Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Trip to Europe Continued (Seventeenth Post In Total)

One   Two   Three   Four   Five   Six   Seven   Eight   Nine   Ten   Eleven   Twelve   Thirteen   Fourteen   Fifteen   Sixteen

Venice has a permanent population of 55,000 and 20 million visitors a year.  At most moments, far more tourists dwell there than permanent inhabitants. It's not really built for the number of people who are normally there.  I'm glad to say we missed the high point.  There were crowds, but it didn't seem that cramped on June 11 and 12, Monday and Tuesday, 2018.  For as many people as there were there and in some locations, especially San Marcos square, you can still find an entirely empty walkway or even piazza, even feel all alone.  I understand those who say that every corner you turn in Venice is another surprise.  Nothing is normal there.
It was impossible to get up to speed on every place we went on this trip ahead of time.  It was enough, really, to plan it and pull it off.  I did reading, one travel book and a few essays.  Something you can do, so as perhaps not to stress about this before your trip, is to understand that you can read about the place you visited afterwards.  Get up to speed later.  You can savor your trip then.

Everywhere you look in Venice, at least for me, you want to know more.  There are too many things to look at to know everything that you're seeing.  For a day and a half, essentially we just enjoyed Venice.  Our host was Venetian.  He knew a lot from a Venetian perspective, but even so we couldn't learn it all.
Venice is full of art.  It was our first major art experience on the trip.  When it comes to art, I still don't know most of what I'm seeing, and what it means.  It's usually religious though, Roman Catholic, from the same era, old, done by very skilled painters and sculptors.

On Tuesday, June 12, we rose late after the early a.m. arrival the night before.  We replayed the previous day's travel:  train, vaporetto down the grand canal, except exited a few piers early to walk a short cut to St. Mark's Basilica in San Marcos square.  We had prepaid tickets.  We missed a long, long line with a very busy square.
In the U.K. we toured several cathedrals.  We added two more in Italy.  St Mark's was laid out like everything else.  It seemed like something to visit.  It's number one on most lists, but I didn't have a good impression.  It was dark, hot, and crowded.  There was really little to see.  We didn't stay long.  It was sort of, been there, done that.  We decided not to attempt to go up the tower, and just make our way back to the train, slowly walking Venice.

Part of what you do in Italy again and again, which we did, is gelato.  We had already done it the night before and did it at least twice more.  I say the best you can do in Venice is slow walk through it.  Eat little food items.  Buy something.  Sit, watching a great scene, while eating gelato.

Nothing is like the Italian coffee experience.  The U.K. had its tea.  Starbucks founder learned coffee from Italy, but Italian coffee is still its own thing.  Part of it is the service, which brings an experience.  We sat at a restaurant right next to the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge.  We went with sharing four different desserts and then coffee.  This is the way to make your way through Venice.

We stopped at an Italian leather shop and bought my mom some Italian leather gloves. The Italians have a unique take on leather, hence Italian leather. Every breath in one of these shops is that rich leather scent, nothing like it.

We decided to leave Venice in time to go into Mestre to an Italian restaurant owned by a friend of our host.  We ate outdoors traditional Italian pasta and it was terrific.  We got home at a good hour for a regular night sleep.  We would be leaving between 8 and 9 a.m. the next morning by train to Rome.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Evan Roberts: Deceived by Satan, Part 15 of 22

            Roberts’s “claims to special insights and divine orders and supernatural visitations” led critics to say that his “overheated imagination . . . [was] a fatal blow to real . . . religious movements.”[1]  Indeed, after Roberts’s ministry had run its course, in the areas where he had preached “the revival disappeared, and [Roberts’s work] has made those valleys in Wales almost inaccessible to any further divine intervention.”[2]  “Many . . . voiced criticism of the revival for its failure to achieve any long-lasting results,”[3] and Roberts himself, some time later, “explained [as] tragic errors” a variety of his supernatural declarations, affirming that they were “evidence of Satan’s power to exercise control . . . by entering into the heart, influencing the mind, and troubling the spirit.”[4]  Thus, Evan Roberts himself affirmed that Satan had entered his heart and affected his mind and spirit during the Welsh holiness revival.[5]  “Roberts later became very critical of the revival for its emphasis on emotional excess and what he saw as the influence of demonic powers.”[6]  He declared:  “[D]uring the revival in Wales, I, in my ignorance, did not escape the wiles of the enemy.”[7]  Indeed, Evan Roberts confessed that he had not “escaped the wiles . . . [of] the arch-fiend,” but had “deep, varied, and awful experiences of the invisible powers of darkness.”[8]  In “later years . . . he . . . would question whether it was the Holy Spirit who commanded these things,”[9] and “he confessed to a fear that he had been tricked by Satan.”[10]  In fact, he came to see that many of the “visions and voices he had known and all the examples of his strange power to look into people’s thoughts and feelings” were “proof that he . . . had been deceived” during the Welsh holiness revival.  He likewise recognized that in important aspects of his Keswick holiness message “he had been deceived by the father of lies.”[11]  His admission that much of his teaching and practice were demonic was undoubtedly correct.
            Regrettably, Roberts did not come to see as evil all, but only some, of his revelations from the spirit world.  Furthermore, he did not consider sola Scriptura and cessationism as the “antidote to deception,” but the doctrine of the Cross that Jessie Penn-Lewis had herself learned by a vision in accordance with her belief in the Quaker Inner Light.[12]  Nevertheless, Roberts acknowledged that “he began to find it hard to distinguish Satanic suggestions from the Spirit’s promptings, and even harder to discern which ‘voices’ were only echoes of desires within his own mind.”  He “could not always see when his visions and voices were . . . spiritual” and when they were not, and recognized that he needed help so that he could get to the place where he could “differentiate [the] voice [of the] Lord . . . from the cunning of the Evil One.”[13]  He had at one time stated:  “I am as certain that the Spirit has spoken to me as I am of my own existence,” as he was “[a]t the time . . . hearing this actualized voice” while “heading for a bout of nervous prostration and depression and perplexity.”[14]  However, at another time he “told . . . [an assembly of] students that he was not even sure whether the Spirit suggested things or actually spoke.”[15]  Sometimes a spirit would speak to Evan in Welsh, sometimes in English, and sometimes in both.[16]  He had such close connections with the spirit world that “a voice” even told him things as small as to “draw a fourth line” underneath a word he had underlined three times or to command:  “[R]ise from your bed.”[17]  A “voice” led Evan on the “journey which ended in a full acceptance of the doctrine of identification with the Crucified One”[18] learned by vision and then preached by Jessie Penn-Lewis.
            In any case, although he admitted that Satan had entered his heart, many of Roberts’s visions were viewed as “truly inspired,” and these marvels validated that the statements in Joel 2:28-32 and Acts 2:17-21 about visions were being fulfilled in Wales.[19]  After all, Roman Catholic monks and other “Welsh heroes” had experienced similar supernatural guidance.[20] Since he considered only some of his supernatural encounters as Satanic, when Roberts emerged briefly from two decades of seclusion in the Penn-Lewis household in the “Little Revival” of 1928-1930, which was “short-lived” and restricted to “the faithful ones in and near Gorseinon and Loughor” rather than being “a national awakening,”[21] he again employed his powers of seeing people’s hearts and was involved in “healings, exorcisms, and . . . prophesyings.”  All such “gifts of the Spirit were scriptural” for the present day, he believed, a view he had held since at least the time of the 1904 Welsh holiness revival on.[22]  “It was hardly surprising that some thought that Evan Roberts had become an Apostolic or Pentecosta[l].”[23]
            However, it was “an unpleasant shock” for Roberts to discover that already in “1931 . . . [there were] few signs of the [1928-1930] revival’s lasting influence.”[24]  “One year later he went into final retirement and vanished into the shadows of history,”[25] becoming “almost a forgotten man.”[26]  Many considered his lack of attendance at prayer meetings and other church events in favor of discussions among poets and attendance at “theatres . . . [a] proof of serious backsliding.”[27]  Roberts “abandoned his rigorist ethics, went to football matches and smoked a pipe.”[28]  In 1942, advising David Shepherd in a letter, Roberts said nothing at all about praying and wrote:  “The only word I would have you receive from me is, ‘Use your commonsense.  Revelation tends to undermine it.  Harness your intellectual powers and drive hard.’”  This advice was very “unlike the man who saw visions . . . and even more unlike the great intercessor and valued adviser of The Overcomer period.  Surely some kind of personal declension had overtaken him.”[29]  He lived a reclusive life in his old age, living off from the gifts of “Welsh friends . . . which supplemented his pension and the quarterly allowance from the Aged and Infirm Fund.”[30] He “show[ed] little enthusiasm . . when people began to talk about a fortieth year anniversary meeting of the revival . . . [in] 1944 . . . and he finally sent his excuses.”[31]  History notes that after leaving the home of Jessie Penn-Lewis:
[He] spent most of the rest of his life in lodges in Cardiff.  Although initially dedicating himself to a ministry of intercessory prayer . . . [he evidenced growing] dissatisfaction as he grew older.  Notebooks in which he wrote during the last decade of his life reveal him as a lonely and somewhat bitter figure and are . . . almost totally devoid of religious zeal.  Witness the following verse, written in English and dated 1 December 1944:
I’ve changed, I doubt it not, I’ve changed a lot,
I know I feel a change as great as odd,
To think I have come home and am forgot
As much by kin as I have been by God.[32]
He died in a Cardiff nursing home on 29 January 1951.[33]
Roberts’s final testimony was, sadly, far more like that of Demas (2 Timothy 4:10),[34] and like those who confused standing up with conversion and regeneration in Roberts’s holiness revival meetings, than that of the Apostle Paul:  “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

[1]              Pg. 101, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[2]              Pg. 183, The Pentecostals, Walter Hollenweger.
[3]              Pg. 527, “Demythologizing the Evan Roberts Revival,” Pope.  The “social effects of the revival,” although significant, lasted “only for a short time” (pg. 528, Ibid.).   “Concern was expressed in the denominational press as early as 1907 that the chapels were emptier than they had been” (pg. 529, Ibid.).
[4]              Pg. 102, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[5]              Cf. also pg. 521, “Demythologizing the Evan Roberts Revival,” Pope.
[6]              Pg. 525, “Demythologizing the Evan Roberts Revival,” Pope.
[7]              Pg. 168, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[8]              Pg. 180, The Overcomer, December 1914.
[9]              Pg. 120, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[10]            Pg. 126, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[11]            Pg. 159, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[12]            Pg. 173, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[13]            Pg. 113, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[14]            Pg. 108, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[15]            Pg. 105, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[16]            Pgs. 110-112, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[17]            Pg. 114, 116, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[18]            Pg. 113, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[19]            Pg. 104, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  The historic Baptist view of Spirit baptism correctly notes that Acts 2:17-21 and Joel 2:28-32 do not refer to events taking place after the first century and before the seventieth week of Daniel 9; see the chapter “Spirit Baptism: A Completed Historical Event. An Exposition and Defense of the Historic Baptist View of Spirit Baptism.”
[20]            Pg. 109, An Instrument of Revival, Jones. Further instances of visions, voices, and similar manifestations, some of which Roberts affirmed were from God, and others from Satan, are recorded on pgs. 25, 26, 29, 31, 35, 40, 48, 77, 84, 104, 113, 135, 154, 267, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
                Penn-Lewis argued:  “Joel said in those days will I pour out my Spirit.’  The expression [i]s in the long Hebrew tense, expressing continuance of action, literally an incoming, unfinished, and continuous outpouring[.]  It therefore appears that the words ‘in those days’ cover the whole dispensation of the Spirit, beginning with the Day of Pentecost” (pgs. 14-15, The Awakening in Wales).  For this reason, although Joel is actually not speaking about the “dispensation of the Spirit” in the church age in context, since “those days” (Joel 2:29; 3:1) refers to the Tribulation period (3:1ff.), Penn-Lewis nonetheless goes on to argue in later portions of The Awakening in Wales that the signs and wonders of Joel 2 should be expected in her time and in the remaining portion of this age.  Her alleged proof from the fact that the Hebrew verb, “I will pour,” is in the imperfect tense, is not a little curious; that tense is exactly what Joel would use to express a simple future, and the verb in the imperfect cannot possibly bear her “incoming, unfinished, and continuous” idea the overwhelming majority of the time it appears in the Bible (Genesis 37:22; Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34; Deuteronomy 12:16, 24; 15:23; 2 Kings 19:32; Job 16:13; Psalm 42:4; 102:1; 142:2; Isaiah 37:33; Jeremiah 7:6; 22:3; Ezekiel 7:8; 33:25; Daniel 11:15; Hosea 5:10; Joel 2:28–29).  However, since Mrs. Penn-Lewis knew no Hebrew, perhaps her argument is understandable, if invalid.
[21]          Pg. 216, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[22]            Pg. 221-223, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[23]            Pg. 221, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[24]            Pg. 224, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.  Indeed, in the 1930s there was “a serious decline . . . [in the] thousand nonconformist chapels of Welsh Wales . . . [a great] decline in spiritual vitality” (pg. 225, Ibid.), a decline, indeed, that set in immediately after and as a result of Roberts’s ministry in the holiness revival of 1904.  Roberts wrote about the decline in Welsh Christianity in the years after the holiness revival in 1904 through the 1930s:  “Where are the multitudes which used to grow on the rich meadows of the precious Gospel?” (pg. 269, Ibid).
[25]            Pg. 224, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[26]          Pg. 225, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[27]            Pgs. 228, 248, cf. 225-258, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[28]            Pg. 182, The Pentecostals, Hollenweger.
[29]            Pgs. 239-240, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[30]            Pg. 247, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[31]            Pg. 249, An Instrument of Revival, Jones.
[32]            Calvinistic Methodist Archive, National Library of Wales, 25632, cited pg. 526, “Demythologizing the Evan Roberts Revival,” Pope.
[33]            Pg. 526, “Demythologizing the Evan Roberts Revival,” Pope.
[34]            Contrast the inaccurate statement that Roberts died “a man of rare charm and spirituality” on pg. 129 of The Keswick Story:  The Authorized History of the Keswick Convention, Polluck.  Polluck would have done well to dig more deeply rather than simply reproducing the hagiography of Roberts’s obituary.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Critique: Worship Wars by Robert Bakss, pt. 2

Intro   Part One

Before I start, I encourage you to read a second post by Dave Mallinak along the same lines as the first he had written on his blog, the first was "Gone Contemporary" and the second, "Gothpel Style."

Like any counterfeit, Bakss book, Worship Wars, has truth in it.  As a subtitle for chapter one, for instance, he asks, "Did you know you were made for worship?"  That's true.  Then after testifying that he is a worshiper, he writes:
The issue is not whether we know how to worship but rather it is about Who we worship.
In his introduction, Bakss said he just wanted to be scriptural, because he isn't any kind of expert, but this statement is divorced from scripture.  The issue is not just Who we worship.  Cain worshiped the right God in Genesis 4.  He brought fruits and vegetables.  Most often false worship starts with the error on the "how," which leads to the wrong "who."  God doesn't accept the wrong "how," hence the death of Nadab and Abihu.  Very often the most important question is whether the worship is holy and acceptable unto God.

Bakss says that because everyone has been made to worship, "there's an internal homing device inside of us that perpetually longs for our Maker."  Romans 3:11 says "no man seeketh after God."  Whatever homing device man started with, made in God's image, died because of sin.  Bakss says,
We have an internal Godward magnet pulling our being toward Him.
I don't believe that.  It's just the opposite.  Being made in the image of God doesn't assume anywhere in scripture that after Adam's fall, man by nature wants to worship God.  The best Bakss does to prove that is to tell a story of a Roman Catholic woman who saw Jesus in a piece of toast, followed by thousands who also came to worship before the toast.  Romans 1 says that men know God, but they glorify Him not as God.  Because of general revelation men know God, but they by nature rebel against that knowledge.  It makes sense that a faulty view of the nature of man lies at the root of Bakss's false worship.

Bakss then tells another illustration, which he introduces with this statement:
Sadly, for some people the only type of church worship they have experienced is similar to the humorous story of a young boy's first time in church.
The little boy couldn't understand dressing up, being quiet, kneeling, and bowing at a pew in an old church building, maybe it was Roman Catholic, the kneeling the only clue.  The implication by Bakss was that these circumstances -- dressing up, being quiet, kneeling, and bowing -- are what turn people away from true worship.  He follows the story:
The amount of time we spend focusing on worship music styles is a strong indicator that many have little understanding of the heart of worship.  If we get so focused on how we worship, it's easy to forget why we worship or even, at times, Who we are worshiping.
Huh?  There's almost nothing to connect that conclusion from that short illustration.  The first sentence is almost impossible to decipher.  Who is "we"?  Is "we," "many" that have little understanding of the heart of worship?   His own story focuses on worship style.

True worshipers will focus on both "how" and "Who," and perhaps better put, "what" and "Who."  Worship must recognize Who God is, but it also must give Him what He wants.  The "how" relates to what God wants from worshipers.  He doesn't accept something that He doesn't want, so that's why true worshipers consider style.  You can't focus on Who God is without focusing on what He wants, or how He wants to be worshiped.

Bakss says something very important and true, quoting 2 Chronicles 29:30, that is, worship is about God.  He says that the worship wars will end with 'better understanding what worship is all about.'  Then he explains that the English word, worship, means 'to ascribe worth,' and "we worship the One who is worthy," then quoting Revelation 4:11.  He defines worship as "acknowledging that God is worthy of all praise, from all people, for all time," a definition, I believe, that falls short of sufficient.

Worship acknowledges Who God is, and then it gives Him what He wants.  If you don't give Him what He wants, it's obvious that you are not acknowledging Him for Who He is.  Bakss though continues with his incomplete understanding by saying that "true worship is simply catching sight of the greatness, majesty, and glory of an infinite God."  That's less than half right.  However, it is a definition that the reader will see buttresses Bakss next point.

Bakss says 'that our worship is small, because our concept of God is small.' It is true that God deserves great praise.  That would also say that someone can know what is great.  Isn't that style?  All the way through, Bakss makes an obvious contradiction.  It's the norm for men like him today.  Bakss obsesses over style while saying that style either isn't important or doesn't mean anything.  The men who think and then teach like Bakss does, all of them, are the most sensitive people that I see to style.  Style is almost everything to them.  It's definitely not content, which is easy to see by reading Bakss's book.  The little boy in his story got turned off by a worship style he experienced, one that Bakss says occurred because of a preoccupation with style.

The focus, writes Bakss, must be on God and he quotes Isaiah 6:3, the verse on the angelic worship Isaiah witnessed  with the angels chanting, "Holy, holy, holy."  From that Bakss says, "Worship is declaring, with our lips and our lives, that God is more important to us than anything else."  That's not what the angels were declaring.  They declared that God was holy, not that He was important.

To that point, Bakss writes:
This is why, when we think of worship wars, we must ask ourselves, "Who really wins?  The answer is, "The devil."
It doesn't connect with what he's been saying.  It doesn't follow.  I don't see that as the answer either.  I say, "If we don't war, the devil wins."

As if to explain that point, Bakss then says:
As I said, we are all worshippers.  In fact, some of the greatest forms of worship are found outside the walls of the church and have no reference to the God of all creation.
No.  The greatest forms of worship are not found outside of the church.  No worship of God is outside the true church.  No Christian should look to the world to learn about worship.  Scripture is replete with examples of men, who moved to false worship, because they looked at the world for worship.  Think at least Jeroboam and Solomon.  However, he defends this by providing an anecdote.  He says that "all you have to do is drop in on a rock concert or go to a sporting event at a nearby stadium to see amazing worship."

Bakss's point is that kids at rock concerts and athletic contests are really putting their heart into what they're doing, valuing these events highly, as seen in their passion and enthusiasm.  As much as anything, they're not worshiping anything or anyone but themselves.  These are entertainers and they're being entertained.  The entertainment makes them feel good.  It's something akin to the passion that a dog shows when someone puts out its bowl of dog food.

Another example was Oprah's interview of Michael Jackson with the most viewers in television history.  Jackson's fans, he says, waved "their hands in the air," "some fell on their knees," and "others strained with outstretched hands."  He continues, "Seared in my mind is the image of one young girl with a look on her face of total awe."

In each of Bakss's descriptions, he focuses on how people acted or the style that they used.  If someone thinks really highly of something or someone, the way they do that is by using these types of methods.  He writes, "This clip was an amazing picture of worship."  The problem according to Bakss was not the style.  That was amazing and wonderful.  The problem was the "not-so-great a god," "Michael Jackson."

In addition to singing, Bakss says that people worship with singing, giving, prayer, preaching, etc., all of these focusing on "how."  Those are all legitimate he says, but he's going to focus on music and singing.  After a few more illustrations, he ends his first chapter with what seems to be his main point:
So, when we truly understand Whom we are praising with our songs and our actions, then it takes the focus of worship off us and our preferences and directs us to be united in our worship of God.
His last sentence of the chapter reads:
It is certainly a privilege to be a part of the Rise of Music in our churches.
I have no idea what he means by that.  The "Rise of Music?"  Written in capitals.  No idea.

Overall, you can see where Bakss is headed.  Warring over musical styles can be stopped by focusing on Who we praise.  The people who have preferences, the ones who think that only certain music is acceptable to God, that occurs solely because they're not considering Who they are praising.  If they would just start doing that, everyone would be united around God.  So, musical preferences are what causes war in music.  Perhaps this particular practice, accepting all musical style, as long as the focus is on God, is the "Rise of Music."  He does nothing to prove that point, but it's the only explanation that made any sense to me.

Bakss says he's a lawyer and implies in the introduction this as an advantage for him.  He says that his goal is to rely on evidence, which for him, he says, is scripture.  He does nothing close to making his points from the evidence of scripture.  His conclusions are nothing more than his own biased assertions that he sets about to defend.  It's possible that a lawyer lets evidence lead him to the truth, but I've noticed this is hardly the case of all lawyers, maybe not even most of them.

The problem for Bakss, like he expressed in his introduction, continues to be the warring.  And it isn't even so much the warring.  As I said, Bakss is warring with this book.  He wars.  However, what he calls warring is not allowing him and others like him to have their position tolerated.  He gave me no reason to think otherwise.  The false worship he propagates deserves war.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Actual Sensing of the Holy Spirit or God and then the More Prominent Fake Kind, Which Is a Lie

Part One

My first part in this series was due to many varied circumstances, primarily spurred by a letter I had read, but this is something that I've basically been putting up with for years.  If you don't put up with it, much like with Charismatics, you are in trouble.  You've got to accept these subjective, mystical, esoteric feelings or experiences as something legitimate, or you are against the working of God or the Holy Spirit.  I'm not going to be in on it.  Count me and our church as out.

I cared about what I wrote about in part one, but the reaction was bigger than what I expected.  I want people to think about it, and I do think it actually is important, so I'm glad that it has received attention.  I said I was going to write an answer to some comments, and this is part of it.  It won't be all, because I don't think it will answer everything.

Think about the Day of Pentecost, the one 50 days after Passover, the year Christ died, was buried, and rose again.  The church there in Jerusalem, 120 baptized believers, was waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit by John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus Christ.  In other words, they couldn't sense His presence.  What was the means of sensing God's presence?  We know what it was, so if we are basing the ability to sense God's presence from scripture, that actually given to us by God, by the Holy Spirit, this is what would inform of that.  What was necessary to know the presence of God is what God says is necessary to know the presence of God, and we find out in Acts 2.

Jesus promised the presence of the Holy Spirit, but those saved people in Jerusalem wouldn't know He had come, because this wasn't something that you could know without being shown.  If there wasn't anything needed to indicate the presence of God, then the way God would show He would come also wasn't necessary.  But it was necessary, and it was external, obvious, and verifiable.  It wasn't an inkling, a hunch, an impression, related to something natural, what anyone could just make up.  Not only did the verification of the presence of God occur, but it was recognizable by everyone at once, not just by some type of unique caste of spiritual specialists.

Acts 2 makes specific mention of the experiencing of the presence of God.  Here's the description (Acts 2:2-4):
2  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
First, the feeling or the sensing of the presence of God came audibly with a sound of a rushing mighty wind without actual wind present.  Everyone could hear that.  The word "wind" is a unique word in the New Testament, found only here and another place, and it is a blast, unprecedented.  They heard wind like a hurricane without there being wind, just the noise, minus the blowing.  Hearing wind with wind present is something many have experienced and that would have signified nothing.  Hearing a cyclone-like wind sound without the wind is highly impressive, swaying, convincing of something, especially in conjunction with the promise that God the Holy Spirit was coming soon.

Before I move to number two, understand that this was the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover.  This event was sovereign.  It was under the power of God, as God did it when He wanted.  Jesus died at Passover, He rose again at Firstfruits, and the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost.  These are not haphazard.  This was the plan of God.

Some might say, it was an answer to their prayer.  I think they were praying for this event.  I have no non-ambiguous proof that they were praying for this event.  I think it is what Jesus taught them to pray in Luke 11.  We know they were praying, it just doesn't say anywhere they were praying for this event to occur.  This event was going to occur, whether they prayed for it or not.  It also occurred with everyone.  The presence of God is sensed in an unambiguous way by everyone.  It isn't isolated.  Everyone knows it.

Second, the feeling or sensing of the presence of God came visually with the appearance of tongue-shaped cloves of fire.  It wasn't fire.  It was the appearance of fire.  The appearance of these tongue-shaped cloves of fire was on every single one of them.  Each person knew he had this.  This is how he sensed.  He could see it.  Everyone else could see it.  Everyone would know it.

If God is going to be sensed in a lesser way, that someone testifies he got in his own individualistic manner, that would be the absence of sensing God's presence.  That would be not to sense God.  Sensing God should be like sensing God in the Bible, or that sensing would mean nothing.  The expressed sensing of God would void scripture, make it as nothing.  God exalts His Word, says it is sufficient, but we would be saying that, no, our experiences supercede or surpass the Bible.

God's Word is truth, and saying that it is true means that it should not be contradicted.  If the sign or the manifestation of the presence of God is what scripture says it is, we should expect to get that.  If we don't get it, we should reject our experience and go with what God says in His Word.

Third, the feeling or sensing of the presence of God came through speaking in an actual foreign language that the speaker did not naturally know.  God gave men the supernatural ability to speak to people in a different language.  They suddenly knew a language or their mouth just moved in that language while their brain fed it information in their own language.  Acts 2 does a lot to establish these as actual languages, but this is sensing the presence of God.

There will very often be claims of the presence of God or the sensing of the presence of God.  No one should just assume that is going to occur.  If it was something that someone could sense, he should expect to sense it like the Bible shows someone senses it.

You might ask, is there any other way to know the Holy Spirit is there?  Sure, but it isn't characterized as sensing it, like people claim to have done.  If they were sensing it, it should be verifiable on the outside.  Claiming that in a subjective, individual way someone senses God's presence is not what scripture teaches.  Scripture is sufficient and God isn't a liar.  Let God be true and every man a liar.

There are ways that we know the presence of the Holy Spirit is there, which are biblical and sufficient.  I see four ways in scripture.  I'm going to list them and say nothing about them:  fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5), spiritual giftedness (1 Cor 12, Rom 12), changed relationships (Ephesians 5:18-6:6), and boldness in proclamation of the Word of God (Acts 4:31).  What I've noticed most often is that the actual ways scripture says you will know someone has the indwelling Holy Spirit are not there, not witnessed, but the very individual, subjective feelings are there, and the latter is elevated above the former, which is the norm today, it seems, for the discernment for true spirituality.  That doesn't honor God -- it is wicked and adulterous.

Because men are not satisfied with actual knowledge of the Holy Spirit, I have witnessed them going about to manipulate situations to fool people about the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes, I suspect, they themselves are fooled while they fool others.  However, through the use of music, speaking style, and other external stimuli, they give a wishful public their placebo experiences.  They can produce crowds through a gimmick and then say it was the Holy Spirit.  They use emotionalism for tear-jerking altar calls, and then when people come, they say that's the Holy Spirit.  Things that are not miracles are called miracles.  It is one thing after another.  If you say that you don't have or do these things, they say you don't have the power of God.  They are lying.

I don't expect to sense the presence of the Holy Spirit through the Acts 2:1-4 type of occurrence, because that experience is complete.  If it was an ongoing experience, I would expect Acts 2:1-4 authentication.  Here's what I've witnessed though.  A preacher says something like the following.  "Our whole church fasted all day and then our men got together and prayed all night for the outpouring of the Spirit of God, that He would come and meet together with us.  It's no wonder that I have felt the presence of God in this meeting.  You can sense the presence of God, a movement of the Holy Spirit in numbers of ways:  how that the hymn choices have matched the sermon choices, the obvious power that has been there in the preaching, and that others have told me they sensed God's presence."  Have you heard that?  I've heard it numbers of times among independent, even unaffiliated Baptists.  Every time, I either feel something, sick to my stomach, angry, or the blood drain from my face.  That is in reaction to something that is not true.

This last paragraph I've called "soft continuationism."  I don't know anymore.  Maybe it's just continuationism.  They aren't seeing some wacky Charismatic manifestations, but they are seeking and having experiences that are lies.  I'm not saying they don't have the experience, but their interpretations or stories are lies.  I wish they could be satisfied with what God says, since He wants that faith in His Word.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Trip to Europe Continued (Sixteenth Post In Total)

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Monday, June 11, 2018 was a very busy and stressful, yet exciting day.  We got very little sleep, arose very early, and then we had all the running due to our customs error at the Edinburgh airport, not getting checked off on the passports before security.  There were so many parts to the day, because we arrived in Bologna, bus to train station, train to Mestre, and walk to our condo.  One advantage so far may be that we hadn't walked over ten miles.

Almost every Italian neighborhood is near some piazza, a common feature of Italian towns and cities.  Our place of stay was near one with a fountain in the middle.  Venice is a nighttime city, but in hindsight we slept longer than we should have for the rest of the parts of this day.  We walked back to the train station to go the final leg into Venice, which is only about ten or fifteen minutes.  It was nice to be rid of the luggage.  Where we stayed, we walked east, passing many bicycles.  Italy is filled with bicycle riders, peddling along as their actual mode of transportation.  Almost all of these bikes look like the retro 1940 simple, plain bike.

The track to Venice is upon a narrow land bridge to a group of islands, so it looks as though you are coasting along on top of the Mediterranean as Venice grows larger in front of you.  The Venice station is a giant one in the very north and west.  You walk a short way south and east, down some granite steps to the grand canal.  Nothing is like Venice.  Wherever you look is different than anything you've ever seen.

I led my family to a ticket office right on the canal, where I purchased four vaporetto passes.  The goal here was to ride the entire grand canal from the very beginning, past Piazza San Marco.  Our host, Massimmo, suggested it.  It was probably a good suggestion if we had left two hours sooner, which itself would not have been the right move, because we needed the nap.

To ride the vaporetto, the water bus, you wait on a little platform, they call a ferrovia.  The vaporetti travel both ways.  Just to be honest, when I stepped on to the ferrovia, I thought I was on a square vaporetto, because I had never seen one or ridden one.  So much of this trip was a first time for whatever it was.  We were the first onto the platform, waiting then for the actual boat.

As we stood and sat and others followed us, a couple from Chicago walked on, and started the most memorable, hot argument of the entire decoration.  She asked a fairly inane question about the direction of the vaporetto and he took offense at the simplicity, so he insulted her.  She went back at him, he at her, the volume elevated, and then my wife and I were actually trying to help settle it, calming them both down.  They stood then in silence looking different directions.  There was plenty to look at.

Our vaporetto came into the ferrovia, and it was clear what was happening. This is where people got on and off, off first, of course.  The stop has an official and the vaporetto has a captain.  They keep their rules strict, and it's easy to see how offended they are at tourists.  Tourists in general just want an advantage for themselves to be and go where they want to go.  It was different in the U.K.  This showed up to the maximum in Italy and France.  As much as you might think, Americans are not the worst.  Others are by far worse than Americans, and I'll let you know as we go along.

Everything in Venice is unlike anything and that includes the grandness of the Grand Canal.  As much as we left late, the colors at around 7:30pm are marvelous.  There is so much activity:  gondolas, gondoliers, other vaporetti, water taxis, the bridges, and the buildings with the water, the spires, the windows, the little alleys and miniature canals, and surprises everywhere.
Venice is very odd.  Why would anyone live like this?  I get it, but it is still weird.  Security.  Safety.  Protecting money.  It started, kept going, built up, and then just became what it is, like anything different in the world.

We went from stop to stop to stop, taking in the views and at the end of the canal, it opens up into something wider, more spacious, and majestic.
We took our hosts advice, and went a stop past Saint Marcos, the most famous area of Venice.  We walked back from there along the canal.  Massimmo also told us that we could just keep heading that direction, and zigzagging, and we would make our way back.  That was not his best advice, but we were fine for now.

The lamps came on, and the temperature was perfect, the breeze coming off the water.  We were hungry now, and there are restaurants everywhere.  Venice isn't known for its food, but the atmosphere was terrific.  We liked the price and selection of a place, so we sat down outside with a view, watching the people go by.  It wasn't crowded that night in that special location.  We ate pasta of various types and it was wonderful.
I liked the service in Italy.  It was almost always men, and they were masculine.  The waiting seemed to be a craft with them.  They weren't doing it for a tip, so it wasn't ingratiating.  They didn't attempt to chat you up.  They were fulfilling a duty, it seemed, with a time-honored artistry with every movement.  They were there to help you, not impress you.  I didn't find it different any time in Italy.

When we rose to leave, it was dark.  There are lamps and lights everywhere.  The shops are open.  Venice is a maze of alleys and canals, sometimes very, very narrow.  At moments you walk into a very narrow alley that has no exit.  Sometimes it ends at a canal with no way out.  Some of these had very shallow water over the stone walkway, wetting the bottom of your shoes, splashing along.

Every view was fantastic, but we were very, very tired.  It would have been nice to have beamed to the end and started over fresh on Tuesday.  It took me about 45 minutes to figure out that the zigzagging advice of Massimmo was not the correct one, when I started using my GPS.  You can put in your destination and make it through in Venice -- just a tip.  I did that from then on.  It will tell you how long it should take on foot.  You have to watch very carefully especially at night.

If you remember, I told you about not having walked ten miles.  We took care of that with our walk through Venice late at night.  It was a long, long walk.  My wife was a trooper, because all things considered, this was a painful march.  Once we were in the middle of it though, it was too late to turn back. We saw some amazing things that night, that were overshadowed by the exhaustion.

We were late for the last train, arriving at the transportation hub where we started just after midnight.  We caught the bus though, which traveled all the way right next to where we were staying.  You might think that people everywhere would know English.  They don't.  You are in a foreign country at a bus stop.  However, there isn't the feeling of a threat that you might feel in the United States.  The main suggestion is keep track of your purse and backpack, your belongings.

Before we left on the trip, I bought two cargo pants, and a new billfold, one easy to carry in a front pocket, and I kept it in the zipped pocket on my thigh.  My wife and daughters had security purses and backpacks, anti-theft versions of these.  Everything we brought was easy to carry.  We always had our passports and they were in rfi safe holders.  We didn't have a problem the entire trip with that.

We slept well that night, and late morning we would make our way back to Venice on Tuesday.  I'll talk more about the Venice experience.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Merneptah Stele: Proof for Israel's presence in Canaan

Skeptics of the Bible sometimes doubt that Israel was present in the land of Canaan during the time period specified by the Bible.  They allege that the Biblical record was made up many centuries later.  The Merneptah Stele is powerful validation of the accuracy of the Biblical narrative's account of early Israel's presence in Canaan.

The stele was placed by the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah (who ruled c. 1224-1214 B. C.).  He claimed to have defeated a variety of foreign nations to his north, specifying, in his list, “Israel” in a series of comments about victories over groups in “Canaan.”[1]  The Stele thus constitutes “an official recognition of a people called Israel in extra-biblical documents.”[2]  Furthermore, the word “Israel” is preceded by the Egyptian determinative for “people” or “ethnic group,”[3] while Israel’s presence on the stele indicates that the Israelites were a significant nation at the time, one important enough even at this early date for Egypt's Pharaoh to boast about a victory over them.  Thus, even at this early period  “Israel was well enough established by that time among the other peoples of Canaan to have been perceived by Egyptian intelligence as a possible challenge to Egyptian hegemony.”[4]

Thus, “Israel was definitely in Palestine by ca 1220 B. C.”[6]  In the words of the agnostic, anti-inerrancy scholar William Dever: “The Merneptah Stele is . . . just what skeptics, mistrusting the Hebrew Bible (and archaeology), have always insisted upon as corroborative evidence: an extrabiblical text, securely dated, and free of biblical or pro-Israel bias. What more would it take to convince the naysayers?”[7]
            Further evidence for Israel's presence in Canaan exists.  An inscription from the time of the Ramessess II (1303-1213 B. C.) refers to “Israel” in a captive list also mentioning Ashkelon and Canaan.  Furthermore, two captive lists found in the Egyptian Soleb temple in the time of Amenhotep III (1390-1352 B. C.) mention a people in a “land” that is associated with characters that “represen[t] exactly the way the Hebrew divine name would appear in hieroglyphic . . . leading many scholars to associate these inscriptions with Israel.”[8]  (This last piece of evidence also supports the traditional and conservative date for the Exodus in contrast to the later date adopted by many more liberal scholars.)
            The Merneptah Stele and other Egyptian sources provide “documentary extrabiblical evidence for . . . a ‘people’ called ‘Israel,’ living in Canaan, and [their] God” as  “known in the Egyptian sphere of influence no later than Merneptah and probably much earlier . . . the pre-Amarna period.”[9]

           Christians should be aware of the existence of the Merneptah Stele and refer to it when appropriate in apologetic encounters with non-Christians.

[1]           For the text of the stela, see James Bennett Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. with Supplement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969) 376-378.
[2]           Davis, John J. New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (Accordance electronic edition, version 1.5. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), “Israel Stele.”
[3]           Thomas E. Levy, Thomas Schneider & William H. C. Propp, eds., Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective:  Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience. (New York:  Springer, 2015) 203.
[4]           William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 2006), 206.
[5]           Picture from Billington, Clyde E. “The Curious History Of The “Editor” In Biblical Criticism: A Review Of The Edited Bible, By John Van Seters (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006).” Bible and Spade 22 (2009) 115.
ca circa, about
[6]           C. F. Pfeiffer, “Israel, History of the People of,” ed. Geoffrey W Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 911.
[7]           William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 206.
[8]           Lawson G. Stone, “Early Israel and Its Appearance in Canaan,” in Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources, ed. Bill T. Arnold and Richard S. Hess (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 143; cf. e. g., Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992) 272–273.
[9]           Lawson G. Stone, “Early Israel and Its Appearance in Canaan,” in Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources, ed. Bill T. Arnold and Richard S. Hess (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 142–143.  See also Peter van der Veen, Christoffer Theis, & Manfred Görg, “Israel in Canaan (Long) Before Pharaoh Merneptah?  A Fresh Look at Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief 21687,” Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 2:4 (2010) 15-25.