Monday, October 27, 2014

Jeremiah: Weeping for the Disobedient, Part 3 by Steven Ger

Welcome to the third installment of our study of the dynamic message of the prophet Jeremiah. We have previously established the uniquely autobiographical tone of the book, concerning the one whose name means both "the Lord exalts" and "the Lord throws down". We have confirmed that Lord's message through his prophet in the first six chapters is indeed to "exalt" the righteous and to "throw down" the disobedient. This month we will continue on through the emotional and vivid journey of Jeremiah's message and see the passionate reaction of a spurned God to His people's faithlessness and rejection of His law. Let's proceed on to this month's invigorating portion of the prophetic word, Jeremiah 7-13.
 
The prophet in chapters 7-10, standing in the gate of the great Jerusalem Temple, indicts Judah for backsliding away from the Lord. In front of crowds of priests, merchants and worshipers, Jeremiah addresses the issue of true religion, i.e., religion that is acceptable to God. He demonstrates that salvation does not come through ritual or sacrifice or going through any other pious "motions,” but rather comes from knowing the true God and then acting accordingly.
 
Early in the ministry of Jeremiah, good King Josiah had begun to reform the religious practices of Judah and to restore and purify the worship of God.  He had even initiated a building project to repair the decaying Temple.  Some years later, in the wake of Josiah's religious reformation, the Jewish people were falsely placing their trust in the sacrifice and ritual of the Temple. They believed that although the Lord may have judged the idolatry and rebellion of the northern kingdom of Israel, that there was no way He would allow His holy city of Jerusalem to suffer judgment. Certainly He would not permit the great Sanctuary of Zion to be desecrated. 
 
Jeremiah proclaims that this is futile wishful thinking. The Lord will not spare a people who have brazenly transgressed a full half of the Ten Commandments (7:9). Pronouncing the judgment that Jesus would later echo over six hundred years later, Jeremiah cries that the house of the Lord has become a den of thieves (7:11). The Temple will provide no shelter for those who have profaned its sanctity.
 
Jeremiah knew that elaborate sacrifice and ritual were meaningless unless they were accompanied by individual changes of heart. Knowledge was useless without obedience and Jeremiah evoked the message of his prophetic predecessors in calling for social justice and renewed obedience to the Mosaic Covenant. Jeremiah again promises destruction on Judah if there is no repentance. He contrasts God's infinite wisdom with their foolishness. Unless the people of Judah change their ways their sin would be severely punished. Their claim of “peace, peace” when there was no peace would suck them down in a whirlwind of terror; the terror of destruction, death and exile from their homeland (10:17ff). Disaster cannot be averted. The prophet himself identifies and personifies the hopelessness of the imminent judgment to come. The weeping prophet cries out for "the balm in Gilead;" healing medicine to close the gaping wounds of Judah (8:22-9:1).
 
In chapters 11-13, Jeremiah implores Judah to face the fact that they were grossly violating the Covenant and that dire consequences were about to follow. To say the least, the prophet's message lacked popularity. In fact, he records that there was a plot to muffle his message by assassinating him. Disturbingly, even members of his own family were involved with this heinous scheme (11:18-12:6). However, the Lord revealed the plot and protected his servant and Jeremiah continued to speak the word of the Lord against his people. The message continued to be uncomplicated: those who were obedient were under God's divine protection and those who were disobedient were under His wrath. God and his prophet were both acutely aware that the people would not listen and Jeremiah wept bitterly at the pending disaster for his people.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Another Theologian Drifts! by John Pappas, ThD

It is sad to report that another theology textbook has moved into lordship salvation. I loved Dr. Paul Enns’ “The Moody Handbook of Theology” published in 1989. I even have a signed copy of the book. This was the theology I recommend to everyone as a must have – “the best concise theology out there.” But I can no longer endorse it. I ordered the revised edition last month (2014 edition) and to my complete surprise, Dr. Enns has moved. He now supports lordship salvation and John Macarthur has written the forward. 

What a shock it is to read “Believe Only” is listed among the “erroneous views” section.  The original release of the theology lined up with Charles Ryrie’s Basic Theology.  And when Dr. Couch brought him in to teach Christology at Tyndale I loved the book so much I got his autograph. Now I am afraid, I can no longer endorse the book. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

EZEKIEL AND THE UNITED NATIONS by Dr. Paul Benware



          Now that the current war between Israel and Hamas has concluded (at least temporarily), we are not at all surprised by the outcome. With superior fire power, Israel devastated Gaza and brought a crushing defeat to these Islamic haters of Israel. We wonder sometimes what possesses a group like Hamas to imagine that they will drive Israel from the land.  It surely is a form of satanically stimulated insanity which motivates them.
          What we are not surprised about is that so many nations and individuals found this war with Hamas an opportune event to express high levels of deep hatred for Israel.  Signs declaring that “Zionists are the new Nazis” and shouts that “Jews should be gassed” or “burned” were heard in the streets of Europe as well as many Arab nations.  But it was not just in the streets of cities all over the world (including the USA) that such irrationality was witnessed.  In the United Nations, once again Israel was attacked viciously. This time it was the “war crimes” of Israel that were decried and Israel’s indiscriminate killing of innocents (without mentioning, of course, that over 4000 rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel from all locations including schools, hospitals and mosques.) 
          As we were again exposed to this irrational kind of thinking in our present day, it is good to recall again that this is not something new.  And it is not something that is going to go away any time soon. It will go on until Jesus, from the tribe of Judah, comes and conquers His enemies, restores Israel back to Himself and takes possession of His inheritance, which is all the nations of the world (Psalm 2). The prophet Ezekiel has some helpful thoughts in his prophecy. We want to quickly look at some of the words of the prophet Ezekiel, in chapters 35 and 36 because they sound as if they were spoken last month.
The Setting of the Prophecy.   This chapter is found within that great section of Ezekiel on the restoration of Israel.  In chapters 34-39, God declares that He is going to restore Israel (the words “I will” is used about 70 times in this section). We are told by Ezekiel that the restoration of Israel depends on God’s word and character and not on Israel’s righteousness.  There is an order to Israel’s restoration. God will first restore Israel back to their ancient land, and this will be over a period of time and will be clearly seen by the nations of the world. Second, they will be restored back to the Lord.  God will use the terrible days of the Tribulation to restore His people spiritually.  In the midst of this discussion, we have the declarations in chapter 35:1-36:15 of the antagonism of Edom and the nations of the world.  This section is likely included to reveal that the restoring of Israel will not be easy and will be resisted by Israel’s enemies.
The History of the Hatred of Edom Against Israel.  Edom was a nation formed primarily from the descendants of Esau as well as Ishmael.  God said of Ishmael that “he will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him.” (Gen. 16:12).  Later Esau (Gen. 28:8-9) married into the line of Ishmael, and the nation that came about was the nation of Edom.  From the very beginning there was a deep antagonism between Esau and Jacob (Israel).  In the end times, the hatred of Edom (the Arab nations) towards Israel would remain. The term “Edom” is being used not only of these peoples but also as representing the nations of the world. As Dr. Merrill Unger states: “Edom, her bitterest and most inveterate foe, representative of her enemies in general, is prophesied to be destroyed irrevocably.” (Ungers Commentary on the Old Testament, p. 1567).  This irrational hatred for Israel which has been in the world since the days of Genesis will be alive and vibrant at the end of this age and apparently led by “Edom”.  It must be said that the rabid anti-Semitism that is witnessed in the world today and will be present in the end of times finds it origin in Genesis 12.  This chapter records that moment in time when God entered into an eternal, unconditional covenant with Abraham and his descendants.  Through the “seed” of Abraham, Satan, and his attempts to control the world, will be brought to an end.  Satan is well aware that it is through the “seed” of Abraham (the Lord Jesus Christ) that his demise will come.  He hates Jesus (whom he cannot touch) and so his venom is spewed out on the Jewish people.
The Sins of Edom and the Nations of the World.   Ezekiel records several evils of “Edom” (as it represents the world of nations in the end times).
(1) The slaughter of the Jews (35:5; 36:4).  The blood of Israel has been shed in abundance.  “Edom” has not hated blood and murder. Does this remind us of dozens of statements made by Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIS? And not just their statement but their brutal actions. They have loved blood and there will be retribution in kind from the Lord (35:6).  There will be no mercy shown to them because they refused to show mercy. (Note what Amos 1:11 says about this attitude of Edom).
(2) The Taking of Land Given to Israel Under the Abrahamic Covenant (35:10; 36:2, 5).  The Land was given to the descendants of Abraham within the eternal, unconditional covenant.  To take that land is to steal from the Lord God.  The promise of the Lord in Ezekiel is that Israel will get all of their land that was given to them under the Abrahamic Covenant.  “Edom” will pay for their arrogant claims that the land will become theirs. The Land is not “Palestinian land” and it has not been theirs from “time immemorial” as is often claimed.  It is not true to history that the Jews arrived late and took it from the “Palestinian people” (who, of course, do not exist in history).  Note the proud boast of “Edom” in 35:10 where the two nations likely refer to Israel and Judah.  “These two nations and these two lands will be mine, and we will possess them…”  Does that not sound a lot like what we hear today when it is said that Israel will be driven into the sea and “Palestine” will be possessed by the Arab peoples?
(3) The Intense Hatred and Envy of the Jews (35:11). The Jewish people have turned the swamps and barren desert into lush, productive land.  They have been innovative and developed an immensely prosperous land.  This reality has only fueled the long standing hatred and envy against the Jewish people.  God clearly has chosen to bless and prosper them even though they presently remain in their unbelief.
It must be noted that this envy and hatred is seen in the words spoken against Israel (an example of which is that constant stream of abuse flowing out of the United Nations).  Israel is said to have become “a derision to the rest of the nations” (36:4), but that will come to an end when Messiah reigns and “I will not let you hear insults from the nations anymore, nor will you bear disgrace from the peoples any longer” (36:15). This has not taken place yet but the UN will be silenced!
The End of It all.  One basic thing that “Edom” forgets is that to attack Israel is to attack the God of Israel (35:10).  When they speak against Israel, they speak against the Lord Jehovah (35:13).  When they take land, they steal it from the Lord Himself (35:10; 36:5). In the end, the patience of the Lord God will come to an end and He will deal with them according to their evil (note Exo. 34:6 and 7).  And, “Edom” has also forgotten the most basic of points.  That point is that the Abrahamic Covenant is still in force and that those who “curse” Israel will be cursed by God (which is not an enviable position to be in). (See Gen. 12:3)
          So we learn from Ezekiel that the deep antagonism against Israel was true in the past and it will be true in the present, but that it will not be true in the future kingdom when Jesus, son of David from the tribe of Judah, rules.  Then all will be as it should be.  We need Ezekiel’s perspective as we observe events in the middle-east and hear the rhetoric coming out of New York (the United Nations), Damascus, Tehran, Cairo, Gaza City and many other places.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dispensationalism by Dr. Robert Lightner

  Perhaps you have never heard what the title “Dispensationalism” for this Thought for the Day means. Or maybe you have heard or seen the word but those who used it gave the impression it should be avoided at all cost. It has been said that its teaching is heretical, dangerous and a false teaching. 

    John Gerstner has called dispensationalism “a cult and not a branch of the Christian church.” John Bowman in his criticism of the Scofield Reference Bible, which includes dispensational teaching, says dispensationalism is the most dangerous heresy currently to be found within Christian circles.” A number of other descriptions of the system have been called “modernism,” “unscriptural,” and “heresy.” As Charles Ryrie has said in his Dispnsationalism, the system has been attacked intellectually and historically. 

    All the attacks and slanders against Dispensationalism have been addressed and answered but to little avail. Dispensationalism is a system of theology which sets forth that God has dealt with mankind differently in different time periods and in different stages of His revelation to man. 

    Dispensationalists generally believe there are seven of these time periods. They are named: Innocence, Conscience, Human Government, Promise, Law, Grace, and Kingdom. These seven are also called economies. Unfortunately, critics have insisted that dispensationalists believe in seven different ways of salvation based on the seven dispensations. Nothing could be further from the truth. In his book titled Dispensationalism Dr. Ryrie lists three dispensations mentioned by the apostle Paul, He uses Ephesians 1:10; 3:2; and Colossians 1:25-26 to support his claim. In closing it should be pointed out that in the first two of these references the Greek word translated “dispensation” is used by Paul in the same way the dispensationalists use it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

JEREMIAH: WEEPING FOR THE DISOBEDIENT" PART 2 by Steven Ger

Welcome to the second installment of our overview of Jeremiah's message.  Last month we introduced the prophet himself and the background of his ministry and message.  We learned that Jeremiah is one of the most autobiographical books in the entire Bible, and that his name means both "the Lord exalts" and "the Lord throws down".  We will see after studying this book that God exalts those who seek Him but does indeed "throw down" entire nations (even Israel) which disobey Him.  This series is entitled, "Weeping for the disobedient"; Jeremiah is known as the "weeping prophet", who agonized over the coming judgment on his people.  This month we will examine the first six dynamic chapters of the book bearing Jeremiah's name.  Before continuing with this month's lesson, please review Jeremiah 1-6.  Buckle your seat belts; the prophecy of Jeremiah is a bumpy road!
 
 The first six chapters of Jeremiah comprise his earliest messages to the people of Judah.  The first chapter introduces the Lord's call and commissioning of the prophet.  We see that God chose Jeremiah from the womb and called Jeremiah to ministry when he was only a youth.  Young Jeremiah, like Moses had centuries earlier, claimed incompetence for prophetic ministry.  Jeremiah knew the magnitude of the opposition he would face . God, however, promised to be in relationship with Jeremiah and to give him the words to speak.

   Basically, the message God gave Jeremiah was concerned with condemning Judah's sinfulness.  God appointed his prophet to "uproot, tear down, destroy and overthrow".  Judah had forsaken the Lord and served other gods.  Jeremiah's message was specifically designed to bring the people to repentance.  The Lord also commissioned Jeremiah "to build and to plant".  If the Jewish people could be persuaded to repent of their gross idolatry, then there was a chance that the curses promised for their sinfulness in the Mosaic Covenant could be avoided and God's blessings delivered in their stead.
 
 Judah was given two choices.  They could either repent and be saved or they could continue in sin and be severely judged.  Their idolatry was an abomination to the Lord. However, they hypocritically and blindly continued to believe that all was right between themselves and God. God called them to circumcise their hearts, to truly return to Him. They were to perform radical heart surgery on themselves and cast away their corruption.  these were necessary actions in order to actuate their nation's corporate healing, individual's personal restoration and in order for all nations to be saved.  It can not be doubted that there was ample justification for God's judgment.  From the greatest of the people to the least of them; priest and prophet, king and peasant alike were all sinful and unrepentant. Jeremiah's heart was tormented as he prophesied God's judgment on the people and the land.

   The direction from which the judgment was to come would be from the north.  It would come swiftly and as a direct consequence of their sin.  There was no ambiguity as to whether this referred to the then most powerful nation on earth, Babylon.  Those of you readers who happen to be teachers know the educational value of object lessons in order to communicate a topic.  The book Jeremiah is a veritable handbook of educational object lessons.  The specific object lesson the Lord would use to teach Judah to obey Him would be exile and captivity in a foreign land.  As Judah had served other gods, so they would also serve foreigners.
 
 Even so, note that even through this harsh punishment, the Lord promises that a remnant of the Jewish people would survive to appreciate and learn the Divine lesson.  Jeremiah's message hearkens to the future messianic age, when Judah and Israel would be reunited in the land.  In that age Jerusalem will be exalted again and all nations would serve God.  At that time the symbol of God's presence, the ark of the covenant, would be irrelevant because God Himself would be present in the midst of His people.
 

 After reading through these first six chapters we have seen that the book of Jeremiah is an emotional, vivid journey into the hands of an angry and jealous God.  Next month we will see the Lord's condemnation through Jeremiah of the corrupt rituals of the Jerusalem Temple and the breaking of the Mosaic Covenant.    

Monday, September 22, 2014

USA And The Shift In Religious Freedom By John Pappas, ThD

When a conflict exists between humanism and Christianity the Obama  administration chooses humanism. The most recent  evidence of this fact was demonstrated on March 25, 2014 with the Obama administration arguments before the Supreme court in the Hobby Lobby verses Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services case.  The administration’s argument centered on individual employees’ right to receive employer mandated birth control including the abortion pill. The lawyers for Hobby Lobby argued employer’s right to religious conscience against abortion drugs. In other words, the government argues that the individual employee has a basic right to abortion independent of the will of the employer.  


This is in essence an argument of two religions: Humanism verses Christianity. Humanism was declared a religion by the Supreme Court and is characterized by the following beliefs:


  • Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis.
  • Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of evolutionary change, an unguided process.
  • Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience.
  • Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals.
  • Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships.
  • Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.
  • Respect for differing yet humane views in an open, secular, democratic, environmentally sustainable society


In essence, the Obama administration was arguing that Humanism trumps Christianity. The Humanist religion is promoted by the world’s elitists, with names like John Dewey, Ron Wood Sellars and Raymond Bragg who started the organization in 1933 as an anti-religious (aka. anti-Christian) organization. In more recent times noted humanists are identified as Isaac Asimov, John Ciardi, Alan F. Guttmacher, Andrei Sakharov, Betty Friedan, and B. F. Skinner the preeminent American philosopher of the first half of the century (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanist_Manifesto). 


The rise of humanism means the death of truth, and moral absolutes. With humanism the individual is all-important not God. The result of exaltation of self is the dangerous mentality that “the ends justly the means.” Truth is only valued if it serves the agenda and the individual’s favor.


The humanist wants everyone to believe like them. Notice how the elitist humanists want to take over the country:


“Expanding upon the role the public education establishment should play to bring about the goals described in the Humanist Manifesto II, John Dunphy wrote: "I am convinced that the battle for humankind's future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers that correctly perceive their role as proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being...The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and new -- the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism, resplendent with the promise of a world in which the never-realized Christian ideal of 'love thy neighbor' will finally be achieved.” (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanist_Manifesto)


The result of the rise of humanism is a rise in mysticism. Mysticism lets emotion trump fact. Post-Christian America does not want the facts since facts get in the way of some agenda. This Dark Age type mysticism has touched every part of American life. For example, American news does not give the facts as they used to do. Today’s news gives out selective facts skewed toward some humanist message. If a reporter reports something contrary to their stance – that reporter is fired or forced out. 


Science has also fallen victim to emotion and agenda instead of fact. The most notable recent scientific controversy is global warming. The global warming agenda does not care about the facts - emotion has taken over argument. A high school student can understand the data, but the data is pushed to the side because the hard facts contradict their agenda. There is no direct correlation between Co2 and global temperature – that is the fact and what the historical data says.  Again, if a scientist disagrees with the agenda he or she is fired and/or their research is not funded. Only research that positively favors their agenda will be tolerated and truth is suppressed.  


Post Christian America has returned to the dark ages where truth and morals are secondary to mysticism of modern day humanism. The individual is elevated and truth is individual not universal since there is no universal truth except their truth. The reformation brought God, truth, justice and scientific absolutism to light. What is needed today is not reformation, but revival.  It is only a shift back to God and the Bible that will bring truth back to prominence. 


The totalitarian humanist and the loss of the love of truth can only result in what one saw in the middle ages – intolerance, totalitarian governments, socialist economic policy, and loss of religious rights. Where is the constitution in all this change? It cannot coexist with the humanist’s policy and agenda. That is why the Obama administration bypasses congress in order to implement universal birth control. This humanist government is removing religious freedom one step at a time.  My conscience for one is violated because I have no choice not to support my health insurance’s policy supporting abortion. My freedom to practice my religious convictions have been violated and the religion of humanism has legally triumphed over Christianity in the USA.               

Monday, September 15, 2014

What In the World Is Going On? Ears Being “Tickled?” Read and Study your Bible by Dr. Gary Dromi



About seven years ago I was blessed to serve as the Associate Pastor at a church where the Senior Pastor believed in the absolute Sovereignty of God and the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture, (two traits which are becoming more and more scarce amongst teaching pastors).  He and I were/are theologically on the same page even though we attended different seminaries.  Almost every day we would have great theological discussions about God, His Word and why it is that so many people are willing to go to the local “Christian” bookstore, where they will spend a lot of money, to buy and read someone else’s opinion about all things theological instead of simply reading their own Bibles.  This is a most puzzling practice among modern-day churchgoers. 

One of the other topics that we would discuss is the high level of Biblical illiteracy that is found among so many of those who attend a church of any denomination.  When asked to open their Bibles to the book of Hosea, most either have never heard of it or have no idea where to find it.  There was a time when memorizing the books of the Bible and where to find them was a common practice among professing believers.  Sadly, that is no longer the case.

At the same time, ask them about some of the most popular televangelists (male or female) and their latest books, and they will joyfully tell you how good it makes them “feel” to have read it in their “Bible study” group.  Seems a little peculiar to attend a “Bible study” group and not study the Bible, doesn’t it? 

In Jesus’ high priestly prayer for His disciples He prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth,” (NASB John 17:17).  What is it about that declaration from Jesus that causes people to seek spiritual “truth” from other writers?  Is it a function of poor exegesis and teaching from the pulpit?  Is it a function of laziness on the part of those who attend church?  Is it a manifestation of lukewarmness?  Is it because too many people are looking for a self-centered “experience” instead diligently studying their Bibles to find out the truth about themselves and how much they need Jesus?  Maybe it’s a combination of all those things and the direct influence of our culture and its false teachers.

Reading books written by other authors is not necessarily bad.  There are some outstanding, godly authors out there.  But one must be wise and discerning.  The filter through which all other writings must pass is God’s Word.  If, for any reason, the words of other authors disagrees with the Scriptures, then it’s the authors who are wrong, not God’s Word.  Currently, there is a movement in the other direction, that is, man is right and “God wasn’t clear enough in His Word, so we need to help Him.”  

A major part of the problem relates back to the lack of Biblical literacy, which only makes it more difficult for people to be wise and discerning when evaluating what has been written by other authors.

The verses below clearly lay out why reading and studying the Bible is so important.  It’s a practice that ALL true believers need to either return to or improve upon.
 
 This first verse is Peter’s response to Jesus as He asks His disciples if they, too, want to stop following Him,
Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life.  ‘And we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’” (NASB:  John 6:68-69).

The next verse is the great apostle Paul encouraging his spiritual son, Timothy, to,
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth,” (NASB 2 Tim. 2:15).

We should all pay close attention to Paul’s instruction to Timothy and do what Paul tells Timothy to do. 

May the Lord bless you as you diligently read and study His Word.

 By His Grace,
Dr. Gary T. Dromi