Wednesday, December 24, 2008
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.
So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:“ Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Are American evangelicals abandoning the exclusivity of the Gospel?
A new report out from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life suggests that many evangelical Christians are, at the very least, badly confused about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
As Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today reports:
Most American religious believers, including most Christians, say eternal life is not exclusively for those who accept Christ as their savior, a new survey finds.
Of the 65% of people who held this open view of heaven's gates, 80% named at least one non-Christian group - Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists or people with no religion at all- who may also be saved, according to a new survey released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
This most recent report, released today, clarifies a report issued earlier this year. That earlier report became the cause of some controversy because some researchers questioned the accuracy of the responses, since some of those surveyed may have confused other Christian denominations for other religions.
In releasing this updated report, the Pew Forum isolated the question and made it far more specific. Those who affirmed other ways of salvation were then asked to specify what they meant. As USA Today reports, the vast majority of those who affirmed other ways of salvation went on to specify "Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists or people with no religion at all" as valid options.
The report indicates that 52% of those belonging to churches and denominations that teach that Jesus is the only way of salvation reject that teaching.
More from USA Today:
Christian believers who named at least one non-Christian faith that could lead to salvation included 34% of white evangelicals, even though evangelical doctrine stresses that salvation is possible only through Jesus.
Higher levels of church attendance made some difference, particularly among white evangelical protestants. But an overall majority (54%) of people who identified with a religion and who said they attend church weekly also said many religions can lead to eternal life. This majority included 37% of white evangelicals, 75% of mainline Protestants and 85% of non-Hispanic white Catholics.
This survey cannot easily be dismissed. The specificity of the responses and the quality of the research sample indicate that we face a serious decline in confidence in the Gospel. When 34% of white evangelicals reject the truth that Jesus is the only Savior, we are witnessing a virtual collapse of evangelical theology.
There is also additional cause for concern. As Cathy Lynn Grossman reports, "Pew's new survey also found that many Christians (29%) say they are saved by their good actions; 30% say salvation is through belief in Jesus, God or a higher power alone, which is the core teaching of evangelical Protestantism; and 10% say salvation is found through a combination of behavior and belief, a view closer to Catholic teachings."
I was interviewed for the USA Today story and expressed my concern:
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, calls the findings "a theological crisis for American evangelicals. They represent at best a misunderstanding of the Gospel and at worst a repudiation of the Gospel."
Overall, the new findings are "an indictment of evangelicalism and evangelical preaching," said Mohler. "The clear Biblical teaching is that Jesus Christ proclaimed himself to be the only way to salvation."
Mohler sees behind the statistics the impact of pluralism and secularism in U.S. society and the challenge of facing family and friends with "an uncomfortable truth." "We are in an age when we want to tell everyone they are doing just fine. It's extremely uncomfortable to turn to someone and say, 'You will go to hell unless you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus,' " Mohler says.
Over twenty years ago, Professor James Davison Hunter of the University of Virginia sounded a similar alarm in Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation. In that work, Hunter warned that the rising generation of younger evangelicals -- then mostly college age -- were increasingly uncomfortable with the claim that Jesus is the only Savior and that belief in Christ is necessary in order for a person to go to heaven. Now, those students are old enough to be parents and their influence is becoming more evident year by year. One can almost draw a straight line between Hunter's analysis of 1987 and the Pew report released today.
As I told USA Today, this report reveals that a good number of those who attend evangelical churches either misunderstand or repudiate the Gospel. The New Testament reveals not only that Jesus claimed to be the only way to the Father [see John 14:6] but also that the Gospel of Christ is the only message that saves [see Romans 10]. This claim has been central to evangelical conviction -- at least until now.
I am confident that much of this confusion can be traced to the superficiality that marks far too many evangelical pulpits. The disappearance of doctrinal understanding and evangelical demonstration can be traced directly to the decline in expository preaching and doctrinal instruction. A loss of evangelistic and missionary commitment can be fully expected as a direct result of this confusion or repudiation of the Gospel.
This new survey should be received with great concern. Will it awaken today's generation of evangelicals to the catastrophe before our eyes?
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Hindu extremists may have burned a 10-year-old Christian girl's face, inflicted shrapnel wounds on 40 percent of her body and forced her family to hide in a forest and flee to a refugee camp in Orissa, India, but her plight hasn't shaken her faith and thankfulness to God this season.
"Christmas is a time to thank the baby Jesus who saved me from the fire and saved my face which was disfigured and wounded," Namrata Nayak told Asia News.
Nayak's face was severely mutilated after Hindu extremists bombed the home where she was staying on Aug. 26. They broke into the house and burned it while Nayak and her siblings hid in a small bathroom. Before exiting the home, they left a bomb in a dresser, according to the report.
While the little girl surveyed the destruction, the bomb detonated and burned her face.
The explosion also lodged shrapnel into her face, hands and back.
Maybe we can get the Osteen's out to Orissa, India, to promote their latest books ("Become a Better You" and "Love your Life") and keep these kind of things from happening to Christians in foreign lands.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The Influence of Tradition on Interpretation -- The American Evangelical Assault on the Bible
"Jesus is standing at the door of your heart. He's knocking and waiting for you to invite him in."
"If you ask Jesus into your heart, He will definitely come in.""God has a wonderful plan for your life."
"God will never give you more than you can handle."
"God is all-loving and all-forgiving."
"God loves you just the way you are, a sinner, but He loves you too much to let you stay that way."
And the list of pithy, evangelical statements goes on and on.
If you profess to be a Christian and live in the United States, then you have likely heard and/or uttered one, some, or all of the above statements. They are all very encouraging. There's just one problem.
None of the above statements can be found in the Bible. The origins of each of the statements can be traced to misinterpretations of various verses or passages of Scripture.
"Jesus is standing at the door of your heart. He's knocking and waiting for you to invite him in." -- A misinterpretation of Revelation 3:20
"If you ask Jesus into your heart, He will definitely come in." -- A misinterpretation of Romans 10:9-10
"God has a wonderful plan for your life." -- A misinterpretation of Jeremiah 29:11
"God will never give you more than you can handle." -- A misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13
"God is all-forgiving and all-loving." -- A misinterpretation of 1 John 1:9; 4:8
"God loves you just the way you are, a sinner, but He loves you too much to let you stay that way." -- A misinterpretation of Romans 5:8
Read the rest of Tony's blog post here
Monday, December 15, 2008
"Do not speak evil against each other, brethren." James 4:11
That which is here forbidden, is the saying of anything, be it true or false, to the harm of another. God requires that our words should be governed by "the law of kindness" (Proverbs 31:26), and anything which would hurt or injure the reputation of another, is to be rigidly shunned. Whenever I cannot speak well of my brother or sister, I must say nothing at all. To speak evil of others, proceeds from ill will or malice--desiring that they should be made odious in the esteem of others.
It is devilish to take delight in exposing the faults of fellow-Christians, and stirring up prejudice and bitter feelings against them (Rev. 12:10). God requires that our words should agree with love--as well as with truth. Since Christians are brethren, the last thing they should be guilty of is defaming one another!
Except where the glory of God plainly requires it, and the good of that person demands it--we must refrain from all evil speaking of others. If we are duly occupied with and humbled over our own many faults--we shall have neither time nor inclination to dwell upon or publish those of others! If we properly heed the exhortation of Philippians 4:8, we shall cultivate the habit of admiring the graces in our brethren--instead of being like filthy flies, settling on their sores!
Well may we pray, "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord! Keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
So let’s think about that for a second. Why would a question like, “what do you think happens after you die,” be considered a personal question? Here are questions most of us have heard at some point in our lives: Where are you from? Where were you born? Where did you go to college? What did you study? How were your grades? What hobbies do you have? Where do you work? Are you married? Do you have a family? Do you go to church anywhere? Etc. So here is my real question. What is the common denominator to all of those questions? They are all personal questions. All questions are personal.
The real issue is whether or not someone wants to answer the question you asked. As for this gentleman, he just didn’t want to talk about it, which was his choice.
We have this feeling that we can keep our religious faith or belief to ourselves. It is personal just between me and God. But, I am here to tell you, it is not.
Luke 2:7-12 states:
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”
Jesus was born publicly in a manger. Angels publicly announced His birth in the sky to shepherds in the field. It was a public event in the skies when a star shined so brightly that the wise men followed it to find Jesus. The birth of Jesus Christ was very public.
Mark 15:30-34 states:
“Save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him. And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Jesus carried His cross publicly. He was nailed to His cross publicly. He spoke publicly from that cross. He was in pain publicly on that cross. He took His last breath publicly. The death of Jesus Christ was very public.
1 Corinthians 15:3-6 says:
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.”
Jesus rose from the dead not in private, but in public. He appeared to Peter publicly. He appeared to the disciples publicly. He appeared to over five hundred brethren at once publicly. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was very public.
Mark 16:15 states,
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
The world is a public place. Jesus taught the things of God publicly. The disciples shared their faith publicly. Paul at Mars Hill was sharing his faith publicly. The sharing of Jesus Christ to the lost was very public.
Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection were all public. The disciples who followed Him shared their faith publicly to all the people that they could. We here at the end of 2008 should be doing the same. The Christmas season and the coming New Year are as good of times as any to be about the Lord’s business of reaching the lost. I remind people all the time that they have no biblical right to keep Jesus Christ to themselves.
Thanks for not letting your faith be so personal that you will not be public about reaching a lost and dying world for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Until the nets are full,
MCFADDEN: Is it literally true, the Bible?
BUSH: You know. Probably not ... No, I'm not a literalist, but I think you can learn a lot from it, but I do think that the New Testament, for example is ... has got ... You know, the important lesson is "God sent a son."
Stop - God sent a son? Did you notice that the 's' in son is in lower case. That's ABC's fault there. But a Son Mr. Bush? How many son's does God have? God has only one begotten Son and His Name is Jesus Christ.
MCFADDEN: So, you can read the Bible...
BUSH: That God in the flesh, that mankind can understand there is a God who is full of grace and that nothing you can do to earn his love. His love is a gift and that in order to draw closer to God and in order to express your appreciation for that love is why you change your behavior.
Stop - God in the flesh. God is full of grace. Nothing you can do to earn His love. On the right track, but this next sentence: "His love is a gift and that in order to draw closer to God and in order to express your appreciation for that love is why you change your behavior." What in the world does that mean? The only way my behavior will change is if He draws me to Himself, gives me the gift of repentance, forgives me of my sins and sends the Holy Spirit to indwell in me. Other wise the 'changing of behavior' is something one is doing out of their own device (and will always fall short).
MCFADDEN: So, you can read the Bible and not take it literally. I mean you can -- it's not inconsistent to love the Bible and believe in evolution, say.
BUSH: Yeah, I mean, I do. I mean, evolution is an interesting subject. I happen to believe that evolution doesn't fully explain the mystery of life and ...
MCFADDEN: But do you believe in it?
BUSH: That God created the world, I do, yeah.
MCFADDEN: But what about ...
BUSH: Well, I think you can have both. I think evolution can -- you're getting me way out of my lane here. I'm just a simple president. But it's, I think that God created the Earth, created the world; I think the creation of the world is so mysterious it requires something as large as an almighty, and I don't think it's incompatible with the scientific proof that there is evolution.
You can have both Mr. Bush? I think we see very clearly how far off base this 'Evangelical' President is. Of course evolution is incompatible with creation Mr. Bush and, no, the creation of the world is not so mysterious that it requires another explanation to 'help' God get it all done.
Mr. Bush is not an 'idiot' like all his detractors try to make him out to be, but he is greatly mislead in the things of God and His holy Word.....continue to pray for him.
Monday, December 08, 2008
(Theodore Cuyler, "Wayside Springsfrom the Fountain of Life" 1883)
"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims--to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul." 1 Peter 2:11
Here on earth, I am but a pilgrim--a transient lodger, for this world is not my rest. I am seeking for and pressing towards, the magnificent city with eternal foundations--a city designed and built by Almighty God!
"Do not be conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2
The world around us has its unwritten code of morals and of manners. It sets up its standards and fixes its fashions to suit itself. But they are no rule for the Christian. Jesus has "chosen us out of the world," and given His own life to be our standard and our pattern. "If you love Me," said our loving Redeemer, "keep My commandments.
"The first question of a Christian should be, "What does my Master command? Would He approve my style of living, my amusements, my temper, my whole daily conduct? If so, that is enough! I am not to copy the behavior of this world--when sinful customs make their claims, or worldly seductions offer their bribes. I am Christ's servant!
"As high as the heavens are above the earth, so much higher should a Christian's ways and words and whole conduct--be above the ways of the world!
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Psalm 139:23-24
Thursday, December 04, 2008
OLYMPIA, Wash. — An atheist group has unveiled an anti-religion placard in the state Capitol, joining a Christian Nativity scene and "holiday tree" on display during December.
The atheists' sign was installed Monday by Washington members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national group based in Madison, Wis.
With a nod to the winter solstice - the year's shortest day, occurring in late December - the placard reads, in part, "There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
The foundation's co-president, Dan Barker, said it was important for atheists to offer their viewpoint alongside the overtly religious Nativity scene and Christmas-style holiday tree.
"Our members want equal time," Barker said. "Not to muscle, not to coerce, but just to have a place at the table."
Rest of the story can be found here
I guess atheism is a religion after all! The next thing you know atheism groups will be filing for the same tax exemption status that most religions in the U.S. enjoy today.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
"God has called you out of darkness--into His marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9
The papists cry up 'ignorance' as the mother of devotion. But we cry down 'ignorance' as the father of superstition.
It is no wonder that Christ should be so much undesired--when He is so much unknown.
Satan binds all his captives down in the dark dungeon of ignorance! Like the cunning falconer, he blindfolds his birds--that he may carry them to hell more securely!
Darkness is the devil's element--and the sinner's punishment.
Utter darkness--is the recompense of inward darkness. "My people perish--for lack of knowledge." Hosea 4:6
An ignorant man neither cares what he does--nor knows where he is going. When such a one is taken off the earth--he cannot be taken into heaven! "Taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who do not know God!" 2 Thessalonians 1:8
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Delete Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) from the list of admirers of the new Capitol Visitor Center.
DeMint issued a statement Tuesday criticizing the new facility for "omitting the history of faith." DeMint noted that the new tourist spot ignored his request to include the phrase "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance.
DeMint said the center, which opened Tuesday, also has displays that are "left-leaning and in some cases distort our true history."
Here's DeMint's full statement:
“The Capitol Visitor Center is designed to tell the history and purpose of our nation's Capitol, but it fails to appropriately honor our religious heritage that has been critical to America’s success. While the Architect of the Capitol has pledged to include some references to faith, more needs to be done. You cannot accurately tell the history of America or its Capitol by ignoring the religious heritage of our Founders and the generations since who relied on their faith for strength and guidance. The millions of visitors that will visit the CVC each year should get a true portrayal of the motivations and inspirations of those who have served in Congress since its establishment.
“The current CVC displays are left-leaning and in some cases distort our true history. Exhibits portray the federal government as the fulfillment of human ambition and the answer to all of society’s problems. This is a clear departure from acknowledging that Americans’ rights ‘are endowed by their Creator’ and stem from ‘a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.’ Instead, the CVC’s most prominent display proclaims faith not in God, but in government. Visitors will enter reading a large engraving that states, ‘We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution.’ This is an intentional misrepresentation of our nation’s real history, and an offensive refusal to honor America's God-given blessings. As George Washington stated clearly in his first inaugural address:
‘…[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge.’
“The fundamental principles of the freedom we enjoy in this country stem from our Founding Fathers’ beliefs in a higher power, beliefs put forth in the Declaration of Independence and manifest throughout our Constitution,” said Senator DeMint. “If we cease to acknowledge this fact, we may cease to enjoy some of the freedoms we take for granted. We must not censor historical references to God for the sake of political correctness. And we must truthfully represent the limited form of government the Constitution lays out so that our ‘government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’ So help us God.”
Monday, December 01, 2008
"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"
2 Corinthians 9:15
What could Jesus do more--than to die for us!
What can we do less--than to live for Him!
You cannot fathom all the good which He has bestowed upon you--nor all the evil which He has forgiven you!
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy--to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God!" Romans 12:1