Friday, April 15, 2011

Will Revival Happen In America

Asa is one of the five kings whom God used to bring revival to the southern kingdom of Israel. The northern kingdom never had a revival. They had nineteen kings, and all of them were bad. There's not one good one in the lot. Of the twenty kings over Judah, ten of them could be called good, and five of them were outstanding. These kings were Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah. During their reigns there was a period of reformation, which was incubated in a time of revival. There is a similarity among all the kings, but there are also some striking differences.

Now at this great assembly which Asa had called in Jerusalem, they entered into a covenant with God to seek Him with all their hearts.
That whosoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. And they sware unto the Lord with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets [2Chron. 15:13-14].

All Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the Lord gave them rest round about [2Chron. 15:15].

If we seek the Lord with your whole heart, He will be found of us. We have seen that the first bridge to revival is a knowledge of the Word of God.

Now we come to the second bridge which is scriptural separation. The word separation is one of the most abused words in Christian circles. Asa here is practicing scriptural separation:
And also concerning Maachah the mother of Asa the king, he removed her from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove: and Asa cut down her idol, and stamped it, and burnt it at the brook Kidron [2Chron. 15:16].

This is indeed interesting -- his own mother was engaged in idolatry! Notice that she wasn't just a friend of people who were idolaters, but she herself was an idolater. This is the reason Asa removed her from the place of influence.

But the high places were not taken away out of Israel: nevertheless the heart of Asa was perfect all his days [2Chron. 15:17].

Asa could have removed these high places, but he did not. He went only part way with God -- and yet God used him. How gracious God is!

Many people consider themselves separated and roundly criticize everyone else in the ministry whose methods are different from theirs. This is not scriptural separation at all. Separation is not an attempt to straighten out every individual and try to force men whom God is using to conform to your pattern. That is the narrowest form of bigotry.

What needs to happen is to get separated from ourselves -- that would really be separation! If you want revival, the place to begin is with yourself.

We need to get in a room by ourself, draw a circle right around us, and say, "Lord, begin a revival, and let it start inside this circle."

Real revival will never happen without a return to the Word of God. There is no detour around the Bible. There is no substitute for it. The great spiritual movement in the days of John Wesley, was built around the Word of God. Wesley read the Bible in three languages every morning! Dwight L. Moody and the great spiritual awakening in his day led to the great Bible institute movement, one of the greatest movements in the study of the Word. It is dying out today. Why? Because they are getting away from the Word of God. We need more than just a superficial familiarity with the Word of God. We need more than an artificial vocabulary of the right words. Revival does not depend on an activity, nor on a service, nor on a method. It requires a real knowledge and love of the Word of God.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident --- or do we?

By Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald:

There are many elementary things, true basics of life, that are perfectly clear and self-evident. Though we see and hear these ideas and concepts all the time, we often fail to recognize them. In fact, each time we hear them, we often react with surprise and excitement as though we are hearing them for the first time. | On July 4th 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a statement written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, known as the United States Declaration of Independence. This document announced that the thirteen American colonies were now at war with King George III of Great Britain, and no longer wished to be part of the British Empire.

One of the best known sentences in the English language, and among the most "potent and consequential words in American history," is the sweeping statement of individual rights contained in the second sentence of the Declaration: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

Of course, not everybody in the Thirteen Colonies believed that all people were created equal. In fact, less than a hundred years later, the "United" States was engaged in the terrible Civil War, fought over whether slavery should be forbidden throughout the country. Notwithstanding, the uniqueness of the Declaration of Independence, the idea that certain concepts and ideas are truly "self-evident," is not an original Jeffersonian concept.

The Torah is filled with concepts and ideas that are considered self-evident. Perhaps the earliest of the "self-evident" concepts found in the Torah is the pronouncement that all human beings are created in the image of the Divine and that all are created equal. In Genesis 1:27 we read: "G0d created the human being in His image, in the image of the Divine, He created him [the human being]."

The Mishnah, in Sanhedrin 37a, commenting on the story of creation, states: "Therefore was the first human being created alone, to promote peace among men, that one might not be able to say to his fellow, 'My father was greater than your father.'"

We hold these truths to be self-evident.

Another "self-evident" idea, is articulated boldly in our holy Scriptures in a portion of the Torah that is recited at least twice a day by observant Jews. The words in Deuteronomy 6:7 read: "And you shall teach your children."

The Torah dramatically declares that every parent is obligated to teach their children. It is primarily the parents' responsibility to teach their children --- not the nanny, not the tutor, not the hired teacher. Of course, if the parent is not qualified to teach certain cognitive skills, a professional may be hired to do so. But, still, the ultimate responsibility rests upon the parent. Thus, if the teachers fail to fulfill their obligations properly, it is the failure of the parents, not the teachers, not the principal, not the school. Judaism boldly declares, that the buck stops with the parents.

It is, therefore, little wonder then, that because of the obsessive value they place on education, Jews have always been among the most highly educated people on Earth.

Another revolutionary concept that Judaism introduced to the world is the idea of a "day of rest," the Shabbat. Just as the Almighty rested on the seventh day after working for six days, so must the human being. Just as the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt and were released, so does every person need to be released from their own personal "servitude," their frenetic life-routines, in order to taste the spiritual side of life, and restore their spent souls. Long before contemporary society started speaking about "quality time," Judaism knew that there is really no substitute for the "quantity time," which makes "quality time" possible. Human beings need "sacred time" in order to provide balance to their lives. In order to maintain the proper equilibrium, families must celebrate together and have mandated meals together without outside interruptions from the internet, iPods, iPads, Twitter and Facebook.

As I have often stated (half in jest, of course), if I had an opportunity to speak with President Obama, I would tell our President that if he truly wishes to address 85% of the ills that afflict our country, he should instruct Congress to legislate Sabbat:h Friday for the Muslims, Saturday for the Jews, Sunday for the Christians. Families must have sacred time. Each of us needs to rid our minds and bodies of the physical and spiritual waste that collects during the week, to begin afresh, without the mercenary and material motives that frequently drive us. We need to regenerate our souls with pure love, for the sake of love and nothing else.

We hold these truths to be self-evident.

Rabbi Shimshon Dovid Pincus (1944-2001, an American born rabbinic scholar who served as the Chief Rabbi and head of the Yeshiva of Ofakim, Israel) in his brilliant exposition on the Torah, titled Tiferes Shimshon, explains how "self-evident" is the concept of Lashon Harah, of not speaking evil, that is found in this week's Bible reading. The Torah, in Leviticus 14:2 states: "This shall be the law of the person who is stricken with tzaraas(leprosy)."

Through a deft play on words, the Midrash in Vayikra Rabba 16:2 explains that the Torah speaks, not of a physical dermatological ailment, but rather of a spiritual malady. When interpreting the verse: "And this shall be the law of the m'tzorah," the Midrash regards the word "m'tzorah" as an acronym for "motzee shaym rah," speaking evil, which is the cause of the skin ailment.

The Midrash tells of a merchant who traveled from city to city, who constantly declared: "Come, purchase the potion of life!" Rabbi Yanai called out to the merchant, declaring his intention to buy some of the "potion of life." The merchant said to him, "You (a man of such great stature), does not require this potion." Rabbi Yanai persisted. The merchant then took out the Book of Psalms and showed Rabbi Yanai the verses (Psalms 34:13-15): "Who is the man who truly desires life, loving each day to see good? Guard your tongue from speaking evil…, desist from evil and do good."

The rabbis note, that after the encounter between Rabbi Yanai and the merchant, Rabbi Yanai said to his learned friends, "All my life, I have been reading this verse, and never understood its basic meaning, until this merchant came to me and told me what 'Who is the man who truly desires life?' really means."

There are many elementary things, true basics of life, that are perfectly clear and self-evident. Though we see and hear these ideas and concepts all the time, we often fail to recognize them. In fact, each time we hear them, we often react with surprise and excitement as though we are hearing them for the first time. Of course, Rabbi Yanai was familiar with the verses, but he was so excited to hear this unique interpretation.

The failure to recognize well-known concepts is not limited to those who have never had the opportunity to learn. Even great scholars, perhaps because they are filled with wisdom, often display genuine excitement when they hear the basics explained to them in a unique way.

It is these feelings of excitement and exhilaration that Jews attempt to achieve on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Even though we have been through the Teshuva (repentance) experience many times, we seek to create an emotional revolution in our lives. The same should be true, not only for all Jewish holidays, but also for the feelings that we experience every Sabbath, and every time we read the central Shema prayer. We must seek to create a revolution in our own selves, a revolution of understanding and of spiritual awareness. After each Sabbath experience we must ask ourselves if we properly appreciated the Sabbath as much as we should have? After reciting the "Shema," we must carefully examine whether we truly realized that the Lord is really One, and make certain that all our deeds have been for the sake of Heaven. When the Torah declares, "this is the law of the m'tzorah," of not speaking evil, it is in effect a Declaration of Jewish Independence. It is our declaration that "these truths are self-evident," that we must care about the next person as much as we care about ourselves, that we must desist from hurting others with our tongues, with our actions, with our words, and with our deeds.

The Jewish revolution took place, not three hundred years ago, but over thirty three hundred years ago, and continues every single day of our lives. It is up to us to remain forever faithful to this vital movement.

Catching Wild Hogs

This article given to me by Julia Goins
A chemistry professor in a large college had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab the Professor noticed one young man (exchange student) who kept rubbing his back, and stretching as if his back hurt.

The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country's government and install a new communist government.

In the midst of his story he looked at the professor and asked a strange question. He asked, 'Do you know how to catch wild pigs?'

The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punchline. The young man said this was no joke. 'You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come everyday to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming. When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in The last side. The pigs, who are used to the free corn, start to come through the
gate to eat, you slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd.

Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.

The young man then told the professor that is exactly what he sees happening to America . The government keeps pushing us toward socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare, medicine, drugs, etc.. While we continually lose our freedoms -- just a little at a time.

One should always remember: There is no such thing as a free lunch! Also, a politician will never provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself.

Also, if you see that all of this wonderful government 'help' is a problem confronting the future of democracy in America , you might want to send this on to your friends. If you think the free ride is essential to your way of life then you will probably delete this email, but God help you when the gate slams shut!

Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, " a government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have!!!"

"The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for." --

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Believers Established In Their Walk

Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith [2Thess. 3:1-2].

In the times we are living, the only thing that we can do is allow the Word of God to enable us to walk before this wicked and adulterous generation. The Word will establish us in our walk walk.

How can we accomplish this?

Prayer is something that every believer can engage in. Paul is asking the Thessalonians for prayer so that "the word of the Lord may have free course." Paul had a very unique ministry. He was a missionary. He was an evangelist as we think of evangelists today. Actually that word evangelist in the New Testament means "missionary." Also, he was a pastor and a teacher of the Word. He fulfilled all those offices, and he had fulfilled them all to the Thessalonians. He is not only instructing them in the Word, but he is attempting to comfort them and to counsel them. One of the things he enjoins them to do is pray. "Pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you."

It troubles me and it worries me to see that even those who claim to believe the Word of God give so little attention to it.

Paul asked for prayer that he might be delivered from "unreasonable and wicked men." I find that the spreading of the gospel is hindered more by people in the church than by anything else.

It is one thing to hold the truth of the coming of Christ, to love His appearing; but it is another thing to walk worthy of that great truth. This is what Paul is writing about to the Thessalonians. If we really love His appearing, we will prove it by our relationship to the Word of God and by our walk through this life.

But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil [2Thess. 3:3].

Christians need to be established. Right now the home is in disarray, the church is in disarray, and the lives of believers are in disarray. We need to be established. How can you as a believer be established? By coming to the Word of God and letting it have its influence in your life. The Lord operates through His Word. The Word of God will keep you from evil. Someone has said, "The Bible will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from the Bible."

And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you [2Thess. 3:4].

Christians are commanded to do certain things, and there are specific commandments for Christians. The Lord Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (see John 14:15). 

And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ [2Thess. 3:5].

The believer is to walk in "the love of God." If you are walking today in the sunshine of His love, the love of God is shed abroad in your heart and you know He loves you. And you can manifest that love by the power of the Spirit, because only the Spirit of God can make God's love real to us. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. 

"Into the patient waiting for Christ." This does not mean that you are to argue about being premillennial or pretribulational or posttribulational or amillennial, but that you are to be patiently waiting for the coming of Christ. Oh, what wonderful verses these are!

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us [2Thess. 3:6].

Paul doesn't beat around the bush! The believer is not to walk with the "disorderly." I know men who insist that we should go into the barrooms, sit down with the drunkard and have a beer with him as we witness to him. Unfortunately, I know of a young lady who became an alcoholic by following that procedure. God says that we are to "withdraw" ourselves from the disorderly. Certainly we are to witness to them, but we are not to fraternize on their level.

God makes it very clear whom we are to follow --

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you [2Thess. 3:7].

Birds of a feather flock together. You will be like the crowd you run around with. Believers need to be very careful about the company they keep and the people with whom they associate.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Moral Relativism

In studying about the Emergent Church, one element stands out among them all and that is moral relativism. Most of the theology is wrapped up in this idea. I realize that this subject can get very deep, and this is the main reason that the church is in so much trouble today. We did not want to get engaged in the discussion back in the 50's and 60's, so we just swept it under the rug. Now, it is coming back to "bite" us.
Moral relativism is more easily understood in comparison to moral absolutism. Absolutism claims that morality relies on universal principles (natural law, conscience). Christian absolutists believe that God is the ultimate source of our common morality, and that it is, therefore, as unchanging as He is. Moral relativism asserts that morality is not based on any absolute standard. Rather, ethical truths depend on variables such as the situation, culture, one's feelings, etc.

Several things can be said of the arguments for moral relativism which demonstrate their dubious nature. First, while many of the arguments used in the attempt to support relativism might sound good at first, there is a logical contradiction inherent in all of them because they all propose the right moral scheme, the one we all ought to follow. But this itself is absolutism. Second, even so-called relativists reject relativism in most cases. They would not say that a murderer or rapist is free from guilt so long as he did not violate his own standards.

Relativists may argue that different values among different cultures show that morals are relative to different people. But this argument confuses the actions of individuals (what they do) with absolute standards (whether they should do it). If culture determines right and wrong, how could we have judged the Nazis? After all, they were only following their culture's morality. Only if murder is universally wrong were the Nazis wrong. The fact that they had their morality does not change that. Further, although many people have different practices of morality, they still share a common morality. For instance, abortionists and anti-abortionists agree that murder is wrong, but they disagree on whether abortion is murder. So, even here, absolute universal morality is shown to be true.

Some claim that changing situations make for changing morality. in different situations different acts are called for that might not be right in other situations. But there are three things by which we must judge an act: the situation, the act, and the intention. For example, we can convict someone of attempted murder (intent) even if they fail (act). So situations are part of the moral decision, for they set the context for choosing the specific moral act (the application of universal principles).

The main argument relativists appeal to is that of tolerance. They claim that telling someone their morality is wrong is intolerant, and relativism tolerates all views. But this is misleading. First of all, evil should never be tolerated. Should we tolerate a rapist's view that women are objects of gratification to be abused? Second, it is self-defeating because relativists do not tolerate intolerance or absolutism. Third, relativism cannot explain why anyone should be tolerant in the first place. The very fact that we should tolerate people (even when we disagree) is based on the absolute moral rule that we should always treat people fairly but that is absolutism again! In fact, without universal moral principles there can be no goodness.

The fact is that all people are born with a conscience, and we all instinctively know when we have been wronged or when we have wronged others. We act as though we expect others to recognize this as well. Even as children we knew the difference between fair and unfair. It takes bad philosophy to convince us that we are wrong and that moral relativism is true.

There comes a time in our live, that we must base our actions on something that is solid and true, and that my friend is God's Word. It is true, solid, and un-changing. It is what you and I will be judged on when we stand before Him. And regardless wether you believe or don't believe in the one true God, does not make any difference.

If you don't believe in God, what if you are wrong, and there is a God?

And if I believe in God, and what His Word says, and than come to the place there is no eternity, I would rather live this way, knowing I have made an impact in someone's life for the "good".

But there is a God, and He loves you, and He wants you to accept His free gift of eternal life by receiving His Son into your heart and letting His blood cleanse you from all un-righteousness.

Recommended Resource: Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Francis Beckwith.