Monday, August 25, 2014

"Climate Change" and God's Promise

Global cooling? Global warming? Climate change? Over the past forty years, we have been hearing about these obviously contradictory ideas.
 
Without getting into the political and economic agendas involved, it is quite simple to conclude that this whole “man-caused” global cooling/global warming/climate change idea is a monument to the arrogance of man. There are at least three ways in which this is true.
 
1)  Somehow man, in his arrogance, has decided that he knows what is the perfect temperature for the earth at all times.
 
2)  Man has also decided that these things are “man-caused.” The logical outcome of this thinking is that man can also prevent these changes and control the weather. Is this arrogant? Just a bit. Little puny man thinks to somehow control what he calls “nature” by changing the fuels we use and destroying the economy in the process. Man can no more control the weather than he can control earthquakes and volcanoes.
 
3)  Finally, in the greatest show of arrogance concerning these issues, man has ignored the Word of God. Not only did God promise to never again destroy the earth by a global flood, He also promised the following:
 
While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22, NKJV). His promises are sure. We who are Christians ought to put our confidence in the Word of God instead of the alleged wisdom of man.

Friday, August 22, 2014

TRUTH or "FALTH" (Heresy in the Upper Rooms)

by Ed Cardwell

Unbelief in the pulpit is something few of us can understand or even imagine. Men (or women) in powerful and influential positions who pretend to hold forth the Word of God but secretly deny the fundamental and sacred doctrines of the faith, are a most serious threat to the entire community of believers. To illustrate one extraordinary example of such leadership I would like to share the actual transcript of a radio conversation I had some time ago with the leader of the then 2 million member organization called ‘the Baptist World Alliance’:

*                    *                    *                    *                    *

‘POINT OF VIEW’ BROADCAST - 4/4/79

WBRI - INDIANAPOLIS, IN

PRINCIPALS INVOLVED IN THE RADIO CONVERSATION:

BOB TODD - WBRI INTERVIEWER/ANNOUNCER

DR. ROBERT DENNY - (GUEST) - GENERAL SECRETARY, BAPTIST WORLD ALLIANCE  (circa 2 million members in 1979)

DR. GREG DIXSON - (CALLER) - PASTOR, BAPTIST TEMPLE, INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

ED CARDWELL - (NEXT CALLER)

UNKOWN LADY - (LAST CALLER)

The context of this broadcast is the following:  The Baptist World Alliance, headed by Dr. Robert Denny, was holding a world convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, for a few days in April 1979. The Bible radio station WBRI had a daily call-in program, often with a special guest, and this up-coming convention had been advertised for weeks. The station had heralded Dr. Denny’s personal appearance on the show as a leading headline for the week’s activities, both for the radio station and for the BWA.

A prominent local pastor of a large Baptist church in Indianapolis, Dr. Greg Dixon, who had at the time great political influence and had even been invited to speak at the Congressional Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., had called into the radio station several times during the previous Point Of View broadcasts to warn the Christian community about this Dr. Denny. Dr. Dixon alleged that Dr. Denny was nothing more than a Communist sympathizer, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who had managed to maneuver himself into a powerful religious position whereby he could influence world opinion that the Soviet brand of religious tolerance was genuine and that Soviet leadership was favorable to full religious expression. Dr. Dixon warned that it was all a lie, adding that Dr. Denny traveled around the world with 2 known Soviet KGB agents (Bichkof and Zitkof) posing as clerics who made sure that Dr. Denny proclaimed the ‘right’ message.

When Dr. Denny finally made his scheduled appearance on WBRI, Dr. Greg Dixon called into the ‘Point Of View’ program to challenge Dr. Denny as a fraud. I listened to the sparring confrontation while traveling and became exasperated because Dr. Dixon kept attacking in areas that were clearly secondary and Dr. Denny could easily elude discovery. When I finally arrived home I called WBRI and flipped on the station on my combination tape recorder/am-fm radio and waited my turn. The conversation begins where I turned on the radio and caught the two men in some rather heated discussion.

*                    *                    *                    *                    *

DR DENNY:   …what is religious freedom is a relative term depending upon the way somebody defines it, so…

DR DIXON:  They say that in these articles that they know of no violation of human rights in Russia.

DR. DENNY:  Well, we discussed this just a moment ago with another caller. The definition of a violation of religious freedom by their terminology is a violation of a law pertaining to religion.

DR DIXON:  Do you believe these men when they come here to America and say that there is full religious freedom for Baptists in Russia – that there are no violations of human rights in Russia? Do you believe what these men are saying?

DR. DENNY:  I think that there are different standards for…

DR. DIXON:  Do you believe what these men are saying?

DR. DENNY:  Do you want me to answer the question?

DR. DIXON:  I don’t want you to give me the runaround. I’d like for you to answer my question.

DR. DENNY:  Well, I wish that life was just a simple black and white. But the definition of religious liberty is a matter of what you and I think by our terms. They do not have in the Soviet Union the amount of freedom that you and I have in the United States and many other parts. Liberty and freedom are defined by autonomous governments. I do not like and would not like to have to be restricted as much as people are in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, maybe Cuba, maybe Burma, and some other places. I like the freedom in the United States. These people have to operate within the confines of the law of their country. And then that way, you see, the definition of a violation of freedom is a violation of the law as it is on the books in that particular country. I don’t like some of those laws, no sir.

DR. DIXON:  Then what you’re saying is that Bichkof and Zitkof are not liars?

DR. DENNY:  I don’t think they’re liars, sir. I’ve known them a long time.

DR. DIXON:  Do you believe they’re liars when they say there’s full religious freedom for Baptists in Russia? Do you believe they’re telling the truth or telling a lie?

DR. DENNY:  I think they’re trying to tell the truth by the standards that I just tried to explain a few moments ago…

DR. DIXON:  In other words, by Communist propaganda standards?

DR. DENNY:  No, I’d like to say, I’d like to repeat, and I was trained in law, sir, a violation of law is a violation of the law in that particular place.

DR. DIXON:  They didn’t say anything in these articles about violation of law. They said there are no violations of human rights in Russia. That’s a flat statement. Do you believe they’re telling the truth?

DR. DENNY:  Well, uh, I don’t know, sir. Uh, it would be pretty hard to define that ‘full religious freedom’. I don’t know. I’d have to ask them particularly that. I have not heard them say that specifically, and I do not say they did not say it, sir. I just didn’t hear it.

ANNOUNCER:  And we have run past our time on that particular call. I am going to move to our next phone call. Line 2, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.

CARDWELL:  Well, I’ve listened to your guest, and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone who calls himself a believer, or a Christian, so conveniently disarm himself in almost every argument for the faith. I believe the Lord wants us to contend for the faith, not to disarm ourselves, and it seems like he does this so conveniently in almost every area.

I would like to ask three questions of your guest – 3 questions and they’re all related:  First of all, does he believe in the total infallible inspiration of the Scriptures – that it was God-breathed and that it is the authoritative and final rule of faith? I’m not talking about interpretation. Does he believe that the Scriptures are inspired by God? Number two:  Does he believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ as described in the Scriptures?  And number three:  Has he personally received the Lord Jesus Christ, as defined in Scripture, as his personal Lord and Savior?

DR. DENNY:  May I answer the question now?

ANNOUNCER:  Yes, and thank you for calling.

DR. DENNY:  Number one:  the answer to that is yes, I do believe in the infallible Word of God. Number two:  Uh, not being a trained theologian, uh, I do not know about the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Uh, I wish I could do this, could believe one way or the other, but I don’t know how to answer that question, sir. On the third one:  I have had an experience of salvation with the Lord Jesus Christ and I believe that He is my Savior and my best friend and look forward to meeting Him.

ANNOUNCER:  We have another call waiting…and we’ll try to get this next call in…  Good afternoon, Point of View, you’re on the air, and I’m going to give you about 30 seconds to ask your question so that Dr. Denny has time to respond before we go off.

UNKOWN LADY:  Well, I have a document here called ‘Soviet Justice – Showplace – Prisons versus Real Slave Labor Camps’ and this is from the Committee on Un-American Activities from the United States Government, and I believe you can trust a Communist to be a Communist. And when you are associating with them and cloaking yourself with these Communists, I don’t know how you feel that this is the right thing to do. And IF CHRIST DID NOT RISE BODILY THEN WE HAVE NO FAITH AND OUR FAITH IS DEAD. Thank you.

ANNOUNCER:  Thank you. Dr Denny? Any comments?

DR. DENNY:  No, I just respect the lady’s statement there, and I simply said that I don’t know. It’s not a case of not believing. It’s just a matter of I do not know about the bodily resurrection. I think only the future will reveal that and I would respect anybody’s opinion on that, sir.

ANNOUNCER:  (Closes the broadcast, thanking Dr. Denny for his appearance on the program.)

*                    *                    *                    *                    *

Dr. Denny’s answers pose some interesting questions. How difficult is it to answer this question:  ‘Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ as described in the Scriptures?’? Since his answer to the first question about his belief in the total inspiration of Scripture was in the affirmative, and since question #1 is probably a more difficult question, why does he not know about the bodily resurrection of Christ, as described in the Scriptures? In actuality, his denial (or ignorance, or both) of the Scriptural account of the bodily resurrection of Christ (Question #2) contradicts his affirmation of Question #1. If he believes that the Word is God-breathed and totally infallible, how can he not accept the Biblical account of the resurrection of Jesus? It is a simple question requiring a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. He wasn’t asked to give a scientific explanation of the resurrection. He was only asked about his belief in its reality – as described in the Scriptures. So, he has denied the Scriptures that he claimed to believe and uphold.

Saying that ‘not knowing’ and ‘wishing he could believe’ does not equate to ‘not disbelieving’. His answer is simply and plainly one of unbelief.

Furthermore, if someone says he has had an experience of salvation with the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet he is unable to believe what the Scriptures clearly teach - that He has risen from the dead - is that a valid experience of salvation? And could that experience be with the Jesus of the Bible? Solemn questions indeed arise.

It is possible that Dr. Denny had been thoroughly trained to answer mundane questions often posed by religious media and reporters, but he obviously was caught off guard by questions that target more penetrating and fundamental doctrinal issues. If he had been coached by Bichkof and Zitkof, he obviously missed some serious areas of doctrine in his repertoire.

It is possible also that Dr. Denny was simply not a Bible student. Perhaps he had never read the many accounts of the physical/bodily resurrection of Jesus recorded by New Testament authors. At any rate, as a ‘trained lawyer’ he should have discovered that the evidence is incontrovertible - the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is an undeniable fact. One marvels at how such a person, so ignorant of the most fundamental doctrine of Christianity, could become the leader of an organization of two million Christians

One cannot teach what one does not know, and one cannot lead the church who does not have the faith of the Church. No one can judge Dr. Denny’s true spiritual condition. That is not our purpose. But unbelief here is a problem, not of the intellect, but of the will. One who professes faith in the infallibility of Scripture yet cannot bring himself to accept what that infallible Word says is trapped in his own inconsistency and his choice to disbelieve leads to a serious spiritual dilemma. And there are many such Dr. Dennys in very important positions of leadership throughout Christendom – churches, missions, schools, and universities. And because of such the church has become weak and impotent, with few notable exceptions, in the face of our archenemy who seeks to create doubt, deny truth, and destroy faith.

It is no wonder that Satan in these latter days is tightening his stranglehold on the Church as he seeks to diminish its power and influence in the world. One very effective means to accomplish this is by denying that Jesus rose bodily from the grave. The authority of Christ is predicated on His resurrection as a fact of history. And the power of that resurrection, God’s great power on display, is available to all true believers whose hearts have been enlightened to the knowledge of its surpassing greatness:

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.” Eph 1:18 (NAS)

*                    *                    *                    *                    *

The convention was thrown into disarray as members were surprised and bewildered by Dr. Denny’s weak appearance on the program, especially his denial of the Biblical account of Jesus’ resurrection. But his surrogates calmed the uproar by assuring them he had been misunderstood - a common, but useful political strategy. Nevertheless Dr. Denny’s position was tainted and his tenure as General Secretary of the BWA ended shortly thereafter. A leader more adept at handling doctrinal scrutiny would be needed for future growth of the BWA.

Today the Baptist World Alliance boasts of 42 million members in 177,000 churches in 121 countries. 60 percent of the BWA is associated with the World Council of Churches. We can be confident that the Devil is more determined today than when the BWA membership was limited to 2 million.

How do men of heretical theology arise to such prominence? Are they not thoroughly vetted by trustworthy elders or brethren of the church?  Or are they just cunning enough to steal their way into the hearts of the faithful through subtlety and subterfuge?

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” 2 Pe 2:1-3(NAS)

The call for vigilance is more compelling today than ever. Under the Mosaic law the enticement to apostasy was a capital crime(Dt 13:1-5)- most certainly because the corrupting influence of false teaching is incalculable, interminable, and always progressive. Paul warns Timothy to “examine everything carefully”1Th 5:20(NAS)/”prove all things”(KJV), “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”Rom 12:9(NAS)  

The exhortation of John the Apostle seems more urgent and relevant to us now than in any time in our recent history:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” 1 Jo 4:1-3(NAS)



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Ed Cardwell is my friend and long-time co-worker in the ministry of Christian school education. He spent several years as principal while I was head administrator. He was an excellent and very popular Bible and foreign language teacher. We were of one mind, and it was very natural to work together since we thought so much alike.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It Evolved (Of Course!)

I think it is quite obvious that my computer evolved. There is no evidence that it had a creator. Every single thing it does is clearly a product of natural selection. How can anyone actually believe there is intelligence behind it? Don’t they know that complexity doesn’t equate with design? Don’t they understand that the appearance of design does not mean there was a designer? How can people be so foolish? Why don’t they just keep their opinions to themselves and leave matters like this to the experts who wear white lab coats and use the scientific method?
 
“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:22-23, NKJV).

STAR HAZING

by Ed Cardwell

It should be obvious to the discerning eye that Satan, as some authors have aptly written, is very much ‘alive and well’ today in our culture. Anyone surveying the broad landscape of religious life in the U.S., examining both the health of the church and the influence of Christianity overall, will most likely conclude that the Adversary of Truth is intensifying his efforts perhaps as never before, and he is winning converts in staggering numbers propelling toward the total collapse of our very foundation.
 
When Paul the Apostle referred to this arch enemy in 2 Corinthians 2:11 he asserted; “We are not ignorant of his devices”.  Paul surely was using the editorial ‘we’. It seems clear from the evidence that much of modern Christendom has left its spiritual weaponry back in the temple. Much of its authority to examine, challenge, and expel the works of darkness, even within its own confines, seems to have been surrendered. But Paul encouraged that struggling church in Corinth, For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” (2Cor 10:4)  We are called to engage, to contend for the faith (Jude 3), not surrender, not capitulate, not even agree to a cease-fire.
 
The first principle in waging war against a determined foe is:  know your enemy! Can it be said that we even partially realize the nature of this great adversary? I recall a conversation years ago with a young Christian convert who had recently arrived in the U.S. from Nigeria. He marveled at the ignorance of Americans about the awesome power of Satan. He related how his family, even entire surrounding villages, were brutally dominated by demonic spirits. He found it disappointing that Christians on this side of the Atlantic were totally unaware of their suffering from such daily oppression. The events he described are quite extraordinary and, as many would find them incredible, any retelling would seem pointless.
 
Have we not lost the true significance and magnitude of Jesus’ description of Satan’s basic character? He spoke explicitly in John 8:44: He was a murderer from the beginning… there is no truth in him… he is a liar, and the father of lies.” Joh 8:44(NAS)
 
No more powerful statement could be given. It defines the essence of our enemy in absolute terms.
 
Even a cursory review of Bible verses that refers to this arch enemy reveals an impressive but frightening summation of his strategies and abilities. Besides being able to confer on his earthly representative all power, and signs, and false wonders 2Th 2:9(NAS), we can learn from the following:

            He disguises himself as an angel of light – 2Cor 11:14

            He prowls like a lion and seeks to devour – 1Pet 58

            He takes away (steals) the Word from the heart – Mar 4:15

            He takes advantage for evil wherever possible – 2Cor 2:11

            He thwarts (hinders) godly efforts– 1Th 2:18           

            He tempts man to sin – 1Cor 7:5

            He captures (binds, chains) his prey to do his will – Luk 13:16; 2Tim 2:26

            He oppresses, buffets (strikes) his victims – Acts 10:38; 2Cor 12:7

            He weakens the nations – Isa 14:12

            He deceives the whole world – Rev 12:9

His earthly vassals take their cue from him. In the comfort and serenity of the church they are in disguise - as soldiers of the cross, as bond servants to the saints, as counselors and advisors to the distressed and needy. They speak the holy language, they wear the uniform of Christian piety, offer themselves as willing bond servants, often sacrificing much to do what they believe to be the Master’s work. In time they often rise to positions of leadership, influence and authority. Some work quietly in the background and without any notoriety. But wittingly or unwittingly, their work among the saints results in a weakening of the church and a dilution of faith in the very words of God. Ultimately they wreak havoc and destroy the work of God.
 
Paul had warned the saints of this eventual invasion: 
 
“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Act 20:29(NAS)

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron.”  1Tim 4:1(NAS)

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.”  2Tim 4:3(NAS)

 *                    *                    *                    *                    *

On a rare occasion there is bold confrontation. Some people love the thrill of combat. Frankly, I try to avoid it like the plague. But I experienced a very extraordinary one several years ago that is worth the retelling. It  illustrates, I believe, the degree to which the enemy is embedded in our camp. It occurred in, of all places, the church. What I eventually discovered from that encounter may help to explain to some degree why we have been witnessing the very rapid and steep decline of our Christian-based culture for more than a half-century.
 
While attending seminary several years ago, I had been asked to fill the pulpit at a local church (The pastor had run off with his secretary - Ahem!). After the preaching service one Sunday morning I was pressured by an elderly lady to fill in for her Bible class – presumably because their regular teacher had phoned earlier that he could not be in attendance. Unable to find a legitimate excuse to dodge this invitation, I finally succumbed to her persistence. But little did I know I was going to square off against a most unlikely adversary.
 
The class consisted of about 30 adults between the ages of 60 and 85. The atmosphere was warm and friendly and, though my throat was sore from preaching, I felt quite at ease with this group, all at least 30 years my senior.
 
Since I had not prepared a lesson, I decided to relate some of my observations about our country after my recent return from Vietnam. When you leave a place, I told them, you remember it as it was. And when you return you naturally notice any glaring changes from what you knew before. I thought it would be instructive to share with them some of those significant changes that I thought had spiritual implications and bode ill for our country.
 
One of the first things I mentioned was that in the 12 months that I was overseas there had been a national proliferation of the gaming industry, especially notable was the lottery. I added that it had always been widely accepted that one of the defining characteristics of a third-world country was its lottery system – a shrewd device by a weak government to gain revenue from ignorant people who hoped in vain for a chance to leave their life of poverty. And here in the U.S. we were now imitating the third-world!
 
This group seemed to agree. No problem. Preach on, Brother!
 
The next example I offered was that of the seemingly headlong rush of our society to the cult and the occult. Why, you couldn’t walk past the check-out line anywhere without a rack full of astrology and occult books staring you in the face. Hollywood and the media had popularized it and it seemed people couldn’t get enough. I mentioned to the folks that it was a marvel to me why we as an advanced and enlightened culture would want to invite the Devil and his minions into our daily lives.
 
Well, apparently that lit the fuse.
 
Toward my left out of the corner of my eye I noticed an elderly woman struggling to her feet and with a hostile, snarling voice demanded, “Young man, did you say that astrology is from the Devil?” Without hesitation I replied, “No ma’am, I didn’t say that.” I paused to let the rising tension settle – then continued politely but assertively:  God did.
 
At that moment I became painfully aware that I had been led into a lion’s den. And what does one do who is about to be devoured? Only one thing to do under the circumstances – open the Bible.
 
Since I had recently read and studied this subject at length, I had made several cross references and notes in my Bible. As I opened to Deuteronomy 18 and began to read my challenger hesitated and reluctantly took her seat.  Adding some relevant commentary along the way, I read the text of approximately 20 different passages that spoke of any practice of the occult, including astrology, being detestable to the Lord. I concluded with the summary oath in Isaiah 8:20: 
 
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.(KJV)
 
The atmosphere had become tense and the class was riveted. It may have been because of the excitement of this unexpected challenge to an obviously revered member of their church, and they were spell-bound to see how it would all play out. At least I felt some satisfaction that I had given ample evidence to support the Biblical point of view. (Ignorance can be bliss for the moment…)   
 
Having finished my reading I paused to assess the impact this oral delivery had on the entire class. They looked stunned, as if I had thrown a grenade into their midst. Stone silence.
 
Then the elderly lady, taking her cue  and quivering as she struggled to her feet again, blurted out in a very forceful tone, “WELL, I DON’T BELIEVE THAT BOOK!
 
Whew! Well, that made it all quite clear to everybody! You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone sat motionless obviously awaiting the next volley.
 
Finding herself on the defensive for perhaps the first time her face was flush with anger and her body language became hostile. She attempted to justify her position by proclaiming to be an ordained astrologist, boasting that she had signed with her name in blood (I never did get that one!) that she would not predict the future but only that she would write horoscopes for the newborns in the church. If that wasn’t enough to convince us of her legitimacy, she then proceeded to excoriate Paul the Apostle for his writings about women and summarized her whole theology by affirming that the Bible was written only by ordinary men and therefore quite subject to misstatements, misinterpretation, and error. She proudly insisted that most modern theologians were of the same mind.
 
I suspected that the class had never witnessed anything quite like this. After all, she was a prominent member of the church; yet they had never thought to question her devices, her ‘ministry’, as it were. They all sat thunderstruck at the realization of her admission and this naked exposure of their beloved ‘friend’.
 
At the close of the hour I was sapped of all my energy. I felt the physical and emotional strain as if I had been in the presence of a very powerful and influential personage. It had been quite an ‘alien encounter’, to put it mildly.
 
Exactly one week later after returning home from services I sat down to read the Sunday edition of the Indianapolis Star. (Whose masthead incidentally included a quote from 2 Cor 3:17: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”)  When I took out the society section I was stunned and amazed to see a large photograph of this same self-proclaimed astrologist on the front page along with a full half page story about her being honored for her renowned expertise in growing garlic! (Those who are familiar with the occult will understand the connection.)  I still have that newspaper in my files today.
 
It goes without saying that I was never invited into that classroom again. In fact, a week later and before a Sunday evening service I was warned by the wife of the head elder who whispered as she brushed past me: “You leave that woman alone!” I was startled by this ominous threat since I had no intention of renewing the confrontation.

*                    *                    *                    *                    *

A few short weeks passed and I was still in the pulpit as a substitute until a pastor could be found. I felt that under the circumstances it would be useful to begin a Bible study before each evening service to introduce the nature of the occult and acquaint the members with its origins and its consequences. In the absence of ordained leadership no one seemed to object.

The attendance in this evening class was surprisingly high and the interest was fever pitch since the revelations of that first Sunday morning spread throughout the church.

But there was some skepticism as well.

On the 2nd or 3rd evening class one of the men in attendance jumped up in the middle of the lecture and yelled at me as he left the room, ‘I don’t believe any of this!

A week later he was back and sat through the entire class without any disruption. After the class he and his wife came up to me very apologetic about his previous outburst. He admitted that he had become emotional because he and his wife had been playing with the ouja board. For amusement, they said, he had asked the board if his son would graduate from college. The answer was, ‘No.’ Then he asked the board why his son would not graduate. As he began to explain the board’s answer he walked up to the chalkboard in the classroom and wrote the answer. He spelled aloud as he wrote:  ‘M…U…R…D…”, and then he said he was stricken with uncontrollable fear as to what letters might come next, and he overturned the card table scattering everything on it and ran out of the house.

He explained his earlier outburst in the class as an irrepressible emotional reaction to what he was hearing regarding the enslaving and tyrannical power of the occult. He apologized profusely and asked for immediate prayer and forgiveness for entering Satan’s playground.

During the weeks that followed after that first Sunday morning encounter many came to me privately to tell of other mysterious things going on in the church, in group meetings, and in private lives, to include séances held by esteemed church leaders. I learned of a chilling chronology of obscure events including suicides of former pastors and elders, several committed to mental institutions, and strange and bizarre behavior of members during worship services and during meetings in private homes.

After about 10 weeks a pastor was finally called to be the permanent spiritual leader of the church and my short ministry had mercifully come to a close. I had given all I had and it was high time to move on, but I was most thankful for the experience, stressful as it was.

Three months later I heard that the newly called pastor had died. A sad addendum to the dubious history of an already polluted and crippled church.

[For those who might be interested and who might wish to explore the vast consequences of the occult I recommend Christian Counseling and Occultism by Kurt Koch,, especially Parts 3 & 4: ‘Critical Assessment’ and ‘The Way of Liberation From Occult Subjection’.]

*                    *                    *                    *                    *

I had shared all these issues and events with my seminary colleagues as they unfolded on a weekly basis. They were about 25 men and all current pastors at the time from various denominations. I was quite surprised to find that every one of them, without exception, had discovered some similar occurrences in their own churches.
 
Over the years I have often referred to the survey published in 1961 by Redbook Magazine and quoted by Hal Lindsey in his book The Late Great Planet Earth. The top pollsters in the nation were hired to survey a ‘full representation of our seminaries’ which were supposedly preparing men for the ministry in Protestant churches. Their results: 

            Of those surveyed: 

            56 percent rejected the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

            71 percent rejected that there was life after death.

            54 percent rejected the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            98 percent rejected that there would be a personal return of Jesus Christ to this earth.

Several national denominational surveys have followed through the years, including a few of my own, with the same telling results.
 
One might be curious to know where such skeptics have spent the last few decades. We can’t be sure, but I’ve crossed paths with several of them through the years – Bible teachers, pastors, college professors, even presidents of church councils, and they have been constant in their respective pulpits instilling doubt and unbelief in untold millions in the churches. They have created a climate of disrespect, disregard, and denial of the Word of God. They have replaced a Christian worldview with the philosophies of humanism, atheistic evolution, and a religious position that is Christian in name only.
 
And one might also wonder how welcome and pervasive occultic practices might be in such a climate. Who can say? But surely we can conclude that wherever there is abandonment of the Word of God as the final authority for faith and practice, then a spiritual vacuum is created, which the Adversary is only too willing to fill with his treacherous lies and deadly devices.
 
Apostasy begins in the temple. As the church goes, so goes the nation. Can there be any doubt that our disgraceful plight as a once vibrant and proud nation is the result of the Devil and his sycophants having been welcomed into the church and having helped to destroy her life and power?
 
The words of the prophet Jeremiah ring as true to us today as they did to an apostate people over 2500 years ago: 

                                   An appalling and horrible thing
Has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so!
But what will you do at the end of it?” Jer 5:30-31(NAS)
 
ecardwells6@gmail.com

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Ed Cardwell is my friend and long-time co-worker in the ministry of Christian school education. He spent several years as principal while I was head administrator. He was an excellent and very popular Bible and foreign language teacher. We were of one mind, and it was very natural to work together since we thought so much alike.

 

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Way That Seems Right

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV).
 
One might be tempted to ask, “Why doesn’t it say, ‘There are ways that seem right to a man’?” After all, if there is only one right way, as Jesus made perfectly clear in John 14:6 and other places, then are there not many wrong ways? Of course there are, but there is no contradiction or problem here. In fact, all of the false “ways” to God can be boiled down to one “way” with a common thread of falsehood running through them all.
 
If we take a look at the religions, belief systems, and philosophies of this world, they all come back to one simple idea:  “I must do something to earn salvation, reach heaven, appease God, make my life meaningful, or (fill in the blank) whatever else my goal may be.” There are many examples of such false ideas that all come back to this basic, man-centered belief system. Following are just a few.
 
(1)  "Someday God will judge all people. When I stand before Him, He will weigh my good against my bad, and if my good outweighs my bad, I will get into heaven. If my bad outweighs my good, I will be in trouble."
 
(2)  "God loves all people, so if I do my best, He will see that and I will be OK. Even if I don’t really do my best, He knows my heart and would never send me to hell."
 
(3)  "My religion says I must do A, B, C, D, etc. in order to be rewarded with salvation, so as long as I do my best to fill in the blanks and do A, B, C, D, etc., everything will be all right."
 
(4)  "There is really nothing beyond this life, so the purpose of my time on earth is to find inner peace. I need to do my best to think in the right ways, meditate, and do good to others so I can have this peace. My experience and how I feel are the things that matter."
 
There are many specific religious beliefs that I could mention, but that is not my purpose here. Rather, I am simply looking at the fact that all false systems of teaching have one thing in common – they are man-centered: "I must do something, and by doing it, I will earn a reward, either in this life or beyond the grave."
 
There is a reason this man-centered “way” can never be true. That reason is the fact of sin. All humans have sinned and are in a condition of rebellion against God. The very act of trying to do something to earn salvation is rebellion against God’s simple truth and is the "way" that leads to death. Salvation is not a reward to be earned. If it were, no human would be good enough to please God who is just and holy and righteous.
 
Romans 3:23 tells us we “fall short” of  the glory of God, but that single verse does not tell us how short we fall. This may be illustrated by a contest to see who could jump from the earth to the moon. Someone who is old and out of shape might jump one foot. Someone who is younger and in shape might jump three or four feet. A world-class athlete might jump six or even seven feet. However, all of them fell short of the moon, and if someone were on the moon looking through a powerful telescope at the contest, they would all appear to be equally unable to make the 240,000 mile jump all the way to the moon. Trying to measure up to the righteousness of God though human effort is even more ludicrous than this fictional contest. Just as the best effort anyone could make to jump to the moon would be futile, so the best efforts of humans to be righteous are also futile, because God's standard is so much higher than sinful humans can ever attain. "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away" (Isaiah 64:6, NKJV).


God is absolutely holy and righteous. Just like breaking a single link in a chain breaks the chain, so breaking even one of God’s commands breaks His law – His holy standard of perfection. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10, NKJV). God demands perfection, and anything less is unacceptable to Him. No human is perfect. "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin" (Ecclesiastes 7:20).
 
“As it is written:  ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit; The poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.’  Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:10-20, NKJV).
 
All of this paints a very bleak picture, but as unpopular and politically incorrect as the idea of sin is today, it is truth and is a real issue that must be dealt with if there is to be any hope for any human. Sin has separated humans from God, and no amount of human effort can fix the problem. The only remedy is found in God Himself. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV).
 
The Gospel of Christ is not man-centered. It is God-centered, as it must be if it is to be of any effect. … I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved … that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:1-4, NKJV).
 
There always has been, is now, and always will be only one way to God, and that is through God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NKJV).
 
The other "way" leads to death. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV).
 
 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Response to comment on "TEN PRINCIPLES OF FORGIVENESS"

[Mr. Finnell, I do not wish to assume the position of instructing you personally.  I offer this response for your consideration only because your comments were placed under my article, so I had to assume you were referring to it.]

The purpose of my article is to focus on the discovery that Jesus who is called the Messiah (the Christ) is, in fact, God - the offended party in the matter of sin.  Therefore, the subject of the ordinance of baptism is irrelevant to it.  (Compare Acts 3:19 where, when giving the prerequisite for the wiping away of sins, Peter also offers no  mention of baptism.)

To respond to your comments regarding that ordinance, it would seem prudent to remind ourselves that belief, or trust in Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord is the essential event, if you will, in becoming a Christian.  Paul makes it clear in Eph 1:13 what happens in the heart of every believer at the moment such faith occurs: “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.

Water baptism, then, is a subsequent event - an outward public affirmation of that regenerative transformation that has taken place in the life of the believer, namely the Holy Spirit having come in to take up residence in the heart.  Water baptism, therefore, is an act of obedience for believers and does not precede saving faith.

Interestingly, Paul clarifies his own priorities regarding water baptism in 1Cor 1:14-17:  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, that no man should say you were baptized in my name.  Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void.”

To those legalistic Judaizers who followed Paul around to irritate him and make general nuisances of themselves regarding their presumed priority of the Jewish ordinance of circumcision, he responded sarcastically in Gal 5:12:  Would that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.”

I think we can safely project Paul’s feelings, were he here among us today, to the current misplaced overemphasis of the Christian ordinance of baptism over saving faith, and to those who can see nothing else but the doctrine of baptism and who attempt to make the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ equivalent to baptism, he might in similar fashion say something like:  Would that those who are troubling you would even drown themselves.”

Paul’s perspective on water baptism is well worth emulating.  It should behoove us to practice exegesis, not eisegesis, when approaching the Scriptures, and to attempt to discover what the Holy Spirit wishes to say to us.  Our goal should be to understand the WHOLE counsel of God, not to pervert it because we deem our own private interpretation as sacred.

I am quite familiar with your doctrine.  It is a high tower built upon straw - misunderstanding, ignorance, and prejudice.  Much like the ‘King James only folks’ – no amount of evidence will allow them to consider that they might be mistaken, even in the slightest degree.  And so the debate goes on and on as it has done for 20 centuries.

Nevertheless, I offer this in regard to your reference to Acts 2:38 and the definition of ‘for’ in the phrase ‘eivj a;fesin tw/n a`martiw/n u`mw/n’ (‘for the forgiveness of your sins’).  We should be reminded that there are ten major definitions of this English word and several sub-definitions of those ten; but one of those major definitions is ‘because of’.   So, some basic clarification is in order:  1. ‘For’ does not always mean ‘in order to obtain’ and 2. ‘for’ sometimes does mean ‘because of’.  However, the original Greek should be our major focus and there are several words which are translated ‘for’.  In this passage the Greek word translated ‘for’ is the preposition ‘eivj’, which has many shades of meaning, depending upon the context, and one major definition of this word is ‘because of’.  [Permit me to say at this point that I take no definitive position on how ‘eivj’ should be translated in this verse; I prefer to allow other Scriptures to clarify the meaning here.  But I do know, and honest theologians agree, that a person will often choose which definition he prefers here based upon the tenets of his own theology.]
 
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Following are some examples of passages in the NT where ‘eivj’ has clearly a shade of meaning other than ‘in order to obtain’:

In Mat 10:41, ‘eivj’ is translated ‘in’ in the KJV and the NAS but is translated ‘because of’ in the following versions:  NIV, ESV, NJB, NIB, NAB.  Clearly the meaning in context is ‘on the basis of’ or ‘because of’ being a prophet.

In Mat 12:41, ‘eivj’ is translated ‘at’ in most English versions because the context clearly indicates it was ‘because of’ the preaching of Jonah.

Other passages for your consideration:  Rom 4:20; Mat 3:11; Mrk 2:18; Rom 11:32; Tit 3:14.
 
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E. L. Cardwell
 
 
The original article, "Ten Principles of Forgiveness," is found here.