Posts from the ‘Christianity’ Category

Culture, Missions and Attire

When the time came for Jesus Christ to return to the Father, he left a very emphatic command to “go into all the world” (Matthew 28:19-20) with the Good News about the Kingdom of God and eternal life. At the end of Revelation, we get a glimpse of those who are standing before the throne praising God, and are told that they are from every nation, tribe and tongue” (Revelation 5:9).

While sadly, the job has not been finished, there is something that has gone on in the past, and sadly still occurs today, that involves missionaries going to unreached people groups and, instead of making them just Christians, they try to make them Western Christians. Even worse, there is sometimes the result, whether intentionally or not, of creating perpetually dependent churches instead of self-supporting, self-teaching, and self-propagating indigenous churches.

Please don’t misunderstand me on this. I am not saying that this is always the case, or even usually the case. But where it happens, the damage to the new believers and future missionaries in the area is disproportionately large! And there is an alternative to this.

In the late 19th Century, J. Hudson Taylor planted the China Inland Mission, and was thought to be odd because he adopted Chinese dress and culture as much as possible while there. He also focused on training Chinese believers to be leaders and teachers in the congregations. That is exactly how it is supposed to be done! The Apostle Paul outfit this way in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22:

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.”

Another example of this was in Athens, where he started off his talk on Mars Hill by relating as much as possible to things they knew like worship of gods and Greek philosophy. Didn’t Jesus use many agrarian examples in because of the audience he was communicating with?

This is what much of the motivation is with translating the Word of God into the heart language of the unreached people’s. Put the Word into their language so that it more easily penetrates their heart and mind! And what Hudson Taylor experienced with being more warmly received because of his native attire and language skills.

So how far do we go in this acculturation process? Well honestly, it depends on the culture. If they are worshipping by eating the beating heart of a neighboring tribal chief, we should, probably not do that. But what about attire? There is nothing wrong with adopting the clothing of those to whom God has called you to minister. Well what if they are topless, or even naked unreached tribes? Well, how humble are you willing to be to reach the lost? If they don’t wear much clothing, then you should, do the same. I know that sounds radical, but we need to be radically obedient if we are to reach the world with the Gospel. If being dressed (or undressed) like the indigenous people is what it takes, then that is what needs to be done. At the very least, you won’t be accused of destroying their culture by trying to make them westerners.

This is a radical concept, I know. But at least consider it, and think about this: when John saw the saved from every nation, tribe, and tongue, how did he know that? Perhaps because of the way they were dressed.

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.

Is Allah Our God or Baal?

During much of the Old Testament, the Phoenicians and Canaanites were known to worship an idolatrous local deity named Baal (pronounced bah – all). While this makes for interesting ancient history, do we find remnants of Ba-al worship today? Actually, we do find just that.

“According to the Encyclopedia of Religion, Allah corresponded to the Babylonian god Baal, and Arabs knew of him long before Mohammed worshipped him as the supreme God. Before Islam the Arabs recognized many gods and goddesses, each tribe had their own deity. There were also nature deities. Allah was the god of the local Quarish tribe, which was Mohammed’s tribe before he invented Islam to lead his people out of their polytheism. Allah was then known as the Moon God, who had 3 daughters who were viewed as intercessors for the people into Allah. Their names were Al-at, Al-uzza, and Al-Manat, which were three goddesses; the first two daughters of Allah had names which were feminine forms of Allah. Hubal was the chief God of the Kaaba among the other 360 deities. Hubal was the chief God of the Kaaba among the other 360 deities. Hubal was a statue likeness of a man whose body was made of red precious stones whose arms were made of gold. (Reference Islam George Braswell Jr., quoted in http://www.letusreason.org/islam6.htm)”

When you think about the linguistic progression it makes sense. Ba-al becomes Ba-alla, and then Allah. Ever wonder why mosques have a crescent moon atop them? Makes sense if you are worshipping a moon God. So, far from being the same God as the One worshipped by Christians and Jews, Allah is in fact the ancient enemy of the people of God. 

The Biblical and historical evidence shows that the Moabites worshiped Baal. The pre-Islamic and Muslim sources show (a) that the Meccans took over the idol Hubal from the Moabites and (b) that Allah and Hubal are actually identical. Thus, whether the Meccans are Ishmaelites or not, the evidence is still strong and sufficient to conclude that Muhammad’s Allah is actually Hubal, i.e. the Baal of the Moabites and thus not the God of the Bible. Muhammad incorporated the characteristics and names of various other gods into his new monotheistic message about Allah, but he apparently started the construction of Allah with Hubal, the chief god of the Meccans. (http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread139336/pg1)

Is it any wonder, then, that worshippers of this god would hate the Jews as well as Christians. When Muslims pray to Allah, they are praying to a demon, not to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! Heed Paul’s warning to the in 1 Corinthians 10:19-21:

“What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.”

Don’t fall for the politically correct trap of assuming that Jehovah God and Allah are the same being. May it never be! 

“Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am Jehovah; and besides me there is no saviour. I have declared, and I have saved, and I have showed; and there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and I am God. Yea, since the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who can hinder it?” (Isaiah 43:10-13 ASV)

Blessing Turning Into A Curse

Well the 4th of July celebrations are winding down. It has been a day of fun, fellowship, and reflection about the course our country is on. Generously dotted among the phrases we have heard today is the ever-popular “God bless America”, and with good reason. When it comes to God, you want His blessing headed our way. But my spirit has been troubled and I believe we are either on the brink, or have entered into a season of judgment for our national sins and utter disregard for God. Take a look at what the prophet Malachi had to say to his own people who assumed that because of their national citizenship they had the blessing of God. 

“And now this commandment is for you, O priests. If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name,” says the LORD of hosts, “then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart. Behold, I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will spread refuse on your faces, the refuse of your feasts; and you will be taken away with it. (‭Malachi‬ ‭2‬:‭1-3‬ NASB, emphasis mine).

This nation has been privileged like no other nation before it with freedom of religion and has been a bastion of Christian preaching, education, and missionary zeal. But over the last decades, we have wandered into godless territory. We have the blood of over 55 million babies on our hands. We have, as a society, slipped down the slope of moral relativism into a quagmire of sin that was unimagined 75 years ago. We have set up idols of wealth, fame, and success and worshipped them. It is as if we are bowing in front of mirrors saying “my kingdom come, my will be done, on earth, in spite of Heaven.”And we have reached a point where God in in sovereign justice will have no choice but to judge us for our national crimes.

When any people reach this point in their spiritual lethargy, our spoken blessing of God, and the very blessings we have received from God, are turned into a curse! Every time we presume upon the blessing of God without thought of repentance, our blessing is a slap in the face of Divine Justice. We have gotten beyond the position of just needing to say, “America, bless God”. Without another Great Awakening characterized by true national repentance, our blessings which have turned into cursing will not open the windows of Heaven for a blessing, but rather are storing up wrath for the Day of Wrath. Just as Malachi relayed from God, we will be thrown out like yesterday’s garbage.

Enough of feel good, self help, commercialized, WIIFM (what’s in it for me) Christianity! Be done with playing religious games and marketing the church to the world. Quit using carnal means to attract carnal people so we can get them to say the magic words and sign a card. We must go from being seeker sensitive to being Jesus sensitive! Judgment begins at the house of God, and repentance needs to begin there as well.  

I, for one, am going to stop saying “God bless America” and substitute “God save America” in its place. I don’t know how many birthdays our nation has left, but we as the church must do all we can to allow the Holy Spirit once again to cleanse us and empower us by grace to be a light set on a hill that shows the path back to God. If we shirk this duty, the Sovereign of the Universe and and will hold us responsible! 

For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (‭1 Peter‬ ‭4‬:‭17‬ NASB) 

Wishing For Living Idols

First of all, the seed of an idea that the Lord planted in my mind for this post came from hearing a short portion of a Sunday sermon from last week by Pastor Scott Hagan from Real Life Church in Sacramento. Not only is he spot on, but we graduated from high school together, so he must be cool, too! 

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (‭Exodus‬ ‭20‬:‭4-6‬ NKJV)

Idolatry. Perhaps no other sin is as universally condemned in Scripture as idol worship. A curse came with making something with men’s hands and worshipping it. No matter the quality of the workmanship, and how fervently you hope and dance and cut yourself and worship, that idol will never be the Living God. It just won’t happen.

But that is precisely what is going on right now with the gay “marriage” debate. People are using logic, law, and doing everything in their power to make same-sex marriages a reality. But the truth is, that no matter how many marches, and court decisions and laws that human beings pass, it will never be a REAL marriage. Here’s why. 

and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (‭Matthew‬ ‭19‬:‭5‬ NKJV)

God made this principle clear in Genesis, and jesus quoted it here in Matthew. He made the principle clear. Man joined to wife equals one flesh. But just to make sure we don’t miss it, Jesus says this in the very next verse. 

So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭19‬:‭6‬ NKJV)

Did you catch that? The husband and wife don’t join themselves together, nor does a minister join them. God is the one who makes the two of them one flesh as husband and wife! No matter how people hope and pray and litigate and legislate, anything other than this has not been joined together by God and is therefore not a marriage. And my opinion and your opinion have no bearing on the matter! To teach otherwise is to make a God in our own image, and have Him do what we wish Him to do. But that amounts to idolatry, and brings a curse instead of the desired blessing!

So what are we to do? We are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). And know this; you cannot speak a lie in the love. God is love, and He cannot lie. Satan is the father of lies, and has no love in him. In fact, the most spiritually dangerous thing we could ever do is to speak a lie and attribute it to God! No, the most loving thing we can do is to tell the truth about same-sex marriage with as much love and compassion as we can. But it must be grounded in truth! 

We must show our love by proclamation of the truth laid down by the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (‭I Corinthians‬ ‭6‬:‭9-10‬ NKJV)

But we are to do so humbly and in love, knowing that we all have besetting sins which we all fight on a daily basis. We must tell of the power of God to deliver anyone from the grip of the strongest sin! Our faith and our message must rest, not on human wisdom, but on the delivering power of God. That’s why Paul goes on to say this:

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (‭I Corinthians‬ ‭6‬:‭11‬ NKJV) 

We must hold out this message of hope and deliverance to anyone and everyone who will listen, homosexual, heterosexual, or anyone else! Without altering the Word of God or lowering His standards, we must tell the world that Christ came to save sinners, so that qualifies each of us for His salvation. We are not judging anyone. We are letting them know that God has already judged everyone, including them, and that we are all sinners in need of a Savior.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (‭Romans‬ ‭5‬:‭8-9‬ NKJV) 

When this is our message, we will be the God honoring, Christ exalting, Gospel spreading, disciple making, and people loving Church that we are commissioned to be in this World! 

Six Step Downward Spiral of a Society

So now we ask the inevitable question in this country, namely, “how did we get to this place?” 
Well, thankfully, Romans chapter 1 verses 18 – 32 gives us a verbal flow chart, a trail to twisted thinking if you will, that outlines the downward spiral of a debased society. The end result of this spiral is stated at the outset. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,”

Step 1: in spite of the obvious design in nature, the society adopts an alternative (i.e. Godless) and materialistic philosophy. In doing so, they suppress the truth!

“who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”


Step 2
: The society no longer sees the need to honor God. This results in futile thinking, and darkening of the mind. What this means is that they lose the ability to see the hand of God in creation. There is a complete lapse of spiritual discernment. 

 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

Step 3: God gives the society up to what they desire with their futile minds, and they fall into self deception and to defiling themselves with the very actions the society once instinctively knew to be impure.

 “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

Step 4: Natural passions are discarded in favor of unnatural passions, including specifically burning with lust for those of the same gender.

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” 

Step 5: God turns His back on a society that refuses to acknowledge His right to govern their consciences, and then every other unrighteousness evil fills up society’s behavior as the new “normal”.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

Step 6: in spite of their collective memory that such things are sinful, they flaunt their sin and give their wholehearted support to the so-called courageous ones who defy the law of God. So after this step, we arrive at the judgment of God, who reveals His wrath because the society refuses to repent.

 “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭18-32‬ ESV)

So what is the solution to this mess of our own making? The answer was given to Ezekiel long ago, and is an eternal spiritual principle of our unchanging God. We have two major missions as the people of God; warning and intercession!

Warning:

“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me.
“If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

 “And you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, Thus have you said: ‘Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we rot away because of them. How then can we live?’

“Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (‭Ezekiel‬ ‭33‬:‭7-11‬ ESV)

Failure to warn our society is a sin of omission and an act of hatred, even if they do not want to hear our warnings!

Intercession, combined with our repentance:

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (‭2 Chronicles‬ ‭7‬:‭14‬ ESV)

Notice we as God’s people, need to turn from our own wicked ways and seek heaven’s healing for our land. If we as the church repent and humble ourselves before God, then God will heal our land. It won’t happen by praying against those who are lost, but by the Church bowing in humility and the fear of the Lord that will turn this nation around. 

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