Monthly Archives: March 2014

Noah

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. (Genesis 6:14)

Thanks to a host of well-meaning Christian movie critics, I find my enthusiasm for seeing the movie “Noah” severely waning. Thanks for all the spoilers! It goes without saying that any Bible movie coming out of Hollywood will fall woefully short on accuracy. Face it; these people are script writers that deal in fantasy, not theologians or Bible scholars who are intimate with the Word of God. Not to mention that God chose not to provide us with every detail that took place within this 121-year period of history. The Flood account takes up only four short chapters in the Bible. There is not enough material there to make a 2-hour and 18-minute movie, so Hollywood has to fill in the blanks according to their own imaginations – that being Director and Co-writer, Darren Aronofsky, an atheist, and staring actor, Russell Crowe who is no friend of Christians.

I would hope that thoughtful Christians would take that into consideration. It’s a movie. It is designed to entertain and to make money for the producers and for the theaters on the sale of popcorn and soda. Certainly Christians (or anyone else for that matter) should not take it as a serious portrayal of a biblical narrative. That said, it does get some things right. The Ark is of the correct biblical dimensions. The Flood is global. The Flood is God’s judgment for man’s sin. The Flood is not just the result of rain, but also resulted from the bursting of the “fountains of the deep.” Of course, the movie gets more things wrong than it gets things right. One glaring problem that I found from viewing movie trailers is that the Ark is of a crude construction. It looks like a huge log cabin that could hardly withstand the tsunami-like waves associated with the Great Flood. This image of the Ark stems from evolutionary thinking that assumes ancient man was technologically inept, but that is hardly the picture the Bible presents of pre-flood man: “Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ … Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron” (Genesis 4:21-22). Not long after Noah and his family came out of the Ark, the Tower of Babel was built (Genesis 11), and after the division of languages, the Egyptians started building their pyramids. It seems implausible to me that Noah would have built anything less than a sturdy, seaworthy vessel, and besides, he had 120 years to work on it. The spoilers also point out that the movie Ark has several doors, while the biblical Ark has only one (Genesis 6:16).

The spoilers point out many other problems with the film. For instance, creation is a result of the big bang. Life emerges out of the waters. The movie implies that Adam and Eve come from apes. Noah seems to care more about animals and the planet than he does about humans including his own family. The sin of mankind is their abuse of the environment and mankind is portrayed as blight upon the earth. The Creator (Who is never referred to as “God”) is impersonal and vindictive. It is implied that God instructs Noah to kill his own granddaughters (born on the Ark, which has no biblical basis), and when he is unable to do so, Noah regards himself as a failure. More could be said concerning the failure of this movie to present a true rendition of the biblical text, however the critics, above all else, decry the film’s purposeful distortion of Scripture. For the low information viewer, the question remains, who was Noah? What was Noah really like?

To answer those questions, one must go to the source, the Bible. Noah is of the godly line of Seth, Adam’s third son named in the Bible (Genesis 4:25). There very well could have been others, but one must remember that one of the purposes of the biblical genealogies is to point to Christ. Noah’s father was Lamech, and his grandfather was Methuselah, whose name means something like “when he dies, judgment.” Methuselah holds the record for longevity; he lived to be 969 years old, and he died the year that the Flood came.

Noah was around 480 years old when God selected him to build the Ark. At that time, “the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:3, emphasis added). So Noah was given 120 years to build the Ark. During that time, he preached to the people trying to get them to repent of their sin. Peter speaking of the people of that time “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (1 Peter 3:20, emphasis added). “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:4-5, emphasis added). When Noah and his family (Mrs. Noah, Noah’s three sons and his three daughters-in-law) entered the Ark, Noah was 600 years old (Genesis 7:11).

The reason God brought the Flood was not for ecological reasons as the Gaia-worshiping makers of the “Noah” movie suggest. Second Peter 2:5 (above) talks about God not sparing “the angels that sinned,” and then closely follows with a description of Noah as “a preacher of righteousness.” It must be understood that the angels who rebelled against God along with Lucifer (Satan), are excluded from God’s plan of salvation. So Noah’s preaching was not to fallen angels (demons), but rather to humans who had been enticed to sin by these angels. These people would have been eligible for salvation had they repented. But the mention of the angels is interesting. Some scholars believe that these angels in some form or another mated with humans and created a race of super-humans. This is concluded from the first four verses of Genesis 6. “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose … There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-2, emphasis added). The Hebrew word for “sons of God” in verses 2 and 4 is bene ĕlôhı̂ym and it is always used when referring to angels in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word translated “giants” here is nephı̂ylim and it means “fallen ones.” Of course, there are those who will say that angels do not have sex and others who will suggest that angels (except for God’s angels) cannot take human form. I will not go to war over that, but whatever took place was sufficient to corrupt mankind to the point that God was willing to destroy His entire creation with the exception of those who made it on the Ark. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart … The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” (Genesis 6:5-6, 11-12, emphasis added). Imagine the degradation and depravity to which mankind had sunk that the great loving heart of God could be so grieved as to destroy His beautiful creation! This had nothing to do with littering the planet.

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8). In Noah and his family was the human race preserved. Noah was given instruction for building the Ark. It was to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high (Genesis 6:15). Using an 18-inch cubit, that made the Ark 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. The Ark was the length of one and one-half football fields and of sufficient capacity to hold 522 railroad cattle cars. The Ark was to have three floors (stories or decks, Genesis 6:16) and “rooms” (Hebrew qênim meaning “nests”) for the animals (Genesis 6:14). The Ark also required a ventilation and lighting system which the Bible describes as a “window” (Genesis 6:16). God instructed Noah to bring enough food for his family and for all of the animals (Genesis 6:20) enough to last them for a year (Genesis 7:14). In order to carry out God’s instructions, Noah had to be an engineer, architect/designer, ship builder, zoologist and other duties as assigned. Noah was no dummy!

The rains came, the crust of the earth broke open allowing superheated, subterranean water to spew into the atmosphere (Genesis 7:11), and the whole earth was covered in water more than 22 feet above the tallest hills/mountains (Genesis 7:20). “And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark” (Genesis 7:21-23, emphasis added). The all-inclusive description of the death wrought by the Flood precludes a small local event as some have suggested.

After 371 days the waters subsided, and Noah was instructed to come out of the Ark (Genesis 8:15-16). Noah released all of the animals, and the first thing he did was to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God (Genesis 8:20-21). God promised never again to destroy the earth with water, and He promised to maintain nature in a stable state (Genesis 8:21); but God was under no delusion that man would remain faithful, “for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (v. 21). To Noah and his family and thereby to us, God reestablished man’s Dominion Mandate: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth … And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.” (Genesis 9:1, 7). He also gave to man the authority to render justice. “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:5-6, emphasis added).

This is the true story of Noah. Now, feel free to go enjoy the false story of Noah, just remember that it is just a movie and not the true account. The real historical account is in the Bible. Read it, and know it before you go see “Noah” the movie.

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I Am A Baptist

Cross In Water

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:38)

I am a Baptist. More importantly, I am a Christian. Baptist identifies one of several “Christian” denominations, each of which must be evaluated as to whether their tenants align to biblical standards as defined by the New Testament as the church. It is not my purpose here to place one denomination over another, but rather to explain my denominational preference.

I am a Baptist because I am a Christian, and the Baptist denomination, for me, more closely aligns with what I understand it means to be a Christian (see my post “I Am a Christian”). Some principle beliefs are: (1) the triune nature of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, (2) the fallen nature of man as a result of original sin, (3) salvation by Grace through faith in Christ alone, (4) the Bible is inspired (breathed out) by God therefore it is inerrant, infallible, and eternal.

I am a Baptist because I am in agreement with Baptist distinctions. For one is the autonomy of the local church. There is no organization that rules over the local church. Some may point to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) as such an organization, but the SBC is a cooperative organization mostly designed to conduct national and world missions’ efforts where individual churches would not be effective. The SBC sometimes passes resolutions to confront social ills, but whether for better or worse, individual churches cannot be obligated to comply. This autonomy is also in keeping with the principles of freedom as enumerated in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America. In fact, Baptists were some of the loudest defenders of the First Amendment. The famous “wall of separation between church and state” coined by Thomas Jefferson was in response to a letter from the Danbury Baptists who were concerned that their state constitution did not provide explicit protection of religious liberty. Jefferson’s reply asserted that the First Amendment provided a “wall of separation” that prevented the state from imposing its will on the church. For example, the state cannot establish a “state” church which is supported by taxes imposed on those not belonging to that church. Baptists believe that the church is autonomous and independent from all authority other than Christ alone. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, Article 17 on “Religious Liberty” puts it this way:

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others … The church should not resort the civil power to carry on its work … The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.

Along similar lines, another Baptist distinctive is the form of church government. It is congregational and democratic. All baptized members of the local congregation have an equal voice. While this is the ideal form of church government, many Baptists congregations, especially those classified as mega-churches (1000 members and above) have adopted, for pragmatic reasons, a corporate from of government where the senior pastor is seen as the CEO and the professional staff is seen as department heads. Decisions are made by the professional staff, then they are brought before the board of deacons for approval and finally the congregation is given a token vote. Whereas I can see where for some churches, this is perhaps the most efficient method by which to conduct church business, it is not in keeping with form of government of a New Testament church. Jesus commended the church of Ephesus because “this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (Revelation 2:6, emphasis added), but He reprimanded the church of Pergamos because “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (Revelation 2:15, emphasis added). The word “Nicolaitans” is a transliteration of the Greek word Nikolaitēs which is a compound word: nikaō which means to subdue (literally or figuratively), conquer, overcome, prevail, or to get the victory; and laos, which means people, and from where we get our English word “laity.” So the word “Nicolaitans” refers to someone who subdues, conquers, or rules over the people of the congregation. This is typically seen in the form of hierarchal forms of church government as practiced by the Roman Catholic, Greek and Russian Orthodox churches and many Protestant denominations. This is a top-down form of government and Jesus says He hates it. Perhaps Baptist churches have not gone to that extreme, at least not on the denominational level, yet the corporate form of government adopted by many individual churches is precariously close to Nicolaitan rule. Still, the congregational form of government is preferable and more in line with the New Testament model.

I am a Baptist because I believe in “believer’s baptism.” That is, before an individual can be baptized, he or she must first be a born-again believer (John 3:3). This precludes infant baptism. A baby cannot make a decision for himself, nor can the parents make a decision for him. Belief is always an individual matter. No matter how much I love my sons, I cannot decide for them that they will be saved – as much as I would like to; they must decide for themselves. This distinctive is what earned this denomination its name – Baptist or re-baptizers or Anabaptists. The name was a form of derision because they rejected infant baptism, and they rejected sprinkling as the mode for baptism. The early Anabaptists believed that only believers should be baptized and the only proper mode was through immersion. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Every example of baptism given in the New Testament is preceded by a demonstration of belief first. The biblical method of baptism is by immersion. The English word “baptize” is a transliteration of the Greek word baptizō, which means to “immerse” or to “overwhelm.” The translators of the King James Bible knew this, but since King James of England was an Anglican and the Anglican Church followed the Roman Catholic form of sprinkling, rather than translate the word baptizō, they transliterated it to “baptize” and thus they avoided ruffling any ecclesiastical feathers. The Anabaptists and the Baptists that followed were not bound by such trappings, and so to date, Baptists do not baptize infants and they only baptize by immersion.

I am a Baptist. I believe the Lord’s Supper, known as “communion” by Catholics and Protestants, is commemorative and symbolic. When Jesus initiated the practice, He said, “this do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Even though He said, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26) and “this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28), the disciples were not eating the body of Jesus nor drinking His blood; this was meant to be symbolic from the beginning. The elements of the memorial, the bread (wafer) and the wine (grape juice for Baptists), do not mystically transform into the actual body and blood of Christ as taught by the Catholics and some Protestants; they, by their practice, crucify Christ anew each time they partake of communion. No, the elements remain symbols to remind us of His sacrificial act for the remission of our sins.

Likewise baptism is symbolic. The practice is not salvific. If that were the case, why would Jesus need to be baptized seeing that He is God? Rather, He did so as a preview of what He would do on the cross and to provide for us an example that identifies us with Him. In baptism, the believing Christian makes his public profession of faith as he identifies with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, but the key is that the candidate is already a believing Christian, i.e., he is already saved. Baptism does not save anyone; it just gets them wet! It is God’s grace through faith that saves and nothing that we do on our own (Ephesians 2:8-9).

I am a Baptist. On Sunday, I gather with fellow believers, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to worship the Lord and to study His Word – the Bible. We set aside Sunday to worship because it is The Lord’s Day, not the Sabbath. It is the first day of the week, and it is on the first day of the week that the Lord rose from the grave. Following His resurrection, the Lord presented Himself to His disciples on the first day of the week (John 20:19). It was on the first day of the week that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Church at Pentecost. Thereafter, it became common practice for the church to gather on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).  So Sunday, the first day of the week, is the preferred day to set aside to worship the Lord.

I am a Baptist. I am not a Protestant. Baptist history predates the Reformation. Although the moniker “Baptist” was assigned to this curious sect of Christians sometime around the 16th century A.D., their roots go back to the primitive church of the first and second centuries and they were known by such names as Montanists, Donatists, Paulicians, Waldenses, Ana-Baptists and others. Throughout their history they were persecuted by the Roman Catholic Church for refusing to submit to the authority of Papal rule. Following the Reformation, Baptists were persecuted by the Protestants (Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc.) for their stance against infant baptism, and sprinkling as a mode of baptism. So, do not call me a Protestant; I am a Baptist.

I am a Baptist. When I am away from home or when I move to a different place, I seek a Baptist church in which to worship. I avoid what I call “Brand-X” churches, because, while many of them are actually Baptist in practice, often they mask practices with which I would not agree or find uncomfortable. At least with the Baptist “brand,” I know what I should expect – not that I have not been surprised on occasion. It is the Baptist faith and practice that I follow, but before that, I am a Christian.

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I Am A Christian

Cross in Tunnel

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

I am a Christian. I do not adhere to a religion. I submit to, dedicate and devote my life to a person – the Person of Jesus Christ. He is my Creator (John 1:1-3), my Lord (Philippians 2:11), my Master (John 13:13) and my God (John 20:28). I owe my entire life (John 1:4), in this present physical state, and in a future and glorified state, to Him. I have this assurance because I have placed my complete trust in Him for my present welfare and my future security (Romans 10:11). There is nothing that I have done or can do to procure that right. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, emphasis added). I know this to be true because, “as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12), and that applies to me. I know the truth of this because He placed His Spirit within me and His Spirit confirms with my spirit that this is indeed true. “Now he which [establishes] us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, emphasis added), and “The Spirit [Himself] beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).

I am a Christian. I believe that the Bible is THE Word of God. That being the case, it is without error (inerrant), and it is faithful and true (infallible). The Bible may include some things that I cannot understand or explain, but I accept it nonetheless because, coming from God, it is true. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:26, emphasis added). The Bible did not come to us by the device of man, but rather by men as inspired and directed by God. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed … Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 2:19-21, emphasis added). The same Spirit of God that inspired the scribes of God’s Word also gives understanding to those who have “ears to hear.” Jesus promised, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26, emphasis added). As a Christian, I reject that a Pope or any other so called “spiritual leader” has greater insight into the Word of God than what the Holy Spirit has given me, so long as I submit to His leading and not to my personal preferences. Those who reject the Bible do so not because they do not understand it, but because they do understand and are unwilling to comply with its teachings. But regardless of what men say, the Word of God will stand when all others fall. God says, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11, emphasis added). Jesus echoed the same assertion this way: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18, emphasis added). So, when Genesis 1 records that God created the universe and all that is in it – earth, sun, moon, stars, plants, animals, and man – in just six 24-hour days, I accept that as truth, regardless of whether or not science can confirm it, which, by the way, it does. When Jesus says “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3), I know that is true.

I am a Christian. I know that Jesus will return as He promised (John 14:1-3) to snatch away those who have placed their trust in Him. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1Thessalonians 4:16-17, emphasis added). Those who have placed their trust in their own devices or gods of their own making are destined to an eternity separated from God in Hell. The Apostle Peter puts it this way:

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; (2 Peter 2:9-12, emphasis added).

However, this is not the will of God. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis added). But there is only one way to obtain eternal life, not many ways as many would prefer. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis added). “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, emphasis added). While many see this as narrow and intolerant, I would be quick to point out that the holiness of God demands that all sin be punished “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, emphasis added). It is only through His grace and mercy that we even have this “way” of salvation.

I am a Christian. I am not sinless. I am not perfect. In my own strength I am no greater that the worst offender. Any right standing that I have before God is only through the covering (atoning) blood of Jesus Christ my Lord who shed His precious blood in my stead to completely pay my debt of sin, and not mine alone but “whosoever” will believe in Him (John 3:16).  However, even though I am not sinless or perfect, my heart’s desire is to please my God and emulate my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and that distinguishes me from someone who is not a Christian. Even this is the result of God’s Spirit in me rather than something I manufacture through my own effort.

I am a Christian. I continue to learn and grow as I strive to follow the example of my Lord. The Bible tells us that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26). A “disciple” is a student or pupil. In the first century, a disciple did not sit at a desk taking notes from an instructor. Rather, they attached themselves to a teacher and tried not only to learn the “teachings” of their teacher, but they tried to emulate his life style. These students at Antioch learned indirectly from Barnabas and Saul (Paul) the teachings of Jesus, and they tried to emulate the life of Christ to the point that outsiders took notice and assigned to them the moniker of “Christian.” My desire, as a Christian, is to so live my life in such a way that others will see Christ in me.

Will you join me and take on the name of Christ? You will not be in the majority. Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). The Greek word translated “strait” is stenos which means “narrow” and it carries the idea of a very tight passage through which one must squeeze with great effort. Thus, it is easily overlooked. The Greek word translated “narrow” is thlibō which means crowed, not because many are on the way, but because it is narrow (like a deer trail) and the few that are on the path overcrowd it easily. It is a road fraught with affliction, tribulation and trouble. It is a perilous road that will alienate the traveler from friends and family and the world. It does come with a cost, but Jesus said:

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:34-38, emphasis added)

I am a Christian. My first allegiance is to Christ. Yet, as severe as these words of the Lord are, there is a paradox. Jesus also said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, emphasis added). There is nothing that the Lord takes away, that He does not replace with something much better. Those others along the crowed narrow way are your brothers and sisters in Christ, and often, they understand the struggles you face because they have faced them too, and they are there to help you along the narrow way. God’s family is greater than any earthly family or any worldly friends. That is just one more reason I am glad I am a Christian.

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Cosmos Review: Standing Up in the Milky Way – Answers in Genesis

Cosmos Review: Standing Up in the Milky Way – Answers in Genesis.

This article from Answers in Genesis pretty well covers my sentiments on this program. It was clearly obvious to me the blatant attack on religion as “religion bad; science good.” It fails to recognize that the majority of scientists started with a strong belief in a Creator God as they sought to “think God’s thoughts after Him.” It was also painfully obvious to me that most of the “facts” that were presented were based on speculation and “consensus science” and nothing that could be supported by the scientific method. It pains me to think how many people fall for this stuff just because “science” (so called) says.

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Praying In Jesus’ Name

Prayer

And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13)

Recently a “new born” Christian expressed concern that “everyone” in his church, beginning with the pastor, concluded public prayer with the innocuous phrase “in His name. Amen” instead of “in Jesus’ name.” In his young Christian walk, he had been taught we should always pray in the name of Jesus, but this was not what he was witnessing in his church, and he was offended. I encouraged him to try not to judge because we cannot know the true motives of the person voicing the prayer; that judgment belongs to God, but I also encouraged him to follow through on his conviction, and when he has opportunity to voice a public prayer, to boldly pray in Jesus’ name.

Following my counsel to this young Christian, I thought about what he had said, and I recalled observing the same thing in my own Christian circles. I often hear those who I believe are strong Christians pray publicly – even among other Christians – and close their prayer with the generic “in His name we pray.” Why is that? In whose name are we praying? “His name” could be George, or perhaps Francis of Assisi. Now, I have heard many people pray that way when they are in a “mixed” crowd. Perhaps they do it to be politically correct and not offend someone who does not recognize Jesus as God, but why do it in church or among other Christians?

I am not one who adheres to or promotes special formulas for prayer. The prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:9-10) is no magic formula – although it was for Bruce Wilkerson. Neither is the so called Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) – more aptly named “the Model Prayer” – something that need not be oft recited. Nor does prayer have to need to be uttered in King James English; God understands modern English perfectly, even coming from a teenager. 🙂

To me, prayer is simply carrying on a conversation with the Creator of the universe. What an awesome privilege we have to do that! Paul encourages us to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). How does one do that? Well, how do you carry on a conversation with a close friend or relative? How do you talk with your spouse? A conversation with God should be no different, albeit more reverent and respectful – after all, you are speaking to God. I speak to God all day long, and it does not require that I bow my head and close my eyes, or that I voice my prayer audibly. God knows our thoughts (Psalm 139:4), and He cares about every detail of our lives. No one else may care about the terrible traffic you face on your daily commute, but God does, and He doesn’t mind hearing about it. So, prayer isn’t something mystical that need be approached with some magical manipulative formula. Just talk to God!

But there are those occasions when we need to have more than a casual conversation with God. There are needs that come into our lives or the lives of those for whom we care. Perhaps we have a friend or a loved one that is lost and in need of the Savior. Prayer may be needed for some ministry effort. Naturally, God knows about and cares about all of these needs, but He wants us to care about these needs just as He does, and He wants us to talk to Him about those needs. Perhaps He wants us to join Him in the effort to meet those needs, and He will not impose those things on us unless we care about them too. When we talk to Him, He speaks to our hearts as well. But when we pray about these things, Jesus says that we should ask all these things in His name. “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you” (John 15:16, emphasis added). It should be obvious that this is not meant for frivolous requests like: “my house needs a new roof,” or “I need new tires for my truck” or “Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?” (I threw in that last one for those who might remember Janis Joplin. 🙂 ) Notice that Jesus called us for a purpose “that ye should go and bring forth fruit.” “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22, emphasis added). “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us” (1 John 5:14, emphasis added). Part of that will is that we pray in Jesus’ name.

The name of Jesus is powerful when invoked. Following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the first miracle performed by the Apostles was when Peter healed the lame man at the Temple by praying in the name of Jesus: “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6, emphasis added). Paul cast a demon out of a young woman by calling on the name of Jesus: “Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the [demonic] spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour” (Acts 16:18, emphasis added). “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17, emphasis added). “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord [Jesus]” (James 5:14). So powerful is that name of Jesus, that it should not be uttered carelessly. Paul called the Corinthian church on account of an incestuous marriage between a man and his father’s wife – probably his stepmother. Paul instructed the church to withdraw fellowship from the couple if they would not repent and further, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:4-5, emphasis added). Without doubt, these people were saved, but were living in sin that damaged the testimony of Jesus Christ; therefore Paul called for prayer that God would punish them harshly, perhaps even by premature death, rather than have such sin infect the rest of the church (1 Corinthians 5:6). But notice that the power is in the name of Jesus.

So, there is no magic formula for prayer, but if the prayer is of a serious nature, something that requires Divine intervention and something that is in accordance with God’s will, it should be asked in the name of Jesus and not just “in His name,” but “in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is true for all of our petitions to God, but more importantly, when praying publicly where others can hear. You cannot know who is listening to your prayer. “His name” informs the hearer of nothing. They may not know who “He” is. I would further exhort all believers when called on to pray in public in the hearing of a mixed audience, do not be ashamed to invoke the name of Jesus loudly, and boldly.  Recall Jesus’ words: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). Pray in Jesus’ name.

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A Nation Lost

compass-wrong way

 

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. (Psalm 33:12)

I have watched with alarm the rapid decline of our nation, these United States of America, especially since the ascendance of the current administration. I have lived long enough to have witnessed the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Civil Rights marches lead by Martin Luther King, Jr. and his subsequent assassination. I watched in detached amusement the antics of the “flower children” with their message of “make love, not war” as they incoherently protested the war in Viet Nam while “spaced out” on mind altering drugs. “Weirdoes,” I thought as I ignored their protests and enlisted in the Navy to serve my country; it was the right thing to do. Many of those weirdoes are now in positions of power in our national government. Lord, help us!

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools (Romans 1:21-22).

As a young child in elementary school, I remember standing to pledge allegiance to the flag followed by a reading of a Psalm or Proverb, followed by a time of prayer. That ended in 1963. I was thirteen. Not long after, I witnessed the rise of the hippie movement. They must have been a minority because all the people I grew up around were relatively “normal” (as in “not hippies”). Did I mention that these people are now in positions of power in our national government?

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 1:24-25)

Just ten years later, in 1973 the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade and the American holocaust began. The hippies introduced “free love,” free love generated unwanted babies, and Roe v. Wade “fixed” the problem. Since that time, over 56 million babies have been murdered – all in the name of women’s rights.

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet (Romans 1:26-27).

During my time of service in the US Navy, a gay (we called them something else back then) sailor kept his “persuasion” to himself otherwise he might find himself lost at sea or dishonorably discharged, if he was lucky. In the 1990s, several studies were done by Simon LeVay and others to determine a physiological cause for homosexual behavior. The effort was spurred on by the desire to “normalize” the behavior by suggesting that these individuals could not alter their predisposition to homosexuality; therefore, they argued, they must be legally protected against such things as being thrown overboard in dark seas or being dishonorably discharged from military service. This lead to the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) policy adopted by the military in 1993. The current Commander-in-Chief now encourages military personnel to openly reveal their sodomitic tendencies without fear of repercussion. On the other side, “straights” who harass sodomites in any way are subject to disciplinary action. Of course, this deviant behavior has been around since the beginning of time, but it has always been recognized by the majority of society as “deviant behavior.” Now we are all expected to embrace it as normal.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient … Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:28, 31, 32)

Following the “scientific” studies performed in the 1990s the rise of the “gay pride” movement really took off, and these people became ever more aggressive, demanding that their “rights” be asserted, and even more, that they be affirmed as “normal.” Moreover, anyone not in full support of their agenda was labeled as a “hater” and intolerant. Intolerant “homophobes” were not to be tolerated. Now in the 21st Century, they demand that their same-sex unions be legitimized in the same way as heterosexual marriages, with all the same rights and privileges. Just this week (February 26, 2014), US Federal Judge Orlando Garcia declared Texas’ ban against same-sex marriage unconstitutional, which he alleges is in violation of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. The decision is not yet final, but the gay community wasted no time showing up in force to celebrate a victory. That remains to be seen. However, the efforts of this group have made considerable inroads in other states. The strategy of the gay agenda is for gay “couples” to marry in states where it is legal and then move into states where it is not legal and force those states through litigation to recognize their unions as legitimate marriage. Their plan seems to be working.

This century is only 14 years old and I see the rapid demise of our nation as it spins ever faster in a vortex to a dark abyss. Our national debt increased over 7 Trillion (that is 7 followed by 12 zeroes) just during the reign of this current administration. With a massive debt well over 17 Trillion dollars one would think that wisdom would prevail, but our leaders go right on spending. The rhetoric of austerity gushes from “conservative” mouths in feigned antipathy to the looming economic disaster, but when the cameras are off, they return to business as usual and nothing is done. Our economy is on the verge of collapse, and all we get from the politicians is talking points.

Our nation has lost its standing in the world. No longer do we pose a threat to hostile nations. Our President issues meaningless ultimatums that go unheeded. No longer can our allies depend on our support. The nation of Israel may as well face her enemies on her own. Fortunately for Israel, she has the promise of God’s protection whether she realizes it or not. The bottom line is that the United States of America is no longer the country I was born to. It has devolved into something less. The glory days are over.

I hear well-meaning preachers and other Christians call us to pray for our nation. They remind us of the Word of God that says, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). However, I have come to the conclusion that this prayer, when applied to our nation, is contrary to the will of God. In the first place, God was addressing the nation of Israel at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. God knew that Israel would be unfaithful to Him, and that unfaithfulness would bring God’s judgment on the land. But He promised them that if they repented, He would restore and heal their land. The promise applies specifically to Israel, and does not have broad application to all nations.

More broadly applicable is our leading verse: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance” (Psalm 33:12). However, as I attempted to demonstrate, our nation has long abandoned the Lord. Our sick, politically correct society bristles at any public display of Christianity, or any reference to God. We have gone beyond the point of no return and as described in Romans 1:28 says, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (emphasis added). A “reprobate mind” is a mind that is unapproved, rejected, worthless, i.e., a mind that is unable to think correctly. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20, emphasis added). What an apt description of our current state! Are we, as Christians, called to ask God to bless that which He has cast off?

As I considered this, it occurred to me that the United States of America is not my country. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). That King James word “conversation” is the Greek politeuma from which we get our English word “politic.” It could better be translated “community” or “citizenship.” Paul says that for the Christian, our citizenship resides in heaven, not here on earth. Before the cross, Jesus prayed for His disciples and for us saying, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:15-16, emphasis added).

Romans 13 admonishes us to be law abiding under whatever government we are subject. As long as the law of the land does not violate the law of God, we are to obey. We are also to pray for our leaders. Paul exhorts Timothy (and us):

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4, emphasis added)

This seems straightforward and unconditional. Since only God can judge the heart, only He can determine when a person is permanently lost. His desire is the salvation of all men, therefore to that end we must pray for our leaders. The nation may be lost, but individuals can still be saved.

I have concluded that our nation is lost. God’s judgment is on our nation. As a nation, we have gone beyond the point of no return. As our Lord’s return approaches ever nearer, our prayer should not be for the restoration of our nation, but for the coming of His Kingdom – “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven … For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:10, 13).  This world, this nation, is not our home.

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