Monday, May 30, 2011

Remember on Memorial Day

The Seventh Sola wishes everyone a happy and safe Memorial Day. And a big thank-you to U.S. troops serving in various locations around the world, plus here at home. You are loved and appreciated, and in our prayers.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

More Tattoo Observations

I'm probably stepping in a mine field here, but I've mentioned it before and it's in the news again. So I'll exercise my right to express myself on a very irritating subject.

I'm getting really, really, REALLY tired of the tattoo fad that's been plaguing America in recent years. In my childhood, you might see one on the arm of a man who'd been in the service, or on a motorcycle gang-banger. However, the practice was frowned on by most people. Christians and churches especially frowned on the practice, as God clearly expressed His feelings about it in Scripture . . . You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD (Leviticus 19:28).

One reason for this Mosaic Law commandment was the fact that Israel (the people of God) were to be set apart and holy, distinct from the pagan, unbelieving nations around them. The nations around Israel engaged in all sorts of revolting practices, including child sacrifice, body-cutting (check out the scene in 1 Kings with Elijah on Mount Carmel for an example) sexual sin and a host of other fun.

Christians are not under the Mosaic Law, but I think that God's distaste for this ought to carry some weight. If God is anything, He is consistent. I saw in the news recently that teen singer Justin Bieber subjected himself to the tattoo needle on his midriff. But he had the word "Jesus" tatted on himself, so I guess that makes it okay. He'll live to regret it.

I have a very hard time understanding the muddled thought processes of people who think they're bringing God glory by doing things He has forbidden. They will argue this to the end degree and use all sorts of clever little twisting arguments to justify what they do. It's sad. The bodies God gave us are remarkable, beautiful creations. Why we think we have to carve them up, draw on them and make ourselves look like cave paintings is beyond me.

Even leaving the moral/biblical/obedience/witness/example considerations aside, it just looks hideous. Especially on a woman. And wait until those who are covered from skull to toe in tattoo ink begin to age and wrinkle. What's hideous now will then be nauseating then.

My hope in writing this is to hopefully stop some young skull full of mush from disfiguring their God-given bodies before it's too late. I can't do anything about those who have already taken the step. When they live to regret it, tattoo removal is a long, expensive and painful process. To be clear, I am not saying having tattoos will keep believers out of heaven. If I've stepped on your toes, my motivation has not been to carelessly insult you or pain you. I just hope I can help keep at least one person from ruining their body for the rest of their life.

In closing, I've often wondered why we've seen the sudden surge in tattooing over the past several years. I have to wonder if it isn't connected with the last days and the general spiritual deception predicted before the return of Christ. The Antichrist will one day cause . . . all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six (Revelation 13:16-18). We've got a cute little fad, with some even putting tattoos on their infants. That means desensitization toward the practice. A whole generation ready, willing and able to take a mark on themselves without giving it even a second thought.

Speculation, of course, but plausible. And sad.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Obama Caught Red Handed on Gun Control

I'm getting used to Barack Obama being underhanded about things, and this after claiming that he'd be the most "transparent" president and administration in American history.

Yeah, right. Take a look at this little report. Obama tells the anti-gunners that he's working on it, but "under the radar."

Not anymore, Bub. People, we've got to come out swinging on this, and make both Congress and the administration know that we will NOT give up this right. Period. The Supreme Court finally acknowledged that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own a weapon, and this right shall not be infringed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Doubling Down on Error

It looks like Harold Camping has broken his silence about his failed apocalyptic vision. Instead of repenting of his errors, he is doubling down. Now he says he was "off by five months." He might as well have taken a Xerox machine and copied his 1994 failed pronouncement, after which he claimed that he made a "mathematical error."

Sad, and beyond sad. This is the end result of what happens when someone styling themselves as a spiritual leader has no accountability. What's even sadder is that there will still be people who blindly follow.

None of this should really surprise the truly biblically astute. We know that in the last days, deception will be rampant and that Satan always tries to counterfeit the true. There will be people who blow off all talk of God's judgment because of false teachers like Harold Camping. This actually helps add fuel to the general rebellion of the age against God. The Apostle Peter even warned us about it . . .

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells
(2 Peter 3:3-13).

While many read that passage and focus predominately on the hellfire and damnation part of it, there is something else that should jump out. If judgment does not fall today, be thankful for God's mercy and patience. God's timing is not our timing. His ways are higher than our ways. If He decides not to push the button today, it is because of His patience, not willing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance.

Make no mistake. The time finally came when God shut the door to the ark. There is a time coming when the Lord will indeed catch His bride away and bring judgment on a wicked world. But the times and epochs are not for us to know. We are to watch, pray, and occupy until He comes.

Too bad Harold can't grasp the concept.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Church is Still the Church!

Fallout from the Harold Camping Debacle

In reading some of this material from Redeemer Broadcasting, I began reflecting on my own time with Harold Camping's Family Radio network back in the early 1980s. It wasn't all that long -- only a few months -- but I will always value the time simply because of the experience, and because I began friendships that have endured to this day.

Even then, some of us who worked at KFRN (Family Radio's Long Beach, CA, station) had our doubts about Harold, but back then he was largely orthodox in his theology. His eschatology then was amillennial (in keeping with general Reformed Church theology), and I did not agree with that. He also held an overly harsh view of charismatics and Pentecostals. He believed they were following "another gospel" and were "adding to God's Word," thereby adding to themselves the plagues of Scripture. Needless to say, I didn't agree with that either.

Back then, Family Radio had some fine programming. It was there that I first discovered Dr. John MacArthur. I used to manually put his tapes up on the machine and play them on air. But my time as a Family Radio staffer came to an end, and I left in October, 1983. My desire to be in Christian broadcasting had not left me, but I could not get full time work at KFRN, and I was commuting a 120-mile round trip for a part time job.

I returned to full time secular broadcasting again, and stayed there until May, 1988, when I joined the staff of Christian stations WQFL/WGSL in Rockford, Illinois. I left full time radio for different ministry in August 1993, but have always kept my radio contacts alive.

As I look back on it now, I believe it was God's providence that removed me from Family Radio before Harold went astray. I also note with interest that Harold's growing doctrinal errors (according to the link above) led to his departure from a Reformed church in Alameda, California. That happened in May of 1988 - the same month I re-entered Christian broadcasting in answer to a long-standing prayer. Isn't that something?

So what can I say on reflection? Sadly, Harold has been shamed and disgraced. I hope and pray he repents of his error. Whether he does or not, God is still sovereign, and His church is NOT dead. The Lord's church is still His bride, and He will return to receive her to Himself in His own good time.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Scenery Lovers, Beware!

If you've followed my blog for a long time, you'll know of my love for Arkansas' Buffalo River country. The scenery is breathtaking, the river pristine and beautiful, and the main route through there (Arkansas Highway 7) is one of the most scenic drives in the United States as far as I am concerned.

Enter the Arkansas Highway Department. KAIT in Jonesboro, AR, reports that they're wanting to do a little digging on Route 7 between Jasper and the Buffalo River, adding passing lanes and lessening the grade for "safety reasons."

Now, hold on. Admittedly, Route 7 can get very crooked and steep. But that is part of its charm, and if one is following the normal rules of the road, should pose no problem to most drivers. If you're driving through there like a bat out of Hades, perhaps a plunge off a cliff might be a good lesson. (Okay, I really don't want that to happen, but you get what I'm saying, don't you?) The highway is the size of a normal state highway, perhaps a shade narrower, but not by much. I'm glad it's not a four-lane because too much mountain, wood and rock would have to be shaved away.

If you want to get a good look at how a zealous highway department can ruin a pretty drive, take U.S. Route 67 in Missouri between Farmington and Poplar Bluff. The Missouri Highway Department decided they wanted to speed up traffic, so they got out their bulldozers a couple of years ago and went to work. I drove through there while the work was in progress, and I was aghast. They've ruined it.

It's funny that I would write a post like this, because I am not a radical environmentalist as some define it. I'm not the extreme type that wants to kill capitalism, snuff out all development and considers snail darters on a higher plane than human beings. I believe there needs to be a proper balance, and Scripture mandates that we care for God's creation. That can be done in a way that balances human need and our surroundings. Having said that, there also comes a time for some human responsibility.

There are signs all along Route 7 that say "CROOKED AND STEEP NEXT ___ MILES. DRIVE WITH CARE." Anyone taking that drive one time would know that you don't go roaring through there at 70 miles an hour. Yes, it can be annoying when you get behind a semi that can't go more than 10 mph climbing a hill, but you'll get around them eventually. Chill out.

Thankfully, the Buffalo National River corridor itself is federally protected (at least for now). But I fear that one of the country's prettiest drives is about to get buzz-sawed unless people speak up.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Big O's Big Blunder

Well, our fearless leader has done it this time. President Obama reversed course on decades of American foreign policy and called for Israel to retreat to its 1967 borders.

As you can see from the map pictured, neither the UN partition plan or the 1967 borders leaves much in the middle of Israel for defense purposes. A 5 to 8-mile-wide strip of land is — as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in the linked article — indefensible. Those remarks were echoed a short time ago by former Israeli ambassador Dore Gold. And they are quite correct.

It will be interesting to see what fallout there is from this decision here in America. My personal position is that it is Obama's biggest mistake thus far as president, and this country will live to rue the day if this idiotic action isn't reversed.

My stand with Israel is no secret, although I haven't always agreed with everything an Israeli government has done. My stand with Israel is not a purely political either, as you can well imagine from reading this blog. It's also theological. Deeply theological. God made promises to Israel that will be fulfilled, and nations harm Israel at their peril. Yes, yes . . . I know my amillennial friends disagree with this, and I'm not going to argue the pre-mill vs. amill thing here. Even leaving that out of the equation, I would think that most Bible-believing Christians would have concerns about throwing our strongest Middle East ally and only true democracy under the bus, or more likely, under the weight of further Islamic terrorism.

But Mr. Obama has done it now. It only remains to be seen if the American people (not to mention Congress) will force a reversal in course.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

More on Camping and the End

Since Family Radio's Harold Camping is saying with certainty that the world will end on Saturday of this week (or at least the beginning of the end and the Rapture of the church), I thought I should make a couple of more remarks on this subject.

First, I am certain that we'll still be here on Sunday morning and Monday morning. The Lord doesn't appreciate date-setters, as we've noted before. I saw how Harold twists Mark 13:32 about no one knowing the date or the hour, and it simply amazes me. I think Harold the civil engineer needs to discuss this with people who are actually Bible scholars, and whether the alleged lack of a capital letter denotes that Jesus was not talking of Himself during his time of voluntary earthly limitation.

I'd like to link you to another thought-provoking blog post by Dan Phillips (Biblical Christianity). He makes an important distinction that I had not considered before, i.e. Harold is more properly called a "false teacher" than a false prophet." The only quibble I'd have with that (and I am heading back there to post the question now) is are we talking about predictive prophecy or someone who claims to be "forthtelling" God's truth? There is the prophetic role of the preacher which has nothing to do with predictive prophecy.

Whatever the case, Harold Camping is indeed a false teacher. And Dan is right on another point. Even after Saturday and Sunday roll by, there will still be people who will hang on every word.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Deconstructing Harold Camping

Allow me to tip my hat this evening to fellow apologist Dr. James White, who recently published this article on Harold Camping's false teachings.

Harold Camping is the president of Family Radio, based in Oakland, California. I actually worked for one of the Family Radio stations at one time eons ago (1982-1983) in Long Beach, California. Even then, Harold's theology was a bit suspect to me in some areas, but most of Family Radio's programming at that time was pretty good, and included pastor/teachers such as Dr. John MacArthur and others.

Sadly, back in the 1990s, Harold really wigged out, as James' article demonstrates. When I say "sadly," I mean it. The Second Coming of Christ is a key doctrine of the church. We are commanded to watch for it and wait expectantly by none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. The Lord also said that no man would know the date or hour of His return. To say otherwise is to call the Lord a liar. That ought to be a warning in and of itself, but millions are being taken in by Harold's false date-setting, already shown to be erroneous when he blew it the first time in 1994.

But how like the enemy, isn't it? To be a counterfeit, there has to be something real or true to be counterfeited. Jesus is coming again. I personally believe the time is soon. But when He does return, it won't be by Harold Camping's timetable or anyone else's. That date and time has been determined by God alone.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sodom, Gomorrah and the PC Pulpit

I suppose it was only a matter of time.

Yes, the Presbyterian Church USA has decided to ordain practicing homosexuals to the clergy. You can look at the entire news article by clicking the hyperlink, but I am excerpting a clip below that will serve to illustrate our problem and my end point . . .

"They're making this change amid a larger cultural change. General public opinion on gay rights is trending pretty dramatically in the liberal direction," said Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology, religion and divinity at Duke University.
"There is no practical reason to do it," such as a shortage of ministers, Chaves said. "It's a matter of principle on both sides."
Chaves said his father, a voting member of his presbytery, was persuaded to vote for it due to the vitriol of opponents.
Other mainline Protestant denominations in the United States to drop their prohibitions on gay clergy are the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church. The move by The Episcopal Church has opened rifts in the American church and in the larger Anglican Communion to which it belongs.
The United Methodist Church, a mainline Protestant denomination, continues to wrestle over the issue. The United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church broke new ground in the mid-1950s when both faiths approved the ordination of women.

A larger cultural change. General public opinion. Because of vitriol of opponents. As Arte Johnson used to say on Laugh In, "Interesting. Very, very interesting." I gather that you have noticed the absence of something pretty glaring. What does God Himself have to say on the subject through His Word and the testimony of the church throughout 2,000 years of church history?

To these folks, God's opinion doesn't really matter. In the end, they will find out that His opinion matters very, very much!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Changing Ozarks

I came across this reflective article yesterday in the CC Headliner, an online compilation of newspaper stories from the Arkansas/Missouri Ozarks.

If you're like me and have connections in that region of the country, and have memories of "how things used to be," I think you'll find the article a little bittersweet. The part that bugs me the most is the line about how developers are gobbling up the land and pricing it out of reach for farmers and ranchers.

Yes, I know. Growling at developers seems a bit out of character for a conservative. But this conservative thinks the Ozark environment, rural character and laid-back lifestyle is worth conserving. The Missouri Highway Department has already ruined the most beautiful drive down there (U.S. 67 between Farmington and Poplar Bluff). I have little desire to see strip malls and blocks of condominiums dotting the mountainsides.

Whatever the case, they had best leave the Buffalo National River alone. That will get my water hot!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Shouting Stones

In the Gospel of Luke, the account is given of the Lord Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Take a peek with me briefly at Luke's relayal of events:

As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation”
(Luke 19:38-44).

The contrast always strikes me of the crowds shouting in jubilation, and the rather somber demeanor of the Lord. The people cheer, Jesus dismisses the cluck-clucking of the Pharisees, and then in the next verse, weeps over Jerusalem. As displayed by the unsettled Pharisees, they did not recognize the time of their visitation. Even the cheering crowd had the wrong idea entirely of what was happening. They were seeing what they expected to be a conquering King, not the Suffering Servant that the Lord would be in only a few short days. The Conquering King will return later, and in my humble opinion, the sooner the better.

Will the Lord be met by shouts of joy by His ready and waiting people, or will the stones have to do it?

Monday, May 02, 2011

Happy Birthday, KJV!

A brief post today to thank the Lord for the 400-year-old King James Version of the Bible. This article in the Christian Post covers the story, and there are plenty of articles out there to scour if you're interested.

I grew up reading and studying the KJV, and still love its grandeur and beautiful Elizabethan English. I rarely use it these days for personal devotions, nor do I teach out of it, as most of this generation finds it hard to wrap their minds around the older form of the English language. In this day and age, being able to communicate is paramount — especially with the short attention spans of anyone under 35. I find that a bit sad, as the KJV is one of the crowning achievements of English literature.

No doubt, my usage of another Bible version will get me in hot water with the loudly vocal KJV-only crowd, and that's an argument I refuse to have. (Take that warning seriously. I will immediately delete comments trying to draw me into it. There is plenty of scholarship out there dealing with that issue, and I won't waste blog space niggling over it here).

The New American Standard Version is my primary Bible these days, and it will continue to be. But today, let's give celebration and honor where honor is due, and glory to God for preserving His Word. Also, let me pose a challenge to the younger set. Pick up a copy of the King James and purpose to read and study it for a month or two. You'll find the archaic language difficult at first, but hang in there. You'll be enriched.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Revisiting Trodden Ground

In lieu of the weekend's Fundamentals post, I felt the need to repost something I put up three years ago in reference to defining the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As I noted in 2008, the subject comes up quite often when you're in an apologetics ministry. To resolve this issue, we need to look at the final authority on the matter -- the Word of God -- and see what it has to say.

When you're in a discussion with people belonging to pseudo-Christian groups, it's always a must to define terms. The reason this is important is that one side might mean one thing when they use a term, and the other side might mean something entirely different. While having a short, dictionary-type definition is certainly helpful, there are times when one has to build on a theological definition by taking the whole weight of Scripture on the issue being debated. Here, I will make concise definitions, and then build my case for those definitions with the Bible:

1. A Christian is one who has saving faith in the biblical Lord Jesus Christ. True saving faith has hallmarks set forth in Scripture.

2. A true Christian church is a fellowship of individual believers who have saving faith in the biblical Lord Jesus Christ. A true Christian church has certain hallmarks set forth in Scripture.

3. By Scripture, I mean the accepted canon of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, not including the Apocrypha, nor any other writings purported by others to be Scripture.

Now that the stage is set, what is meant by "saving faith?" From the testimony of Scripture, one is saved when one believes the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and believes not by mere mental assent, but believes from the heart. What about those who think they they are true believers with a zeal for God? The Apostle Paul addressed that issue in his letter to the Romans . . .

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart” --that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Romans 10:1-10).

Saving faith involves believing God when He tells us that we have no righteousness of our own. People who have saving faith in Christ realize that the only righteousness they have is imputed to them by the Lord. We are clothed in His righteousness, not our own. No amount of human effort can purchase our salvation. Only the shed blood of Christ on the cross can atone for our sins. Our salvation is by His mercy and grace, not any effort of our own. Any attempt to add human works to the Gospel will be rejected before the throne of God.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Now, what about works? If they're not efficacious for salvation, then what are they for? They are evidence that faith is genuine. They are a fruit of saving faith, not a cause of it. Here's what Scripture says about it . . .

But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18).

The passages in James on faith and works are often misunderstood, and therefore distorted from their true meaning. James is merely saying that works are evidence of saving faith. Works justify you before men, not God. If you say you have faith, but show no evidence of faith by how you live or what you do, there is reason to question whether your faith is genuine. If you'd like to read an in-depth treatment of what constitutes saving faith, this article by Dr. John MacArthur is very helpful.

What is the Gospel? Again, Scripture tells us. The only place in the New Testament where the Gospel is defined is in 1 Corinthians . . .

Now I make known to you, brethren, the Gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . . (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

That's it. That's the biblical Gospel as defined by the Apostle Paul in Scripture. The Lord Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and rose again from the dead for our justification. The warning to those who would preach a different Gospel is severe . . .

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a Gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a Gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9).

Note that Paul issues the warning twice. It's that important. There is only one Gospel revealed by God to His people. A true Gospel saves. A false Gospel damns.