Thursday, December 8, 2016

Who Wrote the Book of Hebrews?

The following is a response given on a recent episode of the WWUTT podcast, answering a question on who wrote the book of Hebrews. If you'd like to submit a question, the e-mail address is whenweunderstandthetext@gmail.com, and subscribe to the podcast here! Questions are answered on Fridays.


Hey Pastor Gabe, I really enjoy your WWUTT videos! My question is: who do you think wrote the book of Hebrews? What do you think are the best arguments out there? A.W. Pink makes very strong internal arguments from the Scripture in favor for Paul writing the book.

Thank you
Jeremiah

Greetings, Jeremiah!

Thank you for your question! It's hard to say who wrote Hebrews, but I do not believe it was Paul. Now, I'm not versed in Greek and am unable to compare Paul's Greek to the Greek in Hebrews. But I don't think a person would need to know Greek in order to rule out Paul as the author.

There are two reasons I don't believe Paul wrote it. First, there's no clear greeting. In all of Paul's letters that we have, there is a distinct introduction and conclusion. He identifies himself in every letter, and in Hebrews he does not. This is an argument from silence of course, but it's a very loud silence given the nature of the letter, who it's written to, and yet Paul doesn't find it necessary to remind them that he's a former teacher of the Law.

The second reason I believe is the strongest reason. Hebrews 2:3 says of the gospel, "It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard." Well, Paul didn't receive the gospel "by those who heard." He received it from direct revelation from the Lord himself (Galatians 1:12, Ephesians 3:3).

So who did write Hebrews? Well, considering there are some stylistic similarities to Paul's writings, it would have to be someone close to Paul. The mention of Timothy in chapter 13 suggests someone from Paul's group. The most likely candidates are Apollos and Barnabas. Despite the fact that Martin Luther argued for Apollos being the author, I think Apollos can be ruled out in favor of Barnabas.

Apollos was a Jew, but he was from Alexandria, Egypt. He had a Greek name, and his ministry outreach was primarily to the Greeks, particularly in Ephesus and Corinth. Barnabas, however, was a Levite (Acts 4:36). He would have known the levitical system well which is a central theme in the book of Hebrews. In Acts 11, we see Barnabas sent out from Jerusalem to find Paul, and they served in ministry together. Barnabas was present at the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. His acquaintance with both Hebrews and Paul runs much deeper than Apollos.

That would be my argument for the author of Hebrews. I hope I've been able to give you something to consider. Ultimately the author of Hebrews is the author of the Bible: God Himself. It is in Him we marvel when we read His inerrant word, delivered to us through His apostles and prophets to the praise of His glorious grace. God bless, Jeremiah!

Pastor Gabe

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why People Leave the Church


The following is an exchange I had a few months back with a woman named Melissa via e-mail. These kinds of exchanges are fairly regular with a wide variety of people, but all making the same arguments. Receive my tone as even and caring. I want a person to love Christ and His church, which is why I share His word: so they will repent of their sins and through Christ be reconciled to God and to His people. A person will hear the gospel and be broken by it, or they will be crushed under it (Matthew 21:44). There's an omission and edits for grammar.

Mr. Hughes

I read your blog about the disagreement with Pavlovitz. I'm a once-in-a-while church person. The way you attempted to contradict Pavlovitz on why people leave Church is why people leave Church. My interpretation of what you are saying is that if you aren't a 100% believer of "our" beliefs you do not belong "here".  

Everyday people don't feel accepted in one way or another. It would be nice to enjoy a Sunday morning with people that are unbiased and accepting, unfortunately that's not reality. Do individuals or corporations own a Church or does God? It's interesting how people will say "our" Church or "my" Church as if it's something they own or a club they belong to.  

This is why Church Goers become Used to be Church Goers. The disillusionment is revealed & then they wake up and realize they belong to a cult where their true selves aren't accepted.  

I realize the Southern Baptist ways tend to rely on fear and intimidation to "keep its flock in order", but people are smarter than that. They want compassion, understanding and treated with dignity. 

Melissa

Dear Melissa

Thank you for reading the blog, and I appreciate you reaching out and sending me an e-mail. People leave the church because they hate God and they hate God's people. There is no other reason. The blog mentions 1 John 2:19 where the Apostle says they went out from us so that it might become plain that they were never of us to begin with.

Romans 8:7-8 says, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." We read in 1 Corinthians 1:18 and 2:14, "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned."

You're an occasional church-goer because you also don't love God or His people. I pray that you will repent of this and that you will love the body of Christ. You like listening to men like John Pavlovitz because he makes you feel better about your decisions, accumulating for yourself false teachers to suit your own passions (2 Timothy 4:3).

Pastor Gabe

Mr. Hughes

I don't hate God or "his" people. Wasn't I a product of God and doesn't He have a plan for me? Is God only in a structure that is man made? Instead of quoting scripture maybe you should spend more time trying to understand human beings. Humans feel more accepted when one tries to understand their questions and concepts. The minute one starts to "preach the Gospel" I feel alone, threatened and alienated. Follow these words or else... is what I hear. 

Dear Melissa

Thank you again for your reply. I don't understand what you're asking by your first few questions, but let me say that all those who are in Christ, who are part of His church, are His people. It says in 1 Peter 2:10, talking about the church, "Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people." And in Titus 2:14, Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."

We read in 1 John 3:10, "By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother." As it says previously in 1 John 3:8, "Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil."

The reason why you feel threatened and alienated when you hear the Bible quoted to you is because your conscience is guilty. Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." You feel exposed when the word of God is given to you. Rather than ignore it and try to tell people not to speak the Bible, repent of your sins and desire Christ the Lord.

Jesus said, "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God" (John 3:19-21).

If you don't hate God, then you'll come to the light of His love and mercy as spoken about in His word. But if you hate God, you will hate His word, and will run when you hear it.

Pastor Gabe

Wow!! Just wow. I can't be a part of your world. I guess I must hate people that love God. I should quit my job as a nurse who goes on mission trips to third world countries and join the devil. 

This condescending "Join God and his people or else you're a hateful person" is what drives people away from your kind of Church.

Thank you for your response again. I just wanted a real human discussion with a pastor that had different thoughts than mine and you could not even do that. 

I won't email anymore as I'm sure I'm an insult to your belief system.

"All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." Isaiah 66:2

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

People Who Claimed to Be the Second Coming of Christ

Do you remember a story in 2011 where a man got arrested after shooting at the White House? Did you ever hear why? Well, that guy thought he was the second-coming of Jesus Christ, and he needed to stop Obama, the antichrist, from ruling the world. His name was Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez. In a video addressing Oprah, he announced his divinity and said, "It's not just a coincidence that I look like Jesus. I am the modern day Jesus Christ that you all have been waiting for."

Many others have claimed to be the second coming of Jesus Christ, and unfortunately, some of them aren't as on-the-fringe as Oscar. They have duped thousands, even millions of followers. Yet the true Jesus has said to us:
"If anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, 'Look, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out. If they say, 'Look, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man." Matthew 24:23-27
The following are twelve of the most notorious prophets who claimed to be the return of Jesus. Some of this is just downright ridiculous and will probably make you laugh. But we need to have broken hearts and remember that unless false teachers and their followers repent, they will stand before the true Christ in judgment who will say to them, "Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. I never knew you."

We must remain committed to the true words of the Bible, preaching them to the world, and exposing the fruitless works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). The false gospel will damn (Galatians 1:8-9). Only the true gospel has the power to save (Romans 1:16).

Ann Lee
Ever heard of the Shakers? Less popularly known as the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, they were called the "Shaking Quakers" or just Shakers because of their spasmatic behavior during their worship services (hmmm, that sounds familiar). The sect was founded in 18th century England, known for practicing communal living and egalitarianism, believing that the second coming of Christ would be through a woman. Along came Ann Lee who said she was the female incarnation and second coming of Christ. Mother Ann, as she was known, preached that sex of any kind, even sex in marriage, was lustful, and told her followers to forsake marriage (which 1 Timothy 4:1-3 calls the teaching of demons). The Shakers are still around, though I'm not sure how that's possible if they aren't allowed to breed. Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, located in Maine, is said to be the last existing Shaker community.

Arnold Potter
From among the Mormons came a guy named Arnold Potter who also went by Potter Christ. In 1840, Potter was ordained by Mormon founder Joseph Smith and given the Melchizedek priesthood, becoming one of the seventy. In 1856, Potter was called by Latter-Day Saint Church President, Brigham Young, to serve as a missionary in Australia. It was on that trip that Potter claims that he became Potter Christ, Son of the living God. What else can you expect from a religion based entirely on new revelation? He moved back to Independence, MO, which the Mormons claim is the true Zion, then to Council Bluffs, IA where he maintained a group of devout followers. In 1878, on the day of his death, he rode on a donkey up to the bluffs and told his disciples it was time for him to ascend into heaven. Then he jumped off the cliff, and... well, I'm sure you can guess what happened.

Baha'u'llah
In 1844, a man named Sayid Ali Muhammad claimed to be the Bab (meaning "Gate"), the eighth manifestation of God and first since Muhammad. Before his execution by Persian and Ottoman authorities in 1850, the Bab spoke of a coming prophet. On April 22, 1863, Mirza Husayn Ali, one of the Bab's followers (also called Babis), claimed to be the fulfillment of that prophesy. He took the name Baha'u'llah, which means "the glory of God," founder of the Baha'i faith who claimed to be the second coming of Christ. The faith believes it is the reconciliation of all major religions; therefore, Baha'u'llah is not just the second coming of Christ but the fulfillment of the greatest prophets in every major religion. Their yearly annual conferences are held in Haifa, Israel. It is estimated that the Baha'i faith has up to 8 million members, about as large as the Jehovah's Witnesses and half as large as Mormonism. But unlike those two religions, the Baha'i do not believe in proselytizing. The Baha'i faith is monotheistic, but says that God is unknowable.

The Baha'i House of Worship for North America, located in Wilmette, IL.
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
An Indian religious leader and founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, Ahmad claimed to be the coming of the Mahhdi, the redeemer of Islam, in the likeness of Jesus. In 1891, he claimed that God told him, "The Messiah, son of Mary, Prophet of Allah, had died and thou hast come in accordance with the promise." Ahmad is among the first, certainly the most influential, to suggest that Jesus survived his crucifixion. He then traveled to India where he died a natural death. Therefore, since he died of natural causes, Jesus would not return physically but would return in the likeness that Ahmad represented. Ahmad's teachings continue to be followed by an estimated 10 to 20 million people to this day, though he's considered a false prophet by most Muslims.

John Hugh Smyth-Pigott 
The Agapemonites, also known as the Community of the Son of Man, was founded in 1846 by the Reverend Henry Prince, a former minister in the Church of England. Prince gained several interested followers which he narrowed down to primarily wealthy single women, and initiated what he called "spiritual marriage" (as opposed to a legal marriage, I guess). Prince believed himself to be the visible embodiment of the Holy Spirit. He lost a number of followers in 1856 after a ceremonial act of public sex in front of a large audience. Those who remained received titles such as the "Anointed Ones," the "Angels of the Last Trumpet," and the "Seven Witnesses." After he died in 1899, he was succeeded by John Hugh Smyth-Pigott who claimed to be Jesus Christ reincarnate. The claim apparently traveled from England all the way to India, where Mirza Ghulam Ahmad condemned Smyth-Pigott as a false teacher, and warned him that it would result in a miserable end. So one false Jesus said to another false Jesus, "You can't be Jesus, I am!" The last member of the Agapemonites died in 1956 and the cult came to an end, but not before having produced several illegitimate children.

Haile Selassie I
Though Selassie never claimed to be Jesus Christ, he had a group of followers who did. When Selassie became Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930, a group of worshipers in Jamaica hailed him as the second coming of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you've heard of them -- the Rastafarians. Selassie was born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael, which is where Rastafari gets its name ("ras" means "head" in Amharic, and the name Tafari means one who is revered). But Selassie was not so on-board with the whole worshiping thing. He sent an archbishop to Jamaica telling them to convert to Ethiopian Orthodox. The parts of Rastafari that remain popular today are the smoking of pot and rejection of materialism and oppression. It gained widespread recognition thanks to reggae music and Bob Marley. But the whole thing started because they believed the Emperor of Ethiopia was the second-coming of Christ. True Rastafarians believe Selassie's death in 1975 was a hoax, and he still reigns on earth to this day.

Yes, Bob Marley believed Selassie was the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
James Warren Jones
Perhaps you know all about crack-pot Jim Jones and the mass murder-suicide of his cult in Jonestown, Guyana, killing 918 people by cyanide poisoning, the assassination of Congressman Leo Ryan, and Jim Jones himself with a gunshot wound to the head. What you might not know about Jones is that he claimed to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ -- also the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten, Buddha, Vladimir Lenin, and African American spiritual leader Father Divine, who also had claimed to be God. It's from the Jonestown deaths that we get the phrase "drinking the Kool-Aid," when a person goes along with a false teacher or group that may have dangerous consequences. Until the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Jonestown was the largest loss of American civilian life by a single event. By the way, that happened in November, 1978, 38 years ago this month.

Ahn Sahng-Hong
A former Seventh-Day Adventist, the church excommunicated him in 1962 and twenty-three people followed him. Two years later, he founded the Witnesses of Jesus Church of God. After his death in 1985, the church split and formed the New Covenant Passover Church of God with both churches claiming Ahn as their founder. Ahn was among some of the end-times kooks who thought the beginning of the modern state of Israel was a sign of the end of the world, which he predicted would happen in 1988. He died before he saw his prophecy flop. The Witnesses of Jesus Church of God maintain that Ahn is the Second Coming of Christ (even though he's dead). Arguments persist between the Witnesses New Covenants as to what Ahn actually claimed and taught. His churches have been planted in over 150 countries with 2 million registered members.

Sun Myung Moon
A Korean religious leader and media mogul who founded the Unification Church, Moon told his members that he was the Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ. His influence is pretty incredible. His international media conglomerate, News World Communications, runs newspapers in South Korea, Japan, South America, and North America, including the Washington Times. Moon invested $1.7 billion in the Times, which he said was an "instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world." In the 1970s, he gave a speech in Washington D.C. about "God's Hope for America," attended by 300,000 people. He has also spoken in New York City at Madison Square Garden and at Yankee Stadium. He had many political ties, including relationships with Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and both Bush's, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbechev, North Korean President Kim Il Sung, and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. His book Divine Principle is considered Scripture by Unification Church adherents. Moon died in 2012 at the age of 92. His wife, Hak Ja Han, has assumed leadership in the church, and is believed to be a reincarnation of Eve.

Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda
Born in Puerto Rico and based out of Miami, FL, Jose Miranda claimed to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. He had millions of followers in several countries who sang songs to him and worshiped him as though he was Jesus. He would be introduced at church services as "king of kings and lord of lords." Eventually, he also claimed to be the antichrist, and his followers showed their support by getting tattoos of 666, the mark of the beast. Miranda said that 666 wasn’t the devil’s number, but is actually the number of wisdom and shows who is truly following Jesus Christ. He was interviewed by Bill Maher in his mocumentary Religulous, where Miranda claimed there's no more sin because he already died for our sins. NBC did an exposé on him, which you can view here. He died in 2013 of cirrhosis of the liver. His church maintains that he’s still Christ and has just become immortal. Even his own kids claim he is God.

Sergey Anatolyevitch Torop
In 1990, a then 29-year-old Russian man claimed to be the second coming of Jesus Christ. His followers called him Vissarion. He founded a church called the Church of the Last Testament, and a utopian community called Petropavlovka, where eating meat, drinking alcohol, smoking, and cursing is prohibited. The community still exists, located in remote Siberia where Vissarion also lives, and reportedly has a population of 800. But it is said that including the surrounding churches that worship Vissarion, he has about 50,000 followers. There's a YouTube video on this "Siberian Messiah" that has over 8 million views.

Apollo Quiboloy
Claiming to be the "Appointed Son of God," Apollo Quiboloy is the founder of a church in the Philippines called the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name, Inc. Like an American megachurch, he has turned this into an enterprise. He is the President and CEO of Sonshine Media Network International, he founded Sonshine Sports Management based in Davao City, and is attempting to infiltrate politics having anointed the next Philippian president in 2010. When the man he anointed failed to win the election, Quiboloy blamed his followers for not stepping up. According to Quiboloy, God has appointed him Son of God or the reincarnation of Jesus Christ to become the Savior of the Gentiles. He claims to be sinless, and that God has given him the authority to enforce the laws of the Kingdom throughout the world. It is estimated that he has over 6 million followers, most of whom are in the Philippines with 2 million abroad.

This is a false christ warning about other false christs.
(Dis) Honorable Mentions
  • William W. Davies, another from the Mormon camp, began the Kingdom of Heaven sect in Walla Walla, WA. Davies claimed he was the archangel Michael who previously lived the lives of Adam, Abraham, and David. When his son Arthur was born, February 11, 1868, Davies declared him the reincarnated Christ. He would become known as Walla Walla Jesus, and his followers increased. He had another son whom Davies said was the reincarnated God the Father. Both children died of diphtheria, and his followers sued him.
  • Marshall Applewhite, though not as notorious as Jim Jones, was also an American kook cult-leader who convinced his followers to commit murder-suicide. Applewhite was the founder of the Heaven's Gate cult back in the 90s, and called himself, "I, Jesus, Son of God." He convinced his followers to kill themselves so they could rendezvous with the mothership flying in the tail of the comet Hale-Bopp.
  • Wayne Bent, a former Seventh-Day Adventist pastor, founded Lord Our Righteousness Church, also called Strong City near Clayton, NM. Bent claimed, "I am the embodiment of God. I am divinity and humanity combined." He went to prison for allegedly having sex with a minor, but was released due to a mistrial. There have been numerous investigations into Bent's cult practices. His community still exists, and Bent is still writing stuff online. It was reported this year that he has cancer.
  • Mitsuo Matayoshi founded the World Econominic Community Party in Japan, a political party he started based on his claim that he is Jesus Christ. Within this claim, Matayoshi says that he will be the one judging all mankind at the end of the world according to the current political system.
  • Hogen Fukunaga, also from Japan, founded Ho No Sanpogyo, known as the Foot Reading Cult. Fukunaga attended a Clinton fundraising dinner in the 90s with Yogesh Gandhi, a distant relative of Mahatma Gandhi, and presented President Clinton with the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Award. Fukunaga claims he is the reincarnation of Christ and Buddha.
  • Inri Cristo from Brazil claims to be the second Jesus reincarnated. He has been on television and debated others regarding their own claims of reincarnation. He still gives lectures on college campuses and has a smattering of followers in several countries.
  • Alan John Miller is a former Jehovah's Witness elder who claims to be the second coming of Christ and started the Divine Truth movement in Australia. Also a prophet of the 2012 Mayinism phenomenon, he prophesied catastrophic waves would turn the land he owns, 150 miles from the coast, into beachfront property by 2013. His partner, Mary Suzanne Luck, is said to be the second-coming of Mary Magdalene.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hey, Porn Addict: Stop It


It's late as I'm writing this. I just finished an article from someone -- a sound teacher, plenty of credentials, reputable website -- offering five points in a tidy little acronym for how to fight a porn addiction. Honestly, I didn't read the whole thing. I browsed it. I read the main points in bold. I'm sure it was insightful and doctrinally sound. But it was over-thought and cute.

A porn addiction isn't cute. It's serious. Dead serious. With a capital D. As in, if you don't stop this, it will kill you. When it comes to looking at porn, there's a simple solution for ending this lurid obsession with the flesh. You won't even have to take notes or remember a cutesy acronym. Here it is:

Stop looking at porn.

It's that simple, and you know it. You know what you're doing is evil. You know God hates it. You know He is going to judge all the sexually immoral and throw them in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. Because of what you're doing, you're qualified to be among that lot. You will go to hell for this if you don't repent. You know it.

Unless, of course -- God forbid -- you've become so enslaved by your lust that you don't know it's wrong anymore. You've reasoned it as being okay. Just a thing. Not hurting anyone. It's not actually sex. It's not actually adultery. There are worse things you could be doing. No big deal. In which case God has already turned you over to a debased mind to be devoured and destroyed by your passions. You've suppressed the truth with unrighteousness. God save you.

But if that part of you, by the Holy Spirit of God, is still convicted by this sin and you know you need to stop, then you need to hear me. Stop. You know it's evil, demonic, satanic, and you know that you need to end it. So end it. Right now. Cold turkey. Just stop. Stop looking at porn.

Easier said that done, right? You've tried before. It didn't work. You went right back to looking at porn again. Do you know why? Because you don't really want to stop. Because you'd rather look at naked women on a screen than worship God. Point blank, that's your problem.

You like the feeling of watching sex and masturbating more than you enjoy worshiping God. Ultimately, that's what's going to destroy you -- idol worship. You worship something else, something you don't want to stop doing, more than God. You are bowing to an idol, sacrificing on an altar to a false god.

There's really no difference between what you're doing and the what the pagans did. They had fertility gods and sex gods and goddesses. They built temples for them. Employed at those temples were priestess prostitutes with whom they would have sex on altars to made-up gods. Well, in your porn habit, you've raised up such an altar and are sacrificing on it with prostitutes. You're doing the same thing. You yourself are acting as a whore, cheating on the God who gave His Son to die for your sin.

Jesus said that if you even look at a woman with lust, you've committed adultery with her in your heart (Matthew 5:28). You know that verse. Sermon on the Mount stuff, right? You've heard it before. But you still think it's just not that big a deal. Do you know what will happen if you don't repent? You'll be among those at the final judgment who are crying out to Him, "Lord! Lord!" but He says to you, "I never knew you. Depart from me, you worker of lawlessness" (Matthew 7:21-23).

I think you know what you should be doing, but I'm going to tell you anyway. It is the power of the gospel that saves, and faith comes by hearing. So here's what you should do: When you are tempted to look at porn, you worship God instead. The more the temptation seizes you, the more you pray, call on His name, sing His praises, worship God. Be in the Bible and let His word govern your heart. Beg for His mercy. Cry out for deliverance. And He will give it to you.

Fall on the ground. Bawl your eyes out if you have to. Be wretched, mourn, and weep. Worship God. You stop the awful, filthy, disgusting habit you've been doing and you behold the beautiful love, grace, and mercy of God, given to us through His Son Jesus Christ, who paid for sins such as these with His own blood, who resurrected us from death and darkness into His life and marvelous light. Repent. Worship Him.

Is your computer too tempting? Get rid of it. "But I need it to pay bills!" Write checks. Images popping up on your smart phone? Throw it away. "But I need it to make phone calls!" They still make landlines and cordless phones. Get one of those. Are there television programs that tempt you? Get rid of your TV. "But football!" Well, that might be an idol too, then.

Can't keep your eyes off those risque Netflix shows? Cancel your subscription. "But my wife loves Netflix!" Then you explain it to her. You apologize for your adultery. You beg for her forgiveness. You tell her this is your fault. You make sure she knows it's not hers. She's going to feel betrayed, lied to, cheated on. And she's right: you've betrayed, lied, and cheated. You've had affairs with other women. Countless women. And you don't even know who they are.

You've still got to tell her. You must be honest with her. For your body doesn't belong to just you. It belongs to her also. And this is what you've done with it. No matter how long it takes, you aspire to win back this woman's trust. Tell her you're willing to do anything possible to never be overtaken by this sin again. Lay your life down for her. Sacrifice yourself for her.

If you're a single man, you are no less off the hook. Your porn addiction is still sin before a holy and righteous God. It will destroy you if you don't repent. You do everything you have to do to remove it from your eyes. If your eye causes you to sin, then you cut it out and throw it away. It's better to lose a member of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell (Matthew 5:29).

Are your friends bad influences? Get new friends. Is your church cool with this kind of sin? Then you get a new church. Go where the gospel is preached, and go often. Confess to brothers in Christ who know how to pray for you and admonish you and hold you accountable. These are brothers who love you. "Let a righteous man strike me -- it is a kindness. Let him rebuke me -- it is oil for my head. Let my head not refuse it" (Psalm 141:5).

Pray for a heart that is convicted by sin. Do not ever let this overtake you again. Be a new man in Christ. You are a new creation -- the old is gone, the new has come. Worship, worship, worship Christ the King! For He has dealt bountifully with you. He did not destroy you when you were an enemy of God, worshiping things other than God. He was patient toward you, not wanting you to perish, but to come to repentance.

Take it from someone who knows. I'm guilty of this sin. By the grace of God, He didn't destroy me in it. I've been washed, I've been sanctified, I've been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. I'm still being sanctified. I'm still being shaped into the image of His Son, growing in righteousness and holiness. I will not complete this process until the day I enter into glory with Him.

I want to submit myself fully to God -- mind and body -- as we are instructed to do in the Scriptures: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Romans 12:1). "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Ask God for a new mind and He will give it to you. Ask Him for a new heart and it will be yours. Ask Him for forgiveness and He is faithful and just to cleanse you from all unrighteousness, according to the sacrifice of Christ and the shedding of His blood on our behalf.

Then go. And sin no more.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Some Post-Election Thoughts


I'm a small government guy, so I'm going to start with some small government advice. Pastors, might I recommend that you go grab your local paper and find out who won your local elections? Then write to those candidates congratulating them on their win. No matter who they are, they have received their appointment by God (Romans 13:1). Tell them you're praying for them, share a little gospel, and invite them to contact you if they need anything.

It just has to be one page. Put it on church letter-head. I'm planning on doing this and including signatures from all of the elders. It shows this came not just from the pastor, but from the leadership of a whole church of fellow citizens. If you need any help with how to address your elected officials honorably, see how Paul does it in Acts 20-28.

I've shared some election thoughts on the podcast every day this week so far. Today in our Old Testament study of 1 Samuel, it is of no coincidence that we arrived at chapters 10-12, featuring Saul's anointing as king and Samuel's farewell address to Israel. If you have half-an-hour, click here to listen. It's relevant to our current situation in our country.

The following are some other post-election thoughts...

There is now no excuse not to overturn Roe v. Wade.
For the first time since the 1920s, the republicans have control of the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. We are going to find out within the first two years of Trump's presidency whether or not Trump and the republican party are truly serious about stopping abortion. We're also going to find out within the first two years whether or not evangelicals are truly serious about it, and will hold them to their word.

I understand that these things need to be done strategically. The republicans might want to wait until Trump has picked a pro-life judge to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court. That way, if the bill ends up in front of the Supreme Court, there's a 5-vote conservative majority that will uphold the measure. It was a tyrannical Supreme Court that enacted Roe v. Wade. It will take a constitutional Supreme Court to overturn it. Again, that is if the republicans and their constituency are true to their word. We'll find out in the days ahead.

It's absolutely crazy that after the Planned Parenthood videos that surfaced last year, showing what happens in PP back rooms, dissecting children and selling their body parts, nothing was done to cut funding from Planned Parenthood (at least on the federal level). When Donald Trump has said things like Planned Parenthood does good work, a comment that PP president Cecile Richards praised, it doesn't leave me terribly hopeful. I'd like to be proven wrong.

The election of Donald Trump is not God's blessing on our nation.
Yesterday, a fellow on Twitter named Dean asked Dr. James White this question: "Just curious. Are we still under the judgment of God? So much winning is happening. Just curious." It was a snide jab at Dr. White's recent comments that our two morally bankrupt candidates, Trump and Hillary, were evidence of the wrath of God on an increasingly godless culture.

Dr. White responded with the following:
I confess, I am utterly shocked that a Christian could, even snidely, ask the question. What has changed? Are there any less abortions being done today? How many people voted the way they did because of repentance from the culture of death? How many voted as they did simply because they want more money in their pockets?  
Do forgive me if I just have missed it, but where is the outpouring of repentance? Where is the evidence of a ground-swell of bowing to the Lordship of Christ? I am hearing a lot of talking on TV about what this election means, but these are the same folks who were clueless about what was going to happen in the first place. Almost no one is admitting the basic fact that this election, as far as the Presidency was concerned, was a nose-holding contest as to who was the least repulsive to the populace. The idea that this shows some major "paradigm shift" or all the rest seems to me to be pie-in-the-sky thinking.  
In any case, just what is this "winning" that is going on? Hearts changed? God’s law honored? World-view reformation taking place? Where? One of two very, very poor candidates was going to win and, shockingly, one did! And this somehow means God is now smiling upon the United States and all the evidence of the Millennials collapse into a secular worldview and the love of immorality and abortion and homosexuality and the profaning of marriage and the greed and all that just disappeared over night due to a single election? Seriously?  
I am very, very concerned for anyone who can be so disconnected from a biblical worldview as to think this election signals some kind of removal of the judgment of God upon a sinful and rebellious people. We were not given a corrupt, anti-Christian socialist for a President—we instead were given a corrupt pseudo-Christian demagogue for a President. You tell me if that signals the removal of God’s wrath upon this nation.  
I do pray God will bless this nation—with repentance and the clarion preaching of the gospel that calls for men and women to repent and believe. I pray God will change Donald Trump’s heart, free him from the pseudo-religion he has professed, and bring him to repentance for all of his infidelity and proud immorality. I would love to see a road-block placed in the speeding train of socialism and secularism, and the freedom to continue to preach boldly protected. It could happen. I pray it does.  
However, it might not as well. We could find out that the man who shows no fidelity in his personal relationships will turn out to be the same in his public activities. And if it all comes tumbling down over the next four years, I wonder what you will be saying then? So a serious answer to a clearly snide inquiry: yes, we are, and if you can’t see it, you are not looking with eyes enlightened by biblical truth.
Dr. White said elsewhere, "I really, really, really wish [the rejection of Hillary Clinton] was due to a ground-swell of righteousness in the land and a rejection of the culture of death, but alas, I don't think that had anything to do with it at all."

It doesn't matter that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.
Donald Trump won the electoral college, but Hillary Clinton won the popular election by about 300,000 votes. Perhaps you've seen the CNN video of the irate young man-on-the-street angrily calling upon Hillary to march into the Supreme Court and sue the United States because she won the popular vote and deserves to be president. (Shame on CNN for even giving that guy a microphone.)

There are conservatives in largely blue states that don't even bother voting. Because their state is so liberal, their vote can't change anything. Likewise, the opposite is true. There are states that are so conservative (my red state of Kansas, for example) that many liberals don't bother showing up to vote. This is why, at the end of a national election in the United States, the "popular vote" is not a true showing of the will of the people.

California has what's called the Two Candidates Open Primary Act, which has been in effect since 2011. Basically, the two candidates that appear on a ballot for any state office or U.S. congressional office are the two most popular candidates no matter their party affiliation. So when you go to the ballot box in California, your choices are most likely between a democrat and a democrat rather than a democrat and a republican. That influences the vote even more left than it ordinarily would be.

The electoral college does more to hinder a candidate with regional rather than wide-spread appeal from becoming president. In other words, the south can't elect the president, or New York and California can't elect the president. Through the electoral college, it's more likely like the elected candidate is a true representative of the population than a candidate chosen simply by popular vote. You want that system in place, even if you disagree with the outcome.

The #NeverTrump protesters are, in part, Donald Trump's fault.
Trump, Obama, and Hillary have all shown grace the past couple of days in victory and defeat. Both Obama and Hillary have called for unity and a peaceful transference of power. But that's not how their constituency has responded. Protesters have taken to the streets saying that Trump is not their president. The protests are not all peaceful either. There's been rioting, looting, and violence. On social media, some people have lost their Darwin-loving minds. (I can't post any of the videos I've seen because they're laden with expletives.)

I've seen it said, "This is what happens in a culture where everyone gets a trophy." Perhaps Obama is somewhat to blame the way he's encouraged rioters in the past. Maybe even Hillary Clinton when it was uncovered a few weeks ago how her campaign recruited volunteers to incite violence and unrest at Trump rallies. But the reaction of the Never-Trump protesters is also partly influenced by The Donald.

Remember in the last presidential debate, Trump was hesitant to say that he'd accept the outcome of the election when it was all over, suggesting that Hillary's victory might be the result of voter-fraud. This is also a man who is obsessed with getting revenge. We've seen during the campaign the way he reacted to Megyn Kelly and Alicia Machado. Trump threatened House speaker Paul Ryan that he'd "pay a big price" if Ryan didn't support him.

In his 2007 book Think Big, Trump said, "When people wrong you, go after those people, because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it. I always get even." In 2011, to the National Achievers Congress in Sydney Australia, he said, "Get even with people. If they get you, get them back 10 times as hard. I really believe it." The next year, he said it again: "One of the things you should do in terms of success: If somebody hits you, you've got to hit 'em back five times harder than they ever thought possible. You've got to get even. Get even."

Trump is not a man who has a reputation for bringing peace and unity. He is a poor sport who actively and openly encourages retaliation. We can expect more of this kind of a behavior, following the example of our Commander in Chief.

Melania Trump is a poor example for boys and girls.
If you thought Barack and Michelle Obama's fawning over Beyoncé was bad, this is the first time in American history you can find nude photos of the first lady of the United States (for heaven's sake, don't look that up). Neither Donald nor Melania are sorry or apologetic for any of this. Trump has openly boasted about the bodies of his wife and his daughters. This has the potential to increase indulgence in pornography, even among young boys and girls.

You know how boys can be. At school and in class, they'll be shown a video of the First Lady encouraging our youth in some way. Then the boys will be giggling about how they can look up nude photos of the First Lady on the internet. Girls will be fascinated by the First Lady and this interest among their male classmates, and they'll be tempted to practice some nude modeling themselves. They'll try it with their friends at slumber parties, and those photos will leak. I do mean to scare you. This is a very real and potential danger.

Regarding both of these points -- Trump inciting vengeful behavior and Melania's immodest behavior -- we must remember Paul's instructions in 1 Timothy 2:8-10. "I desire that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness -- with good works."

Parents, we must teach this to our children -- that our boys will know that lashing out in anger is not okay, and that our girls will know that true beauty is on the inside. We're raising our children in a culture where true godliness is going to look way different than that attitudes of the people around us.

Donald Trump is our next president, and we must pray for him.
There are a lot of things to not like about our incoming president. But we must respect him and we must pray for him because he's our president. Romans 13:1 says, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment."

Peter said, "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor" (1 Peter 2:17). Paul said to Timothy, "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

The Prophet Samuel said, "Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you" (1 Samuel 12:23). So we must respect and pray for our nation's elected leaders. We must pray that they would turn from sin to Jesus Christ and be saved. To not do so would be a sin against our Sovereign Lord.

Let us not lose hope or fall into despair. We as Christians were always supposed to be strangers in this world anyway. This was never supposed to be easy. Lift your heads. Look toward the King of heaven. Our God is still on his throne. I am still as in love with God today as I was yesterday. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise His holy name!