Friday, December 22, 2006

How Did Jesus Motivate?

I'm not a fan of the WWJD movement because it is the wrong question. The right question is: What Did Jesus Do? That we know. Anything we think He would do should be based upon what we know He did do. In other words, WDJD. In today's space, I will consider How Jesus Motivated? HDJM, that is, how did Jesus motivate?

In the article before last, I examined the consistency of MacArthur attacking the practice of Driscoll, focusing especially on a promotional video for a youth conference. In the comments, a Tom defended the video with what he thought was an assumption that pastors should motivate teens by offering them the temporal stuff of the youth culture. Are we going to be judged by how we motivate people? Did Jesus leave us an example of how to do that? Does it matter if we follow His example? Is how we motivate people up to judgment? Could the motivation we provide harm the growth of Christian young people and impede the salvation of unbelieving ones? Could the motivation we provide be wood, hay, and stubble, and then cause more wood, hay, and stubble for the ones we motivate? Does it even matter if we do the right thing for the wrong reason?

Tom plainly intimated that giving young people temporal motivation was acceptable and beyond criticism. Of course, we are talking about church here, not what motivates someone to eat at Burger King instead of McDonalds. When someone told the Lord that he wanted to follow Him, the Lord didn't make it easier for him. He said things like: "the Son of Man hath nowhere to lay his head," "let the dead bury the dead," "deny self, take up your cross, and follow me," "lose your life for my sake," "I come not to bring peace but a sword," and "will ye also go away?" In other words, Jesus purposefully attempted to take away the wrong motivation. When people are fed the wrong motivation, they get the wrong idea about Jesus and the life He gives and calls upon men to live. It is not a good thing to give a wrong description of Jesus Christ by associating Him with an unscriptural motive.

Jesus never motivated with fun, frivolity, self-gratification, and temporal attractions. He motivated with Divine truth. He motivated with a patient waiting for His coming. He motivated with His own character or attributes. We don't edify Christians by offering them the temporal crown when the Christian life is about an eternal one. We don't want them giving up their birthrights for a mess of pottage or their identity as the people of God to become the son of Pharoah's daughter.

It would seem that a group that declares their allegiance to the sovereignty of God would depend, well, on the sovereignty of God. The wisdom of this world glorifies man, not God. If the Gospel and Jesus and His Word are not enough, we elevate these worldly things, exalting the creature above the Creator. Is that blasphemous? You tell me. For now, I'll let you decide. I think it is very serious, indicative certainly of a lack of both a reverence for the Lord Jesus Christ and a dependence on the sufficiency of the Word of God. If the Bible is superior to a visitor from Hell, as we see in the rich man and Lazarus, and even above the experience of Peter on the Mt. of Transfiguration, as we see in 2 Peter 1, then how can we possibly be righteous in luring young people with the fads of the youth culture?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Gift Cards, Decorative Soaps, and Other Observations

Before my treadmill to nowhere pins the needle, I like gift cards. I like cash. I like a new tie. I like little baby ducks, centipedes that eat bats, and shoe goo. But am I wrong when I say that gift cards are simply cash with a limitation? For instance, two people exchange gift cards. I receive Home Depot and give a Borders. What have we done? We've taken over each other's budgets. I'll trade you my Target for your Walmart. How about we act like we gave cash and don't? How about we act like we gave gift cards and we don't? Were we going to spend $25 dollars at Home Depot anyway? Now we've done it by way of a Borders gift card and both of us have salved that gland deep in our brain and we don't do that guilt thing. Must be prudent. What can a man get at Home Depot for $25, while I'm thinking about it? I know. Lots. Especially screw drivers made in Southeast Asia. Do you want a screwdriver anywhere you can reach? Philips or flathead? Enough of these exchanges and you can tape them on the bottom of your kitchen counter like you're Bob Villa in the witness protection program.

There is, isn't there, always something to get at Home Depot? Gorilla Glue. Wide masking tape. A new utility knife. One of those new toilet tank kits. Imagine wrapping one of those up for Christmas. Men do that to their wives. Well, maybe we don't anymore, since someone wrote that it could cool your marriage. What were they talking about? What can warm the deep corners of the heart like a new non-stick-fry-spatula. I'm going to close this thread with the one gift card that works: Starbucks. The Starbucks card takes away the guilt of purchasing a $4 coffee product in a new-age paper cup. It is a pass to spend time in the French embassy that is Starbucks with the normally Euro-looking pierced Goth girl who asks if you want yours with whipped cream (or is it creme?). You can spend time drinking that cup on a table the size of a manhole cover on a little chair with enough room for one bun (and I'm not talking about a biscotti bun). Some could do a McDonalds-hot-beverage-like-lawsuit for tipping in one of the weany leg chairs. Whiplash and luke warm Cafe Mocha softened by a bed of whipped cream. I have to admit, as I think about it: How can I retain manhood and remain in a Starbucks?

At least one more thing as I digress. Decorative Soaps. Why soap? Have you ever tried to lather up with a soap decoration? Sculptured soap should come with a warning for carpel tunnel. They defy the physics of efficient soap use. And then the thought of wearing down the actual decorative quality of the soap to get real usage from it. You know, to get clean, the thing soap is to be, well, for. But some people squeal with delight upon unwrapping, yes, soap on a....rope. Sorry. Give me a bar with some sort of thermodynamics---one that will go round and round in my hand without impersonating a greased pig.

I just imagined giving a psychiatrist a Christmas gift of a soap pocket watch to practice hypnosis. Of course, I don't know any psychiatrists. Some people wish I did, but it would be the perfect gag gift from someone with a hand-washing addiction. "Thank you for this gift and I think it means we are really seeing some progress." I've been in other people's homes, asked to use their bathroom, and looked at their decorative soap displays, usually going with the theme of the bathroom. I wondered what they would think if I took one of them off the little decorative (yes, decorative) platter and used it to wash up afterwards. More than a few times, I've noticed dust on decorative soap. Most people don't think you have to clean soap. It seems redundant. Soap cleans; it must not need to be cleaned. Just an observation, but I think people who dust their soap need a psychiatrist. Can you get a gift card for that?


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Pot and the Kettle: MacArthur and Driscoll

John MacArthur, popular radio speaker, Christian author, and pastor of the Grace Church in Southern California, along with his associate Phil Johnson, have written a series of enlightening articles at their online magazine, Pulpit Live, on the "emerging church movement" (ECM). The latest article features a sharp criticism of Mark Driscoll (I would link him, but his website is too much garbage), a leading figure in the ECM. I agree with everything that MacArthur says in his expose. I'm not even going to quote him. However, I will say that he takes a stand against worldliness and references James 4:4. I applaud stands against worldliness.

I wonder this though: What about the worldliness of John MacArthur and Grace Church? He has long disrespected men who preached and took stands of personal separation. I talked to a pastor who went to a MacArthur meeting in Michigan. Right before MacArthur stood to preach on the holiness of God, an ensemble from his Master's College publically swayed to the seductive rhythm of their contemporary music. I ask you to consider what MacArthur says and then view this trailer for their upcoming youth conference, called Resolved (click on the link for the trailer to watch). John Piper, the featured speaker at the beginning of this trailer, just prominently endorsed Mark Driscoll at his own church in a national conference. Doesn't it seem clear, plainly evident, that these guys are clueless on the doctrine of separation? Where is the discernment? MacArthur warns about Driscoll but he has Piper who endorses Driscoll. Hmmmm. They aren't really that serious about helping people against worldliness, in part because a church like Grace Church got where they are through compromise.

And then you look at the trailer itself. Teens watch this. Lots of guys and girls getting together in the dark, a movie-theater-like environment; the very fuzzy, LSD trip camera shots on the rock guitar and trap set. The low, rumbling rock bass, like something at the beginning of a grunge concert. Here are two concepts that came to my mind: youth culture and drug culture. It is all, to use MacArthur's word---faddish. He dresses everything up just like the world. Young people know this. The trailer finds a common denominator with the world. It says "straddle the fence" all over it, blurring dangerously the lines between theology and self-gratification. If he wants to motivate with godliness and preaching and the Word of God, why does he do it the way he does? Carnal weaponry! Of course, all of this is the pot and kettle metaphor.

MacArthur has written a lot against pragmatism---preached tons against it---from Ashamed of the Gospel to Our Sufficiency in Christ to Reckless Faith. He opines to everybody in several volumes about this kind of stuff, but he won't give it up himself. He himself seems enslaved to it. What's the difference? In his case, he has "liberty," of course, but Driscoll crosses the line into antinomianism. What line? MacArthur's line. This kind of inconsistency in practice results in reckless faith and a lack of discernment, as well as a defiled conscience, things MacArthur regularly goes on and on about (and rightly so---they're good topics....for a separatist). Separation becomes completely subjective, guided by feelings, in MacArthur's world. It all comes across like Driscoll goes beyond MacArthur's comfort zone; that's all. MacArthur is the older school pragmatist, the pot, putting down Driscoll, the newer school pragmatist, the kettle.

I'm interested in your comments.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Do You Pray for an Outpouring of the Spirit?

Recently over at Sharper Iron, Pastor Joe Roof posted this statement:

When I used the term revival, I am speaking of a needed outpouring of the Spirit of God upon the people of God. Evidences of genunine revival are found in places like Acts 2 and Ezra. What happened in the days of Josiah was refreshing as well.

I read through the posts after he made this statement to see if anyone corrected him, and no one did. Neither Bruce, Greg, Stephen, Dave, Bill, Jay, Jim, Ellis, Bob M., Bob T., Ed, Rick, Christian, nor Cindy nor Michelle (women correct theology too at SI) laid a finger on him. Maybe he is just someone no one really takes seriously or that he is off-limits because he fits the SI profile too closely. Do you see anything wrong with the statement?

I wish it was obvious to most. I guess it isn't, though. Peter explained the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Jesus prophesied the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in every Gospel and in Acts 1. Peter said that the Acts 2 experience was a fulfillment of Joel 2. He quoted that OT prophecy in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Here's the quote from verses 28-32:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will show wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
We know that Acts 2 fulfilled Joel 2, but it could not be more than a partial or pre- fulfillment. The sun to darkness and the moon to blood were missing on the Day of Pentecost. The ultimate fulfillment for which Acts 2 was a sample will occur in the tribulation period when the Holy Spirit is outpoured on the Jews.

So this is the outpouring of the Spirit passage. The Spirit was poured out on saved, immersed believers, accompanied by signs and wonders. Pastor Roof says:

Evidences of genunine revival are found in places like Acts 2.
What were the evidences in Acts 2? Pastor Joe says that we are to look for evidences of revival there, proof of genuine Holy Spirit outpouring. Look at verses 2-4:

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Even if we don't get the blood and the darkness, according to Pastor Joe, we should at least hear the sound of "rushing mighty wind," see "cloven tongues like as of fire," and "begin to speak with other tongues" (languages).

Joe says we need to be praying for this. Were the saints of that first church at Jerusalem praying for it? Yes. They were praying for the Holy Spirit to come. Do you know why? Because He hadn't come to all of them yet. I pray for the kingdom to come like the Lord told us in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, but I know that it will still not be coming until after the tribulation time on the earth.

The Holy Spirit will not be outpoured upon us because we don't need an outpouring. We already have the Person of the Holy Spirit. That One Person indwells each believer. I can't have another one of Him because He is only One, and I can't have more of Him because He is a Person. You either have a Person or you don't.

When we pray to God for something that He has already given us, that isn't a prayer in God's will. It is at least an ignorant prayer, if not worse. It is a faithless prayer that refuses to recognize what God has already done. He already poured out the Holy Spirit in answer to the prayers of that Jerusalem church that they offered to God between the ascension of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. It could be unthankful to keep praying for the Holy Spirit. If we already have the Holy Spirit, we should be thanking God for Him, instead of continuing to ask for Him. If you keep praying that prayer from now on, it will be a rebellious one too. It also has a crazy quality to it. If my wife is in the room, then I don't keep asking her to be in the room. She's already there. It would be borderline insanity to keep asking her to be in the room. She would rather have me acknowledge her presence and then take advantage of the benefits of it. The Holy Spirit as a Person would not be different than this.

What people want is an experience. Of course, Jesus repudiated seeking for these types of experiences. He said that a "wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign" (Matthew 16:4). People may deny it, but reaching for these kinds of extrascriptural events fits into a false view of sanctification.[1] God wants us to yield to His Spirit, the One we already possess (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). We are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Instead of passing off the responsibility for "revival" on the need for a "fresh outpouring," we should just obey the Holy Spirit who is already here. If revival doesn't come, it won't be because we don't have what it takes, but because we were not willing to take advantage of what God has already given us.

I might say more about this in my next post.
[1]This fits into the Keswick or higher life view of sanctification and second blessing theology, which does not represent historic, orthodox doctrine.

A Case Study in Fake Tolerance Part 2

Since this is part 2, perhaps I should assume that you know that part 1 would be good to read to get a head start. I am breaking-down an article written about me related to a tract I wrote and passed out in El Sobrante, CA. I will italicize the source and comment in regular type again.

Nowadays, there are many different perceptions of Jesus, some think he was a reincarnation of John the Baptist or one of the prophets like Elijah or Jeremiah while other thing he was God’s Son. I probably don't need to tell you that the word "perceptions" is very ambiguous. People who reject Jesus Christ will form an opinion about Him different from the truth. They must do so if they are going to hang on to their own and contradictory view of the world. The author here could have been referring to a passage actually in the New Testament, which, of course, isn't "nowadays." Let me quote it from Mark 6:14-16. It is a very fitting text. The one who composed this article reminds me of Herod in the story:

And king Herod heard of him; (for his name was spread abroad:) and he said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him. Others said, That it is Elias. And others said, That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.
Herod Antipas, a person living in an incestuous relationship, theorized that Jesus was a resurrection of John the Baptist, despite the fact that it was he himself that had ordered John decapitated and his head placed on a platter. The chances of Jesus being John the Baptist then, almost 2000 years ago---zero---are the same "nowadays."

Within Christendom, there are wide variations in terms of the understanding of who Jesus is. The mysterious Sikh writer is correct in this statement. Of course, we don't care what the opinion of so-called "Christendom" is, but we are interested in what the Bible says. It says this about Jesus:

John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.

Acts 4:12 (speaking of Jesus)
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Philippians 2:11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Colossians 1:16-18 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
Pastor Kent Brandenburg’s Perception of Sikhs. So, given all confusion about who was Jesus, it would be really foolish to consider Jesus as one-way ticket to haven (sic) as Pastor Kent Brandenburg would like for Sikhs to believe in his “Please Consider These Words of Love My Sikh Friend” Gospel presentation which is designed to convert Sikhs into Christianity. It would be foolish not to consider Jesus as the only way to heaven. The Lord Jesus Christ was God, God in the flesh, Who came to this earth to provide a way of salvation to a sinful world.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Galatians 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

1 Peter 2:24
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

1 John 3:5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.

One particular section directly attacks Sikhism and reads, "Without believing in Jesus Christ, you, my Sikh friend, will die in your sins, and in so doing, will be condemned to Hell forever" When Sikhism contradicts the Bible, Sikhism or any other ism, is wrong. Anyone who does not believe in Jesus Christ will be condemned to Hell forever. John 3:18, "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

In this presentation Kent goes on to rant about how Sikh gurus "died and stayed dead," whereas Jesus Christ defeated death. This particular comment is great insult to the founders of Sikh religion and serves as an ideal example of Christian supremacy movement at work in our own back yard. The Bible is God's Word, and God and His Word are supreme over everyone and everything. Jesus did defeat death.

Matthew 28:7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.

John 21:14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:3, 4
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

Acts 1:11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pastor Kent Brandenburg: A Catalyst for Christian Supremacy. Traces of more Christian supremacy actions are found on Kent’s web blog. I like to encourage all the readers to read Kent’s blog entries and also posted comments by his followers. On his blog, he is shielding his acts of Christian supremacy under the good old Jesus saying, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." He is using this quote as license to spread Christian supremacy. Whatever contradicts the truth must be error. The Bible is the truth. Christianity is only true if it is Biblical Christianity, made up of a people who believe and practice the Bible. The Bible is God's Word. Jesus is the only way for eternal life.

Furthermore, in one of his blog entries, he goes on talking about Christianity and states, “…It is also something that has been preached here in this country since the first Pilgrims got off the Mayflower.” This remark is clear indication that Kent’s perception is that The United States is a Christian nation. I haven't said that the U. S. is a Christian nation. I believe that the Bible message of salvation has been preached just like we preach it since the Pilgrims came shore. This is true. Consider just a sampling:

Benjamin Rush (signer of Declaration of Independence): "My only hope of salvation is in the infinite, transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!"

Roger Sherman (signer of Dec. of Indep. and Constitution):
"I believe that there is one only living and true God, existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. . . . that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are a revelation from God. . . . that God did send His own Son to become man, die in the room and stead of sinners, and thus to lay a foundation for the offer of pardon and salvation to all mankind so as all may be saved who are willing to accept the Gospel offer."

John Witherspoon (signer of Declaration of Independence):
"I entreat you in the most earnest manner to believe in Jesus Christ, for there is no salvation in any other [Acts 4:12]. . . . [I]f you are not reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, if you are not clothed with the spotless robe of His righteousness, you must forever perish."

John Hancock (signer of Declaration of Independence):
"I. . . appoint . . . a day of public thanksgiving and praise . . . to render to God the tribute of praise for His unmerited goodness towards us . . . by giving to us . . . the Holy Scriptures which are able to enlighten and make us wise to eternal salvation. . . . And to pray that He would forgive our sins and . . . cause the religion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be known, understood, and practiced among all the people of the earth."

About this, the Sikh author writes: This is narrow-minded statement and again it helps to prove that Kent is brain washing his followers (blog readers) to adopt his views and support spread of Christian supremacy while disrespecting other religions of world. In light of the above quotes and dozens of others, who really is doing the brainwashing? The respect afforded all religion in the U. S. is freedom to believe and practice it. That does not necessitate equality to all religion. Sikhs have come to this country from a predominantly Sikh country. Why could Sikhism not do for Punjab what Scripture and Biblical Christianity has done for the United States? I think it is a legitimate question.

He continues: The Sikhs What Can I do? As American Sikh Citizens, Let us defend our religious rights and stop ill minded pastors like Kent from bullying Sikhs. No one has even hinted that Sikhs lose religious rights. And I guarantee you that I am not ill-minded, but of sound mind and body by the grace of God. And we in no way have bullied any Sikh by producing a pamphlet that expresses what Scripture teaches about Sikh doctrine.

What do you think?

A Case Study in Fake Tolerance

I need to use this space to argue. Stick with me. A new wave of Sikh mail has come to me in response to a second round of articles written by one of them to keep alive something certain Sikhs protest that they want to abolish. Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: "The lady doth protest too much." This issue could die without its continual resuscitation. At least let me be offensive first. I haven't even done anything since my 7 minute bout of handing out pamphlets at a Sikh parade. They were the ones with the loudspeakers and chants. I was the quiet one with sheets of paper.

Here's the headline of a link that was sent to me. I'm going to take the article, written by the mysterious editor of, who states that he or she represents a faction within the Sikh temple here in El Sobrante, California.

The headline reads: Pastor Kent Brandenburg Attacks Sikh Religion. It could read: "Pastor Kent Brandenburg Preaches Gospel to the Sikhs" or "Pastor Kent Brandenburg Offers Biblical Way of Salvation to Sikh People," all depending upon your perspective. We live in a pluralistic society, not a relativistic society. In a pluralistic society, competition exists in the marketplace of ideas. Coke might be intolerant of Pepsi, but Coke can't shut down Pepsi. I believe the Bible. Sikhism contradicts the Bible. It is obvious I can't tolerate the doctrine of Sikhism if I believe the Bible.

Incidentally, I'm exposing Sikh doctrine. That's all. I love the Sikh people. I love the Punjab Indians who have chosen to immigrate to this very pluralistic country. They are free to worship here as they choose. However, I don't love any false doctrine. I hate it. I hate what it does to the people who believe and accept it. I can't accept any doctrine that contradicts Scripture. The Word of God is truth (John 17:17). Sikhism and the Bible cannot both be true. Tolerating both doctrines disrespects the whole realm of theology. It places theology below movies, restaurants, and paper-or-plastic that are worth making a fuss about. I can't legitimately claim Biblical truth and also tolerate Sikh doctrine. I think this is easy for a person to understand, but the Sikhs are simply taking advantage of a very sentimental, mushy thinking culture that prioritizes feelings above everything.

After the bombastic title, the author goes on (I will put his material in italics, and my comments in regular print): Brief History Of Jesus In The Context Of Christianity: It is a general fact that the story of Jesus as presented in the four gospels of the New Testament is essentially a piece of fiction because there are not authentic references to such a figure in the works of any historians of the early 1st century. This statement alone is far worse than anything that I have written. I haven't attempted to revise what the Sikhs say that they believe. I take what they say at face value. This statement, however, does not do that. It repudiates the veracity of the Bible and Jesus Christ. On top of that, it contradicts everything these Sikhs are telling me to do or that they say that they believe. How can you say that your religion is all about a certain kind of tolerance and then have it actually be about that very kind of intolerance? I mean, I don't care if the Sikhs state disagreements with what I believe, but they are the ones that have a problem with it when other people do it, so it smacks of total hypocrisy.

With regards to the statement. It is so patently false that it should ruin the credibility of the article and its author right from the start. A lot of historic evidence of Jesus Christ exists outside of the Bible. One of a few I'll quote is Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus, who recorded information pertaining to Jesus. In 115 A.D., Tactius wrote about the great fire in Rome:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberious at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths, Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed.
Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, a member of a priestly family and who became a Pharisee at the age of 19, became the court historian for Emperor Vespasian. In The Antiquities, he wrote about many persons and events of first century Palestine. He makes two references to Jesus. The first reference is believed associated with the Apostle James:

[H]e brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.

At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive, accordingly, he was perhaps the messiah concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.

These historical writings predated the completion of the New Testament. Josephus died in 97 A.D.

Then the Sikh apologist continues: The pre-gospel writings of the early Christians also make no reference to the life and teachings of a recent historical Jesus. Here's an important point on this: There were no pre-gospel writings of early Christians. Pre-Gospel writings would have been the intertestamental books. The Gospels were the earliest Christian writings. However, even the false gospels, not part of Scripture, include many writings concerning Jesus Christ.

I'll post the rest of his letter and answers tomorrow, but you can see that he doesn't start very well. I'll let you know in advance that his work doesn't go up hill from here.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fiction Is Stranger Than Truth

There they go again!

Man must leave earth to survive. I agree. Man (me) will leave earth to survive. And it won't be with the Hale-Bop Comet.

Did they find the samples for this experiment from the aisles at Costco Warehouse? "The samples we found strongly support the single impact hypothesis," said Ken MacLeod.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Seeds of Delusion

I recently browsed the NY Times bestsellers at a local Barnes & Noble and noticed The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins is a scientist at Oxford University and a self-proclaimed atheist. Truly, since Dawkins had made the popularity list, I was optimistic that he would have some of the best arguments for the atheists, something perhaps challenging to me. I sat down at one of the little cafe tables with a hot beverage and then just wagged my head. He had nothing; worse than nothing. The book came across as a bitter hatchet job on a subject very scary to attack: God. He whined and complained and ridiculed and proved nothing. He states that he proves that God doesn't exist. No matter how extravagantly he rolls out the red carpet for himself with loud blasts of trumpet, he only rides his fast-moving treadmill to nowhere. He argues against the thinnest straw men and exultingly trounces them as if that really did something to buoy his position, posing and trash-talking as if he really accomplished something. He didn't argue against the best evidence for God and the Bible. I can understand why not. He would lose. He quoted other people who deny God and said, "See! They agree with me." He serves to provide a volume for the already deluded to lean upon and squeal like school girls, giving high fives to one another.

It's sad, the whole thing. I know why he's an atheist. 2 Peter 3 explains it very well in v. 3:

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.

His position does not come from proof, but his proof comes from his position. His position is one of walking after his own lusts. He has his desires (as do we all) and those desires do not fit in with the Bible, so he rejects God and the Bible to make room for them. As a result, He denies God, so that he can pursue those desires without guilt or remorse.

2 Peter 3 explains the scoffer, the foolish atheist, who, instead of believing in God, explains God away with uniformitarianism. 2 Peter 3:4 reveals the way they think or what they say. They will say something like:

For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
He would deny the creation part, but he would say something close:

From eons into the past, since man evolved, natural processes have continued in this closed environment without any supernatural intervention.
None of that is true. None of it can be proven. None of the evidence points to his view of the world.

Let me get to my point from all this---seeds of this delusion. What allows for these puny atheists to beat their chests like intellectual Tarzans?
1) Theological or Biblical Compromise of Professing Christians---Dawkins writes:

The legend of the animals going into the ark two by two is charming, but the moral of the story of Noah is appalling. God took a dim view of humans, so he (with the exception of one family) drowned the lot of them including children and also, for good measure, the rest of the (presumably blameless) animals as well. Of course, irritated theologians will protest that we don't take the book of Genesis literally any more. But that is my whole point! We pick and choose which bits of Scripture to believe, which bits to write off as symbols or allegories. Such picking and choosing is a matter of personal decision, just as much, or as little, as the atheist's decision to follow this moral precept or that was [also] a personal decision, without an absolute
About the inconsistency, the picking and choosing, the compromise, ridicule and mockery. Since the standard for truth is perfection, then no Christian should support any amount of compromise in theology or practice. That doesn't mean that they will live sinlessly perfect, but that they will only support a position of perfection that is consistent with the God of the Bible.

2. Those Who Hold a Less Than Perfect Bible---Bart Ehrman of University of North Carolina, whom Dawkins uses favorably in his book, pushed the eject button when he could no longer believe that he was using an inerrant Bible. Now Ehrman is producing almost full time materials to cause people to at least question the Bible if not deny it outright like he himself. The slippery slope started for Ehrman when he went to Moody to find variants in the manuscripts of Scripture, to Wheaton to find "errors" in the copies of the Bible, and finally to Princeton to discover that the Bible was never inspired in the first place, just a collection of stories. Now we get this statistic from Barna: "In 2006 48% of all adults agreed strongly that the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings compared with 42% in 2002 and 35% in 1991." Those are just the "teachings." Just think if the question was about the actual Words of Scripture. People figure that if they can't trust the Bible, then why try to practice it? If God is real, then why couldn't He keep His Word pure? And if He can't keep that pure, then how could I trust Him to keep me that way either?

Yes, these are the seeds of delusion.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Question Authority

I was talking to a man who has children in our church school. Before his children were enrolled in a school in close proximity to us in our town here. That school had a huge poster in the lobby of their gymnasium with the giant words "Question Authority." He confronted the administration about that banner. He believed that the message would harm his relationship with his own children, that instead of immediately obeying, they would question his authority. This was not a lesson he wanted them to learn, so he questioned school authority about it. He found out that the "question authority" theme was not universal. Ironically, it did not apply to questioning them about putting up such a message in the lobby of their school.

Does the Bible teach "question authority?" Certainly the Bible teaches to ask questions. 1 Corinthians 14 says that the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. Acts 17 informs that the Bereans searched the Scriptures to see if the things they were taught were legitimate. 1 John 4 tells us to test the spirits to see if they are of God. 1 Thessalonians 5 mandates that we prove all things. However, the Bible doesn't teach the messge of "question authority. Romans 13 says that all authority comes from God and that our responsibility to authority is to submit to it.

"Question authority" is a popular theme in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live. Even some Christian parents would applaud such a message decorating the lobby of a Christian school. They perhaps come from the hippie generation of the 1960s where protesting was an important school activity. With this philosophy so popular, the administration might think this could make their school more popular too. They might attract the crowd who wants a less rebellious school than the public school. Question authority is OK, but harm authority isn't. They want a school where the teachers are only safe from physical rebellion but not verbal rebellion.

If I had my kids in a school where they would need to "question authority," I would look for another school. I don't want my children in a school where I am concerned about the content taught in the classroom. That is why they don't attend the public school. These young people don't have the discernment yet to sift through the teaching for truthfulness. I want to know they will be taught the truth, and if something isn't the truth, I will be the one to correct it. I don't want my children thinking that it is permissible to question authority. I want them to respect their teachers and their parents, because this is the will of God.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Medium and the Message Pt. 3

How do people acquire the information that affects their choices? Who is most manipulated by the political ad or the thirty-second sound byte? A few years back the people of the state of California voted against educational vouchers. When the campaign for this voucher system first started the polls showed huge support, a large majority. That's not how it ended. Somehow Tom Sawyer got Huck Finn to whitewash his fence. The teacher's union outspent the pro-voucher side by millions and changed people's minds. Television holds the minds of Americans like the swinging watch of the hypnotist. By the time, the marketing gurus finished molding the putty-like brains of California voters, they sidestepped vouchers like landmines in the Korean DMZ. At last, the message didn't matter; the medium did. The citizens were "persuaded" by doing "research," i.e. watching TV commercials.

We have created this monster. Politicians count on a dumbed-down electorate who won't read. As stupid as they are, they won't know the difference when a politician makes one of his moronic arguments. Here's my favorite as an example: bigger tax cut for the rich. That will always work with the large imbecile segment of the population. What is ironic is that the rich can afford more television advertisements to combat these deceitful commercials. Unfortunately then, the more they see, the stupider they get. The crowd most happy with all this is the marketing establishment. They love election season. And don't count on the public schools to change anything, they are the same characters who talked parents out of vouchers. If they can do that to parents, you've got to know what they are doing to the kids. We've already been mentally disenfranchised. You've heard "We the people;" now think "We the dupes."

The medium has become our culture. Every message is framed by this new environment in which we live. It's sights and sounds bombard our senses. It is akin to Lot in Sodom where both seeing and hearing, he vexed his righteous soul. Our souls become desensitized by the muzak on elevators, the screens at the grocery store check-out, theme songs for every event, and the slick, brightly colored ads stacked in our mailbox when we get home. Most young people find it impossible to pull themselves out of this context to carefully consider the exegesis of Scripture. They are plugged into the culture and its philosophy and thinking, unknowingly becoming part of its artificial world and speeding on its conveyor belt toward one shocking moment in time. The day they die.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Medium and the Message Pt. 2

If I say the name "Jesus," that name possesses only one meaning. I am quite sure that most of you would agree that many different definitions are attached to that name, and all because of the context in which the name is used. Why is that? For an answer, first consider the meaning of "word": "a speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning." Words are nothing more than a series of speech sounds. These speech sounds symbolize a meaning. Again, I think you would agree that the meaning of words change depending on how they are used.

Let me give another example: Bill Clinton. What does that name mean to you? To some that is a hero. To others it is a villain. Some think liberal. Others think conservative. People will tell you it is a pervert. Another group of people see it as a knight in shining armor. Bill Clinton is interpreted based upon the context or setting in which it is placed.

We get reports back from Iraq. We hear about a car bombing. Could the meaning of a car bombing change if it were regularly read by Ronald McDonald in his clown suit and make-up? Could that affect how serious we view car-bombings? At a funeral what if the man with the trumpet, instead of playing Taps, plays Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy? Does anything change? Instead of military honor guard, what about the characters from Wizard of Oz?

The word experts know that the meanings of words are affected by the way they are used. Most words already have denotation, "a direct specific meaning as distinct from an implied or associated idea," and connotation, "the suggesting of a meaning by a word apart from the thing it explicitly names or describes." A particular medium by which a word is communicated will first change the connotation of a word and finally its denotation. The meaning of words do change.

The name Jesus should mean "holy," but it could mean "fun" if it is associated long enough with "fun" instead of "holy." Our culture has finally persuaded people that "Jesus" has more to do with comfort and convenience than any kind of sacrifice, and much of that has to do with the media by which His name has been channeled. A particular medium can misrepresent the meaning of a word until it actually will change its definition. Our understanding of God and His will is dependent on maintaining the meaning of words as God intended them. We can change true doctrine to false doctrine.

Words themselves carry feelings, some of which should never lose their own distinct mood. Memorial. Party. Tombstone. Righteous. Gettysburg. Hiroshima. Iwo Jima. Abortion. Suicide. How about the tour of Gettysburg to Elvis? Elvis is tame now, so I'm sure it would fit. Right? And if not him, then how about rag time? Or with all that extra space and green grass at Gettysburg, why not a bowling alley or putt-putt course? What's your problem? Shuffle-board then? Could we have done the Vietnam memorial in hot pink? Does even mentioning that make you angry? What would be the difference between that and Crucifixion by Salvador Dali?

Music is a language of its own with a sequence of notes with varied pitch and rhythm. Every human being is made in the image of God with certain root similarities in design, chemistry, feelings, and function. A person hits his thumb with a hammer and he what? He screams. Studies have shown that combinations of sounds cause certain emotions or feelings. Certain pitches are pleasant only to certain dogs. God programmed every human being the same to a large degree. Sure, everyone can become desensitized to the effects of particular notes to a certain extent, and that isn't even good normally, but the music sends different messages not entirely dependent on context.

Associations of music do also make a difference. I've heard it said that you can't listen to the William Tell Overture and not think of the Lone Ranger. As a medium, music itself has a message which is incongruent with the content of a certain series of words, either naturally or based on its affiliation. Over time, music with a particular message, when accompanying terms and phrases with a denotatively contrasting or conflicting meaning, will change the understanding of those terms and phrases. In other words, the medium alters the meaning of the words. And as this applies to worship, the inappropriate music might blaspheme God rather than please Him.

The Medium and the Message

God has given His message to us in written words. We comprehend written words through linear thought. Since before the printing press, societies have primarily used and then thoroughly developed linear thinking skills. With the medium of written word, people are conditioned to think in sequences, as one letter and one word follows another on the printed page. Changes in the medium of the message to pictures or music by means of television, movies, computer programs, powerpoint, slides, etc. affects the attention spans, perceptions, and world view of the audience by requiring a switch from linear thinking to mosaic thinking, thus altering thought patterns. Since the Bible is comprehended through linear thought, the change in thinking affects the understanding of God's Word.

Many changes have occurred in thinking due to technological advances in the world. People receive information in many different ways, but less and less through the printed word. Primarily for this reason, but in addition to a few others (less parental discipline, etc.), new learning disorders have arisen never seen before. Certain subjects must be learned by linear thought, but a child raised while watching television every day will have become accustomed to acquiring knowledge in a different manner. Many of these children are struggling with learning some of the basic school subjects. Oftentimes, they are labeled with some disorder that relates less to an organic problem as it does one received by means of the media by which they have received their information.

This problem becomes even more serious for someone spiritually. People who grow up saturated by different media than the printed word often become indifferent to the Bible. The Bible isn't discerned solely intellectually; however, it does require a certain cognitive skill to apprehend its truths. When someone cannot comprehend sufficiently linear thought to process the Gospel truths, he has greatly harmed his opportunity to receive Christ. Even the one who has enough linear ability to understand the tenets of conversion and is born again might struggle in sanctification because of his addiction to another type of thinking.

I believe this is part of Satan's conspiracy toward total apostacy in the age in which we live. It fulfills the Pauline warning of men increasingly becoming lovers of their own selves and of pleasures as we get closer to the end. Picture thinking is easier for men. We might call it eye candy, something that distracts and conveniently holds attention, the media equivalent of ice cream or milk chocolate. The communication itself falls under the categories of lust of the flesh and lust of eyes. Desiring what is comfortable, requiring less sacrifice, is characteristic of a love for self and pleasure. Men would rather engage with forms of media that are relatively effortless to watch and amusing to hear, therefore they are extremely seductive. People not only cannot reach the necessary intellectual depth to understand the Bible, but they do not even care to read it in the first place.

I want to elaborate on this subject in my next few posts. Should I say, "Stay tuned"?

Monday, November 06, 2006

This Is the Time On Which My Endless Life Dependeth

The title above? A line from Richard Baxter's [1] Essay "Directions Against Covetousness, Or Love of Riches, and Against Worldly Cares." And the directions he gives are, of course, Scriptural, and above that, as they would, make total sense. Here is the context of the quote:
Believe unfeignedly that thou must dwell for ever in heaven or hell, as thou makest preparation here, and consider of this as becometh a man, and then be a worldling and covetous if thou canst: riches will seem dust and chaff to thee, if thou believe and consider thy everlasting state. Write upon the doors of thy shop and chamber, I must be in heaven or hell for ever; or, This is the time on which my endless life dependeth; and methinks every time thou readest it, thou shouldest feel thy covetousness stabbed at the heart.
It makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?

We are less likely to be concerned about wealth when we consider how little time we spend on earth. How quickly is a person stripped of wealth when he dies? Can anyone keep any of it? Is it possible to make a deal with death so that it would not actually separate our souls from our bodies? For a long time, I would say all of us have known how little time we have on this earth, that the earth is nothing more than a motel or trip, and that the coffin that our deteriorating flesh inhabits is all that we will keep out of our large possessions. If this is the case, should we not save what we can for heaven by laying it out in obedience to God? Life is short and quickly gone, almost done when it has first begun. Should we make such ado about so short a life to make careful provision for so short a stay?

In addition to short, time is also so uncertain. We don't really know what will be tomorrow. We can die and quickly die. Should we not soberly read the warning of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Master:
And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Luke 12:19-21
We may be rich today and be in another world tomorrow. If so, would not have poverty been just as good? Especially when worldly goods distract our souls from things that are eternal. If we were sure we would die tomorrow (or even next month or next year), would we not be more indifferent whether we were poor or rich and look more on the greater things, the eternal things?

We should take the mind of the Apostle Paul:
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18
Our eye of faith should be so fixed on the invisible, eternal things, that we are hard-pressed to give any serious regard to the things that are visible and temporal. Baxter writes:
A man that is going to execution scarce looks at all the bustle or business that is done in streets and shops as he passeth by; because these little concern him in his departing case. And how little do the wealth and honours of the world concern a soul that is going into another world, and knows not but it may be this night!
No one is taking anything with them except for three: Our own soul, the souls of others, and the things by faith we have done for Christ.

Let's think about it before it's too late.

[1] 1615-1691. Biography.

Friday, November 03, 2006

And Yet, We Are Friends

How Does This Sound to You?

Jesus said that they are an adulterous and wicked generation that seek after signs, and he seeks after signs, and yet, we are friends.

He that offers fleshly and worldly music to God is blaspheming God, and he does that, and yet, we are friends.

God said that He would preserve every one of His Words, and that a curse is on anyone who adds or takes away from His Words, and he does not believe God preserves every Word and he both adds and takes away from those Words, and yet, we are friends.

God said that a woman that wears a man's garment is an abomination to God, and she does that, and yet, we are friends.

God said that a friend of the world is an enemy of His and that if someone loves the world and the things of the world, the love of the Father is not in him, and he loves worldly things, and yet, we are friends.

The Lord says that anyone who preaches a false gospel should be accursed, and he does that when he either rejects or changes the doctrine of repentance, and yet, we are friends.

Jesus said He fulfilled all righteousness by subjecting himself to the baptism by immersion of John the Baptist, and he sprinkles, not immerses, and says that sprinkling infants is also an option, and yet, we are friends.

Jesus said that grace comes by faith alone and that we take the element of the Lord's Table in remembrance of Him, and he believes and proclaims that the bread and cup are a means of grace, and yet, we are friends.

The Lord says that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump, so that we are to mark and avoid those who teach and apply a different doctrine and practice, and he won't separate from those who continue with wrong doctrine and practice, and yet, we are friends.

Don't get me wrong, he is either passively or actively rebellious against plain teaching of Scripture, and yet, we are friends.

None of this is personal. We are just having an honest discussion. We have really grown as human beings by airing our differences and we are better friends because of it.

We believe the very same on unity. We believe that what is most important is that despite our differences, which are many, we still get along fabulously.

Oh, one more---A man who drives his car up and over the curb to kill a child playing in his front lawn is a despicable human being, and he does that, and yet, we are friends.

Again, don't get me wrong; none of this intended personally, all simply to provoke discussion and promote some thinking out there. I think we can talk about all of these things and still be friends.

Can't we all be friends?

Thank you friend.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Costco parking. I turn into the Costco parking to attend the big box warehouse store. The entrance is 2/3 back in the lot and to the right are zero spots to park. None. To the left, the furthest 1/3, is a desert. To the right, the aisles are jammed with cars waiting for someone to finish loading. What's going on?
1. Getting closer is a matter of principle, because it doesn't make sense.
2. Getting closer is a Costco status symbol.
3. The closest spots are akin to winning the Costco lottery.
4. What is it that the heart and health experts tell us about parking remote and walking? They need to rework that advertising campaign. Any volunteers?
5. Parking left is for those with low park esteem.
6. Those on the left need an oxygen mask; they are on a different planet.
7. Fire your personal trainer and park on the left.
8. People who decide to take the binocular lot (you need binoculars to see Costco from there) walk on average faster. I watched a lady with tall boots and loud staccato-like heels pounding the blacktop attempting to make-up for lost time. She didn't want to be seen close to the socially unacceptable far lot. Trust me; it's embarrassing. She was proving that she could get to the front entrance in the same time as she would if she parked in the close lot. She's beating the system and she wants everyone to know it.
9. Don't you want to walk a distance to rid yourself of calories gained by eating 17 Costco samples inside?
10. Once someone is in Costco, are they as efficient in their shopping cart travel route as they are in finding a close parking spot? I don't think so. Will they really notice the extra 40 yards of walking after legging 2 miles down the concrete Costco aisles?
11. With gas prices so high, sitting there idle, engine running, waiting for someone to wedge in their industrial sized toilet paper pack is doing several things:
a. Contributing to fuel shortage.
b. Polluting. Cough. Cough.
c. Two words: ozone layer.
d. Blocking three other cars at idle---multiply a., b., and c. by three times and move back five spaces.
e. Three more words: Parking Lot Rage.
12. This is scientific. People who shop at Costco eat more. They need the exercise.

Monday, October 30, 2006

For Whom Did Christ Die?

Yesterday in Romans 3:25 we saw that Christ was the means of satisfying God's righteous justice and wrath, that is, He was a propitiation for sins of the past. We might assume that He also took care of sins in the future.
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2
When the Apostle John wrote this, Christ had now died, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. We see something else here: Jesus provided a propitiation for the sins, not just of believers, but for the sins of the whole world. Does that mean that everyone receives that propitiation? No. In Romans 3:25 we saw that God only remitted the sin of those with faith in His blood.[1]

Does it seem clear to you from 1 John 2:2 that Christ was a propitiation for everyone, including unbelievers? And in light of Romans 3:25 that He satisfied His Father's righteous demands for everyone who ever lived? That seems like the plain reading of Scripture to me. And then I read these:

Jesus died for the ungodly.
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:6
Jesus died for all.
Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 1 Timothy 2:6 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. 1 Timothy 4:10
Jesus died for the unbeliever, the apostate, the one who has permanently turned away from Him.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them. 2 Peter 2:1
Jesus died for me.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Jesus died for you. Will you believe in Him alone for your salvation?

[1] "Remission" in Rom. 3:25, the word paresis, means "a passing over" or "overlooking." It hearkens back to the Passover in Exodus when the death angel passed over the home with the sacrificial blood of the lamb on the doorposts. God passes over those with faith in the blood of Christ.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

How Were People Saved Before Jesus Died?

Based on the chronology of the Old Testament, people lived c. 4000 years before Jesus died. Since Jesus died, we (us people) have lived around 1976 years. Before the flood, humans lived longer. They also had more children per family than what we do. I think we could safely say that twice as many human beings lived before Christ died than have since. How can we say that the substitionary death of Christ is the only way for anyone to be saved? Were they saved in a different way in the Old Testament times?

Romans 3:25 essentially point blank answers this question:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.
Before Christ those who trusted in the coming Messiah were saved by His grace. They believed God's Word regarding salvation, which is the everlasting Gospel (Rev. 14:6). Those who believed in the Messiah, according to the revelation God gave them, put faith in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and their sins were remitted, that is, disregarded until they were declared righteous upon Christ's death. The Lord's death and shed blood propitiated (satisfied) the righteous justice of God. God remitted or passed over the sins of Old Testament saints based upon His forbearance.

Let's say that I owed a huge debt to someone whom I could not repay. However, I knew someone who I was 100% sure would pay my debt at some point in the future, so I came to the one to whom I owed my debt and asked for mercy based upon the reputation of the one who could and would pay my debt. Old Testament saints owed a debt. Jesus could and would pay the debt. The Father would remit their sins through their faith in the future Messiah, His Son. He would forbear, holding back His righteous judgment, until the day that His justice was satisfied by Christ's debt payment on the cross.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Embracing Unfairness

I've been involved with young people in education long enough to have heard the sentence: "That isn't fair." I've also found that when kids say that it isn't "fair," that they actually mean: "That isn't equal." They want people to be treated equally and it isn't going to happen; neither should it. I leave that for you to think about, but lest I digress, you should know that God is perfect in His justice, fairness, and every other like category. I say all of that up front before I ask the theme question of this blog: When Did You Sin? Yes, When did I sin, too?

You begin thinking back. Um, when I was in first grade I remember....Oh, but I think it was when I was three when I was in the baby pool and....maybe the first time I touched the socket when mom said No! None of the above. You sinned around 6000 years ago. 6000? Yes. I've got some 'splainin' to do, but just remember when I do that, God is always just and always fair. We're the ones with our hand in the cookie jar.

The explanation centers on Romans 5:12:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.
OK, so which is it? Did one man sin or was it that all have sinned? Yes. So which is it? Yes. Yes, one man sinned and all have sinned. Death passed upon all men because when Adam sinned, everyone else sinned too. Every single person with human parents sinned in Adam when he sinned in the garden. The word "sinned" is aorist tense, that is, point action. Every single person sinned in the past at one finished point in time. The whole human race was ruined in Adam as its progenitor. 1 Corinthians 15:22 backs this up when it says:

In Adam all die.
Not because of Adam. In Adam. We all die in Adam. Bummer, huh? Let me explain further by considering Hebrews 7:8-10:

8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. 9 And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. 10 For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.

Anybody have a problem with Levi paying tithes to Melchisedec in Abraham? I didn't think so. Headship isn't such a big deal when it isn't talking about you. This passage does help us understand this issue, however. Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Abraham paid Melchisedec, so that when Abraham paid tithes, so did Levi. When Adam sinned in the garden, each of us was in his loins, so that we sinned too. That's the point here.

And you don't think it's fair. I think you need to get over it. We aren't the ones who determine fairness. God does. And besides this, you should consider all of 1 Corinthians 15:22:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
I don't like that in Adam I die. I do like that in Christ I will be made alive. You either like or dislike them both. If you reject the results of being "in Adam," then you reject the consequences of being "in Christ." All of us are Adam's race. You can become one of Christ's by placing your faith in Him. Romans 5:18, 19 says it like this:

18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

As Adam's sin was imputed to us because of the Fall, our sin was likewise imputed to Jesus on the cross and Jesus' righteousness is imputed to us when we receive Him. Because I have placed my faith in Him, not because of any merit of my own, but because of the finished work of Christ on the cross,

[I am] dead, and [my] life is hid with Christ in God, [so that] when Christ, who is [my] life, shall appear, then shall [I] also appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:3, 4

You know, when I think of it, that doesn't seem fair, that I could get all of that when I've not only sinned in Adam but a whole bunch otherwise. I think I'll just stick with unfairness after all.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Listening Skills

You SAT afficienados know that the "listening skills" category is on that test. Is there a direct correlation between brain aneurisms, blood pressure, strokes, hypertension, and listening? We have an attention deficit that dwarfs any national budget problems. It is ironic, but I don't remember it being like this. Here is another irony: in an age where young people don't pay attention, it isn't politically correct to scream. Young people don't like listening and they don't like being screamed at. What are we left with? Perhaps a mafia-esque kind of throaty whisper. That doesn't scare anyone any more either. It seems the only thing to get people to listen would be the very thing that would also get the attention of the Department of Homeland Security.

Do you ever feel like you are speaking to a different world in a different dimension of space and time? Your audience looks like they are listening to a different person. The person or people you are talking to look eager and enthused, but they unfortunately aren't in the same dimension of space and time as you. The communication barrier seems to be so high and wide that we need to tesseract to span it. We have an information superhighway, but regular conversation seems to be the Erie Canal. Point A to Point B seems to have some kind of advanced algebra between them or a Picasso painting. If I were only Scooby-Doo. If I were only a fly. Even a ball of string. Game-boy is too much to ask. All material cannot be made into stand-up comedy.

I know we've done this to ourselves. Actually, I think a whole lot of other people mainly did it. I had only a very small contribution. We've amused ourselves to death to go with the Neil Postman title. It isn't just the amusements. We've heaped the burden on the communicator. That puts a huge strain on school teaching, but school is required. Church can no way be like school and survive. England hasn't adapted so they have a huge unchurched population. Church must be entertainment at least. We've done that here in the U. S., explaining the mega-church movement. Want listeners? Got Powerpoint?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Lure of the Left

What makes the left so appealing? I'm not talking politics primarily. Stay here though.

Politics and theology relate more than most either understand or admit. I started writing this and divided things into theology and politics, and then deleted. I had to add a third category at least, that is, culture. You might add social, which is different than the three, and might make a fourth. The social has to do with how we solve unequal results in economics. There is a conservative way of dealing with those consequences and a liberal way. I'm going to leave it at three with this discussion. I personally don't separate the three. I believe a consistent world view sees life the same politically, theologically, and culturally. I have noticed that political liberals are usually consistently liberal in every category. Not conservatives. With them we find a few combinations of the three:
Conservative politically, liberal theologically, and liberal culturally.
Conservative politically, conservative theologically, and liberal culturally.
I'd like to think about the second category.

I'm a blogger. I write blogs. I read blogs. When I read those in the second category and then look at who they quote and who they link in their left or right hand columns, I find that they WILL NOT (or at least very seldom) quote or link to cultural conservatives. If they quote them, they normally do so with disdain. Usually, however, they simply ignore the cultural conservative.

One of the things that caught my attention on this was that I noticed the regular linking and quoting of a young man who was once a member of our church. We had to fire him as a teacher because of a virulent, destructive behavioural problem that affected his performance in a major way. He was extremely immature. After we helped him a whole lot, he pushed the eject button and moved away, looking for the greener grass. After moving away he trashed the church we recommended to him in another state. A year later he is a blogger. He spends hours and hours doing it. Through his techniques of blogging, he has developed a following in a matter of months. Understand that he has done nothing practically to merit respect, but now he is linked on major evangelical and "fundamental" blogs. They like what he has to say. He is conservative theologically and liberal culturally. None of these people linking him know his immaturity, his sin, his novice status, his bad testimony, or his character deficiencies, but they like what he writes on his blog, so he is a favorite. Culturally conservative men with good character and a history of faithfulness to God would never be quoted or linked by these evangelicals and "fundamentalists," but this young guy is. He takes the hottest cultural positions---booze OK, dancing OK, immodesty OK, most television and movies OK, and to him music is essentially amoral. He hardly misses a favored cultural liberalism among those theologically conservative. For that, he is mightily rewarded in blogdom. Even those who don't side with him, in every one of these cultural leftisms, will include him at their table. He has the compromise to make the connection.

I'm using this just as an example. I think it only represents something consistently occurring. This brings me to that original question.

What makes the cultural left so appealing? I added a word, but this was where I was always heading. Cultural liberalism. One could call the cultural left the lustful left. We all are allured by the dark side. It's fun. It feels good. It's easy. It actually allows a conservative either politically or theologically to fit into the world. You can get acceptance here (cultural liberalism) on earth and still get heaven (theological conservatism).

How do they justify all this? One interesting and amazing feature is that these guys often like to identify themselves with the Puritans and Spurgeon. Of course, the latter were cultural conservatives too. But it doesn't matter, "they're dead, so let's use them." They scoff at cultural conservatives like the apostates in 2 Peter 3, mocking while they walk after their own lusts, making space for their lifestyles. They don't argue Scripturally on these issues. They use mockery and ridicule, which are often effective, you may have noticed. The cultural liberal calls this unity. They say we shouldn't divide on cultural issues, only theological. They say that these cultural issues are second or third tier, so that those who separate on these issues are misguided and divisive. The cultural separatists, often called personal separatists, especially are spoiling their fun, what they call liberty to make it sound like something theological.

Much more could be said, but I understand the lure of the cultural left. I'm not going their way, but many, many are and in droves. My own opinion is that this is the major tool of apostasy today, this separation of theology from culture. The next generation of cultural liberals are theological ones.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I love the bald eagle among other bald things. You don't like hair growing out of your cue ball, do you? Some things are definitely better without hair, like leftovers in the refrigerator for one. Do you like hair sprouting on your cottage cheese? Perhaps I digress.

I guess I'll just tell you that I'm bald. You can stop giggling. And you, get that smirk off your face. Actually, I'm not completely bald. I have an island of hair near my forehead that is about done fooling anyone about coverage on the top. That I'm 6'3" has aided in keeping the charade going. Dwarfs know better now. I do warn anyone, however, wanting to check it out, that for their own safety they please wear some kind of eye protection against the reflected sunlight bouncing off its surface. I don't know why these two words just entered my head: Humpty Dumpty. You can park at the before-the-great-fall portion of his life.

I just read that bald is the new hair. Do you think so? Is someone with a weeble-like tuft of hair on the top better off cropping it, shaving it, buzzing it, clipping it, or hasta-la-vista-ing it? Is bald truly the new hair? Is the boldness of ridding myself of almost all of it better than keeping those crude reminders of days gone by? For trekkies, should I Picard my head? Or Jean Luc it? Or go Michael Jordan or Charles Barkley? Are there advantages to a blanket of hair wrapping around the sides with the fancy chrome bumper on top?

Remember Elisha. Remember the bears.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

On Paper or In Practice

Please don't confuse this with paper or plastic. That's, I'm sure, an important choice in some circles, maybe even more important than this blog topic, but those with that judgment would be wrong. I'm considering the connection or disconnection between belief and practice, or as some might say: Systematic Theology versus Practical Theology.

Everyone should know that Satan probably has the best and clearest doctrinal statement available. He probably could whip out a beautiful confession of faith. And based upon that, maybe he could even qualify for a mission board, since the doctrinal statement is a major feature of some boards for acceptance of candidates. What he wrote on paper, however, would strongly contradict what he actually believed and practiced. More is needed than a good theology.

This is a major point of the book of James, and expressed in James 2:14: "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?" The answer to the rhetorical question: It profits him nothing. So having a doctrinal statement doesn't do it for anyone, especially Satan.

A person, in other words, can talk and write a good theology. He can pen or type out beautiful prose with accompanying references. People can read the words of someone and really be edified by them, assuming that they are true and right, completely Biblical. Is what someone writes or says the key matter in theology? James contended against that. Other epistles do as well. God obviously wants us to live it. To God, theology is what we live. It must be right, granted, but if it is right theology lived, then God approves.

Mr. Jason Janz, the owner/operator of his online corporation (by his own admission, not a ministry) called SharperIron, recently wrote this (it is the entire quote) at his business site:
To link musical style with view of God would mean that all those who use contemporary worship have a flawed view of God and theology (in your view). I'm just not willing to go there. This would then make John Piper whacked out on his view of God. In my opinion, he has done more to exalt a lofty view of God than any Christian author in the last fifty years.

Mr. Janz employs faulty logic here to argue his position. First, someone can say he has a view of God, but if hath not works, his view is dead. One's view should affect one's behavior. I'm not talking sinless perfection, but at least characteristic lifestyle that matches the written theology. Second, someone who offers God "whacked out" worship might have a strong doctrinal statement, but how he worships would be a better judge of his view of God. Ananias and Sapphira probably could have written a pretty nice statement of faith, but God struck them dead. Several of the kings of Israel could rattle off God's standards, but worshiped God in the high places. Right God, wrong worship.

The first step to worshiping the wrong God is worshiping the wrong way. Giving God something out-of-line with His character impacts the worshipers more than a doctrinal statement. Someone can preach a strong message that can be ruined by a lifestyle decision. This disconnect between paper and practice is a sinister ploy of Satan. People have long liked a nice talk with a crummy walk. To them its the best of both worlds. You get to be right and yet still get what you want. You get honor-to-God and self-indulgence all in one neat package. Of course, they are incompatible, but that is the danger of all this or the beauty, depending on your viewpoint. The crafty theologian with the orthodox and well-worded creed, who offers fleshly lusts which war against the soul, is everyone's favorite theologian. No wonder.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Gone Until At Least Friday

For blog readers checking back for something new---I'm in South Dakota with my son, preaching at a conference. We are quite busy, although I do have WIFI for this little note. I'll probably write something on Friday. Be well, one and all.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Careful Exegesis?

Kevin Bauder, the president of Central Theological Seminary in Plymouth, MN, who writes a regular column on Central's internet site which is normally posted at an online forum called SharperIron, recently authored an article, "The Flock and the Fold: A Paradigm for Unity," with this first line:

Careful theologians do not build their doctrine of the church merely around the use of the word ekklesia.

If writers want to gain attention with an arresting statement, he put the cuffs on me with this one. I couldn't go on without wagging my head in amazement.

The doctrine of the church is called ecclesiology after that Greek word ekklesia. By making his statement, Bauder opened up a small nation to drive through with his ecclesiology. One could get a sufficient knowledge of Scriptural teaching on the church by studying how the word "church" is used in its context. If someone wants to understand the church then he really would want to let God tell him what the church is by looking at the passages where He uses that word.

What he will find is that in a large majority of the usages of ekklesia, the Bible is referring to a particular assembly of immersed believers. In pre-NT extrabiblical literature, ekklesia is an assembly. People in that day would have understood it as an assembly. Therefore, we take the meaning of that word derived from how it was used by men contemporary with the New Testament and by the NT authors, and we build our doctrine of the church on that. Men were called out of their homes for public gathering. That meeting was an ekklesia---visible, physical, and local. Other passages which are not clearly referring to a church are interpreted in light of those texts which do mention it. We let the Bible formulate our disposition about the word.

The chapters and verses of Scripture that use "church" are about "church." The references without a mention of "church" do not guide those which do have the term. In the next two sentences of his essay, Bauder writes:

The New Testament uses many images or word pictures to reveal truth about the church. One of the most instructive is the image of the flock, found in John 10. It occurs in one of the few parables in John’s gospel.

John 10 doesn't have the word "church." To start, one can only determine that "flock" of chapter ten of John is "church" by means of speculation. We shouldn't speculate to get our doctrine. Doctrine based on speculation is at best Speculative Theology, not even a close relative of Biblical or Systematic Theology. Bauder isn't being a careful theologian when he bases a doctrine on his own speculation, even if he is president of a seminary.

Beginning with a predisposition based upon what the Bible actually says about "church," one reads John 10. A church is made up of immersed believers (Acts 2:41). The "flock" and "fold" of chapter ten of John relate to salvation (John 10:8, "he shall be saved"). John 10 is a soteriological passage, not an ecclesiological one. Jesus' sheep are secure in His fold (John 10:28, 29). A church member can be loosed from the assembly (Matthew 18:15-18). If the church is a fold, then there is a contradiction between John 10 and Matthew 18. Water baptism is not a requirement for entrance into the "fold," but it is for the "church" (besides Acts 2:41, also consider 1 Corinthians 12:13). At the most, John 10 shows how that future members of the church are converted---through Christ alone. We conclude that a careful theologian will not include John 10 into his ecclesiology.

Why does Dr. Bauder bring the church into John 10? That view supports his predisposition about the church, which doesn't come from passages with the word ekklesia, but from theologies written by reformed Catholics. John 10 isn't ecclesiological. When someone makes salvation the entrance into the church by reading in his own opinion into John 10, he isn't doing careful exegesis. He's only giving you uninformed speculation.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Which Comes First? THEOLOGY or LIFESTYLE

Attempting to persuade Judah to trust in God and stop trusting in Egypt, in chapter 28 Isaiah revealed the dire condition of the political and religious leadership of her northern neighbor Israel. In describing her prophets and priests, he shows how their self-indulgent lifestyle affected their vision, judgment, and teaching (vv. 7-9). Their desire for gratifying themselves overshadowed their carefulness with God's Word. Which came first? Their theology or their lifestyle?

Peter warns of an enemy in his second epistle. It is an foe who attacks the Bible. This opposition says Scripture is a collection of fables. He also scoffs at the second coming of Christ. Peter informs in 2 Peter 3:3 that the enemy is "walking after his own lusts." He says this mocker of the return of the Lord "walk[s] after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise[s] government" (2 Peter 2:10). Which came first? His theology or his lifestyle?

In 1 Peter the apostle warns that "fleshly lusts . . . war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11). Lusts affect the soul. Our thinking can change based upon our feelings. Instead of walking by faith, we can walk by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Evil companions can corrupt good behavior (1 Cor. 15:33). We can change what we believe and practice based on our desire for certain friends, particular things, or craved relationships. Or is it the other way around? Our theology came first--a weak one that led to bad practices, or a strong one that led to the right way of living. Did it or didn't it?

Early in Israel's history there was no king, so every man did that which was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Without a controlling legal authority, men did what they wanted instead of what God said. When no one is there to take a stand on God's Word, people will just run around living for the gusto. On the other hand, leadership folds from the pressure exerted by those they lead, clamoring for bread and circuses.

The world is getting worse. Theology is changing. Standards drop. This hasn't come because of better exegesis. Instead of liberties being about God, they're now about us. The popular interpretation and application of Scripture is the one that allows the most self-indulgence. The best church is the one that makes us feel the best. The listener becomes the sovereign of the sermon. The most popular theologians and preachers have some hierarchy of truths that dismisses worldliness and practical holiness and segregates the truth of the inward from the reality of the outward. So which comes first? Theology or Lifestyle?