Daily Archives: June 6, 2013

46 years to the week after the Six Day, Israeli forces on Syrian border have been put on alert.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

Syria-mapForty-six years to the week after the Six Day War of June 1967, serious new tensions are mounting on the Israeli-Syrian border, with fears rising that a major conflict between the two countries could be coming. Israeli military forces have been put on alert as violence gets closer to the demilitarized zone and after Syrian rebels seized control of a border crossing post.

 “Rebels fighting the Syrian government seized the only border crossing along the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire line in the Golan Heights on Thursday, according to the Israeli military and rebel groups, forcing the United Nations peacekeeping soldiers who patrol the crossing to vacate it and bringing the Syrian conflict ever closer to Israeli-held territory,” the New York Times is reporting. “Israeli forces were placed on alert along the frontier as the violence of the Syrian civil war threatened to spill over.”

“The rebel takeover of the border crossing, Quneitra, lasted for several hours,”…

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12 Clear Signals That The U.S. Economy Is About To Really Slow Down

A lot of things that have not happened since the last recession are starting to happen again. As you read the list below, you will notice that the year “2009” comes up again and again. There is a reason for that. Many of the same patterns that we witnessed during the last major economic downturn are starting to repeat themselves. In fact, many of the things that are happening right now have not happened in quite a few years. For example, manufacturing activity in the U.S. has contracted for the first time in four years. The inventory to sales ratio is the highest that it has been in four years. Average hourly compensation just experienced the largest decline that we have seen in four years. We also just witnessed the largest decline in the number of mortgage applications that we have seen in four years. After everything that Barack Obama, the U.S. Congress and the Federal Reserve have tried to do, there has been no real economic recovery and now the U.S. economy is suddenly behaving as if it is 2009 all over again. A whole host of recent surveys indicate that the American people are starting to feel a bit better about the economy, but the underlying economic numbers tell an entirely different story. The following are 12 clear signals that the U.S. economy is about to really slow down… (Read More….)

20 Completely Ridiculous College Courses Being Offered At U.S. Universities

Would you like to know what America’s young people are actually learning while they are away at college? It isn’t pretty. Yes, there are some very highly technical fields where students are being taught some very important skills, but for the most part U.S. college students are learning very little that they will actually use out in the real world when they graduate. Some of the college courses listed below are funny, others are truly bizarre, others are just plain outrageous, but all of them are a waste of money. If we are going to continue to have a system where we insist that our young people invest several years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars getting a “college education”, they might as well be learning some useful skills in the process. This is especially true considering how much student loan debt many of our young people are piling up. Sadly, the truth is that right now college education in the United States is a total joke. I know – I spent eight years in the system. Most college courses are so easy that they could be passed by the family dog, and many of these courses “study” some of the most absurd things imaginable. (Read More….)

Voice of the Martyrs – Update

The Voice of the Martyrs, Canada
– June 6, 2013

PAKISTAN: Taliban Kidnap Young Disciple of Christ
Sources: God Reports, Assist News Service

A 16-year-old Christian convert from Islam by the name of Aman Ullah was kidnapped by the Taliban on May 25th in Peshawar, the heart of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province. “We don’t know which of the 32 different Taliban groups operating both in Afghanistan and Pakistan is responsible,” says John Taimoor, founder of Crossbearers ministry. “My team, workers and disciples from Muslim backgrounds are facing pressures from many sides and physical persecution.” (For previous reports of persecution in Pakistan, please go to http://www.persecution.net/pakistan.htm.)

The young kidnap victim came to Christ about a year ago, and he has already memorized the books of John and Ephesians in the Bible. His goal is to memorize the entire New Testament since he had memorized the Quran as a young person. “He is very dear to me,” Taimoor shares. “‘Aman Ullah’ means ‘peace of God’ in Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Pushto languages,” he adds. “He is a diamond, very dedicated and brilliant…. He made public statements and gave his testimony.”

Taimoor asks for prayers for his ardent young disciple. “We are looking to our Saviour who is able to save us to the uttermost but we also look to our friends for prayer and what God places on their hearts!”

Pray for Aman’s protection, asking for favour among his captors. In fact, while waiting for his safe release, may this young disciple be anointed as God’s spokesperson in their lives, helping them to realize their need of Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Also ask God to protect and minister to all who are faithfully serving Him in Pakistan.

EGYPT: Christian Teacher Accused of Blasphemy
Source: Middle East Concern

Egyptian Christians have requested prayer following the detention of a Christian teacher accused of blasphemy. Demiana is a social studies teacher working at three schools in Luxor province. She was detained on May 9th following complaints by a few parents and pupils concerning the content of a class she taught on April 8th. Two independent investigations were conducted, one by the school council (representing parents and teachers) and one by the local office of the Ministry of Education. Both found no basis for the charges.

When questioned, ten of the 13 pupils interviewed stated that the accusations were false. Lawyers representing the parents of one pupil then went to the prosecutor’s office and filed a complaint. The prosecutor’s office started its own investigation which led to Demiana being detained. She was initially detained for two days before a court order extended this by a further 15 days. However, on May 14th, she was released on bail. Although an initial hearing was scheduled for May 21st, no further information has been received to date. To learn more about the challenges facing Christians in Egypt, review http://www.persecution.net/egypt.htm.

May Demiana know the peace, presence and protection of Jesus who has promised to never leave her nor forsake her. Pray that His presence will also be powerfully evidenced during the legal proceedings, touching the hearts of all the officials involved and serving as a means of bringing about greater freedom of religious expression for Christian believers in Egypt. Ultimately, may God be glorified through this case, opening the spiritual eyes of the students, parents, teachers and others of Demiana’s community. (You can share your prayers on behalf of Demiana on our prayer wall at http://www.persecution.net/prayerwall.)

CHINA: Government Shuts Down Numerous House Churches
Source: ChinaAid

The Chinese government has ordered the closure of more than a dozen house churches in the southern province of Hainan in recent weeks and many others have been threatened. On May 26th, while the Sanya Hosanna Church was holding a morning worship service, several people from the Religious Affairs Bureau and the neighbourhood committee came to deliver a document with the title, “Announcement by the Hongqi Street Community of the Voluntary Dissolution of Irregular and Illegal Religious Meeting Sites.” They told the believers that if they met again the next week, then the officials would take measures, holding them accountable for the consequences.

The local neighbourhood committee also exerted pressure on the landlord to stop renting the meeting site to the church, which was given 15 days’ notice to move out. The leader of the church was also restricted from going to Hong Kong to attend a special conference; the reason given was that it might jeopardize national security and national interests.

Also on May 26th, three other Sanya house churches (Elim Church, Bethel Church and Xinju Church) faced the same kind of persecution. Two weeks earlier, Sanya’s Mengai Church, Hexing Church, and three other house churches were shut down. A church in Haikou has experienced similar treatment, and several other churches have been forcibly closed. In addition, some churches in the Baoting county have been shut down.

“Closing a dozen churches in Hainan is an alarming sign that little has changed with Xi Jinping as president,” said ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu. “The government is carrying out its plans to ‘eradicate’ the independent house church movement, a crackdown that would affect up to 100 million people. China must end this repression if it wants global respect as a rising power.”

Pray that these believers will be greatly encouraged spiritually, cultivating a deeper relationship with the Lord as they embrace the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:7-10). Ask that His faithful servants be granted mercy and favour with the officials of the Religious Affairs Bureau and members of the neighbourhood committee. May their oppressors discover the joy and peace of personally knowing Jesus, as witnessed in the lives of these Christians…even in the midst of life’s challenges.

RECENT PRISONER UPDATE

Release International sources state that Pastor Behnam Irani’s health remains a significant issue although he continues to be positive and strong in the Lord. He is reported to be suffering from a skin condition that prevents him from going outside, as well as back and eyesight problems. Please also include in your prayers the housing needs of his family. (Added note: There are concerns that even if he completes his prison sentence, the authorities may attempt to keep him detained indefinitely under the charge of being “an apostate.”) To learn more about his situation, go to http://www.persecution.net/ir2012-03-15.htm.

Thank you for remembering to pray for the release of Pastor Behnam Irani, Pastor Saeed Abedini and other Iranian Christians who are imprisoned for their faith. May God sustain them and their families as they face extremely difficult circumstances.

http://www.ifapray.org/entry.php?id=7012

Mainstream Media Fail to Break Even One of Four Major Obama Scandals

Breitbart – June 6, 2013

Well, if it is Thursday, there must be a new Obama scandal. But one thing is for damn sure, whatever that scandal is, you can bet the American mainstream media will be playing catch up and not carrying the glory of breaking a story about a major White House scandal….[view article]

Bible’s strong comeback surprises secular Norway

AP – Associated Press – June 6, 2013

It may sound like an unlikely No. 1 best-seller for any country, but in Norway — one of the most secular nations in an increasingly godless Europe — the runaway popularity of the Bible has caught the country by surprise. The Scriptures, in a new Norwegian language version, even outpaced “Fifty Shades of Grey” to become Norway’s best-selling book….[view article]

Dept. of Homeland Security: Laptops, Phones Can Be Searched Based on Hunches

CBSNews.com – June 6, 2013

U.S. border agents should continue to be allowed to search a traveler’s laptop, cellphone or other electronic device and keep copies of any data on them based on no more than a hunch, according to an internal Homeland Security Department study. It contends limiting such searches would prevent the U.S. from detecting child pornographers or terrorists and expose the government to lawsuits….[view article]

Phone Sex, Banks & Google for Emails: The NSA Spying Is Bigger Than Verizon

….”It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world” and that the NSA wanted “to create a database of every call ever made” within U.S. territory. Likewise, in 2011, The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer spoke to former NSA crypto-mathematician Bill Binney, who “believes that the agency now stores copies of all e-mails transmitted in America….

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/06/nsa-spying-verizon-analysis/65963/

A Prophetic Manifesto: The Sealing of Fate By Dr. David R. Reagan

What does Judah’s example say to the United States?

In the spring of 2012, I believe the Lord began to move on my heart with a very troubling message. I turned it over and over in my mind, and I wrestled with it in prayer. Finally, it burned so hot in my soul that I had to put it on paper. When I finished it, and it was published in June of 2012. I called it A Prophetic Manifesto, and I gave it this stark cover because it contained a very stark message.

The Sealing of Fate

We are a nation shaking its fist at God. We are literally crying out for God’s judgment. God has been very patient with us, as He always is. But consider the words of the prophet Nahum:

“A jealous and avenging God is the LORD;
The LORD is avenging and wrathful.
The LORD takes vengeance on His adversaries,
And He reserves wrath for His enemies.
The LORD is slow to anger and great in power,
And the LORD will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” (Nahum 1:2-3a)
Yes, God has been patient, but His patience is wearing thin. He has sent prophetic voices to call us to repentance. And when we turned a deaf ear, He began sending remedial judgments.

But, our faces have become harder than stone, and the result is that we are now wallowing in immorality, violence and greed.

The first chapter of Romans reveals how God deals with a rebellious people. He will step back. He will lower the hedge of protection and allow evil to flourish. The first result of that action it says in Romans 1 will be the outbreak of a sexual revolution, which occurred in this nation in the 1960’s.

If the nation refuses to repent, God will take a second step back, lower the hedge of protection again, and a plague of homosexuality will be unleashed. And that happened in our nation in the 1980’s, and it accelerated in the 1990’s.

If the nation continues in its sin with no sign of repentance, God will step back a third time, lower the hedge again, and the society will be delivered over to a “depraved mind” that will result in its destruction.

The time has come for God to deliver us over to a depraved mind — to deliver us from judgment to destruction. We have reached the point of no return, which is identified by the biblical prophets as the point where “the wound cannot be healed.”

Only one other nation in history has been as blessed as ours, and that was the ancient nation of Judah. Like us, they rebelled against the God who had blessed them so richly. And, as with us, God sent prophets to call them to repentance. When they refused, He hammered them with remedial judgments.

When they persisted in their rebellion, God delivered them from judgment to destruction, allowing the Babylonians to conquer them and take them away from their homeland into captivity.

The fate of Judah prompted two of the saddest verses in the Bible they read as follows:

“The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.”

We may experience a temporary revival, as ancient Judah did when the righteous king Josiah succeeded the monster king Manasseh, but when Josiah was killed the nation plunged right back into spiritual darkness and soon ceased to exist. Evil had just simply become too ingrained in the fabric of the nation.

Like ancient Judah, our fate is sealed. Our collapse will be just as sudden and overwhelming. Why should God treat us any differently? We can be assured that He will not.

In the fourth segment of Dr. Reagan’s A Prophetic Manifesto, he will invite a panel of different ages to discuss their perceptions of change to America’s moral society.

http://www.lamblion.us/2013/06/a-prophetic-manifesto-sealing-of-fate.html

A Prophetic Manifesto: The Blight of Cultural Christianity By Dr. David R. Reagan

What is the Bible’s end time message for the Church?

In the spring of 2012, I believe the Lord began to move on my heart with a very troubling message. I turned it over and over in my mind, and I wrestled with it in prayer. Finally, it burned so hot in my soul that I had to put it on paper. When I finished it, and it was published in June of 2012. I called it A Prophetic Manifesto, and I gave it this stark cover because it contained a very stark message.

The Blight of Cultural Christianity

Another negative characteristic of our society is that true Bible-believing Christians are being alienated from society and are being increasingly subjected to persecution. The speed at which this has happened in recent years is absolutely breathtaking.

Jim Garlow is a Nazarene minister who pastors the Skyline Church in La Mesa, California. He is considered to be an expert on Church history. In a recent presentation to the National Religious Broadcasters, Pastor Garlow presented a sweeping overview of the relationship between Bible-believing Christians and American society.

From 1607 – 1833, Bible believing Christians were the establishment of this nation. That is for 236 years!

From 1833 – 1918, we were the predominant force. That is only 85 years. Notice how these periods decrease rapidly.

From 1918 – 1968, the sub-dominant force was Bible believing Christians for about 50 years.

Then the big turning point came in the 60’s, from 1968 – 1988 we were a sub-culture for 20 years.

From 1988 – 1998, Christianity became a counter culture for 10 years.

From 1998 – 2008, Christianity became an antithetical culture for 10 years.

And, finally, from 2008 to the present, Christianity became a persecuted culture.

An overwhelming majority of Americans — 85% — claim to be Christians, but the evidence of Christianity in the lives of most of them is almost nil. They purchase lottery tickets, frequent R-rated movies, watch trash shows on TV, purchase pornography, idolize crude and vulgar musicians, frequent abortion clinics and compile a divorce rate that equals non-Christians.

They are what might be called “Cultural Christians” — born into a Christian family, raised going to church, but without any personal relationship with Jesus. Another characteristic of Cultural Christians is that they rarely if ever read the Bible. This has resulted in gross biblical ignorance and the undoing of doctrine.

Ignorance of God’s Word has even become true of Evangelical Christians, the very people whose identity in the past was linked to their reliance on the Bible for their ultimate authority in all things.

Surveys by the Barna Group reveal that among those claiming to be Evangelicals today:

19% are living with a partner outside of marriage.
37% do not believe the Bible to be totally accurate.
45% do not believe that Jesus was sinless. These are evangelicals folks.
52% do not believe Satan is real.
And 57% do not believe that Jesus is the only way to eternal life despite the fact that He said so.
And 57% believe that good works play a part in gaining eternal life.
As you can see from these survey results, the term “Evangelical” has lost its meaning.

It is no wonder we have professing Christians voting for candidates who promote homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, and casino gambling. Or, professing Christians who vote out of greed for the candidate who offers to give them the most, regardless of the candidate’s wretched lifestyle or beliefs about social and moral issues. Or, professing Christians who vote on the basis of race or ethnicity, regardless of a candidate’s viewpoints concerning vital moral issues.

Public opinion polls concerning the fundamental beliefs of Christianity consistently reveal that the number of true Bible-believing Christians in America today is less than 10%. It’s no wonder that during the past 50 years our society has secularized and paganized so rapidly.

In the third segment of Dr. Reagan’s A Prophetic Manifesto, he will look at the nation of Judah as the biblical example of what will happen to the United States should we not repent and turn back to God.

http://www.lamblion.us/2013/06/a-prophetic-manifesto-blight-of.html

A Prophetic Manifesto: The Death of America By Dr. David R. Reagan

What is the Bible’s end time message for America?

In the spring of 2012, I believe the Lord began to move on my heart with a very troubling message. I turned it over and over in my mind, and I wrestled with it in prayer. Finally, it burned so hot in my soul that I had to put it on paper. When I finished it, and it was published in June of 2012. I called it A Prophetic Manifesto, and I gave it this stark cover because it contained a very stark message.

Since that time, it has gone through printing after printing, and literally tens of thousands of copies have been distributed to pastors all over this nation.

Over the course of the next two weeks, I want to share with you the message of the Manifesto, and I’d like to begin by reading the introduction.

This booklet is titled, A Prophetic Manifesto, not A Prophecy Manifesto. The difference is important. My purpose is not to present a prophecy given to me by God. I have no such prophecy. My purpose is to share some sobering truths that are based on prophecies which God gave to biblical prophets thousands of years ago. They are also based on principles the Bible reveals about how God deals with nations.

You are probably not going to like what this manifesto has to say. Throughout history, people have always demanded prophetic voices who would assure them that all is well between them and God. They have desired what the Bible calls “pillow prophets.” And there have always been spiritual leaders who have been more than willing to tickle people’s ears by telling them what they want to hear. I don’t like having to say what I am going to express in this Manifesto. But, I believe it must be said. It is the duty of a watchman on the wall to shout an alarm when it is appropriate. And the time is certainly appropriate here in America for a shout of warning.

The Death of America

Dr. Reagan: The first part of the Manifesto is titled, “The Death of America.” Here’s what I wrote.

America is finished. We as a nation have turned our back on God. We have kicked Him out of our schools and out of the public arena. We have declared Him to be off-limits. We have given the boot to the very One who made us great and showered us with blessings. We are in the process of becoming a thoroughly secular and pagan nation. And in the process, we are courting the wrath of God.

Think about it. Since 1973, we have murdered our babies in their mothers’ wombs at the rate of 4,000 a day, totaling nearly 60 million, and their blood cries out for vengeance.

We consume more than one-half of all the illegal drugs produced in the world, yet we constitute only 5% of the world’s population.

We spend $2.8 billion dollars per year on Internet pornography, which is more than half the world total of $4.9 billion.

Our rate of cohabiting partners has increased tenfold since 1960, totaling over 12 million unmarried partners today.

Our divorce rate is the highest of any nation in the world.

Forty percent of our children are born to unmarried women.

We spend over $100 billion per year on gambling.

Our number one drug problem is alcohol, producing over 17.6 million adults who are alcoholics or who have alcohol problems.

Our nation has become a debt junkie, leading the world in both government debt and personal debt.

Blasphemy of God’s name, His Word, and His Son has become commonplace in our media.

We are the moral polluter of planet earth through the distribution of our immoral, violent and blasphemous television programs and movies.

We have forsaken the nation of Israel, demanding that they surrender their heartland and divide their capital city.

We have become a nation that calls good evil and evil good. And we are paying the price:

Our schools have become arenas of deadly violence.

Our prison population is increasing exponentially, from 500,000 in 1980 to over 2.5 million today. Over 7.2 million of our people are under some form of correctional supervision.

Over 1.5 million of our women are reported victims of domestic violence each year, and it is estimated that the majority of cases are never reported.

We are currently averaging over 3 million child abuse cases each year, involving 6 million children.

We experience more than 12 million crimes every year, more than any other nation in the world.

Teen violence has increased exponentially, with youngsters killing each other over tennis shoes.

Gangs are terrorizing our cities.

Even the nicest of our neighborhoods are no longer safe, requiring us to protect our homes with security systems and weapons.

Our money is becoming increasingly worthless.

Our economy is being choked to death by a pile of debt that is beyond comprehension.

Our major corporations and labor unions are in bondage to greed.

Our society has become deeply divided, splintered among competing groups defined by racial, religious and economic factors.

Our families are being destroyed by an epidemic of divorce.

Our entertainment industry consists of vulgarians amusing barbarians.

One of our fastest growing businesses is the pagan practice of tattooing and body piercing.

Our universities and media outlets are controlled by radical leftists who hold God in contempt.

Our federal government has become top-heavy with bureaucrats who are insensitive to taxpayers.

Our politicians have become more concerned with power than service.

All levels of government have become increasingly oppressive, seeking to regulate every aspect of our lives.

Taxation has become confiscatory in nature.

Our legal system has been hijacked by activists who desire to impose their will on the people, regardless of what the people desire.

Our freedom of speech is being threatened by “hate crime” legislation.

Our forms of sports are becoming increasingly violent, reminiscent of the gladiators of ancient Rome.

Our society has become star-stuck, more interested in celebrities than people of integrity.

Our churches are caught up in an epidemic of apostasy as they set aside the Word of God in an effort to cozy up to the world and gain its approval.

We are experiencing one major natural disaster after another in unprecedented volume and ferocity.

We have become afflicted with a plague of sexual perversion, producing an army of hard core militant homosexuals.

In summary, we are a people who have become desensitized to sin, and in the process, we have forgotten how to blush.

In the second segment of Dr. Reagan’s A Prophetic Manifesto, he will look at the blight that Cultural Christianity has made of the Christian witness.

http://www.lamblion.us/2013/06/a-prophetic-manifesto-death-of-america.html

Questions about God: Why does Scripture emphasize the right hand of God?

The Scripture has several words translated “right” and the usage of the term, “right hand” ranges from a direction, to the opposite of wrong, what is just or what conforms to an established standard, and to a place of honor or authority. In the case of division or appointment in the Bible, the right hand or right side came first, as when Israel (Jacob) divided the blessings to Joseph’s sons before he died (Genesis 48:13–14).

In addition, a person of high rank who put someone on his right hand gave him equal honor with himself and recognized him as possessing equal dignity and authority. And this is what the Apostle Paul writes of Jesus Christ in Ephesians. “And what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us, the ones believing according to the working of His mighty strength which He worked in Christ in raising Him from the dead, and He seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies, far above all principality and authority and power and dominion, and every name being named, not only in this world, but also in the coming age” (Ephesians 1:19–21). Here we see God exalting Jesus above all others by seating Him at the right hand of the Father.

The term “God’s right hand” in prophecy refers to the Messiah to whom is given the power and authority to subdue His enemies (Psalm 110:1; Psalm 118:16). We find a quote in Matthew 22:44 from Psalm 110:1, which is a Messianic Psalm. “The Son of David” is claimed by the LORD Jesus Christ as He is the “greater son of David” or the Messiah. In this passage of Matthew 22, Jesus questions the Pharisees about who they think the “Christ” or the Messiah is. “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make Thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son?” (Matthew 22:41–45). The position of the Messiah is at God’s right hand.

The fact that Jesus Christ is at the “right hand of God” was a sign to the disciples that Jesus had indeed gone to heaven. In John 16:7–15, Jesus told the disciples that He had to go away and He would send the Holy Spirit. So the coming of the Holy Spirit in the upper room on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–13) was proof positive that Jesus was indeed in heaven seated at the right hand of God. This is confirmed in Romans 8:34 where the Apostle Paul writes that Christ is sitting at God’s right hand making intercession for us.

Therefore, what we can say is that “God’s right hand” refers to the Messiah, the LORD Jesus Christ and He is of equal position, honor, power and authority with God (John 1:1–5). The fact that Christ is “sitting” refers to the fact that His work of redemption is done and when the fullness of the gentiles is brought in (Romans 11:25), Christ’s enemies will be made His footstool as the end of the age comes, all prophecy is completed, and time is no more.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Holidays: Should Christians celebrate birthdays?

There is no specific prohibition against celebrating birthdays in Scripture, nor is there anything to indicate we should celebrate them. Scripturally speaking, it is a non-issue. The Bible does mention two individuals celebrating birthdays; the Egyptian Pharaoh in Joseph’s time (Genesis 40:20), and King Herod in the time of Jesus (Matthew 14:6; Mark 6:21). Some point to these non-believing individuals as evidence that celebrating birthdays is wrong, some form of pagan ritual. However, the Bible does not state, or even hint, that it was wrong for Pharaoh or Herod to celebrate their birthdays. Neither does Scripture anywhere discourage anyone from celebrating a birthday.

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul is addressing the issue of which day should be the day of worship, but this could also apply to birthday celebrations: “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:5–8).

The bottom line for Paul is that each man should be fully convinced that he is doing what God wants him to do. If one person chooses to celebrate birthdays and he sees nothing wrong with it, he should celebrate with a clear conscience. If, however, he feels celebrating is against his conscience, he should not celebrate. Conversely, if one does not celebrate birthdays for reasons of conscience, that is fine, as long as it does not become a source of pride and he does not look down on those who do celebrate. As with all issues not specifically addressed in Scripture, we have the freedom to celebrate or not celebrate birthdays, according to personal preference.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Church: Can a man who is married to a divorced woman serve in church leadership?

As a background, please read our article on the “husband of one wife” phrase in 1 Timothy 3:2, 12 and Titus 1:6. While the qualification “husband of one wife” may, in some instances, disqualify a divorced and remarried man from serving in church leadership, an even more difficult question is a married man who has never been divorced, but is married to a woman who previously had a divorce. There is no Scripture that explicitly deals with this issue, but there are biblical principles that can be applied.

First Timothy 3:11 is an interesting verse in relationship to this issue. It is not clear whether this verse is referring to the wives of deacons or to female deacons (deaconesses). The “wives of deacons” interpretation seems to be more likely, as it would be unusual for Paul to give qualifications for deacons in verses 8–10 and 12–13, with qualifications for deaconesses in between. With this is mind, it is important to note that there is no “wife of one husband” qualification given for deacon’s wives. Neither is there a qualification of “blameless” or “above reproach.” Rather, the qualifications are “worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, temperate, and trustworthy” (1 Timothy 3:11).

There are all sorts of issues that go into this question. Was the wife the innocent party to an adulterous or abusive husband? Was the wife a believer when the divorce occurred? Is the wife’s ex-husband in any sense still “in the picture” of her life, causing problems or conflict? Each of the above questions must be taken into account. Ultimately, though, the issue has to go back to the “above reproach / blameless” qualification required of elders and deacons. Does the fact that the wife is divorced in any sense result in a poor testimony in the community? Can the potential church leader genuinely be viewed as a godly man, worthy of respect, able to be followed as an example?

It does not seem that this question can be answered in a universal sense. There are simply too many factors involved. A church that is faced with this issue must prayerfully examine the situation, and attempt to discern, as much as possible, if the potential leader can be considered “above reproach.” If nothing can be discerned that could potentially cause damage to the church’s testimony, a man who is married to a divorced woman can be considered for a position in church leadership.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Salvation: What is sovereign grace?

Sovereign grace combines two of God’s attributes, His sovereignty and His graciousness. Both of these characteristics of God are so vast that many volumes have been written about each. Briefly though, sovereign grace is the melding of the two into a thrilling truth that gives us a glimpse into the mind and heart of our great God. The sovereignty of God means that He has total control of all things past, present and future. Nothing happens that is out of His knowledge and control. All things are either caused by Him or allowed by Him for His own purposes and through His perfect will and timing (Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 8:6). He is the only absolute and omnipotent ruler of the universe and is sovereign in creation, providence and redemption.

The grace of God is His unmerited favor toward those who have not earned it. There are numerous examples of God’s grace in the Bible, both to His people and those who rejected Him. Mary found grace in the eyes of the Lord who bestowed upon her the privilege of bearing the Savior of mankind (Luke 1:28). She may have been a godly young woman, but nothing she could have done would have made her worthy of such a blessing. She was the recipient of God’s grace. The Apostle Paul admitted that he was a servant of God by His grace and it was by that grace that he labored effectively for the cause of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:10). As Christians we, too, benefit from God’s grace. “For by grace are you saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Our very salvation and position in Christ is due to His grace through the faith that He gives us (Hebrews 12:2). Even those who hate God receive His grace in every breath He allows them to take and through His common grace to all creation: “For He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Even the atheist enjoys the effects of God’s grace through His beautiful creation and His provision of the resources necessary for food, clothing and housing. God doesn’t owe these things to us, but He provides them to exhibit His grace.

The sovereign grace of God is noted most often by theologians in the matter of election. We see it best explained in Ephesians 1:5–6: “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” God sovereignly chose those He would save through His gracious act of sending His Son to die on the cross for their salvation. They were unable to save themselves or—like Mary—to merit God’s favor because of their transgression of His Law. “But the Law entered so that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). Therefore, Christians are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

God in His sovereign grace has chosen to save those on whom He has set His love (Romans 9:8–13). They are picked out of the stream of helpless men and women cascading into hell. That is a humbling truth and should result in immense gratitude on our part. Why did God bestow His sovereign grace on believers? Not because we deserve salvation but to demonstrate “the riches of His glory” (Romans 9:14–23). Therefore, our only proper response is “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Personal Evangelism 101: Reject False Worship – John MacArthur

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who worship God acceptably, and those who do not. And the fact is, apart from faith in Christ—apart from God’s saving work in a sinner’s life—acceptable worship is impossible.

Because worship is inextricably linked to salvation, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the topic comes up in Christ’s conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. We’ve been looking at their interaction as a model for personal evangelism—last time we saw how Christ shockingly exposed and confronted her sin in John 4:16-18.

Her stunned reaction steers the conversation to the topic of worship.

The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” (John 4:19-20)

We’ve already discussed the origins of the Samaritan people—that they were the offspring of Jews who had intermarried with pagan Gentiles after the Assyrian invasion. One of the results of that intermarrying was the corruption of their faith. They kept the Pentateuch but adopted other pagan idols and rituals along with it, merging the sacrificial systems and creating a false, hybrid religion. They even built an alternate temple and altar on Mount Gerizim, not far from where Christ was talking with the woman.

Her question then is a simple one: She wants to know which religious system is correct. She’s already acknowledged that Christ must be a prophet to know what He knows about her life. The guilt she spent so much time trying to avoid has now come down in full force on her head. Jesus has unmasked her as a sinner, and she wants to be right with God. And she knows that assuaging her guilt requires worship.

So she falls back on the only thing she knows: external religion. The fact is, all unrepentant sinners see worship as external. They cannot understand or appreciate the internal transformation that takes place in salvation, so they’re left grasping at impotent ceremonies and rituals to absolve the guilt of their sins.

She wants to know which system of works holds the key to her absolution. Is it the Samaritan faith, a Judeo-pagan hybrid? Or is it the Jewish system, based solely on the Law and the Prophets? Which temple should she visit to reconcile with God? Where does she need to go and what does she need to do to find forgiveness and peace?

Christ’s answer is monumental, giving us the most definitive teaching on the theology of worship in all the gospels. And it starts with a denunciation of external forms of worship.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24)

The Lord makes it clear that it’s not the place where she worships that matters. What she’s looking for is not dependent on a ceremony or ritual. Instead, true worship is about loving, honoring, obeying, and serving God from the heart.

Jesus’ answer is a critique of the Samaritan faith, apostate Judaism, and any system of works-based salvation and righteousness. God was never interested in rituals and sacrifices alone—what always mattered most was the heart behind those acts of worship. That’s why He condemned the hypocrisy of Israel’s religion (cf. Amos 5:21-23; Malachi 1:6-14). Divorced from true faith in God, Israel’s sacrificial system was a useless pantomime.

In His death, Christ abolished the sacrificial system once and for all. When He died, God miraculously shredded the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple, signifying the end of the Old Testament system and ratifying the New Covenant. There are no more temples, no more altars, and no more sacrifices. In Christ, every place is a sanctuary and every believer a priest. We no longer require mediation—we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us.

In this simple conversation, Christ ushers in a new era of worship—one that isn’t bound to externals and symbols. True worship comes from the love of God and the knowledge of Scripture, and it can happen anywhere and everywhere.

That’s a vital point when it comes to sharing the gospel with nonbelievers. Salvation isn’t about praying a special prayer, walking an aisle, or any other ritual. It’s about bowing to the Lord in repentance and faith, submitting to His Word, and worshiping Him in spirit and truth. Anything short of that is empty religion.

 


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/resources/Blog/B130606     COPYRIGHT ©2013 Grace to You

Biblical Apologetics and Ministry Today

From Paraklesis, a resource of Baptist Bible Seminary (Spring, 2013). Used by permission.

Apologetics is derived from the Greek noun apologia and verb apologeomai, which appear 18 times in the New Testament. In each instance, the terms emphasize the sense of defending or vindicating oneself and/or truth claims.

The New Testament authors repeatedly affirm the critical importance of defending or justifying the truthfulness of the Christian truth claims. For example, Paul commends the Philippian church for supporting him in the defense of the gospel (Phil 1:7, 16). Later, Paul defended himself against unjust allegations (1 Cor 9:3) and he defended his apostleship (2 Cor 12:19).

Toward the end of his ministry he wrote that at his first defense no one supported him though the Lord stood with him (2 Tim 4:16). When Paul appeared before the Roman authorities of Felix (Acts 24), Festus (Acts 25), and Agrippa (Acts 26), he presented a defense of himself and the Christian faith. Scripture writers repeatedly appealed to historical facts and logical arguments in presenting, explaining, and defending the truthfulness and veracity of the gospel.

However, this defense (or apologia) provided only justification for the truthfulness of the gospel which then was appropriated by faith. The gospel message was never reduced to a mere mental assent to facts.

Importantly, all believers are called to sanctify Christ as Lord “always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:15). Peter clearly instructs all believers to give an account (a reasoned and rational explanation) for their confidence in Christ.  Notably, the recipients of Peter’s letter were suffering immense persecution (1 Pet. 1:1, 4:1-5), and yet they were to have a supreme confidence in Christ and be able to provide a reasoned explanation for their hope even to their tormentors.

As the church expanded and grew, the concept of apologia later became associated with a more formal and philosophical refutation of false teaching such as polytheism, Gnosticism, and other heresies. Many of these writers in the second and third century were referred to as apologists since they used the word apology in their writing (e.g., Justin Martyr’s First Apology). Apologetics as a theological discipline did not appear until the latter 1700s, and then was later refined into sub-categories such as philosophical apologetics, historical apologetics, etc.

Biblical Apologetics at Baptist Bible Seminary focuses on both Christ’s supremacy in one’s life and in providing a reasoned, rational defense of the hope within. Consequently, biblical Apologetics entails both the theoretical as well as ministerial elements to include:

  1. Knowing and defending what the Scriptures teach with an awareness of the interpretative, hermeneutical, theological, and philosophical challenges and trends.
  2. Constructing effective apologetic leadership strategies for implementation within local churches and other ministry settings as well as formulating biblically correct and culturally sensitive evangelistic methods designed to utilize apologetics.

These elements include knowing and showing how a truth claim relates to the Christian faith and presenting a rational, logical, reasoned defense of that truth claim within a ministering context. It entails a balance of positive, offensive strategies as well as defensive, more negative critiques and evaluations of non-Christian truth claims.

In the earlier fundamentalist-liberal controversies, the renowned Princeton theologian, J. Gresham Machen cautioned conservatives of his day that “False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel [because Christianity is portrayed as nothing] more than a harmless delusion” (J. Gresham Machen, “Christianity and Culture” in the Princeton Theological Review 11 [1913], 7).

Ministry leaders must not retreat to anti-intellectualism, sheer pragmatism or philosophical intellectualism. Rather, ministry leaders are called to practice and equip the church to understand, practice, and defend the historical, scriptural truthfulness of Christianity within a context of relevant ministry.

(Image courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University)


Dr. David Mappes is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology & Bible Exposition and Director of the MA in Biblical Apologetics at BBS.

http://sharperiron.org/article/biblical-apologetics-and-ministry-today

Dissertation in PDF: Exegetical and Theological Bases For a Consistently Presuppositional Approach to Apologetics by George Zemek

The Domain for Truth

George Zemek scholar

Readers to our blog will be familiar with the name George Zemek, a Calvinistic Dispensationalist engaged in Presuppositional apologetics that we have interviewed HERE and documented the table of content of his doctoral dissertation HERE.  His dissertation was on the exegetical and theological foundation for Presuppositional apologetics, with the title (you guessed it) of Exegetical and Theological Bases For a Consistently Presuppositional Approach to Apologetics.

I believe that it is a one of the best kept secret of exegetical support for Presuppositionalism that most Van Tillians aren’t familiar with due to Zemek’s Dispensationalism.   It ought to be better known beyond the immediate circle of Calvinistic Dispensationalists, especially with our current revival of Presuppositional apologetics and growing interests in Presuppositionalism’s exegetical and Scriptural basis.

Yesterday Fred Butler of Grace To You informs us in his personal blog that he took the time to scan Dr. Zemek’s dissertation and…

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What serious warning is sounded in the lesson of the vine and branches?

In John 15:1–17, Jesus used the extended metaphor of the vine and branches to set forth the basis of Christian living. Jesus used the imagery of agricultural life at the time, i.e., vines and vine crops (see also Matt. 20:1–16; 21:23–41; Mark 12:1–9; Luke 13:6–9; 20:9–16). In the Old Testament, the vine is used commonly as a symbol for Israel (Ps. 80:9–16; Is. 5:1–7; 27:2–6; Jer. 2:21; 12:10; Ezek. 15:1–8; 17:1–21; 19:10–14; Hos. 10:1, 2). He specifically identified Himself as the true vine and the Father as the vinedresser or caretaker of the vine.

The vine has two types of branches: 1) branches that bear fruit (vv. 2, 8), and 2) branches that do not (vv. 2, 6).The branches that bear fruit are genuine believers. Though in immediate context the focus is upon the 11 faithful disciples, the imagery also encompasses all believers down through the ages. The branches that do not bear fruit are those who profess to believe, but their lack of fruit indicates genuine salvation has never taken place and they have no life from the vine. Especially in the immediate context, Judas was in view, but the imagery extends from him to all those who make a profession of faith in Christ but do not actually possess salvation. The image of non-fruit-bearing branches being burned pictures eschatological judgment and eternal rejection (Ezek. 15:6–8).

“Abide in Me,” Jesus said (vv. 4–6).The word “abide” means to remain or stay around. The remaining is evidence that salvation has already taken place (1 John 2:19) and not vice versa. The fruit or evidence of salvation is continuance in service to Him and in His teaching (8:31; 1 John 2:24; Col. 1:23). The abiding believer is the only legitimate believer. Abiding and believing actually are addressing the same issue of genuine salvation (Heb. 3:6–19). “Abide in My love” (vv. 9, 10; Jude 21). This is not emotional or mystical, but defined in v. 10 as obedience. Jesus set the model by His perfect obedience to the Father, which we are to use as the pattern for our obedience to Him.

From The MacArthur Daily Bible Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Bibles, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, TN 37214, http://www.thomasnelson.com.