Living In God’s Presence

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“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).
“Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13).
There are two reactions that we can make as we live in the presence of God.  The first is irreverence and the second is reverence and godly fear.
Leonard Pitts Jr. illustrates irreverence when he wrote exposing Jeffrey Darnell Paul who portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. as a “playa” holding up $100 dollar bills while a scantily clad women looked on.  Pitts wrote, “Irreverence is not the liberating of the American mind, but the calcifying of the American heart against anything sacred” (Jan. 16, 2012, Columbus Dispatch).
-Irreverence leads to the death of civility.
-Irreverence produces a tyranny all its own.  A ban against holding up anything above the fray, or regarding anything as too sacred for too long.
-Irreverence violates the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you).  When we mock and ridicule leaders that deserve our respect, then we lower the bar for everyone.
Cindy Brandt gives some examples of irreverence in Irreverence is the New Reverence (Huffington Post, 7/22/2014).  First, Nadia Bolz-Weber, minister of a Lutheran Church in Denver, CO, who is heavily tatted and foul-mouthed.  An obvious example of the “double-minded” (James 1:8) who mocks her own religion with her faulty character.  Second, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary (a female) whose voice contains crude humor and who quoted God as using profanity.  She mocks the holiness of God with such depictions.  Third, some Facebook pages: “Unvirtuous Abbey”; “Stuff Christian Cultures Like” which is a page that exists solely to brutally mock Christian culture.
-Irreverence manifests impiety towards God.
-Irreverence consists of disrespectful attitudes and actions.
-Irreverence toward God is blasphemy.
-Irreverence is disregard for the authority and character of a superior.  There is no higher authority than God.
Reverence is respect for the authority and character of those who are superior in rank or position.
Reverence for God combines the fear of God with the love of God.  Reverence for God involves an understanding of His power to punish the evil-doer, but, also, His great love and mercy toward them that love Him.
Reverence is indispensable to true religion.  Charles Simmons rightly observed that, “Reverence is the very first element of religion; it cannot but be felt by every one who has right views of the divine greatness and holiness, and of his own character in the sight of God” (Christianity Then and Now, Jan. 1, 2012).
There are several glimpses of reverence in God’s Word.  Each involves a deep sense of understanding that we live in the presence of God.
Moses’ call to the prophetic office is given in Exodus 3:1-6.  Moses sees the burning bush and is instructed to take off his shoes for the ground upon which he was standing was holy.  In the presence of a holy God, we have a keen sense of our own unworthiness.
In Exodus 32:19, Moses displayed reverence for God by his zeal for the Lord.  When Moses sees the sin of the people of Israel after receiving the Ten Commandments from God, he is filled with anger and breaks the tablets of stone.  Zeal for God is produced by reverence for God and His laws.
During the period of the restoration of the Jews to Palestine, Ezra was instrumental in guiding the people spiritually to return to the Lord.  In Nehemiah 8:5,9, he reads the Law of God.  When he reads the Law, all of the people stood up.  When he finished, they all wept.  Reverence for God produces respect for God’s Word.
Nehemiah helped Ezra in the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the 70 years of Babylonian captivity.  In Nehemiah 1, Nehemiah learns of the condition of the city of Jerusalem from his brother, Hanani.  He wept, fasted and prayed.  Reverence for God motivates us to intimacy with God.  In face of the task of the rebuilding Jerusalem, Nehemiah sought God first.
When David sinned in conceiving a child with Bathsheba, he received word from the prophet Nathan that the child would die.  David prayed and fasted until he learned that the child died.  Immediately, he washed himself and entered into the house of God to worship.  Reverence for God gives God the glory even in the face of God’s chastening.  The reverent heart seeks to glorify God at all times.
The Roman soldier at the foot of the cross experiences all of the miracles at the time of Jesus’ death.  He hears the seven sayings of Jesus while He was on the cross.  At the end, he says, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39).  The persuasive power of God intervening in human history produces reverence for God that expresses itself in confession of God’s Son.
-Reverence for God is a feeling evoked by the Glory and Holiness of God.
-Reverence is the result of understanding in the fullest sense who God is.
-Reverence produces in us a strong feeling of unworthiness in God’s presence.  It produces respect, humility and submission to God.

Genesis 1 and Lessons From Space (Revised)

age of the earth, apologetics, evolution No Comments

In January, 2017, the Warren Christian Apologetics Center published a revised edition of Nobie Stone’s work, Genesis 1 and Lessons From Space.  A review of the first edition of this work was published on this blog under Book Reviews in 2014 when the first edition was published.  Now, a thorough review of the new revised edition has been published on this blog under Book Reviews.  Simply click on Genesis 1 and Lessons From Space Revised and you will have access to the ten page review.
Nobie Stone is a theistic evolutionist and a mitigated skeptic who misinterprets Genesis 1 in an attempt to harmonize it with evolutionary chronology.  He makes many mistakes in logic, science and theology.  Many of these same mistakes were made in the first edition.  Now, they are repeated in the revised edition and many more errors are added.  Please take the time to read this review and, then, distribute it to others who may be interested in examining the faulty apologetics the book affirms.

The Power of Listening

persuasion, soul-winning No Comments

What is the most effective way to communicate the gospel?  One model emphasizes arguing, proving and defending.  Another, suggests listening, questioning and empathizing.  To be sure, these two approaches are different.  Both may be worth knowing and using.
Why Do We Resist Change?
Research has given us a couple of reasons why people resist change or persuasion.  The first is confirmation bias.  This occurs when people seek out information that confirms a belief and outright reject anything that conflicts with it (A Lesson In Listening, Christianity Today, June, 2017, p. 42).  The second is identity protection cognition.  This occurs when people’s defense mechanisms kick in when they feel their identity and core values are being threatened and it can lead them to subconsciously resist information that conflicts with their beliefs (Ibid. p. 43).  Both of these responses represent psychological ways of protecting ourselves from ideas or concepts that we have not already approved or that would produce significant change in our lives.  We resist persuasion in order to maintain identity and beliefs that we have already accepted and validated.  A third reason why we resist change/persuasion is that sinful conduct hardens our hearts against the truth of God’s Word.  Heb. 3:12-13, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”  Sin is deceptive and it causes us to resist change in God’s direction.  This produces a spiritual blindness that must be overcome by the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 4:4).
The Power of Listening.
James 1:19-20, encourages us to be good listeners. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”  Good listening skills are important in soul-winning.  Consider the following thoughts:
1.  Listen with the intent to understand.  Listen more than you speak!
2.  Ask questions.  Asking questions prevents accusations (which put the person you are communicating with on the defensive) and it produces thought (the person must now respond which shifts the responsibility back to them).
3.  Show empathy.  Empathy involves the idea of putting ourselves in the place of the other person to really understand how they feel and how they think about their present circumstances.
4.  Be patient.  Sometimes we get impatient whenever someone resists our presentation of the truth.  Persuasion is a process.
5.  Be kind, gentle, and loving.  There is no need to get angry.  Watch becoming upset or defensive.  Preach the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
6.  Practice self-control.  James emphasizes the necessity of controlling one’s tongue to demonstrate mastery of self.  This is essential in soul-winning.
Love and listening will go a long way to help persuade others that God’s way is best for them.  We can only do our part and then the person who hears God’s word must have a good and honest heart that is receptive to God’s will.

Revising The Biblical Decree On Womanhood

Bible translations, women's role in the church No Comments

The English Standard Version is now being used by many who may not be aware of some of the significant changes that have been made in that translation.  One such change is found in Genesis 3:16.  The ESV reads, “To the woman he said, I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.  Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”  In Genesis 3, God expels the first two human beings from the Garden of Eden.  Eve succumbed to temptation and sinned against God by eating of the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:17).  Then, she gave some of the fruit to her husband and he did it.  In doing so, Adam sinned against God.  God punishes Eve for her transgression.  In the KJV, Genesis 3:16 states, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.”
The ESV vs. the KJV
The ESV appears to suggest that women naturally oppose their husband’s desires.  Could this explain the battle of the sexes?  One reader responded that it sounds like wives are responsible for marital conflict (Bible Review Journal, vol. 4, no. 1, Spring, 2017, p. 27).  The ESV seems to teach that women oppose their husband’s desires, but that they (their husbands) will overrule them.  The KJV teaches that God by divine precept subjugated the woman to the man in the marriage relationship because of her being deceived and usurping his authority.  Adam was addressed by God regarding the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:17) before Eve was created.  In all likelihood, she learned of the forbidden fruit from her husband.  When she succumbed to the temptation of Satan, she disobeyed God and disregarded the words of her husband.
Why the Translation Difference?
The translation difference hinges on a single Hebrew preposition: ‘el.  Virtually no other major translation takes this word to mean “contrary to,” as the ESV does.  The translation is false and misleading.
Two Problems Resulting From This Change
The first problem to consider is the destruction of the link between Gen. 3:16 and Eph. 5:23-24.  The subjugation of the woman to her husband in the marriage is divinely ordained by God.  It is a God-given decree that is tied to the fall of the woman.  If the subjugation of the woman to the man in marriage is not divinely decreed, then the cultural argument made by egalitarians is strengthened.  In Eph. 5:23-24, the ESV states that the husband is the head of the wife and that she is to be in submission to her husband.  However, verse 21 is already being used by egalitarians to show that the submission is mutual and equal.  While this is a misinterpretation of verse 21, it still is problematic.  The destruction of the link between Eph. 5:23-24 and Gen. 3:16 will further complicate the interpretation of both passages.
A second problem is the destruction of the link between Gen. 3:16 and I Tim. 2:12-14 subordinating women to men in the worship assembly of the New Testament church.  In I Tim. 2:13-14, the Holy Spirit through Paul makes it clear that a woman is not permitted to teach nor (in any other way) to usurp authority over the man.  He bases his argument on two important things:  (1)  Adam was created before Eve (the created order) and (2) Eve was deceived by Satan not Adam (the order and circumstances of the fall).  God by divine decree subjugated the woman to the man in marriage.  This cannot be reversed in the worship assembly (I Cor. 14:34-35).  For these reasons we do not have women preachers, women serving as elders or deacons, or women taking part in the public worship assemblies.  The ESV accommodates the egalitarians who argue for a cultural interpretation of I Tim. 2:12-14 and consequently permit a wider role for women in the church.
This translation change by the ESV translators simply demonstrates how a small change (the meaning of one preposition) can have a profound impact on the interpretation of God’s Word and the doctrines and practices of the New Testament church.

Kissing Judases

age of the earth, creation, theistic evolution No Comments

The last week of Jesus’ life leading up to the crucifixion was trying. The hatred of His enemies was at a near peak.  The hatred had turned into a plot or conspiracy to kill Him. One of His own twelve apostles was involved in the conspiracy. The evil in Judas’ heart did not need anything to provoke it.  Judas was a thief (John 12:6).  As iniquity abounds, the love of  many waxes cold (Matt. 26:12).  Eventually, love dies and hatred takes over.  Judas conspires to kill Jesus who is the Personification of love.
In The Garden of Gethsemane
Jesus seeks solitude in the Garden of Gethsemane so He can pray to God.  When moments are dark and bleak, where can we go but to the Lord?  Jesus’ disciples are not able to stay awake and watch. Human flesh fails while, at the same time, only God supplies what is needful. Jesus prays for “this cup” to pass from Him (the cup of suffering).  However, the future was left up to God as Jesus committed Himself to Him that judges righteously.  Jesus prays three times.  After the third time, the soldiers, chief priests, and Judas arrive in the Garden to arrest Him.
The Betrayal
Judas recognizes and acknowledges Jesus. Then, he identifies Jesus with a kiss.  Normally, a kiss is a sign of friendship and affection. On this occasion, it becomes a sign of treachery and betrayal. Jesus is betrayed by one who He considered to be a friend and fellow laborer in the great work of God.  The kiss is an act of hypocrisy.  Judas honored Jesus with his lips, but his heart was far from Him.
The Application
Os Guinness in Impossible People, p. 72 states, “Just so today, Christian advocates of homosexual and lesbian revisionism believe in themselves and in the sexual revolution rather than the gospel.  They therefore twist the Scriptures to make reality fit their desires rather than making their desires fit the truths of Scripture. In Soren Kierkegaard’s stinging term, they are “kissing Judases” who betray Jesus with an interpretation.”  Peter warned against twisting or wresting the Scriptures (II Pet. 3:16).  “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” The word wrest means to distort and so pervert what God has said. The idea is that of stretching something beyond its proportions.  This is not innocent.  This is a salvation issue, i.e. “unto their own destruction.”  Guinness applies the act of betrayal of Jesus by Judas to those who betray the Lord through twisting the Scriptures to make them mean that homosexuality is not a sin.  Another example of twisting Scripture is given by Nobie Stone in Genesis 1 and Lessons From Space where Stone advocates an old earth view by changing the meaning of Scripture permitting the Gap Theory or Day-Age Theory or Progressive Creation Theory.  (see Genesis 1 and Lessons From Space, p. 69 –Published by the Warren Christian Apologetics Center).  Stone states, “First, concerning the wording in Genesis Chapter One, it says nothing about a 24-hr day.”  While the exact words “24-hr day” do not occur in the context of Genesis 1, the obvious meaning of the Hebrew word yom which is translated “day” when describing the “days” of creation refers to a 24-hr day for two reasons.  First, the use of an ordinal number before day (first day, second day, third day, etc.) limits the meaning of the Hebrew word yom to a 24-hr day.  Second, the phrase, “evening and morning” indicates a 24-hr period.  There are strong contextual elements that show that the “day” is a 24-hr period and not an indefinite period of time that could cover billions of years. Another consideration is that this understanding of the “days” of creation harmonizes with the plain statement given by Moses in Exodus 20:11, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”  Stone betrays Jesus with an interpretation.

The Danger of Altering God’s Word

Bible, lying, sin No Comments

Aubrey Johnson states, “It is no small matter, therefore, to modify a divinely established institution or practice” (Music Matters in the Lord’s Church, p. 58).  Johnson was addressing the attitude that some have towards the Word of God that they can modify it in order to suit them.  Consequently, they add to it or take away from it in order to support their views.
However, we cannot change what God has said and still be pleasing to God.  Mankind does not have the authority to alter God’s Word, yet, this is attempted almost daily.  There are false claims made by individuals who say that God spoke to them and gave them additional information different from God’s Word.  There are false teachers who alter the meaning of the words of the Bible and the grammatical context in order to make the Scriptures say what they want them to say rather than understanding what God meant by what God said.  Then, there are false Bibles that alter the very words of God in order to convey the doctrines that support a particular religious viewpoint.
God Has Protected His Word
God protects His word by expressing the severest penalties for altering it in any way.  The severest penalty is to be eternally damned.  Consider the following passages:
1.  Deut. 4:2, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”
2.  Deut. 12:32, “What things soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”
3.  Prov. 30:6, “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.”
4.  Rev. 22:18-19, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things that are written in this book.”
God Empowers His Word
If we alter God’s Word, we render it powerless.  Unbelief results in condemnation, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  The unbeliever is lost.  If we do not believe the truth, then we believe a lie and will be damned (II Thess. 2:10-12).  Altering God’s Word produces “lies” that cannot save.  God’s Word imparts life (John 6:63; James 1:18; I Pet. 1:21-23).  God’s Word saves (James 1:21).  If we alter God’s Word we change it and negate its spiritual power.
God Will Vindicate His Word
Paul states, “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).  God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18).  His Word is infallible.  To alter God’s Word is to call God a liar.  Satan did this in Gen. 3:4 when he contradicted what God had plainly stated in Gen. 2:17.  Satan added one word–the word “not.”  The statement Satan made was a lie.  Eve believed the lie, while rejecting the truth, and sinned against God.  When we call God a liar, we blaspheme.
God vindicates His Word in life.  Paul writes, “Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).  When we choose to disobey God in this life, we will suffer the consequences of our sin.  When we obey God, we shall receive a just reward.
God vindicates His Word in judgment.  Jesus taught in John 12:48, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.”  This means that we must know the truth and not alter it in any way lest we be found to contradict God and fall under His condemnation.

What Is Ecumenism?

Church of Christ, ecumenism, gospel, Unity No Comments

In the Spiritual Sword, July, 1988, Thomas Warren was concerned about the Ecumenical Movement’s influences on the churches of Christ.  What is the Ecumenical Movement?  Why should we be concerned?
A Definition of Ecumenism
The word “ecumenical” is derived from the Greek word oikoumene which means “the whole inhabited world.”  The word was historically used of the Roman Empire.  The ecumenical vision comprises both the search for the visible unity of the Church (Eph. 4:3) and the “whole inhabited earth” (Matthew 24:14) as the concern of all Christians.  The word “Christian” is used in a very broad sense of anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  This is different from the Scriptural use of the word.  The name Christian is always used as a noun in the New Testament.  The word describes a person who is a disciple of Jesus Christ (Acts 11:26).  It denotes a person who is redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:28) and a person who will suffer persecution for righteousness sake (I Peter 4:16).  A Christian is a person who has obeyed the Gospel (Rom. 10:16-17).  Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, obeys the Lord (Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 6:46).
Ecumenism refers to initiatives aimed at greater Christian unity or cooperation.  The word is used primarily by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian churches who may be separated by doctrine, history and practice, but who seek to work together despite these differences.  These churches consider themselves to be in fellowship with each other as long as faith in Jesus Christ is expressed.  This distinguishes Ecumenism from interfaith pluralism that embraces all religions and approves of all religions as different pathways to God.
The Ecumenical Movement was initiated among Protestant denominations with the attempt to unify diverse religious bodies.  The World Council of Churches met for the first time in 1948.  The Council took place in Amsterdam.  The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the Scriptures and seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The WCC brings together 349 churches, denominations, and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 560 million Christians (broad sense of the term Christian).  These churches include most of the world’s Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches.
Fundamental Errors of Ecumenism
First, Ecumenists practice “unity in diversity.”  They claim to be united in Christ even though they do not believe the same doctrines, have the same history, or practice the same things (practice is driven by doctrine).  One of the main problems is the basic understanding of what is required in obeying the Gospel.  Many Ecumenists believe that one is saved by grace alone through faith alone.  Consequently, they do not teach that baptism into Christ is essential for salvation.  Jesus taught, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16; Matt. 28:18-20).  Jesus taught that baptism is essential for salvation because of the design of baptism.  In baptism, a person dies to sin, is buried in water, and raised to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4).  When one is immersed into Christ, his/her sins are washed away (forgiven) (Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16).  Most individuals in the Ecumenical Movement do not believe this truth.  The reality emerges that two different “gospels” are proclaimed which of course is an impossibility because there is only one gospel (Gal. 1:8-9).
Second, Ecumenists affirm that one church is just as good as another, but this doctrine contradicts the teaching of the apostle Paul that there is one body (Eph. 4:4).  The one body is the church of our Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18).  Jesus built only one church (Matt. 16:18).  He is the head of the body (Eph. 5:23).  He is the savior of the body (Eph. 5:23).  Jesus saves those individuals who obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9).  He adds these individuals to His church (Acts 2:41, 47).  Modern denominations exist without biblical authority.  They arose as a result of the Reformation Movement and are now 500 years old or less.  The church of the New Testament was begun in the city of Jerusalem in the year 30 A.D.  just ten days after the ascension of Jesus into heaven (Acts 1 and 2).  Anyone can become a part of the New Testament church by obeying the one, true, Gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16).
The Ecumenical Movement obscures two important truths concerning the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the true church of Jesus Christ.  On these two grounds, it must be rejected.

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