Monday, October 31, 2016

The 'Wondrous Strange' Gospel

Back in 1998 I drove a few hours from my home in Gray, Maine to Rockland, Maine. The destination was the Farnsworth Library & Art Museum. The Farnsworth is a gorgeous museum tucked away on the rockbound coast. The New York Times wrote of the opening of the Farnsworth and the Wyeth collection this way,
Ever since N. C. Wyeth bought a place in Port Clyde, south of Rockland, in the early 1930's, the family has summered here, and Andrew Wyeth's painting ''Christina's World'' is, for many people, synonymous with Maine. The Wyeth center is attached to the Farnsworth Art Museum, a respected 50-year-old institution that focuses on artists connected with Maine and that has built one of the best small, specialized collections in the country.
They had advertised a collection I was dying to see. It was called, "Wondrous Strange: the Wyeth Tradition: Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, James Wyeth." You might or might not know that the three generations of Wyeths have a deep connection to Maine, and all three generations owe inspiration to Pyle. The generations went like this- Turn-of-the-last-century illustrator Howard Pyle; His student was N. C. Wyeth; N. C.’s student and son was Andrew Wyeth (wife Betsy); Andrew’s student and son was Jamie Wyeth. Betsy Wyeth chose the paintings and illustrations for the show I was driving to see, and named it Wondrous Strange.

The theme of the show is described from the catalog as, "an imaginative, often disquieting, dreamlike imagery." The catalog/book describes the paintings- "Demonic eyes shining out of a shadowy tree. A blind man staggering through a moonlit landscape. Disembodied, dark hands rising out of snow. A feral dog with one blue eye. Ambiguous shadows harboring human shapes."

The NY Times described it this way:
While Andrew and Jamie work in cooler times, there is no question that some of the images in ''Wondrous Strange'' are really weird. Andrew paints a corpse emerging from a block of melting ice and severed hands perched on ice floes; Jamie portrays himself with a pumpkin head and as a clownish scarecrow. He depicts lighthouses with the same fierce perspective that his grandfather used for Peg Leg Pete.
One of the paintings' raison d'etre is described by the artist Andrew Wyeth himself as ''to memorialize the emotions he felt upon viewing his father, N. C. Wyeth, in his casket.'' Yes. Weird indeed.

Here are a few of the paintings that were mounted in that long-ago show.

"Mischief Night," by Jamie Wyeth.

"Pumpkinhead Visits the Lighthouse," by Jamie Wyeth

Treasure Island illustration, NC Wyeth, 1911
One painting that was included in the show was this one, called simply, "Lighthouse", by Jamie Wyeth. This painting adorns the cover of the catalog/book.

It's eerie. There's nothing particularly ghoulish about the scene. In fact, many other paintings were more weird and fiendish. But there is something maniacal and out of control in this painting. The scudding clouds evoke thoughts of monstrous hands strangling the world, the fortress-like lighthouse, the wild hair, the jarring vestment of a wrinkled military uniform worn on a wild hill... the painting is a perspective of the world that's cracked, tilted, and agitated.

Perhaps that was the appeal- weirdness, agitation, and ghoulish specter of the disquieting. As I said, I'd driven a few hours and it was going to be a day trip, no less. After seeing the exhibition and having lunch with the friend accompanying me, we'd turn around and drive home. The attraction of the wondrous strange to the pagan heart is strong.

The title of the show comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet Act I Scene V-

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Returning from nostalgia, on Saturday I was listening to John Gerstner's Handout Apologetics this morning. The lesson was on The Gospel of God, lesson 10. Gerstner said of the Gospel,
The question remains, how do I know that this Jesus of Nazareth, a man among men, was more than a man among men? You ask me to believe He was actually God incarnate? When did anybody ever stretch the credulity of the human mind more than when it is asked to believe that that simple peasant of Galilee was God dwelling in human flesh?!
The mind of man couldn't think it up. To think a Person in the Godhead, would unite humanity with deity, and suffer in that humanity and yet as deity, survive the wrath of the Godhead, that is something that when you read about it in the Bible you know it has to be true, it couldn't be fictional. It is so strange, so wonderful so beyond human anticipation that it has to be a God-given reality.
Well, you know of course why I spent time writing about the Wyeth wondrous strange exhibition. The mind of man I'd thought was so imaginative in painting and illustrating eerie and strange scenes, is not so wondrous strange after all. The REAL wondrous strange is the reality of the Gospel, of a God whose act of sacrificial incarnation, suffering, and death is SO strange that man had never ever thought it up in any religion, before or since. The wondrous strange mind of God, who had planned this devastatingly necessary separation of His Son from the Godhead since before the foundation of the world, in merciful love and grace, is the strangest wonder of all. As Halloween proceeds through this day, please ponder the most strange philosophy, Horatio, ever not dreamt of in earth, but is real and true from heaven.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Did you know...about The Nazarene? Bible fact

We know that Jesus was from Galilee in a region called Nazareth. The region's largest city is Nazareth. People from that region were often dubbed Nazarenes. Geographic identifiers in the Bible are pretty common. Saul of Tarsus is one. Mary Magdalene might have been so named because she was likely from the town of Magdala. But did you know there might also be a prophecy associated with the name Nazarene? Faithlife Study Bible has more.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Two divorce cases: Summer White and Melissa Moore

Many Christians have a sin or an issue which they have a particular affinity against or former involvement with. Children of alcoholics tend to have an interest in the Christian discussion of teetotaling. People who had been deceived by charismatic doctrine tend to be focused on deception/purity in the church. And so on.

Mine is divorce.

Growing up in the sexual revolution 1960s and swinging 70s, monogamous marriage as an ordination from God suffered terribly as new sexual mores came into the American culture. No-fault divorce came about and as a result throughout the 1970s divorce rapidly began losing its stigma. Divorce as a "completely off the table" concept to "divorce is everywhere" fact occurred at a bewildering rate to my young eyes.

I'm not exaggerating about the rapid rate divorce took over. In this article by Meghan Kruger from the Roger Williams Law Review,
Between 1970 and 1985, the United States experienced an overhaul in divorce legislation. During that time, nearly every state either replaced or supplemented its fault-based system with some form of no-fault divorce
Divorce laws that had been instituted in the US for hundreds of years were were overhauled from coast to coast within just 15. That's whiplash speed.

My parents divorced when I was 14. My father moved in with his much younger girlfriend and my mother continued seeing her older married gentlemen friend. Long lasting marriages were something that seemed to belong in a museum. I was very interested in what made a marriage work and hungry for its stability. I had no understanding of God's view of marriage, because I was not saved until I was 43, but I knew it was very important.

Unfortunately I married early and unwisely. He fell in love with someone else and left, despite my interest in staying together. The second time I married, I was the one who chose divorce, for abandonment reasons. Both times I married and divorced the reasons were biblically allowable but it was moot, because I was unsaved. Divorce is very hurtful whether you're saved or unsaved.
Novelist Pat Conroy said of his own marriage break-up, "Each divorce is the death of a small civilization."
God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16). As a saved person, I know that now. He hates it for all the reasons. He only sanctions divorce in two circumstances, if absolutely necessary: adultery and abandonment. (Matthew 19:7-9, 1 Corinthians 7:15-17). Even then, He discourages it.

Just as much as we love to see good marriages, we are heartened when people divorce well (when necessary and are biblically allowed). More on that below.

An overseer must manage his own household well and keep his children under control, with complete dignity. 5For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for the church of God? (1 Timothy 3:4-5).

For example, John Piper had an issue with his young adult son Abraham being a prodigal for a while. Piper has spoken of it publicly in interviews and has written about it publicly. In this Christianity Today article the statement was made, "There's nothing we fallible parents can do to ensure our kids will keep the faith." The church did the right thing and excommunicated Abraham. Eventually Abraham came back to the fold. However, the article goes on to note,
there has been some controversy about whether or not he [Pastor John Piper] should've stepped down from the pastoral role according to the scriptural guidelines set forth in 1 Timothy 3:4-5 and Titus 1:6, 
If the adult children or the wife of a leader sins, does that mean the leader falls below biblical standard for acceptable leadership? When the children are minors and living under the leader's roof, certainly there is no doubt since the scripture is clear. But what if the child is 22 years old? 32 years old? 42 years old? Certainly if the sinning adult child is involved in the parent's ministry then that adult child should be asked to step away. When it was revealed that RC Sproul Jr. had been involved in the Ashley Madison adultery site, he was temporarily suspended from the ministry that was founded and is led by his father, RC Sproul Sr.

The actions (sins) of the adult child do impact the ministry of the elder, especially if the younger is involved in the ministry. I've come across two situations where adult children of a leading Bible teacher have divorced: James R. White's daughter Summer and Beth Moore's daughter Melissa. Remember, divorce is a sin. It bears mentioning because Christians often focus on other 'big sins' to the exclusion of divorce.

Both Summer and Melissa are involved in ministries. Here are two case studies of divorces of well-known leaders' children, and how each of their divorces were handled. I don't point to these specifics in order to hurt the people involved. As I said, I know how much divorce hurts. However, it is an ordinance established by God, there are biblical rules regarding marriage, and as leaders who desire to teach the scriptures, the way they handle or view divorce in their own family speaks volumes as to whether said leader retains any credibility according to the above mentioned scriptures, never mind if the adult divorced child is also in ministry. The same would be true.

The information about these divorces is publicly available. White issued the information herself. Her church did also, in order to specifically answer the questions raised by her name change. It isn't secret nor it is private. Moore's information is also publicly available online.

White's public Facebook profile pic
Summer Pinch White is the adult daughter of well-known and respected apologist James R. White. White's radio program The Dividing Line and his ministry Alpha & Omega is a Reformed-oriented apologetic ministry that's as solid as it is interesting. White's daughter Summer recently underwent a name change and many people were curious about that.

On Summer's Facebook page, she addressed the issue by posting a statement from her church elders at Apologia church. Sadly, her husband had used drugs for many years, and successive rehab stints had failed to turn him from the addiction. He had also engaged in serial adultery. The couple had undergone counseling, and had submitted to church leadership throughout. The two divorced. The leaders of Summer's church issued the following statement:
After almost 1-year of counseling (individual and as a couple) and after consideration of consistent patterns of egregious sin (over the course of several years) and repeated instances of marital infidelity, we, the elders of Apologia Church with delegated authority under the Lord Jesus Christ, have officially issued our unanimous and unqualified recommendation of divorce upon biblical grounds," Durbin and discipleship pastor Luke Pierson wrote. ... The two stated that they believe God hates divorce, and that they counsel that even in instances of adultery healing should be sought in a marriage, but advised that they "are also under the conviction that a pattern of consistent and unrepentant adultery provides Biblical grounds for a righteous divorce." (source)
This is important because Ms White co-hosts a podcast which centers on theology. Wondering about the circumstances of her divorce is not a moot or tangential question. It's directly relevant on her ministry and indirectly relevant on her father's. If one does not submit to the scriptures, then does one have the credibility to teach the scriptures? No. However in this case, from the public statement, it would seem that the entire issue was handled biblically. The participant was submissive to husband and leadership, the divorce was biblically allowable according to church leaders, and the issue was put before the public for transparency's sake. This is the way to handle it.

Actually I found the treatment of her sensitive issue edifying. The process worked. It's encouraging. We celebrate when there is a successful marriage, and though we are loath to use the word celebrate in conjunction with divorce, (because divorce is a tragedy) when it's biblical and handled well, we celebrate that the scriptures once again provide us with comfort, boundaries, and well-being in His word and in His processes. I have no credibility issues any more with Ms White nor with James R. White. This is because I've been given pertinent biblical information from those involved in order to formulate my own decisions and testings against scripture. I will listen to Ms White's theology program with confidence due to knowing the facts and that those facts align with the Bible.

From Moore's public Twitter profile pic
Beth Moore's daughter Melissa Fitzpatrick Moore is another story. Beth Moore is a well-known Bible teacher and speaker and preacher. She founded and is President of her own multi-million dollar ministry corporation Living Proof Ministries, which also employs her husband, both daughters, and son-in-law. Beth has preached at the Sunday pulpits of Louie Giglio, Joel Osteen, and Hillsong churches, which is rebellious against scripture. (1 Timothy 2:12). Beth's daughter Melissa is not only an employee at Living Proof Ministry, she is contributor to several of the Bible studies Beth has written. (e.g. Entrusted, James: Mercy Triumphs). Melissa also writes on theological topics at Beth's Living Proof blog. Therefore, Melissa is involved with the scriptures as a teacher of God's word along with her mother.

Below, Beth Moore describes her own marriage environment in which Melissa had grown up.
Keith and I came as close to divorcing as you can and not divorce. We married when I was only 21, and I discovered I was pregnant with Amanda only eight weeks after our wedding. We each entered marriage carrying a deluxe, five-piece set of emotional baggage. We used to fight like cats and dogs! We're an odd mix, but we've always been very attracted to each other. We've laughed repeatedly over how we saved the courts and us so much money, because we would have kept remarrying! source
To begin with, it shows a massive misunderstanding of God's ordination for couples in marriage. By the way, though sexual attraction might enhance a marriage, it is not the glue that should hold the marriage together. God's command is.

I was surprised when surfing the web one day, I saw one offhand comment regarding "Melissa's divorce". Both Beth and Melissa are Christian leaders teaching the word of God. Divorce is an immense sin. It is something God has flatly states He hates. Would not a Christian leader want to be transparent about this issue since it impacts not only their ministry but their perceived relationship with God? Piper did. White did. Sproul did. Did Moore? No. There is no explanation, no discussion, no smoothing the concerns of followers as to the biblical stance regarding this divorce and credibility on their ministry. I have searched and found nothing. If there is an explanation out there which I missed, I apologize.

I know court records are public so I found the public divorce documents. The reason for Melissa Moore's 2013 divorce was... "Personality Conflict". Melissa initiated it.

Personality conflict is NOT one of the allowable exclusions for escaping the marital covenant. Unless further revelations are shared in the good faith transparency, one must sorrowfully conclude that Melissa Moore is sinfully divorced and falls below any standard of being able to teach scripture. Her mother's continued support of her daughter and her continued partnership with Melissa in spiritual endeavors also casts Beth in a negative light.

Readers who follow Bible teachers must assess their biblical credibility. We have the scriptures to follow foremost, and then we have their lifestyle. We look at what they say, and what they do. Unbiblical divorce speaks volumes as to whether the leader is qualified or not for service in teaching and leading. If the leader teaching the scriptures is actively rebelling against them, how much can a follower hope to learn from that leader? Not much. (Luke 6:40).

In 2 Timothy 2:15 we read

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Neither Beth Moore or Melissa Moore handle truth rightly in many other, well-documented cases, and now we add one more instance in which they do not rightly divide scripture according to truth. John Piper and the White family did, for which I am extremely encouraged and grateful. When God's plan is followed, even in the sad cases of divorce in the case of White, or sin & restoration, as in the case of Piper and Sproul, it is a joy to the brethren and a glory unto God.


Further reading

A note: Though Summer White had posted the statement regarding her divorce on her public Facebook page, which I read in its entirety, it has since been taken down. I cannot find it on Apologia Church's page now either. If they are still there and I overlooked them, I apologize. The quotes in my article were taken from the Christian News Network article reporting on the White's divorce, and their quotes and excerpts are accurate according to what I had initially read on Summer's FB page.

Other essays:

Divorce is a violent act

Biblical Divorce and Remarriage

What Does the Bible Teach About Divorce?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Kay Cude poetry: The Lost, Adrift on Sea of Deception

Kay Cude poetry., Used with permission. Click to enlarge.

Artist's Statement-

If you'll look closely at the ship's path forward through the sea, you can make out the images of people suspended within. To me they are representative of the truly lost (never heard the Gospel of Christ) as well as those who have been deceived into a false religion or another gospel--they've never met Christ through God's Sovereign Act of Salvation through His Son. As the onslaught of the Tribulation rapidly approaches, we've seen a dramatic and continuous increase of evil capturing countless people; and they, many seemingly unaware, remain afloat within deception.
Then there are those who willfully determine atheism as their god and religion. Greed, evil, pride and "self" are rampant within this nation, reigning within every form of this nation's governing bodies; within the educational systems; the banking and financial institutions; the media and advertising entities; within our neighborhoods and families; within business institutions and worse, within a preponderance of the "religious denominations and "churches," organizations and charities claiming to "speak for and serve" Christ.
Surely, God has abandoned this nation to its own desires, to let sin run its fullest course. Yet there remains time for whoever will listen and respond to the call of God through His Holy Spirit to be sovereignly drawn and saved by God the Son, Christ Jesus.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Prata Potpourri: Secret Nazi Base, Gay man dislikes Church Discipline action, Star Trek Uniforms, Luther & Reformation Day, more

Our school closes for a few days at the end of October for a mini-Fall Break. We all look forward to this, both the staff and the students. Lots of people take trips. The mountains aren't far and Fall is a great time of year in Georgia to go tuck away in a cabin somewhere. Others go to Disney because it isn't so hot, or the beach, for the same reason. I love Fall in Georgia, it's my favorite time of year. It lasts longer than Fall lasts up north. Its gradual slope into winter leads us to toward holiday season in a gentle way. We can finally turn off the loud air conditioner and start using the oven to bake wonderful things without making the house too hot.

The progression of the seasons is orderly and beautiful. Each season with its distinct colors and meaning is due to the creative mind and power of Christ.

For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17)

Here are a few items I believe may be of interest. Enjoy the day, the season, the Savior :)

This is interesting. Man starts social media campaign over his church dismissal for unrepentant homosexuality. The next big thing I see coming are lawsuits emerging from church discipline. As a side note, please notice in the article where it says the man had repented and lapsed several times prior to his final repudiation of God's standards. Remember, repentance should be viewed as something that happens over time. Fruit takes time to grow. Be patient, either way, to see if what is growing in the heart is an apple or a thorn.

Oh the agonizing pull to check notifications or respond to texts...the overarching need for new stimulation even after a few minutes...Samuel D. James has more in his essay The Phone and His Boy.

A Secret Nazi Base in the Arctic has been discovered? And it's not a wartime myth or clickbait? No, it turns out to be true. Russian researches stumbled onto it and found within over 500 relics, including well-preserved papers. /shudder/ Nazis are still extending their shadowy reach into even this millennium. We will only be removed from the presence and memory of that terrible history when we are resurrected into glory. The UK Independent also has the article and photos.

Death has always troubled the pagan man. Cemeteries have always troubled the aggressive realtor. Decaying biomass has always troubled the zealous environmentalist. Now, these concerns are combined in an unusual proposal for where or how to bury the dead. Is this the future of death?

With Halloween coming, with the inevitable Star Trek costumes abounding, which is as it should be, here is how to read the secret language of the Star Trek uniforms of that most unabating TV show. Which is 50 years old this year by the way. Oy, I suddenly feel old...

The Narrow Minded Woman has a great essay on Luther and Reformation Day.

Ignore the one reference to Rick Warren and enjoy the author's case for quantifying discernment/judgment of each other. The 10 Percent Grace Rule: Judging Without Being Judgmental

I really like this man's writing. He muses on You Get What You Pay For, an essay on shepherding financial resources wisely, Philippians 4:8, the election, and Netflix which is cohesive and concise. Really, the guy has mad writing skills.

Julia at Steak & a Bible said, "Hillsong Music: Popular Yes, but Is it Biblical?"
Hillsong is an enormous church network and through its music, the church reaches far outside of that network. Many churches use Hillsong songs on Sunday mornings. But I wonder how many of them ever stopped to examine the songs for doctrine. That’s precisely what Chris Rosebrough, Steve Kozar and Amy Spreeman did on a recent episode of Fighting for the Faith. Given the popularity of the music I highly recommend listening to it.
I recommend it too!

Dr. Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, RTS Charlotte answers the question of does the Bible have mistakes? Length, 2:40.

Chris Powers has illustrated another Bible verse with his usual skill, insight, and sensitivity. Take a look,and please take a look at his overall ministry at Full of Eyes. Everything he makes he gives for free for the edification of the body and evangelization of the lost.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What does it mean to "reason together"?

People are surprised when they learn that the following verse is not in the New Testament. It sounds New Testament-ish. But it's not in that book.

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18).

It's from Isaiah.

Things get even more interesting. It is the LORD God telling His people to approach Him to reason with Him, and to do it in confidence and not in fear. In the verse, God is speaking to His chosen people Israel.

Gill's Exposition explains:
Come now, and let us reason, together, saith the Lord,.... These words stand not in connection either with the preceding or following, but are to be read in a parenthesis, and are thrown in for the sake of the small remnant God had left among this wicked people, in order to comfort them, being distressed with sin. 
These, seeing their sins in their dreadful colours, and with all their aggravating circumstances, were ready to conclude that they were unpardonable; and, seeing God as an angry Judge, dared not come nigh him, but stood at a distance, fearing and expecting his vengeance to fall upon them, and therefore put away the promises, and refused to be comforted; 
when the Lord was pleased to encourage them to draw near to him, and come and reason with him: not at the bar of his justice; there is no reasoning with him there; none can contend with him, or answer him, one of a thousand; if he marks iniquity in strict justice, none can stand before him; there is no entering the lists with him upon the foot of justice, or at its bar: 
but at the bar of mercy, at the throne of grace; there the righteous may dispute with him from his declarations and promises, as well as come with boldness to him; and at the altar and sacrifice of Christ, and at the fountain of his blood: 
here sinners may reason with him from the virtue and efficacy of his blood and sacrifice; and from the Lord's proclamation of grace and mercy through him; and from his promises to forgive repenting and confessing sinners: and here God reasons with sensible souls from his own covenant promises and proclamations to forgive sin; from the aboundings of his grace over abounding sin; from the righteousness of Christ to justify, his blood to cleanse from sin, and his sacrifice to atone for it.

We have a good God, abounding in mercy and patience. His grace is eternal. His Son's atoning sacrifice is eternal. Our communion and reasoning with Him is eternal.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Ted Dekker's The Forgotten Way: Book Review and a Discernment Lesson

Ted Dekker is a Christian novelist who writes Christian thrillers. He has also written several book series of historical nature, several fantasy books, and Christian fiction. Dekker's interests and range are diverse. He has won the Christy Award for best fiction book, ECPA Gold Medallion Award, INSPY Award, among other awards and recognition.

This month, Dekker has published a book which diverges from his usual genre of fiction. His new book is a study/devotional. It's called The Forgotten Way of Yeshua for Power and Peace in This Life. I've been asked to look into the book and give an opinion as to its doctrinal solidity.

This article will serve a two-fold purpose. The first part will be to explain and teach how I approach the decision-making process on whether to read a Christian book or engage in a published study. Time is short in our lives and we do not have it to waste on absorbing poor or unhelpful material. Secondly and more importantly, the name of Jesus is tantamount. The material must reflect Him, His word, and His precepts correctly so His name is glorified. Thirdly, as women, we are more prone to error and tend to be unduly influenced by unbiblical things so we must be sure that what we take into our brain doesn't pollute our brain. (1 Timothy 2:14, 2 Timothy 3:6). Be discerning, wise, and careful.

The second part of this article, as you scroll further down, will be a book review by a man who is familiar with Dekker's works and who has read The Forgotten Way. So, a lesson, and a review.

How to Approach Whether to Read a Book or Study

I looked at Dekker's website, and I read the sample lessons in his study and I downloaded the free sample devotionals. I read 30 pages of the devotional.

1. What I do first is, I look for contemporary buzzwords that indicate where a person's heart or mind lay. If they use standard, biblical words to describe the standard biblical concepts such as justification, sin, repentance, etc, then all well and good. The first red flag I noticed is calling Jesus "Yeshua". I've observed that many mystics seem to think this gives them more piety when they use the Hebrew name. Also people in the Hebrew roots movement call Jesus 'Yeshua'. It's an affectation. More buzzwords below.

2. The second big red flag is any leader who says he has discovered a new way, or a forgotten method, or an overlooked verse, or claims new meaning, it's a problem. The point of Christianity is its unchanging nature because it's founded on God and He does not change. It also indicates a mountainous pride. "Everyone else has forgotten this, no one else has noticed this, but I am here to rectify that." Dekker's promotional material is rife with promises that this 'new way' will revolutionize your faith, which leads to the third red flag-

3. Any promotional material that says it will change your life is of concern. The Holy Spirit changes your life, not a method. The point is to get to know Jesus better, not to change our temporal lives. Any time we are with Him in the word or worship or hymns or prayers, we become transformed and our transformation through ongoing sanctification changes our life. But short cuts like a 21 day devotional with a newly rediscovered method such as Dekker's? I'm always suspicious of claims that promise an immediate jump in sanctification.

4. Fourth, notice if the author uses trendy buzzwords or buzzwords that are from another religion. In Dekker's case, the promo material as well as the actual study contain many terms associated with New Age. Words such as "alignment, resonating, tuning fork, vibrate, same frequency" abound. These are not biblical words. There are biblical words that describe the concepts Dekker is attempting to get across. Other words that he uses have no biblical grounding. Either way, use the biblical word and not the words that are widely associated with a different religion. Never mind the obvious, that with the Holy Spirit IN us, we are already 'aligned' with Him and always on His 'frequency.'

In considering whether to take up a study or read a Christian book, I ask myself if the writer seems to have a grounded, balanced view of Jesus. It seems that in this new study, Dekker's entire emphasis is solely on the love of Jesus and not His wrath, justice, holiness etc. In fact, it seems he focuses on what WE can get out of Jesus rather than focusing on His attributes for His own glory's sake. The constant references to "who we are" and being "able to love ourselves"(I got those from his promo video) are concerning.

There are sweeping claims in the promo material and in the part of the study I'd read. I read such outlandish things as "The whole world longs for the Way of Yeshua" and "An awakening is sweeping the world." I do not like it when authors make sweeping statements about God as if they know things. Dekker does not know that all 8 billion people of the world long for the way of Yeshua. As a matter or fact, the world rejected and still rejects Jesus and He said they always will. (John 15:18). No one seeks after God. They all go their own way, (Isaiah 53:6), which is not the way of "Yeshua". So Dekker's sweeping statements are a problem.

Last, I look at who has supported the book or Bible study, or who promotes it. Dekker has blurb support and recommendations from Elevation Church, which is bad. Other readers liken Dekker's book to Henri Nouwen, who in fact is a Catholic mystic.

From these flags, I'd say that the book seems to be a misstep for Dekker. It's sad, because in his video he said he'd been working on it for years. As a woman, I would choose not to read the book/take the study because these red flags are enough to show me there are problems. I don't want to use the bulk of my brain power while in a study busily warding off potential doctrinal issues. I want to be able to fairly safely engage in the study so as to learn from it and enjoy biblical truths. With so many better studies out there, I'd say give this one a pass.

Here is a review from a friend, Bryn Jones, who has read Ted Dekker's The Forgotten Way.
I did read his e-book Waking Up, which is essentially a promo for the 21 Day "cleanse," as he puts it. I wrote a review (2 stars). He gets a couple things very right. For instance, he stresses that we need to find our identity in Christ, not in our own efforts to measure up or prove ourselves. But there’s some wrong in there, too. Like you pointed out, he loves the "love" of God, and he comments on the omnipotence of God, but then fails when defining love. To him, love means never being offended and just showing kindness to everyone, never pointing out wrong, just accepting… etc. 
Oddly, John defines love as obedience to Christ (1 John 5:3). Also, if we’re never to correct anyone, or never to be offended, then there would be no content to the epistles (which were often corrective) and there’d be no reason for Jesus to outline how we are to address issues where a brother sins against us. What I heard is "planks of offense" in Dekker’s promo, which is a phrase I’ve heard from a charismatic friend who regularly quotes from the Word-Faith movement. In that version, they change Jesus' teaching to say people have "planks of offense" in their eye, rather than the meaning of being guilty of the same issue they intend to correct in other people. I imagine the subtle change is so that these domineering pastors can chastise anyone who tries to correct them by claiming they have "planks of offense. 
So, Dekker has some good in regard to the identification with Christ, that our position is secured and not in need of our efforts … but then he ignores the actual "elephant in the room" that many who “got saved” but are living lives that are so sinful they’ve "forgotten who they are" might actually not be saved. So, his advice that they need to just “awaken” to the “reality” of their position in Christ sounds rather … universalist.

The other thing that got me about the book was how the author claimed that the Ted Dekker he sees in the mirror, the novelist, is not the real person. It’s like a role he’d play on TV … it’s passing away … the true Ted is this spiritual one in Christ. He assures the readers that he’s not a Gnostic, but it sure sounds like it. I don’t think the "putting off of the flesh" meant that our personalities and occupations and interests are all worldly. God made us who we are and we will be perfected. Maybe I’m being picky. But it sure read very mystic/gnostic to me.

Bryn Jones is the author of the apocalyptic novella RESISTANCE, the thriller, The Next Chapter,the supernatural suspense novella, The Fold, & The End Times Christmas novella, The Last Christmas

I hope this helps. As always, search out these things for yourself, and remember that prayer is the best vanguard. Pray to the Holy Spirit to give wisdom and discernment. (James 1:5). Read your Bible to grow, and be careful of what you choose to study, even from formerly solid teachers.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Footsteps of the Man of Galilee: Jenin by Early Morning Light

I like the book Earthly Footsteps of the Man of Galilee due to the wonderful, sepia photos of places where Jesus walked. Taken in the late 1800s, the photos record a mostly unchanged region, where it is inspiring to peer into the picture and imagine the days of Jesus' incarnation. Here is the synopsis of the book:

‎Earthly Footsteps of The Man of Galilee and the Journeys of His Apostles contains 400 original photographs by Robert E.M. Bain, taken in Egypt, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. Descriptions for each photograph are written by James Lee. These photographs depict the life of Christ and the influence of his ministry—the locations where Christ was born, baptized, crucified, as well as scenes from his prayers, miracles, and sermons. This resource also contains photography of sacred sites between Jerusalem and Rome. Vincent, J., Lee, J., & Bain, R. E. M. (1894). Earthly Footsteps of The Man of Galilee and the Journeys of His Apostles. New York, NY;St. Louis, MO: N. D. Thompson Publishing Co.

Jenin by early morning light.

Jenin is perhaps ten miles to the right of the route Joseph and Mary are supposed to have followed on their return from the sojourn in Egypt. It is one of the places, however, our Lord often passed during the years of His active ministry. Jenin is supposed to be the Ginea of Josephus, which again answers to the ancient En-gannin or "Garden Spring" (Joshua 19:21) with the territory of Issachar. The road from Nazareth to Jerusalem always passed this way, therefore, we are on sure ground again as we think of Mary on her way to Jerusalem with Joseph; on her way from Egypt; on her way from Nazareth to Jerusalem again when the lad Jesus was twelve years of age. 
Jenin is a well-built town of some importance. It was never a fortress, but its soil is fertile and its verdure uncommonly beautiful. It is situated on the boundary between the mountains of Samaria and the plains Esdrælon. An excellent spring, rising to the east, is conducted through the village which abounds with fruit orchards and large gardens.
Jenin is now the chief town between Nablous and Nazareth. Its people are Moslems, fanatical, rude and rebellious. There are a few families of the Greek faith. The inhabitants deal in all the products of the country, and their best customers are the Bedouin Arabs on the east of Jordan. Their dress is peculiar. H. B. Tristram describes it thus: "They wear no trousers, but a long blue and white striped cassock reaching to the ankles and bound around the waist by a broad leather girdle."

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Asking the LORD for help sometimes has unexpected results

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. (Daniel 6:10-11 NIV)

Daniel, the Godly youth, was in a bad way. He had been carried off to Babylon and separated from all he had known. He was under the earthly sovereignty of King Darius, while Babylon the city and the Kingdom of Persia was at its peak. Darius was pleased with Daniel and had planned to set him high in his court as a second-in-command administrator. The other administrators were jealous and plotted ways to defeat Daniel by stealth. They tried to find something with which to charge Daniel, but could not. They said if we find something it will be having to do with His God. So the jealous administrators went o King Darius and urged him to make a decree that anyone who prayed to another god except to Darius for the next thirty days should be thrown into the lion's den. Darius liked the idea, and made the decree. That's where we pick up the above verse. Daniel heard the decree had been set, and according to Persian law kingly decrees cannot be repealed.

First it should be mentioned that Daniel did not compromise. Likely he had men telling him that "it's only 30 days, just ride it out. Just don't pray to Yahweh this month'. Daniel did not compromise. As a matter of fact, he went immediately to his room and prayed. The jealous administrators knew Daniel would, and they spied on him just as immediately.

We know the story. Daniel was 'caught' by the jealous administrators, and Darius reluctantly sentenced him to the lion's den. God showed His majesty and power by shutting the lion's mouths and Daniel was unharmed and released.

Note the verse though. The NIV has it most clearly but all verses say the same. Daniel was making supplication to the LORD. Daniel prayed- to ask for help.

Daniel knew he'd been painted into a corner. Instead of looking around at his shrinking options, he looked up. He asked the Lord for help.

The help came. It was to sentence Daniel and throw him into the lion's den!!

Daniel knew His God had the power to save him or the power to allow him to die. Daniel was a Godly man. However, Daniel was a man, and no doubt he was scared to face lions and wondering about this version of the help he had prayed for! Nevertheless, Daniel trusted God.

When we pray to God for help, He hears our prayer. He is a good, good Father who knows the number of hairs on our heads. If He cares for the sparrow which is a small insignificant bird, will He not care for us, His children? He will!

However we never know in what form the help will come. God will always shine His glory, and in so doing He might make circumstances that we can see with our fleshly eyes seem dire. Our eyes can only see so much less, like, 10% of what is going on at any given time. We can't see the invisibles, the heavenlies, and the circumstances beyond our eye and ear range but they are all working God's will to His glory and our good. (Romans 8:28).

The key is to pray, ask for help, and then to trust the outcome. Even if it is our moment to part the veil and go to the other side, God will hear our prayer, and He will use our situations to show His glory. Trust and obey, as Daniel did, even if we are thrown into a metaphorical lion's den!

Look at the lasting glory that occurred through the help that came to Daniel:

Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: "Peace be multiplied to you. 26I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God,
enduring forever;
his kingdom shall never be destroyed,
and his dominion shall be to the end.
27He delivers and rescues;
he works signs and wonders
in heaven and on earth,
he who has saved Daniel

from the power of the lions."
(Daniel 8:25-27)


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Ack, Millennials these days!

Millennial Generation comedy #1, by John Crist.

"Millennial International is a sponsor based program designed to help Millennials live the lives they portray on Instagram." HT Challies

Millennial Generation comedy #2, by Micah Tyler

We love to poke fun at younger generations. We read this famous quote from one elder statesman regarding the younger generation.
"The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise."
This is a quote anyone from any generation could have uttered. It was actually Socrates, who lived from 469-399 B.C.

Many times we perpetuate stereotypes of preceding or upcoming generations. However, it happens that oftentimes the parodies and pokings are based on germs of truth. We shouldn't succumb to stereotypes but we shouldn't ignore the truths, either. Those in older generations do have concerns whether the ones coming up will handle with care and thoughtfulness the gains made and achievements won by the elders in previous generations. When we pass the baton, will it be to hands that care for it well? Or will they be casual about receiving the baton, or worse, even drop it?

We read about the 'generation gap.' We hear that this generation is the first that will not have a better life or opportunities than their parents. The skepticism about generations is not only one way, from elder to younger. Younger people often worry about their future because of long-lived elder generations like us soaking up resources in health care and social security.

I agree with the following author's quote about generations:
Every generation wants to be the last. Every generation hates the next trend in music they can't understand. We hate to give up those reins of our culture. To find our own music playing in elevators. The ballad for our revolution, turned into background music for a television commercial. To find our generation's clothes and hair suddenly retro. Chuck Palahniuk, author of Lullaby
Though we may poke fun of the other generations, (either elder to younger or younger to elder) and even though there are grains of truth in all of it, what does the Bible say about generations?
"O my God," I say, "take me not away in the midst of my days— you whose years endure throughout all generations!" (Psalm 102:24)
The writer finds encouragement in the midst of all his distresses. God's eternal existence is a pledge of faithfulness to His promises, says Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary.

Or this verse,
Your faithfulness is to all generations: you have established the earth, and it stays. (Psalm 119:90). Gill's Exposition says,
Thy faithfulness is unto all generations,.... Or "to generation and generation" (y); to his people in every age, fulfilling his word, supplying their wants, giving them new mercies every morning and every day; never leaving and forsaking them, according to his promise: his faithfulness never fails, it endures for ever, and is exceeding great and large indeed

We can poke fun of generations or even grouse about them. We can worry, look askance, and hope and encourage. But one thing is clear, Jesus is faithful to all generations. His promises touch all generations, sustain all generations, and ultimately will bring home all generations.

What age will we appear in heaven? Will we be looking the age when we died or were raptured? Will we be the age of Jesus when He died? God created Adam and Eve at a certain age, which was adult+. Our bodies do have a peak at which our deterioration is not yet exceeded by our growth. We do hit peak before going downhill, perhaps we will be resurrected at that peak age. Whatever the actual age-look we will be, won't it be funny if we are all the same age-look, and there are no more generations? Where would we be if the elder ones could not grouse "Ack, kids these days", or if the younger ones can't say "Get out of the way, Grandpa!" Lol.

For now in earth, Brett Harris, author of Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations,said,
The beauty of collaboration between older and younger generations is that we combine strength with wisdom—a surefire way to accomplish more for the glory of God.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Power of Music- Baby Moved to Tears as Mom Sings Worship Song

In his book, Real Worship: Playground, Battleground, or Holy Ground? Warren Wiersbe wrote,
Music confronts the whole person, mind, heart, and will- and demands some kind of response. Music instructs the minds, inspires the emotions, and challenges the will. ... It should not surprise us that great revival movements, evangelistic campaigns, and political and nationalistic crusades have all swept forward on the wings of song.Even Israel felt a new sense of unity and victory when they sang God's praises at the Red Sea (Exodus 15), a scene that will be repeated in new dimensions when God's people arrive in heaven. (Revelation 15:1-4).
I am convinced that congregations learn more theology (good and bad) from songs they sing than from the sermons they hear. Music reaches the mind and the heart at the same time. It has the power to touch and move the emotions...
RC Sproul said of music in his online class Recovering the Beauty of the Arts,
Just as conversion is an aesthetic experience in which the converted person is first awakened to the sweetness and excellence of God in Christ, so our musical expression of worship should continually direct our attention and stir us to adore His beauty and majesty.
But do not take my word for it. Watch what happens when a mom sings "Good Good Father" to her baby

Baby Moved to Tears as Mom Sings Worship Song to Him - "Good, Good Father"

Song Leaders, please be ever so mindful of the tremendous impact music has. Wiersbe said music
can be a wonderful tool in the hands of the Spirit or a terrible weapon in the hands of the Adversary. Naive congregations can sing their way into heresy before they even realize what is going on.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Nebuchadnezzar knew it was best to take the youth

James Montgomery Boice preached through Daniel. In his initial sermon of the series, Daniel 1: A Young Man Decides, he expounded on how liberals use language to change the meaning of words, and to inculcate a loyalty to the new definition by showing how Nebuchadnezzar did the same. (Daniel 1:1-7).

How does one change the loyalty of people who adhere to a different God, and make them loyal to him and the Empire? And as much as possible make them forget their loyalty to their homeland and all that was within it (including their God)? In the sermon, Boice noted that the originator of the word changes was Nebuchadnezzar.

We see of course that Nebuchadnezzar took young men, who at that age are more impressionable and perhaps have not come to a settled loyalty yet. Or who at least could moldable and be made to forget.

Next, you entice them. That was why the King offered the young men choice delicacies from his own table. Nebuchadnezzar was making the world attractive.

Third and chiefly, Nebuchadnezzar did it through changing their names. Their names had God within them. According to Daniel 1:6, the young men's original Hebrew names were


Daniel and Michael have the name for God (El) in them, the plural name of El is Elohim which we may be more familiar with. In Hebrew, Daniel means "God is my judge", Mishael means "Who is like God?". The names were great reminders of their racial and Godly heritage. Hananiah and Azariah contain a shortened form of the name Jehovah. Hananiah's meant "Jehovah is gracious", Azariah's meant "Jehovah is my helper."

Nebuchadnezzar was intending to mold them by giving them names of local Babylonian deities in order to distance the men from their own God and inculcate a local loyalty.

We can apply Nebuchadnezzar's tactic to our own day. Nebuchadnezzar did it then, and the world still does it. Changing words and meanings of words is a scheme that molds followers to a new concept or idea. Liberals change words within the Christian vocabulary. They don't abandon the great concepts outright, they simply change the meanings of the words.

A word like sin is changed to mean: not any want of conformity unto or lack of obedience to the Law of God, which is the word as true Christians know it. Sin is changed to oppression that resides in the social structure to a word so that it's not a personal thing, where you and I individually have rebelled against God, but is instead something 'out there' in the system that can be overcome by revolution.

The name Jesus according to traditional understanding is the second person of the Godhead, God the Son who became a man-God who died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead to be seated at the right hand of the Father.

The word 'Jesus' has come to be redefined in some liberal quarters, not the second Person of the Trinity, but is changed to mean simply a Person who is an example to us, not someone who achieved anything for us.

Salvation comes not as a word meaning not God's deliverance to us by His grace instead of the penalty due us for our sins, but a word meaning we are freed from the world's socially oppressive structures.

The word faith has been changed to mean not that obedient response of the heart to God's declaration of what He's done, but instead becomes something like "commitment".

Change the word meaning, and you can change the mind. What's important though, its that external pressures, liberals, or the world, cannot change the heart. What keeps the heart warm and moldable to God is reading His word and prayer. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah could not be swayed from their faith to God and in God. They remained actively attuned to Him and steadfast in their faith in both heart and mind and so were true to the end.

When you speak to people and they say words like faith, salvation, Jesus, sin, or any other common word, they might mean something totally different to that person from what your understanding of these words are. It's always important to first, know what you believe and can define it. Second, when discussing Christian concepts, don't take for granted that both you and the other person have the same understanding of the words you are using. Third, recognize that there is nothing new under the sun, and people opposed to the truth use and re-use the same tactics that are intended to incrementally sway you away from the truth.

One wonders what tactics were being used against the truth to draw the Galatians away from the Gospel. Paul was amazed it had happened so fast.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel (Galatians 1:6).

The word 'quickly' is tachus which means quick, fleet, speedy. We get the word tachometer from tachus. Tachometer is a measure of velocity of machines. I know right now you're picturing a tachometer needle speeding up form first gear to top gear. Sometimes desertion of the truth can happen that fast.

Make sure your loyalty is founded on a solid rock and that you (and I) have a solid understanding of what word means what in the faith. Especially the moldable youth. I do not think it is an accident that over this last generation we have herded the youth away from the main church service and sequestered them all in one room or building. Nebuchadnezzar knew that the impressionable teenagers were best to remove from their traditional place and mold to a new thought by sequestering them, enticing them, and redefining what they used to know into new concepts.

Stay strong, Ladies, oppose redefinition of our words, which are precious to the faith and important to the mind and heart. Watch your teenage children. Don't be satisfied when you superficially hear the Youth Pastor teaching them of Jesus, sin, faith and the like. Make sure you know that he knows what they really mean, and that your children do too.

And, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How MUCH does Jesus love us?

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1)

'To the end' does not mean to the end of Jesus' life. To the end does not have a finite, temporal quality here. 'To the end' in Greek means to the end of where love ends, an infinite quality. Strong's says,
It is well-illustrated with the old pirate's telescope, unfolding (extending out) one stage at a time to function at full-strength (capacity effectiveness).
So to the end doesn't mean to the end of Jesus life, it means to full extension or furthest capacity. This, of course, is an infinite love, the end of which is only contained in Jesus the finite God-man, who is infinite.

As you go throughout your day, realize that this love was not offered to or lavished on just the disciples, but it's also lavished on you and me. It's given to all who believe. Such love is beyond comprehension, yet we experience it daily.

No matter what you are going through or experiencing, Jesus loves us 'to the end', to the fullest capacity that it is possible to love. What comfort.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Do we have the ability to interpret our own circumstances? Should we?

The title's question is an important one. According to New Age-ish teachers like Henry Blackaby in his Experiencing God study,
God speaks through circumstances to reveal himself, his purposes and his ways.
What Blackaby means in using the word circumstances, is Providence. J. Vernon McGee said providence is "the means by which God directs all things — both animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, good and evil — toward a worthy purpose, which means His will must finally prevail. Or as the psalmist said, "his kingdom ruleth over all" (Psalm 103:19)." I. E. Circumstances.

Blackaby teaches people how to interpret those circumstances through which he claims God is speaking. So let's look at an example of how well or badly this kind of personal interpretation might go.

But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:3)

Let's put that circumstance-interpreting to the test. In his sermon on Jonah 1:1-3 titled Sin's Stupidity!, Ian Hamilton said,
When Jonah arrived at Tarshish, he might have said, 'Oh! Wow! This is providential! There's a ship going to Tarshish, just what I'm looking for!' We are never the best judges in discerning the significance of God's providence. God's providence will never overrule His commandments. If you're ever in a quandary, obey the commandment and leave it to God to sort out the providence. You and I, at our best, are no infallible interpreters of providence. Obey the commandment, and leave God to work out the providence. The Lord Jesus Christ ultimately did that. When all the providences around His life seemed to shout out that He had been ultimately, irrevocably and finally abandoned and forsaken, He still prayed, 'My God, My God.' He was obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
Look! A ship loaded and ready to go to the exact place I want to go!
It must be God's Providence! (Prata photo)
In today's parlance of interpreting circumstances as Blackaby advised, we might say something exactly like the hypothetical statements Hamilton said Jonah might have said. Leave the interpretations alone and stay with the more sure word. (2 Peter 1:19).

Greg Gilbert of 9Marks reviewed Henry Blackaby's Experiencing God study. He related a similar example of a person interpreting circumstances and backward proofing it through scripture to confirm.
George Whitefield, the great preacher in the Great Awakening and Edwards’s friend, admitted that even he had fallen into this kind of error. Prior to the birth of his only son, Whitefield announced that the boy would be a great preacher and that he would be great in the sight of the Lord. Four months after his birth, though, the child died. Whitefield recognized his mistake and wrote: "I misapplied several texts of Scripture. Upon these grounds, I made no scruple of declaring ‘that I should have a son, and his name was to be John,'" (in Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards, p.241-2). Whitefield had taken the angel’s declaration to Zechariah as his own, and had thus fallen into error. Let that be a caution to us as Christians to always read the Bible in its context.  
No, we don't use the scriptures to confirm what we have first intuited as a circumstance for action. Mr Gilbert continues with a solid reminder about omens, providences and circumstances.
God’s normal way of operating in His people’s lives is to shape them by His Word, to transform their minds by His Holy Spirit, and to sanctify their reason so that they can consider and weigh alternatives and make wise decisions.
Key words, "wise decisions." Jonah had made a decision, nothing more, which happened to be in direct rebellion to God's clear word. No amount of personal circumstance-interporeting would ever trump what God hath said. Relying on omens and circumstances shifts the onus of the decision from the person making it to some kind of externals, such as to Providence or to God. His commands and His wisdom is in His word. Let obedience begin and end there.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25).

Monday, October 17, 2016

What is 'earthquake music'?

I came across a lecture to be given last week at University of Southern California Library in a series called Visions and Voices. It grabbed my attention because of my curiosity about the music of the spheres, a concept I'll explain down below. Here is the blurb for the lecture. To my knowledge, it was not recorded or transcribed so I don't know the specifics of what was said, though I did email the Lecture people to ask after it.
The earth hums along to its own soundtrack. If only we could listen to it. 
When the ground beneath us shifts, as it is prone to do in Los Angeles, it unleashes enormous quantities of energy as seismic waves. Packing a destructive punch, these waves race through the earth like sound waves through air. In fact, seismic waves bear many remarkable similarities to sound waves. But though we feel them as earthquakes, we can’t hear them; their frequencies are simply too low for the human ear to detect. What if we transposed earthquake waves to an audible frequency? This fascinating event will bring these normally inaudible sounds to life through a panel discussion, scientific demonstrations of how seismic waves affect our built environment, experimental sonification of seismic data, and creative musical interpretations. 
Participants include seismologist Lucy Jones, known to many Angelenos as the longtime public face of earthquake science for the U.S. Geological Survey; composer and USGS geophysicist Andrew Michael (Earthquake Quartet #1); USC Dornsife College earthquake geologist James Dolan; USGS physicist Stephanie Ross; and sound artist DJ /rupture. The discussion will be moderated by Josh Kun of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
I like Dr Lucy Jones. I've listened to her explanations regarding earthquakes. I've read some of her articles, too. I noticed that the Lecture was to include geophysicist Andrew Michael who is part of something called Earthquake Quartet #1, so I looked that up. His info is located at the United States Geological Survey (USGS). It states in part,
Earthquake Quartet #1 is an outgrowth of a lecture that I have been giving since 1997. This lecture, "The Music of Earthquakes," mixes performance and lecture, music and science, acoustic instruments and computer generated sounds. A musician controls the source of the sound and the path it travels through their instrument in order to make sound waves that we hear as music. An earthquake is the source of waves that travel along a path through the earth until reaching us as shaking. It is almost as if the earth is a musician and people, including seismologists, are the audience who must try to understand what the music means.
The excerpt above has a sample of the music. How interesting!!

That led me to explore more and I learned about sonification, which was also mentioned in the excerpt of the Visions & Voices Lecture at USC. This is a link to an absolutely fascinating 7-minute interview on how, with today's technology, scientists are turning data into sound (sonification). Take a listen to data that plots median income in Manhattan turned into a song. Meanwhile, here is an excerpt of the article and interview below:
How do you turn a pie chart into sound? That was the problem faced by NASA scientists who found challenges with conveying data to astronauts who were unable to process it because of movement and sight issues in space. But where visuals failed, sound showed its practicality. 
Ears were found to detect patterns in places where even visuals failed, according to Bruce Walker, director of Georgia Tech's Sonification Lab, who worked on that initial project when the field was just getting started in the early '90s. Data sonification is now a full fledged academic field, with a growing number of daily uses. Brian Foo, an application developer for the New York Public Library Labs, is pushing it to new boundaries...
The clip does provide audible sounds for data that are usually visually presented on a pie chart. It's fascinating. What does data sound like? Listen and you will hear a sample. Meanwhile here is one definition of what sonifcation is-
Data sonification means representing data as non-speech sound.  The basic principles are similar to visualization, but where visualizations use elements such as lines, shapes, and colours, sonification relies on sound properties such as volume, pitch, and rhythm.
The original premise above was the lecture with earthquake and geophysical specialists who say that seismic waves are similar to musical waves (sound waves) and thus the earth possesses a music all its own. This reminded me of the Music of the Spheres, Musica Universalis, an ancient philosophical notion. I wrote about it in a multi-part essay here. The following is an excerpt.
This is My Father's World is a hymn written sometime in the 1800s by Maltbie Babcock, a preacher in upstate New York. It was published after his death in 1901, and set to music by Frank L. Sheppard. It references Psalm 104; Psalm 24; Acts 4:24; Acts 4.
If you ever heard the hymn "This Is My Father's World" there is a lyric in the first stanza that mentions the "music of the spheres". explains the hymn's lyric in context- 
The text is a confession of faith and trust, a testimony that all creation around us is the handiwork of our Father, who made the creation (st. 1), charged us to take good care of it (st. 2), and continues to exercise his kingship over it ... The phrase "music of the spheres" in stanza 1 refers to the ancient belief that the planets made music or harmony as they revolved in the universe. 
Pythagoras, Plato, Kepler, Bohr, and Pastor Babcock all brushed up against the same order and harmony in creation in math, astronomy, and music, and each of these people throughout the centuries reacted to the divine knowledge of this creation differently, just as Romans 1 said they would. Some saw harmony and order in creation and worshiped it, while others saw harmony and order in creation and worshiped the Creator. 
Musica Universalis is the Latin term for the Pythagorean philosophy called Music of the Spheres. Pythagoras initially developed the thought that the planets made music. This notion is not as far off as it sounds- Pythagoras was really on to string theory. 
Does the earth make music? Does the universe make its own music? How can we "sonify" the inherent order and harmony of the created universe? Can we tune in to it? As RC Sproul said in his online class Recovering the Beauty of the Arts,
His word of order triumphed over the chaotic abyss present in Genesis 1:2. Any example of creation points to His majestic artistry. 
The orderliness of God in His majesty, set to music, or, extracting the inherent music within His harmonious order. Either way, both are interesting notions.

Now wait a minute, did I read that above correctly? The NY Public Library has labs? Now I'm off to explore THAT rabbit trail! Happy earth listening!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The red rage of the Pharisees yesterday and today

One moment in the life of a blogger who writes discernment essays:

Stumble into the kitchen, bumblingly make the coffee. Yawning, plop down in the chair and fire up the laptop. As the blue light turns to screen saver, I launch open the browser. As the coffee finishes perking and I finish yawning, I pour a cup and look forward to the day. My prayer is to reach women with the truth, to use scripture rightly to turn them away from the false so they can see the glory of Jesus clearly.

Oh, look there is a comment on my blog. Let's see what it says. It's from a woman named Karen Setters.
"You and your blog are some of the most inaccurate and heretical false accusations against some of God's most anointed and accurate teachers in the Body of Christ. How any informed Christian listens to you after the nonsense you spew against God's people is beyond me! May the Lord Jesus Christ turn your heart, mouth, and blog to understanding the truth of His Word and His people, because obviously you don't. Satan is using you and when you stand before the Lord at the final day, you are going to be shocked and maybe lost if you don't humble your Phariseeical heart and listen to what the true Spirit of God says to you."
In addition to naming me as a heretical, inaccurate, nonsensical, Pharisaical, satanic person, in Karen's second comment she also called me an antichrist and a coward.

Okey dokey then, lol, I surmise that the truth of scripture did not reach her heart! It's a powerful reminder however, that those women held in the clutches of a false teacher or who cling to false doctrine clench untruth tightly. The more anger and nasty language that emerges from their mouth demonstrates the further distance away from Jesus they actually are.

Remember, fellow blogger ladies and fellow witnesses, when you point out a false doctrine or a false teacher, anger is often the reaction. It always has been and always will be. Look at the Pharisees' reaction to Jesus words and deeds and to His designated witnesses like Paul and Stephen. They reacted with gnashing teeth, fury, stone-throwing, blinding rage. They became murderous. (Luke 6:11, Matthew 12:14, John 8:59, Acts 7:54...)

This is because they loved their sin and they loved the darkness. What happens when you poke a rabid bear? A reaction like Karen Setters' is what happens. Seething, frothing anger and nastiness. In the Luke 6:11 verse it says the Pharisees and Scribes became actually mad with rage. It's an unthinking, non-rational, senseless, red rage. Matthew Henry says of the Luke 6:11 verse,
Pride, obstinacy, malice, and disappointed self-confidence were "all" combined, therefore, in producing madness. Nor were they alone. Men are often enraged because others do good in a way which "they" do not approve of. 
This kind of rage is also an example of how powerfully sin wants to remain. Sin is the second most powerful force on earth. Jesus's power in regeneration is the most powerful, but for those left untouched by His hand on their heart, sin reigns and the rage shows just how powerfully it is lord of a person.

The most violent reaction to the truth is murder. Martyrs abound in ever generation and in every country today. As Mark Dever and Burk Parsons and Jesse Johnson and Pastor Gabe of remind us,

The truth is divisive. Jesus said it would be and we see of course that it is. Jesus said in Luke 12:51,

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.

It's His truth that divides. The truth is the dividing line. In between the gulf of truth on one side and lies on the other, is often anger. The only reaction we can have when met with such anger, even to martyrdom as those in the "closed countries" are met with, is compassion and love. (Mark 10:21).

Friday, October 14, 2016

Did Jesus come to judge the world or save the world? Context, context, context

A favorite tactic for those who take verses out of context, is to read only part of the verse. Or, as in today's case, to take a complete verse as the statement or their defense, but forego the next verse, which is obviously attached to the former. Here is the example.

As for anyone who hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world. (John 12:47)

It's popular for many people to rely on that verse as their defense in saying not to point our error or to name false teachers. "Stop judging!" people say. "The Bible says not to judge, even Jesus didn't come to judge!"

However, the verse 47 continues the thought into verse 48.

There is a judge for the one who rejects Me and does not receive My words: The word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

So people WILL be judged. Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible says of John 12:47-48,
and receiveth not my words; the doctrines of the Gospel, but disbelieves them, and denies them to be true, looking upon them as the doctrines of a mere man, and an impostor:
hath one that judgeth him; let not such an one think that he shall escape righteous judgment; though Christ does not judge him now, there is one that judges him, yea, even now; and declares, that he that believeth not shall be damned, and that he is condemned already
the word that I have spoken unto you the same shall judge him in the last day; according to the different dispensations wicked men are under in this world, will be the rule of their judgment hereafter: such who are only under the law of nature, will be judged according to that, that will accuse them, convict them, and condemn them: such who have been under the law of Moses, or the written law, will be arraigned, proved, and pronounced guilty, and punished by, and according to that law; and such who have been under the Gospel dispensation, and have been favoured with the revelation of the Gospel, but have condemned and denied it, that will judge them at the last day. The judge will act by its present declaration, and according to that proceed, as it stands in Mark 16:16. It will rise up in judgment against such persons, and be an aggravation of their condemnation.

Part of what we mean when we say don't take verses out of context is first, read the whole verse, not just part of it. Second, read the verses around the verse you want to quote. As a matter of fact, it's good to read the entire passage, page, or even chapter. You will get a better idea of the flow and the points raised and settled. If realtors' mantra expression is: "There are three things that matter in property: location, location, location," then the Bible student's mantra should be "There are three things that matter in Bible study- context, context, context."

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What makes a false religion, false?

Left, a Muslim woman in a hijab. Right, Catholic nun in her habit.

If it's not one false religion, it's another. False religion has been with us since the Garden. It's nothing new. When Jesus returns, He mused whether He will even find faith upon the earth. (Luke 18:8)

The question of the day is, what makes a religion false?

Humans have an innate sense of worship. We don't worship who God wants us to worship. We don't worship in the way He wants us to worship. We don't worship for the right reasons.

Examples of these are of course, Adam and Eve, who were tempted into worshiping themselves ("you will be like God".) Cain did not worship in the right way. (Genesis 4:3-5). But there is a right way to worship and a wrong way to worship. Neither did Nadab and Abihu. (Leviticus 10:1). Many in the days of the Incarnation did not worship Jesus for the right reasons. They preferred the glory of men to the glory of God. (John 12:43).

I've spoken with non-saved people who think that God was being too harsh for preferring Abel's blood offering and by rejecting Cain's offering of the fruit of the ground. As if God is someone who should be happy with whatever worship we throw at Him. As in our own earthly lives, there are standards. Even unsaved people know that. Parents have standards for children's behavior, bosses have standards for evaluating their employees, factories have standards of production to ensure a quality product. When it comes to God though, people think that no standards is the more "loving" way.

Not so. There was a spy spoof TV program in the 1960s called Get Smart. Max the bumbling, incompetent spy used to say "Missed it by that much."

Obviously, this phrase was used when someone, usually Max,
was just a little bit off in his aim, guess, or goal.
Missed it by that much!

And because the path is narrow, it is easy to miss the mark.

However when it comes to faith and worship, missing it even by that much means the wrong eternity. Jesus said the path is narrow. (Matthew 7:13). Though we can never fall off the path once we are on, those who are not saved concoct all manner of methods to save themselves.

For example, in Japan, we learn that it was thought if you crawled through a volcanic "womb cave" you would be reborn.
For centuries, religious devotees, or ascetics, looked towards Mount Fuji as a place of worship, trekking up the mountainside to reap its spiritual powers. The mysterious lava caves were thought of as “human wombs,” and those who journeyed through the dark passageways could experience rebirth. ... The cave known as Tainai, which translates to "womb," is said to be the birthplace of Sengen, the deity of Mount Fuji.  It was common for the religious followers of the Mount Fuji cult to associate terrestrial features of the mountain with parts of the human anatomy. 
I won't go further into detail, though the articles does. Suffice to say that anyone passing through the womb caves of Mt Fuji and performing the rites there did not save themselves, nor did they cause their own rebirth.

In Catholicism, there are made-up salvation methods such as the Treasury of Merit and Indulgences. From his online class "Justification By Faith Alone," RC Sproul explains,
The treasury of merit exists so that people can get into heaven. Very few people die and go directly to heaven, according to the Roman Catholic view. The majority of people who die go to purgatory to have their impurities purged. Purgatory is not hell; it is not a place of punishment. People in purgatory do not have sufficient merit to get them directly into heaven. The few who go directly to heaven have sufficient merit as well as supererogatory merit. Works that go beyond the call of duty produce supererogatory merit. Supererogatory merit is more than is required to get into heaven, allowing for the excess to be deposited into the Treasury of Merit. When indulgences are purchased, withdrawals are made from the treasury of merit for those in purgatory.
Purgatory and Indulgences are weird. All that is just as weird as the volcanic womb tunnels.

There are many other weird methods to save one's self in many other false religions that we could go into but they are all complicated, weird, wrong, and bad.

The truth is so much simpler.

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

So what makes a religion untrue, or what makes Christianity true? There are some doctrines that the Bible declares as essential for true faith.
The Bible itself reveals those doctrines that are essential to the Christian faith.  They are 
1) the Deity of Christ, 2) Salvation by Grace, 3) Resurrection of Christ, 4) the gospel, and 5) monotheism. These are the doctrines the Bible says are necessary.  Though there are many other important doctrines, these five are the ones that are declared by Scripture to be essential. A non-regenerate person (i.e., Mormon or Jehovah's Witness, atheist, Muslim), will deny one or more of these essential doctrines. Please note that there are other derivative doctrines of scripture that become necessary also and the Trinity being one.
Also note that bedsides denying essential doctrines, a non-regenerate person may use the same terms as a Christian, saying things like "I have faith." Or, "I believe." They have adopted Christian terms but have through use or intent, redefined them to something they are not. Mormons for example, believe that Jesus is a god, so a superficial look at the essential doctrine that the deity of Christ is essential in that case would seem to satisfy. However, they believe Jesus is a created god, not THE Eternal, self-existent Father. So they deny the Deity of Christ even though they call Him a god. Therefore Mormonism is a false religion.

Catholics even use the term 'justification by faith' as born again believers in the true faith do, which is essentially what the Ephesians verse states. However, Catholics disbelieve the source of the necessary righteousness that justifies us is solely from God, but stems from an inner righteousness humans already possess or generate thought works.
Imputation has always been the one thing that has caused the many attempts to resolve the theological conflict of the Reformation to fail. Rome has always rejected the idea that we are justified on the basis of an imputed righteousness. The Roman view would be that the meritorious cause for God to declare a person righteous is because that person is righteous. The Reformed view would be that the meritorious cause for God to declare a person righteous is because Christ is righteous. (RC Sproul, online course "Justified by faith alone". 
The essential doctrines are expounded upon at the link above. Here it is again. Those are the doctrines the Word of God declare are necessary for faith. If there is any religion which alter those or are absent any of them, it is a false religion.

How can a Christian determine which doctrines are essential and which are not? Here are two bullet points from a short essay by John MacArthur
I. All Fundamental Articles of Faith Must Be Drawn from the Scriptures
II. The Fundamentals Are Clear in Scripture
Any religion which deviates from the essential doctrines, alters them, or puts forth doctrines that are not from scripture or are unclear, is not a true faith. ALL religions which rely on anything other than the word of God and which draws its essentials from the word are false.

Another way to determine if a religion is false is to see how it handles the Bible. False religions may or may not use the Bible as their basis. Jehovah's Witnesses use the Bible but they've re-written it. Mormons use the Bible but have added to it with their Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price philosophies. Islam and Hinduism don't use the Bible at all.

Christianity is revealed to us through the Bible. It's one book, divided into 66 books, written over 1,500 years but is a unified, cohesive tome with a sole author. I'd encourage you to check out the link at CARM above which outlines the essential doctrines with the verses and explanations.

You might not have thought about it this way, but ALL OTHER religions have a sole author, too. Satan. He wrote the precepts of Mormonism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Jainism, Atheism, Buddhism, Islam, Wicca, and the rest. If a religion is not of God, it is of the devil. (Matthew 12:30). There are two paths, the broad and the narrow. There is either one or the other. (1 Corinthians 10:21, Matthew 6:24). Any religion that isn't Christianity is opposed to Jesus and therefore it is of the devil. Even religions like Catholicism, which miss it by that much.

About the face...

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