Saturday, December 16, 2017

Open Doors

We’ve just published a new article, Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? on our main site. We always attempt to write all articles with a good balance of conviction and charity, particularly on articles that may involve polemics and gray areas of the Bible. Although we try our best, we often fall short of the ideal, usually on the side of favoring conviction over charity. This subject can be a very emotional one for those on both sides of the argument, so we’ve attempted to make an extra effort to present a balanced account of the evidence. We mention this article because one of the arguments for the celebration of Christmas is that it opens many doors to share with non-believers about the real meaning of the holiday.

When the Scriptures speak of an open door, the author is often referring to an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the end of Paul’s first missionary journey, he reported back to the church at Antioch how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles (Ac 14:24-28). He also spoke of a door that God opened for Him at Troas (2Cor 2:12).

In Paul’s final instructions to the Colossian Church, he had a prayer request. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should (Col 4:2-4).

Of course, when God opens a door for us, we can almost always count on opposition from adversaries. Near the end of his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul writes that he plans to visit them soon, but that he will “stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me” (1Cor 16:8-9).

Yet, Paul saw adversity as an opportunity to rely on God’s great strength rather than his own weaknesses. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many (2Cor 1:8-11).

In other places, the open door refers to access to God, either in fellowship or in a salvific sense. We first see this in the account of the great flood. After Noah built the ark that was a picture of Christ, the rains came down, Noah’s family and the animals entered the ark, and the Lord shut the door (Gen 7:11-16). Just as the open door represented life, the closed door resulted in a judgment of death for the wicked.

Likewise, in the parable of the bridesmaids (Mt 25:1-13), the ones that were not prepared for the bridegroom (Jesus) when He came, arrived after the door was shut. They called out “Lord, Lord, open the door for us!” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I don’t know you”. (See also Luke 25:22-30 for the similar parable of the narrow door).

The prophet Isaiah gives us the account of God placing Eliakim as the main “storekeeper” under King David. I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open (Is 22:22). This gave Elaikim control of the palace among other duties and privileges, but the greatest power is that he controlled who had access to the King. He could allow or block anyone from entering into the king’s throne room. In Revelation, Jesus says to the church at Philadelphia, “These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” (Rev 3:7). Here, Jesus is declaring that He holds the key to the throne room of the Divine King, the throne of Heaven.

So, we see that it is God who opens and closes the doors in all these cases. Yet, there is one case in which we must open the door for ourselves. Going back to the churches in Revelation, Jesus says to the church at Laodicea, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Rev 3:19-20).

There has been some disagreement on the addressee of this statement. It is in the context of His address to the church, yet he also says “that person”. In addition, the next two verses read To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 3:21-22). These last two verses are obviously admonishing Christians to take heed of what was being said to the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3. If verses 19 and 20 are part of the address to the churches, they are an appeal for individuals within the church to let Him into closer fellowship. If the verses are part of the address to individual Christians, it could be taken as an evangelistic call.

The former interpretation is probably the most likely, however we know that Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10), and that He is the door to Heaven (Jn 10:9). Therefore, when we are called, we must respond to the Gospel by opening the door by faith. If we do so and confess Jesus as Lord, we will be sealed with the Holy Spirit and adopted into the family of God as co-heirs of the Kingdom (Rom 10:9-10, Eph 1:13-14, Rom 8:14-17).

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Pray for our Persecuted Christian Family 2017

We should be praying daily for those who are imprisoned, persecuted, and are suffering for their faith, but Sunday, November 5th is the annual day set aside as a special International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Below are ten ways that church groups and individuals can pray for persecuted Christians. These prayer requests and photos are courtesy of The Voice of the Martyrs.

The Voice of the Martyrs is a dedicated ministry providing spiritual, economic, educational and other support to persecuted Christians and their families worldwide. VOM celebrated their 50th anniversary last month. Their founder, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, was imprisoned for 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ, and his wife, Sabina, was imprisoned for three years. In 1965 they were ransomed out of Romania, and shortly thereafter established the global network of missions of which VOM is a part.

We believe VOM to be one of the most important Christian ministries in existence today. We urge all our readers who are not already supporting this vital ministry to please consider doing so. Anyone can visit their website and sign up for their free monthly newsletter that is filled with inspired stories of faithful Christians risking all to serve their Lord and Savior under the most hostile conditions.

10 Ways to Pray for our Persecuted Christian Family

Pray that they will …

1. Clearly Sense God’s presence

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Dt 31:6)

2. Know the body of Christ is praying for them

I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being proclaimed all over the world. (Rom 1:8)

3. Experience God’s comfort when persecuted

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. (2Th 2:16–17)

4. See God open doors to evangelism

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (Col. 4:3-4)

5. Boldly share the gospel

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. (Ac 4:29)

6. Forgive and love their persecutors

I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Mt 5:44-45)

7. Be granted wisdom in covert ministry work

After many days had gone by, there was a conspiracy among the Jews to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. (Ac 9:23–25)

8. Remain joyful amid suffering

So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:41 NASB) But if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but glorify God that you bear this name. (1Pe 4:16)

9. Mature in their faith

…to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:12-13)

10. Be rooted in God’s Word

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the servant of Goda may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2Tim 3:16–17)

We mentioned above that we should be continue to pray each day for persecuted Christians, not just one day a year. Please visit I Commit to Pray for additional prayer needs and requests.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Heb 13:3)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Avoiding Scams while Helping the Victims of Hurricane Harvey

Natural disasters tend to bring out the best in most people, but the worst in others. For the past few days, most of us have marveled at the tireless efforts of the rescue workers (many are unpaid volunteers) in the wake of Hurricane Harvey's destruction and flooding in South Texas. We couldn't be prouder of our fellow Texans. We are also deeply appreciative of those from other states sacrificing their time and efforts for their fellow Americans.

Unfortunately, disasters also attract predators who typically exploit others for their own gain. No, I'm not talking about the "mainstream" media. Actually, many reporters did a pretty good job in their coverage, although the usual outlets (CNN, MSNBC etc) attempted to add their typical political spin, however unbelievable they may sound to any thinking person. I'm speaking instead of the charity scam artists, who take advantage of the generous charitable nature of people in order to bilk donors of monetary aid that is intended for the victims. It has been estimated that almost $2 billion dollars went to bogus charities after Hurricane Katrina.

The Federal Trade Commission offers the following common sense advice when dealing with Charities:

  • Donate only to charities that you know and trust, and have a proven track record of dealing with disasters. Beware of those who use a very similar names to a well-known reputable charity.
  • Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Avoid those who ask for donations in cash, ask you to wire money, or offer to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect the donation immediately.
  • Specify the exact disaster that you would like your donation to go toward. Many charities, the Red Cross in particular, sometimes stockpiles donations during a disaster, then moves a portion to the general fund that goes to pay for expenses such huge salaries, fund raising, advertising etc.
  • When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before you donate. The charge will show up on your mobile phone bill, but donations are not immediate.
You can find many more tips at Before Giving to a Charity.

What about the Red Cross?

The Red Cross began as a Christian organization, but sadly has devolved primarily into a very profitable "non-profit" secular agency in order to work more closely with governmental agencies and large corporations that typically will not donate through the much more efficient Christian charitable agencies. I remember a few years ago when a Red Cross office worker was threatened with termination if she didn't remove an ornament from her desk that contained a bible verse.

After Katrina, a deputy marshal was asked to leave a Red Cross shelter because he was praying with stranded refugees. In addition, an Albany, Louisiana church shelter took in a family who stated that they were kicked out a Red Cross shelter because they were reading from their family bible. The Christian shelter workers thought that there must have been a misunderstanding, until three other families later arrived after being booted for the same reason. No one had complained about the prayers or bible readings, but Red Cross representatives defended the decisions with the usual statement that their shelters take in families from diverse backgrounds, and didn't want to offend anyone (except for the Christians that were kicked out to fend for themselves in the extreme weather conditions).

The Red Cross also has a history of mismanagement, and typically sends a much smaller percentage of donations to the actual victims than the various Christian charities. After a year long congressional investigation into Red Cross activities following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a congressional committee headed by Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley released a report in June of 2016 showing that, of the $500 million in donations for earthquake relief, almost $125 million was spent on internal expenses. Many investigator's questions went unanswered, and the Red Cross was unable or unwilling to explain where the money went.

The Red Cross typically sends a much smaller percentage of received donations to the victims than Christian charities such as Samaritan's Purse, The Salvation Army, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief , or multiple other fine organizations.

This is not to say that the Red Cross does not provide good humanitarian aid, and we certainly would not group them with any of the scammers or frauds. We are troubled by the anti-Christian bias coming from their top management, but we also personally know of many dedicated Christians who are working very long hours with them at the regional and local levels. We choose to donate through various Christian charities because a larger portion of our donations generally go to the victims, but urge our readers to follow their own conscience regarding these matters.

Finally, we'd like to say "Thanks Again" for all those who are helping in so many ways. We also ask for your continued prayers for both the spiritual and physical needs of the victims and the dedicated workers.

Update: Shortly after posting this, we received info from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that many homeowners and renters are getting robocalls stating that their flood premiums are past due and that, in order to have coverage for Hurricane Harvey, the consumers are being told they must submit a payment immediately through various means. DO NOT do this. Contact your insurance agent instead. If you suspect fraud, you can also call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-866-720-5721.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Marine Recruit Easter Letter Project

Marine Boot Camp - San DiegoWe'd like to alert our readers to a great opportunity to help encourage some of the brave service men who have been injured while training to defend our nation. On the Eve of Easter (Saturday) for the past fifteen years of so, Mike Atkinson of Mikey's Funnies has been visiting marine recruits who have been injured at Marine Boot Camp in San Diego.

A few years back, my son Justin was injured at this same boot boot camp during basic training. In spite of the injuries, he was still able to complete the training and two deployments to Afghanistan. A marine recruit is fiercely loyal, both to his country and to his fellow marines, so to be injured during this time not only affects them physically, but emotionally as well.

So, Mike and his family joins with other families each year to visit with injured recruits, and to deliver patriotic bags filled with lots of donated goodies to these discouraged recruits. Perhaps the most uplifting part of the visit is the delivery of hundreds of letters of encouragement from children and others during this time of healing. Many of the recruits have said that they were very close to giving up, but the letters gave them a renew resolve to complete the training so that they could fulfill their mission to serve and protect our country as a US Marine. The recruits also attempt to answer as many of the letters that they can.

More information on the event (including pictures from previous years) can be found at Mike's Easter Letter post.

We'd like to encourage anyone who would like to write a letter to a recruit, please send it to arrive by March 27, 2017 at the following address:

Marine Moms Online Easter Project
C/O Mike Atkinson
3755 Avocado Blvd
Box 402
La Mesa CA 91941

We're hoping for thousands of letters this year to help brighten up the recruits' Easter holiday. Please also pass this along to any friends and groups that might like to help. This will not only bless our recruits, but everyone who participates as well. Thank you.

Friday, December 9, 2016

3 Ways to Help a Person Recovering from Addiction

Guest Post by Sara at Educator Labs:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of ad Dei Gloriam Ministries.

Watching someone you care about struggle with addiction is not easy. The process of getting help alone is difficult enough, and then you must watch your loved one cope with recovery. While recovery may be a step forward, it is also a very challenging time in the person’s life.

If you have never experienced addiction, you might feel as though you cannot help simply because you don’t understand what they are going through. However, you do not need to have similar experiences to help someone through a difficult time. Here are a few ways friends and family can help a person undergoing addiction recovery.

Keep in Touch

One of the most important steps you can take to help someone working through recovery is simply to check in once in awhile. If your loved one is still in treatment or if you don’t live nearby, regular phone calls or video chats can offer the support your loved one needs.

With the isolating nature of addiction recovery, it is important that friends and family take the time to stay in touch. Social isolation can easily become a reason for relapse and by simply picking up the phone, you can help prevent that.

Plan Beneficial Activities

There are many activities that prove quite beneficial for those recovering from drug addiction. Spending time with loved ones is an important aspect of avoiding social isolation during recovery, and by choosing your activities wisely, you’ll be doing even more to help them stay on the right path and discover positive coping strategies.

Exercise is a commonly used tool in various therapies as it can improve mental state and act as a positive coping mechanism. Due to the meditative aspect of the practice, yoga is one of the best options. You might also consider learning a new hobby or skill together such as a new language or maybe even ceramics.

Bring the Family Dog

Even if you can’t find a way to help by yourself, your dog already knows the best way to offer support. Dogs are naturally stress-relieving. They offer affection and encourage physical activity by playing. If your loved one is able, you may even want to suggest that they adopt a dog. The ability to come home to a loving pet is a great way to battle depression while their need for exercise and social interaction works to prevent isolation.

Of course, dogs are also a huge financial responsibility. They will require food, vet care, collars, leashes, beds, and a number of other items in order to live comfortably. So, in the meantime, try bringing your dog over for a visit, a walk, or just a game of fetch. Their enthusiasm and affection are enough to brighten any mood.

Though addiction can be frightening and the recovery process difficult, you are an important part of your loved one’s life. Your love, support, and compassion can make all the difference in a recovery simply by doing your best and caring.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ministry and Website Programming Update

Finding spare time away from my “other job” (the one that pays the bills) has been quite challenging over the past couple of years, but at least for the past few weeks, I'm finally seeing a small work decrease. The maritime port in South Jersey is under construction and the electrical design for the International Terminal in Virginia is getting close to completion. I'm still working on the electrical substation, transmission, distribution, telecommunication and street lighting design for a few industrial cities in the Middle East, but they've been relatively quiet for the past few months. I'm hoping the trend continues and that I can even drop back to flex or even part-time within the next few years. I can just hear many of my friends thinking, "yeah, we've heard that before", but I did turn down the offer of taking the lead for designing the electrical substation, and associated electrical and telecom distribution for the downtown renovation of a city in the western US, something that I would never have done a few years ago.

I must admit that it was not easy to turn down the renovation project (downtown area renovations appear to be a hot trend), but my current primary goal is to be able to devote more time to our ministry, so I'm renewing my efforts (again) to that end. I must also do a better job in prioritizing the little time that I do have. I've often gotten an article or series to a certain point before getting interrupted (job deadlines, questions from readers or class members, deciding to do additional research on a particular topic, ect) and temporarily switching off onto another engineering or ministry project. As you've probably guessed, many of those temporary detours become permanent, resulting in dozens and dozens of writings in various stages of completion, some from over ten years ago. Therefore, even though I'm still planning and working on new articles and series, I will attempt to place a priority on finishing existing ones.

Website Programming Update

In 2014, we converted our website from "fixed-width" to "flex" or "fluid" pages to make to make it "mobile-friendly". When the site was originally uploaded in December of 2006, I knew very little about web programming (just some basic html), so I used website graphic interface software for the first couple of years. For the 2014 conversion, I worked primarily in the code itself, eliminating much of the bloat added by the software. For this latest update, I'm basically using a text editor and writing the code from scratch. This is leading to much cleaner code (file sizes are only a fraction of the originals) which should result in faster load times for those with slower internet connections. Since we have so many readers for developing countries, our top priority is to maintain a clean look and fast loading times even when adding new features.

I'll share more details and some of the code in future posts, but for now I'd like to share a short list of the upgrades. First, we're adding a Navigation Bar at the top of each individual page for linking to all the major sections of the site. The current design only contains a few relative links. In addition, we're also adding media queries to automatically orient the navbar as horizontal or vertical depending on the size of the reader's screen for our mobile readers. Second (thanks to reader comments), we're increasing the basic font sizes by 25% or more for most elements. As my eyes have grown older, I've also come to appreciate larger text sizes in some instances.

Next, we are moving all styling of text, images, etc from the html code to external css stylesheets. This further decreases the size of the page files, but its greatest benefit is for our sight-impaired readers who utilize audio reading software. Some audio readers have trouble distinguishing the styling within the html code from the actual text itself, so this should result in a much "cleaner" audio reading. Finally, we're updating the html code to include html5 semantic elements. This will be invisible to our readers, but is a big help to the search engine web crawlers, and should result in better search results.

We are currently uploading the updated pages as they are re-coded. Readers who have been on our site the past few weeks may have noticed the difference on some of the pages. If you'd like to check them out, as with our 2014 update, we began with our On-Line Bible pages since these are the only pages that are guaranteed to accomplish their purposes (Is 55:10-11). Both the Old and New Testament books have been converted to the new html/css format, but we're still converting the linked study notes to hover/popups for the NT. We're hoping to complete the conversions of the remaining sections and pages by the end of the year. Our front page will also receive an entire face-lift, but much of this code is still in progress. As always, we welcome and appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016 - Remembering our Fallen Heroes

What can we say or do to adequately express our heartfelt “thank you” to those who paid the ultimate price defending the freedoms that we all too often take for granted? Many traditions have begun through the years. Some honor the fallen with parades, ceremonies at cemeteries, and at various other events.

The traditional Memorial Day flag ceremony includes briskly raising the US Flag to the top of the pole in the morning, then slowly lowering the flag to half-staff where it flies until noon. The flag is then slowly and ceremoniously lowered at the end of the day and removed. This ceremony is performed by living soldiers as a sign of their intention to carry on the good fight so that the ultimate sacrifices of the fallen will not be in vain.

For the second consecutive year, NASCAR will honor our troops this Memorial Day Weekend with “600 Miles of Remembrance”. During this race, the sport pays tribute to our brave service men and women. In a typical NASCAR race, each car displays the driver's name on the windshield header. Yet, during this special race, each car will bear the name of a fallen service member instead.

In the late 1990s, many radio and television stations began playing “Taps” at 3:00 PM each Memorial Day while many Americans paused for a moment of silence to remember those who lost their lives defending ours. In 2000, the US Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act to officially recognize this tradition. Yet, even though all this still doesn't begin to pay the debt we owe to our fallen soldiers, we must continue to do all we can to express our gratitude. Today, let's do more than just pause for a moment of silence. Let's attempt to say “thank you” in any way we can to the families of the fallen, and to those who continue to serve our country and defend our freedoms. God Bless our Troops!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving Then and Now

This week, millions of Americans celebrated Thanksgiving, a Christian holiday (holy day) patterned after the first Pilgrim festival in 1621 in Plymouth. Within the next ten years, the annual celebration had spread throughout most of the New England colonies. After America’s independence from England, presidents regularly declared national thanksgiving days until 1863, when Abraham Lincoln began the annual practice of issuing a national Thanksgiving Day proclamation for the fourth day of November. Subsequent presidents continued the tradition, annually specifying various Thursdays in November. Finally, Congress permanently established the fourth Thursday each November at Thanksgiving in 1941.

For non-believers, it is relatively easy to celebrate Christmas and Easter without knowing the true meaning for each. Most see Christmas as all about Santa Claus and commemorate Easter by searching for eggs hidden by the Easter bunny. Scores of people don’t realize the Biblical Roots of Thanksgiving, but a false alternate tradition has yet to be established. It remains to be seen however, just how long this will remain the case.

During the past several decades, the godless public school systems, federalized under Jimmy Carter in the early 1970s, began systematically scrubbing the strong Christian beliefs of our country’s founding fathers (and anything else relating to the Christian faith) from the history books. Children are now taught that the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians instead of God (even though their first abundant harvest wasn’t until the third Thanksgiving). According to a November 23, 1986 story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, children were being taught that “the Pilgrims were narrow-minded bigots who survived initially only with the Indians’ help, but turned on them when their help wasn't needed anymore”.

It thus comes as no surprise that, during various man-on-the-street type interviews, we hear answers to questions about Thanksgiving such as the Pilgrims landed in Hawaii, the attendees at the first thanksgiving were “a bunch of presidents”, the first Thanksgiving was held in 1940, and many other tidbits of historical wisdom from products of our modern education system.

Just prior to this era, Democratic President John F Kennedy stated in his first Thanksgiving proclamation issued on October 28, 1961:

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.

More than three centuries ago, the Pilgrims, after a year of hardship and peril, humbly and reverently set aside a special day upon which to give thanks to God for their preservation and for the good harvest from the virgin soil upon which they had labored. Grave and unknown dangers remained. Yet by their faith and by their toil they had survived the rigors of the harsh New England winter. Hence they paused in their labors to give thanks for the blessings that had been bestowed upon them by Divine Providence…

I ask the head of each family to recount to his children the story of the first New England Thanksgiving, thus to impress upon future generations the heritage of this nation born in toil, in danger, in purpose, and in the conviction that right and justice and freedom can through man's efforts persevere and come to fruition with the blessing of God. (Kennedy Public Papers)

We’ve come a long way from Kennedy to Obama, who likes to invoke the socialist slogan “Forward”! Perhaps we’d be much better by returning to God and the traditions of our Christian Founders.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lessons for America from Israel’s Monarchy

I believe that one of the most important sections on our website is our Introductions of the Books of the Bible. Actually, we hope that each is a little more than just an introduction. For each book (and each section), we attempt to offer information on the author, his purpose, major themes, theological teachings, and key verses. We include a brief survey of the book, historical background info, and a timeline of the people and events. Finally, we also discuss some interpretation challenges, present some hints to aid in properly interpreting the book, and attempt to answer some of the common questions that often puzzle readers.

Like many other sections on our website, our Bible Book Intros are still in progress. When we began the section, our original goal was to finish by the end of 2012. It didn’t take long for us to realize how short-sighted we were in setting this goal. We certainly underestimated the lack of available time due to other projects, the extra details the we would include in the intros, and the number of spin-off articles each intro would produce. That said, we are re-doubling our efforts to complete this section (but not setting a new deadline).

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve recently completed the Book of the Kings, originally one volume entitled Melakim (Hebrew for “kings”). The translators of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT in the second or third century BC) divided it into two books called the “Third and Fourth Book of Kingdoms” (Samuel was designated the “First and Second Book of Kingdoms”). Together, these four books provided a complete history of the transition and the monarchy of Israel. We followed the later division of First Kings and Second Kings.

In writing these, I couldn’t help but notice (as with the other historical books of the Bible) that, even though cultures continue to change, overall human nature remains basically the same. One aspect that particularly stands out is our failure to learn from our pasts. This includes both our personal and historical pasts. The Israelites who were living during the monarchy had the book of Moses that taught the lessons of the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Exodus, the desert wanderings and other events. They should have also been familiar with the conquest and the repeating cycles of the judges. Throughout their own period of the monarchy, there were people and leaders who were repentant and faithful to God’s Word and thus enjoyed periods of God’s covenant blessings while others suffered the curses for disobedience, yet their pattern of returning to destructive behavior never ceased.

Likewise, as a whole in modern day America, we often follow the same patterns even though we have much more historical data available, including hindsight of the events concerning the fate of the Israelites. We also have the lessons of Rome and their self-destruction caused by elimination of the middle class, breakdown of the traditional family, high taxation, and other moral and economic issues (most economic crisis are caused by moral crisis). We also have the lessons of the millions upon millions of people killed by communistic and socialistic regimes.

A few weeks ago, we witnessed the Greeks celebrating in the street after following their far-left politicians’ advice to vote down responsible economic measures. Like much of America, the people were celebrating the fact that they were going bankrupt, but didn’t care as long as someone else bails them out with no resulting consequences. On the plus side, some parts of Europe are now learning some lessons from history and are subsequently making some attempts to change. At the same time, America has become the dumping ground of centuries of failed European political and economic ideas (ironically in the name of progress and going “forward”). We now witness America rushing ahead toward moral and economic bankruptcy. In the past month the US Supreme Court has flushed what was left of the Constitution (we’ll have more to say on this in future posts), and like Greece, people party while going broke.

So, how can America be fixed? Most moral issues can be fixed by repentance and a return to the Biblical foundations on which our country was founded. Similarly, most economic problems can be greatly improved by restoring the Christian work ethic (Pr 21:25, Th 3:6-12, 1Tim 5:8). The American Revolution was a direct result of the First Great Awakening. Our country today is barely surviving on the remnants of the Second Great Awakening, and is fast becoming post-Christian America. This second national revival however, also led to the sending of numerous missionaries to foreign nations around the globe. Perhaps, some of these countries in which Christianity is exploding will return the favor by sending missionaries here. Given America’s current deteriorating condition, I believe we need a Third Great Awakening. Since only God can send revival, this will require repentance and prayer by His people (2Chr 7:14). Unfortunately, like Israel, we tend to turn to God only as a last resort, so things may need to get even worse before this happens. I pray that I am wrong and that the church will arise and fulfill her calling. In order to effectively change laws, we must first change hearts. We should continue working through political and social channels but ultimately, our hope must be in the Lord.

The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord... From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth — he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength... But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. (Ps 33:10-22)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Logic of the Cross

Like clockwork every Easter, we see stories from various TV shows and magazines attempting to discredit the Bible account of Jesus’ death and/or resurrection. Never mind that these stories have been debunked over and over by the evidence, the media continues to pull them out, re-warm them over and breathlessly promotes them as new scientific discoveries that supposedly signals the death knell for Christianity.

Since the Cross is a central foundation of Christianity, it is also a prime target of those who attempt to discredit the Faith. There have been many excellent books written over the years greatly detailing the evidence for the resurrection. Indeed, the evidence supporting the Biblical accounts of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is much stronger than many of the other historical events that we take for granted. Therefore, even though we have a historically based article in progress, we decided to examine the Cross from a logical viewpoint based upon 1 Corinthians 1:18.

The preaching of the cross is, I know, nonsense to those who are involved in this dying world, but to us who are being saved from that death, it is nothing less than the power of God (Phillips NT).
The first thing Paul notes is that the message of the Cross, that is Jesus dying for the sins of all who would believe in Him as Lord and Savior so that we might be forgiven and spend eternity with Him in Heaven (Jn 3:16, 17:24) is foolishness to those unbelievers dying in their sins. But even though it is considered foolish or even absurd to this group of people, let’s examine the message to determine if it actually makes sense.

I think we can all agree that most people have a built-in conscience that can tell right from wrong, justice from injustice, and good from evil. Even though postmodern thinking has blurred many of the lines of separation between good and evil, most would agree that evil should be punished while good should be rewarded. Most civilized people would not want an evil person to go unpunished so that he would feel free to continue to steal, murder etc.

The cross is God’s rightful and just punishment for the evil (sin) among mankind. Every person has sinned (lied, stolen, lusted, coveted etc) in attitude, thought or deed, and as a result, is deserving of death (Rm 3:23, 6:23). Furthermore, there is no forgiveness of our sins without the shedding of lifeblood (Heb 9:22). In the OT, the priests made continual animal sacrifices as a temporary covering of sin, but these sacrifices could not remove the stain of sin. But the Christ, being the God-Man, voluntarily sacrificed Himself once for all the sins (past present and future) of all those who would believe in Him (Heb 10:11-14). In fact, Jesus was the only perfect sacrifice that had the infinite value required to satisfy God’s righteous wrath against sin and pay the penalty to restore our relationship and judicial status (we are credited with living a perfect life and fulfilling the law – Rm 8:4) before God the Father. There was no other way for us to be reconciled with a Holy God. Thus, the events of the cross were entirely logical.

Of course, only those who believe (trust in, rely on) the work of Christ will be saved (Jn 3:16, Ac 4:12). Those who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior are already condemned (Jn 3:18) and the message of the cross remains illogical. For a more detailed discussion on our topic and subject verse (1Cor 1:18), including its context within Scripture (1Cor 1:18 – 2:5), the historical context of the Jews and Greeks, and Godly vs human wisdom, see The Cross - Foolishness or the Power of God?

Before we end this post, I’d like to address a couple of questions that some may be asking. The first, typical asked by unbelievers and even by some new believers is, “Why couldn’t God just forgive and forget? Why do we have to be perfect to get into heaven? Couldn’t God lower His standard just a bit or grade on the curve?” The thinking here is that, if God is good and He is a God of love, couldn’t He at least ignore the minor stuff.

To answer these questions, we must understand the simplicity of God. By simplicity, we don’t mean that God is a simple God. God is undeniably beyond our comprehensive understanding. By “divine simplicity”, we’re merely referring to His unity of being (or unity of His nature or character), primarily with respect to His attributes. God’s attributes are irreducible in that we can’t separate them or temporarily take one away. We can distinguish between them, but they always work together. Therefore God, whose eyes are too pure to even look upon evil, can’t tolerate sin (Hab 1:13) because His Holiness, Truth and Justice won’t allow it. However, because His Love is also working, He provided a substitute, His own Son. Thus, He is able to punish wrongdoing while still saving those who believe without compromising His Holiness.

The second question that might be asked by anyone is, “Why would God sacrifice His only Son for me?” I must admit that, on the surface, this seems very illogical. I certainly would not allow either of my sons to be sacrificed for anyone. The only rational explanation for God’s actions according to His eternal plan is His great love for each of us (Rm 5:7-8). It has often been said that neither the Roman soldiers nor the nails could have kept Jesus on the cross since He had legions of angels at His disposal (Mt 26:52-54). He voluntarily laid down His life (Jn 10:17-18) and the only thing holding Him to the cross was His great love for us. In light of what He did, shouldn’t we live for Him?