The Cost of Adoption

Back in 1965, my parents had 7 children, of which I was the youngest. We were 6 boys and 1 girl. In order to have another girl, my parents did the math and decided that perhaps adoption would be a way to have a second girl in the family. A chain of events happened in God’s providence that led to them adopting four children (2 boys & 2 girls) from a terminally ill member of the church in the Bay Area who wanted to know her children would be able to stay together and be raised in a good Christian home. She signed over custody of the children a few weeks before passing away. Later that year my parents went through the formal court proceedings and adopted the children into our family. Since that day they have always just been my brothers and sisters, and not secondary in any way.

In 2015 Adoptive Families Magazine surveyed 1,100 families who adopted a child in 2012-2013 and reported:

• Average Total Cost: Adoption Agency – $39,966; Independent Adoption – $34,093

For international adoptions, the costs can be even higher, and as a consequence they are slowly becoming less common.

Average Total Cost of International Adoption by Country 2010-2011/2012-2013

• China: $36,338

• Ethiopia: $45,960

• South Korea: $43,795

• Ukraine: $40,067

As you can see, the cost of adoption is high, and yet thousands of families choose to adopt children anyway. Why? Because when they look into the eyes of that child, they are overwhelmed with love and compassion, and the expense becomes totally worth it to give this child a family.

Yet the expense for our adoption was so much higher for God that it is for human families.

Galatians 4:4-7

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Whenever we look at the bread and the fruit of the vine during communion, they represent the price that was paid so that we could be adopted as full members and heirs in the family of God. This should make us eternally grateful that Christ was willing to suffer and die on the cross to pay the price for our sin and to enable our adoption out of slavery and into sonship!

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That Woman Jezebel

There is an interesting passage in Revelation 2 featuring the example of the woman Jezebel. At first glance, this looks like she is simply an immoral woman who causes people to live in sexual sin. But I believe the Lord’s selection if this name is leading us to something deeper. Let’s read about this woman and see what the Bible teaches!

Revelation 2:20-24 NASB

“But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you.”

Wow, that is a stinging rebuke! We need to look closely at this Jezebel and see what her character was, and what she represents. I truly believe this is a name that God gave to this woman because the Jezebel of the Old Testament (1 Kings 16-21) had some very distinct attributes that will illuminate our understanding of this passage.

Here is what Easton’s Bible Dictionary says about Jezebel:

“This was the “first time that a king of Israel had allied himself by marriage with a heathen princess; and the alliance was in this case of a peculiarly disastrous kind. Jezebel has stamped her name on history as the representative of all that is designing, crafty, malicious, revengeful, and cruel. She is the first great instigator of persecution against the saints of God. Guided by no principle, restrained by no fear of either God or man, passionate in her attachment to her heathen worship, she spared no pains to maintain idolatry around her in all its splendour. Four hundred and fifty prophets ministered under her care to Baal, besides four hundred prophets of the groves [R.V., ‘prophets of the Asherah’], which ate at her table (1 Kings 18:19).”

So what we have here in Revelation 2 is a woman who is enticing people to mix Christianity with idol worship. She had led many into spiritual adultery. Notice Jesus does not say “she convinces them to go naked, or to have sex with each other”. Instead it says she leads them into worshipping idols. God considers this nothing less than spiritual fornication! That’s why Jesus chose to call it “acts of immorality”. He calls those who join her in this admixture of religions adulterers. We are the bride if Christ and he has the right to expect faithfulness. Even the word in the original languages carries this meaning.

g4203. πορνεύω porneuō; from 4204; to act the harlot, i.e. (literally) indulge unlawful lust (of either sex), or (figuratively) practice idolatry: — commit (fornication).

Jesus then describes those who have resisted her as those who “have not known the deep things of Satan”. Elsewhere, Paul had written that this who sacrifice to idols were sacrificing to demons (1 Corinthians 10:20). He also describes those who join with the temple harlots in Corinth as joining themselves to demons. So in context, and with Scripture interpreting Scripture, we can see that, rather than just a woman teaching loose sexual ethics, this passage is a warning against mixing paganism with Christianity. Judgment is upon those who do such.

Yet often in today’s world we see people bringing in so-called truths from other religions and slapping a Christian name on it. We import the religion of humanism, and by adding some Christian slogans, we have a God who is all about your success and self worth. We employ the world’s marketing strategies like spiritual entrepreneurs in order to increase the church’s bottom line, but pray first so that we can pass it off as a God given strategy. This should not be the case! The Church should reject such innovations as the spiritual fornication that they truly are! Otherwise, we run the risk of being like Jezebel and seeking to make our faith more inclusive of error.

The Passing of The Playboy

On the Passing of Hugh Hefner

Earlier this week, Hugh Hefner passed away. Depending on where people stand, there were mixed reactions to his passing, with evaluations of the effects, either negative or positive, that his life had on others. I did not respond immediately, but have let my thoughts deepen a bit before writing them down. So here is where I’m at on this man’s legacy.

Frankly, Hugh Hefner did a lot of damage. Ironically, he damaged an entire generation’s view of nudity and sexuality. Instead of making it healthier, as he claimed he was trying to do, he made it worse. He did this primarily by divorcing sexuality and the human body from their primary function, which was to glorify God. From the start, and for many years afterwards, Hefner’s magazine would show the female breast as something sexual. In doing so, he contributed to the sexualization of breasts to the point now that exposed breasts equal sex or pornography. Rather than God providing them for the feeding of infants, they became objects of lust. This resulted in the backlash wherein women cover their poor babies with blankets while nursing and are ashamed to nurse in public.

In fact, Hefner made a fortune sexualizing the body and creating a pornographic view of the naked body. Instead of being the natural state in which we were created, he trained an entire society to equate nudity with sexuality and led us to objectify women. This is done through both pornography and prudery. Both treat the body as obscene and lewd, when our Creator has called them “very good” and has not changed His mind. Hefner was quoted as saying that religion is a myth, so his publications sought to take the very pinnacle of creation, which according to Romans is here to testify to a Creator, and secularized it into an object for nothing but fulfilling physical needs.

As a result, people generally fell into pornography or prudery, which are both errors. The corrupt fruit of his media empire is evident for all to see. The billion dollar sex industry, rife with human trafficking is a stain on civilization and enslaves countless millions. The so-called purity culture, which ties a girl’s value to her ability to abstain and to keep from causing helpless men to stumble is the other end of the pendulum. It also objectifies women and leads to damaged young women and a rape culture that blames her “making the man stumble” because, after all, it’s not his fault. Both of these ugly twin sisters continue unabated in damaging lives and in robbing others of the witness of creation to its Creator.

God does not rejoice in the death of the wicked, and neither should we. What Hugh Hefner set in motion has moved far beyond its need of him and rolls on leaving destruction in its wake. Victims like those who are trapped in sex trafficking or like Elizabeth Smart whose purity training kept her from trying to escape her captors because she was now undesirable will litter the pathway. I fear for what Hef will encounter when he stands before a just and holy God. Meanwhile, we will continue to salvage hearts and lives that have been damaged as a result with the Good News of life, restoration, and healing from sin in Christ.

Lighthouse for the Blind

It is a frightening thing to be in total darkness. I remember there were times out at sea when there was no moon and if you were outside on the deck's it was so dark that you literally could not see your own hand in front of your face. It was at moments like those that you realize you could step off the edge of the ship and fall into the ocean without warning and never be seen again!

The present world system is just such a place as that in a spiritual sense. Satan, as the prince of the power of the air is filled the earth with darkness and many are stepping into eternity without warning, having rejected or never even seen the light. This is a tragic thing, but in many cases this blindness of darkness is self-induced. It is like someone walking around claiming that they could not see, but wearing a blindfold!

Why do so many people remain in darkness? Why do so many avoid the light? One reason that Jesus gave was that they did not want their deeds exposed.

John 3:19-21 NASB

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

This is so tragic and unnecessary because the light is not restricted to only a few! The allow themselves to be blinded by this world by their refusal to believe.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 NKJV

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

John 1:9 NASB

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.

Now at this point, some would say that the only way for an on regenerate person to receive the things of God would be by a direct action of the Holy Spirit enabling them to see. But what the following verse says is that the spiritual things of God or only foolishness to those who refuse to look at anything spiritually.

1 Corinthians 2:14

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

It is a twisting of this passage to say that unregenerate people lack the capability to comprehend anything about salvation apart from a direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. It is true that the Bible, as the Word of God, has Spirit-embedded power that is living and active, but the receiving of truth is not what Paul is talking about. In context, he is saying that the Greek philosophers and orators didn't have a clue about the wisdom of God, and never would because they refused to believe.

Thus even the psalmist could write,

"The entrance of thy words giveth light;

it giveth understanding unto the simple."

(Psalm 119:130)

In fact, it's a direct operation apart from the word of God were necessary for salvation, then Romans has a glaring omission in chapter 10, verses 14-17:

Romans 10:14-17

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,

Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

But notice here that Faith comes by hearing the word of God not by hearing someone's opinion or a very gifted speaker. If we are not preaching the word there will be no convicting power to save, because the light will not be shining. Some have compared the church to a hospital for the sick, and that is a valid illustration. But we are also to be a lighthouse for the blind! That's why Paul was inspired to write this as well:

2 Corinthians 4:5-6

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Let no man say he was lost because the Holy Spirit didn't give him the ability to see the light. The light has shone on every man, and the Spirit acts through the living Word of God to illuminate the path to salvation. Preach the Word and let the light shine!

Church of the Crusty Foulers?

What is a “crusty fouler”? Glad you asked.  That is the term many boaters use to describe barnacles that attach to the underside of ships. Here is what the NOAA has to say about barnacles:

“How do barnacles stick to the undersides of vessels, to other sea life, to each other, and to pretty much anything they come in contact with? They secrete a fast-curing cement that is among the most powerful natural glues known, with a tensile strength of 5,000 pounds per square inch and an adhesive strength of 22-60 pounds per square inch. The glue is so strong that researchers are trying to figure out how it can be used commercially.

Barnacles like places with lots of activity, like underwater volcanos and intertidal zones, where they reside on sturdy objects like rocks, pilings, and buoys. Moving objects like boat and ship hulls and whales are particularly vulnerable to the pesky critters. Large barnacle colonies cause ships to drag and burn more fuel, leading to significant economic and environmental costs. The U.S. Navy estimates that heavy barnacle growth on ships increases weight and drag by as much as 60 percent, resulting in as much as a 40 percent increase in fuel consumption!”[i]

So barnacles can be a major problem for boat owners and shipping companies. On vessels that travel across massive oceans, a 40% increase in fuel consumption is a huge expense! When ships come into dry dock, one of the first things that is done is the pressure wash or sand blast the barnacles and associated marine life off of the bottom of the hull. It is a lot of work, and removing them can actually cause some damage because of the strength of their glue.

So how does this apply to the church?  Well, over the years, new doctrines and practices have attached themselves to the sides of the ark of Christ, the church. They seemed innocent enough at first, and many were hardly even noticed. But over the centuries, they have accumulated and obscured the image of the original church. Many are so used to them being there, that they try to argue that they are pretty and belong there like they are part of the ship now.

We cannot afford for our ark to be burdened with foreign “crusty foulers” if we are to complete our voyage to the port of Heaven. But because of the centuries of accumulation, we must refer back to the original blueprints to see what they say so that we can recognize the hull when we see it!  The only reliable blueprint is found in the New Testament where the church that Christ built is described in doctrine and practice. Anything we see that is not on that blueprint must be scraped off, even if breaking that bond of glue (i.e. traditions) is painful to break off. Once they are off, we must be vigilant to spot any future barnacles of manmade practices or doctrines that try to attach themselves.

The effort is worth it, and the ark of Christ will be better off for it!

Mark 7:6-8 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites,as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me.
They worship me in vain,
teaching as doctrines human commands.[a]

Abandoning the command of God, you hold on to human tradition.”

Trail Reeves

[i] https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/barnacles.html

Practical Annihilationists

As some of you know, I hold to the orthodox,albeit minority, view that lost souls are judged and then destroyed in hell at the judgment. Words like “destruction” “perish” and “death” mean just what they say, and we don’t have to do semantic gymnastics to make them mean something else. For awhile, I wondered why most believers didn’t see what I saw in scripture and believe in annihilation of the lost, too. 

But it has occurred to me that deep down, the vast majority of Christians must believe as I do. They talk as though hell exists, and they aren’t universalists. Perhaps they give lip service to the teaching of eternal conscious torment, but don’t really think it’s true. That must be the case, because there is no other way to explain their actions.
You see, if the vast majority of professing Christians actually believed that a large number of people hit hey know and live were headed for an eternity if conscious fiery torment in hell, there is no way anyone could keep them from telling everyone they know about salvation in Jesus Christ! We would spend whatever it cost, exert whatever effort we could, and travel to the ends of the earth to keep people from that horrible fate! 

Read this quote from Penn Jilette, who is an atheist.
“I’ve always said that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward—and atheists who think people shouldn’t proselytize and who say just leave me along and keep your religion to yourself—how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”
Think about that. Even an atheist can see that an unwillingness to risk a socially awkward situation in or to tell someone about salvation is an act if hatred.

In 2012, a LifeWay survey found 80 percent of those who attend church one or more times a month believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but 61 percenthave not told another person about how to become a Christian in the previous six months.
Since our actions reveal more thoroughly than anything else what we truly believe, the only logical conclusion I can come to is that about 61 percent of regular churchgoers, are either universalists who don’t believe in hell, Annihilationists like me who believe in eternal capital punishment (i.e. The Second Death), or are not really Christians at all because they hate billions of people. Whatever the case, it is obvious they don’t believe in eternal conscious torment. 
So which is it?

Two For the Ages

Jesus often spoke about different ages. But what stands out, at least to me, is that he only referred to two of them. He kept it simple. There was “this age”, and “the age to come.” Where that run afoul of many people’s doctrine is that they have all sorts of ages on their charts and diagrams, along with numerous theories that tie together what had seemed to be unrelated verses into a neat whole. 

The problem with that, is it ignores a simple yet foundational rule of hermeneutics: when interpreting a passage or passages, your interpret the difficult ones in light of the more straightforward ones. Start with the ones that we know, and then interpret the more complicated passages with the thought in mind that whatever you come up with as an answer cannot violate what is taught in the easy verses.

We can even put this principle to the test in interpreting biblical prophecy. We take the simple and plain teachings of Jesus in the Gospels and interpret the rest of prophecy in within that framework.

As stated above, Jesus talked about only two ages. We can jump into Daniel, Zechariah, Ezekiel and Revelation, but in the end, we had better have two ages or we missed it somewhere. We cannot come up with more than two ages and still be within the framework that Jesus set forth plainly. Yet folks end up with a Jewish Age, a Millennial Age, the age of miracles, and on and on ad nauseum. Let’s start with what Jesus did in fact say.

“Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” Matthew 12:32

When Jesus talks about “this age”, he is obviously talking about the time right then. But notice what Jesus says about the age to come (singular). There would not be the opportunity to have sins forgiven. Let’s see where else Jesus talks about the ages.

“So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.
Mark 10:29-30  (emphasis mine)

Note that Jesus describes the “age to come” as one where true disciples will have eternal life.

Luke 18:40 recounts this same event and says the age to come is one which will feature those with eternal life. Why? Because the age to come is the eternal state in heaven. That fact wipes out a theory that is gaining in popularity called Full Preterism. This unusual doctrine teaches that all prophecy has already been fulfilled at the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. by the Romans. That event marked, they claim, the end of the Jewish Age, and the beginning of the Gentile Age.

The problem is, that is too many ages! We end up with the Jewish Age, the Gentile or Church Age, and the eternal state in heaven. To claim this is to go against the clear teaching from Jesus that there are only two ages, not three. It is this present world, and then eternity. This is even stated in the negative by Jesus.

So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Matthew 13;49-50

There will be an individual judgment where some will be cast into the furnace “at the end of the age” Jesus says. That has not happened, and if it did already happen, He missed some!

No, the doctrine of Full Presterism does not stand up to Scripture without doing violence to the clear two age teaching of Jesus Christ.
The Second Coming of Christ has not already occurred, and we will spend the next and only other age in heaven or hell.

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