Tried and True

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The problem of suffering is a universal dilemma.  Many do not resolve the problem in an acceptable way.  When faced with extreme suffering, our faith in God is tested.  The classic example of patience in the face of suffering is provided by Job (James 5:11).
Three Ways of Solving the Problem of Suffering That Fail
Consider Hinduism.  In Hinduism, suffering is the result of sins committed in a previous life (Hinduism affirms reincarnation). Karma–where the good and bad deeds performed by human beings in the present determine the quality of their lives both now and in future births–such that the suffering we experience now is seen as the punishment for bad things done in previous lives.  Karma is an impersonal, cosmic principle at work in the universe.  In Hinduism, suffering is the result of bad karma.  Hinduism fails to resolve the problem of suffering because reincarnation is a false concept (Heb. 9:27).  Karma does not exist.
Consider Buddhism.  Buddhism’s central teaching is based on the problem of suffering.  The Four Noble Truths are:  (1) The truth of suffering (Dukkha); (2) The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudaya); (3) The truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha); and (4) the truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga). For Buddhist, suffering comes about because of the mismatch between what we desire and what we receive. The solution–we must get rid of desire.  If we can desensitize ourselves sufficiently, then,  nothing can hurt us.  The problem with this view is that it is not possible nor practical to turn off all desire.  Some desire is good and profitable (Matt. 5:6).  Buddhist believe that suffering is the result of bad desire.
Consider Atheism.  To the Atheist, the material universe is neither good or bad.  In a blind physical universe, some people are going to get hurt, others are going to get lucky.  We have only blind, pitiless, indifference.  Suffering is the result of bad luck.  However, luck itself does not exist except as a false god created by people to describe the unexplained (I John 5:21).
All three views described above are bad news for sufferers.
The Christian Viewpoint.  When we ask, “why?” the question reveals that we believe in God and not blind chance.  Let us turn to the book of Job for an answer that will address the problem of suffering.  The central question in the book of Job is: “Will Job still honor God when all his prosperity is taken away from him?”  Does Job truly worship God or does he worship what God has provided?
Job’s Suffering.  After Job suffers the loss of his ten children, and his source of wealth, he declares: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: The LORD gave, and the LORD taketh away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job. 1:21).  In spite of all that Job suffers, including the loss of his health (ch. 2) he still trusts in God.  Job’s wife tells him to curse God and die.  Job rebukes her with these words, “What, shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). In all of this, Job did not sin with his lips.
Job’s Friends’ Bad Theology.  The majority of the book of Job is given to the bad theology of his friends.  Bad theology does not solve the problem of suffering.  Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu fail Job.  They believed that he suffered because of his sins.  In Job’s case, this was not true.  It is true that some suffering that human beings experience is the result of sin.  However, in Job’s case, suffering was the result of testing (Job 1).  Job’s faith is tried in the fire (I Pet. 1:6-7).
The Answer to the Problem of Suffering.  The only answer to the problem of suffering in the book of Job is to reflect on the universe and observe the power, skill, and wisdom of God demonstrated therein.  God asks Job many questions that Job could not answer.  God never directly deals with Job’s suffering.  He asks Job to consider His glory as demonstrated in the created acts.  If God is able to create and order the universe, then, God is more than capable of overseeing the details of our lives.  When God asks Job to reflect on His being and nature, He is asking Job to develop confidence (trust, faith) in His credibility and qualifications to rightly guide Job’s life.  Job must resolve the problem of suffering in love, trust, and devotion to God.  He must see the connection between suffering and worship.
The End of the Story.  At last, Job is vindicated by God (Job 42:8-9).  Job’s friends were condemned by God.  God was gracious to Job and doubled Job’s possessions and blessed him with seven sons and three daughters.  God glory and God’s grace provide the answer to suffering.  Job lived 140 years after this period of testing and died being old and full of days (prosperous).  God is great and God is good.  Blessed be the name of the LORD!
The Application.  God desires genuine human relationships based upon love and trust.  Job was an innocent sufferer and his experience points to another time when an innocent would suffer on a cross for the greater good of humankind and bear tremendous suffering out of love for God and us.  God has not been passive about evil in the world.  He has provided redemption through His Son, Jesus Christ.  God deals with suffering by sending His own Son to suffer for us that we could one day be liberated from all suffering and taken to a heavenly place where there will be no more suffering. (reference: Paradoxology by Krish Kandiah, pp. 85-111).

“The Devastator”

Abstinence, alcohol No Comments

Abraham Lincoln summarized domestic life in Sangamon County, Illinois, “We found intoxicating liquor used by everybody, repudiated by nobody,” he told a temperance meeting in 1842.  He was 33 years old.  “It commonly entered into the first draught of an infant and the last thought of the dying man.” “It was, he said, “the devastator.” (Daniel Okrent, Last Call, p. 9).
Intoxicating liquor, to use Lincoln’s own words, is destroying lives every day.  The opioid crisis in America takes 100 lives every day.  But, 88,000 Americans lose their lives every year to alcohol.  That’s 241 lives every day!  Where is the outrage?  Where are the voices crying out against this devastation?
The case for abstinence regarding the use of intoxicating liquor needs to be made clearly and strongly today.  The Bible does not endorse the moderation view which is now being accepted by many in religious groups.  The Bible condemns the use of intoxicating beverages.  One way to determine this is to consider the difference between good wine and bad wine throughout the Scriptures.
Moses Stuart remarks, “My final conclusion is this, viz., that whenever the Scriptures speak of wine as a comfort, a blessing or a libation to God, and rank it with such articles as corn and oil, they mean, they can mean only such wine as contained no alcohol that could have a mischievous tendency; that whenever they denounce it, and connect it with drunkenness and reveling, they can mean only alcoholic or intoxicating wine” (William Patton, Bible Wine and the Laws of Fermentation, p. 64).  Stuart’s comment recognizes that the word wine in the Bible is generic and may refer to either an intoxicating drink or an unintoxicating drink.  The context will determine which is intended.
Patton, in his book, Bible Wines and the Laws of Fermentation, demonstrates this important distinction.
Bad Wine or Fermented Wine.
One class of texts in the Scriptures characterizes wine as:
1.  The cause of intoxication.  Drunkenness is mentioned in the Scriptures and it is always condemned.  It is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-20).
2.  The cause of violence and woe.  Prov. 4:17 and 23:29-30.
3.  The cause of self-security and irreligion.  Isa. 56:12; Hab. 2:5; Isa. 28:7.
4.  Poisonous and destructive.  Prov. 23:31; Deut. 32:33.  This argument refutes the notion that alcohol is a part of God’s creation and should be received as “food.”  Alcohol does not occur except through the process of decomposition and is not a natural state of the fruit of the vine.
5.  Condemning those who are devoted to drink.  Isa. 5:22, “Woe unto them that are mighty to drink (yayin) wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink.”  I Cor. 6:10.
6.  The emblem of punishment and eternal ruin.  Psa. 60:3; 75:8; Isa. 51:17; Jer. 25:15; Rev. 16:19; Rev. 14:10.
Another class of texts in Scripture speaks of wine as good.  Obviously, this is not the same type of wine.  The good wine is not intoxicating.
1.  The wine to be presented at the altar as an offering to God.  Numbers 8:12, “All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the first-fruits of them which they shall offer unto the Lord, them have I given thee.”  All the best of the wine (tirosh) is associated with the first-fruits.  The Hebrew word tirosh is used of sweet or unfermented wine.
2.  The wine that is classed among the blessings, comforts, and necessaries of life.  Gen. 27:28, Deut. 7:13; Deut. 11:14; Prov. 3:10; Isa. 24:7; Isa. 65:8; Judges 9:13; Joel 3:18; Psa. 104:14,15.
3.  The wine that is an emblem of spiritual blessings.  Isa. 55:1.  This passages teaches the riches of God’s grace.  Milk and sweet wine stand as emblems of spiritual blessings.
4.  The wine that is an emblem of the blood of the atonement.  When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper he spoke of the fruit of the vine as representative of His blood.  Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24.  In I Cor. 10:6, Paul refers to the cup as the “cup of blessing which we bless.”  This cup (fruit of the vine) is the communion of the blood of Christ.  Certainly, this juice must be distinguished from the wine so strongly condemned in God’s Word and designated by Lincoln as “the devastator.”
The correct interpretation of God’s word results in a strong case for abstinence and against the moderation view regarding drinking alcoholic beverages.  God leads us into the paths of righteousness and not into the paths of destruction and devastation.

The Reality of Persecution

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Fox News had a guest on Oct. 18 named Johnnie Moore.  Moore wrote a book titled, The Martyrs’ Oath.  The book reveals the current levels of persecution of Christianity around the world.  The word Christianity is used in the general sense of those who follow Jesus Christ and affirm faith in Him.  Moore said that 322 Christians (general sense of the word) are killed every month.  Additionally, he said that 214 churches are destroyed every month.  He said that there are 70,000 Christians imprisoned in North Korea.  North Korea is a communist country.  In some Muslim nations, Christianity has nearly been eliminated.
World Watch List (2017) (Open Door ministries) is an annual report on global persecution of Christianity.  The report ranks the top 50 nations involved in persecuting Christians.  The rankings are determined by five areas of Christian life:  private life, family life, community life, national life and church life.  The criteria for rankings also include violence against Christians and churches.
The report lists eight engines of persecution.  The first is Muslim extremism.  Nine of the top ten countries persecuting Christianity today are Muslim: Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and Eritrea.  The second is communist and post-communist oppression.  North Korea is the number one nation in the world persecuting Christianity today.  As noted above, 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea among the twelve prison camps scattered throughout the country.  The other six engines of persecution are: religious nationalism, ethnic antagonism, denominational protectionism, organized corruption and crime, secular intolerance and dictatorial paranoia.  Two hundred and fifteen million Christians experience persecution in the top 50 countries which persecute Christianity.
Three facts to consider are: (1) worldwide persecution of Christianity has risen for the past 4 years. (2) North Korea is the number one nation persecuting Christianity and has been since 2002. (3) Islamic extremism fuels persecution in 14 of the top 20 countries and 35 of the top 50 countries persecuting Christianity.
There is not only a culture war occurring in the United States and other places, but there is a spiritual war being waged worldwide.
Jesus spoke of persecution in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:11-12).  Those who follow Jesus will be persecuted from many different sources and in many different ways.  However, great is their reward in heaven for being willing to suffer for His name’s sake. Jesus warned His disciples, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:6).  Jesus also said, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22).  The apostle Paul wrote of true Christians, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Tim. 3:12).  Paul knew this first hand because he has suffered much for the cause of Christ being stoned, beaten, and imprisoned (II Cor. 11:21-27).
Paul words to Timothy are especially needed in the face of persecution, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Tim. 2:3). Satan uses persecution to separate Christians from God.  Jesus warned of this in Luke 8:13 in the Parable of the Sower.  “They on the rock are they, which when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”  The parallel passage in Matthew 13:21 specifically mentions tribulation and persecution as reasons why some become offended and give up on God.
Persecution tests faithfulness to God.  “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

Messiah’s Mission Accomplished

kingdom of God, Premillennialism No Comments

The Messiah’s Mission Accomplished was written by James Bales and published posthumously by Bradley S. Cobb with permission from Mark McWhorter who has all of the publishing rights to Bales’ books.  The book was published in 2017 and consists of 269 pages.
The book’s main goal is to dismantle the arguments made by Premillennialists regarding the nature of the kingdom of God and the time of its establishment.
Bales interacts primarily with the written works of John F. Walvoord and R. H. Boll.  This book will provide the reader with solid arguments that reveal the false claims of Premillennialists. Please read the review listed under Book Reviews above and feel free to comment.

Cosmic Inflation Theory Bites The Dust

Big Bang Theory, inflation theory No Comments

Inflation theory is dead!  Calla Cofield, on Space.com wrote an article titled, “Cosmic Inflation Theory Bites the (Space) Dust.”  The article was posted January 30, 2015, 03:46 ET.  She writes, “It is the announcement no one wanted to hear:  The most exciting astronomical discovery of 2014 has vanished.  Two groups of scientists announced today (Jan. 30) that a tantalizing signal–which some scientists claimed was “smoking gun” evidence of dramatic cosmic expansion just after the birth of the universe–was actually caused by something much more mundane: interstellar dust.”
She continues, “In the cosmic inflation announcement, which was unveiled in March, 2014, scientists with the BICEP 2 experiment, claimed to have found patterns in light left over from the Big Bang that indicated that space had rapidly inflated at the beginning of the universe, about 13.8 billion years ago.  The discovery also supposedly confirmed the existence of gravitational waves, theoretical ripples in space-time. But in a statement today, scientists with the European Space Agency said that data from the agency’s Planck Space Observatory has revealed that interstellar dust caused more than half of the signal detected by the Antarctica based BICEP 2 experiment.  The Planck spacecraft observations were not yet available last March when the BICEP 2 science team made its announcement.  ‘Unfortunately, we have not been able to confirm that the signal is an imprint of cosmic inflation,’ Jean-Loup Puget, principle investigator of the HFI instrument on Planck at the Institut d’ Astrophysique Spatiale in Orsay, France, said in a statement.  The conclusion is the result of a collaborative analysis by scientists with both BICEP 2 and Planck, using data from both telescopes as well as the Keck array at the South Pole.” (Evidence For Cosmic Inflation Theory Bites the (Space) Dust by Calla Cofield, Space.com).
In light of the above statement and evidence, it seems strange that Nobie Stone, in his book, Genesis 1 and Lessons From Space Revised Edition (pp. 67-68) published by the Warren Christian Apologetics Center, would continue to affirm the inflation theory in support of the Big Bang theory and deny the historical and literal interpretation of Genesis 1.  Is the Warren Christian Apologetics Center accountable for false science as well as a false interpretation of God’s Word due to the fact that it published this book and is distributing it worldwide without refutation?  You be the judge!
Please read my complete review of Nobie Stone’s book under the Book Reviews page on this blog.

Patience–A Virtue

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Temperance and patience form an important team of virtues.  In II Peter 1:5-8, Peter instructs us to add patience to temperance.  Without temperance, we could not be patient.  The word “add” indicates that we must grow spiritually in the development of godly character.  The pursuit of godly character is one aspect of being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Patience–Passive Sense.
The word patience literally involves “an abiding under.” (Vine, III, pp. 167-168).  In the passive sense, patience is endurance.  In the face of hatred, Christians must endure.  Luke 21:19, “In your patience possess ye your souls.”  Jesus warned that His disciples would be hated of all men for His name’s sake.  Some trials are incident to service to Jesus Christ or the Gospel.  II Cor. 6:4-5, “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings… (See also, II Cor. 12:12; II Tim. 3:10).  We must be patient when under chastisement (Heb. 12:7).  And, we must be patient in the face of undeserved affliction (I Peter 2:20).
Patience-Active Sense
Patience, in the active sense, means perseverance or persistence. Paul teaches us to continue in well-doing.  Rom. 2:7, “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.”  It takes patience to bear fruit.  Luke 8:15, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”  Patience is also needed to run the Christian race.  Heb. 12:1, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
Patience–Some Opposites
Consider this list of opposites to patience:  idleness, contrariness, inattention, defiance, neglect, irritation, exasperation, rage, fretfulness, fickleness, ire, temper, petulance, displeasure, negligence, disobedience, resistance, wrath, remissness, indignation, indolence, recalcitrance, fury, pettishness, offense, sloth, insubordination, peevishness, impatience, willfulness, inconstancy, resentment, intractability, vexation, animosity, changeableness, and passion.  A lack of patience produces a whole host of undesirable attitudes and behaviors.
Patience and Temperance
Temperance is self-control or will-power exercised to restrain the passions and develop the spiritual habits of mind and heart that will keep us from sin and promote righteousness.  Patience is the use of will-power to either endure hardships and trials or persevere in well-doing (righteousness).  Temperance and patience are a team that work together to help us live a life that is pleasing to God.  They are intricately involved in the mastery of self.  These may be two virtues that are lacking the most in the character of God’s people.

Shocking Alcohol Abuse

alcohol, drug abuse, Holy Spirit No Comments

Christopher Ingraham, in The Washington Post, August 13, 2017 provided the following information about alcohol abuse in the United States.
–A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry this month finds that the rate of alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) rose by a shocking 49 percent in the first decade of the 2000’s.
–1 in 8 Americans, 12.7 percent of the U. S. population, now meets diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder.
–The authors of the study characterize the findings as a serious and overlooked public health problem.  Health issues involved in alcohol abuse are:  fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, liver cirrhosis, several types of cancer and infections, pancreatitis, type 2 diabetes and various injuries.  In another study, The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research fund have announced the analysis of 119 previous studies involving 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer.  The study shows that even one small glass of wine or an eight-ounce beer a day causes a 5% greater risk of breast cancer for premenopausal women and a 9% increase for postmenopausal women.  Alcohol triggers DNA mutations and raises estrogen levels which are linked to increased risk for breast cancer.  (Does God Exist?, Third Quarter, 2017, p. 26).
–The CDC (Center For Disease Control) estimates that 88,000 people a year die from alcohol-related causes.  This is more than double the annual death rate of opiate overdoses (100 people a day die from opiate/heroin overdoes in the U. S.).  241 people a day are dying due to alcohol abuse!  Where are the headlines exposing this crisis?
–Nearly 1 in 4 adults under the age of 30 (23.4 percent) met the diagnostic criteria for alcoholism.
A diagnosis of alcohol dependency occurs when any three of the following seven symptoms are present:
1.  Need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
2.  Characteristic withdrawal symptoms (shakes for instance) or drinking to relieve these types of symptoms.
3.  Drinking larger amounts; or, over a longer period of time.
4.  Persistent desire or one or more unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control drinking (out-of-control drinking).
5.  Spending a great deal of time in activities necessary to obtain, to use, or to recover from the effects of drinking.
6.  Continued drinking despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to be caused or exacerbated by drinking.
7.  Important social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced because of drinking.
God’s Word Condemns Drinking Alcohol
Consider the following passages that condemn the use of alcohol.  Proverbs 20:1, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”  Prov. 23:29, “Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling?  Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes?  They that tarry long at the wine, they that go to seek mixed wine?  Eph. 5:18, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”  “Be not drunk” is an inceptive verb that refers to the entire process of inebriation, from the first drink onward.  There is an alternative to consuming alcohol and that is to be filled with the Spirit.  Rom. 8:13-14, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”  Gal. 5:19-21, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The sin of drinking alcoholic beverages in our culture and in our churches has become widespread.  The indulgence of the lusts of the flesh are detrimental to the cultivation of godly character.  The use of alcohol lessons our ability to practice self-control.  The result is that alcohol use becomes an avenue for the commission of more sins (fornication, adultery, domestic abuse, violence, death and injury due to drunk driving, murder, and such like).
Paul set forth a clear pathway to God that involves mortifying the lusts of the flesh and pursuing life in the Spirit.  Those who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God.

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