Sunday, January 31, 2016

Capitulation to Meaning Obliviousness: A Case of Berkeley and Oakland

Last Saturday I joined my wife in taking my youngest daughter down to Oakland for orchestra rehearsal at Laney College with the Berkeley Youth Orchestra.  We had three parts to our plan, the first being to stop in at a bakery in Oakland we'd not visited, walk around Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland, and then sit in a downtown McDonalds to work while we share a single mocha frappuccino and large french fry.  Believe me when I say this kind of plan in an urban area is an adventure.

We started with Arizmendi Lakeshore in Oakland, which is a cooperative.  Have you ever been to a bakery that is a cooperative?  Growing up, I understood farm coops, perhaps the Grange, but there is nothing like the cooperative bakery.  I had already been to a cooperative bakery in Berkeley, the Cheeseboard.  To begin, these two places, Arizmendi and Cheeseboard, make a good product.  In the end, people won't eat there if they don't like the food.  The employees would cooperate alright -- in mutual bankruptcy.

I've talked to the participants of cooperation in Berkeley and they would say the beauty of their endeavor is found in mutual ownership, that is, when everyone owns, each does better work. Conceivably every person working knows that he could profit more with greater contribution to the cooperative.  I think this concept can succeed in certain local only situations.  Everyone else right there provides accountability.   However, overall, the idea is a fail, because in general, if everyone shares equally in the profit, some by nature tend to slough off, like they did when the common store concept flopped in 1607 Jamestown.  You reach a tipping point when takers outnumber producers. But I digress.

Arizmendi leaves a tiny area for customers to sit, ala Paris, with two rows of tiny circular tables crammed into a small front area.  I squeezed into a spot and waited and watched the multitude as my wife chose our samples.   Facing the front window in the second row, I was wedged next to four millennials on my left, who conversed about their jobs in the state school system, sprinkled with profanity.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, entering Arizmendi, looked the same.  If you don't know the geography of the East Bay here, Oakland next door neighbors Berkeley, and it felt like Berkeley.  It can't be a coincidence that everyone looked the same.  What I'm saying is that you could see, feel, and hear a culture there, it's very own culture.  I can also testify that I have witnessed this same culture -- identical -- in Greenwich Village in New York City, in San Francisco, in Portland, Maine, in Santa Cruz, and even in Park City, Utah.  I just saw it in a short documentary of Burlington, VT, the political home of Bernie Sanders.  It looks, sounds, and even smells the same. As much as people laugh at Bernie Sanders's hair, a lot on some parts of his head and not so much on others, it reflects his culture.  Yes, Bernie Sanders's hair signals a message to his followers.

If everything means nothing, how does everything look the same in the above mentioned places?   Uniformity does mean something.  If someone dropped you down into the middle of Tehran, you would look around and know that you were someplace with great homogeneity.  I see the same thing in modern evangelicalism today.  A culture has emerged and then formed in evangelicalism.  It is not biblical culture, but it is a distinct look and feel.  You could step into an evangelical meaning and recognize many similarities from Hartford to Seattle.  Evangelicals will say that none of this matters. It's all non-essential, and so non-essential that it looks like you must have it everywhere.  It's not essential, but it is everywhere.

By the way, I'm not arguing against a culture.  I'm not even arguing against homogeneity.  I'm saying that culture does matter to people as seen in their absolute conformity to it.  They should stop calling it a non-essential, when it's obviously essential.  Labeling it non-essential means tolerate it even if it is essential to "me." The folks in Oakland and Berkeley want to express their solidarity with a particular point of view and you see it and hear it and feel it.  Everyone really does know this.  When you are in Berkeley, you know you are in Berkeley.  Big time.

Let me throw some words at you.  Bohemian.  Shabby chic.  Beat culture.  Folk.  Hippie.  You, like, get my drift, I'm sure.  It's very similar to what you would have witnessed in the rise of the proletariat in the Russian revolution and even quite similar to the cultural revolution of Mao or Che Guevara.  It is a protest culture against the man, against industrialization, and postmodern in nature -- the noble savage, the idealized outsider not yet corrupted by civilization.  Modernism didn't work for them, so they live in a constant state of protest.  The various pieces to the costume exude the meaning.

What you see in Berkeley and Oakland does mean something.  It expresses a particular point of view, a world view, that is quite uniform.  As much as Bernie Sanders emphasizes democracy, which he sees the same as socialism, you don't get the kind of difference you might expect where supposedly you are allowed choices.  How could everyone get a choice and then turn out the same?

Two millennial women met up at Arizmendi, friends, joined later by two brothers.  One woman taught the disabled and one man taught freshmen in high school.  They had graduated and launched out to change the world.  Reality might have been smacking them in the face as evidenced by exhaustive complaining and whining, the educators employing four letter words, identical ones as both nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, the same two or three again and again.

The expletives characterize the culture.  The adherents punctuate their dissatisfaction with foul words in harmony with their appearances.  They spoke about nothing.  Their conversation was perpetual superficiality -- shared grief and frustration and exasperation, or what Solomon called vanity.  The culture doesn't function without debilitation and a mythical boogieman.  They are entrenched victims where real solutions would eliminate their reason for existence.  The uniform expresses their misery in a never ending struggle for utopian society.  For now, they share pain with no real hope for shared pleasure.  They find pleasure in sharing similar struggles.

Christianity once too expressed its own meaning, possessed its own sacred symbols of salvation and sanctification.  Now the false front Christian embraces the culture of the world, attempting to harmonize its message with the disparate expression of paganism.  By identifying with the various forms of utopianism, Christians have joined the hopelessness and vanity of the world.  They defend their capitulation with meaning obliviousness.  They "don't know what you're talking about."  Many, if not most, do, but they play dumb like a petulant primary buoyed by superficial popularity and doctrinal ambiguity.  They have embraced the uncertainty of postmodernism and shared its expression.

I hear evangelicals and fundamentalists complain about the vulgarity of Donald Trump and sometimes in a hostile way.  They long ago embraced that very culture, the Trump culture, and still promote its perpetuation.  The culture shapes the affections which generates a new doctrine and practice.  They are the spiritual enablers of Trumpism, which I don't see that much different than Cruzism.  Evangelicals capitulated to church growth, even professing Calvinists, and out of desperation to remain relevant in a lost world.  They already sold their birthright for a mess of pottage.

The people most concerned with meaning in the loudest way denounce the importance of meaning in culture.  They push comics and movies and rock music and whatever form of entertainment as indispensable to Christian liberty and the grace of God.  They are the apologists of Charismaticism and deficient discernment.  They too have trashed our culture and then defended those who have joined them, attacking those who criticize.  They should sit down in silence in the mess they spawned, luxuriate in the the postmodern soup they have brewed.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Southern Baptist Evangelism and Unregenerate Evangelicals

I receive in the mail the Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary Messenger, the free periodical of this Southern Baptist seminary.  The Winter 2015 issue was entitled: "Focus on Evangelism."  On page 5, the "Practical Missions Report" indicates that all seminary students at the institution between August 2015 and November 2015 witnessed to 1,725 people.  That does not sound like all that many in terms of the number of students enrolled at the seminary, although one can be glad that some evangelism is going on.  Followed by this not especially high number, the striking figure follows that of these 1,725 people witnessed to 185 made "professions of faith," according to the magazine.  This practice of 1 in 10 or higher of the people witnessed to making what the periodical calls "professions of faith"--that is, repeating the "sinner's prayer"--is something that has been relatively consistent in this Southern Baptist periodical, as I have noticed over the course of quite a number of issues.  On page 9, one student testifies that he has seen "more than 54,000 precious people ask Jesus to save them, over 1,000 this year alone."  On page 19, the seminary promotes a vision of having Southern Baptist pastors and other church leaders "share the gospel with at least one person per week."  This terribly low goal would be considered "revival," and the president of the seminary invited "all 46,000 Southern Baptist pastors to join us in sharing the Gospel an average of once a week . . . [i]f only one in 20 of those hearers prayed to receive Christ, that would be more than 200,000 professions of faith in Christ!  Friends, we are going to take our nation back!"  None of the statistics given in the magazine indicate how many of the people who said the sinner's prayer were baptized or continued stedfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers (Acts 2)--probably because the number was very, very low.  Nowhere in the magazine is there the slightest warning about false professions.

What is striking for anyone who seeks to practice Biblical evangelism is that these statistics are astonishingly high.  There is no evidence that anywhere close to 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 of the people Christ or the Apostles preached to was genuinely converted.  Nor do I know anyone who practices Biblical evangelism in the United States that sees conversion statistics such as these, that is, if conversion is defined as a lost person, enabled by God's grace, coming to genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  If, however, "professions of faith" are defined as manipulating people to repeat a "sinner's prayer," then 1 in 10, at least in certain socio-economic strata of America, is not surprising, nor especially difficult.  It can be done without any help from God at all.

Statistics such as these indicate that Hyles-type "evangelism" is, sadly, not restricted to certain segments of fundamental, independent Baptists.  Such "evangelism" is rampant in Southern Baptist evangelicalism and in many other evangelical circles.  For instance, Bill Bright's Four Spiritual Laws was explicitly developed by a salesman with salesmanship in mind.  The only major difference is that Hyles-people typically do more salesmanship than one person a week, the goal for the Southern Baptist pastors.

Just as Hyles-style salesmanship disguised as "evangelism" has led to huge numbers of unregenerate people in Hyles-churches--explaining the large amounts of sexual immorality and other perversions at such religious centers--so Southern Baptist salesmanship "evangelism" has led to huge numbers of unconverted evangelicals and unconverted Southern Baptist pastors and other religious leaders, just as huge numbers of non-Baptist evangelicals are unconverted.

A 1976 Master of Divinity thesis at the Southern Baptist flagship Southern Seminary by Noel W. Hollyfield, Jr., is illuminating. Of diploma students, 100% knew that God existed without any doubt, that Jesus was doubtless the divine Son of God, that He would return to earth some day, and that there is a life after death. 96% believed miracles happened just like the Bible says that they did, that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that He walked on water, and that the devil actually exists. Of final year Master of Divinity students, only 65% knew that God existed without any doubt, 63% said that Jesus was doubtless the divine Son of God (the percentage that believed in His theanthropic Person as the only begotten of the Father was certainly lower than this; "divine Son of God" is easily twisted into neo-orthodoxy and liberalism), 56% believed He would return to earth some day, and 67% believed in life after death. Only 40% believed that miracles happened just like the Bible says they did, 33% believed He was virgin born, 44% believed He walked on water, and 42% believed that the devil exists. The figures grew even worse for Master of Theology and Doctorate students; of these, only 63% were sure that God existed, the same percentage had no doubt Jesus was the "divine Son of God," 53% believed He would return to earth some day, 53% believed in life after death, 37% believed miracles happened just as the Bible declares, 32% believed He was virgin born, 37% believed the devil existed, and 22% believed Jesus walked on water.

The most notable fact about these (yes, now somewhat dated) statistics is not that theological modernism was being taught at Southern Seminary–it is the fact that such a high percentage of those who think they are called to preach, pastor, etc. in the Southern Baptist Convention are able to be convinced that such fundamental Christian doctrines are false. Only a lost man will ever deny the resurrection, and other doctrines of the gospel (1 Cor 15:2, 14; Gal 1:8-9, etc.).  The fact that these Southern Baptist leaders are able to come out of their seminary as modernists shows that, going into the school, of the 96% or so that were orthodox, very, very many of them were orthodox but unconverted. Why? Not because the Southern Baptist Convention does not have orthodox doctrinal statements, but because of weak or false evangelistic methodology that confuses the repetition of the "sinner's prayer" with, drawn by the Spirit of God, coming to Christ in repentance and faith for justification, sanctification, and eternal life. And if a majority of prospective Southern Baptist pastors were, in the 1970s, unconverted, what is the situation among their church members? And what is the likelihood that the Convention's evangelistic methods have drastically improved since then?  What percentage of Southern Baptists is unconverted now? And who is to think that other evangelical denominations do not have similar percentages of orthodox but unconverted members? The sea-change in evangelistic methodology from the 18th century to today–which has influenced fundamentalism as well as evangelicalism– has produced a terrible epidemic of false professions. In conclusion, it is very likely that the average Southern Baptist and the average evangelical is lost, in large part because of corrupt substitution of salesmanship for genuine Biblical evangelism, just as the average member of a Hyles-church may be lost. (That most Southern Baptists are lost has even been recognized by some SBC leaders.)  Indeed, the average evangelical pastor may even be lost.  The "evangelism" of Mid-America Baptist Seminary will never take the nation back--instead, it will produce vast numbers of false professions and hardened hearts who think Christ "didn't work" because of the false and confused gospel presented to the lost by undoubtedly well-meaning evangelicals.

Readers of this blog are encouraged to pray and then to witness to far more than one person a week. They should work with their churches to preach to every single person in their community through public evangelism and through going house to house, to practice Biblical evangelism that seeks to point the lost to Christ so that they come to Him in repentant faith, rather than manipulating them to repeat a "sinner's prayer," and to have specific resources to give to the lost evangelicals that they are likely to run across as they practice Biblical evangelism (and specific resources for other types of lost people).  A survey of the history of how we got to this terrible point in evangelical evangelism is also worth the study (see here and here). Readers should also only consider partnering with other churches in training men for the ministry at institutions that recognize the severe problems with modern salemanship "evangelism" and the epidemic of false professions (while still maintaining a zeal for genuine Biblical evangelism).  Finally, they should be very careful in dealing with evangelicals or Hyles-type fundamentalists that wish to join their churches, so that they can, as much as possible, only accept into their membership genuinely converted people.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Problem among Independent Baptists with the Gospel, pt. 2

Pre-Part.  Part One.

The gospel isn't a range of options between a and b.  It's either a or b.  It's not one or the other that contradict each other, that both could be right. There is no "both could be right" with the gospel.   Offering a range is convenient for holding together a coalition, but it misses the goal.  If it were darts, the dart hits wall, misses the entire board.  Only in some form of Christianity is that a win.  It doesn't work for God.  He isn't glorified and it is messing around with eternity.  Missing a dartboard is missing a dartboard.  To use an educational metaphor, heaven doesn't grade on a curve.  You're in or you're out.

Fundamentalism started, the story goes, because the line should have been drawn at least to the fundamentals.  Belief could not be allowed to slip past a certain minimum, like pulling back to Helm's Deep in Tolkien's Two Towers. Christianity retreats to its food, water, and ammunition, and stands for a defense of what it will take to survive.  I don't see that strategy in the Bible, but I'm just reporting.  I surmise that line was supposed to be the gospel, so I would look for at least the gospel to be defended.  I almost exclusively don't see it.

I see two main parts to what is happening with fundamentalism:  Size and Survival.  A wide range to the gospel, sort of like a wide river of God's love, can include more people.  Politicians call it a bigger tent.  Evangelicalism claimed to be saving Christianity from liberalism.  Fundamentalism, I believe, sees itself as saving Christianity in this way too.

When I talk to people in false religions, I know I often say to them, "we can't both be right."  If two beliefs contradict, they can't both be right.  They can both be wrong.  The gospel doesn't have the range that fundamentalism is giving it.  These are two different messages and both are being accepted.  Mostly they hold to the wrong message.  Many who do not hold to that same position allow for it as within the acceptable range.  Eternal souls and God's glory are at stake in this.

I don't fellowship with a lot of so-called Christian religion -- Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Church of Christ, Greek Orthodox -- because they don't preach a true gospel.  It's an easy call.  The threshold here is the gospel.  Even with Charismatics, I don't fellowship, most of which I've noticed don't believe eternal security.   Why do we include those who fall short of a true gospel?  Shouldn't we start thinking of this as the same, even among independent Baptists, if we are trying to preserve the gospel?


John ended his gospel by saying in 20:31,

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

The gospel of John was written so that people would believe Jesus is the Christ.  John is an apologetic or a kind of evangelistic tract to persuade people to believe Jesus is the Christ.  "The Christ" is left out or at least redefined or dumbed down in most of modern independent Baptist fundamentalism.  This has invaded every circle.

If someone believes that Jesus is the Christ, then he believes Jesus is the Lord, just like Paul wrote in Romans 10:9-13, which the presentations almost always miss.  They quote the verse and proceed to miss the point. This all relates to authority and the kingdom and Jesus as King, Jesus as the Son of Man.  If Jesus' reign doesn't change in someone's life, even though the person accepts Jesus as Savior, then he has missed it.  This is left out or distorted.

Some include what I just wrote above, and some leave it out or twist it.  Some who include the above don't separate over exclusion of it.  They act like not including it remains in an acceptable range, as I stated above.  This permissibility of something less than Jesus as Christ and then less than "believing" Jesus is Christ, what true faith is---the intellectual, volitional, and emotional aspects, all three---truly, scripturally defining faith, is part of changing the gospel.  It is not keeping the truth, which occurs with belief, teaching, and practice.

Most of you readers know that independent Baptists have been rife with methods and approaches that have distorted the doctrine of salvation, turning evangelism into a type of salesmanship.  The end of all of that has been either perversion or amazing superficiality.  Some might call it a lack of precision or carefulness, but what is being preached excludes necessary elements, enough to make it wrong. It's like when someone tells a lie because he does't tell the whole truth.  You can leave parts out of the story so that it isn't a true representation.  This is what has happened, and now those who leave those parts out are considered not enough wrong to exclude from fellowship.  Some of have turned to all out defense mode on their distortion and it hasn't mattered.

What John said was necessary to believe is left out.  Is that fine?  Does that matter?  Does it affect fellowship?  Why is it being left out? 


Almost no one today really separates over the gospel.  About ten years ago, we wanted to go a little further out from where we are in order to evangelize, so I called a Baptist church in the area to see if it was necessary even to go there.  If there is a church there that is preaching a true gospel, actually evangelizing, I wouldn't go there.  However, my phone call went about how it often goes with churches I might call.

I asked the man what he believed about repentance.  That should be a simple question for a pastor. When you start in Matthew, Jesus preached repentance, and if you read the gospels, it's not hard to understand.  The man said to me, "Wow, repentance, that's a controversial subject."  I wasn't finished with him right there, but I was very suspect already.  He would not define it.   He gave me some options about what it could mean, several, none of which were actually what it meant.

My position about the above type of church was that it was not preaching the gospel to that area.  I treated the pastor's church like it was not a church.  Maybe it was in a sense, because there may have been saved people there, but for purposes of evangelism, I wanted his church to stop preaching what it preached.  Today, men wouldn't even say something like what I said to him to someone, because they wouldn't want to be an offense.  What is the offense, saying a false gospel is wrong or the false gospel? 

When I included the doctrinal statements in part one, I didn't include some prominent churches and pastors.  It was already pretty long with the samples provided.  For instance, one circle of fundamental, independent Baptists relates to Falls Baptist Church of Menomonee Falls, WI, Baptist College of Ministry, and the Van Gelderens.  The Van Gelderens champion Keswick theology among fundamentalists.  The Van Gelderens represent a segment of independent Baptists in understanding of salvation.  In one sense, the bad statements that I quoted in part one would be defended in a very careful way by what you might read from John Van Gelderen at his website in a three part series on repentance (part one, part two, part three).   There are so many things wrong with his presentation that it would take a booklet to answer it.  It is very confusing and contradictory to itself in numbers of ways.

You could read the presentation of John Van Gelderen yourself at the links provided, which is believed by Wayne and Jim too and leads the Holiness Conference movement.  It is a relatively new understanding of salvation in the history of Christianity and Baptist history.  They take passages and shape the meaning of these into some key components to leave out certain necessities.  Repentance is a "change of mind" only.  Repentance is a turning (in the mind) from sin, but with the real emphasis on "to Christ."  When they say "Christ," they mean Savior and saving a person from the penalty of sin.  Van Gelderen sets up a strawman that says that "turning from sin" sounds like "doing good" or "turning from committing sins."

Sometimes in the midst of a statement or a presentation, you might read something that is better than others or at least adds something that others do not have, at the same time falling short of what it should say.   Temple Baptist Church, Crown College, and Clarence Sexton say the truth about salvation in what I've read in their short doctrinal statements, but they miss some important scriptural components in their explanation.  You don't leave knowing and then believing in the Christ.  They will use the word "repent" or "repentance," but it is barely mentioned and not explained.

I wanted to give Temple, Crown, and Sexton the benefit of the doubt on this, so I zoomed through a presentation by Sexton on the front page of the church website, which directs to the youtube, "How to Lead Someone to Christ."  When he gets to the end of this (about the 39 minute mark), he leads someone in a prayer, and that prayer is "to ask for forgiveness of sins, for Jesus to come into his life and be his Savior."  This is what salvation is, and I think this would be mirrored by a majority of independent Baptists.   On top of this, in 2011, you have the following unrepentant association of Clarence Sexton with the work of Jack Schaap.

Why show the Sexton picture with Schaap?  Sexton had Schaap to his Baptist Friends conference, along with Jack Trieber, whom I quoted in part one.  Sexton is going to be a major part of The Gospel Proclaimed Conference at Tri-City Baptist Church in Chandler, AZ, Mike Sproul, pastor with many other well-known fundamentalists.  Is there really so little different from all of these?  Is this independent Baptist fundamentalism?

The Gospel Proclaimed Conference as an idea sounds pretty good to me.  It does remind me of our Word of Truth Conference for 2015-2017, each year covering the gospel again, the first year already in the books.  However, the Arizona conference would probably be better named, The Gospel Confused Conference.  It's not bringing clarity to this situation.  Maybe they are differentiating themselves from Roman Catholics, but that isn't going to be good enough.  I've got to think that Mike Harding is very, very good among the gathered crowd, that is, he hits the dartboard, but does everyone there proclaiming hit it with him?

Maybe there isn't much difference between Sproul and Sexton.  He's at least not distinguishing himself from him.  The Tri-City website doesn't give many clues.  For instance, Sexton is ending the conference, given the preeminent position in the conference, and his session is "Why Both Evangelism AND Discipleship?"  That topic is rife for problems among independent Baptists.  Some would say, "Independent Baptists don't emphasize discipleship, ala the Navigators in evangelicalism, so this is important."  Maybe that's true, but what about the idea that you can evangelize a person, he can be saved, and he isn't yet a disciple, because that comes later?  Does it matter where someone comes down on that subject?  When a person asks for forgiveness and for Jesus to come into his life as Savior, that's the evangelism part, then what is the discipleship part?  These are bigger gospel fish to fry.  Is that person being "discipled" even saved yet?

Let's look at The Gospel Proclaimed in the best possible way to see if it works.  Clarence Sexton now repudiates Schaap for sexual immorality.  OK, good.  But what about the gospel?  He never saw a difference there, ever.  Or, Clarence Sexton now says the Schaap gospel is bad, and says he's all for repentance.  Lay hands on no man suddenly.  How can someone be wrong on the gospel for decades, say he's with you, and then be in the biggest slot in your conference?  You, my friend, are confusing the gospel.

Independent Baptists have a problem with the gospel.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Problem among Independent Baptists with the Gospel

Last week, I wrote a snoozer post on destructive fellowship in fundamentalism, and emphasized the accommodation or capitulation to something less than a true gospel or a false gospel.  My point was that the gospel must come into consideration for fellowship with fundamentalism if fundamentalism is even fundamentalism.  If fundamentalism is supposed to be militant, it better get a grasp of what is serious.  We're talking about what would be or should be considered to be a fundamental.  I knew I would follow up that sleepy one with this Nyquil-like exploration of the theme for that post by looking at the gospel or plan of salvation on independent Baptist websites.  I will either look at the gospel part of the website or salvation in the doctrinal statement, so here we go.

I am not going to go out of my way to look for the worst possible examples.  I'm going to be somewhat random about this to show the reality of the problem.  Listen, I don't like churches using bad music and wearing immodest dress and allowing or even promoting worldly entertainment, but we're truly missing it if we can't be provoked by the widespread existence of an altered gospel.  I'm going to look at a few high profile churches, but I decided to go to David Cloud's Way of Life church directory to reveal the magnitude of the problem.  I will not know any of these people, so it won't be personal.

Starting with California, my state, I chose the first church one on the list, Hopewell Baptist Church in Alameda.  Here's the section on salvation from the doctrinal statement:

We believe that salvation is the gift of God brought to man by grace and received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose precious blood was shed on Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins (John 1:12; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-10; I Peter 1:18-19) and that in order to be saved, sinners must be born again; that the new birth is a new creation in Christ Jesus; that it is instantaneous and not a process.

Here's the last part of its "heaven" presentation:

4) We Can Be Forgiven Now
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” -Romans 10:13
If Jesus was willing to take you just as you are, wouldn’t you be willing to take Him, ‘just as He is’? If so, just ask Him now...

Please Make This Your Own Prayer
Dear Lord, I know I’ve sinned and I’m sorry. I believe you are the Son of God. You were killed, buried and rose again to pay the penalty of my sin. I now put my trust in You and accept You as my personal Saviour. Please come into my heart and save me. Take me to Heaven when I die. Help me to live for you, in Jesus' name, Amen.

I went to the next state, Colorado, and chose the first church, Elmwood Baptist Church, and it's section on "The Gospel":

HERE’S WHAT TO DO. Just simply respond to God’s offer! 
Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 
You can accept God’s gift right now! 
Just by praying a simple prayer, admitting and agreeing with God that you’re a sinner, and asking Jesus Christ to take away your sin and be your personal Savior! That’s it! The Bible says so. . . 
Romans 10:9-10 – “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” 
God promises that if you will do this, He will save you and give you eternal life!

I moved on then to Connecticut where the first site was New Hope Baptist Church in Torrington, CT, where you'll read this in their doctrinal statement on sin and salvation:

We believe all men were born with an inherited sin nature received from our common ancestor, Adam. We believe that because of his nature, man is a sinner by choice, and he is totally incapable of reforming himself or ceasing from his sin by his own power. We believe the only hope of deliverance for man is a total change of mind (repentance) concerning his sinful condition and inability to change it, and a turning to Jesus Christ as the only Saviour. We believe that only through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the Cross can a man be delivered from his sin. We believe that all those who reject Jesus Christ as their Saviour are already condemned to an eternity in the Lake of Fire (Genesis 5:1-5; Acts 4:19; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:10-23; Romans 5:6-12; Romans 6:23; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-6; Revelation 20:11-14).

The same church has their gospel presentation under the tab "Jesus" and the title "Why Jesus Matters," and this is how it ends:

Going to Heaven isn’t about being good or religious. It’s about trusting Christ alone. Call out to Him, ask Him to come into your life, save you from sin, and give you His gift of eternal life. It’s the best decision you will ever make. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). 
If after reading this you accepted Jesus Christ, please let us know below! We would love to rejoice with you!

Cloud's site had only one church in Washington, DC, the next area or state, Northwest Baptist Church, and here's the last part of its plan of salvation:

God wants you to believe His Word and receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

If you will . . .

. . . then, in simple faith believing, pray and ask God to forgive you of your sins and ask Jesus to save you from your sins by becoming your personal Savior.  Simply pray a prayer like the following:

"Dear Lord, I know I am a sinner, and I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins.  I ask you to forgive me of my sins, and I ask Jesus Christ to come into my heart and to save me from my sins.  In Jesus' name.  Amen."

If you received Jesus Christ as your Savior, please call or write us and let us know.  We would like to be able to pray with you and to give you information to help you in your new life as a Christian.

I started with California, then went to Colorado, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia -- four random samples, picking the first church in each state on David Cloud's church directory.  I'm not saying that Cloud would approve of these statements, just that I didn't go somewhere to search for something bad.  Cloud has written a lot against easy-prayerism.

Here's how Paul Chappell ends the plan of salvation part of his website at Lancaster Baptist Church and West Coast Baptist College:

4 Believe and Receive Christ 
In order to have a relationship with God and an eternal home in Heaven, we must stop trusting ourselves, our works, and our religions, and place our full trust in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sin and eternal life. In Roman 10:13 the Bible says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That is a promise directly from God that if you will pray to Him, confess that you are a sinner, ask Him to forgive your sins, and turn to Him alone to be your Saviour; He promises to save you and give you the free gift of eternal life. You can make that decision today by praying from your heart, something like this: 
Dear God, I know that I am separated from you because of sin. I confess that in my sin, I cannot save myself. Right now, I turn to you alone to be my Saviour. I ask you to save me from the penalty of my sin, and I trust you to provide eternal life to me.
You'll never regret that decision! If you have just trusted Christ, we would love to know about your decision and give you a Bible and some other materials to help you learn more about that new relationship!

Here's what Jack Trieber says at North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara in their "Bible Way to Heaven" page:

We must believe in Jesus. 
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 
To believe on Jesus Christ as Savior means to believe that He died for you, believe that He paid the price for your sin, and believe that He is the only way to Heaven. You can express your belief on Jesus by calling on Him in prayer. 
Let us help you word a prayer. (Realize it's not mere words that save, but your faith in Jesus Christ.) 
"Dear Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I believe that you died on the cross and paid the penalty for my sin. I believe that you rose from the dead three days later. I am placing my faith in you alone to forgive my sin and save me. Thank you for giving me eternal life, in Jesus' name, AMEN." 
If you made a decision to trust Christ as Savior after reading this, we would like to know that we might pray for you and send you some more information.

R. B. Ouellette at First Baptist Church of Saginaw, MI ends his "Going to Heaven?" page with the following:

Will you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? Will you rely on Him and Him alone to forgive your sin and give you everlasting life in Heaven? If you will, say the following prayer to the Lord (remember, to do anything other than receiving Christ is to reject Him). 
Say a prayer and trust Christ now“Lord, I admit that I am a sinner. I don’t deserve to go to Heaven. But I believe that you sent your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for my sin. I trust Him, and Him alone to forgive my sin, to become my Savior, and to take me to Heaven when I die. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.” 
In John 6:37 Jesus says “…Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.”  If you sincerely accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, He promises to let you into Heaven when you die. He promises that He will not under any circumstances (“in no wise”) cast you out. That’s the best news in the world!

The articles of faith of Pensacola Christian College on salvation read:

We believe that Christ’s blood, shed on Calvary, is the only Atonement for man’s sin (1 Pet. 1:18–19, 1 John 1:9, John 14:6). We believe that salvation is a free gift of God for “whosoever will”; it is by grace, through faith, plus nothing, and believers are eternally secure. Salvation is received only by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work. “Whosoever will” may come to Christ; God does not pre-elect persons to heaven or hell.

I'm just reporting here.  I know there are places where you get an accurate gospel presentation, presenting a true gospel.  However, it is a mish-mash out there, where one is indistinguishable from another, all mixing together.  Those with a biblical presentation joining with those with a false or at least inadequate one.

What missing above?  Repentance.  Lordship.  You don't get a sufficient understanding of Jesus Christ.  Faith is less than saving faith.  The plan is reduced to a prayer.  Jesus is only Savior.  They skip necessary parts to something less than salvation.  Some do this out of ignorance and others on purpose.  With the latter, they have a plan that produces more professions and greater "success." When I say ignorance, some of it is voluntary ignorance that turned into self-delusion.  They've convinced themselves now that this is salvation.  For many, so much false doctrine has spread for so many years, that it is now a different religion.

Should anyone be sending people to these churches where they don't understand or even know the gospel?  Are these errors enough to separate?  If someone pushes people toward these churches, even with a disclaimer, giving them some kind of approval, how serious is the gospel to someone?  We've got to get more serious about the gospel, what it is and what we say that it is or what we will allow to be called the gospel.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Proof that the Bible is the Word of God from the Book of Daniel

Dear brethren,

I have revised and expanded an apologetic composition explaining the evidence for the Bible as the Word of God from the predictive prophecies in the book of Daniel.  The occasion for the expansion was my recent debate with Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation in conjunction with our church's campus ministry at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater.  We debated "The Old Testament is mainly fiction, not fact."  Barker was in the affirmative, while I (obviously) took the negative.  (I plan to say more about the debate in a future blog post, Lord willing; the video should be here if you would like to see it shortly after this blog post is published.)  I used the book of Daniel heavily in my presentation.  In any case, if you would like to have more resources defending Scripture as God's Word available for your church, feel free to print out copies of my work and personalize the church information at the end.  Websites are also, of course, free to link to the work.  You can read The Book of Daniel:  Proof that the Bible is the Word of God by clicking here.  To personalize the work for your church, use the webpage here to get a Word document of the (short, c. 80 pages) book.  The outline of the book is as follows:

I. Introduction: Predictive Prophecy as Proof of the Truth of the Bible
II. Does the Book of Daniel Predict the Future? The Prophecies of Daniel Expounded
            A.) Daniel 2 & 7: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome
            B.) Daniel 8 & 11:  Medo-Persia and Greece
            C.) Daniel 9:  The Year and Day of the Messiah’s Coming to Jerusalem under the Romans
III. Has the Text of Daniel been Corrupted?  Evidence for the Preservation of Scripture
  1. Did Daniel Write the Book of Daniel? The Authorship of Daniel Defended
            A.) Introduction
            B.) The Book of Daniel’s Own Claims and their Reception
            C.) Early References to the Book of Daniel in Other Works
            D.) Manuscript Evidence Supporting Daniel’s Authorship
            E.) The 6th Century Hebrew and Aramaic Language of Daniel
            F.) The Knowledge of 6th Century History Supporting an Early Date for Daniel
            G.) Miscellaneous Evidences for the 6th Century Date of Daniel
            H.) Weak Arguments for a Late Maccabean Date for Daniel
  1. Unavoidable Predictive Prophecy in Daniel
            A.) Daniel’s Fourth Kingdom: Rome, not Greece
            B.) Daniel’s 70 weeks Prophecy an Unavoidable Prediction
  1. Conclusion: The Bible: A Supernatural Book—The Meaning for You
VII. Appendix: A Technical Linguistic Justification of the Translation of Daniel 9:24-27 in the Authorized Version (KJV) and of Related Questions Pertaining to the Coming of Messiah Jesus in A. D. 33.
VIII. Sources for Further Reading and Bibliography
            A.) Recommended Sources for Further Reading
            B.) Bibliography

May the Lord use it to tear down intellectual objections to the Bible and bring sinners to the new birth.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Against Trump

National Review Online has put together a stream of columns by conservatives against Donald Trump as the Republican candidate for President.  It's worth looking at here.  I'm pretty sure they tried to put together their most influential bunch, because some of them I don't like and others I really do.  All things considered, it's a hefty sampling. They don't tell us who is good.  They don't.  Maybe they don't know.  I guess it's anybody but Trump, but if it isn't Trump, why should someone vote for someone else?  Rubio?  Cruz?  Christie?  Kasich?  Bush?  Carson?

Here is an article from the American Spectator from Reagan White Houser, Jeffrey Lord.  Also look at this moment on Fox with Roger Stone and Charles Hurt.

The other day when the media mocked someone for misusing the Bible, when Trump said "Two Corinthians," which is how you would hear it from someone from Britain, a day later, when there was a bad van crash of Ben Carson staffers, Cruz tweeted.

Crickets there for that atrocious use of Isaiah 53:5 and public notice of prayer.  Is it all just funny? Or very, very sad, the pandering?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Destructive Fellowship in Fundamentalism

The New Testament does teach fellowship between churches.   In Acts 15, the Jerusalem and Antioch churches tried to get along.  It was worth it to try.  They got together for the sake of the truth.  I can see the Asian churches collecting money for the Jerusalem church in 1 and 2 Corinthians.  In 3 John, John says that when someone comes traveling through, out of fellowship for the truth a church should take care of him.  The Philippian church sent a gift to Paul.  I see that and believe that.  However, I don't see in many instances today the New Testament emphasis of fellowship, but rather the building of coalitions.  I also witnessed this early in my pastoring.

The truth was so important to Paul that he confronted Peter to his face in a very severe way.  I don't see these first century churches putting up with garbage.  Paul parted ways with John Mark for a time. Every New Testament epistle teaches separation, mirroring the very first Psalm among all the other Old Testament books.  Names are named, associations are discontinued.

When we pray, thy will be done, it's as it is done in heaven, which is also how Jesus performed God's will on earth.  Whatever is built, God builds.  It doesn't come through careful assessment of the smallest common denominator.

We could talk about music, dress, methods, buildings, Bible versions, tithing, Promise Keepers, who has the biggest congregation, or whatever the subject du jour.  Sure.  Fundamentalism started over fundamentals -- its term.  If that is so, and someone is a fundamentalist, one would think that the gospel would figure prominently in consideration in the fellowship.  What does someone believe, what does someone teach on the gospel?

When someone asks me for a recommendation somewhere, it is the first place I look.  What does that church believe about the gospel?  What they profess, write, post, and teach on the gospel says a lot about their thinking about all the other biblical teachings they might hold.  It says a lot about what they think of Jesus.  If someone is wrong about Jesus or at least not contextual with Jesus, giving Him a scriptural representation, should that not trouble a Christian, someone who names the name of Jesus?

It seems in many cases today, the lack of curiosity about belief and practice is rewarded.  What's best is to learn not to ask too many questions.  When you ask questions, you find things out, and you really don't want to find things out.  If you find something out, you might have to talk about it, and someone will be uncomfortable, let alone separate over some thing.  No, the thing is to keep the coalition, and call that fellowship.  "We had a great fellowship" means that we had a good time of not mentioning too many truths that would reveal something awkward and throw an ill will over the gathering.

When I was in fundamentalism, I began to notice what and why things were overlooked.  It almost never made any sense, and then it didn't help to ask about whatever it was.  You wouldn't be surprised how often it related to money.  Bigger coalitions are needed for money.  Bigger churches are needed for money.  Bigger churches are needed for bigger coalitions.  The participants think they need all this for success.  Doctrinal and practical precision suffer for it all to work.  It's easy to see.  What bothers the most is the corruption of the gospel and most because of the dishonor to God.

The above isn't just fundamentalism.  It's worse in evangelicalism.  Evangelicalism doesn't separate. Evangelicals today write mean tweets -- their version of separation.  They produce a podcast and mock someone they don't like without mentioning his name.  Everyone knows, wink, wink, but the name very often isn't mentioned.  If the name is mentioned, the participants explain how it really is too bad.  It doesn't stop the fellowship from continuing.

I wish I was wrong about everything I've written so far.  I'd be happy to hear how I'm not, if I'm not. None of what I have written reflects on the unsurpassed beauty and wonder of actual Christianity, of God's Word itself, and of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  All of that remains intact, pristine and majestic.  It is the truth.  The participants of fundamentalism and evangelicalism hopefully know this.

If you consider fellowship with another church, then look at the doctrinal statement and observe the practice of a church, and especially look at what a church says the gospel is and then what it says evangelism is or practices as evangelism -- at least.  If you walk past that, ignore that, or diminish that for what you call fellowship, it's destructive fellowship.  The Apostle Paul wouldn't do it.

Our church practices closed communion.  We're local church only in our ecclesiology.  We use the King James Version.  We believe in the autonomy of the church, the Baptist distinctives, and that true churches have always existed separate from a state church.  If another church believes all those things, just like us, and they don't preach a true gospel, the former doesn't excuse the latter. I start with the latter.  The former buttresses the latter.  The gospel precedes all of those in priority.

Somebody might be "King James," but if you rarely hear the actual teaching of the King James from the King James, using the King James doesn't condone or excuse false teaching.  No one should sit and listen to something the King James doesn't say and allow for it, as long as the King James is being used.  If someone takes a wrong view of spirituality and sanctification from the King James, it's not fine now.  When false teaching or bad preaching is excused or allowed just because it came from the King James Version, it's no wonder someone could receive the wrong impression about that translation.  If someone teaches what the King James Version actually says from the English Standard Version, and someone massacres what the King James Version actually says from the King James Version, the preaching from the English Standard was superior.  The King James is not the supreme test of fellowship for a church.  If it is, that is destructive fellowship.

Even as I write about destructive fellowship in fundamentalism, the only fellowship not destructive, really the only fellowship at all, is in and about the truth.  That fellowship occurs in a church and then between churches.  The truth is the basis for this ecclesiastical fellowship and is also the basis for ecclesiastical separation.  Churches either fellowship or separate based upon the truth.  When they forsake truth for fellowship, that is destructive fellowship.  The fellowship that continues into eternity proceeds from, exists in, and revolves around the truth.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Demagogue: Sausage Maker

In my life, I've never heard the English word "demagogue" used more in public life than in this presidential election cycle.  Demagogue comes from two Greek words, the first, demos, "the people," as in "democracy," rule by the people, and agō, "to lead."

No one surpassed Pericles (495-429BC) of Athens in the history of the Greek city-state as an orator and statesman, proclaimed by ancient Greek historian Thucydides, "the first citizen of Athens."  His death left a political vacuum in the democracy for rich merchants to exploit the people.  Five years later, Aristophanes, an Athenian comedic playwright wrote a satire on the social and political life of classical Athens, The Knights, describing the conditions where a sausage maker possesses the necessary qualities to rule the Demos, the name of an actual character, the owner of the house, because the people (the demos) were supposed to be in charge in Athens.  In the play, upon meeting the sausage maker, Demosthenes, an escaped slave of Demos, attempts to recruit the sausage seller for the job:

Sausage-Seller:  But I have not had the least education. I can only read, and that very badly. 
Demosthenes:  That is what may stand in your way, almost knowing how to read. A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to be an ignoramus and a rogue.

Later, again:

Sausage-Seller:  The oracles of the gods flatter me! Faith! I do not at all understand how I can be capable of governing the people. 
Demosthenes:  Nothing simpler. Continue your trade. Mix and knead together all the state business as you do for your sausages. To win the people, always cook them some savoury that pleases them. Besides, you possess all the attributes of a demagogue; a screeching, horrible voice, a perverse, crossgrained nature and the language of the market-place. In you all is united which is needful for governing.

You get a perfect earliest and fascinating portrayal there of the usage of the term "demagogue." You might be thinking:  "Rich merchant?  Horrible voice?  Sausage maker?  Donald Trump!"  I understand, but stay with me here.

As I thought about the word "demagogue," especially as it applied to this presidential race, I googled the term and on December 10, 2015, Megan Garber at The Atlantic provided a one-stop-shop of recent usage, especially related at that point to Donald Trump.  Trump is portrayed as the veritable definition, his picture next to demagogue in the dictionary.  Is Trump really the sausage-seller? What's his sausage?  Or, who really offers sausage to the people?

I hear the Democrats and the media (almost one and the same) call Trump a demagogue.  Democrats now most use the term, but it is they who have perfected actual demagoguery in democracy.  They thrive by cooking something savoury for every special interest.  Democrats fit the modus operandi (m.o.) of the demagogues of democracy as described by Aristophanes.  They're the sausage-sellers.

What sausage does Trump offer to the masses, what does he mix and knead together?  The Democrats and the media say it's fear and mainly two examples:  Muslims and illegal immigrants.  They say Trump plays on people's fear of either or both to win an election.  If there is one other, it's jobs stolen away by China from American white working men, another dog whistle to summon the support of a racial majority.   If Trump is a demagogue, it really does take some to know one.  Trump is the rich merchant with the qualifications to compete with the longstanding champions of demagoguery. Donald Trump is a unique Republican candidate, rare in his ability to make and sell sausage.  Democrats are envious, it seems.

No one makes sausage like Democrats.  Nothing stands in the way of the voters Democrats need the most like an education.  They are who Rush Limbaugh calls the "low information voter."  Democrats pump out sausage of every shape and size, embarrassing Jimmy Dean with their production.

No one is better than Democrats at the perverse, crossgrained nature and language of the market-place. Raise the minimum wage.  Tax the rich.  Free healthcare.  Women's rights.  Affirmative action. Same-sex marriage.  Open borders.  Easy voter registration.  College tuition.  Sanctuary cities. No one represents Aristophanes' demagoguery better than Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is doing everything she can do to catch up. They are both now to promising sausage that doesn't even exist.

The expiration date on most of the sausage has already arrived.  People are still waiting for the promises of eight years and four years ago.  Until very recently, I had never heard the terminology, "labor force participation."  Part of demagoguery is saying people have jobs when they don't.  They kind of know when they don't have one or even one that is full time.  You can't really have lower unemployment and the very lowest labor force participation in decades.  Those two concepts contradict each other.  When people will lie about the unemployment rate, you have to start using labor force participation as an instrument to measure employment.

In December of 2015,  the percentage of participation in the labor force was 62.6%.  The last time it was that low was in October of 1977, which was during the Jimmy Carter presidency.  Let's be honest.  Let's not demagogue the issue.  Less people are working today.  Labor force participation in January of 2009, when President Obama began his first term, was 65.7%.  By the way, I didn't gather these statistics from demagogues who encouraged fear in the unemployed.  I looked them up on the Department of Labor website.  They will tell you the labor force participation in every month since 1948.  January of 2016 hasn't ended yet.

Aristophanes said sausage makers make good demagogues in a democracy.  It's simple.  People like sausage, even if they don't know what's in it.  The bloated nature of the United States government and its overrunning debt is a testimony to American love of sausage, ripe for the sausage sellers.

Democrats appeal more to the base nature of the people, their voting constituents, the coalition they wish to cobble together to remain in power, more than any other American entity.  They are the sausage makers.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Join Us in Israel with Samson Tours

[Friday is a Thomas Ross post, so this is Thomas Ross going to Israel, not Kent Brandenburg.]

I have had a desire to visit Israel for some time, to see the land of the Abrahamic covenant, the land of the earthly ministry of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, and the land of the vast majority of the Bible.  I am very excited that my wife and I are now scheduled to go (Lord willing, barring the Rapture or other providential hinderances) in January of 2017.  We are going with Samson Tours on a tour called a Pastor's Familiarization Tour that is designed not only to give one a great experience in Israel but also to equip church leaders in order that they might be able to become guides themselves in the future.  Many tours of Israel are very expensive;  for example, this one with Bob Jones University costs $4,650 per person, and this one with Friends of Israel is $3,850 per person.  The tour we are going on costs just $2,200 per person, or, if we acquire our own plane tickets, only $1,200 per person--something we actually can afford, unlike these other tours!  (See below how to get there for even less than this!)

The tour we are going on is not limited to independent Baptists, and I would like to have as many like-minded people on it as possible.  If you are a like-minded independent Baptist, and you qualify for this tour (i. e., you are a pastor, deacon, or other church leader who could get a letter on your church stationary affirming such), I would love to have you come with us.  Indeed, I would rather have genuinely converted people, even if not entirely like minded, to fill up the tour instead of, say, Roman Catholics or Mormons.  Space is limited, so if you qualify, why not take advantage of this great price and plan to join us in January, 2017?  You can find out more by clicking on the link here, using the menu for "Tours," and then clicking on "Group Tours."

You can sign up for the tour for even less than $1,200 by doing two things.  First, use the coupon code MNRE when you sign up, and you will get a discount.  (I will also be benefited if you use this code, and will be much obliged).  That is a part that anyone can do.

Second, you can try to do what we are trying to do, namely, fund and pay for everything with bonuses from credit cards and banks.  We should, Lord willing, be able to pay for our airfare entirely with credit card points from two opening bonuses, and it should not be too difficult to earn more than the $2,400 that is left through various bonuses.  My wife and I both opened up the bank account discussed here to get $500 each worth of points, and were able to fund our opening of the bank account with a credit card ($300 extra per person), for a total of $1,600.  There are other banks that will give you hundreds of dollars for opening accounts with them.  There are also a number of credit cards that offer $500, $600, $700, or more as an opening bonus.  The cost of our plane tickets has thus been provided in God's providence through two credit card opening bonuses, one of 150,000 points worth $1,500 and the other of 75,000 points worth $750.  I discuss how to do this sort of thing in my article on credit cards here.  Of course, you should never, ever carry a high interest rate balance on a credit card, and I would highly recommend reading my article on credit card dangers before thinking about funding a trip to Israel with credit card points.  You should also (obviously) tithe on such bank or credit card opening bonuses.

Third, if you lead a tour with them after going on this tour within the following 2.5 years, they will actually refund you the entire base cost of the tour--this is another way of experiencing the tour for exactly nothing!

Anyway, I hope you can join us in Israel.  Next Year in Jerusalem!


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Truth Shall Make You Free, pt. 2

Part One

When Jesus said "the truth shall make you free" in John 8:32, He was saying that the truth, which was salvation truth found in Him, could set men free from bondage to sin, which would dominate and damn them.  The freedom Jesus teaches is freedom.  No one can be freer than the freedom Jesus offers.

The freedom Jesus taught was the same freedom that the Apostle Paul taught all over His epistles and especially in 1 Corinthians, Romans, and Galatians.  I wrote in part one that this freedom was not freedom from the law, that is, it was not freedom to disobey God's law.  Some people think that being free from the law (Romans 7:6) means that we’re no longer responsible to obey the moral commandments of God.  It has nothing to do with that.  It is to be free from the condemnation of the law, that is, it is to be free from being killed by the penalty of unsuccessful law keeping.  Being free from the law doesn’t mean that now I can do whatever I want.

When a person is free, he can and will keep God's commandments, that is, he is not compelled to sin any more as a lifestyle.  He can flourish and thrive as a human being, which could be described as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That is to be "free indeed" as Jesus described it (John 8:36).

I wish to apply this freedom to the type of obedience to God that is most characterized today, even by professing Christians, as bondage and not freedom.  Paul describes the bondage, the opposite of freedom, of human beings in Romans 1.  Because they believe the lie and not the truth that would set them free, they continue captivated to their own vile lusts, which includes the perversion of the God designed roles of men and women.  For instance, when a woman can function more like a man, people call that "women's liberation."

In more than any other way, a country is considered to be "repressed" if it's women must dress and behave according to biblical, often called traditional, roles.  If women must dress distinct from men, that requirement is portrayed as stifling to freedom.  Women are considered to be most free if they are free to take their clothes off and reveal as much skin as they desire.

Even to Christians today, being free from the law, to them means being free from Deuteronomy 22:5:

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

To many, the least free women are where their church or their men require them to wear dresses and skirts with a plain distinction from pants as a male garment.  To many Christian leaders, women are not free if they cannot wear pants.  They now characterize designed distinction, a plain symbol of the male and female role, as controlling women's freedom with arbitrary laws.

No, freedom enables obedience to God's law.  Women can dress according to their designed roles, with a distinct symbol of femininity.  This is freedom.  Women are not free because they "get to wear pants."  Jesus said (John 8:34), "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin."  Sin is the transgression of God's law (1 John 3:4).  Women transgress God's law when they wear the male garment.  Men transgress God's law when they abdicate male headship.

I very purposefully struck where believers have capitulated on freedom.  They think they are more free, and not legalistic, because they have taken away the restriction.  Restrictions are necessary for freedom.  There is no free enterprise when a market cannot operate without robbery.  There is no free trade when the government picks the winners and the losers.   John Adams said,

Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.  The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue; and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies.

Believers concede freedom when they choose license.  Freedom is not license.  I am not free to play horseshoes in my neighbor's lawn.  I am not free to shoot a bald eagle.

Think of the bondage of a grudge and of revenge.  If there is no God, survival at any cost, the law of the jungle, is the supreme law.  Since there is a dimension that transcends nature, a God who provides a moral compass and presides over human affairs, one can let go of vengeance and seek a higher justice.  This is freedom.  You don't have it without the restriction of God on you that will only succeed without the compelling desire for vengeance, making you a slave to it.  You may really want revenge, but you don't have to have it, because you can trust God with justice.  Men will not get away with sin.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the liberty that allows and enables to keep His law.  The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us when we walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh (Romans 8:4).  The works of the flesh do not reveal freedom, but bondage.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Truth Shall Make You Free, pt. 1

One of the most well-known statements in the Bible Jesus made in John 8:32:

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

These words are carved in stone on the outside of Berkeley High School in downtown Berkeley, California.  We know that Jesus meant that the truth would make someone free from the domination of sin.  We also know that's not how Berkeley High School was taking the verse to mean, which it etched on its educational edifice.

Freedom is one of the most confused and controversial concepts in the minds of men.  They don't know what freedom is.  After Jesus' audience objected that they were already free (John 8:33), verse 34 reads:

Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.

People commit sin, present tense, as a lifestyle, because they are slaves of sin.  Sin is a bad act, but there is a power underneath the bad act that makes people do it.  They do it, they sin, because they are compelled to do so.  They are not free to live righteous by nature.  People are slaves to a power inside of them, which destroys them in two ways, through the domination of sin and the damnation of sin.

I understand that people think that when they sin, they do so according to freedom.  They even see the sinning as a kind of statement of freedom.  Our founding fathers didn't see this as freedom.  In their writings, they called this license.  License is different than freedom.  It isn't freedom.

You will hear today people call someone "ignorant" who opposes same sex marriage.  In this concept of freedom, the truth sets someone free to marry someone of the same sex.  The people who oppose are ignorant, that is, they don't know the truth about marriage that will set them free to marry someone of the same sex or at least accept others who do.

God ordained government to restrict people.  Restriction seems to people as something that isn't freedom.  If you are restricted, you are not free.  However, government exists not to restrict freedom, but to protect it.  Government protects people's rights and their rights are their freedom.  This subject that I'm addressing, that relates to everything that we do, Paul addressed in the epistle to the Galatians.

In Galatians 5:13-16 Paul wrote:

13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Freedom is not the indulgence of the flesh (v. 13a), is not the opportunity to injure others (vv. 13b, 15), and not disobedience to God's law (vv. 14, 16).  The essence of human freedom is, like Jesus (Romans 15:1-3), not about pleasing yourself.

When you do what you do compelled by your lust, that is bondage, not freedom, and everyone is compelled by lust to choose something other than God, which is idolatry, worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.  You think you're getting your way, but you're getting domination of sin and damnation of the soul.  The desire of things more than Jesus sends you on a ride all the way to hell.  People call that freedom, but it is license.

Knowing that men call the indulgence of the flesh, freedom, Jesus said in John 8:36:

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

The Son shall make you "free indeed," that is, compared to the other, so-called "freedom," or truly free.  You are not truly free when you are in bondage to your own lust, to sin.  You are not free indeed.  Samuel West wrote:

The most perfect freedom consists in obeying the dictates of right reason, and submitting to natural law. When a man goes beyond or contrary to the law of nature and reason, he becomes the slave of base passions and vile lusts; he introduces confusion and disorder into society, and brings misery and destruction upon himself. This, therefore, cannot be called a state of freedom, but a state of the vilest slavery and the most dreadful bondage. The servants of sin and corruption are subjected to the worst kind of tyranny in the universe. Hence we conclude that where licentiousness begins, liberty ends.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Pay $0 / month for Cell Phone Service: FreedomPop

FreedomPop is a company that offers totally free talk, text, and data plans with no contracts required.  It utilizes Sprint’s 4G LTE network for its services, so one has coverage wherever Sprint has coverage.  In addition to the totally free plans, they offer very inexpensive plans with more features.  (They also offer free Internet, which I will not discuss further at this time.)  The main reason I mention their company first is, well, you can get a totally free plan.  Is their free plan for everyone?  Certainly not–I don’t have it personally, and if the free plan is not for you, then you have to consider whether a plan you pay for with them is better than a plan you pay for with a different company.  Freedom Pop has a C+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and they are not BBB accredited.  I would be extremely surprised if a company that offers totally free service like this would have an A+ rating, but the fact that they get a C, and not an F, shows that they are not some scam but are a real and legitimate company.  I asked them about the C+ rating and they said that they got it largely because they have had long hold times for customer service agents in the past, but they have been working on that and the wait times have been vastly reduced since they hired extra agents. Does that mean that their customer service personnel will always be top-notch? No, of course not.
How does their organization make money?  It makes money when customers opt for a better plan than the free one that, while inexpensive, does cost something.  They claim to offer “top phone services at a fraction of the cost.”  According to their service plans page, they offer:
(a) a free Monthly Plan providing a voice allocation of 200 minutes to landline and mobile phones in the United States, excluding Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, each month and a text messaging allocation of 500 text messages each month at no cost to you [500 includes both ; and (b) prepaid Monthly Plans providing specified limits of voice minutes and text messages to landline and mobile phones in the United States, excluding Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, each month. All subscribers of FreedomPop’s Phone Service must choose a plan to activate the Phone Service. The minutes and text messages included in each Monthly Plan for Phone Service do not roll over from month to month and will be lost if not used within that month. . . . Prepaid Monthly Plans are set up as recurring charges. Your subscription will continue to recur until you terminate your Phone Service by using the Support feature on our Site, or by calling FreedomPop at (888) 743-8107.
In addition to the 200 free monthly minutes, one has unlimited free minutes when one is calling another Freedom Pop customer–minutes only count calling those with other cell phone companies.
Freedom Pop’s Unlimited Talk and Text Plan & Premium 1GB data plan costs $19.99 after the initial 30 day trial period expires (you can try them free for 30 days to see if they are a good fit or not–if you don’t like them, you only pay the return shipping costs for a phone.  You can also transfer in your own phone instead of getting one of theirs).  If you are skeptical of them, you might consider trying them out for 30 days for free, or use their company for a backup or emergency family phone or something of the like first, and see if they are a fit for you.  The way they recommend that you get their totally free plan is:  1.) Sign up for the free month of their Unlimited Talk and Text plan, and then 2.) During the free month, call their customer service number (888) 743-8107 and ask to switch to the totally free plan.  Get more information about, or sign up for Freedom Pop by clicking on the banner below:

Note: I have affiliate links with FreedomPop. If you use the banners on this blogpost to sign up for their services, I will receive financial compensation.  I can in good conscience say that there is nothing on this website that I would not have said were I not an affiliate of the companies, and I believe that it is appropriate that we both benefit from the information I have put together for your betterment (1 Timothy 5:18).  However, if you are bothered by the fact that I will be compensated if you use these banners to sign up, you can sign up on the webpage without clicking on these banners, and I will get nothing.  If you choose to use the buttons on this webpage, I offer you my sincere thanks.