Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Could the Apostasy be Upon Us?

I recently came across an interesting article written by Steve Gallagher in the Spring 2008 issue of Unchained! Magazine. Mr. Gallagher is the founder of Pure Life Ministries and a good writer; I’ve read several of his articles and ordered three of his books as part of my Christmas present to myself, they are now in a stack with five other “to read” books on my shelf.

The article is called, Could the Apostasy be Upon Us?, and was inspired by the movie, Time Changer, starring D. David Morin, Gavin MacLeod and Hal Linden. Here is part of that article:

“The storyline occurs in 1890 and revolves around Bible professor Russell Carlisle, who is unwittingly transported by a time machine into modern-day America. For five days, he finds himself trapped in a wicked world to which you and I have become shamefully accustomed.”

“At one point, he is seen watching television. His horrified expression betrays the fact that he is witnessing the kind of blatant immorality which has become standard fare for many of us. But perhaps the most poignant scene occurs when he is invited by some Christians to attend a movie with them. Suddenly, he is shown running out of the theater screaming at the employees, ‘You have to stop this movie! That actor took the Lord’s name in vain! He blasphemed God!’

“If you or I witnessed a fellow believer acting this way, we would quickly distance ourselves from him. And yet this scenario provokes a few pointed questions Christians should ask themselves. Why aren’t we more outraged when we hear actors take the Lord’s name in vain? How can we look upon scantily-clad girls on television without blushing? Why do we permit TV to indoctrinate our children with the world’s values? The Church is obviously backslidden. The greater question it provokes is: Could we be in the Great Apostasy and not be aware of it?”

“After having spent the last two years studying this subject in Scripture, I was forced to acknowledge that two of my long-held assumptions regarding it have been wrong.

“First, I came to realize that this falling away would not primarily be an obvious, outward renunciation of Christianity; it would be much more an issue of what is occurring in people’s hearts (e.g., Matt. 24:12).

“My second erroneous notion was that the greatest problem in the Church today is that pastors are too busy to effectively disciple their flocks. I thought the sin and carnality running rampant in our midst was the result of harried pastors not holding churchgoers accountable to actually live what they are learning. I now believe that the larger issue is that pastors are burning themselves out trying to lead unconverted people into living the Christian life.

“In the end, I arrived at the devastating conclusion that a large segment of the Post-Modern Church—that which has been the subject of our love and efforts—fits all the criteria predicted by Scripture of the Apostate Church. This issue of Unchained! Magazine will highlight a handful of those characteristics.”

I must say, “Amen to that, brother!” I agree with him wholeheartedly; I’ll even add that I believe that a lot (most?) people who call themselves Christian have no idea what that really means. I know non-Christians are clueless about Christianity, just ask one sometime.

I’ll repeat something here that I’ve said for several years now, America is NOT a Christian country; it started out that way, but went off track years ago. Would a Christian nation murder 1.5 million babies every year? Would a Christian nation openly embrace and accept homosexuals and their lifestyle? Would a Christian nation allow all the R- and X-rated movies and shows, and allow all the porn and smut that we have?

No, this country is not Christian and it has no desire to be. I’ve not studied the Great Apostasy as deeply as Mr. Gallagher so I can’t say we are fulfilling that prophecy right now, but I won’t disagree and say we aren’t. Either way, America is in trouble spiritually and morally, and the church in American is in the same boat.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Learning from Noah’s Flood

We can learn a lot from the way God dealt with Noah and the people on earth just prior to the flood. God illustrated four points of emphasis for us in the story of Noah’s Flood:

•God allows man to exercise his free will
•Man’s free will leads him to sin against God
•God must step in to punish/save man
•God then sets man on the right course again

Noah’s flood is a perfect example of how God provides a “lifeboat” to save man from his sin. God allows man to travel on his own course only so far, then He steps in with an ultimatum: straighten up or pay the price! God allowed man to live in sin for about 1600 years before He had enough of man’s ways; God brought Noah into the ark and caused the great flood to wipe evil off the face of the earth. The flood is a foreshadow of what is to come in the last days when the righteous and the ungodly are separated, with the righteous going to be with God in salvation and the ungodly going to their final place in hell.

God always provides a way out! The righteous will be saved from the wrath to come. But man is free to choose the course he wants to take and God will not force any decision upon him; the ones who drowned were free to repent and get into the ark with Noah. The apostle Peter called Noah “a preacher of righteousness,” so obviously he tried to convince others of their sinful ways, yet no one listened.

Today, Jesus is the “ark” in which we are called to get on board in order to bypass the terrible wrath to come. God is fed up with the sin of man and is soon to evoke punishment again; but as before, He has provided a way out for anyone who will only choose that way. Jesus is our “preacher of righteousness” today, calling all to salvation though His mercy and grace.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Can a Christian be a Democrat?

I want to make two things clear right from the start: first, I know that no one is perfect or sin free, I am not claiming that I am, nor even close to being, a sinless person. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:15 (KJV), “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief”; so if he was the chief sinner, then I must be the Master of the Universe sinner.

Second, I am not passing judgment on anyone. That’s God’s job when it comes to a person’s relationship with Him. I can though, look at a person’s actions and judge whether those actions are in line with the Word of God or not. Some Christians do wrong out of ignorance, others because they rationalize the sin away, but the fact remains that a Christian does not always do what the Word says to do; mistakes and regrets are plentiful in every Christian’s life, so I write with those thoughts in mind.

Now, back to the point at hand, can a Christian be a democrat and/or, in good conscious, vote for a democratic Politician? Before I give my though on this, I’ll state one more caveat—when I use the word “Christian”, I’m thinking of a person who is “born-again” and has a relationship with Jesus Christ that is beyond the I-attend-church-3-times-a-year person, or the I-believe-there-is-a-god-and-I’m-not-a-Muslim-so-I-must-be-a-Christian person. I’m taking about the person who knows that they are a sinner deserving to go to hell, but is saved from that fate because of what Jesus did by dying on the cross in order to pay the penalty that was owed for their sin, and that He rose from the grave so that they too can rise up and be with God for eternity.

Okay, now back to the point; the big, general answer is that no, a true Christian cannot be a democrat nor can they vote for one. Today’s Democratic Party is morally evil, plain and simple. Click on these two links to see what the Democratic Party’s platform is, what they stand for and behind: here and here.

How can a true Christian support abortion? This is the most evil act a person can commit! To intentionally and horrifically murder a totally innocent, unborn child is just beyond my comprehension. There is no reason for it at all! The Democratic Party is proud of these numbers: “In 2005, 1.21 million abortions were performed, down from 1.31 million in 2000. From 1973 through 2005, more than 45 million legal abortions occurred.”

A lot of people will say, “I agree with you, but what about rape and incest?” Well, let me ask this, what part of the rape or incest did the child take part in? Why do you want to execute the innocent child for what its father did? What does God say? (A small sampling from the Word)

Genesis 9:6 Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.

Exodus 20:13 You shall not murder.

Deuteronomy 27:25a Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person.

Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: …hands that shed innocent blood…

Jeremiah 1:4-5 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations".

How can a true Christian support homosexuality? God clearly is against this lifestyle, yet the Democrats are attacking anyone who does not support it. The “tolerant” party is not so tolerant of the beliefs of Christians.

1 Timothy 1:9-11 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, … for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, … and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

How can a true Christian support the party that took God, prayer and the Bible out of public schools and other government institutions? How about the art shows that are receiving federal grant money? They are so perverse it’s sickening. Yet the Democrats love it!

No, a true Christian would never belong to the Democratic Party, or ever vote for a politician of that party. The evils of abortion and homosexuality trumps any good that might come out of that group.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gospel Presentation

To know who Jesus is and to understand what and why He did what He did, I have to go back to the beginning. God created all there is, including the earth and everything on it. God made mankind to be perfect in every way and to have fellowship with Him. God didn’t want little robots running around, so He gave people a free will, the ability to make decisions, good or bad, so that they could decide for themselves if they wanted to be God’s friend and follower.

Adam and Eve were the first two people, God created them with His own hands; but before they had any children, they chose to disobey God, to use their free will to commit sin, by doing the one thing God told them not to do—eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When they disobeyed God, a sin nature was developed in them, and that sin nature was passed down from parent to child until this day. Sin means “missing the mark”; it’s both the actual act of disobeying God (such as stealing, lying, murder, etc) and the result of that disobedience.

Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Even though humans sinned and caused a separation between themselves and God, God still wanted that companionship He established in the beginning. But by being a Holy God, by His very nature, He is unable to even being the presence of sin. Think of the nastiest, most disgusting place you can think of, multiply that times a million and that’s not even close to what God thinks of sin.

But, because He loves us so much, He came up with a way for us to come to Him and reclaim that fellowship. He needed someone to pay the penalty for our sin. We couldn’t do it because we have committed sin and are an unclean payment. God says that the penalty of sin is death, and that the only payment He will accept is blood, but not just any blood, clean, holy blood, to wash away the sin of the world.

Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is where Jesus comes in. God is a Triune Being, He is one God in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Son, Jesus, left His heavenly home, took on human flesh, and was born to a virgin, Mary. He grew up as a normal child and became a man but with two exceptions: He was fully God and fully man at the same time, and He never sinned! Although He was tempted to sin just as we all are, not once did He submit to any temptation, thereby becoming the perfect sacrifice for our sin. God accepted Jesus as a substitute for all of us.

2 Corinthians 5:15 - And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

God will now let us into His heavenly home, to live with Him for all eternity, if all we do is simply believe in Jesus as the only begotten Son of God, that He lived a totally sinless life, that He died and shed His holy blood in our place, that He arose from the dead 3 days after His crucifixion and that He then ascended back to heaven to become our mediator before God the Father. If we ask God, our sin will be covered by Jesus’ blood! We will be redeemed and seen as holy if only we truly believe.

Romans 10:9-11 - That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame'.

John 3:3 - In reply Jesus declared, 'I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again'.

Being “born again” is what happens when one believes in what the Bible says about Jesus and agrees to make Him their Savior and Master.

John 14:6 - Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Studying the Bible

Last night, my pastor and I started an adult Bible study with other members of the church I attend; a small group of others were there, and we met at one of the member's house. It was the first meeting, so a lot of time was taken up with introductions and getting to know each other better.

I've been attending this church now for about 3 months and find it a nice place to be. It's small with only about 40 adult regulars, although there's been maybe 60 adults several times. I'm not the kind of person who just sits in the pew and is passive when it comes to church activity; I told told the pastor that I liked to teach and asked that if, after we got to know each other, I could lead a Bible study; so here we are and the first class has happened.

The pastor asked me what I wanted to teach to start with, and immediately I said, "How to study the Bible". I've taught adult Sunday School and classes for many years and more than once, I've been asked to teach a "How to study the Bible" class. Once I even asked the pastor of a large 4000+ member church I attended to let me do this (because of a request) and he said "No, all teachers must follow the same curriculum".

(I think that a lot of the large churches forget why they are even there, they lose touch with the spiritual people's needs and solely concentrate on the "numbers game", getting more and more people to show up on Sundays. Basketball, camping trips, the choir, etc. have replaced Bible study and helping people grow in Christ.)

So now, in this smaller church (which I prefer), I'm finally getting a chance to do this. Most every person at the class last night said two things: "I've been a Christian for a long time" and "I'm here because I don't know how to study what the Bible says". I've found this in a lot of churches over the years. As I told everyone, reading the Bible is different than studying the Bible.

The Bible is our primary source for discovering who God is and what He expects from us. If we can't correctly understand what His Word says, how can we ever move from milk to meat? Not everyone can go to Bible college, so it's the church's responsibility to teach its member to study the Word.

I'm excited about this class and expect good things to happen because of it. I thank the pastor for this opportunity and, as always, to God be the glory.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

If I had a Time-Traveling DeLorean

Yesterday, here in the Seattle area, the host of the conservative talk show I often listen to decided to talk about the movie Back to the Future and how the stars of that movie, Michael J. Fox, et al, occasionally travel around to Back to the Future conventions (I didn’t know such a thing existed). And how at these shows, they are inevitably asked this question: “If you really had a time-traveling DeLorean, would you go into the future or into the past? If into the past, who, when or what would you want to see?” (or some words to that effect)

A guest on the show said that he would go into the future and learn what sports teams and the stock market did, insinuating that he could then come back and get rich quick. Not a bad idea, I guess, but the question did what it was supposed to do and it got me thinking of the answer I would give, which is that I think I’d go back in time, not forward.

Now, you might be thinking, “Yes, so you could by stock in Microsoft or Boeing!” Well, that’s a great idea, but that wasn’t be my first thought. Or you might say, “You’d want to meet a famous person, like Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Abe Lincoln, or such?” No, not my first thought either. Those who know me might then guess, “Well, it has to be Ronald Reagan that you’d like to meet; you named your daughter after him after all, so that’s it, right?” Again, no (although Jesus and Reagan are at the top of the list, behind the one person who I’d like to visit first).

So, if I had a time-traveling DeLorean, I’d go back in time and visit my dad. He died suddenly in an auto accident on February 13, 2001, at the young age of 60; and, by gosh, I miss him.

He and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye as I was growing up, we had our moments when I didn’t understand what he was trying to get across to me. But, as an adult, I’ve said many times that I sure wish that I had listened to him more closely and followed his advice; maybe I’d have had a little easier go at this adulthood thing.

Here’s a good example: as a junior in high school, I was offered a wrestling scholarship to a local college, but as a senior, the college had to drop its wrestling program due to a lack of funding. When that happened, dad offered to pay my way through college, but, being the numbskull that I was, I told him, “Nope, I’ll do it on my own.” Well, it turned out that I was in my 40’s before I finally got my bachelor’s degree, working the whole time as I was taking a class here and a class there.

After high school, I didn’t see him a whole lot, I joined the military and traveled the world for the next 20 years. Then when I retired from the Air Force, I found a job about a thousand miles away, so as an adult, I saw him maybe once a year or so. I hate that he didn’t get to see me graduate from college and grad school, I hate that he didn’t get to see what successful adults his grandchildren have become and I hate that he didn’t get to see my fourth child or his soon-to-be-born first great-grandchild.

I tell my 7-year-old daughter, Reagan, about him all the time and she’s excited to see him someday in heaven – and so am I.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Is it okay for Christians to drink Alcoholic Beverages?

Popping the top of a can of beer that’s just above the freezing point is a nice way to bring a hard day’s work to an end. A nice glass of wine with supper can make a good meal taste even better. There’s nothing wrong with Christians partaking in these alcohol drinking activities--or is there? Is it okay for Christians to drink alcoholic beverages?

From my vast experience with Christian churches (as an adult, I’ve lived in 3 countries, 8 states and 22 different cities, and I’ve attended churches in each of them), I feel safe in saying that most churches heavily frown on its members drinking alcohol; and most, if not almost all of them required their leadership to completely abstain from all alcoholic beverages at all times (although I did speak with one pastor who offered to drink a beer with me and I’m related to another pastor who will drink a beer or two). But, is this requirement biblical? Is complete abstinence from alcohol commanded by Christ?

Now, let me say up front that I do drink beer, I like it, it taste good, and it’s relaxing; I don’t like wine or liquor, but that’s a personal preference. So I say the answer to my question is a resounding NO. I think it is a game of “I’m holier than you” when Christian put down and/or forbid others from drinking alcoholic beverages.

I will present scripture that allows me, as a Christian, to drink alcoholic beverages and I dare anyone to point out scripture that forbids it. There is not one verse in the whole Bible, Old or New Testament, that forbids God’s followers from drinking any alcoholic beverage. I know because I’ve looked.

Let’s look now at a few verses that ALLOW us to eat or DRINK anything we want:

Colossians 2:16-17 – Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

And how about this one:

1 Timothy 5:23 - Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

People like to say, “Well, Paul was really talking about grape juice there, wine back then was only what we call grape juice today.”

Really? Then why did Paul write in Ephesians 5:18 – “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery?” It’s the same word and same meaning.

It even seems that Jesus drank wine on occasion, as in these following verses:

John 2:1-11 - Jesus Changes Water to Wine. The Word doesn’t say that He did in fact drink wine that day, but it doesn’t say that He didn’t either (what else would He have drank?).

Matthew 26:29 - I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom.

This verse definitely says that Jesus was a wine drinker; and again, their wine was not our grape juice.

The main problem here is that some people like to add to scripture, as if they know better than God; they know better what people should do to be “holy”. They think of themselves to be wiser than the writers of the Bible. But look at what these verses say:

Matt 15:6-9 Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’

1 Corinthians 6:12 – Everything is permissible for me—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me—but I will not be mastered by anything.

1 Cor 4:6 Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.”

Rev 20:18, 19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Alcohol is not, in and of itself, sinful to indulge in. It is drunkenness and addiction to alcohol that a Christian must absolutely refrain from. We must know what the Bible says; know what our freedoms are and what our restrictions are. It’s better to follow the Bible than to obey man-made rules that add to the Bible, as the Pharisees did and were condemned by Jesus.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Do the Unsaved Burn Forever in Hell?

Ask most any Christian what happens to the unsaved when they die, and most likely the answer you’ll receive is that they go to hell. By this they mean that at the moment of death, the unrepentive sinner will immediately be ushered into the lake of fire where they will spend eternity burning in the flames, suffering pain and anguish forever and ever.

Where do Christians get this idea? It may surprise you to find out that this scenario is NOT in the Bible! So why is this belief so prevalent today? I can only guess that it’s a mass misinterpretation of what the Bible actually says. I was taught this scenario my whole life in church; and I swallowed it without once looking to see what the Bible really said. It was this way until my studies became more Christ-focused instead of man-focus, more Bible-centric as opposed to extra-biblical writings. Now, I still read other people’s writings to help me to understand difficult passages and to get other perspectives of what I’m discovering in my biblical readings.

One of the topics God has prompted me to study more closely is this concept of the unsaved burning forever. The main crux of the problem that I now have about this is that in order to burn forever, is that the person in question would have to live forever; they’d have to have an immortal soul. So, the question becomes, does every single person who has ever been conceived have an immortal soul or spirit?

The short answer is no, they don’t. Here’s why:

The Bible only uses the word “immortal” once, in 1 Timothy 1:17 and is describing God, not man: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

The Bible only uses the word “immortality” five times.

1. Romans 2:7 - To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

Eternal life isn’t a birthright, it’s something to be sought after.

2 & 3. 1 Corinthians 15: 53 & 54 – For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

It should be clear here that we are perishable and mortal, waiting for the imperishable and immortality to be placed on us like clothing. Only them do we have victory over death.

4. 2 Timothy 1:10 - but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Jesus brings eternal life through the gospel; again, it’s not something we are born with.

5. 1 Timothy 6:15b & 16 - God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Only God is immortal, man isn’t nor can be unless God clothes him with immortality through the gospel message.

I think that I’ve made a pretty good argument, by using nothing but the Bible, that man is not an immortal creature, and that he can only become immortal through accepting the gospel message and becoming a Christian. How can a person who does not accept the gospel of Christ live forever? He can’t; it’s impossible for him to live forever in hell or anywhere else!

Matthew 10:28 says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Why should the word “destroy” mean something different in the Bible than it does for us now? It doesn’t, people are sent to hell, burned up and destroyed; they no longer exist.

I can hear some of you saying: but wait, the Bible says that hell is an eternal flame, its smoke rises up forever. Why would hell be eternal if everyone who goes there is burned up and does not exist anymore? The answer is very simple – angels. Angels were created in, and live in, eternity, they never die.

The flames of hell were never meant for people, Matthew 25:41 says, “Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Satan and his fallen angels will burn forever, being eternal creatures, they won’t die. But humans will be sent to hell to be “destroyed”, not to live in pain for eternity.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Christian Rituals

Christian rituals such as celebrating Christmas and Easter shows what can happen when a ritual is practiced and the meaning behind the ritual is all but forgotten. It is a terrible shame what has happened to Christmas; the birth of Christ is not the meaning of Christmas in the United States today; commercialism is the god of Christmas, and Easter is fast becoming the same way. Christmas has a social value that meets the people’s needs in the area of relationship and friendship closeness, but it no longer meets the spiritual needs of most of the people who celebrate it.

Easter has turned into a child’s game type of event that makes a mockery of the resurrection. Easter is a ritual of chasing eggs and bunnies, not praising God for resurrecting Jesus from the dead. It’s about who looks the prettiest in their new dress or suit, not about being thankful for the Firstborn of God.

Other rituals Christians practice, such as baptism and communion, are a vital part of the Christian experience, and they are commanded by Christ to be done; there’s no argument against their importance. Some rituals, such as snake handling, are on the fringe and are even considered to be anti-productive in the cause for Christ.

There is a group of Christians in Africa who jump up and down in a trance for three straight days in their worship of Jesus. I can see the social importance of this because it brings them together and in commitment to each other, but I can’t understand how Christ is glorified by this. I have no idea what I would do as a missionary in this area. Is this how Christmas and Easter appears to non-Christians? Just something to jump up and down about with no real meaning?

Why don’t we Christian try to bring Christ back into focus as the “reason for the season”? When some says “Happy Holiday” to you this year, be sure to reply with a “Merry Christmas”, “God bless you”, and/or “Jesus is Lord”. Use Christ-centered Christmas cards and decorations. Let others know you are celebrating the birth of our Savior, not the return of a fat man in a red suit.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Believer’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare

In the Believer’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare, Thomas B. White talks about how Satan deals with people in order to bring about the most damage he can with his limited resources and powers. White says that Satan pollutes the minds and perverts the will of people by using governments, schools, media, religious organizations, etc to influence the lives of believers. This is so true, it has been a very effective avenue for Satan to use. For example, the Bible clearly says that God created everything in 6 days (the Hebrew word “yom,” when modified by an ordinal, ALWAYS means a 24-hour period, so “first day,” “second day,” etc definitely means a 24-hour period), but many Christians have allowed themselves to be fooled by Satan into believing that creation took long periods of time. The schools, government, media, etc have done the job for Satan quite well.

In the section on demon possession, White claims that a Christian cannot be indwelt or possessed by devils, but they can be influenced and harassed by them. His list of ways to deal with the devil is popular with most Christians–prayer and the armor of God.

White gives five scenarios that are good examples of what is happening with Christians today. In the first scenario, the Erosion of Conscience, he talks about the movies Christians go to. I was thinking of movies as soon as I saw the title to this section. We Christians, myself included, think nothing of going to see our superheroes in the theater, knowing full well that there will be vulgar language, sexual innuendo, and nudity. Movies are a way for the devil to get a stronghold on us and we are allowing it to happen.

The other scenarios he mentions are interesting but seem like something that could be no influence from the devil at all. I guess that that is what he is trying to say, that these things can come by direct assault from Satan or from our own sin nature and flesh. A discerning spirit is needed to recognize what is going on when it comes to sin in our lives.

I liked that White put in the book a list of other than demonic causes for problems that people might have. I was a little surprised that he said that homosexuality is mostly a non-demonic influenced activity. I had though that most of these spiritual warfare guys put homosexuality definitely spirit caused category. But then he says that it’s the parent’s fault that a person is homosexual – someone other than the person himself is always at fault!

The chapter on discernment was interesting, I have always been “afraid” of Christians who claim to be able to discern the spirits because I think if I get near them they’ll start telling everyone about my past and present sins and embarrass me. I know this is probably a false impression of a discerning person, but it’s something I think of nonetheless.

The Chapter on protection contained a lot of information I learned while involved in the Pentecostal movement; but since I’ve been a Baptist, I’ve not heard anything on spiritual protection. The two churches on at opposite ends of the spectrum, it’d be nice to hear/read something that was in the middle of the road to get a different perspective on the subject.

Overall, this is a good book; White isn’t too “over the top” in his views. I like the Q&A in the back of the book because it gets right to the point. I’ll definitely keep this book in my library.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Looking for God in All the Wrong Places: My Visits to Non-Christian Places of Worship, Part V

A Sikh Worship Service

I attended a Sikh service that was held in what look like a renovated warehouse. The preacher and some people were inside the warehouse while most of the people were outside looking in though the loading door dock doors. Everything was nicely decorated inside and everyone inside sat on the floor, I didn’t see any chairs at all.

Sikh men wear a turban on their head. Right after 9/11, several Sikh men were killed or beaten because the attackers thought that the turban was a sigh of Islam. It is an 600-year-old religion founded in India.

During the service, the preacher read from one of their two holy books, the Gurū Granth Sāhib or the Dasam Granth, which was read in Sanskrit. Most, but not all of the attendees were Indian; a white woman, whom was a convert to the religion, was kind enough to explain what was happening to me as the service went along. She could not understand Sanskrit, but was taking lessons to learn it.

Right after the service, a bowl of bread dough was offered to their god (they believe in only one god) and then passed out to all the people. I and my group took some of the dough but we all discreetly held it until we could throw it away. The apostle Paul wrote in Corinthians that Christians could eat food that was offered to idols, unless a weaker Christian brother would be offended by it; so we, as a group in advance, decided not to eat it.

We did stay for the meal that is made after every service. It was a fantastic feast of traditional Indian food, which I love! They were very generous and wonderful people, open and willing to share all they had with strangers.


There, but for the grace of God, go I. So many people are seeking God, they just don’t know how to find Him! This is one of the many reasons I don’t believe in people being elected for salvation before the universe being created; most people are searching for the Creator but can’t find Him! If people were chosen and not chosen by God, then there’d not be any false religions full of people seeking His face. There’d be Christianity and atheist and nothing else.

I thank God that I was in a position to realize the truth about Him and His Son! The judgment throne of God will be such a terrible place for so many people! This course has been a blessing for me, it has helped me to see with clearer eyes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Looking for God in All the Wrong Places: My Visits to Non-Christian Places of Worship, Part IV

Rukmini Dwarakadish Temple

The Hare Krishna temple was almost exactly what I expected it to be. Although, I was a little weary of the area as I was drove past the temple and past all the apartment buildings where the Hare Krishna adherents lived. The outside of the temple had a palace-like facade, but cheaper looking. The inside of the temple looked more like a Disneyland exhibit than a place of worship with colorful statues reminiscent of a grade-school art show. The museum I went through was cheaply put together and not only informed viewers of the history of Krishna, but made an overt attempt at persuading me to consider becoming a follower of Krishna as well.

The first person I spoke with was named Shiva Dev. He said that his name Shiva is also god’s name and that Dev was Sanskrit for god. He is a follower of Hinduism, but his wife is a devout follower of Krishna. He said that he has attended services at a church and a mosque before and felt that all religions were a way to get to god. Mr. Dev was the one who explained about the ones who wore the robes and the markings on their foreheads. He compared those who wore the robes and placed the marks on their foreheads to “Christian priest and nuns,” that they were very devout.

I also spoke with Mamabu, whose name means, “to study.” He said that he was originally a Buddhist, the religion of his parents, but he was comfortable in “an atheist religion.” His future desire is to become “initiated,” which is to become like what we’d call a minister. To do this, he must take a vow not to drink alcohol, or to gamble, or to have illicit sex, plus he must submit fully to a master. Once he has taken the vows and studied the scriptures, he will take a simple exam to become initiated.

The service has the worshippers standing facing a stage, on the stage is several statues and some devoted followers who ring bells and wave fans; on the walls of the temple are several paintings of Krishna and other people. A leader sings the Hare Krishna song and the worshippers repeat the song after him. There are some people out on the floor who have drums and cymbals keeping the beat so the worshippers can sway back and forth, clap and dance. The tempo of the singing and music went up and down in waves until finally toward the end people are jumping and yelling, and the music is loudly played. During all this, other people carry incense and fire through the crowd to let the worshippers wave their hands through the flames and smoke and then they rub their faces and heads with their hands. This is because the fire and smoke has been offered to, and accepted by, Krishna.

After the grand crescendo comes to a close, the people sit on the floor as the temple president and the worship leader make announcements. After this, the people went forward in a line to be blessed by the “monks” and to make donations.

After the service, I went to a yoga room and was able to ask one of the leaders, Prithu das Adhikary, some questions. Mr. Adhikary was a pleasant fellow who sincerely believed in his religion. He said that devout followers showered or bathed each morning and then placed on their bodies 12 marks with clay, one of the marks was the ‘V’ on their foreheads, which stood for “Vishnu,” one of the names for Krishna. He also told us that Hare Krishna followers knew of Jesus and considered him not to be an ordinary being, he came to from the spirit world to preach love, because love is the only true religion.

Mr. Adhikary said that Krishna means “all powerful,” and also that “Hare” is the female part and “Krishna” is the male part of god. He said several times that the main problem with people is that we build the “Berlin Wall” between god and us. He also told us that to know Jesus is to know Krishna, and to know Krishna is to know Jesus. As far as atoning for sin, one should realize they have sinned, then feel remorseful, then make an effort at reconciliation, and then reconciliation can occur. The main way to reconcile with god is by chanting his name over and over. Hare Krishna is a religion full of severely deceived people.

Surrounding the temple were apartment buildings own by the temple and where the adherents lived. It was sad to see all the innocent children being condemned to follow such an ungodly religion held by their parents. Hopefully many will be reached before it is too late.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Looking for God in All the Wrong Places: My Visits to Non-Christian Places of Worship, Part III

Temple Beth Ohr

My visit to this Jewish Synagogue was perhaps the most surprising visit of them all. I had forwarned what to expect by my professor and had been somewhat prepared for what I saw and what I heard, but Rabbi Goldmark’s description of Judaism, which I will describe later, was not what I expected.

The temple was an ordinary looking building with Jewish symbols decorating the inside and outside. We were told that Orthodox Jews called their buildings Synagogues because they believed that there was only one temple and it was in Jerusalem, but Reformed Jews called their places of worship temples. The actual service was somewhat like a very conservative Christian service: some singing (in Hebrew), some scripture reading (in Hebrew and English), and a sermon.

The sermon reminded me of the few Roman Catholic masses I have attended – very bland and almost godless. Rabbi Goldmark mentioned God only once during his 20-minute talk, the rest of the time it was just boring commentary. The congregation was somber and still, it reminded me of some of the Baptist churches I’ve attended where if anyone dared to break a smile, the roof would have caved in! The only person to regularly smile during the whole time was the Cantor, Shannon McGrady Bane – she led the singing and seemed to be happy doing so. This night was a special night because a young boy was having his bar mitzvah on Saturday, so he was doing all the Hebrew scripture reading.

After the service, there was a time of fellowship with coffee and cake; to start it off, everyone was given a shot glass of wine. This surprised me because all the churches I have attended used grape juice, so I assumed that was what I was getting. The back of my throat told me otherwise! Not only was it real wine, it had quiet a kick to it! Everyone I talked to, with one exception, was very friendly and helpful in answering questions. My group’s coffee time was cut short by Rabbi Goldmark as he impatiently beckoned us to himself so he could talk with us.

Rabbi Goldmark was one of the rudest people I have met; his attitude and demeanor were inexcusable for a “man of God.” Even though we were warned of his disposition, he was worse than I ever would have expected from a religious person. To start our session, he outlined the major Judaic beliefs about God and Jesus and a few other points. But then he asked if anyone had seen the movie The Passion of Christ. He then started tearing the movie apart (which did not bother me because I have not seen, nor plan to see, the movie), but he did not stop there. He started ranting about how ALL of the Jew’s problems were because of Christians! About how the Christians have been behind everything bad that has ever happened to the Jews and how what we call the New Testament is all wrong and full of fairy tales, and has intentional altered historical facts. He was putting down Jesus and our faith with such rage that he was almost out of control! If I had been there on my own, and not as part of a school project, I would have walked out.

Finally, he calmed down and we were allowed to ask questions. Rabbi Goldmark said that Judaism believes that God gave us a free will to choose to do good or evil, and that the people who choose to do good, regardless of their faith or religion, would be accepted into heaven. This is the part of Judaism that surprised me. Jews believe that you do not have to be a Jew to get to heaven, he said a person’s beliefs and good works is what gets them into heaven. Perhaps the Rabbi was saying this because he is very liberal and because he said that he does not believe everything in the Hebrew Scriptures is relevant for today. The Rabbi has no desire to convert anyone; he wants everyone to stay in the religion they are in, but just to be the best person they can be. But when asked, he admitted that he was really uncertain what actually happens after death.

Cantor Bane’s role is to lead the singing and to assist the Rabbi, although she said that she and the Rabbi were actually of equal rank in the temple. She said that women could become Rabbis if they want with no restrictions. It was interesting because she was not born a Jew; she converted in her early 20’s and then went to seminary. She was raised a Methodist, but was not fulfilled in the church. Her parents, although still Methodist, attend the Friday night services in support of her in her choice of religions.

Overall, this visit was bitter/sweet. I was glad to hear what some Jews actually believe, but the experience with the Rabbi tainted the whole visit. He is obviously filled with hatred toward Christians and therefore not an unbiased informant.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Looking for God in All the Wrong Places: My Visits to Non-Christian Places of Worship, Part II

Islamic Education Center

The Islamic Education Center is a mosque located in an office complex, not in a building of its own. Before arriving there, I pictured a grand building like the ones I saw during my stays in the Middle East, so I was a little dismayed by the mosque’s unbecoming appearance. But, a building is just a building and what really matters is what happens on the inside of it.

Inside, I met Dr. Sakr (pronounced like soccer), the leader of this mosque and a very popular and much sought-after defender of the Islamic faith. I was a bit surprised by his appearance; he had much lighter skin color for a Muslim than my limited experience had exposed me to before. Perhaps I was just being stereotypical minded, but I pictured all the Muslims as being on the darker side. When the rooms filled with worshippers, I noticed quite a few light-skinned adherents. I noticed at least three, probably more, obviously Anglo-Americans at the worship service.

Inside the mosque, the floors were carpeted and everyone was required to remove their shoes and sit on the floor. Dr. Sakr was kind enough to provide me with a chair for which my back and knees were very thankful! During the service, the men and women were in separate rooms with the women having a televised view of Dr. Sakr as he delivered his sermon. The women’s heads were covered but not their faces, and they appeared to be equal with the men when everyone was together for the meal. The walls were covered with ornate rugs, especially on the northeast side of the rooms because this is the direction of Mecca from here.

Dr. Sakr and the other Muslims were very accepting of me and they all were very friendly and quick to talk about their faith. The three people I spoke with all asserted that the god of Islam, Allah, is the same God of Christianity. They referred to our common beliefs – creation, Adam and Eve, Moses, Abraham, etc. Of course, even though I believe that Allah is not the God of the Bible, I allowed them to talk freely without trying to debate them. The main points of Islam, I was told, were to follow the five Pillars: believe that there is one god, Allah, and in Mohammad; pray five times a day at appointed times; fast during Ramadan; give alms to the needy; and make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Also, the highest calling is to always seek knowledge.

Each person was also adamant that Islam was a peaceful religion and that those who are violent are not following the Qur’an correctly. They insisted that Muslims, Christians, and Jews could live in harmony with each other. It’s difficult to know who is telling the truth in these matters. One of the men I spoke with told me that he was from Israel, but then later he said he was from Kuwait and fled the country when Iraq invaded. Another man said that he was from Bethlehem and that everyone there was either Muslim or Christian; but when Dr. Sakr made the introductions, I don’t remember him saying that anyone was from Israel.

One of the men I interviewed, Usman Ghani, told me that the only ways for a Muslim to reach Allah was through the five daily prayers, and at the Friday worship service. Plus, he said that Allah does not always hear their prayers. I asked Mr. Ghani why the prayers are in Arabic and not in English since they are in America, he said that prayers are kept in Arabic so that a Muslim will understand them no matter where he is in the world. (To me this is pretty silly, just like the Roman Catholic Church conducting mass in Latin when no one understands it and when Christians who speak normal English suddenly start saying “thee” and “thou” and “art”, etc when they pray, as if God can only understand 400 year English and nothing else!)

Perhaps the majority of Muslims are peaceful people, but the Qur’an does advocate violence against non-Muslims (ex. Surah 5:33 and 9:5), so perhaps it is they who are not truly following their scripture when they deny violence.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Looking for God in All the Wrong Places: My Visits to Non-Christian Places of Worship, Part I

While in grad school, I took a World Religions class (which turned out to be one of my favorite classes) in which I and the rest of the class had to visit worship centers of several other religions. My visit to these religious places of worship was an eye opening experience for me. Many years ago, I visited a Buddhist temple in South Korea and Mosques in Bahrain and Turkey, but until this class, I had not spoken to an adherent of these religions while in their place of worship. I’m not exactly sure what I had expected to feel as I visited these places, but the emotion that was at the forefront of my thoughts was sadness. Looking at the people as they came to worship, I could not help but to feel sorry for them and to wonder just how happy they really are with their god or gods.

What follows, in five parts, is the essay I wrote for the class, with some modifications for these postings here; included are my observations and thoughts as I visited these places. I have used some names within this report, they are real people I met on these visits, as far as I know, they are still active participants in the religions I have them in here.

All these sites are in southern California near the school I attended, Biola University. I started with a Buddhist temple called Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, then I went to the Islamic Education Center in Walnut; followed by the Temple Beth Ohr in La Mirada, a Jewish Synagogue. Then came the Hare Krishna temple, Rukmini Dwarakadish Temple; and lastly I visited a Sikh service, which unfortunately, I didn’t record in my essay so I don’t remember name nor exact location that I attended.

Hsi Lai Temple

The Hsi Lai Temple is a beautiful Buddhist temple and compound set on a tree-covered hillside. Its buildings are colorfully painted with red and gold colors, and decorated with pictures and statues made of wood and stone. Walls and signs are written upon in both Chinese and English, pleasantly scripted and very attractive. The courtyard was interwoven grass and concrete, and richly adorned with two gardens decorated with statues and waterfalls. Beside the courtyard was a museum containing a variety of artwork that would attract both the religious minded and the post-modern agnostic alike.

Putting aside the physical beauty of the temple and surrounding grounds, Buddhism is a dark and hollow hole. Our guide, Mr. Al Duffy, did not appear to be a very happy person. Perhaps it was because he was trying to be “professional,” but I saw him smile very little. He claimed to have converted from Christianity to Buddhism, but he was a Roman Catholic, which is actually a pagan, or false Christian, religion, so he just went from one dark religion to another. He told us that Buddhist are not too concern with god, or who or what he/it is; they are concern with the here and now and making their lives and the world better.

Although Mr. Duffy was an Anglo, everyone else I saw at the temple was Asian. The followers of Buddha came into the temple, made an offering of fruit, flowers, or incense; they bowed three times to the statue they was in front of them. Some people would then move on to another statue and start the process all over again. Mr. Duffy said that the people were not worshipping the statues, but were meditating on the moral attributes and dedication of the person the statue is representing. It looked a great deal like worship to me though.

The adherents to Buddhism make four vows and then live their lives in fulfilling these vows; the four vows are: to save all beings, to cease all defilement, to continue to study dharma, and to attain Buddhahood. They follow five precepts: no killing, no lying, no sexual immorality, no stealing, and no intoxication. They find freedom from within themselves, and this freedom removes them from the cycle of rebirth, known as reincarnation.

Buddhists can receive training to become monks. Americans wishing to become monks must go overseas to places like Thailand for training. Mr. Duffy told us that he wanted to be a monk so he went to Thailand, but while there, he changed his mind and decided to stay laity. I saw a few monks at the temple, several males and at least one female. The males were very solemn as they went about their work; I noticed the female monk as she was passing through our group and she smiled as she did so. I also saw several laity workers and they did not appear very happy nor friendly.

As I did with all the visits we made, I felt sadness for the people involved in these other religions. Buddhist are trying so hard to make appeasement, even though they really have no god to appease. They are really just lost sheep being led by wolves.

Next is Islam.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Moving to Mexico

I teach online classes at Axia College of University of Phoenix, the following letter to Mr. Obama was posted by a student in one of my classes; I find it to be very funny and prophetic. The poster stated that she got it off of Craigslist, I’d be happy to give credit to the originator if only I knew who it was:

Dear Mr. Obama:

I'm planning to move my family and extended family into Mexico for my health, and I would like to ask you to assist me. We're planning to simply walk across the border from the U.S. into Mexico, and we'll need your help to make a few arrangements. We plan to skip all the legal stuff like visas, passports, immigration quotas and laws. I'm sure they handle those things the same way you do here. So, would you mind telling your buddy, President Calderon, that I'm on my way over? Please let him know that I will be expecting the following:

1. Free medical care for my entire family.

2. English-speaking government bureaucrats for all services I might need, whether I use them or not.

3. Please print all Mexican Government forms in English.

4. I want my grandkids to be taught Spanish by English-speaking (bi-lingual) teachers.

5. Tell their schools they need to include classes on American culture and history.

6. I want my grandkids to see the American flag on one of the flag poles at their school.

7. Please plan to feed my grandkids at school for both breakfast and lunch.

8. I will need a local Mexican driver's license so I can get easy access to government services.

9. I do plan to get a car and drive in Mexico, but I don't plan to purchase car insurance, and I probably won't make any special effort to learn local traffic laws.

10. In case one of the Mexican police officers does not get the memo from their president to leave me alone, please be sure that every patrol car has at least one English-speaking officer.

11. I plan to fly the U.S. flag from my housetop, put U.S. flag decals on my car, and have a gigantic celebration on July 4th. I do not want any complaints or negative comments from the locals.

12. I would also like to have a nice job without paying any taxes, or have any labor or tax laws enforced on any business I may start.

13. Please have the president tell all the Mexican people to be extremely nice and never say critical things about me or my family, or about the strain we might place on their economy.

14. I want to receive free food stamps.

15. Naturally, I'll expect free rent subsidies.

16. I'll need income tax credits so that although I don't pay Mexican taxes, I'll receive money from the government.

17. Please arrange it so that the Mexican Government pays $4,500.00 to help me buy a new car.

18. Oh yes, I almost forgot, please enroll me free into the Mexican Social Security program so that I'll get a monthly income in retirement.

I know this is an easy request because you already do all these things for all his people who walk over to the U.S. from Mexico . I am sure that President Calderon won't mind returning the favor if you ask him nicely.

Thank you so much for your kind help.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Do Babies who die go to Heaven?

This is a very difficult question to answer. Undoubtedly, most people who believe in heaven will quickly and confidently answer will a resounding “YES”! But, hold on a minute, can we really answer in the affirmative so quickly? Hasn’t God has laid out a very specific requirement for going to heaven, which is to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and to be “born again”? Do babies meet this requirement?

To form an argument for answering NO to this question, let’s look at the two dominate soteriologicial views, those of Calvinism and Arminianism. John Calvin and his followers say that God, before the universe was even created, decided which person would go to heaven and which person would not. There is nothing any person can do to change this decision; if you are one of the “elect”, you are going to be saved and you have no choice in the matter. If you are not one of the “elect”, then you will not accept the gospel message as truth and you’ll reject Christ.

Jacob Arminius and his followers say that every person who hears the gospel of Christ has the free will to accept or deny what they hear; any person can be saved if only they choose to believe. The “elect” then are those whom God knew, from the beginning, would accept His Son and be saved.

Although these two views are polar opposites, they do have one thing in common—in order for a person to be saved, they must HEAR the gospel of Christ and ACCEPT it. In one view that acceptance is forced upon the person and in the other view that acceptance is a free choice; but in both views that acceptance was made by a person who knew what they were doing.

Infants and small children are not capable of making that choice; they cannot ACCEPT the gospel because they do not know what it is or what it means. If Jesus’ gospel is not accepted, then admittance into heaven is not granted. Therefore, any person, no matter their age, who dies without accepting Christ, will never enter heaven

To form an argument for answering YES to this question, let’s look at what happened to King David and his response. David arranged for a man to be killed in order to take that man’s wife for himself; David’s union with that woman, Bathsheba, produced a son. God punished David by causing the child to become ill and then die when it was only seven days old.

While the child was ill, David prayed and fasted, but once the child died, David worshipped God. David’s servants were confused by these actions and questioned him about it. David replied, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” 2 Samuel 12:22-23

So, it seems from David’s words and actions that he was assured that his child would go to heaven, and by extension, if David’s child went to heaven then that must mean that all babies who die go to heaven.

Or does it? Even though the answers that the Bible provides for our questions are to be believed 100%, it does not answer every question we can ask. But, it seems to me that the answer for how a person gets into heaven today is clearly recorded in Act 4:12, where speaking of Jesus it says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

America’s Cultural Transformation toward Secularism, Part III

The last key factor is to feel real or perceived opposition in what you are doing. Some Christians and others are opposing all these groups mentioned above, but the opposition is weak in many areas. This opposition makes then even more determined to get their voices heard and their causes to the forefront. For example, the ACLU is directly opposed by a group called the American Center for Law and Justice, which was created by a Christian lawyer specifically to counter the ACLU. The ACLJ represents Americans in all areas of law when their religious freedoms are being threatened. The founder, Jay Sekulow, has stood in front of the U.S. Supreme Court dozens of times defending the rights of Christians, and he has an impressive win record. The ACLJ really lights a fire under the ACLU and they continually push the envelop of civil lawsuits. The homosexual movement and Planned Parenthood both feel a strong resistance coming from the religious right and are even more outspoken than ever before.

In the big picture, the opposition to these movements is not strong enough. The ungodly movements are winning and the majority of professing Christians are sitting around and proving Edmund Burke, the great 18th-century Scottish philosopher and British parliamentarian, very prophetic when he said, “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing”. These above listed movements know how to “play the game.” Kraft quotes Gerlach and Hine as saying about a movement, “the only type of crackdown that can stop it decisively is a complete and crushing force”. That’s exactly what the opponents of Christianity are trying to do – crush Christianity! Yet we Christians use kid gloves to fight back, and we’re losing.

What will it take for Christians to finally stand up and defend what they believe in? First and foremost, it’ll take prayer and the strength of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, it’ll take leaders to step up and take control of a movement or to start a movement of his own to fight back against those who hate Christianity. Something like what Jay Sekulow did with his founding of ACLJ.
Sekulow saw a need and stepped up to fill that need. He is a leader and leaders are what it takes to change things.

Strong leaders keep the movement going in the right direction. The leader ensures that everyone in the movement is aware of the vision, and he repeats the vision often enough that the vision gets down into the hearts of the participants, he creates a team effort in realizing the vision.

Christians are at war, human secularism is the enemy and it is winning. We need to armed and ready to do battle at a moments notice to defend the Christian way of life, yet most Christians are happy to let the enemy move forward at will. We need a Christian movement to counter each of the secular movements in our society - who will stand up and take charge?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

America’s Cultural Transformation toward Secularism, Part II

The second key factor, face-to-face recruitment, is a powerful tool used by those with a heartfelt agenda. When I lived in Spokane, WA in the mid 1980s, I had a co-worker who started a campaign to get the local cable company to provide the MTV (Music Television) channel. For months he encouraged everyone he knew to write letters and make phone calls to the cable company and the local newspaper. It got so that people hated to see him coming their way.

It is human nature to want to believe others, especially if they say something over and over. If people hear something enough, they start to believe it, this is called propaganda and it happens all over the world. People who feel strongly about something will go face-to-face with as many people as they can to persuade them to think the way they do. People start comparing America to other countries and wanting to do what they do, they want the chance to make choices, good or bad, without the government and laws telling them that they can’t do something. Government leaders hear the people’s voices and, in order to get reelected, they try to please the loudest of the voices.

The third key factor is personal commitment. This is an area where a lot of Christians fall to the waste side. They have no personal stock in Christianity; they go to church every Sunday and call it good. But the people on the other side of the fence don’t see it that way. Take Madeline Murray O'Hare for example, in the early 1960s she made it her life’s goal to have prayer removed from our public schools. She was relentless and never gave up until the U.S. Supreme Court, in 1963, ruled that it was unconstitutional for our children to say prayers in school. That, in my opinion, was the beginning of the end for this country; it has been mostly downhill from then.

The big push by homosexuals to get their lifestyles accepted is another example of this. They are very much “in you face” with this issue. This movement has even made up words, and altered the meaning of others, to get their perversion accepted. The word ‘homophobe’ was made up and has been effectively used to attack anyone who feels differently than they do. This group kidnapped the word ‘gay’ and made it to mean a lifestyle that in reality is not very gay at all. Many other unchristian groups have attempted to force their issues on others through being personally committed and acting on it every day – NOW, Planned Parenthood, ACLU, NAACP, and unions – to name a few.

The fourth key facto is having an ideology that drives people and society in the way that the movement wants them to go. Two big movements come to mind for this section – the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. Both of these groups work very hard to bring about change in the direction they want.

The American Civil Liberties Union is a group of lawyers who hate everything and anything that is decent and holy. They make it their life’s goal to represent people who have become “offended” by something or someone else. The nature of these offenses is always Christian in origin and is things that have been with this country since it’s founding. The ACLU is relentless and methodical in its approach. The sad thing is that most of the judges in our courts are liberals and agree with the ACLU, they rule in their favor by reinterpreting and reading into the law intent that was never there. The ACLU has been responsible for the disappearance of many of our religious freedoms yet many, many Christians just sit by and allow this to happen.

A second group pushing their ideology on this country is Planned Parenthood. This group claims to be a friend of the family, yet it is responsible for more family deaths than any other organization in America’s history. Over 30 million babies have been killed because Planned Parenthood promotes, finances, and frights for abortion. This group will not even listen to others who suggest alternatives to abortion, it’s kill, kill, kill and nothing else with them. Recently, a criminal investigation was opened concerning Planned Parenthood because it was discovered that a Planned Parenthood counselor told a minor girl to not report the adult who impregnated her, but to come in for an abortion without telling her parent. This is the mentality of this outfit.

Monday, July 26, 2010

America’s Cultural Transformation toward Secularism, Part I

At one time, America was an overtly Christian nation, founded on the principles spelled out in the Bible. But today, America comes nowhere close to resembling that nation that once reflected God’s light in a dark world. America has fallen from its position of grace, to a place of sin needing grace and forgiveness because of its slide into human secularism. America no longer reflects the light of God, but indeed has become the playground of Satan and his demons.

Dr. Charles Kraft, in his book, “Christianity in Culture”, outlined a movement theorized by Gerlach and Hine, who put forth these five key “operational significant” factors. I will look at each key factor and attempt to give an example for each one. The five factors are:

1. A segmented, usually polcephalous, cellular organization composed of units reticulated by various personal, structural, and ideological ties.
2. Face-to-face recruitment by committed individuals using their own pre-existing, significant social relationships.
3. Personal commitment generated by an act or an experience which separates a convert in some significant way from the established order (or his previous place in it), identifies him with a new set of values, and commits him to changed patterns of behavior.
4. An ideology which codifies values and goals, provides a conceptual framework by which all experiences or events relate to these goals may be interpreted, motivates and provides rationale for envisioned changes, defines the opposition, and forms the basis for conceptual unification of a segmented network of groups.
5. Real or perceived opposition from the society at large or from that segment of the established order within which the movement has risen.

The secularization of America has been a process that has taken about a hundred years for us to be where we are today. It started slowly in the early 20th century but has gained great speed since the 1960s. Not one sole group of people has been responsible, but many individual groups and organizations; there have been leaders in these groups that can be pointed to, and some groups, as a whole, can be picked out as those who have made the greatest contributions.

The first key factor is having a segmented, usually polcephalous, cellular organization, can be applied in a loose sense, and as a factor that has covered many years, coming into focus perhaps in the 1920s and continuing today. Examples of this factor include organized crime. Organized crime in the form of the Mafia has lead the way to such secular activities as prostitution and drug use. Pornography is rampant on the internet, it is a multi-billion dollar industry controlled by organizations that recruit and pay participants, produce movies, operate internet sites, and all other facets of the business.

The big kicker for pornography was Hugh Hefner and Playboy magazine. When the American society accepted Hefner’s bunnies, the dam burst and the way was cleared for others with magazines even more perverse, such as Bob Guccione’s Penthouse magazine and Larry Flint’s Hustler magazine. Pornography is such an addicting force in a lot of men that the only way to stop it is through a life changing commitment to Jesus Christ, and even then, porn’s hold doesn’t release itself very easily. According to the National Campaign to Stop Pornography in 2003, Christianity Today magazine took a survey of its readers which concluded that “A significant number of respondents—33 percent of clergy and 36 percent of layman—say they have (visited pornographic web sites). Of those who have visited sexually explicit Web sites… 18 percent of clergy said they visit sexually explicit Web sites between a couple of times a month and more than once a week”.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Division in the Church

Paul wrote his letter we label “The Book of Romans” to the Christians in Rome. It was written in approximately A.D. 57 while Paul was on his third missionary journey; he was in either Corinth or Cenchrea at the time. The main recipients of the letter were Gentiles, although there were some Jews in Rome who may have read it also. Evidently there were people in Rome who claimed to be Christians, but were spreading false doctrine, causing division in the church and putting obstacles in the way of true believers (Ro. 16:17).

This problem of people causing division in the church wasn’t only happening in Rome, Paul also wrote to the church in Galatia; to Titus; and to Timothy, so that he could speak to the Ephesians as well. It seemed that almost from the very start of the church age, people would try to lead others away from the truth. Jesus knew it would happen, so He warned Christians in Luke 21:8, “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.”

Today, there are approximately 38,000 Christian denominations; why is that? It is because of people expressing ideas different than those of what the apostles laid out in the New Testament as Christianity grew and time passed. People split from each other because of major differences as well as small differences. It took only 2000 years for 38,000 different Christian groups to form--that’s an average of 19 newly formed and organized groups per year! And every one of them believes that they are the right one! Logic tells us that although everyone can be wrong, not everyone can be right.

Why can’t people accept the Bible for what it says? The Bible clearly says that homosexuality is an abomination, so why ordain homosexuals? The Bible clearly says that women can’t teach or take authority over men in the church, so why ordain women? The Bible clearly says that Jesus will return with a shout and with trumpets blowing as His takes His people to Himself, so why believe in a “secret” rapture?

We are told why in Jeremiah 8:8-9, “How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what kind of wisdom do they have?”

False denominations will one day be found out, and many will, although too late, see the light. We all need to get back to the Word and follow it. We need to do what it says and stop putting our evil desires into it.

Corinth’s Peddlers for Profit

People’s behavior during New Testament times was not a lot different than the way people act today. Christian Americans can get a general picture of the Greco-Roman age by watching how non-Christians behave. The “each man for himself” rule affected all areas of life, including religion; America has its greedy televangelist just as New Testament Corinth had its unsavory preachers. The apostle Paul challenges the Corinthians in this area and tries to close the door on false apostles.

In 2 Corinthians 2:17, Paul was confirming that he was a man of integrity, a man of his word, one who would not lead them in a false direction but keep them on the straight path to God. He was contrasting himself to something the people of that day would readily recognize – the professional hawker, the Stoic, cynic, or some other philosophical minded individual out to make a fast buck through his oratory skills.

Street venders were as popular then as they are now in some parts of the world. People had items to sell and street corners and sidewalks were the ideal places to hawk their wares. It’s good marketing strategy to provide a service that is in demand and to go to where the people are requiring that service. The market place, the forum, or especially during the Isthmian games would have been great places to make money through the hawking of their wares.

Paul acknowledged that perhaps he was lacking in the oratory skills department, but that was okay because he wanted nothing to come between the Corinthians and Jesus. He wanted them to believe in Jesus as Savior not because he convinced them with his exalted capacity for delivering God’s word, but for the Word itself. Paul even went so far as to not accept any money from them at all, distancing himself from those who could weave words of enticement for profit.

Perhaps the people of Corinth were deceived because of their natural inclination to believe gifted orators, or perhaps it was because of their relative youth as children of God. We might never know in this lifetime why they chose to follow false apostles, just as we may never know why some American Christians decide to follow self-promoting, greedy, golden-voiced preachers today. Peddling God’s word will always be a lucrative business.

Justin Martyr’s First Apology

At some point around A.D 150-155, Justin Martyr writes one of the first Christian apologetic letters ever, aptly called his “First Apology”, to the Roman Emperor Pius, his sons and to the Roman Senate. He appeals to their philosophical senses, and to their reason and logic, to give Christianity an unbiased review and to stop persecuting the Christians. Justin points out that Christians are judged guilty simply by admitting to being a Christian, and that to be found guilty of something without a proper trail is no way to properly serve justice.

Justin includes in this a letter a long apologetic of Christianity, touching on a varied selection of beliefs and reasons for what the Christians were doing. One area explained was the Christian’s search for a kingdom. Justin explained how this search did not involve an earthly kingdom but a heavenly one, so no threat should be felt from this. The emperor should even welcome Christians because they are a people of peace and honor, not a violent and lawbreaking people. Concerning lawbreaking, Justin uses the incident when Jesus responded to the Pharisees question about paying taxes, “Is it right to pay taxes?” Jesus looked at the picture of Caesar on the coin and said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars, and to God what is Gods.” Justin used this to illustrate that Christian are commanded to obey civil laws and not to be disobedient.

Justin then liberally quotes from the scriptures; particularly what Jesus said concerning such things as lust and adultery, forgiveness of others, swearing, and the godly way in which to treat others. He attempts to establish the validity of Jesus as the Christ by introducing the prophets of the Old Testament. He uses the prophetic writings of the Jews as proof of the deity of Jesus, using prophets that Pius may have heard of, like Moses and Isaiah. He joins history to the prophecies to prove them true; for example, he quotes the prophecy of Jesus’ birthplace by Micah, he then points out the registers of taxes in Judea as a means of verifying this prophecy. Justin mentions the destruction of Jerusalem and how it was predicted long before it happened; this prediction was by the same prophets who predicted the coming of Jesus. The fulfillment of the destruction of the Jerusalem prophecy should be a sign that the Jesus prophecies are also true.

Justin warns Pius of the consequences of not doing the right thing, which is being brought under the awesome judgment of an almighty God. He also mentions a letter written by Pius’ father, the Emperor Adrian, which basically said to punish men for breaking the law, but not for just being Christians. Unfortunately, the persecution of early Christians continued for another 150 years until Constantine legalized Christianity in 313.

The Comforter revealed to lead all to Christ

The significance of the Holy Spirit arriving on the Day of Pentecost is that He indwelled the believers, and gave them the boldness and courage needed to present the gospel. This is what Jesus spoke of just prior to His departure, telling the disciples of a sign for them to know that something special was happening and that God’s plan was succeeding and nothing could stop it.

The result of this Pentecostal visitation was that the apostle began to speak in other tongues and the people who happened to pass by could hear them speaking in their own language. These hearers knew that the apostles were simple people and should not have know all those different languages, so they were amazed and wonderstruck! So powerful was the Holy Spirit that over 3000 people became believers that day.

The conversions of the people hearing this new message presented by Peter and the others are central to God’s plan because they demonstrate, without a doubt, that anyone call be saved. Even the greatest enemy of the church at that time, Saul, became its greatest convert. It was made known that even the uncircumcised Gentiles were as loved by God as much as were the Hebrews. These conversions illustrated that God is truly the God of all, not just some.

The conversions on that day also showed that this new way to God was not ritualistic like Judaism was, but that anyone, at any time, could come to God through Jesus and be blessed with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. God was leading people to freedoms in Him that no one had known before, and it wasn’t just the Hebrews who were now free, but the Gentiles as well.

In order to include the Gentiles, the leaders of the early Christian church formed a council, prayed for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and had a meeting; the significance of this councils decisions were that they did not place any undue burdens on the Gentiles who wished to accept Jesus as their Savior. They did not hinder the work of God with man-made rules and regulations; they promoted the freedoms that God desired for all His children.

The implications for us today is that missionaries need to accept people as they are just as God does. Missionaries shouldn’t place denominational burdens on converts whose culture may not be the same as ours, and they need to allow people to remain comfortable in their culture as they began to live godly lives and to follow Christ.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Kingdom of God

Acts 1:6-11 says, “So when they met together, they asked Him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.’”

Perhaps the reason they all are standing and staring at the sky after Jesus rises into the clouds is because He has just hit them with a load of bricks! They were saying to themselves – “The kingdom is still not coming? I’m to witness to all the earth? How?”

The disciples had seen Jesus killed by crucifixion and then buried, which was a tremendous surprise for them because they had expected Him to set up His earthly kingdom, put down His enemies, and rule the world from His throne in Jerusalem; and now they were again surprised, but happily so, to see that He had risen from the dead and was walking and talking with them. They, rightly so, once again expected Him to immediately set up His kingdom on the earth and take control of the affairs of the world. But He only gave them a command to go into the whole world and then He ascended into heaven!

But, is His earthly kingdom really in the future? Is He not the King now? In John 18:33-37 says, “Pilate… asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ … Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’ ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king...’”

Jesus’ kingdom is now, we don’t need to wait for a “secret” rapture and a mystical millennium to realize that His kingship and to subject ourselves to His authority. His kingdom is now, be His subject now.

Was Jesus a Shaman?

In his book Understanding Folk Religions, Paul Hiebert referred to Jesus as a “shaman”. Hiebert says shamans are those who “exercise control over spirits”; they do this to aid people in leading a better, healthier life. I have a problem with applying the term “shaman” to Jesus; shamanism is a rough knockoff of what Jesus did as part of His earthly ministry. We know that Jesus had full control over the activities of the demonic forces as He walked the earth – He exercised many demons from people and he healed may people of their illnesses. We, as Christians, can share in this power of Christ through prayer, anointing with oil, laying on of hands, etc. Our leaders today need to be biblically sound in the application of this shared power and learn to use it wisely.

Jesus was the ultimate religious leader, He set the example in everything He did and we are to attempt to follow this example while fulfilling the office of religious leader. When a leader holds a specific office, he should research the requirements of that office thoroughly, and use the biblical model as his guide.

Jesus was also the ultimate prophet of God. He proclaimed the word of God like no other because He is the Word of God. I’m not sure that the office of prophet is an active one today, certainly there are no prophets in the Old Testament sense. Hiebert says a prophet “go[es] to the people directly and challenge[s] them to action,” well, that’s ANY leader, Christian or secular. I would call that person a motivator, not a prophet. To me, a prophet is one who gets direct revelation from God to pass along to the people. The only ones I know of who claim that power are wolves in sheep’s clothing like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and the pope.

Every believer is a priest in the Christian church (1 Peter 2:9). Jesus is our example in this because He is the “high Priest,” we are to conduct ourselves in the way He taught us. Another office Jesus held was that of teacher.

Teachers are those who help us to understand what it is we need to know. Jesus was a great teacher! He was able to get His message out to the people in a way that made them remember what He had said. He made the people think for themselves and to come up with the correct ideas and answers without being spoon fed everything. Teachers today need to learn from this. A good teacher is also a good example, and one who live with the knowledge that they are being watched by others.

Christianity in Culture

In his book, Christianity in Culture: A Study in Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective, Dr. Charles Kraft makes a very astute statement, “How frequently the impression is given that joining the church signals the end of one’s Christian training rather than the beginning! For many churches there are no more stages beyond church membership for a person to be incorporated into.” I can attest to this from empirical observation; during the past 30+ years, I have lived in 22 different cities, in 8 different states, and in 3 different countries. I have visited dozens of churches, became a member of several of them, and acted in a minor leadership role in a few, and by far, most of these churches have acted in just this manner. The churches that did attempt to provide solid training to its members had relatively little success. For some reason, the majority of church members are content to sit in a pew on Sunday morning and do nothing more.

Dr. Kraft also asserts that one of the reasons for this is that churches too closely resemble the school system, but without the testing. Most pastors don’t hold their “average Joe,” pew-sitting members to any accountability as they do the church leadership. I have often thought that pastors should give weekly assignments from the pulpit, them collect and score the assignments, and post the average score so that the church, as a whole, can see how well it is learning. Perhaps a sense of competition against the church average would motivate people to study the Bible.

Another area written of by Dr. Kraft in this book is one concerning Christian missionaries imposing their cultural beliefs on other cultures, he says that non-Western cultures (any culture) should worship in a style that they are comfortable with. This problem of forcing changes in behavior outside of God’s biblical requirements has driven people away from the gospel instead of toward it. The Bible is the cross-cultural, timeless Word of God, and should be used to preach the gospel, not Americanism.

But what happens when a cultural norm is a biblical sin? For example, a college professor/ex-missionary tells of a tribe in the Philippines that believed that every woman’s first-born child was demon possessed, so it was always killed at birth. When the gospel was brought to this tribe and most of them became believers, this killing stopped because they realized that it is a sin to commit murder. Go changed that tribe culture, not the missionaries. Sin is not dictated by culture, but by God, and since He has one holy standard, sin is universal.

Are there really two billion Christians?

According to the, Christianity has over two billion adherents; it is almost unbelievable that so many people are actual followers of Christ, particularly when Jesus Himself said that His followers will be relatively small in number when compared with the world’s population: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matt. 7:13-14 NIV).

What does one need to believe in order to be a true follower of Christ? The list is not long, only four item, but without a committed belief in every one of these, one can never be a true Christian:

1. The Holy Bible is the Inspired Word of God, it is God’s primary means of revealing His plan for mankind (II Tim. 3:16-17).

2. There is one God, eternally existing in three persons - the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit - who are identical in essence, equal in power and glory, and possess the same attributes and perfections (Matt. 28:19).

3. Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God and that He became a man while, at the same time, remaining to be God (John 1:1-5); He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin (Luke 1:34,35); He remained perfect and sinless throughout His human life (II Cor. 5:21); He redeemed sinful man by voluntarily giving Himself as a sinless substitutionary sacrifice on the cross, He then rose from the grave and ascended to the right hand of God where He intercedes on behalf of the saints (Luke 24:46-47).

4. Salvation is the gift of God’s grace given to all who believe in Jesus, as He is portrayed in the Bible; it is solely the work of God and His finished work on the cross, it cannot be gained by good works (Rom. 9:16).

Lastly, sinners must be “born again,” which means to become a new creation in Christ. Jesus said it the best when He told Nicodemus, the Pharisee, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).

Not every person who claims to be a Christian, really is. Are there really two billion Christians today? No, most of the people alive today will not make it to heaven. The road is narrow and the gate is small that leads to heaven and only a few will enter it. The core beliefs of Christianity are few, but they are critical.