Friday, February 28, 2014

Bible Truths for Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA), part 2--Ellen White a False Prophet

Once you are saved, God will make you into His true worshipper (Jn 4:23). Consequently, you will intensely desire to worship God both as an individual and together with other believers. God commands you to assemble with His church (Heb 10:25)—we therefore should consider what He has said about it, so that we may attend the one He has ordained, not one people have invented. Consider the following truths:

1.) The true church recognizes that the 66 books of the Bible were all “given by inspiration of God” and are able to make the believer “perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim 3:16-17) without any other authority, such as allegedly inspired writings of other people. Since every single word and even letter of the Bible is inspired (1 Cor 2:13; Deut 18:18; Jer 36:2; Ps 12:6-7; Mt 5:18), we are to live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Mat 4:4), and not “add unto the word . . . neither . . . diminish ought from it” (Deut 4:2; 12:32).
            Furthermore, the apostles and prophets were the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20). Once the foundation was laid in the prophetic and apostolic writings of the New Testament, “the perfect” canon of Scripture, “prophecies . . . [were] done away” (1 Cor 13:8-13).[1] With the final revelation of God in the New Testament, no more inspired books or true apostles and prophets will come before Jesus Christ returns. On the other hand, “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” (Mt 24:11; 7:15). Consequently, the last chapter of the last book of the Bible warns “every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev 22:18-19).
For that matter, even when there were true apostles and prophets before God gave the complete New Testament, there were no women prophets or preachers who taught men, because God said: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Tim 2:11-12). “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:34-37). Women prophets (Ac 21:9) prophesied only to women, not to mixed groups that included men. Biblical writers of Scripture such as the Apostles also did many miracles to validate their message, from healing those lame from birth to raising the dead (2 Cor 12:12; Mt 10:8; Ac 3:2-11; 9:41; 20:12).
Furthermore, all true prophets were 100% accurate in their predictions. Since God cannot lie (Tit 1:2), even one false prophecy meant a prophet was not speaking God’s Word but was from the devil, and was worthy of death: “[T]he prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak . . . even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him” (Deut 18:20-22).

Seventh-Day Adventism adds the allegedly inspired and infallible writings of the supposed prophetess Ellen G. White—who prophesied and exerted authority over men to the extent that she founded the SDA religion—to the truly inspired Bible, and thus falls under the curse of Rev 22:18-19 and other passages: “The Holy Ghost is the Author of the Scriptures and of the Spirit of Prophecy [Mrs. White’s writings].”[2] “Ellen G. White[’s] . . . writings . . . are a continuing and authoritative source of truth.”[3] “We believe the revelation and inspiration of both the Bible and Ellen White’s writings to be of equal quality. The superintendence of the Holy Spirit was just as careful and through in one case as in the other.”[4] It is not possible that Ellen White’s writings were simply those of a sincere person with some truth in them and some error—they are either inspired like the Bible, or they are demonic. Mrs. White said: “My work . . . bears the stamp of God or the stamp of the enemy. There is no halfway work in this matter. The Testimonies are of the Spirit of God, or of the devil.”[5]
Indeed, Mrs. White even taught at times that her words were more inspired than those in the Bible! God supposedly gave her specific words, but He did not inspire the specific words of Scripture: “The Spirit of God works upon my mind and gives me appropriate words with which to express the truth. . . . When writing these precious books, if I hesitated, the very word I wanted to express the idea was given me.”[6] In contrast, “[i]t is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man’s words or his expressions but on the man himself[.]”[7] While making high claims for her writings, Mrs. White nevertheless admitted that, concerning “miraculous works” like those of Christ and the Apostles, “we cannot now work in this way.”[8] She claimed her writings had the same kind of inspiration as the apostolic NT books, but she was unable to perform apostolic miracles.
            Indeed, while Mrs. White claimed to be a true prophet, her “inspired” writings are filled with errors and false prophecies. For example:
            i.) Mrs. White predicted in June of 1850 that there were only a few months left before the seven last plagues, a decree that all Saturday-worshippers be put to death, and the end of the world: “In . . . June 27, 1850, my accompanying angel said . . . the seven last plagues were soon to be poured out . . . the inhabitants of the world would . . . suffer from incurable sores and withering plagues . . . and . . . be destroyed by them. Terror seized me[.] . . . Some of us have had time to get the truth . . . but now time is almost finished, and what we have been years learning, they [new SDAs] will have to learn in a few months. . . . Those who would not receive the mark of the beast and his image when the decree goes forth, must have decision.”[9]
            ii.) After this prophecy failed, she predicted that some people alive at a conference in 1856 would live until translated to heaven at the coming of Jesus: “I was shown the company present at the Conference. Said the angel: ‘Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.’”[10] This prophecy failed also.
            iii.) During the Civil War Mrs. White prophesied that England would declare war on the United States and humble America to the dust, leading to the downfall of the USA. As a result of “the war . . . to preserve the Union . . . [t]his nation will . . . be humbled into the dust. . . . When England does declare war . . . our nation . . . must fall.[11] The Civil War ended a very long time ago without England ever declaring war on the United States.
            iv.) After the Civil War Mrs. White predicted: “Slavery will again be revived in the Southern States; for the spirit of slavery still lives. Therefore it will not do for those who labor among the colored people to preach the truth as boldly and openly as they would be free to do in other places.”[12] Slavery has been illegal ever since the Civil War and has never been revived. The idea that one needs to be less bold and open in sharing Biblical truth with black people because they are going to be re-enslaved is self-evidently false. This prophecy failed also.
            v.) Mrs. White’s prophecies also contain blatant factual errors. For example, she taught that after the flood of Noah’s day men and beasts interbred, resulting in certain black and Indian peoples: “Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men.”[13] The union of man and beast had created “such cases as the wild Bushmen of Africa, some tribes of the Hottentots, and perhaps the Digger Indians of our own country . . . it is impossible to tell just where the human ends and the animal begins.”[14] However, science confirms that it is impossible for men and animals to produce offspring, and the idea that some races of people are part man and part beast is also utterly unbiblical (Ac 17:26).
            vi.) Mrs. White also prophesied that Jupiter and Saturn are inhabited by people: “After counting aloud the moons of Jupiter, and soon after those of Saturn, she . . . said, ‘The inhabitants are a tall, majestic people, so unlike the inhabitants of earth. Sin has never entered here.’”[15] There are no tall, majestic people that live on Jupiter or Saturn. The planets are uninhabited and uninhabitable. These are a few of the many false prophecies by Mrs. White.
            vii.) The factual errors in her “prophetic” compositions are unsurprising since vast sections—sometimes up to 90%—of her works were plagiarized, including many portions that she specifically claimed she saw and received from God directly in visions.[16] She plagiarized many books that were simply the products of fallible men who never dreamed of claiming that their works were inspired—her compositions, then, naturally have errors also. Seventh-Day Adventist historians and leaders have been forced to admit (though they have sought to cover up the facts for most of SDA history): “[T]here are serious errors in our authorized books . . . but we let . . . [t]he people and our average ministers . . . go on year after year asserting things we know to be untrue. . . . [W]e are betraying our trust and deceiving the ministers and the people. . . . [W]hat amounts to deception . . . has been practiced in making some of her [Ellen White’s] books.”[17] “Ellen White . . . incorporated . . . the errors of the historians” she plagiarized “into her own text,” so that her works contain “errors in factual matters” as, at times, “virtually every paragraph is a quotation, close paraphrase, or summary” of uninspired writings by others, with the result that “her statements did not agree with the facts of history, science or biblical scholarship . . . Ellen White was not inerrant.”[18]



[1]              See “1 Corinthians 13:8-13 and the Cessation of Miraculous Gifts,” R. Bruce Compton, at http://faithsaves.net/truths-for-pentecostals-and-charismatics/ for detailed exegetical proof that miraculous gifts ceased with the completion of the New Testament.
[2]              Ellen White, Selected Messages, vol. 3, pg. 30. Note that the quotations below can all easily be examined in their context through a simple search of the Internet.
[3]              Belief #18, “27 Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-Day Adventists.
[4]              Ministry, October 1981.
[5]              Pg. 667, Testimonies, Ellen White, vol. 5.
[6]              Selected Messages, Book 3, pg. 51; Letter 90, 1907; Selected Messages, Book 3, pgs. 51-52; Letter 265, 1907.
[7]              Selected Messages Book 1, pg. 21; Manuscript 24, 1886. Mrs. White also at times placed the Bible above her writings using “greater/lesser light” language; since she is not a true prophet, she is not consistent, but can put the Bible above, equal to, and beneath her own alleged “inspiration.” The SDA denomination makes her writings “the only infallible interpreter of Bible principles” (pg. 1, Mark of the Beast, G. A. Irwin, General Conference President) so that they are the “final court of appeal among God’s people” (pg. 6, Adventist Review, June 3, 1971). Were her writings genuinely the Word of God, they would be equal to the Bible, for there is no such thing as “levels” of inspiration.
[8]              See pg. 169, Last Day Events, Ellen White.
[9]              Pgs. 64-67, Early Writings, Ellen White. Mrs. White believed the “mark of the beast” is worshipping on the first day of the week, and the “decree” was a law that would put all who worship on Saturday to death. See the passage above in Early Writings and section #13 below.
[10]            Pgs. 131-132, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, Ellen White. Note also that Mrs. White’s vision contradicted the declaration of Jesus Christ that angels do not know the time of the second coming (Mt 24:36). Therefore, since Mrs. White’s accompanying angel told her Christ was going to return in the 1800s, he was not an angel of God, but a fallen angel. Mrs. White also, despite the strict warnings of Scripture (Dt 18:11), communicated with the dead in her “revelations”—or at least with fallen angels impersonating the dead—and claimed that what the dead told her was guidance from the Lord. She told a particular dead person, “[Y]ou are always to stay with me now and we will work together,” so that she could have the help of the dead from that time forward (Letter 17, 1881 Ellen White to W. C. White (9/12/1881), pgs. 38-40, Manuscript Releases vol. 10 & www.ellenwhiteexposed.com/egw61.htm).
[11]            Pgs. 258-260, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, Ellen White.
[12]            MS 22-a, 1895, Ellen White. Mrs. White also predicted that at least some Southern “slave master[s]” would be alive through the “seven last plagues” (pg. 276, Early Writings), but everyone, including all the slave masters from before the Civil War, are now dead, while the seven last plagues are still future.
[13]            Pg. 75, Spiritual Gifts, Ellen White, vol. 3.
[14]            Pgs. 103-104, The Visions of Mrs. E. G. White, A Manifestation of Spiritual Gifts According to the Scripture, Uriah Smith. See http://www.ellenwhiteexposed.com/critica.htm for more information.
[15]            Mrs. Truesdail’s letter, Jan 27, 1891, on pgs. 212-213, The Great Second Advent Movement, J.N. Loughborough (http://www.historyinfo.net/books/jnlgsam.pdf). Mrs. White also was in severe error in her prophecy about the number of moons of the two planets. See: http://www.ellenwhiteexposed.com/criticb.htm.
[16]            See http://ellenwhiteexposed.com/rea/sop.htm & http://ellenwhiteexposed.com/egw4.htm.
[17]            Letter of W. W. Prescott to W. C. White, April 6, 1915. Prescott was the founder of two SDA colleges, the president of three, and an SDA General Conference Vice President. W. C. White was Ellen White’s son. See http://www.ellenwhiteexposed.com/prescot2.htm.
[18]            “Shifting Views of Inspiration: Ellen G. White Studies in the 1970s,” Donald R. McAdams. Spectrum 10:4 (March 1980) 27-41. Spectrum is the official Journal of the Association of Adventist Forums, and McAdams was the president of a SDA college and a history professor at the SDA Andrews University. His article can be accessed at: http://www.andrews.edu/library/car/sdapiindex.html.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Limitations of Government in Private Business and First Amendment Freedom of Religion

The below evaluation was completely my own, but my analysis is backed up by something I read tonight, which was written in 1996 in the American University Law Review -- his arguments are mine below -- entitled, DISCRIMINATION, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, AND FREEDOM: SORTING OUT THE ISSUES.

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In 2013, the attorney general of the state of Washington filed a lawsuit against Barronelle Stutzman and Arlene’s Flowers after she refused to create flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding, citing her religious views.   This is well-known one of several similar cases now occurring across the country.  As a result, the governor of Arizona has a bill on her desk to sign that protects the rights of religious citizens like the florist.  Many well-known Republican politicians are urging her to strike down the legislation.  The Super Bowl is in her state next year and the NFL is making a subtle threat to move it if she doesn't veto.

In the name of equal rights and equal protection of the law, the government for awhile has been eroding the rights of private businesses.  I don't mean state operations, but private.  For awhile, the state has been forcing businesses to serve customers and hire employees they don't want.  In  a related matter, if you own a private home, you are also forced by the government to rent it to people whom you don't want either.  At one time, this wasn't so.  It wasn't that long ago that you could easily reject a customer, an employee, or a renter.  It was your property and your business and you had the right to serve or hire or rent to whomever you wanted.  This was a private property right and the power of the government was limited by that right.  The understanding was that we received that right from God and not from government, so the government should not have the power to take away that right, since it didn't have the power to give it.  It was a natural right.

Our God-given, inalienable rights are being lost as American citizens.    According to the Constitution, does anyone have a right to service or employment or housing from a private citizen or private enterprise?

The above described erosion of rights for private citizens began with the federal civil rights legislation passed by the government in the 1960s.  The point of that legislation and laws like it has been now to require private citizens, businesses, and property owners essentially give equal opportunity regardless of race or ethnicity.  This has expanded to gender and now what is called sexual orientation.

In 1954, in Brown versus Board of Education, the Supreme Court ended racial discrimination in state institutions based upon the 14th amendment.  State institutions.  This did not mean that private citizens, property, and business could not discriminate for any such reason.  I'm not arguing for discrimination.  I'm simply asking if there is a right in the Constitution to stop discrimination by a private citizen, property, or business.

The Supreme Court surely did not foresee where these decisions would progress.  Now enters the free practice of religion, an actual right in the actual United States Constitution.  Would even Thurgood Marshall see a private citizen being forced to arrange flowers for a same-sex wedding as guaranteed in the Constitution?  Can a private citizen who owns a private business be forced to provide a service for a same sex marriage, when that marriage is against his religious convictions?

I have read some pro arguments for Governor Jan Brewer to veto the Arizona bill.   Some are merely arguing for why Christians should serve anyone, no matter what their sin, because that's what Jesus would do.   If Jesus was a florist, does anyone really think that Jesus would do the flower arrangement for a same sex marriage? That's absurd.  If anyone thinks that, then he doesn't know Jesus Christ.  Private businessmen want business. They don't want to lose business.  If a Christian florist rejects a same-sex wedding job, he's losing money.  If there is a punishment, that's the punishment.  If he can be sued by the United States government, state or federal, then his own right to practice his own religion freely is being violated.  This is where the wrong turn with the government intervening in the rights of private citizens has come to conflict with the very first of the Bill of Rights.

What we are reading today are "gay rights."  These "gay rights" are being read into the United States Constitution.  Are there gay rights in the Constitution?  Really?  That brings us back to a decision in 1986, Lawrence vs Texas, a landmark case in which the United States Supreme Court overturned state of Texas sodomy law.  By doing so, the Supreme Court read into the Constitution gay rights.  Now an actual right, the freedom of religion in the first amendment, is being impinged by an only so-called "right," a "gay right," not actually found in the Constitution.  Does anyone really think there is a right in the Constitution that can directly contradict an already written right in the Constitution?

Many thresholds or barriers of rights have had to be abolished to create this new "gay right," starting with private property rights all the way to a right to the free practice of your religion.  What our government would be saying is that it is against the law for a Christian in practice to reject the law of sodomy.   For the sodomite to maintain his constitutional gay right, the Christian must forfeit the right of his personal conviction.

A private citizen or business or property owner can choose not to discriminate.  Many private businesses or companies advertise non-discrimination clauses.  Our church doesn't discriminate based upon race, but I'm sure that most would say we discriminate based upon gender.  We don't have women preach in our church.  Many others would say that our church discriminates based upon sexual orientation.  You can't join our church if you're a homosexual.  We're very clear about that in our documents.  Earlier this week, I wrote about how that a college like Swarthmore wants to discriminate against conservatives who reject same-sex marriage.  Does anyone think that you could right now obtain a job at any state college with open and public opposition to same-sex marriage?  Discrimination obviously goes the other direction in this country.  I argued against diversity.  If that's what a private college wants to do, I think it should be able to do it.  Our church teaches only one point of view.  We are not diverse in our theology.  We have that right.  Our government should protect that right.

What's the legal argument for the same-sex marriage side?  Eric Holder, the Attorney General of the US under President Obama, recently advocated for attorneys general disobeying unconstitutional laws, specifically referring to Democrat state attorneys not defending laws against same-sex marriage in red states.  This is an impetus for lawlessness.  The legal argument is something like the following, you were licensed by the state to run your business, and when you paid for that license, you agreed to serve all groups.  Not exactly though.  What if they have no shirts or no shoes?  The state can defend your right there.

What we have here are at least two issues.  We have an extension of "you didn't build that business."  In other words, every business, since it receives infrastructural state support, can be regulated by the state to serve or sell to groups defined by the state.  Democrats love groups by the way.  It's how they win elections -- is by dividing the country into groups.  The Republicans are now joining them.  The other is that our country has become fascist.  The state controls private business to the extent that it can force private business to act in its own interest against the rights of the business owner.  You may not like the fascist word, but I'd be happy to hear how this is wrong.

Religious punditry, including evanglical pastors, who are in the mold of Tim Keller (pastor of Kirsten Powers) and Andy Stanley, exhort Christians to forfeit their right here for the sake of Christianity.  They make the fallacious parallel that since Christians already serve sinners in their businesses -- fornicators, adulterers, thieves, murderers -- that this is the same thing.  Really.  At what point does this stop.  It stopped at state institutions not long ago.  It stopped at race.  Then it stopped at gender.  Will it stop at the churches themselves, the private Christian schools?  Will they be forced to ordain homosexuals and hire homosexuals to teach in their schools?  Some might say, "Of course not."

But I don't really like the slippery slope argument either.  Our rights are already being violated.  If by opening a bakery, I knew I had to bake wedding cakes for same-sex marriages, I wouldn't start that business.  I couldn't start a business, because I'm a Christian.  Someone said something like this:  "Moslem businesses wouldn't have to serve Christian women who were not wearing a burqa."  Ouch.  I say, more power to them.  I will never cry or protest or sue over not having their business.  A Moslem business owner should be able to provide a business for whatever constituency he desires.  If my wife wants his business and she must wear a burqa to receive it, then she'll need to buy a burqa to get it.   That's his right.  It's not my right.

Kirsten Powers (who wrote the USA Today articles, here and here) is advancing her own agenda, not the Lord's.   She's no better than the modern church growth advocates, attempting to be "seeker sensitive."  Exposing scripture on same-sex marriage won't hinder true conversion.  She reads a message into the Bible and into the Constitution that are not in either document. She's been a professing Christian for a few short years and she already thinks she's prepared to preach to all Christians everywhere about what the Bible says about how to treat homosexuals (not a novice?).  She is a shame to herself and to God.  She has the right to an opinion and to express it in the United States, but she's wrong.  True men of God will say so.

The Lord Jesus still rules in the midest of His enemies through His churches.  Someday He will rule with a rod of iron and make His enemies His footstool.  In the meantime, we should all listen to what Peter preached in Acts 5 when the government tried to stop him from practicing his faith, "We ought to obey God rather than men."


Sunday, February 23, 2014

How Much Diversity Should a Christian Allow and What Is His Responsibility to Error?

Before I get into this subject, I want you to know that I haven't forgotten two series that I never finished.  If you are a regular reader, you know that I have forgotten many series through the years -- it would be interesting to check out how many series stopped dead in their tracks, never to be begin again.  But the two that were rolling along to a sudden stop where these:

The Deceit and Tragedy of the Wrong Attribution of Success or a Wrong View of Success in Church Leadership (parts one, two, and three)

Proving the Music Issue in the Worship War: Is there Holy Hip Hop? (parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten)

I link to these for you and for me.  I want to be reminded that I want to continue them.  If I didn't or I won't, I'll let you know.

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A few days ago, Robert George from Princeton and Cornell West, former Harvard professor and now at Union Theological Seminary, held a discussion on the importance of hearing opposing viewpoints in a liberal arts education at Swarthmore College, George a 1977 graduate.  George is a professing Christian and political conservative, while West is a theological liberal.  Apparently, the two are friends.  As they ended their talks, the session went to a question and answer period, and the first two questions both attacked the concept of even considering George's point of view.  The first student even confronted West for merely appearing with George.  Before the event, students organized in opposition against even hosting George on campus, and then afterwards, a student made this comment in a Swarthmore publication:

What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion. I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society. We should not be conceding to the dominant culture by saying that the so-called “progressive left” is marginalizing the conservative.

West and George argued for the allowance of a diversity of thought and belief in a liberal arts education.  "Diversity," of course, is rhetoric of tolerance, which most may think is the predominant ethic of modern university campuses.  They're wrong.  They are not quite Stalin's Gulags, but close.

After the Swarthmore discussion, several different commentators, bloggers, and pundits reacted to the interaction (here, here, here, and here).  There were more, but the one that got my attention first was a post titled, A Fundamentalist vs. Robbie George & Cornell West, by Denny Burk, an associate professor of biblical studies and ethics at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Burk labeled the first questioner, who defended same-sex marriage and advocated the exclusion of George from any proceedings, a fundamentalist.  Interesting, huh?  Burk would get a lot of support from the comrades at SBTS for that backhanded slap at fundamentalists.  "You're a, you're a, you're a fundamentalist!  So there!"  Burk might just say that he meant it as a rhetorical device, but is it true that the first questioner at Swarthmore was very much like a fundamentalist?

Burk's comparison is absurd actually.  He tries to entertain his pals by throwing a wild pitch over the backstop, very similar to the questioner, and toward the reception of similar applause.  He doesn't have to be concerned about fundamentalist criticism from his colleagues, and he's got far more in common with the Swarthmore boy than do fundamentalists.  Now, I'm using Burk's post or thought as a jumping off point, but before I go there, it's worth pausing to consider the premise that this is what fundamentalism is like.  For his comparison to be true, fundamentalists (1) don't engage actual arguments because they assume a priori that they have no merit, (2) are willing to discredit their critics as bigots in order to do whatever it takes, and then (3) ignore academic qualifications and background.  The irony here is that with his broadbrush, Burk himself is guilty of all three.

I had to say something about Burk's post, but the subject itself is what interested me.  Liberal arts education has become understood as welcoming and tolerating many points of view, and these students of Swarthmore challenge the reigning educational dogma.  Do we really do well or better to settle for the status quo of toleration or do we leave Swarthmore to the end of their own intellectual inbreeding?  It seems that Robert George argues for the opportunity of a continued place at the table.  Maybe he thinks we can save the entity of the college or university.  Do we need it?  Should we fight for it?  Or should it be circumvented like Fox in modern television news or Hillsdale in colleges?

And then even further, how much diversity should a Christian allow?  Does the Bible teach some benefit to listening to error?  Isn't relativism the basis of diversity?  If there is absolute truth, do we argue to get there?  It seems to me that we have already surrendered, like Burk, by advocating for diversity.  I'm gathering that diversity describes education at a Southern Baptist seminary, a veritable buffet table of approaches from which you can pick and choose, and never be rejected for what ends on your platter.   So you can go to SBTS and differ with your other graduates on dozens of doctrines and practices and methods.  You could be a star, the next Billy Graham, with Roman Catholic nuns at the front to help with the personal work.  It is within that perspective that Burk does his chest thumping.  Not only does scripture not teach diversity, but it commands against it.  The Apostle Paul started 1 Timothy (1:3) by writing:

As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine.

Towards the end of the same book of basis instruction to a pastor, he wrote (6:3-5):

If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness. . . . from such withdraw thyself.

Paul wrote that he was not ignorant of Satan's devices (cf. 1 Cor 2:11).  He was not instructing 'not to be ignorant of Satan's devices' -- in other words, learn Satan's devices.  When you learn the Bible, you'll have all the Satanology you'll need.  The Bible nowhere says, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." There are no published sources yet found which predate the use of that phrase by the fictional character "Michael Corleone" in The Godfather Part II (1974), written by Mario Puzo & Francis Ford Coppola.

The concept of diversity in education is not only unscriptural, but was totally debunked intellectually in the 1987 bestseller by Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind.   The diversity that Burk advocates is in fact a bow to relativism, an intellectual and spiritual quagmire, the sinking sand like that to which Jesus referred in His Sermon on the Mount.  This destination at which modern higher education has arrived perhaps originated from a metaphor, the "marketplace of ideas," representing a belief that holds that the truth will emerge from the competition of ideas in free, transparent public discourse.

In 1644, the English poet John Milton suggested in his Areopagitica that restricting speech was not necessary because "in a free and open encounter," truth would prevail.  We could all wish.  The Bible teaches and experience tells us the opposite.  I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with Mark Twain, the atheist, on this, who wrote:  "Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain't so."  There is a sense that truth will prevail.  In the end, God will have destroyed all error.  But in the meantime, truth will prevail when we do what it takes to protect it.  That doesn't happen by giving equal standing to error.

George is very careful in his answer to the Swarthmore questioner by explaining that he has read Plato and Kinsey and Ghandi to come to his present position on homosexual marriage.  Perhaps we were to assume that he also read the Bible, but he didn't say it.  Why not?  If he said, "Plato, Kinsey, Ghandi, and, oh, God's Word," that would have been the end of the discussion, end of argument.  In other words, we already know that "diversity" doesn't exist at Swarthmore.  He couldn't bring the Bible into the discussion without totally discrediting himself, and he knew it.

Christians shouldn't expect diversity on state or even private college or university campuses that afford diversity.  It won't be there.  As far as the truth is concerned, it will never be preserved by diversity and accommodation.  It really is only preserved by separation.  As Christians we have a responsibility to teach only the truth about everything and eradicate and eliminate error.  That kind of vigilance is the only way to preserve the truth and it is all that the Bible teaches.

I'm of the same mindset as Booker T. Washington.  Washington didn't teach integration.  He taught, "Build a better brick."  Let's do a better job at training our own young people in the truth and stop worrying about whether they will find acceptance in the marketplace of ideas.  If they can build a better brick, people will buy it.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bible Truths for Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA), part 1

I have written a new evangelistic pamphlet for Seventh-Day Adventists, which I have posted on my website here. I trust that the Lord will bless it to the conversion of the dear people deceived by the SDA cult. When I go out to preach the gospel, I will have with me, in addition to a standard gospel tract and my testimony tract, a variety of pamphlets for specific false religions, including Catholicism, Lutheranism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, the Watchtower Society, etc. so that I have specific resources to deal with the specific spiritual strongholds of unconverted people. I would encourage you to do the same, if you do not do so already. Some of the religions I have pamphlets for, including Presbyterianism, the charismatic movement, and evangelicalism, are not often the subject of gospel literature, and so historic Baptists are less effective in reaching these groups than they might be otherwise.  Feel free to print and use any or all of these works at your church.  The Seventh-Day Adventist pamphlet below is the newest one;  in addition to the fact that SDAs wil be able to read it on this blog, discovering what the specific false doctrines of the SDA religion are will, I believe, prove useful for the saints;  hence, I am planning to post it in a few parts, so that, if you are a believer in a NT Baptist church and are consequently the recipient of the Great Commisison of Matthew 28:18-20, you can know what the specific false teachings of the SDA religion are and how to combat them.  Part 1 below is the most general section of the pamphlet, giving a general gospel presentation, although with aspects that are keyed to SDA theology.

Bible Truths for Seventh-Day Adventist Friends

“The Lord has given us a divine directory by which we may know his will. . . . [H]e who is guided by the Holy Spirit . . . searches the Scriptures with eager earnestness, and seeks for light and knowledge to guide him” (Ellen White, Signs of the Times, August 14, 1893). Mrs. White correctly said that it is extremely important to study the Bible that we may know the Lord’s will. The Bible, the perfect Word of God, promises that “ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 Jn 5:13) and are in fellowship with God. You need to know four things:

1.) YOU ARE A SINNER

God’s standard is “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Mt 5:48), but you have fallen miserably short of His holy glory. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Ro 3:23). You sinned in the first man, Adam, for “by [his] disobedience many were made sinners” (Ro 5:19). Furthermore, you were born with a totally depraved sinful nature, with a “heart [that] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer 17:9). When God looks at you and the rest of the race, He sees that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Ge 6:5). You can say, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps 51:5). In fact, your nature, will, desires, and all else are so corrupted by sin that God views you as utterly unrighteous; apart from a supernatural work of God’s Spirit, you will never even seek after God: “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Ro 3:10-12; Jn 6:44). Your corrupt nature makes you “as an unclean thing, and all [your] righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Is 64:6)—not only are your sins abominable to God, but your sin nature corrupts even your “righteousnesses,” so that the even the best things you have ever done fall far short of God’s standard of sinless perfection! It only takes one sin to keep you out of God’s presence: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jam 2:10), but you have committed numberless sins, every one of which is written down in God’s books (Rev 20:11-15). The Lord Jesus Christ said that unjust anger is murder (Mt 5:21-22), and a lustful thought is adultery (Mt 5:27-28), so you are a murderer and an adulterer. You have lied (Pr 6:16), been proud (Pr 6:16-19), bitter (Ro 3:14), unthankful (2 Tim 3:2), covetous (2 Tim 3:2), and hypocritical (Is 33:14). You have broken the greatest commandment of all, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Mt 22:37). Indeed, until you are born again, you “cannot please God” (Ro 8:8) in any way, but are “defiled and unbelieving” with “nothing pure; but even [your] mind and conscience is defiled” (Tit 1:15). This very moment, “the wrath of God abideth” on you (Jn 3:36). You are “condemned already” (Jn 3:18). You “have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out” (Num 32:23).

2.) YOU DESERVE A PENALTY FOR SIN

The Bible says that “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal 3:10). You have not continually and perfectly obeyed all of God’s law, so you are cursed. Since “the wages of sin is death” (Ro 6:23), you are subject to both physical death, the separation of the soul and spirit from the body (Heb 9:27), and to spiritual death, the separation of a person from God. You are currently “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1), your “damnation is just” (Ro 3:8), and you are consequently headed for the second death, eternal separation from God in the lake of fire: “This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:14-15). In the lake of fire you “shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and [you] shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of [your] torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and [you will] have no rest day nor night” (Rev 14:10-11). The question arises: “How can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Mt 23:33).

3. JESUS DIED FOR YOU

Jesus Christ is “God manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim 3:16). The Son of God, who existed from eternity past with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the three eternal Persons of the one and only true God (1 Jn 5:7), took to Himself a sinless human nature, so that, although He was still 100% God, He became 100% Man as well. He lived a perfectly holy life and then died on the cross, where His Father “made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor 5:21). On the cross, Christ paid the penalty for your sin in full, so that, as He died, He could say “It is finished” (Jn 19:30). He then rose bodily from the grave and ascended to heaven, from whence He will soon return to judge the world. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal 3:13). “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but [made alive] by the Spirit” (1 Pet 3:18). All the sins of the world were placed on the Lord Jesus, who suffered and paid in full the legal penalty demanded. He endured this to forgive all the sins, past, present, and future, of those whom He “washe[s] . . . from [their] sins in his own blood” (Rev 1:5). Christ having suffered and died to pay for their sins as their Substitute, God accounts to them the righteousness of His Son; He views them as if they had no sin debt to pay, no sin nature, had lived a sinless life as Christ did, and were as spotless and holy as the Son of God Himself, for “Christ Jesus . . . is made unto [them] . . . righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30); they can say, “the LORD [is] our righteousness” (Jer 33:16; 23:6). They are “justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). To be “justified” is to be “declared righteous”—it is a judicial act where God pardons the sins of, and accounts and accepts as righteous, all believers, not because of anything worked in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone, by crediting to them His righteousness. Those who are now “justified by his blood” can have full confidence that they “shall be saved from wrath through him” (Rom 5:9). Since by “one offering [Christ] hath perfected for ever” those that are washed in His blood (Heb 10:14), there is nothing that you can do to save yourself, or to keep yourself saved. Christ has done it all—“Salvation is of the LORD” (Jon 2:9).

4. YOU MUST BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST

To have the Lord Jesus’ blood wash away your sins, you must place your faith in Him. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16). Saving faith in Jesus Christ involves:

a.) Repentance. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lu 13:3). “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Ac 3:19). “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die[?]” (Eze 33:11). In repentance, you agree with God that you are as bad as the Bible says you are, that you are headed to hell and deserve it for your sins, and you turn from your sins to submit unconditionally to God as your Lord. Jesus Christ said, “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life [wants to live his own way and will not turn to God’s way] shall lose it [in hell]; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:34-36).

b.) Trust in the Lord Jesus alone to save. You do not believe on Jesus Christ for salvation if you think that any good deed you have done, are doing, or will do helps save you, or if you believe that any religious ritual, such as baptism or communion, or a religious celebration, such as worshiping on the Sabbath, has a particle to do with the forgiveness of your sins. God’s Word states: “For by grace [undeserved favor] are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8-9). If salvation is “by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Rom 11:6). “[T]o him that worketh not, but believeth on [Jesus Christ] that justifieth [declares righteous] the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom 4:5). “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Tit 3:5). You cannot be saved by trying to keep the ten commandments and the rest of the laws in the Bible. No law has ever been given which can give life, for “if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe” (Gal 3:21-22). Saving faith is also not just mental assent to facts, but trust or dependence upon Christ alone to save. The justified can say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim 1:12). One who makes law-keeping necessary for salvation may know facts about the Bible and God, as even the devils do (Jam 2:19), but he does not have that justifying “faith” which gives “glory to God,” for he is not “fully persuaded that, what [God] ha[s] promised, he [is] able also to perform” (Rom 4:20-5:1), since he rejects Christ’s many promises to save every single person who believes. The Lord Jesus said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (Jn 6:47; cf. 1:12-13; 3:14-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 40; 11:25-26; 20:31; Ac 10:43; 13:39; 16:31; Rom 1:16; 3:22-28; 4:3-5; 9:33; 10:4, 11, etc.). Therefore, salvation is by faith alone. Furthermore, you cannot say that you have always believed in Christ. There must be a specific point in your life where you see yourself as a lost, helpless sinner, you recognize the justice of your eternal damnation, you turn from your sins, and you trust solely in the Lord Jesus for eternal life, and so pass from spiritual death to spiritual life (Eph 2:1-10). You must forsake all confidence in anything other than Jesus Christ, including your supposed goodness, your religious rituals, and your attempts to obey the law and keep the Sabbath. You must place your confidence in the Savior’s blood and righteousness alone.

If you will come to Jesus Christ for salvation, He will keep you saved; no one who has ever truly believed in Him can perish (Rom 8:28-39). The Lord Jesus said, “I give unto [my people] eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (Jn 10:28-29). This is why, when one trusts in Christ and is born again (Jn 3:3), he can know without a doubt that he has eternal life (1 Jn 5:13)—Christ truly “save[s] them to the uttermost that come unto God by him” (Heb 7:25)!

Once you are saved, then, you are always saved, and not from sin’s penalty of eternal damnation only, but also from sin’s power: “[I]f any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor 5:21). The Lord Jesus prays both that all who have ever truly believed on Him will be with Him in glory forever and that they will be sanctified through the Word of God (Jn 17:8, 24, 17)— since Christ’s prayers are always answered (Jn 11:42), heaven and holiness are both blessedly certain for the redeemed! Now free from the law and “in Christ,” God’s powerful grace will shatter the dominion of sin in your life and free you to live in true holiness and righteousness. “[S]in shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. . . . Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom 6:14, 18). Having been “saved through faith . . . not of works,” you are then “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:8-10).

You need to receive Jesus Christ immediately to save you from your sin. He promises, “him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (Jn 6:37). Turn to Him right now—tomorrow it may be too late! “Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” (Pr 27:1).

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Toleration and Acceptance Therapy

This post will contain a story.  It is totally fictional.  I don't know of anyone in particular who this story represents.  It represents no one in order to represent many.  I chose a name that would protect anyone who I happened to hit or that even someone thought I was hitting, because I know no one named "Mack."  I wrote it like this because I think it is typical today.  I was actually thinking of something very different than this story and I chose this sin to avoid what I was actually thinking of, in case someone might think I was going after someone.  So, I chose a sin for which I know no one whom it represents.   I say all this previous in this paragraph because it is typical of many readers to try a guess'em game.  There is nothing or no one to guess.  Take it for what it is.

The story has a purpose you'll get toward the end, if you can't read it in the title.  Read the story and be patient to get the point.


**********************

Think about a typical scenario with me.  This isn't a thought experiment, because it is now the norm.  You don't or won't need to experiment -- just think about it with me.

Mack professes to be a Christian.  He grew up in a Christian home and was afforded almost every possible benefit and opportunity to be a good Christian.

(This is not a post about whether the Bible teaches if it's right or wrong to drink alcohol at all, but it is assuming that readers could at least agree that all drunkenness is sin.  I believe it's wrong to drink any alcoholic beverage, but that's not my point here, so let's resume the story.)

Mack is faithful to all the services of his Bible-believing and practicing church because he doesn't have an alternative.  His family and he attend church faithfully.  Mack doesn't complain.  It's his life.  He's always there and really grows up in the church too.

(This is not a post about what kind of church people attend.  It's not about whether it's consistent, harsh, authoritarian, loose, worldly, holy, or whatever.  That might cross your mind here, but it's not what it's about.  It is very possible that the kind of church in which someone is a member as he grows up will affect what I'm writing about; however, that's not my point.)

When Mack turns 18 he goes to college.

(This might be a Christian college or a secular college.  Again, that's not the point of the post -- about whether someone is more likely to do something wrong if he attends whichever.)

At college, he grows weary of the arduous schedule and regulations.  He doesn't like all the study.  He isn't thrilled with all the teachers.  He's around some people that are different than when he grew up.  They think it's great to get drunk.  The guys talk about it and laugh about it.  (The authority may or may not know.)  They ask him to drink with them, because it's so great and there are so many great drinks that will make him so happy and they'll have a better time together, if he does.  He says no at first, for awhile even.  It seems to Mack to affect his social life.  He's got less friends.  It seems to him that fewer guys like him very well and even that no one does.  He decides he will participate.

Mack goes to his first drinking occasion with these acquaintances and friends.  He drinks.  They drink.  They drink more.  He thinks he'll stop, but he keeps going and keeps drinking.  They all get drunk, including Mack.  On the way back to their place of residence, everyone is drunk and the one driving is the least drunk.  It isn't Mack.  This is the first case of drunkenness for him and he's out of his mind.  Mr. Least-Drunk drives home, and he weaves all over the road, driving drunk, and barely makes it back without crashing.

The next morning, Mack is sick.  He throws up again and again, and has a gigantic headache.  He goes to class, but he's definitely out of it physically and mentally.  He tells himself that he doesn't want to do this again.  The friends and acquaintances all talk about how great the night was.  They brag to Mack about it, and brag on him, stating how great it was.

Truth be told, there were people who saw Mack and his friends and acquaintances, who were not drunk, who didn't drink at all, and they were disgusted with them.  They were loud, obnoxious, and uncivil.  Mack and the others couldn't even see it -- the slurred speech, the crazy laughter, with others a short fuse and temper, staggering, smell, foul language, and other symptoms of drunkenness.  What they remembered was that they had a good time.

A little time passes and another occasion comes to go drink.  They invite Mack again, and with a little pressure, he goes again with them, and they repeat the same behavior together.   This time, however, a few people who know Mack, who know he is a Christian, call others who know him, who call others who know him, and it spreads to everyone at Mack's church, including his parents and the church leadership.

The next day, Mack has another headache and more vomiting, and more physical and mental disability, but with some coffee and time, it goes away.  He's back to his right mind.  He gets a call from his parents about the situation, and he denies it.  He lies about it.  His parents believe him.  They are concerned and feel anxious, but they try to believe him.  Sunday comes and everyone at church knows about it.  There is even more information about even the first occasion of drunkenness.  His parents now believe it is true that he was drunk. There are too many witnesses who couldn't be making this up.

Mack's parents know it's wrong to be drunk.  They assume that Mack knows it's wrong to be drunk, but they don't want to come down too hard on Mack, because they're afraid he might turn on them, that he might decide he doesn't want to  come back to church.  They decide to take it easy.   They'll include biblical aspects about drunkenness in future conversations and generally treat Mack the same, as if he never did it.

During this time, Mack shares some of his feelings with some other of his Christian friends, some who have been drunk and others who haven't, but who don't think it's right to confront others for such activity.  They are all supportive of Mack.  He is not going to lose their friendship for what he's done.  They're going still be fine with it.

Mack's parents generally shield him from personal criticism.  They know some people are talking, but they are not sure how many.  They think that this has hurt their own Christian testimony and standing for ministry in the church.  They are willing to suffer that, but they are afraid that if Mack is made to feel the same way, that he might not be willing to spend time with them.  He might get discouraged and fall out in school.  Worst case scenario, Mack might go off the deep end.  They aren't sure how strong he is.

Mack has a twitter account.  Sometimes he'll tweet his personal feelings.  He also has facebook and will communicate some of how he feels on there.  Lots of different followers and friends show their support with comments.  Some are telling him not to worry about what people say.   Some email him privately to tell him that his chief critics are all sinners too.  Nobody is perfect.  "Who are these people preaching against you, Mack?  Do they think they do no wrong?"  He agrees.  And he figures that these angry and bitter -- they are the ones who are the haters in all this.  He doesn't want the haters to get him down.

He starts writing about suffering in different ways, and how that he is taking in a lot of criticism and that it just doesn't seem Christian.   He's received comfort and help from certain evangelical authors.   He doesn't want to feel discouraged and he's trying to boost his feelings by thinking about forgiveness.  He says that Jesus is with him and is helping him hold up in the midst of the shots people are taking at him.  He thinks that, good for him, he's got these Christian friends who still accept him when he's down like a real Christian should.  On the other hand, there are those that are judging him, trying to heap guilt upon him.  He's just going to have to get through this, the pain of rejection from those who are looking down on him.

Mack has this sorted out.  The people saying he's wrong -- they aren't his friends.  Those supporting him, just telling him they'll be there, don't worry about his critics or those taking shots at him -- they are his friends.  That's how this all works.   A bad way to get over this is to hear about how bad you've been or that you've done wrong or to get around those kind of people who preach against what you've done, and just bring you down.  A good way to get over this is to avoid those people and not return their calls or emails.  After awhile, they'll give up.  Just avoid them.  Spend time with the affirming, the tolerant, the accepting.  Enjoy church leaders who don't get too nosy, who aren't investigating or wondering -- just giving affirmation and kind words.  Generally, it feels good to have behavior accepted and even if there is bad behavior, to have it ignored.  Time heals all wounds.  He'll get through this.  He'll get over the rejection he feels from those who disapprove of what he's done.  He's really grown through this, because now he knows how to get through times like these, when he's suffering.  Now he knows what a real trial is.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Brandenburg Family

I was reading recently:

I have noticed, on the Internet and elsewhere, that when a pastor says something angular, the kind of thing that provokes questions and/or consternation, a very common stock response emerges. That response is that such behavior is “not very pastoral.”

Later he iterated a first way to get a biblical judgment of a man:

First, outside the point of contention . . . . What are the families like?

Jesus said you could tell the difference by a man's "fruit" (Matthew 7:20).  His "fruit" wasn't his own personal lifestyle, but the lifestyle of those he's "produced" (2 Tim 2:2).  What do his closest followers look like?  According to Jesus that's the best way to know someone.   You could find that out by coming to someone's church, in my case -- my church.  You could visit my home, look at my family.

For this reason among others, here's a family post.  I don't write much personal here, and my kids said it was OK (I asked permission).  I'm not going to say much about my wife, but things don't usually go well in the home without the mother, so many kudos to her.  These are her fruits too.   No one knows how much of a hypocrite you are more than your own family.


The above picture is about five months old now and they do look older already, but from left to right, it's Julia (19), Bridget, Kirk (22), Gabrielle (13, she's aged most), Kent, and Natalie (16, probably aged second most).  This is right after Kirk's graduation at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY.  I'm going to give a little update of the four children and my thoughts, one by one, starting with the youngest.

Gabi

She's an eighth grader and sheer joy.  She is rarely without a smile and at the same time a little leader.  She has a very tender conscience.  Someone told me -- I didn't hear it from her -- that she makes copies of the memory verse for all her classmates.  It didn't surprise me.  She makes up a to-do and packing list for the girls who come to her slumber parties.  One once commented:  "I didn't get my list yet."  They expect it.  On it is her agenda for all the activities.  She has a blackboard on the back of her door and I often hear her pounding away with the chalk flying.

I teach Gabi in World History and Bible and directed her Christmas program.  My wife teaches her science.  She works hard in school and on her violin and piano.  She plays violin in every Sunday AM and PM service, and has a little trio now with two of her friends -- two violins and a cello.  She's in her second year in Berkeley Youth Orchestra.  When I look down at her during preaching, she looks engaged, and is a big participator in my class.  She loves to cook and during the summer she prepares one of our meals once every week.  Delectable.   Her soccer teammates and coaches love Gabi.  She hustles and is a little toughie out there, scrapping around the field.  She has a reputation with all the teams of the league for taking on girls who are twice her size.

You might say, "You're making her sound like she's sinlessly perfect or something."  She's not, but when she does sin, she really, really seems like she wished she didn't do it.  Sometimes she goes out with me evangelizing and hands me the gospel tract before we get to the next door.  We have nice little conversations. She loves her parents and grandparents and they feel loved by her.  She regularly asks me how I'm doing and how my day is going.  The smallest and biggest children of our church and school think she's their friend.

Natalie

All your kids are different and in a good way.  Some are more similar than others.  We call Natalie the machine.  She is a machine.  She is up at day break and runs every day about 3 miles.  Then I hear her in the garage torturing herself with an incredible regiment of exercise.  When her brother was home for Christmas, the West Pointer, she "smoked him" with her ab routine.  He could not keep up.  She "takes a break" on Saturdays by getting up early and working in our yard.  Many different neighbors comment.  They see her running.  Our next door neighbor told me he saw her out working in the rain.  I never told her to do this.  She does it on her own.  She told my wife that she likes to run early before her brain knows what's happening.  She loves a strict diet, usually drinking something dark green for breakfast.  If I need something, I can count on Natalie.

Natalie is an excellent student and musician.  She sometimes accompanies the adult choir of our church.  She plays in the first section of Young People's Symphony Orchestra, that toured Europe the summer before last, and this June will play in Carnegie Hall, Central Park in New York City, and at Harvard with the New England Conservatory Youth Symphony.  She has a dry sense of humor.  Last season she was on the same stand as the daughter of the president of the orchestra, who is general counsel at AC Transit, and he more than once told me that my daughter made her laugh.  She is our resident pizza cook, making our family pizza every Saturday night.  When she sees my plate start to empty she always asks me if I want another piece and goes and gets some more.  I teach Natalie in history and Bible.  All my high school history is essay and hers are excellent, as well as her answers on my Bible quizzes.

When I go out evangelizing in the week, usually once Natalie is with me and we have good conversations.  She takes the notes as we move along, keeping track of what happens at each door.  After those calls, we talk about her thoughts as to the spiritual condition of the various folks to whom we minister.  She goes over to the house of an older lady in our church and the lady raves about how hard a worker she is.  Natalie has organized all of my sermons into notebooks and does almost all of my filing.  Besides the work of my wife, whatever is wonderful in my office is my daughter.  I started to teach jr. high history last week and one boy said that Natalie's speech reminded him of the dentist.  I wasn't sure what he was talking about, but it was her speech for our school contest that she had given there.  She helped carry our school program this year.

I'll stop here, but I could say much more about the machine.

Julia

Early on, I could see Julia would be sort of hippity-hoppity and bouncy.  When she gets excited, she shakes her hands and bounces up and down.  She still does that.  She's got a great smile, lighting up her whole face, and swallowing up her eyes.  She's got a busy life right now, because she's in her second year at Cal State University, East Bay, and she takes Bay Area Rapid Transit there three times a week as a full time student, plus working part time in our school.  She also helped coach Gabi's soccer team and works with our school girl's volleyball team.  On Saturday mornings she drives Gabi down to BYO rehearsal in Oakland and studies at a Starbucks.

On campus, Julia sticks out as the only girl with a long skirt on campus.  Still, girls gravitate toward her there.  Despite being an open Christian, she has girls who want to be with her.  She has natural leadership.  I've sat and watched her from a distance as little kids walk out of their way, one-by-one, to give her a hug.  She does a great job helping our kindergarten teacher.  She set candies out late on Thursday this week, so the kindergarteners would have them on their desk, since she would be at college on Friday morning.  Her soccer team was undefeated two years in a row and undefeated and unscored upon this last year.  She is musical.  She plays violin Sunday AM and PM every week in our church.  She sings in our choir.  She plays piano for Sunday School and on Wednesday night.

She is a caring person.  She is fun.  She is funny.  She gets stuff.  She cares a lot about her school work and is doing great in school.  She helps her friends live a more godly life.  She gave a speech in her state school class on creationism and this year she's writing her paper on "Under God" for composition.  She was always good in the speech contest and maybe single handedly raised the level of speech for our whole school.  She is fiery.  When she thought her teacher was making fun of the Bible, she was ready to stand up and tell her what she thought in front of all the students.  She is very loyal.  She's doing great with her money -- saving it and planning for the future.

Did I say that all my daughters were beautiful?

Kirk

Kirk is my only son.  He's the only one living outside of the home.  He's a second lieutenant, field artillery, in the United States Army, living in Lawton, Oklahoma.  The last four years he spent mainly at West Point, but also in many other places in the world.  While at the USMA, he was a member of Liberty Baptist Church in Fishkill, NY.  They helped him a lot there, but I did notice that he had a very good relationship with the church people there.  Many of them came to the graduation and we had the reception afterwards at the church building.  His pastor prayed at his commissioning and a faithful member there gave him his first salute as an officer.  Kirk is sensitive to spiritual things.   He wants to follow the Lord.  He wants to know the Word.  He wants to some day have a Christian family.  He would tell you that his priorities are God, family, and then country.

Growing up, Kirk did well in school and in music.  He was a straight A student.  He won the concerto competition in the orchestra and was the principal trombone in YPSO, also touring Australia and New Zealand and playing at the Sydney Opera House.  He played his trombone in the spirit band at West Point.  He was faithful.  Growing up at our church, he was a good testimony.  He encouraged others to live for the Lord.  He was faithful in evangelism.  Our church people love Kirk.  He's very friendly and loving to all of them.  You can feel a kinship between them and him when he's at home.  When I call Kirk on the phone or text, we have spiritual conversations.  He wants to do right.

West Point is an incredible challenge for anyone, but especially for a Christian.  It is very difficult to live a biblical Christian life in the environment of the United States Military Academy and in the Army.  We need to pray for our Christian soldiers for all the pressures and challenges they have, that they will take a strong stand for the Lord Jesus Christ and be a testimony for Him.  West Point was obviously the biggest test so far of Kirk's life and it would be difficult for anyone.  We are thankful that God preserved and is preserving him for His glory.  Kirk attends church faithfully at an independent Baptist church in town there and is making acquaintance with the best people he can to be the best influence and accountability on him that they can be.

Kirk pushes himself in his physical training.  Typical, on the day Kirk left home to drive to Oklahoma, he ran ten miles.  He keeps up with cross-fit.  He is in a ranger physical training class that is very difficult.  He is learning massive amounts of material about field artillery that he will in turn use in training others as an officer.  There is a high level of expectation personally and in leadership.  Not of all of that is a friend of godly living and he is on his own alone there.  I am thankful that he has proven that he wants to follow the Lord on his own without his parents.  Except by the grace of God, very few, I don't believe, could have gotten through what he has, intact.

So there is the Brandenburg family.  None of this is an accident.  We praise God for what He has done, is doing, and will continue to do in our lives.  If I were to give you the biggest key, it is conversion.  You want to make sure you deal with your own children properly in the matter of their own salvation.  Pray for us, and we will pray for one another.  If any of you ever have any questions, you can contact us at our email, which you can find at our church website.