For hundreds of years, America has been dominated by strong ideals. Among them have been a strong work ethic, a desire to achieve, and the right to enjoy the fruit our labor. That fruit is a gift from God. “…you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But you are to remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, in order to confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18 NASB)
It is genuinely delightful to enjoy the honestly-earned results of personal labor. However, a preoccupation with the accumulation of material things, while sacrificing other important life considerations, is called materialism.
God draws a particularly serious line at excessive materialism. “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” [1 Timothy 6:10 KJV] The ideals that have encouraged boundless materialism must be integrated with numerous other ideals and restrained by God’s infinitely wise Biblical limits.
Sadly, throughout most of the last century the American people have become largely anesthetized by an excessive devotion to materialism. Many seek materialistic goals as life’s highest priority to the exclusion of nearly everything else.
Do YOU place a higher priority on career than family? If so, you are devoted excessive materialism. If you instinctively deny the highest priority of career, ask yourself whether you commit more time each week to career or family. We spend our time on or with what we love. If YOU are spending more time on career that is your first love and you are tacitly devoted to excessive materialism, while not actually admitting it.
God’s view of excessive materialism is very harsh; such a view violates all ten of His great commandments.
- I am the LORD Your God…YOU shall have no other gods before Me.
Excessive materialism becomes an insatiable god that can never be satisfied no matter how much effort is exerted or how much time is committed. The god of materialism rapidly becomes addictive, seriously harming every other area of life. Short-term exhilaration becomes long-term sorrow. Ask any celebrity who has been in “rehab.”
2. YOU shall not make for Yourself a carved image…YOU shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD Your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
The statue of a bull outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) resembles the molded calf worshipped by the ancient Israelites at the base of Mt. Sinai, following their famous exodus from Egypt. Note that the image on the right is a modern replica of the Biblical statue. The exact appearance of the statue is unknown. Exodus 32:8 says, “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molded calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, which has brought you up from the land of Egypt.'”
The NYSE bull statue is a clear image of the idol of materialism. People tacitly bow to the idol whenever they make a commitment to or actually pursue excessive materialism. Up-to-the-moment stock market reports are frequently broadcast throughout the media to remind people of their commitment to the idol—whether or not an individual has any personal investment in the market.
Most companies provide their employees with a 401k Plan and/or shares of stock in their own company. Both are linked to stock market performance and reports, further ensnaring others who may not otherwise have a personal interest in the stock market.
The bull idol is continuously fed (worshipped) by immersion in the American culture. The reminders, encouragements, and lures are everywhere. Consider the pervasive and compelling advertising, tangible and intangible rewards from a supervisor at work, and raves from friends and family when shown a new car or a new house or even a new outfit of clothes. Only a strong faith in God and a conscious, deliberate effort can enable an escape from the materialistic snare.
3. YOU shall not take the name of the LORD Your God in vain (Profanity).
The pressures of materialism are very great. Excessive materialism elicits excess anxieties. When frustrations exceed a personal limit, few can resist the temptation to at least occasionally spew an expletive linked to God’s name. The expletive of often attached to humor to cover the underlying guilt. “I got away with a little sin.” Little? Really?
- Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days YOU shall labor and do all Your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD Your God. In it YOU shall do no work.
Jews observe a seventh day Sabbath; Christians observe a first day Sabbath. The differences are for another discussion. Regardless of the day chosen, the Sabbath is a day, commanded by God, characterized by rest and godly pursuits including worship. It recognizes and gives thanks for all that God has done for us and provides a regenerating physical rest for the body.
Throughout most of 400 years of American history—from the earliest settlements until recent decades all but the most essential work ceased on Sundays. The cessation created a nearly universal opportunity to enjoy the Sabbath and provided a visible reminder of the purpose of the Sabbath. The pressures of excessive materialism resulted in the repeal of most Sunday “Blue Laws” contributing to profaning the Sabbath, a generalized weakening of faith, and an accelerating drift of the American culture away from God. Today, most businesses operate on Sunday just as in every other day of the week.
5. Honor Your father and Your mother, that Your days may be long upon the land which the LORD Your God is giving YOU.
God designed the family as the essential unit of society. A strong family and a culture of strong families is the ONLY way to assure that godly virtues, values, and principles can be transmitted from generation to generation and on to posterity. The stability of America depends on strong families.
The God-designed family must be physically/geographically close enough to share love, responsibilities, and mutual accountability—all of which are vital to character growth and maturity. However, the relentless pressures of excessive materialism have driven many people to seek employment far away from their families, weakening or breaking important family relationships, reducing love to cheap attractions, and side-stepping an important source of personal accountability. Even retired seniors are encouraged to relocate to a warmer or drier climate, depriving their families of lifetimes of accumulated wisdom.
“Honor your father and your mother” extends to honoring all family members, loving them, and meeting their needs first, then meeting the needs of others after caring for the family. God promises a long life to those who do so. However, the family scattered by excessive materialism risks “extra” anxieties, which contribute to at least 25 health-related maladies that may effectively reduce the long life span, otherwise promised by God.
6. YOU shall not murder.
Excessive materialism has caused or contributed to the murder (abortion) of millions of unborn babies who were perceived to interfere with an apparently promising career. Excessive materialism has also been the motive for adult murder for the same reason.
7. YOU shall not commit adultery.
When excessive materialism becomes a god, it is spiritual adultery.
Excessive materialism also causes excessively long work weeks (50-70 hours per week), resulting in employees spending far more time with employees of the opposite sex than with their spouses, especially after hours and in traveling situations. The frequency of physical adultery skyrockets with the time available and frequency of opportunities for privacy (perceived secrecy).
8. YOU shall not steal.
Excessive materialism creates an incentive to cut corners morally, ethically, and legally. Any material gain beyond the agreed upon expense to others, resulting from cutting corners, steals from them.
For example, any business contract should be a win-win, meaning that there should be equal benefits to both parties. If one party is able to take unreasonable advantage of another party because of superior or inside information, creating a win-lose contract, the “winning” party is robbing from the other party.
9. YOU shall not bear false witness against Your neighbor.
Bearing false witness includes communicating or spreading false information (lying) about another person formally in a courtroom or less formally in business or other life settings.
Excessive materialism creates a motive to slander others for personal gain such as a raise in pay, a promotion, a desirable assignment, or a one-sided contract. The lie or pattern of lies seriously damages the life, reputation, and earning power of others. In contrast, we are obligated to stand up for the truth about others even if there is a personal cost to us.
God vehemently condemns false witness. “These…things the LORD hates, Yes…are an abomination to Him… a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
10. YOU shall not covet Your neighbor’s goods
Coveting the goods of others is the root of excessive materialism. A trite old phrase, “keeping up with the Jones” (friends, neighbors, co-workers) captures the incentive for an unreasonable accumulation of material goods, beyond common sense affordability. The goods also fuel pride which is harshly condemned by God. “The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.” [Psalm 10:2]
At this time of year, there is no shortage of people proclaiming skepticism or even scoffing at the idea of the virgin birth of Jesus. It was necessary, because the virgin birth was the only way Jesus could live a sinless life free of the sinful nature of pride that is the root of all sins. Nevertheless, the scoffers abound. They seem to catch media attention more often than believers.
The birth of Jesus is one of at least three miracle births in Scripture. God did the “impossible” in the lives of Abraham and Sarah, Zachariah and Elizabeth, and Joseph and Mary—three highly improbable births.
The birth of a child to a virgin is a one-time miracle. Mary became pregnant when she was “overshadowed,” by the Holy Spirit of God [Luke 1:35]. Since she was a healthy young woman, the rest of the gestation and birth process proceeded normally. For the God who created the universe, the Earth we call home, and all the plant, animal, and human life that makes up our environment, enabling a virgin to give birth is no obstacle.
A child born to an old woman is an even greater miracle than the virgin birth. At the birth of Isaac, Abraham was 100-years old and Sarah was 90-years of age [Genesis 17:17]. Scripture also tells us that at the birth of John-the-Baptist, his father Zechariah was an “old man” and his mother, Elizabeth, is variously described—depending on the translation—as “old as well,” “advanced in years,” or “beyond child bearing years.” [Luke 1:18] Having never previously given birth, both Sarah and Elizabeth were described as “barren.” The combination of old age and barrenness reduces that chances of pregnancy to virtually zero, apart from the intervention of God.
The birth of a child to an old woman can be viewed as a long-term continuous miracle or long series of miracles. The conception itself is two miracles. The reproductive systems of both the father and mother must be miraculously restored to youthful vigor. The conception must overcome the lifetime of barrenness, which confirms the miracle of the actual conception.
The mother’s womb must be effectively resurrected from the deadening effects of old age to harbor the baby and enable the formation of the umbilical cord through which she feeds and nourishes the baby. Her hormonal system must be quickened to support a growing baby and all the necessary changes to allow her body to carry the baby for nine months and eventually give birth. Prior to the actual birth, the mother’s hormonal system and the flesh and muscles, required for birth, must be rejuvenated to enable them to perform harmoniously at the time of birth.
Prior to the birth, the mothers’ breasts, that have never before nursed a baby, must be restored to youthful vitality to function and feed the newborn baby for a prolonged period of time. Today, the supermarket shelves are stocked with an array of infant formulas and baby foods. No such products were available in ancient Israel. A baby’s survival largely depended upon milk from the mother. Few alternatives were available, except perhaps goat’s milk.
The births-in-old-age enjoyed by Abraham/Sarah and Zechariah/Elizabeth were 2 – 3 year long continuous miracles or two amazing series of miracles from conception until weaning. Compare those long series of miracles with the one-time miracle of conception that occurred within the virgin called, “Mary,” who gave birth to Jesus.
Quite simply, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” [Matthew 19:26 NIV]
Of course the real miracle of Christmas is not just that a virgin gave birth. The greater miracle is that Mary gave birth to the Messiah who came to save mankind from the ravages and ultimate death penalty of sin.
Merry Christmas to All!
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that, 43 percent of U.S. children live without their fathers. The impact on families and the American culture have been cataclysmic. Consider a few statistics:
- Ninety percent of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Census Bureau).
- Eighty percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Criminal Justice & Behaviour, Vol. 14, pp. 403-26, 1978).
- Sixty-three percent of youth suicides involve individuals from fatherless homes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Census Bureau).
- Eighty-five percent of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
- Seventy percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions have no fathers (U.S. Department of Justice, Special Report, September 1988).
- Eighty-five percent of youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless homes (Fulton County Georgia jail populations, Texas Department of Corrections, 1992).
Are these statistics shocking or are they becoming all too familiar—too familiar to capture meaningful attention? The numbers profile only the most serious aspects of a childhood without a father, the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.
Ninety-three percent of a real iceberg is underwater. Similarly, the crisis-burdened statistics mask a vast modern childhood culture that routinely exhibits uncivil behavior, immoral practices, underdeveloped character, and weak values, widely departing from Judeo-Christian standards. They are the harbinger of an even more ungodly future of the remnant of the American culture.
Little is reported about the chaotic childhood culture that is facilitated by a seriously broken government-run (public) school system and camouflaged by an endless round of nursery schools, day care centers, before school care, after school care, and all manner of babysitters. Absentee parenting does not work! It never has and never will.
All-too-often, fatherhood has shockingly dwindled to a source of sperm and a possible source of money. Others have written extensively about the importance of having a father and the specific responsibilities of a father. Of course the best source is always Scripture. Here is a link to 71 Bible verses about the responsibilities of fathers: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Fathers,-Responsibilities-Of
The virtually out-of-control crisis of fatherless homes (absolutely absent-by-law, or by choice, or effectively absent by over-the-top commitments to non-family matters) begs the extremely serious question, “Where is the Church?” Consider the sad profile:
- 1962—Using a tortured interpretation of the “separation of church and state,” the U.S. Supreme Court banned prayer in the public schools. The Church was conspicuously silent.
- 1963—The U.S. Supreme Court banned Bible reading in the public schools. The Church was conspicuously silent.
- 1973—The U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion (Roe v. Wade). The Catholic Church cried “foul” immediately. The Protestant Church was conspicuously silent for at least 5-8 years.
- 1970s/1980s—A wave of no-fault divorce laws swept the states. Previously required “grounds for divorce” were rooted in various interpretations of Scripture. The Church has been conspicuously silent.
- 1960s/2000s—A long series of evolution-related controversies engulfed the public schools. The Church has been conspicuously silent.
- 1960s/2000s—Political correctness movement has successfully applied plausible euphemisms to all manner of sinful activities, enabling an explosive increase in the activities. The euphemisms use language as a powerful tool to create the appearance of taking the evil out of sin. The Church has been conspicuously silent.
- 2015—The U.S. Supreme Courts rules that same-sex “marriage” is a Constitutional right. National Christian leaders have been boldly outspoken, but the Church was conspicuously silent.
As a result of the long series of milestones-of-decay, along with the additional cultural pressures of radical feminism and multiculturalism, it may not be surprising that the role of the American male in the family has diminished and the role of fatherhood nearly collapsed. Yet, aside from an individual’s personal relationship with our Creator, God through Scripture assigns the roles of fathers, mothers, and families the highest of all life’s priorities.
Josh McDowell has confirmed that “If a child doesn’t accept Christ by age 12, there’s only a 4 percent change he or she [ever] will.” It is far less likely to happen among fatherless children or in homes with absentee parents.
Today, with a greater urgency than ever before, the churches, the synagogues, and the clergy in charge must embed in the believing culture a strong sense of the evilness of sin and the terribleness of Hell as well as the incomparable glories of
God and Heaven to come.
The greater the gap between dark, despicable, evil and our majestic God, including the grand glories of Heaven, the greater the likelihood that people will flee from the former and relentlessly pursue the latter. Life choices, major and minor, that conform to Biblical commands inspire the most exciting life in the universe.
When many of us were in school, we were taught that the Roman Empire fell, because it was overrun by barbarians from the north. Partly right, but only partly. Consider the constellation of conditions that existed at the time. Compare them with America today. The resemblance is inescapable and alarming:
- Rome was overrun by illegal immigrants, initially assimilating, but later failing to learn the Roman language (Latin). Sound familiar today?
- Roman military was widely dispersed throughout the known world and greatly strained. America today?
- Rome had a trade deficit rooted in outsourcing grain production to North Africa. Rome was unable to protect the area from capture. Contrary to today’s media reports, corporate outsourcing is more a result of government actions than so called corporate “greed.”
- Attila the Hun committed terrorist attacks. Today’s Global Terrorism Database provides information on 150,000 terrorist attacks
- Roman welfare gave free bread to citizens. Juvenal (circa A.D. 100) said the Roman politicians pacified the citizens and bought their vote with “bread and circuses.” A contemporary quote proclaimed, “Those who live at the expense of the public funds are more numerous than those who provide them.” Today, people working for the government outnumber those in manufacturing by nearly 2:1. Nearly 100,000,000 people are out of work. Only those still collecting unemployment compensation show up in the unemployment statistics.
- Citizens feared Roman tax collectors who were, “more terrible than the enemy.” Sound like the IRS?
- Huge government bureaucracies created monstrous debt. Self-evident today.
- Court favoritism was common. Self-evident today.
- Infidelity and sexual immorality became normal. Political correctness says every behavior should be “tolerated.”
- Perverted bathhouses Transgender restrooms and locker rooms anyone?
- Gratuitous violence, as in gladiator fights, became common. The Roman violence was real. Today, the violence in video games, television, and the movies is so lifelike, they trigger brain responses very similar to real violence, thus numbing the public to violence that should be repulsive.
Do we ever learn from history? Should we learn from history? What are the risks of not learning from history?
The conditions listed above contributed greatly to the breakdown of the family. No civilization has ever survived the breakdown of the family.
Living for self (Humanism, liberalism, progressivism, Marxism, etc.) always leads to the decline of civilizations and ultimate ruin. Living for others (Judeo-Christian tradition, religious and political conservatism) creates a stable culture that can be passed on to subsequent generations. What are YOU willing to do to save America?
What does it take to wake-up the body of believers?
What does it take to wake-up the clergy?
“Twas the Night Before the Election”:
‘Twas the night before the election
And all through the town
Tempers were flaring
Emotions all up and down!
I, in my bathrobe
With a dog in my lap
Had cut off the TV
Tired of political crap.
When all of a sudden
There arose such a noise
I peaked out of my window
Saw the Democrats and their boys
They had come for my wallet
They wanted my pay
To give to the others
Who had not worked a day
They snatched up my money
And quick as a wink
Jumped back on their bandwagon
As I gagged from the political stink
They then rallied their henchmen
Who were pulling their cart
I could tell they were out
To tear my country apart
‘On Pelosi, on Shumer!
On Feinstein and ‘Pocahontas’!
On Soros, On Sanders!
They screamed for more progressives!
They took off for their swamp
And as they flew out of sight
Laughing at the conservative voters
Who wouldn’t stand up and fight
So I leave you to ponder
On this one final note –
If you don’t want socialism,
GET OUT AND VOTE!!
President Calvin Coolidge
Radio address, November 3, 1924
“I therefore urge upon ALL THE VOTERS of our country, without reference to party, that they assemble…at their respective voting places IN THE EXERCISE OF THE HIGH OFFICE OF AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP, that they APPROACH THE BALLOT BOX IN THE SPIRIT THAT THEY WOULD APPROACH A SACRAMENT, and there, disregarding all appeals to passion and prejudice, dedicate themselves truly and wholly to the welfare of their country. When an election is so held, it…sustains the belief that the voice of the people is the voice of God.”
Senator Daniel Webster
“Impress upon children the truth that the exercise of the elective franchise is a social duty of as solemn a nature as man can be called to perform; that a man may not innocently trifle with his vote; that every elector is a trustee as well for others as himself and that every measure he supports has an important bearing on the interests of others as well as on his own.”
“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.”
Matthias Burnett-Judge, U.S. District Ct., District of N.Y.,(1806-1819)
(appointed by President Thomas Jefferson)
“Consider well the important trust . . . which God . . . [has] put into your hands. . . . (right to vote) To God and posterity you are accountable for [your rights and your rulers]. . . . Let not your children have reason to curse you for giving up those rights and prostrating those institutions which your fathers delivered to you. . . .”
The American culture and The Great American Experiment in self-government has never been in greater peril. You ABSOLUTELY MUST VOTE on Tuesday November 7, 2018.
The choice is simple in nearly every race. Vote for GOD-GIVEN FREEDOM or vote for power hungry man-created SOCIALISM, a vote guaranteed to take freedom away. Freedom is a gift from God, not a grant from government. God’s great gift of freedom was proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
God’s great gift of freedom has been repeatedly reaffirmed by nearly all U.S. presidents and many other prominent leaders from our country’s founding up until the present. President Ronald Reagan cautioned that we are never more than one generation away from losing our precious freedom.
We must disregard past conditions or future uncertainties. We must choose and vote for candidates on November 7, 2018 based on today’s conditions.
With abundant clarity, the vote cast on Tuesday, MOST LIKELY TO PRESERVE OUR GOD-GIVEN FREEDOMS, will be cast—in nearly every race—for the conservative (Republican) candidate.
Yesterday, President Trump read The Snake to a highly supportive CPAC crowd. He used the short poem to illustrate the dangers of unrestricted, uncontrolled immigration.
However, any believer reading the piece will immediately recognize the snake (serpent) as representing the devil. Beyond the first recognition, any sin committed is coddling or showing compassion for the snake. Any temptation is an invitation to embrace the lure of the snake. Sin appears alluring and very attractive; in the end, it bites with far more poison than any snake.
Note: The poem is apparently lyrics from a song written by Oscar Brown, Jr, in 1963 and recorded by Al Wilson in 1969. Because the song is based on one of Aesop’s fables, it has been available in various forms for about 2500 years.
On her way to work one morning
Down the path alongside the lake
A tender-hearted woman saw a poor half-hearted frozen snake.
His pretty colored skin had been all frosted with the dew
“Poor thing,” she cried, “I’ll take you in and I’ll take care of you.”
“Take me in, oh tender woman, take me in for heaven’ sake
Take me in, oh tender woman,” sighed the vicious snake.
She wrapped him all cozy in a comforter of silk
And laid him by her fireside with some honey and some milk.
She hurried home from work that night and soon as she arrived
She found that pretty snake she’s taken in had been revived.
“Take me in, oh tender woman, take me in for heaven’ sake
Take me in, oh tender woman,” sighed the vicious snake.
She clutched him to her bosom, “You’re so beautiful,” she cried
“But if I hadn’t brought you in by now surely you would have died.”
She stroked his pretty skin and kissed and held him tight
But instead of saying thank you, that snake gave her a vicious bite.
“Take me in, oh tender woman, take me in for heaven’ sake
Take in, oh tender woman,” sighed the vicious snake.
“I saved you!” cried the woman, “And you’ve bitten me, heaven’s why?
“You know you’re bite is poisonous, and now I’m going to die!”
“Oh, shut up silly woman!” said the reptile with a grin.
“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in!”
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]
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]
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 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?
“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).
- Ancient–Bible—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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 18-1900s–Spurgeon, 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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?
Charles G. Finney, the famous 19th Century evangelist and minister, during the Second Great Awakening had powerful and prophetic words for leaders in the ministry. During a sermon in 1873 Finney proclaimed:
“Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits.
- If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree.
- If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it.
- If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it.
- If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it.
- If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it.
- If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it.
- If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.
Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.“
Because 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.”
“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)
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.
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
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.
The responding ministers referred me to:
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?
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:
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.