Bio

Dr. Mike Halsey is the chancellor of Grace Biblical Seminary, a Bible teacher at the Hangar Bible Fellowship, the author of Truthspeak and his new book, The Gospel of Grace and Truth: A Theology of Grace from the Gospel of John," both available on Amazon.com. A copy of his book, Microbes in the Bloodstream of the Church, is also available as an E-book on Amazon.com. If you would like to a receive a copy of his weekly Bible studies and other articles of biblical teaching and application, you can do so by writing to Dr. Halsey at michaeldhalsey@bellsouth.net and requesting, "The Hangar Bible Fellowship Journal."

Comments may be addressed to michaeldhalsey@bellsouth.net.

If you would like to contribute to his ministry according to the principle of II Corinthians 9:7, you may do so by making your check out to Hangar Bible Fellowship and mailing it to 65 Teal Ct., Locust Grove, GA 30248. All donations are tax deductible.

Come visit the Hangar some Sunday at 10 AM at the above address. You'll be glad you did.

Other recommended grace-oriented websites are:

notbyworks.org
literaltruth.org
gracebiblicalseminary.org
duluthbible.org
clarityministries.org

Also:

Biblical Ministries, Inc.
C/O Dr. Richard Grubbs
P. O. Box 64582
Lubbock, TX 79464-4582

Friday, February 24, 2017

THERE'S NO GLOSSARY

Sometimes, the book we're reading has a glossary in the back. If I want to know the definition of a word the author has used, he may have put it in the glossary.

But God didn't put a glossary in the Bible, so we have to buckle down and study things out if we want to learn the meanings of words like "Messiah," and "Son of Man." As we've seen, the Bible is not an encyclopedia, not a dictionary; God didn't arrange it in points and it's not a "Dick and Jane Go to the Farm" book.

When the Apostle John comes to tell his readers the purpose of the Gospel of John, he writes, "Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name."

WHOA!

Wait! John Bookman realizes that he's just read something on which his eternal destiny hangs. The author has written that if Bookman wants to have eternal life he must know (at some level) and believe that Jesus is the "Son of God." 

Bookman wonders, "What does "Son of God" mean? Does it mean that God created Himself a son? Does it mean that God came upon someone, possessed him, and that made him His son?"

John's not all that knowledgeable about the Bible, so he turns to the back of the Book because he wants to look up "Son of God" in the glossary, but he finds no such thing, so he knows that he's got to study it out. John Bookman isn't lazy, so he welcomes the research he's going to do. He figures that, since John has used the title, he'll define it somewhere in the the Gospel of John.

BACK THROUGH THE BOOK

As John goes back and rereads Chapter 1, he comes across verses 32-34: "John testified saying, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him [Jesus].  I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’  I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” 

There it is: John's first use of "the Son of God," spoken by John the Baptist.

He continues reading, on the lookout for another occurrence of the term. 

In the same chapter, he learns that Nathaniel addresses Jesus: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God . . .” John B. then backs up and gets more into the context because he wants to find out what made Nathaniel call Jesus "the Son of God." That's when he reads, "Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."

John B. has discovered the reason for Nathaniel's calling Jesus the Son of God; Jesus has made a statement that shows He's omniscient (He knows Nathaniel's character) and He's omnipresent (He saw Nathaniel sitting under a fig tree).  "This is getting interesting," John thinks to himself.

Mr. Bookman is making progress, but there's more to come.

Next, John Bookman reads a set of blockbuster verses in John 10. As he examines the context, he learns that a there's a group of hostile people who want to stone Jesus, so He asks them, "Why do you want to kill Me? They answer, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

And just how has Jesus committed blasphemy by making Himself equal with God?  Because He said, "I am the Son of God."(10:31-36).

STUDY INTERRUPTED

John Bookman is about half way through the Gospel of John when his 5th grade son comes and asks him to help him with his math. John puts down his Bible and walks with Brandon to his room, sits down on the bed, and looks at the assignment. It's something from a curriculum called "Common Core," and John looks at Brandon's math problems. One of those problems told the student to, ""Tell how to make 10 when adding 8+5."

"What?" There's no way to make 10 when adding 8 + 5, because 8 + 5 = 13. John told his son, "That can't be. Forget your homework and go watch TV." He gets angry that he can't do a 5th grade math assignment. He'll go with Brandon tomorrow and ask his teacher about it.

BACK TO THE BOOK

John goes back and reads more from the Gospel of John, coming to the conversation Martha had with Jesus in which she called Him "the Son of God:"

"Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” (John 11)

Her words tell John that being the Son of God means that the Son of God has the power to resurrect everyone who believes in Him and that the Son of God has "come into the world,"referring to the fact that the Son of God existed prior to His coming to the earth.

As Mr. Bookman relentlessly plows toward the end of John, he reads 19:7--the Jewish leaders bring their charges against Jesus to Pilate: "The Jews answered him, 'We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.'" They're referring to the Mosaic Law and its condemnation and penalty for blasphemy, for claiming to be God. 

STUDY DONE

Now John Bookman knows what "Son of God" means, having discovered that John has embedded the definition in his narrative, not in points and not a glossary. Putting it all together, Bookman realizes that "Son of God" describes Jesus who is omniscient, omnipresent, Someone whose voice the dead will hear, Someone who will raise the dead, Someone who existed prior to His coming into the world, and Someone who committed blasphemy in the estimation of those hostile to Him, which meant, in His day, that He claimed to be God by saying, "I am the Son of God."

Now Bookman knew that, for Jesus to claim that He was the Son of God, was not to claim inferiority to God, but to claim that He was God. Now he knows that an element of the gospel to be believed is to believe that Jesus is God.

John Bookman was tired, but it was a good tired. He got ready for bed, knowing that he'd done due diligence and the Holy Spirit had taught him a great deal. 

He also knew that tomorrow, he'll go and speak to the teacher. 


 

 








Friday, February 17, 2017

THE CLASSIC FOOTBALL FOLLY

It was a misty day at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco when the '49ers were playing the Minnesota Vikings in a routine game on October 25, 1964. But what happened that day on one play wasn't routine; that one play became the biggest folly in the history of the National Football League.

San Francisco quarterback George Mira threw a pass to Billy Kilmer that was complete, but the Kilmer fumbled the ball, and right there was Viking defensive end Jim Marshall to grab the ball and run for daylight toward the end zone. The trouble was that there was too much daylight because Marshall had gotten turned around and was running the wrong way toward and eventually into his own end zone, the one he was being paid to defend.

When he crossed into his own end zone and tossed the ball out of bounds in celebration of what he thought was a touchdown, the refs ruled that he'd scored a safety and awarded San Francisco 2 points and the ball. No worries though, Minnesota won the game, but nobody remembers that. They only remember the classic football folly, the day and the play in which Jim Marshall ran the wrong way.

WRONG WAY SERMONS

Every Sunday, thousands of Wrong Way Jim Marshalls stand behind pulpits and instruct the listeners from the Bible that they're reading the wrong way. But this is no simple folly. What they're doing Sunday after Sunday is dishonoring to the Scriptures by their wrong way runs to what they think is sermonic glory.

There they are, having spent the week playing golf and trying to get ready for Sunday, and they're about to unfold an account in the Bible, one they've found either in the Old or the New Testament. They may want the listeners to know how smart they are or how clever they are because they've come up with something new, something nobody has ever seen before in all of church history. After their 30-40 minutes of their pulpit posturing is over, they'll be basking in the waves of congregational congratulations and they're looking forward to it. But first, the sermon.

PASTOR GOODPASTURE

Pastor Goodpasture has spent his time, once he left the 18th hole after shooting a 6 over par, studying Mark 6, giving special attention to verse 39: "And He [Jesus] commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass." He's decided to build his sermon on "the green grass." But before he gets to that meaty subject, he spends some time learning a "Leadership Principle" he gleaned from the verse, that Jesus took charge, showing His organizational skills by having the crowd "sit down by groups."

Goodpasture takes his concordance and looks up every reference to "grass" in the Bible.  His concordance is telling him that there are 61 references to the word. He sees where Joseph dreamed about seven cows grazing on marsh grass, he finds a reference in Job about a donkey braying over its grass, his keen eye catches a reference in the Psalms about the wicked springing up like grass, and then finds that Isaiah says that people are grass. He reads all 61 references and by Sunday morning, after the ushers have taken the offering, Pastor Goodpasture is ready to preach on, "The Green, Green Grass of Home." He concludes the service by having the choir sing a song of the same name accompanied by a Tom Jones CD played over the $10,000 sound system in the auditorium, the money for which was taken from the Missions Fund because the deacons classified the expenditure as "outreach."

The congregation gave its congratulations to Pastor Goodpasture for a job well done, saying that they'd never thought of that before, whatever "that" meant.

FICTION BECOMES FACT

Although the above story is fiction, it's not far from the truth: thousands of sermons are preached each week on an incidental detail in a biblical account. There here have been sermons on David's 5 smooth stones, Peter's "fixing his gaze" on the lame man in Acts 3:4, the corner of a field in Lev. 19:9, and way back in church history, there was a sermon devoted to the number of servants Abraham had, trying to show that the number carried a hidden meaning.

DANGER ZONE: JUNK SERMONS

When incidental details become the fodder for sermons, the congregation should realize, but usually doesn't, that they are in a danger zone because such junk sermons are a weekly trivialization of the Bible. The point of the feeding of the multitude is not to harvest a leadership principle, nor that the grass was green. Those are simply incidental details in the account; the point of the point of David's confrontation of Goliath was not the number of rocks he had at the ready; the point of the story of Gideon's battle with the Midianites is not that we battle problems in our lives.

DANGER ZONE: THE ALLEGORICAL METHOD

Also in the danger zone is the companion incidental detail sermons: allegorizing the text, that is, finding some "hidden meaning" under the surface of the green grass, the corner of the field, or the number of Abraham's servants, which then turns the Bible into putty with the teacher making the Bible say whatever he wants it to say and the literal meaning is gone with the wind.

Through the allegorical method of interpretation, things are introduced from the account which aren't there. A pastor, speaking on David and Goliath, somehow found Christ in the story when he announced his subject as "Christ Slays the Giant of Sin."


DANGER ZONE: AN INCIDENTAL DETAIL BECOMES A DOCTRINE

The congregation is in further danger if the pastor constructs a doctrine out of an incidental detail. When hat happens, the incidental detail becomes authoritative, but, in reality, no doctrine of Christianity hangs on an incidental detail in any biblical account and to construct one on such tissue paper can lead to heresy.

DANGER ZONE: DISTRACTION

By focusing on an incidental detail, the teacher distracts the learner from the big story of the Bible, that is, how God is moving in redemptive history; how God is moving to glorify His Son in human history.

Any student at most any Bible college can tell you that he's endured scores of such incidental sermons in chapel services. The problem then is, that when he graduates, he thinks that's the way to do it and he spends his years of ministry not only boring people to death with simplistic incidental detail sermons, but leading them into the danger zones.




Friday, February 10, 2017

THE ATLANTA SUPERBOWL OBSESSION

In 51 years, nobody had seen anything like it--the Atlanta Falcons, at one point ahead in the Superbowl by scores of 28-3 in the second half and 28-9 in the fourth quarter, ultimately, excruciatingly, and painfully lost the super game after the New England Patriots unleashed an avalanche of points that their opponents couldn't stop.

At the game's conclusion, Atlanta players and fans stood or sat in stunned disbelief. Their hopes and dreams had turned to ashes as they tried unsuccessfully to their own end zone from encroachment. It was shortly thereafter that the analysis of "What happened?" began that would continue for days of blame and finger pointing.

The angry and frustrated fans blamed everybody in sight--the players who "didn't want it bad enough" and who "began celebrating too early" and/or the coaches "who called a terrible game." Then there were the fans who chided the Atlanta players for strutting around after almost every tackle and for their demonstrations in the end zone that fell just short of hiring a marching band to commemorate the fresh 6 points they put on the scoreboard.

THAT WAS SUNDAY, THEN CAME TUESDAY

Two days later, the Atlanta's newspaper ran the headline, "HEARTBREAK," in bold black letters so large you could read them from as far away as Macon. Sports writers called it "The worst disaster in Atlanta sports history." The writers tossed words like "epic," "historic," and "meltdown" into their verbal salad. One clever scribe wrote, "The Falcons suffered the biggest come from ahead loss in Superbowl history."

On Monday morning, I overheard a furious fan say, "I've burned all my [Falcon] stuff." Maybe that was hyperbole, but it was symptomatic of what one writer wrote: "This city will never forget or completely get over it."

THEY NEEDED PROFESSIONAL HELP

The psychological after-burn continued on the local TV stations, one of which asked the depressed fanatics to, "Call in and tell us how you're coping." The announcers of an all talk, sports station were so angry that when a few folks suggested that Atlanta throw a parade for the team, responded with an an answer both laconic and irate, "No! No parade for the losers!"  And, get this: the aftershocks of defeat got so bad that a local TV station went to the office of a licensed psychologist and asked him for tips on how their viewers could best handle the situation. He was compassionate and offered his advice, free, right there on TV. People hadn't been this upset since Sherman came through.

So this is a tale of the biggest of all hurts, the most painful of pains, and, of the obsession, the Atlanta obsession.

A BIGGER OBSESSION

But I would submit that there's been an obsession abroad in the human race, an obsession cited by Dr.Benjamin Wiker--there has been a drive in modern times to separate people from their history--the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner "has been abolished in Connecticut, Georgia, and Missouri; the dinners have had their names changed; according to the New York Times, similar censorship is being mulled is New Hampshire, South Carolina, Arkansas, Maine, and Tennessee." (National Review, 2015)

Pepperdine University will remove its statue of Christopher Columbus because some students find it offensive. Charlottesville, Virginia, will remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from Lee Park and, of course, change the park's name.

But there has been a more concentrated effort in modern times to cut people in Europe, England, and America from THE story given in Genesis. As Dr. Wiker states, ". . . one of the preoccupations of modernity, especially its most secularizing spirits, is the endless attempt to conjure a counter[story] to the Genesis account found in the Bible."

Over the decades, influential author after author has breached the walls of America's Christian consensus in an attempt to destroy, discredit, and defame the Genesis account. In its place, they have put another story, a story they made up, pure fiction, without proof, one leaving the reader without hope.

EXAMPLES

Instead of Genesis 1-2, Thomas Hobbes' fictional story in The Leviathan postulated that the human race began in a primitive state, raw in tooth and claw. Rousseau and Freud followed suit, proclaiming without evidence that man's original state was a primitive one pictured as "the noble savage."

Then came Margaret Mead who went off to Samoa and wrote "Coming of Age in Samoa" which declared that the Samoans were the living example of the human primitive--carefree and amoral, untainted by modern society.

SOMETHING'S WRONG

What's wrong with these pictures? A lot, because these authors were trying to get across their agenda, a different story from Genesis, one that taught the reader, "the natural=the primitive=the good." Therefore, they've indoctrinated us to come to believe that we need to get back to the good which is the primitive, free from all moral restrictions society has clamped on us and then and only then, we can understand who we are. (They weren't the only ones, they are only two examples among many, such as Freud, Darwin, Rousseau.)

THE WAY IT WAS

Before these and others began their work of cutting America from its Judaeo-Christian history, did you know that:

1. The very words of the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…,” demonstrate that the founding fathers believed in a divine Creator.  They lived and operated in a world where the Judaeo-Christian ethic was a pervasive part of the culture, even among non-Christians. ) If you didn't know that, you've been cut off.

2. In the 1600-1700s, the biblical worldview was the prevailing lens through which almost everyone saw life. So it is not surprising to review American history and see the fingerprints of God everywhere. If you didn't know that, you've been cut off.

3. The cornerstone of the Washington Monument, laid in 1848, contains a copy of the U. S. Constitution, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, and a copy of the Bible.  Engraved on the monument are references to God such as, “Search the Scriptures” and “In God we Trust.” If you didn't know that, you've been cut off.

4. The U. S. Capitol building, built between 1793-1858, likewise contains the following references to God: “What Hath God Wrought,” “America! God Shed His grace on Thee,” and “In God We Trust.”  Stained glass in the U. S. Capitol Building’s Chapel depicts George Washington praying beneath the phrase “This Nation Under God.” If you didn't know that, you've been cut off.

5. Above the House Chamber’s main door are marble silhouettes of history’s twenty-three greatest law makers.  Moses is in the center and is the only silhouette facing forward.  The Supreme Court building likewise highlights Moses. Above its eastern colonnade are history’s major lawmakers.  Moses is in the center holding a depiction of the Ten Commandments. If you didn't know that, you've been cut off.

6. in 1892 the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in a case known as The Church of the Holy Trinity vs. The United States, that “This is a Christian nation.”  Justice David Josiah Brewer cited eighty-seven precedents as he wrote the majority opinion (which was unanimous).  He wrote,“This is historically true.  From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation...These are not the sayings, declarations, of private persons: they are organic utterances; they speak the voice of the entire people...These and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.” If you didn't know that, you've been cut off.

7. In 1799, Dr. Jedidiah Morse echoed the sentiments of David and Solomon in Ps. 11:3 and Prov. 13:34 when he warned, “Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government…must fall with them.”* If you didn't know that, you've been cut off.*

8. Inside the tombs of George and Martha Washington at Mt. Vernon, the visitor sees a biblical text, one of Jesus' most famous quotes: "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26). If you didn't know that, you've been cut off.

9. The Declaration of Independence concludes with these words: We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions . . . And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." If you didn't know that, you've been cut off.

WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?

Once they've cut us from our national history and the Christian consensus thereof, once we're cut from Genesis, then one thing for certain swings into motion, as illustrated by the fall of the Roman Empire. One of the reasons the Roman Republic fell and eventually the Empire which replaced it was because its elite authors and playwrights began to mock the old Roman virtues that made them great: frugality, courage, and the heroes in Roman history who exemplified them.

The result was what we'd expect: the Roman military and the citizens, now plied with a never-ending round of bread and circuses, concluded that there was nothing in their national story worth fighting for. (Dr. Carl J. Richard)

It is this obsession to destroy the story Genesis tells and the story of God's fingerprints on our national origin that is far more serious than the Atlanta obsession.
 _____________________________________________________________________________
* This list (Numbers 1-7) was compiled by Dr. J. B. Hixson.







Friday, February 3, 2017

DICK AND JANE

"Dick and Jane" is what we call it when we're thinking about the stories which birthed Americans into literacy. Way, way before Dick and Jane Colonial children learned to read by a book filled with more in-depth concepts than, "See Dick run. See Jane run. See Spot run." Prior to the Revolutionary War and into the 19th century, children learned to read by means of "The New England Primer."

  Benjamin Harris first printed The Primer in Boston in 1690. He had published a similar volume in London. It was so good he sold over five million copies because it was the intent of the colonists that all children should learn to read; in 1642, Massachusetts passed a law for that purpose because they rightly believed that an inability to read was Satan's attempt to keep people from the Scriptures.
 
The New England Primer combined the study of the alphabet with Bible reading. It introduced each alphabet letter in a biblical phrase and then illustrated it. The primer also contained a catechism of religious questions and answers. Emphasis was placed on fear of sin, God's punishment, and the fact that all people would have to face death.

Here are some examples of alphabet rhymes that teach moral values as well as reading.

A In Adam's Fall
We sinned all.

B Thy Life to Mend
This Book Attend.

BACK TO DICK, JANE, AND SPOT

After mastering "Dick and Jane," as the students became older, not one of us ever decided as a teenager or as an adult, "Tonight, I'll settle down with a good book; where's my "Dick and Jane?"

And why is that? "Dick and Jane" are for kindergartners, first graders; they offer no challenge for the now literate. There's nothing to ponder; there's no need to further study the boring antics of Dick and Jane; once you're done with those two and their dog, you're done with a vengeance because there's nothing to study or think about in them.

A DIFFERENT TOME

But how different is the Bible! We keep going back to the Bible, because, as Dr. John F. Walvoord said to his students, "The Bible takes all the intellect you've got, and more." Wise words from a very wise and respected theologian. The words and thoughts of the Bible keep drawing us back to its pages. Even those who reject it as the infallible Word of God respect it's ethics.

Thomas Jefferson, one of the few Deists among the Founding Fathers, and a mild and non-traditional one at that, couldn't put the Bible down. He compiled a book on its ethics with the title his granddaughter wrote, one that would choke an elocutionist: "The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth: extracted from the account of his life and doctrines as given by Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John. Being an abridgement of the New Testament for the use of the Indians unembarrassed with matters of fact or faith beyond the level of their comprehensions.”[According to the Monticello Society, "Indians" wasn't a reference to the native American tribes; it was a code word for Jefferson's political enemies, the Federalists, especially.]

Later he revised the book and renamed it, "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth." According to the Monticello Society, "Jefferson used The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth as a chief source of moral instruction, very likely reading a passage every evening before retiring to bed. He wrote in 1819, 'I never go to bed without an hour, or half hour’s previous reading of something moral, whereon to ruminate in the intervals of sleep.'"

Jefferson found the New Testament to be no "Dick and Jane" to employ and anachronism; he kept on returning to it, ad infinitum.

FRESH

What is this allure, this "enduring freshness" of the Bible, as Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer called it?

Part of its enduring freshness is not only that its concepts can be deep, they can also be, as Peter called some of what Paul wrote, "Hard to understand."

We'll get to one of those "hard to understands," but before we do that, let's take a look at a subject that has always fascinated me, one that I wanted to study in college, but I was way too ignorant in math and knew better than to attempt it: astronomy.

Our galaxy alone, the Milky Way, has an estimated 135 billion stars. Now, get this: the astronomers who are smart in math, believe there are at least 100 billion other galaxies. Wow! I was going to calculate all that, by my calculator just blew up.

According to these learned astronomers, as Walk Whitman called them, what we can see with our most powerful probe telescopes is only 6% of what's out there because of what they call "dark energy" and "dark matter" that we can't see. (This is getting deep, but we'll get deeper.)  No wonder the psalmist wrote, "When I look t your heavens, your finger work, the moon and the stars, what are human beings, that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care care for them?"

The psalmist was saying, "This is no 'Dick and Jane." (Pardon the second anachronism.)

But it gets deeper: the question the learned astronomers ask is, "What's holding all this together? Why is there a coherence to this vast universe?" No one has really explained how all these particles that make up the universe hold together, they've tried, but the four basic theories explain THAT they hold it all together, but not HOW they hold it together.

But the Bible tells us: Christ is maintaining the universe, according to Colossians 1:17--"He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." The author of Hebrews 1:3 concurs, so the testimony of Scripture is consistent with itself: "And He {God the Son] is the radiance of His [God the Father's] glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power."

With all this, we're a long, long way from Dick and Jane. What these texts are saying is that the power of Christ extends across the universe and beyond. And that just goes to show us that what Dr. Walvoord said was true: "The Bible takes all the intellect we've got and more." And once we've used up all our intellect, we have to say and live with a mystery. There was no mystery with Dick, Jane, and Spot. That's one reason we never returned to it. But the Bible contains mysteries and although we may not like it, we live with them. But part of the enduring freshness of the Bible are the mysteries therein. Besides that, even in eternity with God, we'll be ever-learning about Him because we'll never be infinite as He is.

There's only one other thing to say about the Colossian mystery: "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name!"








Friday, January 27, 2017

1835 AND THE WOMEN'S MARCH ON WASHINGTON IN 2017

Another sad symptom of the continuing decay of the Christian consensus in America occurred the day after the inauguration during the so-called "Women's March on Washington." The hundreds of thousands, mostly women, and those who brought their children carried the most vulgar of signs and placards; they listened to and cheered the most crass of hysterical speeches by Ashley Judd and Madonna. The New Times called Judd's vulgarity an "uninhibited speech," while "Variety" called Madonna's "fiery, expletive-laden."

EMBARRASSMENT AT CNN AND MSNBC

However, CNN and MSNBC apologized for airing their profane rants.

Madonna's foulness was so egregious that a CNN anchorman Brooke Baldwin issued the following statement: "I just need to apologize for the [language] by Madonna," he said after the network cut away from the coverage, after her hysteria aired unbleeped. “That happens, and we apologize here at CNN for that.”

MSNBC, which was streaming the speech live, also apologized. It's a bad sign that their speeches were what passes for reasoned discussion and discourse today, so disgusting that reporters apologize for broadcasting them. Millions of those watching or later reading about the event were embarrassed by it all, to say the least.

But there were no apologies from former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Although she didn't attend, after scrolling through the photographs of the event, she found the march to be "awe-inspiring," writing, “Hope it brought joy to others as it did to me.”
RETURN TO YESTERYEAR

But what does all this have to do with the decaying of the Christian consensus in America? Good question, and for the answer, let's go back to 1835 and the classic work, Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville.

Alexis de Tocqueville was a French statesman, historian, and social philosopher who wrote “Democracy in America." His work has been described as “the most comprehensive and penetrating analysis of the relationship between character and society in America that has ever been written.” According to Tocqueville, freedom and morality both found their American incarnation in Christianity.

WOMEN BACK THEN, BEFORE THEN, AND AFTER THEN

In the book, de Tocqueville writes about the women in America. Among the many things he observed, one stands out and has application to the Women's March on Washington. de Tocqueville wrote: "Because women primarily shape the mores of a society, the education of women [in America] is of great importance. Women in America are not brought up in naïve ignorance of vices of society; rather they are taught how to deal with them and they allow them to develop good judgment.

He goes assigns to women the task he thinks most necessary in the preservation of a democratic regime: women nurture, educate, and impart to the young the virtues which maintain the moral standards and integrity of a particular society.

The French author hit the nail on the head: women are the gatekeepers of virtue and morality in a society. It's primarily the mothers who educate and impart the moral standards and integrity to their sons and daughters. Who was the parent who taught us civility, decency, and respect for others? Think of your own moral training--from which parent did it mainly originate? Odds are that it was your mother.

de Tocqueville observed America during the administration of President Andrew Jackson; he was writing a long time ago, but what he observed held sway in America for almost 150 years. However today the dam has busted and the Women's March on Washington is a symptom of the floodwaters.

For a while now, our elites and educational system have convinced millions of mothers that there is no absolute morality to pass to the their children. They've been taught that there is no gate to keep, no absolute morality in which to educate their sons and daughters. A society can't enjoy the fruits of Christianity if it cuts the root.

Our television sets, schools, and movies have convinced millions of mothers that their children are the product of chance, a random collection of atoms and that any morality a society has is invented and therefore not absolute, but is only a means to oppress others.

Hundreds of thousands women, marching in D.C., Los Angeles, Portland, and Atlanta, gave us a look at a society in which women are no longer the gatekeepers of morality and it was one ugly sight.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A TRAGIC ENCOUNTER

The following is an account of a "gospel" presentation by one who is a Lordship salvationist:

"After we had talked for a couple of hours, the young man seemed to be prepared to trust Christ. My friend, no doubt sensing that, asked him a question: “In light of all we have talked about this evening, can you think of any reason why you should not become a Christian tonight?”

"The young man sat for a few minutes, then looked back at him and replied, “No, I cannot think of any reason.”

"I was excited by this, but to my amazement, my friend leaned across the table and said, “Then let me give you some!”

For the next few minutes, he began to explain the cost of being a Christian. He talked about the young man’s need to surrender his whole life, his future, his ambitions, his relationships, his possessions, and everything he was to God. Only if he was prepared to do this, my friend explained, could Christ begin to work effectively in his life.

"… My friend then leaned even further across the table and asked, “Can you still not think of any reason why you shouldn’t become a Christian tonight?”

"After another moment, the reply came, “I can think of some now.”

"My friend responded, “In that case, do not become a Christian until you have dealt with every one of those reasons and are willing to surrender everything to Christ.”

What a tragic encounter! It was a "gospel" of one work piled on top of another--surrender your life, surrender your future, surrender your ambitions, surrender your relationships, surrender your possessions, and surrender everything you are to God. 

Now, really, what unbeliever, dead in trespasses and sins, can do that?

MESSAGE DETERMINES METHOD

One’s view of the gospel and how its saving effects are appropriated by the sinner will determine not only the message of evangelism proclaimed but also its methods. The Lordship Salvation presentation of the gospel is necessarily more involved because of its message. Every Lordship salvationist has his lists and his steps to receiving the free gift of salvation, which render salvation costly.

J. I. Packer, one who advocates just such a message as stated above, said: “In our own presentation of Christ’s gospel, therefore, we need to lay a similar stress as Christ did on the cost of following Christ, and make sinners face it soberly before we urge them to respond to the message of free forgiveness.”

Wait a minute. Packer's statement doesn't make sense: let's look at it again. "We need to lay a similar stress . . . on the cost of following Christ, and make sinners face it soberly before we urge them to respond to the message of free forgiveness." First he writes that we need to stress the cost, then he finishes the sentence with "free forgiveness." How can the forgiveness be free if there's a cost to it? "Free" means no cost, doesn't it?

In George Owell's classic novel, "1984," he said that there would come a day when doublethink would hold sway over the minds of people. By doublethink, he meant the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. Packer's statement is an example of doublethink in the church.

Packer's comment illustrates the misunderstanding of Lordship Salvation--it mixes discipleship into the gospel and hence, all the requirements, all the lists that add to Paul's simple declaration of "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." 

Christ paid the cost of salvation. The cost the Bible talks about is the cost of following Christ, that is, the cost of discipleship. John 3:16 conditions eternal life on "whosoever believes," not on "whosoever surrenders their life, surrenders their future, surrenders their ambitions, surrenders their relationships, surrenders their possessions, and surrenders everything they are to God." 



Friday, January 13, 2017

THE STUFF, THE GUFF, AND THE SAND

John 3:16 is the most famous and beloved verse in the Bible, a text memorized around the world wherever the Bible has gone. It rolls from our tongues effortlessly, and rightly so. Adults memorize it as children and never forget it for the rest of their lives. It is one powerful text.

But the problem is that we quote it as a stand alone verse, out there all by its lonesome and we easily forget that it, like all the texts of the Bible, has a context, and, as we say, "Context is king." If we look at it from the standpoint of a stand alone verse, we can become easy pickings for those who come along and say, "The verse says nothing about the death of Christ, nor does it say anything about His resurrection, yet, you say that an essential part of the gospel is that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead, but the verse you quote doesn't even mention those two events, so they must not be part of the gospel."

OH, WE BEG TO DIFFER

Let's go to the context, that is, let's look at John 3:14, just a scant two verses before 3:16: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." 3:14 is defining how "God gave His only begotten Son." Jesus explains that He's going to be "lifted up," an obvious reference to the cross, as the parallel text in John 12:32-33 confirms: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die." The death of Christ is right there in the context of 3:16.

The reader of the Gospel of John wouldn't have begun his reading with 3:16. He would have carefully been unrolling the scroll, beginning with what we call 1:1 and kept unrolling it until he came to 3:16, and by then, he would have realized that the book was declaring that Jesus is God (1:1), that Jesus is the lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (1:29), and that Jesus would be raised from the dead (2:18-22). 

Within the context of the scroll, the reader would have known a great deal of important information by the time he unrolled enough of the scroll to read 3:16.  

Side one of the contextual coin is that we state what is in in the specific verse and the specific context and that only. We don't import what's not there.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CONTEXTUAL COIN

But the problem is that there's this tendency to add to the context; to import stuff, guff, and sand into the context that just aren't there and we see this done to John 3:16 time and time again.

What does 3:16 say that the reader is to do? "Believe on Him." That's it; faith alone for eternal life. But there are those who add words, all that stuff, guff, and sand to the context.

An author, known worldwide for his gift of description and story-telling is one such person. In his book, 3:16--The Numbers of Hope, Max Lucado takes John 3:16 apart word by word. Yet when his analysis is all said and done, instead of leaving "whosoever believes in Him" alone, he adds the stuff, the guff, and the sand when he explains how we can have eternal life: "We can‟t get on board and not know it. Nor can we get on board and hide it. No stowaways permitted. Christ-followers go public with their belief. We turn from bad behavior to good (repentance). We stop following our passions and salute our new captain (confession). We publicly demonstrate our devotion (baptism). We don't keep our choice a secret."

Into John 3:16, he's added: turning from bad to good behavior, the stopping of the following of our passions, the saluting of our new captain, and the demonstration of our devotion. Or as he says, "repentance," "confession," and "baptism."

Strange, isn't it? John never ever uses the words "repent" or "repentance" in the entire book, yet there it is as a requirement for salvation. Imported into the context are such things as ceremonies (confession and baptism) to observe and good works to do (good behavior).

Beware of the stuff, the guff, and the sand. They change the gospel into a false one, one that has yet to save anyone.