Wednesday, February 29, 2012

All Roads

People are being taken captive by a tremendous lie. The idea that all religions are equally the same and all people worship the same god is utterly and obviously false. But our young people, in particular, seem to be defenseless to understand why. I am here to hopefully shed some “light” on the puzzle.

Imagine you have 4 friends sitting with you at lunch one day. A conversation begins . . . One says, “You broke the lamp!” Another one says, “No, I didn’t; that guy did it!” The third friend says, “You’re both wrong, the lamp isn’t broken!” Finally, the fourth friend says, “Don’t be silly, there is no lamp!”

I think that everyone can agree that some of those statements have to be false, and quite possibly, all of them. If you look carefully, you’ll also notice that, at most, only one of them can be true. Why do we know this? We know this because they each contradict the other.

In the world of religion we have the same sort of conversation taking place every day. One religion says Jesus is the Messiah, another says he is not. Still others say there is no Messiah at all. To say that all those ideas are right is to put your brain in neutral. Every religion contradicts what the other religions teach. Let me say that again – EVERY religion contradicts every other religion. They ALL claim that they, and they alone, teach the truth.

So which religion should you follow after? For me, the answer is NONE! I see Christianity as being so different than every other religion that it really isn’t a religion at all. Let me explain . . . The world’s religions all teach men how to reach up to God; they all have a plan of works you perform to get to heaven. But Christianity is completely different; it teaches that God has a plan to reach down to men through faith in the death of Jesus on the cross.

Christianity is the only HOPE that is real. The requirements of religion set you up to fail with impossible expectations. But Christianity isn’t about measuring up and doing good deeds, it’s a step of faith that says God has already done the work for you.

So what do you do now? Read the Bible; start with the gospel book of John. Find a church that teaches the Bible is the Truth and it doesn’t add or subtract anything from it. And let me know if you need help.

If you would like more information on the teachings of different religions, please check out these books: The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin and The Compact Guide to World Religions by Dean Halverson.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

God's Glory

So this week we are finishing up the gospel of Luke in our Bereans’ Sunday school class. I was reading along and soon found that I needed help putting all the bits of information about the Passion Week into chronological order. I turned to John MacArthur’s Whole Bible Commentary – he is a master at sorting out such details. If you have access to this excellent resource, you’ll find several charts for the events of the Passion Week beginning on page 1321 with cross references to all four of the gospels.

On Sunday, we have the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This is the scene where people praised Jesus because they thought He would overthrow the Roman government for them. The Pharisees tell Jesus to silence them. This is when Jesus says, “If these become silent, the stones will cry out!” and then foretells the coming destruction of the temple
(Luke 19:37-44).

Then, Monday through Thursday, Jesus is in the temple preaching and teaching. Each day the religious elite rejected Him and most all of the religious masses misunderstood Him. Each evening He departed the temple, traveled eastward out of the city and went up on the Mount of Olives to pray and to rest before doing it all again the next day. Interesting side note: on the night of His betrayal, Judas was able to pre-arrange for the Roman guards to arrest Him because this “was His custom” during the week He was in Jerusalem.

Fast forward about 35 years, and the prophecy by Jesus was fulfilled. In AD 70, on April 9th, Titus laid siege to Jerusalem, cutting off all supplies and trapping thousands of people who had been in Jerusalem for the Passover. Over the course of the summer, the Romans systematically and brutally slaughtered tens of thousands. The barricades held until early September when the few remaining captives were then led off to become victims of the Roman gladiator games. The city was set ablaze and the ruins of the temple sifted like flour in an effort to find the gold that had once decorated its furnishings and buildings.

Why did God allow such a thing to happen? Jesus says in Luke 19:44, that it was the people’s failure to “recognize the time of your visitation”. Messiah had come to the Jews, and they had, for the most part, utterly failed to acknowledge Him. God’s judgment fell on the people of that generation for not recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. In essence, they denied the glory of Jesus Christ and robbed Him of the praise that was properly due Him.

Compare this with what was said in Luke 7:16, in this part of the gospel Jesus has just raised a widow’s son from the dead. The people who witnessed this miracle exclaim, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” This is the same sort of teaching in many false religions; they fail to recognize Jesus, the Christ, as Lord and God - part of the Holy Trinity; instead they call Him merely a prophet or a great teacher. Others, of course, claim He did not even exist. However, judgment will one day fall on all the people of the world that have failed to give praise and deny the true glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that the Jerusalem siege began during the Passover celebration. The Jewish people should have been commemorating the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for their sins, yet they were still eating lamb and thinking about their nation’s escape from Egypt. I find myself shuddering at the thought when I read about the magnitude of the brutality, yet I know in the final days, it will be much worse for those caught in their unbelief.

Now let’s leave the New Testament and head back to the Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel. The book of Ezekiel is very interesting, it tells of the coming destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Notice that this is not the same destruction as Jesus foretold would happen by the Romans in AD 70.

The prophet Ezekiel repeatedly warns Israel that the Lord will bring judgment if they do not stop their idolatrous ways. Because the people do not repent, Ezekiel has visions which show the glory of God leaving the temple, heading eastward, and going up to the mountain outside the city (Ezekiel 11:23). Sound familiar? This is the same path Jesus would have taken each day during the Passion Week as He left the temple and went to the Mount of Olives for prayer and rest. By the way, Paul wrote in II Corinthians 4:6, that the glory of God was in the face of Jesus Christ.

Judgment and wrath are harsh words; however, God is just. He not only wants our praise, but deserves it. “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (Revelation 4:11).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Microwave Popcorn

Microwave Popcorn – I think this is a good term for the way our society views life. Popcorn is pretty simple: large pot, a few kernels, a little oil, add a lid and some heat – presto! 3 minutes and you get popped corn :-o  But we want it NOW, no wait, that is much too long to wait, we wanted it THEN! (By the way, a lot of microwave popcorn packages also take 3 minutes) We’ve become so accustomed to our everyday conveniences that when something difficult arrives on the doorstep of our lives we either panic or refuse to open the door, and sometimes we even do both.

I’m on the mailing list of a large Christian book seller. Saturday’s mail brought me one of their catalogs, which I usually just recycle because I would rather shop their entire inventory online. But I glanced at the cover and noticed a book claiming that you can “understand the Bible in 30 days with this innovative 15-minute-a-day guide.” I have a couple problems with this . . .

First, no one will ever “understand” the Bible. Someone may have come up with a clever way to help you gain MORE understanding, but to say, without any qualification whatsoever, that this or that is a way to understand the Bible is a farce and a delusion – run away!

Second, 15 minutes a day WILL NOT give you a handle on the profound complexity of the Living Word of our Infinite God. If you are truly seeking a better understanding of your Bible, then make a serious commitment of some serious time!

You cannot microwave your way into a deeper knowledge of something that is, by its very nature, infinite. God’s word is hard to understand, YES! But I take solace in that fact because it helps me to KNOW it was not written by a bunch of men, but by the Holy Spirit using those men to bring us the infinite wisdom and truths of the Holy God.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Luke the Historian

A long time family friend has directed me to an online resource of evidence for the truthfulness of the gospel writing being verified from external as well as internal resources.

The URL -

I am just beginning my personal "dig" around this site but I wanted to post this here for everyone to enjoy. This is, in part, what I have found:

"As we said earlier, the Gospel of Luke was originally combined with Acts in a single work. The author, Luke the physician, was a careful and conscientious historian. The accuracy of Acts led one eminent archaeologist at the turn of the century—Sir William Ramsay—to become a believer in Christ. Through his extensive excavations in Asia Minor, Ramsay himself made many discoveries showing the historical reliability of Acts. Ramsay concluded,
Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history; and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident (6).
One of many striking confirmations of Luke's accuracy is his use of titles. The many titles that he brings into his narrative would, if he were careless or uninformed, most certainly give rise to errors. He notes that when pagan opponents of Christianity rioted in Ephesus, there was more than one proconsul of Asia (Acts 19:38). Sergius Paullus appears in Luke's history as "proconsul of Cyprus" (Acts 13:7) and Gallio as "proconsul of Achaia" (Acts 18:12), although the province was ordinarily known as Greece. The local authorities in Ephesus are "Asiarchs" (Acts 19:31). The magistrates of Philippi are "praetors" and their assistants "lictors" (Acts 16:20, 35), but the magistrates of Thessalonica are "politarchs" (Acts 17:6). The chief official of Malta is protos—first man of the island (Acts 28:7). Herod Antipas, known to his subjects as a king, is designated a "tetrarch" (Luke 3:1). And Lysanias is called "tetrarch of Abilene" (Luke 3:1). All these names and titles have been verified as correct, in some instances by archaeological discoveries within the last century (7). Luke's accuracy is all the more remarkable when we consider the difficulty of his task. Roman political titles were in a constant state of flux. Moreover, a writer in antiquity could not check his facts by going to a local library." (emphasis added)

P.S. I have looked more at this site and think this might be one of the better links, it is lesson 5 on the truthfulness of the gospels:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Apostles vs. Disciples

I just realized a wonderful truth to share with you all. Did the gospel writers personally know Jesus? Here’s the acid test – do we call them an Apostle? If so, then the answer is YES! It’s just that easy. There are only 12, ONLY.

The 12th became the Apostle Paul, who met Jesus personally on the road to Damascus, and was called by the Lord Himself to be an Apostle. Paul spent a great deal of time and energy convincing the folks of his day of this fact, just read the opening lines of any of his epistles.

Apostle Matthew? YES.
Apostle Mark? NO. He wrote what the Apostle Peter preached.
Apostle Luke? NO. But he interviewed eye-witnesses.
Apostle John? YES.

Now I know there are those “churches” who run around calling anyone and everyone an apostle. But they are not using the word correctly. The title goes to the 12 that Jesus personally CHOSE and then SENT to disciple the world, and no one else.

So what is the difference between a disciple and an Apostle? Well, for one thing, there is that capital letter I just put on the word “Apostle”. "Apostle" is a proper title, given by Jesus, not man. "Disciple" is an adjective; however, we’ve come to use the word as a noun. Sort of like when we say American, that’s usually a description of people, but then it can also be used to describe automobiles, flags, cuisine, etc.  The word “disciple” describes someone who is learning from a particular teacher. In this case, we are talking about disciples of Jesus.

It can be confusing because some folks call “the 12” disciples – and they were; but there were thousands of folks who literally followed (traveled with) Jesus as learner-disciples when He was teaching and traveling from city to city. And anyone, from any era, can be a disciple of Jesus by studying the Bible and “following Him” by the way they live their lives. Therefore, I am a disciple, but can never become one of the 12 Apostles, no matter how much studying I do!

I know using the title “Apostle” might not look like very convincing evidence. But actually the early church fathers would have been extremely particular to not banter this title about carelessly. They no doubt held meetings just to discuss the use of this word! So when early documents use the word “Apostle”, we can be reasonably certain, that individual KNEW Jesus.

The mere fact that only 2 of the 4 gospel writers have this title should show you that there is something "special" about those two. Personally, I feel that this is more "internal evidence" of the Bible's truthfulness. If mere men were putting the Bible together, all the writers would have held this important title.

John's Internal Evidence

As you may remember, I wrote earlier that the gospel writer John and his brother James were the fishermen to whom Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). John then lived another 50-60 years before writing his gospel narrative in AD 80-90. In the meantime, during AD 70, the Romans utterly and completely destroyed Jerusalem. The historian below concludes that John’s gospel contains information that ONLY someone living in Jerusalem prior to AD 70 could have had. Here then is more internal evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible:

“Recent archaeological discoveries include both the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1f) and 'The Pavement' (John 19:13). Their existence was doubted just a few decades ago. Confirmation of the accuracy of the setting of Jacob's well has also been found (John 4). Such findings have caused many scholars to reverse earlier skeptical opinions on the historicity of the Fourth Gospel. Its author has demonstrated an obvious intimate knowledge of the Jerusalem of Jesus' time, just as we would expect from the Apostle John. Such detail would not have been accessible to a writer of a later generation, since Jerusalem was demolished under Titus' Roman army in 70 A.D.”

This came from Raymond Brown, “The Gospel According to John I-XII”, 1966.

The Bible: Worst Ever Propaganda

While I was digging around online searching for some references to share here, I found some interesting ideas. I know that someone who doesn’t believe in the Bible doesn’t want biblical evidence, but sometimes that is exactly where the best truth is to be found. Consider these 2 paragraphs:

“There are characteristics within the texts themselves which mark the four Gospels as sober history and neither legend nor fictional propaganda. Consider that the Gospel writers set the leading disciples [including themselves!] in very poor light (Matthew 14:30, Mark 9:33f, Luke 22:54f). Notice as well that they included hard words by Jesus, which in fact repelled many hearers (Matthew 21:28f, Luke 9:23f, John 8:39f).

One distinction of the four Gospels is that their famed treasure of good news lies not nakedly on the surface, but hidden behind both challenge (Mark 8:34f, John 12:25f) and threat (Matthew 25:31f). Such characteristics would have been counter-productive to propagandists. Their presence in the Gospels demonstrates the willingness of the evangelists to tell the truth, however embarrassing or inconvenient.”

Reading this today reminded me of some teaching from about 20 years ago. The speaker said that the Bible is its own proof as the true Word of God. Why? Because the “heroes” are liars (Abraham), drunks (Noah), adulterous murderers (David), scaredy-cats (the disciples in the boat during a storm), and they denied even knowing Jesus (Peter). Not to mention that the first people to “testify” of the resurrection are women - the Jews and Romans forbid women to testify in a court of law! If mere men were the real writers, all of this would have been white-washed and every Apostle would be squeaky-clean, rich and famous. Instead you have a low-life tax collector and nobody fishermen running around telling people about Jesus.

Evidence that Jesus Lived

This morning I am asked to provide secular evidence for Jesus being a real person. Fair enough, I will do my best. When I read McDowell’s book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, what it did for me was to open my eyes to the truthfulness of the Bible.

Now for the references you asked for - Josh McDowell’s book is truly a good resource for you to find and have. I know it sounds outdated, but history does not change! Chapter 5 of his book is titled “Jesus – A Man of History”. Here McDowell gives quote after quote of secular historians attesting to the factual nature of Jesus; many of them are quotes from the Roman officials stating what a royal pain this Jesus was for them! And he has carefully footnoted each one and gives the references – here are two I thought would be most helpful to you:

Betz, Otto. What Do We Know About Jesus? 1966.

Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents, Are They Reliable? 1972.

And here is a very interesting quote, I’m somewhat certain the “updated” Encyclopedia Britannica would not say this, but maybe then it would. Political correctness has caused a lot of people to rethink what they would otherwise say. Anyway, here’s what he says about the 1974 text (15th edition), his footnote “3/145” may refer to the volume and page number, I’m not sure. The following paragraph is taken right from McDowell’s book, the 5th chapter:

The latest edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica uses 20,000 words in describing this person, Jesus. His description took more space than was given to Aristotle, Cicero, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed or Napoleon Bonaparte. Concerning the testimony of the many independent secular accounts of Jesus of Nazareth, it records: “These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds by several authors at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.” 3/145

One last thing – if Jesus is a legend – why in the world, honestly, WHY do we name our years based on his birth? BC – before Christ and AD – Anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of the Lord” I think, at the very least, you must surely realize that a man with this name lived and that he was an important historical figure.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Evidence That Demands A Verdict

Again, a comment was posted here yesterday that asked, in part, “What truth did you gain from the Bible and how was that done?” That is a very good question and it deserves a “good” answer.  Here’s my best shot:

I was in college, convinced that everything my professors were teaching about the theory of evolution was true, and ignoring God because I felt the Bible was a bunch of lies. Some friends of my husband took me to their church. It was quite an evening! That story, if you’re interested, has been posted here under the title, “True Worship”, dated 7/14/2010. Shortly afterwards, one of those folks, knowing me to be an evolutionist and a scientist, gave me a copy of Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands A Verdict. That was 1983.

I gobbled that book up like it was candy! I will do my best to give you a clear and concise explanation of what I found. There’s a lot of “evidence” that McDowell gives using the Old Testament prophecies that came true in the life of Jesus. That was interesting, but I wasn’t very impressed. I really felt that anyone could just make that stuff up – like a mystery writer who knows who-done-it even before they’ve selected the title of their next novel.  But then he explained how there are Old Testament manuscripts that are proven to have existed before Jesus was born. That made it a little more interesting, but I still wasn’t buying it.

Next, he talked about how many of the disciples of Jesus were tortured and martyred for not recanting their stories about Jesus’ resurrection. This made me take notice. Why would anyone do that? If they knew Jesus was a fraud, why not just give it up and get on back to their lives?

Then he puts these two pieces of evidence together – the gospels, which contain the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, where written by the same guys who were tortured and killed. Now let’s think about that for a moment. Suppose the gospel writers were frauds and they put stuff in their writing about the fulfilled prophecies that they KNEW was false, but hey, they wanted to be on the best-seller list! Now why, really, WHY would they not just confess this rather than be killed?

It seems like very powerful evidence to me that they wrote what they FULLY believed was the truth. Now you say, perhaps so, but they could be delusional and therefore, WRONG! After all, sincerity is no proof of anything at all. But go back to that first part about all the prophecies that were fulfilled. Mathematically, it would be impossible to think that the 300+ specific prophecies were all just a coincidence.

However, the last argument that McDowell made was the most convincing for me. It is rather popular and I don’t want to bore you with details, but it is the Lord, Liar, or Lunatic argument. Here McDowell uses many of Jesus’ own words against Him. Jesus clearly claimed to be the Incarnate Son of God come to earth, who could forgive sins and promise eternal life to His followers. So you have just 3 options: either what He claimed is true and therefore He is LORD, or He is the biggest liar of all time, or He is a completely crazed lunatic.

Now I can already see that you may be going with option 2 or 3, but remember – the gospel writers gave up their lives because they felt He was telling the TRUTH! And they were traveling around the country with Him for 3 years; don’t you think they would have noticed if something was not really the way He said it was? And they all said they saw Him die on the cross AND that He came to visit with them after the resurrection. These men spent the rest of their days going from city to city preaching and teaching everything they knew about Jesus Christ. And in the end, they chose to DIE for this “fairy tale”!

So there you have it, I was convinced. The eye-witnesses of Jesus while here on earth are the evidence I have for the veracity of the Bible. That was nearly 30 years ago. I’ve since carefully studied the Bible and have not found any of it to be unreliable.

The Four Gospels

Good morning, yesterday I heard someone say, “The Gospels who describe the life of Christ were all written 60 to 150 years after the fact. Not one of them (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) ever knew Jesus personally.” So today I am here to hopefully clarify some misinformation.

First, I must address the statement, “after the fact”. I am not sure which “fact” is meant here. But I’m offering this information because I think it may be helpful. The way we number our years can be confusing. The term BC refers to “before Christ” and so a lot of folks think that AD refers to “after death”. If that were true, the 33 years in between would have no designation! But the term AD is actually from the Latin “Anno Domini” and can be translated as “in the year of the Lord”. So the year of Jesus’ birth is AD 1, there is no year 0.

Now let’s talk about the gospels. I am surprised to learn that someone thinks that the gospel writers did NOT know Jesus. But until a couple years ago, I thought all four of the gospel writers DID know Jesus. Surprise – we are both wrong! The truth is that two did know Jesus and two didn’t.

Matthew – he is sometimes referred to as Levi, he was a tax collector and 3 of the gospels tell of Jesus personally asking him to “follow Me” and he became one of the 12 Apostles. The gospel according to Matthew was written in about AD 60 – or about 25-30 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Mark – also known as John Mark in the book of Acts. Why? Because there were a lot of “johns” running around! My daughter had the same problem in Jr. High and went by her middle name for 2 years. Mark, as far as we know, did NOT know Jesus personally. So how does he come to write this story of Jesus’ life? Well, he was a traveling companion of the Apostle Peter (one of the 12 who DID know Jesus). He went with Peter as he preached about Jesus and wrote down what Peter said. Basically, you can think of Mark as Peter’s biographer / secretary. Justin Martyr (in AD 150) even referred to Mark’s gospel as “the memoirs of Peter”. The gospel according to Mark was written in about AD 50 – about 15-20 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Luke – also never met Jesus. He became a Christian listening to the Apostle Paul preach about Jesus and decided to become his traveling companion. Paul, as you might know, made 3 very extensive and lengthy missionary trips. These are detailed in the book of Acts. As Paul and Luke traveled, Luke interviewed eye-witnesses who did know Jesus; Luke tells us that in the opening verses of his gospel. Think of Luke as the imbedded investigative reporter of our day. The gospel according to Luke was written about the same time as Matthew’s, around AD 60.

John – this is one interesting fellow! He definitely knew Jesus – and he was nicknamed “Son of Thunder” by the Lord. He and his brother James were both personally called by Jesus to be Apostles. These are the sons of Zebedee who left their fishing boats when Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). He and James were young men, teenagers really, when the call came to them. They had heard the teaching of John the Baptist and were baptized followers of him. So when they had the chance to follow the Messiah – whose coming John the Baptist had preached about – well they both jumped at the opportunity. Now John’s gospel is very different from the other three. John knew of the other gospels and had even read them. He felt there were too many things left out of the life of Jesus so he wrote this fourth gospel around AD 80-90, making him about 60-70 years old! What’s so interesting about his gospel is that almost 80% of the material is completely different from the other 3 gospels.

So that is who these 4 gospel writers are. Should we toss them all out because this writer said this event happened before that one? Not in my mind; these 4 writers all had different reasons for writing their gospel. Matthew puts all the teaching of Jesus together right up front, then goes on about the miracles and travels later. Mark, the shortest gospel, sprints from event to event so quick that you get whiplash from just reading it! He doesn’t stop to give us any commentary – just the facts. Luke says his purpose was to give a detailed accounting from all the eye-witnesses he interviewed, and that is pretty much what he did. And with John, again, his stated purpose was to fill in gaps from the other 3 gospels and that is what he did.

The four gospels combine to create a powerful narration of the Lord Jesus’ time on earth. Christianity is based on the idea that these four books are Truth.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

DNA: not by Chance!

Micro-evolution is when a big dog mates with a small dog and you get a medium dog. This happens countless times, every day, in countless ways. Extrapolating this truth into the theory of macro-evolution to explain the vast array of all living organisms is a giant leap of “blind faith”.  Yet that is exactly what Charles Darwin did and many leading scientists of our day are still doing.

However, evolution has been proven false with the discovery of DNA in the 1950’s. Don’t be scared of the science - this is a very simple truth. Suppose you are watching players at a roulette table, on the first spin the ball lands on the number 4. The next spin, the ball lands on 4. The next = 4. The next = 4. You stay and witness the next million spins and each one lands on 4. At some point, you must begin to think that this is not a game of CHANCE.

Every single known living organism has the same four building blocks to make DNA. If random chance were truly the mechanism for all the various life forms, there should be a staggering number of different DNA building blocks.  Or, at the very least, some organisms should exist using only 2 or 3 of these building blocks. Yet, there is not. Every life form uses the same four building blocks.

Chance would indicate the existence of life forms so different that there wouldn’t even be something in them we could properly classify as DNA. Again, this is not the case. Because the same type of DNA is in all living organisms, we can rule out chance and instead, look for the cause of the design, i.e. the Creator-Designer.

So why are we still teaching evolution to our children? Coming face-to-face with the reality of a Creator means you need to change your life. You have to hop down off the throne in your heart and let the One True God, the Lord Jesus Christ, rule there instead of yourself. Most folks, including most scientists (because they are people too), are happy as they are and change scares them.  In other words, they like the status quo, where they have no accountability whatsoever.

The Christian and Taxes

Let’s turn our attention to Luke 20:19-25. This section in my Bible is titled “Tribute to Caesar” – it is the passage where the Pharisees are once again trying to trick Jesus into saying something that will get Him tossed in prison or killed.

In this case, they pose the question about paying taxes to Caesar, is it lawful for the Jews to do this? In this instance, the tax is a “poll tax” and every person living in the Roman Empire was required to pay it. But that was the sticking point for these Pharisees; they didn’t want to give money to the Romans because they weren’t Romans! Also, it probably had a lot to do with their love for money, as has been pointed out many times before in Luke’s gospel. But here they are, hoping Jesus will agree with them – then they could go running to the nearest Roman soldier and have Him put in jail. Or, better yet, maybe He would say that the Jews do have to pay this Roman tax and then the people will turn against Him. They really felt they had set the perfect trap!

All my life I have heard this story, and it has always been taught to me as a message that good Christians will do both: pay their taxes AND give money to their local churches. Render to Caesar what is his, and give to God what is His. This passage has always been presented to me as a teaching on the proper use of our wealth and possessions.

Now let’s take a closer look at Jesus’ response; “Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” In my NASB Bible there is a little number next to the word “likeness” and looking in the margin, I see the word “image”.

Let’s connect the dots. In Genesis 1:27, we are told, “God created man in His own image”. When Jesus tells the Pharisees to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, He is saying the ownership is based on whose image is on the thing in question. Likewise, when Jesus says, give God what is God’s; He isn’t really talking about money at all. He wants these people to give themselves, their lives, and their every waking moment to the Lord God, whose image He stamped on each and every person when He created them!

I think the true sense of this passage is not about the stewardship of our money, but about the stewardship of our lives. The very image of God, stamped on you by God Himself, means He has ownership over you — and Jesus is saying, give to God what is His!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Creation Matters to Science

Last night I went to bed hoping to write this essay in such a way that scientists would realize they should be open minded enough to allow for the possibility of Divine Creation when examining how something came to be, most importantly, for the issue of how life itself began. But this morning I have a new message on my heart. I realize the Theory of Evolution has serious flaws, so much so that it should no longer be considered scientific. As a result, I’m left wondering why in the world we are still using this outdated theory to teach our young people!

In the year 2000, I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Biology after a long struggle with various professors and the college administration over Evolution. They felt strongly then that a biologist could not possibly contribute anything meaningful to their field of knowledge without a firm foundation built on the Theory of Evolution. Their insistence made me sympathetic to the first naysayers of the flat earth theory. Unfortunately, I think their opinions have probably not changed since then.

However, during the past decade, many researchers have come forward saying there are several problems with the 150 year old Theory of Evolution. The most glaring and damaging of these problems is that Darwin made his hypothesis without the knowledge of modern molecular biology. In 1850, as Darwin was formulating his ideas, the cell was the smallest unit for biologists. Today we know that each cell contains a city’s worth of manufacturing facilities and transportation vehicles.

Because of our modern microscopes, we are able to now see the vast array of complexity that makes up each one of our cells. Imagine believing that you could randomly drop Scrabble tiles from your hand onto the floor, fully expecting them to land in such a way as to correctly form a complete sentence. It sounds ridiculous to even try. But this is the type of problem Evolutionists are facing when it comes to current findings in the field of molecular biology – but on the scale of dropping Scrabble tiles to form an entire set of encyclopedias!

The highly specific amino acid sequence in just one piece of DNA is hundreds of thousands of characters long. And this extreme complexity exists in even the most simple of single-celled organism. Yet the Theory of Evolution requires DNA is the result of random chance – that each amino acid took the right place in line to perform the necessary function without Intelligence putting things in order.

Continuing to teach this obviously flawed “chance” point of view in our public schools dampens our ability to discover new truths; especially when one considers that molecular biologists have now proven random processes cannot explain the information encoded in our DNA. Yet our classrooms continue to erroneously use the randomness of Darwin’s theory as the basis to teach our young people about complex cellular structures.

I believe science is important. Our society, the health of our people, and our standard of living are all bettered when we expand our scientific knowledge base. That’s one of the reasons I chose to study science! But I am appalled that we are teaching our young people this same old theory, proposed in the darkness of a pre-molecular era.

Unfortunately many established scientists are still unable to let go of their strong evolutionary bias. And just as I was persecuted ten years ago, young people today with Intelligent Design viewpoints are still being shunned and discouraged from pursuing scientific research or teaching positions. The result is an even more biased community of researchers and teachers, all sharing a flawed point of view and unable to recognize the validity of contrary conclusions. I, for one, am uncomfortable knowing that a particularly bright and gifted individual might be kept from contributing to society solely because of their “God Created” worldview.

There came a time in history when bold rebels took a stand to stop the teaching of the flat-earth theory. Today, we need a similar bold spirit to rise up in our education systems and insist evolutionary teaching also be stopped. Molecular biology has proven this theory is false, Darwin was wrong. Continuing to silence the possibility of Intelligent Design hinders the scientific community’s ability to perform productive research. The very foundation of what we do as scientists is to look openly and honestly for real answers. As researchers we are to follow the data, not our personal opinions and preconceived notions.

I write this with the hope that one day my great-grandchildren will use a textbook that uses Evolution only as an example of how flawed science can be. But more importantly, I want them to be able to state their personal views without fear and prayerfully it will be that their Lord Jesus is the Creator of all things, both seen and yet unseen.

For further information:
The Collapse of Evolution, Huse
The Evolution of a Creationist, Martin
The Signature of God, Jeffrey
Darwin’s Black Box, Behe
Darwin on Trial, Johnson
Signs of Intelligence, Dembski

Creation Matters to Salvation

I suppose everyone has that one thing that makes it so hard to bite your tongue when you hear it. Maybe you’ve just overheard the conversation of two total strangers and you’re arguing with your inner-self over whether to speak up or not. Or maybe someone on television says something and you just can’t help talking back to them as though they can hear your passion and reasoning. . . .

For me, that “one thing” is when Bible-believers deny the Genesis account of Creation. I know there’s a group of readers who just rolled their eyes. Maybe you think this Old Testament stuff isn’t important – what really matters is Jesus and spreading the gospel. Maybe you feel the debate over Creation and Evolution is pointless, even silly. And the last thing you need is to be dragged into an argument that can’t be won.

But the Bible is jam-packed with passages saying Divine Creation is very important to God. You can’t really read the Psalms, the discourse of God with Job, or the account of the Creation week in Genesis without realizing the Bible’s clear statement that God is the Creator. However, there are also New Testament passages I think most Christians overlook. The doctrine of Divine Creation plays a pivotal role in evangelizing un-churched people, both here and abroad.

Beginning with the four gospels, there is a notable difference in the writers’ presentations. John wrote to the Gentiles and begins his gospel declaring Jesus to be the Eternal Word, and Creator of the World. John 1:3All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” On the other hand, Matthew, Mark and Luke were written to the Jews who were already well-schooled since childhood regarding God as Creator. Their familiarity with Genesis, Job, and the Psalms meant these gospel-writers could skip this lesson and jump right into arguing Jesus to be their promised Messiah.

This pattern is continued by Paul in the book of Acts. Whenever he preached to the Gentiles, he began by introducing God as Creator. Acts 14:15 “. . . you should turn from these vain things to a living God, ‘who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them’” And Paul says to those who “worship in ignorance” to an unknown god in Acts 17:24The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth . . .”

But when Paul spoke directly to the Jews, he omitted this fact. Here, he begins his sermon recounting the nation’s time in Egypt -- Acts 13:16, 17Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen: The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt . . .” And here is Paul reasoning with the Jews in their synagogue -- Acts17:3explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying ‘This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’”

When witnessing to the lost, we need to follow the examples of John and Paul and begin with the beginning of the story – God created! Many Christians today fail to recognize how un-churched our country has become. We often assume everyone knows God is the Creator, but nothing could be further from the truth.

However, our biggest mistake is when we act or speak as if the whole issue doesn’t matter at all. For you see, one isn’t truly saved by believing in a false Jesus -- someone other than the true Jesus. And the true Jesus IS our Creator.

Colossians 1:16, 17For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

You can’t hope to win a lost soul by introducing Christ and not making it clear exactly who He is: by Him all things were created! Presenting a Jesus that is not our Creator, leads to faith in a false Jesus.

But for me, the most interesting Creation passage is found in the book of Revelation. We’re told throughout the New Testament to spread the gospel of Good News that leads to salvation. Here John shows us the doctrine of Divine Creation is critical to that gospel message.

Revelation 14:6-7And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.

From this single passage, it is possible to argue that declaring a gospel without saying “God created” is not really the complete biblical gospel.

So if we take the time to look honestly at these passages we will find the doctrine of Divine Creation clearly matters to the Lord God and to our eternal salvation. Therefore, it should greatly matter to every Bible-believing Christian as well. After all, could it really be that an all-wise and loving God would start His great book of divine wisdom and revelation to us with words that are trivial and unimportant?

Genesis 1:1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Luke's Centurion

In Luke chapter 6 we find Jesus teaching about what a true disciple of His would look like: poor in spirit, humble and repentant, obeying the golden rule, loving his enemies, being generous, etc. Then in chapter 7, messengers arrive from a Centurion who is a living example of this very same kind of person.

The Centurion’s love for others is clearly shown. Notice the care and concern he has for a slave. (In this culture, slaves would be disposable property!) And see how this particular Centurion is so well respected that the Jewish elders even say “he is worthy”. The full impact of those words might be easily overlooked, so let me repeat: the Jewish elders are calling a non-Jewish person “WORTHY”! He must have done some remarkable things for them to have this attitude. Yet the humility of the Centurion is evidenced by his own response later in the story, “I am NOT worthy”.

We also see his generosity, having been responsible for building the Jewish synagogue. Some commentators feel that this man may have converted to Judaism and so he had the synagogue built so he could listen to teaching each Sabbath. The exact motive is not given here in Scripture, but his generosity shines through.

Again, this Gentile man has proved to be the example for the lesson taught by Jesus in the previous chapter – THIS is what a true disciple of His is like. And this was completely turned around for the Jews; Centurions were Roman soldiers, the enforcement agency for the tax collectors! Being outsiders, they were generally despised. But Jesus, on the other hand, gives the man praise for having such exemplary faith.

Things haven’t changed much in our day. A lot of folks still think that powerful religious leaders are obviously blessed by God, or that those with great wealth are blessed. We are just as blind sometimes to what a true disciple looks like, and we often fail to BE one because of our blindness. Here are those qualities again: poor in spirit, humble and repentant, obeying the golden rule, loving our enemies, and being generous.