Category Archives: Dave’s Little Quirks

The Resurrection Makes All the Difference

Matthew 28:5-6

“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.'”

Herein lies one of the biggest factors that set the Christian faith apart from every other belief system that has ever been started. Not only is our Savior God among us, the Holy Lamb who paid for our sins, but He proved that fact by the greatest miracle He ever worked: He rose from the dead just as prophesied. No one else can lay claim to that. All other great “religious figures” are still dead. Moses still lies in his unmarked grave. Buddha and Confucious are still dead. All the Brahmins who defined the theology of Hinduism, still dead. Zoroaster, Plato and Aristotle are still dead. Muhammad is still dead awaiting judgement. Only Jesus Christ rose from the grave, and that carries a lot of weight with me. All the rest were just mortal men who had ideas that people accepted and followed, but that is it. Only Jesus lives as proof of His being our Lord and Savior. Only Jesus will return in power and glory to rule over the remnant of humanity. Only Jesus is worthy of our adoration and worship. And the risen Jesus is the only one I will ever follow. What about you?

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Reason or Revelation?

Job 11:7-9

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God?
Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
They are higher than the heavens – what can you do?
They are deeper than the depths of the grave – what can you know?
Their measure is longer than the earth
and wider than the sea.”

Such wise words from Zophar the Naamathite – if only later generations had lived by them! For thousands of years humanity has tried to understand the nature of the universe and – sometimes – the nature of God. Have we succeeded? No, I don’t believe so. Just limiting the scope of this discussion to the 2,000 years of the Christian faith, many have tried to understand the truth of God using human reason; many have tried to reconcile revelation with reason. As the church grew older and further away from the age of the apostles, many have tried to explain revelation in the light of the philosophical musings of the Greek philosophers, but have they succeeded? No, for the more they have tried to fit divine revelation into the bounds of human reason the further away from the truth they have strayed. How can the finite mind of a created being possibly understand the nature of the infinite being that created it? How can the clay ever comprehend the mind of the potter? It’s impossible! It’s been argued that God created us with reason so we can use it, but should we really try to elevate our reason to the same level of God, or worse, elevate it higher? No. We can and should use the mental gifts God has given us to understand the Creation around us as much as we can, but to try and comprehend the nature of God by human reason is an exercise in futility. If we could ever figure it out for ourselves there would have been no real reason for the revelation of God in the Scriptures. The divine revelation of Scripture should be our guide as it was intended to be. As Jesus said, “Blessed are they who believe and have not seen.” Let the revelation be our standard to live by, not our reason and philosophy.

Peace and grace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Under the Law? Let’s see…

Acts 15:23-29

“With them they sent the following letter:

The apostles and elders, your brothers,

To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:

Greetings.

We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends, Barnabas and Paul – men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

Farewell.”

This letter was written by the church council in Jerusalem, the mother church of early Christendom, in response to a push by some elements to bring the early Christians into obedience to the Law of Moses. The above letter is the response of the council, headed by the apostles Peter and James the Just and guided by the Holy Spirit. Much heat has been generated for centuries regarding obedience to the Law. If the Holy Spirit led the apostles who had spent three years with our Lord to make this pronouncement concerning the Law, how can I counter them? Let their words stand with the authority they were given by Christ.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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The Gospel, or Politics?

Matthew 28:18-20

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'”

Last night on the television I watched a conversation between a conservative Christian and the minister of a very liberal congregation from the same denomination, which I choose not to name but will say that it is an older, mainstream denomination. The heart of the debate was the fact that the liberal minister and his church were openly pursuing a very liberal social and political agenda to the point of posting harsh political signs in front of the church, while at the same time the congregation was in decline. I won’t burden you with all the back and forth, but I did see a very important comparison in the story, relative to my own personal experience. The minister’s church, like so many in our time, had wandered from a Biblical presentation of Jesus and into a pursuit of social and political change, while the number of people attending was dropping significantly. Meanwhile, I know a church that had been crawling along seven years ago with only twenty members, but when they got a new pastor who preached Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected, the Lord grew that church and today they have an average attendance of over 1,000 people spread out among three services. What is the difference? One church preaches politics, the other preaches the gospel. One follows a humanistic philosophy loosely based on the teachings of Jesus, the other teaches the great love of Jesus expressed in His setting aside the glory of heaven to come among us and die a horrible death to pay the price of our sins. Now the shifting of focus within churches from the eternal to the temporal is not limited to the liberal, theologically muddy branches of Christianity although it is most apparent there. There are many reasonably conservative Christian churches that have also strayed into the elevation of politics and social change. When I first became a Christian in the mid-80s one of the big subjects of debate within the church was what to do with the new-found political power that evangelical Christianity had discovered. For the majority the answer was clear: politics must always take second place to the work of carrying the gospel of salvation to a lost world. Yet, decades later, many in the church seem to get that order of importance backwards. Being politically aware and active is important, but it has not been lost on me that nowhere in Scripture does it exhort us to put politics first, to make social change the whole point. We are encouraged to obey the authorities so long as they are not trying to force us to disobey God, and we are told to pray for our leaders that we may have peace. But the notion that the church must use politics to bring about the Kingdom is heretical and became popular during the 19th Century. Jesus didn’t come among us to start a program of social justice, although if we follow Christ and preach His Word society can improve; compare the “anything goes” madness of today with the relative social stability of earlier ages when the faith was more important to the majority of people. But the whole purpose of His coming was to atone for our sins and turn our hearts back to God in repentance. Jesus changes lives, you bet, He changed mine in some very dramatic and fundamental ways; politics mostly just changes who governs us and how. Jesus saves our souls, politics does not. So always put sharing the Biblical truth of Jesus Christ before trying to change the world through human effort. Keep politics where it belongs, and promote the gospel of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ. For only Jesus can changes the world in the ways that matter.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Christmas 2017

Luke 2:6-7

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

It seems to me that this time of year brings out the best, and paradoxically the worst, in people. It can bring out the best because it is a time of year when many people perform acts of kindness and generosity they might not otherwise do. Of course we celebrate Christmas by giving gifts to our friends and families, but often we also give to those we don’t know, either through charities or churches or just giving something to the homeless guy on the streetcorner. It is a time when many families come together, hopefully lay aside the usual petty differences that can arise within families, and celebrate Christmas together. But it can also be a time when tempers flare in the malls or in traffic, when rudeness and impatience and greed take over. A time when some people get judgemental when seeing how their family member has set the table or the neighbor has decorated their house. And it can be a time when a lot of well meaning people argue over what Christmas is and what it should be, and even whether it should be celebrated at all.

There are so many arguments out there online over this and that aspect of Christmas that I’m not going to rehash it here. Yes, it is primarily a religious holiday, and to many people who are atheists or Muslims or whatever they repudiate it as something religious being forced upon them; if seeing a manger scene in someone’s yard offends you, then don’t look, go home and shut your eyes for a month. But it seems to me that most of the harshest arguments are between two people or groups who both claim Christ and can’t resist the temptation to argue over various aspects of Christmas. Yes, no one really knows on what date Jesus Christ was born, no matter how brilliant a case they can make in support of one date or another. Yes, there have been a lot of pagan influences from Northern Europe that have been incorporated in the celebration of the birth of the Savior; so do what I do, don’t practice them. Yes, in the last century especially there has been a great deal of commercialism and avarice and materialism come into what should be a humble and peaceful time. But should we reject the holiday completely because there are flaws in how or when it is celebrated? No.

The entire, sole reason why people began to celebrate this as a holiday was to commemorate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In that manger 2,000 years ago lay the perfect union of God and man, who came into our dirty, wicked world to pay the penalty of our sins so that we imperfect, sinful mortals could receive the gift of eternal life through Him. That’s all, but then it was more than enough. Another name given to Christ in the Bible is Immanuel, which translates as “God Among Us”. He entered our world because He loved us too much to allow us to march blindly to our destruction without an exit ramp. Personally, I believe that the more important event was the death of Jesus on the cross, for that is when He atoned for our sins. His resurrection was a close second, for it is the sign to all of us that He had defeated sin and death for good. But for Him to have led a sinless life to pay for our sins at Calvary He first had to be born, and that is why we celebrate Christmas.

So let’s stop arguing over this point and that point and just celebrate the birth of our Savior. The date doesn’t matter; the fact of His birth does. Stop tearing each other down and start building each other up. And if you don’t believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior, please resist the temptation to revile those of us who do. Love one another, as Jesus told us to do. Be kinder and more patient. Be a bit more restrained in how much load you dump onto your credit cards. Argue less. And consider, even if only for a moment, the reality that on what was possibly a cold winter night in Bethlehem during the reign of Caesar Augustus, a child was born that was the union of the mortal with the immortal, of the created with the Creator. Consider the possibility that was true and not a myth. Try not to remove Christ from Christmas, for without Christ, what difference would it all make?

Merry Christmas to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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Jerusalem the Capital of Israel? Yes!

2nd Samuel 5:6-10

“The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, ‘You will not get in here, even the blind and the lame can ward you off.’ They thought, ‘David cannot get in here’. Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David. On that day, David said, ‘Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water water shaft to reach those “lame and blind” who are David’s enemies. That is why they say “the blind and lame will not enter the palace.”‘ David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David. He built up the area around it, from the supporting terraces inward. And he became more and more powerful, because the LORD God Almighty was with him.”

King David captured the ancient city of Jerusalem around 1000 BC, and that city remained the Jewish capital until the Roman sack in 70 AD and, in a sense, beyond. The Israelites were in possession of Jerusalem for slightly more than 1000 years before the Roman sack; since then the city has been at the heart of the Jewish religion and an important city for the Christians. From the time of the Muslim conquest in 638 AD until the end of World War I the city remained under Islamic control by various caliphates and then the empire of the Ottoman Turks. From World War I until the creation of the modern Jewish state of Israel in 1948, the city was governed by the British authorities. Since the war declared by her Muslim neighbors immediately after Israel’s independence, the Israelis took possession of West Jerusalem and then in 1967 they captured East Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six Day War.

Today President Trump acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced plans to begin the process of moving the American embassy there. Making a rare political statement of my own, I fully support this move. For almost 2,000 years the Jewish people have longed to return to Jerusalem, and now the city is once again recognized as the capital of Israel, at least by the American government. Israel’s claim to Jerusalem is 3,000 years old, while Christianity has revered the city as the location of where our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, God Among Us, suffered and died for our sins, for 2,000 years. Islam has revered Jerusalem as one of their holy sites for 1400 years. The Jewish people have a definite historical precedence in claiming the city. The Palestinian Authority has for decades seen East Jerusalem as their capital; now, thanks to their intransigence in refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace, East Jerusalem is lost to them. So be it. In the 69 years since Israel has controlled the city (at least the western part), they have peacefully given Christians and Muslims full access – in a peaceful manner – to their holy sites within the city, to the extent of even restricting Jewish activity, including prayers, on the Temple Mount in deference to their Muslim population. They will continue to do so; can the Palestinian Authority state honestly that they would do the same if they had full control of the city? Very doubtful. I fear that given the chance they would follow the example of the Taliban and ISIS and destroy all non-Muslim sites.

So in short, hurrah for Israel and well done to President Trump for making a difficult and unpopular decision that was long overdue. Of course the Jew-haters of the world will condemn this move, they are already starting to. But perhaps the apparently now permanent loss of even East Jerusalem will wake up the Palestinian Authority and the PLO to the fact that Israel is there to stay and that further refusal to come to the table and negotiate in good faith with the Israelis will just cost them more in the future. And since Islam claims at least parts of the Old Testament as valid (the parts they agree with), perhaps they would do well to remember what was said in Numbers 24:9, “May those who bless you be blessed, and those who curse you be cursed!” Jerusalem will forever be the Holy City, the center of the Kingdom of God and the seat of a returned Jesus Christ, ruling the nations with an iron scepter.

To borrow a phrase from the fictional Borg, “resistance is futile”.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. And to all my Jewish friends, a heartfelt shalom!

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At the Heart of it All…

Romans 1:28-32

“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”

I don’t think it takes a lot of imagination to see this at work in the world around us today. Look at the news lately. It has become a seemingly endless litany of murder, hatred, perversion, rampant immorality, greed and wickedness of every kind. People get murdered going to church on a Sunday; hate-filled jihadists slaughter hundreds for the crime of believing a little differently. Sex scandals in the halls of power fill the news daily, simply because some are unable to control their own lusts; and those are just the natural lusts, I’m not even going to dignify the unnatural ones by detailing them here. Materialism and greed are now the norm, and unfettered consumerism has grown from it’s beginnings in the 19th century and earlier to become the apparent goal of billions. People glut themselves while half the world starves. Madmen in horrid totalitarian regimes threatens others with nuclear destruction (yes, I’m talking about Rocket Man in North Korea). Old fashioned paganism is on the rise along with the occult and eastern mysticism. Cults flourish while apostates fleece their flocks for billions and turn away from the truth of Scripture. What is the answer? The world around us has been telling us for over three centuries that the answer is science and humanist philosophy, but it doesn’t seem to me like that is working out very well. Atheists say we should do away with all religion, but in practice it seems they want to abolish Bible-believing Christianity and leave groups like Islam and the Satanists alone. Humanism tells us that we if we can just become enlightened enough, or educated enough, or sensitive enough, or collectivist enough, we can solve the world’s problems by our own efforts. That is utterly impossible! The truth of the matter is that the problem at the heart of all of the world’s ills is a rebellion against the God who created us and a rejection of the Savior who died for us. Period. People who ignore God and reject Jesus Christ are the real problem. Yes, I’m fully aware of the sins of the religion of Christianity, my avocation is a study of history from the earliest times on, but I can show you in every case that those excesses and sins were caused by those who chose to do it their way in the name of religion instead of following the teachings of our Lord. I could go on for hours, but the bottom line is very simple: humanity cannot fix our own problems by our own efforts for we are flawed and marred by sin, every one of us. No matter what new scheme we cook up we will never fix the world on our own. Not even by “converting” everyone to the religion of Christianity can we bring about the Kingdom of God as some claim. All we can do is submit to God, trust in Christ as Lord and Savior, and follow His teachings to do the best we can. And wait, for He will return as promised and put an end to all the evil that fills our world to the brim. As Scripture says, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord and Savior, so we are all faced with the choice of following Him now or acknowledging His Lordship under protest when He returns, but choose wisely. If we follow Him we enter into an eternity in the presence of God in a world no longer ripped apart by the wickedness of this age. If you continue to reject Him and try going it on your own you will receive only an eternity of suffering. The choice is yours, but as Joshua said so long ago, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

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