Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 by the numbers: top trends, charts, numbers, and more

2014 was a good year, a regular year. At the end, my father died. That wasn't regular. We weren't close. I hadn't seen him in 8 years, and not for many years before that. But it's still hard to know that he isn't just distant, but forever gone.

Last January a third cat adopted me. I wasn't looking for another cat. I was very happy with two older cats. But the kitten was gong to die out there in the frozen cold, so...He's inside now and very loving and sweet. Murray.

Otherwise, it was a year that clicked along normally, albeit on the school calendar and not the calendar calendar. I love the school calendar year that goes from August to May. (As an expatriate New Englander, an Aug to May school year just wrong. The school year should be September to June. But I digress). I love my job. In 2014 I went to work, went to church, went out a (very) few times with friends. I read books and wrote my 3,024th blog essay and adjusted to the changing seasons, and all the normal things. It's a normal life. A quiet life.

What happened in the world, though? A lot! Too much for me to cover, even if I wanted to. I like to pick and choose a few things to look at as signs of the end of the age, trendsetting biblically prophesied Christian events that we should perk up and take notice of. Earthquakes, Apostasy. Weather, Scientific advances. And other just plain stuff that shows where our heart as a society is.

EARTH

If you've followed this blog for very long you know I have a fascination with earthquakes and sinkholes. I don't live in a highly seismic area, though we had a house-shaker in here Georgia this year. It's just the notion of the ground which seems so solid suddenly turning liquid. Or shaking and opening up in cracks. Nothing else in my opinion shows the sovereignty of the LORD as much as earthquakes do. On a daily, regular visible, basis that is.

Jesus said that the time of the end will contain more quakes and in diverse places. (Matthew 24:7).

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” (Hebrews 12:26)

Let's look at a long-term trend of global quakes. I update this table every year. Click to enlarge


The average trend is still a heightened number of quakes. In 2003 we saw the beginning of meeting or exceeding the USGS number of average quakes, an average the USGS has settled on since beginning to track quakes in 1900. We saw the first year where all four of the major magnitudes' averages were smashed in 2009. The number of quakes has stayed high every year since. 2012 showed a slight lessening, with "only" two of the four magnitudes averages falling below the USGS number of average quakes for that year. 2014 saw a smashing of the average in the 5.0-5.9 magnitude category. Time will tell what 2015 will bring.

Oklahoma continues to be shaken daily by quakes.

Chart below, as of FEBRUARY 2014. I wonder what the total would be if they carried through to December 31 instead of stop counting in Feb. These are quakes of magnitude 2.0 and greater. They say that the dramatic rise in quakes in Oklahoma is due to fracking. Sure. Sure it is.


Here is another view. This shows Oklahoma quakes 3.0 or greater, through Dec 22, 2014.

Source
Whoa. Is all I can say.

Getting numbers for volcanic eruptions is hard. Eruptions have a start date and some go on for months. I have to rely on scientific articles to report on the numbers, and there are fewer articles tracking volcanoes than there are tracking earthquakes. This article from the Florida State University is from 2011.

Frequency of Volcanic Eruptions on Rise
The ash-fall events impacting northern Europe are increasing, a USF study spanning the past 7,000 years concludes.
Among its findings, the team reported that Icelandic eruptions — like the 2010 eruption Eyjafjallaj√∂kull in Iceland which brought European air travel to a week-long standstill — have sent volcanic ash plumes drifting over Europe with increasing frequency in the past 1,500 years.
This article below is from February 2014

Science explains why volcanoes are erupting all over the place right now
The Earth seems to have been smoking a lot recently. Volcanoes are erupting in Iceland, Hawaii, Indonesia, Ecuador and Mexico right now. Others, in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, erupted recently but seem to have calmed down. Many of these have threatened homes and forced evacuations. But among their spectators, these eruptions raise question: Is there such a thing as a season for volcanic eruptions?
Don't get too excited. The headline was much more definitive than the article was.

Why Are There So Many Sinkholes in Florida?
Yes, Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the nation, according to the local agency that oversees insurance regulations and compliance. Sinkholes have been spotted at least three times in as many months—May in Winter Haven, June in Jonesville, and July in Spring Hill.
The article goes on to dispel the perception that there are more sinkholes now than there used to be (in FL). This, despite the fact that sinkhole claims have skyrocketed. How about sinkholes across the globe?

ABC News: 'Gateway to Hell': Sinkholes open across the earth
A look at some of the most astonishing sinkholes which have turned up around the world.

The above article doesn't try to explain sinkholes or whether they are increasing or not. The point is the photos, astounding photos of the earth suddenly opening up and swallowing whatever was topside. [shudder]

And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. (Numbers 16:31-33)

APOSTASY

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons (1 Timothy 4:1)

Apostasy will be a telling marker of the Lord's return. Many scriptures speak to the numbers of people falling away from the faith, not just the verse above. In the last 9 years I have seen an incredible collapse of Christianity. Incredible. There has been wholesale abandonment of fundamental doctrines, such as the deity of Christ, what sin is, the need for repentance, abandonment of expositional preaching, unbelief in Jesus as the only way, the completeness of the atonement, who is in the faith and who is not, (according to Billy Graham, everyone's in), absorption of pagan practices (prayer circles, labyrinths, enneagrams, contemplative mysticism), attacks on the sufficiency of scripture, and abandonment of the completion of the canon (direct revelation is de rigueur). When Southern Baptist Beth Moore began preaching personal visions without correction or rebuke, we all knew the last conservative bastion of Christianity had been penetrated.

EPrata photo

The article below is from 2013-

Christianity declining 50pc faster than thought – as one in 10 under-25s is a Muslim
 A new analysis of the 2011 census shows that a decade of mass immigration helped mask the scale of decline in Christian affiliation among the British-born population – while driving a dramatic increase in Islam, particularly among the young. It suggests that only a minority of people will describe themselves as Christians within the next decade, for first time.
The social collapse of Christianity as fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy
As a direct result of the atheistic triumph of the culture wars in the West, which took place during the decade of the 1960s, Gentile Christianity as the great social power it was for the last 20 centuries has become irrelevant and virtually dead to secular culture. Calling this “the death” of Christianity in a video interview about his book, “Suicide of a Superpower,” the American political commentator, Pat Buchanan, described our current social/cultural scene as follows...
I wrote about the collapse of Cultural Christianity in October. While true Christianity will never collapse (Matthew 16:18), the number of social pretenders in recent decades seemed to inflate the faith to large numbers. What we are seeing today, in my opinion, is the pretenders fleeing, and the truer, smaller, numbers of Christians being revealed, even as the society in which we find ourselves has become anti-Christian.

EPrata photo
That said, Christianity has become me-centered. Let's take a look at what verses people searched for in 2014.

2014 year in Review: Biblegateway
Most-Popular Bible Verses in 2014

Here are the overall most-popular Bible verses in 2014 on Bible Gateway:
Rank Verse Text
1. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
2. Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
3. Phil 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
4. Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
5. Ps 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

The list goes to 100. Biblegateway also lists the top word searches. The list goes to 25. The word "Sin" was not searched for. Neither was "Repent."

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 Speaking of me-centered:


Missing from those resolutions were the concepts of giving, philanthropy, sacrifice, saving money...
For generations, religious beliefs have influenced the way people think about and participate in philanthropy. For people who are not religiously motivated to give, the religious belief systems of other people help to define what is considered "good" or "moral" in society. For this reason, it is important to consider the impact of religion on philanthropy in the past and present (Bremner 1988). (Source)
Religion News Service article below is from yesterday.

Faith and values in 2014: 10 telling numbers
Scores of studies and surveys in 2014 revealed myriad, quirky ways we live out our faith and values. But the most intriguing findings were not always the headliners. Here are 10 telling numbers about religion and society that caught our eye.
Choral laments. Since 1998, there has been a 23 percentage point drop among white conservative evangelicals who heard a choir at worship and a 28 percentage point drop for members of liberal and moderate Protestant congregations.
Grads, leave religion off your resume. New grads hunting for jobs can be 24 to 30 percent less likely to hear back from potential employers if they included a mention of religious ties in college on their resume.

You skipped church and then fibbed about attending. Nearly 1 in 7 falsely claimed they attended a religious service.

WEATHER

Weather.com's top 100 photos of 2014
As the winter months dragged on, they brought numerous snow storms, including Winter Storm Leon, which paralyzed the South, causing traffic backups on major highways. The 2.6 inches of snow that fell on Atlanta caused more than 1,460 accidents, including two fatal crashes.  April brought a deadly tornado outbreak in the South, and June brought another tornado outbreak in the Great Plains and the Midwest, where two tornadoes trekked directly through a 350-person town in a rare twin-tornado formation.
Looks like there were fewer tornadoes this year.


Hurricanes: Seems poor Bermuda was a bulls eye more statistically often than usual


NOAA: State of the Climate 2014
The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for November 2014 tied with 2008 as seventh highest in the 135-year period of record, at 1.17°F above the 20th century average of 55.2°F.
The global land surface temperature was 1.48°F above the 20th century average of 42.6°F, the 13th highest for November on record. For the global oceans, the November average sea surface temperature was 1.06°F above the 20th century average of 60.4°F, record high for November.
Spain reported its wettest November since 1997, at 180 percent of average November precipitation.
Accuweather says, Speaking of 2014, the year has pulled into a 3-way tie with 1998 and 2010 for warmest on record through September despite a cooler start.

TERRORISM/ANTI-SEMITISM

Source Haaretz

British Anti-Semitism set to hit all time high
The number of anti-Semitic attacks in the UK in 2014 is set to be the highest recorded in the past three decades, figures for the year suggest. The record number of incidents includes everything from violent assaults to verbal abuse, hate-mail and attacks on social media.
Europe's Anti-Semitism comes out of the shadows
SARCELLES, France — From the immigrant enclaves of the Parisian suburbs to the drizzly bureaucratic city of Brussels to the industrial heartland of Germany, Europe’s old demon returned this summer. “Death to the Jews!” shouted protesters at pro-Palestinian rallies in Belgium and France. “Gas the Jews!” yelled marchers at a similar protest in Germany.  The ugly threats were surpassed by uglier violence. Four people were fatally shot in May at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. A Jewish-owned pharmacy in this Paris suburb was destroyed in July by youths protesting Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. A synagogue in Wuppertal, Germany, was attacked with firebombs. The list goes on.
MONEY

Source
Illinois leads nation in 2014 bank failures
Nearly a third of the nation's bank failures so far this year — five out of a total of 16 — have occurred in Illinois. Illinois ranks 45th in the nation in job growth, report says BUSINESS Illinois ranks 45th in the nation in job growth, report says. The state also has another unwelcome distinction: The two biggest bank collapses so far in 2014 also have been Illinois institutions, according to SNL Financial.
Why the US will power the world economy in 2015
Six years after its financial system nearly sank and nearly that long since the recession ended, the United States is expected to grow in 2015 at its fastest pace in a decade. Its expansion from July through September — a 5 percent annual rate — was the swiftest for any quarter since 2003.

Sure, Associated Press, just keep thinking that. Keep on thinking that, honey.

The UK Telegraph has a slightly more pessimistic outlook.

How the world fell back into economic meltdown:
2014 in charts From Russia's economic collapse, the threat of deflation, and another year of record low interest rates, here's how crisis beset the world economy once again


The chart above, based on calculations from Piketty and his colleague Emmanuel Saez, has been described as the most important chart of the year. Produced by economist Pavlina Tcherneva, it shows that for most of the post-war period, the income gains from economic expansion went to the bottom 90pc of the population in the United States.


Hmmm. This headline says slightly differently

A recession may be looming in Russia, as the economy shrank for the first time in five years and the value of the ruble dropped another 5 percent Monday, but that's not stopping wealthy Russians from eating expensive caviar – and posting images on Instagram with the hashtag #whatcrisis.
That wealth disparity will come into full flower during the Tribulation, when a fourth of the earth starves to death, while a healthy segment of the population still trades in luxuries like wine and oil. Of course, since love will have waxed cold, they won't care. (Matthew 24:12, 2 Timothy 3:2-3)

When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!” (Revelation 6:5-6)

SILLY

Top 2014 US trends in Google searches

Top trending searches


Top trending search for recipes


 Top trending searches for symptoms


Miracle in Fletcher? Rectors at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church claim icon is weeping myrrh
The leaders of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Fletcher are claiming that an oily liquid recently began seeping from a wooden church icon. The church’s rector is calling the event a miracle.
I'm crying, and it ain't oil

Any year that has this in it has to go.


Hey, we're one year closer to the rapture! THAT is Happy New Year news!

Shalom and peace to you all


She Reads Truth, IF:Gathering, and women bible teachers. Part 3, the IF:Gathering

This is part three of a four-part series. I'm examining the website, teachings, and women of "She Reads Truth" in 2 parts (What They Say, and What They Do). Part 3 (this part) looks at the conference known as the "IF:Gathering" in which many of the She Reads Truth women are involved. In part 4 I will discuss women teachers in general from a biblical perspective, and provide a list of solid teachers (men and women) of the Word.

She Reads Truth, IF:Gathering, and women bible teachers. Part 1 (What They Say)

She Reads Truth, IF:Gathering, and women bible teachers. Part 2 (What They Do)

She Reads Truth, IF:Gathering, and women bible teachers. Part 4 (Women Teachers)

Have you ever heard of the IF:Gathering? No? I hadn't either. But after reading this today, you will.

A few ideas for the last day of 2014, from Mark Dever

Mark Dever of 9Marks Ministry wrote these on Twitter this morning.

A few ideas for the last day of 2014:

#1 Read God's Word and thank Him for what He's done this year.
#2 Write a few notes thanking those whom God has blessed you through this year.
#3 Check with your local church, and a ministry you appreciate (like 9Marks) to see how their budget is doing.
#4 Read Spurgeon's Dec 31 entry from "Morning and Evening”
     Morning December 31
     Evening December 31

What are your plans to send the old year out and see the New Year in?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19)


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

She Reads Truth, IF:Gathering, and women bible teachers. Part 2

This is part two of a four-part series. I'm examining the website, teachings, and women of "She Reads Truth" in 2 parts (What They Say, and What They Do). Part 3 will take a look at the conference known as the "IF:Gathering" in which many of the She Reads Truth women are involved. In part 4 I will discuss women teachers in general from a biblical perspective, and provide a list of solid teachers (men and women) of the Word.

This is part 2, looking at the teachers at She Reads Truth and their lifestyles, "What They Do," to see if how they live lines up with scripture. In Part 1 I looked at "What They Say", meaning, their teachings.

She Reads Truth, IF:Gathering, and women bible teachers. Part 1

She Reads Truth, IF:Gathering, and women bible teachers. Part 3

She Reads Truth, IF:Gathering, and women bible teachers. Part 4

In being a Berean, (Acts 17:11) which means examining the scriptures to see if what we are being taught is so, there is a second part to that examination to determine if a teacher is credible. If examining the scriptures is the "What They Say" part, then the second part is just as important to look at. It's looking at their lives, or, "What They Do."

In the verses speaking to qualifications for pastors, teachers and elders, there is only one that is of the gifts. "Able to teach." (2 Timothy 2:24). The rest are character qualifications, which speak to how the potential pastor, elder, or teacher lives his or her life. In addition, teachers should not be young, but be tested first. (1 Timothy 3:10-11).

In 1 Timothy 3:6 it is said that overseers (pastors) must not be new converts, lest they become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. This is practical advice and I would hold that it also applies to teachers, male and female.

So looking at the lives our teachers lead makes sense and is biblical. Do they live what they preach? Please excuse me for making this long. There are 6 women who write for the She Reads Truth (SRT) site. That's a lot of lives to examine. Please bear with me.


Monday, December 29, 2014

She Reads Truth, IF:Gathering, and women bible teachers. Part 1

This is a four-part series. I'll examine the website, teachings, and women of "She Reads Truth" in 2 parts (What They Say, and What They Do). Part 3 will take a look at the conference known as the "IF:Gathering" which many of the She Reads Truth women are involved in. In part 4 I will discuss women teachers in general from a biblical perspective, and provide a list of solid teachers (men and women) of the Word.

Part 2 here
Part 3 here
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She Reads Truth

A younger sister asked me about this website, in which six women write devotional bible reading plans and encourage women to gather to read the bible via their (free) plans. The women are Raechel Myers, Amanda Bible Williams, Diana Stone, Hayley Morgan, Rebecca Faires, and Debbie Eaton. The website is beautifully designed. It is good looking AND easy to use. The women's bios are located in the easy-to-find "About Us" section. By the look of the photos and the words used to describe them they come across as healthy, wholesome farm women, apple-cheeked and devoted mothers to happy, wholesome, apple-cheeked farm children with smiling husbands on the side. Simple lives, just struggling wives doin' laundry (like us, just like us!) trying to know Jesus in the best way possible.

LinkedIn photo
The women assure the reader that they have husbands who look over their theological work and pastors who do the same. They write that they are humble, submissive wives, creating bible reading plans for like-minded women almost by accident, and gee, needing to morph their growing-popular website into a Limited Liability Company before they knew it.

But are they?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Jesus taught from the boat

EPrata photo
Jesus taught from the boat...

Water carries sound and it amplifies it. The crowds were so crushing that in order to even have space, Jesus launched into one of the sailboats (not a dinghy as depicted above, lol) and He spoke to the crowds. Note, He was sitting, they were standing, indicting His important presence.

Were they thirsting for the truth from the Living Waters? Or were they rubberneckers hoping for a personal miracle? Both. We know the end of the story, most people turned out to be rubberneckers only out to see the latest thing in Galilee. Most of these same people eventually rejected Him. (Mark 6:4-5).

What a momentous occasion on that shore! To be present and taught directly by God Himself. We are blessed, we believers in this present Church Age. We have the Holy Spirit in us to teach us these things. This Spirit will never leave us.

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

The blessings from our Lord are manifold, beginning with our indwelled Spirit, and His word which was later written down at the inspiration of His Spirit. Study His word today, worship Him by praising Him for those words, and bless Him by being obedient to them. He is a gracious and magnificent God, who taught His sheep from the boat.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Why prophecy is important (The world is unraveling)

I love prophecy. To me, it is the clearest identifier of God as sovereign over the universe, the earth, humans, and time. He writes history in advance, because He is king of all, and what He says will come to pass.

I also love studying the bible. I believe it is the highest and best use of time, to get to know the attributes of the LORD, to seek His face through what He has told us. If you want 'direct revelation', the bible cannot be beat for informing us of our Lord and King, Jesus.

The bible is knowable and understandable to the Christian. We have the Holy Spirit in us to illuminate His word to us. (Ephesians 1:17-18). The Holy Spirit teaches us spiritual things. (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). Of course there are some things in the bible we cannot understand, such as the Trinity, One God in three Persons. We cannot understand the Spirit's overcoming Mary and producing a child. We do not understand all the ways in which God thinks. However, for the most part, the doctrines upon which He has given to us, are understandable.

One such doctrine is the doctrine of eschatology. This is the doctrine of 'last things', or end times. Just because there are many people who won't or can't understand the various threads of prophecy does not mean there exists confusion about what He plans to do. The pre-tribulation rapture is one of these understandable doctrines, clearly outlined in the bible to those who care to learn. Some people say Revelation is difficult, I find it easy to understand. I do find Daniel difficult, but that does not stop me from studying it, nor from turning to other scripture to help me interpret Daniel's book. It can be done, and it has been done. Oliver B. Greene's commentary on Daniel is wonderful. John MacArthur's book "Because the Time is Near" is a clear explanation of Revelation.

Even this is a doctrine! It is called the Perspicuity of Scripture. According to the Theopedia, the perspicuity of scripture means,
The doctrine of the clarity of Scripture (often called the "perspicuity of Scripture") teaches that "the meanings of the text can be clear to the ordinary reader, that God uses the text of the Bible to communicate His person and will."  
"The witness of the Church throughout the ages is that ordinary people, who approach it in faith and humility, will be able to understand what the Bible is getting at, even if they meet with particular points of difficulty here and there."

Yet there are some people who refuse to believe the doctrines of last things, because so many other people are mixed up over them. 'They can't be understood, so why try?' I was told by one man in church. "I'm a pan-tribber, it'll all work out in the end," he said.

Illustrator, Chris Koelle, The Book of Revelation
That is a highly offensive statement, and I said so to his face. It is a blight on Jesus, the Spirit, and God who inspired it, and all the Apostles who wrote the inspired word, and all the martyrs who protected it, to be so blatantly dismissive of 30% of God's holy doctrines. Jesus did not reveal last things to John, nor the angel to Daniel, so God's people could mock them.

Did you know that every NT book except Philemon mentions last things?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16)

So I was so pleased when John MacArthur was asked about eschatology in his latest Q & A session at Grace Community Church. In Q&A session #62 it was stated by the interviewer that they had received more than a dozen questions regarding eschatology.

First, MacArthur noted that a church without a solid understanding of eschatology has got a huge loose end. Here are MacArthur's words on the importance of the church understanding and teaching last things:
a church without a solid biblical eschatology, meaning understanding of the end of history has got a huge loose end. It’s huge. I said something about that this morning when I was kind of wrapping up. I said, the Jews wanted to force all the prophesies regarding the Messiah into His first coming. We have Christians who want to take all the prophesies concerning Christ and push them back into His first coming. They’re called pretrerists, amillenialists. So they have this theology with this totally open end. It just has no closure. They don’t seem to care particularly. It’s almost like a badge of Reformed loyalty to be unsure about how everything ends.
I am running into this attitude more frequently, the badge of loyalty to uncertainty. "I'm super-spiritually humble because I refuse to state how things will end." Or, "I'm super tolerant of all the different interpretations, because who am I to say dogmatically? It's all just beyond little ole me." Uncertainty is the new loyalty. But is that right? Is that honoring to Jesus? Here's more from MacArthur.
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t work well with me. First of all, I don’t think God gave a clear beginning and just kind of lost Himself at the end. I don’t think if Genesis 1 says that God created in six days and there’s no question about it, and He lays out exactly how He did it; and you get to the book of Revelation and you hear about periods of certain weeks and certain months and certain years and a thousand year millennium, and then an eternal state. I don’t think God lost His way at the end. I don’t think He was confused at the end. I think the end is as precise as the beginning. To be honest with you, I am far more concerned about the end than I am the beginning. The beginning is over. I’m glad it was what it was, and it explains why things are the way they are.
This is an important point. God did not state it clearly in the beginning and then back away from clarity for the end. He is just as clear in Revelation as He was in Genesis.

Source
As for the people who say, 'There are so many interpretations, it's just best to let go and let God. It'll all work out in the end, anyhow,' I say that's just a bunch of lazy hooey. There are not many views of last things. There is only one view, God's view, and He has shared it with us.
But I don’t think you can over estimate the value of a church with a clear ecclesiology and a clear eschatology. Clear understanding of the church, and a clear understanding of what the Bible says about how things are going to end. It does say something. It doesn’t say everything, and it doesn’t say whatever you want it to say. It doesn’t have ten views or five views or four views. There’s just one view.
MacArthur went on to describe a wonderful moment in Kazakhstan some years ago. Kazakhstan is east of Mongolia and north of Turkey. It is around the world. He was asked to teach 1600 men at a pastor's conference. MacArthur taught 8 hours a day for 6 days a week. The men were hungry for the word, to be taught. They had been behind the Iron Curtain and now were released into more freedoms, including the freedom to practice religion, and to gather. They'd been denied a congregation, education, commentaries, access to internet or anything resembling study aids. They had each other, and the bible...and the Holy Spirit. So they wanted to know about all the doctrines, including eschatology.

MacArthur said,
I laid out; I went through the book of Revelation systematically and showed them the end. They said to me after that – I took a day to do that. The end of that day they said, “You believe what we believe.” I said, “I believe what you believe?” Same Bible. Guess what? It’s so clear that people with no training, no seminary, and no commentaries could understand what the book of Revelation said.
The reason I gave you the illustration about Kazakhstan is because that is as alien a place as you could ever be. Thirty-five hours to get there. You step off the plane. I’ve never been there. I don’t know what’s going on. I teach them a whole day on the end times, and they tell me that’s exactly what they believe. How did they come to that? They don’t have seminaries. They don’t have books. They don’t have anything. That’s what the Bible says. You have to go to school and listen to somebody who deceives you to undo that because that’s what’s there.
MacArthur has said before that any believer who landed on a desert island with nothing else except his bible can and would understand eschatology. The 1,600 Kazakhstan men were as close to desert island as you can get in this modern world, and eschatology was made understandable to them- because they studied it.

Source
As a note, what a glory it is that we believers have this unifying thread! What a moment of recognition between a Scottish-descended pastor from Sun Valley CA and Kazakhstani men isolated behind the iron curtain, to know each other as brothers! This unifying thread is the holy word, the Bible.

For men to say, 'Ack, it's all too much for me, it'll all work out in the end, anyway,' is a direct rejection of the wonder of being able to recognize and commune with brothers via a common and eternal understanding of God's word, wherever you are on earth.

Rejecting eschatology is also a rejection of the work that the Spirit has done in men that He has raised up. Many resources are out there, as I mentioned, commentaries, sermons, books, timelines...it is all there for us.

To continue what MacArthur said about eschatology,
I think it matters how it all ends. I think God is glorified when we acknowledge Him as the Creator, the beginning; and I think He is glorified when we acknowledge Him as the consummator, the end. I think that’s a huge benefit for Christians looking at the world and wondering where is this going? Where is this going?

In talking to Al Mohler when I was back there a few weeks ago, he said he’s more eschatological than he’s ever been. He’s almost apocalyptic because he sees a world that just there is no way to reverse this. This thing is in a massive free fall, and there is no way to stop this. He’s pretty well-attuned to the way things are, and he says, “I’ve never felt so eschatological, so apocalyptic about the way the world is going.” Well, if you want to understand where the world is going, you can as a believer. That gives us such a powerful confidence that all that is coming is laid out for us on the pages of Scripture. I think that’s a treasure that a church can’t underestimate.
Do not reject the treasure of eschatology. It is just as much a treasure as the Psalms and the Gospels. Do not reject the work we are to do through eschatology. We have the answer to how it will all end. Lost people are confused and frightened about where this world is headed. We know it. Do not be afraid to study, and then to share.

What message does it send when a mature man of the faith in church makes a public statement dismissing eschatology? It tells the next generation that it is not worth studying, and bible illiteracy increases, just at the time when the next generation may be the very generation to see these things come to pass and could have been more fervent and diligent about sharing the truth with lost and confused people.

John MacArthur is a unique individual and is in a unique position. It was common in the old days for a pastor to stay for decades. Not so any more, where the average pastoral stay is 5 years or less. MacArthur has been at Grace Church for 46 years. He is 75 years old. He has seen history unfold, prophecy fulfilled and apostasy rise. He said,
I’m seeing this world unravel. There doesn’t seem to be any way back. I mean this is totally out of control. This is a free fall down a black hole. So, you can’t just say, “Well, eschatology doesn’t matter.” That is not helpful. People want answers. Where is this thing going? It’s not fair to God, it’s a dishonor to God to say, “Well, the Bible is not clear.” It is clear. It is absolutely clear.
Yes, it is sad and offensive that there are so many people who refuse to study last things. Those who dismiss the Spirit's work in inspiring that portion of the bible are simply missing out on so much glory. It is also sad that so many brethren have unfortunately come to different understandings of what God clearly laid out. But does that mean we reject it all? Does that mean that is is useless for us individually to study it? No.
I just wish that the church was unified on what the Bible says. I don’t like it that there are Christians who don’t believe in Creation, but believe in some form of evolution. I think that dishonors God and confuses people. I don’t like it that there are Christians who don’t accept what the Bible says about the end either. But I think it’s wonderful that we do, and the answers are there.
God's word has all the answers, including last things. Please do not be afraid to jump in and read, learn, pray, and receive illumination from the Spirit. Do not be afraid to seek credible, quality study aids. Always remember the perspicuity of scripture. The bible is clear.



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Further Reading

Academic Paper - The Master's Seminary: The Perspicuity of Scripture

Essay - Oliver B. Greene on the Pre-Tribulation rapture

Essay - Thirty-Six Pre-Trib Rapture texts

Sermon - Christmas Future: Last Things of Jesus Christ in Revelation

Sermon - The Clarity of Scripture, Part 1


Even the pots will be holy

And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the LORD.” And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar.
EPrata photo
And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.
~Zechariah 14:20-21

EPrata photo
Pastor Steve Hadley once said while preaching through Zechariah, that pound for pound, Zechariah contains more prophecy than any other book of the bible, including Revelation. It is an astounding book, magnificent in its history, prophecy, and terrible beauty.

Here, we see the very end of Zechariah's book, the last verse. Zechariah is speaking of the Day when Jesus (the coming Messiah, the Lord) will rule on earth during the Millennial kingdom. John Walvoord explains the verse in his commentary:
In that day holiness will characterize millennial life (cf. 8:3) whether it be in public life (the bells of the horses), religious life (the cooking pots in the LORD‘s house, the millennial temple, Ezek. 40–43), or private life (every pot in Jerusalem and Judah). Perhaps the general thought is the removal of a dichotomy between secular and sacred. In the Old Testament a Canaanite had become symbolic of anything ceremonially unclean and ungodly (the dishonest “merchant” in Hosea 12:7 is lit., “the Canaanite”). In the millennial temple no such defilement will occur. Thus Zechariah’s prophetic book which began with a call to repentance (Zech. 1:2–6) concludes with an affirmation that all will be holy to the LORD (14:20–21). Because He is the LORD Almighty and the Holy One, He will establish holiness throughout the glorious Millennium!
Lindsey, F. D. (1985). Zechariah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, pp. 1571–1572). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

I like even better Gill's Exposition. What a joyous time it will be, when ALL is holy!
Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts,.... Such will be the number of sacrifices and sacrificers, that the pots in the Lord's house will not be sufficient; wherefore every pot, in city or country, shall be sanctified and devoted to holy uses:

and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein; this denotes, as before, the general holiness of the professors of religion in those times; and that there will be no difference in the vessels of the Lord's house, or any distinction of Jew and Gentile; but they will be all spiritual worshippers, and offer up the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise to the Lord


Friday, December 26, 2014

People who believe false teachers will be judged, too.

Jeremiah is told by God to prophesy against the false prophets. God said He did not send them in His name nor did He give them any message. They are prophesying deceit from their own mind, God said. (Jeremiah 14:14).

However, God also told Jeremiah to prophesy against the people to whom the false prophets were preaching.

And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, victims of famine and sword, with none to bury them—them, their wives, their sons, and their daughters. For I will pour out their evil upon them. (Jeremiah 14:16)

Why would God be so hard on the people? Aren't they just helpless victims of lying religious preachers? No. According to that verse, listeners to and followers of false teachers are doing evil.


TWISTED SCRIPTURE. Jeremiah 14:14
Throughout the ages, self-proclaimed prophets such as Joseph Smith, Jeanne Dixon, and Edgar Cayce have claimed to speak for God. Jeremiah, an authorized ambassador of God, identified false prophets as “prophesying … a false vision, worthless divination, the deceit of their own minds” which is “spoken … presumptuously” (Dt 18:22).
The people were to be punished because they listened to the false prophets. It was their responsibility to test the prophets (Dt 18:21–22), not just to accept whatever they said without question, but they failed to do so. They may have known that what the prophets said was not in line with God’s will, but because they liked what they heard, they condoned it (Jer 5:31; 23:16; 29:8; 2 Co 11:4; 2 Tim 4:3). We are also obligated to test the messages we hear and reject those who preach a false message in God’s name (Acts 17:11; Gl 1:6–9; 1 Jn 4:1). See notes on Lam 1:5; 2:14.
Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 1110). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Sisters, be aware of who you allow into your home, heart, and mind. Reading that certain book, or listening a certain teacher, or attending so-and-so conference, can be deadly to you.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)




Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

From swaddling cloths to grave cloths... to...

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

The Anunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)



Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. (John 20:6-7)



and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Revelation 1:13-16)

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:11)


Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Do Angels Sing?

At school last week, I wandered down the hall and enjoyed looking at all the kids' projects hung up for display. I noticed one where the child had innocently renamed the famous Christmas song "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" to "Heart the Herald Angels Sing." I thought that was cute.

Many Christmas songs refer to angels singing. Not just Hark the Herald Angels sing, but also in the song, "Angels we have Heard on High", the first lyric goes,

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plain


And the chorus is,

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;


Also, "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear", where we read the lyrics,

The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing


Lots and lots of songs state that the angels sing. But does the bible say the same? No. Angels (probably) don't sing. Or maybe they do. Here is Tim Chaffey from Answers in Genesis on the facts of the matter and why they matter:
The idea of angels singing on the night of Christ’s birth has become so common that many are surprised to learn that the Bible does not unequivocally state this. This example provides a good opportunity to discuss traditions. In and of themselves, traditions are not wrong, but they must be based on and consistent with Scripture. If they contradict Scripture, then they must be rejected. 
At the same time, we don’t want to be guilty of going too far in the other direction. Just because the Bible doesn’t explicitly state that they did sing does not necessarily mean that they did not. Some have even argued that angels do not or cannot sing at all, but those who make this claim must adequately address Job 38:7 and other passages that seem to support the idea that they can and have sung. Furthermore, there is no biblical or logical reason why they could not sing. Angels are highly intelligent beings who are capable of speaking. Why would they be incapable of putting those words into song, especially since other beings in heaven sing (Revelation 5:9–14)? 
One of the points of this series on misconceptions is to lead us all to look closely at what the Bible teaches. Far too often traditions have been the basis of our thinking, and we end up believing things that are not found in Scripture. We have heard and sung about angels singing on that night so often that many do not bother to look closely at the text.
EPrata collage
I agree. It's one of those concepts that has embedded itself into culture so deeply we tend to stop looking at scripture to see if it is so.

Singing and praising are closely connected but not necessarily the same. God could have endowed his humans with an innate tendency to praise in song, and perhaps did not give that same tendency to angels, who mostly are declared in the bible to proclaim and to praise and to shout but not to sing.

On the one hand, J. Vernon McGee did not believe angels sing:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying [not singing], Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased. (Luke 2:9-14). They should have been singing. And the only place they seem to be singing is on the Christmas cards that I get. But they don't sing in the Word of God. If there ever was a time when angels should have been singing, it was here in the Gospel of Luke when that angel made the announcement of the birth of Christ.
McGee says that he believes angels do not sing because they were never lost sinners and were never redeemed. "It is to the redeemed that God has given a song," McGee wrote. And for the record, as Chaffey mentioned, McGee did adequately address Job 38:7 in his sermon. I tend to agree with McGee on the concept of angels not singing and also his interpretation of Job 38:7.

However, Charles Spurgeon did believe angels sang. In his sermon, "The First Christmas Carol", Spurgeon preached,
And mark how well they told the story, and surely you will love them! Not with the stammering tongue of him that tells a tale in which he hath no interest; nor even with the feigned interest of a man that would move the passions of others, when he feeleth no emotion himself; but with joy and gladness, such as angels only can know. They sang the story out, for they could not stay to tell it in heavy prose. They sang, "Glory to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men." Methinks they sang it with gladness in their eyes; with their hearts burning with love, and with breasts as full of joy as if the good news to man had been good news to themselves.

EPrata photo & collage
Whether you believe angels sing or do not sing isn't the point. It is that we should always examine our traditions (including Christmas carols) to remind us that ultimate truth comes from the bible. Always examine these things to see if they are so.

I'll end with Spurgeon's joyous sermon closing he delivered on December 20, 1857 at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens-
May God give you peace with yourselves; may he give you good will towards all your friends, your enemies, and your neighbors; and may he give you grace to give glory to God in the highest. I will say no more, except at the close of this sermon to wish every one of you, when the day shall come, the happiest Christmas you ever had in your lives.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The shepherds were watching their flocks by night

I mentioned yesterday that one of my favorite Christmas passages is Simeon's Song. Another favorite of mine is the moment when the myriad of angels appear to the shepherds who were watching their flocks by night. First, here is the passage:

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
(Luke 2:8-14)

I'm focusing on "night."
NIGHT: The period of darkness between evening and morning. It is generally a time for the cessation of daily activity and for sleep, but, because darkness also gives an opportunity for evil, there is need to be watchful. The term may also be used figuratively to refer to evil or to a period of distress. Night-time also provides opportunity for contemplation and for prayer.
(Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.)

The ancient Jerusalemites did not have the advantage of electric lights, street-lamps, flashlights, or any sort of man-made illumination, save candles or fire. Normally, work began at dawn and ended at sunset, for the obvious reason is that it was too hard to perform tasks when the natural illumination of the bright sun was absent. When the sun went down, it got dark.

Without light, people turned in for the day, eating a last meal, resting, and then going to sleep. Except the shepherds. Their work was not finished when the sun went down. As a matter of fact, night-time required extra attention. Nocturnal predators came out to hunt. Robbers stole in the dark. Mischief was done. Night is a time for evil, so the shepherds had to stay awake, or take turns in shifts for the night watch in order to protect the sheep. But it was dark.

Lamps of clay, bronze, or other metal were indispensable in every home. With oil, wax, or pitch as fuel and flax, papyrus, or other fiber as wick, they often burned all night. To show how desolate the land would be after Nebuchadnezzar laid Judea waste, God said through Jeremiah that no one would see lamp light in the land.
Even though their eyes adjusted to the dark and they could perceive this or that, dimly, it was dark. The darkness would have been near-total, save for any starlight or moonlight.

So on this momentous evening, the shepherds had settled into their night watch routine. Suddenly the night gloom was split by LIGHT. The instant change would have been overwhelming, searing their eyes blinding them momentarily. Imagine their terror! It was not as if a bonfire had been lit or a prankster shepherd has snuck up with a torch. This light was BRIGHT. It was from heaven, no ordinary light.

It was HOLY light. It was GLORY light. Not only was it bright, but it was Light from God, the heavenly realm touching the earthly realm.

You know that each time an angel appears to a person, the first thing the angel says is "Fear not!" Why? Angels are terrifying. They are not chubby, flying babies. They are holy messengers of God, with power and strength beyond our comprehension.

Matthew 28:3-4
Luke 1:11-12
Luke 1:30
Luke 2:11
Daniel 8:17
Daniel 10:7-8

Angels appearing in glory light, in an innumerable company, praising God so loudly the ground must have shook, must have been absolutely terrifying. It must have been bright.

How fitting, that in darkest night, the Light had come. Practically, the night was dark. At night, people were blind. Spiritually, Jerusalem was apostate, with barely any faith in the nation at all. But suddenly the shepherds could see! The Light would lead the way.

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. (John 12:46)

The Light illuminates our sins, so that they are exposed, and then we can be cleansed. Do not hide in the darkness, but seek the Light.
LIGHT: The brightness that enables sight in the darkness. Scripture often uses light as a symbol of the saving presence of God in a fallen world, with darkness being used as a symbol of sin or the absence of God.
Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

Light has come into the world, born of a virgin, proclaimed by angels, seen by shepherds, witnessed to by God's people: us. Hallelujah, the Light has come, darkness is no more.



Monday, December 22, 2014

Simeon's Song

Rembrandt: Simeon's Song
One of my favorite parts of the Christmas Story of Jesus' Incarnation is Simeon's Song.

"And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. And the same man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel: and the Holy Spirit was upon him." (Luke 2:25).

Of those verses, Charles Spurgeon said it best:
WHAT a biography of a man! How short and yet how complete! We have seen biographies so wordy, full one half is nonsense and much of the other half too dull to be worth reading. We have seen large volumes spun out of men's letters. Writing desks have been broken open and private diaries exposed to the world. Nowadays if a man is a little celebrated, his signature, the house in which be was born, the place where he dines and everything else is thought worthy of public notice.

Short biographies, which give a concise and exact account of the whole man, are the best. What do we care about what Simeon did—where he was born, where he was married, what street he used to walk through, or what colored coat he wore? We have a very concise account of his history and that is enough. His "name was Simeon." He lived "in Jerusalem." "The same man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel: and the Holy Spirit was upon him." Beloved, that is enough of a biography for any one of us. If, when we die, so much as this can be said of us—our name. Our business, "waiting for the Consolation of Israel." Our character, "just and devout." Our companionship, having the Holy Spirit upon us—that will be sufficient to hand us down, not to time, but to eternity memorable among the just and estimable among all them that are sanctified!
At the time in Israel, faith was in short supply. Of course, Christianity didn't exist yet, it would fully flower in their generation, but not yet. Judaism, which was supposed to have brought the light to the world, had become dark and corrupt- unrecognizable to the One it was supposed to point to. (Jeremiah 7:11). This was a time when what was supposed to bring the Light was at its darkest and most corrupt. Where was faith? Where was a right heart? Where was a mind with a right understanding of the promise of Israel? In a few people, and as we see here, it was in Simeon.

Simeon's character was enumerated in Luke 2:25 gloriously and concisely. Note that his entire being was laying in hopeful wait for the Messiah. His old body tottered up to the temple each day, waiting and waiting, for what? To be with the Messiah that was promised, maybe even to say (as Spurgeon proposed) "Perhaps He will come today."

We can learn from Simeon's example. Despite the corruption ongoing all around him, despite national occupation and oppression by a hostile regime, despite widespread apostasy, despite greed, pride, and the blackened hearts of the priests, scribes and Pharisees who were supposed to shepherd the people, Simeon persevered in joyful expectation and faith.

He had the Spirit with him, but we have the Spirit IN us! We have the New Testament, knowing the second advent will occur, that the rectification of all that is evil will happen. We know that Jesus will return to take His place on HIS earth as rightful owner, finally and blessedly crushing the head of the serpent. (Genesis 2:15).

Upon seeing the Babe presented at the Temple, Simeon "took him up in his arms and blessed God"... Let us take Jesus up into our hearts and minds with all our strength and soul, and let us bless God for Him, Shiloh.

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Genesis 49:10).


Sunday, December 21, 2014

In Memoriam: John Baptiste Prata, Jr.

One never knows when the numbers of our days will reach the last digit. It did for my 81-year-old father on December 15, 2014. He never expected a short vehicular errand to result in his last breath on earth, but it did. The fatal crash, which sent two others to the hospital, sent John Baptiste Prata, Jr to his eternal destiny. He did not know the Lord.

The news reports say that he was attempting to make a left turn onto a busy highway, and failed to yield to oncoming traffic. He left this earth the way he lived, failing to yield to the Holy One, who for all of my father's 81 years, stood ready to forgive his sins. But my father never repented. He failed to yield.

Naples Daily News: Driver in fatal wreck identified

NBC-2: Fatal crash on US-41 in Collier County









As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. (Ecclesiastes 5:15)

Charles Spurgeon on "The Immutability of God"

The IMMUTABILITY OF GOD - defined,
The unchangeability of God. In biblical theology God is described as unchanging in His nature and in His character. This includes God’s being (essence), purposes, and promises.

Psalm 102:25–27 contrasts God’s unchanging nature with that of the created order. Numbers 23:19 and 1 Sam. 15:29 indicate that God changes neither His plans nor His actions, for these rest on His unchanging nature. James finds assurance of God’s future blessings in that there is in God “no variation or shadow cast by turning” (James 1:17 HCSB). After referring to His constant patience, long-suffering, and mercy, God concludes with a general statement of His immutability: “For I, the LORD, do not change” (Mal. 3:6 NASB).
Source: Johnson, W. (2003). Immutability of God. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 810–811). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Since God never changes, we like to think more about His unchanging nature as expressed in endless patience, constant mercy, persistent protection, etc. We love to ponder the 'good' outflows from His immutability. In his Sermon #1 delivered at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark in 1855, Charles Spurgeon chose to preach on the immutability of God. After an introduction of extolling what immutability means in terms of the outflow of His other 'positive' attributes, Spurgeon said, "But now comes one jarring note to spoil the theme."

"I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed." (Malachi 3:6)
To some of you God is unchanging in his threatenings. If every promise stands fast, and every oath of the covenant is fulfilled, hark thee, sinner!—mark the word—hear the death-knell of thy carnal hopes; see the funeral of thy fleshly trustings. Every threatening of God, as well as every promise shall be fulfilled. Talk of decrees! I will tell you of a decree: "He that believeth not shall be damned." That is a decree, and a statute that can never change. Be as good as you please, be as moral as you can, be as honest as you will, walk as uprightly as you may,—there stands the unchangeable threatening: "He that believeth not shall be damned." What sayest thou to that, moralist? Oh, thou wishest thou couldst alter it, and say, "He that does not live a holy life shall be damned." That will be true; but it does not say so. It says, "He that believeth not."

Here is the stone of stumbling, and the rock of offence; but you cannot alter it. You must believe or be damned, saith the Bible; and mark, that threat of God is an unchangeable as God himself. And when a thousand years of hell's torments shall have passed away, you shall look on high, and see written in burning letters of fire, "He that believeth not shall be damned." "But, Lord, I am damned." Nevertheless it says "shall be" still. And when a million ages have rolled away, and you are exhausted by your pains and agonies, you shall turn up your eye and still read "SHALL BE DAMNED," unchanged, unaltered. And when you shall have thought that eternity must have spun out its last thread—that every particle of that which we call eternity, must have run out, you shall still see it written up there, "SHALL BE DAMNED."


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Further Reading

Joel Osteen talked about Jesus how many times?

Joel Osteen likes God, he just doesn't like Jesus

The Shocking Word that Joel Osteen has almost never Tweeted

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Way of Baalam

The bible warns us several times about not going the 'way of Balaam'. You might remember the incident, where Balaam was a false prophet who was hired by King Balak of Moab to curse Israel. When Balaam's donkey refused to go any further, and Balaam was beating on it, the donkey spoke! It chided Balaam for not seeing the angel in the road blocking the way.


Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, (2 Peter 2:15)

But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:14)

Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion. (Jude 1:11)

Micah reminds the People that the Lord defeated King Balak and defeated the sorceries of Balaam. (Micah 6:5)

The Graphics Fairy
We are also reminded of how Balaam came to his end--

They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of their slain, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. And they also killed Balaam the son of Beor with the sword. (Numbers 31:8).

Because we are reminded so often in scripture about Balaam, we should remember. Balaam was a diviner, who charged fees for divination. (Numbers 22:5,7). Of course Balaam would say what the buyer wanted said, especially if he was the highest bidder.
What he did was seduce the people of Israel into immorality and idolatry. Balaam then represents two things, the covetousness of the false teacher who loves money and the apostate who influences others to sin. (source)
For all those people who refuse to admit that there are false teachers who need calling out, beware. We call them out because they cause divisions. (Romans 16:17). We need to mark and avoid them because they seduce people into immorality and into idolatry. (Revelation 2:14). Immorality and idolatry are sins, and the wages of sin is death. Therefore we say, false teachers kill.

The Graphics Fairy
Pulpit Commentary-
But I have a few things against thee. They are few in comparison with the things commended; but they are very serious; and there must be a sad want of care in the Church at Pergamum to allow such things. These corrupt teachers are alluded to in 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 1:11. Like Balaam, they debased spiritual gifts to the vilest purposes, and thus became a snare or stumbling block, to others.

The bible is clear- Jesus tolerates neither those who teach falsely, nor those who tolerate false teachers. Both are sin.


Thirty Days of Jesus: Day 20, Jesus as the Teacher

How can we know God unless He reveals Himself to us? The creation confirms His existence, but what does the creature know of His attribu...