Category Archives: Religion

It’s the Word!

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)

This past Saturday morning, I met with my Gideon[1] brothers for our weekly breakfast gathering at IHOP.™ Frankly, I did not feel like getting up that early on a Saturday morning. It was damp and gloomy and not very inspiring for an early morning rising. I knew it would be that way from the previous day’s weather forecast, so I made up my mind that I would skip this meeting unless God woke me up to get me to go. At six A.M. God woke me up, but I rolled over in bed and told Him I really didn’t feel like going. Then at 6:15 A.M., the alarm clock, which neither my wife nor I had set, went off, so I said, “OK, Lord. I’ll get dressed and go.” I am learning not to argue with God when He wants me to do something.

The meeting was typical. We read Scripture, offered praises and prayer requests, and then enjoyed fellowship over breakfast. In the course of conversation, one of my Gideon brothers asked if any of us had heard about the sexual misconduct allegations recently made about Ravi Zacharias.[2] Zacharias, who died on May 19, 2020, was previously accused by a woman of inappropriate advances in an email scandal of which he was later cleared. Now, almost a year after his death, other questionable women, “massage therapists,” have come out accusing the evangelist of inappropriate touching, rape, and “spiritual abuse.” The ministry (RZIM) launched an investigation into the matter and issued an open letter[3] regarding the findings of the investigation.

Regardless of the findings of the investigations or RZIM’s renouncement of Ravi’s alleged misconduct, I am not prepared to assign guilt. As I told my Gideon brothers, we cannot know the facts. We take the accusers’ words at face value without knowing the motive behind the accusation or whether the misconduct really took place. The man is dead. He cannot defend himself. Why bring up these charges now?

This I know. “… [A]ll have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). No man is above sin. The allegations against Ravi Zacharias, may be true, and if true any heavenly rewards he earned here on earth will probably be cast aside as “wood, hay, and stubble,”[4] but “he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”[5] God will make that determination.

I also know this. Satan is a liar and the father of lies.[6] Ravi had a powerful apologetics ministry. He destroyed enemies of the Gospel with his tremendous intellect and logic, and nothing would give Satan greater satisfaction than to destroy Ravi’s ministry and legacy, especially in these Last Days when the return of our Lord draws near.

This, too, I know. Regardless of the man, God’s Word will remain true. God promised, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 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 55:10-11, emphasis mine). Jesus put it this way, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

The human source from which God’s Word procedes matters not. It is God’s Word that will prevail. Consider the false prophet Balaam.[7] He was hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the children of Israel, but every time Balaam opened his mouth, nothing but blessings came forth. Consider King David. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband Uriah killed, took a census of Israel that God did not authorize. Yet, he was called a man after God’s own heart, and he wrote, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, most of the psalms in the Hebrew Psalter that bless us today. Take, also, Jonah as another example. God told him to go preach to the people of Nineveh, but Jonah boarded a ship bound for Spain in direct opposition to God’s command. Jonah became fish bait and fish vomit, but eventually, he preached to the people of Nineveh and they repented. God’s Word prevailed.

I also recall a modern-day evangelist, by the name of Bob Harrington.[8] He was known as the “Chaplain of Bourbon Street” because he would go into New Orleans strip clubs and witness to the ladies that danced there. Harrington would draw large crowds in his evangelistic campaigns. I first heard him preach while I was stationed in San Diego in the Navy. His messages were powerful, and he preached the Gospel straight. Many came to the Lord through his preaching of God’s Word. Later in life,[9] Harrington renounced the faith and pursued worldly pleasures, but that does not negate the Word he preached, or cancel the salvation of those who received the message he preached and accepted Christ because of it.

All of God’s messengers are flawed, and we, as Christians, need to take care not to allow them to become idols. They are fallen men, but it’s the Word of God they preach that matters. I do not know if Ravi Zacharias is guilty of the charges brought against him. However, I suspect that it is a ploy of the Devil to denigrate the Word of God. “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged” (Romans 3:4, emphasis mine). Men will always let you down, but God’s Word will always be proven true. It’s the Word, not the man. It’s the message, not the messenger. 

Notes:


[1] The Gideons International – https://www.gideons.org/

[2]  Ravi Zacharias International Ministry – https://www.rzim.org/

[3]  Open Letter/Board Statement – https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-updates/board-statement

[4]  1 Corinthians 3:12

[5]  1 Corinthians 3:15

[6]  John 8:44

[7]  Numbers 22-24

[8]  “ ‘Chaplain of Bourbon Street’ dies at 89” – https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/chaplain-of-bourbon-street-dies-at-89/

[9]  “My Renewed Life Story” – http://www.thechaplain.com/testimony.htm

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Secret Believers

Image Credit: Sheri Johnson, “the Jesus Chick” Website: https://thejesuschick.com/

Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)

A cursory reading of the Gospels can give one the impression that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day unanimously rejected the teachings of Jesus, but like all generalizations, that is not altogether true. Actually, many accepted His claims as true.

Take Nicodemus, for example. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1). By this introduction, we know that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. “The Pharisees were an ancient Jewish group who laid the foundation for what would become rabbinic Judaism. The name, ‘Pharisee,’ likely comes from the Hebrew word prushim, meaning ‘separated ones,’ but it’s unclear what exactly this label signified. Some of the Pharisees’ biggest contributions to Judaism were: (1) Emphasizing the “oral tradition” (which they argued was equal to the written tradition of the Torah), (2) Extending Jewish practices into life outside the temple, (3) Instilling greater piety in “the common people,” (4) Promoting belief in the afterlife. Despite their influence on rabbinic Judaism and their prominence in the New Testament, the Pharisees are a notoriously difficult group to define. No ancient Jewish group referred to themselves as Pharisees. The label originated with people who didn’t belong to this group … Modern Christians tend to see the Pharisees in a negative light—mostly because the New Testament authors portray the Pharisees as legalistic and hypocritical. While that might describe their confrontations with Jesus and early Christians, it hardly tells the whole story of this important Jewish group.”[1]

That John identifies Nicodemus as a “ruler of the Jews” suggests that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the supreme council and tribunal of the Jews during postexilic times headed by a High Priest and having religious, civil, and criminal jurisdiction. This is further confirmed when this group issued a warrant for Jesus’ arrest.[2] After listening to Jesus’ teachings, the officers could not bring themselves to arrest Him. When questioned why they had returned empty-handed, “The officers answered, Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). Nicodemus was in that group of the Sanhedrin, and he questioned their motives. “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:51).

Jesus further identified Nicodemus as “a master of Israel.”[3] The Greek word translated as “master” is didaskalos meaning “an instructor (generally or specifically): – doctor, master, teacher.” Nicodemus knew the Scriptures, therefore he came to Jesus (by night)[4] to hear directly from the source.

Nicodemus along with another named Pharisee came to believe in Jesus. The other was Joseph of Arimathaea who requested Jesus’ body for burial.[5] John notes that Joseph was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews.” [6] That he was a “disciple” indicates that he was a “student” of Jesus. He followed Jesus (secretly) for His teaching and Joseph, like Nicodemus, believed.

They were not the only ones. John records, in our verse above, that “among the chief rulers also many believed on him.” “Many” suggests more than just Nicodemus and Joseph. However, they kept their discipleship to themselves for fear, “lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” Earlier in his Gospel, John records Jesus’ healing of a man that was born blind.[7] When the religious rulers questioned the man’s parents about their son’s healing, they responded, “we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:21-22, emphasis mine). The fear of excommunication held powerful sway in keeping the religious in line, but perhaps it went deeper than that. John’s assessment makes it clear, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, more of these secret disciples came out of the closet. After Pentecost, Luke records, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7, emphasis mine). No matter how the elites tried to spin it, the fact of Jesus’ resurrection could not be denied except for the willfully ignorant.

Are you a secret believer, an undercover disciple, an incognito follower of Christ? Do you fear being cast out of the “synagogue” of your social or peer group? Do you love “the praise of men more than the praise of God”? If so, Jesus said, “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). If Jesus lived in an “adulterous and sinful generation” think how much truer that is for our generation! Jesus’ return is very near. You do not want Him to be ashamed of you when He comes? Don’t be a secret believer. Instead, adopt Paul’s attitude. He said, “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).

Notes:


[1] “Who Were the Pharisees? The Beginner’s Guide” — https://overviewbible.com/pharisees/

[2]  John 7:32

[3]  John 3:10

[4]  John 3:1

[5]  John 19:38

[6]  ibid

[7]  John 9

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Get Ready!

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. (John 15:18)

Get ready! The days of easy Christianity are gone. The Demonrats have taken the reins of power in the government and they intend to punish those who supported President Trump. These include registered Republicans, Conservatives, and Christians. A group calling themselves the Secular Democrats of America sent a letter[1] to Joe Biden demanding a clamp-down of conservative Christians, removing them from public office, and “re-educating” Trump voters. They insist that the “Biden administration must ‘educate the American public,’ particularly those identified as the ‘religious right,’ on the need to keep their “religious dogma” to themselves. The document calls for a purge of social conservatives from all levels of government, labeling them as ‘white nationalist’ and ‘conspiracy theorists.’”

How that will affect Christians[2] remains to be seen, however, the sentiment is there, and it is strong. I do not believe I am hyperbolic when I say the Democrat Party is satanically motivated. It is also not fair to paint all Democrats with the same broad brush. Surely, a small handful exist that do not lean hard left, but the majority do. Hence, the moniker I have given them, “Demonrats.”

It will not be long before the persecution of Christians begins in America. In some ways it already has. The question is how will “pudgy” American Christians stand up to persecution? Our Christian brothers and sisters all over the world suffer persecution now. What makes us think we are exempt?

I believe Christians will escape the coming seven-year Tribulation. However, we cannot know when Jesus will come to Rapture His Bride, His Church, out of this world. We will not suffer the full horrors of the Tribulation, but we may need to endure some persecution before that time comes.

Get ready! Arm yourself with the Word of God. “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) The first piece of armor is the support belt of truth. The belt supports your abdomen and back to help you stand straight. It is composed of “truth” that comes from the Word of God, who is Christ (John 14:6). Next comes the breastplate, i.e., body armor, meant to protect your heart. That piece is made up of righteousness, i.e., “right living,” a “right attitude,” a “right outlook.” That too comes from the consumption of the Word of God. After that, you need sturdy footwear to help you stand when the terrain gets rough. That comes from “the Gospel of Peace.” You will have to carry the shield of faith to deflect the incoming missiles the devil will send your way. You need to protect your head, your mind. For that, you need the helmet of salvation. That comes from having the assurance that you are saved and that your Captain has your back. All of these are defensive “weapons” that you need to keep in good working order. Finally, you need to take up your only offensive weapon, he “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Jesus encouraged us not to worry about what to answer when questioned. “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matthew 10:19-20, emphasis mine). If you were paying attention you would have noticed that all the pieces of armor are anchored in one way or another to the Word of God. If you are not daily in the Word, you will run out of ammo very quickly. Get ready!

This weekend I listened to Jan Markell’s interview with Pastors Tom Hughes and Mark Henry. They have a timely message to prepare us for what is coming. I hope you will take the time to listen to it all the way through. Get ready!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZg_cRa3AYc

Notes:


[1] https://drrichswier.com/2020/12/16/democrat-document-surfaces-demanding-biden-clamp-down-on-conservative-christians-remove-them-from-public-office-and-re-educate-trump-voters/

[2]  When I say “Christians” I am referring to true, Bible-believing, born-again believers and not necessarily those affiliated with mainline. liberal Protestant denominations.

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A Reprobate Mind

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; (Romans 1:28)

Romans 1 beginning with verse 18 delineates the progressive decline of mankind’s spiritual condition into total depravity. I know, the Calvinists will point out that we are all born in total depravity, and I get that. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). However, I am speaking from a human perspective in this case. Humans gauge good and evil very differently than God does. For example, humans view theft in degrees. Lifting a pack of Live Savers ™ and slipping them into your pocket or purse when the cashier is not looking, is not as bad as armed robbery of the same convenience store. Holding up a convenience store because you want to feed a starving baby, is not the same as robbing that store because you need to feed your drug habit. However, to God, it’s all theft. He does not view sin in degrees.

So, back to the decline of man: Romans 1:18-32 outlines the progressive decline into a condition of irreversible depravity. It begins with the failure to recognize God, the Creator, in the first place. One does not need the Bible to inform oneself about God. The very creation testifies to His existence. The vastness, enormity, and complexity of creation, from the unfathomable reaches of the universe beyond our solar system to the invisibleness of the subatomic world, scream that all of this is no accident. It is all too well-balanced. It is too precise. Everything in the Creation works together and is interrelated. None of this could possibly come into existence from a freak explosion of an indefinable particle of mass somewhere in the emptiness of nothing. The thought of such a thing is absurd! Yet, the majority of humankind, if they give it any thought at all, prefers the absurd instead of acknowledging the Creator.

Therefore, “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20, emphasis mine). God gives no excuse for denying the Creator.

From there the downward spiral begins. Since they deny God, they need to replace Him with something out of their own imagination: a Big Bang, evolution from a primordial soup, seeding and evolving of the human race guided by the aid of “Ancient Aliens” from other worlds. Close examination of such far-fetched ideas leads to a never-ending list of more unanswerable questions with just as many unsatisfactory answers. The real answer to all of these questions is GOD, but that answer is just too simple for God deniers. So, they continue in their fruitless pursuits, and they “[become] vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart [is] darkened” (Romans 1:21). The dark obscures clear vision. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). God calls them “fools.”[1]

After that, humanity falls into idolatry. Idolatry is not necessarily the worship of grotesque figures of strange demonic entities. Idolatry is more than that; it is the act of giving anything priority over God. That can be as innocuous as the forms of entertainment that occupy our time to involvement in such grandiose ideas as the activist groups who want to save the planet, combat climate change, save the dogs, engage in politics, etc. Anything that takes one’s focus away from God is idolatry. The passage explains the decline like this: “[They] changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (Romans 1:23). America pulled up anchor from the Solid Rock of God more than five decades ago and has drifted into idolatry, as a nation, ever since. As a result, “God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves” (Romans 1:24). We see this too in the rise of pornography, homosexuality and all forms of sodomy, pedophilia, and more.

This gives evidence that we are in the place of God’s judgment on our nation. “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, emphasis mine). Unless you have been living in seclusion, or worse, you are caught up in the idolatry of this world, it should be obvious that our nation has fully sunk into the morass of all kinds of human depravity.

Except for the voices of maligned Christians, our nation as a whole gives no thought to God. “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” (Romans 1:28, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “reprobate” is adokimos means “not standing the test, or not approved.” It is used in reference to metals or coins that do not meet accepted standards. They are unfit, unproved, or spurious. The English definition gives the meaning of “depraved, unprincipled, or wicked.” A “reprobate mind,” therefore, is one that is incapable of proper reasoning.

This explains much of the unrest in our country. ANTIFA claim that they are anti-fascist, but they practice fascistic behavior. The BLM movement claims they support black lives, but their actions end up being detrimental to black lives. Many politicians of both parties wrap themselves in the Constitution, yet they oppose the duly elected President of the United States and refuse to investigate the illegal voting in five states that robbed President Donald Trump of a second term. And now that the other candidate appears to have the office in hand, they turn in irrational spite, hatred, and vindictiveness against the sitting President who has only a matter of days to serve in an attempt to impeach him. It makes no sense, and no amount of logic or reason will deter them from such a stupid act. This is a clear example of a reprobate mind!

Sadly, it appears that come January 20, 2021, the party of the reprobate mind will rule our nation unless we have a miraculous intervention of God. Let us pray that happens.

Notes:


[1]  Psalm 14:1; 53:1

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A Star

I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. (Numbers 24:17)

As 2020 winds down to a close, we can look back and say, “It was a terrible year!” For me, it started with a drastic change in life called retirement. And before I could really adjust to my new lifestyle, COVID-19 hit and changed life for all of us. Do I need to recount the chaotic events? In November, we voted in the 2020 Presidential Election, and the candidate who campaigned the least and attracted the smallest following miraculously won the election – supposedly. Now we face the real possibility of having a Socialist government for the first time in our nation’s history. President Trump alleges that the election was stolen, and much evidence exists indicating that he has reason to protest and contest the results. He has a great team of lawyers that are fighting to get the election overturned (I pray that they do), but time is running out. However, there is still hope.

I have said this before, and I am still convinced that whether Biden becomes our next President or President Trump wins his second term, we face troubled times ahead. But there is hope. At least, for the Christian there is hope. We only need to remember that our primary citizenship is in heaven with our Lord, and the intensity of the trouble we experience today should alert us that He will soon return to take us home to be with Him. The intensity of the trouble will increase, and the more it increases, the closer we are to His calling us home. There is always hope.

Long ago, as the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness hoping for their Promised Land, their enemies rose up to thwart their plans. One such enemy was Balak, the king of Moab, who hired the prophet Balaam to curse Israel.[1] Balaam was not a “prophet of God,” but he knew God well enough to know that God would not allow him to speak against His people. No matter how Balaam tried, he could only speak the words God directed him to speak. In the end, Balaam pronounced a blessing on Israel, rather than a curse.

In that blessing, Balaam prophesied, “there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17, emphasis mine). On the face of it, the prophecy refers to a coming king of Israel that “shall smite the corners of Moab.” If we stop there, the prophecy leaves us in a lurch, but the Holy Spirit keeps no secrets from those who have “ears to hear.”

In his Gospel, Matthew tells us that “there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1-2, emphasis mine). Yes, the baby born in Bethlehem was the Star, but a real star – a celestial object – appeared out of Jacob (Israel) to announce His birth. It is because of that Star that we have our Blessed Hope.

Notes:


[1]  Numbers 22-24

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