“I am the way…”

My every breath, thought, attitude, choice, and action is by the grace of God. Yet, He gives me the freedom to align myself with Him as an expression of continuing and eternal gratitude or to rebel and do things my own sinful way. By the power of the Holy Spirit choosing God’s way is easy, but Satan constantly fans the rebellious flames of pride. The tension can only be resolved by spending time with God, God’s people, and habitually, deliberately choosing God’s way. “I am the way…” [John 14:6]

What Do Jews Think About Christmas Celebrations?

God's Love

Nearly all Americans (93%) celebrate Christmas. Only an extremely tiny minority would object to the greeting, “Merry Christmas,” a cherry greeting roughly equivalent to, “I love you,” Yet, political correctness, championed by the liberal/progressive movement, has effectively eliminated the Merry Christmas greeting from public life as well as nativity scenes and other symbols of Christmas. In contrast, consider what three nationally-known Jewish leaders have to say about Christmas celebrations:

Burt Prelutsky, a Jewish columnist for a number of national publications, declares:

I never thought I’d live to see the day that Christmas would become a dirty word. . . . How is it, one well might ask, that in a Christian nation this is happening? . . . Speaking as a member of a minority group – and one of the smaller ones at that – I say it behooves those of us who don’t accept Jesus Christ as our savior to show some gratitude to those who do, and to start respecting the values and traditions of the overwhelming majority of our fellow citizens, just as we keep insisting that they respect ours. Merry Christmas, my friends!

Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Daniel Lapin agrees:

Secular fundamentalism has successfully injected into American culture the notion that the word “Christmas” is deeply offensive. . . . Anti-Christianism is unhealthy for all Americans; but I warn my brethren that it will prove particularly destructive for Jews. . . . Let us all go out of our way to wish our many wonderful Christian friends – a very merry Christmas. Just remember, America’s Bible belt is our safety belt.

Orthodox Jewish radio host and creator of PragerUniversity.com Dennis Prager writes:

As a Jew, and a religious one at that, I want to wish my fellow Americans a Merry Christmas. Not “Happy Holidays.” Merry Christmas…

It doesn’t matter with which religion or ethnic group you identify; Christmas in America is as American as the proverbial apple pie. That is why some of the most famous and beloved Christmas songs were written by guess who? Jews.

  • White Christmas—Irving Berlin
  • Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer—Johnny Marks
  • Let It Snow! Let It snow! Let It Snow!—July Styne/Sammy Cahn
  • Silver Bells—Jay Livingston/Ray Evans
  • The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on an Open Fire—Mel Torme/Robert Wells
  • Sleigh ride-–Mitchell Parish

and many others.

The notion that non-Christians are excluded is absurd.

It never occurred to my Orthodox Jewish family not to enjoy this season. It was a tradition in our home to watch the Christmas Mass from the Vatican every Christmas Eve…Had you visited our home, you would have seen my mother—and my father, my brother and I all wearing our kippot (Jewish skull-caps)—watching Catholics celebrate Christmas…

So when and why did this pernicious nonsense of non-Christians being “excluded” by public celebration of Christmas develop?

It is nothing more than another destructive product of the 1960s and 1970s, when the left came to dominate much of the culture.

There you have it! Say “Merry Christmas” everywhere; say it again and again and again. Say Merry Christmas with love every time. Saying it mechanically, without love betrays the greeting and the Lord.

So—Spread the Deliberate Joy; spread the merriment. After all, love is contagious. And—don’t forget the reason for the season!

Blogging YOU the warmest and merriest Christmas ever!

The first two quotes were abstracted from http://www.wallbuilders.com. The third quote is from wnd.com magazine, Whistleblower, “Of Messiahs False and True,” December 2014.

Calling All Skeptics: The Virgin Birth was Real!

Young Pregnant Mary with Manger

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?

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?

Rocket Launch Devotionals!

“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, God in the Dock (1970)

At a time when a movement is determined to forcibly revise history, our spiritual heritage is especially vital. Secular history chronicles man’s successes and failures. Real history chronicles the waxing and waning of man’s relationship with God. Real history is, after all, His story.

The root of C.S. Lewis’s observation is that, no matter how revered current authors may be, they are all subject to the influences and biases of modern culture. Similarly, historical authors were subject to the biases of their cultures. Reading books across a broad time span allows cultural biases to be offset.

C.S. Lewis’ quote drove this writer to search older books, leading to a rocket launch devotional plan. Consider these original source materials (origination time in red).

  1. AncientBible—Choose a reliable translation. Others have masterfully written comparisons of scripture versions. Generally, avoid paraphrases except for occasionally clarifying difficult passages in a translation. Commonly, believers read a chapter each day.
  2. Modern-Federer, William J. (2012). American Minute: Notable Events of American Significance Remembered on the Date They Occurred, Amerisearch, Inc. (St. Louis, MO). Each daily reading spotlights famous figures and events from the earliest American colonies to the present day. The massive collection of original quotations repeatedly reinforces the principle that the United States form of government is not sustainable in the absence of a virtuous people. The Great American Experiment intends for the people to be self-governing. If the Christian faith and the government are separated, the government will fail. Conversely, the government will succeed only to the extent that people of Judeo-Christian faith are or become engaged.
  3. 1600s-Pederson, Randall J. ed. (2012). The Puritans Daily Readings, Christian Heritage Imprint by Christian Focus Publications (Geanies House, Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire). The Puritan movement crossed denominational lines and was perhaps larger in Europe than in America. The daily readings feature a different author each month. Although some of the names may be unfamiliar to the modern reader, the readings are all spectacularly powerful. A few of the most familiar names include Richard Baxter, John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim’s Progress), Jonathan Edwards, Samuel Rutherford, and Thomas Watson. The vivid daily readings will excite any reader.
  4. 1700s-Pederson, Randall J. ed. (2010) George Whitefield, Christian Heritage Imprint by Christian Focus Publications (Geanies House, Fearn, Tain, Ross-shire). George Whitefield was one of the two best known preachers of The Great Awakening, which was the driving force for the War of Independence (later called the Revolutionary War). Without the Great Awakening, there likely would not have been an American revolution. Whitefield’s preaching, profiled in daily readings, is jaw-dropping.
  5. 1400s-â Kempis, Thomas. (2004). The Imitation of Christ, Hendrickson Christian Classics (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA). Originally written circa. 1421 A.D. Thomas â Kempis was one of the leaders of a reformation movement separate from and predating the Reformation launched when Martin Luther nailed his 99 theses to the Wittenburg church door. Luther’s Reformation exploded in part due to the contemporary invention of the printing press. Nevertheless, â Kempis’ Imitation of Christ remains one of the greatest Christian classics of all time. Each daily reading is dynamite.
  6. 1700s-Pederson, Randall J. ed. (2005) Day by Day with Jonathan Edwards, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody MA. Jonathan Edwards was the other of the two best known preachers of The Great Awakening. Although, his best known message, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” may conjure a mental image of hellfire and brimstone, his extremely extensive writings and these daily readings brim with God’s infinite beautiful love.
  7. 18-1900sSpurgeon, Charles (1991) Morning & Evening: A devotional classic for daily encouragement, Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC, Peabody MA. The “Prince of Preachers” wrote these daily morning and evening devotionals himself. His imagery is colorful, inescapably captivating, and inspiring beyond any ability to express in a brief summary.
  8. 1600s-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) Although some believers may not be used to reading the prayers of others, this collection is so vibrant it will bring tears to the eyes of many readers. The prayers in this volume have been written by saints such as Thomas Watson, Richard Baxter, John Bunyan, Isaac Watts, David Brainerd, William Jay, and Charles Spurgeon.

Personally, as time passed, a pattern emerged to my devotional time:

  • At first these devotional materials were simply read.
  • A bit later, I found myself highlighting occasional thoughts; eventually highlighting virtually everything with color coded highlighters.
  • Notes were occasionally jotted in the margins of the daily readings.
  • Today, virtually every page is filled with handwritten notes; some seem to be special thoughts from the Lord; others are 1-3 sentence summaries of the reading.
  • Finally, good writers seldom write in the first person (I, me, my, etc.). However, since the devotions are personal, intended primarily for my own use, the message skyrockets off the page when it is personalized. Example: “Christ, is a Mediator of the new covenant, a mediator between God and me. Jesus is a friend to both. He is a reconciler and a servant to both. He suffered for both. Jesus suffered for God’s justice and He suffered for my rejections.” And another example: “I MUST NOT handle God’s magnificent Word or the moments of my life carelessly. Instead, I MUST take great care to honor God’s Word and the moments of my life as special gifts from Him.”

Two other observations burn brightly from this collection of historic readings:

  1. All of these great spiritual leaders fully integrate the Old and New Testaments in their teaching/preaching. The Bible and the biblical worldview is a whole, from creation to the return of Jesus. Such a holistic view seems to be often diluted or piecemealed in present day materials and messages.
  2. The same early spiritual leaders lift up all three members of the Trinity equally and treat the wholeness of the Trinity equally with the roles of each member. Today, many denominations seem to focus on one member of the Trinity more than the other two. Similarly, in a zeal for analyzing Scripture, the wholeness of God too often seems to be overlooked as people zoom in on one member of the Trinity or another.

It is my hope and prayer that YOU will benefit from these suggestions.

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

What does it take to wake up the clergy?

Jesus Christ cross. Easter, resurrection concept. Christian cross on a background with dramatic lighting, colorful mountain sunset, dark clouds and sky and sunbeamsBecause God is the Creator, He is the absolute definition of truth. Jesus came as a visible manifestation of God to explain and provide a living demonstration of truth. That is why He could say, “I AM…the truth…” [John 14:6 KJV]

It is easy for me to believe the truth in scripture and the life of Jesus, confirmed by many answers to prayer and the transformation of millions of lives throughout history. The evidence is overwhelming. Charles Spurgeon observed, “A truthful Savior ought to be believed. He is truth itself.”

The Law Complements the Gospel!

woman reading the bible in the darkness

“Some say that you must not preach the law. But you cannot preach the gospel without preaching the law; for you shall find, by and by, we are to preach something that the people must be saved by: it is impossible to tell them how they are to be saved, unless we tell them what they are to be saved from. The way the Spirit of God takes, is like that we take in preparing the ground. Do you think any farmers would have crop of corn next year unless they plough now? You may as well expect a crop of corn on unploughed ground, as a crop of grace, until the soul is convinced of its being undone without a Savior.”

Rev. George Whitefield

Leader of the First Great Awakening (1730s & 1740s)

Ultimate Perfect Love!

Jesus Christ cross. Easter, resurrection concept. Christian cross on a background with dramatic lighting, colorful mountain sunset, dark clouds and sky and sunbeams

Christ’s death on the Cross is the ultimate expression of God’s love. ALL real love (agape; unconditional; others before self) comes from God. He allows and enables us to express His unconditional love to others only to the extent that we cast aside pride. Even that ability to cast aside pride comes from God.

Happy Independence Day!

Declaration of Independence Close Up

Two Powerful Founders’ Quotes Connect Patriotism and Biblical Faith

July 3, 1776 “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

“You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory I can see that the end is worth more than all the means; that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even though we [may regret] it, which I trust in God we shall not.” Founder John Adams

July 4, 1837 “Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day. Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the Progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Saviour and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets 600 years before.”

“I speak as a man of the world to men of the world; and I say to you, Search the Scriptures! The Bible is the book of all others, to be read at all ages, and in all conditions of human life; not to be read in small portions of one or two chapters every day, and never to be intermitted, unless by some overruling necessity.”

“Posterity–you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.” Sixth President John Quincy Adams

Preachers Reply-Southern Baptist Convention Publishes Politically Correct, Gender-Neutral Bible

Recently, the piece published on the subject topic attracted some criticism (in Christian love, of course) from two ministers. My message began:

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/

The responding ministers referred me to:

https://cbmw.org/public-square/is-the-csb-really-gender-neutral/ and

http://www.dennyburk.com/have-southern-baptists-embraced-gender-inclusive-bible-translation-not-by-a-longshot/

The conversation was welcome and their points well-taken. They challenged my source and offered arguments that blunted the effect of the original source a bit. I chose to respond in principle with the following:

Thank you for the heads up and the article link as well as your detailed personal thoughts. It offers some good points. Your personal experiences with several key figures is very helpful. Another pastor also referred me to http://www.dennyburk.com/have-southern-baptists-embraced-gender-inclusive-bible-translation-not-by-a-longshot/

Clearly, I’m not a scholar of ancient Greek or Hebrew and Bible translators are flawed sinners like all the rest of us. Since their work product is presented to the public as the perfect, inspired, inerrant, Word of God, they have an enormous responsibility on their shoulders.

C.S. Lewis said, “For every new book you read, you should read at least one old one.” His reasoning was that every writer—or in this case translator—is subject to the biases of the culture of his time. Reading books—or perhaps Bible translations—helps neutralize or offset differing biases. When the Bible is translated, even a discussion of gender or gender inclusivity carries the risk of introducing the biases of our modern culture, despite the very best efforts to avoid it.

A writer of material in my morning devotions in the last two days, wrote, “Satan hangs out false colors and comes up to the Christians in the disguise of a friend, so that the gates are opened to him, and his motions received with applause, before either be discovered…Satan also tempts Christians in his gradual approaches to the soul…Thus Satan leads poor creatures down into the depths of sin by winding stairs, that let them not see the bottom whither they are going.”  William Gurnall, British Puritan preacher (1616-1679).

Denny Burk cites the Colorado Springs Guidelines so frequently, he practically elevates them to scriptural authority. The article I cited offers some interesting points; the two articles you referenced provide some powerful arguments. Rather than attempt a detailed compare and contrast, I believe we would agree that translating Gods Word, is risky and fraught with danger. It’s likely that Satan will attack Bible translators with greater persistence and subtlety than the rest of us.

It seems that translators should work with the objective of translating as close to the original language as possible, defining words as close to the original definitions as possible and as understood by the culture of that time. God inspired the original writers who were looking through the lens of their time. At the same time, a direct word-for-word translation can result in text that is unusually difficult or cumbersome for the modern reader; some smoothing of the language is necessary. The big caution is that any discussion among the members of a team of translators, driven by some aspect of our modern culture can lead to very subtle forms of error that become compounded over time.

If you’re still with me, thank you very much.

 

Why does God allow evil?

Why does God allow evil?

This short 6-minute video answers the question through the life of Joni Eareckson Tada.

You may already be familiar with her. Nevertheless, this may be the most important six minutes of your life!

Check out “CAN GOD BRING GOOD FROM SUFFERING?” from The John 10:10 Project on Vimeo at:

https://thejohn1010project.com/can-god-bring-good-from-suffering.html

If you like this video, make sure you share it, too!

Vimeo is filled with lots of amazing videos. See more at https://vimeo.com.

The films that comprise THE JOHN 10:10 PROJECT were produced to help nurture a deeper understanding of God.  Each 4-10 minute video explores a facet of the Lord’s character, promises and power.  Think of them as small stepping stones on your pathway to a more abundant Christian life.  Each film in this collection is structured for use in personal devotions, Bible studies, outreach and corporate worship.  We hope you will find them helpful on your journey. Find them at: https://vimeo.com.

Patriots Celebrate America, They Don’t Denigrate America!

Parade

Once upon a time, when our politicians did not tend to apologize for our country’s prior actions, here’s a refresher on how some of our former patriots handled negative comments about our great country.  These are good:

JFK’S Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France in the early 60’s when DeGaulle decided to pull out of NATO.

DeGaulle said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible.

Rusk responded, “Does that include those who are buried here?”

DeGaulle did not respond.

You could have heard a pin drop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

When in England , at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of ’empire building’ by George Bush.

He answered by saying, “Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders.

The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.”

You could have heard a pin drop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

There was a conference in France where a number of international engineers were taking part, including French and American.  During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying, “Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done?  He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims.  What does he intend to do, bomb them?”

A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: “Our carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000 people three meals a day, they can produce several thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck.  We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?”

You could have heard a pin drop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the U.S. , English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies.  At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries.

Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks, but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English.  He then asked, “Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?”

Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied, “Maybe it’s because the Brit’s, Canadians, Aussie’s and Americans arranged it so you wouldn’t have to speak German.”

You could have heard a pin drop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

AND THIS STORY FITS RIGHT IN WITH THE ABOVE…

Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in Paris by plane.  At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry on.

“You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked sarcastically.

Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.  “Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.”

The American said, “The last time I was here, I didn’t have to show it.”

“Impossible… Americans always have to show their passports on arrival in France !”

The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look.  Then, he quietly explained, ”Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn’t find a single Frenchman to show a passport to.”

You could have heard a pin drop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

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?

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?

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?