Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Our Government Can Seize Churches

In a famous 2005 Supreme Court decision, Justices ruled 5-4 in favor of the City of New London, Connecticut against Susette Kelo. In this case, the City seized Kelo’s private property under a broad definition of “eminent domain.” Eminent domain is the concept that allows governments (for just compensation) to take private property when doing so serves a “public purpose.” However, in the New London case, they did not seize Kelo’s property to build a needed road or a bridge, as “public purpose” has always been narrowly defined. Rather, they seized her property to give it to another private party, the drug giant Pfizer. The City argued that giving the property to Pfizer allowed them to increase property tax revenue. Ultimately, the Supreme Court violated the Constitution and over 200 years of precedent regarding the protection of property rights, and ruled in favor of government tyranny. Ironically, just a few years later Pfizer sold the plant and shut down operations on the property.

Unfortunately, that is not where the slippery slope ends. With the precedent set in the Kelo case, earlier this month, a Florida Circuit Court upheld the City of Orlando’s decision to seize private property to build a professional soccer stadium that will be owned by the private owners of a professional soccer team. However, this time, the property includes a church. In 2005 we saw Constitutional property rights violated without representation of the people. And only a few years later, we see the infringement of the freedom of religious expression, also sacred in the Constitution for over 200 years. Sadly, we no longer live in a country governed by the people and for the people. And, if history is a good teacher, it probably won’t be long before what I am writing and what you are reading will be banned as illegal propaganda in defiance against the State.

Based upon this new and outrageously broad definition of eminent domain, what can stop a government from seizing more churches? What can stop a government from seizing your property? What can stop a government from doing anything? The Constitution is being violated daily and no remaining defense seems to exist. Our media and its journalists display a breathtakingly shallow level of understanding coupled with a bias that favors government even when government grossly transgresses the freedoms and the will of the people. America has truly entered a post-Constitutional era. We have slid down the slippery slope so far away from our foundation as a democratic republic that America is barely recognizable by the Constitution today. We exist under the tyrannical rule of the few elite or the ruling class.

And, yet God still reigns. The church in Florida will survive. They will find somewhere else to meet and they will grow stronger. In fact, history has taught us that in times of persecution, God’s bride flourishes. As the persecution in America rises at a stunning pace, remember that we are called to serve God even when persecuted. We must not “lose our religion” in defending it. God will have His way with America if at least to make it an example of the prodigal that must fall to its knees before Christ returns. And, this prodigal’s bowing will likely play a key role in the collapse of man’s haughty pride and arrogant reliance in his systems of corrupt government. In Daniel 2:20-21 Daniel said, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” And, Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” Thank God that He is still in control.

I am reminded of a famous story recorded in three of the Gospels. Jesus was approached by ill-meaning Pharisees with a question of whether or not they should pay taxes to Caesar. At the time, Israel was also under an oppressive tyrannical government (Rome). In response to their hypocritical trap, Jesus asked them to display the coin for the tax (denarius). Referring to the coin, Jesus asked them “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” Upon their declaration that it was Caesar’s, Jesus said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” Aside from Jesus humiliating them, He shared for our benefit a profound analogy. The next time you look at your image in the mirror, ask yourself, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” If you answer, “God’s,” you will answer correctly. Therefore, render unto governments what is theirs and render unto God what is His. You are God's eminent domain paid with just compensation of the blood Jesus brutally shed on a cross.

Are you willing to stand up for what you believe even if it costs you everything? When you surrendered to Jesus as Lord, you were in essence confessing that Jesus owns everything anyway, including you. Therefore, you have nothing to sacrifice, except your continual will to Him (Hebrews 10:5-9). We must be willing to love others and proclaim His gospel no matter the cost. And, when the government and others persecute us for it, we must forgive them and die at their hands as the only means of our ceasing to honor our King and His gospel. That is what we have been called to do because that is what Jesus did for us. That is what it ultimately means in America to call Jesus Lord, God and Savior. Today and every day until He returns, we should meditate on the words of Jesus, “render unto God’s what is God’s” and follow this meditation with the obedience God is due. This is our response to a spiritually oppressive government. 

I pledge allegiance to God at the expense of everything else.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Archaeology with Blinders

In 2009, Warner Brothers released the hit movie, “The Blind Side,” based upon the successful book by the same name. The main storyline centers on the true story of rags-to-football success, Michael Oher. The film opens with a look back to the famous 1985 football game between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants. This game was famous because of one play and the injury that resulted. Viewers of ESPN voted it as the “Most Shocking Moment in History” and The Washington Post dubbed it, “The Hit That No One Who Saw It Can Ever Forget.” The Redskins ran a “flea-flicker” play and the Giants blitzed. Linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson combined for the sack on quarterback, Joe Theismann that resulted in the compound fracture of both his right tibia and fibula on live national television. The movie referred to this play as changing the game forever. Theismann, a right handed quarterback, had turned right to pass the ball leaving his back to the oncoming linebackers from the other side, his blind side. From that day onward, offensive coordinators have come to respect their quarterback’s blind side and have adjusted their plays to properly protect it. Imagine what would happen to quarterbacks if teams were not trained to properly protect their blind sides today. For all the ridicule that football players and coaches receive for allegedly not being as smart as the rest of us, they were wise enough to recognize the blind side and properly adjust. Sadly, that is more than we can say for the science of archaeology today.

Earlier this month, archaeologists from Israel’s top university announced the pinpointing of the arrival of domestic camels to the Middle East as some time after the events of the Bible. This, they say means, “science directly contradicts the Bible’s version of events.” Camels are mentioned 58 times in the Bible as far back as the story of Abraham's migration in Genesis 12 (between 2000 and 1500 B.C.). But Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology and Near Eastern Cultures say camels weren’t domesticated in Israel until centuries later, more like 900 B.C. Sapir-Hen and Ben-Yosef arrived at this conclusion by using radiocarbon dating to analyze the oldest known camel bones in the Arabian Peninsula (Aravah Valley), which runs along the border with Jordan from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. The few camel bones found in earlier archaeological layers they claim “probably belonged to wild camels,” which archaeologists believe (without proof) lived in earlier periods of history.

These grossly reaching conclusions beg some obvious questions. How is camel bones being found no earlier than 900 B.C., proof that they did not exist in the region before then? Couldn’t camels have existed there without leaving verifiable remains? If the lack of remains means that camels did not exist, then what does that say about the lack of remains for “The Missing Link” in the evolution of man? Since camels were obviously recorded in other neighboring regions without dispute, why is it not possible that someone migrating from those regions brought camels with them (Abraham migrating from Mesopotamia)? How did they determine that bones found from earlier periods were “wild” and not domesticated? And, why did they not state how they determined this? How does this find even begin to prove the Bible to be false? I could go on and on with questions. But, the main thing their claims expose is the chosen blindness of these archaeologists and not the blindness of the Bible.

Tunnel vision is the loss of peripheral vision with retention of central vision. But, that medical condition is not voluntary. Here, archaeologists are voluntarily choosing to be blind to the evidence to the left and to the right of them. They have ignored all disciplines except their own to claim the Bible is false. And, even confined to their own discipline they have yet to prove what they claim. The Bible remains as the most reliable book of historical antiquity known to man by every test, not the least of which is archaeology. And, regarding the discipline of archaeology, the Bible is the most supported book above all others. And, it remains the best in class with regards to all other disciplines as well. Tunnel vision has no place in science nor in conclusions that only partially rely upon the malpractice of science.

Archaeologists in this case are reading about Abraham's migration with camels from Mesopotamia (includes Iran) to regions we now call Israel. But, from this first Genesis mention these archaeologists are placing words in the Bible that are not there. They are claiming this reference means the Bible is saying that camels were widespread. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible never even implied that. Further, the other people mentioned in the early parts of the Bible as having camels were direct descendants from the same Abraham. Otherwise, there are no Biblical mentions of Israelites owning camels.

Dr. Andrew Steinmann, Distinguished Professor of Theology and Hebrew at Concordia University-Chicago, put it this way, “the findings show that Old Testament accounts are very accurate, because they confine it to people from Mesopotamia or the Arabian Peninsula … At least 1,000 years before Abraham, dromedary camels — the single hump ones — were domesticated, and Bactrian camels probably 500 years after that … So we know people in Iran did it, and it spread … We have good evidence from Mesopotamia that there were domesticated camels then.” Therefore, Abraham migrating from Mesopotamia to the Israeli region with domesticated camels in tow is accurate and these archaeologists look foolish.

What does it say when archaeologists make such conclusions? Did they set out to determine the truth about camel migration or domestication? Or, did they set out to discredit the Bible? Apparently, since their conclusions are so laser focused on the Bible, it suggests both their intent and their bias are suspect. Archaeology is not the study to disprove a singular historical document. The dictionary defines archaeology as “the scientific study of historic or prehistoric peoples and their cultures by analysis of their artifacts, inscriptions, monuments, and other such remains, especially those that have been excavated.” According to its definition, and based upon the actual claims of their study, these archaeologists should be giving the Bible the benefit of the doubt. But, that would defeat their purpose, which apparently is not archaeology.

When less educated football players and coaches ignore the blind side, legs get broken. When scientists do it, science is what gets broken. Such archaeologists would be better served by surrounding their research with all other peripheral disciplines before making such wild and narrow-sighted conclusions. And, this also applies to Christians. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” In other words, take a lesson from football by recognizing and covering your blind side.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Finding God's Will

I heard a story about two monks walking through a village when they saw a woman in a beautiful dress crossing a muddy street. The first monk quickly picked her up, carried her across the mud and set her down on the other side. The two monks continued walking onward without her. Five hours later the second monk finally asked, “Why back there did you pick up that woman when we are not supposed to do things like that?” The first monk responded, “I put her down five hours ago. Why are you still carrying her in your head?” This is a story that is similar to what happens when Christians regret. Too often Christians look behind them and question what might have been had they done something or decided something differently. Did they or did they not do the will of God? But, this question is not coming from God. This question is coming from His enemy.

When Christians regret, we remain stuck in the past and slow our forward progress with the weight of the past’s baggage. Like Lot’s wife, we are attempting to move forward with our eyes turned backward. It is like driving a car with a fixation only on the rear view mirrors instead of the front windshield. Jesus said to one of His would-be followers in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” And, Paul said in Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” You will not find a verse that commands the believer to look back and regret genuine decisions in their past. So are there genuine decisions in your past that you actively regret today? There is no decision in your past that God did not preside over and that God will not use for His ultimate glory. In fact, all of your past decisions have led you into the person that you are today, and that God ultimately wills for you to be tomorrow. And, God, your Father, is well-pleased with who you are, period.

Regret is like an anchor holding onto the rocks in our past. It holds us back from moving forward. The past is full of choices that God uses to mold our futures and the futures of others that surround us. There is no decision of yours that He cannot use to make something beautiful. Regarding sin, after repentance and forgiveness, God can use your redemption for His glory. For every opportunity you have missed, you have gained something better. And, for every opportunity you have gained, you have missed something worse. Was God sovereign during your past decisions or was He not? How big is your God? Do you truly believe that there was a well-intentioned decision that you made when God was not sovereign? God, our Father, redeems our past decisions, 100% of them.

One of our problems is that too many Christians burn so much of their efforts on the notion of finding the will of God as if they might miss it. The will of God is not something that God hides from His children in a place that takes years to discover. God never intended His children to live that way. If you have children and you want them to know your will for them, aren’t you going to just tell them? Better yet, if your children came to you earnestly seeking your will, wouldn’t you immediately share it with them with gladness? God is no different. And, God does not intend for us to spend time figuring out what we might have been or what we should do 20, 30, 40 years from now. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” This verse implies that we don’t really need to know every step of our path. What is most important is that we know the next step. And, that next step is rather easy to determine from God's word. In fact, Paul echoed Jesus well in Galatians 5:14, "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

God is intentionally horrible at playing Hide-and-Seek. God wants to be found. Instead of searching for God’s will, be God’s will. Love those around you. Wash feet. Forgive radically. Obey our Good Shepherd, Jesus. Jesus said in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” So, in order to do God’s will, it is quite simple. Love God and then love everyone God puts in your path. Serve others as if it was Jesus Himself you were serving because you are (Matthew 25:31-46). If you sense Him urging you to do something, do it. The moment after you read this, you know exactly what God’s will is as soon as the next person crosses your path. God’s will is for you to love that person today. What more do you need to know right now?

I will close with a Christian testimony I recently heard from Scott Hamilton, the famous American ice skater, at He had a mysterious disease as a child that resulted in his thwarted height of 5’ 4”. And, it was his small stature that led him into ice skating, where he ended up in the International Hall of Fame and an Olympic Gold Medalist. As a married adult, he later learned that he had a brain tumor from birth that served as the mysterious cause of his stunted growth. Instead of looking back in regret, Hamilton thanks God for the tumor that he refers to as one of the best gifts he ever received. If he had not had that brain tumor, he probably would not have become the Scott Hamilton that we all know today. God turned a brain tumor towards His will in making Scott Hamilton an internationally recognized example of the shining glory of God.

Don’t look back. Be God’s will today. By being God’s will, you have found God’s will.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

“Well, Stephen Hawking Says…”

When I was young, one of the more famous series of TV commercials were those by the stock brokerage firm, E. F. Hutton. A typical commercial would open up with two men having a conversation about each other’s stock portfolios in a very public place. Inevitably, one of the gentlemen would say, “Well, my broker is E. F. Hutton, and E. F. Hutton says …” Immediately, everyone in the scene goes visibly silent in an attempt to eaves drop on the conversation. After the two men awkwardly observe this reaction, the announcer would voice over, “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.” In intellectual circles today, a similar phenomenon happens whenever the name Stephen Hawking is invoked. It is as if to say, if Hawking says something, then Hawking is right and you are wrong.

As I have written about before, Hawking is widely regarded as the most intelligent man alive today. He is an author, physicist and unfortunately an atheist. Therefore, inevitably, he says some pretty pointed things about his beliefs about God from time to time. In addition to the obvious fact that quotes about God are the practice of philosophy and not science, proving the non-existence of God is not even practical within the scientific method. It is a notion that is outside of the practice of science. And, Hawking is a brilliant scientist but a woefully poor philosopher. But this does not stop the philosophically lazy from blindly worshiping Hawking’s quotes.

This modern day worship of Hawking’s intellect is another form of the logical fallacy, “Argument to the Man.” In an earlier post, I exposed the more common version, which is when someone attempts to refute an idea by solely attacking the person who voiced it ("Shooting the Messenger"). The other version of Argument to the Man is when someone claims something is true just because some widely-regarded intelligent man, like Hawking, said it. That too is a logical fallacy. There is no such thing as infallible human intellect. In Hawking’s defense, he never claimed his intellect to be infallible. In fact, Hawking agrees with me on the conclusion of his fallibility as witnessed in a very recent admission of the last 40 years of his errant science.

A significant portion of Hawking’s work is based upon his previously published theories regarding the nature of black holes (1974). Hawking today says that his own theories, that include the notion that nothing is capable from escaping a black hole, were wrong. Now, 40 years later, he is arguing that it might be possible for light and information to escape a black hole. On his 70th birthday, Hawking told an interviewer that he regards his original idea that information was destroyed by black holes as his "biggest blunder." That hardly sounds like an infallible intellect.

Below are a few more errant quotes by Hawking where he attempts to blur the lines between science and philosophy, followed by a simple question that we might ask in response:

“There is no heaven; it’s a fairy story.” [Well, can you prove such an assertion?]

“The universe can and will create itself from nothing.” [Well, is there any evidence that supports this circular reasoning?]

“We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.” [Well, if the universe has a “grand design” and there is no God, who designed it?]

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” [Well, isn’t unproven philosophy masquerading as science the epitome of the illusion of knowledge?]

There is no man who is infallible in their intellect, including yours truly. Christians must never surrender the throne of infallibility to fallible flesh and blood. That is reserved for God and God alone. And, God’s intellect has never been found to be in error. It is with God’s intellect that all intellect will be judged … and found wanting. The polar opposite of Argument to the Man is Argument to God, which is an argument that will never suffer "blunder."

We Christians, intelligent or not, should never cower the mind of Christ to that of a fallible man no matter how intelligent the entire world thinks he is. Consider the words of 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

I, therefore, aptly close with a quote from the infallible God from Psalm 19:7-10:

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”