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(© 21 May 2015, Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.)

We have enough people predicting the end of the world, the rapture, Second Coming, and doom so I’m not going to say much about that at this time. Last time I had much encouragement for us as we engage the world. Maybe later I’ll discuss the end of the world concepts. (You can see my book on dispensationalism later, when I finish my latest update of it, perhaps before the Last Day judgment.)

But my purpose in a few words is more modest—to give some signs of the death of a culture, hastening to add that no one knows when the corpse will be put into its coffin. I did not conjure up these insights, for I am not a prophet, but I’m indebted to insightful men who’ve gone before me. I’ll list a few with some comments, adding that the Triune God moves slow, usually, but when judgment begins to fall, it accelerates. Judgment has begun in the West.

  • A culture changes gods. One modern day church historian has stated that 100 years ago, 80% of Christianity was in the West, such as Europe, UK, and the USA. Now 80% (or better) is in the East, Africa, below the USA border, and even in China, and especially S. Korea. Pentecostals dominate much of these areas, but Anglicanism is very strong in Africa and Presbyterianism in S. Korea.
  • The new god is invariably the state or government, as it extends its tentacles over every area of life, such as:

(1) Attacking Christianity and criminalizing it

(2) Taking over public education, making it mandatory, so they can brainwash the students to believe what they give them without question

(3) Destroy the family and the definition of marriage, such as with LGBT, making those who oppose such immorality discriminators instead of discerners of morality

(4) Control the media; otherwise, many of the people will know the “rest of the story,” the real story

(5) Abolition of private property

(6) Taking over labor and parceling out jobs

(7) Debasing the money supply, such as printing more money, which devalues the purchasing power of our paper money, bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc

(8) Taking away the citizens ability to protect themselves (in our case, desire to destroy the Second Amendment)

(9) Taxing everything under the sun, for the ability to tax is the ability to destroy. Taxing assumes ownership. I don’t know of anything we own free and clear, including our houses, for they are taxed for their property value to force us to pay for the education of others, and that in schools that promote atheism.

They do these things by creating crises that the government will solve.

Most cultures go to sleep with pleasure and leisure time, so they have an investment in continuing the status quo. They will support whoever gives them what they want. If government is the solution for all things, cradle (abortion?, infanticide?) to grave (euthanasia) and money in between birth and death, it is the god that governs all of life. The Lord God will not allow that to go unchecked forever. He is in process of prosecuting us now, but many Christians are waking up. We have hope.

What happens is that the government guides all things above to their lowest common denominator until the nation crumbles within. As always, the tyrants in control think they can take over, that morality, or its absence, is whatever they decide, that they can control it and its consequences. They, like Adam and Eve, think they can eat the forbidden fruit with impunity, without consequences, that no One is really in control but them. Then they crumble.

Problem is that such cultures want to be deceived so they can continue their debauchery. The root problems is love for sin, not intellectual problems (MUST Read Romans 1:18-28). As people are born and grow up in a culture, they think that the way things are is the way they should be. By an illogical inference, arguing unconsciously from “is” to “ought,” they suppress the truth about their sins, their culture, and the Creator. People love darkness because they love their sins (John 3:19-21). [David Hume is the one who demonstrated that we cannot derive “ought” from “is.” His argument has been so well accepted in the philosophical community that it now has a name: Hume’s Guillotine.]

Our responsibility is to present the love of Jesus Christ to a dying culture, not just condemn them. We must make friends with such of the world, love them enough to be able to present both God’s law and His grace.

The ONLY hope is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God, who rose from the dead. We must fall on our knees, confess our sins to Him for forgiveness, and then repent in every area we can think of. We Christians have the obligation to take the Gospel to them. The Holy Trinity and the Incarnation are our only hope!  AMEN.

(© May 2015, Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.)

The average Joe watching the national news will develop a headache from his blood pressure. If you drag your carcass to the TV to subject yourself to the national news day after day without discernment, you’ll be ready to hire ten psychiatrists! Sometimes the news reminds me of the Road Runner cartoon, where Wiley Fox is always trying to catch Road Runner, and when he almost has him, something happens. Wiley Fox is conservatives, and Road Runner is the liberals.

Moreover, recall Hee-Haw’s theme song:

Gloom, despair, and agony on me;

Deep dark depression, excessive misery.

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all;

Gloom, despair, and agony on me.

Enter today’s Church Calendar celebration of ASCENSION. Growing up Baptist, then in the Bible Church movement until I graduated from seminary, then in Presbyterianism, I never heard a sermon on Ascension. At every church I attended or was pastor, we believed in the Ascension, but we just did not preach it. It was after I became Anglican and followed the church year calendar that I both heard and preached sermons on the Ascension. Our despair and pessimism kept us from the Ascension.

In my short life so far of 70 years, I’ve never seen such turmoil in the world in general and in the USA in particular. Is it any wonder that doom’s day dispensationalists are writing end time books and making millions, with such recent titles as Left Behind (LaHaye), The Harbinger (Cahn), Four Blood Moons (Hagee), and too many to list. And what plays into their hands is the news, from which they get much of their ammunition. In my circles, that is called newspaper interpretation. Find the worst news you can, and find a passage in the Bible that seems to fit. Woola! You can make a book if you do this enough. They all have one theme: the devil wins and Jesus and the Church loses—which means Jesus loses–so the Church has to raptured out of a defeated world. I cannot fathom how the Church with basically obedience to Christ will lose to Satan who promotes disobedience. Worship of the true God brings loss while worship of Satan brings victory. Go figure.

BUT it is my contention that we do not see with the Lord God’s eyes; we tend to filter the world through sinful eyes of unbelief. It is idolatry to enthrone Satan and dethrone the Lord Christ. What was His resurrection and Ascension all about if not His coronation? Does He not rule NOW? Here are a few texts that give us the opposite view of modern dooms day “prophets”:

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s

AT HIS COMING.

24 Then comes THE END,

whenHe delivers the kingdom to God the Father,

when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.

25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.

26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. (1 Cor. 15:22-26).

Notice that we have the Son’s “coming,” which word nearly always means the Second Coming in Paul’s writings. Paul defines the “coming” as “the end,” but the end of what? He gives two temporal clauses that define “the end,” each clause beginning with “when.” “When” He (Jesus) delivers a conquered kingdom to His Father, and “when” He (Jesus) has “put an end to all rule and authority and power,” meaning, of course, all wicked rule. Then he concludes with an explanation of how He wins: In the interim between His Ascension and current rule, He is “put[ing] all enemies under His feet.” Thus, when the Lord comes, it is not to establish a 1,000 year reign, but to deliver to His Father a conquered kingdom. How does He do that? By His Holy Spirit in the preaching of the Gospel through His chosen men:

18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;

and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matt. 28:18-20)

Do you see it? In the beginning, the Triune God created the world, “heavens and earth.” Mankind lost the same in the fall in Genesis 3, through a man, Adam, but one Man, Jesus, will regain it. He is the Second or Last Adam. The first Adam lost it through the temptation of the devil, now the Last Adam regains “heaven and earth” through His righteous obedience, death on the cross, bodily resurrection, and Ascension. We win, the world loses; Jesus is Lord and has won, we are His servants and we win also:

And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. (Rom. 16:20).

Just as in the Great Commission from Matthew just given, Paul says Jesus Christ will be with us to “crush Satan under [our] feet shortly,” which is from Genesis 3:15 regarding the First Adam:

And I will put enmity

Between you [the devil] and the woman,

And between your seed and her Seed;

He [Christ] shall crush [so the Hebrew] your head,

And you shall crush His heel (Gen. 3:15).

Obviously Christ crushes Satan in His Incarnation, death, resurrection, and Ascension. Moreover, because we are identified with Him, we also crush the devil’s head—how, by the Gospel. Consider these quotes from modern church historians who are top scholars in their fields:

. . . in modern Africa, where the number of Christians [has] increased, staggeringly, from 10 million in 1900 to 360 million by 2000. If that growth does not represent the largest quantitative change in the whole of religious history, I am at a loss to think of a rival. [emphasis added; Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom, p. 4.]

At the beginning of the 20th century, the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia was the Philippines, which was a strongly Catholic country with a small Protestant ministry. At the end of the 20th century, Korea has established itself as a largely Christian nation, with Protestantism—especially Presbyterianism—being by far the largest Christian group. [Alister McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, p. 447ff.]

McGrath goes on to say that this Buddhist nation, speaking of South Korea, had increased from only a handful of Protestant and Catholic churches in 1901 to explosive growth today (McGrath, p. 447ff):

  • There were very few Christians in Korea in 1900, only about one percent. In the whole of Korea (before the split between North and South), there were 300,000 Christians in 1920, but has now risen to 12 million, over one quarter of the national population (Jenkins, p. 2), with Presbyterians dominating. The nation has been converted from Buddhism to Christ, and Korean Protestants outnumber Roman Catholics by three to one.
  • The 1907 Pyongyang revival came, which was mainly Pentecostal but the Presbyterians were coming on strong also.
  • In 1957 there were about 800,000 Protestants in S. Korea; by 1968 there were 1,873,000 Protestants; by 1978 5,294,000! South Korea today is about 70% Christian, with Presbyterians leading the way. Here is a predominantly Buddhist country that has been completely turned around in only 100 years.

Turning to N. Korea, we see every sign of its imminent collapse; as recently as this past week the chubby dictator had another fellow ruler shot. Complete information about the state of the Church there is difficult to obtain, but “anecdotal evidence suggests that Christianity has already made deep inroads among the population. . . .” (McGrath, p. 448). The same is happening in China where there are two churches, the underground one and the government controlled one, both full of believers. Estimates run as high as 100 million have been converted, but no one knows for sure.

I can’t begin to do justice to all the stats so get the two books (Jenkins and McGrath mentioned above). It is not without reason that the Church at large has been praying the Lord’s Prayer since the Church’s beginning in AD 30, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” That is not an empty prayer that applies to some far away millennium, and just about all Christendom prays it each Lord’s Day.

Don’t forget that the Lord taught us the Gospel is leaven: it works silently out of view, and then suddenly it blossoms. Moreover, the enemy has never learned that death does not stop the Church but grows it. Read Hebrews: 2:14-18, and here is v.14:

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.

Those in power think they can promote their kingdoms by murdering their enemies, but for the Christian, that is only a change of geography, and he/she continues to advance the kingdom with the Lord on His throne (Rev. 6:9-11)! It is not missionaries who are evangelizing the African countries, but the Africans themselves. Here are some more stats:

  • There were few if any Pentecostals in 1900; today of the 2.2 billion Christians in the world, about 500 million are Pentecostals, and by 2050 it is predicted they will a third. We must get over our divisions regarding the charismatic movement. I’m not one, but at least I can say with Paul I’m glad when Christians preach the gospel, if they are basically orthodox (Phil. 1:18). The United Pentecostals are different; denying the Holy Trinity, they put themselves outside any orthodoxy.
  • In 1900, there were virtually no Anglicans in Uganda, but now they compose about 35 percent of the total population (McGrath, p. 69), and Uganda is exploding in population growth, having about 30 million. In 1977 Anglican archbishop Janani Luwum was martyred by despot Idi Amin, which caused many more people to be converted to Christ! (Tertullian, died AD 225: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”) Uganda has gone from a few in 1900 to 10 million today, and still going strong. They recently tried to enact the death penalty for those homosexuals who are spreading AIDS. The West, especially the USA, put a stop to it. Our immorality knows no debths.
  • In 2003 when Episcopal Church USA consecrated an homosexual as a bishop, they threatened to cut off the large sums of annual money to the Anglicans in Nigeria who were opposing the liberal Anglicans in the USA. The USA church had consecrated an active homosexual bishop. To his eternal credit, the Presiding Anglican Bishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, essentially told them that their money could perish with them! Until his recent retirement, he was the head bishop of about 20 million Anglicans in Nigeria, which does not count other Christians there. I could continue for pages, but here is one summary (Jenkins, p. 70).
  • I have not even touched Pentecostalism in Brazil, south of our border, and the incredible millions of Pentecostals in Africa.

We give the number of worldwide Christians in millions:

Dates 2005 2025
Roman Catholics 1,119 1,336
Independents 427 613
Protestants 376 491
Orthodox 220 236
Anglicans 80 108

The centers of Christianity 100 years ago were the USA, Europe, and the UK; now they are Africa, Latin America, S. Korea, etc. More particularly, the West is in serious decline. I used to say we’re in a free fall, but it is worse than that; instead, we’re wearing jet packs on our backs pointed down. We’re under judgment, now.

There is a tsunami of Holy Spirit Gospel flooding taking place right before our eyes, but because we are willfully blinded. We do not see it. Materialistic Americans will compromise anything—anything—to keep our toys and our personal peace. While we are declining (read, the Lord is removing His Holy Spirit from us), He is pouring out another Pentecost in other parts of the world. In 1900 approximately 90% of Christians were in the West; today about 80% are outside the West, and counting.

When you see on the news that Christians are being persecuted all over the world, know that Jesus is behind that. It is judgment of those nations who are losing the gospel salt, and favor on those nations where the Christians are going. Moreover, it is an indirect blessing on the Church, for we see in God’s word that the Church is like a gas fire: stomp it, it spreads; leave it alone, it burns out.

The only things the media and politicians see in places like the Middle East is guns, bombs, mass murders, military might, who is rising to power and who is being dethroned. Denying the Ascension and thus denying Christ, we think that with our military might we are invincible, forgetting that Jesus is omnipotent. He could take us down with mosquitoes, if He so willed it. If our leaders really want to change the Muslims and Arabs, they should open those countries to Christians. Instead, former strongholds to Christians are being shut, such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, etc. In AD 30 to now, Christians have increased proportionally from about one in 200,000 to about 2 out of 6.5.

Don’t look at what the devil is doing, look at what Jesus is doing. Stop the doom and despair; stop buying books that speak low of Christ and high of the devil; look up; tell your neighbor about the Sovereign Lord. I’ve read the Book—we’ve won! We won at His resurrection; we’ve been winning since then by the power of His Ascension in the Holy Spirit, and we are winning NOW. AMEN.

(From the perspective of Mary Magdalene.)

[(©) Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.]

(April 2015)

Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:2), and now that He is dead, her heart is broken. Depression settles on her like a thunderstorm. While overcome with despair, she muses to herself.

Jesus was dead; she had seen Him die on the cross with her own eyes:

  • He had been beaten with a whip with pieces of metal in it.
  • A crown of thorns had been placed on His head, the thorns being a reminder of the curse in Genesis 3 that Adam’s labor would be cursed with thorns.
  • He had lost much blood.
  • He had groaned when they dropped the cross into its hole.
  • She had watched Him push down on His feet and pull up with His hands to force air into His lungs and to keep them free of fluid, but when the Roman soldier pierced His side with a sword, out came blood and water, confirming that His lungs had filled with fluid and that He had asphyxiated.
  • Trained Roman soldiers, who were experts in crucifixions, had testified to His death so that His legs did not need to be broken as the other two criminals who were crucified with Him (which was a prophecy from the Old Testament that no one could break the lamb’s legs).
  • But why was He dead? Was not He the Messiah? Would He not conquer both His and the Jews’ enemies? How could the One who raised the dead be dead Himself?

 

Tomb itself:

No, He was dead alright, make no mistake about that, and He had been buried in the tomb where she stood. She had seen it. The Jews had requested from Pilate to make the tomb secure so no one could steal His body (Matt. 27:62-66), BUT as she stood at the open tomb, the body was gone! But how could it be gone?

  • A heavy stone had been placed over the mouth of the tomb and who could move this without being seen? It would take several men, and even further . . .
  • A Roman seal had been roped over the tomb’s stone to enforce with Roman law that no one could enter the tomb. It would be no problem physically to remove a rope lightly attached with wax at both ends, like police yellow tape, but who would risk going against the authority of Rome under the death penalty?
  • A Roman guard had also been stationed there to keep anyone from tampering with the seal or His body. Who would dare challenge them?
  • Surely the Jews would not steal His body, because it was they who wanted the Roman seal and guard and got these approved by Pilate.

 

She pondered further:

  • He had been placed in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man. You don’t place live people in a tomb, especially with a stone over the mouth, unless they are dead and unless you don’t want them disturbed.
  • But why did those who took His body leave His grave cloths behind? If someone stole His body, it would take longer to remove the cloths than to take the whole body, further exposing themselves to being caught. This is strange, indeed. The linen cloth was neatly wrapped and in its own place. Who would take time to make it neat? Likewise, the head cloth was still in its place. Indeed, He who came forth also altered the conditioned of the grave, doing nothing in haste, but with specific purposes in mind, put the linen cloths neatly where He wanted them. (In the Old Testament, the high priest on the Day of Atonement only wore a linen cloth, and now this final High Priest, who had worn the same in fulfillment, took it off, for the FINAL Day of Atonement was over!)
  • At this point, Mary did not understand that the two “men” clothed in white were actually angels, Cherubim, like the symbolic angels in the Old Testament tabernacle that overlooked the mercy seat on the ark of the covenant, guarding the presence of God, and like the two angels that guarded Eden to keep Adam and Eve out after they sinned. So there were two of them at the tomb, guarding the PLACE of propitiation, the BODY of Jesus, but now stating that He had risen.

As Mary Magdalene contemplated these things, it is not difficult to imagine how much agony of soul and confusion she must have had.

Her hope had died with His death, as it had for all the disciples, who were hiding out in the upper room, fearful that they would be killed next as followers of Jesus. Faith had also died, as it had with the others, which is why the eleven were hiding. Hope was buried in the tomb with Jesus. But love was still alive, love for Christ. That’s why Mary was there, love; her heart was broken. Though Jesus was gone, she still wished to do something for Him, to be near Him. Not only was He dead, like people today who visit the graves of their loved ones. But she did not even have a body to mourn over. The fact that she brought the oil to anoint His body indicated that His resurrection was the last thing in her mind. Thus, she ran to tell Peter and John about the empty tomb, and they returned faster than she had run to get them. John got there first, and just stood at the entry, wondering. Then Peter ran to the entrance and rushed in–his usual impetuousness– heart pounding, seeing the neatly wrapped cloths, his mind whirling 90 miles an hour.

The “men” at the tomb asked Mary why she wept but did not answer her at this point about Jesus, for they saw the Prince of Life approaching. He would minister to her.

Words are not given in the Gospels to describe what she experienced, for none are appropriate. It is only recorded that she and the Lord had one brief conversation with one another.

We know she was the first one to whom He revealed Himself (from Mark 16:9), revealing His compassion for the ladies to go to one who grieved so much and was often His companion in ministry with other disciples.

The first statement was Jesus to Mary, asking why she was weeping. With water in her eyes clouding her vision, she thought he was a gardener and asked where he had put the body of Jesus.

But why is there a garden? The world was lost in a garden, and now the world is regained in a garden. The first Adam lost it all, and the Last Adam regained it. (St. Paul in Romans 5:12ff.)

She thought He was the gardener, for the last image in her mind of Jesus was on the cross with a crown of thorns, bruised and broken, bleeding, beaten beyond recognition, a hole in His side, head bowed with a crown of thorns, dead. The last image of someone is graphic.

THEN in the second statement Jesus calls her name: Mary.” Did a gardener know her name? Did a gardener say her name in the tender way that Jesus was accustomed? This time she looked in anticipation, eyes full of tears, hopeful, heart beating fast, lungs suspended, fearful to believe what her ears told her, quickly she looked . . . . There He was! Standing, looking at Her with those compassionate eyes, divine dignity, majestic in appearance, sovereign in pose, serene in peace, full of compassion for her—it was indeed the Lord in the same body!

She felt the agony of soul instantly evaporate in the heat of His presence and love. Joy enveloped her whole being as she felt her body bathed from head to foot in His grace. She ran to Him and embraced Him. She grabbed His feet and could only say, “Rabboni!” No other words were necessary as she clung to Him and wept for joy. “Stop clinging (so the Greek means) to Me,” Jesus said, but it was not rejection of her but later ministry that He had in mind to others. Never had she thought such joy possible, and she worshiped Him with heart pumping, tears of supreme joy, faith renewed, hope turned into sight, love supreme! Her life was complete!

She rejoiced “with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8) AMEN.

“Be Still and Know that I Am God”

© The Very Rev. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.

Have you noticed that today’s culture MUST have noise, and have it just about all the time? It appears that no one wants to be alone with his thoughts. I would submit that one reason is that said thoughts are scary. If alone, they might have to think about their lives, their accomplishments, or more to the point, about the Last Day judgment.

Some say that we should be alone with our thoughts so we can hear from God. But what will they hear? Their imaginations? They claim to hear wonderful things about themselves from “God,” whoever that is, and then they “allow Him” (you’re in charge) to fill you with His grace. It is interesting that there are never any thoughts about the Last Day judgment that Jesus, when He was on earth, often proclaimed, such as: “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46).

When our lives are jammed packed with activities, rushing to meet various meetings, doing good things but not the best things. When our souls are so jammed with activities we hardly have time to think, we open ourselves to the mores and values of the world, instead of God’s holy and infallible word. The world then programs us with its rebellious ideas. Have you seen someone who can’t stand to be alone, ever? As soon as they enter their cars, they turn on loud “music,” or put on a nerve jangling album. If it is your car, they may say, “Can we have some music?” which means “I don’t value time with you.” If it is a repair man, he goes from loud music in his car to loud music in your house while he listens to filthy words on his radio with some rap music. (Though there is some Christian rap music, I’m told.)

Moreover, the “moment of silence” in our culture means nothing but to leave God out of our lives publicly. What good is it to shove God out when we say nothing? We don’t want to offend people with our religious convictions so we offend the Triune God with our silence. We must not allow Him in our public lives, we think.

Then we are told of five ways to know that “God” is speaking to you, and the reason I keep putting quotes around the word “God” is that the articles never define who He (she, it) is. That is the reader’s job. But I will only give the first way to hear from God from the site.

Here is the first way to know “God” is speaking to us– He speaks in the Bible! Yes, indeed, and I would add, the Bible is enough. We don’t need other special revelations to our hearts or having people say “God told me” such and such. I managed a large Christian book store once, and a woman came into the store. She kept saying that “God” told him certain things; and when I could take it no longer, I said, “He told me the opposite.” She looked puzzled and said something like, “How is that possible?” I grabbed a Bible from one of the shelves, opened it to the idea that she was talking about, and read her what the Apostle Paul said, which was the opposite of what she said. Of course, she adamantly maintained that her infallibility trumped what the Bible said. That is the real danger, making the words of one’s own thoughts contradict and personal experience God’s written word. What did Isaiah say:

19 And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isa. 8:19-20)

Or as the Apostle Paul stated:

that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other (1 Cor. 4:6).

The Greek is clearer than the English. “Not to think beyond what is written” is a set quote that was very familiar to Paul and his churches, and usually the clue to this understanding is not translated into English. There is a definite article that functions like the beginning of a quote: “Not to think beyond what is written.” Then the expression “what is written” or sometimes rendered “it is written” is also a set clause that always invokes scripture the Old Testament when given in the New Testament. Finally, notice the last part of Paul’s sentence: “that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.” Is it not the case that Christians who allegedly receive a “word of knowledge” are often puffed up with pride against those who do not receive such?

Of course, the answer to biblical quotes is usually one’s experience. People will say something like: “I know that I heard from God because it happened to me, and it turned out to be true. So what if it came true that time; can we rely on our private bibles all the time? If not, we are wrong. Indeed, this is the proper way to engage in silence and hear from God:

1 Blessed is the man

Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,

Nor stands in the path of sinners,

Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,

And in His law he meditates day and night.

3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water,

That brings forth its fruit in its season,

Whose leaf also shall not wither;

And whatever he does shall prosper.

4 The ungodly are not so,

But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,

Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

But the way of the ungodly shall perish. (Psalm 1)

So how do we know that the Triune God is speaking to us? Because we have understood His written Word in its proper context; that is how.

It is paganism that wants to manipulate God through one’s words, thoughts, or anything else. Why is not the written word enough? Why can’t we be alone with Him and His Word, both written and Incarnate, to hear and obey what He has already said?

AMEN. Ὡ

 

SeekingAllah_FindingJesus

I generally don’t read modern biographies, but then I’ve written a short autobiography, titled Why Is God Always  Late? (You may see more of it here.) This review book, with author Nabeel Qureshi, titled Seeking Allah, Finding  Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity, is recently written with Lee Strobel, the former atheist, writing  the foreword, and Ravi Zacharias, former agnostic, Josh McDowell and others adding their comments on the back  cover. I came across it by “accident”; and since I’m interested in Islam, especially those who convert to Christ, it  caught my attention. It is a page turner, and I completed it in several sittings. The provocative title tells the story: a  man grows up in Islam, and he really wants to know God, which he assumes is Allah. He seeks Allah vigorously,  and continues in college a fellow student challenges him.

For once, Qureshi has found someone he cannot easily destroy in a debate of Islam vs. Christianity. David, his  friend’s name, has actually studied Christianity on a formal level in college and is quite intelligent about the faith.  He can answer Qureshi’s questions with accuracy and detail, and they become best friends.

I will not spoil it for you, but you will ache with Qureshi as he has to tell his parents of his conversion and of all the things he studied that led him to a complete paradigm shift. The book is very informative regarding the issues between Christians and Muslims such as the Holy Trinity, deity of Christ, His death on the Cross (Islam says He did not die on the cross but escaped), bodily resurrection, the inaccuracy of the Quran versus the Bible, true life of Mohamed, and other matters. Is it true that Muslims are commanded to kill Christians and Jews? You will learn a lot without technical detail.

I was glad to see Qureshi confirm virtually all the issues I’ve raised that challenge Islam. In this blog, I challenged that there is little love with Allah since he is only one person, but with the Holy Trinity each Person has an object to love; indeed, two objects. Moreover, I wrote at another time that for Allah to forgive without atonement is injustice to the highest degree, and Qureshi begins his book with that comment. When I wrote that, a Muslim wrote to my column challenging it, and I responded that to forgive without justice is injustice. In Christ’s death, we have both justice and injustice coming together at the cross (Romans 3:26). He did not respond again.

Highly recommended!

Review by the Very Rev. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D. AMEN. Ὡ

(© Very Rev. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D.)

11 March 2015

bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5)

How many times have I heard media persons say: “But that is a religious statement.” Or, when some atheist debates a theist on TV, he will say: “You can’t use religious statements because they are unscientific.” In other words, man is autonomous and sovereign over his own thoughts and how to interpret the world. There are compartments in our thoughts, and Jesus is allowed in some areas (mainly the church, for now) but never in the culture as a whole.

With secular people, and especially enlightenment thinking people, the Triune God takes second place (or last place) to humanist thought. God has created us in His image, and we are returning the favor.

We can see this in Scott Walker in England recently (he’s running for president of the USA), having to answer a media question “correctly” about evolution. He said something like this: evolutions is “a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or the other.” In other words, he was fearful of their response if he confidently stated: “I am a creationist.” If I were in his shoes, I tell myself I would say, “I just can’t believe in something as unscientific as evolution.” Of course, I would be laughed out of the presidential race. It would seem that the “intelligentsia” require a Creedal answer, the Creed being what I have coined as The Chaos Creed, which may be conceived this way:

“I believe in god the chaos almighty,

random maker of heaven and earth;

but not in Jesus Christ His only Son,

because of the Virgin is not a real birth.”

 And notice how embarrassed some Christian scholars have become over Genesis 1:1-2:4, the creation history account. Even some of the best, conservative Christian scholars are intimidated by that passage that allegedly is unscientific. Then the historic theology of the Church has to be further compromised. Who then is Lord over Genesis 1:1-2:4 and its interpretation? It is not the Bible itself, the real Creator, true science, or the historic Church but secular thought. Creation is a watershed doctrine, and if we deny it, here are other dominoes that will fall: Incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, Ascension, and enthronement of Christ as King of the Universe. I read where one scholar (name escapes me) said that if we can get passed the first verse of the Bible (“God created the heavens and the earth.”), all else is downhill. So true.

The Openness of God movement is an example of embarrassed Christians. They are beyond Arminian, not holding to the sovereignty of God in any meaningful way. They say that God only foreknew who would believe, but that He did not determine it. Problem: if God knows all things, then He knows who will believe and it is still certain (but now man determines the certainty). Thus, they need to get rid of a God who knows all things. They say that God is in process, just like us, not knowing all things. Now we’re back to the chaos god ruling all things, ruling our thoughts, even God’s thoughts.

Moreover, the word-faith movement also despises the sovereignty of God. Their whole theology—if one can call it that—assumes that man is in control of his own destiny, and if he has enough faith he can speak positive words into the air and bring prosperity and health. In other words, faith without cash is a dead faith. It one has enough faith, he can even make his own providence.

Most Christians today are Arminian, believing in the sovereignty of God as long as it does not interfere with their plans and “free will”; otherwise, they become angry. I’ve seen otherwise good Christians become red faced and shouting angry if their pretended sovereignty was challenged. These Christians are embarrassed that God predestined His universe, especially evil. But consider that God uses the sin of His creatures to accomplish His goals yet without being the Author of sin:

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:24 ESV)

He even determines who will believe:

Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).

Here is what is presented as intellectual and scientific, even though none of these things are true science, which is repeatable and observable:

  • Life came from non-life; life-came from non-life only once since all life is allegedly related.
  • Protozoa (one cell animals) gave rise to Metazoa (many cell animals).
  • Invertebrates (no back bone) gave rise to vertebrates (animals with backbones).
  • Sea animals gave rise to land animals.
  • Molecules in motion just before the alleged Big Bang gave rise to the immaterial laws of science; they also gave rise to the immaterial, invariant, and universal laws of logic that we all use.
  • Moreover, how can the non-personhood of chaos give rise to personhood?
  • Then think how convenient it was to have both male and female evolve at the same time and that each knew how to use their sexual “plumbing” to get pregnant, to carry the baby nine months, and to deliver it.
  • Moreover, though there is variation within a species (Chihuahua to Great Dane), there are no examples of one species becoming a new species.
  • Then consider the complexity of the human body. What parts could we live without until everything evolved to working order? Moreover, as Michael Behe, a micro-biologist, has said in his book (Darwin’s Black Box), there must be an irreducible complexity for everything to work together. In other words, you can’t have part of an eye; it must all be there and functioning.

The point is that once the assumption of chaos enters sinners minds, they think they can do what they please because there is no final judgment. They can create their own meaning. But they are frustrated because the new lord cannot account for persons, for relationships, for new species, for ethics, or any kind of order. To try to create our own order from chaos is to be our own lord. Welcome to the 21st century.

The arrogance of the modern scientist who thinks he is the measure of all things is rebellious to the Triune God. The idea of an alternative view of creation that is really “design” by random chance is so ridiculous that one hardly knows what to say. We are in a war over the minds of creatures, and who will be Lord over our thoughts. As John Dryden once said, who was the 17th century English Poet:

 “For those whom God to ruin has design’d,

He fits for fate, and first destroys their mind.”

AMEN. Ὡ

© Very Rev. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.D. (Feb 2015)

I can recall every major event in my life to the month and year, and often to the day. May 10-12, 1968 is one of those dates. It was when our company and our mortars (mortars were my duty) were flown into dense jungle next to the Laotian border. We were the backup for the Green Berets, though usually they were our backup. When we exited the C-130s, 82 mm mortar rounds from the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) were coming down on us furiously. For three nights and days, we were under heavy attack. Several times I could have been killed, and several times I should have been killed, except the merciful providence of God. The enemy mortar rounds landed all around me; one at my feet with me looking right over it. It should have blown my head off, but only the 81 mm mortar barrel I was holding was dented. Rounds landed just outside my trench, right on the lip; another two inches and it would have landed on a pile of our mortar rounds. I would have been vaporized. I was to leave on the third chinook; the first two loaded with our men, took off, and were shot down. That was not a good precedent! At the last minute, after being hit with small shrapnel, I jumped on. There were no anti-aircraft guns that went off, and in about two minutes, we were clear. Of course, we lost the Vietnamese war, not to mentions that battle. Did you ever wonder why the Lord put you somewhere? There seems to be no rhyme or reason for it. You’re just a cog in an acre of wheels.

We Christians in the West have not heard much about Christians in the East, and one reason may be that we like our isolation. We tend to think that we are the epitome of Christian orthodoxy, and that others do not have much—if anything—to teach us. But that is a arrogant.

What do you think of the 21 Coptic Christians that ISIS beheaded in the last week or so? Do you think they are an offshoot of Christianity, someone we can ignore, that they need us to teach them the basics of the faith? Coptic Christians originated in the great city of Alexandria, south of Jerusalem, during the time of the Apostles. “Coptic” means “Egyptian”; they are Egyptian Christians. Early tradition says that John Mark–the writer of the Gospel of Mark– founded the church there; thus they are apostolic. They hold to the basics of the faith, such as the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation of the Son of God, His death on the cross, bodily resurrection, Ascension, forgiveness of sins through Christ, the one Church, and so forth. (By the way, if you hear that no two Christian bodies believe the same, challenge that. We all believe in the Nicene Creed, the basics just given.) My point is that these Christians are historic, in the line of the Apostles, both by ordination and by belief.

Moreover, when I was in seminary (in Dallas, TX, 1972-76), I met a fellow student named Isaac John from India. I asked him how he came to know Christ, was it through missionaries? He said, “No.” Was it by broadcast from a ship? No. Did someone give him some literature to read? Finally, he said, “I was raised in a Christian home, and grew up in sound church.” I was floored? I asked where his church came from, thinking they might need our Western help. He said, “The Apostle Thomas established our church.” With a tone of disbelief, I retorted: “You gotta be kidding me.” He kept affirming it. Finally, I went to the head of the church history department at this large evangelical seminary and asked him about it. To my utter astonishment, he affirmed the same. My church went back to Ryrie, Dr. Pentecost, and John Walvoord, all 20th century, but his church was from the Apostle Thomas! Most don’t know that there is a part of India that is Christian, not Hindu.

In 1992, my wife Ruth and I were invited to setup up a book table in Virginia for Laszlo Tokes (pronounced TÕ-kesh), who was a bishop in the Presbyterian church (Yes, that is not a typo, a bishop in a Presbyterian church!). He had written a book, The Fall of Tyrants, chronicling the fall of the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. Tokes was a pastor under that regime (later became bishop), and had long been persecuted. Everything was coming to a head with Ceausescu’s minions coming to arrest him at his church, most likely never to be seen again. He was waiting for the soldiers when they came to get him, and to his surprise, virtually everyone in his church, and many outside his church, also showed up. They did not have weapons, but stormed the gates of heaven, asking the Lord to intervene. He did, and Ceausescu was overthrown, tried for many murders, and executed.

Somehow, people I knew in VA had invited him over. I had already read his book so I was anxious to meet him. Ruth and I enjoyed his fellowship for about a week, and found him to be humble but strong in faith. He and several others spoke about what they experienced and how the same tyranny could (and probably would) come to America. Here is my point. At the question and answer time, someone asked Bp. Tokes what we (Western Christians) could do for him. With humble spirit and gentleness, he said something like this: “We Christians in Romania are strong in faith; the Christians in the West are weak. Maybe we could do something to help you.”

The person who asked the question did not mean to sound arrogant, and most likely meant how may we financially help, but Bp. Tokes was saying that money is a problem only if it dominates our perspective. I was greatly humbled, and tears ran down my face. What a man of God he was, and what weaklings we are. It is not that money is evil or righteous—we all need it as a tool—but where does our trust really lie? Are we possessed by possessions, or are we possessed by the Creator who made everything and will give us what we need (Matt. 6:33)?

Another matter. I don’t like to suffer, and I bet I can “prophesy” about you: you don’t like to suffer either. We do not know that suffering puts us into hyper-growth mode spiritually. Our faith is built strongly during those times. Do not think that Romans 8:28 is only for “normal” times, and it is not just for individuals, but that “all things work together for good to those (plural) who love God, to those (plural) who are the called according to His purpose.”

Just as the sufferings of Christ have meaning for us, so our sufferings are sanctified to us by His grace. We grow in hyper-mode during those times as the great Lord of the Church makes us grow in grace and knowledge, whether we want to or not! Notice the opposites in these verses:

 15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory18 while we do not look at the things that are seen, but at the things are not seen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:15-18)

Now, what about those Christians who are being martyred by ISIS, what happens to them, their families, and to the countries that persecute them? The irony is that we Christians win at every level. Those who are martyred go home to be with Christ. (By the way, those 21 Christians whom ISIS recently martyred said as they were dying: “Jesus, help me.” That sounds like faith to me.) Their families suffer their loss for a little while, but as C. S. Lewis once said, “Christians never say goodbye to Christians but see you later.” We must get over the Hollywood syndrome that death is the end. You can see it in their movies when a hero is killed–all hope is gone. They lament that they will never see their loved one again, which is patently false for Christians. Other actors in the movie will say such nonsense things as, “I know he sees me. I can talk to  him all the time.” Heaven and hell are left out. Why do we not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead? When I go to or preach a funeral, I walk up to the casket and say, “Death, you don’t win. Jesus won at His bodily resurrection, and He won for us. (Call deceased by name) I’ll see you later.” If the person was not a Christian, then I can’t say that. I just don’t say anything, but we Christians must get over the defeatist attitude that death has conquered us. He sanctifies to us our deepest distress because His sufferings were meaningful, both for Him and us. Death is home-going for the Christian, nothing less. Believe the gospel! One of the deepest verses in the Bible and most encouraging to me, is this:

who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Heb. 5:7-8)

May the Holy Spirit burn His words just quoted into our souls. Here are some verses on death and the Christian.

14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Heb. 2:14-18)

May the Holy Spirit burn His words just quoted into our souls.

Thus, in persecution, we individual Christians win, whether we live or die, we are His and nothing can separate us from His presence and love. Christians never die alone.

32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:32-39)

As for the Coptic Church that was so numerous in Iraq and Syria, they have diminished by about 80% as they are martyred and leave their country for safer places. Is that not a defeat for the Church in that area? Not really. The church is like a gas fire: stomp it, and it spreads; leave it alone, and it burns out. The Coptic Church will be strengthened, in the long run, and their faith will grow greatly.

But does that not mean that ISIS has won? Not really. They are removing the light from their countries, so they will fall ever more into darkness and self-destruction. They are removing the salt, so they will become putrid that much quicker. One cannot prosper by disobedience to God’s law (murdering others) but will self-destruct. They will turn on one another. Moreover, we don’t know what the Ascended Sovereign Lord will do, but He could grant ISIS either a great revival or some kind of devastating judgment. He is only limited by His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. (For the slow of wit, that means He is not limited!)

Do we really think that the King of all the ages and His Holy Spirit are losers in history? How incompetent do we think Christ is? Do we think that He cannot lead His people to personal and corporate victory and destroy our enemies? Is disobedience to the Triune God successful while obedience leads to destruction? Have we forgotten that He said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18)? Remember that gates were a defensive structure around a city to keep the enemy out, which means the Church is on the offensive to conquer Satan and his minions (Rom. 16:20, look it up). The devil is defensive. Under the King’s authority, as we truly worship and serve Him, we are invincible! In life, we win. In death, we win. Individually, we win. Corporately, we win. Our enemies think death is the end for us, but we know better. We switch locales, from earth to heaven, but we still win, and we still pray for victory:

 9 When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev. 6:9-10)

Heads we win; tails they lose.  AMEN. Ὡ

 

 

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