Thursday, 29 December 2016

How Did a Dragon Get Into the Christmas Story?

Long-time readers of my blog posts know how much I despise the way that Christmas has become such a cash cow for merchants. In fact, the only aspects I enjoy about the holiday are that songs about Christ are occasionally sung in public and I like to see reindeer because they're beautiful animals

Imagine my surprise when I went to Londonderry Mall in 2015 and saw a great red dragon among the Christmas decorations. Its reptilian presence dominated The Log Barn kiosk located at the intersection of four hallways.

The Holy Spirit arranged one of those amazing coincidences at the time by letting me hear John MacArthur's sermon on Revelation 12:1-6. Here's what the verses say in the Bible in Basic English:

    1   And a great sign was seen in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
    2   And she was with child; and she gave a cry, in the pains of childbirth.
    3   And there was seen another sign in heaven; a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven crowns.
    4   And his tail was pulling a third part of the stars of heaven down to the earth, and the dragon took his place before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when the birth had taken place he might put an end to her child.
    5   And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who was to have rule over all the nations with a rod of iron: and her child was taken up to God and to his high seat.
    6   And the woman went in flight to the waste land, where she has a place made ready by God, so that there they may give her food a thousand, two hundred and sixty days.

In metaphorical language, John told the story of how Herod sought to kill Christ and had all the children under two years in Bethlehem killed, hoping Jesus was among them.

This was the first  of several attempts which Satan made on Christ's life. Only when it was time for Jesus to be crucified was the Devil allowed to take the Lord's life. Even so, he had power to lay it down and take it up again.

Though we don't like to consider it, there's more to the Christmas story than a newborn who was God incarnate. He came to die for sinners who surrender their lives to him. Without Christmas, Easter couldn't have happened. Without Easter, Christmas would lose its meaning.

I hope to keep the emphasis of Christ's atonement front and centre in my next book called You Think You're Going to Heaven? This is thee most important truth which all of us must deal with.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

When Did the Wise Men Show up?

I know that Christmas is over but there's one pet peeve of mine which I'd like to air. In all of the pageants I've seen, the three wise men show up immediately after the shepherds. But a careful reading of the scriptures shows that Jesus must have been two years old at the most when these gentlemen arrived.

Beginning in Matthew two, verses one and two, we can tell that it wasn't that very night but in a general period of time. The Bible in Basic English renders them this way. "Now when the birth of Jesus took place in Beth-lehem of Judaea, in the days of Herod the king, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, 'Where is the King of the Jews whose birth has now taken place? We have seen his star in the east and have come to give him worship.'" People almost always met with kings and rulers during the daytime, as it is today with our politicians.

Reading the next few verses, it's obvious that some days had passed because the wise men journeyed to Bethlehem to make sure of the location of the Christ child. By that time, Mary and Joseph were living in a house.

The wise men were warned by an angel to not inform Herod where the child was so they went home by a different route. It also took time for Herod to figure out that he'd been tricked by the men.

An angel also told Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt since Herod would seek to kill the young child. We see just how paranoid Herod was in verse sixteen. "Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was very angry; and he sent out, and put to death all the male children in Beth-lehem and in all the parts round about it, from two years old and under, acting on the knowledge which he had got with care from the wise men."

This proves that all the events happened over an extended period rather than the same night. It's only for theatrical convenience that the pageant shows everything happening in one night.

The reason I'm writing about this discrepancy in our modern storytelling is because people don't know how to read their Bibles correctly. In my next book called You Think You're Going to Heaven?, I'll point out how people need to derive each verse's full meaning rather than reading it in a literal way.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

How Must We Invite the Less Fortunate?

Now that I've broached the subject of charity, what kind of action must we take to help less-fortunate people? According to Christ, it isn't by making a big production number out of our donations.

Look at what Jesus said in Matthew 6:1-4 (KJV). "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly."

It certainly is tempting to tell everybody about what great deeds we've done in helping the poor. But neither should we fear that we'll lose a blessing if our charitable giving is discovered by others.

What Christ attacked was the deliberate seeking of praise which the Pharisees did daily. He's calling all of us to be humble rather than proud of how we helped others.

The best example we have of how not to help disadvantaged folks is provided by governments. They make a show of helping the poor while wasting money doing it. Politicians are especially prone to blowing their own trumpets to show how much they seem to be accomplishing with our hard-earned money.

Let's not be like them but rather let's help when we can without press releases and photo opportunities.

I'll be writing more about humble giving in my next book called You Think You're Going to Heaven.  Pride, even while doing meritorious deeds, is what will bring many people down on the day of judgement.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Who Should We Invite to Dinner?

With all of the lunches and suppers to which a person receives invites, it's no wonder this is called the festive season. In fact, many people find that they must choose which dinner to attend on a given evening.

But there are many people who don't receive an invite. Furthermore, our society in North America is so wealthy that being impoverished is considered a shame. As far as I know, nobody wants to be known as a moocher because they're too poor to repay their hosts.

The line between wealth and poverty is sharper in undeveloped nations. Likewise, it was the same in the first century. Those who were disabled had an especially hard time as they could only beg each day.

Since this was so, Jesus commanded his followers to care for less-fortunate folks. This is what Christ said in Luke 14:12-14 (BBE). "And he said to the master of the house, 'When you give a feast, do not send for your friends and your brothers and your family or your neighbours who have wealth, for they may give a feast for you, and so you will get a reward. But when you give a feast, send for the poor and the blind and those who are broken in body: And you will have a blessing, because they will not be able to give you any payment, and you will get your reward when the upright come back from the dead.'"

One objection I can immediately foresee is that most folks don't know individuals who fall into the afore-mentioned categories. We have so much in the way of government programs and charities that impoverished individuals seem to be invisible.

Christians can easily tell from this passage that we are the ones to do the work of hospitality ourselves rather than to leave it to somebody else. Not only is there the blessing we'll receive at the end of the age but we can make some excellent friends as well.

I'll be writing about the correct role of charitable acts in my next book called You Think You're Going to Heaven? Though Christmas is a family time, people can still invite those persons who society ignores because they're disabled. And why wait for Christmas? Inviting disadvantaged people at any time of year helps them out immensely.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Why is Christ's Birth Like Apollo 11's Launch?

I realize that this sounds like a strange comparison. Even so, the Birth of Jesus is like the launching of three American astronauts to the moon and back.

Firstly, both were promised beforehand. President John F. Kennedy declared America's intention to land a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s.

The Old Testament is filled with God's promises to send a messiah to save those who believe in him. The first mention of the "seed" who would be born as messiah was in Genesis 3:15 (KJV) Where God said to Satan in picturesque language, "And I will put enmity between thee and the  woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy  head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." The Word "his" indicates a single person, namely Jesus.

As Matthew 1:21 (KJV) reads, "And she(Mary)  shall bring forth a son, and thou (Joseph) shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."

What we call Christmas is only the beginning of Jesus' mission to save humanity from eternal damnation. He did so in part by fulfilling the law through living a perfect life for thirty-three years. As Hebrews 4:15 (KJV) explains, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."

Furthermore, Jesus knew that he was sent to die for whosoever repents and believes in him. As Mark 8:31 (KJV) reads, "And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again."

Just as Jesus completed his mission on earth, so the Apollo 11 astronauts blasted off, landed on the moon, and returned safely. As the launch of the rocket started that historic voyage, Christmas is only the beginning of the greatest mission in history.

I greatly hope that readers of my blog have yielded their lives to Christ. God's Word says that the only other destination for souls after death is hell. This is why I feel constrained to write my book called You Think You're Going to Heaven? Far too many people assume that most everybody goes to heaven when the truth is that most won't.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Who Gives the Best Gifts?

To us Christians, the answer to this question is obvious. But why is it that our Lord gives us the best gifts?

God loves us like an excellent father. Jesus tells us in Luke 11:11 (KJV), "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?" We aren't always the best at parenting but our heavenly Father knows what would be best for us.

But did you know that making a living is also God's gift to us? Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 5:19 (KJV), "Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God." Thanksgiving Day has passed but we must be thankful every day for such wonderful things which he provides.

But more than physical gifts, we receive spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit. And what good are these? Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:12 (KJV) that, "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church."

Of course the best gift of all is salvation. As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8 (KJV), "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" And what a wonderful gift it is for we who trust in the finished atonement of Christ.

And as Paul reminds us in Romans 6:23 (KJV), For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Additionally, Jesus was our gift. Mark 10:45 (KJV) testifies, "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." For this reason, we worship him and celebrate his birth, death, and resurrection.

There are so many wonderful verses that I could add regarding the excellent gifts our heavenly Father provides us but this blog post would become a novel. Instead, I'll save them for my next book called You Think You're Going to Heaven? Sadly, many people assume they'll be in paradise when they die but they'll be shocked at their real destination.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

What is the Common Salvation?

Believe it or not, there are bogus Bible teachers who twist even blatantly obvious verses into pretzels of error. The lay minister at a cultic house church I once attended was one of those scripture twisters.

Perhaps the worst of his mangling's of God's holy Word was Jude verse three which reads, "My loved ones, while my thoughts were full of a letter which I was going to send you about our common salvation, it was necessary for me to send you one requesting you with all my heart to go on fighting strongly for the faith which has been given to the saints once and for ever."

A plain reading of this verse indicates that Jude referred to the salvation which we, who have surrendered control of our lives to Christ, have in common. Almost the entire text of this epistle warns against false brethren who twist the precious truth which was passed down from the saints.

So how could anybody warp the obvious concept of the "common salvation" to mean something else? The man running the house church claimed it indicated that everybody would be saved eventually. He figured that since hell was meant for the Devil and the fallen angels, God wouldn't incarcerate any soul in it eternally. Additionally, he said that God was too merciful to condemn anybody to eternal agony forever.

So what does "common salvation" actually mean? John 3:16 is the most well-known verse from scripture. The Bible in Basic English renders it this way. "For God had such love for the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever has faith in him may not come to destruction but have eternal life." The word "whoever" shows that some wouldn't accept Christ's magnanimous offer. Read the next few  verses and you'll realize this fact.

Instead of reading the Bible to find out what God has said to his created beings, people, like the one I knew, twist the meaning of scriptures to suit what they want to believe. Only by comparing the mysterious verses with plain ones can we understand the Bible fully.

Thanks to proper Bible scholars who understand the nuances of the ancient languages in which the verses were written, I now know what the Lord said and who he really is. This is why I want to write my book called You Think You're Going to Heaven? Satan has filled this world with so much disinformation that I feel compelled to counter it with biblical truth.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

What is the Word of Faith?

In my previous post, I wrote about members of charismatic churches and the way they misread scriptures. I didn't have time then to delve into the meaning of the word of faith, mentioned by James in his epistle. Today, I'll examine what it really means.

There's a movement in Christindom called the Word of Faith. Its adhearants take their title from James 5:15 (BBE) which reads, "And by the prayer of faith the man who is ill will be made well, and he will be lifted up by the Lord, and for any sin which he has done he will have forgiveness." The Word of Faith, also called Word Faith, movement folks assume this verse means that the words spoken by spirit-filled Christians contain some sort of magical healing power.

Reading in chapter five, from verse thirteen to the end of the chapter, we see that James was writing about faith in God, the provider of healing and forgiveness. It isn't our words which cause those things to be granted to us.

James mentioned Elijah and how he prayed for rain to stop for three and a half years in Israel and it did so. Then he prayed for rain and it came pouring down. It was God, and God alone, who withheld and gave the rain. Elija was merely allowed to command the rain to stop and start again to demonstrate to the people that God is God and Baal wasn't.

Word Faith people also wrench Romans 10:8 (KJV) far out of its context. "But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;" The Apostle Paul is refering to salvation and having faith in Christ, not possessing the correct level of faith energy to heal or be healed.

This is precisely why I want to write my next book called You Think You're Going to Heaven? People hear preachers on the TV, radio, or at a local church, spouting off selectedverses, and assume they're telling the full truth. Phoney teachers use the skin of the truth to contain deadly lies. This is why biblical discernment skills are vital to every believer.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Do Our Words Contain Power?

In spite of the Christmas season being well under way, I feel the need to correct a persistent mistake among evangelical Christians. The followers of charismatic preachers insist that our words contain the power to cause events to happen, in effect bringing things into being. They'll often misread James chapter three by assuming that our tongues have God's creative power.

So what power do our words really have? Read James chapter three carefully and you'll see that the tongue doesn't create reality. What it does do is cause a firestorm of evil when its allowed to go unbridled.

James begins by pointing out that teachers have the greater penalty when they lie than ordinary folks who spread wrong doctrines about God's Word. The Bible in Basic English renders verse one this way. "Do not all be teachers, my brothers, because we teachers will be judged more hardly than others." This is because those who teach do so as Christ's ambassadors. While describing the Kingdom of Heaven, Christ said in Matthew 18:6 (BBE), "But whoever is a cause of trouble to one of these little ones who have faith in me, it would be better for him to have a great stone fixed to his neck, and to come to his end in the deep sea." As you can read in the following verses, Jesus refers to church discipline against those who cause naive believers to stumble and abandon their faith in the Lord.

And after James points out how ships and horses are guided by such small implements as rudders and bridles, he likens the damage that the tongue can do as a tiny spark setting alight a whole forest. As the BBE renders verses five and six, "Even so the tongue is a small part of the body, but it takes credit for great things. How much wood may be lighted by a very little fire! And the tongue is a fire; it is the power of evil placed in our bodies, making all the body unclean, putting the wheel of life on fire, and getting its fire from hell." This isn't literal fire but the destructive power of lies and hate-filled words to destroy others.

Nowhere in this epistle does James claim that we can create health and wealth for ourselves merely by speaking positive affirmations and faith-filled words. Neither can our curses against those we hate act like a spell to do them harm. As I've pointed out many times before, it's the meaning people place on words that can be the source of great trouble or tremendous encouragement.

I'll be writing more about this superstitious nonsense and how wrong it is in my next book called You Think You're Going to Heaven? Having faith in Jesus Christ means we have trust in his saving work on the cross and that he continues to care for us. If it meant speaking into existence whatever we wanted, the world would be filled with millionaires who have perfect health. As we know, that isn't so.