Category Archives: Religion

Homesick

Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. (Luke 12:40)

“Better to be seen than viewed” someone responds when greeted with, “Good to see you!” Sometimes the salutation of “How’re you doing” gets the retort, “Any day above ground is a good day!” Someone else might say, “Better than the alternative!”

Those are funny ways to say that it is good to be alive, but those who make such remarks have not given the “alternative” a lot of thought. In their mind they see death something to delay or avoid altogether. The truth is that no one gets out of this world alive.[1] “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

The Christian should welcome death “willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Having circled the sun 69.33 times, the miles have taken their toll, and I feel the aches and pains that accompany the second law of thermodynamics. I have no fear of death, however, the process of dying does not appeal to me. When someone suggests that this life is better than the alternative, I quickly reply, “Oh no it’s not.”

I am homesick for my eternal home. My mother and father and many of my relatives wait for me there. I look forward to seeing friends that have gone ahead of me. I often wonder if I will recognize them. They will all be young – no wrinkles, no gray hair, no bald heads (yay!). “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). I have arthritic knees that prevent me from doing things I used to do; I do not bend as well as I used to. I have carpal tunnel syndrome that makes my hands tingle all the time, and I get these horrible leg cramps that wake me up in the middle of the night. I really look forward to “no more pain.”

Before going to the cross, Jesus promised, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2, emphasis mine). From this translation, we get the crazy idea that Jesus will build us all palatial mansions in heaven. Reading this verse brings the words of the old gospel song to mind: “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop in that bright land where we’ll never grow old.” However, that minimizes what Jesus has in store for us. The word “mansion” is a poor translation for the Greek word monē which simply means “a staying, abiding, dwelling, abode.” Heaven will be our dwelling place, and from the description I read in the Bible, we will have no need for “shelter” there.

The dwelling place Jesus has prepared for us is the New Jerusalem.[2] The place is illuminated by the presence of God so that “the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it” (Revelation 21:23). The river of life and the tree of life are there; all our physical needs will be met. “And there shall be no more curse…” (Revelation 22:3). “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). What need is there for any mansion!

No pain. No tears. No sorrow. No death. No curse. No hunger or thirst. No night. No need for shelter in the perfect climate. The best part about heaven, the New Jerusalem, will be to dwell in the presence of our Creator and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

An old friend from my distant past used to say, “Heaven is my home, but I’m not homesick for it yet.” Tommy was at least 15 years older than me when he said this. I have not heard from him in years. It is very possible that Tommy is experiencing heaven now and may be saying, “I am not homesick for heaven anymore.”

The longer I live in this fallen world that grows more wicked every day, the more homesick I get for my forever home. As I see the moral decline and the violence plaguing our land, the more I desire to go home. The signs of the times indicate that Jesus’ return is very near, but whether I cross the veil or meet Him in the air, I long to be home with my Lord. In the meantime, I will occupy until He comes.[3]

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Oh lord you know I have no friend like you

If heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Just over in gloryland we’ll live eternally

The saints on every hand are shouting victory

Their songs of sweetest praise drift back from heaven’s shore

And I can’t feel at home In this world anymore

Oh lord, you know I have no friend like you

If heaven’s not my home Then Lord what will I do

The angels beckon me From heaven’s open door

And I can’t feel at home In this world anymore[4]

Notes:


[1]  Actually, some will get out of this world alive (1 Corinthians 15:51-55).

[2]  Revelation 21:2, 10-25

[3]  Luke 19:13

[4]  “This World Is Not My Home” – Jim Reeves

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Death, End Times, Random Musings, Religion, Resurrection, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

The Church

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

Today is Sunday, and June and I just got out of “church.” We enjoyed a wonderful time of worshiping God our Savior, Jesus Christ, and listening to the Word of God exposited by our “under shepherd,” our pastor. Then we gathered in our Sunday school classroom to enjoy family time by fellowshipping with our brothers and sisters and enjoying a time of deeper study into the Word of God. Currently, we are studying the book of Isaiah. We have been in the book of Isaiah for nearly a year, and we are only halfway through the book. I really appreciate our Bible teacher and his dedication to the careful study of God’s Word.

I have said this before, and it is still true. I love church! But what is church? Some people think of a building where people meet on Sundays for some unknown reason. Others have a vague notion that people gather there to sing and listen to some preacher talk. Many Christians consider church attendance as some kind of obligation. It’s just something one does.

Before going into what “church” is, perhaps we should understand what it is not.

“Church” is not a building. The first definition of “church” found at Dictionary.Com says that it is “a building for public Christian worship.”[1] While that may be the modern, accepted understanding of the word, it is nonetheless in error. The second definition says that a church is a “public worship of God or a religious service in such a building.” That comes closer to a correct understanding; however, it is still false.

Some people who attend church services select their place of “worship” based on the style of music that is played. They want to hear stirring music that stimulates the emotions and elevates their spirits to euphoric heights. Many church leaders are keenly aware of this “need” and they go to great expense and effort to tailor music that attracts the most number of attendees. Many “worship” services employ loud, screaming guitars, jungle-beating percussion sets, laser-light shows, and even smoke machines to stimulate the emotions. After 45 minutes or so of ear-splitting, pulse-raising “music,” the speaker comes up to give a 15-minute motivational speech specifically intended to maintain the hearer in a happy state – no talk of sin and the need for the Savior, or the prospect of hell; only talk about God’s love and how He loves you just the way you are (a partial truth originating from the “father of lies”).[2]

No, the church is not a place to be entertained, emotionally elevated, or encouraged in your sin. Even churches that still sing the “tired old hymns” can degenerate into places where we can go to just feel good about ourselves. That is not what church is. Neither is the church intended to attract unbelievers, which the modern “church growth” movement emphasizes.

The word translated “church” in the Bible is the Greek word ekklēsia, and it could be translated the “called out ones.” Immediately we notice that the definition precludes a building of any kind. So, the “church” is not a building. The church is people, and not just people, they are people that have been “called out.” The question that immediately comes to mind is, “called out of what?” Simply put, the church is an assembly of people who have been “called out” of the world. To use a “churchy” term, the church is a body of those who have been “saved” out of the world, out of sin, and out of an eternity in hell.

Jesus said, “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 …” (John 15:16, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “ordained” means “to place” or “to set.” In other words, Jesus has “chosen,” i.e. “called out,” His church and set it in a place to do His work on earth – to “bring forth fruit.” “Bringing forth fruit” does not necessarily mean increasing the number of attendees in a particular church body. Indeed, Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The “call” goes out to all, but only a few will respond. “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14, emphasis mine).

Jesus said these things before the church was established at Pentecost.[3] The church, therefore, consists of individuals who are “called out” by Christ through the Holy Spirit, regardless of man-made “branding” – Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, etc. The unifying theme of the Church is a belief in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross in payment for our sin, His resurrection from the grave (after three days), His ascension into heaven and His soon return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. “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 mine). If one trusts simply in that, that one is included in “the Church.” If, on the other hand, one is trusting in the practices observed by their church, they are probably not included in “the Church.”[4]

The Bible refers to the body of all true believers, the “called out ones,” i.e. “the Church,” as “the Bride of Christ.”[5] This is the Church – not a building or a particular “Christian” denomination. The Church is a body of “called out” individuals who join together to worship God, to “feed” on His Word, to grow and mature in the Spirit, to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, to fellowship and encourage one another, and to work together to “bring forth fruit,” i.e., bring others to Christ.

The purpose of the local church is to build up the body – the Church – for the work of the kingdom. It is not to entertain, nor is it to gain numbers for the sake of numbers. The Church is not confined to a single building; however, the smaller gathering that meets in a “church” building plays a major role as part of the “greater” Church. Therefore, “… let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

One day soon the Church will gather together from all parts of the earth in one great assembly forever to be united with our Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ. I so yearn for that day! In the meantime, I enjoy the little piece of Heaven God has provided here on earth in my local church with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Notes:


[1]  Church – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/church?s=t

[2]  John 8:44

[3]  Acts 2

[4]  See my articles on “False Religion”

[5]  Matthew 25:1-13; Revelation 19:7-9

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, End Times, Gospel, Hell, Religion, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ, Theology, Worship

Criticism

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:4)

Have you ever been around a critical person, one that seems to find fault in almost everything? A person like that can look at a beautiful work of art and notice only that the frame hangs off plumb. They may listen to a beautiful solo sung in church and notice only that the singer was slightly flat on some of her high notes, or perhaps her dress seemed inappropriate for performing before a church audience.

A critical person rarely offers any positive comments. When you encounter a critic, it does not take long before you begin to avoid that person. If forced by familial relationship to be around a critic you soon learn to keep quiet to avoid criticism. If you work with a critic or work for a critic you stop offering ideas or suggestions, and the critic will soon squelch all your creativity. We avoid critics. No one can put up with criticism for very long. Critics are not people we want to be around.

Criticism can be positive if the critic has your interest at heart. That kind of criticism is usually solicited. For example, when I write, I usually submit my writing to my editor, my wife, for review and critique. She usually offers some very helpful suggestions, which I gladly consider. Another example is when a researcher will submit a research paper for peer review to solicit critical input from his peers. “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). That is not the kind of criticism I refer to here. The kind of criticism to which I refer serves only to bring others down, not to build them up.

Some Christians behave as though criticism is one of the “gifts of the Spirit.” They pride themselves in finding fault and conflate criticism with discernment – the ability to distinguish truth from error. When we examine the two, we find that they are not the same at all. One definition of “discernment” includes “discrimination; acuteness of judgment and understanding.”[1] Criticism, on the other hand, is “the act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything, or the act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding.”[2] While both include “judgment,” discernment requires “understanding;” criticism does not.

The Apostle Paul provides a short list of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in his first letter to the church at Corinth.[3] These include administration, diversities of operation (different kinds of work, the ability to get things done), the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, discerning of spirits, the ability to speak in other languages, and the interpretation of other languages.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul adds prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, and mercy.[4] To the Galatians, Paul gives a list of “fruits of the Spirit.” These include love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.[5]

Nowhere in the Bible is criticism seen as a good thing. Criticism may be a fruit of the spirit, but not of the Spirit of God. Looking back to the Garden of Eden, we hear the serpent criticizing God for withholding something good from the first couple. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).

If you find yourself being critical, stop. Rather than finding fault, look for the good. Paul encourages the Philippians, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

Instead of criticizing someone, look for the good in what they do and encourage/exhort (“build up”) that person. If they suffer due to the consequence of some sin, rather than criticize, show “mercy” and “minister” to that one. You may earn the right to “teach” that one by your example and through your words and by your “gentleness, goodness, and faith.” Criticism helps no one. Criticism is not a “gift of the Spirit,” but rather it is a “tool” of the devil. Don’t be a critic. Be an encourager instead.

Notes:


[1]  https://www.dictionary.com/browse/discernment

[2]  https://www.dictionary.com/browse/criticism?s=t

[3]  1 Corinthians 12:4-11

[4]  Romans 12:5-8

[5]  Galatians 5:22-23

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Religion

The Gap – Not the Store

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)

For almost 200 years, well-meaning theologians have attempted to defend the veracity of the Bible against the current scientific discoveries that cast doubt on the truth of God’s word. Rather than taking a firm stand for what the Bible plainly teaches, they try to find ways to reconcile what the Bible says with what scientists say by way of compromises. One such popular compromise is known as the Gap Theory.

Because many theologians have been duped into believing that scientists have proven that the earth is billions of years old (4.5 billion to be precise), they need to find a place in Scripture to account for that vast amount of time. They recognize that biblical chronology only accounts for approximately 6000 years of earth history. They face a dilemma. How do they remain faithful to a literal interpretation of biblical creation and still maintain good rapport with the scientific community? They solve the problem by placing a gap of unknown time between verses one and two of Genesis 1.

However, with what does one fill a gap of billions of years while maintaining some credible ties to Scripture? According to Hugh Ross (who has his own issues with a young earth), “A few Bible scholars of the seventeenth century, wishing to establish the timing of Satan’s fall and the angels’ rebellion, had proposed a narrative gap (hence, a time gap of unspecified duration) between the creation of the universe (“the heavens and the earth” of Genesis 1:1) and the events of the creation week (Genesis 1:3-27) … Eighteenth century advocates of this view placed the gap precisely between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2, suggesting that Earth began, perhaps eons ago, as the abode of angels who ravaged and ruined it when they fell.”[1]

Genesis 1:1 refers to God’s initial perfect creation. Everything that God made was beautiful, there was no sin anywhere. Verse two, on the other hand, assumes that a great catastrophe occurred that caused the earth to become in a chaotic state through the judgment of God. According to the Gap Theory, the formless and void state, as recorded in Genesis 1:2, is in direct contrast to the perfect initial creation. Something happened between the first two verses of Genesis to cause the earth to become desolate and uninhabitable after having been made perfect. Those holding the Gap Theory contend that this state of ruin could have possibly lasted millions of years … The judgment is usually spoken of as a flood because of the statement of Genesis 1:2 – the earth was covered by water. This judgment is also known as the Luciferic flood named after the angel who became the devil. The cause for the judgment is usually given as the rebellion of Satan or some pre-Adamic race that sinned. All of the inhabitants of the earth were judged by God, leaving behind fossil remains.”[2]

When one reads the text of Genesis 1:1-2 and following verses giving the words their normal meaning in their normal context, it becomes obvious that much imaginative speculation must take place to insert millions or billions of years between verses one and two. From where did these ideas originate?

According to Dr. John D. Morris, “This particular compromise didn’t just appear; it’s been around at least since the early 1800s when old-Earth ideas were floated by James Hutton and Charles Lyell. Many theologians, under the mistaken impression that scientists had proved it, rushed to incorporate an old Earth into Scripture, hoping to maintain credibility with secular scientists”[3]

Sir Charles Lyell (1797-1876) “was a Scottish geologist who demonstrated the power of existing natural causes in explaining Earth history. He is best known as the author of Principles of Geology (1830-33 and later editions), which presented for a wide public audience the idea that the Earth was shaped by the same natural processes still in operation today, operating at similar intensities … The combination of evidence and eloquence in Principles convinced a wide range of readers of the significance of ‘deep time’ for understanding the Earth and environment … Building on the innovative work of James Hutton and his follower John Playfair, Lyell favoured an indefinitely long age for the Earth, despite evidence suggesting an old but finite age.”[4]

Confronted with such “evidence,” theologians quickly came to the Bible’s rescue. “Gap creationism became increasingly attractive near the end of the 18th and first half of the 19th centuries, because the newly established science of geology had determined that the Earth was far older than common interpretations of Genesis and the Bible-based flood geology would allow. Gap creation allowed religious geologists (who composed the majority of the geological community at the time) to reconcile their faith in the Bible with the new authority of science … From 1814, gap creationism was popularized by Thomas Chalmers, who attributed the concept to the 17th-century Dutch Arminian theologian Simon Episcopius.”[5] Chalmers’ “view was popularized by the Plymouth Brethren writer G. H. Pember in his book Earth’s Earliest Ages in 1876.”[6] “It gained widespread attention when a ‘second creative act’ was discussed prominently in the reference notes for Genesis in the influential 1917 Scofield Reference Bible.”[7]

Others came along later like Harry Rimmer (1890-1952). Rimmer “was an American evangelist and creationist. He is most prominent as a defender of creationism in the United States, a fundamentalist leader and writer of anti-evolution publications. He was the founder and President of the Science Research Bureau, Incorporated, a corporation set in Los Angeles, California, whose purpose he established as to prove the veracity of the Bible through studies of biology, paleontology and anthropology.”[8]

Surprisingly, many who profess to defend the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible still hold to the Gap Theory and an old earth. One that I closely follow for his teachings on end-times prophecy is Gary Stearman of “Prophecy Watchers” based in Norman, Oklahoma.[9] In all other respects, Stearman is an excellent Bible teacher, but in this one area, he stumbles. He is not the only one. Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum founder of Ariel Ministrires[10] and excellent O.T. scholar says,

I do believe there is a gap of time between verses 1 and 2, but we must be very careful not to ascribe a gap there for the wrong reasons as people have done so often. They have also used it as a convenient place to fit in such things as the geological ages, the fossil record, dinosaur space, and the like. I do not believe the gap allows for dinosaur space because the Bible teaches that there was not any kind of physical death until Adam’s Fall. Rather, the gap is there for only one reason, the fall of Satan that will, in turn, account for the chaos described in verse 2. Hence, the gap need not be very long at all.[11]

Since so many respected theologians defend the Gap Theory, is there any biblical support for their position? As stated before, those who hold to the Gap Theory have been convinced by secular geologists that the earth is billions of years old based on their interpretation of the geologic column, the fossil record, and radiometric dating. Another factor that often comes into play is the distant starlight problem. Faced with these challenges, their inability to respond intellectually, and their strong conviction of the inerrancy and infallibility of God’s Word, they try to accommodate God’s Word to fit what the secular scientists are saying. In a word, they compromise.

Genesis 1 records creation in six 24-hour days and Gap theorists defend this position. However, biblical chronology, beginning with Genesis 5, limits the age of the earth to only about 6000 years. So how does one account for the 4.5 billion year age of the earth that secular scientists claim? Gap theorists found a way to squeeze billions of years between verse one and verse two of Genesis 1.

Genesis 1:2 says, “And the earth was without form, and void…” The Hebrew word translated “was” is hâyâh. Strong’s defines hâyâh as to exist, that is, be or become, come to pass (always emphatic, and not a mere copula or auxiliary). Gap theorists interpret hâyâh as “became;” therefore, “And the earth became formless and void.” Furthermore, the Hebrew words translated “without form and void” are tôhû (to lie waste; a desolation, formlessness, confusion, unreality) and bôhû (emptiness, void, waste, or ruin). According to the Gap Theory, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), for an unspecified length of time and then the earth became tôhû and bôhû. God created a perfect world, and then the earth became tôhû and bôhû. What happened?

Rather than to simply admit they do not know what happened, they look to Scripture to fill the Gap. Ken Ham quotes, Weston W. Fields in his book, Unformed and Unfilled (page 7), “In the far distant, dateless past God created a perfect heaven and perfect earth. Satan was ruler of the earth, which was peopled by a race of ‘men’ without any souls. Eventually, Satan, who dwelled in a Garden of Eden composed of minerals (Ezekiel 28), rebelled by desiring to become like God (Isaiah 14). Because of Satan’s fall, sin entered the universe and brought on the earth God’s judgment in the form of a flood (indicated by the wafer of 1:2), and then a global ice age when the light and heat from the sun were somehow removed. All the plant, animal, and human fossils upon the earth today date from this ‘Lucifer’s Flood’ and do not bear any genetic relationship with the plants, animals and fossils living upon the earth today.”[12]

They had to fill the gap with something, but all their attempts to reconcile Scripture to science amount to nothing more than conjecture and speculation.  For example, the idea of “soulless men” is inconsistent with God’s character and the notion of “Lucifer’s Flood” finds no biblical support. Their appeal to Scripture with regard to Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-19 does have some merit as they do speak of Satan’s fall. However, neither of these passages gives any hint of time, other than to imply that Satan’s fall occurred early on after Creation. “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God…” (Ezekiel 28:13) According to Genesis 2:8, God planted the Garden of Eden on Day Six for Adam’s habitation; therefore this cannot refer to some unknown past.

One major hermeneutical problem with the Gap Theory is with the translation of the Hebrew verb hâyâh. “When this word [be] is printed in italics in the common English version, there is no corresponding word in the original text; when it occurs in common type [i.e., not italicized], it is generally the representative of hayah, havah, hava, “to be” in Hebrew.”[13] Sometimes hâyâh is translated “become or became” for ease of reading more than anything else. For example, Genesis 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). In this case, “became” could just as easily be translated “was” and it would still make perfect sense. As soon as God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, the man was a living soul. So the Gap theorists do not have a Hebraic leg to stand on in translating hâyâh as “became.”

Another problem with the theory is that the conjunction at the beginning of the sentence (Hebrew vav or waw) is an indication of the continuation of what came before. Had the Author (God) desired to show a break in events, He could have used the conjunction ‘âz (“then”) as in Genesis 4:26, “And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.” The grammar in Genesis 1:2 gives no indication of a break in thought. There is no grammatical “gap.”[14]

Then comes the matter of the earth being “without form and void” – tôhû and bôhû. We have seen that the earth did not “become” tôhû and bôhû, but rather that it “was” tôhû and bôhû. In Verse 1, God created the universe with all its elements: time (the beginning), space (the heavens), and matter/energy (the earth). At this point, the “earth” (matter/energy) was formless and empty. God had not shaped it into anything yet. The second half of Verse 2 informs us that God at this point started shaping the raw materials. We find no hint of destruction and reconstruction in these verses.

In spite of their well-intentioned effort to reconcile the Genesis creation account with modern science, Gap theorists unwittingly create some serious theological problems. First of all, the Gap Theory calls God’s integrity into question. God’s assessment of His finished work would have to be found faulty. “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31). Sin, death, and destruction in some unknown past do not qualify as a good creation, much less a “very good” creation.

Secondly, sin did not enter the world through Adam as the Bible claims (Romans 5:12) because it was present at Satan’s fall. Furthermore, death could not be the result of sin if death was already in the world.

Thirdly, the death penalty for (Romans 6:23) sin makes no sense when death preceded Adam’s sin.

Fourthly, if sin and death preceded Adam, then Jesus dying to pay the wages of sin for man seems pointless.

I grew up as a poor preacher’s kid. The greatest lesson my dad ever taught me was that the Bible was true and faithful even when it is difficult to understand. Whether we understand it completely or not, we can trust it to be true. God’s Word does not need to be reconciled to man’s way of thinking. Man’s thinking needs to be reconciled to God’s Word. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Later on, the Apostle Paul says something very similar. “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Gap theorists forget this principle; they sway to the “strength” of fallen men rather than hold fast to the “foolishness” of the pure Word of God.

Notes:


[1]  Hugh Ross, “Closing the Gap: A Scientist’s Response to the Gap Theory” – https://www.reasons.org/explore/publications/facts-for-faith/read/facts-for-faith/2001/01/01/closing-the-gap-a-scientist-s-response-to-the-gap-theory

[2]  Don Stewart, “What Is the Gap Theory? (The Ruin and Reconstruction Theory?)” – https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_654.cfm

[3]  John D. Morris, Ph.D., “How Does Old Earth Thinking Affect One’s View of Scripture’s Reliability?” – https://www.icr.org/article/how-does-old-earth-thinking-affect-ones-view-scrip

[4]  “Charles Lyell” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Lyell

[5]  “Gap Creationism” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gap_creationism

[6]  Hank Hanegraaff, “The Gap Theory of Genesis 1:2 by Lee Irons” – https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/bible-answer-man/read/articles/the-gap-theory-of-genesis-12-by-lee-irons-16836.html

[7]  “Gap Creationism” – Wikipedia

[8]  “Harry Rimmer” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Rimmer

[9]  Gary Stearman, Prophecy Wathers – https://prophecywatchers.com/gary-stearman/

[10]  http://www.Ariel.org/

[11]  Arnold Fructenbaum, “THE SEVEN DAYS OF CREATION: GENESIS 1:1 – 2:3”, p.10, article available in PDF format from the Ariel Ministries website.

[12]  Kenneth Ham, “Closing the Gap” – https://www.icr.org/article/closing-gap

[13]  Robert Young,  Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing, 1970), 73.

[14]  Ernesto E. Carrasco, “No Gap” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2015/10/18/no-gap/

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Draw Near to God

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. (James 4:8)

What an amazing promise! It is amazing because we know that God is always near. “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth” (Psalm 145:18). The truth is that God is present everywhere, and there is no place that He is not.

The psalmist, David, poses the rhetorical question, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:7-13).

If God is everywhere, why should we draw near to Him? How can we draw any nearer than we already are? The separation is not that of proximity, but rather that of relationship. We have all experienced having a strained relationship with a loved one for one reason or another. While we can be in the same room or even next to one another, we feel a separation until we get the matter resolved.

James, speaking to Christians, implies that we may experience a separation from God, not because He is removed from us, but because our sin has erected a barrier that strains our relationship with Him. He still loves us, but there is tension between Him and us. And just like with our human relationships, we must seek to reconcile the rift – “kiss and make up” as it were. Unlike with human relationships, the fault is never with God, but always with us, and unlike with human relationships, God is always ready to forgive and forget. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

“Hands” are the agents of action, and for sin to be sin, it must be acted upon. Earlier in his epistle, James says, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15). So, we need to cleanse ourselves from sinful acts. Thankfully for the Christian, this is not something that we accomplish in our own strength, but through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. However, we still need to call upon that power and submit to His direction.

We purify our hearts and minds through what we “feed” them. If we continue to feed our hearts and minds on the things of this world, our desires will be for those things making us “double-minded.” Double-mindedness is a sad place to live. We want to enjoy our relationship with God and enjoy what the world offers at the same time. Jesus said you cannot serve two masters. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24).

The old hymn repeats, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.” So, when you feel far from God, guess who moved. God is nearby, He is not the one that caused the rift in your relationship. It might be time for you to take a serious self-check.

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Broken Eagles

Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles … (Isaiah 40:31, NASU)

            There she was – a beautiful, majestic American Bald Eagle – separated from the curious crowd by a moat and a four-foot fence.  She was perched on a large log. Above her the open sky beckoned – no cage, no netting, nothing to obstruct her flight.  Yet, there she perched observing her observers.  She made no effort to leave her perch.  Actually, she could not have flown if she had wanted.  She had been grounded by the loss of her left-wing.  She lost her wing when she became entangled in high voltage electrical lines.  Having been rescued, she was nursed back to health and now she made her home at the Dallas Zoo – a spectacle for curious zoo patrons.

            As I looked at her, it was difficult to find any defect in her.  She still expressed majesty and pride in her regal appearance, but she was damaged never to soar again.  How sad!

            We, likewise, were created to soar – to scale the heights of heaven, but we fell, entangled by the power of sin.  To look at us, one would never detect any obvious defect.  Perhaps it is because sin is so prevalent around us that we cannot readily perceive it.  Perhaps we have become adept at disguising it so that it is not so obvious in our lives.  Or, perhaps we have just learned to adapt and work with it and around it.  Nevertheless, it is there, present in our lives.  We are broken eagles.  Unlike the eagle in the zoo, our defect does have a remedy.  We do not need to be permanently grounded.  We have a Savior who is able to heal and restore our wings and strengthen us to fly higher than we ever thought possible – if only we will wait for, hope in, and trust in the Lord.  How will that happen?   God says, “I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” (Joel 2:29, NASU)  On our own, we remain broken eagles, but with His help, we are  “able to do all things, through Christ” who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).

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Memorial

memorial-day-wallpaper

And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. (Exodus 3:15)

In the United States, we set aside (consecrate, sanctify, make holy) Memorial Day to commemorate those who paid the ultimate price in the defense and preservation of our freedom. As is common with all “holy” days, the significance of the day wanes after one or two generations lost in habitual and meaningless traditions and mechanical ceremony. True, one will find gatherings here and there in honor of our fallen heroes, but the crowds are usually small and composed mostly of those whose loved ones are entombed beneath the sacred ground. But for the majority of Americans today, Memorial Day is just another excuse for a three-day weekend.

Few veterans of the Second World War survive today, and many veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars are quickly fading away. Our children scarcely remember Desert Storm, nor can they explain the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One may debate the legitimacy of our involvement in the wars since World War II, but the blood spilt and the lives sacrificed in those conflicts remain precious to their Creator and to us. They died, rightly or wrongly, for their country and for our freedom, and it is fitting that we sanctify a day for their memorial.

As our nation rapidly declines in the whirling vortex of moral decay (I can almost hear the sucking sound!), holy days lose their virtue and give way to debauchery. Just this week I read in the online Washington Times that a small display of crosses set up especially for this occasion was taken down after one person found the crosses offensive and complained.[1] Ultimately, things like this result from the nation’s rejection of and enmity with God.

It is interesting that the first time the word “memorial” appears in the Bible, it is in the context of God revealing Himself to Moses. God confronted Moses through the burning bush and commissioned him to liberate His people from Egyptian bondage. After a series of excuses as to why he was not up to the task, “Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:13-14, emphasis mine). The name, יehâyâh (I AM), means “to exist.” God was proclaiming Himself to be the “Self-existing One,” the One Who Is, the eternal One. God specified, “this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (v. 15, emphasis mine).

“All generations” means ALL generations. That includes our generation, and our nation, but our nation – our generation – has rejected God. All that God opposes, our nation has embraced and even promoted. Therefore what used to be precious is now held in contempt. What used to be contemptible is now admired. What was shameful now is something for which to be proud. What was kept in secret is now flaunted. Therefore God says:

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! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. (Isaiah 5:20-25, emphasis mine)

Having forgotten our Memorial – the I AM – nothing is sacred, and Memorial Day simply becomes just another three-day weekend because those who gave their lives for “one nation under God” died for something that is now forgotten, or held in contempt. Yet God always has His remnant. He still has those “who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18; Romans 11:4), and He does not forget His own. For those who remain, Memorial Day retains its sanctity as we remember those who selflessly offered up all that they could give that we might live free, if only for a little while longer. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The God who spoke those words gave His life that we might live. He also promised, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).

So, if my musings seem a little cynical (I am not), it is because I cannot obscure the putrid decay I plainly see taking place in our nation. Yet, the same gives me hope because I know what the future holds, and I know the One who holds the future. Jesus is coming back bringing the tree of life “for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). Men seek the Utopian state, but that will only come when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords reigns supreme upon the earth. That hope turns my cynicism into confidence for what my Memorial has in store. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Notes:


[1]  The Washington Times online: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/may/24/memorial-day-crosses-for-fallen-soldiers-removed-a/ (accessed 05/25/2016).

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