Friday, November 28, 2008

A Godless Thanksgiving - Misquoting Lincoln

In his 2008 Thanksgiving address, Barack Obama quoted Abraham Lincoln's proclamation in which he established the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving. Here are Obama's words:

Nearly 150 years ago, in one of the darkest years of our nation's history, President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving. America was split by Civil War. But Lincoln said in his first Thanksgiving decree that difficult times made it even more appropriate for our blessings to be -- and I quote -- "gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people."

Notice anything missing? Maybe it would help if I recalled the context of the Lincoln quote:

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

President Lincoln is reminding the nation that judgement is the result of sin. He points out that the gracious gifts we receive from the hand of God are the result of His mercy, not what we deserve or have earned.

No such acknowledgement from the president-elect. Far from it. Instead, he continues his speech by assuring us that a better economy will come by "the hard work, innovation, service, and strength of the American people." This is how he ends the speech:

Times are tough. There are difficult months ahead. But we can renew our nation the same way that we have in the many years since Lincoln's first Thanksgiving: by coming together to overcome adversity; by reaching for -- and working for -- new horizons of opportunity for all Americans.

So this weekend -- with one heart, and one voice, the American people can give thanks that a new and brighter day is yet to come.

A new and brighter day to do what? Continue to praise the efforts of man? Persist in sin and in shutting out the knowledge of God and His judgments?

Some scripture comes to mind:

Isaiah 5:20-21 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!

Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

Luke 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

May God have mercy on our nation.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

All Life Is Precious

video

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Why Does God Withdraw From His Children?

If you have been a Christian for very long, you have experienced a time when God seems to be far away. You wonder if He is listening, or if He has forgotten you. You are not alone. Note these Psalms:

Psalm 13:1 How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

Psalm 10:1 Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?

Why does this happen? What could be the purpose? The Bible does not give us a direct answer to these questions. However, it does tell us that God is always with us, no matter how we feel:
John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

However, the knowledge that God is always with us does not answer the question as to why He seems to withdraw His presence from time to time. For that, we can only speculate.

One of the better specualtions, I think, comes from C.S. Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters. The book is an allegory of the supposed letters from the senior devil Screwtape to his nephew devil-in-learning Wormwood. It is Wormwood's assignment to trip up and eventually damn a young man they call the "patient". I offer here the audio (read by John Cleese) and the text of chapter 8. See if this doesn't help you understand a little of God's reasons for sometimes whithdrawing from us. Remember that since this is the devil talking, good is bad, right is wrong, etc.

Here is the audio.

VIII
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
So you "have great hopes that the patient's religious phase is dying away", have you? I always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old Slubgob at the head of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?

Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy's determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life—his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dulness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.

To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily good; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.

And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot "tempt" to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys. But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also. Next week I will give you some hints on how to exploit them,

Your affectionate uncle

SCREWTAPE

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New Temptations Are Old Temptations

Christians tend to believe that temptations are beoming stronger and that they face more pressure than those who were serving God in the past. The Bible does say that evil men and seducers will become worse, but there is no evidence that it is any more difficult to live a life pleasing to God today than it has ever been.

On Sunday, May 18, Pastor Forsee pointed out how Job faced some of the same temptations we do, and yet Job resisted and prevailed. God called him a perfect man.

Here is the 2-minute clip.
Here is the whole sermon.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Little Stuff Refutes Radical KJO

Radical King James Onlyism (RKJO) is a doctrine that teaches that the Authorized Version of the Bible is inspired by God in every word, that it is eternal and unchangeable, and that it is without error or internal contradiction.

If God gave us the KJV as His perfect Word in English as the RKJO adherents say, then we should find a unique and remarkable document. We should find no contradictions of fact, no translation mistakes, and no grammatical errors. Even the little things - and especially the little things - would be perfect. If God dictated the KJV, then the KJV would be as perfect as heaven itself.

But it's not. It just isn't perfect. The KJV is riddled with little mistakes and inconsistencies, just as you would expect from any man-made translation.

Seraphims

In Isaiah 6, we have Isaiah's powerful description of his vision of the Lord:

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. Isaiah 6:1-2

In verse 2, we have the word "saraphims." It appears again in verse 6. What is interesting about this word is that it is a grammatical error -- a double plural. In Hebrew, a saraph is a type of angel. To create the plural of saraph, you would add the suffix "im" making it "seraphim." The translators used the plural word, but then for reasons no one understands, they added the letter "s" to the end. Saying "seraphims" for seriphim is like saying "mices" for mice, "mooses" for moose, or using "geeses" for the plural of goose. If the KJV were dictated by God word-for-word, this error would not be in Isaiah 6 verses 2 and 6. It is a goofy little human error, plain and simple, and it refutes the RKJO position.

Old Testament Quotes

People who hold the RKJO position make a big deal about wording changes. Their main complaint against the "evil" New King James Version is that it "changes words." They reject the idea that God's Word is comprised of thoughts that can be expressed in different words. It is the words themselves that are important, they say. One RKJO told me that God inspired "every syllable" of the KJV.

This is a position can be easily verified by reviewing the wording of the KJV itself. If God intends for His Word to be expressed in specific words that can never be changed, then we would expect that when the New Testament quotes the Old Testament, the wording in each of them would be identical. All we have to do is check and see if this is so.

Here is one where Jesus Himself is reading from two Old Testament passages:

Luke 4:16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17 And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. - KJV

Now let us look at the passages He was reading as fond in the King James Version:

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; - KJV

Isaiah 42:7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. - KJV

Jesus does not quote either one of these passages word-for-word, even though He is reading directly from a scroll. Next, let's look at Paul's direct quote of David in Romans 4. The KJV acknowledges that this is a direct quote by capitalizing the first words in each line.

Romans 4:6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. - KJV

Here is the psalm he is quoting:

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. - KJV

Again, the words are not identical. Clearly, God intended His Word to be an expression of ideas, not a collection of unchangeable words. The quotes of the Old Testament found in the New Testament refute the RKJO position.

Straining At A Translation

One of the more amusing side effects of the RKJO doctrine is that they are forced to defend every kind of error in the KJV, including printing errors! That's right, they have to find a way to prove that a printing error was actually not an error, but rather it was God's intervention to correct the "corrupted" original Greek texts and deliver to us His perfect Word in the English language.
Take a look at the words of Jesus as He pronounces woe on the Pharisees:

Matthew 23:24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. - KJV

The phrase "strain at a gnat" makes no sense, especially when we look a the Greek texts, all of which say "strain out a gnat." It is highly unlikely that the translators made a mistake like this. We know that there were other printer's errors that were corrected in the first printings. It is highly likely that this is one that has slipped by to this day. In any case, whether the translators made the error or the printers and proofreaders made the error, it is an error. It refutes the RKJO position.

Easter - Before Easter Existed

In Acts 12, we have the account of Herod arresting and imprisoning Peter. Verse 4 shows that Herod's intention was to put Peter on trial "after Easter"

Act 12:1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered
him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring
him forth to the people. - KJV

The use of the word Easter here is rather curious, because it is the only time that the Greek word for Passover is translated Easter. In the other 28 times that the Greek word for Passover appears, it is translated Passover.

Furthermore, we know that the Christian celebration of Easter did not begin for at least another 100 years after the Apostles. The earliest reference we have to the Christian celebration of Easter is in a sermon by Melito of Sardis, who died in AD 180. The fact that Easter was not celebrated by Christians in the days of the Apostles, and the fact that the Greek says "Passover" refutes the RKJO position that the KJV is without error.

The Little Stuff Refutes Radical KJO

These few examples are a mere sampling of the hundreds of little oddities, inconsistencies, and outright errors in the King James Version. If the KJV were the final and perfect revelation of God's Word, we wouldn't have these examples to look at.

God doesn't make any mistakes. All His works are complete and perfect. The King James Version, however, has mistakes and errors, big and small. This shows that the KJV is exactly what it claims to be - an imperfect translation of God's perfect Word. The RKJO doctrine is refuted by the little stuff.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

We Need to Get People Lost

Does it just seem wrong to you when people have to be persuaded and pleaded with to become a Christian? Why is it that more people start in the way than stay in the way? Ever notice that people who are dragged to an altar of public prayer seldom set up an altar of private prayer? So what is going on?

Well, some of the problem might be the way we are approaching sinners with the Gospel. Ray Comfort points this out in his book Hell's Best Kept Secret:

The way we present the gospel determines the kind of response the sinner makes.

Let me illustrate.

Two men are seated in a plane. A stewardess gives the first man a parachute and instructs him to put it on because it will "improve his flight."

Not understanding how a parachute could possibly improve his flight, the first passenger is a little skeptical. Finally he decides to see if the claim is true. After strapping on the parachute, he notices its burdensome weight, and he has difficulty sitting upright. Consoling himself with the promise of a better flight, our first passenger decides to give it a little time.

Because he's the only one wearing a parachute, some of the other passengers begin smirking at him, which only adds to his humiliation. Unable to stand it any longer, our friend slumps in his seat, unstraps the parachute, and throws it to the floor. Disillusionment and bitterness fill his heart because as far as he is concerned, he was told a lie.

Another stewardess gives the second man a parachute, but listen to her instructions. She tells him to put it on because at any moment he will be jumping out of the plane at 25,000 feet.

Our second passenger gratefully straps the parachute on. He doesn't notice its weight upon his shoulders nor that he can't sit up upright. His mind is consumed with the thought of what would happen to him if he jumped without it. When other passengers laugh at him, he thinks, "You won't be laughing when you're falling to the ground!"

The problem with many "conversions" is that people are converted for the wrong reasons. Someone told them that accepting Jesus into their heart will give them joy and happiness, or make life easier to cope with. All this may be true, but it is the wrong reason to get saved.

If people are converted for the wrong reason, their faith fades when that reason goes away. Like the man who was told his parachute would "improve his flight", they will abandon the parachute when they see others who are having a perfectly good flight without one. If you get them in on the basis of joy, they'll lose interest when sadness sets in. If you promise them that God has a wonderful plan for their life, they will fall away when they don't like the direction that plan is taking.

So what is the proper basis for Salvation? The proper basis for Salvation is the knowledge of sin and its consequences. People need to realize that they are lost in their sin, that a high and holy God is disgusted by what they are, and that He is going to judge them for it.

Once people know and understand that they are lost in sin, they won't have a problem repenting and coming to the Savior for mercy, and they won't be falling away afterward. That's why I say that we don't need to get people saved - we need to get people lost.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What About Those Keys?

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:19
I have heard a number of explanations of this passage, but none as clear, complete, and theologically satisfying as the one Pastor Forsee gave in this past Sunday's sermon. I'll let you hear it the same way I did. Just click here for the 2-minute clip.

Here is the whole sermon.

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