Category Archives: Inscriptions

CUSTODIANS OF CONTINUED RESTORATION
If in one’s personal study of the word of God he discovers truth that is contrary to the accepted theology of his present religious heritage, then it is incumbent upon him to teach what he has learned through his studies. If he does not do this, then the blood of those whom he would teach is on his shoulders (Ez 3:18,19). This responsibility is the inspiration for restoration, and thus the heart of our continued call for a restoration to the authority of God’s word.

However, we must regularly remind ourselves that the curse of any restoration “movement”—we do not really like the word “movement” in reference to faith—is that such movements seem to always circle around. They circle around and become the very form of religion that the fathers of the “restoration” originally fled.

We would judge the Pharisees on this point. Centuries before the coming of the incarnate Son into this world, Israel turned from the word of God in order to create religious beliefs and behavior after the religions around them. By forgetting what their Bibles taught, they established their own idolatrous faith (Hs 4:6). As a result of their apostate deed of turning from the word of God, they were subsequently scattered by God throughout conquering nations, first by the Assyrians (722/21 B.C.), and then by the Babylonians (586 B.C.).

Nevertheless, God promised to the scattered that a repentant remnant of all twelve tribes of Israel would eventually be restored to the land of Palestine, though the land of their fathers to which they would be restored would be governed by foreign empires. Regardless of this, however, they would be blessed in the land if they restored themselves to the word of God (See Dt 30:1-10; Ez 6:8; 14:22).

From the time of their last return to Palestine in 444 B.C., it was four centuries before the incarnate Son of God arrived on the scene. By the time of His arrival, the religious leaders of Israel, however, had again hijacked the faith of the people. They were so effective in this that the Holy Spirit revealed through Paul that the religious leaders had created the “Jews’ religion,” which we commonly refer to as Judaism (Gl 1:13,14). This was a legal-oriented religion that was based on the authority of traditional interpretations of the Sinai law, with the added religious rites and ceremonies the Jews had accumulated over the centuries. Except for references to the Sinai law, Judaism was a compilation of a host of religious traditions that the Jewish leadership considered to be binding as law, and thus, the identity of Judaism (See Mk 7:1-9).

Judaism took centuries to develop into a religious system that even opposed the incarnate Son of God. The Jewish restoration movement of the remnant of Israel eventually turned against the God who had brought the captives out of the bondage of foreign nations. And finally, after four centuries of religious heritage building, the restored remnant even crucified the One for whom they were restored to receive as the Messiah and Savior of the world.

(Legalized restoration movements will usually crucify those who call for a restoration to the authority of the word of God within the confines of an established religion. The leaders of the movement will often adopt a catechism of theology that should not be questioned or attacked by anyone who might have Bible questions about certain beliefs or behavior.)

Israel’s legalization of their restoration after their return to Palestine was no different than all legal restorations since that time. Restoration movements are often stimulated by sincere Bible students who renew continually their desire for Bible authority in all matters of faith. In their studies, sincere Ezras and Nehemiahs of the restoration will discover points of truth that have been ignored or violated by the religion in which they find themselves. And herein is embedded a danger.

In the early years of a restoration focus is usually on legal points of difference between the existing theology of a religion and Bible truth. What the early restorationists often do not understand is that in their legal opposition to erroneous theology, they invariably establish a legal road map to direct sincere people out of the quagmire of past ritualistic religion. But in establishing a legal system to escape legalized religiosity, a canonized legal theology often comes out on the other side of the movement. The movement subsequently becomes just another legal religion. The zealous followers of the movement thus circle around from one legally defined religion to establish their own legally defined religion.

Essentially, the justification for the fathers’ flight from traditionally defined religion was usually based on establishing Bible authority in all matters of faith. The fathers of the restoration movement discovered points of difference between the Bible and the unbiblical traditions that were bound on adherents. They discovered that what was bound was nothing other than matters of opinion and tradition, with an assortment of religious rites and ceremonies mingled in with the religious behavior of loyal adherents.

Unfortunately, as stated before, the fathers’ original restoration was often based on a legally defined road map of proof texts that moved them and their followers to establish another legally defined religion. Instead of founding their “movement” on the gospel in order to establish unity among believers, they established a systematic legal theology to which all adherents of the movement must confirm in order to be considered faithful. The restoration, therefore, was established on law, not gospel. Legal restorationists often forget that we “are not under law, but under grace” (Rm 6:14).

In these two millennia since the cross, grace and gospel in religious restoration movements are often minimized in religious debates in order to establish points of doctrine to which adherents can come together to produce some sense of unity within any particular movement. And because of this, the supposed restoration movement to a gospel oriented-church eventually circles around to become just another denominated church that is validated by a legal catechism of doctrine, rather than the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The hermeneutic, or system of Bible study in legal restorations, is often a misguided effort to establish a doctrinal outline by which the adherents of a particular movement can be identified. But in reality, legal hermeneutics are more often an effort to establish some system of theology to produce an “intellectual unity” that is based more on the mental skills of noted interpreters, than the simple gospel. If our faith is established in this manner, then we will end up in a movement that is quite denominational. The hermeneutic is inherently divisive because in the theology of the movement, religious rites, rituals and ceremonies slip into the behavior of the people as law, and thus, divide believers in the gospel from one another. This is what happened among the Christians in Galatia who ended up biting and devouring one another because some were preaching “another gospel” (See Gl 1:6-9).

The preceding happens when the gospel alone is not established as the foundation upon which the church is built and united (See Mt 16:16-18). We must remember that we are one man IN CHRIST, not one man in doctrine (See Gl 3:26-29). We are reconciled in one body by the cross, not by a common belief in a catechism of doctrine (See Ep 2:14-16).

Unfortunately, if there are any gospel-oriented prophets who would rise up to continue a valid restoration among the people, and by doing so, inherently contravene some point of the legal catechism of the heritage of the now denominated religion, these prophets are often nailed to crosses in order to preserve the movement and keep the theology of the movement pure of “false doctrine.”

True leaders must look in their own hands an find a Bible, not a hammer and nails. If our gospel is to defend the heritage of the fathers, then we know that the original fathers of the movement have been betrayed.

In the final years of a restoration movement, the “hammer-and-nail” defenders are actually promoting a heritage that has digressed into just another religion. The failure of a restoration is identified by the efforts of “hammer-and-nail” crusaders who seek to defend a legalized theology, and not the gospel, which gospel foundation has long been forgotten within the movement. As in the final years of Israel’s apostasy, the religious leaders put to death those prophets who spoke out against the established religion of the day (See Hb 11:32-39). They eventually put to death the One who came to reveal the gospel to the world.

People of faith know that they are a part of a failed restoration movement when they no longer subject themselves to the final authority of the word of God in all matters of faith. They know that they have failed when the gospel is not the foundation of their faith.

If we are not motivated primarily by the truth of the gospel of the incarnate, crucified, resurrected and reigning Son of God, then our attempts to restore the body of Christ that is founded on the gospel will fail. We must not forget that it is the gospel that is the power of God in our lives (Rm 1:16). When we search for this gospel in our Bibles, the more we learn about the gospel, the more God’s power is released to continue the restoration of the Son of God in the lives of people.

Crosses are often reserved for those who would question the heritage of any particular religious group. When there are those with hammers and nails among the leaders of any restoration movement, then we know that that “restoration movement” has gone astray. Just ask Jesus about this matter. It is for this reason that we would exhort the reader to read again 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

Download Book 34, A Call For Restoration:

http://www.africainternational.org/files/Book%2034.pdf

Obey Government

SUBMITTING TO GOVERNMENT
We took a picture of a “Covid-19 Occupancy Compliance Certificate” that is posted in one of our restaurants here in South Africa. The local health inspection officer previously visited the restaurant, judged that the seating capacity was 48. In compliance with the laws of the national health department, the local health inspector calculated that the seating capacity of the restaurant was now 24.

In a similar manner, at the beginning of the pandemic, each food store was given a number of people who could be present in each store at any one time while customers shipped for essential food items for the week. Someone was thus standing at the entrance of each food store handing out numbered tags. Once all the numbered tags were distributed, then no other customers were allowed to enter the store until someone left the store, and handed back his or her numbered tag. The population submitted to these temporary government mandates in order that all of us as a society be where we are today. As Christians, we submitted in order to escape the judgment in time of the Covid-19 virus. (The “judgment” of Romans 13:1,2 is not a reference to the end-of-time judgment.)

Because the population of South Africa collectively submitted to the mandates of the government for the survival of the people, the people of South Africa are essentially delivered from the fourth wave of the Covid pandemic, for all the citizens willingly submitted to the advice of the government health department during the pandemic. By the first of February 2022, the populace of South Africa will be well on its way to some normality, and thus free from many of the government restrictions that were followed by the people during the pandemic.

It seems that the whole world is watching South Africa quickly move out of the fourth wave of the pandemic, but they do not understand why. This will take some explanation on the uniqueness of the South African government and culture. While the American and European West obsess over being restricted, and thus supposedly losing their freedoms, the populace of South Africa complied with their government for the sake of the collective, a cultural value that is somewhat void in the West. The populace of South Africa agreed to be restricted in order to regain their freedom after the pandemic.

A movie was once produced many years ago that could be somewhat prophetic of the present worldwide pandemic scenario. The setting of the movie was based on a supposed third world war that had transpired in the world, which war almost wiped out mankind on earth. It was concluded, by the survivors that human emotions had driven the people of the world to go to war with one another in order to settle a dispute.

Therefore, in order not to go to war again, a powerful psychological drug was developed to suppress all human emotions. The state mandated that the drug had to be taken every day by every citizen. If one missed a day in taking his medication, the emotional part of the brain would start to arise again within the human mind. According to the autocratic leaders of the surviving city-state, that would not be good. Therefore, they supposed that human emotions would lead to another world war where the existence of all humanity would again be endangered. But in actuality, the leaders had gained power during the war, and subsequently, they did not want to relinquish that power after the war.

In order to prevent another world war, the autocratic leaders of the now totalitarian city-state, convinced the people to take their daily emotion-suppression medication. As a result, there was an “equilibrium” of emotionality among the people. The movie was subsequently entitled, Equilibrium.

The problem was that one day one of the law-enforcement officers of the state forgot to take his daily medication, and subsequently, he started to experience some emotions. And then he missed another day. To him, and all those who had refused the medication–and were now living underground–it was a decision between making a choice and enjoying freedom, or submitting to a totalitarian state whose citizens walked around like emotionless zombies doing their commanded duties.

The movie Equilibrium was first released in 2002. That was twenty years ago! In many ways, the movie may have been prophetic of our times. Therefore, when vaccinations are available for a population to escape a pandemic war, the vaccination must still remain in the freedom of individual choice. Governments may mandate vaccination standards, but this is not within the realm of Divine authority, lest we create the “vaccinated church” and the “unvaccinated church.”

However, in reference to the authority of the state to mandate that which is good for the whole of society, in a democracy we the people often relinquish into the hands of our government the power to determine that which is good for the whole. If we do not do this, then we have no democracy. We will loose our freedom of choice in a society of totalitarian rule. Nevertheless, if we would be citizens of a healthy society in a democracy, we as a collective of society must relinquish some of our personal freedoms for the sake of the survival of society as a whole.

When our freedoms are slowly eroded away by state coercion, the story never ends well. In a democracy, the state is composed of politicians, and with politicians, remaining in power is often more important than the individual freedoms of the individual citizens. In fact, this thirst for power corrupts the morals of the politicians. It is for this reason that politicians in a democratic state are often known for being liars. They are such people in order to stay in power. It is just an inherent flaw of democracy. On the other hand, autocratic dictators in a totalitarian state will often say the truth more often than a power-hungry elected politician in a democratic state.

Moral decisions are the responsibility of Bible-obedient children of God. Unfortunately, we have too many autocratic politicians in the state who thirst only for power, regardless of the freedoms of the individual citizens of the state. Sir William Wallace (portrayed by Mel Gibson) in the 1995 released movie, Braveheart, is still right when he cried out at the end of the movie before his execution, “FREEDOM!”

OK, so you would like an example of the leadership of South Africa as to why the fourth wave of the present pandemic is closing, and at the same time, the rest of the world is still struggling in the midst of this wave. Here is one reason why: A great political meeting of people was recently scheduled for a visit of the President of South Africa. The mass gathering was composed of those of the President’s constituency who had voted him into office.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa subsequently arrived at the place of assembly. Before he was allowed out of vehicle, his security personnel, as usual, first entered into the assembly hall where all the people had gathered. However, the security personnel returned to the vehicle in which the President was seated, and informed him, “This is not a legal assembly. There are too many people who have gathered. There is no social distancing because of the mass number of people, and many are not wearing face masks.”

President Ramaphosa replied, “We cannot attend this illegal assembly,” and thus his motorcade moved on. This is leadership, not a thirst for power that would violate the very mandate of the South African Health Department that put restrictions on the number of people who could gather in assembly halls of various sizes. This example is one of those reasons why South Africa is rapidly moving out of the fourth wave and on to some normality. It is a matter of leadership, not playing politics by narcissistic political figures who are looking for opportunities to exert power. It is leadership of a population of people who are willing to forego some of their freedoms in order to eventually be set free from an unseen enemy.

(Boris Johnson should have called up Cyril Ramaphosa before he accepted invitations to all those parties.)

Reassurance

REASSURANCE IN TIMES OF TURMOIL
If we view the present pandemic from a biblical point of view, we should find some encouragement. However, the pandemic should not be an occasion for Bible believers to take out of historical context specific statements of hope in the Bible that were directed to initial individuals and audiences who needed encouragement in times of local tragedies. Specifically, we must not be prophetic thieves to steal away from local first century Christians those prophecies that were originally spoken to encourage local believers directly, but only us indirectly.

It is for this reason that Christians must be cautioned about what they encounter on the worldwide social media today, the messaging of which can reach even to the young village dweller in the bush of Africa. Some innocent minds are often in cellphone contact with an encyclopedia of theological nonsense that is spewed around the world by those who would seek to arouse hysteria during a worldwide pandemic.

For example, the prophecy of Jesus in Luke 21:23-25 is a commonly misunderstood prophetic statement that Jesus made specifically to first century Jewish Christians. He made the prophecy in order to explain to His immediate audience that in the lives of their children and grandchildren in the years to come, God would be working in a local tragedy that they would personally experience.

With this understanding in mind, Luke 21 was originally a message of reassurance to those believers in His audience to whom He initially delivered a prophecy concerning the termination of their Jewish persecutors. Jesus’ message was that in the midst of any tragedy, the believing Jesus must not forget that God is always in control. In their case, He would bring judgment upon national Israel because of the unbelieving Jews’ rejection of the Son of Man (See also Mt 24; Mk 13:14-20).

A few extracts from the prophecy of Jesus’ message to Jewish Christians at that time is central to our discussion in the context of modern-day prognosticators who misapply the Luke 21 prophecy. Around A.D. 61/62, Luke, the scribe, eventually recorded in writing Jesus’ spoken prophecy. This was about a decade before the time of the fulfillment of the prophecy in A.D. 70, that was about thirty years after Jesus originally made the prophecy.

In A.D. 70, the Jewish world was about to come to an end within the Roman Empire. For unbelieving Jews, this end seemed to be the end of the world. Therefore, because the events of A.D. 70 would affect the Jews throughout the world of the Roman Empire, Jesus prophesied during His earthly ministry years before a message of reassurance for believing Jews. His message was in view of the fact that the immediate unbelieving Jews to whom He first prophesied the end of national Israel, who subsequently rejected Him as the Son of Man (the Messiah), would themselves in about four decades meet their judgment. So in order to prepare the Jewish Christians of Palestine for a social trauma that was going to take place in about forty years after the ascension, Jesus embedded a message of hope in His prophecy of the termination of the Jewish State, and specifically, Jerusalem and the temple.

So with the liberty of our following parenthetical interpretive inclusions, notice what Jesus prophesied concerning the children and grandchildren of those Jews who personally rejected Him as the Messiah. Their children and grandchildren would experience the following:

“But woe to those [unbelieving Jewish women in Jerusalem in A.D. 70] who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days [of Roman’s besieging of Jerusalem]. For there will be great distress in the land [of Judea] and wrath upon this [Jewish] people. And they [the future children and grandchildren of Jesus’ generation of unbelieving Jews] will fall by the edge of the sword [of the Romans]. And they [the survivors of the destruction of Jerusalem] will be led away captive into all nations [over which the Romans rule]. And Jerusalem will be trodden down [with every stone overturned] by the Gentiles [Romans] until the times of the Gentiles [the Roman Empire] are fulfilled.”

We must keep in mind that by the time the preceding events occurred in Judea, Christian Jews had already left Judea and Jerusalem (Compare At 8:4). The letters of Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, and Jude were all letters that were written in the middle 60s to warn Christian Jews to stay away from Jerusalem when they began to witness the “signs of the times” surrounding the end of national Israel in A.D. 70.

The preceding calamity that eventually came upon national Israel in A.D. 70, was the end of the Jews’ social and political influence within the Roman Empire, though the Jews’ religious beliefs carried on, even to this day. However, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70 seemed that their world had fallen apart because God allowed such to happen to His supposed chosen people after they rejected and killed His Son (See Mk 12:1-12). They had not accepted the incarnate appearing of the Son of Man. National Israel rejected the Son of Man by not accepting the new nation of Israel, the body of Christ, that was established on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30.

In the context of the Luke 21 narrative, Luke turned to common metaphors that were used in Old Testament prophecies in reference to kings and kingdoms. His Jewish audience would understand the meaning of these metaphors. The “sun” was commonly used in prophecy to represent the king of a particular kingdom. The minor heavenly lights of the “moon” and “stars” represented tributaries of a kingdom, or the satellite nations that were under the control of the king of the empire. We must keep in mind, therefore, that when such metaphors were used in prophecy, focus was not on the literal sun, moon and stars, but on their dominance of light in the darkness of space.

The metaphorical meaning of the sun, moon and stars of the Luke 21 context were used in reference to the vast network of satellite nations that functioned under the control of the Roman Empire.

At the time of the conclusion of the first century, Rome was continuing to expand throughout the Middle East and into Persia. Regional kingdoms in Europe, the East, and North Africa were likewise succumbing to its military dominance. Therefore, at the time of the fall of national Israel in A.D. 70, the Jewish nation was only one of many social population groups that needed to be subjugated to the control of Rome. So Jesus continued, and Luke thirty years after Jesus in A.D. 61,62, recorded, the following:

“And there will be signs in the sun [regional kings of the Roman Empire], and in the moon [the regents of nations], and in the stars [the generals and governors of Roman dominated nations within the reach of the Roman army]. And on the [inhabited] earth [world] of Rome, there will be distress among nations [that Rome will militarily dominate] and perplexity at the roaring of the sea [populations] and the waves [turmoil among the populations].

John’s metaphorical use of the word “sea” in the visions of Revelation defines that the populations (citizenries) of the nations is intended. There is always sociological movement in the populations of every nation, just as waves and currents of the sea constantly shift and move the waters of the sea. Therefore, when an invading force, as Rome, moved in to conquer, the raging waves of the people reach their climax. It is during these times that “men’s hearts will be failing them for fear” (Lk 21:26). In A.D. 70, there was great fear among the Jewish people when Rome launched her war against national Israel. It was the same fear that permeated the hearts of every citizen of every nation at the time Rome launched her military attacks against the Jews.

Of course, the heaven in which God dwells is unshakable. Therefore, Jesus referred in the Luke 21 context to the “heavenly” rule of nations on earth that would be shaken by the invading forces of Rome. It would be at this time that the presence of the Son of Man (Jesus) would be confirmed to every Christian, for believers would conclude that King Jesus was in control of all these things, just like He said during His earthly ministry (Mt 28:18; see Hb 1:3 that was written just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem). In the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the believing Jew would subsequently conclude that King Jesus had come in judgment of Israel for rejecting Him as the Son of Man, the Messiah and Savior. It was exactly as He prophesied.

Old Testament judgment language is found in Luke 21:27 when the word “coming” was used by Luke in reference to “the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” In Matthew 24:27, and in the same prophecy, Matthew used the Greek word parousia. This word means “presence.” Therefore, the “coming” of the Lord in time in judgment was a sign of the presence of the Lord.

The “coming of the Lord” in Old Testament prophecies was a sign of judgment upon the nations. In the judgment, the presence of the Lord was revealed. The Lord came in judgment upon nations, and in the context of prophecy, the nation upon which the Son of Man would come in the prophetic judgment of the Luke 21 and Matthew 24, was national Israel. This was a coming of the Lord “in time,” whereas there will be another coming of the Lord at “the end of time.” The coming of the Lord in time, therefore, is always prophetic of the coming of the Lord at the end of time. But we must not forget that the coming of the Lord in the context of Luke 21 and Matthew 24 is in reference to judgment in time.

Jesus gave, and Luke, Matthew and Mark recorded, a final and specific note of encouragement for the local Jewish Christians who would suffer at the hands of the unbelieving Jews. Unbelieving Jews would persecute Jewish Christians from the time of the cross to the conclusion of national Israel in A.D. 70. However, when the immediate believing Jews’ children and grandchildren, forty years after the initial spoken prophecy of Jesus, saw all these events (“signs”) transpiring in their world, it would be a time to look up and realize that all things were still under the control of the resurrected and ascended King. Great comfort went out to the Jewish Christians of Palestine at the time of fulfillment because Jesus prophesied that the persecuting Jews would in the event eventually be silenced. The Christian Jews at the time of fulfillment in A.D. 70 were thus “redeemed” from their persecutors.

Unfortunately, during the “time of the Gentiles,” Rome would by the end of the first century, and into the second through the fourth centuries, launch an onslaught of persecution against all Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles. This would lead us to the encouraging prophecy of Revelation in order to find hope in the eventual Divine judgment of the Roman Empire. John would prophesy that even Rome’s persecution of Christians throughout the second to the fourth centuries would also come to an end (Rv 17:14). Therefore, in fulfillment of John’s visions, the coming of the Lord as King of kings would again be perceived.

As during the time of all wars and pandemics, it is always time to find hope in the fact that King Jesus still reigns in heaven with all authority. He is still King of kings and Lord of Lords. This was true throughout the great influenza pandemic of 1917/1918 when millions died around the world. It was true in the 1300s during the Black Plague pandemic when millions died. Great human tragedies have thus occurred before our present pandemic. However, God does not, and will not, use a pandemic as a sign of the end of the world. He used pandemics in Israel in order to drive people to repentance. He so used such to punish and to turn Israel to repentance (Study Nm 21:4-9; Dt 32:23-27. In the context of these passages, throughout the history of Israel God would and did use suffering and national tragedy to return His people to Him and His word.).

Nevertheless, our hope is in the fact that throughout all human tragedies, some of which were recorded in the Bible, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit remain true to believers. After “experiencing” the visions of Revelation, John responded, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rv 22:20). In view of the present worldwide pandemic, we too, as always, include that request in our prayers.

It is not that any one pandemic is a sign of the end of the world. Bible students have proclaimed hysteria in the midst of all pandemics of the past. Unfortunately, the only people to become frightened are those who believe in the Bible. But most people today do not believe in the Bible. It is only that during a pandemic the thinking of Bible-believing people is driven beyond this disease-cursed world in hope of being in the presence of the Lord where never again a tear will flow from a sorrowful eye (Rv 21:4). But in reference to unbelievers, everything just carries on as though there will be no finality to the things that presently exist. “But as the days of Noah were, so also will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Mt 24:36).

In this way, we, as Bible believers, interpret the present pandemic. It would be a judgment of God in time in order to encourage repentance. But only those who believe in God will repent. The rest of the unbelieving world is oblivious to the judgments of God in time. So as God dealt with Israel, so also He would deal with us in an effort to keep us focused on King Jesus. We must connect the dots on this matter. If we understand that the present pandemic is an in time judgment, then it may be that we need a restoration to the word of God among ourselves (Hs 4:6).

God certainly brought a worldwide judgment on the civilization of Noah’s generation. But since every imagination of humanity then was continually evil, God was justified in the flood to wipe that generation of unrepentant unbelievers from the face of the earth (Gn 6:5). We pray that God will not have to bring the civilization of today to such a climatic conclusion. In pandemics we see God purging religion out of us in order to restore us to the word of God.

Be A BRother Keeper

So God interrogated Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” (Gn 4:9). Why would God ask such a question if we are all free from one another and independent? Can we not be free from one another in order to do our own thing, regardless of the interests OF our fellow citizens? Would we have any social freedoms if we were continually looking out for the interests of our neighbors? The fact that God asked this question of the murderous Cain infers that we are responsible for the well-being of fellow citizens, and thus we are our brothers’ keeper. So Cain responded to the inquisition, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gn 4:9). Yes you are, Cain!

In the context of the church, the Holy Spirit mandated, “Let each one not look out merely for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Ph 2:4). In fact, the Spirit had introduced this mandate with the statement, “In humility of mind let each esteem others better than themselves” (Ph 2:3). Yes, we are our brother’s keeper as citizens of civilization.

It is today as it was a few decades ago when the American government finally came to the conclusion that it would mandate the law that people wear their seat belts when riding in a moving vehicle. Most countries of the world today have followed after the same mandate. When the law was first established, however, some people grumbled. They complained, “I have the right to make a choice as to whether I will or will not wear a seat belt in my own vehicle.” But they were wrong. Sometimes, dead wrong. Such people were thinking selfishly.

The reason for the law was a matter of protecting and benefitting society as a whole. If one did not wear a seat belt, and was subsequently involved in a moving vehicle accident on the road, then he or she could be thrown from the vehicle and seriously injured. He or she would thus be rushed to a hospital, and nursed back to health, that is, if he or she was not initially killed in the accident.

Now the question is, Who pays the hospital bill? Or, who initially paid for the ambulance, the doctors and nurses, or even the hospital in which the anti-seat belt person was nursed back to life? The answer is that society as a whole paid the bill for all the medical services. Society even paid most of the bill for the anti-seat belt victim because he or she could not in a lifetime pay the high cost of insurance premiums for his own medical expenses. All of us as a society, therefore, had to subsidize the hospital bill of the anti-seat belt wearer. And for this reason, society as a whole, through the government of society, said that everyone, when in a moving vehicle, must wear a seat belt.

In order to be a member of society as a whole, citizens must be willing to give up some of their rights . . . freedoms . . . in order to be a keeper of society as a whole. And when speaking specifically of Christians, it is incumbent upon every member of the body of Christ to “not look out merely for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Ph 4:4). As members of the body of Christ, we are our brother’s keeper. If we are not looking out for the interests of our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we are behaving selfishly. We are considering our “rights” above the interests of the whole body of Christ.

Smokers have always been very selfish people. They are more concerned about their right to freely smoke cigarettes over the rights of the people who must breathe in their smoke after they have exhaled. As a smoking father puffs away on a cigarette in his own home, the lungs of his young children are being damaged for life. He is a selfish father.

We have thus been vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus for the benefit of the brothers and sisters into whose presence we come in any formal or non-formal setting. We wear a face mask in one another’s presence in order to guard our brother or sister against asystematic Covid carriers among us. We socially distance ourselves from one another for the interest of one another. And if lockdown is necessary to detour the pandemic, then in our own homes we confine ourselves We are thus not selfish, trying to exercise some rights or freedoms we think we have that encourage us to ignore the interests of the body of members, and society, as a whole.

On the contrary, we are trying to be our brother’s keeper during a pandemic that is ravaging the world. It is thus not a sacrifice of our individual rights or freedoms to be vaccinated, but a manifestation of our love for one another. We vaccinate ourselves for the sake for the community in which we live, but also for the safety of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our vaccination is not a total guarantee from being attacked by the Covid virus, but at least it reveals to you that we are doing the best we can to protect you if we are tested positive.

Death

Through the apostle Paul the Holy Spirit thus admonished, “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, so that you DO NOT GRIEVE AS OTHERS WHO HAVE NO HOPE” (1 Th 4:13). There . . . the Holy Spirit said it. The grave site scene of a dearly beloved Christian must be far different than the same scene at the burial of an unbeliever. Living Christians “do not grieve as unbelievers” in the death of their loved ones.

Consoling Christians must not be accused of being hard-hearted when they exhort the grieving with these words from the Holy Spirit. If our grief at the death of a Christian brother or sister is no different than that of the unbelievers, then we have a problem with our faith in the fact that the one who went down into the grave will come out again dressed in a glorious body. Our challenge at the death of a disciple, therefore, is how to salt our grief with hope. And in so doing, there is a sense of victory as we lay our loved ones in a tomb that will eventually be broken open.

There will be grief for the moment. The admonition of the Spirit allows for this. A simile is used with a negative concerning the occasion. The phrase reads, “not grieve as.” There is grief, but it is not as those unbelievers who have no hope beyond the grave.

The burial of a saint is only a temporary transition of the body. The body must transition through the dissipation of the body into dust in expectation of the heavenly body that will eventually dress our souls with a body from God. Therefore, in our hope “we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our house that is from heaven, if indeed clothed, we [in the state of our disembodied souls] will not be found naked” (2 Co 5:2,3).

When Jesus comes in the clouds, He will bring with Him all those souls of departed saints who have had the privilege of escaping this world that is infested and infected with sin and sickness (1 Th 4:14).  So the Holy Spirit concluded the matter, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Th 4:18).

BLACK CAT THEOLOGY

So it seems that Zeus, the chief god of the Greeks, was guilty of a little hanky panky (“infidelity”). Among the many servants of the heavenly palace, his eye had been lured to one particular young damsel named, Galinthias. All was fine until Hera, the wife of Zeus, discovered the hidden unfaithfulness. Since Hera could not take her anger out on the chief god of Greek mythology, she turned her attention to the compliant Galinthias and cursed her in order to impede the birth of her illegitimate child. Hera turned the servant girl into a black cat. This may have been the beginning of all “black cat theology.”

Nevertheless, the child was born, and thus came into existence in the minds of the Greeks, the god Hercules. But don’t fret concerning the fate of Galinthias. The Greek goddess of witchcraft took in the adulterous servant girl, now a black cat, and employed her as her own servant. Unfortunately, black cats thereafter have had to live with the curse of this superstitious mischief among the gods. “Black cat theology” is still with us today.

In some cultures today, the unfortunate black cat is often considered an omen of evil that is associated with witchcraft. Some have believed that black cats were the very embodiment of witches themselves. And so you might think that you are innocent of all this babble about black cats. If so, then we will pay close attention to your walk along a pathway or sidewalk when a black cat crosses your path. If you waver in your stride, or even have the slightest disturbance in your thoughts, then we will know that you too are still a victim of “black cat theology.”

Superstition is belief that has no evidence. Greek mythology is based on all sorts of superstitions. In fact, mythology itself is founded on vivid imaginations that have run wild in the absence of a knowledge of the one true and living God. It is for this reason that mythology affected the behavior of the Greeks because they had little or no knowledge of the one true and living God. Greek lives were controlled by the gods they had created after their own imagination. They did this or that in view of pleasing the gods, or escaping some punishment of a mischievous god. It was a society that was ruled by “black cat theology.”

A little over two thousand years ago a representative of the true and living God stepped into the capital where “black cat theologians” were gathered to babble about their beliefs and behavior in reference to imaginations. The common subject of debates among these “preachers” from throughout the ancient world was to babble about their “black cat theologies” or some new thing (See At 17:18-21).

Nevertheless, this particular day, the traveling preacher stood up in the lecture hall of Mars Hill and shouted out with a strong voice, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious [superstitious]. For as I passed by and observed your objects of worship, I found an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown God’ (At 17:22,23).

For the first time in the history of the Greeks this messenger from the true God established a contrast between the beliefs of the “black cat theologians” and the truth of a God whose gospel to mankind was based on the resurrection of His Son from the dead (See Hb 11:1). It was now time for all “black cat theologians” to step aside and hear a message about a living God who was not the product of vivid imaginations.

You might claim that you are unmoved by some relics of your own beliefs in “black cat theology.” This may be your personal conclusion, but the recent pandemic has rattle the faith of millions of people around the world. It seems that many folks have dipped into their former superstitions in order to blame some “demon” who supposedly causes this or that as people struggle for their last breath in emergency rooms around the world. In fact, in a recent conversation with an elder of the church on the other side of our country, he remarked, “It seems that religious leaders across the country have ascended to their pulpits in order to proclaim some superstitious reason for all this social turmoil.” “Black cat theology.”

In one case it was assumed that if one was injected with the vaccine against Covid, he or she would turn into a horse. In another case, someone contacted me from the other side of the world and ask, “What is the mark of the beast? My friends are telling me that if I am vaccinated against Covid, I will be receiving the mark of the beast.” “And thus,” she continued, “they said that they could not associate with me.” “Black cat theology.”

Taking medication, receiving vaccinations against diseases as polio, or just eating certain foods is the personal choice of the individual. But when such is either done or shunned for religious reasons, then it becomes “black cat theology.” Nevertheless, until that time when a new convert puts away his “black cat theology” in reference to eating meat, for example, those who are strong in the faith should exercise love and patience (See 1 Co 8). But at the same time, it is assumed in the Holy Spirit’s exhortations on this matter that the “weak brother,” who eats meat in respect to some religious superstition, as he previously did in respect to some foods in his former life of superstitious behavior, he must grow out of his “black cat theology.” In fact, the Holy Spirit said on such matters as food, “For it is a good thing that the heart be established by grace, not with foods” Hb 13:9). “Therefore,” continued the Spirit in another context, “let no one judge you in food or in drink” (Cl 2:16). Attaching spiritual or religious significance to foods, to idols, or even to vaccines that might prevent us from certain diseases, is “black cat theology.”

An even more subtle belief of “black cat theology” is the tempting of God with a faith that is contrary to science. So against the science of gravity, a foolish man of “faith” preaches from his pulpit to his friends on the top of a one hundred story building, “You must have faith. God will protect you.” So against the science of gravity, he leaps off the building in order to reveal his faith in God to protect him. As he passed floor fifty, it was heard that he yelled out, “So far so good.”

Assuming that God will protect us when we walk in violation of the laws of nature is tempting God to do evil by catching us on the final floor (See Js 1:13). If we willingly walk contrary to that which science provides to protect us, assuming that God will not allow us to fall victim our own neglect, then we are participating in “black cat theology” in reference to faith. If we knowingly place ourselves and our family in a situation of danger, while knowing that there is an opportunity to avoid that danger, then we are tempting God to do for us that which we should be doing for ourselves. This is the faith of “black cat theology.”

If we do this or that in our lives on the basis of superstitious beliefs, then we have allowed ourselves to promote “black cat theology.” It is for this reason that Christians grow in their knowledge of the word of God (2 Pt 3:18). They study zealously in order to sift out of their minds those former superstitious beliefs that are associated with “black cat theology.”

So you can judge for yourself on this matter. The next time a black cat crosses your path, take a moment to consider the fact that you may still be subservient to some beliefs of “black cat theology.”

Navigating Through Life

FROM THE PREFACE

The advantage of a Bible-based world view is that one’s responses to current events can always be sifted through eternal principles that do not change. People today respond to the word of God as they did four thousand or more years ago. God-fearing people from the beginning of time have responded to any revelation from their Creator in reference to the times in which they lived. I reserve the right to do the same. My understanding of matters that must be understood through deductive interpretation may differ from yours. However, those fundamental principles that permeate time need no interpretation, and thus, with these fundamental principles of the Bible in view, I have laid the foundation upon which I seek to respond to current events and religious discussions.

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Singing & Worship

SINGING DEFINES THE DEMEANOR OF GOSPEL LIVING
Some Bible students often read the behavior of their modern assemblies into the “one another” relationship passages of the New Testament. This practice could be defined by the Greek word, eisegesis, that is, reading our modern-day definition of works and words into the works and words of the Bible. This is probably one of the most violated principles of Bible study that we encounter today, particularly in reference to the subject under discussion.

Two passages that are often misunderstood in the preceding manner are Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16:

“… speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ep 5:19).

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Cl 3:16).

It is often assumed that these two passages refer exclusively to an assembly context of the church. Subsequently, it is then assumed that singing is an “act of worship” that validates an assembly as true worship. The result of this unfortunate hermeneutic is to use these two passages a mandate to add another “act” to a codified ritual that must be performed during the Sunday morning assembly in order to determine if a church exists at a particular location. There are three reasons why neither passage is teaching this assumption in their original context.

  1. No assembly context: Nowhere in the context of either passage is the Sunday assembly mentioned. It is just not there. Such a time for singing is only assumed by those who read their present religious assembly pattern into the biblical context of each passage. Such is done in order to use the exhortation to sing in these passages to validate the assumption that singing in an assembly of the saints during the “worship hour” on Sunday morning is an “act of worship.”

But when we consider the preceding assumption in the context of both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, we must conclude that Paul was discussing the life-style relationship that must be characteristic of every Christian anytime and anywhere. In the context, exhorting one another through song was one of the manifestations of our relationship with one another.

True, singing can take place during the general assembly of the saints on any occasion, but not exclusively during an assembly. Anytime and anywhere Christians are together with one another they can break out in song in order to exhort and teach one another. If there were only two Christians who have come together, then they can still fulfill the mandates that Paul wrote to the Ephesians and Colossians.

  1. Singing everywhere and anytime: The singing that is mentioned in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 does not demand that singing take place during every encounter that Christians have with one another. Assembly does not mandate singing. This would include the general assembly of Christians on the first day of the week, as well as times when two or three Christians might encounter one another anytime and anywhere. All that is said in the passages is that Christians exhort and teach one another through the medium of vocal singing. Neither the occasion nor the context of the singing are mentioned in reference to when the saints might carry out the exhortations to encourage one another through song.

Now this brings up a very interesting point in reference to assemblies and singing. Is the mandate of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 to be carried out on every occasion when Christians come together? And if an assembly does not include singing, is such a valid assembly?

We would have to conclude that Paul did not mean that Christians must sing to one another every time they encounter one another. If they encountered one another on the street or in the field, they would not have to break out in song in order to relate with one another. If they encountered one another in a corporate business meeting, they would not have to start singing in the presence of the unbelievers who were present.

So what if Christians encountered one another at 10:00am on a Sunday morning? Would they be under a mandate to sing to one another in order to validate their encounter as an “official assembly”? If Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 refer to the daily living of the Christian—and they do—then we must assume that two or three Christians do not have to break out in song when they meet one another on Monday morning at 10:00am, or while working on the job throughout the week.

Now if Christians encounter one another on Sunday morning, the exhortation of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 does not change in meaning or application. The point is that Christians can meet together and not sing, as they can meet together and not study the Bible or pray or take up a contribution. There is thus no mandate in the Scriptures that assumes that worship takes place when certain performances, including singing, are acted out. An assembly of the disciples is thus not validated as such when a particular system of rituals is performed. Singing, therefore, is generic in the gospel life of the Christian, not specific in reference to being legally performed in order to validate a Sunday assembly.

It is natural for Christians to sing when they are together. When they come together on any occasion, it is only natural for them to speak to one another in song as they sing praises to God. While in prison, Paul and Silas behaved in this manner in a Philippian jail (At 16:25). There was no “official assembly” application to their singing in that jail house, neither did their singing validate an “official” assembly because they sang. They were simply praising God while in chains in the darkness of a prison. After the singing, there was no “closing prayer.”

What Paul was discussing in the context of Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 was the nature of the behavior of Christians in their relationship with one another and God at all times. Paul was not giving a mandate that would become a legal code of identity to determine an “official assembly” of the saints. Christians must exhort one another through song, but they do not have to do so every time they come together.

Is it natural in their behavior to sing when Christians come together? Absolutely! But mutual exhortation through song was never given in the New Testament as an act by which some concept of an “official assembly” of the saints was to be identified or validated. Neither was singing given as a validation that worship takes place. Singing spiritual songs to one another is the result of a gospel-obedient heart, not a manifestation that an assembly must validated as true because an act of singing has been legally performed.

  1. Mediums of teaching: Both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 explain that singing is a method of communication by which the saints can edify and teach one another. When we teach and admonish one another through song, we are not worshiping one another. Worship, therefore, is not inherent in spiritual songs. Spiritual songs can be used to teach spiritual truths, which they should. But when one is teaching others a spiritual truth through song, he or she is simply doing as the preacher who teaches spiritual truth by communicating truth in the words he speaks from a podium. Therefore, singing is not a signal to proclaim that an “official assembly” of worship is being conducted. Singing is simply a signal of the Christian demeanor of life seven days a week by which truth is proclaimed. Christians can, and should, bring their spirit of singing together in an assembly by which every attendee gathers together to sing praises to God in worship.

Be Not Deceived

In view of the calamity that was coming upon national Israel, Jesus knew that in the decade before the final event in A.D. 70, the news media, especially the Jewish news media, would be reporting all sorts of nonsense in reference to the affairs of the times. Knowing that the calamity was coming, accompanied with all the sensationalism of the news media, thirty years before, Jesus warned His disciples, “Take heed that you not be deceived” (Lk 21:8). We would add, “Take heed that you not be deceived by the local and international news media concerning the events of the times.”

So one morning in our own home we sat there for a moment, stunned in our chairs! We just could not believe what came out of the mouth of an international news correspondent on our television news of April 2021. This was one of those moments when one simply falls back in his chair, pleasantly surprised by the use of one simple word, realizing that not all news reporters have lost their way by reporting either twisted or fake news.

The reporter’s frank use of a biblical word to cast judgment on another news media organization was reassuring. In the surreal experience of the moment, the word that was used by this “secular” reporter floated around in our living room, trying to unravel all our prejudices that had been implanted by the liberal news media of day. In some things, we too had allowed ourselves to be deceived. Nevertheless, we thought we would never hear such things coming forth from the secular news media, especially in these times when much of the news media have long forgotten their moral bearings.

My father grew up in the wake of the William Randolph Hearst (1863 – 1951) news media corporation of the first of the last century. I can still see my dad sitting in the living room of the old farm house after a long day in the field choking on either dust or grain chaff. But in the evening he would just sit there in that old hole-ridden armchair with the weekly newspaper held up and spread across the entire width of the chair. We could only identify him to be there by two legs that protruded from under the newspaper and the Prince Albert smoke from his pipe that bellowed up over the top of the newspaper.

One time after reading a provocative article, he slowly lowered the now worn newspaper, took that charred pipe out of his mouth, and said to all of us, “Boys . . . you can’t trust half of what you read in these newspapers. And the other half . . . well . . . you must always question its truth.”

I have never forgotten those wise words. Our father was living in an era after William Randolph Hearst had bought up newspapers across early twentieth century America, and by doing so, built the largest network of newspapers in the world. By controlling the editorials and news reports of local newspapers, Hearst figured out that he could have voted into or out of political offices those candidates he either favored or disliked. He would do his political deed by running stories, or propaganda—whichever you like–that favored one candidate and slandered the opponent. Hearst had no moral values in reference to honest news reporting in a democratic society. He was morally bankrupt. He was, as most corporate news media, into the news media for the money.

So on that April morning in our living room, when we heard the use of a three-letter word by an international news reporter, the judgment of God was enacted on most of the liberal Western news media of today. And would you believe it, that reporter who made the moral pronouncement was a Russian. Yes, a Russian news reporter.

The particular story upon which the Russian called down higher powers of judgment was a story that had been leaked from an employee of a well-known cable news network in America. The “whistle blower” revealed that it was the determined purpose of the cable news network to distort all their reporting during the last four years in a manner that would bring down the sitting President of the United States. As the story unfolded, it was explained that from the very top of the news organization, to the those who gave live panel reviews and reports throughout the election cycle, the determined purpose was to slant all stories in order to make the former President look bad, and thus, unelectable.

It was as if William Randolph Hearst had been resurrected from the dead and was now running this particular media organization. As Hearst, the news organization determined that they did not like the President of the time, so they would use all their influence through their “news” organization to bring him down.

In order to accomplish their deed, specialists in politics and doctors of medicine were scheduled for interviews who would assume that the administration was making all the wrong decisions concerning the pandemic. Reporters became political agents by presenting only one side of the story. The President was presumed to be in some alliance with foreign demons. The media organization, as the Hearst organization, had no moral value system by which to conduct honest reporting and interviews, and thus most of the personalities of the media network focused on a twisted understanding of the sitting President. Lies were pronounced to be truth. Good was called evil, and evil good.

This particular news corporation under consideration simply became a political arm of the opposition party. Objectivity in news reporting was sacrificed for hidden political agendas.

We then remembered the words of our father. Therefore, this was not news to us, only the old Hearst behavior that surfaced from within those who are in the business of selling twisted sensationalism. (It is particularly interesting to note that after all the sensationalism of the past four years in America, the number of viewers of the news corporation under consideration fell by 47% after the November 2020 election.)

The particular news media organization against which our Russian reporter made the striking condemnation had lost its moral compass. This was brought out in the leaked testimony of one of the employees of the offending corporate news organization. What was revealed was that the particular news organization under consideration persisted with the claim that they were an objective “news” media network. However, we must not forget that when either politicians or religionists lose their moral compass, they will always establish a corrupted behavioral pattern of leadership that will seek to win over and maintain the votes of the populace.

When the religionists of a society forsake the authority of the Scriptures in matters of faith (see Hs 4:6), they will invent their own authority, and thus use their religious inventions as the standard by which to make judgments in reference to the behavior of others (See Mk 7:1-9). In the same manner, when political leaders and news media lose their moral integrity, they too will go in search of demons to shoot and crucify. If they find none, then they will manufacture some. And sometimes, and if possible, police states will assume that all protestors in the streets are demons, and thus must be shot. Their leaders must be nailed on crosses.

Since liberal religionists have given up the authority of the word of God, they must have some standard by which to make judgments against their opposition. Someone or something must be demonized. Through propaganda (“lies”), they will convince the multitudes to crucify any opposition candidates. The Pharisees, scribes (lawyers) and Sadducees knew well this tactic.

It is no different with the liberal left in politics. Since the liberal left has forsaken any conservative principles by which to determine judgments, and thus, recruit the voters through principles and policies, they must demonize something or someone in order to persuade the people to vote for their party. The voter, without considering principles or policies for which to vote, thus becomes a puppet to vote against the manufactured demon.

In order to demonize an opposing candidate, in today’s world, much of the news media operates as the arm of the liberal left. Sometimes, the liberal left must extend its tentacles throughout the world in order that demons be found in the leadership of other countries. International leaders are thus judged either “tyrants,” being without souls, or dishonest merchants who seek to steal away our riches.

Liberals cannot win elections in a democratic state without demons, both locally and internationally. Collective opposition to demons is the only foundation upon which liberals have to stand. They win elections, therefore, by opposing their manufactured demons. They do not win by taking a stand on a foundation of moral principles and policies. If they established a moral standard upon which to stand in an election, then they would be considered conservatives. If you have forgotten this, then you are a prime candidate for the persuasion of the liberal news media that circles as vultures for those like themselves who have also lost their moral values, and especially their integrity. They circle because they have no moral compass to direct them to a specific location.

All of us who live outside America can see the vultures circling over America. It is as one respected reporter outside America recently stated, “It is now time that we start talking about end-of-empire issues in reference to America because that society is losing, if not already lost, its moral compass.” These are things that transition over a century or two, and thus are largely not realized by the citizens who live at any particular time within a society during its decline. Bible scholars who are deep into the history of the Old Testament realize these trends.

Moral decay is slow and always without social pain. Those who notice the decline are simply shouted, if not intimidated, into silence. In fact, the silence of the old guard of a declining empire is evidence that an empire is morally in decline. When the past majority that brought an empire to its zenith eventually becomes the minority, then the new majority threatens the old to the point that the old is intimidated into silence. “Cancel culture” is the order of the day since culture always reflects the past. The culture of “cancel culture” means that all discussion is over, and the new order seeks to suppress alternative ideas. (Any historian will reveal that this is an elementary principle to identify empires in decline.)

So back to our living room when we heard that Russian reporter turn to preaching. The Russian reporter was correct in making an assessment of the last four to five years of political conspiratorial behavior that was broadcast throughout the past election cycle. Though nauseatingly regurgitated from day to day from the American media corporation that had lost its integrity in the business of honest and objective news reporting, Russia, and much of the world, have simply dismissed one particular news network in reference to news reporting. When this story broke on the international Russian news network, Russia Today–the news media that was previously judged a demon by the liberal left–the Russian reporter pronounced his judgment. His judgment was a startling denunciation of the twisted behavior of the American cable news network. He judged, “This is SIN! It is beyond propaganda.” And the Russian was absolutely correct.

When declining democratic empires lose their moral compass, such is reflected in the candidates that the citizens of the empire chose to be their leaders. When the people lose their moral integrity, they will vote into office like-minded people.

Nevertheless, we will keep a cautious eye on the next few years of America. We are waiting to see if the now silenced moral minority will once again rise to save the nation.

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Questions & Crosses

The Greek philosopher Socrates was known during the days of the ancients in the fifth century B.C. to be the wisest man in the world. Unfortunately, he met his fatal end by being condemned to death by a court of five hundred jurors. He was subsequently consigned to a suicidal death by drinking the executioner’s cup of the deadly hemlock poison. Socrates’ only “crime” was that he asked too many questions, and by asking too many questions he forced his intellectual and political peers to question any absolutes that they considered to be concrete truth. So really, why would someone who was considered to be the wisest man in the world end up condemned by a court of contemporary jurors simply because he asked questions concerning the beliefs of those who thought that they knew all the answers?

The Jewish Messiah Jesus was known in His days of the first century as the wisest man who ever walked across the face of the earth. He was the greatest teacher of moral integrity of all history—Christians know this. But He too by those of His time was condemned to death by both the contemporary religious leaders and the occupying Roman government of Palestine. But why did Jesus meet the same end as Socrates, having also forced to “commit suicide” on a cross outside Jerusalem? Unfortunately, He too asked to many questions that forced people to confront the very soul of their religious beliefs and behavior.

The fatal mistake of both Socrates and Jesus was that they asked too many questions, questions that forced individuals, or groups of individuals, to seriously consider the validity of what they considered to be either truth or moral. And worse yet, we wonder why would some people who were supposed to be either intellectual or spiritual leaders of the people, would behave so hypocritically? The questions of both Socrates and Jesus unleased a vile eruption on the part of those who were suffering from the indigestion of their own misguided religiosity, or in the case of Socrates, unprovable philosophical conclusions.

Both Jesus and Socrates directed questions to the hearts of those who already harbored damaged souls, and thus, the two thinkers became the opportunity for corrupted souls to unleash their venom on those who would dare question their thinking, whether philosophical or religious.

Socrates believed that in determining the validity of any truth, the truth itself must be approached with a series of questions, each question being asked to force the one who is interrogated to self-judge for himself what he considered to be the truth or a final moral standard.

By being persistent in asking challenging questions, the individual or group is forced to eliminate all alternatives to that which one considers to be the final truth or moral. In this systematic persistence of asking questions, the Socratic method of inquiry was establish, which method later gave Socrates the honor of being considered “the father of political philosophy.” The Socratic method of questioning is what defines the existing legal system of the American court.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the Socratic method for determining truth or moral standard falls far short of that truth or moral standards that are maintained and revealed by a Higher Authority, which Higher Authority Socrates failed to discover. He simply saw the assortment of inconsistencies in religion through the interactive Greek gods of Athens who seemed to function only on demand of those who believed in them.

Socrates simply concluded that there was no such thing as a final authority in matters of faith. And if there were no God, then he was right. For him and the Greeks, there was only this catalog of gods who had been created after the imagine of desirous men who sought to play with the imagination of men’s minds. All such religious thinking only presented the opportunity for someone as Socrates to drive into hysteria those who believed in the gods.

Therefore, Socrates was accused of asking too many questions about the imagined gods who supposedly had for centuries playfully interacted with mankind. He was thus endangering the youth of his day, for he motivated them to ask questions concerning the traditional beliefs of the fathers, and the moral political system that was prevalent in Athens. His questions undermined any religious heritage that may have been given by the gods. He was thus accused of asking too many questions of religionists and politicians, and especially asking questions to which he himself gave no answers. This system of learning, therefore, set him at odds with the religious, philosophical and political establishment of his day. His questioning thus doomed him to a fateful end.

Socrates wrote nothing throughout his entire life. We think that he did not lest his writings be questioned and he be found in some contradiction of what he previously questioned. But in reference to his quest for truth through systematic questioning, to him, no truth could be considered concrete, and thus written down in the permanency of literature. So Socrates responded to his critics, “I know that I know nothing.” And if one knew nothing, then there was nothing to write. He was on an endless quest for truth through systematic questioning. In the end, he simply concluded, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

It seems that Jesus was not unfamiliar with Socrates, whose method of systematic questioning made its way from Greece to Palestine three hundred years later through the writings of one of Socrates’ most famous students, Plato. At least the apostle John many years after the death of Jesus was familiar with the writings of Plato, for when John searched throughout the Greek dictionary in order to write concerning the incarnation of God, there was only one word in the entire Greek dictionary that he could use in reference to God Himself coming into the world of humanity. John thus wrote, “In the beginning was the Word [Gr. logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1).

The Greek word logos was the best word, if not the only word in the Greek dictionary, that John could use to define how a “god” could incarnate into the affairs of the world. And it was Plato, the student of Socrates, who had three centuries before defined for philosophy the “logos” to be the word that should be used in reference to “the gods” intervening (fellowship) in the affairs of man. If John wanted to use only one word to explain the incarnation, it was the Greek word logos. So that he might not be misunderstood, in the same text of the preceding statement, John explained, “The Word [logos] was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). This is what set the stage for the irreconcilable confrontation between religiously broken souls and Jesus’ call for the broken to look beyond Him as the Word, to the fact that He was indeed God in the flesh.

These were considerations that Socrates forced “believers” in gods to reconsider. Plato simply put the matter into words, or at least, one word. So back to the point of comparison. During his final trial—and see if you do not recognize this today—Socrates accused his five hundred prejudiced jurors, who sought to impeach him, that they were more worried about their careers and political ambitions than they were about damaging their souls with an unjust condemnation of him. As all prejudiced judgments, what they would cast upon him would even further damage their souls. The point being, that through the injustices by which they were about to vote in reference to his fate, their vote of death would validate the fact that damaged souls could act no differently. With every prejudicial judgment, damaged souls only sink deeper into the abyss of injustice and the twisted irony of hypocritical judges.

Their unjust trial and judgment would continue to damage their souls because of their deep seated prejudices to condemn him were not based on their search for truth, but on promoting their own political agendas. Whatever judgment they made, therefore, would be prejudiced, and thus the revelation that their souls were deeply damaged morally. (Does this remind you of any contemporary circumstances?) Jurors with damaged souls render few fair verdicts.

Jesus fell victim to the same fate that was poured out by the damaged souls of Socrates’ court. As Socrates, Jesus asked too many questions. On one occasion, the religious court asked Jesus in reference to His plucking of grain on the Sabbath, “Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath” (Mt 12:2)—of course, this was not a violation of the Sinai law, only their self-imposed religious law.

But Jesus in turn questioned this court of religiously damaged souls in order to make them face up to their own hypocritical inconsistencies: “Have you not heard what David did … he entered into the house of God and ate the showbread?” (Mt 12:3,4)—now this was against the Sinai law. The religious jurors, however, justified David who actually violated the Sinai law, but they condemned Jesus because He questioned them about justifying David, who did violate the Sinai law, but condemned Jesus by violating some of their religious rites, rituals and ceremonies that they had invented for themselves.

And then on another occasion there was the case when Jesus, as Socrates, asked a question of the religious court of His day in order to reveal their broken souls. He asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Mt 12:10). The damaged soul of the religious leaders was on this occasion again revealed because the religionists, without answering, “went out and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Mt 12:14).

Religious courts do not like to have their honored religious rites, rituals and ceremonies questioned. The jurors of such courts especially do not like their morals questioned. Such questioning of long held norms more often reveals the fact that one’s religious heritage and accepted behavior are based only on traditions, or the pronouncements of Diotrephetic leaders. Such theologies exist among religious adherents because people are often compelled to base their faith on biblically baseless mandates that are cried out from podiums around the world by persuasive religious propagandists.

Socrates questioned all such morals and traditional heritages by which men determined that which was true. In the case of religion, he questioned the inconsistencies of the religionists of his day who manufactured gods after the imagination of spirited people who had the gift of persuasion, and thus could talk the people into believing anything. Jesus did the same in questioning such religionists. He exposed their beliefs by leading them to self-examining their own thinking. Their concept of God was found lacking because the one true and living God was standing incarnate right there before their eyes.

Throughout His short ministry, Jesus continually questioned the religious establishment. On one occasion He questioned His religious judges, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil?” (Mk 3:4). By this time in His ministry, the self-righteous religious judges could say nothing to such a pointed and direct question. So, “they held their peace” (Mk 3:4). Their frustration was building, and Jesus knew this. In this way He was taking Himself to the cross, for He knew what damaged souls would eventually do if they were forced to realize the inconsistent theologies of their own religiosity, but especially the evil of their own hearts.

By the time in His ministry when Jesus started introducing the truth that He was God in the flesh, His continual questioning had embarrassed His adversaries so much that they remained silent. Eventually, they would lash out at Him. Their initial silence, however, revealed that they were religious judges with damaged souls, for only those with damaged souls would reject the incarnate Son of God who stood in their midst. Therefore, because they were morally damaged, it was not possible for them to see the Father through the Son.

When inquisitive minds question matters of tradition and heritage, especially matters of religious tradition and moral standards, those with damaged souls will lash out with fury, no matter how sincere they might claim to be in their religiosity. Since religion exists because of biblical ignorance, zealously religious people will often be the first to lash out at those who ask questions that force religionists to validate their beliefs and behavior with a Bible book, chapter and verse. It is at this time that inquiring individuals should be looking out for a cup of hemlock, or possibly the echoing sound of a cross being built.

We know the conclusion to the life of Socrates. Instead of fleeing to safety from His opposition, as did Confucius, he willingly took the cup and drank the poisonous hemlock. And Jesus did the same. He too drank the poisonous “cross” in order to crucify Himself for the salvation of those who did believe. We must not forget what He said in anticipation of the cross: “I lay down My life for the sheep … I lay down My life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again” (Jn 10:15,17,18). He could have called on legions of angels to deliver Him from the fate that was handed to Him by the unjust judges. Instead, He “swallowed” death on the cross in order that one day death might be swallowed up in our victory.

Yes indeed, the religious court of Jesus’ day sent an innocent man to crucify Himself. All the jurors voted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” So He relinquished to their cries and drank of the cross for us.

Jesus wrote not a word during His life. Only His immediate disciples recorded His life and word in which we grow. As His disciples, we write with the dedication of our lives that He is the greatest intellectual who ever set foot on this earth, and now, the greatest King who reigns over all this earth.

By our love for one another, people understand that we are not those with damaged souls, but the church of those who have responded with love and gratitude to the grace of the One who allowed nails to be driven through incarnate hands and feet on our behalf (2 Co 4:15; 5:14). Our faith in Him, therefore, is not shallow, for faith is only kept shallow by some damage in our souls that seems to persist.

We must continually remind ourselves, however, that all the damage that we may have brought on our souls in the past has now been healed by His grace. Therefore, in forgiving ourselves as He forgave us through the cross, our faith continues to grows deeper. It goes deeper as we grow in grace and the knowledge of Him who revealed this grace to us (2 Pt 3:18). We will not, therefore, damage our souls again by heaping unjust judgment upon another who is likewise struggling to keep his or her soul clean with the blood of Jesus (See Mt 18:21-35).

There is moral truth to the truth of the Socratic method of inquiry that has permeated thinking since the days of Socrates, and then Jesus. It is the imperative of every disciple to ask questions concerning the “why” we believe or behave in this or that way. If we ask the questions, and all that comes in return from the religious establishment is the reply, “This is simply what we have been handed to us by our fathers, and thus we will continue to believe,” then it is time for further questions. If at the end of our systematic questioning we do not receive a Bible book, chapter and verse in answer to our persistent questions, then the one giving us answers is caught up in religion. It is then time for us to cuddle our Bibles in our hands and move on.

As with those who finally led to the end of Jesus and Socrates on earth, questions will engender frustration, if not outright rage. Therefore, if we still hammer away with questions about why we religiously do this or that, the outcome is not always pleasant. Socrates was forced to drink the hemlock. Jesus was forced to carry His cross to Calvary. And we would supposed that those today who cannot give Bible book, chapter and verse replies to all our questions concerning faith, they will do as Diotrephes who loved power more than Bible, even more than the apostle of love, John. Because his soul was damaged, as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, with a thirst for power he kicked every questioning “Socrates” out of his cloned monastery of religious robots (3 Jn 10).

The behavior of philosophers today is no different than the philosophers of Socrates’ day, who did not want their political social order disrupted by someone who was persistently forcing them to answer questions that made them go deep into their souls concerning what they believed was the foundation of their moral and political views. Socrates was an outsider in reference to the religious, philosophical and political establishment. And because he was, there was no place for him in their establishment. Jesus came into and became the same in the religious establishment of His day. Because both asked too many questions, both had to be eliminated.

The behavior of some religionists today is no different than the hypocritical antagonists of Jesus’ day who likewise did not want their “Jewish religion” to be disrupted by someone who persistently questioned their inconsistent theologies and religious leadership (See Gl 1:14). The religious leaders did not like being forced to see the hypocrisies of their own behavior (See Mt 6:2,5,16; 7:5; 15:9; 22:18; 23:13-15,23-29).

Jesus’ persistent questioning forced the religious leaders to answer questions that revealed the inconsistencies of their thinking and hypocritical behavior in reference to their own teachings. They were thus embarrassed before the people. The cross was subsequently the only answer for their embarrassment.

Therefore, the extreme frustration of the religious leaders come to a climax. Jesus’ questions forced them to be the judges of their own souls, and to face the inconsistencies of their own theologies. In fact, those who were persistently questioned by Jesus became so frustrated that they eventually schemed to commit murder. Such a scheme proved that they were indeed damaged souls of the lowest level. Therefore, Jesus’ judgment of them was validated: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (Jn 8:44).

And so it is today. If you ask too many questions of the guardians of the religious establishment, and do not receive book, chapter and verse answers for your questions, then there will probably be handed you a cup of “hemlock” disfellowship, or possibly a cross which you can carry outside the church house, and nail yourself thereon. Questions presented to those who seek to defend biblically unsubstantiated religious heritages will engender great hostility. Depending on where you live in the world, it might be written of you in your questioning the religious establishment, as it was in the final hours of the life of Jesus: “Now the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Him” (Lk 22:2).