Friday, December 26, 2008
A number of years ago, I purchased a record album by Porter Wagoner and the Blackwood Brothers Quartet titled The Grand Old Gospel. I am sure it was the mid 60’s. I can’t put my hands on it at this moment, but I do still have it. It has some pretty good country gospel music some of which I like, especially from those days. I think most of you readers know what a 33 and 1/3 RPM record album is --don’t you? I hope I am not that old! Of course, things change, and since Mr. Wagoner, a long time Grand Ole Opry star, died last year, much more of his work has been issued on CD. Its different than most of today’s country gospel music. Most all music has certainly changed, as many other things over the years. I have said recently how I dislike most contemporary music. Much of it is fleshly, worldly, unbiblical, and I believe it dishonors Christ. This could be said about some of the music of earlier years as well, but not as widespread as it is today.
Sadly, not only the contemporary gospel music is “off base” biblically, but the gospel being preached by many preachers has also changed. It is not “Thus saith the Lord” as we always used to hear, but a watered down substitute for gospel truth. Many churches are more interested in entertainment than truth. Often, the great plan is to have a “social club” where everyone is always happy. The problem is that God did not give us His word solely to make us happy. He gave His word to heal us. To teach us. To convict us of sin. Yes, even to make us sad at times. The medicine has been so diluted by many “ministers” that it cures nothing. There is a famine in our land for the pure word of God, as was foretold“Truth has fallen in the street and equity (uprightness) cannot enter”(Isaiah 59:14). “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD”(Amos 8:11). No wonder America is in such poor shape today. There is a new gospel today that has no power. Many professing Christians have “a form of godliness but deny the power thereof” (see 2 Timothy 3:5).
This is the main reason I placed the following introduction on my blogs:“He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30). “I am 66 years old, and my desire is to serve God the rest of my days, preaching the old evangelical gospel that Paul and Peter preached, that Calvin preached, that Whitefield preached, that Spurgeon preached, and that Isaac Watts wrote about in his hymns.” This old gospel is not being preached in very many churches today. It has been replaced by a modern imitation. Many would say that we who contend for “the faith that was once delivered to the saints” are “old fuddy-duddies” -- not “with it” -- “behind the times“, etc….
Does truth remain the same, or does truth change? “I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:18). Yes beloved, all truth is God’s truth. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). I contend, based on the Bible, that what was truth 2000 years ago or 1,000,000 years ago is truth today. I must preach the truth, which is Jesus Christ. He is the truth.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Verily, thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.” (Isaiah 45:15).
The ancient Turks built their temples open at the top as a testimony to their belief that God could not be confined in them. Those structures were just too small. When King Solomon considered the glorious temple that he would build for God, he asked, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded.” (1 Kings 8:27). Then we hear God’s own sizing up of Himself in Isaiah’s prophecy: “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest?” (Isaiah 66:1). Standing before this truth of the bigness of God, with eyes bulging like a kid in a candy shop, Thomas Watson rejoiced, saying, “If God be infinite, filling heaven and earth, see what a full portion the saints have!” Jacob saw that he had the infinite God for his portion, and in Genesis 33:11 declared, “I have enough!” The saint’s cups runneth over with God!
The astronomer’s professional view and best calculation of space is that it is immeasurably endless. Many refer to the outer spaces as “the final frontier.” The Christian believes there is something beyond the stars-- their eternal home, and Someone bigger than all the stars, the One who created them. To them, God is their Final Frontier, and the Christian is a happy explorer on an eternal quest to chart the regions of Divinity. The ultimate adventure is to be a spiritual Galileo, peeking through the lens of God’s inspired written biography, the eyes bulging from their sockets as the Holy Spirit at the control of the focus, bit-by-bit, brings small pieces of truth, (tiny morsels that such an one as we struggling creatures can digest at a time), truths of an infinite God before their excited eyes. O how this explodes the adrenalin and demands a closer look with more careful consideration!
The recent death of the Crocodile Hunter comes to mind. The outstanding quality of his character that seemed to stand out most in the minds of them who observed him was his passionate enthusiasm as he encountered, and interacted with animals and nature. It has been said that he died doing the thing that he loved the most. Should not this be the description of every true believer as they experience their close encounters and examinations of the great God of the universe? Should it not be said of each one who explores Divinity, “His quest for God was so passionately displayed in his life until the day he died doing the thing that he loved the most!”
There are two extremes that many professing believers have fallen captive to: emotionalism that entertains rather than worships, and motionless-ism that lullabies rather than stirs. Genuine and honest God-quests that result in revelations of God in His Word by the Holy Spirit, moves the seeker to worship and not to slumber.
How Big Is God?
He is too big to be contained between the covers of the Bible. The Bible tells us some things but not everything about God. As we behold God, in the general sense, through His amazing creation which He wrought by His powerful spoken word, it is like watching those aforementioned stars without telescopic aid. We then turn to His written Word and behold Him by special revelation sufficient to save. Watching stars without a telescope answers a few questions we may have. Watching the stars with a telescope answers many more questions, but also brings a multitude of other stars into the picture generating even more questions. After the explorer has reached his journey’s end upon planet earth, his effort of exploration will continue in heaven throughout eternity, never reaching an end as the study of God goes on (Ephesians 2:7). The Christian is a perpetual student, the Holy Spirit is the expert Teacher, the Bible is the only reliable textbook, and God is the endless subject.
How Big Is God?
He is too big to be explained. In Romans 11:33, the Apostle Paul was examining and declaring God. Suddenly, this, the mightiest man of revelations who has ever lived, cried out, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out.” Paul here realizes that he is in over his head, his feet are not touching bottom, he is treading water! This prince of all preachers understood that his task to proclaim God was above and beyond his ability. God has actually called men to do the impossible; but do it they must! How can men explain the unexplainable, tell the untellable, describe the indescribable? The wonder of it all is that though God cannot be sufficiently explained, yet He can be gloriously experienced and thoroughly enjoyed. Vance Havner used to say, “I can’t explain electricity, but I’m not going to sit around in the dark till I can.”
How Big Is God?
He is too big that one could find a place to hide from Him. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.” (Psalms 119:7-11). God inhabits all places at all times, thus every soul walks corum deo- in the presence of God, before the face of God, under the eye of God.
These former observations having been considered, yet we must understand that, while no man can hide from the omnipresent One, God can yet hide from men. As a matter of fact, He remains invisible, inaudible, and undetectable until He chooses to make Himself known to any soul. “Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.” (Isaiah 45:15). God is hidden to the fallen sinner until He is pleased to reveal Himself to the saving of his soul. That revelation will never come apart from Jesus Christ, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” (Colossians 1:15). “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John.1:18). The big, one and only, true and living God, can and will go unobserved and concealed from sight until the day of the sinner’s salvation, or his damnation, which ever comes first! Thereby will God be seen in the face of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, who is both Savior and Judge (Acts 4:12; 17:31).
Friday, December 05, 2008
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). What glorious words these were, heralded by "the angel of the Lord" to those Judean shepherds some two thousand years ago! There are many today who can quote this verse about Christ's birth, yet how few there are who really know what it means. Do you really know the purpose for the Lord Jesus Christ coming into this world? Well, the text tells us in no uncertain terms just why Jesus was born -- He came as "a Saviour."
WHY WE NEED A SAVIOUR
Most people are totally unaware that they need Christ to save them. "Saved from what?,” many in the world boastfully ask. It is a good question, and needs answering clearly. We need to be saved because by nature, by choice, and by practice we are sinners in the sight of a holy God. Scripture repeatedly affirms this:
"They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one" (Psalm 14:3). "Truly every man at his best state is altogether vanity" (Psalm 39:5). "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin my mother conceived me" (Psalm 51:5). "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin" (Ecclesiastes 7:20). "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
These inspired verses plainly declare man's total depravity (corruption) before the Most High God. Even though you may think you are essentially good, it is not so. "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who seeks after God. There is none who does good, no, not one" (Romans 3:10-12). We must believe God's verdict against the entire human race, confessing that we are by nature nothing but "wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores" (Isaiah 1:6), and that we deserve only "wrath" and "the righteous judgment of God" (Romans 2:5). Eternal destruction awaits all the impenitent (Matthew 5:22; 25:41,46). And for this reason Christ Jesus came, for "Jesus" means "Saviour," for the work of Christ actually does "save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21), thus all of God's elect are saved from God's holy wrath (Romans 5:9).
HOW THE SAVIOUR SAVES US
You are not here being informed what you must do to save yourself. No such God-dishonoring advice will be given here! "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9), both in its origin and completion, in its conception and accomplishment. Men do not do their part to help Jesus save them. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of sinners! We do not in any sense add to His substitutionary work (2 Corinthians 5:21). If He does not save you, you will be eternally lost! But the blood of Christ shed at Calvary actually redeems every single one of those given to Him in covenant by His Father. "I have finished the work which you have given me to do," prayed our great Redeemer (John 17:4). And we are "redeemed" to God "with the precious blood of Christ" (I Peter 1:18-20; 3:18).
Yes, God the Father elected a people (Ephesians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:13), God the Son redeemed that same number (John 10:14-16; 17:2, 9-10, 19-20), and God the Holy Spirit invincibly and effectually calls each one of them (and no more) to experientially partake of this salvation, by His quickening and regenerating power (John 3:3-8; 6:37, 44, 63, 65; Titus 3:5). We willingly and gladly repent of our sins and believe on Christ after regeneration, for then we have a nature capable of performing these spiritual acts, which the natural man does not have. Repentance and faith are both gifts or graces of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:31; 11:18; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 2:13). "And how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (I Thessalonians 1:9).
Man is fallen and sinful, but God is free and sovereign. No fallen creature can save himself or help save himself. "Salvation belongs unto the Lord. Your blessing is upon your people" (Psalm 3:8). Man does not earn salvation, but is simply the recipient of it, by sovereign love, sovereign mercy, and sovereign grace. "So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (Romans 9:16). That spells sovereignty! God is absolutely sovereign in salvation.
WHAT A SAVIOUR IS KING JESUS
The Lord of life and glory came to this earth as a Babe to Bethlehem's manger. He lived a perfect and sinless life, magnified and honored God's holy law in every detail, then died a substitutionary death for His sheep (Isaiah 53:6), was buried, rose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), ascended back to heaven, and now intercedes for His own (Hebrews 7:25). At an appointed day and hour (known only to God, Matthew 24:36), "this same Jesus" (Acts 1:11) will return to this earth "with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30), for He is even now "King of kings, and Lord of lords" (I Timothy 1:17; 6:15; 19:16).
Truly, the Bible only knows of one Saviour, the One announced to the shepherds long ago (Luke 2:11). Notice that this "Saviour" is "Christ the Lord." The Saviourhood of Christ is never to be separated from His Lordship. He saves because He has power to save (Isaiah 63:1), and because He is God (Titus 3:4, "God our Saviour," and 3:6, "Jesus Christ our Saviour"). No less than twenty-four times does the New Testament denominate Christ as "Saviour." If He saves, and He alone, then certainly He is to have all the praise! "Worthy is the Lamb" (Revelation 5:9-14), not "worthy is the will of man," or "worthy is the creature." Many sing, "Jesus Saves," but really don't believe it!
We were lost, but Christ finds us (Luke 15:3-7). We were dead, but King Jesus gives us life (John 5:21, Ephesians 2:1,5). We were blind, but the Lord gives us sight and light (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Christ came not "to seek to save" or to save those who "seek" Him, but to actually "seek and save" His people, "lost" in Adam's fall. Oh poor sinners, trust Him, look to Him, and to Him only, for "None but Jesus, none but Jesus, can do helpless sinners good."
"Man of sorrows," what a name! For the Son of God who came! Ruined sinners to reclaim! Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Absolutes: Bible Truth versus Human Lies
The world says: There are no absolutes, no moral black and white, but shades of grey.
The Bible says: “For ever O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven”(Psalm 119: 89); it also says: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away”(Matthew 24:35).
The world says: That is your truth, mine is different. The Bible says: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (
The world says: There are many roads to heaven. Many have said it, including Martin Luther King Jr. in Strength to Love; Pocket Books; 1963. The Bible says: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts ).
The Practicality of the Book of James
James tells us: “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James ). In other words he says “Don’t just be an experienced Bible reader, be an experienced Bible heeder!”
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James ). In other words, don’t say you have faith (that you are alive), and do no works, which is evidence of life, for then you are as a dead body whose spirit has departed.
“Thou believest that there is one God: thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James ). Many religions are monotheistic, i.e., express a belief in one god -- that is good, but the demons also believe and tremble, because they know who the one God is; Jesus Christ. See Mark 5:1-20.
Quick and to the Point
“The Lord sends none away empty except those who are full of themselves.”
“The Gospel is open to all; the most respectable sinner has no more claim on it than the worst.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
WHO is dead? You decide. "God is Dead"-Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is Dead"-God.
“The measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.”--Thomas Macaulay
"There are three things that earthly riches can never do; they can never satisfy divine justice, they can never pacify divine wrath, nor can they ever quiet a guilty conscience. And till these things are done man is undone."-- Thomas Brooks
“I am like Barabbas and so are you, dear Christian. We are set free because another took our place on Calvary‘s cross.”- Charles Woodruff
Prayers God Will Not Hear
Heartless prayers from God’s people are compared to the howl of a dog. “Woe unto them! for they have fled from me: destruction unto them! because they have transgressed against me: though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against me. And they have not cried unto me with their heart, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me.” (Hosea 7:13, 14).
Prayers with vain repetition as the heathen do. These are heartless or “canned” prayers. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6:7).
Prayers asked amiss, which if answered, would be consumed by the petitioner’s own lust. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3).
Prayers from those who regard iniquity in their hearts. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18).
Prayers of quarreling husbands and wives. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered”( I Peter 3:7).
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
As we approach Thanksgiving Day 2008, let’s take a moment to reflect on the Goodness of God. To many, this day means only “Turkey Day” with everyone gorging themselves with a huge meal. Then there are the football games, big movie openings, and overall a big holiday, while preparing for shopping on “Black Friday”, the day merchants live for all year that will put their revenues “in the black” as they kick off Christmas sales in earnest (even though the Christmas merchandising began with some stores in late August).
Commercialization was certainly not the goal of the first Thanksgiving back in Plymouth colony in the autumn of 1621. (click for a concise account of Thanksgiving Day’s history) http://wilstar.com/holidays/thankstr.htm
Some of the stories written about Plymouth, the Pilgrims, and even the Mayflower totally ignore the religious aspect of it all in keeping with today’s totally insane “political correctness”. But the fact is, the Pilgrims, who were English Puritan separatists, came to America to find freedom to worship God Almighty. They had been persecuted in England, disappointed in the general carnality of Dutch life, even though they had more freedom in Holland. So they contracted a sailing vessel to strike out for the new world with a hope of freely serving God, and building their own society here.
The Mayflower Compact, which they drew up on the way over, is one of the bedrocks of America’s foundation, for they set up a “civil body politick” which was the first sort of a “declaration of independence”. It expressed their determination to govern themselves under God, with due allegiance to the British government. It begins unlike any secular document, with these words “In ye name of God, amen”.
Thus it began, and upon arrival in the new world they landed briefly at Cape Cod, finally settled at Plymouth Rock in 1620, and after losing 46 of the original 102 passengers, the rest struggled to survive. They were provided help by the local native Indians. One year later they gathered all over the colony for meals shared with the native Wampanoag. It lasted for several days straight, giving thanks and remembrance of God’s blessings on them all. It did not become a tradition until a few years later (more online info about this first feast).
Things I am thankful for include:
-My dear wife of almost 47 years, and how she has been faithful and true.
-My four children, three of which survive. All have declared faith in Christ.
-My twelve grandchildren. They are all precious to me.
-Our church where Christ is preached, and the brothers and sisters there.
-The renewed ministry God has given me in writing and pulpit.
-Many brothers and sisters in various places who pray for me.
-A land that still has much freedom, though it is being undermined, and in danger.
-I am thankful for generally good health for my wife and myself.
-The graciousness and mercy of God every day that I live.
These are just a few of the many things for which I thank God. As you enjoy this Thanksgiving, hopefully with your family, take time to reflect on the mercies of God in your own life, as well as a prayer for our nation and it’s future, and the cause of God and truth through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (First Thessalonians 5:18).
“By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).
“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
Friday, October 17, 2008
Excited Children masquerading as witches, ghosts, goblins, demons, and other grotesque characters skipping through the neighborhood knocking on doors chanting "trick or treat" while holding out a sack in which one is to drop a piece of candy or other goodies ... the party at school, or church, or Sunday School where they bob for apples, tell fortunes, or go through "haunted houses"... decorations of jack-o'-lanterns, witches on brooms, and black cats with arched backs ... It's "Halloween"--one of the strangest days of the year.
Are Halloween activities really just the simple, innocent holiday fun most people believe them to be? Where did this holiday originate? Why is this holiday celebrated?History provides the answers. Though it was the Roman Catholic Church who designated the October 31st date as All Hallows Eve, or "eve of the holy ones" day, in prelude to their November 1st All Saints' Day, it was earlier pagan peoples who gave the annual holiday the sinister meaning and traditions it still holds.
"The American celebration rests upon Scottish and Irish folk customs which can be traced in direct line from pre-Christian times. Although Halloween has become a night of rollicking fun, superstitious spells, and eerie games which people take only half seriously, its beginnings were quite otherwise. The earliest Halloween celebrations were held by the Druids in honor of Samhain, lord of the dead, whose festival fell on November 1st."1
"It was a Druidic belief that on the eve of this festival, Saman [Samhain], lord of death, called together the wicked souls [spirits] that within the past 12 months had been condemnedto inhabit the bodies of animals."2
"The Druids, an order of priests in ancient Gaul and Britain, believed that on Halloween, ghosts, spirits, fairies, witches, and elves came out to harm people. They thought the cat was sacred and believed that cats had once been human beings, but were changed as a punishment for evil deeds. From these Druidic beliefs come the present-day use of witches, ghosts, and cats in Halloween festivities." 3
Halloween "was the night for the universal walking about of all sorts of spirits, fairies, and ghosts, all of whom had liberty on that night." 4
The pagans believed that on one night of the year the souls of the dead returned to their original homes. "There was a prevailing belief among all nations that at death the souls of good men were taken possession of by good spirits and carried to paradise, but the souls of wicked men were left to wander in the space between the earth and moon, or consigned to the unseen world. These wandering spirits were in the habit of haunting the living ... But there were means by which these ghosts might be exorcised."5
To exorcise these ghosts, that is, to free yourself from their supposed evil sway, you would have to set out food--give the demons a treat--and provide shelter for them during the night. If they were satisfied with your treat, it was believed they would leave you in peace. If food and shelter were not provided, or if they were not satisfied. these spirits, it was believed, would "trick" you by casting an evil spell on you and cause havoc.
TRICK OR TREAT
"The modern custom of 'Trick-or-treat' began in Ireland hundreds of years ago ... A group of farmers went from house to house begging food for the village Halloween festivities in the name of their ancient gods. Good luck was promised to generous donors, and threats were made against those who would not give." 6 Thus these ancient pagan traditions continue today as youngsters, masquerading as ghosts, skeletons, and demons go "trick-or-treating"--begging in a sense for food while promising to refrain from evil deeds.
"It was the Celts who chose the date of October 31 as their New Year's Eve and who originally intended it as a celebration of everything wicked, evil, and dead. Also during their celebration they would gather around a community bonfire and offer as sacrifice their animals, their crops, and sometime themselves. And wearing costumes made from the heads and skins of other animals, they would also tell one another's fortunes for the coming year." 7
"The celebration remained much the same after the Romans conquered the Celts around 43 A.D. The Romans did, however, add a ceremony honoring their goddess of fruit and trees, and thus the association with apples and the custom of bobbing for them." 8
The apparently harmless lighted pumpkin face or "Jack-O'-Lantern" is an ancient symbol of a damned soul. Jack-O'-Lanterns were named for a man called Jack, who could not enter heaven or hell. As a result, he was doomed to wander in darkness with his lantern until Judgment Day." 9
"Fearful of spooks ... folks began hollowing out turnips and pumpkins and placing lighted candles inside to scare evil spirits from the house." 10
Since Halloween is unmistakably pagan in its origin and practice, how did the professing church come to accept and keep such a day? Again history provides the answer.
Ever since the time of Constantine--who made Catholicism the state religion--the Roman emperors realized how essential it was to have a unified empire, where as many as possible would be of one mind. The civil and religious leaders saw how important it was for the sake of unity to allow only one religion within the Roman domain.
A stringent state policy was implemented to force all non-Christians to accept the state religion. The condition for "conversion," of course, made it easy for the pagan population of
How could the church deal with this problem? The church realized that to excommunicate these pagans would only reduce the membership of the church. This they were unwilling to do. The church had also learned in past times that it was not possible to force the people into discarding all their heathen practices and adopting Roman ones.
There remained only one other way.
It was reasoned that if a pagan practice or festival could not be forbidden, let it be "Christianized." Let the recently converted pagans keep certain of their heathen festivals, such as Halloween or All Souls' Day--but label it "Christian." Of course they were asked not to pray to their ancient pagan gods on this day. They would now use this day to commemorate the death of "saints."
"In the A.D. 800's, the [Catholic] church established All Saints Day on November 1st so that people could continue a festival they had celebrated before becoming Christians. The mass that was said on this day was called All Hallowmas. The evening before became known as All Hallow e'en or Halloween ... It means hallowed or holy evening." 11
"The celebration of Halloween is a survival of ancient pagan beliefs. When the early [Catholic] church was unable to stop pagan practices, it accepted them and gave them a religious tune." 12
Most of the ancient symbols and traditions of Halloween still exist today. Youngsters still dress in costumes and go trick-or-treating, begging in a sense, for food while promising to refrain from evil deeds. And, too, they still light their candles, although much smaller than a torch, and place them inside their pumpkins.
"It is the one night of the year in which a child experiences the emotion of fear, fantasy, and mystery." 13
In advising on what to do on Halloween, The Good Housekeeping Book of Entertainment says: "Orange, black, and red, the devil's colors, are the colors associated with Halloween, and this scheme should be carried out as far as possible ... Have paper streamers and lanterns hanging from the ceiling, or if you would like to have something less usual, you could make a giant spider web with black and orange strings, or in narrow strips of crepe paper coming from the four corners of the room, complete with a large spider--one of the devil's followers." 14
INCONSISTENCY OF PROFESSING CHRISTIANSBible-believing Christians cringe and shudder at the thought of Satan worship and occult rites. But how many of these same people will dress their children as witches, ghosts, skeletons, or devils and send them out to "trick-or-treat"? How many smile approvingly at the church or Sunday School and youth organizations that have Halloween parties and sponsor "haunted house" activities?
GOD'S PEOPLE GOVERNED BY THE SCRIPTURES
The 18th chapter of the book of Deuteronomy; (vv 10-13) very explicitly forbids Christians to have anything to do with witchcraft, spiritism or the demonic. In verse 10 of that chapter we read:
"There shall not be found among you anyone that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire (this has reference to the worship of the pagan god, Moloch, which was state worship), or that useth divination (a false and pagan counterpart of prophecy; the art or act of foretelling secret knowledge, especially of the future), or an observer of times (astrology), or an enchanter, (to cast under a spell; charm; enrapture; to chant [magic words]), or a witch (divinations in connection with the worship of idolatrous and demoniacal powers), or a charmer (a fabricator of material charms or amulets to be worn especially around the neck as a charm against evil or injury), or a consulter with evil spirits (an inquirer by a familiar spirit), or a wizard (a false prophet, especially a conjurer; one who summons a devil by oath, incantation or magic spell), or a necromancer (one who in one form or another seeks to find information by consulting the dead)."
"Thou shalt not learn to do after their abominations ..." (Deuteronomy 17:9). Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I Am the Lord your God" (Leviticus ).
It is obvious that the elements, symbols, and traditions of the Halloween observance with its emphasis upon goblins and demons, witches, and skeletons, ghosts, and apparitions rising from cemeteries constitute a dabbling with the very things which Scripture forbids to God's people and an open invitation to demonic activity.
It is at this point that many will say, "But we don't worship demons or Halloween. It doesn't mean the same thing today as it did in the past. It's now just a harmless, innocent time of fun for the children and the young people."
Yet, history clearly shows that Halloween is unmistakably a "religious" (pagan and Roman) holiday. Religion is the adoration, obedience, and service rendered to the object of one's worship. It presupposes profession, practice, or observance of whatever belief and practice--in this case Halloween--as required by some superior authority. It is indisputably clear that Halloween is not commanded or sanctioned by the Lord God--the true Christian's Superior Authority--in the Scriptures.
"Abstain from ALL appearances of evil" (1 Thessalonians ).
"And many that believed came and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men" (Acts , 19).
"Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do ALL to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians ).
1. Halloween Through Twenty Centuries, Ralph Linton, P. 4.
2. Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Ed. Vol. 12 pp. 857-858.
3. World Book Encyclopedia, 1959 Ed. pp. 3245-6.
5. Folklore, James Napier, p. 11.
6. Holidays of Legend, Mildred H. Arthur, p. 87.
7. World Book Encyclopedia, quoted in Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Associated Press,
9. World Book Encyclopedia, 1977 Ed., Vol. 9, pp. 24-5.
10. The Book of Festival Holidays, Marqueite Ickis, pp. 125-6.
11. World Book Encyclopedia
12. Holidays of Legend, p. 87
13. The Book of Festival Holidays, pp. 125-6.
14. Good Housekeeping Book of Entertainment, p. 168.
~~ Written and Compiled by Robert McCurry
I really could not add anything to Pastor McCurry’s excellent, concise study on Halloween, but it is worth noting that many Protestant churches observe Reformation Day on this date, or as a Reformation Sunday on the Sunday immediately following October 31st. This is because 490 years ago, on
“Reformation Day is a religious holiday celebrated on October 31st in remembrance of the Reformation, particularly by Lutheran and Reformed church communities…… On this day in 1517, Martin Luther posted a proposal at the doors of a church in
On Reformation Day “The liturgical color of the day is red, which represents the Holy Spirit and the Martyrs of the Christian Church. Luther’s hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God is traditionally sung on this day. Lutherans customarily stand during the hymn, in memory of its use in the religious wars of the Sixteenth Century. It is also traditional in some Lutheran schools for schoolchildren to hold Reformation Day plays or pageants that re-enact scenes from the life of Martin Luther. In the 2003 movie Luther, an accurate portrayal of the story of Luther is given".“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
Monday, October 06, 2008
Over the years I have heard of, and even explored many conspiracy theories, usually related to the overthrow of the USA by enemies. As we know from 9/11, there are enemies out to destroy America. Usually the theories are of some sinister force behind the scenes manipulating things. Unless a man has unlimited resources, and insider contacts, it would be impossible to run down all the theories. There was even a movie made in 1997 starring Mel Gibson (before his attempt to paint the story of The Passion of the Christ with the Roman Catholic brush as provided, not by the Bible accounts so much as the mystical writings of a nun --Anne Catherine Emmerich. But, the earlier movie, Conspiracy Theory, had Mel playing Jerry Fletcher, a man who sees conspiracies everywhere. The story is that he checked out so many, he actually found one -- a very deadly one. An intriguing and action packed movie, but it has some bad language.
The point is, there are true conspiracies out there, but likely you and I will not be able to thwart them. We have to trust in God. He is our rock. Listen to this conspiracy: “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us” (Psalms 2:1-3). You see, long before Christ was born (even in the garden of Eden for that matter), there was a conspiracy against Jehovah God and His anointed. These words written by David are a prophecy of what was, and is to come. This conspiracy came to a head when Christ’s enemies had Him crucified. All the rulers, the blasphemers and the devil thought they were victorious, but as I said earlier, it was a defeat for them, because God’s purpose was fulfilled at Calvary, and all His purpose ultimately will be fulfilled . “Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. ” (Psalms 2:5-8). (please read the entire blessed Psalm and be blessed).
What will God do regarding the USA? I can tell you right now, unless He is pleased to send an awakening, the USA, already under judgment, IMHO, will be on the ash heap of history like so many other corrupt nations. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalms 9:17). What can we do? The foremost thing is “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:7-10).
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Many in our day are perplexed about all the problems being faced by this once great nation. Incredibly high oil prices are driving up prices on food and many other commodities. Floods in the Midwest are also driving up corn and grain prices, displacing thousands from their homes and taking quite a few lives as well. Also, fires in California, continuing drought in the Southeast and other calamities. An increasingly liberal congress, and judges legislating from the bench (as in the infamous "gay marriage" case in California). On top of that we have the most liberal Democrat in history running against a maverick Republican that many conservatives do not trust very much. The future of the Supreme Court, congress and the military all seem to hang on this November's election. Does it really? Well, humanly speaking -- it does! But, there is a God who overrules the affairs of men. He raises up kings and those in authority (see Romans 13:1). Is all this that is happening His judgment on the once moral nation of the USA? We know in Psalm 9:17 He says "The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God." We know that ancient Israel was judged in Isaiah's day as it is written: "Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward" (Isaiah 1:4).This sounds like the United States of America! Remember, England and Canada also continue their downward slide!
What is the answer for our once proud and strong eagle nation? The same as for Israel of old. Please read the entire first chapter of Isaiah, and especially this verse: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18). As we pray for our nation, it will do us good to ponder also 2 Chronicles 7:14 "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." If the true Christians will do this, who can say God will not, according to His own sovereign will, turn things around? We are commanded by our Lord to pray for those in authority (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4). Let us pray for our land in this time of national elections after 232 years of independence as a nation. We have problems, but really there are no political answers! Those of us who are truly His, must not even attempt to be independent of God. In actual truth, nothing in the universe is independent of God! He has the only real answers for our nation in His sovereign Hand.
A MORNING PRAYER FROM THE FATHER OF OUR COUNTRY
O eternal and everlasting God, I presume to present myself this morning before thy Divine majesty, beseeching thee to accept of my humble and hearty thanks, that it hath pleased thy great goodness to keep and preserve me the night past from all the dangers poor mortals are subject to, and has given me sweet and pleasant sleep, whereby I find my body refreshed and comforted for performing the duties of this day, in which I beseech thee to defend me from all perils of body and soul.
Direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the lamb, and purge my heart by thy Holy Spirit, from the dross of my natural corruption, that I may with more freedom of mind, and liberty of will serve thee, the ever lasting God, in righteousness and holiness this day, and all the days of my life.
Increase my faith in the sweet promises of the Gospel. Give me repentance from dead works. Pardon my wanderings, and direct my thoughts unto thyself, the God of my salvation. Teach me how to live in thy fear, labor in thy service, and ever to run in the ways of thy commandments. Make me always watchful over my heart, that neither the terrors of conscience, the loathing of holy duties, the love of sin, nor an unwillingness to depart this life, may cast me into a spiritual slumber. But daily frame me more and more into the likeness of thy son Jesus Christ, that living in thy fear, and dying in thy favor, I may in thy appointed time attain the resurrection of the just unto eternal life. Bless my family, friends and kindred; unite us all in praising and glorifying thee in all our works begun, continued, and ended, when we shall come to make our last account before thee blessed Saviour, who hath taught us thus to pray, our Father, which art in heaven, etc, etc….
(William J. Johnson; George Washington, The Christian , New York: The Abingdon Press, 1919; from the paperback reprinted by Mott Media, Milford, Michigan, 1976).
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
A MIRACLE IN GAZA
Surely you have heard of Gaza. It has been much in the news these days. It is SW of Israel,(between Israel and Egypt). The Palestinians live there now, controlled by Hamas, a political terrorist group. According to Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Gaza, the city, in what was formerly called the Gaza strip, was settled as one of the oldest cities in the world and was later the capital of the Philistines.(1) Philistines became known much later as Palestinians. Then to the North of Israel is Lebanon, which is being used in our present day by another terrorist group, Hezbollah, as a staging area to attack Israel. Every one of these names is the same as New Testament times (except the terror groups), but the divisions of the territory are not exactly the same today.
Of these seven, it is likely that only two, possibly three, are known by the average Christian. We know Stephen, who was to become the first martyr in the New Testament Church, (considering John the Baptist as the last Old Testament martyr). Martyr is from the Greek martus, which means witness..(3) Stephen and John the Baptist witnessed---with their lives! We have heard of Nicolas of Antioch, of whom we know more legend than truth.Then, I want us to look at Philip, of whom scripture tells us much. Like Stephen, Philip did not just wait tables and take care of other church business, he went to preaching Christ! While Saul, the persecutor, was making havoc of the church, and helped scatter them abroad (which only served to grow the church that much more), “Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them” (Acts 8:5). Great miracles were done, including the matter with Simon the sorcerer. Some of the apostles came down from Jerusalem. They also were there preaching and seeing mighty works done in the name of Jesus Christ.
In the midst of all these glorious events, just after Peter, John, and perhaps other disciples, returned to Jerusalem, Mssrs. John Gill, Matthew Henry, J.A. Alexander, M. Baumgarten, and James Grey all agree Philip was still in Samaria when God had an angel direct him to immediately change locations. “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert” (Acts 8:26). He was going to see:
First it was an angel that changed the direction of Philip’s itinerary, and later he was prompted by the Holy Spirit. The man he was being led to see was a Cushite, a black man. He was a man of great authority in his native land, a land that still exists today, though for a time it was called Abyssinia instead of Ethiopia. He had charge of all the treasure of the queen called Candace ( a title, like Caesar or Pharaoh). The fact that he came to Jerusalem to worship indicates he was a proselyte Jew.
The meaning of the word “eunuch” usually means the male has been castrated..(4) Often in the east eunuchs were placed over the harems of the sheiks, and their emasculation prevented any troublesome problems with the women. Assuming this man was in that neutered category, he would have been forbidden to enter the temple under the Mosaic law. So he could be a"gate proselyte” which allowed him to worship at the temple gate, but not in the temple.(5) Since the things done concerning Christ “were not done in a corner”, he was possibly trying to connect things he had heard in Jerusalem about Jesus’ crucifixion with the scriptures. While John Gill favors the view he was reading Hebrew, Matthew Henry holds that he was likely reading the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), which was common in the world, even in Israel. He says this because of some phrases that Luke, the writer of Acts, uses that are minor variations from the original Hebrew.
Whatever language he was reading as he was returning to his home from Jerusalem, he was intent on understanding it as he was sitting in his chariot reading the “Gospel of Isaiah.” You heard me right, for as Leonard Ravenhill points out, there is perhaps as much of Christ in Isaiah as any Old Testament book.(6) It was certainly in God’s purpose that he be reading that particular book.
Then we are told that the Spirit of God spoke to Philip, and told him to go near, and join him in his chariot. We are not told how the Holy Ghost spoke to Philip. Audibly? By a vision? An inner prompting?. Remember, we do know that Philip was one of “seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.” So such a man knew when God was talking to him just as he knew the angel had led him some 60 miles to the Gaza desert in the first place.
Since he was on a mission from God, he ran up to the Ethiopian’s chariot and without any introduction, asked an urgent question. Note: often ministers of God have long introductions in their messages before they arrive at the urgent questions. Not Philip. He said as he heard the eunuch read the prophet Isaiah “Understandest thou what thou readest?” (Acts 8:30) This question is urgent and vital. Undoubtedly Phillip knew, even though Paul was later to pen the words (perhaps the clearest words on this subject), “But the natural man receiveth not the things of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (First Corinthians 2:14).
The answer of the eunuch “How can I except some man guide me?” (Acts 8:31-a), shows us, he, though a proselyte Jew, had no real understanding of the scripture he was reading. Religion is not enough to illuminate God’s word. Many people have a Bible in their home, and they might even read it, but without God giving them “ears to hear,” and “eyes to see,” and a thirst for the water of life, they will die and go to hell. “And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him” (Acts 8:31-b). Even this is remarkable. Here is a wealthy man, a man of great authority, in a desert area of a country not his own, and without hesitation, with hope that "some man", this man, a complete stranger, could help him understand, invites him to sit with him. Philip does so right away, for this is why he came on this evangelistic journey. Philip would be remembered after Samaria and Gaza throughout the centuries in the Christian church, not as Philip the Deacon, but as Philip the Evangelist.
“The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth” Acts 8:32,33). You can see with the spiritual eye why Isaiah is called “Gospel,for this quotation from Isaiah 53:7,8 tells us much of what was to happen in the four gospels about 712 years before it happened! But I get ahead of myself a little.
I don’t have too much more to labor on the point of this “some man”, except to say: to deny that God uses human instrumentality to save sinners is insane. You see it again and again in the word of God. He not only uses humans, but when it pleases Him, He uses angels (as here in Acts). The Holy Ghost is always involved in the salvation of sinners. He does the setting apart (sanctifying), the drawing as the apostle proclaims “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you and peace be multiplied” (First Peter 1:2). This “some man” sent to guide the eunuch, though he was a deacon, and an evangelist, could do nothing to actually save this man. He was God’s “errand boy", a messenger of God, as the angel was to him. Yet he played a vital, God ordained, role in this miracle at Gaza.
SOME OTHER MAN
"And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man?” (Acts 8:34). You see, the eunuch (whose name we never really know from scripture, though there has been much conjecture), was uncertain if Isaiah was speaking of some of his own suffering (which doubtless he had heard of), or of someone else. So we are told: “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus” (Acts 8:35). Charles Spurgeon in “Commenting and Commentaries” tells us of Dr. Hawker in his “Poor Man’s Commentary" ,who found Jesus in practically every Psalm, in places where most could not see Him. (7) Well, I believe any preacher, perhaps any man, who has been a Christian for any time at all could read Isaiah 53:7,8 and preach a little about Jesus. Of course, the Jews, largely in blindness until this day, stumble over that stumbling stone; but it is clear to the regenerated person that this passage is talking about Christ. It can be none other!
So as Philip began to preach unto him Jesus as that “some other man” , this great miracle of grace is beginning to fully unfold. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved”(Acts 4:12).A person’s eyes must be opened that they see- not doctrines about Him, but Him! Not Him as the babe in the manger, but as the suffering savior who died on the cruel cross, and rose again the third day! As already stated, I believe in election, predestination, God’s decrees, justification, sanctification, preservation and all these grand old doctrines, as much as anybody alive. But, just knowing these truths will not save anyone! I don’t even care if you say you are elect! Have you ever been to the foot of the cross to close savingly with Christ? Have you ever trusted, and do you now trust in Him alone for salvation. I believe many will be deceived, even knowing good doctrine, even claiming to be full of the Holy Ghost, because they never looked in repentance, and faith to the suffering Lamb of God. That is where our salvation lies, not in the things we believe about Him, but Him alone! Glory to His Holy Name!
After Philip preached unto him Jesus as the one who was led as a sheep to slaughter, as a dumb lamb before His shearers, as one who silently suffered all the humiliation, and whose life was taken away for His sheep, they came upon water and the eunuch said:“See, here is water: what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). Most of the modern Bible revisers throw out verse 37, but it is in the received (or majority), text so I have no trouble declaring it. It was confirmed by Philip that baptism is for believers. He said “believe with all your heart”. Too many in our day go under the water a dry sinner, and come up from the water a wet sinner, but a sinner still! Baptism is for believers. I know our paedobaptist friends think if you are sprinkled as an infant, you are in the covenant, and will manifest true salvation later in life. That doctrine just doesn’t “hold water”. Sorry about the pun, but Greek baptizo means “to dip, to immerse."(8) Even John Calvin admits this was the original way in the early church. “Here we see the rite used among the men of old time in baptism; for they put all the body into the water.”(9)
The answer of the eunuch was the answer of every born again person: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So, satisfied with that confession, he and Philip go down into the water and Philip baptized him. I say all this was a miracle. A miracle in the sense that every conversion of a sinner is a miracle. You ask “is it hard for a sinner to be saved?” No friend, it’s not hard, it’s impossible! You see “There is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:11-b).
All men are by nature sinners, totally depraved. Totally unable to move savingly toward God. They are dead.(See Ephesians 2:1). It takes a miracle of God, the same kind of miracle that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, to save a poor, lost, (often religious),depraved sinner and place him in Christ for eternity. Yes this was a miracle in the Gaza desert. God in His grace bringing the preaching deacon to the black guardian of his Queen’s treasure to explain to him the treasure of eternal life as it is in Jesus.
Just as Cornelius was the first European convert, and