Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Amazing Love of God!

After Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He could have wiped humanity off the face of the planet and begun again with another couple, but He didn't. Nor did He completely destroy mankind when the heart of mankind was revealed to be continuously evil. He sent a flood, but He saved eight people. God also threatened to kill all the Israelites because of their sin during the time of the Exodus from Egypt, but He didn't because Moses interceded on the people's behalf.

Amazingly, God still loved mankind!

Think about it!

But mankind consists only of sinners. Each one of us is guilty. Each one of us has committed sin and each one has broken the law of God. There is a penalty and it must be paid by each individual that is guilty of sin. That punishment is death and eternity in Hell. And we are helpless to do anything about it. We are hopeless and without remedy.

Yet, God still loved mankind!

Think about it!

There was only one way in which the penalty for sin committed could be satisfied and yet save mankind from death and Hell. God was the only one who could provide the remedy. Only a holy sinless human being could die on behalf of all mankind and thereby pay each person's penalty. God himself would provide the means of salvation. Yeshua, God, was sent to earth to be born as a human being, yet would never sin so that He could pay the penalty for our sin. He willingly died on the cross, taking our sins upon Himself. He paid the penalty, paid our fine!

Yes, God still loved mankind!

Think about it!

Mankind now has the ability to claim that the penalty for sin has been paid. Each one of us, by faith in the work that Yeshua did on the cross, can claim that their penalty has been paid in full. Each one that does so will never have to pay for sin by dying spiritually and spending an eternity in Hell.

Is there any doubt, that God still loves mankind?

Think about it!

And take advantage of the free gift of salvation that God has made available by His own sacrifice. Repent of your sins and trust in Yeshua's death and resurrection. Make Him Lord of your life.

Know that God still loves you!

Think about it!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Is There an Idol in Your Worship? Part 2


Yesterday we saw how the Jews have had issues with syncretism, the blending of pure worship with the impure, throughout their history. But this problem is not confined to the Jews. All people have trouble staying within the confines of what is acceptable to God and certainly Christianity is not an exception. Our worship throughout our own history has been tainted with the impure.

Let's look at several examples:

The Christianity that many people practice today is rife with New Age/Hinduism. This is probably most evident in what is called Contemplative Spirituality as expressed in Contemplative Prayer.  A Christian word or phrase is repeated over and over again until the mind is emptied of any other thought. At this point it is believed that God's voice can be most clearly heard. Unfortunately, prayer was meant to be a communication with God involving an active mind. Emptying the mind (or centering) allows demonic voices to be heard rather than God. Contemplative Prayer is also used in the walking of labyrinths (somewhat like a maze, but has only one direction to follow).

Mysticism in Christianity is today highly desired. Many of the so-called "desert" fathers and contemplative orders in Catholicism in history were engaged in mystical (occult) practices. Some of Christianity's favorites are mystics such as: Bernard of Clairvaux, Theresa of Avila, Ignatius Loyola, St. John of the Cross, Thomas Merton, and Henri Nouwen.

Another practice that has crept into the Church is yoga. Although its practitioners claim that it has been "Christianized", Hindu yoga masters say that that is impossible, since the positions and moves are all geared to moving kundalini energy (serpent power) through the body.

A new kid on the block is Chrislam, the blending of Christianity with Islam. But just as with Hinduism, Islam has nothing in common with Christianity. The blending of these false religions with Christianity does nothing but destroy the truth of Christianity.

But there is more! Even more subtle than these are some of the most accepted practices in Christianity. Almost every Christian celebrates Christmas and Easter. These have become the defining holidays of Christianity. But are they even proscribed by Scripture? The answer is "no". Does this mean that the celebration of Yeshua's birth and resurrection should not be done? The answer to this question is a little more complicated. Since there is no command not to celebrate them, technically, Christians are at liberty to make up their own minds about whether to celebrate or not (See Romans 14:5). However,  there are problems with the days that have been selected as well as the practices involved.

Yeshua was not born on December 25. See here: The date was already a pagan holiday. Saturnalia was a Roman holiday celebrated from December 17-25. It was a week long celebration of lawlessness. When Christianity became an accepted and eventually primary religion of the land the leaders wanted to encourage the pagans to come into Christianity. By keeping their "beloved" holiday many of the pagans were then willing to convert. Similar circumstances brought in the traditions that Christians so love today, like having a Christmas tree in the home, mistletoe, gift giving, and Santa Claus. All of these come from pagan traditions.

Easter is also problematic because Yeshua was resurrected on the Feast of First \Fruits, which falls right after Passover. Again, in the 4th Century the date was officially moved to the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs after March 20th. This means that Easter and the Feast of First Fruits rarely falls on the same day. The name Easter refers to a pagan goddess (Ishtar) and again the traditions surrounding the Christian celebration (sunrise service, bunnies, and eggs) all come from pagan sources.

Co-opting pagan holidays does not make them Christian. Just like the blending of Christianity with Hinduism, blending Christianity with paganism only destroys Christianity. It is a form of IDOLATRY.

God has given us in His Word the ways that He wants us to worship Him. He has given us the holidays that we are to celebrate. They are listed in Leviticus 23. We don't need to add to them. There is richness and profound meaning to be had if we would but listen to His Word and embrace His feasts. This is the only way that we can be assured of staying within the confines of what is acceptable to God. Why would a Christian want anything else? Why would we want to practice syncretism?

(For further information read In Defense of Truth, Replacement Theology, and Messianic Guide to the Epistles by Ray Looker.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Is There an Idol in Your Worship?

Exodus 20:3 (KJV)
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

The first of the Ten Commandments is the basis of all the commandments of God. Yet in spite of its simplicity human beings have an incredibly difficult time keeping it. While we are too "sophisticated" in this day and age to bow down to a hunk of rock or metal, most would readily agree that we have competing interests in our hearts that tower in importance and threaten our love and worship of our God. We can all probably point to the many sermons that we have heard that delineate the danger of the love of money, self-centeredness, and any other worship of toys, property, or people that comes before God.

But there is a more subtle danger out there that is often overlooked by the devout Christian. That danger is called "syncretism", the blending of pure and holy worship of God with the impure and false worship of anything else. Syncretism is dangerous because we often don't realize that we are engaging in it. Human beings have been guilty of syncretism from day one.

Here are some examples:

Genesis 4:3,5,7 (KJV)
3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

Right away in Genesis God had apparently set out the requirements for an acceptable offering. When Cain decided to go his own way and offered something of his own choosing, God did not accept it. God told Cain that he had not done well and that sin lay at his door.

Exodus 32:1-6 (KJV)
1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.
6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

In Exodus, while God was giving the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, the people became restless and weren't sure that they were going to see Moses again. So what did they do? They complained to Aaron, Moses' brother and high priest, and as a result, Aaron fashioned a golden calf which the people then worshiped and offered to it burnt offerings and peace offerings. Although this looks like the people were worshiping false gods this was not completely the case. Verses 4 and 5 point to the golden calf as being the representation of the "gods" that brought the people out of Egypt (which is actually the true God). Aaron also stated that the next day would be a feast to the Lord! The most insulting aspect of this is how Aaron used LORD, which in the Hebrew is God's four letter name as the God to whom the feast was directed.

When Moses returned to find the people participating in this idolatry, he threw down the tablets of the Law and broke them. He ended up by having the golden calf melted down, mixed with water, and drunk by the people.

Then in the later history of Israel we find many references to "groves" and "high places". These were places where the idolatrous people around Israel would worship their gods. Israel often joined in, but a few of the good kings of Judah (the southern kingdom of the Jewish people) would remove these high places and receive commendation from the Lord.

2 Chronicles 14:3 (KJV)
3 For he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves:

These are just some of the many examples that can be found throughout the Bible. In fact, it seems more the norm for the Jewish people to have mixed their pure worship of God with the unholy than for the pure to exist alone as God wanted it.

We even find syncretism in the days leading up to the time of Yeshua.

During the time of the Greek Empire begun by Alexander the Great and continued through the Seleucid Kingdom the influence of Hellenism (Greek culture, etc.) was felt keenly by the Jews. The country was very divided. Many had fallen in love with Hellenism and wanted to be as Greek as possible. Greek gymnasiums sprang up in Jewish towns, boys were left uncircumcised or altered to appear uncircumcised (!), and even the Hebrew language fell into disuse. All the while the nation continued to observe Judaism, at least nominally. However, the rest of the nation was very alarmed at the influence of Hellenism and wanted to shun it. During the days of Antiochus Epiphanes the Maccabees revolted and ended up by wresting control of the country from the Seleucids.

But syncretism was not banished for good. It continues to this day. However, before we cast too many stones in the direction of the Jews we need to look at our own Christian history and practices. In the next post we'll examine where we have also fallen into syncretism and are maybe not even aware of it. Stay tuned.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Finding the Good Part

I am exhausted and it's my own fault!

My oldest daughter, her husband, and baby daughter were coming for a visit over Thanksgiving. It had been a couple of months since we had seen them. My youngest daughter, her husband, and baby son were also coming for our Thanksgiving meal, although they live close by and we see them relatively often. This made for a hugely exciting, wonderful, anticipated time of family.

So for three days before Thanksgiving I cleaned and prepared for the holiday. However, life didn't stop because of the upcoming event, so I had all the normal busyness besides. Then, because of some personal issues before hand, I was already in a stressed state. By the time Thanksgiving came I was tired. Well, having two six month old babies in the house, lots of food to cook (Thank goodness my husband does about half the cooking in our house!), math to help my son with, and all the excitement (I took zillions of pictures), I never seemed to fully relax and truly enjoy the wonderful family time that was all around me. We even got to watch some fun TV, play a couple of games, and watch the two little cousins interact with each other. Yet, I remained on edge.

Why does this happen? I was reminded of Mary and Martha and how in Luke, Yeshua gave some loving advice to Martha.

Luke 10:40-42 (KJV)
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Mary had chosen to sit at Yeshua's feet while Martha had been so consumed with providing hospitality that she hadn't enjoyed being around Yeshua. This was so like my being consumed with all the stresses in my life that I couldn't seem to enjoy my family. I even saw it happen and couldn't seem to disengage from the extraneous details. I, too, needed to learn how to choose the good part!

Obviously, I am a work in process. One day I hope to be more like Mary.  In the meantime, I need to make that a conscious action rather than letting my circumstances determine what I'm focused on. And God will help if I focus on Him.

Lastly, I thought about how Shabbat (Sabbath) crept in on Friday night, continued on Saturday, and then crept out on Saturday night oh, so quietly. God had been there reminding me of His presence and His love for me despite my Martha-ness.

Love your family, enjoy each loved one, and embrace the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Choose the good part!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Peter's Acts 10 Vision

The proof that the food laws of the Old Testament have been done away with, is found in the tenth chapter of Acts. At least, that's what the vast majority of Christianity believes. But is this truly the case? We are going to examine this issue today and I just ask that my readers have an open mind, set all assumptions aside for the moment, and go with me on this journey.

Acts 10:1-8 (KJV)
1 There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
2 A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
3 He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius.
4 And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.
5 And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.
7 And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually;
8 And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa.

Chapter 10 begins by introducing a man by the name of Cornelius. He was a centurion in the Roman army and lived in Caesarea. According to verse 2 he was a God-fearer that gave alms to the people and prayed to God. A God-fearer was an individual that followed the God of the Jews, but had not gone through ritual conversion. Since ritual conversion for men included circumcision, many more women actually converted than men. I can understand this! It also makes mention that all his household apparently were of like mind.

At the ninth hour of the day (3:00 p.m.) Cornelius had a vision. Why was the time mentioned? At the ninth hour of the day all the Jews were engaged in prayer. This speaks of Cornelius' devotion to Judaism. In the vision an angel appeared to Cornelius. God had noted Cornelius's prayers and alms. The angel then gave Cornelius some instructions. He was to send to Joppa for Simon Peter, who was lodging with Simon the tanner at the sea side.  Peter would give him further instructions.

When the angel left, Cornelius sent two servants and a soldier to Joppa.

Acts 10:9-16 (KJV)
9 On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour:
10 And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,
11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.
14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.
15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
16 This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.

Meanwhile, as the party neared the city of Joppa, Peter had gone up onto the housetop to pray. Again, the time is mentioned. It was the sixth hour (noon). Not surprisingly, he became very hungry, but apparently, the food was not quite ready. He fell into a trance and saw a vision. Heaven opened up and a sheet like vessel descended down to him. In the sheet were all kinds of animals. A voice told Peter to "Rise, kill, and eat." But Peter's response was a refusal. He went on to say that he had never eaten anything that was common or unclean. Peter was basically saying that he had always followed the food laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. The voice spoke a second time telling Peter that what God had cleansed, Peter was not to call common. The voice commanded again and then the vessel went back into heaven.

Acts 10:17-23 (KJV)
17 Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate,
18 And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there.
19 While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee.
20 Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
21 Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come?
22 And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee.
23 Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him.

According to verse 17 Peter was confused about what the vision meant. As he was thinking this, the men from Caesarea arrived. They asked for Peter. Again in verse 19 Peter was still thinking about the vision, but the Spirit told him that three men were at the door seeking him. Peter was to go with the men doubting nothing, because God had sent them.

Peter went down to the men and asked what they wanted. They explained and then Peter brought the men into the house and lodged them. (Whoa! Wasn't it considered unlawful for Peter to do this?) On the next day Peter actually went with the men back to Caesarea with some of the brethren from Joppa. (Whoa, again! Even though Peter had been instructed by God to go with these men, wasn't that unlawful?)

According to the written Word of God there is no law that prevented Peter from lodging the Gentile men or from traveling with them. It was only in Jewish tradition where this was found as an unacceptable practice.

Acts 10:24-29 (KJV)
24 And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends.
25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
27 And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
28 And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
29 Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?

Back in Caesarea Cornelius had gathered his kinsmen and close friends together to wait for Peter's arrival. When Peter entered, Cornelius fell down and worshiped him. Peter wouldn't allow this. He mentioned the fact that it was unlawful (but only according to Jewish tradition) for Peter, a Jew, to come into the house of a Gentile. He clearly stated that God had told him not to call any man common or unclean. So Peter had traveled with the men and he then asked what Cornelius had wanted.

This is the first time that Peter stated his understanding of the vision. It is about not calling any man common or unclean. Three Gentile men stood at the door. God gave Peter the vision that allowed Peter to change his thinking so that he would go with the men. This is the beginning of the Jews understanding that the Gospel message was not exclusively for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. If Peter had not had the vision he would never have gone to see Cornelius. God had to intervene to make it happen.

Verses 30-33 explain Cornelius' experience and how he came to invite Peter to his house. Everyone gathered wanted to hear Peter speak.

Acts 10:34-35 (KJV)
34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

As Peter began to speak he again stated the meaning of the vision. God is no respecter of persons. He accepts anyone who fears Him and works righteousness. Peter then went on give the Gospel message in verses 36-43.

Acts 10:44-48 (KJV)
44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.
45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
47 Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

While Peter was speaking the Holy Ghost fell on the people in Cornelius' house. The Jews that Peter had brought with him were astonished because the Gentiles were receiving the Holy Ghost just as the Jewish believers had. They even spoke in tongues and magnified God. In verse 47 Peter offered them baptism. They were baptized in verse 48 and then Peter tarried in Caesarea for certain days.

Acts 11:1-3 (KJV)
1 And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
2 And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
3 Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.

When the apostles and brethren in Judea heard about the incident they confronted Peter. Their concern was that Peter had gone into a Gentile's home and had eaten with Gentiles.

Since Cornelius was a God-fearer and observed Judaism, the food was not likely to be a problem. He undoubtedly followed the food laws himself. From the Jerusalem elders' own words it is evident that the problem was not what Peter was eating, but rather the simple fact that Peter had gone to be with Gentiles.

Verses 4-16 repeat Peter's experience at Cornelius' house.

Acts 11:17-18 (KJV)
17 Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

In verse 17 Peter ended his speech. In verse 18 the elders said nothing further and they glorified God and concluded that God had granted repentance unto eternal life to the Gentiles just as He had the Jews.

If the abolition of the food laws was the point in this whole account doesn't it seem strange that it is never mentioned? That would have been just as important to the Jerusalem apostles and brethren as the Gentile inclusion issue. But even as the elders were confronting Peter,  nothing is said. The absence of evidence is overwhelming. Yet, we hear over and over again about how Peter's vision was about the accepting of Gentiles into the kingdom of God. Why read something else into this narrative when it is so plainly described?

It is my belief that Christianity has accepted this proof not so much because of Scriptural evidence, but because of our own traditions and assumptions. Close reading of the passage reveals its true meaning. Isn't it possible that the Christianity we've been handed could be mistaken on this point?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Can an Abomination Be Anything Else?

As I was reading Scripture this morning I began thinking about the choice of words used in the King James Bible. One of those good old "King James" words is "abomination". It is colorful! It even sounds like something bad! But it just isn't a word that is used much today. From Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, "abomination" means:


1. Extreme hatred; detestation.
2. The object of detestation, a common signification in scripture.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. Prov.xv.
3. Hence, defilement, pollution, in a physical sense, or evil doctrines and practices, which are moral defilements, idols and idolatry, are called abominations. The Jews were an abomination to the Egyptians; and the sacred animals of the Egyptians were an abomination to the Jews. The Roman army is called the abomination of desolation. Mat. 24:13. In short, whatever is an object of extreme hatred, is called an abomination.

"Extreme hatred" does sum it up pretty well. While human beings can have abominations, as shown above, Scripture usually uses the word in describing those things that God really, really hates. Doing a study of those things that God hates could be quite an eye opening experience. Do believers really want to know? I found the following list in the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 6:16-19 (KJV)
16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

This is a good representation of many of the things that God finds detestable or abominable. Pride, lying, murder, wicked imaginations, doing evil, being a false witness, and sowing discord make up this list. But these things are easy for the believer to understand. These are obviously wrong and sinful. Likewise, the believer knows that God will always find these things abominable. Sin will always be sin. There should be agreement that what God has called an abomination can never be anything but an abomination. This is a logical and reasonable statement based on the fact the God never changes.

Hebrews 13:8 (KJV)
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

But what about some of the other things that God has said are abominations?

Leviticus 11:10 (KJV)
10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:

Leviticus 11:13 (KJV)
13 And these are they which ye shall have in abomination among the fowls; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray,

Leviticus 11:23 (KJV)
23 But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.

Leviticus 11:43 (KJV)
43 Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby.

Deuteronomy 14:3 (KJV)
3 Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing.

All of these verses refer to commands that God had given to His people regarding food.  He calls them abominations. Christians traditionally believe that Yeshua's death and resurrection changed the status of these so-called foods, that now believers can eat them. But how does God change something He hates into something that He doesn't hate?

Isaiah 65:2-4 (KJV)
2 I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;
3 A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;
4 Which remain among the graves, and lodge in the monuments, which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels;

In this passage God is speaking. In verse 2 He calls the people rebellious. He says they walk in a way that is not good. Verses 3 and 4 list those things that they do that provoke God to anger. One of the ways is by eating swine's flesh.

Isaiah 66:3 (KJV)
3 He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog's neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine's blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.

The abominations listed here are slaying a man, cutting off a dog's neck, blessing an idol, and offering swine's blood. Again, the Lord says that they have chosen their own way and their soul delights in their abominations.

This is difficult for most Christians to understand. The prohibition of eating ham, shrimp, and other things doesn't make much sense. But if God has said that eating certain things are abominable to Him we need to understand it and obey. He will never change and He will never call it anything but an abomination. If believers want to be pleasing to God we need to look beyond traditions and Scripture interpretation that undermines the truth of God's Word and follow what it truly says.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Impossible Proof of Mark Chaper 7

The vast majority of Christianity believes that the food laws of Leviticus 11 are no longer applicable. One of the Scripture passages used to support this position comes from Mark 7, a passage where Yeshua himself seems to declare that all foods are clean. But is this the case? And if this is the case, doesn't this cause a theological problem?

Mark 7:1-9 (KJV)
1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.
2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

This passage is an example of one of the many times where the religious leaders came to Yeshua in an attempt to discredit Him by convincing the people that He was a false prophet that taught contrary to The Law. In this particular case Pharisees (representatives of a strict sect of Judaism) and scribes (copyists, editors, or teachers of authority that came to be called lawyers) came to Yeshua from Jerusalem. That they came from Jerusalem is a pertinent point in that customs and traditions varied in the differing areas of the country. People from Jerusalem were considered to be the "high society" of the nation whereas those from Galilee were considered "hicks". Verse 2 relates that the problem these men had with Yeshua had to do with the fact that some of the disciples ate bread with unwashed hands.

The fault finders go on to say that the Pharisees and ALL the Jews washed their hands before eating because this was a tradition of the elders.This statement is not totally accurate. Not all Jews held to this tradition. The Jews in Galilee were much less likely to wash their hands than the Jews in Jerusalem ( However, the statement is true in that the practice of washing hands before eating is a tradition. There is no law regarding this in The Torah.

In verse 4 these fault finders explain that Jews coming from the market would wash their hands before eating. Again, this hand washing is not proscribed in the Bible, but is influenced by Leviticus 11:32-38 where it describes how inanimate objects can become "unclean." Some Jews believed that by being in the market it was possible to pick up some "uncleanness" that needed to be washed away, just like when a carcase fell on a cup or pot that would have to be washed to be made "clean."

It is also important to note that the disciples were eating bread, a kosher food. This will come to play as this discussion continues.

The answer Yeshua gave to the religious leaders begins in verse 6. He called his opponents "hypocrites" because they gave God lip service, but their hearts were far from God. He further explained that these religious leaders were teaching tradition as if it were The Law of God, and in many cases they then violated The Law in order to fulfill their man-made traditions (verses 7-9).

In verses 10-13 Yeshua gave an example of how the religious leaders were setting aside The Law of God by their traditions and thereby making "The Word of God of none effect."

Mark 7:14-15 (KJV)
14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

Mark 7:21-23 (KJV) 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

In verse 14 Yeshua began to teach the people. The Pharisees complained that without washing their hands, the disciples could have become "unclean" by eating something that was "unclean". Since they were eating bread, which is kosher, they weren't talking about some "unclean" food entering into the disciples' bodies. Rather the concern was that they picked up something "unclean" on their hands. While washing their hands might be a good tradition it was not The Law and shouldn't have been treated as such. Yeshua brought the people's attention away from what the Pharisees were stressing and began talking about the weightier things of The Law that come from within a man that truly defile (verses 21-23).

Verse 19 could be considered as a summary of Yeshua's teaching.

Mark 7:19 (KJV)
19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

This verse says that food taken into the body, after removing all the nutrients, leaves the body as waste. (The word translated "meat" means food in general, not meat specifically.) Then the end of Mark 7:19 says that this process "purges all meats." Traditional Christianity has determined that "purging" means to "purify" or "make clean". While these are acceptable meanings of "purge", it cannot mean that in this verse.

Deuteronomy 23:12-14 (KJV)
12 Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad:
13 And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:
14 For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.

This passage from Deuteronomy makes it clear that excrement was viewed as "unclean". So could this normal bodily function that is viewed as "unclean" somehow make something that had been eaten "clean"? Obviously, not. Therefore, the meaning of "purge" cannot mean "make clean". Rather, the meaning of "purge" that is most logical is "to remove". Yeshua's point here was that an unclean particle picked up by eating goes into the body and then is removed from the body and can no longer defile, unlike the wicked heart conditions listed that stay in the body and continue to defile. Remember, that non-kosher food was not the concern here, but rather the "uncleanness" that was picked up on the hands.

This passage, therefore, cannot be used to prove that the food laws are no longer applicable. However, other translations than KJV actually exacerbate the misunderstanding.

Mark 7:19 (NIV)
19 For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")

In the NIV, as an example, there is an extra comment made at the end of this verse. This is the comment that really seals the idea in readers' minds that this passage was about Yeshua making all foods clean. This is in contradiction to the rest of the passage and is not in all versions of Scripture. In The English Aramaic New Testament Andrew Roth states that none of the earliest Greek or Aramaic manuscripts contain this last phrase (Netzari Press LLC. 2008. Mark 7:19 footnote #27, p 108). The inserted comment must be an alteration of the text and the NIV and other versions should not have included this in their translations.

Some reading this blog will still insist that this passage is teaching that all foods are now clean. Unfortunately, that creates a problem. Yeshua had to have obeyed the whole Law in order for Him to be an acceptable sacrifice for sin. Obviously, He never ate anything that wasn't kosher. Yet, according to traditional Christianity He declared all foods clean even before He had died on the cross. If it was Yeshua's death and resurrection that "changed" The Law, it couldn't have been changed before His death. If Yeshua so declared it, He was then in violation of the Law and again could not have then saved anyone from sin. It comes back to the fact that "In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean" must be a spurious addition to the text and should be disregarded. This passage should no longer be used as a proof text regarding the abolition of the food laws.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

False Unity in the Church

Over the past week I have been bombarded by well-meaning people saying that some of my posts have been divisive and have not encouraged unity in the Body of Christ. But is this true? Is speaking out about what one believes, when it goes against the majority, necessarily wrong? Let's examine this issue today.

Most of the Scripture verses regarding unity are like the following.

Romans 14:19 (KJV)
19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

Paul was definitely urging the believers to live in peace with others. The verses right before this one highlighted differing ideas in the Church that were causing tensions among the believers. Even though these differing views existed they were to follow after things that made for peace and that edified one another.

Romans 12:18 (KJV)
18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

Again, Paul urged the believers to live at peace with others as much as they were able. These definitions of peace also speak to how kind we deal with other. Do we allow others to have their own opinions?

1 Corinthians 1:10-13 (KJV) 
 10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

Someone from the house of Chloe had informed Paul that there were contentions among the believers in Corinth. Some were saying that they were in Paul's group, Apollos' group, Cephas' group, or in Christ's group. Paul concluded by asking the Corinthians if Christ was divided, if Paul had been crucified for them, or if they had been baptized in the name of Paul. He indeed begged the Corinthians not to have divisions.

From the information given in this section it is evident that the Corinthian Church was divided because some of the members were exalting human leaders above Jesus. They were focusing on the wrong things, such as eloquence in speaking or human wisdom. Paul took them to task because Jesus was the head of the Church and not these other men. They should have been unified.

The important phrase of this passage is in verse 10. "That ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." This is the determining factor in whether or not divisions are acceptable or not. Being human we can read Scripture until we are blue in the face and find that we disagree on various interpretations of the text. We no longer have the disciples as our physical teachers making sure that our doctrine remains pure. Consequently, we are not of the same mind or judgment. People have tried to say that having all of the denominations of Christianity that exist is an evidence of evil. But when there is disagreement on the essentials of the faith differences naturally exist and divisions occur. For example, if someone does not speak in tongues, he or she rightly will probably not attend a Pentecostal Church, or if one is a Calvinist, he or she will rightly not attend an Arminian Church. I believe that God has allowed this. Now, if a church is dividing over carpet color, or some other petty issue then that church is not living in unity.

But let's look again to the example of Jesus. Was He living in the kind of unity that the Church seems to call for today? Or was He divisive?

Matthew 15:1-3 (KJV)
1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?

The religious leaders of Jesus' day found fault in Jesus' teaching. Was Jesus' response to acquiesce and be unified with the religious leaders? No, He called them out and informed them of what they were doing and why it was wrong.

How about Paul? In 1 Corinthians he urged unity, but was he always unified?

Galatians 2:11-13 (KJV)
11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

When Peter came to Antioch he freely ate with the Gentiles, but when some Jewish believers from Jerusalem came, he separated himself and in so doing dragged Barnabas into the same behavior. Verse 11 says that Paul "withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed." Paul spoke his mind to Peter and did not let something go because it could have been divisive.

When something is perceived as truth, really whether it is or not because we are fallible human beings, we must speak out. Even if division is caused we must speak out when we believe that other Christians are believing in an inaccurate Gospel.

This trend of false unity is rampant in the Church today. No one dares to speak out and the only message that is acceptable seems to be a watered down Gospel that only preaches a feel good message. If this trend continues we will assuredly find ourselves with a one-world religion, which is, in fact, predicted for the end times.  It seems that Christians are playing into Satan's hand. The irony of the situation, however, is that in all of the cases where someone told me to stop being divisive and to be unified, they turned around and preached to me their point of view, or posted something that was offensive. Apparently, the only unity most people accept is unity that stems from everyone being in agreement with them! Go figure!

I have followed the example given by Jesus, Paul, Martin Luther, William Wilberforce, and many others who have gone against the grain, stood up for what was perceived as right based on my understanding of Scripture, and have suffered the backlash of many well-meaning people. It's time that we, as a Body of Christ, understand Scripture as much as we can, act accordingly, and leave false unity behind.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Most High God - Daniel 2:36-45


Daniel succeeded in telling the king his dream. It consisted of a great image made of different materials and a stone that demolished the image. Now Daniel is ready to tell the king the interpretation.

Daniel 2:36-45 (KJV)
36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
37 Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
38 And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.
39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
41 And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.
42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.
44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

Daniel began to speak. In verse 36 notice the use of "we". Why would Daniel not use "I"? He was alluding to the fact that the interpretation of the dream, although spoken by him, was from another source (meaning God). According to verse 37 how did Daniel describe King Nebuchadnezzar? He called the king, a king of kings. That was pretty high praise! But who was responsible for setting Nebuchadnezzar up as king? God had given the king a kingdom, power, strength, and glory. In verse 38 Daniel spoke of the breadth of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. It extended to "wheresoever the children of men dwell". For the world at this time of history, the Babylonians had a very large empire. What else was subservient to Nebuchadnezzar? He ruled over the beasts of the field and the fowls of the sky. Then Daniel said that Nebuchadnezzar was what? Nebuchadnezzar, as representative of the Babylonian Empire, was the head of gold that he saw in his dream. Why would gold be an appropriate representation for Babylon? Apparently, gold was used extensively in the building projects in Babylon. Plus, the chief god of the Babylonians was Marduk, the god of gold ( Showers, Renald E., The Most High God, 17).

In rapid succession, Daniel spoke about the second and third parts of the great image. Daniel said that after the Babylonian Empire another kingdom would arise. What did he say about that kingdom (verse 39)? He said that it would be inferior.  Do you remember what the breast and arms of the image were made of? They were made of silver. What kingdom came after the Babylonian Empire? The Persian Empire came next on the scene of history. Why is silver an appropriate representation of the Persian Empire? The Persians used silver for exchange and had an extensive tax system (Showers 18). It is interesting to note that the Persian Empire was more accurately called the Medo-Persian Empire because it was made up of two groups, the Medes and the Persians. This lack of absolute unity was the only way that the Persian Empire was inferior to the Babylonian Empire (Showers 18).

What empire came after the Persians? The Greeks conquered the Persians. What part of the image represented this third kingdom? The image's belly and thighs stood for the Grecian Empire. What was this part of the image made of? It was made of brass (bronze, an alloy of copper and tin). What did Daniel say about this kingdom in verse 39? He said that it would rule the world. Again for that time of history, the Greeks had conquered the known world. Yet bronze is inferior to silver. How was the Grecian Empire inferior to the Persian? Alexander the Great, the king responsible for conquering so much of the world died young and left his kingdom to four of his generals, two of which continued in importance. Hence the unified belly and two thighs were an appropriate picture of the Grecian Empire. Bronze is a metal used extensively in war and certainly the Greeks were known as conquerors (Showers 19).

According to verse 40 the fourth kingdom would be as strong as what? The fourth kingdom, Rome, would be as strong as iron. Why is this appropriate for Rome? Because Rome was a strong empire that "breaketh in pieces" and "subdueth all things", iron was an appropriate metal. What part of the image was represented by Rome? The image's legs of iron and the feet and toes made of a mixture of iron and clay represented the Roman Empire. The legs of iron spoke of Rome's rule over a western and eastern division. It also spoke of the iron weapons used by the Roman Empire (Showers 20). The feet and toes were addressed in verses 41-43. The Roman Empire then is pictured as having two stages, the first being very strong, while the second stage (the feet and toes) would be militarily strong, but as the Empire aged it would be made up of several groups or confederations that would not work together well.

For Nebuchadnezzar, the dream represented what would happen in the future. Part of this future for us has already happened. But in describing the second stage of the Roman Empire it is possible that this has not occurred yet, that this is prophetic for us as well? Some believe this because after the fourth kingdom (the Roman Empire) what happens in verse 44? God sets up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. It won't be left to other people and it will in fact demolish the previous kingdoms and will last forever. This can only be God's Millennial Kingdom that is established at Yeshua's return. Yet, the Roman Empire ended in about 500 A.D. How does this fit? All of the previous kingdoms were somewhat built on one another. The Roman Empire especially has had long lasting results considering its influence on our rule of law and the Roman Church. So I think we can see that in some ways the Roman Empire is still with us. There are many who believe as well that as we come to the End Times there will be a revived Roman Empire (Some have speculated that this could be the European Union.).

In any case, how does the fifth kingdom get set up (verse 45)? A great stone, cut out from a mountain by supernatural means (God), is used to smash the kingdoms from before. This fifth kingdom represents God's kingdom on earth that He will establish and that will remove all the influences of the prior kingdoms. Daniel ended the interpretation by stating that the dream was certain and the interpretation was sure. In other words, Nebuchadnezzar's dream represented what the world's history would assuredly be like.

This message should be highly encouraging for us. The details prophesied long before the events is amazing. Only God could be responsible for this. He wants us to know that He is in control of the events of history. We see in the first empires how historically accurate the dream was. We can trust the second part just as much. How relevant is that?

Next, we will see what kind of a response King Nebuchadnezzar has to the dream and its interpretation.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Our Obligations to the Government


OK, I said that the last post would finish my line of thought on politics, but after receiving many interesting and appreciated comments regarding this topic, I knew that I had to address a few more issues.

We need to begin by looking at the Bible's guidance as to what our obligations are to our civil governments. We find most of this in Romans.

Romans 13:1-7 (KJV)
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

From verse 1 we find that it is God who has "ordained" the governmental powers. The word "ordain" means to establish. What this is saying is that God has put into place the concept of governmental rule. This does not mean that God has put evil rulers in place. However, God is sovereign and in our fallen world He has allowed evil rulers to sometimes come to power. We don't understand the reasons for this, but I can point to the fact that Christianity grows when the government is hard on Christians, and Christianity wanes when there is affluence and agreeable government.

Verse 1 also tells us that we are to obey the governmental authorities and verse 2 points out that by disobeying we are resisting God. Verses 3 and 4 speak about the reason for government, to promote the good and to punish evil. God has given government the authority to punish perpetrators of evil deeds. Then verses 6 and 7 speak about our obligation to pay our taxes and to give the governmental authorities what is due them.

So what about people who protest against the government? In the Gospels, Jesus made it clear that we are always to obey God first. So, if the government is doing something contrary to the Word of God we are allowed to disobey, but be prepared for the consequences the government will impose on the one who disobeys. Plus, any disobedience cannot be violent or cross into evil. I am reminded of Corrie Ten Boom whose family hid Jews during World War II. Her family was right in what they did, but Corrie eventually was imprisoned for her actions.

There were several comments on Google about whether or not we are instructed to vote. Is that required by the Bible? No, it is not. But we also have to take into consideration the culture of the first century. Israel was an occupied nation. The Romans held control of the country. There was no political system to even participate in. No wonder voting, etc. is not even spoken about. It is similar to the complaints made regarding slavery. Since nothing was said about the abolition of slavery the Bible somehow condones it? But that isn't sound reasoning. The culture included vast numbers of slaves. The Bible dealt with the situation that existed and taught slaves how to live under slavery. At the same time, I am reminded of Paul gently encouraging Philemon to free his slave Onesimus.

But when America was founded we were given a great privilege, to participate in the selection of our rulers. Ideally, we should have a government that works well for its citizens. But this only works when everyone votes. And when Christians vote we can impact the nation for those principles that are in accord with the Word of God.

Lastly, I received a lot of comment on how politics and religion should be kept separate. Some well-meaning Christians even claimed that they were not religious, that they were only people of faith. But it seems to me, that there is a misunderstanding of what religion is. The definition of religion is, "Any system of faith and worship" For Christians then, whatever faith and worship practice someone has is in fact religion. And I don't mean necessarily any particular organized religion. We can practice faith in God totally without any denomination or "ism" and it is still our religion. Go beyond this and we have to recognize that secularism or atheism is also "religion". It is what a person believes in. When we realize that religion, for all intents and purposes, is simply what we believe in, we also should understand that when we vote, our beliefs or our religion informs how we vote. So really, whenever a person votes, he or she votes his religion.

This then is what must be determined, "Which candidates' values reflect those values that God is most pleased with?" And if we vote our religion and the vote causes laws to be implemented that restrict our rights as Christians and citizens (read socialism), or cause Christians to violate their consciences (read paying for abortions, forcing employers to pay for abortion coverage, force churches to employ homosexuals, force schools to actively promote abortion or homosexuality), we have not voted according to a Christian worldview, but have voted evil into place.

History will tell us the result.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Happened to the Church?


This blog was not meant to be political. I don't care for politics. But there are some aspects of politics, the political system, and our collective responses that infringe on how we live out our Christianity. Yesterday's blog was one of those examples. That was meant to be the end of it, until I found myself confronted with friends on Facebook commenting on the election results. I love these people and they are sisters and brothers in Christ, but their responses are contrary to the Bible. I needed to address the two groups that are represented by some of my dear friends.

The latest data that I heard stated that there are 60 million Christians in America. Out of that 60 million only half were expected to vote. Some of these are Mennonites or other Anabaptists who believe that voting and participating in politics is forbidden for Christians. They get this understanding from Scripture. I really don't have a problem with these people, because they have analyzed the situation and have come to what they see as a Biblical response. I may not agree with them, but I respect their understanding. But the vast majority of Christians that don't vote do so for reasons totally removed from the Bible. They don't like politics (hey, neither do I), they hate the ads (so do I), and they hate the vitriolic language between the candidates (so do I). So they don't vote. But don't these people realize that by not voting, especially in this election, they are likely voting for everything that is contrary to Biblical values. Thank you, for helping evil to gain a further foothold on our country!

Secondly, and even more appalling, were Christians that went out and voted against Biblical values. This is beyond my comprehension. Pro-death and pro-sexual immorality candidates should be off limits to the Christian. All other issues are really secondary. No candidate is ever perfect. But, if a candidate cannot stand for Biblical values he or she doesn't stand for anything, except for standing in opposition to the God of the universe. Thank you, also, for helping evil to gain a further foothold on our country!

Yet, God is still sovereign. He could have orchestrated a different outcome, but He didn't. What does this tell us? First, I believe that He has given our country what we apparently wanted.

Romans 1:28-32 (KJV)
28 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;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 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.

Second, I believe this is indicative of the end times. These things must happen.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (KJV)
1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

In the end, there will be judgment. All will be made right. God will be king over all the earth! In the meantime, there might still be time for repentance (which we all need). We need to pray for our country and its leaders and ask for God's mercy!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Confusing Signs and the Vote!

Well, my newly turned 18 year old son and I got up this morning, got into the car, and proceeded to drive to where we were going to vote. Because of precinct redistricting our polling place had been changed, but I knew where to go, so there was no problem. That is until I turned my car down the street where my destination was located. There were signs on both sides of the street informing drivers where voting was going on. The left side signs pointed left and the right side signs pointed right. Two churches stood on opposite sides of the road and both, apparently, were voting locations and both parking lots were pretty full. Thankfully, I knew which church was my polling place, so I turned left and parked. As we entered the building we heard of several who had gone into the wrong church and had been instructed to go across the street. I'm sure this senario was being played out in the other church as well. But my son and I were in the right place, so we received ballots and we successfully voted.

I'm still laughing over the signs. It was the craziest thing I've ever seen. Obviously, those in charge had no other option than to have these polling places right next to each other. But talk about confusion! But isn't this a picture of the election process itself? In America's two party system we are always confronted by two opposing choices. Increasingly, the differences between the two choices are becoming more pronounced. In fact, it seemed like this year that there was an enormous "canyon" between the two choices. They are like two signs pointing in two very opposite directions. Which way is right?

Even the two churches standing on opposite corners speak of the chasm that exists between religions. Everybody heads down the road between them and must choose a side. There are signs, but which ones give the information that will direct to the correct spot?

The signs that we are exposed to are tradition, writings of all kinds, personal feelings, testimony from others, fear, nature, and the conscience.This list is by no means exhaustive and they often point in different directions. Besides this, these signs can be misleading, false, lead to rabbit trails, or lead to dead ends. We can't even gauge the direction by the number of people in any given parking lot. What's the answer?

The only sign that can lead to absolute truth is the Bible. Many argue about it's veracity and authenticity, and refuse to accept the direction found therein, but those who have plumbed the riches that it contains, will argue back that there is no other sign that measures up to the Bible. It leads to the grace of God, forgiveness of sin, salvation, and eternal life. If these are true results, the Bible leads to the only correct direction. Yet, if it's false, like so many of the other signs are, the only negatives are having lived a life of purpose, peace, and love for God and man. Nothing is lost by going by the signs of the Bible, but everything may be gained.

Even those political questions can be answered by following the Bible. Life values that God says are important can guide in the determination of how to vote. It's all there!

My son and I were not confused by the opposing signs leading to our polling place. Nor are we confused about the myriad number of signs along life's highway. It is the tiny sign that says, "Bible" that will direct us into the future.

Matthew 7:13-14 (KJV)
13 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:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Jerusalem Council Decides

The news of Paul's soul winning amongst the Gentiles caused a great stir in the heart of the believers in Jerusalem. Several men traveled out to see Paul's work. They were amazed at what they saw. Gentile lives were changed in the same ways that their Jewish counterparts had experienced. Unfortunately, Paul didn't seem too eager to convert these new believers. "They must be converted to Judaism in order to be saved!" they said. Stubborn Paul said, "No!" So the men rightly went back to Jerusalem where they laid the entire question before the elders. "What should we do with all these Gentiles?"

The Jerusalem Council listened to both sides of the issue. Finally, James stood and gave the Council's decision.

Acts 15:19-21 (KJV)
19 Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God:
20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

This portion of Scripture has been used as the basis for the Gentile Christians' responsibility to The Law. But is this the correct understanding? Are there only four laws that Gentile Christians need to observe? All Christians should understand that this cannot be a complete list of our responsibilities since nothing is said about murder or theft. Nothing is said about loving God first or loving our neighbor as ourselves. Obviously, this is not a complete list. So what is it? What was James trying to convey?

Let's examine these four laws. The first is the admonition to abstain from pollutions of idols. Generally, this meant that the new Christians were to stay away from any association with idols. This came into play when the believers would purchase meat in the market. Often, this meat had originally been offered to idols and then sold later at the market. Eating this meat might be construed as condoning idolatry, so the instruction was to refrain from eating this meat.

The second law was the admonition to flee fornication. This is a reference to any participation in sexual immorality.

The third is the instruction to refuse to eat meat from animals that had been strangled, and the fourth is to refrain from eating meat that has blood in it.

Let's examine how well Christians observe these laws.

Not eating meat offered to idols today is pretty simple. Christians don't really have a problem with this law. We don't buy meat in our grocery stores that have come from centers of idol worship.

What about sexual immorality? Generally. Christians understand that sexual immorality is wrong.   However, increasingly, church leaders seem to have difficulty with confronting those who sin in this way. For example, churches are afraid of confronting cohabiting individuals for fear that they will leave the church, or that that might ruffle the feelings of family members, etc. But the law itself is well understood.

The real problem comes with the third and fourth laws. Do Christians uphold them? Further explanation about the fourth law can be found in the following:

Genesis 9:4 (KJV)
4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.

Leviticus 17:14 (KJV)
14 For it is the life of all flesh; the blood of it is for the life thereof: therefore I said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off.

Deuteronomy 12:16 (KJV)
16 Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water.

In the first place, do Christians avoid eating blood? Personally, I know of many who love rare or medium rare meat. In fact, I don't know of anyone who teaches against eating meat that still has the blood in it. Let's be honest, the only way to know if our meat has come from an animal that has not been strangled or has had the blood drained out is by buying kosher meat. Let me say that again, we must buy kosher meat in order to make sure that it doesn't come from strangled animals and that the blood has been drained from it.

So if Christians claim that these are the only laws applicable to Gentiles they should follow them.

Lastly, if a Christian is going to stand on these four laws alone, he or she needx to look closely at verse 21 of Acts 15.

Acts 15:21 (KJV)
21 For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

As many times as I have read this I can see only one explanation, that Moses, meaning the Torah, or the first five books of the Bible, was preached every Sabbath day in the synagogues. James was saying that we don't want to overwhelm the new Gentile believers with all The Laws of God right away. Rather, as the believers would be in the synagogues on Saturday they would hear The Law preached every week and would gradually come to understand The Law. However, the four laws that were stated in this passage were essential for fellowship and must be understood right away.

What do you believe? Again, I welcome comments. But if you disagree with my belief that we need to continue to keep The Law, please address Acts 15:21. How can this verse be explained in any other way?

For me, this passage of Scripture is not about setting The Law aside, but rather an acknowledgement that The Law was still in force during the days of the early disciples as well as it is today.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Most High God - Daniel 2:31-35


We last left Daniel standing before King Nebuchadnezzar, who had threatened the wise men with death if no one could relate to him the dream that he had had, as well as its interpretation. Before Daniel told the king the information he wanted, Daniel gave God the credit for what he was about to say. What was the dream that had so troubled the king?

Daniel 2:31-35 (KJV)
31 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.
32 This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,
33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.
34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.
35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

What was the first thing that the king had seen (verse 31)? He saw a great image. What was it like? It was bright and the form was terrible. According to verse 32 what was the image's head made of? It was made of fine gold. What was the breast and arms made of? They were made of silver. What were the thighs made of? They were made of brass (bronze). What were the legs made of (verse 33)? They were made of iron. What were the feet made of? They were made of both iron and clay. What did the king see next (verse 34)? He saw a stone. Had the stone been cut by human hands? No, it had not been cut by human hands. How did the stone get cut out of the rock then? The only other means would have been through a supernatural means. Obviously, God is the one who did the cutting. What happened next (still verse 34)? The stone smote the image on its feet and the image broke in pieces. As a result of the stone crushing the feet, what happened to the rest of the image (verse 35)? The whole image broke into pieces to the point that it became like the chaff on the threshing floors in summer. The image is so demolished that the wind carried the pieces away and could not be found. What happened to the stone then? It became a great mountain and it filled the whole earth.

The king of Babylon certainly had a very vivid and terrifying dream. Do you suppose that the king was able to remember the dream as Daniel related it back to him? Will the king respond favorably?  Do you think Daniel will also be able to interpret the dream? Stay tuned for the next installment.