Monday, August 27, 2012

The Christian and Politics

When Christians begin talking politics, there is no telling where the conversation might go. Many Bible-believing Christians believe that God is a Republican, because there is no doubt He would favor individual liberty. Others of a more liberal bent believe God most assuredly is a Democrat, because He surely would support higher taxes on the rich to support all of their social welfare programs. The truth is that God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but His truth is most certainly either embraced or rejected by certain positions of all political parties and politicians. We need to be aware of where political parties and individual politicians stand in order to vote biblically on issues and candidates.
Some have said that Christians ought to stay out of politics completely, because the church has no business interfering with matters of the state. The extremists of this persuasion have frequently stated that Christians have no business taking their beliefs into the voting booth. I must take issue with that one right from the start. Every individual who is privileged to live in a country that allows the vote must vote his convictions based on who he or she is. A Christian is a Christian by conviction, and his or her vote must come from his or her core beliefs. To say a Christian must ignore conviction in the voting booth could only make sense if the same limitation were placed on atheists, agnostics, humanists, foolish people, Buddhists, etc. Somehow we never hear that. We only hear that Christians should ignore their convictions. Such a statement is patently absurd and nonsensical. I would instead submit that Christians have not only the privilege but also the responsibility to vote on all issues and candidates based on conviction.
The Scriptures give us many principles which we ought to bring to the ballot box. The following short list is by no means exhaustive, but it is a reasonable start.
How To Know How To Vote
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34, NKJV). Righteousness as opposed to sinfulness on the part of candidates and issues must be considered. The questions to ask ourselves are "What is right?" and "Who will do right?" Of course, it would be most helpful to have more Bible-believing, born again, Godly candidates. Failing that, we need to select the candidates and issues that most reflect Biblical principles. There are certain issues, such as the murder of the unborn, that we must reject and work to eradicate, because it is as true today as it was when it was written, that "sin is a reproach to any people."
Some issues are not merely political. Issues that involve normalizing sin are not political issues. Rather, they are moral and Biblical issues, and ignoring them by saying that Christians and the church should stay out of politics is at best cowardly and at worst a denial of our convictions and a great detriment to our nation.
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan… Scoffers set a city aflame, but wise men turn away wrath  (Proverbs 29:2, 8, NKJV). We ought to rejoice greatly that we still live in a free country where we are allowed to vote. Such is a great privilege and responsibility, and we owe it to God, ourselves, and our children not to take such a responsibility lightly. When evil individuals are in office, we ought to vote wisely so as to remove them, and when foolish, unbiblical laws are enacted, we ought to make every effort to see them repealed.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord… (Psalm 33:12, NKJV). We hear a great deal of foolishness today about our country not having been founded on Biblical principles and Christian ideals. Such nonsense will continue to be stated, but repeated statements of falsehood never make a lie into the truth. We need only look at some of the statements of the founders of our country to put that foolishness to rest. I offer only a few of the huge number that are readily available.
"While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian" (George Washington, The Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor, Vol. XI, pp. 342-343, General Orders of May 2, 1778).
"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here" (The Trumpet Voice of Freedom, Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. 3.)
"I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ" (The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, p. 385).
There is no way to know how many of our founding fathers truly trusted Christ as Savior, but there can be no doubt that the vast majority had tremendous respect for God, the Bible, and Christianity, and that is sorely lacking today. Can we still say we are "a nation whose God is the Lord?"
The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me: "He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God" (2 Samuel 23:3, NKJV). God most certainly holds us all responsible. Citizens are responsible for obeying the laws put into place by their leaders. That is not to say that all laws are right and just, and it is also not to say that there is never a time to resist authority. The apostles certainly experienced that situation firsthand when they were ordered not to continue preaching the gospel, and they responded appropriately. But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29, NKJV). This really sums up where we ought to be. It is our responsibility to obey all laws that do not violate Biblical principles. If men's laws are in violation of God's laws, we must obey God first, always remembering that there may be consequences to such an action.
Not only are citizens responsible to obey the just and righteous laws their leaders enact, but also those leaders must be prepared to answer to God for the manner in which they lead. They "must be just, ruling in the fear of God." That is an awesome responsibility not to be taken lightly. Politicians who accept high office only to enrich themselves or feed their own egos are setting themselves up for the judgment of God. We need humble, godly leaders who will obey the Scriptures.
Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness (Proverbs 25:5, NKJV). Not only must rulers lead in a righteous, Godly manner, but those who advise them must not be evil individuals. When a potentially good leader listens to ungodly advice, the results can be disastrous. I think of King Rehoboam, who unwisely listen to the wrong counselors, and the result was that he, and ultimately the nation, did evil in the sight of the Lord. Such always leads to God's judgment. You can read about King Rehoboam here.
Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.  (Proverbs 12:22, NKJV). During this political season as the presidential election approaches, it is certainly accurate to say that we have been told numerous lies. Some of them are so blatant that even the media is starting to challenge them on both sides, probably for fear that they themselves will be exposed for their lack of honesty as they fail to point out obvious lies. God honors truth. "...those who deal truthfully are his delight." We ought to seek to elect honest politicians (Is that an oxymoron? I hope not totally.) and support honest rather than deceitful laws. Those who would seek to gain office by dishonest means are inviting judgment, because "lying lips are an abomination to the Lord," and He is not asleep.

Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens (Exodus 18:21,NKJV).

This Scripture makes it clear that good leaders are those who are capable of doing the job, who fear God, who are truthful and hate falsehood, and who are not greedy and cannot be bribed.
There is one final Scripture I must address relative to the political issues that face us in these days. All of us are concerned about the economy, about the national debt, about health care, and about a number of other issues that face us. However, in light of the fact that all these things are subservient to the overriding principle that "righteousness exalts a nation," we must consider an extremely important issue that helps define whether a nation is truly practicing righteousness.
  I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3). These are words spoken directly by God to Abraham. They are a promise to Abraham and to his descendants - the nation of Israel. This promise has never been rescinded. Otherwise God would be a liar, which by definition, God can never be.
This promise is very clear. If a nation wants to be judged, all it has to do is be an enemy of Israel. Nations that are blustering that Israel has no right to exist and needs to be exterminated are ripe for judgment, and while we sometimes wonder why God seems to wait so long, we can rest assured that such nations will suffer His judgment in His time. He may use Israel to bring that judgment, or He may bring it by miraculous means, but we need to rest assured that His judgment is sure.
On the other hand, a certain way for a nation to be blessed is to be friends in a very real sense with Israel. Our friendship with Israel may be the only thing keeping the United States of America afloat today. The other thing we still do that God will honor and bless is that our country is still a center of the worldwide missionary effort. Beyond those two things, we have very little to commend us as far as righteousness goes. If we as a nation ever turn our back on Israel, we will also be ripe for God's judgment.
Frankly, I am not a fan of foreign aid. I see little sensible purpose in sending money to other nations that hate us and/or Israel, God's chosen earthly people. It seems that the more we give, the more we are hated around the world. At the very least, we must stop giving any aid to Israel's enemies, and it would not disappoint me in the least if we cut off all foreign aid ... except to Israel. We must continue to support and defend Israel, because God has not forgotten and will not forget His promise to Abraham.
I encourage every Christian to fulfill the responsibility to vote based on Biblical convictions. We do not always get everything we want in a candidate, but if we stay home because we don't like one issue, or if we vote for a third party candidate who clearly has no chance, we may be unwittingly helping into office those who may stand for the opposite of what we believe. Some have said they cannot vote for "the lesser of two evils" because the lesser of two evils is still evil. However, "the lesser of two evils" is less evil, and we want the least amount of evil possible in our country. Failure to vote for the lesser of two evils is to help the greater of two evils to take control. That is surely not what we want.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's Not Science - It's Magic

After an amazing science experiment, many of the students were proclaiming the teacher had done "magic." The teacher's response was, "It's not magic - it's science." This statement has been made many times by scientists and teachers in order to give an accurate and appropriate explanation for some of the amazing things we see in our created world.

However, many today have turned this statement on its head. The theory of evolution stands out as an example of scientific dogma that is based more on wishful thinking than on any real science. Often, those who accept evolution have to fall back on "just so" arguments, primarily because they dismiss any possibility of the supernatural and demand a naturalistic explanation of everything. This immediately excludes God from the argument and creates the necessity of some type of explanation, whether there is evidence or not.

Instead of really practicing the scientific method, many "scientists" come up with explanations based on their evolutionary bias and declare them to be true. They might as well say, "It's not science - it's magic." Of course, they will never say that. Instead, they hide behind a smug, arrogant position that those who wear lab coats are always unbiased, open-minded, intellectually honest, and that they only go where the evidence leads them. In many cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

Examination of the evolutionists' logic reveals a process something like this:

Observation #1 - "We are here." (Kind of obvious. Very few would doubt this one, except for those who are not in touch with reality.)

Observation #2 - "We had to have gotten here by some process." (Again, pretty obvious.)

Observation #3 - "Since God does not exist, He could not have done it, and even if He does exist, He had to use evolution to bring us into existence." (Here is where they go astray and jump off the cliff into a pit of willing ignorance and confusion, totally separated from common sense or truth. Any conclusion made on the basis of a false premise will inevitably be false.)

Conclusion - "Evolution is true, and if you disagree with Darwin, you are a scientific heretic." (Maybe kind of like Galileo and Copernicus?)

This kind of "logic" has no place in legitimate science. "Observation" #3 is nothing more and nothing less than an opinion based on wishful thinking rather that evidence. This is the same wishful thinking men have always had relative to the existence of God. "If God does not exist, I get to do as I please. I do not have to answer to an authority over me."

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure (Psalm 2:1-5, NKJV).

Men have always tried to wish God out of existence, but what men believe does not change reality or truth. The main purpose of the whole idea of evolution is to remove God from the picture. Even though it defies common sense and is. therefore, foolish, many hold tenaciously to it.

An evolutionist physicist once wrote: "We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment to materialism … we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door." - Billions and Billions of Demons, The New York Review, January 9, 1997.

Evolutionists really hate it when creationists use Darwin's quote concerning the eye, and they go to great lengths to explain it away. Nevertheless, in his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, Darwin said the following:

"To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree."

Evolutionists claim that this quote was taken out of context and that Darwin actually answered the "alleged" problem he brought up. The rest of Darwin's paragraph says, "Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself first originated; but I may remark that several facts make me suspect that any sensitive nerve may be rendered sensitive to light, and likewise to those coarser vibrations of the air which produce sound."

Notice the repeated use of the word "if," the conjectural nature of "make me suspect," and the lack of interest in how it happened and how it all began. There is no satisfactory naturalistic answer to the problem of origins, so evolutionists choose to simply ignore it or move the problem elsewhere by claiming life came from outer space. This is another of those conjectures without foundation.

So what did Darwin really say? In my own words, I believe he was actually saying, "It is absurd to believe the eye could have evolved. However, since it exists (after all we are here and God couldn't have done it), then it obviously evolved, so here are some ideas on how it could have happened. It's not science, it's magic." He most certainly did not answer the problem he brought up. All he did was offer conjecture instead of any real solution to the problem.

That reminds me of a "science" textbook I was using in a seventh grade science class. It showed a drawing of a small, furry, sort of strange looking creature. The caption under it said something like, "We believe the common ancestor of both dogs and cats may have looked like this. There is no fossil evidence of such a creature, but if it existed, it probably looked something like this." (Emphasis added.) Now there is an example of science at its finest! No evidence, but lots of belief based on wishful thinking and preconceived ideas. After all, "it's not science, it's magic."

Almost everyone has been exposed to Haeckel’s Embryos in a science class in high school or college, even though his drawings have been known to be fraudulent for a hundred years. He purposely faked the drawings to be more consistent with the theory of evolution. One of the most outspoken advocates for evolution in the United States says this, “It’s clear that Haeckel may have fudged his drawings somewhat to look more like his ideal than they actually are. Now, does that actually take away from what we know about the relationship of embryology to evolution? Not a bit. The whole Haeckel’s embryos story has been greatly blown out of significance. It is a minor footnote in the history of science. And actually it’s been known for ten or fifteen years that Haeckel’s embryos are not to be relied upon. The reason why the diagrams are reproduced is because they’re easily available – there’s no copyright on them – it’s an easy way to illustrate a point. And I would argue that the basic point that’s being illustrated by those drawings is still accurate.” (Eugenie Scott’s statement, recorded on Icons of Evolution, Randolph Productions Inc, 2002.)

How would I paraphrase that statement? "This piece of evidence is clearly wrong, but we use it anyway because it supports our position, and we don't really have anything to replace it. It's not science, it's magic."

Another prominent evolutionist says in his book that the origin of life may have been an "extremely improbable event." (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 135.) Again, his unbelieving heart forces him to conclude that no matter how improbable it may have been, we are here, and God couldn't have done it, so evolution must be true. After all, "It's not science, it's magic." God will not put up with such foolishness forever.

There are really only two options. We can believe in miracles (magic) performed by nothing and no one other than the laws of nature, or we can believe in miracles performed by a miracle-working God. I see no real choice there. The truth is obvious.

For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day (Exodus 20:11, NKJV).

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible (Hebrews 11:3, NKJV).

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jesus Paid It All

In our evening service this past Sunday, we sang a song I had not heard in quite some time, and it brought back fond memories. The song, "Jesus Paid It All," was written in 1865 by Elvina M. Hall. Following are some excerpts:

For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim.
I'll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calvary's Lamb.

And when before thy throne
I stand in Him complete,
"Jesus died my soul to save,"
My lips shall still repeat.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow.

When I think of this marvelous truth, I am blessed. Sin left me stained beyond human remedy. I have nothing good to offer Him in order to be worthy of His grace. Jesus paid everything for me. I owe Him everything. Only by the blood of Christ can I be washed clean.

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18, NKJV).

I then have to greatly rejoice in the truth expressed by the words, "Jesus died my soul to save." Why did He die? He died to save me. He didn't die just to make my salvation possible, but he died to save me.

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21, NKJV).

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11, NKJV).

Even though I have personalized this, I rejoice that all who trust Christ can take great comfort in this tremendous truth.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Perseverance of the Saints

There are a number of passages of Scripture that we refer to as "problem passages" or "difficult passages." There is good reason for this. Clearly, the Lord does not spoon-feed everything to us, but He expects us to give the time and effort necessary to come to an understanding of His Word.  "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV).

One of these passages is Hebrews 5:12-6:12. There has been much controversy and debate over what this passage is really saying, especially 6:4-6.  "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame" (NKJV).

This past Sunday, in the evening service, our pastor preached the most magnificent sermon on this passage that I have ever heard. All I could say was "Amen!" The sermon if found online here. It is not my purpose to try and repeat it all, but I do want to make a few points.

This passage is often used by those who reject "eternal security," "once saved, always saved," or the more accurate "perseverance of the saints" in order to "prove" that a person who is truly born again can lose his or her salvation and be eternally lost. Those who believe salvation is secure and permanent are often confused by Hebrews 6 and prefer to just ignore it and hope it will go away. This is not a good way to handle the Scriptures. It is interesting to note that those who believe salvation can be lost also teach that it can be regained innumerable times:  saved today, lost tomorrow, saved today... and on it goes. This passage of Scripture creates a tremendous problem for those who hold this view, because if it teaches salvation can be lost (which it doesn't), then it also teaches that salvation can never be regained. "For it is impossible...if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance..." They can't have it both ways. Regardless of what anyone thinks the passage is saying, it is obvious that it is NOT saying that salvation can be "on again, off again."

The real key to understanding this passage is found in 6:9-12, "But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (NKJV).

This passage makes it abundantly clear that one who is truly born again will have a changed life and will be diligent and faithful to the end. They will show in their lives "better things... things that accompany salvation." This is not saying we are saved by our works. Such an idea would conflict with many other Scriptures. Rather, it is saying, as the book of James makes so clear, that if we are saved, our works will show it. Hebrews warns us several times to be careful and diligent about our walk with the Lord, because that is the evidence of our salvation. 2 Peter 1:10 says, "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble" (NKJV). 2 Corinthians 13:5 reminds us to "examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith" (NKJV).

Many people find themselves in positions of great spiritual privilege. They grow up in a Christian home, attend a Bible-believing church, go to Sunday school, Awana Club, and perhaps even attend a Christian school. They make a profession of faith in Christ, but then they walk away from that faith at some point, usually shortly after graduation from high school. Such individuals cannot rely on a "decision" they made or a prayer they prayed as a child. Those things are not evidence of salvation. A Bible example of such a person is Judas Iscariot. He walked with Jesus, was taught by Him, and no doubt preached and did everything the rest of the twelve did. What greater privilege could anyone have? Yet he turned His back on the truth, finally and completely rejected Christ, and betrayed the Lord.

This Hebrews 6 passage concerning "falling away" becomes clear when read in the context of the entire passage and also of the whole of Scripture instead of being used as proof for a preconceived doctrine or as a way to balance off the Scriptures that clearly teach the eternal nature of true salvation. Scripture complements itself. It never contradicts itself. The important thing is to study it carefully, diligently, and prayerfully.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

No Stinking Gimmicks

Our pastor recently preached a sermon entitled "The First Deacons." One of the many things I really appreciate about him is his continued emphasis on the priority of the Word of God. He has a practical, down-to-earth, extremely Biblical approach to preaching. His sermon emphasized the necessity of appointing those first deacons in order to insure that the apostles had ample time to dedicate to the Word of God and to prayer.

Everything we do as believers needs to be based on the Scriptures. Human effort falls so far short when compared to what we find in His Word. At one point, he addressed the many human inventions, and as he called them, "stinking gimmicks," that are so often used in an effort to bring people in to the church. If we are not careful, we can forget the truth of the statement that "what we win them with is what we will win them to." I once had a pastor remind me that the only healthy way for a church to grow is through the faithful preaching and teaching of the Word of God. To that, I can only say a hearty "amen."

Here are some direct quotes from the sermon:

"We're filled with so many stinking gimmicks ... they're all around us, these stinking gimmicks."

"Almost anywhere and everywhere we find stinking gimmicks to try and draw people in. They are everywhere ... trying to be relevant..."

"These people (the early Christians) didn't have any stinking gimmicks. They prayed and ministered the Word."

What more can I add to that?

You can hear the entire sermon at the following web address: