Monumental Tragedy Southern Baptist Convention Publishes Politically Correct, Gender-Neutral Bible

In a monumental departure from millennia of Biblical tradition, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)—largest Protestant denomination in the United States—recently published a politically correct, gender-neutral version of the Bible.

Read about it here: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/southern-baptists-embrace-gender-inclusive-language-in-the-bible/529935/

Then weep profusely.

Then pray diligently and fervently!

A few years ago, the publishers of the beloved New International Version of the Bible, published their latest edition as a gender-neutral edition. They and others with similar goals were rightfully and soundly criticized by SBC. In an about face, the SBC has done the very thing they so harshly criticized in the past.

The potential effect is devastating. The perpetrators (read translators) claimed they were working to “clarify the meaning” of Scripture. Any preacher can clarify the meaning of Scripture in a well prepared worship service message. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord for good preachers.

However, the translators are producing a work product that is presented to the public as the inspired inerrant Word of God. Because of the intended use of their work product, the translators are putting themselves in the position of judging God and His Word, effectively placing themselves above God—a fearful place to be. Lucifer only wanted to be “like” (equal to) God and it clearly did not work out well for him.

Nowhere in the universe is pride manifestly exhibited with more inescapable clarity than among people who call themselves “scholars” Nowhere is more dangerous than among so called Biblical scholars.

“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” [Matthew 5:18 KJV] SBC has arrogantly done far more than just mess with a “jot or one tittle.” They have adulterated Scripture and flagrantly distorted the Biblical worldview.

In the entire history of the world, Jesus Christ was the first and only great equalizer. He declared men and women to be equal, but “equal” does not mean the same, identical, or indistinguishable. Jesus also declared that men and women have different roles and responsibilities.

Those extraordinary and breathtakingly beautiful and complementary differences between men and women:

  • Are fundamental to the abundant life He promised [John 10:10] and
  • The only way the earthly marriage and family can be the visible manifestation of the heavenly marriage between the Bridegroom (Jesus) and the bride (the Church).

Those roles must not be fogged or camouflaged—especially in Scripture—by language merely intended to reflect “tolerance” and “inclusivity.” Political correctness is the incredibly powerful tool used by the liberal/progressive/Humanist/socialist/Marxist/globalist crowd to achieve the satanic objectives of destroying the,

1) God-created family,

2) United States Constitution,

3) American form of government,

4) free-enterprise system, and the

5) freedoms given by God (not granted by government).

The people who purport to make men and women equal by making them the “same, identical, or indistinguishable” seek to aggressively destroy the beauty of God’s greatest creation.

Are YOU listening?

In a recent Barna Group survey of conservative ministers, 95% of the participants agreed that the resolution of 95% of today’s cultural controversies can be found in the Bible. But only 5% of the ministers said they would be willing to preach on those controversies.

From a lay viewpoint, there are many of us begging for strong—even in your face—Biblical messages from the pulpit. It is mindboggling that while SBC is adulterating Scripture, they are at the same time commissioning a study on why there has been a huge loss of membership in recent decades. Part of the reason is Pablum from the pulpit!

Strongly preached messages will attract new members; the messages will not chase them away. If a few leave, they were the tares among the wheat anyway. The Bible says “Fear not” 365 times; that include YOU preacher!

Is there a preacher reading this who has the honesty, integrity, courage, and the spiritual gonads to preach it like it is? Preaching the entirety of Scripture—the good, the bad, and the ugly, especially as it applies to the most controversial issues of our modern culture.

As this is being written, a Republican Congressman—the House Majority Whip—and several others have been shot at an early morning Congressional baseball practice and an 8-year old “drag queen” is being praised by the LBTQ…. Community.

Believers are the only ones in possession of the solutions to all the most raging modern controversies. As believers, we need spiritual leaders in the pulpit who are willing to lead, rather than merely manage Christian clubs. How about YOU!

What does it take to wake up the people?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

Pursue a godly life with zeal!

Ten Commandments

Pursue a godly life with zeal!

Draw others to God with zeal!

Zeal for God exceeds that for anything else.

I am wasting God’s time and mine when I don’t live exclusively for Him and proclaim Him to others.

What TV shows are far better than American ones? (Part 2)

While The Ten Commandments in the first table (refer to Part 1 of this blog) exposes the differences between American and Asian entertainment, the second table reveals the effects of the glaring differences. Take a look! Once again, the flashing neon-like table needs no further amplification.

American Asian TV Ten Commandments 2

To the seasoned Western viewer, the tables may be intellectually satisfying and spiritually appealing, but may seem emotionally a bit wimpy, begging the question, “Exactly, what is the source of dramatic power in the Asian productions?” For there to be a struggle between good and evil, there has to be some form of evil.

In Asian TV dramas, the villain is not necessarily a murderous, unlawful villain; more often the “villain” is an unscrupulous emotional or spiritual villain resorting to various forms of skullduggery to break up love triangles. The most popular Asian TV dramas contain several overlapping love stories, because, “love covers a multitude of sins.” [1 Peter 4:8 NASB] For the sources of dramatic power in Asian TV dramas, here is the list:

  • The storylines are amazingly creative unlike anything American have been able to produce. American cultural decay has produced one-dimensional movie/TV characters with a keen intellect and a severely limited range of emotions. Asian TV still produces three-dimensional characters using the full range of God-given intellectual, emotional, and spiritual faculties.
  • Characters are fascinating, played by outstanding actors with endearing personal characteristics
  • Selected characters have a vibrant sense of humor, backed by a soundtrack that demonstrates musical humor
  • Drama aroused by conflicts and misunderstandings regarding ordinary and major life obstacles (romance, competition, illness, injury, separation, death)
  • Rich interpersonal relationships among the characters fully engage the viewer
  • Dramatic satisfaction is rooted in compelling illustrations of applying Biblical principles, producing the best possible results
  • In a love triangle, the leading man invariable ends up with the girl who routinely meets the needs of others.
  • Many scenes varying from heart-warming or heart-wrenching to heart-breaking, but nearly always reflecting positive character goals
  • Dialogue exhibits amazing wisdom in ordinary and challenging situations—characters seem to say precisely the right thing at exactly the right time. The expressions of rightness paint spectacularly beautiful word pictures
  • Most characters, other than villains, are positive role models. Even the villains repent by the end of the series.

American movies/TV routinely and aggressively break all ten of the commandments and then celebrates the outcomes. Asian TV celebrates godly virtues and character building.

So why not follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition, “…whatsoever things are true…honest…just…pure, whatsoever things are lovely…good report…think on these things.” Why not entertain ourselves with the good and the beautiful, rather than the sleazy, ugly, and evil. We cannot continue injecting ourselves with a dose of evil every time we turn on the TV or go to a movie.

If you have never seen any of the Asian dramas, you must try at least one. If you are curious, try “Autumn’s Concerto” (Taiwanese), “Descendants of the Sun” (South Korean), or “Tomorrow’s Cantabile” (South Korean). They are available on Netflix and other common outlets.

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

 

What TV shows are far better than American ones? (Part 1)

American Asian TV Ten Commandments 1“…whatsoever things are true…honest…just…pure, whatsoever things are lovely…good report…think on these things.” [Philippians 4:8 KJV]

Entertainment is powerful—so powerful that it can be profoundly life influencing, if not completely life changing. Modern technology provides endless entertainment options and unlimited personal content choices. With such awesome power at our fingertips it makes compelling and inescapably good sense to entertain ourselves with the good and the beautiful, rather than sleaze and evil. Yes, there is an easy way!

Tragically, the American motion picture and television entertainment industries have declined to sewer levels. Although the decline is recently accelerating, decades of incremental decline have dragged many Judeo-Christian believers down along with the rest of the American culture. As Lot did long ago, we have in past decades pitched our tents towards Sodom and have long since moved in.

Many, especially younger believers, remain unaware of anything more than a modest cultural and entertainment decline. They persistently perceive themselves unaffected by it. Pride on steroids? You bet! Believers continue watching dramatizations of nudity, gratuitous violence, saturation profanity, rampant uncivil sarcasm, and people of low character portrayed as heroes. Once planted, the evil seeds grow in the intellect, emotions, and spirit. There is little or no understanding of the relentless and severe weakening effect on the viewers and virtually guaranteed future pain and suffering produced by weak character.

Although specifically Christian entertainment has improved greatly in recent years, much of it remains dramatically weak and—long term—there is not nearly enough of it.

However, there is a fascinating alternative, Asian television dramas made primarily in South Korea and Taiwan (available on Netflix and numerous other venues). The Asian dramas are wildly entertaining, sans the pervasive sleaze in American entertainment, and typically feature one or more strong moral themes.

The Asian dramas typically project a vibrant sense of humor and have captivating musical sound tracks using every imaginable musical genre. Most appealing are the endless dramatizations of beautifully applied Biblical principles. Examples are routine dramatizations of absolutely unconditional love surviving all manner of heavy duty obstacles and long periods of separation, forgiveness in particularly painful circumstances, and “love your enemies”—clearly one of the believer’s most difficult challenges. The overall message of the Asian TV dramas is that there is no conflict or misunderstanding that cannot be overcome in a loving, godly, manner.

Yes, you will likely have to read the English subtitles, but doing so does not weaken the drama at all. The viewer still enjoys and experiences all the emotions, laughter, and tears produced by the characters in the program. The actors speak just enough English for a Westerner to feel comfortable.

God’s very best floodlight for exposing the differences between American motion pictures/television and Asian television is The Ten Commandments. Consider the first table, comparing the attributes of American and Asian entertainment side-by-side with the Commandments. The contrast is so stark, it will seem like flashing neon to the reader. Since no mere mortal can one-up The Ten Commandments, no further commentary on the table is necessary.

While The Ten Commandments in the first table exposes the differences between American and Asian entertainment, the second table reveals the effects of the glaring differences. Take a look! Once again, the flashing neon-like table needs no further amplification.

To the seasoned Western viewer, the tables may be intellectually satisfying and spiritually appealing, but may seem emotionally a bit wimpy, begging the question, “Exactly, what is the source of dramatic power in the Asian productions?” For there to be a struggle between good and evil, there has to be some form of evil. Find out more in Part 2

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

We must NOT lose Christian history!

banknote in one American dollar closeup

Liberals and Islamists destroy historical artifacts, effectively rewriting history. All cultures need to be sustained by their heroes. Cultural memory is an anchor. If Christians don’t hold up Christian history for others to see, on one else will. If we lose Christian history, our culture will lose Christianity and God’s blessings that we have enjoyed for hundreds of years.

Motherhood!

“That special power of loving that belongs to a woman is seen most clearly when she becomes a mother. Motherhood is the gift of God to women. How grateful we must be to God for this wonderful gift that brings such joy to the whole world, women and men alike! Yet we can destroy this gift of motherhood, especially by the evil of abortion, but also by thinking that other things like jobs or positions are more important than loving, than giving oneself to others. No job, no plans, no possessions, no idea of “freedom” can take the place of love. So anything that destroys God’s gift of motherhood destroys His most precious gift to women—the ability to love as a woman.” Mother Teresa

I Must Decrease So That You Can Increase!

man looking at his big boss

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” [John 3:30 KJV] John the Baptist’s humble statement about his relationship with his cousin Jesus the Christ resounds loudly down through the ages. It applies to each of us today, regarding our relationship with the Lord and also our relationship with others.

Each of us must decrease so the love of God and the light of God can shine through each of our lives, becoming abundantly and conspicuously visible to others. Each of us must decrease so that others might increase. I (Lloyd Stebbins) must decrease so that YOU might increase. Humility demands it! God commands it!

Today, our schedules are voluntarily overcrowded with self; we have deliberately allowed little or no time to serve the needs of others. But wait! Serving others is an overarching Biblical imperative. Jesus, our perfect role model said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” [Mark 10:45 NIV]

We cannot draw attention to self and others at the same time. We cannot serve self and others at the same time.

Some say we must sacrifice self for the benefit of others. But scripture guarantees that the benefits returned outweigh perceived sacrifice. He said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you…” [Luke 6:38 KJV] The Apostle Paul, quoted Jesus saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive. [Acts 20:35 KJV] What do we have to give? Time, talent, and treasure!

It is a blessing to serve others. God blesses both the giver and the receiver, the benefactor and the one who benefits. If doubts linger, note that serving is not optional.  Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:37040 NIV] Service is an expression of love; service is love in action; serving others is love made visible.

The world says, “Have it your way” (old Burger King commercial and Frank Sinatra’s popular song, “I did it my way.”). It is YOUR choice, your way or God’s way.

As for me and my house, we will acknowledge that Jesus is THE WAY–“I am the way, the truth and the life…” [John 14:6 KJV]—and whole heartedly strive to live accordingly.

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

What’s So Great About “Generation Z?”

There’s a fresh demographic breeze blowing. It’s coming from the young and seems to be gaining speed!

Teenager denkt

“Generation Z” is the generation following the notoriously liberal Millennials. Generation Z seems to be emerging as the most conservative generation in living memory. They are generally the ones born after about 1995; those on the leading edge are now about 22 years old.

Generation Z is more politically conservative than Millennials, Generation X and the Baby Boomers. In addition, one study respectively reports young adulthood church attendance—41% Generation Z, 18% Millennials, 21% Generation X, and 26% Baby Boomers (figures for each generation, when they were at the age of today’s Generation Z). [Hope, J (2016). “Get your campus ready for Generation Z”. Dean & Provost. 17 (8): 1–7]

They have come of age since 9/11. Although modern consumer technology is part of who they are, culturally they have only known chaos, a declining America, erratic, confusing morality, and increasing reports of terrorism and domestic crime—hardly a recipe for building confidence and optimism.

Eric Metaxas reports, “Eight out of ten of these kids identify themselves as “fiscally conservative,” and they prefer saving to spending — at rates not seen since the Silent Generation.” Further,

…almost sixty percent of Gen Z respondents in the U.K. described their views on “same-sex marriage, transgender rights and marijuana legalization” as “conservative” or “moderate,” compared with a whopping 83% of Millennials who called themselves “quite” or “very liberal” on these issues. The Gen Z participants were even ten times more likely than Millennials to dislike tattoos and body piercings!

Why the apparently stark change despite overwhelming liberal/progressive cultural pressures from the public school system, media, entertainment industry, and wayward sports heroes? Could it be that Generation Z,

  • Is fed up with the sick American culture and want to be part of the healing
  • Disgusted with the worm-eaten baton that is being passed to them by recent previous generations
  • Dissatisfied with a bloated inefficient, unresponsive government
  • Yearn for something much better?

Could it be that God has a hand in the change?

Generation Z is clearly aware of our cultural problems, but may remain a bit foggy about the remedies.

Wow! What a great time to share the good news of the saving Biblical message about Jesus. How refreshing would it be for them to learn that the root cause of virtually every one of America’s problems is a decades-old progressive abandonment of God. Many problems; just one very simple remedy.

The 1960s hippie-driven chaos that separated centuries of Judeo-Christian love and stability in favor of the tragedy of massive moral decay camouflaged and promoted as “sexual freedom,” was often described as a “counter cultural revolution.” It accelerated a liberal/progressive movement that has relentlessly worked to destroy the traditional family, the free enterprise system, the U.S. Constitution, and replace democracy with socialism.

The movement has failed by every measure, a failure that has become increasingly obvious to Generation Z. They could become the driver of a new counter cultural revolution that moves in a direction exactly opposite the earlier one.

Generation Z could be the hinge generation to recover cultural sanity, Biblical standards, and American exceptionalism.

Finally, Metaxes proclaims, “A tendency toward traditional values, by itself, means nothing unless those who believe in revealed Truth, the Gospel, the natural family, and political and religious liberty step forward and train the next generation to articulate and live out these truths.”

The first counter-cultural revolution championed the slogan, “Never trust anyone over 30.” Perhaps Generation Z could adopt the same slogan, for reasons exactly opposite those used the first time around. What do YOU think?

For further details follow the link to the Metaxas article:

http://www.christianpost.com/news/generation-z-most-conservative-since-wwii-177793/

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

 

What’s All the Hullabaloo about St. Patrick?

St Patrick's Day Puppy

Today is the day many people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, marked by the conspicuous wearing of green and for some an overindulgence of green beer. But what started it all?

For six years, beginning as a teenager in the sixth century A.D., Patrick served as a slave to Irish Druids. These fine folks practiced human sacrifice. Patrick eventually escaped. In a dream, 20 years later, Patrick reported, “I thought I heard the voice…call out: ‘Please, holy boy, come and walk among us again.’”

The cry was so compelling that Patrick returned to Ireland, using the three-leaf clover to explain the Trinity to the Druids and Chieftains. He devoted the rest of his life to baptizing 120,000 and founding 300 churches. He wrote:

“Patrick the sinner, an unlearned man to be sure. None should ever say that it was my ignorance that accomplished any small thing, it was the gift of God.”

From American Minute, William J. Federer

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

 

God’s Genius—Magnificent Difference Between a Man and a Woman!

running down beach.

A recent blog entitled, “Diversity Madness and Matrimony,” observed that the diversity craze has infected nearly every area of life except one. For several decades, the monumentally absurd—but politically correct—notion that there is no difference between a man and a woman, except for a few anatomical externals that can be surgically rearranged upon request, has been loudly proclaimed by liberal/progressive politicians, the media, academia, and eagerly portrayed by the entertainment industry. The alleged sameness of men and women conspicuously contrasted with the diversity epidemic.

However, the relentless proclamation of sameness betrayed the obvious. Plan B, for the liberal/progressive movement was to smear the differences between a man and a woman into a messy, unintelligible spectrum of nothingness, using the LGBTQ movement as the cause célèbre to promote Plan B.

The ultimate low is the toxic morality soup known as gender-fluid, which allows gender to be anything along the messy spectrum, subject to change at any moment. A person merely “identifies” with any of an infinite number of genders. As the consummate form of “tolerance,” gender-fluid is the obliteration of all remnants of morality and may be the final nail in the coffin of the traditional family.

It is difficult to imagine a harsher way for America to shake its collective fist in the face of God!

The magnificent difference between a man and a woman is among the greatest examples of the infinite genius of God. A married man and woman represent a breathtaking integration of mutual submission within a framework of interdependence (not codependence). “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” [Ephesians 5:21 KJV] They are the nascent nucleus of a new family that grows with each gift from God, the miracle of conception and the later birth of a child.

The family as created and structured by God is sovereign unto itself and is the only means of transmitting the biblical worldview and God’s biblical character values to future generations. Collectively, godly families are the bulwark of civilization and the only sustainable path to an enduring culture.

“God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” [Genesis 1:28 NAS] The many differences between a man and a woman represent a complex and thrilling distinction that cannot be explained by evolution.

Differences! Differences! Differences!

God Created Men and Women to Be Complementary

Perhaps the most tangible and visible manifestation of God’s creative genius is that He designed men and women to complement each other in virtually endless ways. Men and women exhibit complementary differences physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

Married Couples Fit Together Like Pieces of a Complex Jigsaw Puzzle

Married couples complement and merge each other’s inherent strengths and weaknesses. In addition to their complementary strengths and weaknesses, each may have to occasionally become uncharacteristically strong, in a normally weak area to overcome the other’s temporary lapse or uncharacteristic weakness in another area. Habits also complement and change with time.

Scripturally, the order of the universe is that the Lord is the bridegroom and the body of believers is the bride. Of course, in any earthly marriage the man is the bridegroom and the bride is the beautiful woman spectacularly dressed in a white wedding gown walking down the aisle to meet her man.

But in a larger sense, the bride is not just the woman at the ceremony, the bride is the woman and by extension the children she later produces, often referred to as the fruit of her womb. The husband is required to love the wholeness of his bride, i.e. the wholeness of his family, even as the Messiah also loved the church, to the point of the husband’s own death if necessary.

Fallows magnificently explains, “The husband is the ‘house band,’ the earthly giver of life, uniting the divine with the human in the supreme function of fatherhood.” The wife is ‘the weaver,’ shaping and coloring in the prenatal and postnatal influences of sacred motherhood the destinies of her offspring.” “As the “earthly giver of life, uniting the divine with the human,” the husband/father becomes the role model for “the first and greatest commandment” to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

As the “weaver,” the wife/mother is the connection between the past and future generations of her family, but also the past and future generations of the culture. She is the role model for the second summary commandment to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Shannon clarifies,

“Mothers constitute the only universal agent of civilization. Nature has placed in her hands both infancy and youth. The vital interests of America hang largely upon the influence of mothers.” The queen that sits upon the throne of home, crowned and sceptered as none other ever can be, is—mother. Her enthronement is complete, her reign unrivaled, and the moral issues of her empire are eternal. “Her children rise up, and call her blessed.” Rebellious at times, as the subjects of her government may be, she rules them with marvelous patience, winning tenderness and undying love. She so presents and exemplifies divine truth, that it reproduces itself, in the happiest development of childhood—character and life…An ounce of mother is worth more than a pound of clergy.”

Together, fueled by God’s infinite supply of love, Dad and Mom become virtual superheroes, an incredibly awesome team stabilizing God’s brilliantly designed family and the national culture as a whole. A child forms a vertical relationship with God, primarily, though not exclusively, through the role model of the father; a child forms horizontal relationships with others within and beyond the family primarily, though not exclusively, through the role model of the mother.

The complementary combination produces godly character in the child. The actions of role modeling build character in the parents. The character of every family member extends outward to the community and the nation.

That is God’s grand design for Dad and Mom. What incredible superheroes!

Judeo-Christian Worldview

Here is how: Consider a month-long series of marriage/family oriented sermon messages along with similarly themed Bible classes—Encourage people to look as masculine or feminine as possible during that month. “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.” [Deuteronomy 22:5 NASB]  Different clothes reflect the inward heart.

A married man and woman fit together like a pair of hands. Left and right hands can clap to honor God or others. One hand cannot clap.

Homemaker

Today, “homemaker” has become one of the most misunderstood and abused concepts in the American culture. For thousands of years, people in most cultures understood the near miraculous role of the homemaker. Homemaker makes the home the greatest place in the universe for her family. She meets the physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs of the family. There is no higher calling than pursuing the cohesiveness of the family and raising children to become adults of strong character.

Sure the homemaker can go out and get a job. But she already has the most important job in the universe. Why accept a demotion?

“You drive the women of my people from their pleasant homes. You take away my blessing from their children forever. Get up, go away! For this is not your resting place, because it is defiled, it is ruined, beyond all remedy. [Micah 2:9-10 NIV]

Careers

All jobs and careers have interesting/exciting components and also disagreeable components. Mother/homemaker is one of the few God-created careers and by far the most important of all careers.

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

 

Was General Douglas MacArthur Being Prophetic?

Douglas MacArthur

“History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline. There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster.” [emphasis added]

General Douglas MacArthur, December 12, 1951

Today—The Best Devotions of My Lifetime!

Although personal devotions—time spent with the Lord—may vary day-to-day, month-to-month or even year-to-year, today was one of the very best devotional times of my life! The time was beyond rich. It was pervasive, exhilarating, and intensely joyful, producing waves of tears.

Afterword, I ran six miles to calm down. Following a shower, I’m still riding a spiritual high. Can’t help but share it. Here’s a summary.

The Bible

Like most believers, I begin by reading a chapter in the Bible—typically a chapter a day from Genesis to Revelation and then repeating the cycle. Rather than reading a weak modern devotional, there follows a series of devotional readings by great saints from the past. “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” C.S. Lewis

American Minute

Today’s passage from American Minute was about the Alamo. It took 13 days for 3,000 of Santa Ana’s men to annihilate 189 Texans and Tejanos in the Alamo. Only a mother, her baby, and a servant survived. The deceased heroes included William Travis, Davy Crockett, and Jim Bowie.

During the 13-day siege and massacre, 66 others signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. It proclaimed, “General Antonio Lopez Santa Anna…having overturned the constitution of his country, now offers, as the cruel alternative, either abandon our homes…or submit to the most intolerable of all tyrannyHe denies us the right of worshipping the Almighty according to the dictates of our own conscience.” The deceased heroes were pioneers, but they were pioneers willing to give all for freedom, especially the freedom to worship according to their own conscience.

The Texas Declaration was reminiscent of the American Declaration of Independence, opening with the proclamation, “that all men…are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and ending with the absolute and uncompromising commitment, “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, or fortunes and our sacred honor.”

Many of the American Declaration signers lost one or all three. The commitments to freedom and to God by the fighters at the Alamo and the signers of the American Declaration of Independence were total. Retreat—physical, emotional, or spiritual—was not an option.

The Puritans: Daily Readings

Each month there is a series of readings by a selected author. The February readings are by John Bunyan (known for The Pilgrim’s Progress; 1,300 editions/200 languages). These devotional readings are from Bunyan’s A Treatise of the Fear of God. The first few entries distinguish between ungodly fear and godly fear. Whoever preaches about the fear of God anymore?

Ungodly fear views God as a sort of celestial terrorist, causing people to flee from God. Godly fear, however, is an overwhelming awe, respect, and reverence for the power of God. It is a soul-deep awareness of the enormity of the sinful gap between God and man, leading to a profound desire to obey. Godly fear draws people toward Him.

There flows from godly fear a number of positive—even exciting—things, expressed in this devotional a day at a time. Today’s devotional focuses on Delight in God’s Commands. Rather than summarize, this one is so powerful and exhilarating it is reproduced here in totality:

Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear they name. [Psalm 86.11]

There flows from this godly fear a great delight in the holy commands of god; that is, a delight to be conformable unto them. “Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments” (Ps. 112:1) This confirms that which was said before, namely, that this fear provokes to a holy and reverent use of the means; for that cannot be, when there is not a holy, yea, a great delight in the commandments.

Wherefore this fear makes the sinner to abhor that which is sin, because that is contrary to the object of his delight. A man cannot delight himself at the same time in things directly opposite one to another, as sin and the holy commandments are; therefore Christ says of the servant, he “cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24);

if he cleaves to the one, he must hate and despise the other: there cannot, at the same time, be service to both, because that they are at enmity one with the other: so are sin and the commandments; therefore, if a man delights himself in the commandments, he hates that which is opposite, which is sin; how much more when he greatly delights in the commandments!

Now, this holy fear of God takes the heart and affections from sin, and sets them upon the holy commandments: therefore such a man is rightly esteemed blessed. For no profession makes a man blessed, but that which is accompanied with an alienation of the heart from sin; nor does any thing do that when this holy fear is wanting.

It is from this fear, then, that love to and delight in the holy commandments flow; and so by that the sinner is kept from those falls and dangers of miscarrying that other professors are so subject to; he greatly delights in the commandments. [emphases added]

There seems to be little fear of God in today’s preaching. But John Bunyan and numerous others graphically illustrate how the fear of God is a powerful influence on the believer and the believer’s journey to maturity.

George Whitefield: Daily Readings

George Whitefield was one of the best known preachers of The Great Awakening, a spiritual awakening so dramatic, pervasive, and powerful that it provided the spiritual driving force for the American Revolutionary War. This devotional was selected to discover more about the Awakening, its influence on George Whitefield, and the widespread transformation of the pre-revolutionary American people.

In a summary of today’s reading, Whitefield proclaims:

Christians are “the temple of the living God,” of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. They who once held a consultation to create, are all equally concerned in making preparations for, and effectually bringing about the redemption of man. The Father creates, the Son redeems, and the Holy Ghost sanctifies all the elect people of God.

Being loved from eternity, they are effectually called in time, they are chosen out of the world…by a free, voluntary, unconstrained oblation, they devote themselves, spirit, soul, and body, to the entire service of him who has loved and given himself for them…It implies no less than a total renunciation of the world; in short, it turns the Christian’s whole life into one continued sacrifice of love to God, so that, “whether he eats or drinks, he does all to his glory.”

The reading emphasizes the uncompromising totality the commitment that God expects from the believer.

The Imitation of Christ, Thomas â Kempis

Today, this great reformation saint also reinforced the totality of the believer’s commitment:

It is the mark of a perfect man, Lord, never to let his mind relax in attention to heavenly things, and to pass through many cares as though he had none…Let not the world and its brief glory deceive me, nor the devil trip me by his craftiness. Give me,

  • Courage to resist,
  • Patience to endure, and
  • Constancy to persevere.

Give me the soothing unction of Your spirit rather than all the consolations of the world, and in place of carnal love, infuse into me the love of Your name.

Day by Day with Jonathan Edwards

Today, Jonathan Edwards glorifies life in heaven. It is a place of perfect rest, but not a place of inactivity. Here’s a summary:

…But yet the rest of heaven does not consist in idleness, and a cessation of all action, but only a cessation from all the trouble and toil and tediousness of action…Perfection of happiness does not consist in idleness, but on the contrary, if very much consists in action…The angels are blessed spirits, and yet they are exceedingly active in serving God…God himself enjoys infinite happiness and perfect bliss, and yet he is not inactive, but is himself in his own nature a perfect act, and is continually at work in bringing to pass his own purposes and ends…So that they (saints in heaven) enjoy perfect rest yet they are a great deal more active than they were when in this world.

The Valley of Vision

The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions. Read one each day they preface my personal prayer time. Today’s Puritan prayer reading focused on the gospel. Here’s the summary:

O Thou Most High,

Creator of the ends of the earth,

Governor of the universe,

Judge of all men,

Head of the church,

Saviour of sinners;

Thy greatness is unsearchable,

Thy goodness is infinite,

Thy compassion is unfailing,

Thy mercies ever new.

We bless thee for the words of salvation.

We are lost: but in it thou has presented to us

A full, free and eternal salvation;

Weak: but here we learn that help is found in One that is mighty,

Poor: but in him we discover unsearchable riches,

Blind: but we find he has treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

We thank thee for thy unspeakable gift.

Thy Son is our only refuge, foundation, hope, confidence…

Let us as Christians fill our various situations in life…

And may every place and company we are in be benefited by us.

After these readings and contemplations, my prayer time was unusually rich. As the Psalmist said, “my cup runneth over.”

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

Devotions—Rich, Disciplined, Half-hearted, Flat or Non-existent?

Woman reading inside a huge book

Is your time with God—often called “devotions”—rich, forced self-discipline, half-hearted, flat, or non-existent? As a believer for decades, my own devotions have at varying times fallen into each category. However, for the last couple of years, my devotional time with God has become spectacularly rich. Each morning, I am virtually launched from the bed eagerly anticipating time with the Lord. Why? What changed? In part, it is because C.S. Lewis observed that:

It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read and old one in between. God in the Dock (1970)

Lewis’ likely concern was that a believer may pick up an armload of new books at the local Christian bookstore, all of which are well-written, by nationally known mature Christian authors. The books are great recommended reading.

However, despite the authors’ very best efforts, they are all influenced—to some extent—by their contemporary culture. American authors are subject to the influences of the seriously deteriorating American culture. Similarly, historical authors are subject to the cultural influences of their day. Reading books spanning the panorama of time helps to offset the cultural influences of any one particular time period.

Considering C.S. Lewis’ observation, if your devotional time lacks urgency and excitement, consider these suggestions, following a Bible reading with several other daily readings:

  1. Bible—Any reliable translation (Avoid paraphrases except perhaps for clarifying difficult passages in a translation.)
  2. Federer, William J. (2012). American Minute: Notable Events of American Significance Remembered on the Date They Occurred, Amerisearch, Inc. (St. Louis, MO). The pages, dated for each day of the year, include powerful quotations from famous figures. The daily reinforcement drives the inescapable conclusion that America was born in faith, grew to become the most desirable place on earth by faith, and only faced the most serious culture crumbling issues in recent decades.
  3. Pederson, Randall J. ed. (2012). The Puritans Daily Readings, Christian Heritage Imprint by Christian Focus Publications (Geanies House, Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire). The daily readings were written by Puritan Leaders. Unknown to most people, the Puritans became a very large movement, spanning Western Europe and early America. The movement was prominent for over two centuries. The writings of some of the best British Puritans are in this volume. The depth of each daily page is truly impressive.
  4. Pederson, Randall J. ed. (2010). George Whitefield Daily Readings, Christian Heritage Imprint by Christian Focus Publications (Geanies House, Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire). The Great Awakening was a powerful spiritual awakening that swept America during the years leading up to the War of Independence, later known as the Revolutionary War. The Great Awakening inspired the yearning for freedom and the zeal to embark on a very high risk war. George Whitefield was one of the best known preachers of the era. His messages published as daily readings are both compelling and powerful.
  5. â Kempis, Thomas. (2004). The Imitation of Christ, Hendrickson Christian Classics (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA). Originally written circa. 1300 A.D. Thomas â Kempis was part of the Reformation. His book is written as a series of short undated meditations that are excellent for daily reading. It shines a very bright light on the gap between the way many believers live today and the life Christ intended them to live.
  6. Bennett, Arthur, ed. (2013). The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, The Banner of Truth Trust, (Versa Press, Inc. East Peoria, IL) The daily readings are prayers written by Puritans. Some are so rich they will bring tears to your eyes. Surprisingly, the American Puritans were nothing like the stereotype. They were actually colorful dressers, enjoyed a vibrant sense of humor, and knew how to throw a good party (Source: Their own diaries). Their defining feature was that they made no distinction between the sacred and the secular. To the Puritans, all of life was sacred.

Personally, I choose to read a chapter a day from the Bible, and a page a day from each of the other books. The collection inspires devotional times that are awesome, exciting, compelling, and growth producing.

Many popular modern devotionals potentially do more harm than good. They typically sandwich a feel good story between a couple of lines of Scripture at the top and a two-line prayer at the bottom. They lack substance, challenge, and fall woefully short of provoking a soul-deep relationship with God.

The late Dr. Howard Hendrix, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and Dallas Cowboys Chaplain, was fond of saying. “One of Satan’s most powerful weapons is to vaccinate people with a small dose of Christianity.”

Many believers read a chapter in the Bible, a page in a modern devotional, and mentally pat themselves on the back, convinced that they have satisfied their “obligation” for a daily devotional time. They are anxious to get on with “real life.” If we are truly devoted to the Lord, our devotion is continuous—all day every day, around-the-clock. The planned morning devotions are merely the kick start for the rest of the day.

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

Declaration of Independence Signer Cites the True Foundation of Education

benjaminrush

Dr. Benjamin Rush signed the Declaration of Independence and later founded a Society for the Abolition of slavery. His views on education are as important today as when he first shared them.

“I proceed…to inquire what mode of education we shall adopt so as to secure to the state all of the advantages that are to be derived from the proper instruction of the you; and her I beg leave to remark that:

  • The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid on the foundation of religion.
  • Without this there can be no virtue, and
  • Without virtue there can be no liberty, and
  • Liberty is the object and life of all republican governments

But the religion I mean to recommend in this place is that of the New Testament…Its doctrines and precepts are calculated to promote the happiness of society and the safety and well-being of civil government.” Dr. Benjamin Rush

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

The Birth of the Light of the World

The Nativity scene.

The Christmas season reminds us of some curious lyrics about love and light, in the most enduring Christmas carols. A closer look reveals that the curious lyrics are rooted in Scripture. Consider two examples:

  • Silent Night, Holy Night-3rd verse

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

  • Hark the Herald Angels Sing-3rd verse

Light and life to all He brings…”

There is a linkage between love and light and something very special about the linkage. Light has fascinated mankind since Creation; artists and scientists have had a complementary interest in studying light. But the highest source of information is Scripture. A look at what Scripture reveals about love and light may save artists and scientists considerable time and effort. We can do that right now:

  • “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” [1 John 1:5 NIV]—All electromagnetic energy that we perceive as light comes from the Sun. Since the light that illuminates the eyes was created by God, He is the physical light. God is also the spiritual light that illumines the soul.

 

  • “…God is love…” [1 John 4:16 KJV] and “…love comes from God.” [1 John 4:7 KJV]—Love is spiritual energy that comes from God, illuminates the soul, and fuels all interpersonal relationships. All love comes from God, whether the one loving gives God credit or not. Our greatest responsibility is to pass it on.

The visible earthly expression of God’s love is in and through the Son (Jesus, Y’shua). He provided “…a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” [Luke 2:32 NIV] “In him was life, and that life was the light of men…The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” [John 1:4 & 9 NIV]

After forgiving the adulteress, Jesus (Y’shua) confirmed “…’I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness. But will have the light of life.” [John 8:12 NIV]

Albert Einstein was famous for thought experiments. As a young man, he imagined riding a beam of light. Of course, Jesus could not ride a beam of light; he is the light. Instead, he chose to arrive in a stable through the humble darkness of a virgin’s womb. He was laid in an animal’s feeding trough called a manger. For 33 years, the “King of the Jews” lived a humble life serving others, ultimately exiting this life in the humblest way possible, dying virtually naked on the excruciatingly painful Roman cross.

King Jesus (Y’shua) came as a humble servant to model the life God intended for us to live and to pay the penalty for Adam’s first sin and all the sins in your life and mine. One day, the King will return as the conquering Messiah.

Don’t be afraid of any form of darkness; God is the light! Don’t fear any form of threat; God is love!

As for me, “The Lord is my light and my salvation…” [Psalm 27:1 NIV]

Won’t you join me?

Calling All Skeptics: The Virgin Birth Was Real!

Nativity scene.

During the holiday season, there is no shortage of skeptics enthusiastically challenging, ridiculing, or casting doubt on the Biblical narrative about the virgin birth of Jesus.

  • True skeptics are not likely to change; wild emotional claims suit their purpose just fine.
  • Believers who have a soul-deep conviction regarding the Biblical record of the virgin birth are not likely to be dissuaded.
  • In between, lie significant numbers of believers harboring views ranging from mild discomfort to serious questions about the virgin birth of Jesus.

The in-betweeners arise, in part, because the body of believers is sailing down the river rapids of cultural Humanism, while the believers are trying to paddle upstream, following the Biblical worldview.

The in-betweeners are not likely to raise questions within their place of worship for fear of embarrassment in front of fellow believers. They are unlikely to raise questions outside their place of worship, because the information is often not trustworthy.

The short answer to the dilemma perceived by some is that God created the “heaven and the earth.” [Genesis 1:1 KJV]. For the Creator of the universe, a virgin birth is no problem at all.

Nevertheless, for the finite human brain it is often helpful to cite illustrations that are a bit closer to human reality than the whole of Creation. For example, the Biblical record includes numerous births that are even more miraculous than the virgin birth of Jesus.

For example, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist were all born to conspicuously barren women in an ancient culture that regarded barrenness a curse or a punishment from God. Although the mothers of these great Biblical figures may have lived prior to the writing of the Book of Proverbs, they clearly understood the principles of the thirtieth chapter:

“There are three things that are never satisfied,     four that never say, ‘Enough!’: 16 the grave, the barren womb,     land, which is never satisfied with water,     and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’ [Proverbs 30:15-16 NIV Emphasis added]

supernatural-births

Barrenness was a very serious condition. At that time, only a very rare woman would be childless by choice, a married woman—never. As indicated in the table, Scripture clearly confirms that the mothers of these men were barren (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Manoah’s wife, Hannah, and Elisabeth, respectively). Although all the mothers were mature, Sarah and Elisabeth were particularly old, as if the Lord was underscoring their extreme inability to bear a child, without Divine assistance.

Compare those births with the birth of Jesus who was born to a healthy, fertile, young woman, albeit a virgin. The miracle of the virgin birth required only a momentary overshadowing by the Holy Spirit. [Luke 1:35 KJV] There followed a pregnancy that was normal in every respect, except that Mary was hosting in her womb, the Savior forecast hundreds of years earlier. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” [Isaiah 7:14 KJV]

The birth of Isaac was announced by God; the births of Samson, John the Baptist, and Jesus were announced by angels. The births of Jacob, Joseph, and Samuel were late in life and were answers to particular prayers. In all cases, Scripture emphasizes the barrenness of the mothers.

Sarah and Elisabeth were particularly old, far beyond childbearing years. Their husbands, Abraham and Zachariah, respectively, were also very old. All the supernatural births before the birth of Jesus, required a continuous series of daily miracles from conception until the baby was weaned from its mother’s breast.

At least for Abraham and Zachariah, the Lord had to completely restore their reproductive systems to enable them to participate in their role in conception. However, the string of miracles for the mothers was far greater, at least from a human viewpoint, especially for Sarah and Elisabeth.

Their reproductive systems had to be completely restored and rejuvenated. The Lord had to give them the ability to produce an egg, for them a long lost ability.

The mother’s uterus was completely restored with the with the ability to initially embed the baby in the wall of the uterus, allowing the formation of the umbilical cord through which life sustaining oxygen and nourishment would flow for nine months. The uterine muscles were given the strength to hold a baby for nine months, without rupturing or any form of physical damage.

For these women to bear a child, the entire endocrine system was restored to produce the great array of hormones necessary to sustain pregnancy, throughout the nine month period. Each mother’s uterus was altered to withstand the rigors of pregnancy and daily biochemical changes as well as the later movement of the child.

As childbirth approached, another burst of hormones prepared the way, softening the birth canal and initiating the childbirth sequence. About that time, a hormonal flush prepared the mother’s breasts for feeding the baby. Since baby formulas did not exist in ancient times, feeding a baby with the mother’s milk was essential. All the supernatural births in the above table could not have happened without the mothers’ physical support and nourishment before birth and the mothers’ personal breast milk nourishment for a long period after birth.

All of these complex birth patterns, completely unnatural in barren and old women, required many miracles greater than the virgin birth. For these mothers, pregnancy and nursing (breast feeding), became a series of daily miracles lasting years (nine months + nursing period)

Indeed, when the angel Gabriel was sharing, with Mary, God’s plan for her to give birth to the Savior, Gabriel further explained to Mary that her cousin Elisabeth had “…also conceived a son in her old age…(one) who was called barren.” Just to make sure the message is not in any way misunderstood, Gabriel immediately added, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” [Luke 1:36, 37 KJV] The angel’s abundantly clear message was that if Elisabeth could give birth in her old age, Mary should not be surprised any longer or doubt God’s ability to enable her virgin birth.

John the Baptist is well known for preparing the way for the coming Messiah Jesus. Less often considered is that John’s preparation responsibilities began at his own conception. His presence in the previously barren womb of the old woman Elisabeth, prepared Mary for her virgin birth.

As one final nail in the skeptic’s intellectual coffin, consider God’s proclamation in the Book of Psalms:

13 For you created my inmost being;     you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;     your works are wonderful,     I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you     when I was made in the secret place,     when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.        16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;     all the days ordained for me were written in your book     before one of them came to be. [Psalm 139:13-16 NIV]

Since God created every individual who has ever lived from the Garden of Eden through today, how could a simple virgin birth possible be a problem for Him?

OK, skeptics! It’s your turn. For Bible-believing Christ-followers, the virgin birth is exciting, but not a problem.

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

Do You Think Joy and Happiness Are the Same? Wrong!

joy-of-the-lord

For unbelievers, there may be a certain interchangeableness of joy and happiness. Indeed, there are even some passages in the Bible that use the words for joy and happiness somewhat interchangeably. The overarching point here is that the pure joy that continuously comes from the Lord is vastly different than the occasional happiness that comes from man.

For believers, joy in the Lord is the persistent, upbeat, sense of peace and delight that arises, because the Lord first loves us and we in turn love Him as best we can. Joy arises from the continuous operation of God’s love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, and longsuffering in our lives. The joy of the Lord is permanent, dependable, reliable, and therefore an anchor of the believer’s life.

Some—especially prosperity TV preachers—claim that God wants everyone to be happy all the time. Really? Then why does God say that suffering is the most powerful tool for building strong godly character? Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” [James 1:2 ESV]

Clearly, God wants us to experience the inner joy that comes only from Him. That joy persists despite suffering and attracts others to a saving faith in Jesus. Suffering itself is not fun; it is often painful physically, emotionally, spiritually or all three. Suffering and happiness cannot coexist; for believers, suffering and the joy of the Lord MUST exist simultaneously. It is the most powerful route to building strong character and becoming an effective witness for God.

Happiness is a temporary response to the words and actions of others who will always let us down. In short, all-embracing joy comes from God, but fleeting happiness depends upon others. Consider the comparison of joy and happiness in the table.

joy-v-happiness

Happiness cycles frequently according to the ebb and flow, of outward circumstances. Happiness depends on others who are fickle and will always let us down.

The joy of the Lord should be rock solid. “…the joy of the LORD is your strength.” [Nehemiah 8:10 NIV] Nevertheless, since all people are flawed and sinful, there may be an occasional lapse of joy, but in a believer, it should be very rare.

Most believers are familiar with at least one stage 4 cancer victim who seemed to radiate the love of the Lord in the days just before death. Stage 4 cancer is no fun and can at times be very painful. Happiness becomes very scarce. When pain arrives, happiness often leaves. But true inner joy—the kind that only comes from God—can shine through despite the pain. It is the joy that shines through the pain that often draws people to Jesus.

The pervasive, immediate and eternal benefits of seeking God’s incomparable joy so far surpass man’s fickle, short-term happiness, that the choice of which to pursue is inescapably clear. Yet, we seem to devote most of our waking hours chasing man’s flawed and undependable happiness, often missing God’s sustained, perfect joy simply due to lack of time.

The joy of the Lord should and must be a permanent characteristic of every believer. It is simply a matter of getting pride out of the way and allowing God’s light and love to shine through. God’s light and love will attract others to Jesus, even, or perhaps especially, when outward happiness is at a record low.

What does it take to wake up the body of believers?

What does it take to wake up the clergy?