were the “elect” of God and were to populate the church.
In his “Institutes” Calvin defined predestination:
“We call predestination God’s final decree, by which He determined what He willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is ordained for some, eternal damnation for others.”
History has judged Calvin wrong on many issues. Many of his proponents admit this but believe him to be worthy of adulation because of his overall contributions.
His detractors believe he was obsessed with power, could not abide dissent, and is unworthy of praise often afforded him.
He lived in Geneva until his death on May 27, 1564.
Respected historian Will Durant concludes his section on Calvin in his eleven volumes on history by saying: “But we shall always find it hard to love the man who darkened the human soul with the most absurd and blasphemous conception of God in all the long and honored history of nonsense.”The Story of Civilization, Volume 6, page 490, Will Durant
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synod_of_Dort
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Calvin
http://wsu.edu/~dee/REFORM/CALVIN.HTM
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03195b.htm

Grace

“Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is a glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.”
V. God’s Purpose of Grace    The Baptist Faith and Message

Before the dawning of creation, omniscient God knew that man would sin and need to be saved. This foreknowledge did not mean God caused it. It resulted from man exercising his free will given him by our sovereign God. A pre-creation Trinitarian council concluded the method of this salvation. Therefore, Jesus Christ was “the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world.”
Several things are essential in considering God’s grace. Primary among them is God loves all people and it is His will to save as many as possible. It should not be thought of as God designing arbitrarily to save just a few He selects. Such an attitude leads to fatalism. Such an attitude reduces the incentive to evangelize. Some argue it doesn’t – and it doesn’t for some, but it decidedly does for most. An appraisal of churches where a restricted view of limited grace prevails shows there to be little or no evangelism. Consider the protestant churches of Europe and many in America.
At no place in Scripture is election presented as mechanical with man simply being a marionette on God’s strings. Election is never represented as violating man’s free will.
“No man comes to me, except the Father…draws him”
(John 6:44).

God lovingly “draws.”  Man freely “comes.”
God’s sovereignty is clearly taught in Scripture. This means He can do whatever He desires. He is free to establish boundaries and enforce His desire. He has all power to act according to His divine nature. His love and grace prompted Him to create human beings with the authority to choose on their own behalf. This free will is indicated in many Bible accounts.
Evidence of the power of choice is seen in God’s instructions to His ancient people.
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil….I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live…” (Deuteronomy 30:15 & 19).
On behalf of the Lord Elijah gave the people a choice: “How long will you falter between two opinions” If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him” (I Kings 18: 21). This “either — or” calls on the people to choose. They had freedom of choice.
This freedom of choice is seen in Joshua’s charge to his followers: “”…if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24: 14, 15).
The same courses open to ancient Israel in these instances is available to the “whosoever” of John 3:16. That is, those who believe in Him. It is a choice, a matter of free will given man by our sovereign God.

God in His sovereign will designed man to have a free will. He would not have a free will if God did not allow it.

If this truth is not allowed:
a) man is not a free moral agent capable of fellowship with God.
b) God Himself would be accountable for man’s sinful acts.
C) If all things are arbitrarily predetermined by God there is no need to pray.
Laws of nature illustrate this spiritual law.
God in His sovereign will has designed certain laws of nature. Human beings are free to live according to these laws or in violation of them. Though free man is still responsible for the consequences of his actions.
The same is true of God’s spiritual laws. Man can either obey or disobey them but still suffers the consequence or enjoys the blessings.
Before creation God took the initiative of seeking and saving. The marvel is not that man is seeking God but that God is seeking man: “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
God’s sovereignty and man’s free will are both taught in Ephesians 1: 3-13.
God is represented as “He chose us” and “predestined us” (vss. 3,4).
“Chose” can also be translated “elected.” This choice by God was made before “the foundation of the world.” Thus, the word “predestined” means a predetermined destiny. What determines this destiny? The word translated “predestined” translates a verb meaning to mark off a boundary (vs. 11). It was a surveyors term used to distinguish a territory. In love God marked off the boundary as being “in him.” Election is “in Christ.”
In these eleven verses “in Christ” or the equivalent is used 10 times. Christ is the boundary fence. It has been predetermined that all who are “in Him” are predestined to share His destiny.
God did not ask the council of anyone regarding this. He did it of His own sovereign will.
God purposed and provided to make salvation available to all persons. He took the initiative and gave man a free will to make the choice as to whether to be “in Christ.”
God is glorified by the fact man had this hope beforehand (Vs. 12).
Man’s free will is seen in the expression “in whom, having believed” or in another translation “in whom also after that ye believed‘ (Vs. 13). Meaning you freely believed.
Salvation occurs when a person believes “in Christ.” This belief is more than mere intellectual ascent. It involves submitting to Christ as His servant and obeying Him as Master. It is belief that results in a life change, a transformed life that produces fruit of repentance.
The fact God foreknows who will and who won’t willfully be “in Christ” does not mean He makes it happen.
Before creation God established for Himself the standard that He would not violate man’s free will. God Himself elected, that is, chose the plan of salvation.
“Election is not to be thought of as a bare choice of so many human units by God’s action independently of man’s free choice and the human means employed. God has elected, chosen, to reach people through their native facilities, the church, evangelism, education, and missionary endeavor.”
If God’s sovereign election and man’s free will are not considered together we split God’s decree and of necessity leave out one part.
“One is strangely insensitive to the throb and pulse beat of the whole New Testament if he thinks that each man’s fate is determined for him in advance. This is not a rigged television show. God is not playing with toys and manipulating gadgets; He is seeking men who stand in awesome freedom where they may accept or reject the salvation which God alone can offer.” Frank Stagg

This article is a review of:
THE BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE  HERSCHEL HOBBS  PP

A Journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem

Have you ever wondered what the few days before the historical event that initiated Christmas would have been like for Mary and Joseph? Walk through them with me.

From Nazareth they would have crossed over the mountains through Cana to the southern shores of the Sea of Galilee. There they would have rendezvoused with others going south.

It was the norm for people to travel these routes in groups to avoid robbers. Usually a self-appointed guide/protector was paid a fee in order to go along with his group.

There is no donkey in the Bible account for Mary to ride. Walking, though drudgery, might have been easier for a woman nine months pregnant than riding a donkey. Mary would have been a teenager at the time and doubtless a hardy one as most people of the time had to be to survive.

The route started on the west shores of the Jordan River. Just south of Beth Shean parties crossed the river into what is now Jordan. The route was easier and safer from there to Jericho where they crossed back. The temperature in this fertile green valley would have been more mild than would be found on the mountains around Bethlehem.

To this point the route would have traversed mostly smooth terrain. From Jericho to Bethlehem would have required going through the barren Wilderness of Judea. Here especially the protection afforded by group travel would have been essential. It was along this road the Good Samaritan encountered the man who had been beaten and robbed.

Once they arrived in Bethlehem it afforded them no Regency. An “inn” was simply a caravansary. There was one in Bethlehem which King David named for one of his generals. Such consisted of a plot of ground cleared of most stones out of which a perimeter “fence” would have been made. It restricted animals within it.

An inn was in no way anything like a hotel or motel. It was an outdoor walled off place where people and their animals slept together as they often did in the field. Within they were protected and had a bit of shelter.

The mountains around Bethlehem are porous providing many caves. Some of these caves were used to shelter livestock. Often a cave would have more than one chamber. The animals were kept in the outer chamber and provided warmth for the family deeper within. This is similar to what Eskimos allegedly do with their dogs in their igloos. Such caves were called mangers. There is no innkeeper in the Bible narrative but there must have been some proprietor to allowed Mary and Joseph to use the manger. It afforded more privacy than would have the inn itself.

I have visited that cave in Bethlehem more than fifty times. It is a humbling thing to stand there and think here, right here, the Word became flesh and came and dwelt among us.

Just outside that night an angel appeared with a special message that was good tidings of great joy. It entailed the potential for what we all long: “PEACE ON EARTH GOOD WILL TOWARD MEN.”

Hail Mary

One of my all time favorite teens was a little country girl from a town with a population of less than 150 residents. Even more intriguing she was a cave dweller in a primitive area. Her home town was so insignificant that in a listing of 250 towns and settlements in the area it was not even included. Josephus was the historian making the list.

We know that young girl by the simple and beautiful name to which she added honor, Mary. Just Mary. If applications had been taken for virgins Mary probably would never have been found.

She was one of only two Bible character to have seen an angel in over 400 years. When one did show up he brought an unimaginable message. She was going to have a baby without conception. Yeah, right. Later secular records say she was at the well getting water when the angel came. The Bible doesn’t say where she was. That is not important;  what message was conveyed was important.

Now she was “betrothed” to Joseph the son of a carpenter. I have read all sorts of prose and poetry about his work as a woodworking craftsman. Few trees grow in the area of Nazereth. It was a settlement of cave dwellers. The caves can still be visited today. Does it make sense that in that environment a wood worker could have made a living. The word translated “carpenter” is understood by us to mean one who works with wood. The word was also used to refer to a stone mason. Very probably Joseph was a worker with stone not wood.

Historians calculating all the variables conclude that at the time of the annunciation Mary was between 13 and 16 years of age. That was not an uncommon age for marriage in that era.

The law of the day said a woman pregnant out of wedlock was to be stoned. She and Joseph both knew this. The firestorm about to come down on them is unimaginable.

First, there must have been at least one gossip in town to start the rumors flying. Think of what it must have been like for Mary to tell her parents of the embarrassing news that was sure to disgrace them. After all, Mary, your cover story of an angel and the Holy Spirit causing the pregnancy isn’t very pragmatic. You have got to do better than that.

All of this happened during the time they were “betrothed.” That defined a period of about one year between when a couple became engaged and the marriage was actually consummated. During this time though single and never alone together they were considered as married. It was a time to prepare for life together.

Against such a backdrop this teen stepped on history’s stage and said to God, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

That took faith. Faith that it could happen and faith that God would see her through the ordeal. It was faith not knowledge that motivated her.

It must have been an inspiring moment when the angel appeared and she made this commitment. Remember this, “commitment is the capacity to carry out the intention of a decision long after the emotion that inspired it has faded.”

The historical Christmas narrative inspires courage and gives hope to all. Mary believed the angel when he said, “With God nothing is impossible.”

A Review of Calvinism and Southern Baptists

The Way We Were is a well researched work by Dr. Fisher Humphreys on trends in Southern Baptist theology through the years. This is a review of the portion of the book dealing with “Calvinistic Belief,” a current hot topic among Southern Baptists.

He dates the initial encounter between the emerging Baptists movement and the synod of Dort in the Netherlands (1618-1619) and the five articles crafted there. From the beginning the Baptist made it clear they opposed the confessions adopted there by the Dutch church. The five Canons of Dort are summarized by the acronym TULIP standing for:

Total depravity
Unconditional grace
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace and the
Preservation of the saints.

The last of these is the primary one with which the original Baptists agreed as do most present day Baptists. The other four tenants are held by a vocal minority of Baptists.

Calvinists point out various Christian leaders who adhered to their beliefs. A far larger number can be noted who disagree with them. It is not a matter of who believes what but the validity of what is believed that matters. These held by an articulate minority of Baptists are presented with viable objectivity.

GOD UNCONDITIONALLY ELECTS SOME PEOPLE TO BE SAVED

Calvinists believe in what is known as “double predestination,” that is God predestined how people would respond to Him and foreknew they would respond. Baptists cannot reconcile this idea with such texts as II Peter 3:9 “the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance…” and I Timothy 2:4 stating God “will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

In general Baptists believe God chose to save those who would of their own free will put their faith in Christ. They do not believe God in His sovereignty arbitrarily decided who would be saved and who damned. They believe God wants all people to be saved but will not override their free will given them by God.

Southern Baptists in general believe that to hold the Calvinistic view would result in their loss of evangelism and soul winning missions efforts.

CHRIST DIED FOR THE ELECT ONLY

Calvinists believe in “penal substitution” regarding Christ’s death. They believe that Christ died for only the elect. This is called “limited atonement” in that they believe the atonement is limited in that it was intended only for he elect.

Baptists believe in “general atonement,” that is Christ died for all sinners and by their free will they determine whether to respond to it receptively in faith. Only a minority of Baptists believe Christ died just for the elect.

ALL PEOPLE ARE TOTALLY DEPRAVED

Calvinists believe that since all persons are spiritually dead they cannot repent and respond to God. They hold that a person must first be born again then they can respond to God in faith and repent.

Most Baptists agree no one can save him or her self. They believe salvation is all by God’s grace through faith in Christ. Repentance and faith are held by them not to contribute to salvation but are the means whereby the all sufficient grace of God is received. There is no merit in receiving grace. All merit is in grace being given by God.

GOD’S GRACE IS IRRESISTIBLE

Calvinists believe God’s grace cannot be resisted by those chosen by God to be saved. Calvinists believe that if this is not true God is not sovereign.

Southern Baptists in general believe that God’s grace can be resisted and this results in a person not being saved. They also believe in the sovereignty of God and that He sovereignly gave man a free will with which to respond or not respond. They believe that for God to give such freedom and then respect it does not constitute a diminishment of the sovereignty of God but a recognition of the way in which the sovereign God has chosen to relate to human beings.

PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS

Southern Baptists are in general agreement on the concept of the security of the believer known as “once saved always saved” or preservation of the saints.

There is a slight semantic difference in what Calvinists believe on this topic. They believe in the perseverance of the saints.

(The following two paragraphs are a sidebar to the book review.)<
Put side by side the difference becomes clear.

SOUTHERN BAPTIST
Preservation of the saints
God does it
It is based on God’s promises
It is absolute
CALVINIST
Perseverance of the saints
Man does it
It is based on man’s performance
It is relative

Contrary to the concept of “it is all about grace” this last point actually means the Calvinists position on the subject is works based. This leaves some Calvinists hoping they have done enough good work. Baptist know for sure God has done a perfect work.

When the Southern Baptist Convention was organized in 1845 five traditions were represented. One was known as the Charleston tradition, which was Calvinistic. The Sandy Creek tradition discounted Calvinism and emphasized evangelism. The Georgia tradition represented the Southern regionalism of the Convention. The Tennessee tradition emphasized the distinctiveness of Baptists churches. The Southwest tradition stressed evangelical-denominationalism. The Convention sided against the Calvinist tradition and with the evangelical persuasion. The Sandy Creek tradition prevailed. That is the doctrinal foundation of most Southern Baptist churches. Their heritage is other than Calvinistic. There have always been some in the ranks of Southern Baptists with Calvinistic leanings. Some are people of note. However, the denomination in general has always supported the position of its founders who sided against the Calvinistic tradition.

Humphreys concluded that in light of this Southern Baptists who resist Calvinism may be called traditional Baptists in the sense that the first Baptist resisted Calvinism, and in the sense that today most Southern Baptists resist it.

THE WAY WE WERE, by Fisher Humphreys, Smyth & Helwys, Macon, Georgia, revised 2002, pp. 67-73.

Covert Calvinists

There is more growing in the garden than a TULIP.

This is not about the doctrine of Calvinism it is about the tactics of many Baptists who are Calvinists. I don’t want to paint with a brush too broad. Not all Calvinists act alike and virtually everything said about them is denied by others among them.

Having written on the subject the best thing I have been called in reactionary emails is sub-human. Bigoted, ignorant, untruthful, unlearned, and some not as nice terms have been in email messages. They have written long messages filled with numerous questions to which they demand answers. Failure to respond in detail is reason to be branded unenlightened. Some of their smarmy comments are degrading. They can’t be convicted of being laconic. Any attempt to respond lovingly and logically is met with a paroxysm. Efforts to be personally gracious result in a vitriolic cudgel.

I am sure that is not indicative of all Calvinists. As a matter of fact I have some warm and personal friends who are Calvinists. However, those emailing their defenses are not warm but hot. It seem strange that those who claim it is all by grace show so little grace. Where did civility, courtesy, and common sense go?

The biggest disagreement I have with a large segment of modern Calvinists is not just doctrine but spirit and style.

Many have worked their way into local churches as covert Calvinists. They seem to operate on a no ask no tell basis. If representatives of a local church don’t know what a Calvinist believes and how to ask questions subversion often occurs. Once a Calvinist pastor comes into a church his approach seems to be not to preach it from the pulpit but to mentor or if you prefer disciple cell groups until their base is perceived to be strong enough to go public. Thus, they precipitate confusion and division in the church.

My appeal to any Calvinist among Southern Baptist is to be open, honest, and above board. Don’t be subversive. Have the courage of your convictions and in being considered by a church acknowledge from the beginning what you believe.

Some furtively teach a “Baptist Catechism” by John Piper to the children of parents who would strongly object to the content if they knew what was taught. At least one such pastor has said he would have to free the children from the ideas of their brainwashed parents.

From among those they have indoctrinated they seek to establish elders in order that they might have a group of power brokers.

Even a truth can be a seed of discord. If Calvinism were true at all points bringing it into a fellowship not disposed to embrace it sows discord. God hates sowers of seed of discord.

If persons are Calvinists let them be proud and open about it. They should let a church know in advance what they are getting. To be a stealth Calvinist is deceptive and dishonest.

Some profess to be evangelical Calvinists. With rare exception Baptists churches where influence is gained have a dramatically reduced evangelistic ministry. An elemental observation of individual Calvinists indicated the expression evangelical Calvinism is meretricious. Many no longer conclude worship with an invitation or promote soul winning.

They profess to believe in missions but missions as defined by their actions means social work not soul winning. There are a rare few Calvinists who believe in witnessing to the lost. Such is by no means the norm. However, the few who do are held up as proof Calvinists are soul winners. Why should there be any urgency if God has already decided who He is going to save and His grace can’t be resisted?

In general most Calvinists are more concerned about converting people to Calvinism than to calling persons to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. They tend to have one theme —- Calvinism. Their argumentative temperament does little to attract people to Christ or encourage an open and honest dialogue.

Engaging in such repartee is not my calling.

Scholars such as educators can admirably debate the issue but the average congregation into which it is introduced engages in divisive conflict unfortunately. Theologians among our British predecessor would engage in heated debate over theological issues and when finished go enjoy a cup of tea together and socialize. That is not the mentality shown me by Calvinists within the Baptist community. Acidulous comments are not becoming of God’s children.

Caustic Calvinists attack others who profess to follow Christ with the same spirit with which they attack their own who are out of fellowship. They “treat them like the heathen.” In reality they treat them antithetically to the way Christ treated many heathen. Christ was so compassionate toward heathen He was accused of being their friend (Matthew 11:19 Luke 7:34). He never spoke of them as hopeless outsiders. On some occasions he even complimented them (Matthew 9:10ff; 11:19; 21:23; Luke 18:10ff). Matthew and Zacchaeus, two heathen tax collectors were drawn to Christ as friends.

My experience with many Calvinists is not what would attract me to them as friends. In relating I have found they interpret thoughtful gestures of a conciliatory nature and/or warmth as a weakness identifying you as a person vulnerable to attack and attack they do. A sulfurous attack is not likely to win friends or influence people in a positive way.

It has been my good fortune in recent years to be associated with faculty members and students from three colleges in Michigan founded on Calvinism. My relationship has been most cordial and enjoyable. They have manifested no combative spirit. Conversely they have been most gracious and friendly. I perceive a mutual love and acceptance. Their spirit is that which Southern Baptist’s Calvinists need to exemplify.

They evidence there are gracious Calvinists who practice civility. To them and other such Calvinists no offense is intended by this article. It is their opprobrious colleagues who as herein described who offend more people than they attract. They destroy any bridge of harmony. To the civil and gracious Calvinists I want to thank you for emulating the spirit of our beloved Christ to those of us who do not believe as you. Many of us who labor under the banner of the cross believe in the sovereignty of our loving and all gracious God without believing in all points like you yet respect and love you. Let’s not destroy one another and give the lost world reason to revel over our conduct.

Is Baptism Essential for Salvation?

To establish where we are going the answer in a word is: NO.

Some who believe in works salvation assert it is an essential act of obedience in order to receive salvation.

Scripture declares salvation is by the grace of God not of works (Ephesians 2:8,9). We are not saved by works but to work (Ephesians 2:10). We are not baptized in order to be saved but because we have been saved.

There are more than 150 verses in the New Testament that assert salvation is based on God’s grace and it efficacious when man responds with a faith commitment. Some texts are:
Matthew 26:28; John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 47; Acts 16:31, Ephesians 2:8,9; II Timothy 1:12; Hebrew 9:14; Revelation 1:5.

These and other texts eliminate all human efforts to earn, merit, or deserve God’s favor.

If in studying Scripture there is a verse the meaning of which is cloudy turn to a text on the same subject which is clear and interpret the unclear one in light of the clear one. That is, when a passage standing alone seems to have one or two meanings always accept the one in harmony with other texts.

Persons insisting on baptism being essential to salvation group unclear texts and select their personal preference without regard for the clear ones on the subject. They often take an additional step and disregard the clear passages or at best misinterpret them.

There are some passages that standing alone appear to support the position that baptism is essential to salvation. These when properly understood in relation to salvation by grace through faith and not of works become clear. Some such are:

MARK 16: 16
“He that believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

The last phrase of verse 16 makes it clear not being baptized is not what causes a person not to be saved, but not trusting in Christ is.

ACTS 2: 38
“Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins….”

The Greek word translated “for,” eis, can be translated “because” and often has the meaning of “because of.”

One may say, “I am going to the mall for a pair of shoes,” meaning to get a pair of shoes. Used in this way “for” means to obtain a pair of shoes.

One may say, “I am going to jail for shoplifting a pair of shoes.” Used in this manner “for” means “because of” stealing a pair of shoes.

This verse does not teach a person is baptized in order to obtain salvation but because of being saved.

ACTS 22: 16
“Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

A bit of understanding of the meaning of the Greek from which this is translated helps.

“Arise” and “wash” are two Greek imperatives.

“Baptized” and “calling” are two Greek aorist participles.

The participles “baptized” and “calling” are thus to be understood at the same time as the action of the main verb. The washing away of sins is thus seen as a result of having called on the Lord. This harmonized this passage with the many teaching salvation is by grace alone.

JOHN 3: 1,5
Water as mentioned here refers to water involved in physical birth not baptism.

Physical birth is referred to as being born of “water” and spiritual birth, the second birth, is the reference of being “born of the Spirit.”

I CORINTHIANS 12:13
“For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body—….”

As an act the word “baptized,” baptizo, meant to immerse. It was used to speak of being identified with a person or thing. Persons were spoken of as being “baptized unto Moses” (I Cor. 10:2). Such did not mean they were immersed in Moses but rather identified with him. Hence, by the Spirit we are identified with the body of Christ.

The “body” referenced here is not the local church but the spiritual body of Christ” (Ephesians 1:22,23).

This passage does not refer to water baptism but to the baptism of the Spirit into Christ.  

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.”  

Bottom line: salvation is possible because Christ is risen from the dead not our putting away the filth of the flesh.

Verse 20 helps understand this verse. The eight saved in the days of Noah were saved “though water” not by the water. “…were brought safely through the water” is the translation give by “The New Testament in Modern Speech.”

Baptism is the answer “of a good conscience toward God.” The Greek word translated “answer,” eperotema, is a technical business term. In a business contract there is a time of question and answer: “Do you understand and accept the terms of this contract and agree to abide by them?” With the answer of “yes” the contract becomes binding.

This verse means God wants to know if you accept His terms of salvation and service in my Kingdom and will you abide by them? If so, signify it by being baptized. Baptism is intended to be a “Yes” answer to the question. Baptism is an act which is intended to say, “I accept the terms of God, that is, that I have been saved by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is my good conscience pledge that I have accepted Christ and His terms.”

The idea of the effectiveness of baptism is contingent upon the resurrection of our Lord and the grace it provides. It is His grace not baptism that saves a person. Baptism is our pledge of commitment to the resurrected Lord.

ROMANS 6:1-8
This reference is not to water baptism but Spirit baptism. Persons thinking it to refer to water baptism find no encouragement in the text to support such a concept.

Church Discipline

MATTHEW 18: 15-17
The church community needs to know how to deal with failure and sin. This necessitates a pattern for reconciliation. If action is taken the person “sinned against” is to initiate the action of restoration. The goal is to win and restore relationships.

A surface reading of the passage is much more legalistic than anything Jesus ever said. A background of the day and the spirit of Christ helps understanding what it actually teaches.

First, the church did not exist during Christ’s life time. The passage seems to represent a fully organized and functioning church such as today. This could not have been the reference.

The Greek word translated “church” in this passage is EKKLESIA. It was a common term for those called out, a congregation of any sort. In Acts 7:38 it is used to refer to the congregation of the children of Israel.

As EKKLESIA relates to the New Testament church it has a two fold application:

Matthew 18: 17 refers to “heathen and tax collectors.” It should be remembered Jesus was accused of being a friend of such people (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). He never spoke of them as hopeless outsiders. On occasion He even praised them: Matthew 9:10ff,11:19; 21:23; and Luke 18:10ff.

Notice the individual “sins against you” indicates it is a personal matter not a group affair. The issue is one to be settled between two people. The subject at hand is stated, “if your brother sins against you” (Vs. 15). This does not grant the right to legislate what is and what isn’t sin. The sin of reference in verse 15 is in context identified in verse 10 as despising a person and is not a reference to all wrong. In light of Peter’s question posed in verse 21, it has to do with a personal difference. This is one of the “little ones” (Vs. 10) who has gone “astray” (Vs. 12). The purpose is to get back the “straying” one (Vs. 12).

STEP ONE:

Go to the individual privately to avoid embarrassment and show honor for the offender. The norm often is to talk to everyone but the one considered to be an offended. It is between two people. 

The spirit of what Christ said was, “If anyone sins against you it is your responsibility to take the initiative and spare no effort to make things right between you.” This is to be a personal meeting between the two not an email or letter. It is not to be done with a censorious spirit but a sympathetic one. The purpose is to gain your brother (Vs. 15).

The passage does not limit the number of times the offended person is to go to the offended in order to be reconciled.

Peter’s question and Christ’s answer in Matthew 18:21 indicates how tolerant a person should be of an offender: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” Christ’s answer, “seventy times seven” reveals the spirit of genuine forgiveness knows no limits. Forgiveness is a condition of the heart not a matter to be calculated. What Christ meant was forgive without ever stopping.

STEP TWO:

If that fails take a small group of responsible wise persons who are Spirit filled and mature in the Bible and go again. Deuteronomy 19: 15 is a background for this saying.

This step can be a check-off for the person who considers him or herself to be offended. It is at this point the seriousness of the matter becomes apparent. It may lead the one considered to be offended to realize the “offense” may not justify this serious step.

The purposes of the witnesses is not just to condemn the person. The witnesses might well help the one who considers self to be sinned against to see his fault in the matter and prevent demands for reconciliation that are excessive or improper. The witnesses must be objective and fair to both parties. The witnesses can help talk things over in a loving positive atmosphere. The witnesses are not simply to witness against the offender but to be sure the one offended is not unreasonable. They thus protect all parties including the alleged offender.

STEP THREE:

If that doesn’t resolve the issue then a larger responsible group of mature loving believers can become involved. Their judgements must not be legalistic but rather based on love. The EKKLESIA does not mandate the entire church body as constituted today. Again, such did not exist at the time of this statement. It can be a responsible group of mature, Spirit filled, loving individuals with a good understanding of scriptural standards. The text would allow this. No “Judicial Board” should be elected to serve this function. Different people can be utilized in different cases. However, if a local church insists on the entire congregation being involved that also is permissible.

At some point the act of the unrepentant must be told to the church (Vs. 17). If this dramatic action does not lead the person to realize the gravity of his or her action and “he refuses even to hear the church” (Vs. 17). There is then reason for discipline.

If this fails Jesus says the person is to be treated “like a heathen and tax collector” (Matthew 18: 17).

Many interpret this to mean the person is to be treated as hopeless. That is not how Jesus treated heathen and tax collectors. A study of Scripture reveals He treated them with kindness and compassion. Matthew and Zacchaeus, two tax collectors, were drawn to Christ as best friends. Christ even dined with Zacchaeus.

Whatever this passage teaches it does not teach a person should be abandoned. It is a challenge to love and win him for Christ.

The idea of a local church electing to “withdraw fellowship”is contrary to the intent of this passage. If it wants to cancel formal membership that is another thing. The teaching of the passage is that if the church undertakes to discipline a person it commits itself to continued efforts to restore such a one.

Matthew 18: 18 used the expression “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven….”

This does not mean we have the authority to or not to forgive sins and bar a person from heaven. It teaches earthly relationships are lasting. Therefore, we should get them right.
MODERN ENACTMENT:

If a church congregation decides to bring a person before them and charge the person with specific sin caution must be exercised. In our culture a person can sue the church even if guilty as accused. If the body is going to conduct a hearing regarding a sinner a statement should be read before the proceeding begins that a matter of business is to be conducted by the church as an incorporated body and only members of the incorporation, the church, can be in attendance, all others are asked to excuse themselves. Once it is determined only members of the local church are present the proceeding can begin. Every conceivable effort should be made to avoid a matter coming to this end.

Calvinism and Non-Calvinism

The Acrostic “Tulip” Has Long Been Used to Identify the Five Points of Calvinism. Following Is a Response of a Position on These Same Five Points Based on an Acrostic of “Roses.” Belatedly I Have Come to Understand Dr. Timothy George Previously Used “Roses” As an Acrostic Giving Meaning Other Than Is Applied Here. With an Acknowledgment of His Use of the Terms the Following Alternate Application Is Offered. These Points Represent the Position Held by Non-Calvinists.
the Points As Utilized in the “Tulip” Are Not in Order of the Spelling but Are Listed As They Relate to a Similar Point Made by “Roses.”

Roses Tulip
Radical Depravity Total Depravity
These Two Points Agree We Can Do Nothing to Save Ourselves. These Points Are Enough Alike They Are Acceptable by Most Baptists.Overcoming Grace Irresistible Grace

Overcoming Grace Agrees That God Accomplishes Salvation
but Rather Than by a Deterministic Means He Allows Human Responsiveness to His Constant Wooing. Irresistible Grace Is Broadly Denied by Most Baptists in That It Teaches Those Predestined to Be Saved Can’t Resist Salvation.

Sovereign Election Unconditional Election
Sovereign Grace Allows for a Genuine Human Accountability to Respond to God. These Two Points Are Enough Alike They Are Acceptable by Most Baptists.Eternal Life Perseverance of the Saint

Perseverance of the Saints Suggest That Though We Are Saved by Grace We Are Kept by Works. We Are Saved and Kept by Grace.
Eternal Life Better Conveys This Idea. These Two Points Are Enough Alike They Are Accepted by Most Baptists.

Singular Redemption Limited Atonement
Singular Redemption Asserts Jesus Death Alone Is Sufficient to Save Everyone but Is Efficient Only for Those Who of Their Own Free Will Respond to the Grace of God and Repent and Believe. Limited Atonement Is the Least Acceptable by Most Baptists in That It Teaches Only Those Chosen by God Will Be Saved, That Is, Christ Died Only for Those Predestined to Be Saved.

Foreknowledge and Predestination

ROMANS 8: 29, 30
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

In the beginning God said, “Let us make man in our own image…” (Genesis 1:26).

In the sin of Adam and Eve this image was distorted. Therefore, “Christ came who is the “expressed image” of God (Hebrews 1: 3). The purpose is that we might “be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

The truths revealed in verses 29 and 30 grow out of “purpose”, in verse 28. They pertain to “those who love God, to those who are the called…” All the finite verbs in these verses are aorist tenses, meaning the action happened at a point in time in the past with a result that will last until, and be perfected in, eternity.

All of these attributes must be understood in light of God’s love, for “God is love” (I John 4:8).

In considering this topic it should be noted nothing in the foreknowledge of God denies the necessity of human responsibility and nothing man can do will ever circumvent or in the slightest detract from the omnipotence of God.

The character of Christ is revealed by five blessings referred to in these verses as introduced by “For.”

A. “whom He foreknew,” PROGINOSKO, means to know in advance. To know in advance does not mean to make it happen. At some point God is going to know what happens. In His loving wisdom He happens to know in advance what the individuals’ free choice will be. If, from a vantage point on a mountain, a person can see a road on a distant mountain with a car speeding toward a curve, around which a bridge is out, that does not mean he/she makes that car go over the precipice when it rounds the curve.

God’s foreknowledge of an event does not mean He willed it or caused it to happen. God’s foreknowledge of an event does not mean He arbitrarily causes it to happen. While joyously acknowledging God’s sovereignty man’s equally important free will granted him by God must not be ignored.
God is more concerned with “whom” He foreknew than with what He foreknew.
An understanding of the omniscience (full knowledge of God) would be aided if we had a better understanding of time. John 1:1 opens with the words “In the beginning…” The text literally means “before time began to begin…” Time itself was a part of creation. Christ spoke of a time when the world would and “time” should be no more (Matthew 13:39,40,49; 24:3,31). Before creation there was no time and at the end of the world time will cease to be. From God’s vantage point in eternity His perspective of everything is it is always in the present.

The Psalmists framed this for us in these words: “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Psalm 90:2). Meaning “from vanishing point in times past to vanishing point in the future God always has been and always will be.” Our capacity to think of the beginning and end of time reaches a limit and our capacity to conceive of eternity ends.
Astronomers and physicists are giving us a hint of this by showing there is no time on the cusps of black holes in deep outer space. [For a fuller explanation of this visit www.nelsonprice.com and under “Price Tags” click on “Time Helps us Understand Eternity.”]

What God foreknew was that Christ “…was foreordained before the foundation of the world…” (I Peter 1:20)to be the means of restoring man in God’s image in eternity. Christ was “elected,” that is, chosen as the means of reconciliation.

God in His grace takes the initiative in saving persons. Otherwise there would be no salvation.

B. “He also predestined,” (foreordained), HORIZO, means to set a boundary. It was a surveyor’s term meaning to set the boundary. The prefix PRO means that God did it in advance. In illustration of this, consider the borders of the state of Georgia. They have been surveyed and identified. It has been predetermined that all who live within those borders will be a Georgian. As applied, this means that in a pre-creation council of the Trinity, they marked off the boundary and predetermined that all who would choose to be “in Christ” would share His destiny. (Eph. 1: 3 – 14).
In some theological circles predestination has taken on a theological meaning God has predetermined every person’s fate in His sovereign will without regard for man’s free will. This concept makes null and void every Scriptural exhortation to evangelize and strikes a death blow to missions. It also makes God responsible for all of man’s acts, including sin.
At no point does Scripture present election or predestination to the exclusion of or in conflict with the concept of man’s free will.

God having predetermined that people through faith in Christ could come to Him, intervenes in their affairs and reveals this truth to them in various ways and by different methods.
The compound Greek word meaning “conformed” means to bring into the same form or likeness. “Image,” EIKON, means exact likeness. The gradual process is that of God changing us inwardly to be in the same exact likeness of His Son. That is part of the good that all things are working together to achieve. Christ is the very “image of God.” Human kind was created “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27), but this image became distorted by sin. It is the purpose of the Father to gradually restore this image in every believer. That is part of the “good” toward which all things are working.

C. “so that they might be the firstborn among many brothers,” PROTOTOKOS, the resurrected Christ was the “firstborn among many brethren.” In the Greek word, our word prototype can be heard. The term does not just refer to chronology but principally to preeminence — Phil. 2: 9 – 10, “a name above every name.”

A rebellion began in the Garden of Eden. Immediately, God set about to call the rebels back to Himself and create an eternally-saved community of people “in Christ” among whom Christ would be preeminent. That is part of “the good” toward which things are working.
D. “these He also called,” KALEO, carries the weight of a summons. Having set the boundary, God has summonsed all persons to use their free will and cease and desist what they are doing and choose to come within the boundary, that is, to receive Christ.

God’s calling is according to His purpose not His foreknowledge.

E. “and whom He justified, these He also glorified,”
DIKAIOO means “to deem to be right or shown to be right.” Those justified are declared worthy to stand before the Lord as just in Jesus.

DOXAZO means to “do honor to, to make glorious.” Those who have already been justified can look forward with certainty to the day in eternity when they will experience the sum-total of glory in Heaven. It is as sure as though they had already been there 10,000 years. It is inevitable. This is the ultimate “good” that all things are working together to accomplish. Every believer has already been glorified in Christ (John 17: 22). It has been declared so in the past and all things are working toward that incontrovertible certain eventually.

This passage confirms the doctrine of eternal security. Every person who has been saved by Jesus Christ WILL be glorified, without exception. Once persons become believers everything works together for their good, therefore, nothing could result in their ultimate evil, their damnation. This is “according to His purpose.”

Man is free to choose to do whatever is desired, but God has freely chosen to make all those things work together for good to those “who love God, to those who are called.”

Scripture time after time depicts God as acting “in love.” Consider this scenario.

A mass of human beings are standing at the bus stop called “Planet Earth.” God comes along driving the “Heaven Bound” bus. He stops to let persons on. All who get on are going to heaven. As they start boarding He says to you, I choose for you not to get on. My choice regarding you is that you wait for the next bus.” You look around and there are pleading children and adults who have been refused the right to get on the bus.

You protest that there is only one other bus, the “Hell Bound” bus and you don’t want to get on it.”

God insists He has chosen for you to get on that other bus and closes the door of the “Heaven Bound” bus. Doomed, you have not been chosen by God to go to heaven.

That summary illustration of predestination and election makes it hard to understand such a God as acting “in love.”

God so loved the world He said in effect, “Whosoever will let him get on my bus. Your passage was paid for by Christ.”

God’s grace is the only means whereby one can be saved. Grace is God giving to us everything He demands from us without us deserving it in the first place. Man can do nothing to earn, merit, or deserve God’s favor. Salvation is a “gift” from God. However, as with all gifts it is incumbent upon the one to whom it is offered to be responsible for receiving it. Its reception is a confirmation of God grace.

If God arbitrarily chooses some and rejects others there is a strange and terrible selectivity to His love.

The hand that receives a glass of water for a thirsty person does not satisfy the thirst. It is the water which does. The hand is merely the glad response of the thirsty person for the gift of water. Likewise, our faith in believing does not save us it is the “water of life,” Christ who does. All merit is in Him. Our faith is merely our glad receptive response.

This grace is no cheap thing. Proper response to it involves more than a mere “I believe.” It’s reception results in a responsible life-style which confirms it as a gift received as evidenced in Titus 2:11, 12: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age….”

You were saved unto glory, and all things are working to that end. His purpose is:

THAT IN ALL THINGS
HE MIGHT HAVE
THE PRE-EMINENCE.

COLOSSIANS 1:18

ACTS 13: 48
“As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” NKJ

It should be noticed the setting of this verse indicates it relates not to individuals but to two classes — Jews and Gentiles. It further divides the second group into those who believed and those who did not. It was God’s will for both groups to be saved but this did not take away individual free will. With all the guiding circumstances and prevenient grace afforded they freely rejected God’s will. The Jews had also received the same call to eternal life as the Gentiles and rejected it.

The view that this passage teaches predestination was begun by Jerome who revised the old Latin in order to assert the coming to faith and salvation is the product of predestinatory eternal decree. Calvin became the exponent of the concept that those included in this decree are irresistibly brought to faith and all others are doomed by this decree.

The Greek word tasso translated “ordained” was a term used of military ranks. It was used to describe ranks, that is groups, of soldiers. Thus, “As many as marshalled themselves, were placed in the ranks of those who welcomed the offer of eternal life.”

All who have believed in Jesus and received the gift of eternal life ascribe all the credit to God’s grace, not any merit on their behalf.

The opposite is not true. In this same passage (vs. 46) those who rejected the gospel are said to have done so deliberately of their own will. Therein they are said to have “rejected it.”

There is nothing predestinarian about this verse. It simply means God foreknew who would make the wilful decision to trust Christ and affirmed for them eternal life. Again it should be noted foreknowledge does not mean God makes a thing happen.

In His foreknowledge God saw some would exercise their free will and repent and believe, while others would refuse to do so. Those who repent and believe are by God put in the ranks of the ones ordained to eternal life.

God is not depicted as ordaining the act of believing or the act of unbelief. These are acts of man’s free will.

Order of words is important. In this text “believed” comes first. Thus, “And as many as believed had been appointed to eternal life.” Upon believing their appointment to eternal life became a reality.

All who accept the gospel by faith are ordained to eternal life. To assert this text teaches preordination to life is to force both the word and the context to a meaning neither has.

Calvinism

John Calvin (1509-1564) was a prominent theological figure of the 16th Century in Europe.

He is best known for his “Institutes of the Christian Religion” in which he advocated a church state, imprisonment of heretics, infant baptism, and that the lost were created to go to hell. Not all Calvinists believe all these tenets. Many don’t even know he advocated them. He postulated what has become known as “Calvinism,” the doctrine of predestination. The central thesis of his teaching is that God has preselected certain individuals who will be saved and go to heaven and predetermined certain ones not selected by Him shall go to hell.

“The Westminister Confession of Faith” is the most widely held Presbyterian creed and is based on Calvinism states: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined to everlasting life and others are foreordained to everlasting death.” This clearly teaches God in His sovereignty chose to damn some people forever.

This is a discussion that predates Calvin. It is an issue that will always exist. The fact it does indicates God is so much greater than we that we can’t fully understand Him. Though we cannot understand Him we can know Him. Though persons disagree on the subject it need not divide them. As brothers and sisters in Christ we owe it to each other not to let it divide us. Every time it has divided a body both have suffered. No church should let the discussion become an impediment to the internal fellowship and the sharing of the gospel with the world.

In general Calvinists have some admirable traits. They believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and the substitutionary atonement of Christ, they usually live very pious lives, they hold that the purpose of everything is the glory of God, and they are clear on the fact salvation is by grace alone.

Most persons who are not Calvinists also agree on such standards. There is much to bond the two schools of thought and no reason for anything to divide the persons who differ on the subject.

Followers of strict Calvinism adhere to the theology described by the five point mnemonic acronym T-U-L-I-P.

Three of these concepts are in general accepted by Southern Baptist:

Two are in general unacceptable to Southern Baptists:

Historically the latter two have lead to abandonment of evangelism. They are daggers in the heart of evangelism.

Some advocates of Calvinism point to deceased scholars such as Mullins, Connor, and Boyce as supporters of Calvinism.

I want to point to Christ and Paul.

The debate over the Sovereignty of God and the free will of man has gone on for years. I have friends who are Calvinists and some who aren’t. We are compatible not because we think alike but because we are Christians.

The issue has split many churches but need not split this one. That would disappoint our Lord.

Near Gainesville, Georgia are two churches one mile apart: Dewberry I and Dewberry II. Years ago they were one until the doctrine of Calvinism became a dispute. At an outdoor covered dish dinner one man held up a piece of fried chicken and said, “I believe I am predestined by God to eat this chicken.” Another man snatched it out of his hand and said, “I am going to eat it of my own free will.”

The church split over the issue and became Dewberry I and Dewberry II. Shades of different understanding on the issue need not split a church. However, if members insist on making it an ongoing issue it will inevitably split any church. It must not be allowed to do so.

A history of the results of what a group believes supports man’s free will. In 1814 Baptists of the U.S. divided over this issue as relates to evangelism.

The anti-evangelicals, that is hyper-Calvinists, have dwindled since that time almost to the vanishing point. The group known as Southern Baptists, who favored evangelism, have flourished.

Calvinism offers no incentive to go on mission trips, witness to the lost, visit for the church, or appeal for souls to be saved. Without such churches dwindle.

SUMMARY:

Consider these Scriptures as applied to each petal of the tulip. First, the three points generally accepted by Baptists.

TOTAL DEPRAVITY:
“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
“The Scripture has confined all under sin.” Galatians 3:22
“There is none righteous, no not one.”

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION:
“For by grace are you saved and that not of yourself….” Ephesians 2:8,9

PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS:
“They shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
“If they shall fall away.” Hebrews 6:4-6 The key is the case of the “if”used. It means if they could be saved and lost, if they could, but they can’t, they could not be saved again.

Now those not generally accepted by Baptists.
LIMITED ATONEMENT:
“One died for all” II Corinthians 5: 14,15
“That He might taste death for everyone” Hebrews 2:9
“Who is the Savior of all men” I Timothy 4:14
“It is not His will than any should perish…” II Peter 3:9
“Who desires that all be saved” I Timothy 2:4
“And whosoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”  Revelation 22: 17

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE
“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.”
Acts 7:51
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”  Matthew 23: 37
“Turn at my reproof; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because you disdained all my counsel…” Proverbs 1:23,24
“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” John 12:48

These verses teach a person is free to receive or reject God’s will. To do this a person must have a free will.

Calvinism makes automatons of people. An automaton is defined as a machine or control mechanism designed to follow automatically a predetermined sequence of operations or respond to encoded instructions. If man has no free will he is a puppet not a human being.

Ephesians chapters 1 and 2 teach God elected a plan of salvation and chapters 3:1 – 6:20 teaches he elected a people to propagate the plan.

Eph. 1:4 says “He chose” (NKJ) or “He hath chosen” (KJ). This translates ex elexato from the Greek. The Greek word has been anglicized as “elected.”

Observe this is God’s action. What He does He does “in love” (Vs. 5).
God elected us in love “in Him” (Vs. 4).
God has a sovereign will. That means He has the ultimate determining will. Using that sovereign will He has “predestined us” (Vs 5). The Greek word for predestined is proorisas. The basic verb of this word is horizo. Our word horizon can be heard in it and that is what it literally means. It means to set a boundary. The prefix “pro” means before hand.

Before the dawning of creation a boundary was fixed. The boundary involves being “in Christ.” So, before creation God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit concluded the boundary. It is Christ. All who are in that boundary, Christ, are saved.

This was all “according to the good pleasure” of God (Vs. 5). In His sovereign will God found pleasure in letting being in Christ be the standard for salvation.

The passage also teaches the free will of man. Calvin made the false assumption that the sovereignty of God precludes the free will of man. The counterpoint is that God in His sovereign will elected, that is, decided to give man a free will. To void man’s free will would make him a puppet not a person.

Man is free to choose but is responsible to God for his choices. If man is not responsible God is. That makes God responsible for man’s sins.

The free will of man is noted in Ephesians 1:13. Exercising faith is an act of the free will. To say only those chosen by God to believe can believe is contrary to Scripture. If that is true Christ’s great commission to evangelize the world is a farce. It is foolish to appeal to a lost person to be saved.

Conclusion: God in His sovereign will elected to give man a free will. In love God draws all Him and offers His grace to the “whosoever” of John 3:16. Persons are then free to elect to receive God’s gracious gift of salvation or reject it.

Islam’s Claim To The Land Of Israel

Have you ever wondered how the Jews and Muslims both justify their claim to the same land?

Christians and Jews understand the Bible clearly identifies the land to have been given to Abraham and his descendants.

A lecture was delivered in early August in Jerusalem by an instructor in Islam explaining the “Claims of Islam on the Land of Israel.” The person lecturing defined the Muslim perspective. These are his insights.

From the Muslim view point the Koran came directly from Allah. According to non-Muslim scholars the Koran is written from a desert mentality with little reference to geography.

Muslims believe conflicting Bible texts are simply misunderstood by Christians and Jews. The lecturer stated, “I am bringing to you facts without expressing my own convictions.”

They believe the land being contested was “given by Allah to the Sons of Israel.” They content the Jews of today cannot be identified with the Israelites of the Old Testament. Muslims believe they are the true Israelites. Muslim, not Christian, names for the land are “the Holy Land” or “the Blessed Land.”

To lay further claim to the land they say any land where Muslim blood has been shed is Muslim land. Thus, the Holy Land is Muslim land. They are committed to possessing all such lands. This they say is the will of Allah.

Abraham is claimed by them to be the first Muslim. It was Ishmael not Isaac Abraham was willing to offer not in Jerusalem but somewhere near Mecca according to the Hadith. Abraham did not argue with or question God. Therefore, the Word and Will or Allah is not to be discussed or questioned just stated and obeyed.

They believe Issa, their name for Jesus, was a great Muslim prophet. According to their beliefs He is the only prophet who will come back at the end of days.

There are two primary Muslim bodies. El Qaeda is a Sunni movement. The Shiite movement is represented by Hezbollah and is centered in and controlled by Iran. The two groups hate each other and that is the reason for the insurgency in Iraq. The only thing they have in common is a desire to establish Islam in all the world. To the Sunni the Shiite countries have been corrupted by the West.

To Ben Ladin, who is a Sunni, the only good Shiite is a dead Shiite. The only thing binding them is a shared hatred for Israel and the West.

The Shiite believe they are the underdogs who have been mistreated, made to suffer, and be martyred. This enables them to relate to those who suffer. They believe they will continue to suffer until their Imam reappears to lead an apocalyptic war to establish justice and peace. Interpreted that means world conquest by Islam.

Our western mentality has a difficult time comprehending a youth happily strapping a bomb on his body and joyously blowing himself up to kill a few people. They rejoice to die for Allah and a better after-life. Such is the dedication of millions of Muslims. That is the resolve we face. Is anybody listening.

All of these principles stated to be believed by Muslims come from a lecture recently delivered in Jerusalem by an instructor in Islam.

Our Right To Know

In 1450 BC a colony was established on the lovely Island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea. It flourished and developed into a major trade and cultural center. Over the years its industrious inhabitants and natural terrain made it a viable military fortification. Its massive walls made it at times virtually invulnerable. One siege led to the frustration of its attackers. Disheartened they were on the verge of withdrawing and would have were it not for an arrow shot over the walls from within with a note attached.

The note revealed the besieged city was on the verge of collapsing from within because of a lack of munitions and food. Encouraged by the note and subsequent ones coming from the betrayer they extended their siege which resulted in the conquest of the city. A betrayer from within caused the defeat of the great walled city of Rhodes.

Antioch in ancient Turkey turned away would be invaders. The siege of the city took a dramatic turn when an armor maker who had command of three towers betrayed his fellow citizens. For a price he arranged for the invaders to gain access to the city through his three towers. Having breached the walls they opened the city gates for a flood tide of invaders who quickly conquered the city that felt secure within its fortified walls.

“The New York Times” cradled in the comfort of a free society and protected by an army of valiant young Americans under the guise of the public’s right to know divulged a technique used by our government to track and capture terrorists. Like the people of Rhodes and Antioch we American citizens have been betrayed by a government informer and an insensitive press.

Did the public have a right to know the date of the Normandy invasion? Was there an inherent right for the public to be informed as to what was being developed in Oak Ridge in the early 1940s? That was an era of patriotism when members of the press had a sense of responsibility. A prominent slogan encouraging not divulging sensitive information read: “A slip of a lip might sink a ship.”

Somewhere along the line we have lost the distinction between a right and a responsibility. Though there might be a right to yell fire in a crowded building there is a responsibility not to do it if there is no fire.

“The New York Times” might show in a court of law they had the right to disclose the information regarding tracking terrorists by their financial transactions. It is elementally obvious they had the responsibility not to. In doing so they achieved two ends. They placed Americans at risk and aided the terrorists.

On a personal level there is an admonition to “speak the truth in love.” There are times love prompts us not to speak even the truth. That is not an encouragement to deceive. It is an appeal not to divulge hurtful truth if it is known to be injurious and of no benefit. That same principle needs to be employed by the press. I don’t know what motivated “The New York Times” but it wasn’t love for the American people.

Hezbollah In Our Midst

Let’s start with a disclaimer. Not all Baptists are alike. There is the understatement of the year. Against the reality of that background it is time we acknowledge not all Muslims are alike. Some want to live peacefully with non-Muslims.

There are over one billion Muslims. A significantly large number of them are blood thirsty and believe they are doing the will of Allah in trying to institute Islam globally. These jihadists are willing to go to apocalyptic extremes to bring all people into the Muslim fold and exclude all other religions.

There are several terrorist groups dedicated to this end with the backing of their religious leaders. Hizbollah in Lebanon, al-Qaeda in Iraq and Hamas in Gaza, are three. Only the naive believe the first two are restricted to the countries listed. One million Muslims were seen demonstrating in the streets of Beirut in support of Hizbollah.

For some reason the large demonstrations by Muslims supporting Hizbollah in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit were rarely seen on American TV. We failed to realize an elemental fact when we went into Iraq. Two factions of Islam, Shias and Sunnis, have battled each other there for nearly 1200 years.

When we leave they will start again. Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki, elected by a democratic process, is a Shia. He is having to battle the Sunni insurgency. The groups have battled for centuries. One thing they have in common is a desire for Iraq and the world to be a theocracy with Allah as “Theo.”

Shias and Sunnis fight because of a riff that occurred upon the death of Muhammad. Shias thought leadership of the movement should go to Muhammad’s son-in-law, Ali, who was married to Fatima the daughter of Muhammad.

Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s confidant was chosen as the first Caliph to headed the Sunni branch. Sunnis constitute 85% to 90% of the world’s Muslim population. They are divided into four major schools of law, “Shari’ah,” the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi, and Hanbali. Each is named for the founder of their school of law.

The division between the two groups has widened to include such things as the role of oral tradition (Sunna) in interpreting the Qur’an.

All Muslim extremists have the same objective in mind. It is to make Islam the world’s religion to the exclusion of all others. All others, such as Christians and Jews, are considered infidels.

Fundamentalist Muslims divide the world into two categories. Dar El Islam, the House of Islam, consists of those countries under Islamic control. Dar El Harb, the House of War, is comprised of countries not under Islamic control.

Radical Muslims believe they are under a mandate from Allah to bring all nations into Dar El Islam. To do this they have three alternatives as to how to deal with non-Muslims: conquer and tax them, convert them, or kill them.

There are 129 war verses in the Qur’an that many Muslims interpret as legitimizing any means, even 9-11, to achieve this end.

Our best, and perhaps only way to win the war against terrorism, is to encourage the peace loving element of Islam to the extent they bring rational influences within their society that calm the world conquest passion. There are verses in the Qur’an that would support their effort.

America’s War Dead

We are each diminished by the death of any of our military personnel. Abhorrence for war, which we all share, has led some to become critical of what many feel is an essential military struggle against terrorism. We don’t want it but it won’t go away by itself.

Our grievous casualties were put into perspective for me by research done by a friend, Pat Adams.

Since the beginning of the Afghanistan War (10/01) there have been 295 US Military casualties.

Since the beginning of the Iraq War (3/19/03) there have been over 2,500 US Military deaths.

That totals more that 2,795 reasons to sorrow.

However, contrast that with what we have grown to tolerate in the United States.

From 2003 to 2005, drunk driving deaths in the US totaled 50,771.

During that same period the murders in New York City and Los Angeles totaled 3,184.

The total number of murders in America in those years was 49,577.

A breakdown shows an American Military member would be 1.3 times more likely to be killed walking the streets of New York or Los Angeles than patrolling a street in Iraq or Afghanistan.

A member of our military would be 18.2 times more likely to be killed driving on the streets in the United States than driving on the streets of Iraq or Afghanistan.

A member of our military is 17.7 times more likely to be murdered inside the United States than killed inside the boundaries of Iraq or Afghanistan.

This is no attempt to rationalize or minimize the war deaths. It does put into perspective the dramatic deaths tolerated in America.

A Palestinian youth in Israel being aware of the murder climate in New York asked me why our military doesn’t invade New York and establish peace there before going to Iraq. That is the mentality among many in the Arab world.

The Nazi invasion of the neighbors of Germany inevitably started World War II. What is now happening globally is the precursor to World War III.

Not all of the one billion Muslims are committed to this war. Many prefer peace. However, it is estimated there are over 5,000,000 radicals jihadists aligned against us. Scores of these want to be martyred in our destruction. They are anxious to die for Islam in a fight against those of us they consider infidels. Islam can win this war. That is not to say they will prevail militarily.

There is another hopeful outcome in which Islam prevails. In a different era when Islam was engaged in world conquest a rational element within realized their blood lust was not good for their countries. This rational element cooled their ambitions of conquest and aggression ceased. Such an element in the Muslim world needs to be encouraged. It is there. Let’s hope they win.

How Little Can A Person Be

Who is the smallest person you have ever known? I don’t mean small like the littlest man in the Bible. It wasn’t Nehemiah (Knee-high-miah) or the Bildad the Shuhite (Shoe-height). It was the Roman soldier who slept on his watch. Now that is small.

Not that kind of small. The reference is to a person who is insecure, one who has an inferior complex which results in trying to build up self by tearing others down. That never has worked. Lincoln said, “You can’t gain ground by slinging mud.”

A little person works insidiously to destroy the reputation and even institutions, programs, fountains, and facilities in general associated with a predecessor. Such a person is preoccupied not with filling the shoes of one who went before but burying them. This often results in the person being so consumed by this passion all other decisions are influenced by it. The past is to be forgotten and those associated with it diminished.

Such a person fails to realize they are building their own negative legacy as a little envious person. They begrudge the success of the past and resent persons associated with it. They hope to make themselves look better by making others look bad.

I learned of such a person on a recent trip to Egypt. The queenly Hatshepsut ruled Egypt as Pharaoh. Her son and successor Tutmose III worked with a passion to have all indication of her life and work eradicated. He even had her name removed form the list of rulers. All monuments to her were defaced; tributes were destroyed. On occasion Tutmose III would have sculptors chisel off her face from statues and have his replace it. He had a problem and it wasn’t Hatshepsut.

During her reign she had the support of the leaders in Thebes and the populace throughout the land, took full royal titulary, and ruled for twenty years as pharaoh. Yet, only faint reminders of her success and image remain. Were it not for her stunningly beautiful mortuary terrace temple at Deir el-Bahri there would be little remaining evidence of her rule. She was one of three leaders who develop the new Egypt but the efforts of her successor virtually removed all evidence of her life and work.

It is the centuries old effort to eradicate her accomplishments that has resulted in a contemporary effort to redeem her record and give her the place deserved on history’s horizon. More and more efforts are being made to confirm her deeds. Such efforts reveal Tutmose III as a little man. Any persons disposed to his conduct align themselves with the little people of this world.

Over an entrance to Westminster Abby is this inscription: “The workman dies, but the work lives on.” That is especially true in the spiritual realm. Solomon described the permanent record of their work in these words: “Whatever God does, it shall be forever, nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

Little people decry what God won’t deny. In the mean time fluff up that pillow on the watch.

Thomas Jefferson & Religion

In Philadelphia on a hot summer day in 1776 five men met in a stuffy room over a stable plagued by horseflies. What they wrote was published July 2, but dated July 4. Fifty-six signatures were affixed later. That document is revered as our Declaration of Independence. With those signatures the channel of history now had a new tributary.

Reflect on one of those five men, Thomas Jefferson. I have an old volume entitled “Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United Sates,” first published in 1864. This was before revisionist historians began to rewrite and misrepresent events about Jefferson and his day. Many have been led to believe he was hostile to Christianity.

He believed that God was very involved in the proclamation written above that stable and that He had much to do with the nation resulting. In his first message as President he said, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

This summary of Jefferson appeared in the “National Magazine” as noted in the 1864 volume herein referenced. “Never were a man’s religious sentiments more grossly misrepresented than Jefferson’s. He was not an atheist. He believed in God the Creator of all things, in his overruling providence, infinite wisdom, goodness, justice, and mercy. He believed that God hears and answers prayer, and that human trust in Him is never misplaced nor disregarded. He believed in a future sate of rewards and punishments. He believed in the Bible precepts and moralities. No man in Washington ever gave so much to build so many churches as Jefferson. He never wrote, for public eye, one word against Christianity.”

Records show he attended church regularly always carrying with him his prayer book. He joined in the responses and prayers of the congregation. He ordered Bibles to be used as textbooks in the public schools of Washington.

His design for the University of Virginia contained a seminary. He invited all denominations to build seminaries around the University so all could have the literary advantages of the school.

As we celebrate our Declaration of Independence reflect on these Jefferson’s words of dependence from his first message as President.

“I shall need the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land, and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with providence, and our riper years with his wisdom and power; and to whose goodness I ask you to join with me in supplications that He will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their counsels, and prosper their measures, that whatsoever they do shall result in your good….”

Quotes Worth Remembering

The wisdom of others condensed in succinct thought is worth incorporating in our memory bank. There are many compact concepts worth putting on the marque of our mind. Some I like I don’t know the source but respect their laconic insights. Here are a few.

“Your lack of proper prior planning does not constitute my emergency.”

That is a good one to share with friends who fail to prepare and then pressure you to produce at the last moment.

“Never say of a thing I have lost it only that I have given it back.” The Greek Epicitus is credited with that.

There is a Christian version of that regarding the death of a friend, “A thing isn’t lost if you know where it is.”

“Activity generates inspiration but inspiration doesn’t always generate activity.”

A lot of people are inspired but never act. That bring to mind this one.

“Commitment is the capacity to carry out the intent of a decision long after the emotion that inspired it has faded.”

“Fulfillment often comes not from doing a thing but from having done it.”

That is a way of saying the challenge in accomplishing a thing may it itself be demanding and depleting but having done it there if fulfilment for a lifetime. That is incentive for keeping on keeping on.

“Even across the divide of death friendship remains an echo forever in the heart.” That is by Mississippi author Willie Moris.

Not a quote but a word I like is eudemonia meaning happiness. Eudemonics is the science of happiness. It is related to Aristotelian philosophy regarding happiness based on an active life governed by reason.

As a result of that thought consider this. “Happiness is a beautiful byproduct resulting from a job well done.”

Folks strive for happiness in extreme ways and in all the wrong places. In those elementary words is the formula for experiencing it.

Not one of my favorite thinkers, Friedrich Nietzsche, made this which is one of my favorite quotes. “The essential thing “in heaven and earth’ is…that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”

In summary keep on keeping on, stay the course.

Here is a pressure relief valve.

“God doesn’t expect us to be THE best at anything but He does expect us to be OUR best at everything we do.”

Zig Ziglar, a dear friend, is one of America’s most outstanding motivational speakers. He once told me he never quotes Scripture but he never shares a motivational concept that isn’t scriptural. None of these quotes are Scripture but they are all scriptural.

Now here is one that is Scripture verse that doesn’t sound like scripture. Solomon wisely wrote: “Confidence in an unfaithful man is time of trouble is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint” (Proverbs 25:19).

What Is Jihad?

There is no war on terror. There can’t be. Terror is an abstract. During World War II, or as my Cajun friends call it World War Two Eye, no one made reference to a war on blitzkrieg.

Blitzkrieg was a form of combat used by the Nazis. The allies were up front in acknowledging it was a war against the Nazis. We did not engage in a war against Kamikazes. Blitzkrieg and kamikazes were forms of engagement used by the Germans and Japanese. Everyone knew we were at war with the Germans and Japanese.

Why then are we so reluctant to admit we are not engaged in a war against terrorism. Terrorism is the technique used in this conflict. It is a war gains terrorist known as Islamic jihadist. Let me rush to acknowledge not all Muslims are of this school of thought and behavior. However, within Islam jihadist go all the way back to Muhammad.

While acknowledging and defending the non-jihadist Muslims against unfair grouping with this element within Islam let’s not fail to realize the element always has been there. Having established that let’s admit we are not engaged in a war against terrorism but a war against radical Islamic jihadists.

Jihad means a holy war. The “war verses” of the Koran advocate it along with dhimmitude which is the relegation of non-Muslims to an inferior status under Islam.

I can’t say it often enough not all Muslims are committed to this school of thought. However, until we admit a significant number are we will continue to speak of fighting an abstract enemy; a war on terrorism. Terrorism is their current form of warfare. Those who advocate this form of conflict are the true opponents in the war. It is a war against extreme Islamic jihadists.

We haven’t caught on yet. At the insistence of Wahabi clerics we have opened Islamic centers at Quantico and other military bases where the “war verses” of the Koran are taught. These are the verses used by jihadists as their “manual of war” which legitimize terror.

Jihad means a holy war. Al Qaeda members believe with all their hearts they are doing as bidden by Alla as stated in the Koran. To them it is a religious war designed to annulate infidels and establish Islam in Dar El Harb, “the house of war,” non-Islamic nations.

This segment of Islam has historically manifested itself several times. The bloody drive across Africa and Eastern Europe was a manifestation of this. The way this bloodbath was stopped then is the only way it can be stopped now.

A significant segment in the Muslim world realized such aggression was wrong and hurtful. A representative group of responsible Muslim leaders emerged who believed the sword was not the answer. They quelled the slaughter.

We are not engaged in a war on terror or a war on Islam. We are at war to defend ourselves against extreme Islamic jihadist.

The Gospel Of Thomas

The apocryphon Gospel of Thomas is believed to have been written around 350 AD. Some date it earlier but content and style suggest this later date. Irenaeus, Origin, and Hippolytus writing around that time make reference to such non-canonical writing. Since the work does not contain historical data, that is, narrative insight, it is difficult to date it exactly. It contains statements attributed to Christ, Mary, Peter, Thomas, and Matthew.

There are three works alleged to have been written by Thomas: “The Gospel of Thomas,” “The Infancy Gospel of Thomas,” and “Book of Thomas the Contender.”

There is nothing Christian about the works. They are a collection of stories alleged to have occurred in the childhood of Jesus based on Hellinistic legend and pious thought. Interwoven is docetic and Gnostic philosophy. It furthers their teachings but detracts from the canonical gospels.

The author or authors of these works were not part of the Christian community. They showed no regard for mainstream Christian doctrine. They produced what Paul condemned as “another gospel.”

Irenaeus claimed in his classical Second century denunciation of Gnostic writers: “everyone of them generates something new, day by day, according to his ability, for no one is deemed perfect, who does not develop …some mighty fiction.”

The word Gnostic is derived from the Greek word Gnosis meaning “knowledge” or “the act of knowing.” From this same root comes our word agnostic meaning “not knowing.”

The school of Gnosticism holds that salvation of the soul comes from a quasi-intuitive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and from the sacred formulae within that knowledge.

These works were virtually unknown until 1945 when a Coptic version (an Egyptian language derived from the Greek alphabet) was found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. It does not contain narrative material but is simply a collection of 114 sayings attributed to Christ many of which are contrary to those of the New Testament. When the Coptic version was found it was realized three portions of it had been found in 1898 in Oxyrhynchus, Egypt. These earlier Greek fragments vary in significant ways from the Coptic one.

The first line of the book refers to “didymos Judas thomas.” The word “didymos” is Greek for “twin.” The Aramaic work dor “twin” is “thomas.” This indicates the author’s name was Judas and he was called “the twin.” There is no mention of any such Judas in the New Testament. The Thomas of the New Testament is definitely not the author. The work does not bear his name in such a way as to indicate he was its author. It was originally ascribed to James. The preamble states these are “secret sayings,” this identifies the work as Gnostic intended to be esoteric in nature. The secret meaning being allegedly known only by gospel initiates.

Internal evidences indicate it was not the work of a First Century writer in that the author shows he had no concept of Jewish life in the time of Christ.

It teaches there were two creations recorded in Genesis 1 and 2. The first was perfect and the second flawed. The author contends the Kingdom of God exists now on earth but can only be seen in our surroundings by “the light within.” According to the author the Image of God still exists on earth today and persons should strive to assume that image and see the Kingdom of God here and now. Rather than wait for a future end-time Kingdom to come people are encouraged to return to the perfect Kingdom state here and now.

It depicts the challenge his parents had in rearing him as a strong willed petulant child with supernatural powers. He allegedly used these powers in devious ways like killing playmates, causing those angry with his father to go blind, and his teacher to faint. Only later in life did he begin to use his miraculous powers constructively.

In considering the creditability of the work as compared with ancient New Testament manuscripts a problem arises. Though there are fragments of the ancient Greek version of the text the Coptic version there is only one complete version. Compared with the numerous ancient New Testament texts it lacks verification.

James Robinson writing in the Nag Hammadi Library states:

“Neither the Coptic version nor the Greek fragments seem to have preserved this gospel in its oldest form. The comparison of the extant Coptic and Greek texts demonstrates that the text was subject to change in the process of translation.” Compared to the consistency of the ancient New Testament texts it is lacking in creditability. It is without redaction. The work was obviously under change by the Gnostics and the changes favor Gnostic teaching not Christ’s.

An example of the conflict between this fallacious gospel and New Testament teaching involves womanhood. In the Gospel of Thomas 114, Simon Peter is reputed to have said, ““Let Mary leave us for women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, “I myself will lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.’”

In Paul’s writings he tells us the wife of Peter was a believer (I Cor. 9:5). It is hard to conceive of him as a married man believing his wife wasn’t “worthy of life” simply because she was a woman. This is totally contradictory to the redemption mission of Christ. Under this concept salvation is a matter of maleness not the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Like so many passages this diminishes the role of Christ. The author sought to recreate Christ in his own image. Gnosticism in general does. It should be noted that present day proponents of “The Gospel of Thomas” have a similar purpose. Any document that presents an “emasculated Jesus” is welcomed by liberal thinkers.

Gnostic writers often used sexual symbols to communicate their concept of God. They envisioned Him as a dyad or duality, that is, He had both male and female natures.

One of their prayers revealed this: “From thee Father, and through thee Mother, the two immortal names….”

Their work represents Jesus more as a wisdom sage after the order of a Greek Cynic philosopher than a Jewish rabbi. He is not acknowledged as divine but as a worthy role model. He is represented as teaching the God of the Old Testament was evil.

There are some passages that parallel the Bible teachings of Christ. Some use this to argue for the reliability of the work. It is not an endorsement of Thomas. Rather when it does agree with the Bible it adds creditability to Scripture as another source showing the consistency of ancient New Testament texts.

Writing in the Fourth Century Cyril of Jerusalem mentioned “The Gospel of Thomas” in his “Cathechesis V.” “Let none read the gospel of Thomas, for it is the work, not of one of the apostles, but of one of Mani’s three wicked disciples.”

Any disciple of Mani was no follower of Christ. Mani (210-276 AD) was a Persian who believed salvation could be attained through education, self-denial, vegetarianism, fasting, and chastity. He later proclaimed himself the Paraclete spoken of by Christ. Our English word “manicheism” comes from his name and means “two opposing thoughts.” Indeed this work and the New Testament gospels form a manicheism.

A current reading of these meretricious works attributed to Thomas will do nothing to enhance ones Christian experience. It has long been dismissed as an unreliable bogus work by an unknown author.

Authors Grand and Freedman, no friends of conservative Christianity, wrote: “The Gospel of Thomas” is “probably our earliest significant witness to the perversion of Christianity by those who wanted to create Jesus in their own image….Ultimately (“The Gospel of Thomas”) testifies not to what Jesus said but to what men wished he had said.”

It is accepted that the Thomas of the New Testament upon leaving the land of the Bible went to India as an evangelist sharing the good news of Christ as revealed in the New Testament gospels. There are still Christian groups in India who trace their origins to Thomas. They relate only to the Thomas of the New Testament.

The Resurrection — Easter

As Christianity moved out of its base region it entered a pagan culture which included worship of the sun goddess Estera. The sun rose on the same horizon each day so the direction from which it emerged was called East in her honor. Each spring a grand festival involving celebrating the goddess was held.

The Christians traditionally celebrated the rising of the Son of God about the same time of year. With the rapid expansion of Christianity resulting in many former worshipers of Estera turning to Christ the Christian community decided to merge the two celebrations in worship of Christ resurrection. It gave occasion for the former worshipers of Estera to have a new celebration to replace their old one. They called the celebration of the resurrection of Christ Easter.

An event as phenomenal as a decidedly dead man coming back to life is as rare occurrence as would be the rising of the sun in the west. In every generation there have been those who have assiduously tried to dispute the reality of the resurrection. They must contend with a massive mountain of evidence in support of the miracle.

The belief in the bodily resurrection did not develop over time as a result of memory fading and myth emerging. Nor was it the figment of the imagination of unlettered tribesmen. It was the central propellant that caused an explosion of faith into other cultures. It was foundational from the day of it being reported.

The Sanhedrin that condemned Christ to death appointed a special prosecutor to investigate and expose the rumored resurrection. He was one of the most learned advocates of the era. He was chosen because he was the apple of the eye of the distinguished jurist of the Jewish Supreme Court. They empowered him to apprehend, threaten, and even kill anyone who professed to believe in such a radical concept. His role was to invalidate the report. He investigated the incident more than any person of the time. Instead of refuting the resurrection he was converted to belief in the one resurrected. His name was Paul who at the risk of his own life became an apostle of Christ.

In one of his writings (I Corinthians 15) he listed persons who had encountered the resurrected Christ and urged skeptics to talk to these eyewitnesses. More than 515 first person witnesses are listed. That is a creditable cadre of witnesses various ones of which are said to have talked with Him, dined with Him, walked with Him, and touched Him. This was no aberration nor was it a hallucination. There never has been a group hallucination.

After Paul’s conversion pressure was intensified on the Christian community. If friends had stolen the body they could have spared themselves suffering and death by producing the corpse. If enemies had stolen it they could have ended the movement by producing the lifeless form.

If neither friends nor enemies had reason to conceal a stolen corpse the resurrection is seen to be more plausible. That fact brings joy to hearts in which the first Easter message still reverberates: “He is risen.”

Bible Ignorance

For some time an effort has been under way to marginalize Christianity and minimize Bible knowledge. An unexpected accomplice in this have been churches.

Consider some realities in evaluating how successful this effort has been.

The Baran Research Group along with researchers George Gallup and Jim Castilleia have engaged in surveys that give concern.

One survey revealed 82% of the respondents thought, “God helps those who help themselves,” is in the Bible. Not!

Baran found 12% believed Joan of Arc was the wife of Noah. Among graduating high school seniors 50% thought Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife.

A large number of one group polled indicated the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.

Fewer than half of adults polled could name the four gospels and 60% could not name five of the Ten Commandments.

Sounds like the afore mentioned effort is progressing well doesn’t.

A Bible bereft public arena has helped produce a generation of persons not versed on Scripture.

A bigger contributor to this appalling ignorance is many churches.

Many youth ministers offer a Pablum strength ministry more committed to activities and entertainment than Bible study. Churches offering engaging contextual Bible study are attracting young people. They are facing issues that deserve answers. Activities, entertainment, and social opportunities are a must but should provide a forum for Bible application. Where that environment exists youth congregate.

Many pastors are too busy to study the Word and make application of it so that people can relate. Twenty years ago the pastor of an urban church had five major responsibilities. Today that number has climbed to twenty-four tasks. That is no excuse for entering the pulpit unprepared intellectually and spiritually. No task is more important to ministry.

A third contributing factor is the homes of America. Studies show that a great majority of youth still look up to their parents. The primary way of teaching is modeling as a paramount part of mentoring. That makes relating to Scripture seem palatable.

There are simple ways for families to get involved in teaching spiritual values. Jewish, Islamic, and Buddhist families do a better job of it that Christians. Much of their teaching is related to their traditions which provide tutoring opportunities.

There are many superb programs designed to help families engage in enjoyable Bible reading, memorization, and learning. Check with a Bible book store.

Do you suppose there is any connection between Bible ignorance in our land and the moral decay, sexual decadence, political corruption, and unraveling of our social structure?

The Gospel Of Judas: Part II

“The Gospel of Judas” was given major national exposure by the “National Geographical Society” the week before Easter. It was given major national exposure in a TV special, two books, features in major magazines, an exhibit, and a special web site. The Society paid $1,000,000 for the right to publish it and made great profit.

The Gospel of Judas portrays him as a noble individual seeking to help Christ. Gnostic writing popped up everywhere between the second and fourth centuries. This aberrant “Christian” group believed an evil god created the world of the flesh. They held that secret knowledge could allow a person to escape the evil prison of the body and enjoy an elevated spiritual state. This heretical writing contends Judas was doing Christ’s bidding in betraying Him to the authorities to be put to death in order that He might enjoy this heightened state. Judas is represented as the “thirteenth spirit” appointed by God to free Jesus from His mortal body imposed on Him by His incarnation.

What do scholars say of this and other Gnostic writing found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt?

Dr. James Robinson, the distinguished editor of the Nag Hammadi codices that include several Gnostic gospels calls it a “dud.”
The scholarly “Biblical Archaeological Review” magazine concluded: “The fact is that it will be a rare scholar who will argue that this Gnostic gospel is historically trustworthy in its description of Judas’s motivation in betraying Jesus.”

The early Christian church denounced the bogus gospel as heretical for one reason, the same reason it is dismissed toady, it simply was heretical. It was not and is not considered authentic and authoritative. It was written hundreds of years after the death of Judas yet bears his name as author. That alone discredits it. Most Gnostic writing scholars agree were originally written in Greek and later translated into Coptic. It is the Coptic version that exists.

Irenaeus, one of the early church fathers, writing around 180 AD called the work heretical. Indeed it is in that it not only omits reference to Christ’s redemptive work spoken of in the New Testament gospels. Instead it emphasizes a distortion of the spiritual world.

Why then did The National Geographical Society engage in such disreputable sensationalism? Even they noted, “Scholars disagreed on whether the gospel shed and new light on the historical Jesus and Judas Iscariot.” Be real!

Perhaps it was not their intent but it is yet another attempt at discrediting the Bible and diminishing the deity of Christ.

There are current movements within churches as alien to Christianity as were the Gnostic writings. Hopefully this generation will be as vigilant as the church of the era that produced such writings. Discernment has never been more needed.

New Orleans Katrina Response Part II

We just returned from our first post-Katrina visit to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. What we saw proves there is no such thing as real estate. In that area it is in an unreal state.

We visited the three breaches in levies. When they burst a mountain of water rushed across the area. The Lower Ninth Ward was devastated. Here most houses were wooden and did not withstand the onrush. Most were leveled and washed away some distance. A few some distance from the breaches were left leaning. The height of the water was indicated by some refrigerators being on roofs. As reported this area was occupied mostly by “poor blacks.”

Minister Faricon said the levies were blown in order to force poor blacks out of New Orleans. Our visit to the other levy breaks dispute this. We drove through are area as vast as East Cobb where there were houses valued at from $250,000 to two million dollars. Doors were open, windows out, interiors stripped, possessions gone, and dry mud two to three feet deep. The occupants of this vast area were middle to upper income people. Yachts and other large vessels are piled on each other. The Metairie Country Club and the Yacht Club are destroyed. Were levies blown to drive these people out of town? No!

It is going to take years to rebuild New Orleans. The Gulf Coast will respond more rapidly in that they have better leadership and the area was basically swept clean. There is a support system a mile inland at most places.

Leadership in New Orleans is minimal. One of the candidates for mayor is a clerk of court who oversees elections. She wasn’t at a forum last week involving all candidates. She was in jail. Persons whose houses are repairable are reluctant to act not knowing if the city will condemn their entire area and tear down their houses.

FEMA has such a negative reputation their employees don’t wear their uniforms. We saw vast lots of unused trailers. Tax payers are paying $3,000 a month storage per trailer. Many assigned trailers were on individual homeowners lots and had been for weeks but are still not hooked up and are unusable.

Finding an open grocery, pharmacy, or gas station may require a drive of ten miles or more. The few stores that are open close at 5:00 PM because of a shortage of employees. A random fast food place might be found open. They pay $11.00 an hour and a $5,000 to $10,000 bonus at year’s end.

Many people will not return to these devastated areas. It will not be financial or physical uncertainty that prevents their return. It is emotional. There is a heaviness, an overall depressive environment that prevails. Many experienced so much they are in effect “shell shocked.” Just being there a few days enables one to understand this.

Ironically the very thing that was built to save New Orleans led to its destruction. Years ago drainage canals were dug to connect the Mississippi River with Lake Pontchartrain in order to divert flood waters from the river to the lake and spare the city in the event of upland flooding. The winds caused an extraordinary rise in the lake level that backed water up these canals and stressed the levies to the breaking point.

The “sliver on the river,” the beautiful older section of uptown New Orleans, was high enough that it experienced minimal damage. This coupled with the French Quarter will be the hub for a new smaller New Orleans.

Over 100 churches are no longer existent. One pastor whose flock is scattered rotates each month going to Houston, Baton Rouge, Hattiesburg, and Atlanta to meet with remnants of his congregation in worship. Church groups from across America have been major disaster recovery groups to aid the city. Little publicity has been given this but the citizens readily acknowledge it. If you are part of a church that is sending a team —- go.

New Orleans Katrina Response Part I

Two people can say the same thing one as a friend of the object and the other a critic. Bill Cosby speaking on the need of better parenting in the black community and a skinhead speaking in essence saying the same thing comes across differently. Likewise, Dennis Prager, a Jew who is a radio talk show host, and an anti-Semite speaking on an issue related to the Jewish community might say basically the same thing but it comes across differently.

The experience of the speaker and the reason for saying it makes the difference. One speaks as a friend and the other a critic. Against that background consider this statement:

“It ought to be possible to live a Christian life without being a Christian.”

The speaker is asking why a non-Christian can’t have a life-style in many regards like a Christian without being one. That is, why is it that often the two don’t respond alike.

The maker of that statement was Roy Hattersley, a columnist for the “U.K. Guardian.” Hattersley, an outspoken atheist, reached that conclusion after watching the extensive faith-based organizations response to Hurricane Katrina.

“Notable by their absence,” he stated, were “teams from rationalism societies, free thinkers’ clubs, and atheists’ associations — the kind of people who scoff at religion’s intellectual absurdity.”

Hattersley pressed his point by further stating that Christians “are the people most likely to take the risks and make the sacrifices involved in helping others.”

He then made a statement that challenges Christians. “The only possible conclusion,” he said after watching response to the Katrina disaster, “is that faith comes with a packet of moral imperatives that, while they do not condition the attitude of all believers, influence enough of them to make (Christians) morally superior to atheists like me.”

Not all Christians are like those who responded to disaster relief causes resulting from Katrina and not all atheists are like Hattersley. However, his observations regarding compassionate response in this time of need is correct. I have been there helping to cleanup and cook for relief workers as part of the third largest relief group in America, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Agency. The group would be number two if number two didn’t include their numbers among their own. The media gives coverage to FEMA, the Red Cross, and Salvation Army but it is the Baptists who cook for most of them and have the largest number of trained chainsaw teams and counselors. They don’t seek recognition they are there simply because they are moved by compassion and want to help. It is inherent in their faith and that is what Hattersley is commending.

Having written this what is my motive? It is not to impugn those organizations that did not respond but to challenge those who normally do to live up to Hattersley’s observations. It is to commend the integrity of the statement of an individual observant of a need among many of his peer groups. Who said it resonates.

Church: The Change Within Part II

Imitation often makes things dull.

Modern churches have a challenge previous generations did not have. It regards how to deal with diversity. Racial diversity has come a long way. Many churches have several races represented and involved. Educational, economic, social, and cultural diversity have been dealt with constructively. A primary distinction that has become increasingly excluding in some churches is age. It not only involves persons of AARP age but those over or under 45 are crunched.

This is such an issue former dean of the Morehouse School of Religion has written a book entitled: “Our Help In Ages Past…”

In an age when younger people need to be under the influence of a warm family, some churches socially engineer services to remove the influence of the very people who have provided the place where they meet.

To some degree this has been caused by churches trying to meet the changing needs of society. Some older established churches have resorted to imitating certain role model churches. In doing so they have overlooked one major distinction. These role model churches have admirably emerged using their distinct methods which have worked in their culture which is often different for those seeking to imitate them. To use a non-Baptistic statement, “they are dancing with the one who brought them to the party.” These churches were developed using the methods that attracted their membership.

Some older established churches in trying to imitate them have in essence communicated to the older membership we don’t care if you leave the party. In changing the style that attracted the base membership they are eliminating the very things that attracted them. Thus, the older membership is marginalized or completely disenfranchised. What is even more alienating than what is being done is the cavalier way in which it is done. To be made to feel unwanted in ones own “home” is grievous.

This has resulted in many ostracized members not being angry but lonely. A frustration barrier has caused many to look for an atmosphere when they are wanted and feel spiritually comfortable. Their exodus from their beloved long standing home churches is painful. In doing so they have left long time friends and even family members. Many who remain behind experience this loveliness because they to have lost friends. For some the only thing causing them to remain is friendships.

Some older churches are meeting this diversity challenge in a way both groups feel comfortable. It can and is being done by some. The church in general has dealt commendably though not perfectly with the divisive issues of diversity mentioned herein. The people who lead in that cultural renewal are the very ones now being alienated. The wisdom shown and the spirit manifested by these experts in social change in making these changes is often not being enlisted in meeting the current challenge.

Piloting the old Ship of Zion in today’s troubled waters is a challenge. It is a day in which there needs to be ALL hands on deck. Fortunately it can and is being done by some. Sail on! Others having lost their GPS (Gospel Perspective Source) have resorted to being imitators rather than creators and are off course in their cultural sea.

Church: The Change Within Part I

As a minister for 55 years and a pastor for 53 years I love churches and those who comprise memberships. To be a critic of something I love so much is an impossibility. To pretend today’s churches don’t have a major challenge would be to evidence a lack of observation, however. The challenges are multiple and complex.

On relates to age groups. To simplify the issue let’s just divide the body into two parts each having multiple sub-parts.

One is the older membership. Members are checking out of churches in the older age group. Likewise, younger people are staying out or dropping out. Many of the members of the older group have given their lives, devotion, and financial resources to purchase land, build buildings, and develop ministries.

The younger group consists of a smaller number of their demographic body than previous generations. Many are uncertain they want to be a part of organized Christianity though studies show a greater interest among them for things spiritual. To survive the church must reach a larger segment of this body. Faced with this challenge some churches are indirectly if not directly marginalizing the older group giving them the impression they aren’t needed and don’t count. To question this approach is often represented as questioning the will of God.

In a drive to reach the unchurched some churches are un churching the churched. This is increasingly resulting in the older generation giving up and giving in but not giving to the church. That in itself is a challenge. The younger members being attracted are not the givers the older generation proved to be.

New churches begun as contemporary ones are growing using techniques, methods, and messages that attract the younger generation. Established churches that try to sideline their older membership and change their church lifestyle are finding it challenging.

Organizations that study church growth say that a church prospers using either traditional or contemporary styles of worship. The form they are started with attracts people who like that form. To change the form is to take away the very thing that attracted the people. They begin to look elsewhere to find what they had.

Those same bodies that study church growth agree that to change a church’s style has rarely ever worked. Some persons find an exception to the rule and represent it as the norm. They set themselves up for failure by discounting the facts.

In spite of the rush to change some traditional churches have stayed with what worked and by doing it tastefully have prospered. This is even true of liturgical congregations. Many of them are attracting young people by doing what they have always done with quality and good taste. Many youth find their formality appealing.

Churches have a challenge. To prosper they must respect their history in charting their future. There are wonderful examples of churches reaching all age groups. Neither needs to be forfeited.

Creation: Intelligent Design Part II

Dr. Anthony Flew has taught at Oxford and other leading universities. For half a century he has been considered the world’s foremost atheist. The man revered as the world’s smartest atheist has written numerous articles and books arguing against the existence of God. He has long been the darling of atheistic philosophy. His devotees are many.

Flew is no longer an atheist. I don’t want to misrepresent him. Neither has he become a Christian or a proponent of Biblical theology. However, recently he announced he must “go where the evidence leads” and that is to a Creator of enormous intelligence and power. When first reported some atheists tried to blow it off as a false report. Flew has confirmed his atheism is a thing of the past. He affirmed that his former arguments for atheism are obsolete in light of new evidence. Of some of his own writing he said it has become “out of date,” a “historical relic.”

His reason for a change is described by him in this simple way. “I think that the most impressive arguments for God’s existence are those that are supported by recent scientific discoveries.” He further explains this conclusion is a result of new knowledge of cell complexity and genetic coding. In light of this he said, “It now seems to me that the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”

“It has become inordinately difficult,” says Flew, “even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism.” He expanded on this by continuing to say, “The enormous complexities by which the results were achieved look to me like the work of intelligence.”

He reached his conclusions apart from the Bible. He admits being impressed by some scientists who correlate Genesis 1 with scientific knowledge. This has prompted him to say, ”That this biblical account might be scientifically accurate raises the possibility that it is revelation.”

Flew is among the growing number of former skeptics who now see in science evidence compatible with what many who believe in the Bible to be a reality. That is not to misrepresent such persons as believing in the Bible but believing that which parallels what the Bible postulates based on scientific evidence apart from the Bible.

Those who believe the Bible is revelation find certain texts meaningful, such as:

“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities —-His eternal power and divine nature —- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1:20).

The Psalmist sang, “How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all” (Psalm 104:24). Meaning, “You designed them intelligently.”

When there two opposing thoughts one has to be correct and the other not. In the laboratory, if not the court room, the pendulum is swinging in favor of intelligent design. If there is scientific evidence of intelligent design what is to be feared by letting the evidence in the science room? If it isn’t students are deprived of data on which to make a scientific decision.

When science and religion are compatible does the science have to be discarded simply because the two are independently parallel?

Creation: Intelligent Design Part I

There is a concept from which youth must be protected. Persons who try to share it are trashed in an effort to expunge this dangerous concept from young minds. Courts, certain editorial boards, and various special interest groups are aligned in shielding young minds from this ideology.

A growing number of scientists and scholars are offering support to sharing the principle called Intelligent Design. Having analyzed observable data they have concluded it is a plausible concept. To this ever expanding cadre of academicians it is a matter of scientific observation of complex cells, organs, and systems that reveal a design indicating intelligence therein. Many proponents are not religious persons. They have reached their conclusion based on scientific observation apart from any religious premise.

That is a concept considered so threatening to some they not only want to stifle freedom of speech but freedom of thought on the topic. It appears proponents of random evolution feel the concept is so indefensible it must be propped up by court order and spread by indoctrination of it and it alone with no dissenting discussion.

After all if the poster boy of evolution, Dr. Anthony Flew of Cambridge University, could be persuaded the evidence of intelligent design is so strong as to change his mind some high school students might also come to believe in it. Evidently evolutionary inquisitors think that would be opprobrious.

Flew had the integrity to say, “It now seems to me that findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.” He expanded, “What I think DNA material has done is show that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements together.”

Unfortunately there was a historical period when people of faith sought to stifle scientific knowledge. Now it is people of science who seek to gag their own evidence.

Where there is design there is a designer. Consider a certain kind of watch. There is a big hand on it. Every time it goes around the face of the watch one time a mid-sized hand goes around one-twelfth of the surface. There is a little second hand that hustles even more. Every time the big hand goes around one time it makes sixty trips around its dial. Those hands work that way every time. Take the back off the watch and the design that enables it to perform like clockwork is observable. It was designed to do so. The logical conclusion is there is a designer who produced the watch.

The elemental observation of the earth rotating on its axis and traveling in its orb reveals there is a design to the process. It is so exact the position of the earth can be determined far in advance. Such a design indicates a designer. That designer certainly had intelligence. Intelligence itself indicates an intelligent source. This cudgel isn’t likely to end soon.

Israel/Egypt Travel 2006

Time machines do exist. Sunday morning I had breakfast in Cairo and dinner that night in Marietta.

Saturday night we dined and watched a stunning sound and light show recount the history of ancient Egypt at the Great Pyramids in Giza. Thus concluded a fifteen day visit to Israel and Egypt. We traveled on six different planes, four boats, camels, horse drawn carriages, busses, a tram, desert jeeps, and walked a lot. Counting our own we traveled on four continents, drove over the Mountains of Sinai, and through a tunnel under the Suez Canal.

We sailed the Nile for four days visiting temples at Aswan, Philae, Kalabsha, Edfu, Komo Ombo, Luxor, Karnac, Isis, and Memphis. A number of the 62 Egyptian Pyramids arrested our attention. The Step Pyramid of Sakkara, the oldest stone structure on earth, evidences early genius. The tombs in the Valley of the Kings, the Necropolis of the Princes, and the Cairo Museum are captivating.

We ate off the ground in an ageless cave in the Ramone Crater in the Negev and enjoyed fine dining at the Mena House by the pyramids, one of the top ten most romantic hotels in the world.

This was our 31st visit to Israel and 8th to Egypt. Every trip is a learning experience and an inspirational upper. Some of the things I learned in Egypt were the Sahara Desert really was once a forest and all female rulers during the Greek period in Egypt were called Cleopatra. Cleopatra VII, the friend of Mark Anthony, was the last.

Some questioned our sanity in going. Security is tight —- at the Atlanta Airport. Therefore, it is not unreasonable that it is in Israel and Egypt. It is not however imposing or alarming.

Nearly one half of the population of Egypt makes a living off tourism. Therefore President Mubarak has rounded up all known suspected terrorists. Tourists are treated like celebrities. A police car preceded us and another followed with sirens on to open the road for the bus. An armed safety officer wearing a business suit sat in the jump seat on the bus. Egypt has a tourist police force that wears uniforms very much like our sailors. They only purpose is to accommodate tourists.

Israel has perhaps the best internal security of any country. With all we have heard in the last five years about suicide bombers not one tourist has been involved. They also value the worth of tourism to their economy. It is the second leading source of income.

One of the most interesting things I have learned from visiting Israel relates to the hometown of Jesus, Nazareth. In the time of Christ the historian Josephus listed 240 towns and villages in the region of Galilee. Tiberius having a population of about 10,000 was the largest. Most, however, had a population of between 200 and 300. Nazareth was so small and inconsequential it wasn’t even listed. It was about 300 yards long and dwellings consisted mostly of caves.

If you know anything about gossip imagine an unmarried pregnant teenager in Nazareth. Everybody would have known. It increases ones compassion for Mary and respect for Joseph.

Travel is educational. Most of all it educates you to the blessings of home. We have much for which to be thankful.

Intermittent Explosive Disorder

In recent correspondence a friend told of how two usually civil friends erupted in a “cat fight” at their bridge club.

Later came the story of two persons who verbally engaged in egregious behavior at a meeting of their civic club.

Then came the question, “What is going on? Is there an epidemic of some sort of “people rage’ like “road rage’?” The answer is “yes.”

That same day I read an article originating in New Orleans regarding a diagnostic term getting increased use there. It is “Intermittent Explosive Disorder” (IED). It is used to describe normally compatible persons who, out of character, suddenly become explode. The aggression may be physical but is most often verbal.

It is caused by undue stress. In the area impacted by Hurricane Katrina such stress is common. It has resulted in increased incidents of explosive conduct by rational people.

Susan Howell is a professor at the University of New Orleans and a reputable pollster. Throughout March and April she and her staff interviewed 470 people in and around New Orleans. They found people in the area are having trouble sleeping. Nearly 2/3 say they are stressed over what is going to happen in the next few years. Twenty percent say they feel tired, irritable, sad, that they have difficulty concentrating and that everything is an effort. Summarily those are signs of stress.

At best the poll is skewed. The pollsters used conventional phone lines and many of the residents hardest hit still don’t have phone service. Had they been included the depression rate would have likely been considerably higher.

Our entire culture is stressed. Social, economic, business, political, and family pressures are at an all time high nationally. Those who are “news junkies” don’t help themselves in that the accumulative effect of events not directly involving them bring pressure on them.

Being made aware of this condition might well cause a reader to recall a recent incident where they nearly boiled over. If so it is good to realize this and pre-prepare for such a moment concluding in advance the proper response when next tempted to erupt. Plan a cooling down attitude and a positive reaction. A predetermined rational response to the conditions that might precipitate aggression can mentally help control potential rage.

It is also wise to realize other persons are experiencing similar pressures and therefore avoid a tendency toward retaliation. Tit-for-tat responses produce road rage. You never know what is going on in the life of the other person. You can be the “ice man or woman” to help chill out a potentially explosive situation. It takes character to “walkaway” from mounting unnecessary hostility.

Self-control means you are in control. If you aren’t someone else is. That means the other person wins by controlling you. Don’t let another’s intemperance control your temper.

For years I carried in my wallet a little note given me as a teen by my mother that still works. It reads, “A soft answer turns away anger.” Try it.

Follow the wise council of Barney Fife, “Nip it. Just nip it.”

The DaVinci Code – Part 5

The DaVinci Code is for you if you like a good murder mystery full of conspiracy theories and intrigue. It comes replete with hidden treasures, secret societies, and covert love. If you are spiritually inclined the fact all of this has Scripture as its backdrop may appeal.

The book having been on the best seller list for some time is now to be released as a movie. To help persons understand its basis this is part one of two parts on the subject.

If you like fiction “The DaVinci Code” is a thriller you will enjoy. If you are expecting history forget it.

If you are offended by distorted truth, misrepresentation, a refutation of history, and a mockery of Biblical fact don’t go to the movie or read the book.

The thesis of the book is fatally flawed. In summary it proves itself to be a compilation of lies. Basic to this is the deity of Christ.

Another source of the author’s materials from Gnostic sources. The Gnostics were heretics who infiltrated Christianity around 150 AD. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, wrote of them around 180 AD: “…everyone of them generates something new, day by day, according to his ability; for no one is deemed ‘perfect’ who does not develop some mighty fiction.”

Dan Brown, author of the book on which the movie is based draws heavily form Gnostic writings. Nevertheless, he says of his work, “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.” NOT!

In reality numerous falsehoods have a superstructure of twenty primary groups of lies. Consider the basis of a few.

#1. Constantine had the New Testament revised to represent Jesus as being “godlike.”
Long before Constantine became Emperor of Rome (306 AD) Christians readily acknowledged Christ as divine. Brown alleges a vote taken at the Council of Nicea (325 AD) was the first declaration that Jesus was divine.

In New Testament texts written nearly 275 years earlier His divinity was asserted. He was said to be our “Great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13), “the eternal blessed God” (Romans 9:5), and that in Him dwelt “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). He was described as “God manifest in flesh” (I Timothy 3:16). Ministers were exhorted to “shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). When did God shed blood? In the person of Christ on the cross. He is spoken of as “Christ, who is the image of God” (II Cor. 4:4).

Numerous secular records predating the Council of Nicea attest to the belief in Christ’s deity. An example is the writing of Ignatius around 100 A.D. in which he makes reference to “Christ the God.” Justin Martyr referred to Him as “God” in 150 A.D., Clement of Alexandria wrote of Him as being the “most manifest Deity” in 200 A.D., and Irenaeus called Him “Lord and God” in 185 A.D.

#2. By a “relatively close vote” at the Council of Nicea Jesus was declared to be God.
Out of an assembly of over 300 attending the Council only two refused to sign a statement representing Jesus as “true God from true God.” The purpose was not to propose a new concept but to support the long held belief in Christ’s deity in opposition to a then current teaching by a North African elder, Arius, who sought to humanize Christ as a created being.

#3. Jesus was “a mortal prophet, a great and powerful man, but a man nevertheless.”
In the era of the New Testament the challenge was not to establish a belief in Christ’s deity but His humanity. A sect known as Gnostics taught God could not become human. I John 4:1-6 was penned in opposition to this fallacy.

#4. Jesus married Mary Magdalene.
In “The DaVinci Code” Mary Magdalene is said to have become the bride of Christ and His choice to head His movement. Peter and other male followers of Christ were envious and brought pressure to bear on her. She escaped and moved to France where she gave birth to the Child of Jesus. Through the bloodline of this child the Merovingians were allegedly started. Historically the Merovingians sprang not from Mary but King Merovech who ruled from 447 to 557 A.D.

Mary and her followers reputedly founded Paris. Historically Paris was founded by Gauls of the Parissi tribe as a fishing village on the Ile de la Cite in the Seine River. It was originally called Lutetia.

“The DaVinci Code” represents King Dagobert II as marrying Giselle de Razes. They are reputed to have started the Priory of Sion in the Middle Ages to protect the true documents verifying the misrepresentation of Mary supposedly advocated by the church. Brown accepts those bogus documents as true and the Bible as false.

Razes in reality was not a historical character but a mythical figure created by a French charlatan, Pierre Plantard, in 1960. In an attempt to establish his lie Plantard places false documents in libraries throughout Europe to prove the group had a distinguished past including such notables as Victor Hugo, Isaac Newton and Leonardo DaVinci. These spurious works by Plantard, verified to be forgeries, form the basis of much of Brown’s thesis. It is these and other untruths that Brown declares are true (p.1).

To bolster his claim the author included a list of notable “historians” (p, 253) who “have chronicled in exhaustive detail” the bloodline of Christ. In reality not one of those listed is a historian. There is no creditable source from the period who advocated this baseless theory. “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene” is the source for this concept.

The style and content of this spurious gospel indicates it was written around 160-200 AD, long after the death of Mary even though it is ascribed to her. “The Gospel of Philip” refers to Mary as Christ’s “companion.” Brown wrote, “As any Aramaic scholar will tell you, the word companion, in those days, literally meant spouse.” The only extant copy of “The Gospel of Philip” was written in Coptic not Aramaic.

It is believed by scholars that “The Gospel of Philip” was originally written in Greek. There is no indication there ever was an Aramaic version of the bogus book. The Greek word translated “companion” (koinonos) occurs ten times in the New Testament and in neither case does it refer to marriage or a sexual relationship.

#5. The Holy Grail is a veiled reference to Mary Magdalene.
There is no reference to the “Holy Grail” in the Bible. The term first appeared in a novel by Chrestien de Troyes written around 1100 AD, entitled “Perceval.” It was first used to speak of the cup from which Christ drank and later tradition said it held Christ’s blood.

A work by the Frenchman Pierre Plantard in the 1960s and 1970′s released documents he said traced the royal bloodline from Jesus and Mary Magdalene through the kings of France to, of all people, himself. This theory of a secret society was popularized in 1982 in a book entitle “Holy Blood, Holy Grail.” Brown draws heavily from this work and its sources. Under oath in 1993, Plantard admitted his claims were unfounded and untrue.

#6. Leonardo DaVinci was aware of the secret society and the Holy Grail, therefore, he painted Mary Magdalene in his masterpiece, “The Last Supper.”
It was a signature of DaVinci that he painted many males with feminine features as in his work “St. John the Baptist,” now in the Louvre. DaVinci’s “Last Super” was painted on the Refectory wall of a convent in Milan between 1495 and 1497. His water based tempera began to erode almost immediately.

By 1726 when the first restoration was attempted it had eroded so badly the painting was barely recognizable. What DaVinci painted originally is only approximated today. What is now seen is a restoration of other restorations. The novel and movie entitled “The DaVinci Code” are fiction studded with enough truth to be confusing. Poison even in the most refreshing beverage is still poison. Bottom line. It is fiction.

Though the book is an attempt to discredit Christianity it is in general an intrinsic assault on truth comprehensively. Current facts (the glass panes in the pyramid at the Louvre number 673 not 666 as the book states) and history (the Olympic games were held on a four year cycle to honor Zeus not an eight year cycle to honor Venus) are distorted throughout to support the feigned thesis of the book. Brown says in his book, “Almost everything our fathers taught us about Christ is false” (p.235). The fact is it is his book that is false.

In one review “The DaVinci Code” is said to promote “the gleeful heretical notion that the entirety of Judeo-Christian culture is founded on a misogynist (woman-hating) lie. It is Brown’s work that is a cornucopia of lies, a classic canard. A cogent consideration of the facts leads to the conclusion the book is a delusive Christological counterfeit.

The Gospel Of Judas: Part I

In the mid to late 1970′s peasants hunting for treasure in caves along the Nile found a document hidden for nearly fifteen hundred years. Contained in a crumbling limestone box was a mysterious leather bound book, a codex, “The Gospel of Judas.” Written long after the death of Judas it is reputed to have been written by Judas Iscariot, one of Christ’s apostles.

Some national secular media sources have postured it as the ultimate truth. It being the latest it is reputed to be the truth ultimately revealed about the relationship of Judas and Jesus Christ.

Its style, vocabulary, and content identifies it as a writing of a Gnostic group known as the Canites. It offers insight into this group of heretical authors who offered alternative understanding of Christianity. A lot is known about this fringe group. This group wrote to recast many characters presented negatively in the Bible. Thus, their name came from Cain, the first murderer in Scripture. They cast such Bible characters as heroes. In order to do this they had to produce alternative texts written hundreds, even thousands of years after the facts.

In considering this meretricious document written long after the facts are supposed to have happened compare it with the four New Testament gospels of which there are 5,200 older manuscripts or portions of them written in Greek, the trade language of the day.

Of them Dr. Dan Bahat, archaeologist responsible for excavating the Temple Mount, said to me they are in every sense historically accurate and were invaluable in the excavations.

The Gnostic character of the work is self-evident. It presents Jesus as using terms common in the era of the Gnostics but not the time of Christ. He is represented as speaking to Judas of “aeons” and an “eternal realm” different from Scripture. Judas is referred to as the “thirteenth spirit.” He was an agent sent from God to release Jesus from the physical body in which He was imprisoned at the time of incarnation.

The Gnostics professed to possess secret knowledge. They taught there was a significant dualism between the spiritual and material worlds. In their philosophy the entire universe, all things physical, was a material trap for the spirit world. Their constant drive was to escape the physical world and enter the spiritual realm.

Judas is portrayed as a noble friend of Jesus who sought to enable Jesus to escape the material trap of His body. Jesus is represented as saying to Judas, “But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.” Meaning, you will be responsible for my physical death. This depicts Judas as a friend of Jesus who was accommodating Him in liberating the spiritual person within by seeing to it He was killed.

This is contradictory to the New Testament teaching that Jesus came willingly to accept the cross as a sacrifice for sin. The redemptive work of Christ is contradicted by this concept. This reveals that not only did Gnostic writers seek to make heroes of Bible miscreants but to discredit the meritorious work of Christ.

Metropolitan Bishoy, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, characterizes the writings as “non-Christian babbling resulting from a group of people trying to create a false amalgam between the Greek mythology and Far East religions with Christianity…They were written by a group of people who were aliens to the main Christian stream….”

One close observer of the unfolding of this find wrote “some statements made reflect the imagination of journalists, honest mistakes, or misinformation.” The author of most of the material on the subject, Michel van Rijn, believes he was deceived on much of the material related to the document.

The (non)gospel is not new. Irenaeus (c. 135 – c. 200) wrote about such a work. He associated it with a sect known as the Cainites. Irenaeus referenced bogus mystical resources and said of Judas, “They declared that Judas the betrayer was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no other did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal, by him all things, earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produced a fictitious history of this kind, which they style as the gospel of Judas.”

This recent revelation is the latest in numerous Judas make overs based on ancient untruths. Most of these stories were written around the same time by Gnostic authors. They were a fringe element of the Christian community intent on disputing the foundations of the faith. Other Judas representation have long been dismissed as spurious.

One scenario represented Judas as having great faith in Jesus. He believed Jesus to be a reluctant Messiah. He truly believed that if Jesus were pushed He would assert Himself and lead in the overthrow of the Roman occupiers. When Jesus refused to use His powers and defend Himself in Gethsemane the heartbroken Judas killed himself.

Another account relates to Judas as the noble treasurer of “The Society of the Poor.” Many times Christ is quoted as referring to “the poor.” Allegedly this was code language referring to a secret society He headed intend on overthrowing the Roman oppressors.

Previous generations having dealt with these same fallacious stories proved they knew how to separate wheat from chaff. Hopefully this enlightened generation will also.

Today old Gnosticism, long sense discredited, is back and marketing well to a public historical and Biblical uninformed on the subject. May we become as wise as those of the era of the emergence of these writing and acknowledge them for what they are, a lugubrious assault on Christianity by pseudo authors.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote: “The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the word of God stands forever” Isaiah 40:8.

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.

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 b