Monthly Archives: December 2016

Futurism and Preterism

Those terms relate to the interpretation* of prophecy in Scripture – specifically to its foretelling aspect, i.e. predicting the future. Bible prophecy includes foretelling, but its primary purpose is not merely to give information about the future. Prediction is subservient to prophetic exhortations to repent and believe. Prophecy comforts God’s people and calls them to obedience in dark times. In fact “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10)

Here are a couple of nutshell definitions: Futurism regards a Scriptural prediction as NOT having come to pass yet. Preterism regards a Scriptural prediction as ALREADY having come to pass.

Regarding some predictions, all Bible believing people are preterists. For instance, all believe that specific predictions made by inspired men like David (Psalm 16), Isaiah (chapters 9 and 53), and Micah (5:2) about Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection have all come to pass.

Likewise, all Bible believing people are futurists about other predictions. Jesus foretold the bodily resurrection of all mankind (John 5:28,29), but that is yet to come to pass. And all confess that the ultimate destruction by King Jesus of all His enemies foretold in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26, where death itself is identified as the very last enemy, has not yet happened.

What about the book of Revelation? Is it full of predictions which are still in the future? Or have most of its predictions been fulfilled already? Here are a few reasons for taking a generally preteristic view of this book which is full of symbolism and so challenging to our understanding.

1. According to Revelation’s opening and closing portions (see 1:1, 1:3, 22:6, and 22:10) certain events were shortly to come to pass…the time was near. The revelation was given to John on the island Patmos about the middle of the first century. Are we showing faith in God’s word to hold that those clear time indicator phrases refer to some point in the 21st century or beyond?

2. Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus are commonly known as the pastoral epistles. They give very practical instructions to their recipients about shepherding the congregations over which they had oversight (1 Timothy 1:3ff, Titus 1:5, et. al.) Christ’s seven letters in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 are best considered as seven more pastoral epistles to real Christians for whom those time indicator phrases gave much blessing as they read (see 1:3).

In those letters, the Chief Shepherd directly addresses the angels, i.e. human messengers, of the seven churches. He counsels them about then present conditions and circumstances. No doubt the seven letters and the rest of the book of Revelation have instruction for all congregations of all ages, as does all Scripture. But our interpretation* is sloppy if we disregard the original purpose and intent of Scripture in its historical context.

3. Revelation 11:1 refers to the “temple of God and those who worship there.” In His Olivet discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) Jesus predicted the temple’s destruction and Jerusalem’s desolation. Nowhere in the New Testament do we read of the fulfillment of that prediction. But the temple in earthly Jerusalem was destroyed and the city sacked by Roman military might in A.D. 70, about forty years after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, as He foretold.

We have no reason to believe that any of the New Testament was written after that epoch terminating date. So does Revelation 11 refer to a temple that would be built in earthly Jerusalem sometime in the apostles’ distant future? Nowhere does the Bible predict that. The new covenant in Jesus’ blood has swallowed up and superseded the foreshadows of the old covenant temple and its animal sacrifices; they are gone forever. The letter to the Hebrews labors to teach us that.

If a structure is built by man in the 21st century or later in earthly Jerusalem and called a temple, it will have no more significance in terms of God’s plan than the erection of a Hindu temple in New York or an Islamic mosque in Michigan. Revelation 11 refers to that temple to which Peter and John went up to pray sometime after Pentecost but before its A.D. 70 destruction (Acts 3:1).

*Interpretation does not mean assigning a meaning one finds attractive, but discovering the meaning which God and His inspired author intended!

Previously published elsewhere, June 12 A.D. 2016

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Gleanings

Restroom Unrest

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” (King Jesus, per Mark 9:42)


On May 13th A.D. 2016 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued a joint “dear colleague” letter to ALL state run (public) school districts in America regarding access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and athletic activities for so-called transgender students. The full letter can be found online here:  www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201605-title-ix-transgender.pdf

The letter claims to provide guidance but not new legal requirements. Yet,  appealing to Title IX of the Education Amendment of A.D. 1972, it presumes that non-compliance with this “guidance” would nullify a district’s eligibility for federal funds. This is yet another unconstitutional encroachment by the federal government on our liberties; another nanny state overreach. And like the Obergefell vs. Hodges Supreme court opinion regarding marriage before it, this directive seeks to institutionalize wickedness.

Let us consider just one aspect of this morally horrifying and imperialistic decree – namely its revelation of the lowly view of PARENTS taken by the DOJ and the ED. The directive allows not only a parent or guardian, but a minor student acting independently of his or her parents to claim a new “gender identity,” i.e. to claim to be of the sex opposite to the one divine providence assigned. It reads:

“Under Title IX there is no medical diagnosis or treatment requirement that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity.” It goes on to assert that no documenation such as a birth certificate must be provided in order to treat students “consistent with their gender identity.”

In other words according to our federal government, a high school, middle school, or even elementary school student can choose his or her own sex with no input from his or her parents or guardians required!

Some parents choose to involve the state or other parties they trust in the nurture, care, and instruction of their children. But President Truman’s proverbial buck stops with parents. To them alone belongs sovereign authority over every area of the lives of those they beget or adopt, including that of child education.

This dictatorial overreach by the incumbent administration meddles with both hands. One is clenched into a perverse fist, foolishly being shaken in the face of the thrice holy God Who at the beginning made us male and female. “Do you indeed speak righteousness, O gods? Do you judge uprightly, O sons of men? No, in heart you work unrighteousness; on earth you weigh out the violence of your hands.” (from Psalm 58)

The other mischievous hand is busily eviscerating the Fifth Commandment, the first one with a promise: Honor your father and your mother. It violently slaps the faces of parents, God’s vice regents to whom God has given responsibility for His little ones. It is another attempt by the state to annul parental rights.

Will all the pro-abortion voices calling for “reproductive rights” also cry out for the nurturing and instructional rights of the parents of school children? Or will their silence reveal a lack of concern for children outside of the womb identical to their callous, brutal attitude toward CHILDREN still in utero?

Don’t hold your breath, fellow abortion abolitionists!

Previously published May 22, A.D. 2016 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gleanings

A Christmas Eve Encounter

JACK to Mac with a big smile — Happy holidays!

MAC, joyfully smiling back — Thank you. Which holiday?

JACK, still smiling — Whichever one you celebrate at this time of year.

MAC — That would be the one which festively observes the anniversary of Christ’s nativity, and all the wonder and awe which surrounded it. Joy to the world! Merry Christmas!

JACK, smile gone — I don’t celebrate Christmas.

MAC, still smiling — No problem, I’m glad we’re both free to choose whether or not to celebrate it. Have a nice day on December 25!

JACK, annoyed — Wait a minute! Don’t you think it’s rude to assume that I celebrate Christmas?

MAC, still smiling — It was certainly not my intention to be rude, but to greet you in the spirit that hopes for peace on earth and has good will toward all. However, I would like to know why you think my greeting was rude, if you’d care to tell me. But it’s OK if you don’t want to discuss it. We both have freedom of speech, right?

JACK, more annoyed — I’m amazed! Don’t you know that in this town there are Atheists, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and others for whom Christmas has no sacred meaning?

MAC, still smiling — Yes I do know that! And its sacred meaning has been displaced in some cases and deliberately erased in others, but that’s a discussion for another day. For now, would you please explain to me why saying “Merry Christmas” to someone who might or might not celebrate that holiday is rude? If I had said, “have a lousy Christmas!” would that be rude?

JACK, set back on his heels — Well, I suppose so…yes…

MAC, still smiling — So I’m dam…excuse me…”darned” either way?

JACK, exasperated — No! Just say happy holidays like I did!

MAC, still smiling — Hmm…insisting that I conform to you seems a bit rude, but I won’t press that. The salutation “happy holidays” has no sacred meaning for me. But if it does for you, that’s fine and I didn’t think you were being rude by offering me your sacred greeting.

That’s because I also know that enjoying freedom of speech means possibly hearing others using their freedom to say things we don’t like. When that happens, we can simply use our corrollary freedom of association, clearly implied by the First Amendment, and walk away or turn the channel as the case might be…

MAC, continuing with a twinkle in his eye — I will admit, though, that my response “which holiday?” was intended to stimulate this conversation!

JACK, smile re-igniting — Aah, I wondered about your curious comeback. I appreciate your candor. And I must admit, we’re getting beyond the superficial here.

MAC, still smiling — Indeed! Wouldn’t the world be a much better place, if people worked harder at trying to understand each other?

JACK, sorta smiling — Agreed. But hold on…I didn’t say “happy holidays” to you because it has a sacred meaning for me.

MAC, still smiling — Then why did you say it? What kind of meaning does it have for you?

JACK, befuddled — Well…it’s just something to be said around this time of year. Like just about everybody else, I use it so as not to offend. In other words, I figure this way I cover all bases, and don’t upset anyone.

MAC, still smiling — But I do find the expression offensive. Wait…that’s a bit too strong. I find it lacking depth of meaning; insipid and devoid of any cheering power. When somebody says it to me, I feel like I would feel if he offered me a lukewarm cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup on a cold day. Nevertheless, when you said “happy holidays” to me, I just took in stride and offered you a greeting that is very meaningful to me in return. Again, no problem if you reject it.

JACK, sheepishly — Well, I’m not saying that I REJECT your greeting, that’s a bit too strong also. I realize that many folks celebrate Christmas. And I don’t begrudge any of you that. It’s just that I don’t celebrate it myself.

MAC, still smiling — So, could you not have simply taken my “merry Christmas” in stride, as I did your greeting? Or could you not have chosen to refrain from responding at all?

Moreover, this season does not contain holidays for all of the groups you mentioned. The word holiday is actually the conflation of two words, HOLY and DAY. A holiday is a day that is considered holy…special or sacred for some reason, usually historical remembrance, for example Memorial Day or Independence Day.

Christmas Day sometimes coincides with one of the days of Hanukkah, but to my understanding no day is considered holy by a-Theists; the concept of holiness is alien to their basic world view (another term for religion).

ASIDE: Mac thinks to himself of the old observation that April first should be counted as a-Theism’s big day, but decides not to mention it  

MAC, continuing aloud — And to my knowledge December 25 is not a holy day for Buddhists, Hindus, or Muslims.

Perhaps your “happy holidays” greeting is offensive to some members of those groups. Maybe they think you’re being rude by assuming that they have a special day tomorrow or any day during this most wonderful time of the year!

JACK, stunned — Gee, I never thought of it that way…

MAC, still smiling — Gee is short for Gee Wiz which I’ve heard is short for “Jesus’ whiskers.” But I won’t take offense at your saying Gee. I realize that language changes over time, and that those terms are no longer used as coarse, irreverent oaths like they were used of old.

But every day I do hear people abuse that glorious name which I love with all my heart, Jesus Christ, uttering it like a cheap curse word. And I constantly hear “O my God” spoken carelessly and thoughtlessly. I DO find that very offensive…and sad.

JACK, edging away from Mac — Well, I gotta go. Good conversation. Happy New Year!

MAC, smiling broadly  — Thank you! Yes, we are on the thresh-hold of another year Anno Domini – another year of our Lord. Let us be thankful that He has mercifully preserved us through this one that is almost over. Just as Christmas day exists ultimately because of the birth of Jesus, the years are numbered in relation to His birth as well. Happy New Year to you!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

R.E.C. (Racism, Evolution, Creation)

Confidence that Darwinism corresponds to truth (a.k.a. FAITH in evolution) is inconsistent with hatred of racism. It is inconsistent with faulting ethnic supremacists of any color or stripe. Why?

Because the textbook “evolutionary tree” concept would have us believe that the so called races represent minor evolutionary twigs on the greater branch of hominids which includes humans and apes. Would it not be possible then, according to evolutionary thinking, that any one of the so called races is just slightly more advanced (toward what and directed by what?) than another race?

Is one of those twigs just a little bigger and fuller than the others? If you are an evolutionist, how do you avoid the temptation to consider your own ethnic group more evolved (toward what and directed by what?), and some other ethnic group as closer to the low-brow troglodytes dwelling in the cloistered caves of the “theory” to which you cling with profoundly religious tenacity, all the while claiming to despise religion?

The consciously confessed religion of the Biblical creationist proclaims that there is but one human race. We are confident that neither variation in skin tone nor other traits observable among the kindreds of that single human race make for one whit of detraction from every single human being’s equal standing before our Creator.

Each one of us is made in His image. Each one of us is a particularly nuanced, living representation of the personal Creator God. Each one of us is knit together in the womb – from conception onward – with divine artistry. Each one of us is inherently crowned with a dignity that raises us above all the beasts, over which He has given us dominion.

But that last truth claim about Earth’s fauna is a topic for another day’s discussion.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Images of the Christian

God reveals Himself as the great I AM – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He makes Himself known as the only One to be worshiped, the Lord of all, the Savior of all who call upon Him, the Teacher, the Provider, the One in Whom we live, move, have our being (Acts 17:28), and more.

Even so, in His word He depicts His people in different but complEmentary ways. Here are several of them:

First of all the true Christian is a child of God, unlike others who are described as children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). All people come into this world as what we might call spiritual still births – already dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13), condemned as guilty and under the wrath of God (John 3:18, Romans 5:12).

But the true Christian is what 2 Corinthians 5:17 proclaims: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” In Christ he both has been born again (John 3:3, 7; 1 Peter 1:23) and adopted (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5) into God’s forever family. The sons and daughters of God are marked by obedience to their heavenly Father. Sharing in the Gospel work of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), they are peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).

Being eternal children of God makes all Christians eternal brothers and sisters. As such, they live in community as we see exampled in Acts chapter 4 and other places. They bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). They look out for one another (Philippians 2:4). In short, they LOVE one another (Romans 12:10, Hebrews 13:1)

The Christian is pictured as a spiritual brick in the temple (1 Peter 2:5) in which God dwells by His Spirit. In another figure, the apostle Paul compares each believer to a member (i.e. a part, like an eye, a hand, or a foot) of a spiritual body, which body is the church (Romans 12:4,5; 1 Corinthians 12:12)

In His days on Earth, Jesus chose SOME of his disciples to be apostles, but ALL Christians are His disciples – disciplined ones (Matthew 10:24,25). They imitate His way of life, walk as He walked doing deeds of charity and mercy, and experiencing what He experienced in the world (1 John 4:17).

In a way that by no means contradicts his estate as a “child of the King,” the Christian is also a servant in the Kingdom of God (Colossians 1:7, Revelation 1:1). He puts the advancement and prosperity of that Kingdom above his own interests. Therefore according to 2 Timothy 2:3-7 he is like a soldier enduring hardship, unencumbered with civilian life…like an athlete competing according to the rules…like a hardworking, patient farmer who will be first to partake of the harvest.

Finally, the Christian is a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:17), destined to inherit all things (Revelation 21:7). “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)

When it comes to self esteem, (how one feels and thinks about himself), let us not assume the world’s categories of value. Let the Christian form his estimate of himself (and how self needs to grow and change) in Biblical terms. Let the Christian recognize that Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:13,14)

Previously published elsewhere, November 8, A.D. 2015

Leave a comment

Filed under Gleanings

Obituary for a Covenant Dog

One of a litter of six Jack Russell Terrier pups born on October 15 in the 1,997th year of our Lord Jesus Christ, Pepper Trust became a part of our household on December 15th of that same year.

Not the usual color for his breed, Pepper was predominantly black with some tan and white around his face and on his legs. True to his breed, he was as one acquaintance put it “all spit and vinegar.” Sometimes his temperament was made known by his antics. So as not to beatify him, let it be known that another way he showed that temperament was by a snarl or growl directed even toward his masters. Nevertheless, he was beloved of them and will be missed!

A few memories and highlights of his lifespan of eighteen years and two months (he was given a little cod liver oil every day) include the way he would race in a U-shaped course from one side of his backyard to the other side, especially when his favorite postman was on hand to be the target of his high pitched bark.

In a similar way our approximately twenty pound pet who loved to go for rides “ran to Florida” (from New Jersey!) a couple of times in a way: constantly darting from one side of the back seat of the car to the other for virtually the entire trip, barking at various objects of interest on Interstate 95 and other roadways. As a pup and young adult dog, he would get a good grip on a tug toy with his strong jaws and his entire body could be held aloft by it – he would not let go!

His second name reflects his master’s comparison of the trust and loyalty of a dog to the confident dependence which those who know and love Jesus the loving Savior of the world have toward their heavenly Father and Lord. The diminutive “Peps” was only one of the nicknames with which he was dubbed, some fanciful and fleeting, others more abiding.

Pepper’s decline began in the last year or so of his life. His bark went silent, various minor maladies set in, his faculties diminished, and there was a marked, general slowing down in all his behavior. Incontinence, severe tooth decay, and the onset of hip dysplasia were the final blows to his well being which led to the decision to put him down as the saying goes. It was very painful to us his masters, but we are persuaded it was the best and most merciful thing for Pepper.

At approximately 5:10 P.M. on December 15th in the 2,015th year of grace, our beloved pet passed away very peacefully by way of preliminary sedation followed by a lethal injection administered tenderly and professionally by a veterinarian. Pepper was interred the following morning in his own back yard.

The following was posted on Facebook shortly after Pepper died:

Keith Graham is this day better prepared to face whatever even gloomier shadows might lie ahead. He Whose rod and staff bring unfailing comfort is with us even now. He will restore our souls and lead us by still waters again. By His grace we do not fear this evil. With Ecclesiastes 3:21 in mind, we grieve this loss in the presence of the One Who will restore all things. Good bye, sometimes ornery but always loved little dog with a middle name!

Pepper Trust of the Grahams, October 15, A.D. 1997 – December 15, A.D. 2015

“The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:16)

previously published elsewhere, December 17, A.D. 2015

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Emphasis Meditation

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

With that commandment, found in the first chapter of the book bearing Joshua’s name, God himself encouraged Moses’ successor, and we do well to heed that commandment as well. In this high tech, high noise, high speed time a disciple of Jesus is in danger of losing the still and quiet blessing of meditation.

Isaac was out in a field one evening meditating, probably at the end of his work day, when God brought him a very special blessing (Genesis 24:6ff). The Psalmist both prescribes meditation as a means of dealing with anger (Psalm 4:4) and describes the blessed man as one whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on God’s law day and night (Psalm 1:2).

Some of the Psalms are themselves meditations (e.g. 5, 7, 9). The 19th Psalm includes the well known prayer, “let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight.”

In other Psalm passages meditation is encouraged and exampled, and its value extolled. The prophet Malachi (3:16) identifies those who fear the LORD with those who meditate on His name. And in at least two places in the New Testament, meditation is commanded (Philippians 4:8, 1 Timothy 4:15).

The lost world has many vain and foolish ideas about meditation. Some involve bodily contortions, others use the endless repetition of a syllable to which magical power is assigned, still others attempt to “empty” the mind (while the devil smirks in anticipation of filling the vacuum). The Christian, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is concerned with Biblical meditation. What is it, and how does one do it?

We might compare it to digestion. Man does not live by bread alone. We open our spiritual mouths and take in a “chunk” of the inspired word that proceeded from the mouth of God. That chunk might be a precept of wisdom, an abiding commandment, an inerrant historical account of God’s dealings with men, a reflection on one of His righteous judgments or tender mercies. We chew on it, then take it down the spiritual esophagus into our innermost being. There, by God’s grace it provides nourishment for those in Christ, Who is the great Subject of all Scripture. (Cf. Isaiah 25:6-9)

Let’s press the analogy. We know that we should chew a bite of an apple or a steak slowly and thoroughly, and not “wolf it down.” Emphasis meditation is one way to do likewise with a wholesome morsel of Scripture. Here’s an example, suggesting Hebrews 12:14 as a seven course meditation meal. Using the following plan, it takes seven days, not seven seconds, to consume it.

The Lord’s day – PURSUE peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. Each day consider the whole verse, but on this first day of the week target the truth that zealously GOING AFTER peace and holiness is necessary. Attainment is by grace, but that does not mean it will “just happen.” Grace energizes. It puts us hot on the trail, pressing toward the goal.

Monday – Pursue PEACE with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. Today, zero in on the beauty and wonder of peace, and how those who pursue it can know the blessedness of being a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9). “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18).

Tuesday – Pursue peace with ALL PEOPLE, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. On the third day of week, as you again meditate on the entire verse which by now you likely know by heart, emphasize that your pursuit relates to every person in your life. “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7) How much more his wife, relatives, friends, and neighbors?

Wednesday – Pursue peace with all people, and HOLINESS, without which no one will see the Lord. Today, concentrate on how the pursuit of peace is linked with the pursuit of this beautiful adornment of the Christian walk, holiness. Are my thoughts holy? Is my speech holy? In what ways does unholiness still characterize my life? How do peacemaking and holiness go together? “…be renewed in the spirit of your mind…put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23,24 condensed)

Thursday – Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which NO ONE will see the Lord. Thursday is warning day! Recognize the obvious – “no one” includes YOU! Holiness is not optional. “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1B). In 2 Timothy 3 and elsewhere, we learn that the unholy have no future – at least no desirable one.

Friday – Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will SEE the Lord. Today, emphasize that when we walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7), by faith we see Him at work here and now in our relentless pursuit of peace and holiness. And what a thrilling truth: in God’s time, hope and faith will give way to glorious realization and sight! And filled with that hope, we move on to dessert day.

Saturday – Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the LORD. On this last day of the week, put the accent where Job put it in the midst of severe trial. “I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall SEE GOD, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27). May God cause our hearts so to yearn.

Next week, take another passage. Do a longer passage over a month, or a shorter one over a few days. Do an express emphasis meditation as a morning devotional, or at any time. Let the word of Christ dwell richly within you. Hmm, there are seven key words in that short statement.

Previously published elsewhere, October 18, A.D. 2015

Leave a comment

Filed under Gleanings