Back To School

It seems we barely get used to school being out, and before long, you notice “Back to School Sale” signs in stores. All the supplies are mounted up for easy access. Lists are posted so parents know what to buy. You can even hear the kids groan about having to go back to school. Parents rejoice.

Even in the first century, kids did not like discipline and instruction; therefore, they were placed under the care of guardians. The Greek word used in Galatians 3:24 was “pedagogue.” The KJV translates this as “schoolmaster.” The NKJV translates it as “tutor.” The Greek word means “to lead children,” particularly boys. This schoolmaster, tutor, or guardian was the servant in charge of leading the master’s son to his training. When the child grew up, the guardian was no longer necessary.

According to<em> The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times </em>by Ralph Gower<em>,</em> “Greek children went to school at the age of seven if his parents could afford to pay the fees. He studied basic skills (reading, writing, counting), music (poetry, dance, musical instrument), and physical skills (wrestling, boxing, running, throwing the javelin and discus… At 16, he went to the gymnasium to study literature, philosophy, and politics” (p. 82). (In Russian, high school is still called <em>gymnasium</em>.) The household servant made sure that the child was led to school.

Paul asks a question in Galatians 3:19, “What purpose then does the law serve?…before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore, the law was our tutor <em>to bring us</em> to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” We are no longer under the law. The tutor has served its purpose. We have come to Christ.

No one can keep the law. The Law justifies no one. Even under the New Testament, we cannot hold the standards of the Sermon on the Mount. Though the Jews outwardly kept the commandment regarding adultery, Jesus said even a lustful look was equivalent to adultery. All the law can do is show us how far short we fall. It leads us to Christ where we must cry out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Paul said that if righteousness came by keeping the law, Christ died for nothing (see Galatians 2:21).

When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, Jesus affirmed him as a great teacher in Israel. However, Jesus did not say, “Nick, you just need you to try a little harder to keep the law.” He told Nicodemus that he had to be born again (see John 3:3–5). Although Nicodemus was “the teacher of Israel,” keeping the law was not enough. All the law can do is bring us to Christ.

About the law Paul wrote: “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, <em>that is, </em>the law of commandments <em>contained</em> in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man <em>from</em> the two, <em>thus</em> making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14-16 NKJV). Notice that we were not reconciled to God through keeping the Law (Torah), but through the cross.

The law can never make us acceptable to God. It can only point out our depravity. It points to our need for a Savior. Christ fulfilled that role. It is not a matter of whether or not you eat bacon, attend church on Saturday, or wear purple tassels on your robe (See Numbers 15:38 NKJV), it is a question of being born again.

Jesus told Nicodemus that if he was not born again from above, he could not enter, he could not even see the kingdom of God. Have you been born again, or are you trying to make yourself acceptable by your own efforts of keeping the Law? Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

Get a copy of these devotionals in my Collections below.

<a href=”https://amzn.to/2N41g2F”>Embracing Faith, Vol. 1</a>

<a href=”https://amzn.to/2nROlWs”>Embracing Faith, Vol. 2</a>

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THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT

Recent attempts locally to remove monuments of the Ten Commandments seem to reflect a nationwide trend to move away from “Religious” monuments. While the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, one group by name wants freedom from religion. Opponents want to remove the monument claiming it violates the separation of church and state.

If we remove the religious element from the Ten Commandments, what is left? Let us abolish and repeal the Ten Commandments and see what happens. This should not be shocking since we already ignore most of them anyway. People frequently take God’s name in vain. The Sabbath is routinely broken. Thievery abounds. Adultery is rampant. Covetousness is now a motivation. Children often dishonor their parents. Our idols today come in the forms of worshiping cars and sports teams rather than bowing before metallic statues. Neglect of regular worship demonstrates that most people put other things before God. Lying is common on every level.

The sixth commandment says, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13 KJV). Apart from abortion, let’s deal with the sin of murder. If we were to do away with the law (we can’t have this law because it is religious, so, the government must not enforce it), how would that affect society? Without God, what would be the moral basis for not murdering?

Objection: “Everyone knows murder is wrong!” Says who? If we cannot take God’s word for it, who can say that murder is morally evil? Without an objective standard stating that murder is evil, why should we not practice it?

Objection: “You’re being absurd. No one would accept murder as moral and acceptable.” Ask the millions who perished under the Nazi Third Reich. Not only did the Nazis accept it morally, they also thought of it as necessary in their evolutionary ideology of the pure Aryan race. Since we are being forced to accept atheistic evolutionary religious dogma, what if it is better to enhance my survival by murdering someone else so I can survive? I am not talking about self-defense. I am talking about what if I want your property or your spouse, and I decide I want to take them from you? Since murder cannot be outlawed because of its religious nature, what would morally prevent me from committing murder to get what I want?

Such philosophy lay behind the expansion of the Axis nations before WWII. The Japanese saw China’s resources, so, they invaded their land and killed their people. The Nazis viewed Poles as inferior, so they invaded Poland. Later they confiscated the property of the Jews and systematically began to kill them, along with other undesirable people, such as Gypsies and Slavs. So, without an objective moral standard, murder can no longer be considered a sin.

If we remove the religious nature of laws and morality, the only basis would be based on majority vote. If everyone decided that it was legal to kill a certain group of people, and we voted to make it legal, no one could say it was morally wrong. It is not just the matter of the monuments; it is also a matter of the principles.

If we remove religion, what makes the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution morally right? Nothing. In a pure Democracy, the people could vote to overturn them, and then we would have tyranny, which these documents were designed to prevent. “Morality is not determined by a majority vote.” (Frank Turek “Stealing from God” p.98)

This is called the moral argument for God. Turek goes on to say, “If there is no God above Hitler and every other human, who says murder is wrong?” (p. 96). If society is allowed to determine right and wrong for itself, would you rather live in a society designed by Mother Teresa or Adolph Hitler? (p. 97).

During the Eighteenth Century a man named Thomas Paine also wanted to do away with religion. He wanted to usher in the Age of Reason. Paine believed that people could be good without religion (See my blog “Good Without God”), and that we should do away with religion altogether. Franklin responded by refuting Paine’s beliefs claiming many people could not overcome vices without the restraints that religion provides. Franklin wrote: “If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it?” You can read Franklin’s entire response here: https://wallbuilders.com/benjamin-franklins-letter-thomas-paine.

This railing against God is not new, and it will not stop. It began in Eden’s garden and continues today.

 

 

A Pure Race?

A surge in the interest of genetics and ancestry has sprung up over the last few years. Websites advertise on television that you can find out what your ancestry is and where your family came from. One company even takes a saliva sample to determine your genetic make-up. By looking at the genetic markers, doctors can use that information to determine your predisposition towards certain diseases. Others search their ancestry simply out of curiosity.

One woman talks about learning her ancestry. A pie chart appears on the screen showing percentages of her genetic make-up. “I had no idea,” she says regarding her Native American ancestry. She is standing next to supposed Native American pottery. Looking closely at the chart, you can see that her Native American profile is only twenty-six percent. Twenty-three percent is Iberian. Another section of twenty-three percent is “other.” So, what is she? Totaled, those three percentages only equal seventy-two percent. Other percentages are: Eight percent, Asia; five percent, Africa; fifteen percent, Italy/Greece.

Another character thinks he is German; but after checking his ancestry, he discovers that he is Scottish. He changes his lederhosen for a kilt. His DNA reveals fifty-percent from Ireland, Wales, and Scotland (Even in that, he is not pure). Twenty-eight percent of his DNA comes from Scandinavia. Ten percent comes from Italy/Greece. Another ten percent registers as “other.”

All this research indicates that there is no longer a pure race. These various mixtures also show that being “bi-racial” is a myth. It is only a socio-political construct. DNA shows that we are all “Multi-racial” to put it in politically correct terms. Only one human race exists, and that is the human race. This can be demonstrated by persons of “differing races” having children. If we were not all the same race, that would be impossible. In reality, interracial marriage does not exist. All of us are human. There are no other races.

The Bible also reflects this truth. In addressing the Athenians, the Apostle Paul said, “[God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;” (Acts 17:26 KJV). One blood means Adam and Eve; and later, all of us as descendants of Noah and his wife. No race evolved from any common ancestor. Biblically speaking, no race is more evolved, and therefore superior to another.

While racism has always existed, it has no place in Christianity. For example, the word “barbarian” comes from a root meaning “stammering” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/barbarian?s=t) The Greeks looked down on others who did not speak as eloquently as they. Barbarianism means being crude, savage, and uncivilized.

Paul told the Colossians not to regard others in such terms. He said the new man “is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:10-11 KJV). Class distinctions should not be part of church life.

The study of DNA can also put to rest some myths that have persisted for around two centuries. Two religious views try to explain what happened to the supposed ten “lost tribes” of Israel. One view is that the tribes migrated north after their captivity and became the ancestors of the Anglo people. These people were to inherit the promises of Abraham, and that would explain the prosperity of England, and by extension, the United States. That is known as the Anglo-Israel theory. That has been proven to be false, but several churches still hold to that teaching.

The other view is that the “lost tribes” made their way across the ocean and became the ancestors of the Native Americans. More than twenty years ago a video came out showing that the Native Americans descended from Mongolian tribes rather than Semitic tribes. There is no genetic connection between Native Americans and Jews in Pre-Colombian times. Genetic studies have disproved both teachings.

If we are going to celebrate diversity, let us begin by celebrating the diversity within each of us. No one is a member of a pure race. If we learn to embrace this biblical truth, racism can come to an end.

HAZARD COMMUNICATION BASICS

On June 1, 2015, OSHA implemented the Globally Harmonized System of identifying hazardous materials. A hazardous material is any material or agent that can cause harm to humans or the environment. Particularly any chemicals classified as hazardous substances must be identified with a Safety Data Sheet, formerly known as an MSDS.

Before that deadline, the MSDS had no standardized formatting so that if you were exposed to a dangerous chemical, you would have to look through the sheets to find proper first aid procedures. Today you will find that in Section 4.

The SDS also lists all the ingredients in a substance like the container label. There a consumer will find potential risks associated with coming into contact with the chemical. Anything that is poisonous must be labeled to protect people working with or near the chemical.

Poison can often toxically affect others even in minute amounts. Consider commercial rat poison. The SDS for a common poison states that it contains only 0.005% poison by volume. The rest of the substance is not harmful. At least it is inert, but a large portion of the material must be beneficial to the rodent otherwise, it would never ingest the poison. That means that 99.995% of the material is nonpoisonous, however, if you were to eat it, you would become extremely ill and may even die.

False religion is also a toxic substance, but never labeled as such. Today’s tolerant, non-judgmental culture likes to say that all religions are beneficial, that they all teach the same things. Many believe that you can find common ground in all religions, so we should not judge or label the teachings of various religions.

Now apply that to rat poison. Let’s say that since it is 99.995% good, we should have no problem eating it since it contains many of the same ingredients we find in other food. If it were not labeled as poison, people would become ill from eating it. Some might even die. It is that 0.005% poison that kills.

So how much do all religions have in common? When you study them, you find that they have very little in common. One quick test is to see what different religions say about Christ. Was he God in the flesh, was he Satan’s brother, was he the Archangel Michael, or just a prophet.

Previously I wrote that there are only two religions in the world—biblical Christianity, and everything else. Three areas to look at are: Was Jesus Christ God in the flesh? What kind of works do we have to perform to be saved? Is the Bible sufficient to tell us everything we need for salvation, life and godliness?

Only biblical Christianity states that 1) Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” John1:1, 14). 2) We are only saved by what Christ accomplished on the cross and our works add nothing to it. (Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us,” Titus 3:5. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” Eph. 2:8-9). 3) the Bible alone is sufficient to tell us everything we need to know to be saved and to live a godly life. (“From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” 2 Timothy 3:15. “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” 2 Peter 1:3).

Other religions teach that Jesus was not God, that we must perform some kinds of works or rituals to be saved, and we need other books or materials to learn how to be saved. In the same way that poison must have some good things to attract the rodent, so false religions have some qualities to attract adherents. While all other religions may have some truth in them, remember that it only takes 0.005% error to kill you. Religions should be marked as hazardous to your spiritual health.

#WhatDidYouExpect

Time magazine’s recent announcement of their “Person of the Year” reflects a serious trend in our culture and society. Time’s “Person of the Year” named a group of people rather than an individual. Time chose to honor “The Silence Breakers,” those who spoke out about sexual harassment in the workplace. Ever since the subject broke several weeks ago, it seems that every day, accusations fly against more people—politicians and entertainers, even religious leaders have been accused of impropriety.

#WhatDidYouExpect? Remember the sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s? Hugh Hefner first published Playboy Magazine in 1953 and opened the Playboy Club in 1960. About that time, Joseph Fletcher, an Episcopal priest, popularized the idea of situational ethics, approaching ethical issues from the standpoints of pragmatism, relativism, positivism, and personalism. Essentially no two situations are identical, so no set rules apply. All moral decisions were to be made on a sliding continuum.

The Twentieth Century was known for the rise of this continuum as the philosophy of moral relativism. This philosophy has been condensed into such beliefs that there are no absolutes (in itself an absolute statement), and there is no right or wrong. Everything is simply a matter of preference. You like chocolate. I like vanilla. “What’s right for you may not be right for others,” They say.

More recently, the idea of political correctness states that if you make any type of moral distinction, say between gay marriage and straight marriage, that is being judgmental (in itself being judgmental). For more than five decades, universities, movies, and television have been affirming that nothing can be considered right or wrong any more. Those who hold antiquated ideas such as the biblical idea of one man plus one woman are woefully on the wrong side of history. We need to be free from antiquated Victorian repressive sexual mores. (Have you ever wondered what “Victoria’s Secret” is?)

#EnterTheHypocrisy. The flip side of “what’s right for you may not be right for others” is “what’s wrong for you may not be wrong for others.” Now many are coming forward saying that certain behaviors are wrong! How can that be after saying for decades that there is no right or wrong, there are no absolutes? You can’t have it both ways. Either there is some objective measure of right and wrong, or there is not.

#YouCan’tHaveItBothWays. If you don’t like what you are harvesting, try planting different seeds. Society is simply reaping what it has sown. Young actresses play highly sexualized characters in movies and television, then become offended when producers, directors, and co-workers treat them as the characters they portray. You can’t have it both ways.

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction” (Galatians 6:7-8). When I was a youth, my pastor used the illustration of a father taking his sons fishing early one morning before sunrise. They went down to the river and out on the dock. The father placed the lantern on the dock while he and his sons got into the boat. As they began preparing their gear for fishing, they noticed that it was becoming increasingly dark and difficult to see inside the boat. The father looked up and noticed that the knot had come untied, and their boat had drifted slowly downstream. They had drifted away from the light of the lantern.

Decades ago, society purposefully loosed the moorings from the dock, and our society has been drifting ever since. Then we wonder why we are experiencing so much domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse, mass shootings, high divorce rates, The Knockout Game,” and myriads of other societal maladies. We are drifting, and we can’t even say we are drifting, because to say we are drifting is judgmental. To say we need a standard is deemed politically incorrect, so our metaphorical hands are tied.

#IsItAnyWonder. We should not be surprised. My father often said that we spend our youth sowing our wild oats, then our final years praying for crop failure. We cannot mock God. We are reaping what we have sown. The current societal conditions do not surprise me at all. What surprises me is that the church has come to reject the revelation in God’s Word. “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction” (Proverbs 29:18 NIV).

LET’S LEAVE CHURCH OUT OF THIS

“Business is business, let’s just leave church out of this.” This attitude expresses the view that many Christians have today. Religion is Ok, but let’s not get too carried away with it. So, your boss tells you to leave your Christianity at home or at church, but don’t bring it to work. After all, how can anyone expect to make a profit if they follow biblical principles?

What does the Bible teach about Christian work principles? Many passages in the Bible support good business ethics and practices.

First let’s deal with ethics. Proverbs 20:10 says, “Differing weights and differing measures— the Lord detests them both.” One way that people could cheat customers years ago was by using two sets of weights in a balance. A crooked merchant could use one set when buying and another set when selling. The differing weights and measures would give him the benefit while cheating the customer. God detests people using two different sets of standards. Christian should be honest in all their dealings.

In the first century, employers would hold back the wages that were owed so they could hold on to the money a little longer. They were cheating their employees. James 5:4 says, “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.” Christian employers should not cheat their workers. Jesus said, “the worker deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7). Employers, you should pay your workers what they are worth, what you owe them, and pay them on time.

Next, let’s look at some biblical principles for the worker. Not only should employers not cheat their employees, employees should not cheat their employers either. Employee, do you waste time at work while on the company payroll? Things such as social media, long coffee breaks, extended lunch periods? If so you are stealing from your employer. How many have been caught using a company credit card for personal purchases, just until payday?

How well do you get along with your boss and coworkers? Do you gossip about them around the water cooler, do you assassinate their character behind their back? Do they easily offend you? Are you completely honest with them? Do you communicate openly and respectfully with them?

Christian workers should be the best workers, the most honest hardworking members of your team. They should be loyal and trustworthy. They should also treat their employers with respect.

Also, Christian bosses should be the best bosses. They should honestly care about the well-being of each employee. Yes, Christian business owners should make a profit, but not at the expense of the safety of their employees. Romans 13:7 says, “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Employers should provide everything employees need to do the job. Current federal safety regulations state that you must provide all protective equipment to your employees at no cost to them. This may cut into your profits, but you must protect them because it is the law and the right thing to do.

So, what does church have to do with it? Putting biblical principles to work will make work better for everyone. As an employer, you should be the kind of boss that everyone wants to work for. As an employee, you should be the kind of employee that people want to hire. Christianity should touch every aspect of our lives.

BACK TO YOUR (HEBREW) ROOTS?

For several years there have been movements encouraging Christians to get back to their roots, their Hebrew roots. Many movements, called Messianic movements, have led some Christians to celebrate Jewish feasts and to feel spiritually superior to other Christians who do not follow Jewish feasts. These movements are not new. Paul dealt with “Judaizing” in the first century. Many of the teachers believed that people had to become Jewish before they could become a Christian.

“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17 NKJV). Here Paul deals with the same idea of keeping feasts and observing sabbaths. Some believers felt superior to others and required them to observe festivals, new moon celebrations and sabbaths.

Today some Christians worship on the Sabbath. They feel that they must do so because the Ten Commandants say to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. They feel that not to have church on Saturday is a violation of that commandment. Many Christians worship on Sundays in honor of Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week. Christians followed this tradition in the New Testament. Jesus appeared after his resurrection on the first day of the week as the apostles gathered together (John 20:19). Christians gathered together on the first day of the week to break bread and Paul preached (Acts 20:7). Paul also asked the Corinthians to take up an offering for the church in Jerusalem on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:2). No commandment was ever given for a day to esteem as holy among the Christians.

Paul also wrote in Romans 14:5, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” Paul never indicated that one day to worship was better than another. He said that each person should be convinced in his own mind. If you and your congregation worship on Sunday, Paul said that it was all right. Those who worship on Saturday should not try to force others to worship then. Those who worship on Sunday should not seek to force others to do so. Whichever day you chose, you do it unto the Lord (Romans 14:6).

Besides Sabbath worship, Todd Friel lists nine additional things that characterize Messianic movements:

  1. Celebrating Old Testament festivals
  2. Obeying select Old Testament laws
  3. Circumcision upon conversion
  4. Keeping kosher or partially kosher
  5. Elevating unbiblical texts like the Mishnah to the level of Scripture
  6. Calling Jesus by his Hebrew name, Yeshua
  7. Never spelling G-d
  8. Women wearing long skirts and head coverings
  9. Men wearing untrimmed beards

(Judge Not, p. 163, 164)

Friel calls this a confused effort to live like Old Testament Jews and help Christians to appreciate Hebrew roots they do not actually possess (p. 164). The New Testament never even hints that Christians should follow Old Testament Laws or extra-biblical teachings. The danger is that we cannot select which laws to obey. A Christian who tries to follow certain laws becomes obligated to keep all of them. This is what Paul meant by falling from grace, not losing one’s salvation, but trying to earn salvation by keeping the law (Galatians 5:2-6). Paul wrote: “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21).

James echoed the same message: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (2:10). If we try to keep the law, we must keep all of it, not just certain parts, like the festivals or Sabbath attendance. If we fail in one part, we become guilty of breaking it all. We cannot keep the Law regarding sacrifices because there is no Temple and no altar. If we try to follow the Law, we will fail at the point of sacrifices.

The Church dealt with issue at the Council of Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15. There the Judaizers wanted to make the Gentile Christians follow Jewish practices to become followers of Christ. The Church and the Apostles debated the issue. They finally arrived at the conclusion that they would not “test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?” (15:10).

Can we Christians learn from studying the festivals? Yes. Can we learn from studying the Laws? Yes. Are we better off if we follow them? Resoundingly no. These things were shadows that led us to Christ, who is the substance. Why do we need to go back to the shadows when we have the light? The old covenant is obsolete (Hebrews 8:13)