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BIBLE BLOG


Every now and then, a thought occurs to me that seems profound enough or is so "foundational" that it should be captured for further contemplation or maybe shared with others. That is the idea behind this "blog." While I will attempt to limit the entries to those ideas that are "original" there are times that ideas of others will be included.

 
 
Posted February 18, 2015

UNINTENDED MESSAGES IN SOME BIBLE TEACHINGS
In a recent study of Jacob, several bits of information with unintended messages came across based on the emphasis of the speaker and the audience’s reaction.  I had a lot of difficulty with these “messages” that were “not intended.”

The first unintended message was related to the “presumed” reaction that Jacob had upon awaking from his dream of the ladder reaching from heaven to earth.  Jacob had concluded that the “Lord is in this place.”  According to the speaker the “likely response” of Jacob was that when he realized that he was in the presence of God he was “all excited” and “would have taken a lap” as in running around.  This same speaker often chides his listeners that they should have the same energetic response in a worship service as fans in a stadium attending a football game -- jumping up and down and hollering.  [An appropriate response to being in the presence of God (as we repeatedly see in the Scriptures) would be to fall on one’s face in awe and humility.  Where do we ever see people in the presence of God who do not approach Him will reverence?]

The second unintended message was related to the description of Leah compared to Rebekah.  Rebekah was beautiful and had a "nice form" while Leah has “weak eyes.”  A lot of humorous comments were made relative to what “weak eyes” may have meant in term of Leah being unattractive.  This was followed by the speaker making complimentary remarks about how beautiful his wife was and that he was thankful.  The commentary from the speaker regarding how disappointed Jacob was to wind up with the  unattractive Leah was “now that is funny and if you are not laughing then I know of a place where no one laughs” (meaning hell.)  Throughout all the witty comments about Leah’s physical appearance there was much laughter from many in the audience.  The message was clearly that physical beauty was highly valued and it is OK to ridicule others who lack such beauty [What does such a message say to those who do not possess physical attractiveness?  Is it any wonder that unattractive children and teens are ridiculed and bullied in our public schools when such worldly values are so prevalent throughout the culture?] 

The third unintended message was related to the incident where Jacob was wrestling with “the man” and Jacob would not let “him” go until “he” blessed him.  The clear message was that we should hold on to God until He blesses us.  (This same message had been emphasized in previous teachings about tithing, with the emphasis that we should tithe “out of obedience” and to be “blessed.”)  
Seeking the "blessing" was what caused Jacob to deceive his father and, some twenty years later, Jacob was still seeking to be blessed.  Apparently, being blessed does not provide lasting satisfaction but only a desire for more blessings.  Throughout the history of the children of Israel, they were guilty of “delighting themselves in the goodness (blessings) of God” but they did not “delight themselves in the Lord (Himself).”  This misplaced motivation resulted in serious consequences for Israel and Judah (destruction of Israel by Assyria and seventy years of exile for Judah).  The most important message for the church is that it is God who “holds on” to us and we should “hold on” (be faithful) to God and delight ourselves in Him regardless of the outcome.  If He blesses us or does not bless us, then it is all good because we are “in Him and He is in us.”  If our motivation for pleasing God is “consequence based” (avoiding punishment or receiving blessings) then how are we any different from the pagans who worship their “gods” out of fear and selfish ambition?  Such motivations are for the immature and the childish.  The motivation for those who are being transformed into the image of Christ must be rooted in the kind of love that God has poured into our hearts.  The fact that He first loved us is NOT the MOTIVATION for loving Him, it is what ENABLES us to love him.

 
 
Posted January 21, 2015

Understanding Motivation Apart From Consequences

When I was a child, I got the message that the consequences of sinning was to end up in hell when I died.  The motivation for “being good” was to avoid going to hell.  We could call that being “motivated by fear.”  Later on, I learned that being obedient to God results in blessings and not being obedient would result in bad outcomes.  Of course (being of sound mind), I wanted to maximize the good results and minimize the bad outcomes.  We could characterize that way of thinking as being “motivated by selfish ambition.”  I’ve heard many sermons that reinforced such consequence-based motivation with messages that emphasized the idea that we should not expect to be blessed by God if we are not obedient.  (I fully agree with that message.)  Other messages would sometimes focus on specific points of obedience such as “bring all the tithes into the storehouse” with the subsequent result of God opening the windows of heaven and “pouring out blessings” beyond our capacity to receive them all.  I did that and found it to be true. 

As we mature and repeatedly hear these consequence-based motivational exhortations, we should start questioning whether or not this is all there is to it.  After all, what would motivate a pagan to follow the precepts and tenets of his religion other than fear and selfish ambition?  Should our motivation be something beyond that? 

Several years ago, we (in our church) were conducting (during the Bible Study time) a purchased study course that was to encourage us to tithe and give generously.  One of the reasons emphasized was that we should be laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven rather than treasures on earth with the consequence that we would be rewarded in heaven by doing so.  I remember an elderly gentleman who commented on that particular emphasis.  He said, “all that is true, but that is not why I do what I do.”  He was essentially saying that he was not living by consequence-based motivations.  Along this same line of thinking, there is a song that has words that state “what you do for Jesus’ sake is not in vain.”  That is followed by the refrain, “We’ll be rewarded!”  While those words are true, I question whether that “consequence” is what should be the “motivation” for us to live for Christ. 

As I grew older, my parents would often mention the need for me to conduct myself in a proper way (when out in public) so that the reputation of our family would not be harmed.  A similar argument was made by Old Testament prophets and leaders with regard to improper conduct of Israel that would cause the Gentiles to disrespect God because of israel’s behavior.  In this case the motivation was respect for or reverential fear of God.  This is certainly a better or nobler appeal than selfish ambition or fear of judgment.  Nevertheless, with regard to separating “motivation” from “consequences” we are still not showing a clear distinction. 

To get a better perspective on this issue, consider the following questions:  Would I obey God’s commands if there were no consequences (either positive or negative) (in this life or in eternity) for doing so?  Would I obey God’s commands if there were no possibilities of anyone knowing that I was sinning and, therefore, no harm would come to God’s reputation from others and He would not be dishonored?  If we remove those “consequences,” then what remains for our “motivation” to be obedient?   

In John 8:31-32, Jesus said (paraphrasing) “continue in My word and you will know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”  Some have said that “freedom is life governed by truth and motivated by love.”  Do we see where this is leading?  The highest or noblest motivation that we can have is unselfish, self-sacrificing love.  This kind of love finds it source in the character and nature of God.  The statement that we “love God because He first loved us” is not so much about motivation for loving God, but is more related to “ability” to love in the way God loves us. 

Can we now go a step beyond questions of motivation and see that since we are being transformed into the very character and nature of Christ (Romans 8:29) then what we do is not so much a matter of what motivates us but is primarily dependent on our new, transformed nature which is Christ like?  Since Christ is the express image of God and since God is love, then the ultimate explanation of “why we do what we do” comes down to “who we are.”

Postscript:  It would be a mistake to take what was just stated and conclude that “since I am a Christian, then I choose to behave in a certain way in order to demonstrate that I love the Lord.”  Ask yourself this question:  Why does an apple tree bear apples?  Because of the very nature of the tree!  Why would a Christian behave in a Christ like manner?  Because it is Christ who lives in the Christian and His presence and character bears the fruit of righteousness in the life of the believer.  If we find ourselves having to repeatedly choose between alternatives of what “we might like or want to do” versus what “we know Christ would do,” then we are operating under the burden of the “knowledge of good and evil” rather than from our transformed nature of who we are in Christ. 

 
Posted January 19, 2015

WHAT’S SHAKING? 

  1. On June 17, 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court case Abington v. Schempp was decided in which an eight-to-one majority declared that school-sponsored Bible reading was unconstitutional.
  2. On January 22, 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade was decided in which a seven-to-two majority decided in favor of legalizing abortion. 
  3. On January 1, 2008 New Hampshire’s legalization of civil unions for same-sex couples became effective.  Later in this same year, California legalize same-sex marriage.  Other states have followed their example in subsequent years.
  4. In 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court with hear arguments regarding making same-sex marriages legal throughout the United States. 

In Proverbs 30:21 we see the paraphrased words “Under three things the people of the earth tremble and shake and under the fourth they nor the land can bear the burden.”   If this verse can be applied to significant events that have happened over the past fifty plus years that have impact on our nation’s relationship to God, then we should be very concerned about the pending SCOTUS hearing and decision regarding the issue of the definition of marriage. 

It started with inviting God OUT of our societal culture by declaring the Word of God to not be welcomed.  This initial step was followed by embracing the horrendous pagan practice of sacrificing innocent children to the pagan god of irresponsibility.  The next “thing” was to declare what God had said to be an “abomination” to be acceptable in various places and possibly ending with a wholesale legalization of a practice that is perverse and unnatural.  The outcome (if Proverbs 30:21 applies) will be that our nation will experience burdens that we cannot bear.  If we cannot bear the load of the burden, then the outcome is collapse. 

Appeals to stop the madness and reverse the poor decisions of the past are typically met with declaration that we, as a nation, cannot possibly go back to having the Word of God as part of our education system.  We cannot possibly deny a woman the “right” to have control over her “body” even though it is the body of an unborn child that is ultimately impacted.  We are inundated with arguments that same-sex unions and marriage are “rights” that people have and we cannot go back to the Biblical definition of marriage being between one man and one woman.  Once the Supreme Court hands down its decision, many will simply give up the battle to return to Godly standards in this arena. 

The term used for “return” or “go back” in the Bible is the word “repentance.”  Those in positions of civil government are telling us that there is no way that we, as a nation, could ever return or go back to what we had before.  The clear message from the Book of Hebrews is that those who disregard the blessings of God and rejects His ways even though they have been clearly demonstrated to be the right way to live will not find any other path or way to go back or return.  Why?  There is only One Way and He has been rejected and held up to ridicule by them.  They will be as Esau was who having shown no regard for his birthright, sold it for momentary pleasure and, consequently, found no place of repentance. 

Dare we ask what has been shaking since 1963?  A partial list would include
1963 John Kennedy was assassinated.
1965 Los Angeles riots, NYC great blackout.
1966 Black Panther Party established, Cultural Revolution in China
1967 Six Day War in the Middle East
1968 MLK assassinated, RFK assassinated
1969 PLO rises to power in Middle East
1970 Palestinian group highjacks five planes, Kent State shootings
1972 Terrorist Attacks at the Olympics, Watergate Scandal
1973 Roe v. Wade passed, US pulls out of Vietnam, Collapse of the Bretton Woods Fixed Exchange Rate System opened the way for devaluation of the U.S. dollar and economic instability through inflation. 
1974 Nixon resigns
1975 Cambodian genocide, Assassination attempts against G. Ford
1976 First Ebola outbreak in Africa, Earthquake in China kills 240,000
1978 Jonestown Massacre
1979 American Hostages in Iran, Three-Mile Island nuclear accident
1980 Failed attempt to rescue hostages in Iran, Mt. St. Helens erupts
1981 Assassinations attempt on Pope, Assassination attempt on Reagan, AIDS plague identified
1983 US embassy in Lebanon bombed
1985 Famine in Ethiopia, Terrorists hijack TWA 847
1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, US bombs Libya
1987 NYSE has huge drop in stock values – Black Monday
1988 Pan Am flight 103 shot down, US shoots down Iranian airline
1989 Berlin Wall falls
1991 Collapse of Soviet Union, Operation Desert Storm
1992 Bosnian Genocide, Los Angeles Riots
1993 World Trade Center Bombed
1994 Rwandan Genocide
1995 Million Man March in Washington, DC, Oklahoma City Bombing, Rabin Assassinated
1998 India and Pakistan test nuclear weapons, President Clinton Impeached
1999 Euro currency introduced, Y2K panic, Columbine High Shootings
2000 USS Cole Bombed
2001 9-11 attack by Terrorist on US, Stock Market has huge drop in value
2002 The deadliest act of terrorism in the history of Indonesia
2003 Invasion of Iraq
2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake – 250,000 dead
2005 Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans and surrounding areas
2006 North Korea conducts first nuclear bomb test
2007 Global economic turn down starts
2008 Stock Market collapse, Major winter Tornado outbreak in Southeast, Myanmar cyclone kills 130,000, China earthquake kills 69,000, Obama elected as President

I think we get the idea of the “shaking” that is happening and we haven’t even addressed the ISIS crisis or Russia invading the Ukraine, Syria developing nuclear weapon capability, near economic collapse of Greece, a deterioration of race relations in the US and an increase in terrorist attacks. 

Just remember:  “shaking” is not anywhere near as serious as the “collapse” that will following the shaking.  We’ve already seen three things that make the earth tremble – is the fourth that brings collapse nearby?   2015 could be a VERY significant year. 

 
Posted January 18, 2015

An interesting topic on Dateline NBC was about children who are bullied in school because they are not considered to be beautiful.  Some parents had resorted to having cosmetic surgery to give their teen-aged daughters a chance to be accepted.  It is certainly a “world system value” that would put more worth on a beautiful and curvaceous young lady than they would on a young lady who has plainer features.  While they of the world laugh at (or about) and ridicule those who might be characterized as Leah was in Genesis 29:17 as having “tender eyes,” we in the Church of the Lord Jesus should never, ever do so.  Some may think that such ridicule is funny, but it would certainly not be funny but terribly hurtful and cruel to the person being ridiculed.  We have not learned Christ that way – at least we should pray that we haven’t.   

 
Posted December 7, 2014  (Orignally composed in December 2010)

If you are bothered by “XMAS” and “Happy Holidays” then here are different perspectives on what these really mean. 

Sometime we who are inclined to defend our faith may create some confusion by speaking out against something like "Xmas" when it was not originally intended to eliminate Christ but was simply an abbreviation.  The Greek letter “X” is Chi which is the first letter in the Greek spelling of Christos  [χριστος].  We have let ourselves be offended when those who might wish to show disrespect to the Lord inadvertently declare the truth when they (unknowingly) use the abbreviation for Christ in their efforts to avoid acknowledging that He is Christ the Lord.  (If we find that we are offended by such things, then we might want to review 1 Corinthians Chapter 13)

Another similar twist is that many Christians are offended by the secularists who insist on using Happy Holidays rather than Merry ChristmasIt seems inevitable that every year we have a lot of "debate" and criticism of those who wish to be politically correct and "non-religious" and refuse to use the expression "Merry Christmas" and simply opt for "Happy Holidays."

Many of my Christian friends get really upset and vow to boycott business that try to be politically correct. Some will argue that we need to preserve the traditional celebration themes of Christmas trees, garlands, wreaths, Santa Claus, and all related items. Interestingly, the "politically correct" crowd want to eliminate all these because they are thought to be "religious" in their nature or origin.

A friend sent me an email attachment of a very beautiful Christmas card (a print of a well-know painting) with all the traditional items. Although this person is known to quote Scriptures and be openly demonstrative of his religious feelings, his ideal Christmas card had absolutely no reference or hint of the birth of Christ or the manger, Mary and Joseph, Bethlehem, etc. What follows is my observation of this phenomenon:

The paintings of the Traditional Christmas scene and ornaments were top quality.  These are truly representative of the best of the expressions of the American Traditional Christmas.  My concern for the situation is that we have already allowed the real meaning of Christmas to be swallowed up and lost in a sea of American Tradition.  Is there any way to get back to the true meaning since almost everyone is now trying to rescue the Tradition and it seems have given up on rescuing the basic truth

Ironically, it seems that the Political Correctness folks have stumbled upon the real meaning of the celebration when they insist that people say Happy Holidays. That probably sounds strange to most. However, consider this: a good Biblical word for “Happy” is “Blessed” and the origin of the word “holiday” is from “Holy Day”  So, if someone wishes me a “Blessed Holy Day,” then I really can’t object even though they may NOT know that they said. 

You have to think that God has an excellent sense of humor (or is saddened, maybe) when all the secular humanists are going around saying Blessed Holy Day and all the church folks are trying to stop them with a greeting that is straight out of the Catholic tradition of the “Christ Mass” that has been blended with the Druid observances related to the celebration of the winter solstice along with the glorification of the evergreen tree and veneration of the holly plant and berries.  

(Additional trivial information – the first time the word “merry” appears in the KJV of the Bible is in Genesis 43:34 and its meaning there is “drunken”  - it seems that a lot of folks faithfully apply that definition to their celebration of Christmas.)

 
Posted November 7, 2013
A Rebuttal to Claims about the Koran and Islam
Several years ago a letter was submitted to the editor in our local newspaper a person who complained about what he considered to be a misunderstanding by most people in our area regarding his religion and the Koran. What follows is a letter that I sent directly to this person that addressed the main points of his arguments.

I would like to share some thoughts that are very different from your understanding. I do not intend these differences to be disparaging to your beliefs but to present a radically different alternative from what you have indicated that you believe. While I do not wish to be tedious, I will attempt to address many of the points (arguments) you made with another perspective.
(Your statements are shown in black print.)

“ it is unfair to expect a novice to comprehend it (the Koran) accurately”
Even a child can understand the main message of the Bible - all have sinned, no one can save himself; but, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to be the perfect sacrifice for sin so that whosoever believes in Him will not have to face the judgment of those who have sinned.
“The Koran is a marvel like no other”
While that is likely to be a true statement, the Koran is a book authored by the man Mohammed and, as far as I know, it does not claim to be the word of God. The Bible has as its author the Holy Spirit of God - no other book is like it.
“Millions study it (the Koran) and find guidance because it is the book of guidance.”
The Bible is a book that millions study and find salvation because it is the book of salvation. You can find guidance in many place, but there is salvation in no one other than the Lord Jesus, God’s uniquely begotten Son. He came to die in our place to take the penalty for your sins and mine.
“ Intention is extremely important. We find in it what we look for.”
This statement speaks volumes in that it says that “the Koran has no power other than that which the reader gives it.” On the other hand, many have testified that they have read the Bible for the express purpose of discrediting it only to find themselves discovering the truth of Who God is and to see the salvation that He has provided in the atoning work of the Cross of Christ. The Word of God is powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword, discerning between the thoughts and the intentions of the heart.
“There is certain etiquette and some prerequisites for receiving guidance from the Koran.”
An important criterion for really benefitting from exposure to the word of God is to simply be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. However, just being exposed to the “Word” has the ability to bring conviction (as indicated in the above reference) to those who came to believe even while trying to discredit the Bible.
“Sometimes Muslims have a knee-jerk reaction when Islam is criticized. They respond in kind.”
Sometimes the responses go well beyond “in kind.” Ordering death for someone who writes a book or draws a cartoon is beyond “knee-jerk” and is contrary to the concept of “do no harm.”
“There is no compulsion in religion.”
While I agree that a person’s beliefs cannot be dictated by another, the compulsion of having only one “religion” is practiced in many “Muslim” nations. Persecution and even death can and has resulted to those who would choose to believe something different than that which the religiously run state has compelled. (Having said that, I would have to wonder what you meant by your statement.)
“ We will find out on the Day of Judgment who was right and who was wrong.”
While many things will be revealed and those who trust in God will be vindicated on the Day of Judgment, we do not have to wait to find out who is right and who is wrong. The word of God clearly teaching that ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Therefore, all are wrong who are descendant of Adam. There is only One who is righteous and He made provision by His death on the cross so that all who believe and trust in Him will not perish but will be able to share in His righteousness. “For God made Him (Jesus) Who knew no sin, to be sin for us, so that we can be the righteousness of God in Christ.” Those in Christ have already been declared to be “right” based entirely and only on the righteousness of Christ and NOT upon their own righteousness.
“let’s serve humanity”
This may be where it gets to be a little tedious: While many Christian and apparently Muslims will speak of “serving their fellow man” we should be (more correctly) thinking in terms of serving the One who is Lord in our lives. In serving the Lord, then we will find ways to do good works for the benefit of others. As you said earlier: Intentions are important.
“the best way we can”
While we should always want to be and do the best we can, that is NOT enough. This is why man cannot save himself. His own effort are not adequate. We should be doing “whatever we do” in the power of the Holy Spirit which is beyond what we can do in our own strength.
“without hurting anyone”
“Do no harm” is a good starting point. In fact, this is exactly the philosophy of the “letter of the law” as was given to Moses. The Scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were experts at observing the “letter of the law” and Jesus told the people, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Going beyond the letter of the law, we find the “spirit of the law” and that can be summarized by “love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the intention of the law - again we come back to “intention.” It would be a wonderful world IF we could just do this! However, Jesus told His disciples that He had a “new commandment” and that is to “Love one another even as I have loved you.” That kind of love goes even beyond the idea of loving your neighbor as you love yourself and says that you would even sacrifice your wants, needs and your very life for your neighbor. This is revolutionary and is transforming. This is what Christianity is about. It is beyond Judaism, it is beyond Islam, it is beyond any “religion” the world has - it is a relationship that allows God to live in you and do His work through you.

 
Posted February 13, 2013
A SIGN OF THE TIMES IN WHICH WE LIVE

I just saw an entry on Facebook in which the writer was really upset by a situation at a local supermarket in which an elderly man who had to use a walker was not given any assistance by the supermarket workers in getting his shopping cart full of groceries from the store to his car. The poor man had to put his walker on top of the grocery cart and then go through the difficult task of walking across the parking lot and then unloading the cart into his car. The conclusion drawn by the writer was that the supermarket should be alert to such situation and provide help for those with obvious needs.

My question to the writer of this observation is fairly simple: Why did YOU not help if YOU saw the need? Is this not indicative of what is wrong with our nation today? It is always someone else's responsibility to provide help and it never occurs to us to actually do something to help when an opportunity is recognized. This is an excellent example of what Jesus told us to do "as we go declare that the Kingdom of Heaven has come." Is it better to declare the Kingdom by our actions or do we think this means handing out a pamphlet and presenting the Four Spiritual Laws? It actually may have been easier to help the man take his groceries to his car and unload them than to write a scathing rebuke of the supermarket on Facebook. I'm quite certain that the person's disposition and outlook on life would have been improved by actually helping rather than being upset by what someone else did NOT do!

 
Posted November 8, 2012

The End of an Empire 
This is from an article published in the Canadian Free Press on 11/7/2012 by Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh.  Each paragraph in black type is by Dr. Paugh and I have added my observations in blue.

COMMENTS ADDED BY LEONARD DAVIS

Our Constitutional Republic died a peaceful death on November 6, 2012. Having reached the point of no return in a comatose state after years of progressive and illegal immigration assaults, the fabric of conservative society is now completely unraveled and Uncle Sam's America is no more.   
[Comment:  This reminds me of a situation in which a family member has failing health and is on life support.  The children are trying to decide what measures should be taken to deal with the situation.  One alternative is to perform a heart transplant and the other is to remove the life support.  They voted and the “pull the plug” group prevailed.]

The United States of America is now relegated to the dust bin of history as a "has been" empire. The Shining City on the Hill, the hope of so many millions since July 4, 1776, no longer exists. What rises from the ashes is a country that few of us will recognize, like, or learn to accept submissively.
[Comment:  If you saw the movie “Obama’s America 2016” you may recall that Dinesh D’Souza claimed that Obama’s objective was to weaken our nation so that we would not have any more influence in the world than a third world nation – recall Obama’s frequent references to leveling the playing field.  It appears that we are well on the way to becoming as “relevant” as a third-world nation.  The outcome of this will be worldwide anarchy.]

After 236 years of existence, a new country emerges today, run by secular progressives who rejected our Constitution, what we stand for, and who we are as a nation. The Supreme Court will be forever altered after its last conservative members will be replaced by the liberal academics who call themselves "progressives." The rule of law will be implemented by Executive Orders, making Congress irrelevant. 
[Comment:  The first four years of the Obama administration have demonstrated the possibility of our having a government of bureaucratic czars and not a constitutional republic.  Many have wanted us to become more like Europe or Russia or China – depends and how radical they are – and we are moving in that direction.]

The communist motto "Forward" that resonated with so many ignorant Americans will plunge us into many years of darkness from which we will never be able to recover. We have proven our Founding Fathers right, they did give us a Constitutional Republic and we were unable to maintain it. 
[Comment:  The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us that any system left to its self will tend toward disorder.  Failure to maintain or keep the “orderliness” of what was provided for us over 200 years ago will result in eventual anarchy.]

The forces of the failed communist fundamental transformation that were driven underground in many places around the world, resurfaced with a vengeance in the United States and have now taken over. 
[Comment:  These “forces” have been around and recognized for centuries.  We have seen the “successful” emergence of this in Communist Russia and China.  It appeared to have been dealt a death blow in the failure of the USSR.  As a result, the defenders of freedom let down their guard and the evil has re-emerged in the last bastion of freedom.  While men slept, the enemy has come in and sowed tares among the wheat.]

How long we will still have freedom of speech, movement, assembly, and control of our private property remains to be seen. Faith and churches will be driven underground; allowing secularism to prosper and take deep roots among the progressives whose God is Mother Earth.
[Comment:  Anyone who has been paying attention to what has already been unfolding over the past 50 years has recognized that Secular Humanism has replace Christianity as our “national” belief system.  We have apparently thought that separation of “church and state” meant that “religion” should not profoundly influence the foundation of “government.”  That is an impossibility!  Every “organization” operates within a framework of a belief system.   
With regard to the reference to “Mother Earth,” this is just another name for the pagan goddess Ashtoreth that was a stumbling block for ancient Israel.]  


The welfare dependent Americans, unions, and illegal aliens have chosen for the rest of us the dark path of serfdom to big government and to socialist utopia.
[Comment:  We have, in effect, sold our birthright for a free cell phone, food stamps, and government giveaway programs.]

Who would have guessed that the very people who were complaining that the government is not extricating them from disaster or giving them the help they needed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, would vote for the very politicians who turned their backs on needy Americans after the lights went dark when the political photo opportunities ended?
[Comment:  Prejudicial bias (positive or negative) causes people to ignore the facts of the situation.  Many have believed the message that “the present administration is really looking out for the welfare of the people.”   So when they fail to deliver, many will ignore the failure and will believe the assertion by the incompetents that they did a good job because that “fits” their bias.]

Who would have guessed that Americans were as ignorant and irresponsible as to choose fiscal destruction over fiscal sanity for their children and grandchildren, secularism and communism over faith, dependence over personal responsibility and self-reliance?
[Comment:  We have failed to grasp the truth that “there is no free lunch.”  We have also ignored the truth that short-term decisions result in long term consequences that are opposite of the supposed benefit that drives the short-term decision.]

Americans have been protesting for the last four years the dismal state of the economy and the direction of our country, the corruption of our politicians, and the loss of personal and economic freedom.
[Comment:  Apparently, we are willing to tolerate incompetence and dishonesty if those in power are giving us token gifts to appease us and divert our attention.  The Romans used bread and circuses as their empire was crumbling around them.]

Rallies in support of conservatism overwhelmed venues for Mitt Romney while rallies for our bumbling President became scarcer and scarcer. Yet, miraculously, at the ballot box, our President won all over the country. 
[Comment:  It is not enough to just agree – we need to act.  The total number of people who voted for Romney was less than the number of people who voted for McCain.  We must give our ideas and convictions value by acting on them.  Those evangelical Christians in the swing states that did NOT vote should be ashamed.]

We lost seats in the Senate. Americans chose liars and cheats to be their Senators and Representatives, rejecting those who protected the Constitution. The candidate from Massachusetts who claimed direct American Indian lineage to Pocahontas is now a Senator, having defeated Scott Brown.  Representative Allen West lost his seat by a narrow margin to the infamous Wasserman Schultz from Florida.
[Comment:  One of the features of a democracy is that we get what we deserve especially when we do stupid things.  The problem is that those who act wisely (if they are not in the majority) will suffer along with the idiots.]

Americans chose high unemployment, reduction of our military, communist indoctrination of their children, and loss of personal freedoms unlike we have never seen before in this country.
[Comment:  If we do not choose and act wisely, then we suffer from the principle of unintended consequences.]

I am saddened by the loss of millions and millions of American soldiers who have died to preserve freedom yet we lost it on November 6, 2012. Those buried in cemeteries around the world and at Arlington must be rolling in their graves today. We shamelessly allowed their sacrifice of blood and treasure to go in vain. We have no honor because we let down all the soldiers who fought in recent times and returned home limbless with lives shattered from physical and mental wounds of war. 
[Comment:  Most of us fail to see the connection of history and the great sacrifices that have been given with our present benefits of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  A disconnection with history and/or an improper interpretation of history are needed before someone can come along and institute “fundamental changes” in our lives.  We have a populace that is ignorant of our past, ignorant of how far we have strayed from the foundational principles that have made this nation great and ignorant of the consequence of poor choices made today.]

I mourn today the loss of my adopted country. I have fought hard over the last four years to prevent its overt and accelerated destruction but the darker forces stronger than many of us have overcome concerted efforts by millions of Americans to maintain the Republic. Mediocrity, sloth, godlessness, dependence, cowardice, using the law selectively or ignoring it, and hopeless corruption will define the new country. Only God can save us now with his mercy and grace. 
[Comment:  We battle not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities in the spiritual realm.  We need to take the battle to the prayer closet.]
[Closing Comments:  I am concerned that we (as a nation) have rejected God and have embraced the very things that are proclaimed (in God’s Word) to be an abomination to God.  As a result of repeated rejections and choosing to go the way of the world, the flesh and the devil, God has given us over to a reprobate mind and those result in people not being able to distinguish right from wrong or truth from lies.  We have gotten to the point that people are proud of their iniquity and when that happens, there is little possibility of repentance.
 I told someone several weeks ago that if Obama wins, that would be a result of God’s judgment on our nation.  As I am typing this, the “news” is reporting another weather disaster.  We have experienced so many disasters over the past decade and we have failed to realize that God has been trying to get our attention BUT we have continued to ignore His redemptive efforts.  We need to claim the promise of divine protection for God’s people as His judgment unfolds all around us.]

 
Posted April 3, 2011

Observations on Congregational Responses

. . . . In a recent sermon, the preacher referenced the passage in Acts 1 regarding what Jesus told His followers immediately prior to His ascensiion. There were three promises mentioned. First, the Holy Spirit would come. Second, the follower of Jesus would be witnesses and (third) that Jesus would return. When the speaker mentioned point one involving the coming of the Holy Spirit, there was no comment from the congregation. When he mentioned that Jesus told them they would be His witnesses, there was no comment from the congregation. When the fact of Jesus' return was mentioned there was a chorus of Amens and like comments. That same scenario was repeated each time the three points of the promises were reviewed. It became quite obvious that we seem to be a lot more enthusiastic about the return of Christ than we are about carrying out the Great Commission to be witnesses so that we can make disciples of all nations.

 
Posted March 26, 2011

Comment on the controversy of there being a “place of eternal punishment” or not.

....What does one do with the problem of SIN? Whether you believe the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was a historical happening or is just an illustrative story that explains the problem of sin for humanity, you cannot ignore the message of the account. Mankind sinned and that has resulted in separation from God and this sin/separation prevented the possibility of mankind fulfilling the intent of God to create mankind in His image.
.... The sin problem has a consequence. God told Adam and Eve that in the day they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they would die. In the present debate, it doesn’t matter if there was an actual tree with actual fruit – it does matter that sin (missing the mark) is the direct consequences of deciding for yourself (apart from what God has declared; that is, not believing God) what is good and what is evil - what is right and what is wrong - what is truth and what is falsehood. Therefore, the consequence of sin is death. This eternal death is described as an ongoing dying and the horror of such “existence” is depicted as flames that never go out. What that means in a “spiritual realm” is likely beyond our ability to comprehend - however, we can understand enough to know that it is really bad.
..... Renewed discussion of the “no hell” heresy has been triggered by a recent publication of a book by Rob Bell entitled, Love Wins. This has resulted in many articles from those who disagree with Bell and also from those who would support his position. I get the impression from what I have read that Rob Bell is somewhat a disciple of Brian McLaren who has written several books related to “new Christianity.” The following is quoted from McLaren’s defense of Bell and argument against Al Mohler’s review of Bell’s book:

I know Rob, and I'm quite certain he (like many of us) started questioning the interpretation of the gospel he received not because he was looking for a more palatable or popular version. . . He started questioning the interpretation/version he received because he became convinced - from studying Scripture itself - that the version he received wasn't the best interpretation. He (and many of us) may be wrong, but if we're wrong, it's not simply because we are trying to pander to "contemporary culture" . . . (Brian McLaren)

....If the above statement is not “deciding for yourself (apart from what God has declared) what is right and wrong,” then it is a close facsimile. In more than four decades of Bible study, I have concluded that many of the “traditional” interpretations/translations of various passages could be somewhat different since the Greek or Hebrew words in the oldest manuscripts have multiple meanings. However, I have not found anything in such variations to remotely suggest that the “flames of hell” are for refining or purifying so as to make an unrepentant person who deliberately rejected the loving grace of God as exemplified by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ to become a new creation in Christ (as suggested by Bell that we have a second chance after we die). This is like Rob Bell deciding that he has to protect his interpretation of God’s reputation by creating a possibility of salvation after physical death. To suggest such without some sound Scriptural references is, at best, irresponsible.
.....Some of the arguments put forth by McLaren and Bell follow along the line of “how could a just and loving God condemn one of his children to an eternity of torment because of disobedience?” The answer to that argument is to first of all realize that the question is based on a false premise of concluding that every human being is a “child of God.” Those who are born of the Spirit of God are the children of God. For these, God came in the form of a servant and in the likeness of human flesh, to die on the cross for their disobedience. He became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ. That is what He does for His children. The invitation is open for all to become His children - for as many as received Him, He authorized them to become His children - even to those who believe on His name. For those who reject Him, they remain in their condition of lostness that resulted from sin and their destination is death. That is what justice is about. What love is about is the fact that God has provided a way to come out of the system that is controlled by the “law of sin and death” and He did that at the ultimate cost of the death of His Son on the Cross. If you want to reject the ultimate means of salvation, then you have, in fact, chosen the ultimate consequence of sin or disobedience. (If you are bothered by the millions who have not heard of Jesus and God’s plan of salvation, then please see Paul’s explanation of this situation in Romans 1:18-21. Better yet, if you are really bothered by this, then go and make disciples of all nations . . .)

 
Posted October 26, 2010

Christmas, Easter, Halloween:
.....Many people celebrate a traditional Christmas with evergreen trees, holly and Santa. A few will observe and celebrate the birth of the Savior (although it may be displaced several weeks in calendar time). Many will celebrate Easter with colored eggs and fake grass and candy while a few will observe and celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. Many celebrate Halloween with scary costumes and impish pranks while some others eschew any hint of "celebrating" such an event but will, inadvertantly, end up "observing" the event with alternatives such as "Fall Festivals" and other such neutral names. A few will neither celebrate nor observe Halloween.
..... The reasons most church leaders give for such alternatives observances is that it is an outreach to the community. Who could be against outreach? My question regarding this reason is simply this: If free food and games are such an effective way to win the lost to Christ, then why do we not do this every week? Why is it only appropriate to do this in late October or early November?
.....Broad is way and wide is the gate that leads to destruction and MANY go this way; straight is gate and narrow is the way that leads to eternal life and FEW there be that find it.

 
Posted May 3, 2010
The highest expression of "freedom" is denying our own selfish desires for the good of others.
     
Posted May 3, 2010

Appreciation - Observations:
.....Many year ago a rather silly incident occurred involving my doing a favor for a neighbor. Nancy and I were living in Cabana Apartments and projecting to the time when we would build our house on the bit of farm land we had purchased right after moving to Kingsport. In anticipation of "living on a farm" I had purchased an old pickup truck. We had a garden "at the farm" although we still lived in the apartmnent. We used the truck for "truck-like" things such as moving dirt or compost. Since it was a truck, i didn't keep the bed spotlessly clean - duh!
.....A neighbor asked to borrow the truck to move some furniture (either for themselves or a friend). I was glad to let them use the truck with no expectation of any payment or donation for gas money or anything else other than appreciation. It was just a neighborly thing to do. They used the truck and upon rerturning it, the wife commented that some of the furniture had gotten dirty because I had not cleaned the truck bed before they borrowed it. She then told me, "Please make sure the truck is clean before we borrow it again." I was speechless and consequently was able to turn the other cheek.
.....I was reminded of this total lack of appreciation in an incident that happened today. I do some volunteer work in "the community" and attempt to do a good job. Hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars have been spent in helping the organization with a needed project and the only response the organization makes is a complaint equivalent to asking me to do something even more trivial than sweeping out my truck - something that the recepient could have done for himself. My response was simply "I will be glad to do that."
.....That response was not because I was speechless but it was a deliberate, measured response that is, in retrospect, is in agreement with the Sermon on the Mount. We will always encounter people who are incapable of showing appreciation but, instead, act as if they are entitled to what is willingly contributed.

 
Posted April 16, 2010

Inhibitions in worship:
......I have found that I am less inhibited in times of worship when I am alone or sitting on the back row of the church.  When I am in a position or situation where other can see what I am doing, then I am reluctant to raise my hands or even fall on my knees or perhaps fall on my face before an omnipotent God. 
......Why do I do this?  Do I really care what anyone thinks of me?  I don’t think so – but will not deny that may be a possibility.  Why would I care what someone else thinks of me?  I have rationalized in the past that it (what someone thinks of me) may diminish my influence for good if someone thinks that I am some sort of religious fanatic.  That may be a legitimate concern regarding the reality of what could or might happen. 
......So, what would be a valid (or legitimate) reason for being less than uninhibited during times of corporate worship?  To answer this question, I asked myself “What is the effect (on me) of someone else who behaves in a demonstrative manner during worship?”  The reality of it all is that it depends on the setting I’m in.  If I were at a “high church” worship service and someone raised his hands or shouted or danced around, then I would be totally distracted and perhaps embarrassed for the person and would wonder about the motives of the person.  If I were at a “typical” (whatever that is) evangelical, traditional church service on Sunday morning and witnessed a demonstration as described above, then I would probably be “somewhat distracted” and suspect that the demonstration was perhaps “contrived” by a person who wanted attention.  On a personal note, I attend such a church service weekly and find that I will typically close my eyes during the song service so that I will not be distracted by those who are occasionally demonstrative.  I am somewhat troubled and distracted by those who start demonstrating only after they noticed that someone else was responding (outwardly) during the song or sermon.   (Even more reason to keep my eyes closed.)  On the other hand, if I were in a community church (non-traditional, non-denominational) and most (or even many) of the people were raising their hands, or even dancing around, then I would not be as distracted (perhaps not distracted at all) by what was happening around me.  In fact, I would be more likely to join in with the less inhibited behavior.
......Now, that I have analyzed my reaction, perhaps I can get a better handle on my behavior during worship.  In other words, “Why would I not behave as I would like to during my church’s worship time except when I am on the back row or where other cannot see me?”  The basic reason is NOT that I really care what others think of me or my actions, BUT it is a profound concern that what I do would distract or take from the worship experience of others around me. 
......Why do I think this would be the case?  I have observed that many people (even most) of those who attend where I worship are distracted and disapproving of the demonstrations that go on by some who are uninhibited.  The problem may be that those who are most demonstrative in worship times are also those who tend to hunger for attention even when they are not in a worship experience.  Therefore, the conclusion of many comes down on the side of “that person is simply seeking attention.”  I have to admit that I have had similar thoughts. 
......In contrast, to the supposed “attention seekers,” I recall a worship experience several years ago when the choir finished a particularly stirring arrangement of “How Great Thou Art” an elderly lady in the congregation (who was normally reserved and did not, to my knowledge, seek attention for herself) exclaimed aloud “Oh, glory!”  It was electrifying and it was a fitting commentary on the praise offering of the choir and congregation that morning.  I don’t think anyone was distracted by the comment but was uplifted by it.
......So, what do I do with this realization?   I am still working on it!!

 
Posted January 10, 2010
It may be the epitome of arrogance to imply that if everyone does not do things the way we do them that they are wrong and we feel the freedom to criticize (judge) others in this way. The criticism could be simply, "Some people do this or that, however, I don't understand why they would do that since it is not the way I do it." The very fact that we do not understand why is exactly the reason we should not judge others.
Posted January 10, 2010
When we see someone doing something, then we will conclude that his actions are either good or evil based on what our intentions would be if we were doing the same thing.  If you were in some sort of volunteer organization and had the disposition that you wanted to always be helpful wherever you could be, then some might interpret what you were doing to be helpful as “just trying to control everything.”  What the critics would be doing in their criticism is letting everyone know what their agenda would be if they doing the same thing you were doing.  This is the basis of Jesus’ statement “judge not, lest you be judged.”  In judging or measuring a person’s actions or judging an event, we are judging and measuring our own self.  The irony of being judgmental of others is that the person who is doing the judging will eventually be judged even more harshly by God and by others.  By constantly being critical of others and everything that is going on, a person will develop such a reputation that he will be ineffective in whatever he tries to do.
 
Posted January 4, 2010
Humanists have a world view that believe that man is his own god. Statists humanists elevate the state or government to a status of god. Both groups deny the existence of God. When a state acts as if it is god and attempts to duplicate Christ's miracle of feeding the five thousand and does so in its own strength will find its limitations do not allow for real creative power. Consequently, the best the government can do to be creative is to print more money which is unstaniable.
Posted January 4, 2010

When Jesus fed the 5000 thousand with five loves and two fish He took some things that had no life (ground and baked grains and cooked fish) and caused them to multiply - a process that we normally think of as associated with living things. In the hands of the "Giver of Life" the dead objects were multiplied. It was as if He infused "life" into them. When we are "dead" in trespasses and sin, and we present this to Christ then He is able to infuse life in us (the new birth). We might ask, when that happened to us were we "multiplied?" If not, then could the reason be that we have not allowed ourselves to be broken. It was only when Jesus blessed and "broke" the bread and divided the fish that these were multiplied.

 

Posted December 25, 2009
Transforming Belief Into Faith
In Greece, hundreds of years before Christ, the philosopher Plato speculated that if only a person knew “the good,” he would do it. Herod’s act (in murdering John the Baptist) showed how wrong Plato was. It is not enough to know what is good. It is not enough to believe the right things. A person must commit himself to what he knows is right. A person must trust God enough to believe that He exists, and that it is God’s opinion that counts; that His will must guide ours.
Herod believed that John was a prophet. He even liked to listen to John’s teachings, just as the people of Israel believed that Jesus was a Prophet and crowded around to hear Him speak and to witness His miracles.
But when the time for decision arrived, mere belief must be transformed into faith. There must be commitment! A person must not look around, and try to please those who are watching. A person must face the fact that only God’s opinion counts, and in the firm conviction that God is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him, that person must commit himself to what is right.
(Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The Teacher's Commentary. (613). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.)

 

Posted December 4, 2009

Popularity, materialism, glamour, mind-altering substances, and bad philosophies (such as nihilism) do not satisfy because these appeal to the carnal senses and values.  On the other hand, the “many” of the crowd that followed Jesus for carnal reasons (the signs, wonders, free food, etc.) could not find any satisfaction even in Jesus because they approached it from the perspective of worldly values rather than from spiritual values. 

One could take this a step further and wonder about the modern day church.  How many of us are following and attending just because of the entertainment value of the weekly events, the mental stimulation of the message, the camaraderie of other people, the social stimulus and status, good environment for our families, and such thing which are all good in and of themselves?  All these can be beneficial just from a strictly carnal viewpoint.  When we get past these things and get to the point of the “hard saying” (John 6:60) how many will go away? We should know that the shallowness of the ways of the world keep us from finding spiritual truth, we probably need to also learn that we can have shallowness in religious “things and activities” that keep us from finding spiritual truth.

Posted November 23, 2009
Why do we think Spiritual Growth and Spiritual Maturity can be accomplished or measured by Pharisaical practices? Do such things as attendance at a Bible Study Class, attending church, reading the Bible daily, giving money once a week, reading a Bible Study lesson, saying a prayer before each meal, and/or any number of religious things result in Spiritual Growth and Maturity? It didn't work for the Pharisees . . .

While such practices may be found to be taking place by those who are growing spiritually, we must not confuse cause and effect. As Billy Sunday so famously said, “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going into a garage makes you a car.”