Monday, December 26, 2016

Jesus, Free Will, and Predestination

Almost two decades ago, the Southern Baptist Convention updated their confession of faith known as the Baptist Faith and Message of 2000.  That document summarizes Southern Baptists’ understanding of God’s Word.  Article V begins as follows:

"Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners.  It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end.  It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable.  It excludes boasting and promotes humility."

Now Christians have disagreed over the exact meaning of the opening word of this article.  Some believers refuse to use it.  Others will close their ears any time this word is used.  And I know there are some who feel the hair on the back of their neck raising whenever this word is used.  The problem, however, is that this word, and related words, are used in the Scripture.  You can’t ignore or disregard it.  The Bible speaks on the matter and so must the Christian, especially the preacher!

Our statement of faith says that election is:

(1)  First, “the gracious purpose of God”.  Election owes its very existence to the grace of Almighty God.  Apart from God’s grace, there would be no election.  Instead of deriding election, let us praise God for His grace which forms the basis of this doctrine.

(2)  Second, it is God’s purpose.  Election is not a “whim” of the Almighty.  Rather it is a doctrine based on His will, His purpose for the creation.  To despise the doctrine of election is to despise God’s very plan.

(3)  Third, election is the basis of all salvation.  As our statement reads, it is very election that God “regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners.”  Salvation is clearly the work of God alone and not man and election certainly testifies to this truth.

(4)  Fourth, election and “the free agency of man” are consistent.  Note well the choice of words:  “free agency” and not “free will”.  Man is a free moral agent.  Each man makes his own moral choices.  Election is consistent with these free choices.  To our puny minds that does not make sense.  How can God elect (or choose) yet man still have free agency?  We may not be able to explain this paradox but we accept, by faith, its validity.  Election and free agency are consistent.

(5)  Fifth, election “comprehends all the means in connection with the end.”  In other words, God does elect sinners to salvation.  However, he also elects the means to accomplish that end.  He has chosen prayer, preaching, teaching, and witnessing as means to accomplish His elective purpose.  To believe in election does not mean one does not believe in the means to salvation.  In other words, a man who believes the Bible teaches God elects sinners to salvation does NOT sin around and wait for God to accomplish that salvation.  Rather, he preaches and teaches and testifies to those who are lost and calls them to salvation.

(6)  Election  "is the glorious display of God's SOVEREIGN goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and UNCHANGEABLE."  In other words,  election is God’s choice, not ours, and that choice is final and irrevocable.  In other words, salvation for certain individuals (those elected) is "predestined".

Those opposed to election (and predestination) usually rise up at this point of the argument yelling “free will, free will”.  How can God elect or choose those who will be saved and then predestine them to that salvation and man have a free will.  Such an election and/or predestination is contrary to the free will of man.

Theologically, the doctrine of election is one aspect of the doctrine of predestination.  Predestination teaches that God has planned all that will occur.  That plan will unfold as He has planned it and nothing can or will change His plan.  Election teaches that part of predestination has to do with the salvation of sinners, namely, that God has chosen certain men from all mankind to be recipients of His saving grace.  This election predestines their eternal salvation.

Without repeating all the arguments supporting election (and predestination), I wish to simply examine what the Bible says concerning Christ and these doctrines.

Would anyone deny that, of all men who have ever lived, Jesus Christ was the most free?  Only he and the first Adam ever possessed a will which was untainted by sin.  Adam lost his untainted will when he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  But our Lord Jesus never had his will corrupted by sin.  Scripture is clear that He never sinned.  Can any Christian deny that Jesus Christ possessed true free will and was the most free man who ever lived?  Any decision He made while walking this earth was truly a choice that was made by a will completely and totally free from any sin.  In Jesus we find TRUE FREE WILL. 

Yet what does Scripture say about this man? 

"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus:  for he SHALL save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)  Even before His birth Jesus' "destiny" was determined.  He WOULD save his people and, to accomplish this salvation, He must die a voluntary, substitutional, sacrificial death.  In other words, His death was "predestined" before his birth.  The most free human ever was predestined to die!  Now if predestination is true for the most free person who ever lived, how can predestination be objected to by any believer of Scripture?

"And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the LAMB SLAIN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD." (Revelation 13:8)  Not only was the death of the most free man predetermined, it was predestined as far back as the creation!  This man with a perfectly free will was predestined to die on the cross. 

We must be honest with the Scripture.  Jesus was the only human who lived his entire life with a will perfectly free of the effects of sin and yet His death was predestined from eternity.  And, in fact, so was his birth!  Did not the prophet foretell He would be born of a virgin?  Did not Micah foretell He would be born in Bethlehem?  Even his birth, its nature and location, was predestined by God.  Furthermore, we can point out several Old Testament Scriptures which prophesies about our Lord's life here on earth:  His birth, His ministry, His death, His resurrection.  All of these prophecies were possible and correct because HIS ENTIRE LIFE WAS PREDESTINED.

Again, how can we believe the life of one so free such as Jesus is predestined and yet deny God's predestination in our own lives.  Jesus was chosen by God to be the Savior and predestined to that end yet some of us wish to deny predestination exists.  Again, consider just one Scripture:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:  according as HE HATH CHOSEN ("elected" in the original) US in him BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:  HAVING PREDESTINATED US unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, ACCORDING TO THE GOOD PLEASURE OF HIS WILL, to the praise of the glory of his grace". (Ephesians 1:4-6)

Here we have election (hath chosen) and predestination (having predestinated) clearly taught by the Scripture concerning US, not the Lord.  Certain sinners (“us”) have been chosen before the foundation of the world to be holy.  Certain sinners have been predestined to be adopted by Jesus as children.  And this election and predestination is according to God’s good will.  It is His choice.

Praise, indeed, to His glorious grace!

So, may no believer fear the doctrines of predestination and election!  Rather, give God the glory for His salvation.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Providence of God, an Election, and Answered Prayer

Praise the Lord for His providential hand in His execution of His eternal decree!  I am comforted knowing that God works ALL things according to the counsel of His will.  And ALL things includes an election such as took place yesterday.

The Presidential race was between 2 fallen candidates, 2 sinners; how could it be otherwise?  Both have sins charged against their account and both will add to that list over the remaining days of their lives.  No one, except Christ, is perfect.  Apart from the grace of God and the redemption of sin found in Christ, neither of these 2 individuals will spend eternity with the Savior.  

Because of their falleness, their plans are also not perfect.  Neither of them can save this nation.  Only God can do that.  But one candidate has a plan to restore this country to its greatness while the other has a plan merely to maintain the direction of the past 8 (or, perhaps, 24 years), a plan which has proven to be a failure.  The latter plan has led our country to the precipice of bankruptcy and insignificance in the world.  That plan has, at its core, a hatred of nationalism, patriotism, religion, and individual rights.  It seeks to have government, the federal government, serve as the master of each individual.  The income of the people, in this view, belongs to the ruling class in Washington, not to the people themselves.

Surely such a plan is straight from the devil's pen.  I firmly believe Satan has been behind those working to elect Hillary Clinton.  Oh, I doubt any of them believe or even sense that has been the case.  But the deceptions and outright lies attached to her candidacy adds support to this theory.  Satan is the master of lies, the master of deceit; certainly he has been a major contributor to that campaign.

Many prayers were offered up to God that He would intervene and save us from Hillary Clinton for the good of this country and the greatness of His name.  He certainly had no reason to do so.  Our nation has strayed far from Him.  He could have sat back and simply said, "you will reap what you have sowed", pretty much what has happened over the past 2 decades.  But prayers went up before His throne pleading, once more, for His mercy and grace.  I believe, God, in His providence, has answered our prayers.  Donald Trump, a fallen man, is now the President-elect; the certain success of Hillary Clinton has been thwarted, again, by the hand of the Almighty.

Let us give thanks to our God for giving us another opportunity to return to our Savior.  And let us lift up those elected yesterday, praying that each one comes to Christ, if lost, and serves this nation best by serving the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Why Did You Leave Your Pastorate?

Since leaving the pastorate of Bethesda Baptist Church in mid-October, I've had a few queries from friends as to why I did so.  Speculations abound so I want to lay those aside.

I left Bethesda because, for 6 months, I sensed God telling me that was the right thing to do.  He finally convinced me in June that I needed to move on and that Bethesda needed a different pastor.  There was no personal sin in my life leading to this decision.  There was no problem at the church either.  My departure is entirely due to the Lord's prompting just as my coming to that pastorate was solely by His prompting.

The church is in great financial shape.  The people there are some of the most generous Christians I have ever known.  Some of them have grown spiritually over the past few years.  The total membership number has not grown but it is the Lord who gives the harvest.

This is not to say that those of us at Bethesda are perfect.  Far from perfection, we each have sin in our lives which demand our daily wrestling.  Some members there are fighting, suffering, and growing for the Lord.  Others are sliding backwards.  Some, like in most churches, are probably not saved in the first place, despite being members of the church.

Bethesda is a fairly typical Baptist church with good people.  I would have stayed there until the day I died if the Lord had permitted me to do so.  But that is not His will for me at this moment.

So I have left the pastorate by His hand and am now waiting to see what He has for me next.

Nothing more and nothing less!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Providence of God

I have been convinced from the Scriptures for several years concerning the Providence of God.  All things occur according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).  We are in His hands.  Nothing surprises Him or catches Him off guard.  All is working according to His immutable, infallible, eternal decree.

A week ago today that decree included my physical salvation.  As I was driving 60 mph, a semi pulled out in front of me.  I thought for sure I was going to hit it.  But I quickly jerked the car to the left.  Then I was certain I was going into the median but I managed to jerk the car back to the right and around the truck.  Now I was heading for the right shoulder and the ensuing ditch, certain I would crash or flip my car.  But, again, I jerked back to the left.  This time something changed and I went into a spin.  The spin stopped my forward motion and I found myself facing north in the southbound lane.  After taking a minute to grasp what had happened, I turned my car around and simply drove home.

I should have hit the truck.  I should have hit the median.  I should have gone into the ditch.  I should have flipped the car.  But God had His purpose for my salvation that evening and He and His angels spared my life.  My escape from what I thought should have been death was not due to my great driving skills. 

My salvation from death was due to the mighty Providential Hand of God!

Monday, October 24, 2016


Late last evening I published a poem on this blog.  However, this morning I determined it was not quite ready for publication.  So I have backed it off for now.

I have found writing poetry from time to time to be a relaxing yet stimulating device.  I am not very good at it and most of my poems seem as if they are constrained.  But since I don't care if anything ever comes of them, I don't really care if the poetry experts like what I write or not.  

Let's all admit it.  Some of the poems by some of the "great" poets STINK!  They make no sense or they do not rhyme, or there is no meter.  I would rather write a badly worded poem that someone can understand than a well written poem which no one can understand.

I'm a poet and my poems stink.
But at least you will know what I think!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Dedicated to "Christians" Who Take Their Marbles and Go Home

There once was a member of a church,
Who left other members in the lurch.
   He got very upset,
   And so he quickly left,
To remain at home upon his perch.

He thought he had been wrongly accused,
By someone from among the church crew.
   A P. I.  he became,
   And searched for who to blame,
Until upon one he dropped the shoe.

Of course his target was the wrong head.
You see no charge had ever been said.
   He had misunderstood,
   A concern for his good.
And his imagination was fed.

The pastor called and wrote to correct.
Each attempt the member did reject.
   His heart was now on fire.
   He called pastor, "Liar"!
For weeks his church he did not respect.

Cloistered in his home, he took his stand!
Admitting his problem? Not this man.
   Impossible thought he,
   the problem could be me.
Pastor and church from life he did ban.

Then that pastor departed the scene.
Next week the member at church was seen.
    He never repented,
    Or even relented.
Yet the church greeted him as a king!

For weeks he abandoned his brothers,
His deacon list as well as others.
    But the church didn't care,
    They just wanted him there.
So it was a day like any other.

Saturday, August 1, 2015


As a Christian and especially as a pastor, I am deeply concerned for the people who DO attend churches for Sunday worship.  I am concerned because something is amiss in many of their lives, at least, from that part of their lives which I can see.  They profess the name of Jesus, claim to have been saved or born again, probably are a member of a local church, and very often attend church almost every Sunday.  Yet when I listen to them speak and watch their actions (or lack thereof) outside the church's worship service, I see works which do not match their professed faith.

For example, how can a person who has been born anew by God's Spirit and indwelt by the Spirit have little interest or desire to be in God's Word.  Oh, some of them tell me they read their Bible every day.  Yet their ignorance of Scripture is very apparent.  They lack a simple familiarity with the Word of God which belies their claim to be students of the Word.  They often will not attend Sunday School classes or other free opportunities provided by the church to study the Scripture.  How can you be truly saved and not thirst for the Word?  Something is wrong and I am concerned.

Others who are members of a church will never attend a prayer meeting.  Why?  How can you be a child of God yet not want to meet with your brothers and sisters in Christ and lift up the needs of your church to God's throne?  Something is wrong and I am concerned.

For many of these self-proclaimed Christians, there is no evidence of growth in Christ.  There is no apparent desire to grow.  How can one be born from above and have no desire to grow in Christ.  Something is wrong and I am concerned.

I know a lady who, over a 5+ year period, has attended morning worship twice at most.  She claims to know Christ and is a member of a local church.  She often attends an evening Bible class at the church but never comes to Sunday School or prayer meeting or almost any church fellowship.  When asked why, she says she has trouble sleeping and can't get up early enough.  Yet some of her Facebook posts have been made on many mornings before 9 a.m.  No, not being able to sleep is not her problem; it is her excuse.  She does not want to come to Sunday School, worship service, or prayer meeting.  PERIOD.  How can a church member have such an attitude and truly believe they are born again, saved, and covered by the blood of Christ?  No, something is wrong, something is very wrong, and I am concerned.

Perhaps this has always been true in Christianity.  Perhaps the overwhelming number of local church members and attendees have actually been lost individuals either faking their Christianity or deceived into a false security of salvation.  But, given the impact of Christianity upon society over many centuries, I suspect this has not been the norm .  

Actually, it doesn't matter if this is normal for our faith or not.  Something is wrong and I am concerned.

I tremble and shake when I read the Lord's words on judgment day as recorded in Matthew 7:  "I never knew you; depart from me,  you workers of lawlessness."  Lord, what can I do for such individuals?

I appeal to everyone who reads this post.  Examine yourself as Paul tells us to do.  Is there spiritual growth in your life?  Be honest with yourself for your eternity depends on it.  Is there a true, deep, heart-felt desire to be like Christ?  Don't be deceived.  God will not be mocked in the end.  Claiming you are born again but living a life with no fruit (or even a desire!) loudly proclaims "I am LOST!"  Are you lost or are you saved?  Wanting to be saved and having a home in eternity is not the same as possessing such salvation.  You can't just want it or pretend to have or merely think you have it.  You must be born again!

If our local churches had true, converted, growing believers in them, we would be dynamically impacting our communities.  The saints would be living godly lives and proclaiming Christ daily.  How many churches are truly impacting their neighborhoods?  Often the pastor is blamed for the lack of community involvement.  But where are the church members who claim they know Christ?  

Probably sitting at home watching the NFL or some other sporting event; anything but ministering for Christ.

Something is wrong and I am concerned. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Commonly Senseless

At the time of the Revolutionary War and the writing of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Paine wrote a simple pamphlet called “Common Sense”.  His words helped inspire Americans to take up arms against Great Britain.  Simple common sense revealed this was the necessary path for those living in North America. 

In our United States today, the majority of people appear to have lost all common sense.  Instead I deem them “commonly senseless”.  The recent Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Count decision is a perfect example of the loss of human reasoning and common sense.

This court decision will live in American history as another damning demonstration of our nation’s degrading morality in the same way the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision did.  According to the court’s 5-4 majority report,

The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.

Same sex marriage is now legal in the United States of America.  As noted in the report, this decision was based on the 14th Amendment to our Constitution.  Unfortunately, this amendment has been much abused since its ratification in 1868.

Since I am not a Constitution scholar, I will refrain from debating the use of the 14th Amendment to support this decision.  But the bottom line is that same sex marriages are now a right just as abortion has been deemed by this Court as a right. 

Such rights as abortion and same sex marriage, however, are “man-made” rights.  These rights are NOT on the same level as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as is often claimed.  If you remember the words of our Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men driving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Our government exists, therefore, to secure the rights endowed “by their Creator”.  These rights coming from God are summarized as “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”.  Since these rights come from God, such rights do NOT include the right of abortion or same sex marriage no matter what men might say.

God has given life and commanded us to respect the lives He has created.  To kill an unborn child is not an idea that comes from God but from Satan.  Hence, abortion (‘baby killing’) is not a right “endowed by their Creator”.

God has defined and given marriage to establish the institution of family.  Genesis 2 clearly indicates marriage is one man, one woman, united before God in holy covenant forever.  God knows nothing of the right of two men to get married or two women.  In fact, He condemns such behavior both in the Old and New Testaments (e.g., Romans 1:18ff).  Therefore, same sex marriage is not a right “endowed by their Creator”.

So abortion is legal in our nation.  Same sex marriage is legal in our nation.  But both remain sin and immoral (and illegal) in the eyes of God.

Our justices have left the common sense of the words of both the Declaration and the Constitution in rendering such a decision.  Furthermore, they have left the Judeo-Christian foundations of our Founding Fathers.  Morality has been swept away from the minds of the people.  For so many Americans to rejoice over such a decision clearly shows that our nation is commonly senseless.

Let’s just call “commonly senseless” what it really is:  FOOLISHNESS!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Flags Unfurled!

The winds have not been blowing well for the flag of the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.) in recent days.  All across the nation there have been cries for its removal not only from flagpoles but also from monuments!  Stores at Civil War battlefields are withdrawing merchandise containing the “Stars and Bars”.  Political correctness is everywhere.  Even the “General Lee” from “The Dukes of Hazzard” has come under attack!
The reason given for this all-out assault on the “Rebel flag” is that the flag brings back memories of slavery.  The flag supposedly teaches that slavery is ok and represents bigotry.  As some folks see it, that flag only reminds them of slavery. 

For what it’s worth, I thought I would chime in on this lunacy.  First, some disclosures:

1.  I have a couple of “Stars and Bars” flying alongside some “Stars and Stripes” in my study at home.
2.  I despise slavery.  Involuntary servitude is wrong no matter who practices it (including several of our nation’s Founding Fathers).
3.  I am not and never have been a bigot or a racist.
4.  My ancestors served in the Union army during the Civil War.  It is possible some served in the Confederacy but, if they did, I am not aware of it.  I do know one ancestor died at Vicksburg and another defended the base of Cemetery Hill in Gettysburg.
5.  I was born and raised in Illinois so I am a “Northerner”.
6.  Two of my favorite persons from history are Robert E. Lee & Stonewall Jackson, both Southern generals, both slave owners.

Now, let’s look at the Stars and Bars.  Certainly slavery was a key factor in the outbreak of the War.  Slavery was a millstone around our nation’s neck since its founding and the “institution” needed to be removed.  But my study of the Civil War has led me to conclude that many of those Southern men who died fighting for the C.S.A. were not slave holders.  Despite how the South is often portrayed, not all “Johnny Rebs” had slaves.  Yet they died just the same.  You see, there is more than slavery wrapped up in the Confederate flag.

If you have spent any time in the South, you know the Civil War is referred to as the War of Northern Aggression.  Indeed, the Northern armies invaded the Southern states and attempted to force them to change their form of government.  Yet the 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States confirms that the Southern states were free to govern themselves.

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

When the War began, the Constitution said nothing about the illegality of the institution of slavery.  This intentional omission (intentional from our Founding Fathers’ perspective) was, thankfully, remedied by the 13th Amendment, ratified months AFTER the war.  The Northern states had no Constitutional right to force the Southern states to change their government.  And the South did not see anything “right” about the armies of the United States invading the Southern states and attempting to implement changes by force. 

So, you could also say the Stars and Bars not only represent slavery but the rights of States to govern themselves.  Our Constitution provided for a limited Federal government.  The true governing was to be at the state and local level, not from Washington.  In fact, one of the results of President Lincoln’s use of force in the Civil War is the continued growth of the Federal government to the detriment of the state governments.  Prior to the Civil War, that was not the case.

Many of those rebel soldiers gave their lives in order to defend their state and their way of life (even for those who owned no slaves).  The Confederate flag is viewed positively by many who lost ancestors fighting for states’ rights.  You see, that flag also has some very positive connotations.

But some can’t see past the slavery issue and that’s a shame.  They are so closed minded and hard-hearted, they see only what they want to see.  To them, there is nothing positive in the flag of the Confederacy even though slavery officially ended in this nation 150 years ago.

I think before leaving this subject, though, I need to take a moment and look at the “Stars and Stripes”.  What a beautiful flag it is!  It represents freedom and liberty and opportunity.  People from around the world want to come to America.  We are the land of the free and the home of the brave!

I love our country and believe we are the greatest nation on the earth.  We have the greatest governing document every devised by man, our Constitution, and the greatest philosophical document written by man, our Declaration of Independence.  Many of our citizens have boldly and bravely given their lives to defend our freedoms and I am truly thankful for them.  I love celebrating the nation’s birthday on July 4th and would never want to be a citizen of any other country.  It is a wonderful feeling to see our flag flying high across the land.

At the same time, our flag is not untarnished.  While the Stars and Bars “supported slavery”, our Stars and Stripes “supports abortion”, does it not?  You tell me, which of the two is to be preferred:  enslaving men or killing them before they are born?  The Confederate States had no right of abortion while they existed and, hence, that stain is not on their flag.  But our nation permits unborn children to be killed, even as they are being birthed!  How does this action differ from the Holocaust, the terrible crime associated with the Nazi flag?! 

Perhaps there should be an outcry among our citizens about flying the American flag these days.  When you see the Red, White, and Blue, does it remind you of abortion?  Even if it doesn’t, can you deny that the flag represents that “right”?

Now I certainly do not want us to take down our American flags.  Yes, abortion is horrific and I hope and pray one day that crime will once again be banned by our nation.  Yet, compared to all the other nations in the world, we live in the greatest nation.  

So let us fly our flags gladly and reflect upon the freedom and liberty it represents.  But, at the same time, perhaps we should back off a bit about the flag of the C.S.A.   Yes, slavery is a part of that heritage.  But so is a defense of the rights of states to govern themselves.  Surely if one can overlook abortion they can overlook slavery.  The Stars and Bars no more causes slavery than the Stars and Stripes causes abortion.

So unfurl those flags.  Let both fly!  They are part of our imperfect but glorious history!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Attorney General Eric Holder

The Attorney General of the United States has resigned and is leaving office.  The Honorable Eric Holder is ending his service as the chief lawyer of our nation.  Personally, all I can say is "Praise the Lord and may CHRIST reign forever!

In reflecting back over his years in this position, I can not recall even one action taken by Mr. Holder that I supported or believed was in the best interests of our great nation.  In my opinion, he is the lowest ranking Attrney General in our country's history.

In his exit interview, Mr. Holder said his critics may be partly driven by race.  I guess that means my low opinion of this man will be viewed by many as racist.  Well, I know my heart and I am not a racist.  My thoughts on his "reign" as Attorney General has NOTHING to do with his skin color or his ancestry.  The man was an absolute joke of an Attorney General.

In the same interview Mr. Holder was asked what book he would recommend young men coming to Washington, D.C. read.  Of all the wonderful books which have been written and published over the centuries which one did this man recommend?  "The Autobiography of Malcolm X".  Does Mr. Holder even know who Malcolm X was?!  Let me quote from the web site:

Born on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska, Malcolm X was a prominent black nationalist leader who served as a spokesman for the Nation of Islam during the 1950s and '60s. Due largely to his efforts, the Nation of Islam grew from a mere 400 members at the time he was released from prison in 1952 to 40,000 members by 1960. Articulate, passionate and a naturally gifted and inspirational orator, Malcolm X exhorted blacks to cast off the shackles of racism "by any means necessary," including violence. (
To me that recommendation speaks volumes about the character and practices of our Attorney General.  Would not a work on Washington, Lincoln, or Dr. Martin Luther King be much more valuable reading than Malcolm X?  How about the Bible itself as a recommended work?  There are thousands of books of FAR greater value and which would contribute infinitely more worth to a young reader than a book on the life of this 1960s radical.

No wonder our judicial system has taken such a massive hit during his tenure.  From "Fast and Furious", "the IRS Scandal" to his remarks on the Martin and Brown events, I will, for the rest of my life, cionsider Eric Holder as the most disgraceful Attorney General our country has ever seen.

I pray to God no one worse is ever nominated or approved for that position!

OK, I'm done.  Throw your stones.  Prove to me why I am wrong and Eric Holder is such a great servant of our nation.

P.S.  I also read that President Obama wept at Mr. Holder's exit.  I believe such behavior says something about our President's character as well.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Lilith Myth

Several years ago, one of my students selected “Lilith” as the Old Testament person on which they wrote a report for my Old Testament History class.  Since I had not “exempted Lilith” from the selection choices of the students, I accepted the paper.  The paper was well written and received a good grade.  However, it also received several comments from me, specifically one that read “Lilith is not in the Old Testament”. 

More than once over the years I have had students ask me about Lilith.  Recently I was asked again and, instead of spending class time discussing this myth, I told the class I would send them a link to an article on this subject which I had previously posted on my blog.  I guess I had at one time intended to post such an article but never did!  So here are my thoughts on the subject.

1.  Who or What is Lilith?

a.  A Brief Answer to the Question.

Lilith (sometimes spelled “Lillith”) is a myth or legend.  Briefly, the story teaches Adam had a wife before Eve and her name was Lilith.  Evidently Lilith was a modern feminist for she had no interest in submitting to her husband.  Therefore she left him.  While there are several variations to the legend, Lilith is usually pictured as a wicked woman.   

b.  A More Detailed Answer.

For those who wish more information on Lilith, there are many books containing the story.  In fact, the story varies somewhat from one telling to another.  The following, however, is the more detailed answer I give to those who ask about Lilith.

(1)  According to the legend, God created man and woman on the 6th day of creation but that woman was not Eve. 

(2)  He created Adam from the dust of the ground and brought the animals before him to be named.  Time and time again, Adam saw the animals in pairs, male and female.  He became jealous of the love these pairs shared for one another  (some interpretations of this myth claim Adam even tried to copulate with the female of each species!).

(3)  Adam cried out to God that he needed a proper mate.  So God then formed Lilith also using the dust as He had done with Adam. 

(4)  Some teach that Adam and Lilith’s union produced an innumerable amount of demons that still trouble men today.  Others teach Lilith, after leaving Adam, had sex with Satan and that’s where the demons originated.

(5)  This 1st couple never had any peace together.  During sexual relations, Lilith did not want to lie beneath Adam because she viewed herself as his equal (both were formed from the dust).  As a result, Lilith left Adam.

(6)  Adam again complained to God, indicating a need for another helpmate.  God sent 3 angels to bring Lilith back.  They found her by the Red Sea (some say she was producing demons at the rate of 100 a day!).  The angels demanded she return to Adam or they would drown her.  Lilith refused and, after some debating with the angels, they finally left her.

(7)  Several variations of the story exist to explain the appearance of Eve.  The bottom line is that Adam needed a mate and God ultimately used one of Adam’s ribs to form Eve.

(8)  Some accounts of this myth have Lilith appearing in other Biblical accounts.  For example, some claim she is the demon who killed Job’s children.  Others claim she became the queen of Sheba with whom Solomon met.

2.  Is there any Scriptural Support for Lilith?

The short answer is “NO”.  Nevertheless, supporters of the myth use certain passages in their attempt to prove the existence of Lilith.

a.  Isaiah 34:14 – The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation of the original Hebrew reads:

“Wildcats shall meet with hyenas, goat-demons shall call to each other, there too Lilith shall repose, and find a place to rest.”

Other translations render “Lilith” as “screech owl” or “night bird” or some other similar phrase.

The original (Hebrew) word is pronounced “Lilith”.  Quoting from Gesenius’ Lexicon concerning this word:

“… a nocturnal spectre, which had, according to the rabbins, the form of a beautiful woman, and lay wait for children by night.    It is really lamentable that any one could connect the word of God with such utter absurdity; many understand this nocturnal creature spoken of to be simply the screech owl.”

b.  Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:18-25

These two passages teach the creation of man.  To those who hold to the Lilith myth, Genesis 1 reveals the creation of Adam and Lilith while the Genesis chapter 2 passage is the creation of Eve.

What they fail to mention is that the context of Genesis 2 includes the creation of Adam.  Is this Adam different from the one created in Genesis 1?  If not then why do two separate creation narratives teach the creation of 1 man but 2 women?

Anyone who has spent some time studying Genesis 1 and 2 understand that Genesis 1 is simply a summary of God’s creative work.  Since the Scripture is God’s revelation to man and the work of Christ is the redemption of man, a more detailed explanation of the creation of man (and woman) is in order.  So Genesis 2 retells the creation of mankind in a more specific way.  There are two accounts but the creation of one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve).  Lilith is nowhere to be found.

3.  How did Such a Legend Begin?

Around the time of Christ, the Jews attempted to explain what appeared to be contradictions or inconsistencies with the Scriptures (e.g., Old Testament).  They developed a complex system of interpretation called the midrash.  One of the supposed inconsistencies was the two separate accounts of creation found in Genesis 1 and 2. 

Similar questions were addressed by the Jewish mystical literature of the 13th century known as the Kabbalah.  In various publications dating from the 9th to the 13th century, the legend of Lilith appears to develop.  These works include “The Alphabet of Ben Sira” (probably compiled in the 11th century) and “The Book of Splendour”, a Kabbalah work of the 13th century.

Lilith appears in various pieces of literature, even in Goethe’s 19th century work “Faust”. Lilith is part of the conversation between Faust and Mephistopheles.  While I never watched the show, I understand the TV sitcom “Cheers” had a character named Lilith who appeared to be modeled after the woman of this myth.  Furthermore, modern feminists have adopted Lilith as the symbol for their philosophy.

4.  Conclusion

While it is an interesting myth, that is all Lilith is:  a myth.  She and the account of her life is nowhere to be found in the Scripture.  She did not exist; she was never real; the stories are untrue.

I would recommend those who are fascinated by Lilith pick up their Bibles and become more interested in the revelation GOD has given to us rather than spending time in legends men have provided.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Knowing Others in Heaven: Answering a Question from a Younger Brother

To Nolan, my younger brother in Christ:

On Sunday evening your mother asked me a question which she said you wanted to ask me.  I’m very grateful you have questions.  That’s a good indication that God’s Spirit is at work within you as you grow each day to be more like your Savior. 

I tried to answer the question which led to related questions and, afterward, decided I would write this post to put my answers in writing.  So here are my thoughts on what we will look like when we are resurrected and whether we will know one another.

God created us as beings having both a physical (our body) and a spiritual (our soul or spirit) component (Genesis 2:7).  He intends for us to live eternally in that form.  At death our soul goes to be with Christ while our body goes to the grave.  But there will be a future resurrection in which Christ will raise (and change) our physical body and reunite it with our soul and that will be our resurrected body (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  Such a resurrection is found in both the Old and New Testaments in numerous passages.  Probably the best single passage to review concerning the resurrection body is 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

Scripture indicates we will be given a resurrected body which is like Christ’s resurrected body.  Based on the Bible’s description of Jesus’ resurrected body as well as other passages in the New Testament which describes this future body, we may say that:

1.  Our resurrection body will have flesh.
2.  Our resurrection body will be able to eat food.
3.  Our resurrection body has speech capability.
4.  Our resurrection body is capable of normal, human activities.
5.  Our resurrection body may appear and disappear.
6.  Our resurrection body has a recognizable appearance.
7.  Our resurrection body will not actually be fully new.
8.  Our resurrection body will be incorruptible (no decay, no sickness, no death).
9.  Our resurrection body will be glorious.
10.  Our resurrection body will be powerful.
11. Our resurrection body will be a spiritual body (controlled totally by the spirit).
12.  Our resurrected body will be a heavenly body, one designed for its eternal environment.  In other words, we will be “right at home” in it.

The truth of our future resurrection often leads to the question:  “Will we recognize others in heaven?”  Scripture does not directly answer this question but I believe there is enough evidence to conclude that the correct answer is “Yes”.  Here is some of that evidence.

1.  At the mount of transfiguration (Matthew 17), Jesus is transformed before the eyes of Peter, James, and John.  Suddenly Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain with him.  There is no indication in Scripture that anyone introduced Peter to these two men yet he recognized them.  There were no photographs or videos or trading cards containing Moses’ and Elijah’s image so someone must have told Peter who they were.  The Bible does not say how he knew who they were but, based on Peter’s confession in Matthew 16, I believe the Father revealed their identities to him.

If God the Father can suddenly reveal to Peter the identities of two men he has never met, could He not do the same for us in heaven?

2.  In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), the rich man in Hades recognizes both Lazarus and Abraham.  While he may have known Lazarus in life, he had never met Abraham.  Again, someone must have revealed Abraham’s identity to him.

3.  When Jesus was raised from the dead and given a resurrection body (remember, our resurrection body will be like His), Jesus recognized others.  Of course, Jesus was God in the flesh so He possessed omniscience and knew all things.  Nevertheless, I think the fact He did recognize others after His death and resurrection, is evidence that we will too.

4.  In the institution of the Lord’s Supper Jesus said “I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29).  Jesus indicates there will be a day in glory when He sits down with His followers and they drink together (which also indicates our resurrection body will be able to drink!).  Drinking together is a form of fellowship and to fellowship with one another you need some knowledge of who they are.

Again, the Bible is very silent on this subject.  A related matter on which Scripture says little is the topic concerning what will we look like in heaven?  In other words, will my resurrected body be my body at age 2 or age 10 or age 30 or age 65?  Will those who know me see me at an age in which they remembered me?  In other words will my parents see me as a young boy while me church friends see me as an adult? 

I can’t find much in the Scripture on this specific matter.  But I have drawn some conclusions which I want to share with you.  I challenge you to do your own study of God’s Word and see what you think.

1.  Jesus, whose resurrection body is our model, was seen as an adult of the same age He had at his death.  Everyone who saw the resurrected Lord saw Him as an adult.  Remember, His resurrection body even contained the marks of His crucifixion.

2.  Moses and Elijah at the Mount of Transfiguration also appeared as adults.

3.  I cannot recall any Scripture which describes resurrected saints as looking like children.

4.  Nothing in Scripture leads me to believe that our appearance, in terms of age, varies between individuals.  Our resurrection body is a physical body, not a body which morphs.

So I believe we will appear as adults to everyone.  But I can also tell you that our resurrected body will NOT age.  We will NOT grow older in appearance.  Such aging is a mark of sin.  Our present body breaks down over time.  Our resurrected bodies, however, will have no sin and, therefore, will not age in appearance.  It will never get sick and it will never die.

After I explain to folks why I believe we will appear as adults in our resurrected bodies, usually the next question asked is “How old of an adult?  20, 30, 40, 50?”  Well, once again, Scripture does not reveal this to us.

But I do have a sense of what we might find when we finally receive our resurrection bodies.  When God created this universe and made man in His image, He created man as an adult in the Garden of Eden.  Furthermore, Adam was created without sin or a sin nature.  His body, therefore, would not age in terms of appearance.  The aging process began when he sinned and his physical body began to die.  I think our resurrected bodies will be like that of Adam at creation.  No more sin, no more aging, no more death.  We will appear to one another as adults “in the prime of life”.  And we will know one another.   

I hope this helps you better understand the Scripture, Nolan.  I suspect it will raise even more questions for you.  Don’t be afraid to ask other Christians (for example, your parents or me) for answers.  Asking questions is a great way to grow in Jesus.

Pastor Bruce

Monday, April 8, 2013

Saul and the Witch of En-dor

1 In those days the Philistines gathered their forces for war, to fight against Israel. And Achish said to David, “Understand that you and your men are to go out with me in the army.” 2 David said to Achish, “Very well, you shall know what your servant can do.” And Achish said to David, “Very well, I will make you my bodyguard for life.”

3 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. 4 The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 6 And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. 7 Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.”

8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.” 9 The woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?” 10 But Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.” 11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.” 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.” 14 He said to her, “What is his appearance?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.

15 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” 16 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me.  The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”

20 Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night. 21 And the woman came to Saul, and when she saw that he was terrified, she said to him, “Behold, your servant has obeyed you. I have taken my life in my hand and have listened to what you have said to me. 22 Now therefore, you also obey your servant. Let me set a morsel of bread before you; and eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way.” 23 He refused and said, “I will not eat.” But his servants, together with the woman, urged him, and he listened to their words. So he arose from the earth and sat on the bed. 24 Now the woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she quickly killed it, and she took flour and kneaded it and baked unleavened bread of it, 25 and she put it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night. (1 Samuel 28:1-25)

Instead of dealing with the entire text, I will focus my thoughts on some of the key questions which have long been debated on this chapter of Scripture.  Did the woman actually raise the spirit of Samuel?  Was the one who appeared actually Samuel?  Does this episode support the position that certain individuals can and should contact the dead for counsel?

If we consider the possibilities of what actually happened at En-dor, I see the following being the options for an explanation as well as an answer to the first 2 questions:

1.  The woman actually raised the spirit of Samuel appeared.
2.  The woman actually raised a spirit who pretended to be Samuel.
3.  The woman did not raise a spirit, nevertheless, a spirit pretending to be Samuel appeared.
4.  The woman did not raise a spirit, nevertheless, the spirit of Samuel appeared.

The woman, one who has performed this forbidden practice before, appears surprised at what takes place.  Verses 12 and 13 reveal that she was not expecting what was taking place.  It is very possible her previous attempts at contacting the dead were most likely fake, hence, she always knew what was going to happen.  But that is not the case in this situation.  I don't believe the woman actually did the "raising" of the spirit.  She may have went through the motions of doing so but, in the end, she is as surprised as anyone as to the results.  This interpretation of the text eliminates possibilities 1 and 2.

But a spirit did appear.  Hence, the next question concerns the identity of that spirit.  Is it Samuel or is it not?  Verse 14 indicates Saul knew it was Samuel and he certainly knew Samuel's appearance.  Verse 15 indicates it was Samuel speaking to Saul.  Now, it is possible, some spirit has come forth appearing in both form and word to be Samuel but who is not actually Samuel.  Angels often take the form of a man in Scripture.  Certainly that is within the realm of possibility.  Some angel has appeared as Samuel.

Yet, if this spirit appears as Samuel and claims to be Samuel (explaining verse 15), then this spirit must be demonic for no angel of the God of truth would ever commit such a deception.  Therefore, if this spirit is NOT actually the spirit of Samuel, it must be a demon.  Such an act is well within the capability of Satan and his demon followers.  It would be easy for a demon to fool both the king and the woman.  Perhaps demons had answered the woman's pleas in the past, appearing as certain loved ones for those who inquired.  If the woman did not raise Samuel's spirit, rather, a demon appeared on its own as Samuel, then the 3rd possibility is the solution.

But again, this is problematic for one essential reason.  The words given by the spirit in the subsequent verses are exactly what take place.  Why would a demonic spirit arise as Samuel and then give Saul a truthful message?  Such behavior is far too uncharacteristic of a demon, a follower of the "father of lies".

That leaves us with possibility 4 which I believe is the correct interpretation.  The woman went into her routine to raise the spirit of Samuel and Samuel's spirit actually arose and spoke to Saul.  The woman was shocked to see Samuel actually come forth.  This was not the result she expected for never before had her routine produced a true spirit!

The spirit which appeared was, indeed, the spirit of Samuel from Sheol (the place of the dead).  Samuel shares with Saul the truth about his future which was completely fulfilled.  The one who raised his spirit to give Saul this message of doom was God Himself, the one who is "the resurrection and the life", the one who has the power over life and death.  None who believes in the God of the Bible can doubt God's ability to permit the spirit of a deceased individual from speaking to someone who is living. 

The fact God so raised Samuel's spirit on this occasion does not imply He will do so at the request of an individual.  God repeatedly condemns the practice of attempting to communicate with the dead (necromancy, e.g., Deut. 18:9-12).  For reasons not revealed by our Lord, He chose, in this specific situation, to allow Samuel once again to declare His message to this failed king.  I think to say much more about the event would be more speculation than interpretation.

I should note that not all Christian scholars agree with my understanding of this text.  Martin Luther, himself, wrote the following about this text:

"From this we may easily learn, that the coming up of Samuel was an apparition, 1 Sam. 28, 13, inasmuch as it is altogether contrary to this commandment of God.  It is therefore not to be assumed that the real prophet Samuel came up by the power of the witch of En-dor.  But that the Scriptures are silent on this point, not telling us whether it was the real of false Samuel, is because they demand of everybody to remember well that through Moses God forbade to consult the dead.  And he never revokes his Word, as Job says and Balaam also, Num. 23, 19.  How can the witch have any power over the saints, who are resting in God's hands?"

I reserve the privilege of conscience to change my mind upon further study of God's Word!