American Freedom Revolution

Apropos for July 4th weekend.

deorl

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
-1st Amendment to the United States Constitution.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
-Evelyn Beatrice Hall paraphrasing Voltaire

“Government should protect every man in thinking and speaking freely, and see that one does not abuse another. The liberty I contend for is more than toleration. The very idea of toleration is despicable; it supposes that some have a pre-eminence above the rest to grant indulgence, whereas all should be equally free, Jews, Turks, Pagans and Christians.”
-John Leland, “A Chronicle of His Time in Virginia,” The Writings of the Later Elder John Leland…

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Apostasy and the Man of Sin

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4, ESV)

The Rebellion

Literally, Apostasy or falling away. The Apostasy or Rebellion is a large scale turning away from God’s Law, and from faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son.

“Since the reference here is to a world-wide rebellion against divine authority at the end of the age, the ideas of political revolt and religious apostasy are combined.”  -FF Bruce (Word Biblical Commentary on 2 Thessalonians)

“This rebellion, which will take place within the professing church, will be a departure from the truth that God has revealed in His Word. True, apostasy has characterized the church almost from its inception, but Paul referred to a specific distinguishable apostasy that will come in the future”   -Walvoord/Zuck (Bible Knowledge Commentary).

This is what we are seeing in the USA now, and what has been happening in the Christian lands of the West beginning in the 1700s. There is a great falling away from faith in Jesus Christ, which founded Western Civilization. We re primed for a strongman to take over and change times, laws, morals and values. Academia, the Entertainment Industry, the most powerful corporations, all have turned against Christianity in our time. The most alarming apostasy, however is in the church. Mainline denominations turned away from confidence in the Bible 50-100 years ago. Now those same nominally Christian organizations have turned toward the validation and celebration of sexual immorality and the culture of death (abortion industry). Increasingly they reject the miraculous, acts of Jesus, his resurrection, and even his deity. This last certainly marks them as apostate, not part of God’s chosen people. The essential confession of faith is: Jesus is Lord. Apart from that no one is saved.

Man of Lawlessness

This figure has a several names in the New Testament, two here: Man of Lawlessness (also translated Man of Sin) and Son of Destruction (also Son of Perdition). John calls this figure the Anti-Christ, and in Revelation The Beast. In Daniel, the Little Horn (7:8). Jesus quoted Daniel in calling this leader’s image the Abomination of Desolation (Matt. 24:15, cf Dan. 11:31, 36)

There are numerous examples of powerful political leaders who opposed the faithful up to this point and beyond.

Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.” (Daniel 11:31, ESV) This was Antiochus Epiphanes who abolished sacrifices, set up an altar to Zeus, offered pigs blood on it and punished those who circumcised their children.

Antiochus Ephiphanes may be the archetype, and we may read of him in the so called Apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees, which Roman Catholics and others accept, but which were rejected as canon by the Jews and by most Bible believing Christians.

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, 45 to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane sabbaths and festivals,  to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added, “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.” (1 Maccabees 1:41-50)

Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev, in the one hundred forty-fifth year, they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah, and offered incense at the doors of the houses and in the streets. The books of the law that they found they tore to pieces and burned with fire. Anyone found possessing the book of the covenant, or anyone who adhered to the law, was condemned to death by decree of the king. They kept using violence against Israel, against those who were found month after month in the towns. On the twenty-fifth day of the month they offered sacrifice on the altar that was on top of the altar of burnt offering. According to the decree, they put to death the women who had their children circumcised, and their families and those who circumcised them; and they hung the infants from their mothers’ necks.” (1 Maccabees 54-60)

 

Near the time of Paul’s visit to Thessalonica the Emperor Gaius, also known as Caligula was in power. He insisted that he be known as a god. Other emperors, beginning with Augustus were deified after death, but Caligula insisted on being worshiped. He decreed that a statue of him be erected in the Temple at Jerusalem, but was assassinated in AD 41 before these orders could be carried out. This would certainly be fresh on the minds of Paul and his readers.

In both of these notorious leaders (Antiochus and Caligula) we find an initial fulfillment of the prophecy about the Abomination of Desolation in the temple (Daniel 9:27, 11:31, 12:11). Evidently there will be a greater example, and a final fulfillment of this prophecy immediately prior to the return of Christ.

Next there was Nero, who persecuted and martyred Christians in Rome. Coating Christians with pitch and burning them to light his garden.

Then there was Domitian, who insisted on being referred to as “Dominus et Deus,” Lord and God.

The first empire-wide persecution occurred under Decius circa AD 250.

The worst persecution was the last under Diocletian circa AD 300.

Throughout history other anti-Christs like Hitler have murdered millions of Christians and/or Jews.

But none of these has been the ultimate and final fulfillment of Anti-Christ. That one is still to come.

Characteristics of the Anti-Christ to watch out for:

  1. Powerful world leader with absolute global authority (Revelation 13:1-10).
  2. Rejects Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah and God’s Son come in the flesh (1 Jn. 2:22, 3:2-3) 
  3. Exalts him/herself as God or a god, and will demand and receive worship from everyone (above Daniel 11:36, Revelation 13:8).
  4. Opposes the Bible’s revelation of right and wrong.
  5. Changes the calendar and the law to reflect rejection of Christian and Jewish faith (Daniel 7:25)
  6. His image will be set up in the Temple (Daniel 11:31). I believe that this will be his demand for ultimate allegiance from everyone, which amounts to setting up his image in the hearts of people. We see examples of this in Communist N. Korea today, ie Dear Leader Kim Young Un.
  7. He will even be given authority to make war and successfully conquer God’s people for a short time (Rev. 13:7)

Time, Eternity and Hell

Time permits change to occur.

“Time is a friend to no man.”

Ever feel like time is getting away from you, as if you haven’t accomplished what you thought you would by now?

“How did it get so late so soon?

It’s night before it’s afternoon.

December is here before it’s June.

My goodness how the time has flewn. (sic)

How did it get so late so soon?

Dr. Seuss

Martin Luther King Jr. wrote:

I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of goodwill. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

 (Letters from the Birmingham Jail)

How well do you use time? Are you trapped in the past? Are you waiting for the future? Do you make the most of the time you have today? The greatest thing you can do with the time you have is to change and become more like the person God created you to be. That means become like Christ.

As long as you have breath, you have time to change. It’s not too late. So, perhaps time is a friend to all who will take it seriously.

You and I fail. We make mistakes. We fall short of God’s glory and plan for our lives. However, we are creatures who live in time. In time everything changes constantly, which allows you and I to change too! Now, I don’t pretend to know what eternity will be like, whether there will be any perception of time at all is in question. However, it is difficult to consider how change could occur outside of time.

God is timeless, and God is unchanging. One of the primary attributes of the Self-Existent God is explained with the the Hebrew word aman, (the word Amen is related). It means true, reliable, permanent, and may also mean “believe” God is to be believed because he is trustworthy, faithful and true. 

Human beings are constantly changing because we are subject to time like everything in the created world. Heraclitus, a 5th Century BC Greek philosopher, famously said, “You cannot put your foot in the same river twice.” By this he meant that the current of the river is constantly moving, and everything is changing from moment to moment: water, mud, plants, fish. It is only by virtue of our capacity to perceive and think that we see things as stable. Again, Heraclitus stated that everything changes according to a process, plan or pattern, which he called “Logos”. 

Jesus is called the logos in John’s Gospel (see 1:1-5). Logos is the Greek term for “word”. The world moves according to God’s Word. There is an underlying plan, and Jesus Christ is the eternal embodiment of God’s thought and plan. You and I are changing, but we must choose to change according to the Lord’s plan.

If God had left Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they rebelled against him, the Lord would still have removed his presence, and the Garden would have become less and less a paradise, until it became as it has become, like the rest of earth. If Adam and Eve had been permitted to eat from the tree of Life after they had eaten from the forbidden tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. the result would have been that they, and we, would be petrified in a state of rebellion and separation from God forever.

Eternal Death

Imagine eternal existence apart from God, an unending experience of death. Some theologians hold that every human is in some way immortal and will live for eternity, either with God in heaven, or apart from God in hell. Each person will decide where the reside depending upon whether they choose to believe in and follow Christ, or reject him and follow their own self-will.

Only God Possesses Immortality

I am in agreement with other theologians and Bible interpreters who understand that human beings are inherently mortal. In fact, God alone possesses immortality as an intrinsic attribute of this being. 

“Now to the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17 & 6:16, ESV)

Death As Curse and Grace

By sending Adam and Eve out of Paradise and blocking the way to the Tree of Life with a flaming sword, the Lord provides us with a symbol of what fallen humanity lost, and an understanding that death is not merely another kind of life. Death is a curse, and it is a grace, an opportunity. If death is what we see, an end to this life, then there is also an end to sin, suffering and evil. Death is both a curse and a blessing because it means an end to the old fallen life, to corruption and sin and evil. To be sure, everyone will be judged for what they have and have not done in this life, and after a just penalty for sin is paid, an end to existence. 

Athanasius on Return to Non-existence 

“For the transgression of the commandment was making them turn back again according to their nature; and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption, to non-existence again….  but it was equally monstrous that beings which once had shared the nature of the Word should perish and turn back again into non-existence through corruption.”

Destruction Means Annihilation

So, what about judgment and hell then? Are we making the case that non-believers merely die and that ends it? The Bible doesn’t support such an idea. Jesus taught that all of the dead will be raised: some to life, others to hell. 

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28–29, ESV)

Justice will be done. The unbelieving will pay the penalty for their own sin, but that is all. No eternal life in torment.

Eternal Life Is a Gift from God

God offers the gift of eternal life to everyone who will believe in Jesus Christ and receive it. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Death presents an opportunity because it ends the old, making way for the new. “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Eternal life comes from God alone, through Christ. “This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:9–10)

You and I are not naturally immortal. However, when we believe in Jesus and keep his word we will transition from this life to the next without perceiving the horror of death. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death” (Romans 8:51). We have no reason to fear because Jesus defeated the devil, who had the power of death. 

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14–15, NIV)

John Stott on Hell

Why would God will to sustain the existence of those who reject him? Does this really bring him glory? I do not believe so. I fervently hope not. I am not alone. There is biblical evidence in support of the belief that the condemned will be ultimately destroyed, their existence blotted out forever. Revered theologian and Bible interpreter John RW Stott stated it this way.

“But will the final destiny of the impenitent be eternal conscious torment, ‘for ever and ever’, or will it be the total annihilation of their being?

… in order to answer this question, we need to survey the biblical material afresh and open our minds (not just our hearts) to the possibility that Scripture points in the direction of annihilation, and that ‘eternal conscious torment’ is a tradition which has to yield to the supreme authority of Scripture… If to kill is to deprive the body of life, hell would seem to be the deprivation of both physical and spiritual life, that is, an extinction of being… It cannot, I think, be replied that it is impossible to destroy human beings because they are immortal, for immortality—and therefore indestructibility—of the soul is a Greek not a biblical concept. According to Scripture only God possesses immortality himself (1 Tim. 1:17, 6:16); he reveals and gives it to us through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10)…

I do not dogmatise about the position to which I have come. I hold it tentatively… the ultimate annihilation of the wicked should at least be accepted as a legitimate, biblically founded alternative to their eternal conscious torment.”

Justice Requires an End

It is because I believe that eternal life is a gift not a right or an inherent part of human nature that I agree with Stott and others, like Edward Fudge who has made the point in a more dogmatic fashion. God alone is immortal. God cast Adam and Eve from the Garden to prevent eternal existence apart from him. The curse of death is the end of the life of rebellion. God is just. He will judge and repay those who reject his offer of forgiveness in Christ, exactly as their sins deserve, not more. Stott says, “I question whether ‘eternal conscious torment’ is compatible with the biblical revelation of divine justice,” and I would agree. In fact, I would add that it is antithetical to the nature of God as love.

Haven’t you ever considered how unjust it is to burn someone forever and ever in an indestructible body who has simply lived the typical self-centered life full of petty lusts, lies, cursing and anger? Haven’t you ever questioned the preacher who loudly proclaimed that a little white lie is the same as murder to God? Ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, even the most innocuous venal sins may be cause for someone to be separated from God, but that is because of the overriding sin of selfish pride that stands behind petty sins. Every sin is motivated by rebellion, unbelief, or  idolatry. The liar, and all the rest who proudly refuse to repent, will indeed be in hell. 

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Revelation 20:8). 

God is just. He is the one who laid down that punishment should be “eye for eye and tooth for tooth,” which is actually a limitation to the punishment that may be imposed for a crime. 

There is a human tendency to “pay them back and then some.” We think, “I’ll teach him to mess with me!” The result is the kind of injustice and foolishness in our culture and our courts today. Someone who is caught with a pound of marijuana may be serving the same sentence as those who have committed rape, armed robbery or murder. Our culture is ruled by adolescent emotionalism. Offending someone often results in gross overreaction. Someone cuts another person off in traffic and a road rage incident results in severe injury or murder. A baseball player flips his bat in one game and is beaned by a pitcher in another game; the same player repays the injury by sliding into an unrelated player, who repays him with a punch in the jaw. 

<Isaiah’s prophecy to his people might well apply to us today.

Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. My people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path.” (Isaiah 3:12, NIV)>

In Deuteronomy the Law prohibited degrading or shaming someone with excessive punishment. 

“then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight.” 

(Deuteronomy 25:2–3, ESV)

Jesus himself taught that in judgment people will be punished commensurate with their crimes. Additionally, the more truth a person knows, the more accountable they are to God.

The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:47–48, NIV)

James warned: “Let not many of you become teachers, for we shall incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1).

God is not like human beings. 

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV)

God is just. God is love. Trust God to do what is right.

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18, NIV)

This Is Our Time to Change

You do not get to go where you want or do whatever you want after death. You don’t get into heaven on your own terms. Those who go to hell aren’t going to a party with all of their drinking buddies.

We have this time on earth to decide to follow God or not. This is our time for change. Between now and the day of death, I have choices and changes to make. Time allows that to happen in a way eternity may not. The situation in which we find ourselves allows for mistakes to be made and grants us opportunity to recover from them. We may make a choice, then change our minds, which makes what the Bible calls repentance possible. Because of Christ we live in an economy of grace. God offers forgiveness for bad choices if we admit to being wrong. Thus, God allows us to repent of (turn away from) all our rebellion, and overcome all of our self-centeredness and unbelief before we face Him in judgment.

“He who conceals his sins will not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them will find mercy” (Proverbs 28:19).

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all righteousness” (1 John 1:9).

God Is Faithful and Just to Forgive

Please note, “God is faithful and just to forgive us”; that is not true because we deserve forgiveness, but because the Son of God received the just punishment our sins deserve when he suffered and died on the cross. God is faithful to his promise to save anyone who will call out to Jesus. “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).  When I receive Christ, I receive his righteous life. God looks at me as though I had never sinned. 

“He who knew no sin became our sin that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

“For Christ died for sins, once for all, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us back to God, having been put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18, NASB). 

Robed In Righteousness 

Those who believe and receive this good news also receive the Holy Spirit. They are cleansed by Christ’s blood and robed in his righteousness. 

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10, NIV)

Restored to the Tree of Life

The result is, they are granted access once again to the Tree of Life. 

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14, NIV)

If we know Christ, death is a grace because it brings an end to this life of separation. If we do not, then it is the curse God promised it would be, permanently separating us from his presence and from eternal life.

Will You Change?

You live in the dimension of time, which permits you to change. Will you choose to do so? Change your thinking; change your ways. Put your faith completely in Jesus Christ and obey his teaching. Prepare now for eternal life with God in heaven. Do it while you still have time.

Trust no future, howe’er pleasant!

  Let the dead Past bury its dead!

Act, act in the living present!

  Heart within, and God o’erhead!

    Lives of great men all remind us

  We can make our lives sublime,

And departing, leave behind us

  Footprints on the sands of time.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, (A Psalm of Life)

God’s Will Is for His People to be Holy

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”
(1 Thessalonians 4:3–8, ESV)

This is an admonition for us. Christians must be holy, and that is a process. In the sexually immoral culture of 1st century Rome it was necessary to emphasize that holiness includes sexual purity. So important was this issue that it was one of the few prohibitions contained in the circular letter from the Jerusalem Counsel, a formal meeting that was called to determine the relationship between Gentiles and the Mosaic Law.
“But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses. The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. (Acts 15:5-6, ESV)
James, the half-brother of Jesus and Pastor of the Jerusalem church, came up with the language in the brief circular letter of response.
“Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:19–20, ESV)
Here we find one prohibition to avoid offending primarily the Gentiles: “abstain from things polluted by idols.” Then there are two prohibitions against practices that would offend the Jews: “abstain from what has been strangled and from blood.” Finally, there is the prohibition against sexual sin, which was more prevalent among Gentiles, but equally relevant to Jews, and to us.

Learn to control your *vessel, which is to say your body, especially what we today would call your sexuality. We must control the body and the sexual urges of an old, fallen nature. If you belong to Jesus, then it is not your body any longer, even if you continue in management over it.
“The body must be treated as the Lord’s property and not used as a means of wanton self-indulgence.” (Bruce)

“not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God”

Those who pursue sexual immorality do so to the exclusion of knowing or experiencing God. Pursuing sexual passion is often the surrogate for the indwelling intimacy of knowing God, which is why it is common among those who don’t have a relationship with Christ. It is the highest form of pleasure that they know. Hedonism is the pursuit of pleasure, and many in the world are hedonists. Sexual desire consumes many people, so much so that they are willing to risk reputation, career, family and even their lives to pursue and fulfill it. Yet it is insatiable. It is never fulfilled. Only those with the Holy Spirit’s wisdom will be capable of accepting this truth and denying themselves in order to become what God wills them to be: pure and holy vessels, filled to overflow with God’s love and life.

So, how could someone who has experienced the power and presence of the Holy Spirit turn back to worthless desires when infinite joy is offered to them in Christ? As a pastor and a former youth pastor I’ve watched many young people trade their supposed commitment to Christ for sexual immorality. The result is a once spiritually sensitive and alive young person hardens their heart and becomes dead inside. They have little or no interest in Jesus. It’s all in what you choose to believe, or who you choose to believe in. Do you believe God’s word or your feelings? Do you believe in Jesus Christ or yourself?

“that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter”

We must not take advantage of another. In context this refers first to adultery, which is taking advantage of one or both partners in a marriage covenant. Let us say a man is having an affair with a willing woman. In so doing, he wrongs her husband. However, he also enables his illicit sexual partner to commit sin. A follower of Jesus encourages and empowers others to overcome sin; he is not a stumbling block into it.

Sexual morality distinguished the church from the Roman world.
“Christianity from the outset has sanctified sexual union within marriage (as in Judaism); outside marriage it was forbidden. This was a strange notion in the pagan society to which the gospel was first brought; there various forms of extramarital sexual union were tolerated and some were even encouraged.” (FF Bruce, Word Biblical Commentary)
Over time, Christians changed the sexual ethos in the Roman Empire, as they did in other important areas such as respect for life and protection of the weak. It was a common practice in Rome to simply leave a baby exposed to die if the parents didn’t want it.

In America and around the world today, it is acceptable to kill a baby in the womb. This is an extension of our value of personal freedom, pleasure and profit. I don’t want my freedom limited. I don’t want to take responsibility for the life I’ve pro-created. So, I terminate it. If Christians obey the commandment of God regarding sex, they will not find themselves in a situation where a sexual partner determines that the life of a baby must be taken in order to preserve their freedom or reputation.

We must not take on the sexual ethos of our dying culture. It has gone back, like a dog to it’s vomit, and like a pig to the mud-hole, to immoral practices, which Christian influence had brought into disfavor for nearly two millennia. Today, some churches are  embracing sexual immorality and gender confusion as a norm to be accepted, even blessed. Re-read the biblical text from 1st Thessalonians above. We are to be holy, separate, different than our culture. We follow the design of our Creator, which Jesus himself affirmed.
“He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”” (Matthew 19:4–6, ESV)

Therefore, sexual immorality is not God’s creation, and this includes homosexuality and manifold transgender identifications. That said, biblical Christians must be merciful, gentle and understanding when communicating, “speaking the truth in love” to those who identify or are struggling with issues of sexual confusion. Understanding and grace don’t  constitute a change in sexual ethics however. We have no right to reorder God’s design of male and female, marriage and sexual expression in order to make those who struggle feel better. When it concerns sexual practice, the follower of Jesus must stand out as an example of moral integrity and sexual purity.
“…that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Phil. 2:25, ESV)

“The Lord is the avenger”

Notice, there is a coming consequence for sexual immorality. Even those in the ancient world were wise enough to fear the consequences of adultery. Consider the cases of Abraham and his son Isaac. First, there was Abraham, who told the Egyptians that his wife was his sister to keep them from killing him and taking her. Pharaoh indeed took Sarah into his harem. In consequence, the people of Pharaoh’s house were subject to a plague. When the Egyptian ruler discovered that Sara was actually married to Abraham, he admonished the patriarch: “So Pharaoh called Abram and said, ‘What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.’” (Genesis 12:18–19, ESV)
Like father, like son. Years later Isaac pulled the same trick with another local king. This ruler feared God and admonished Isaac about the lie, then warned everyone to stay away from Rebecca under penalty of death (see Genesis 26:6-11).

The question is, why have we become so foolish? Why is adultery becoming increasingly acceptable with the advent of websites that promote it, so called open marriages and the like? The answer is simple, many in our world no longer fear God.

There are consequences for sexual immorality: sickness, disease, depression, spiritual insensitivity and a hardened heart towards God. These all come upon the sexual sinner. Then she must stand before God to give an answer, and that is what should truly inspire fear. Judgment Day is coming, and we must all give an answer for what we’ve done in the body, good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10, Rom. 14:10, Heb. 9:27). This fact alone should cause even the most sexually profligate, calloused person to fear God and apply self-control, regardless of feelings or identifications.

This applies all the more to those who would molest or take advantage of someone weaker, even if the weaker partner goes along with sexual activity. It is always wrong for an adult to be involved with a minor sexually. The teacher has power over the student, even if they are not that far apart in age. A 20-something has power over a teenager, even if she is 16 or 17. Willingness may quickly turn to disgust, shame and anger. Sex leaves a permanent mark, and this is especially true when the person exposed to it is young and inexperienced.

It is also wrong to take advantage of someone who is financially needy by offering money for sex. The person may go along, but the one paying or bribing them has the greater guilt, since he is also a stumbling block.
Jesus said, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:6, ESV)

We each have pet sins. We have weaknesses. Sexual immorality is often that sin or weakness. However, as Christians we are called to represent Jesus. As the Apostle Paul states elsewhere, “Let not sexual immorality be named among you as is proper for God’s saints… or “don’t let a hint of immorality be seen among you” (see Eph. 5:3). Instead, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh” (Rom. 13:14).

“God has not called us to impurity but in sanctification”

A former member of this church made a confession on Facebook some time ago. He stated that he now wanted to pursue a sexually immoral lifestyle, even though continuing to identify himself as a follower of Christ. I responded that the two pursuits are mutually exclusive (to negative reactions from some of his friends). Here we have evidence of what I said: God has not called us to impurity. You may feel an urge to follow some desire, some lifestyle, but that urge is not God calling you. It is the flesh, the world and the enemy of our souls pulling you away from God and His purpose for you.

At its root, impurity is not just sexual in nature: it is a divided loyalty, a divided mind. God has not called anyone to be what he clearly prohibits in Scripture. We live in a fallen world. I have no doubt that someone may be deeply enthralled and inured by sexual immorality. Calling it a “sexual orientation” is a redefinition that makes it seem natural. Sex is a powerful motivator that reinforces behavior associated with it. Those who practice sexual immorality are shaped by the practice, even if that is private in nature. They bend their minds and emotions toward a delusion, then believe that it is real, normal and even created by God. God did not create, nor does he ordain what is perverse and inordinate according to his revealed will, and many times obvious in nature. God has not called you to commit adultery. God has not called you to follow homosexual desire, or to pursue a homosexual relationship. God has not called you to move in with your boyfriend or girlfriend and live as though you were married. He has called you to holiness, and that means you must be different than our dying, disordered, anti-Christ culture. You must be different than your friends and colleagues. You must be like Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will give you the conviction and the confidence to do so, unless you push him away…

“Whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”

The Spirit of God is holy, and those who belong to Christ are inhabited by God’s Holy Spirit. There is a fundamental incompatibility between pursuing sexual sin—of any kind: homosexual expression, adultery, fornication—and being led by the Holy Spirit. When you go on in sin–although our culture accepts and celebrates it–you grieve the Holy Spirit. You are hardening your heart against God and his leadership. This is a very dangerous game. The Holy Spirit gently convicts you of sin, but you harden yourself to this and excuse your behavior as being part of your nature, justify the sin as acceptable; in fact, you may even justify the desire or tendency as coming from God. God created me this way. No, friend. Now you’ve moved into the most dangerous territory, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, where you call right what the Bible teaches and the Spirit convicts is wrong.

I believe God is merciful. I don’t believe making mistakes, sexual or otherwise, disqualifies you from heaven. However, I read soberly passages like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 wherein the Apostle Paul clearly states that those who practice sin will not inherit heaven.
“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.”
(1 Corinthians 6:9–10, NKJV)

From Fatness to Fitness, a Journey

It started on November 8th, and today is February 26th. I was sick and tired of my gut and my “snowman body,” which had accumulated over four years. In early November I weighed around 170 with 19% body fat (according to my smart scale, which may not measure body fat with great accuracy but was my gauge all along). My last weigh-in showed 147.4 pounds. I used calipers and found between 8.38% to 10.12% body fat, depending on the method of calculating. I dropped from a 33” to a 30” waist.

Previous to this I had worked hard and effectively to arrive at the same point. However, everything accumulates over time: fatness or fitness. It all depends on what you’re doing, or not doing in the case of decreasing levels of discipline and activity. I didn’t decide to start being unhealthy one day; in fact, I never stopped going to the gym. Everything happened gradually.

I think I did make a decision to gain some weight, but I wanted it to be muscle. However, I broke my clavicle and was unable to perform any bench presses. This is demoralizing for a guy. I continued to work out, but not very hard, and finally averaged only once or twice a week. I continued to eat a fairly healthy diet, and I didn’t overeat. In spite of this, I gained fat and lost muscle mass. Four years ago I weighed 149, so I gained 21 pounds, or five pounds per year. Had I continued on this gradual increase I would have eventually become obese, and likely struggled with type-two diabetes, which runs on my father’s side of the family.

My vanity kicked in when I stared at myself in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. Coinciding with this was my decision to return to teaching karate’. I have been an instructor for over 30 years, but had quit teaching or even practicing. I didn’t realize how out of condition I had become. We deceive ourselves when we get older, thinking that everything is pretty much the same this year as it was last, or five or ten years ago. Unlike young people, who naturally grow, when we hit about the mid-twenties we begin to decline, slowly at first, but everything accumulates over time. If you’ve not chosen a disciplined lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating you may be in your late twenties (even younger) and already show significant signs of decreasing fitness.

The last time I started, it was a more difficult journey out of the slough of fitness despondency in which I had found myself. I am happy I didn’t wait any longer to get back into shape. It could have been significantly more difficult to do at this point if I had not already built a fitness foundation. As we get older we have decreased physical capabilities and increased liabilities. In spite of this, we may not realize how far removed we are from the halcyon days of our youth. The result? I go to the gym and attempt to do what I used to 10 or 20 years ago, and discover I cannot. Disappointment may stop me there, or soreness and injury may slow me to a stop later. Then I quit, become depressed, eat more, care less, and put myself at risk for serious physical problems. I learned to meet myself where I am (as opposed to expecting I will be where I used to), and keep moving forward. This motivational strategy has worked to keep me going each time.

I really like being skinny! I have more energy. I look better in my clothes. Since I’ve been going to the gym regularly I’m stronger. Since I’ve been running my cardio-vascular system is healthier and I have more energy. I have more self-discipline in other areas of my life too. Temptation is tough. I was at a birthday celebration at an Asian buffet two days ago and our room was right next to the dessert section. All those beautiful little cakes, cookies and tiramisus were calling to me. I resisted! Why? I’d just purchased new jeans and pants a few hours earlier with waist sizes between 29 and 30. I’m not going to keep myself from fitting into those new clothes! I want to be lean, look good, feel good, have energy and have no self-consciousness about a pooching belly. Half of that is vain, but it’s honest.

In the end, I’m a Christian and a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus. I’m called to offer my body to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, which is my reasonable and spiritual offering in worship. God is worth more than a feeble sacrifice. I want to present a clean, healthy body for him to use. If I am going to serve the Lord by teaching karate’, then I need to be in top condition. If I’m going to keep away from sickness, and disease like Alzheimer’s, then I have to discipline myself to exercise, eat healthy, as well as reading and writing regularly. If I’m going to defend myself or my congregation against the attack of some violent individual, then I want to be as trained and fit as possible to do so. My body belongs to God; it is his temple. I want him to be pleased. That’s worship. That’s the best motive of all.

Billy Graham

Billy-Graham-Nixon-Funeral-2Billy Graham has passed on to see the Savior he faithfully served and spoke of for so many years. I don’t believe any evangelist has had the same impact, but I pray God will raise up another. What would that require? One word: integrity.

Billy Graham was never involved in a scandal. Every time I ever heard him speak, it was of Jesus, who died and rose to save us from our sin. I watched Billy Graham preach the funeral of Richard Nixon. Seated in front of him were five living presidents, all of whom he knew and most of whom he had counseled. Billy Graham preached the Gospel, not politics, not personal opinion, not a people pleasing eulogy, just Jesus. That’s what it will take to bring about a revival in this tragically bent and backslidden nation of ours. May God raise up another Billy Graham.

When I was a young teenager I was hurting, lost and had little hope. I had been exposed to the Gospel, and that is likely due to earlier influence from Billy Graham on the culture in which I was raised. If I were growing up today, that influence would be absent. However, it took more than a generalized cultural exposure to Jesus to save me from my sin and self. I needed to hear the Gospel, clearly and plainly proclaimed.

I was watching television in my bedroom, must have been 13 or 14 years old. Billy Graham was on, preaching one of his many crusades. At the end of the message he gave the invitation to make a decision to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He invited people in the stadium where he stood to join him by coming from their seats to the stage. However, on this night Billy Graham did something else, which I don’t remember seeing him do on other occasions when I watched his crusades. What he asked was directed to those of us watching the telecast, and it seems a little silly, but my willingness to join his invitation demonstrates just how much I wanted Jesus in my life. Billy Graham said (something to the effect of), “If you’re watching the telecast from home and would like to put your faith in Jesus, why don’t you get up and place your hand on the television as you pray with me.” I knelt in front of my TV, placed my hand on the screen, and prayed the sinner’s prayer with Billy Graham. I remember it clearly.

During this time I was also exposed to the preaching of Richard Jackson of the North Phoenix Baptist Church. That too was on television. I prayed the prayer with Pastor Jackson on numerous occasions and eventually went to his church and publicly committed my life to Jesus Christ. The public commitment, walking the aisle, going down to the front like all those people did at the Billy Graham crusade, that was important. Jesus said, “If you confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father in heaven, but if you deny me, I will deny you” (Matthew 10:31-32). That was the final step in the process of my decision to believe in Christ. I took it on Easter Sunday, 40 years ago, and I’ve never gone back.

“I have decided to follow Jesus.

I have decided to follow Jesus.

I have decided to follow Jesus.

No turning back, no turning back.”

It all started when I heard the Gospel plainly preached by Billy Graham. Simply stated, this is that Gospel. Jesus Christ came to earth, lived the life that you and I are supposed to but don’t, then died on the cross to pay the price for our sins and prove God’s love. Then Jesus rose from the grave on the third day, and now he offers the gift of eternal life to anyone who will decide to put faith in him. Realize, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23 & 6:23a). We see evidence of this in our own lives and all around us today. Jesus came to offer life. In fact, he promised: “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come to offer a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10). So, even though sin brings death, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). Do you want that gift? Will you put your trust in Jesus who died and rose to offer it? “that if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Saved from what? Saved from death and eternal separation from God and love and life in hell. All you have to do is believe. Call out to Jesus. “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Will you make the decision today to believe in Jesus? Speak to him in prayer right now. You can say something like this:

Dear Lord Jesus,

I am a sinful person, and I need you to forgive me and save me.

I believe you died on the cross for my sins. I believe you rose from the dead.

I open my heart and accept you as my Savior.

Jesus Christ, you are Lord. Take charge of my life right now.

Amen

Thank you Lord Jesus for saving me. Thank you for sending your servant. Please send another to this generation. Send revival. We need it desperately. We need to return to you.

What Is Love?

Apropos.

deorl

What is love? Valentine’s Day makes this a pertinent question.  My favorite writer on the subject didn’t get married until he was 58, and even then it was for charitable, not romantic, reasons. 

C. S. Lewis married Joy Gresham in a government office to provide her with British citizenship.  A few months later Joy was diagnosed with cancer, and her condition deteriorated rapidly.  Jack, as Lewis was known by his friends, chose to love and care for Joy.  The feeling between them grew, and nearly a year after the marriage of convenience there was a hospital wedding presided over by a clergyman from the Church of England.  “Till death do we part” was a potent reality.  Joy left the hospital to convalesce.  It was not until this point that she moved in with Jack.  God worked and Joy’s cancer went into remission.  Jack and Joy lived happily for three more…

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